Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

My Photo
Name:

I enjoy writing!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Putin must be stopped! Millions of displaced Syrians and Ukraine being smothered while Putin harbors Snowden and Yanukovych

Russian people are sadly  familiar with personal sacrifice caused by, governmental oppression and corruption. 

Regardless of their difficult history, the Russian people are not as naturally aggressive as their ruthless leaders. There's a historic disconnect between the Russian people and their political leaders. This schism has existed since the days of the Czars. What's different now, in the 21st century world order, is how the power hungry Putin, an ambitious disciple of the famous dictator Joseph Stalinis putting the world in a dangerously delicate defensive position. Putin has permitted the genocide of millions of Syrians while the country's murderer President Assad is allowed to remain in power. Now, Putin is successfully putting pressure on the Ukraine to abandon western affiliations and, instead, become the equivalent of a Russian state. Western nations are on the defensive because, frankly, no nation on earth has the intestinal fortitude to risk a war with Russia. Past aggression against Russia has produced absolutely horrific outcomes, as in Napoleon's and Hitler's lost campaigns.  

Frankly, when President Obama caved to public pressure by not taking aggressive action against Syrian genocide of Christian rebels by poison gas, he opened the door for Putin to arrogantly ignore any threats of retaliation for Russia's support of President Assad.  

As Russia's exhausting Sochi Olympic games are over, Putin has no imminent public relations campaign to oversee. Of course, he has about a billion dollars in Olympic bills to pay for the cost of the games. But, it's only money. Putin is on a power trip and obviously sees President Obama as too weakened by US partisan politics to respond to his own over grown Stalin-like ambitions.

All of which is to say - an increasingly dangerous world is evolving while Putin forces his power hand on Syria, the Ukraine and beyond to who knows where? 

Meanwhile, the information age traitor Edward Snowden is being held like a house cat in Russia, like a trophy Putin can point to, like the Super Bowl ring he stole away from New England Patriot's owner Robert Kraft.

Putin must be stopped.  Stealing Super Bowl rings, harboring traitors and now supporting heinous military campaigns in Syria and the Ukraine-Crimea, cannot be permitted to continue.  

Sadly, I doubt any nation has the intestinal fortitude to stop Putin.
If there's such a thing as reincarnation, the world certainly needs another Sir Winston Churchill as soon as possible.  

It would be nothing short of miraculous if a savior against Putin arose from within his own nation. Surely, the Russian people cannot continue to endure another political leader who continues to support the oppression they've experienced in the past.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

War and Russian President Putin - Ukraine and Syria and what next?

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

World War II began when Germany's Chancellor Hitler felt entitled to occupy Austria and Poland. Is Russian President Putin flexing the same 20th century mentality with different nations? Syria and the Ukraine are to Putin what Poland and Austria were to Hitler
It's obvious the Russians' are harboring the Ukraine's evicted Viktor Yanukovych, who's now the ex-president. 

In other words, if Russia didn't harbor Yanukovych, he'd, frankly, be dead by now. Families of the hundreds of people murdered by Yanukovych would've assassinated him by now, if they could only find where he and his family are hiding out.

Ukrainians are hunting Yanukovych because he murdered hundreds of his own citizens who were street dissidents that managed to force him out of office.

Yet, it's horribly upsetting to realize how Yanukovych is on the lamb, while genocidal Assad, president of Syria, is still in charge of his country where 9.3 million citizens are living in refugee camps and thousands of others murdered in a civil war. Assad, as well as Yanukovych, should be tried for crimes against humanity because they have engaged in murdering their own citizens. Of course, Russia is protecting both murderers. Russian President Putin has put the public relations campaign with the Sochi Olympic Games behind him, so moving forward is now his brutal business as usual.  

Meanwhile, Russian pressure to suppress Ukranian dissents has intensified with military threats against the rebellion. 

Creating more internal strife, the Ukrainian attempt to reorganize their government is now, apparently, running into problems with power brokers who remain loyal to Russia.  


It's impossible to understand how Putin can afford to pay for his expansionary vision. After somehow paying for the Sochi Olympic Games, costing by some estimates over one billion dollars, he's now resumed two military efforts involving enormous costs with human and capital investments.  

More important, these aggressively ambitious Putin power schemes are costing millions of innocent people their claim to national pride. By and large, a majority of Ukrainians don't want to be Russian, although they speak the language. It's like thinking Canada might become American, just because a majority of the people in both countries speak English.  

Similarly, a large percentage of Syrians prefer to remain Christian while living in a Muslim nation. So, Assad is eliminating them while Russia looks the other way.

In my opinion, America is not taking President Putin seriously enough. War weary Americans seem to feel that what Russia does stays there. This parochial thinking was dangerous in 1933 and remains so today.

President Putin simply can't afford to continue his totalitarian ambitions. It seems too simplistic, but Russia's falling birth rate can't sustain this kind of unlimited expansion. In Syria, a government supported by Russia can't possibly continue to survive when millions of citizens are living in refugee camps.

Eventually, Putin's hunger for power will be stopped. He'll either die, or his country will go bankrupt or both.

Tragically, millions of people will suffer as a result of Russia's relentless quest for world power. Although Putin may achieve short term success, Russia will ultimately implode for lack of essential resources, ie, people. Nevertheless, Putin will never admit defeat.  Never. So, the world must be ready to stop him before he decides on yet another acquisition of property.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Governor Jan Brewer should not have procrastinated about her imperritive veto of the Arizona anti gay law

"...three GOP Arizona state senators who initially ratified the measure have written to Brewer, a Republican, asking her to reject Senate Bill 1062, according to The Los Angeles Times..."

Although Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is procrastinating about her veto of an anti gay business law, the fact it, this bill shouldn't have passed at all.  It shows the right wing intolerance harbored by Brewer and others who are cut of her cloth.  

She should have immediately vetoed this horrible bill and eliminated any guessing game about her response.

If Governor Brewer were a political leader, she would've squelched this discriminatory legislation at the outset. Instead, she's now in the position of playing coy about her response to it.  

Her eventual veto should never have been debatable. The discriminatory bill shouldn't have passed in the first place.

Businesses are lashing out over an Arizona bill that would allow retailers to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers based on the owners' religious convictions.

The Arizona Legislature passed the bill last Thursday, and it's awaiting Gov. Jan Brewer's veto or signature. 


While proponents say the legislation was introduced as a way to afford religious freedom to business owners, critics say it opens the door to rampant discrimination.

So, now Brewer is going to veto this terrible legislation.

Sources: Brewer Will Veto Anti-Gay Bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will veto a controversial bill that would allow business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians on the grounds of their religious conviction, NBC News is reporting via Twitter.

Brewer has been under intense pressure from business groups and political leaders to diffuse the situation and veto the legislation which they fear will draw unnecessary attention to Arizona a year before it hosts the next Super Bowl and following economic losses on controversial immigration stances.

At the same time, three GOP state senators who initially ratified the measure have written to Brewer, a Republican, asking her to reject Senate Bill 1062, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Governor Brewer obviously doesn't think for herself or she would have vetoed that anti gay bill days ago. She's like a tea bag waiting for hot water before releasing her energy. Her right wing tea bag political intellect is just plain soggy.

Labels:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has plenty of political trouble - Republicans should ask who casts the first stone?

Mother Jones reports how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has as many political problems as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Only difference is, Wisconsin protects the investigative process from disclosure. 

Republicans who create monsters out of windmills when it comes to pointing fingers at potential Democratic presidential candidates should ask, instead, the famous Biblical question about those without sin casting the first stone (John 8:7).

Mother Jones reports:

"Here's The Secret Investigation That Should Worry Scott Walker."

This week, the media got the chance to pore over more than 27,000 pages of previously unreleased emails and other documents gathered during a three-year secret investigation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's staff when he was executive of Milwaukee County. That secret probe—what Wisconsin law enforcement calls a "John Doe" investigation—resulted in charges against three former aides to Walker, a major campaign donor, and a Walker appointee. The John Doe probe figured prominently in Democrats' attacks on Walker during his June 2012 recall election that the governor handily won. 

