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WINNERS AND LOSERS: PART THREE (END)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2013 at 12:00 am

On January 25–four days after President Barack Obama was inaugurated President for the second time–political columnist Mark Shields assessed the electoral dangers facing the Republican party.

“The Republicans want to blame Mitt Romney. That’s fine. But Mitt Romney is more popular than the Republican Party. I mean, he got 47%. The Republicans are dead in the water right now.

“So you know they’re going through a difficult period. And they have got to try and figure out.

“They can’t talk to Latinos, the fastest growing group in the country. They’re basically not conversational with younger voters. They are–Asians have left them in droves.

“You know, they have just–they’re an aging white party, and in a country that is not–is less white each year.”

After Ronald Reagan defeated President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and defeated the Democrats’ nominee, Walter Mondale, in 1984, Democrats went through a similar time of torment.

“And Democrats said, geez, Ronald Reagan is good on television,” said Shields.  “If we can get somebody as good on TV as he is–instead of that moment of introspection and saying people found the other side…our opponents, to be more relevant, more real and more plausible to our lives and their lives than they found us.

“And that’s–it’s a terrible thing to live with rejection, but a losing party has to say, what is it? And what you can’t do is blame the voters. And I have heard echoes of that on the other side. The voters, that’s the 47% of takers, you know.  No wonder we can’t win if they are all just parasites and worse.”

Mitt Romney–and other Republican candidates–lost bigtime on November 6 for a wide range of reasons:

1.  He was not simply an opportunist; he was widely recognized as one.   He was despised by those on the Right as well as those on the Left, and for the same reason: He would take any position on any issue–even if this meant contradicting his previous position on it.

2.  He was not only rich, he made it clear that this was the only group he truly cared about. His public comments shouted this:

  • “I have friends who are owners of NASCAR Teams.”
  • “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.”
  • “Corporations are people, my friend.”
  • “Forty-seven percent are dependent upon government.”

Yet it is possible to be wealthy and trusted by those who aren’t–like Robert F. Kennedy, who identified with the poor and oppressed.

3.  Republicans enraged and alienated Latinos by their constant anti-immigrant rhetoric.

4.  Republicans enraged and alienated blacks by their constant hateful, racist attacks on President Obama. Clint Eastwood’s  empty chair ”comedy” act  at the Republican convention pleased his fascistic audience.  But it outraged many non-fascists–especially blacks.

5.  Republicans angered and alienated women–by constantly talking about

  • gutting Planned Parenthood
  • outlawing abortion
  • “legitimate rape”
  • “pregnancy-in-rape-is-God’s-plan-for-you”
  • banning birth control.

6.  Republicans enraged and alienated voters generally and minorities in particular by their blatant efforts to suppress the voting rights of their fellow citizens.

Republicans falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in areas where there was absolutely no evidence for it–such as Pennsylvania. And when voter fraud was discovered, the culprit was a get-out-the-vote consulting firm hired by Republicans.

7.  Republicans allowed their party to be represented by slimeballs like Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh.

When Trump claimed he could prove that Obama wasn’t an American citizen, Romney refused to distance himself from him, let alone say, “I don’t want support from a hateful idiot.”

And he similarly refused to condemn Rush Limbaugh for calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” The reason: She had testified before Congress on the need to have insurance companies cover contraceptives.

Romney didn’t dare condemn Limbaugh. He was too scared of losing Limbaugh’s endorsement–and thus the support of his aptly-named “dittohead” audience.

8.  Republicans ultimately depended for their success on a voting group that’s constantly shrinking–aging white males. Having alienated blacks, gays, women, Latinos and youths, the Republicans found themselves with no other sources of support.

9.  Republicans–and especially Romney–put out so many blatant lies that they came home to hurt them:

  • Romney initially opposed the President’s bailout of General Motors.  But when that resurrected the American auto industry, Romney changed his tune and said he had always been for the bailout.
  • During his second campaign debate with the President, Romney charged that he had not called the September 11, 2012 assault on the American consulate in Libya a “terrorist attack.”  But Candy Crowley, the moderator, immediately pointed out that Obama had called it an “act of terror” just two days later.
  • Summing up Romney’s attitude toward the truth:  ”We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

In the end, Americans came to know the truth, and the truth made them free–of Romney and the Republican agenda.

Only when Republicans accept that millions of Americans permanently reject much of their agenda will they be able to hope for a return to power.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Abortion has clearly become a deadly election issue for Republicans.

