Where’s the smoking gun on the general? or STOP THE (Afghanistan) MADNESS!

June 26, 2010

As promised, I have finally read the Rolling Stone Magazine article that led to the dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal from his duty as chief of the Afghanistan war effort.

Did I miss something? It’s possible (although I doubt it), because I read it on the computer screen. I always have a hard time reading and retaining what I read on the screen, as opposed to what I read in hard print — but life has changed and I’ve had to change with it. But try as I might to look for the smoking gun that leaped out at me (a mixed metaphor, I know) and yelled: “this man must go for his terrible insubordination”, I couldn’t find it.

For sure, the article paints a picture of a rebel, a loose cannon if you will (a better metaphor).

But again, maybe I missed something (I still admit it’s possible). But I didn’t see any quotes from McChrystal to indicate any direct defiance of the president. But he did indicate agreement with criticisms of the Obama administration and others made by his own staffers.

What I did get out of the article is that the United States has no clear mission in Afghanistan and should withdraw — the sooner the better.

I don’t agree with McChrytal’s counter-insurgency tactics (impractical — let the Afghans fight it out themselves and re-build or destroy their own nation), but I don’t fault him for them. He is a professional warrior who was faced with a thankless task.

While I don’t have a crystal  (or even a McChrystal ball — oh well let’s don’t go there) to predict the future, I do have a memory of most of my past 60 years and it tells me we will eventually be out of Afghanistan and we will not have won a victory, but we will have incurred many more casualties. Worse yet, this war may actually bankrupt us.

As that TV infomercial huckster exercise lady Susan Powter used to yell:



I plan to reread the article and blog more about it — I found it fascinating. A point of view piece, I would call it — but sometimes to tell the truth, you have to give the point of view instead of ruining the story with ridiculous obligatory counter assertions and denials in the name of objectivity.

Some want to kill the messenger in the McChrystal affair

June 24, 2010

Some of the hard core never criticize war or generals or the good old USA crowd have actually called for the killing (figuratively) of the messenger. They blame the reporter that wrote the story for Rolling Stone Magazine that led to the canning of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

About the only thing I would say about that is that I don’t want their ilk deciding what I read or where my news comes from. Sure a lot of stuff you read is trash (this blog excepted, I would hope), but that is for the individual reader to decide.

A lot of the uber right wing let’s fight war at the drop of a hat crowd think the role of journalists is to put on those old time Movie Tune newsreels where everything is victory and happiness — if that it were so.

I will also say, though, that I heard the author of that article himself, one Michael Hastings, on an NPR interview and he, if I heard him correctly, indicated that some of the quotes he got were from slightly inebriated McChrystal staffers, and McChrystal himself seemed to indicate agreement with them, Hastings said (I didn’t catch whether he said the general himself was tipsy). And didn’t they know loose lips sink ships — or the general?

One critic suggested you don’t go write a story about warriors’ barroom bragging or trash talking. Well, these were no regular soldiers. But I do think that there is a difficult to see fine line for journalists. It’s a judgment thing. But I would rather the journalists do the judging — not the happy talk only censors.

Anyway, no one is claiming misquotations yet, not even McChrystal.

And he’s gone. We have Gen. David Petraeus taking over, the guy who was given credit for some success in Iraq and who has now technically taken a demotion of sorts since he was the overall commander of what is called Central Command.

Where’s Ike, or Patton, or George Marshall, or U.S. Grant, when we need them? gone to the grave yard every one.

I think the military experts wished we would all understand that there will be no World War II like victory in Afghanistan. It’s a different kind of war — just like all these conflicts we have had since the big one.

No, war is war. One side wins and one side loses, either outright or by default because it eventually quits — or it all just goes on forever.

And I still have not been able to read the story. I feel ashamed to even comment on it — but I am not commenting on it directly, just the events surrounding it.

Next step will be for me to read it. If only I didn’t have to work. But I will — read the story that is.

The general pulls a MacArthur, but it could do some good after all…

June 23, 2010

Just as I suspected, we don’t know what we are doing in Afghanistan and the whole war effort is in disarray, with the top general there in rebellion against the U.S. Constitutional civilian authority over the U.S. military. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has pulled a MacArthur and gone over the president’s head. And by the time most read this blog he will have no doubt been history, as well as he should, bad history at that.

Now if he’d been a general that really wanted to fight a war, such as MacArthur, I might feel a little bad, but from what I understand he was more into creating complicated rules of engagement for his troops, as if they needed any more problems.

I tried to do a quick read of the Rolling Stone article that has got McChrystal into so much trouble but couldn’t make a go of it, as it was late in the day for me — I having driven some 11 hours today, which is yesterday now, according to my blog date, but I’ve been hearing about it all day. Unfortunately most of the interpretation of it was coming from right wing nut radio. And the callers seemed to be torn between being upset with the general for breaking the chain of command, but being glad he dissed Obama.

And so it goes.

And maybe if all this prompts new thinking on our hopeless cause in Afghanistan, it will be a good thing.

I’ll try to have something a little more insightful to blog later.

Right wing nut fundamentalist radio keeps at it or it’s all the environmentalists’ fault and how dare a rich man give away his money!

