Joe Biden-And All the Criticism

The pollsters say his future prospects will be determined by Covid and inflation–two factors a President has little influence over. That’s what will determine the mid-terms and the Presidency in 2024.

So, it won’t be about the roaring economy. Leading economists estimate GDP growth for 2021 at 5.7% and 2022 at 4.1%. This compares to Trump era GDP for 2017, 2018, and 2019 of 2.3%, 3%, and 2.2% respectively—far short of the 4%+ Trump promised in his campaign, well below the Biden era GDP.

And it won’t be about the stock market. The S&P is up 25.82% YTD 2021. 

And it won’t be about wages, which have skyrocketed during Biden’s first year. Wages in accommodations and services are up a whopping +18.4%, information services 12.3%, finance and insurance 9.8%, retail trade 8.4%, health care and social assistance 6.3%, construction 5.7%, and on and on. 63% of private sector workers saw at least a 5% increase 2nd quarter 2021 vs 2nd quarter 2020. Wages under Trump had increased at about a 3% annual rate.

Inflation is estimated by S&P at 5.5% for 2021, 3.9% for 22, 2.7% for 23 and 2.3% for 24. As inflation subsides, the wage increases likely will not—they will sustain. So, workers who are complaining about gas prices will (a) get relief soon in 2022, and (b) should take note of their significant wage increases, which will continue in their paychecks, well beyond inflation subsiding. 

It won’t be about getting out of our longest foreign war, or about preserving world peace during his administration. 

It won’t be about turning a kind eye (vs. a blind one) to those in distress at our border.  

It won’t be about two historic pieces of legislation already enacted—the stimulus to deal with Covid relief and the infrastructure bill promised but not delivered by any previous administration (totaling $2.9 Trillion). These are historic legislative and reformist accomplishments exceeding anything done before, and bringing critical benefits to our people and our economy.

And it won’t be about President Biden’s refusal to blame our problems on government or on foreign countries or immigrants–a ridiculous claim which was believed by many who are not reading or doing any critical thinking.

There are abundant positives in the short time of Biden’s Presidency–some for which he should be credited and others Presidents usually claim, and often get undeserved credit for–such as the economy.

I never expected Joe Biden to be a charismatic President. I knew he was prone to gaffes. He is aging—you can see it in his hair, his face, and his walk. I never expected him to be perfect. Was Trump?

And, I never expected Republicans to do anything other than what they do—criticize every statement and action any Democratic President makes, exaggerate everything to the negative extreme, and claim the Democratic President should have solved problems for which they excused Republican Presidents as “having nothing to do with the President.”

Biden inherited a Covid crisis his predecessor handled poorly. He inherited a foreign war no predecessor had the courage to terminate. No one expected inflation to surge early on his Presidency, not even Jerome Powell. No one expected the Omicron variant to surface in Africa and race around the world.

It seems to this American that the real problems of the Biden Presidency are these: A divided and highly partisan Congress; a national distrust in government and institutions; white supremacy; nationalism; a heightened American pursuit of individualism (at the expense of the collective good); the relentless scheming of the Right to manipulate voting rights to their advantage; and the stream of criticism from the Right, example Fox News, in stoking public discontent and laying blame where it is not deserved.

Seems the likes of Fox have convinced the blue collar guy at the gas pump that he should be angry, that inflation is Joe Biden’s fault. Of course, there is no mention whatsoever of wages on Fox. I know. I watch to see what the ultra-Right is teaching the vulnerable.

I guess facts don’t count, and misinformation abounds.

No matter how 2022 and 2024 turn out, I believe this President will have one of the greatest Presidential legacies–one exceeding that of all the Presidents during my lifetime, with the possible exception of FDR and Lyndon Johnson. He’s achieved far more in one year than Trump did in four!

Build Back Better

Already, President Joe Biden has enacted two unprecedented pieces of legislation: The fiscal stimulus of 2020 and the Infrastructure Bill, a combined total of $2.9 Trillion in investment in the Covid impact on Americans and in our universally agreed aged and dangerous infrastructure. Administrations before Biden have been talking infrastructure needs for decades, but no one before has actually done anything. He’ll have a great legacy, even if only this is accomplished before the Congress makes its regular mid term shift to the opposition party.