If you doubt it, look at the results of the November 6 elections.

So I was surprised to read, on January 24, a news story about Republicans’ continuing effort to deny women the right to control their reproductive organs.

This centered on a New Mexico anti-abortion bill that would force rape victims to carry to term the fetus of their rapist, on the “legal” grounds that this was “evidence” of a crime.

Click here: New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence’

I decided to send my longtime friend Dave–who’s not exactly President Obama’s biggest supporter–a link to that news story.

I didn’t offer any commentary, other than in the subject-line of the email: “AND YOU WONDER WHY OBAMA GOT RE-ELECTED?”

It didn’t take Dave long to reply.

“No, we don’t wonder why Obama got re-elected.  It’s because of the free-loading, lazy entitlement crazed society that worships their moronic scuz-bag messiah who brings and offers them FREE ‘shit’ if they vote for him ‘again.’

“Most of which are ALL the welfare reciprients, low income minorities in crime ridden ghettos and the great Mexican migration that he’s pardoned with the multiple offers of selling out the American people by awarding FREE visas, FREE education, FREE Social Security benefits (even though they’ve never worked a day in their lives) and FREEDOM from being asked, stopped or questioned by authorities.

“The democraps sold this country out long ago for nothing more than their greed to stay in office.”

As much as I love Dave as a friend, his reply leaves out–for Republicans–some highly unpalatable truths.

  • The Republican party talks a great game of “getting government off the backs of the people.”  But many of its members lust to ban abortion and even birth control.
  • Women voters were outraged by Republican candidates’ stupid comments about “legitimate rape” and how even a rape-caused pregnancy was “something that God intended to happen.”
  • After a party takes a bath at election time, it’s commonplace for its members to put the blame elsewhere than on themselves.
  • As a result, Republicans are now blaming their nominee, Mitt Romney.  Or (as always) Barack Obama.  Or “the stupid voters.”
  • Some Republicans (like Rick Santorum) argue that the party wasn’t “conservative enough” in its choice of nominees and thus deserved to lose.
  • Other Republicans (a minority) argue that the party was too right-wing and alienated all those who were not.
  • Echoing the Romney line that Obama “bought” the election with “free stuff” for voters ignores an ugly truth about the Romney Presidential campaign: The people who supported him expected to get rewards of their own.  Rewards such as lower corporate taxes, weakened environmental protections and the legal right to discriminate in the salaries they paid to female employees.
  • But by right-wing standards, “corporate welfare” is OK;  only when welfare goes to needy individuals is it evil.  The “Prescription Drug Benefit” of the Bush administration was a classic gift of corporate welfare to the pharmaceutical industry.
  • And, actually, it’s normal for voters to expect something in return for their votes.  The only question is: Is that politician going to do something for those who already hold great wealth and poweror those who have very little?

Consider the following from Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince:

.…One attains [the position of a prince] by help of popular favor or by the favor of the aristocracy [i.e., wealthy interests]. 

For in every city these two opposite parties…[arise] from the desire of the populace to avoid the oppression of the great, and the desire of the great to command and oppress the people….

Besides which, it is impossible to satisfy the nobility by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way.

For the aim of the people is more honest than that of the nobility, the latter desiring to oppress, and the former merely to avoid oppression….

One, however, who becomes prince by favor of the populace must maintain its friendship, which he will find easy, the people asking nothing but not to be oppressed.

Of course, it’s natural for the losing party to look for scapegoats.  As political columnist Mark Shields said on the PBS Newshour on January 25:

“As far as the Republicans are concerned, they are simply going through the terrible stages that every defeated party does.

“And one side says we lost because we didn’t stick enough to our principles. And the other side we lost because we were too dogmatic and didn’t reach out to the undecided.

“And so the first inclination is always to blame your own candidate. You blame Al Gore if you are a Democrat in 2000, or John Kerry in 2004. You blame John McCain.

“The Republicans want to blame Mitt Romney. That’s fine. But Mitt Romney is more popular than the Republican Party. I mean, he got 47 percent. The Republicans are dead in the water right now.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History on January 29, 2013 at 12:00 am

On January 24, the online Huffington Post carried the following story:

Click here: New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence’

Its opening paragraph outlined:

A Republican member of the New Mexico House of Representatives introduced a bill on January 23 to legally force rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial.

If enacted, the bill–introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R)–would charge a rape victim who obtained an abortion with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Apparently Republicans have learned nothing from their electoral defeats in the November 6 elections.

