Fact: The Taliban WANTED To Hand Over Bin Laden But We Refused To Let Them

History will not judge America kindly for its folly in Afghanistan. But, unlike right this second, Joe Biden will NOT bear much of the responsibility for what goes down. This terrible ending replete with appalling visuals of people falling from airplanes they clung to was inevitable from the first second we arrived in country as liberators. Right off the bat, that’s nonsense. It forgets one key fact — WHO exactly the Taliban ARE. Unlike American soldiers, Taliban fighters are all AFGHANIS. They’re Pashtuns — one of the tribes that make up the imaginary country we call “Afghanistan”. During the Soviet occupation, we courted the Taliban (they were called the “mujahedeen” then — same band, new name) we supplied them with money and weapons. The problems arose AFTER the Soviets departed — and the various tribes from the various disconnected parts of Afghanistan all fought each other for power. When the Taliban (“students” in Pashto ) took over, according to the BBC, “…most Afghans, weary of the mujahedeen’s excesses and infighting after the Soviets were driven out, generally welcomed the Taliban when they first appeared on the scene. The Pashtuns’ early popularity was largely due to their success in stamping out corruption, curbing lawlessness and making the roads and the areas under their control safe for commerce to flourish.”

But, that security came at a steep price. The Taliban believed in a very austere version of Islam which they enforced with dogmatic brutality that was especially hard on Afghanistan’s women. Their fate as the Taliban retake power in Afghanistan, horrifies us and justifiably so. But, with the house burning down around us, let’s not forget that saving the house was NEVER an option. It’s understandable to wish we had never set a departure date — as if that action was the trigger for the current chaos; if we’d never pulled the trigger, the chaos would never have happened. That is wishful thinking. We had already drawn down — per the plans and terms the Trump administration committed us to — to three thousand troops. The conceit was that the three hundred thousand man Afghani army would stand up as we continued to draw down.

That did not happen and was never going to happen because, frankly, the Afghanis have always known the Taliban would outlast us. Because the Taliban ARE AFGHANIS. They LIVE in the parts of Afghanistan where they’ve holed up. This has been their tribe’s home for hundreds of years if not longer. But, let’s dig into that a little. The Taliban think of Afghanistan as their home. They believe their home — all of it — should follow the same rules they follow.

Afghans, being devout Muslims believe firmly in certain things about one’s guests, how they must be treated when they reside in your home. For one thing, you cannot just betray them. The Taliban were not fans of terrorism. They said so. Repeatedly. They gave bin Laden cover when he first arrived because, like them, he followed a fundamentalist brand of Islam. But, when bin Laden’s actions caused mass death and destruction, the Taliban did not celebrate. They were appalled by what had happened. But, unlike America who felt certain they knew what the story was, the Taliban — to satisfy their own cultural need for fairness — wanted to be shown the same proof America had. George W. Bush refused to show them any proof. He demanded the Taliban turn over bin Laden.

The Taliban were not against doing that. All they wanted was proof — so that they could justify turning over bin Laden. It was a cultural thing that we refused to acknowledge and refused to understand. Our emotions got the better of us. So did our white person arrogance. This is all background. It’s important because it SHOULD BE the context in which we see the current catastrophe. America set this in motion. We absolutely could have secured bin Laden without an ounce of bloodshed. Now, that would have meant the Taliban never lost power in Afghanistan and Afghanistan would have spent the last 20 years under the same harsh sharia law the Taliban are about to reimpose. That’s terrible — no argument. But — understand — this is a glass house for us. We have zero business casting stones at others who treat women like chattel when that is exactly what happens in parts of Utah and Arizona where fundamentalist Mormons are the dominant tribe.

In those parts of America, FLDS Mormons hide out in remote scrub, having multiple wives who they impregnate like they, personally, were nation building. Anyone who thinks those women have any rights is clueless. Think those FLDS women ever have a shot at educations? Freedom of choice? Freedom PERIOD?

Puh-lease! Imagine now if some sympathetic other country chose to take up the plight of these religiously oppressed American women — up to and including invading Utah. Hmmmmm… I wonder how THAT would go down in the heartland… .

We screwed the pooch big time on this. But the pooch didn’t get screwed today. Today was when we first felt the pooch’s screwing — feelings that will endure, absolutely. But this debacle does not have Joe Biden’s name on it. It has George W. Bush’s name on it. And Dick Cheney’s. And the name of every chicken hawk who enabled these greedy scumbags. After all, it was George W. Bush — with Dick Cheney barking in his ear — who turned down the Taliban’s offer of bin Laden in exchange for the proof we had the buttressed our certainty that Osama bin Laden indeed masterminded September 11. Funny thing? We had it. We had plenty of proof.