Walker himself never faced any charges.

The recently released emails shed new light on the activities of Walker and his aides. Walker had insisted that staffers in his county executive office had been prohibited from doing political work on county time, yet these records show the opposite was true. The future governor and his underlings set up a private WiFi network to communicate with staff on his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, and county staffers used private laptops so that their campaign-related work wouldn't appear on their county computers. The emails also show the degree to which Walker's staff (whose salaries were funded by taxpayers) worked to get him elected governor while on the county clock. As Mary Bottari of PRWatch notes, Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker aide who was convicted of campaigning on county time, sent and received a whopping 3,486 emails from representatives of Friends of Scott Walker, most during normal work hours. (Walker, through his spokesman, declined to comment about the emails.)

State and national Democrats want the public to see these emails as part of a Chris Christie-style scandal. But there's a big difference: This case is closed—and it has been since March 2013. So while the emails may result in some unflattering stories and uncomfortable questionsfor Walker, especially if he later runs for president, there's nothing serious (read: legal) to worry Walker. 

Christie, on the other hand, faces two active probes of Bridgegate and related matters—one mounted by a legislative committee, the other by a US attorney—that could drag on for months, if not years.

But there is an investigation that should keep Walker up at night: a second John Doe investigation reportedly focused on his 2012 recall campaign. (After Walker targeted public-sector unions following his 2010 election as governor, labor and its allies launched a petition drive to throw Walker out of office via recall election.) John Doe probes are conducted in secret so the public can't know all the details, but leaked documents suggest investigators are looking at possible illegal coordination between Walker's recall campaign and independent groups that spent millions of dollars to keep him in office. Here's how the progressive Center for Media and Democracy wrote about the investigation recently:

The John Doe probe began in August of 2012 and is examining possible "illegal campaign coordination between (name redacted), a campaign committee, and certain special interest groups," according to an unsealed filing in the case. Sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the redacted committee is the Walker campaign, Friends of Scott Walker. Campaign filings show that Walker spent $86,000 on legal fees in the second half of 2013.

A John Doe is similar to a grand jury investigation, but in front of a judge rather than a jury, and is conducted under strict secrecy orders. Wisconsin's 4th Circuit Court of Appeals unsealed some documents last week as it rejected a challenge to the probe filed by three of the unnamed "special interest groups" that had received subpoenas in the investigation and issued a ruling allowing the investigation to move forward.

The special interest groups under investigation include Wisconsin Club for Growth, which is led by a top Walker advisor and friend, R.J. Johnson, and which spent at least $9.1 million on "issue ads" supporting Walker and legislative Republicans during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Another group is Citizens for a Strong America, which was entirely funded by Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012 and acted as a conduit for funding other groups that spent on election issue ads; CSA's president is John Connors, who previously worked for David Koch's Americans for Prosperity and is part of the leadership at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity (publishers of Watchdog.org and Wisconsin Reporter). Other groups reportedly receiving subpoenas include AFP, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the Republican Governors Association.

Unlike the first John Doe probe, this newer one seems to have Walker's political operation in its sights. This ought to have Walker and his aides far more concerned than some old emails from his Milwaukee County days.

In summary, when Republicans pick on ancient political history to create unproductive skulduggery against Democrats (particularly Hillary Clinton), they would serve themselves and the people they represent better, by reading John 8:7.

Labels:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stand your ground is regressive self defense

Floridian lawmakers seem obsessed with protecting the state's regressive Stand Your Ground laws, regardless of how many innocent people might find themsleves in danger, as a result of a mere suspicion of being a threat to anyone who happens to own a gun. Stand Your Ground is protection for anyone who wants to justify the use of force against someone they simply proclaim to be a threat. It regresses the common law people usually comply with regarding self defense. Rather than avoid confrontation, the law invites violence.

This horrible statute allows black booted thugs to reign over innocent people.  

Meanwhile, the Stand Your Ground law has not been a deterrent to gun violence. In fact, Florida is the 8th most dangerous state for violence.  

8. Florida> Violent crimes per 100,000: 487.1

Read more: The Most Dangerous States in America - 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2013/10/04/the-most-dangerous-states-in-america/#ixzz2u6VMRgcW
Follow us: @247wallst on Twitter | 247wallst on Facebook


Rather than allow aggressive gun owners to shoot at will when they are uncomfortable, the best self defense would be to create a society where people live without fear. This is a Utopian wish, but achieving societal well being is certainly a more noble cause than obsessing over Stand Your Ground. 

Americans would be much better off and safer if, instead, we would stand for anti-gun violence and stamp out Stand Your Ground.

Long term self defense in any community requires people to learn how to get along, rather than shoot perceived threatening people at will.

Labels:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Benjamin Jealous speaks at Bowdoin College about status of race post Martin Luther King

Immediate past president of the NAACP Benjamin Jealous spoke today February 21, 2014 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, as a guest of the Common Hour

Jealous began his career in civil rights as a community organizer.  

In a nutshell, his motivational talk blended recent civil rights history in the context of America's racial accomplishments and failures. More important, for the Bowdoin students, who may be community organizers in the making, Jealous created a positive drama out of some very challenging situations. In summary, Jealous explained how success in achieving interracial progress may often arrive in surprising ways.

His motivational talk explained his role in landmark issues where race was a factor. Two situations described the elimination of the death penalty for juveniles with the help of an accomplished activist assistant, and preventing 2 traditional all black colleges in Mississippi from being closed and one converted, instead, to a prison.

Benjamin Jealous stepped down from his post as CEO and president of the NAACP in December. He's the youngest president in the organization's history, he was leader of successful state and local movements to ban the death penalty, outlaw racial profiling, defend voting rights, secure marriage equality, and free multiple wrongfully incarcerated people. A Rhodes Scholar, Jealous is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford universities. He was named to the "40 under 40" lists of both Forbes and Time magazines, and labeled a Young Global Economic Leader by the World Economic Forum.

In a motivational talk to a capacity filled Pickard auditorium, Jealous spoke for an hour without benefit of notes while standing away from the podium. He recalled his underpaid community organizing work, where the challenges of making change happen often required advocates to work toward the common good by calling on, often, unlikely resources.

In opening comments, Jealous received applause when he criticized Maine Governor Paul LePage for his derogatory "kiss my ass" statement, made about the NAACP during his first year in office, when the governor didn't want to attend the annual Martin Luther King breakfast. Jealous explained how Governor LePage is a man who has benefited from the advocacy of the NAACP, evident when the organization was one of only two groups to openly oppose the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Maine, during the 1920s and 30s. At that time, the Ku Klux Klan was actively demonstrating against French Canadian Catholics.  

It was the NAACP working with the Knights of Columbus that fought the Klan during their dreaded acts of ethnic oppression against French speaking Roman Catholics. 

"Governor LePage would not be where he is today without the work of the NAACP," said Jealous to audience applause.

Although Jealous was energized in his often self deprecating presentation, his description about the challenge of eliminating racial tensions in America was less than optimistic. He especially targeted the cruelty of Florida's "stand your ground" law that regresses self defense common law by empowering anyone who feels threatened to resort to gun violence, rather than consider walking away from ambiguously threatening situation.

Jealous summoned future activists to resist the influence of experts and pundits to establish rules for social change. He described how support for often impossible situations sometimes arrives from unlikely groups and people. 

For example, a formidable and effective alliance to protect teenagers on death row succeed when activists engaged the support of pro-life groups.

Jealous spoke to a racially and age diverse audience at Bowdoin. Undoubtedly, his motivational speech touched the students in the audience. Surely, some of them will positively and eventually be the face of America's racially diverse future.

Labels:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ukraine - suffering in the beautiful city of Kiev but Putin can't possibly endure another Syria

Russian President Putin may not be a religious man but if he has any spiritual soul at all, he's praying for the Sochi Olympic games to end without incident. 

Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria (with Russia protecting its self interest in the country's port city of Tartus) is displacing 9.3 million people while street fighting in the Ukraine is taking time away from the public relations opportunity offered to Russia via Sochi's games.
Aleppo, Syria

While Putin props up Syrian President Assad, the UN Security Council is debating allowing more humanitarian aid to reach the nation's millions of refugees. Imagine having to vote on such a self evident issue. What's more discouraging is how Syria will never be the same. In fact, it's likely to become a Russian colony.