Their nominee for United States Senator from Missouri blew his electoral hopes sky-high with just two words: “Legitimate rape.”

On August 19, 2012, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

“But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Earlier, on August 8, he had said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

On November 6, “Mr. Legitimate Rape” lost to Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Nine days later, on August 28, the official Republican platform demanded a total ban on abortions when the party assembled to nominate Mitt Romney as its Presidential candidate in Tampa.

Specifically, the platform:

  • Stated that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • Called for the passage of a Human Life Amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and thus ban all abortions.
  • Supported “the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
  • Opposed using public revenues to promote or perform abortion.
  • Opposed funding organizations that perform or advocate abortions.
  • Stated that the party will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage.

On October 18, Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-IL) running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinoi against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, said that abortions should not be allowed even when the mother’s life is at risk because of advances in medicine.

“This is an issue that opponents of life throw out there to make us look unreasonable,” Walsh told reporters about the “saving-the-life-of-the-mother” exception.

“There’s no such exception as life of the mother.  And as far as health of the mother, same thing. With advances in science and technology,” he said that it’s almost impossible for a woman to need an abortion to save her life.

“Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime under any reason.”

Walsh had been sued by his ex-wife, Laura, who claimed he owed more than $100,000 in overdue child support and interest.

On November 6, Tammy Duckworth defeated Walsh 55%-45%.

Yet another Republican to embrace the fetus fanatics cause was Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer who pined to be that state’s U.S. Senator.

On October 23, he declared: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God.

“I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mr. “Rape Is God’s Plan for You” Mourdock was defeated at the polls on November 6.

So you would think Republicans might have learned that “smaller government is better” and thus stop trying to overturn or undercut the right of a woman to control her own reproductive organs.

But they haven’t.

On January 25, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) addressed the anti-abortion protest March for Life in Washington, D.C.

He promised to “help make abortion a relic of the past” a national priority.  “Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year,” he said.

With abortion having become so deadly an election issue for Republicans, I decided to send a link to the above story about the New Mexico anti-abortion bill to my conservative friend, Dave.

I didn’t offer any commentary, other than in the subject-line of the email: “AND YOU WONDER WHY OBAMA GOT RE-ELECTED?”

It didn’t take him long to reply.

COMCAST AND COMMUNICATIONS DON’T MIX

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help on January 28, 2013 at 12:14 am

In 1970, Robert Townsend, the CEO who had turned around a failing rent-a-car company called Avis, published what is arguably the best book written on business management.

It’s Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits.

Product Details

Though published 42 years ago, it should be required reading–for CEOs and consumers.

Don’t fear getting bogged down in a sea of boring, theory-ridden material.  As Townsend writes:

“This book is in alphebetical order.  Using the table of contents, which doubles as the Index, you can locate any subject on the list in 13 seconds.  And you can read all I have to say about it in five minutes or less.

“This is not a book about how organizations work.  What should happen in organizations and what does happen are two different things and about as far apart as they can get.  THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HOW TO GET THEM TO RUN THREE TIMES AS WELL AS THEY DO.”

Comcast is the majority owner of NBC and the largest cable operator in the United States. It provides cable TV, Internet and phone service to more than 50 million customers.

So you would think that, with so many customers to serve, Comcast would them with an efficient way to attain help when they face a problem with billing or service.

Think again.

Consider the merits of Townsend’s short chapter on “Call Yourself Up.”

Townsend advises CEOs: “Pretend you’re a customer.  Telephone some part of your organization and ask for help.  You’ll run into some real horror shows.”

Now, imagine what would happen if Brian L. Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, did just that.

Brian L. Roberts

First, he would find that, at Comcast, nobody actually answers the phone when a customer calls.  After all, it’s so much easier to fob off customers with pre-recorded messages than to have operators directly serve their needs.

And customers simply aren’t that important–except when they’re paying their ever-rising bills for phone, cable TV and/or Internet service.

Comcast’s net income stood at $2.11 billion in October, 2012.  And Roberts himself raked in a cool $26.9 million in 2011 compensation.

So it isn’t as though the company can’t afford hiring a few operators and instructing them to answer phones directly when people phone in.

But instead of being directly connected to someone able to answer his question or resolve his problem, Roberts would hear:

“Welcome to Comcast–home of Xfinity.”

Then he would hear an annoying clucking sound–followed by the same message in Spanish.

“Your call may be recorded for quality assurance.

“To make a payment now, Press 1.  To continue this call, Press 2.”