But that proof would have caused problems with our “allies”, the Royal House of Saud. As the Beeb put it: “It is believed that the predominantly Pashtun movement first appeared in religious seminaries – mostly paid for by money from Saudi Arabia.”

Gosh… how much world wide pain and suffering — how much American pain and suffering — can be laid at the feet of the rulers of Saudi Arabia? Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could be the whole world’s poster person.

Our actions in the Middle East are always colored by how the House of Saud will react. This needs to stop right here, right now.

True Fact: Life is way more complicated than any headline can contain. History is even more complicated. You can report the present with minimal sense of the history that got us here for only so long. Eventually, people will realize you’re full of shit and talking about a world that, if it ever existed, existed so long ago that it’s utterly irrelevant now. Therefore, what the hell are YOU talking about? Context is everything. I didn’t know until this past weekend that the Taliban weren’t the intransigent protectors of a terrorist that I’d been lead to believe. That information was out there — the articles I’ve sourced in this blog are all mainstream news sources who published this information as it happened.

As much as I’d love to hurl still more invective at our god-awful news media (they deserve it!), I can’t right this second because I find myself suddenly realizing we’ve worn the same shoes.

I always had access to this important information that — once I read it — directly impacted my understanding of Afghanistan. I just didn’t know this piece of information existed. But, once I did…

Our news media always has had access to important information about Donald Trump that, had they known it, probably would have directly impacted their understanding of Trump and what the past five years have really been about. The money behind conservative newspaper The Washington Free Beacon backed Mario Rubio in 2016 which is why they hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Marco’s behalf so as to undermine Donald Trump. While, in time, the cost of this ongoing research would be picked up by Democratic voters, when the Republican money was financing it, the research uncovered such a wealth of damning information about Trump (and how he used his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money) that Fusion went and subcontracted the Russian part of the research to the Westerner with better sources inside Russia than maybe anyone: Christopher Steele, former head of MI6’s deeply respected Russia desk. That’s per Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson’s Congressional testimony on August 22, 2017.

It takes a lot of moving parts to make a tragedy — and every tragedy is entirely personal to everyone it consumes.

Our news media are icing eaters in a world made of cake. They’re easily distracted. What’s worse, all those dreams of Pulitzers and Peabody’s have wrecked their ability to focus. They can only hear their own uninformed, clownish, perspective-free questions. Sadly, most of our news media really do cynically believe that “both sides do it”. That’s their lack of perspective speaking. And their love of access journalism.

I’ll grant the news media this: our times transcend any journalist’s ability to capture it in their reporting. Between rampant corruption, worldwide pandemics, right wing power grabs, American white supremacist terrorism, international organized crime, Donald Trump’s many acts of treason and climate change, there are a multitude of stories to cover, each with their own dots to connect. Ah, but what if some of those dots from those various stories connect? What if — contrary to our news media’s view of events — everything happens for a reason and never “just because”?

Republicans Are The Spoiled Children Of American Politics

Here in America, our family motto is E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. It’s the good news and the bad news all wrapped up on one. The majority of the family has figured out that the family really and truly does best when more of the family prospers versus when, say, only a few members of the family prosper. As anyone born into a multi-child family will tell you, birth order matters in strange ways. It creates odd expectations and artificial friction depending on where in the birth order one was birthed and how the family one was birthed into itself thinks about the importance of birth order.

Republicans like to think that because Northern European, Christian, white men synthesized, articulated and memorialized various ideals plucked from the French Enlightenment into our founding documents (while failing to live up to those very same ideals) that THEY and only THEY should forever be the “keepers” of that “founding flame”. That IS what “originalism” is all about. It’s a first-born male child thinking he personally did something to make himself that first-born male child. It’s George W. Bush being born on third base and thinking he’d hit a triple. “Here’s how it was when WE wrote it up the way WE wanted it to be; how it was then is how it must forever be — because we say so”.

