Monthly Archives: August 2021

Foggy, Foggy Dew

In days of old
We damned the fogs
Made summers cold
Turned paths to bogs
Rendered every day a slog.

But times have changed
Events transpired
Perspective rearranged
By weather dire
Constant threat of fire.

Now fog has become
A treasured friend
As senses numb
Opinions bend
Fearing a fiery end.

The Tragedy of Afghanistan

National telethons used to be an annual event.  (The longest running was the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon; which closed in 2012.) If telethons reappear, I’m going to host the Bob Burnett Telethon to cure short attention span.  I’ll highlight the protracted failure of Americans to pay attention to the tragedy of Afghanistan.

On August 16th, President Joe Biden appeared on national TV and let the Afghanistan “buck” stop with him: “I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces.” God bless you, Joe Biden!  Thanks for being a real leader!

The US involvement in Afghanistan began twenty years ago, next month. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States was traumatized.  Congress wanted to do something and therefore passed the “Joint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States” — an authorization that led to the US military operation in Afghanistan.   On September 14, 2001, when Congress considered the  joint authorization of military force, only Representative Barbara Lee opposed it: “I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States. This is a very complex and complicated matter… However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, ’let’s step back for a moment. Let’s just pause, just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.’” [Emphasis added] [For years after making this speech, Congresswoman Lee was subject to death threats and harassing phone calls.]  God bless you, Barbara Lee!  Thanks for being a real leader!

Over the past 20 years, i have written dozens of times about the tragedy of Afghanistan.  My most prophetic article was written July 30, 2010, Afghanistan: America’s Failed Project.

Writing in Rolling Stone Michael Hastings concludes: “There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word ‘victory’ when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible.”  Reading this sobering article I was reminded of the advice proffered by a seasoned Silicon Valley software developer: “good projects may go bad, but bad projects almost never get better…” no matter how many billions the US spends, the situation in Afghanistan isn’t going to improve… The US effort in Afghanistan has become a failed project. We may follow Obama’s plan and tough it out for another 11 months, but there’s no reason to expect the situation to improve. We should cut our losses now; go to plan B.  Unfortunately, the US doesn’t have a plan B.

We’ve known for years that Afghanistan was lost.  Until Joe Biden became President, no one had the guts to admit this.  Why?

1.Failed Presidential Leadership: Over the past twenty years, there have been four American presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden.  Earlier in the year, historians ranked the 44 presidents before Biden.  George W. Bush was ranked 29, Obama  10, and Trump 41.  For twelve of those twenty years, we had terrible leadership.

George W. Bush is the president most responsible for the Afghanistan tragedy.  In case you’ve forgotten, it was Dubya’s failure to heed intelligence reports that opened the door to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  Then he bungled the intervention in Afghanistan: Late in November 2001, bin Laden and many Al Qaeda fighters were cornered in the remote Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. Bush made the decision to capture bin Laden by relying upon Afghani mercenaries, who were not up to the job. By the time regular American forces arrived, bin Laden and most of his companions had slipped across the border into northwest Pakistan. In March 2002, Dubya abruptly changed his focus: “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” Bush had a short attention span; his focus shifted from bin Laden in Afghanistan-Pakistan to Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Trump made the Afghanistan situation much worse.  To score political points, in February of 2020, Trump brokered a “deal” that called for US troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Under the fourteen-month timeline, approximately 5,000 Taliban prisoners were also set to be released, including major Taliban leaders.  This legitimized the Taliban.

2. Failed Congressional Oversight:  Although the blame for the Afghanistan tragedy primarily rests with the four Presidents, Congress has a major share.  Under the Constitution, Congress has the responsibility to declare war.  Congress skirted this with the September 14, 2001, “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” which in effect gave the President carte blanche to send troops wherever he thought there were terrorists.  Afghanistan was occupied for twenty years because Congress stubbornly  held onto the attitude that Afghanistan might become a staging area for further terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Let’s be clear.  Since late in 2001, when Osama bin Laden and many al Qaeda fighters departed Afghanistan, there has been no justification for a U.S. presence in the country.  No President has defended the occupation on the grounds of “nation building.” Congress failed to do its job because it was very difficult for most members of Congress to stand up to U.S. military leaders, who were all too ready to argue: “Just give us a few thousand more troops and we will complete the mission in Afghanistan.”