On the other hand, while the Ukraine really is a Russian colony, a relationship relic of the Cold War, it's now violently falling apart. 

Although I'm certainly not a diplomat, it's my opinion that Russia's President Vladimir Putin can't sustain two deteriorating "colony" nations while he is personally hosting the Sochi Olympic Games. 


 Think Progress Blog reports:
It’s been a rough 24 hours for Russian president Vladimir Putin. After basking in the glow of a successful Olympics for the better part of a fortnight, reality came crashing down on him over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving his — and Russia’s — image in the spotlight and the glare is unflattering.
Casting the harshest light on Putin’s Russia and the role it plays in its neighborhood, Ukraine appears to be exploding. For a brief moment, it looked as though the political crisis that has seized Kyiv since November was preparing to come to a close. The government of president Viktor Yanukovych and protesters who claimed that he intended to replicate Putin’s tight grip over Russia in Ukraine were slowly edging towards an agreement, one that left a Russian ally — who received a $15 billion bailout from Moscow last year — in power.

Instead tensions flared again on Tuesday, leading to police attempting to clear out Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) and end the so-called “Euromaidan” protests once and for all. The result was the bloodiest day yet in the stand-off, leaving at least 25 dead and hundreds injured. As dawn broke on Kyiv on Wednesday, the protesters were still there, continuing to feed the fire that separated them from the riot police. Western governments denounced the violence, with members of the Obama administration and European diplomats alike warning of potential sanctions being levied against the Ukrainian government’s leaders.


Well, well,well.....Syria and Ukraine. Let's remember Volgograd terrorists, on top of these. It sure doesn't look good. When Sochi is over, the Russian government could risk imploding from having overextended itself by propping up two governments while subsidizing a very expensive Olympic Games.

Will Putin's government survive? 
This is the time when the proverb about the devil you know being preferable to the devil you don't may fit. 

Nonetheless, when Putin's government implodes, Syria's Assad will be sucked along with him. This synergistic collapse could create an international vortex, the outcome being a black hole. 

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Governors on two sides of the same coin - Scott Walker and Chris Christie

There's certainly plenty of scandal to keep the Rachel Maddow Show (TRMS) going strong. There's no end to the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's bridgegate widening scandal and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is fending off criminal investigations. These two Governors are flip sides of the same coin. Their political and criminal troubles are in addition to Virginia's ex-governor Bob McDonnell and his wife who are involved in a snake oil corruption scheme. In other words, they're accused of providing undue access to a friend who showered them with gifts in exchange for promoting his snake oil company.

Governor Christie is a larger than life person and political personality. He has cast a big shadow over Scott Walker's troubles.

But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is in the midst of dealing with the fallout of two criminal investigations, one of which is of particular interest. As early as Wednesday, the release of more than 25,000 pages of e-mails from an ex-staffer were gathered as part of the now-concluded investigation. The probe focused on Walker's time as Milwaukee County executive before his 2010 election as governor and led to convictions of six former aides and allies.

Even if Walker escapes the e-mail release unscathed, he faces an additional inquiry from state prosecutors, who are believed to be looking into whether his successful 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with independent conservative groups.


Walker situations haven't generated nearly as much attention as other political controversies, in large part because Wisconsin's secrecy laws have kept a tight lid on information about the investigations.

But Lane Florsheim recently summarized matters nicely: "Charles P. Pierce at Esquire has a good rundown of the lurking scandals: Aides from Walker’s first campaign went to jail for using his Milwaukee County Executive office to campaign for him for governor, another former aide was convicted of stealing money from a fund for families of U.S. soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Walker’s administration gave raises that skirted state limits after a series of phantom job transfers took place. Another corruption probe is ongoing."

TRMS bravely peruses these challenging corruption stories, while Maddow's delivery should put cold chills down the spines of individuals who become the focus of her dramatic descriptions of the facts. In other words, Maddow creates drama out of corruption.

Thank goodness for Maddow.  

Let's only hope Maddow's pursuit of facts, while routing out corruption, doesn't trip over Democrats in her quest for truth, justice and the American way.

Carefully diligent Democrats have the opportunity to stand in the shadows while the Republicans are exposed for their corruption. 

Meanwhile, Walker and Christie are like a bad penny, no longer of any value. They're two sides of a counterfit coin.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kiev in Chaos - Putin's Three Front War

While President Putin entertains Olympic guests in Sochi and watches hockey games, his leadership is challenged on three fronts. First, domestic terrorists are still lurking on the borders of Sochi in Volgograd. Then, there's the humanitarian crises in Syria with President Assad as a despot, while Russia props up his genocidal regime. Now there's Kiev burning in the Ukraine.

First, Volgograd:  On December 30, 2013, at least 14 people were killed in a suicide bombing on a trolleybus in the Russian city of Volgograd. The blast came a day after 17 people died in another suicide attack at the central station in the city. As a result, security was tightened at railway stations and airports across Russia.

Moscow is concerned that anti Putin militants are plotting violence to attract attention during the February 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi. (I'm pretty sure Putin has taken care of this problem in the short term, but the dissidents won't disappear.)


Police are storming the main protest camp in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, which has been occupied since November.

Explosions are taking place, fireworks are being thrown and large fires have broken out in Independence Square, known locally as the Maidan.

On Tuesday at least 18 people were killed, including seven policemen, in the worst violence seen in weeks.

BBCNews reports that opposition leaders later met President Viktor Yanukovych but failed to find a solution to the crisis, reports say.

Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of the opposition Udar (Punch) party, said the president only called for protesters to leave the Maidan, according to Ukraine's Hromadske TV.

Meanwhile, Mr Yanukovych's aide said the president was preparing to address the nation, without providing further details.'Island of freedom'

Security forces had given protesters a deadline of 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT) to leave Independence Square, the scene of a mostly peaceful protest camp since November.

The city's metro service was completely shut down, and there were reports that cars were being prevented from coming in to the capital.

Then shortly before 18:00 GMT, police announced over loudspeakers that they were about to begin "an anti-terror operation". (To me, this announcement sounds like an imminent massacre, while Putin is engaged in his Olympics Loves Russia campaign).

While Kiev burns and a street massacre is threatened, Putin is still under threat of domestic terrorism from the militants in Volgograd. 

Compounding the above is the humanitarian disaster in Syria, where millions of people are suffering and dying in refugee camps while their families are living under threat of massacres, all on Putin's watch. Assad is Putin's puppet. Together, they are the "ying" and "yang" of totalitarian despots, putting millions of people in harms way with their oppressive rule.

No single despot can sustain a three front war. Hitler tried and failed in Europe, Russia and Africa.  All three failed.

Putin can't suppress every dissident group. My suspicion is that Putin has put many people in prison and murdered unknown numbers to protect the success of the Sochi Olympics. Nevertheless, like a blocked water hose, Putin put pressure on Volgograd to keep Sochi safe, just see Kiev burst the pressure.

Sooner or later, the humanitarian crises in Syria will drown the Assad regime, regardless of who wins the brutal civil war. Assad's days are numbered, because it's not possible for him to lead a nation where millions of his nation's Syrians are living in exile.

More tragic than Kiev in chaos and Putin's three front war are the vast numbers of people who are suffering in the violence.

I don't understand how Putin and Assad can continue to lead their nations unless they annihilate their opposition. Although Assad is toast when Putin is fed up with him, it's possible for the Russian leader to murder all his adversaries and thereby remain in power for a very long time.  

Yet, Kiev in chaos could conceivably be the match to start a Russian conflagration. There's no way to keep Volgograd's domestic terrorists quiet forever. Moreover, Syria's Assad can't survive the humanitarian disaster he's created. Surely, Putin can't be feeling secure in his position as Russia's president.

Therein is the worst problem of all. An insecure leader can be dangerously erratic. Putins' three front war could derail the vision of a modern Russia. Rather, leadership insecurity could lead the world back into the climate of cold war politics with a Russian despot in charge.  Kiev in chaos could infect Russia and put Putin in the position of being a caged animal.  