Now pending is Build Back Better, which I predict will get enacted in 2022, in some form not radically different than already approved by the House of Representatives. This prediction stands, notwithstanding the position held by Senator Manchin.

This bill has the following major elements:

$555B fighting climate change—mostly tax credits for solar installations, plus 330,000 jobs to restore forests and wetlands

$400B for universal pre-k—for all 3 and 4 year olds

$200B for child tax credits—this is not a new benefit, but extends the expiration one more year

$200B for 4 weeks of paid leave—we are one of the few industrialized nations without one

$165B for health care

$150B for in-home health care

$150B for affordable housing–provides assistance to those unable afford our costly rental housing

Liberal views: Critical assistance to our underprivileged, in a country with the weakest social support system among developed countries, and with the highest inequality.

Conservative views: Adds too much to the national debt and will increase inflation.

Manchin view: The priority elements of the program need to be funded for the full 10 years, and not dependent on future Congresses extending them. He may require a smaller bill if Democrats cannot agree on additional funding. That funding would be available by increasing taxes on the wealthy, so the Democrats have work to do among their own Senators and Representatives.

Notably, none of the Conservative pundits criticize the need or value of these programs–just “we can’t afford it.” They criticize adding taxes, and constantly inaccurately complain that the proposed tax increases will be applied to working class folks and small businesses. That’s not true–just attempts to garner American sentiment against–thus making the polls suggest the bill is unpopular. In fact, all of the social service elements of the bill are extremely popular and in great need.

The facts:

First, the Republican history: No Republican President has reduced the national debt during his term. Most recently Donald Trump dramatically increased it by enacting his tax cut which went 80% to the wealthy and was not financed by any savings elsewhere. The debt rose by $7.8 Trillion during Trump’s term. So the Conservative hype about debt concerns is highly hypocritical.

By comparison, the Congressional Budget Office, non-partisan, estimated BBB’s $1.75 Trillion ten year spend will be short only $250 Billion in accompanying sources of funding–primarily from increased taxes on the ultra wealthy and establishing a minimum 15% tax on corporations, many of which have used a variety of legal loopholes to pay nothing, for years.

Is it a perfect bill? No. Is there ever a perfect bill in our highly divided Congress, where each representative is beholden to frequent returns to the ballot box and to the demands of their constituents? No. Trump’s tax cut bill was abysmally imperfect. Larry Summers said, “I think it’s a serious policy error that will make middle class Americans poorer.” And, Manchin is right that it would be ideal to fund all elements for the full 10 years.

A fan of the Biden’s BBB, Summers thinks it should tax the wealthy more and close tax loopholes. Original plans did so, but so called “moderate” Democrats opposed some of these provisions, regrettably. I belong to Patriotic Millionaires which fights for higher taxes on the wealthy of us.

Will this bill lead to inflation? No. Our inflation is largely Covid driven, and when the supply chain and Covid issues are resolved, we will return to reasonable inflation.

Time Magazine on BBB and inflation: “The major ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch both agree that BBB and the recently enacted infrastructure legislation would not add to inflationary pressures. Also, many leading economists have concluded that BBB would not make the Fed’s task of controlling inflation more difficult and should not stand in the way of enacting the needed investments in BBB, which would expand the economy’s capacity to produce goods and services in the longer term, strengthen economic growth, and ease future inflationary pressures.”

Larry Summers on BBB inflation:  “Because that [BBB} spending is offset by revenue increases and because it includes measures such as child care that will increase the economy’s capacity, Build Back Better will have only a negligible impact on inflation.”

There you have it. Needs adjustments to satisfy Democrats, including Manchin. A critical piece of legislation that needs to get approved. President Biden’s approval ratings notwithstanding, his legacy is written and it looks equivalent to that of Lyndon Johnson (a one term President) and even to FDR. By comparison, Donald Trump was a legislative failure of great proportions.

The Rittenhouse American Experience

The verdict is in—not guilty on all counts.

It appears the jury delivered a fair verdict, considering the law as it now stands. Questions remain whether that law is just, or whether it should it be overturned by vote? And, how to interpret and justify the responses of the Left and Right, before, during, and after the trial?