Imagine writing “All men are created equal” while actually meaning only “white, Protestant, Christian, land-owning men with Northern European roots”. That bit of ignorant, cultural hegemony happened in spite of the new, expansive thinking inspired by the French Enlightenment. But then, ideals never drove the quest to settle North America, making a lot of money did. Once Europe realized that North America was a thing and not just a passageway to the Far East, their mandate was to exploit it for the benefit of their royal and commercial sponsors. And, exploit it they did. By the time these Europeans began agreeing that “All men are created equal”, they’d already been living on and claiming title to property that wasn’t theirs for well over a hundred years. Not too, too long thereafter, they’d articulate that bit of bullshit as “Manifest Destiny”.

The thing though about growing families? They’re dynamic by nature. They change. They evolve. Though they start as one thing, they become something else over time via intermarriage with other families from other cultures. Our individual genomes are good at matching up dominant gene traits so as to perpetuate them in the collective genome. While a degree of specialization can be a good thing in a family’s genetic makeup, that can be a trap, too. We’re really not meant to inter-breed with family. Unless we think turning into the Spanish aristocracy’s a good thing.

What makes America exceptional — American Exceptionalism is a very real thing — is our E Pluribus Unum diversity. It’s the whole rest of the family that both arrived here in time but who also were born here same as the arrogant white men who assume that they’re being born here matters more. Think of how much better the American family would be if one of its family members didn’t keep threatening to blow up station wagon with all of us inside it.

I don’t know about you, but the image I keep getting in my head every time I hear a Republican lie or dissemble about their stone cold intention to destroy our democracy is of a spoiled little boy, his arms folded arrogantly across his chest, his lip thrust forward defiantly. He’s saying something like “You’re not the boss of me” or “I like beer” or “Stop the steal”.

A Presidency Is Like A Four-Year Story Cycle — And America Is Done, Done, DONE With The Donald Trump Story

We didn’t need to preview “The Donald Trump Presidency” to know it was going to be a double-barreled dumpster fire that could only end horribly. Everything about the prequel to Trump’s presidency — his life — suggested he was a terrible businessman, a terrible husband, a terrible father, a terrible American and an even worse human being. His candidacy did not change one iota of our assessment. If anything, Trump’s presidency has proven that we underestimated his awfulness. By a factor of a million.

The Donald Trump story is about greed and malfeasance and corruption and treason. It’s about piggery and power lust. It’s about bullying and bullshit replacing common decency and stone cold truth. It’s about one of our two political parties finding enough common ground with a man they KNEW was treasonous to make him their presidential nominee anyway. It’s about bad guys running amok because the good guys let them for so long. Or, maybe that’s because the news media equated bad guys with good guys since “both sides do it”.

Nothing about it makes sense. It’s like a rabbit hole designed by a dunderhead. It was never going to make sense anyway but now, it’s completely incomprehensible.

What the hell is THIS?

Even the news media — incapable of judging Trump despite the wall of immorality he presented every day of his presidency — has given up on any pretense that this isn’t “bonkers” — a word CNN used to describe Trump. America — by a margin of SIX MILLION VOTES & COUNTING — voted to go another way (the way we actually voted to go four years ago!) We all agreed: it’s time to turn the channel on this show because it sucks.

Most Americans enjoyed the Barack Obama story. We survived the George W. Bush story but only just. The Donald Trump story started off bonkers and then got steadily crazier.

It’s taken “bonkers” to places even “bonkers” had never been to.

That’s one more feature the Republican Party to add to its “brand” (in addition to “CORRUPT”, “RACIST”, “MISOGYNIST”, “BIGOTED” and “TREASONOUS”) — “BONKERS”. Thanks anyway, GOP — We The People have had our fill of bonkers. We’re moving onto healthier fare.

Republicans Are The “Mission Accomplished” Party; That’s Great Until You Realize What Their “Mission” Is…

Who can forget W aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, May 2, 2003 – proudly proclaiming just what the banner behind him said: “Mission Accomplished”.

That image haunted W’s presidency.  It haunts him to this day because nothing had actually been accomplished.  The only thing they’d succeeded at, mission-wise, up to that point was successfully hanging that banner without anyone getting hurt.

Like everything else Republicans say, “Mission Accomplished” was marketing, no more honest or genuine than Mitch McConnell insisting Merrick Garland couldn’t get a hearing because “the American people needed to make the SCOTUS choice, not the president who they’d overwhelmingly returned to office”. That WAS what Moscow Mitch said with as straight a face as he could muster.

And yet – when it comes to “Mission Accomplished”, Republicans have actually succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  The America being torn apart right now is the America Republicans want.  We are living in their “Mission Accomplished” – or, to be accurate, “Mission NEARLY Accomplished”.  Republicans can see Permanent Minority Rule from their house now.  They ache to get there.