Enjoying the Sochi Olympics could be Putin looking like a wolf in sheep's clothing. In the future, Putin's three front war will expose him as a leader who believes Russia never lost the cold war.

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Speaker John Boehner isn't taking his job seriously - sings Zippety-Do-Da classless act

I simply can't imagine what the Republicans would do to President Barack Obama, or House minority leader Nancy Pelosi or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if any or them pulled the Zippety-do-da act, like John Boehner did at a recent Congressional meeting.

David Kurtz reported that's precisely what Speaker Boehner told a Talking Points Memo (TPM) reporter as he was walking into a meeting of his Republican caucus. Boehner was singing a flippant and what could be considered a potentially racist tune while putting forth a plan for cutting spending and raising the debt limit.

What would Republicans do if Democratic party leaders had created such lack of sincerity, prior to a crucial vote?

Speaker Boehner singing "Zippety-do-da" is an arrogant way of showing disdain for his job. Perhaps Boehner thinks he's really the star of a Disney movie-cartoon, rather than the Speaker of the House of Representative. This acting out leads us to wonder what Speaker Boehner might be up to in his spare time? Obviously, he's watching Disney movies.

It's distressing to realize how the people of Ohio have voted for Speaker Boehner to be their US Congressman. Nevertheless, I doubt Ohio voters want to continue to support Boehner as a Disney cartoon character. It's a lot cheaper to just rent the movie "Song of the South", than to pay Boehner to sing the score.

Meanwhile, Democratic dignified leaders deserve our respect. They work hard to earn their salaries. President Obama knows how to sing, but he saves his talents for appropriate times and places. As for Congresswoman Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, I presume they delegate their singing to those who are qualified to perform, while taking their jobs too seriously to engage in such childish Boehner-like "Zippety-do-da" behavior.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Syrian Holocaust while Putin watches hockey in Sochi

Realizing how sensitive the word Holocaust is when describing genocides, it's tragically time to address the horror going on in the Syrian civil war, by labeling the mounting deaths with this horrible word. 

People of the world will regret doing nothing during the Syrian humanitarian disaster resulting from a preventable civil war.  

Syrian President Assad is guilty of mass murder, because he is doing nothing to help his people, while Russia props him up like a corpse at an Irish wake. Assad is a dead man walking. Meanwhile, his people are dying by the thousands because Assad will not even allow humanitarian aid to help them.

BBCNews reports that the United Kingdom and France accuse the Syrian government over the failure of the second round of Geneva peace talks with opposition groups. 

Humanitarian aid is essential, but the horrific Syrian deaths grow in number, multiplying exponentially and an overwhelming number who are victims in the genocides are Christians.

New streams of refugees were forced across the border into Lebanon as U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tried to find common ground between the warring sides during their second round of negotiations in Geneva. The United Nations said Wednesday that it would bring forward a trilateral meeting with Russia and the United States, which it is hoped will kick-start deadlocked discussions. 

While the holocaust of innocent victims continues.

Since the peace talks began nearly three weeks ago, violence has continued unabated, with civilians killed at a record rate, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Barrels packed with explosives rained down on the city of Aleppo again Wednesday, while in the mountainous Lebanese border region of Qalamoun, airstrikes battered several towns.

Dirt roads across the border were “like a highway”, reported humanitarian workers Wednesday, as more than 500 families — about 2,500 people — fled.  This in addition to millions of displaced people who are living in refugee camps while Syria's President Assad continues his power politics. Assad is now among the most evil of world despots, while his people face a disastrous future. Millions of refugees are desperate. Moreover, they will never forget this carnage and neither will many future generations of their families. President Assad has set up a cycle of complete failure for his regime while desecrating the proud people who will never be able to help rebuild their homeland.   

While the world sits around and waits for peace talks to work.

Syria has created a Holocaust and it simply can't be resolved until President Assad is removed. He's a monster.

While Russian President Putin watches the Olympic hockey games in Sochi, the Syrian people who he ignores by supporting Assad are in the throes of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Is this deja vu of the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany?











Labels: , , , ,

Friday, February 14, 2014

Biden says there's no more Republican Party; but like the pebble in a shoe they continue to cause political pain

Vice President Joe Biden is getting out ahead of the political rhetoric by discrediting Republicans, regardless of what they're prepared to say about him as a potential presidential candidate. In other words, Biden is telling Americans not to give credibility to a political party that can't pull itself together, like the frustrated, disorganized and discombobulated right wing GOP.

"Post Politics", blogger report from Cambridge, Maryland, Ed O'Keefe writes, "Vice President Biden began laying out the Democratic Party's argument for voters in this year's elections Friday morning by suggesting that Republicans remain splintered and would quickly seek to pass fiscal policies rejected in recent years, if they retake control of Congress".

Biden said, "There isn’t a Republican party. I wish there were, I wish there was a Republican party. I wish there was one person we could sit across the table from and make a deal and make the compromise and know when you got up from the table that the deal was done," in remarks at the House Democratic policy conference being held in Cambridge Maryland.

"There is no -- all you had to do was look at their response to the State of the Union, what were there, three or four? I think we should get a little focused here, let's get a little focused," he added later.

Biden also heralded the recent passage of bipartisan budget and spending agreements, but warned that Republicans would quickly seek to pass conservative budget and spending proposals rejected in recent years by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

This blogger says it's worth mentioning how Biden's comments were made on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the peninsula, nearly the same place where Republicans held their "retreat" a few weeks ago.

Certainly, Biden knows where to rally the Democratic base, when he said, ""Does anybody in this room think that the Republican Party has walked away from the Ryan budget? (Of course not!) Does anybody in this room think that, if they're able to take the Senate, or increase their numbers or maintain their numbers in the House, that that's not what we're going to get back to?" he asked.

Indeed, Biden's remarks infuses Democrats with  cold shivers of regressive public policy when he reminds us about the ominous prospect of Republican leadership. 

Unfortunately, Biden's reality check is badly needed because, for some reason, people have short memories. Ryan's budget, in fact, cuts everything except tax loopholes for the rich. Likewise, although Ryan claims to be a Roman Catholic who, undoubtedly, must have ancestry on his father's side rooted in the great Irish immigration during the later part of the 19th century, has a very-very short memory. His own immigrant family benefited from sharing the wealth of tax revenue and his Roman Catholic faith supports social justice programs like universal health care, that Ryan opposes.  

Probably, Biden is correct to call attention to the fractured Republican party, due to the GOP right wing being drawn into radicalism. Yet, even a small pebble can cause extraordinary foot pain, even in an old comfortable shoe.  

Republican leaders are right-right and righter wing radical ideologists. For example, Senator Marco Rubio speaks like a Charlie McCarthy puppet about upward mobility, and the American Dream, while proposing to cut programs and oppose a raise to minimum wage, to support a chance for economic prosperity for those who need help. Rubio leads a pack of extremists who are invested in regressive public policy.

It's time the real Republican party throws out the extremists. Instead, Republicans must support the intentions put forth in the US Constitution.  "We the people in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense,  promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.  

Republicans must stop being the right wing party. Instead, they must read and internalize the US Constitution and stop being the pebble causing acute pain in our democratic public policy.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Belgian children are now the victims of the slippery slope predicted by the right to life advocates

Belgium lawmakers vote for children's right to die law. This is horrible because children are frequently the beneficiaries of spontaneous remissions. Of course, some children have difficult developmental difficulties from which they may never recover. Nevertheless, children should be the recipients of boundless hope. Anyone who puts out the option of death to a child for any reason has, truly, lost their own humanity. 

There's absolutely no reason, whatsoever, under any circumstances, to offer euthanasia as an end of life option for a child. Children are incapable of making these decisions for themselves; therefore no one should be authorized to make these life ending decisions on their behalf, regardless of the intention. Never. 

Although evidence of loss of brain function over an extended period of time can require the removal of life support, this decision should not be  interpreted as euthanasia. Euthanasia is the intentional intervention at the end of life to bring about an unnatural and premature death. Children deserve hope, not death.