Then he would hear: “For technical help, press 1, for billing, press 2.  For more options, press 3.”

Assuming he pressed 2 for “billing,” he would hear:

“For payment, press 1  For balance information, press 2.  For payment locations, press 3.  For all other billing questions, press 4.”

Then he would be told: “Please enter the last four digits of the primary account holder’s Social Security Number.”

Then, as if he hadn’t waited long enough to talk to someone, he would get this message: “Press 1 if you would like to take a short survey after your call.”

By the time he heard that, he would almost certainly not be in a mood to take a survey.  He would simply want someone to come onto the phone and answer his question or resolve his problem.

Then he would hear: “At the present time, all agents are busy”–and be electronically given an estimate by when someone might deign to answer the phone.

“Please hold for the next customer account executive.”

If he wanted to immediately reach a Comcast rep, Roberts would press the number for “sales.”  A sales rep would gladly sign him up for more costly products–even if he couldn’t solve whatever problem Roberts needed addressed.

Assuming that someone actually came on, Roberts couldn’t fail to notice the unmistakable Indian accent of the rep he was now speaking with.

Not Indian as in American Indian–because that would mean his company had actually hired Americans who must be paid at least a minimum American wage for their services.

No, Comcast, like many other supposedly patriotic corporations, “outsources” its “customer service support team” to the nation, India.

After all, if the “outsourced” employees are getting paid a pittance, the CEO and his top associates can rake in all the more.

Of course, the above scenario is totally outlandish–and is meant to be.

Who would expect the wealthy CEO of a major American corporation to actually wait in a telephone queue like an ordinary American Joe or Jane?

That would be like expecting the chief of any major police department to put up with hookers or panhandlers on his own doorstep.

For the wealthy and the powerful, there are always underlings ready and willing to ensure that their masters do not suffer the same indignities as ordinary mortals.

Such as the ones who sign up for Comcast TV, cable or Internet services.

BOTH “CHI-COMS” AND REPUBLICANS HATE OBAMA

In History, Humor on January 25, 2013 at 12:05 am

Psssst!  The Republicans and Chinese Communists have something in common.

They both much preferred the foreign policy of George W. Bush to that of Barack Obama.

It’s one of the many fascinating revelations offered in Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Uses of American Power.

Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

The author is David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

Early in 2011, Sanger had lunch at the Central Party School outside Beijing.  This is where the party’s leadership debates questions that are thought too controversial to air in public.

A retired general in the People’s Liberation Army sat down next to Sanger and, in a relaxed moment of candor, said:

“I sat through many meetings of the People’s Liberation Army in the 80s and 90s where we tried to imagine what your military forces would look like in 10 to 20 years.

“But frankly, we never thought that you would spend trillions of dollars and so much time tied down in Afghanistan and the Middle East. We never imagined that as a choice you would make.”

And, writes Sanger: “Not so secretly, the Chinese were delighted by the Bush-era wars.  The longer the United States was bogged down trying to build democracies in foreign lands, the less capable it was of competing in China’s backyard.

“But now that America was emerging from a lost decade in the Middle East, the Chinese began to ask: How should China respond?  With cooperation, confrontation, or something in-between?”

And the Chinese were equally thrilled that the United States had squandered so much of its treasury during the eight-year Bush Presidency.

In the decade following 9/11, the Pentagon went on an unprecedented spending binge.  The defense budget grew by 67%, to levels 50% higher than it had been per average year during the Cold War.

According to Sanger: “An estimate [the New York Times] put together for the tenth anniversary of the [9/11] attacks suggested that the United States had spent at least $3.3 trillion.”

These monies had gone on

  • securing the country;
  • invading and trying to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq; and
  • caring for wounded American soldiers.

“Put another way,” writes Sanger, “for every dollar al-Qaeda spent destroying the World Trade Center and attacking the Pentagon, America had spent $6.6 million in response.

“The annual Pentagon budget of $700 billion was equivalent to the combined spending of the next twenty largest military powers….

“The world had come to expect that America would underwrite global security, regardless of the cost.  Obama was determined to change that mind-set.”

In short, America became financially and militarily vulnerable during the Presidency of George W. Bush.

And this flatly contradicts the standard Republican line: Obama is a weak President–and is betraying us to the (pick one or both) Muslims/Communists.

It also speaks volumes that the two most important members of the George W. Bush administration declined to attend the Republican National Convention held August 27-30.