June 22, 2010

1. The environmental catastrophe playing out in the Gulf of Mexico is the fault of liberals or environmentalists.

2. Saying that man is ruining the environment mocks God somehow, because really only God can do that.

3. When a rich man gives away his money to charity he is helping to destroy the middle class.

4. The moratorium on offshore drilling is doing more harm than the BP oil spill.

These are just a few of the assertions I’ve heard on the ever dependable right-wing nut Christian fundamentalist radio over the last 24 hours or so.

Why do I listen to it? Well, I’m kind of a captive audience, because that’s about all I can usually get on my radio, save for NPR from time to time.

As to number one. I guess the assertion is that by political pressure environmentalists (usually liberal, by definition) have at times prevented drilling too close to shore where it can be seen (I don’t know the truth to this, really). They have also prevented drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, a place that seems to be so important to the drill baby drill crowd. So as a result, the oil drillers have been pushed way out to sea (again, I don’t know the accuracy of all this).

Number two just seems to defy logic. We know at face value man can indeed do great damage to the environment. That does not mean the Holy Creator could not as well. Who knows? Maybe the oil leak is some type of sign from God that we have gone too far.

Number three is just bizarre. Rich people give away portions of their money — it’s often referred to as philanthropy — for a variety of reasons. It was said the Robber Barons of the 1890s did it partly out of guilt. Some of the rich say they just want to show their appreciation for what has been made available to them and re-invest some of their wealth back into society. I guess the wing nuts or nut who suggested it was wrong was saying that money should have been invested in the normal way, into some type of business activity that would presumably create jobs. I guess if things got too far out of hand, and too many rich people gave away too much money the whole system would go down — but really? Is that going to happen?

Number four may or may not have a kernel of truth to it if one thinks in strictly immediate and economic terms. But that’s about it. Destroying or degrading our eco system and despoiling the beauty of nature over time creates a much higher cost, at least that is how I see it.

Why I bother to comment on this I cannot say. But it seems to me that a lot of this fractured reasoning finds a lot of willing listeners who take it all in as gospel.

Heaven help us all!

East to Eden to a Father’s Day memory…

June 20, 2010

He was dressed in high-laced working boots, khaki trousers, a wool shirt, suspenders, and a felt hat with the brim turned slightly up in front and back.

That was my father, ready to take my middle brother and I on a hiking trip into the Kern Wilderness area of California, just east of the High Sierras.

This was in the early 1960s. I don’t know where he got the idea for that get up, but I suppose it was his idea of how you dressed in the woods. He often told of the summer he spent as a youth working in a logging camp as a smoke chaser, making sure conditions were safe from fires. The loggers at that time, at least where he was, were still using hand-powered cross cut saws and axes.

Dad was already in his late 50s when he took us on this trip. As I recall, I was 12 and going through a pudgy time of my life and not quite in shape for the hike, and that would have made my brother 16 — he was in much better shape.

And my father must have been in fairly good shape, even though he had a rather sedentary job at the time as a newspaper editor.

We spent the first day hiking up a steep mountain side on a switch back trail. This was not a bit easy for me, and I am sure I complained much. My father was patient about this.

We made camp at the end of the day, and after dinner, cooked by dad on an open fire, he hoisted our food supply up into a tree in a canvas bag to keep it safe from bears.

As I recall, the three of us slept in two sleeping bags zipped together on the hard ground.

In the middle of that night I heard a commotion and I heard my dad yell something. But I went back to sleep without knowing what was going on. Come morning I found out that a small bear had got into camp and dad chucked a rock at him.

I‘m not sure that was such a good idea. But we all survived and our food stayed secure.

Next we climbed up an even steeper trail to what is called Franklin Pass. I really had a tough time with this. Dad patiently waited while I rested. My brother went on ahead.

But eventually we were all at the top where there is a notch in the high range, Franklin Pass. Via a camera with a self-timer, dad made a photo of the three of us with a sign in the background. I think it read that we were at 11,000 and some feet above sea level.

We spent the next day or so hiking down the other side and through a semi-dry, but forested Rattlesnake Canyon.

I remember when at one point after we had made camp, nature called. There were no flush toilets and not even outhouses out there. I went some distance from camp to take care of business. With that done I walked the wrong way back. I eventually found myself at a point that looked at lot like the terrain we had been in earlier in the day. I was lost and terrified. In not too long a time I saw my dad standing on a rock yelling back at me. Thanks dad.

Eventually we came to what is a shear drop-off into the Kern River Canyon. Below we saw the magnificent stream lined with a verdant jungle.

Once we made camp down there, dad had us gather the abundant dry leaves and we made a much more comfortable bed for us all.

Each day we got up early and my brother and I would fish in one spot and dad would go off to another and fish by himself.

The water was crystal clear, and you could see the trout swimming around.

I was using salmon eggs for bait, and at one point I saw a good-sized trout, and to get his attention, I let the egg bounce on his head. The fish snapped it up. I caught the biggest fish of the trip. We all caught a lot of fish down there.

Dad cooked fish in a frying pan every night and fixed pancakes every morning.