As a professional registered nurse, I've seen families bond and medical providers rally to save the lives of children. It's unethical to put families and medical care givers in a position of advocating for the right to die for children. Moreover, it's morally unconscionable to permit euthanasia for children, because they have a strong capacity to recover from illness and injury. Children often outlive their terminal illness diagnosis. 

How many times do we read about children who are the victims of drowning being revived with no apparent harm? This is particularly evident when children are the victims of hypothermia. Moreover, children respond favorably to life saving interventions like transplants and immune therapies to treat malignancies.

Nevertheless, you must listen to this. 

I've heard parents tell me how having a mentally ill child is more difficult to deal with than terminal illness.

Do blog readers need to read the above again?  

Parents have told me, as a nurse, how a mentally ill child is more difficult to deal with than terminal illness.

Treating children with mental illnesses are expensive and recoveries are rare.  

Treating children with life threatening illness like cancer or metabolic diseases can be successfully accomplished. Remissions are common.

Children, especially those in Belgium, are now the victims of the slippery slope predicted by the zealous right-to-life advocates. There's dwindling hope for anyone with terminal illnesses to live longer lives, if people are considering euthanasia for children.  

A society that voluntarily authorizes children to euthanize will also put at risk the end of life care for everyone else.  

Belgium has now validated the ugly outcome of the "slippery slope" argument. This euthanasia decision by Belgium lawmakers is unethical and it puts all people with terminal illnesses at risk for having caregivers abandon hope for remissions or extended life options - especially those with mental illnesses.

As a nurse, I firmly believe the above to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. My opinion is validated from experience. 

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter 2014 and Global Warming

Every winter spreads its harsh challenges. Winter requires the wearing of expensive cloths to keep warm, the cost of keeping transportation going through ice, and snow drifts, not to mention climbing bills delivered to homes and businesses in fuel trucks.
Winter 2014 appears to be more widespread than in the past. Rather than winter being isolated to some northern states, this particular winter is affecting most of the continental US. It's like we're experiencing an equal opportunity miserable winter. Although I'm not a meteorologist, it seems like the winter weather epidemic is the result of global warming causing changes in weather traffic patterns. It's an inverse correlation. As the earth's temperature rises, the winters become more widespread and severe. 

Canada, of course is likewise in frozen misery, but the US media doesn't report much about our friends to the north and their typical seasonal deep freeze.  "It's almost like the total meteorological lexicon of everything miserable in terms of winter is found somewhere in Canada," said senior climatologist David Phillips quoted in the Huffington Post.

Nevertheless, in the debrief of President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech (SOTUS), very little was made of his statement about climate change is a fact. 

It wasn’t so long ago that Democratic politicians hemmed and hawed over the issue of catastrophic climate change — whether it was real, whether it was due to human activity, whether anything about it could be done.

Well, if anyone doubted those days were over (on the Democratic side, at least) President Obama’s latest State of the Union address should ensure they doubt no longer.

While celebrating his administration’s record on alternative sources of energy and energy independence, as well as its efforts to reduce America’s levels of carbon pollution, Obama made a forceful argument that his and Congress’ work to thwart climate change was far from complete.

“[W]e have to act with more urgency,” Obama said, “because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods.”


Even more sobering, in the December 31, 2013 "The Week", is a short report predicting the drastic impact of accelerating climate change. "An analysis of isotopes in marine fossils from around the world yielded the most complete record of Earth's temperatures yet, and showed that the planet is heating up at a rate unprecedented in the past 11,300 years. Scientists say that if it weren't for greenhouse gas emissions, a cooling trend that began 5,000 years ago after a shift in the planet's orbit and angle would likely be continuing advancing Earth toward another ice age. Instead, global warming at its current pace will heat the planet between 2 and 12 degrees further by 2100, challenging many species' ability to adapt. 'The climate changes to come,' says NASA climate researcher Gavin Schmidt, 'are going to be larger than anything that human civilization has seen in its entire existence.'"

It seems to me, given the preponderance of empirical evidence supported by our recent winter misery experiences, that it's time for Republicans, albeit belatedly, to stand and applause President Barack Obama's definitive statement about climate change being a fact.  Winter 2014 should not melt away without people asking how America can protect our people from the "challenging many species' ability to adapt" impact of the fact of climate change.

Preventing greenhouse emissions by improving efficient and fast mass transportation systems is certainly one way of taking at least some CO2 gases out of the atmosphere. Obviously, this takes an investment of money in the future of our national well being.

Republicans must face the facts.  Climate change is real and our ability to respond depends on their political response.

Republicans must put people before dogma. Yet, they even appear to be intent of being the victims of their own destructive thinking, rather than face the truth. Unbelievably, they are frozen in denial.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 08, 2014

American dreams end too soon from drugs and guns

Once upon a time, young Americans dreamed of upward social mobility and improving economic status. It's a visionary concept familiar to aspirants as "The American Dream".

For too many, tragically, these "morning in America" images, brimming with the prospects of a future saturated with hope, and prosperity are drowned in illegal drugs and blown apart by unbridled use of guns.


Within the last 12 months, I've learned about a cluster of friends who lost dearly loved young adult children as a result of drug overdoses. They are unbelievably tragic and preventable deaths that, likely, wouldn't have happened as recently as 30 years ago, before illegal drug use became as pandemic as it has become today.

Although I don't know of anyone, personally, who has lost loved ones lives because of gun violence, these tragedies are occurring on an alarmingly regular basis. Gun violence deaths are impacting communities with increasing frequency. Moreover, the impact of the incidents are transcending generations of many families.

American media has given up on covering how to address gun control, just like the drug stories are no longer front page news. 

On any given day, it difficult to determine whether or not to report on drug violence or gun deaths, because there's plenty of news about both to report.

Now, the brilliant actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, is the latest celebrity to die from a drug overdose while the problem continues to be growing in the US.


Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people that died from drug overdoses more than doubled from 17,000 to 38,000, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2009, for the first time in US history, more people died from drugs overdoses than from traffic accidents or firearms, although that is partly because the numbers of gun deaths and road deaths are both decreasing. So what is causing this epidemic?

The data suggests the number of people overdosing from pharmaceutical - or prescription - drugs has trebled over that decade, just as the quantity of prescription painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors' offices has quadrupled over the same period.

As a result in 2010, prescription drugs killed more than 22,100 people in the US, more than twice as many as cocaine and heroin combined.

Bar chart showing rise in overdoses
It's a difficult irony, but a source of these growing tragedies is our American dream itself. Affluence, the prosperity of The American Dream, allows people the purchase power to own multiple firearms and access to as many drugs as a person can obtain, legally or otherwise.

In the 19th century, tuberculosis was a common killer of young adults. Today, its the preventable outcome of drug overdoses and gun violence.

Modern medicine successfully met the challenges of preventing tuberculosis deaths. Unfortunately, it's been impossible to prevent drug abuse and gun violence. 

America's war on drugs has been lost. This was brutally evident when the actor Hoffman's environment was found to contain a reported 50 plus bags of heroin. 

Clearly, gun violence will continue until something is done to prevent the morbidity and mortality, treating the risk of injuries like public health dangers.  

American must treat gun violence and illegal drug use like diseases. Otherwise, as is already happening, the deadly maladies caused will continue to grow, and harm the lives of  more young people as well as their families and the communities where these people live.

Illegal drug use, addiction disorders and the growing danger of gun violence are ending The American Dream far too soon for too many brilliantly talented young people. These diseases have cures in early intervention, treatment and, most of all, the elimination of the sources of the dangers.

But, our American news media must continue to keep the pressure on the public, so they will demand an end to these epidemics.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 07, 2014

Multicultural and interracial television and advertising imagry

People who are brashly criticizing the Super Bowl Coca-Cola video ad for it's multi-lingual aspects, have certainly not paid attention to the changing face of America. We've moved beyond an immigrant nation. Indeed, we're now an amalgamation of many races. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8iM73E6JP8

Video link above.

