Joe Biden

Afghanistan- A Lesson in Nation-Building

Afghanistan- A Lesson in Nation-Building                                                                                                                                                                                Robert A. Levine

Afghanistan was a series of blunders right from the beginning. Our goal in invading this primitive Islamic nation, or rather a conglomeration of Islamic tribes, was to hunt down Osama Bin Laden and members of Al Qaeda to punish them for 9/11. We also wanted to make certain that Afghanistan would no longer be a sanctuary for extremist Islamic Groups intent on damaging America and killing Americans. At the onset, there was little thought of transforming this anarchic undeveloped country into a modern Western liberal democracy with universal education and equal rights for women. After Bin Laden was killed, we should have left Afghanistan

However, somewhere along the way our objective changed and our leadership decided that Afghanistan was ripe for conversion to a modern nation that subscribed to Western ideals. What a mistake that was. In addition to being a society where people’s major allegiance was to clan and tribe rather than a central government, corruption and payoffs were rampant at every level. To get a job, one had to give kick-backs to the person hiring, whether it was in the government or private businesses.

Salaries in the government and in the military were often not paid or only partially paid to lower level workers or enlisted men. In fact, many of the fighting men often went hungry because the purveyors of food may not have been paid, with the money kept by high-ranking officers or government officials. In addition, ammunition for Afghan Army weapons were frequently minimal or unavailable, with payment again stolen by higher-ups. Sometimes, ammunition and weapons were sold by these higher-ups directly to the Talaban or through intermediaries for cash. Fuel for vehicles was also in short supply at times. Yet the American military expected the Afghan soldiers to fight the Talaban to the death when they were not being paid and necessary supplies were lacking.

Leaders of the military were also incompetent, usually obtaining their jobs through family or political connections, most unwilling to put their lives in danger when leading their men. Many of these officers knew nothing or little about military strategy or tactics. When American soldiers joined the Afghan soldiers in battle, it provided the latter with backbone that their leaders could not or would not provide. American air support was another factor that bolstered Afghan soldiers, knowing that drones or planes would come and aid them whenever they ran into trouble in battles with the Talaban.

Government corruption was ubiquitous and any project that would benefit the populace had to pay bribes to officials at all levels. Education was available for both boys and girls, but the quality of the teachers and administrators was variable because of the low salaries and the necessity of kickbacks.

Besides the Talaban, warlords and bandits put up roadblocks on the roads or the streets of the cities, making travelers and shopkeepers pay for protection and safe passage. And most Afghanis were wedded to their traditional ways of life and did not necessarily favor modernization. Though they were happy to have and use cellphones and running water and even television, they did not want their way of life changed by ideas of equality of men and women, or women working at more prestigious jobs than men. Society was governed by a strong patriarchy where wives and daughters followed a husband or fathers’ orders and only men were barely literate and allowed to go to school.

So notwithstanding the messages of progress sent to Washington by the top military and diplomatic brass, the complete collapse of the Afghan army in just days and its unwillingness to fight should not have been surprising. Hunger, lack of supplies, unpaid salaries, lack of leadership and the absence of Americans and their air support made collapse a foregone conclusion. The speed with which the Afghan government and army disintegrated was not expected, but it should have been. When the president of the country cuts and runs instead of trying to rally his forces, you know that there never was any hope of building a strong modern society, even after twenty years of effort.                                                                                                  www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                                                                                   Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


The West Virginia Hypocrite

The West Virginia Hypocrite                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Robert A. Levine

Americans have always known not to trust politicians because they often go back on the words and most of them can be bought. But Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is in a different class. With the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, every Democrat vote is needed to pass legislation. When the infrastructure bill was passed by the Democrats with both moderate and progressive support, a bill that Manchin favored, he promised that he would support President Biden’s Build Back Better Bill. There were hours and hours of negotiations, phone calls and meetings between Biden and Manchin and their staffs and with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and his staff to shape the Build Back Better bill in a form agreeable to Manchin. He was literally treated like royalty by the Democrats because his vote to pass the bill was essential and he had promised that he would vote for it. This was a bill that would provide great benefits to his constituents in West Virginia and that should have influenced him to pass it without question.

However, Sunday morning on Fox News, he suddenly told America that he would not vote for the bill. He claimed that he didn’t want to increase the national debt and was afraid it would increase inflation. That is all B.S. To appease him, tax increases on the wealthy, which would have made the bill debt neutral, were dropped from the bill. And since the bill covers ten years, it should have no effect on inflation according to economists. The price of the BBB had also been pared down significantly to $2.2 trillion at Manchin’s insistence.