One day dad was lying down prone at stream side with his hands cupped to drink some cold stream water. I noticed a small rattlesnake slithering next to his leg. I told him. He said, no it was just a lizard. He had seen one before he got down. But he did stay still until it passed. As it turned out it was a rattlesnake after all. I save dad.

We all enjoyed the trip immensely. But toward the end of our time there, my brother and I got lonesome for the comforts of home — to include candy bars and Coca-Cola as I recall, not to mention our own beds.

No offense mom, but dad did not want to leave. He loved it there. I think one of the reasons he liked it so much was that at the time he had a distasteful job, putting out a small weekly newspaper for an ill-tempered publisher.

But another reason was the place with its dense growth of trees and ferns and its beautiful and fish-filled stream was like a Garden of Eden.

I think this was the happiest I ever saw dad in my life.

And I know my brother enjoyed the trip.

As for me, it was difficult at times, but I think it may have been what led me to start trimming down and to be in somewhat better physical shape.

And for my brother and I it is a good Father’s Day memory.

Congressional hearing on BP embarrassing waste of time…

June 18, 2010

Congressional hearings can be a waste of time, and in fact the one I caught some of today, which will be yesterday by the time most anyone would read this, was embarrassing, if not shameful.

I’m nearly as mad at BP and its CEO Tony Hayward as anyone could be, save those directly affected by his company’s ham handedness or greed and carelessness.

But I think I have to agree with some citizen commentors from the affected areas. What we need to be doing now is get the oil leak stopped — we can sort out the blame and punishment later.

I watched the very opening on the computer and listened to some of it while I was working (driving an 18-wheeler down the road and dropping off and picking up freight). All it was was congressmen asking self-serving loaded questions and they demanded that Hayward answer in a certain way, but like Obama, he kept his cool — he ain’t no fool.

It was like a kangaroo court.

I think we pretty much all realize by now that BP cut corners on safety in the name of profits and they were working in unknown territory, a mile under the sea. While the top guys of other oil companies claimed in earlier testimony they wouldn’t have done things the way BP did, that is easy and convenient for them to say — maybe so, maybe not, they didn’t get caught.

I’m not at all sure that the oil leak can be stopped by man.

I was going to post a blog the other night right after the president’s speech, but due to a computer glitch or my own mistake, added to the fact I had just driven 11 hours, I had to give it up.

But all I was going to say is that I thought something was missing from Obama’s speech, but I could not quite put my finger on it. I had blogged earlier that I thought he should directly address the American people. And at least he did that. And he did promise to put all efforts into fixing the leak and not let up until it is done.

I also now don’t think that speech was the time to politic on alternative energy, even though most political experts would say a crisis should not go wasted. Since alternative energy seems to be such a hot button and divisive issue (what isn’t these days?), I thought it kind of got in the way of the message that he was on the immediate problem at hand.

And beyond all this, I find it puzzling indeed that so many who scoff at environmental concerns and say they are nothing more to barriers to business, now seem to want to blame everything on Obama. It was the policies of primarily Republican administrations (but I suppose Democrats too) that led to such lax safety precautions.

But it is true that for a variety of reasons that this nation must move full speed ahead on the issue of developing alternative energy. I think now that it will take a government program similar to the moon landing project. Private industry can kick in later, but it is not good at long-term research and development. Shareholders are impatient and profit driven (and I suppose somewhat understandably so).

That comment I made about not being sure man can stop the oil leak came as the result of me reading a blog supposedly quoting various engineers — but of course you have to take a lot of what you read, especially on the internet, with a grain of salt, to include this blog, maybe. I try to stick to facts or at least legitimate conjecture, along with a little sarcasm and satire.

So Meg Whitman is reportedly a bully…

June 17, 2010

I want to work for Meg Whitman. I’m sure that I can make her mad enough to hit me. Then if she follows her pattern she’ll pay me $200,000 to keep my mouth shut.

Hurt me, hurt me, shove me, please — I need the money Meg!

I write this after reading a blog that quoted a New York Times story that claims she shoved a young lady media relations assistant, an employee of hers while she was CEO of eBay. The company reportedly paid the victim $200,000 to keep her mouth shut.

I don’t know what the poor media aide looked like, but from the story I picture a young, diminutive Asian girl — her name  is Mi Kim. Whitman, I know from all those photos I have seen of her, is a tall and old white woman, and seems to perpetually wear that forced grin that says I can’t stand putting up with all of you idiots, but I’ll just grin and bear it — for the billions I make, it’s worth it.

The story says that Whitman, or her spokespeople, give a somewhat different account. They say the hapless young woman was guided out of a room by Ms. Whitman.

Man, if you have to pay someone $200,000 to guide them out of a room — I mean if you are doing them a service they ought to have to pay you.

One author of a business blog allowed as the accusations might have been exaggerated, but that nonetheless there is concern for how often Ms. Whitman loses her cool because she would likely run into a great deal of stress if she gets to be governor of California, as she hopes to be.

Since all of this was confidential, with no public charges or inquiry ever made, it’s kind of like asking someone “when did you stop beating your wife?” Or in Whitman’s case, “when did you stop beating up on little Asian girls?”.