That, of course, meant former President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

And why was that?  Perhaps it’s because polls show that a majority of Americans continued

  • To blame Bush for lying the country into a needless, bloody and expensive war with Iraq.
  • To blame him for presiding over the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
  • To see Dick Cheney as the Dr. Strangelovian manipulator of George W. Bush.

Even former President George H.W. Bush said he wouldn’t attend the convention.

It’s possible that Bush, Sr., didin’t want to serve as a reminder that his son left the White House with the lowest popularity rating of any modern President.

And that was just fine with those planning to attend the convention–especially its nominee-to-be.

They wanted to do with George W. Bush what Nikita Khrushchev and his fellow Communists did with the embarrassing Joseph Stalin: Bury him far from public view.

Romney wanted to use the convention the way Adolf Hitler used the Nuremberg rallies–to attack his enemies and glorify himself.

He didin’t want the viewing audience to be reminded that the United States sharply declined in wealth and prestige during the eight-year reign of George W. Bush and a Republican Congress.

Romney and his fellow conventioneers also didn’t want to remind the country of something else: That Obama had spent most of his own Presidency trying to undo the harm his predecessor did, in both foreign and domestic policy.

Thus the Republican party found itself torn.

On one hand, its leaders wanted to claim that Barack Obama was the worst President in the history of the Republic.

On the other hand, they knew that most Americans continued to view the last Republican President in just that way.

AFGHANISTAN: VIETNAM IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 24, 2013 at 12:02 am

Michael Hastings is the Rolling Stone reporter whose article on “The Runaway General” ended the illustrious military career of General Stanley McCrystal.

Now Hastings has greatly expanded on his article with a 2012 book: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

According to its dust jacket: “General Stanley McCrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking, commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large.  He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a ‘rock star.’

General Stanley A. McCrystal

“During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McCrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone.

“For days, Hastings looked on as McCrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership.

“When Hastings’ piece appeared a few months later, it set off a poltical firestorm: McCrystal was ordred to Washington where he was fired uncereminously.”

But there is an even deeper element to be found within Hastings’ book–that is, for anyone with even a general knowledge of the war in Vietnam.

Hastings does not make any direct parallels between the almost 11-year conflict in Afghanistan and the 14-year conflict in Vietnam.  But those parallels are definitely there for anyone to see.

Consider:

  • Ngo Dinh Diem, the “president” of South Vietnam (1955-1963) was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-present) is from a wealthy Pashtun family and is alienated from members of other Afghan tribes.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • Karzai’s authority doesn’t extend beyond Kabul.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Ditto for Karzai–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring democracy to Afghanistan.
  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for Karzai.

Ngo Dinh Diem

Hamid Karzai

  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers were sent to Afghanistan because America feared terrorism.
  • Americans were ordered to train the South Vietnamese to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troopss were ordered to train the Afghan army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans quickly determined that the Afghan army was worthless–and decided to fight the Taliban in its place.

American soldiers in Vietnam

  • There was massive distrust between American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
  • Ditto for relations between American and Afghan soldiers.
  • American soldiers in Vietnam felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • Ditto for American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
  • President John F. Kennedy doubted that Americans could win a war in Vietnam and tried to contain the conflict.
  • President Barack Obama came into office determined to contain the Afghan conflict and withdraw American troops as soon as possible.
  • The Pentagon saw Vietnam as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.
  • The Pentagon sees Afghanistan as “the only war we’ve got” and has pressed to insert greater numbers of men.

American soldiers in Afghanistan

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) posed no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war as a way to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraces the Afghan war as a way to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Vietcong in Vietnam–where it didn’t work.
  • Counterinsurgency is now being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

From this, the United States should draw several conclusions:

  • Commit forces only when American security is truly threatened.
  • Go in with overwhelming force, destroy as much of the enemy as quickly as possible, then get out.
  • Occupations are costly in lives and treasure–as Napoleon and Hitler discovered–and should be avoided.
  • Don’t try to remake the cultures of other nations–especially those of a primitive, alien nature such as Afghanistan.

Hastings’ book does not cover the Afghan war to its end.  It can’t, since there is no telling when that war will end.

But by the end of its 379 pages, it’s clear what that outcome will be: Another futile exercise in “nation-building” at an exorbitant cost in American lives and treasure.

FETUS FANATICS: PART THREE (END)

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 23, 2013 at 1:40 am

So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism?

Several factors.

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag.  Almost every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc.  And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.

Second, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women.  They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control–or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do.  They see this as a personal rejection.