In my opinion, the law is not fair and just. We should not condone the rights of citizens of any age to carry automatic weapons into our streets to protect from whatever or whomever they object to. This right is entirely separate from a legitimate right to have a weapon in your home to protect your family. Had Kyle Rittenhouse not gone out into the night with an AR-15, two men would still be alive and a third uninjured. In my opinion, his undertaking should be strictly limited to our police.

The responses which have dominated television news for weeks are perhaps not surprising, considering our political polarization. Considering the heightened emphasis on personal freedom vs. the collective good. Considering the ardor of Republicans and Conservatives after recent state election wins, in which the issue of personal freedom has been dominant.  This has been so clearly illustrated with parental rights overriding those of teachers in our schools. In that context, teachers are seen as a form of government—albeit local government the objectors themselves elected from their own neighborhoods, but still government. We are living in an American age in which there is widespread distrust of institutions of all forms.

The 1619 project has been characterized as attempting to redefine white America as the villain under whose rule blacks have been systematically subjugated for centuries—a designation white America doesn’t like. Any form of “critical race theory” being taught in our schools is also to be stopped. One might ask whether this is symptomatic of white supremacy still reigning? Fox argues the Rittenhouse scenario has nothing to do with racism, but in fact, Rittenhouse went out into a mob which was incensed over a policeman shooting a black man—clearly a racist situation. What was his mission? Which side was he on—Black Lives Matter or Law and Order? We don’t know, but since the protesters were mostly incensed at the shooting, it would appear Rittenhouse viewed those protestors on the side of the black man as dangerous—dangerous enough to justify his AR-15. His victims were not black, but this was a racist situation, and he had a view.

The trial has turned into a national referendum on personal freedom vs. the collective good: Those for Kyle Rittenhouse being acquitted of these numerous charges see him as entirely within his rights to take a loaded automatic weapon and go out into the night, into a potential mob scene environment, and set about to protect personal property (of someone who did not even ask for such protection). These supporters apparently feel it is perfectly acceptable for citizens to act as armed vigilantes whenever they individually deem it necessary.

Those on the other side (my side) are incredulous that a 17-year-old should find it acceptable to take on a vigilante role under such dangerous conditions. To those on this side, it’s simple: Two people would be alive and a third uninjured, had this young man just stayed home, or at least had he gone out without such a weapon. He could have asked police to be sure to watch the business he alleges he set out to protect. 

No surprise, Fox News hits repeatedly daily on Rittenhouse’s rights to do this, heady with the discovery that personal freedom has turned out to a lightning rod issue, a hot populist issue, just as immigration was for Trump in 2016. Parental rights, and personal freedom can be seen under the umbrella of individualism. Individualism—the belief that we are each independent agents, extends to the right that we each have the right to protect ours (Rittenhouse’s neighborhood), just as we had to do in colonial America, when there was no other law enforcement. 

Individualism has been shown to be extreme in the American fabric. No other developed nation shows such lack of regard for the common good. It extends to the view that every person should make it on his/her own—no help is needed. One’s failures are only attributable to his/her lack of ambition or talent, and not to their poverty or skin color, their neighborhood, their parents, or any other. The US welfare system is the worst of the major developed nations of the world. Republicans are finding it no matter of conscience to vote virtually unanimously against both the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better bill—characterizing them as socialist. These are a far cry from socialism. See the analyses of David Brooks and Larry Summers.

Enough said: The Rittenhouse verdict is fair. The law is unfair. The vitriol in support of personal freedoms can sound heroic to our masses, but where is our recognition of the importance of our common good, of the value of our institutions, of our elected government at all levels? Where is our conscience? Where is our heart?

Tax the Rich-Please

As Democrats in Congress sort out the final details of their landmark Build Back Better Act, a bill packed full of aid for American families and long-overdue tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations, they appear poised to make a significant last-minute mistake that will undermine both the positive economic and political impacts of the bill. If Democrats want their bill to be a success, they cannot lift the SALT cap.

In their sweeping 2017 rewrite of the tax code that handed over billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations and individuals, Republicans in Congress and President Trump included a provision that capped the once limitless deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) on federal returns at $10,000 dollars. Although the cap was initially created as a punitive attack against the GOP’s political adversaries in coastal blue states, it has ended up being one of the few pieces of the bill worth preserving.