So why did he withdraw his vote in favor of the bill? Probably the biggest reason was the effect that the BBB would have on reducing coal as a fuel because of climate change. The bill cuts down the use of coal, oil and gas with incentives in favor of renewable energy like solar, wind, and perhaps hydropower. It also penalizes power plants that do not switch. In a major conflict of interest, Manchin and his family benefit significantly from a coal brokerage firm that he founded, making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars annually by selling coal. Now West Virginia has a substantial coal industry, but it has been losing thousands of miners annually with coal mines shutting down because utilities are already starting to switch to clean energy without Biden’s bill. The BBB would have allotted billions of dollars to train laid off miners and the unemployed in clean energy technology, making homes energy efficient and so forth. Without BBB, they lose this benefit. There is an excise tax on coal that pays for miners who develop black lung disease that is coming to an end and would have been renewed in BBB.

A healthy child tax credit in BBB which would have lifted many children in West Virginia and the nation out of poverty was also lost because of Manchin’s refusal to vote for BBB. Coverage for hearing aids would have been covered by Medicare. Does Manchin care about any of these benefits for his constituents? The money he makes from coal is more important. And after signaling his lack of support for BBB, Manchin had the nerve to say that he was against giving poor people money because they would not know how to spend it. Of course, his wealthy friends know how to spend money much better than those impoverished because they have more of it.

Global warming is an existential threat to mankind and carbon dioxide from burning coal and other hydrocarbons are the major cause and Manchin is a major supplier, like a dope dealer. Another important factor in climate change is methane gas which leaks from oil and gas wells. The BBB would have imposed a fee on methane emissions which Manchin also didn’t like.

There is still time for Manchin to change his mind and negotiate some form of BBB. But if he were a decent human being, he would have rid himself and his family of the investments in coal companies and coal brokering which are a blatant conflict of interest. Global warming and climate change is the most vital issue of our time and Manchin just doesn’t give a damn.

www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


The Democrats Keep Self-Destructing

The Democrats Keep Self-Destructing                                                                                                                                                                                                           Robert A. Levine

Anyone who joins the Democratic non-party and runs under its banner must have a secret death wish or a masochistic psyche. It seems that whenever the party is in a position to control the federal government and enact critical legislation, elected officials cannot get their s—t together to pass the necessary laws. It seems that often times the moderate wing of the Party will not back down on their stances and compromise on what they want, and the progressive wing is even worse in terms of compromising and allowing necessary legislation to get passed. With both wings, it’s my way or the highway, endangering their slim margins in the House and the Senate. The American electorate wants to see things getting done in Washington and rightfully blames the party in power for the stalemate.

Of course, Republicans are not helpful in the least. They act almost as a solid bloc with very few members willing to buck the leadership and do what they might feel is best for the nation. With the GOP it always seems to be party over country when essential votes are taken. But their near unity makes them appear to the nation at large as a party that can get things done, even though the things they do may have a malign effect on the non-affluent majority segment of the electorate.

Because of the Democrats lack of progress on passage of the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill endorsed by President Joe Biden, Democratic candidates running for office had a difficult time this year. The situation may even be worse in 2022 when the stakes are much higher. Will the political ramifications of the intransigence of the two wings of the Democratic Party make them see the urgency of the need to act, because the social and financial needs of the populace so far have not made them budge one bit. And the GOP whose fealty to Trump and all his lies are disgusting, are certainly not going to come to the rescue of the Democrats and Americans in need.

What is the answer to the Democrats inexorable drive for self-destruction? A more aggressive Joe Biden would surely help. If he would act more like LBJ and tell the Democrats in the House and the Senate what must be done, perhaps we would see more accomplished. But Biden is laid back and prone to negotiate rather make demands even though he is the supposed leader of the Party. The likelihood is that he is a lame duck president, either by the choice of not running again or by losing the next election. Other strong Democrats need to step forward and tell the Progressive wing and the hesitant moderates what is necessary if the Party is to have any chance of holding on to the House and the Senate in 2022 and the presidency in 2024. The word to remember is compromise, to get things done for the good of the party and the good of the country. Self-destruction for the progressives or the moderates to get their way should not be an option. But both segments of the party see their objectives as paramount and and are unwilling to give an inch. Their stances will only result in losses.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Progressive Democrats and Moderate Sensibilities

Progressive Democrats and Moderate Sensibilities                                                                                                                                                                                                             Robert A. Levine

I consider myself a moderate or centrist who in the past voted for candidates from both parties but now vote almost exclusively Democratic. The change in my voting pattern was spurred by the Republican coronation of Trump, their fealty to the ex-president and their unwillingness to confront him about any of his obvious lies and corruption. Their support for his claims that the presidential election of 2020 was stolen is an act of cowardice that has infected nearly the entire GOP whose members know (if they are halfway intelligent) that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election.