Perhaps it reminds many of them of their own failures in romance/marriage.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males.  And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban.  They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.

The trouble for these men is they don’t speak Arabic.

Third, many fetus fanatics are “pro-life” when it comes to fetuses, but hypocritically refuse to support the needs of children from low-income families.

Fourth, many fetus fanatics are “family values” hypocrites.  For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.  He also agreed that his wife should have two abortions.

People like this subscribe to a philosophy of: “Do as I say, not as I do.  And if I do it, it’s in the service of a Higher Cause and therefore entirely justified.”

Fifth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions–especially if these resulted in pregnancy. And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Some of these people are well-intentioned.  Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others–regardless of what those people may need or want.

Sixth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals.  On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.”  That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman.  That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting an abortion–even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus-fanatics movement are independently wealthy.  This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor–here or abroad–to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.  For them, there is always an escape clause.

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.”  They totally oppose abortion under most–if not all–circumstances.   But they also fully support:

  • making military-style assault weapons available to nutcases;
  • capital punishment;
  • going to war for almost any reason;
  • wholesale massacres of wildlife;
  • despoiling of the environment; and
  • even nuclear war.

And many of those who fanatically defend the right of a fetus to emerge from the womb just as fanatically oppose welfare for those mothers who can’t support that newborn.

Lucy, the famous cartoon character in Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” series, once said: “I love humanity.  It’s people I can’t stand.”  With fetus fanatics, the line runs: “I love fetuses.  Everything else is expendable.”

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians.  These are the same people who condemn Muslims–such as those in Saudi Arabia–for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors–loose, usually black robes.

Taliban: Islam’s version of the “Right-to-Life” movement

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches.  Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

* * * * *

It’s time to face the blunt truth: A “Conservative Victory,” as Sean Hannity put it, would impose an anti-women Taliban on America.

Thus, a woman who seeks to control her own destiny would be insane to vote for a right-wing candidate.  Just as it would have been insane for a Jewish citizen to give his vote–and his life–to Adolf Hitler.

FETUS FANATICS – PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2013 at 12:16 am

Republicans–at state and Federal levels–hate welfare for mothers too poor to support their families.

But they love fetuses.

And to make sure there are plenty of them available, Republicans have launched an all-out war against a woman’s right to abortion–and even birth control.

On June 13, 2012,, the Michigan House of Representatives, by a 70-39 vote, approved sweeping legislation to add regulations and restrictions to abortion practices in the state.

Specifically, the omnibus bill:

  • Criminalizes all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • No exceptions are made for rape victims, the health of the woman or in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly.
  • Permits a narrow exception when a doctor determines that the mother’s life is at risk.
  • Requires health centers that provide abortions to have surgery rooms, even when they don’t provide surgical abortions.
  • Requires doctors to be present for medication abortions and to screen women for “coercion” before providing an abortion.
  • Creates new regulations for the disposal of fetal remains.
  • Bans “telemedicine” abortions, or the use of technology to prescribe medication for abortion services and the morning-after pill.

The Michigan State Senate hasn’t yet ruled on the measure, though it is expected to ultimately approve it.

Republicans not only oppose abortion, they oppose free speech when this is used to defend a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.

During debate on the above-mentioned bill in June, Michigan House members Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum were forbidden to speak on the House floor about this legislation.

The women were silenced based on a trumped-up charge of “lack of decorum” after Brown told her colleagues, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.”

On August 19, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

“But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child,” said the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate from Missouri.

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“Don’t worry, Wonder Woman. You can’t get pregnant if it’s legitimate rape.”

Earlier, on August 8, he had said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

On November 6, “Mr. Legitimate Rape” lost to Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Nine days later, on August 28, the official Republican platform demanded a total ban on abortions when the party assembled to nominate Mitt Romney as its Presidential candidate in Tampa.

Specifically, the platform:

  • Stated that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • Called for the passage of a Human Life Amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and thus ban all abortions.
  • Supported “the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
  • Opposed using public revenues to promote or perform abortion.
  • Opposed funding organizations that perform or advocate abortions.
  • Stated that the party will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage.

On October 18, Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-IL) running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinoi against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, said that abortions should not be allowed even when the mother’s life is at risk because of advances in medicine.

“This is an issue that opponents of life throw out there to make us look unreasonable,” Walsh told reporters about the “saving-the-life-of-the-mother” exception.

“There’s no such exception as life of the mother.  And as far as health of the mother, same thing. With advances in science and technology,” he said that it’s almost impossible for a woman to need an abortion to save her life.

“Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime under any reason.”

Walsh had been sued by his ex-wife, Laura, who claimed he owed more than $100,000 in overdue child support and interest.

On November 6, Tammy Duckworth defeated Walsh 55%-45%.

Yet another Republican to embrace the fetus fanatics cause was Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer who pined to be that state’s U.S. Senator.

On October 23, he declared: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God.

“I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock was defeated at the polls on November 6.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, both supported abortion rights–and demanded their repeal.

During his 2002 campaign for Governor of famously liberal Massachusetts, he promised to “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”

But as a Presidential candidate in 2012, he had to appeal to a different–and fascistic–constituency.  So he supported a “Human Life Amendment” to overturn Roe v. Wade and promised to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood.

FETUS FANATICS – PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 21, 2013 at 12:05 am

Republicans have no shortage of pet hatreds:

  • Socialists (by which they mean Communists)
  • Gays
  • Business regulations
  • Taxes (on the rich)
  • Obama Care” (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)
  • Protecting the environment

But there’s one group they absolutely love: Fetuses.

January 22, 2013, will mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which effectively legalized abortion throughout the United States.

Undoubtedly, Washington, D.C. will be Ground Zero for both pro-  and anti-abortion demonstrations on that date.

Congressional Republicans have already signaled their position on the issue.

Tennessee Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R) and Diane Black (R) each reintroduced an identical bill during the first two days of the 2013 legislative session to deny Title X family planning grants to any organization that performs abortions.

The target of that legislation: Planned Parenthood, which receives about $340 million a year in Title X funds for non-abortion health and family planning services.

This is simply the latest in an endless series of Republican attempts to overturn or undercut the right of a woman to control her reproductiver organs.

In 2011, the Kansas legislature, Republicans sponsored a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would:

  • Levy a sales tax on women seeking abortions, including rape victims;
  • Exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withheld medical information to prevent an abortion;
  • Take away tax credits for abortion providers;
  • Remove tax deductions for the purchase of abortion-related insurance coverage; and
  • Require women to hear the fetal heartbeat.

The bill remains stalled in the Kansas State Senate.

In Florida, despite Governor Rick Scott’s campaign promise to focus on job creation, the 2010-2011 session of the Florida legislature passed no job-creation bills.  But it did pass five bills restricting abortion rights.

The bills:

  • Force women to undergo ultrasounds prior to having an abortion
  • Prohibit private insurance coverage of abortion care in the new state health-insurance exchange
  • Require young women to prove the medical necessity of their abortions before a judge in order to bypass parental permission
  • Establish state-sanctioned license plates that funnel money to anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers” and
  • Starts the process of amending the state constitution to prohibit the government funding of abortion.

Florida Republicans filed a total of 18 anti-abortion bills during the 2010-2011 session, the third most in the country, according to the ACLU.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said:

  • “unwanted or mistimed” pregnancies are “the choice of the women”
  • who should learn “that this is a mistake.”

Grothman recently introduced Senate Bill 507, which, if passed, would formally consider single parenthood a contributing factor to child abuse.

Additional Republican efforts to ban abortion in 2011 included:

  • State legislators introduced more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions and had enacted 135 of them by year’s end.
  • Seven states either fully defunded or tried to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care, contraception, breast cancer and STD screenings to millions of low-income women each year.
  • In Congress, Republicans sponsored the Child Interstate Abortion Notifcation Act, making it illegal for anyone but a parent to accompany a young woman across state lines to seek an abortion–even if her parents are absent or abusive.
  • Used attacks on abortion and Planned Parenthood funding to extort Democratic concessions during budget negotiations and threatened to shut down the government.
  • Introduced mandatory ultrasound bills.
  • Tried to narrow the definition of rape to include only “forcible rape.”  Under this change, a woman who was coerced, drugged or otherwise incapacitated by a rapist, would not be legally counted as a rape victim.
  • Republicans barred the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to help low-income women pay for abortions.

During just the first two months of 2012:

  • At the state level, Virginia Republicans introduced a bill whose original language required women to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure 24 hours before having an abortion.
  • Following widespread outrage, a modified version of the bill–requiring women to receive trans-abdominal ultrasounds, was signed into law instead.
  • With the connivance of House Republicans, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, tried to pull cancer-screening grants from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions.  Upon huge public outcry, this decision was quickly reversed.