This is how close Republicans are now to accomplishing their mission –

  • PACK THE COURTS — Moscow Mitch denied Obama dozens of lifetime court appointments.  How strange that all those vacancies started filling the moment Trump became POTUS.
  • How strange that Merrick Garland couldn’t get a hearing while Brett Kavanaugh skated despite overwhelming evidence he was unworthy to hold the judgeship he already held.

  • PROHIBIT NON-WHITE IMMIGRATION – Children in cages, anyone?

  • DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT – We left the Paris Accords.  Ryan Zinke.  The end of clean water, clean air, National Parks.  Life as we know it.
  • MAKE THE RICH RICHER & THE POOR POORER – Tax cuts for the rich, bullshit & lies for everyone else.
  • INSTITUTIONALIZE RACISM – “Decent people on both sides”.
  • MAKE GERRYMANDERING PERMANENT – Twice as many Democrats as Republicans have to vote in order for their majority to actually feel like a majority.  The whole point of gerrymandering is to CIRCUMVENT the Will Of The People.  Welcome to Republicanism.  Can’t win on the law, can’t win on procedure, so pound the table into sawdust instead.
  • ENFORCE PERMANENT MINORITY RULE – Remind the class – how many more votes did Hilary Clinton get over Trump?  3 million plus, was it?  Remember – that doesn’t include all the uncounted, provisional, suppressed, flipped & tossed in the trash ballots.  Think any of those were Republican votes?
  • DESTROY OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH ALL ALLIES – The knife-wound in the Kurds’ back is still fresh enough we can watch it bleed.
  • MAKE AMERICA A RUSSIAN SATELLITE STATE – How about that: “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED”!

Can We PLEASE Get This Straight? NO ONE Loves Their Health INSURANCE…

Somewhere, an evil genius is smiling so hard his face hurts. It might be the same evil genius who came up with a “Mission Accomplished” banner for the background of a speech by George W. Bush — on an aircraft carrier — during a war he started for no reason.

Yeah, I know the banner SAYS “mission accomplished” but I doubt BushCo could have actually pointed to what mission they meant and what, if anything, had actually been accomplished. “Americans love their private health insurance” comes from the same wellspring of evil-genius-strength bullshit.

The core problem with American healthcare is that its emphasis is immediately on the wrong syllable. When anyone walks in the door of the American Healthcare System, the first question isn’t “How can we help you?”, it’s “How are you gonna pay for this?”. If you can’t answer that question satisfactorily, you might just be screwed. But, hey — even if you DO have insurance? Between the co-pays, the deductibles and all the other out-of-pocket bullshit, you could STILL be screwed.

No other civilized healthcare system anywhere on the planet has profit incentive at the core of its healthcare. There’s a reason. Profit incentive and human well-being are completely incompatible when they’re both dependent on the same dollar. A corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to do the very best it possibly can for its investors. That means a choice between an expensive but uncertain procedure that might save a customer’s life (that’s what they are to the insurance company after all — customers) and a happy board of directors able to announce a bigger dividend at the next shareholder’s meeting. Guess who the corporation’s gonna choose?

Like I said — it’s their responsibility to do that. It’s not their fault exactly — it’s history’s. Ever wonder why it is that only in America does anyone’s employer pay for their health insurance? For real. This doesn’t happen anywhere else. And there’s a reason. It’s bad for business.

FDR toyed with making universal healthcare part of social security but the AMA didn’t want doctor’s fees limited by the government (cost controls, in other words). FDR made the political decision not to risk losing on both social security AND universal healthcare. He put all the chips on social security alone. Then WWII happened — and history caused American healthcare to zig when maybe we should have zagged.

Because all available money needed to go to the war, employers were not allowed to give good employees raises. Those same frozen wages made it hard to lure new talent (who could go elsewhere to an employer whose wages were frozen at a higher level). Thinking outside the box — what other benefits could be offered that would feel like salary? — produced the first direct employee sponsored healthcare.

The idea spread. People liked the benefit. In their minds, it was saving them money and providing them comfort. What’s not to love? Then the war ended.

With the war over, companies were free again to offer whatever salaries or bonuses or raises they wanted. They also were free to end the war-time benefit (replacing it with salary). They didn’t. Hell, instead of ending these programs, the big companies held onto it. This was back at a time when your average middle class American (remember them?) entered the work force at 18 or 22 (if they went to college) and whatever employer they started with? That was likely to be the employer who’d be handing them a gold watch upon their retirement 40 years hence. Your employment relationship was supposed to be as durable as your marriage.