However, I am also bothered by the behavior of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party which makes it more difficult to vote for moderate Democrats. I am particularly upset by progressive unwillingness to compromise in order to get important legislation passed. While Manchin and Sinima, so-called moderates, are holding up passage of Biden’s Build Back Better bill by claiming it is too expensive, progressives in the House refuse to accept this as a fact of life and will not pass the physical infrastructure bill already passed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate.

Candidates running in 2022 have to show that the Democrats have been able to enact some laws that benefit the nation as a whole, which the physical infrastructure bill does. If the Democrats don’t pass the physical infrastructure bill and some form of the social infrastructure bill (BBB), they can kiss 2022 and control of the House and Senate goodbye. It is up to the progressives to back down and make sure that these bills get passed.

And what the Republicans call ‘cancel culture’ does have a basis in fact, pushed by progressives. Our history is our history and pictures and statues of important figures should not be taken down from their places in government offices and public squares because of racist behavior and slave owning which was culturally endorsed at the time they lived. Slavery was an abhorrent conduct that was socially acceptable prior to the Civil War, particularly in the Southern states. To try and eliminate our historical memory of what existed is foolish and will not be successful.

Thomas Jefferson’s statue will be removed from New York’s City Hall soon because of progressive complaints. Do the progressives realize that slavery was also common among African tribes long before it occurred in the United States? On that basis perhaps all statues of African-Americans should be removed from public places because of their previous practices. Many Northern Africans, Muslims or not, also accepted clitoral removal from young girls so they would not find pleasure in sex and be faithful to their husbands. Perhaps that’s another reason to eliminate all statues and paintings of African-American men.

Eliminating depictions of historical figures from prominent places because of their conduct will not change our country’s history. We should concentrate on eliminating current racism and abhorrent behavior rather than canceling what was wrong with our past. And progressives should think about what their actions mean for the future of the Democratic Party whose control of government is now hanging by a thread.                                   www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                              

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Why Can't the Democrats Get Anything Done?

Why Can’t The Democrats Get Anything Done?

                                    Robert A. Levine

America is in trouble in the aftermath of the Trump administration and the devastating effects of the Covid 19 epidemic. It is imperative that politicians in Washington recognize this and work to produce the required solutions.

The Democrats control both Houses of Congress, admittedly by small margins, as well as the presidency. Yet on the President’s most important policy issues, the Democrats in Congress cannot seem reach a consensus and pass the bills that Biden wants. The reason is simple. Unlike the monolithic Republicans who virtually all are in fealty to ex-President Trump’s whims, the Democratic Party is really two separate parties: the moderates and progressives. And so far, the progressives have been unwilling to compromise on their wants for the good of the party and the good of the nation.

The progressive’s unwillingness to compromise makes it even more likely that control of the House and probably the Senate will be taken over by the GOP in the 2022 elections. The party out of power is generally favored in mid-term elections and the Democrat’s lack of success in passing Biden’s infrastructure bill and human infrastructure bill gives the Republicans another issue to pile on the do-nothing-Democrats.

One would think that both the moderate and progressive wing would see the necessity of passing both infrastructure bills merely from a political standpoint. But they are even more important for the country itself in this era when our physical infrastructure is old and decrepit. Our physical infrastructure must be fixed if we are truly to remain a first world country and a leader of the West. However, the level of inequality in the United States is also higher than in any other advanced nation. This means that our social infrastructure, health care, education, child care, and so forth must also be fixed to make the nation fairer and to maximize the use of our man and woman power. In a complex world, with continuous competition with China and other autocratic nations, we must use our human resources wisely. And there is also the issue of climate change that is imperative to manage aggressively.

This brings up another problem that the nation has to address. America is not replacing its population base, as women are not having the 2.1 children on average that is necessary. Adequate child care and perhaps increased benefits for children might be an answer to that problem. However, currently, we are in the midst of a blue collar manpower shortage, with not enough truck drivers, mechanics, agricultural workers and so forth. Increased immigration with specific training programs might be able to help with this. However, we also need educated immigrants in the high-tech and biologic fields. The nation needs to open up the H-1B visa program to have more educated, high skilled immigrants come to America to work in these sectors. They tend to produce start-up companies and innovative ideas and are necessary for America to keep its edge. We also require more primary care physicians, especially in rural underserved areas and in the inner cities. Nurses and medical aides are also vitally needed with many having recently retired under the pressure of the Covid 19 epidemic.

As noted, there are lots of problems which the Democrats must solve while they control both Houses of Congress and the presidency. For the good of the nation and the good of the Party, it is time they got their act together with both sections of the Party working together. It would be even better if the Republicans faced reality and worked with the Democrats to solve the pressing problems. But that is a dream unlikely to occur in this era of abject partisanship.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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