It’s disappointing that the Build Back Better Act doesn’t contain more aggressive tax increases on the rich or rollbacks of the Trump tax cuts, but it’s beyond insulting that in the wake of that failure, some Democrats are working to make our tax code more regressive by removing the one progressive tax provision within the 2017 bill. The House’s version of the bill would change the cap from $10,000, an amount that already overwhelmingly affects the well-off, to $80,000, which would give millionaires like me a significant tax break.

But don’t just take my word for it. Estimates by the Tax Policy Center show that raising the SALT cap to $72,500 would significantly benefit wealthy families, with only 1.6% of middle class families seeing a benefit that would average out to a tax cut around $20 dollars. This is simply because many working class and middle class Americans do not make enough to benefit from a high SALT cap deduction. And with the current Democratic plan now at a cap of $80,000 dollars, the benefits are likely to be skewed even farther in favor of the rich. 

As a wealthy individual from a blue state who would directly benefit from an increased cap, let me make one thing clear to Congressional Democrats – I do not want this tax break. Do not raise the SALT cap for my sake. 

In the midst of record breaking wealth inequality the last thing the Democratic party should be doing is working to decrease taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Wealthy individuals like myself are doing better than ever. We’re currently enjoying the boons of a skyrocketing market, exemplified by California’s ongoing record breaking surplus, funded by our capital gains taxes. We don’t need another cut. 

If Democrats are going to insist on changing the SALT cap, there is a targeted approach to adjusting the SALT cap that will ensure relief goes to only those who need it. Last week, Senators Sanders and Menendez introduced a proposal to eliminate the SALT cap for those that make under $400,000 dollars annually, while leaving it intact for anyone making more. Under this plan, working and middle-income folks in California with high property taxes can benefit without giving billionaires a tax cut.

Democrats campaigned on removing tax breaks for the rich and curbing the seemingly exponential growth of wealth inequality. Lifting the SALT cap would be a clear giveaway to wealthy donors and a betrayal of their campaign promises. Democrats are already seen as the party that represents the coastal elites, and if they end their first two years in power by failing to remove a single GOP-enacted tax cut while instead doubling down on a tax break for the rich, then the losses in Virginia will pale in comparison to the disaster waiting for them in the midterms. 

If Democrats want to hold onto the gains they made in the 2020 election, they should be focused on raising taxes on wealthy folks like me, not cutting them. It’s not hyperbole to say that the fate of the party over the next decade could be determined by what our tax code looks like at the end of these negotiations. The American people are fed up with elites always getting their way while they continue to receive the scraps. We are faced with a unique opportunity to unrig our tax code in favor of the 1 percent. I urge Democrats to keep the cap on SALT and continue the fight for tax fairness.  

Ideas I Don’t Like

  • That Americans are the appointed people of God—that we are the new Israel in the New World
  • That Christianity is the only right belief system
  • That the US is only a Christian nation
  • That we are superior to all other countries of the world
  • That we need to maintain the largest military of the world
  • That we need to do all necessary to remain the strongest nation in the world
  • That we tend to idolize or worship those who serve in the military (vs. our teachers)
  • That we need to police the world and control all national behaviors we don’t like
  • That Communism is some sort of dark and evil system which we need to eradicate
  • That personal freedom is more important than the common good 
  • That personal safety via police is more important than fair treatment of our underprivileged
  • That climate change is to be doubted
  • That experts and teachers are not to be trusted with their intelligence—that we can always know better
  • That the underprivileged suffer only because of their lack of ambition, work, or talent
  • And, that those of color deserve no special consideration
  • That no one needs a helping hand—each must do it on his own
  • That immigrants represent a threat and a cost to our country
  • That one race (white) is somehow superior and is threatened by others
  • That our Democracy is without flaws
  • And, that our Constitution is flawless, notwithstanding 300 years have passed
  • That our form of capitalism is also flawless, let the market determine outcomes, no need for government intervention
  • That government is the problem
  • That tax reduction is always the best action
  • That nationalism is better than globalism
  • That dissemination of untruths is ok
  • That inequality is ok, because the successful earned it rightfully, and I hope to do so also
  • That Donald Trump was a good President
  • That Joe Biden is failing in his Presidency


These are some of the troublesome ideas prevalent among significant elements of our society. These are ideas I don’t like, and many of them represent serious dangers to our country. I could say a lot about each of them, but you get the idea.