Even more relevant to the point of the multiculturalism, evident in the ad, is the fact that Coca-Cola is an international product. From my experience, Coca-Cola is sold in practically every country in the world. Obviously, the company wants to acknowledge the international appeal of their very special drink.  

Likewise, another interracial advertisement is being promoted by General Mills. A sequel to the introduction mixed race video ad was shown at the Super Bowl, as well.  In the intro commercial, viewed before the Super Bowl, a Caucasian mother explains the health benefits of Cheerios to her beautiful young daughter, who is clearly a lovely mixed race child. As a result, the youngster runs to her father with a box of Cheerios, presumably to teach him how to stay healthy. Her father is a handsome black man.  In the Super Bowl ad, the beautiful young daughter is told how the family is expecting a baby brother.

These progressive commercials are never designed without an expensive investment in research. Obviously, both Coca-Cola and General Mills are on the cutting edge of market research demonstrating the value of breaking the mixed racial barriers to commercial advertising.

These commercials with mixed racial and multi-lingual imagery also creates international appeal for the products advertised. What's better than advertisements that draw attention beyond the promotion of particular products? Coca-Cola isn't just about a delicious drink; it's about helping people to get along, peace and understanding.

With General Mills, the health benefits of Cheerios are not so much the promotion, but the passion of the interracial young girl for her parents. "Cheerios bridges cultural love."

Salient advertising messaging notwithstanding, both the General Mills and the Coca-Cola multi-cultural and mixed racial commercials are a statement about the changing face of America. We're quickly eroding our majority of Caucasians national image. No amount of brashness will reverse this growing trend.

More important, we should be very proud of this amazing ability to transcend racial and lingual barriers to create a nation of strong multi-culturalism. This physiological blending creates a strengthening of our gene pool and will, eventually, build bridges with the many other multi-cultural nations of the world. Kudos to Coca-Cola and General Mills.  I'm one consumer who intends to support both these companies with renewed enthusiasm. 

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

American military and winning wars (or not): General Principles: "How good was David Petraeus?"

It's a long winter 2014, with plenty of time to catch up reading past issues of The New Yorker, where Dexter Filkins "General Principles: How Good was David Petraeus?" provided support for a gut feeling I've had for a long time. That is, our US military has a lot of explaining to do. 

Patraeus B+ (?); his colleagues, hmmm, not so much.

Dexter Price Filkins is an American journalist known primarily for coverage of wars in Iraq & Afghanistan for the New York Times. "I have plenty of clever generals,’’ Napoleon purportedly said. “Just give me a lucky one.”

So, my husband and I are counting away the cold Maine days 'til spring by watching a lot of the Military Channel's film footage of World War II. Like others who're captivated by information now revealed in fairly recently released imagery, we're watching a war we know was won in 1945. This hasn't happened since.

Perhaps the Western Alliance through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) helped to win the "Cold War" against the Russians and, of course, the SEAL Team 6 military strike to find and kill Osama Bin Laden counts towards victories. Nevertheless, neither of the these two episodes were declared wars. Rather, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, the Mogadishu conflict (ie "Black Hawk Down") 
and certainly the War on Terrorism are dismal examples of American military successes. 

What does this say about our American military leadership? We're sending America's best youth to fight in places with names we can hardly pronounce, to take orders from military leaders who may not be qualified for the jobs they received, often by default. To top off this cycle of incredulity, the American Congress cuts the earned benefits these veterans were promised and deserve. It's a disgrace. 

This ineptness begins at the top of the military ladder.

Obviously, I'm not a military strategist, but in "General Principles: How good was David Petraeus?", Filkins describes the flaws among our military leaders and their inability to win wars. 


At the same time, Filkins writes a performance review about the American general David Patraeus, a hero so popular he was reverently referred to, by some, as a US presidential hopeful. It seems like Patraeus gets a B+ from Filkins, while his colleagues fumble to achieve any passing grade at all.

Here is the article from The New Yorker website. So glad to cut and paste with credit to Filkins for tackling this important subject, vital to our future national security.

In the Roman conquest of Gaul, Julius Caesar led his legions into battle wearing a flowing red cape. The cape made him more likely to be killed but easier for his men to see; it served as a reminder of his fearlessness. John Bell Hood, one of the Confederacy’s most audacious commanders, had his left arm shattered at Gettysburg, and lost his right leg at Chickamauga; from then on, he rode into battle tied to his horse. Even in the Second World War, when senior officers had it easier than their predecessors, General Dwight Eisenhower was so consumed by the job that he smoked four packs of cigarettes and drank fifteen cups of coffee a day.

Nowadays, most general officers, at least most American ones, do not see combat. They don’t fire their weapons, and they don’t get killed; for the most part, they don’t even smoke. In wars without front lines, American generals tend to stay inside fortified bases, where they plan missions and brief political leaders via secure video teleconferences. Their credentials are measured as much by their graduate degrees as by the medals on their dress uniforms. They are, for the most part, deeply conventional men, who rose to the top of the military hierarchy by following orders and suppressing subversive thoughts.

In recent years, the most esteemed officer in America—the very model of the modern general—was David Petraeus, whose public image combined the theorizing of the new school with a patina of old-fashioned toughness and rectitude. Before a sex scandal forced him to step down as the director of the C.I.A., a few weeks ago, he was widely regarded by politicians and journalists as a brilliant thinker and leader, the man who saved America in Iraq and might work a similar miracle in Afghanistan. Roger Ailes suggested, perhaps less than half in jest, that Petraeus run for President. Now many of the same people are calling into question not just his ethics but his basic ideas and achievements. History often forgives military leaders for small scandals, if they are successful enough. Eisenhower’s long-alleged affair with Kay Summersby has not much tarnished his reputation as an officer; even Hood, whose late campaigns were disastrous, is remembered as a paragon of bravery, if not of good planning. Will Petraeus be thought of, in time, as a hero guilty of no more than a distracting foible? Or as the general most responsible for two disastrous wars?

In Iraq and Afghanistan, most of the criticism has centered on the political leaders—Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld—who ordered the invasions and grossly mismanaged the occupations that followed. Less criticism has focussed on the soldiers and the generals who led them. This is understandable: the military didn’t start these wars, and the relatively small number of Americans who fought in them—after a decade, less than one per cent of the population—bore the burden for the rest of the country. In all those “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers and campaign applause lines, it has not been difficult to discern a sense of collective guilt.

But, by almost every measure, the American soldiers and marines who went into Iraq and Afghanistan were grossly unprepared for their missions, and the officers who led them were often negligent. In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, many American military units travelled to the National Training Center, a sprawling patch of California desert. There they took part in enormous mock tank battles against a phony enemy, called the Kraznovians, that was meant to stand in for the Iraqi Army but had in fact been modelled on the Soviet military in an imaginary invasion of Western Europe. When the real invasion got under way, in March, 2003, American soldiers came under attack from a hidden enemy that was wearing no uniform at all. There had been plenty of warnings that an anti-American insurgency might spring up, and none were heeded. The generals were unprepared.

How the Army got to such a point is the subject of Thomas Ricks’s “The Generals,’’ a series of vivid biographical sketches of American commanders from the Second World War to Afghanistan. In Ricks’s view, their quality, with a few exceptions, has steadily declined. His poster boy for the terrible early period of the Iraq war is Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, whom he accurately portrays as a decent man but an incompetent commander. Sanchez’s worst decision was signing off on harsh interrogations of Iraqi detainees—which, when the photographs leaked from Abu Ghraib, resulted in one of the war’s signal disasters. But his real sin was neglect. Stupefied as the insurgency spread around him, and paralyzed by Washington’s insistence that everything was under control (for months, Rumsfeld forbade American officers to use the word “insurgency”), Sanchez effectively delegated the strategy for the war to the lower-ranking generals beneath him.

In the summer and fall of 2003, many of those generals turned their men loose on Iraq’s population, employing harsh measures to round up insurgents and compel civilians to hand them over. The central tactic was to sweep villages in the country’s Sunni heartland—the center of the insurgency—and haul in the military-age men. These young men, who were mostly of no intelligence value, were often taken to Abu Ghraib, where their anger ripened. I witnessed several such roundups, and could only conclude that whichever of these men did not support the uprising when the raids began would almost certainly support it by the time the raids were over. Faced with a small but significant insurgency, American commanders employed a strategy that insured that it would metastasize.