While the big companies (who’d done a shitload of the hiring during the war) held onto providing healthcare to their employees, they farmed out the work of administering this employee benefit — and the healthcare insurance industry was born. Didn’t take long before the baby took over the nursery. Then the whole house.

Ask a company like Boeing what having to provide healthcare insurance to its tens of thousands of employees does to its bottom line and its competitiveness. The cost of that healthcare is massive and it gets reflected in the cost of each airplane.

Airbus, by contrast, doesn’t have to pay for its employees’ healthcare. In Europe, the government takes care of it, paying for it with tax dollars. That gives Airbus an advantage because they don’t have to build that cost into what they charge for an airplane. See? Employer-based healthcare is bad for American business because it makes them less competitive.

As for the healthcare itself — all the employer is providing is the insurance coverage. What that coverage is? That’s up to the insurance company.

The insurance companies can make up any rules they want. And they do. The most important rules of all — to them — is who they contract with and therefore who their customers will be allowed (by their made up rules) to see. Every last bit of this, remember, is made up. By a company put there to administer this thing.

To gate-keep.

Insurance companies are gatekeepers. Border guards that — so long as we pay our premiums and stay employed by the same bosses — will smile at us benignly each time we pass by. But we fear them. We dread them. What if they don’t smile next time?

What if, next time — when we’re really sick — they turn us away? What if they point to language in their dense boiler plate (something on page 58) that says our particular situation (as they’re interpreting it) means they don’t have to cover the procedure we need. We’re free however to pay for it retail-retail out of pocket.

Hey — we charge hundreds of dollars for insulin that costs relative pennies in Canada. Every last penny of that difference is profit. Let me repeat: PROFIT. People are dying cos they can’t afford their insulin. Retail-retail in American healthcare means the cost of a procedure and the procedure’s actual cost have nothing to do with each other. It’s like being charged a million bucks to go three blocks in a taxi.

What’s wrong with America’s healthcare system isn’t that the inmates are running the asylum. It’s that insurance companies are. And they couldn’t give a rat’s ass what happens to any of us.

Life Is Like Standing In A Batter’s Box — And The Pitcher’s A Sadist

I’m not the first person to visit this analogy. But I feel that analogy every day like I’m standing in a batter’s box and whatever’s out there pitching at me is seriously off their meds.

As metaphors & analogies go, life compares best to baseball (as opposed to football, basketball, soccer — or archery even). There’s a clock in baseball (9 innings) but it’s a flexible clock. There are no ties. The game will end eventually even if it takes an extra long time. And then there’s that feeling of “one-on-one-ness”. Yes, we’re all part of a team, but whereas in American football, a quarterback may hold the ball but he can’t possibly win one vs eleven. He can score from his one-yard-line all by himself with no one’s help but it’s pretty damned unlikely. He needs blockers. He just does.

In baseball, it’s pitcher v batter. A single batter can homer – produce the only hit, only run in an otherwise perfectly pitched game & all by him or herself, defeat the pitcher. The rest of the team has to pitch & play defense almost flawlessly to keep that 1-0 victory alive but — if they all struck out every time at bat, it wouldn’t matter; the win would still theirs.

So — there we are — bat in our hands, catcher and umpire behind us, Pitcher out on the mound staring us down. We’re all looking for the fastball right down the middle. Forget about it. Life doesn’t throw that pitch — ever. That’s not to say those pitches don’t exist — but Life doesn’t throw them. There’s that funny baseball-tinged saying that the wonderful Molly Ivins used to describe George W. Bush (or was it the equally wonderful Ann Richards?) — He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. That’s exactly right. Life never threw any pitch that W had to hit to get where he got. He was born there.

Life does throw fastballs. Life throws them hard — right at our heads. Every day. Life lives to bean us.

The trick — avoid getting beaned while looking for something we can hit. The problem — Life’s not going to throw anything to hit. If it isn’t hurling high heat at hour heads, it’s throwing off speed junk and Uncle Charlies. Especially the Charlies.

The off speed crap usually hits the dirt before reaching the batter’s box. We swing at it anyway, looking foolish. The curve balls however — that’s where our hope lies. Learn to hit Life’s curveballs and you might not only get on base a few times, you may even park one right in the bleachers. Maybe even the parking lot.