I am an Establishment Liberal. Take the quiz and see where you stand:

Message to Fox News

September 9, 2021

Here are a few thoughts for Fox News, just based on the last two weeks:

Two weeks ago, you complained that Biden couldn’t get people out of Afghanistan fast enough, forget the paperwork and vetting–just get Americans and friends out! 

Now, your criticism has turned to questioning whether the paperwork and processing was too fast, and whether we may have allowed terrorists in–although none have yet been discovered. I’m fully expecting that soon your concerns will include the settlement of these “immigrants” into our communities, based on the anti-immigrant stance of the previous administration.

You fight against mandates for vaccination and masks: Both are seen by the vast preponderance of Americans and scientists as critical to getting to national immunity. All of this you politicize in the name of resistance to government intrusion and exaggerated need for personal freedom, at the expense of community. Vaccination mandates are not new. In 2002, George Bush mandated a smallpox vaccine for 500,000 troops. In 1777, George Washington did the same for his troops. In 1905, the government authorized breaking into homes to inoculate against smallpox, and the US Supreme Court ruled that the mandate was legal. Nothing new here, Fox. Report on that history, please

You protest “wokism,” suggesting that government, schools, and businesses have no right to express their preference for honoring our minorities and disadvantaged. Kudlow loves to caption his slogan “go woke, go broke.” Doesn’t seem to be resulting in any “broke” so far. Those corporations going woke are enjoying record revenues. Consumers seem to like their attention to our disadvantaged.

You search for any mistakes made by members of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, regardless of whether such actions are endorsed by the leadership of such organizations, or not. You attribute that behavior to the leadership, but the capital rioters of January 6 are argued to have nothing to do with Trump or any other Republican leadership.

You say, suggest, or imply that China is our arch enemy, asking whether the US will take up arms against China if China threatens Taiwan. This, notwithstanding the clear majority of Americans wanting no future American foreign wars. Also, notwithstanding no evidence whatsoever that China is even remotely interested in a future war with America. China only wants respect and a seat at the table. I suggest we let China’s issues with its neighbors remain between China and those countries. I have studied the history of China extensively at the University of London, and I have confidence that your frequent guest, Gordon Chang, is terribly wrong. He’s been a critic of China for decades–try a few other China experts, please. Try Henry Paulson or Nicholas Lardy for a more reasoned and promising road to our future with China.

You have been too busy this month with Afghanistan and Covid to focus on the Southern border. While you are right there is a problem, you are always slanting your reporting by failing to mention (a) it’s always been  problem, was certainly a problem under Trump; and, (b) you offer no suggestions for how to handle it effectively. Trump did not enact a comprehensive immigration solution. He broke this promise to the American people, along with many other promises. You neglect to focus on the dire need of so many south of us, in danger of starvation and risk to their lives. Is “America First” really the right answer when we look at poverty and danger just outside our borders?

Afghanistan after the exit: Your hosts and your guests (e.g., Karl Rove) continue to claim the Taliban are terrorists. That’s not true. If America does not try to work with them on a cautious basis, extending some trust and forgiving some continued misdeeds from their zealots, as they try to get a rebel country under safe control, we’ll make it even worse for those who helped us and want out, plus the millions there facing poverty, deprivation, and imminent starvation. You can’t give up on criticizing the exit, when Trump set the stage for that, but lacked the courage to actually do it.

Fox, no matter how much you criticize Biden, Americans felt and still feel, he’s far better than Trump.

The President’s poll ratings are falling, but so what? So are the ratings for Abbott and DeSantis, your presumed front runners for 2024. Texans and Floridians are not happy with their governors, whose positions are generally opposite from those of the President. On the other hand, Gavin Newson will most likely be re-affirmed by us Californians on Tuesday of this week.

It’s still a good way to mid-terms and a long way to 2024. Most likely, Afghanistan will be forgotten by then, and the pandemic will also be over, along with the arguments over vaccinations and mask mandates. 