During the crucial first year of occupation, the one general who cut a conspicuously different path was Petraeus. After leading the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in the invasion, he settled his troops in the northern city of Mosul, and began to implement the counter-insurgency strategy that has become his signature. What distinguishes this method from other types of war-fighting is its focus: instead of concentrating on the enemy you want to kill, concentrate on the civilians you want to protect. At the time, this idea was considered exotic in the Army. But, two hundred and fifty miles removed from Baghdad, Petraeus could ignore his commanders’ edicts. He put former Baathists on the payroll and spent millions on things like irrigation projects and new police. “Money is ammunition,’’ he liked to say. Killing bad guys was relegated to a lower priority. Soldiers on patrol were not even permitted to fly American flags. Through much of 2003, while Iraq imploded, Mosul stayed relatively calm.

In coming years, Petraeus’s Mosul experience became the American strategy for all of Iraq. The way it did so is the subject of Fred Kaplan’s forthcoming book “The Insurgents.” (The title is ironic: the insurgents in Kaplan’s compelling story are a dissident group within the Army.) In Kaplan’s telling, a small group of men, with Petraeus the most prominent, found one another and mounted an end run around the military bureaucracy, thereby saving Iraq, and probably the entire Middle East, from a war even more cataclysmic than the one we already had.

A book about bureaucratic change would make for dry reading if it didn’t have a colorful main character, and Petraeus, wherever he goes, appears ready-made: he’s smiling, educated, super-fit, and very smart—and he likes to talk to reporters. In news stories, he emerged as unfailingly driven and precise. “All In,” the recent biography by Paula Broadwell, portrays him as “intense,” “smart,” “all energy”—a superhero in fatigues. As we now know, owing to the revelations about Petraeus’s extramarital affair with Broadwell, he is also a human being. But neither Broadwell’s book, which extolls Petraeus on practically every page, nor the recent attacks on his character offer much help in assessing what sort of general he actually was.

The truth is Petraeus really was exceptional. In many ways, the biggest problem that the American military faced in Iraq was itself. When Petraeus and other officers tried to change the approach in Iraq, they hit a wall of entrenched resistance. After the war in Vietnam, American generals banished the idea of counter-insurgency, perhaps figuring that if they didn’t plan for such a war they wouldn’t have to fight one. Military academies were dominated by such notions as the “Powell doctrine,” which held that future wars should be fought with maximum force and brought to an end as quickly as possible. In Ricks’s telling, the American military, by the time of the attacks of September 11, 2001, was a sclerotic institution that rewarded mediocrity and punished innovative thinking. In recent years, eighty-four per cent of the Army’s majors have been promoted to lieutenant colonel—hardly a fine filter. Becoming a general was like gaining admission to an all-men’s golf club, where back-slapping conformity is prized above all else. When the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq began, the top U.S. field commander was General Tommy Franks, a shortsighted tactician who didn’t bother to plan for the occupation of either country. Franks had the good sense to step down in the summer of 2003, just as Iraq began to come apart.

Ricks argues, convincingly, that what changed in the military was the practice of firing commanders who failed to deliver results. His starting point is General George Marshall, the Army chief of staff during the Second World War, who culled underperforming generals and promoted the better ones, constructing a ruthlessly efficient fighting force. The practice withered during the Vietnam War, replaced with micromanagement by civilian leaders. (Recall photographs of Lyndon Johnson choosing bombing targets.) With even the most mediocre generals moving upward, the Army ossified at the top. Sanchez was not the exception; he was the rule. “Like the worst generals of the Vietnam era, he tended to descend into the weeds, where he was comfortable, ignoring the larger situation—which, after all, was his job,’’ Ricks writes. Yet Sanchez paid no price for his failures, Ricks notes: “The vocabulary of accountability had been lost.”

In Iraq, the generals, and increasingly their troops, trapped themselves inside their bases, cut off from the country they were trying to occupy. When their strategy didn’t work, they tended to redouble their efforts—capture more insurgents, turn over more neighborhoods to the Iraqi Army—and justify their actions in the impenetrable jargon that modern officers use with one another. Iraqi insurgents became “A.I.F.” (anti-Iraqi forces), Al Qaeda in Iraq was “A.Q.I.,” and a car bomb was an “S.V.B.I.E.D.” (suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device). Petraeus revelled in the jargon—among junior officers, his PowerPoint presentations were spoken of in reverent tones—but, at least in his case, the fancy terms were suggestive of his knowledge, and not the end of it. My own snap test for measuring an American general’s perceptiveness was how he pronounced Iraqi names. In 2006, I heard General J. D. Thurman, the commander presiding over Baghdad, pronounce the name of the Iraqi Prime Minister three different ways in a single interview, all of them incorrect. General Thurman apparently wasn’t talking to Iraqis—or, if he was, he wasn’t listening.

Petraeus was smarter and quicker than most of his colleagues. He wasn’t a rebel, at least on the surface. He loved the Army and relished its history, and the trappings and the medals, and, in talking to reporters, he was careful never to go too far. He didn’t have much combat experience, but that seemed to make it easier for him to see beyond the daily slog of killing insurgents. He had a Ph.D. from Princeton—dissertation title, “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam.” (This did not necessarily help his career, Kaplan writes: “He was aware of his reputation in certain circles as a schemer, a self-promoter, and, worst of all, an intellectual.”) He was preternaturally, pathologically competitive. Once, inside a building in Baghdad, Petraeus, then in his early fifties, challenged me to race him up the stairs. (He won.) Another time, he dared me to join him on a morning run in the Green Zone, accompanied by an armed guard. When the run was over, Petraeus initiated a pull-up contest, and did seventeen, an astounding number. “You can write that off on your income tax as education,’’ he said.

His emphasis on physical fitness sometimes seemed like a postmodern version of Hood’s courage: if our generals were not going to face physical danger, they could at least do more pushups than the men who would. Reporters loved it, and so did Petraeus’s fellow-soldiers. Being physically strong still matters in the U.S. Army. General Ray Odierno, as a division commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, did as much as any senior officer to push the country toward disaster, but he looked the part: six feet five inches tall, with a bruiser’s physique and a shaved head. He is now the Army chief of staff.

In the summer of 2004, Sanchez was replaced by General George Casey, whose main objective was to train an Iraqi Army and police force to take over so that the Americans could get out. Casey was more effective and sharper than Sanchez—“George Bush has given me a pile of shit,’’ Kaplan quotes him as saying—but his job was to put the best face on an American retreat. As anyone who took a moment to drive the streets could see, the Iraqi Army was incapable of bringing order to the country. Shiite death squads roamed Baghdad. Every morning, scores of Iraqi bodies would turn up, frozen in their last terrible moments: heads bagged, hands cuffed, shot between the eyes.

So where did the death squads come from? Many of them were members of the Iraqi Army and the police, which had been trained largely by the Americans. And what American oversaw this training, in the crucial pre-civil-war years of 2004 and 2005? David Petraeus, as the head of Multinational Security Transition Command, during his second tour in Iraq. In that time, the Americans ran a crash program, drawing in tens of thousands of recruits—mostly young Shiites. Some American officials raised concerns, suggesting that the recruits be vetted, but they were rebuffed. On Petraeus’s watch, the Americans armed the Iraqis for civil war. Neither Kaplan nor Ricks (and certainly not Broadwell) explores this aspect of Petraeus’s time in Iraq; it’s the one part of Petraeus’s career that he doesn’t talk much about.

By late 2006, the Sunni insurgency had been largely taken over by extremist groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who were attacking Shiites, the country’s largest sect. The Shiites turned to their own militia, the Mahdi Army—and to the death squads—to protect them, igniting the civil war. The situation seemed hopeless—and this sense of hopelessness gave an opening to the American insurgents. Kaplan tells the story well. From the beginning of the Iraq war, a number of officers and policy intellectuals, including Petraeus, believed that the war had to be fought a different way. In the few places where the principles of counter-insurgency had been put into practice—as they had in Tal Afar, in 2005, by a gutsy colonel named H. R. McMaster—the anarchy receded. The idea was this: The parties to the civil war—the Sunni minority and the Shiite majority—would never reach an accommodation as long as they were still butchering each other. The only chance lay in forcing a pause that would allow the bargaining to begin. Only a massive deployment of troops could provide that kind of pause.