  • The House Oversight Committee convened a hearing to deny contraceptive insurance coverage under the guise of “protecting religious liberty.”  The Democrats’ one female witness, Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown University law student, was forbidden to speak at it.
  • Right-wing broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and Foster Friess–Rick Santorum’s chief financial backer–publicly equated birth control use to sexual promiscuity.

On March 8, 2012–International Women’s Day–U.S Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) marked the occasion by asking his Twitter followers to join him in celebrating National Agriculture Day.

Blunt had sponsored an amendment that would have allowed employers to refuse health care coverage of any kind for “moral reasons.”

It was voted down in the Senate on March 1.

Many Republicans are still trying to revive the Blunt amendment.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to continue the fight in the House.

RUNNING THE COUNTRY LIKE A BUSINESS

In Business, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2013 at 12:08 am

Republicans–and right-wingers generally–love to say that the United States Government should be run like a business.

But what does that really mean?

If we ran the United States like a business,” Johnny Carson once joked, “we’d burn down the country and collect the insurance.”

And of course the joke got a lot of laughs.

Yes, it’s true: A lot of Americans just don’t trust businessmen–especially Big Businessmen.

And especially Big Businessmen who’ve made their fortunes the old-fashioned way–by raiding and despoiling other companies.

But consider this for a moment:

When was the last time we had a President who could honestly say, like Mitt Romney–

“I understand, for instance, how to read a balance sheet”?

And that’s a truly valuable qualification for public office.

Mitt Romney doesn’t get weepy over people and their messy, sob-sister problems.  Consider:

ROMNEY:  Corporations are people, my friend.

ROMNEY:  I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

ROMNEY:  I’m not concerned about the very poor.

ROMNEY:  Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process.  Let it run its course and hit the bottom.

You have to be cold-bloodedly unemotional if you want to win the game.

Like Meyer Lansky–”The Mob’s Accountant.”   He understood that perfectly.

And he knew how to read a balance sheet.

It was Lansky who famously said of the Mafia: “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”

And think of all the money this made for his business partners–like Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

Or take stockbroker Bernard Madoff.

Think of where his clients would now be if he hadn’t been able to read a balance sheet.

And you can be sure that Ivan Boesky knew how to read a balance sheet.

As a successful stock trader, he became the inspiration for an entire generation of corporate CEOs: “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

It was Boesky who inspired the producers of the 1987 movie, “Wall Street,” to create a fictional character based on him: Gordon Gecko, played by Michael Douglas.

So imagine what a successful corporate businessman–like Mitt Romney–could have done as President.

Or, better still, let veteran political analyst Chris Matthews imagine it for you, as he did on May 24, 2012:

Mitt Romney has one pitch, and since it’s his only one, he makes it again and again, is that he is a man of business, someone who spent his life in business, doing it, thinking about it, experiencing it. 

And this is why he, Mitt Romney, is a better man than the president to direct the business of the country.

But the question, and an important one, is whether Romney would take his business training and use it for the country or take the office of the presidency and use it to help his fellow business people. 

  • Will he serve the people or the CEOs? 
  • The 99 percent or the 1 percent? 

It’s a basic, useful question to ask.

  • What if he plays the business game in ways that favors the wealthy like himself? 
  • What if he cuts taxes for the wealthy? 
  • What if he eliminates environmental and safety regulations? 
  • What if he pulls down the financial regulations put in places the crash of ’08 and `09? 
  • And what if he sides with the wheeler-dealers and opens the door for the hell to break loose like it did under Bush?
  • And what if he can’t see what was done wrong before, but wants instead to do it all over again? 

This is the danger.

We elect presidents to look out for the people. 

Business, especially the people like Mitt Romney, already have a voice in our national government.  They’re called lobbyists. 

They push for lower taxes for the rich, lower taxes on corporations.  They work with friends in Congress, to pull back on regulation, to make live easier for them, to make more money.

  • …Would we like someone who thinks only about the interest of big business, doing away taxes, we pay–deciding what taxes we pay, what working conditions we have to endure, what protections we get for food safety, airline safety, the safety of our investments from Wall Street sharpies? 
  • Is that what we want looking for us–the people whose primary concern is the bottom line of those Mitt Romney calls “the successful”?
  • Government of, by and for the economic elite–is that what we want? 

Because if you listen, you can hear that this is precisely what the man from Bain is now out there selling.

* * * * *

So go ahead: Imagine what a Mitt Romney Presidency would have been like.

And then be grateful that you don’t have to live out that reality.

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