Criticize as you wish, but face it: Democrats are in charge now. Sorry, but accept it. You had your turn under Trump. It didn’t turn out well. Americans know that, and that’s the best of all weapons Democrats have in 22 and 24—that Fox and the Republican party largely remain subservient to Trumpism. You’re way out in Right field, Fox, not serving our nation well.

Apologies to the few of your hosts and guests who try to be fair and even handed. Regrettably, it’s very few.

Afghanistan-2

August 25, 2021

(Afghanistan,  previously known as “Khorasan,” a name now attached to a sect of ISIS: “ISIS-K.”)

I’m standing by my belief stated here a few days ago–that President Biden’s exit will turn out to be a great American success story. So, the exit has been poorly executed, but (a) no prior President had the courage to face a likely exit disaster; and no one can credibly argue that any exit would avoid chaos.  As of today, some 5,400 Americans have been evacuated plus some 120,000 Afghans just in these few days. Some have been retrieved from locations distant from Kabul. In addition, coalition forces have removed more. For example, British flights have evacuated 15,000. France, Spain, Italy and Germany have taken thousands more. This is a great success for the US and coalition partners. Reasonable parties couldn’t really imagine Trump could have done it better.

Kevin Barker writes for Politico on August 28 in his piece The Old Cliche About Afghanistan That Won’t Die, “Understanding the historical reality is critical to grasping why the US is unlikely to suffer serious long term effects from its long and wasteful occupation of Afghanistan–or from the bloody, bumbling withdrawal.” Barker lists the long history of many powers who came, fought, lost, and departed with their own chaotic exits, without lasting effect on those powers. The US is just another in this list. Perhaps there will be others.

The dark side, promoted by Fox news and Conservative hawks: Historically, in provinces they controlled, the Taliban has been known to ban TV, movies, music, and has stopped girls from school after age 10. Punishments have been painful and often fatal for those accused of crimes. Stoning was one such punishment. There is fear the Taliban will harbor al-Qaeda and ISIS-K.

The equally likely plus side: The BBC asks, August 18, Taliban are back–what next for Afghanistan?  The stated reason for our entry 20 years ago was to root out al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. Now, the Taliban, terrorists only against their own US supported Afghan government (never accused of terrorism against the US), ends up in control of their country, feeling they have finally rescued their native country from colonial domination (and its practices). The future might surprise many.

Mullah Baradar, one of the top members of the new Taliban government is quoted as saying, “We have achieved a victory that was not expected…now it is about how we serve and protect our people.”

This is the hope offered to all who fear the worst, and especially to those who think we should have stayed, or at least stayed longer. While the Taliban undoubtedly feel this was and now is their country, and they have the right to rule it, they certainly understand three very critical elements of the struggle ahead of them:

  1. They inherit a nation with a significant population of better educated citizens, and a working economy in Kandahar, Kunduz, and other larger cities. While still third world, the main cities are in far better economic shape than the more distant Taliban provinces where some of the seemingly barbaric practices had been occurring.
  2. They must be aware that without international help going forward, removal of sanctions, etc., they have little chance to retain the economic gains, much less to advance the country forward.
  3. They promise not to harbor terrorists, and that they will honor women’s rights.

This reality is more than a faint liberal dream. It has a good likelihood to move in this direction: gradual lessening of punitive practices, gradual acceptance of women in the workplace, going out without male escort, gradual expansion of permission for girls to continue schooling. Sincere efforts to help coalition partners root out unwelcome terrorist gaining entry.

It is not expected that such a possible transition will be swift or that it will be without challenges from Sharia hardliners. It will not be without some bloodshed. And, while we have narrowed the number of Americans who want out to 350, some will likely be left behind on August 31, depending on Pentagon strategies to continue to evacuate them. And tens of thousands of SIV holders, and others claiming refugee status are surely left behind, with similar dependence. 

We’ll all be watching or working across coming week and months to enable as many of these as possible to leave. Even those who subscribe to my positive outlook (hope?) for this ravaged country, might want to sit it out elsewhere while the turbulent transition takes place, likely to require several years.

The Taliban will need to fill all government vacancies resulting from the departures. They will have to reign in their own extremists. They will have to learn how to protect their citizens from extremists within the Taliban and from foreign terrorists seeking a haven. Essentially, they will have to build an entire organization—from the ground up. 