Counter-insurgency was politically risky, because it involved sending more American soldiers to Iraq. The Bush Administration was lobbied from many places: from inside the military, by Petraeus and other like-minded officers, but also, remarkably, from outside—notably, by retired General Jack Keane and Fred Kagan, at the American Enterprise Institute AEI

Kaplan portrays Petraeus as quietly political, working a back channel through Meghan O’Sullivan, Bush’s deputy national-security adviser, whom he’d known in Iraq. Keane went straight to Cheney, cutting out the military. In the end, it happened very fast. When Bush called Casey, he had no idea that his command was coming to an end.

In early 2007, with Iraq collapsing and public support in steep decline, Bush ordered the surge of American combat forces—an extra twenty-five thousand soldiers and marines—to fan out across Baghdad. Petraeus took command, and reversed Casey’s strategy of taking Americans off the streets. Petraeus did not predict immediate success—“The rucksack of responsibility is very heavy,’’ he told the troops—but the counter-offensive had begun. Putting theory into practice, he dispersed the troops in Iraqi neighborhoods, in small outposts called Joint Security Stations. This approach, never before attempted on a large scale, was meant to reassure Iraqis that the Americans would protect them around the clock. At the same time, American forces launched an all-out assault on Al Qaeda strongholds that ringed the capital.

The first part of the surge was not encouraging: April, May, and June of 2007 were the bloodiest three months of the war. Petraeus seemed like a failure. (Remember that full-page ad in the Times, paid for by MoveOn.org? “General Betray Us.”) Then the mayhem subsided, first gradually, then steeply. By the end of the year, violence in Iraq had dropped sixty per cent. When I returned to Baghdad in September, 2008, after more than a year and a half away, I was stunned by the calm. In Adamiyah, a Sunni neighborhood that had been in the grip of Al Qaeda, I watched Iraqis pour into the streets, clapping and cheering, to celebrate a wedding. Two years after that, the relative calm allowed President Obama to claim plausibly that America’s mission in Iraq had been completed.

In the weeks since Petraeus’s resignation, some of his detractors have argued that his accomplishment in Iraq was merely to put an acceptable face on defeat. This is absurd. Petraeus was asked to shepherd a disastrous war; his achievements are real and substantial, and shouldn’t be obscured by something as irrelevant as an extramarital affair. By 2006, Iraqi society was disintegrating, and there were growing signs that the country’s neighbors—Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria—were preparing to intervene more forcefully. It seemed possible that Iraq would implode and take the whole region down with it. If Petraeus and his band had not got their chance—and, reading Kaplan’s book, it seems a miracle that they did—things could have gone terribly worse.

So how much of Petraeus’s success was due to Petraeus? He was smart, and he was diligent, but was that enough? “I have plenty of clever generals,’’ Napoleon purportedly said. “Just give me a lucky one.” Indeed, the crucial lesson of the surge is that it succeeded only because other things in Iraq were changing at exactly the right time. The most important of these was the Awakening, the name given to the cascading series of truces made by Sunni tribal leaders with their American occupiers. Many Sunnis were appalled by the sectarian attacks—and were also fearful of genocide at the hands of the Shiite death squads. They asked the Americans for help, and U.S. officers, sensing a chance to turn the tide against Al Qaeda, seized the opportunity.

By the time Petraeus arrived, the Awakening had already begun. Still, he made the decisive choice not just to make peace with the former insurgents but to pay them not to fight us. The program, called the Sons of Iraq, put a hundred thousand gunmen, most of them Sunni former insurgents, on the payroll, for three hundred dollars a month each. The idea strongly echoes the Army’s counter-insurgency field manual, drafted under Petraeus’s supervision: “Offering amnesty or a seemingly generous compromise can also cause divisions within an insurgency.” In this case, at least, it was a genteel way of describing old-fashioned baksheesh. By the end of 2007, the Americans were holding bicycle races with their former enemies.

Could the surge have worked without the Awakening? Almost certainly not. With the Sunni insurgency neutralized, the Americans were free to turn their firepower on the Shiite militias. After a series of assaults by the American and—surprise—Iraqi militaries, the Mahdi Army was on the run. Petraeus said to me in 2008, “As the Al Qaeda threat is gradually degraded, the reason for the militia is no longer there.” He was preparing to depart Iraq, and his experience there had aged him visibly. When I told him how dramatically Baghdad had improved, he seemed relieved but also surprised, as if he’d had no time to notice.

One more factor helped the surge: the Sunni and Shiite gunmen had made their neighborhoods confessionally pure; Baghdad was no longer the mixed city it had been for centuries. The civil war was a bloodbath, but it had the unintended effect of making it easier for the respective groups to protect themselves.

What does all this mean? For one thing, it made Petraeus’s success in Iraq very Iraqi; that is, hard to export. In 2009, on assuming office, President Obama pursued a fairly strict strategy of counter-insurgency in Afghanistan; Stanley McChrystal, who served as the presiding general until he was fired after he and his aides spoke too frankly to a reporter from Rolling Stone, shared many of Petraeus’s precepts. The idea was that if the Americans and their protégés in the Afghan Army could establish themselves in the villages, the Taliban would wither away. Obama sent in more than fifty thousand additional troops, and, for thirteen months, Petraeus himself led the effort.

Broadwell’s book focusses almost exclusively on Petraeus’s time in Afghanistan; she dutifully records his movements, utterances, and hopes, and, to a lesser extent, those of the American forces. She spent almost no time thinking about, or talking to, the Afghans, whose allegiance we are presumably fighting for. “Petraeus believed that abandoning Afghanistan again would have disastrous consequences for America and for the region,’’ Broadwell writes. “It was vital that Afghanistan not once again be a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. He would never give up.” But so what? The crucial question is whether his ideas—the ones enshrined in the counter-insurgency field manual—will carry the day in Afghanistan.

Increasingly, it seems that they will not.
As Petraeus knows, one of the first principles of counter-insurgency doctrine is that any successful campaign must have a credible local partner. The Americans do not have that in Afghanistan, and they never have. President Hamid Karzai’s government is largely a collection of criminal networks, which are allowed to thrive in exchange for their support. One bit of American military jargon that is actually useful: Vertically Integrated Criminal Enterprise, or vice. It’s a term that officers use to describe the Afghan government.

So while the Taliban may not be very popular—picture a motorcycle gang riding into a village—neither is the Afghan government. The fact is that, after twelve years and four hundred billion dollars, the Americans have built very little that is likely to stand on its own after they depart. Karzai, the local joke goes, will leave Kabul before the Americans do. In Afghanistan, counter-insurgency is failing. Before Petraeus left to become the director of the C.I.A., in July, 2011, even he seemed to recognize this, intensifying a campaign to kill and capture Taliban insurgents. It wasn’t quite 2003 in Iraq, but nothing else appeared to be working.

President Obama is determined to get out of Afghanistan, and so the Americans have embarked on a crash program to train an Afghan Army and police force—more than two hundred and thirty thousand troops in all—to take over by the end of 2014, when the last combat soldiers are scheduled to leave. The effort to produce a giant security force, pushed into the field no matter its competence, echoes Casey’s campaign to force Iraqis into the streets. It’s likely to have similar results.

Sitting in what surely feels like a retirement come too early, Petraeus must wonder where he will rank in the pantheon of American generals. It’s too soon to tell exactly, of course, but his legacy looks reasonably clear. Iraq was a bloody tie, but without his extraordinary efforts it would have been much worse. Afghanistan, which he was called in to rescue, looks as if it will end badly. That’s probably not enough to get him into the temple with Ike, but, given the wars that he was handed, it’s hard to imagine an American general who could have done better. Petraeus was lucky—just not luck enough.

Labels: , , , , , , ,