It will be messy, but there are good grounds for the future of this country. Let’s try to support this hope from the Taliban:

“We have achieved a victory that was not expected…now it is about how we serve and protect our people.”

Afghanistan and our Right Wing Critics

The Biden handling of the exit from a $2.3 Trillion war, over 20 years in the making (with little, if anything, gained), will go down in history as a positive legacy of this administration.

It is likely every American who wants out will be safely returned. Tens of thousands of Afghans who served us or fear for their safety under Taliban rule will also be evacuated. So far, no Americans have been injured in the exit process, and the few Afghans who died, did so being trampled in the confusion as thousands rushed the airport. 

Could the exit have been better managed? Probably so. Perhaps we could have sent in more troops, secured major cities and airports, and started to evacuate. Perhaps our weaponry could have been removed or prepared for being destroyed. It does appear that US and Allied Intelligence and Military leadership failed to anticipate just how fast the Afghan army would crumble, how fast the Taliban could move. We may have drawn down our troops without sufficient precaution.

However, as President Biden said today, there would have been chaos under any scenario. Possibly less—but possibly more—as these kinds of operations do not follow any rule book, and doubtful any allied intelligence force was able to be on top of Taliban plans. Even if we had better preparations and management, as soon as word spread that evacuation was imminent, thousands would certainly have rushed the nearest US outpost. Chaos.

This “chaos” will all settle down across coming weeks. In a month or two, everyone who deserves to be out will be evacuated. 

“Deserves” is an important word. Perhaps the critics don’t want to focus on the complexity of vetting tens of thousands of Afghans, many of them illiterate and speaking no English, with various tribal Afghan dialects. We don’t want to be transporting terrorists to the US, and the US Right certainly doesn’t want to have this become a free opportunity for just any Afghan to immigrate, in addition to those who served us valiantly and those who are deemed in danger. How to vet these people, rushing in thousands, probably many without papers? How to arrange sufficient interpreters and State Dept officers to assure proper qualification? 

The critics: The Five, Hannity, Pirro, and Carlson on Fox, other Conservative media, and numerous Republican Right-wing politicians have been having a field day criticizing the exit’s seeming weaknesses. Of course, none make mention of the complexities of such an exit, how it would be inappropriate to just line people up on a first-come-first-served-basis and board them, without interviews, papers, vetting, etc., etc., etc. Have you ever talked to anyone who has actually gone through our entire complex immigration process, with all that vetting? My wife has! To do this in a few days in Afghanistan?! That is a miracle, to say the least—let’s herald the Biden administration for that.

Historians and politicians on both sides will debate the value of this war for decades to come. Was it intended to turn Afghanistan into a solid and prosperous Democracy? Was it intended to snuff out forever the potential threat of various terrorist groups which are sometimes found to be seeking hospitality there? What was it for, really? Whatever it was for, depending on your view as a supporter, most will agree that it failed. Democracy is a far cry, and terrorists will continue to occupy many countries in the world, including Afghanistan.

We are now left to admit that a so-called “rag-tag” band of illiterates espousing a harsh form of religion which limits privilege to women, has been able to better the best efforts of the world’s major nations’ military forces combined, and in the meantime, has captured billions of dollars of aid and military weaponry.

We are left, once again, to nurse our wounds from yet another in a litany of failed foreign intrusions—whether in the sake of human rights or in pursuit of terrorists—or, sometimes with other pecuniary objectives arising in the secret of government or the military-industrial complex.

Bush could have done it. Obama could have done it. Trump could have done it. None of them had the courage to actually do it. Biden should be commended—and assisted, rather than criticized by those seeking petty political gain. 

It’s still a long time to the Fall of 2022 and especially to 2024. Americans will not be swayed by arguments that this administration “failed” in exiting Afghanistan. The retort would be “why didn’t the Republican administration do it?” 

Soon the Right can return to protesting vaccinations and mask mandates. But what if the Pandemic subsides by the Fall of 2022? Oh, there’s always the border to criticize!

What’s Behind the Mask Controversy?

5/14/21

Can we stipulate for these purposes that science has made it clear to all that for the preceding months, the wearing of masks was for the health benefit of the nation, and therefore, also for my neighbors, even for my own family; and, secondly, can we stipulate that the wearing of a mask is a very small thing, not a great inconvenience to anyone?  

This much is quite clear to everyone.

So, why has the matter of masks turned into such a feud? Officials are named and shamed for both wearing and not wearing masks, depending on whether you are watching Fox or CNN. This can’t be entirely because there are some minor scientific differences on where and when to wear masks, because there just isn’t much scientific disagreement.

What seems a simple issue has become rancorous, divisive, and bitter, between Republicans and Democrats. This is really hard to understand unless one reflects on the sociological history of the US. Our pilgrims had little government, often none, as they pushed west. They fought their way through all manner of challenges and hardships, with little or no help. They fought through all forms of interference in pursuit of their freedom and opportunity. Even as we grew and needed so much that could only be done by working together, this deep seated attitude has sustained and prevailed.

The answer to the mask mystery must be in our nation’s long history of individualism, the resistance to accepting responsibility for the collective. 

When Ronald Reagan said, “government IS the problem,” he was playing to this sentiment. Government exists for the collective, for the communal good. So abolishing government would be victory for those who want no responsibility for others and feel they are perfectly prepared to go it alone, needing no help from anyone.

When Donald Trump proclaimed, “America First,” he was rallying to this same sentiment—we as a nation can go it alone—we can be self-sufficient—we don’t need anything from the rest of the world. Likewise, we don’t need immigrants. 

There are objections to anyone controlling when my kids can be back in school, and anyone controlling when I can re-open my restaurant or business, and just how I must operate when I do. The police are here to protect me and my property. They’re not here to be social workers for those who should be taking care of themselves.

And on and on.

Fueling this bias is the failure of government to operate in ways seen as in the best interest of the individuals, the citizens of this country. And it’s not just the institutions of government which have lost the trust of citizens. Corporations have also failed the individual. There are few pension plans remaining. “Defined benefit plans” have taken their place, essentially meaning employer abandonment of the lifetime concern for the employee. Employment “at will” prevails, meaning the boss can fire you for any reason without warning. Unions have also failed their workers. Public schools have failed their students and parents.

In quasi-individualist moves, the wealthy have taken to private schools for their kids, and some to private jets and helicopters for their travel. The wealthy belong to private clubs and live in private gated communities. Inequality has skyrocketed and polls show working class Americans don’t care to fix it—many hoping they also can “make it,” and be left to enjoy it without being taxed. 

This is all a reflection of the extreme appeal to individualism, which has been and remains uniquely characteristic of the US. Sociological studies have compared our nation to a variety of European nations and found us at the extreme.

The mask objectors have seized on this symbol of being forced to concern for the collective. They see it as a loss of freedom for the individual. The mask objectors are saying, “no one can tell me what to do—not the government, not the scientists, not the CDC.”

Our unfortunate extreme dedication to individualism has costs. The value of community is lost and starved for resources. Only with community can all manner of shared assets and services be provided—from roads and bridges to Medicare and Social Security. Only with community can we have police, military, and careful protection to our environment. Our dedication to individualism means that all of these (and more) can be seen as somehow infringing on individual rights.

I vote for government, and higher taxes for the wealthy of us. I vote for leaders who respect and appreciate government, want to improve it, not to destroy it.

America First!

 

5/10/21

He said America First

Nobody else until we get all we want

No scraps from our table

Until our own poor are fed

And, our dogs are fed too

No shelter from the storm

Until all of us have a shelter

And a good one too

No jobs for anyone else

Until all of us have jobs

And high paying jobs too

And even if you want the dirty jobs

Dig ditches in the hot sun

Clean our dirty toilets

Feed our Alzheimer’s patients

And more stuff like that

And pay taxes

And obey our laws

Doesn’t matter

We don’t want to help you

We don’t want you coming here

Not until every single one of us

Has everything we want

And, that’s not going to happen soon

So forget it

And you, thousands, millions

Standing at the wall

Or the river

Or even the gate

We are America First

We really don’t care about anyone 

Except ourselves

See, this is a nice place

And you’d only mess it up

We can’t allow that

So walk on back to your dictators

Your criminal gangs

Your hunger

Your hopelessness

And your deprivation

It’s not our fault

You should have been born here

And born white

That’s where you made your mistake

We are America First