3. Failed Military Leadership. In twenty years, the U.S. has spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan ( ).  Take a moment to consider that.  $2 trillion.

With $2 trillion we could have ended U.S. poverty.  We could have built 10 million affordable homes.  We could have taken steps that directly benefited the American people.

The U.S. spent $2 trillion because the military lied to us.  First they said they could defeat the Taliban and pacify Afghanistan.  When that didn’t work, they created the myth of creating a reliable non-Taliban fighting force that we could trust to do the work when our troops left.  Biden called out this myth, noting that in the last couple of weeks the Afghanistan military collapsed. “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”

Americans want to trust our military leaders.  Nonetheless, these military leaders misled us in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

4. Failed American Public Awareness: It’s a familiar maxim: “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  Since the end of World War II, the citizens of the United States have twice been lied to by the military.  Shame on us for believing them about Afghanistan.

Americans believed the lies we were told about Afghanistan, because we are lazy and arrogant.  We are lazy, because too many of us didn’t take the time to uncover the truth.  We are arrogant, because we believed that we could buy our way out of this mess.

Summary: The best words to describe this tragedy were written by Bob Dylan in “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll:”

Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace
and criticize all fears

Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears.

Biden’s Infrastructure Win

On March 31st, President Joe Biden introduced his infrastructure plan, “The American Jobs Plan” ( ).  After four months of negotiation, on August 10th the Senate passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan plan. (

Even though Donald Trump lobbied against passage of the bill, the final vote was 69-30.  That is, nineteen Republican Senators voted for it, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump toady Lindsey Graham. The infrastructure bill now goes to the House where it is certain to pass — eventually.

The bipartisan infrastructure plan polls well.  The Hill ( reported:  “[When asked] ‘do you support or oppose President Biden and a bipartisan group of Senators passing a new infrastructure plan to improve roads and bridges, expand power infrastructure, increase passenger and rail access, expand broadband access, and improve water infrastructure?’ Sixty-six percent [of respondents] supported the plan, 22 percent opposed it.”  It’s noteworthy that most poll respondents want to pay for infrastructure by raising taxes on corporations and the rich: “AP-NORC found 66 percent in favor of raising taxes on corporations to pay for these improvements and 64 percent supporting higher taxes on households making more than $400,000 a year.”

The infrastructure bill will eventually wend its way into law.  Let’s look at what’s in it:

1.Transportation Projects: (Original plan $621 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $500 Billion)  In essence the compromise plan kept the traditional infrastructure projects, including: $110 Billion for roads and bridges; $66 Billion for passenger and freight rail lines; $39 Billion for “public transit,” that is, upgrades of buses and rail cars; $25 Billion for airport modernization; $17 Billion for port upgrades; $15 Billion for electric vehicles, including $7.5 Billion for EV charging stations and $7.5 Billion for electric school buses. Etcetera.

2. “Quality of Life at Home”: (Original plan $650 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $400 billion) In essence this is the original Biden proposal less an allocation of $213B to “build, preserve, and retrofit more than 2 million affordable homes and commercial buildings.” It focuses on modernizing the electric grid, $65 Billion.  It also includes providing broadband internet access to rural and low-income communities.  In addition there is $55 Billion to upgrade America’s water system — with a focus on bad pipes.  (There is also $8 Billion to build a new western water infrastructure,) It also includes $47 Billion for “Resilience,” funds for cybersecurity and climate change mitigation. There’s $21 Billion for Remediation; that is, “funds to clean up brownfield and superfund sites, abandoned mines, and old oil and gas wells that need to be plugged.”  There’s also $11 Billion for highway safety. Etcetera.

3. Caregivers for elderly and disabled. (Original plan $400 Billion; bipartisan plan $0) Biden’s original plan would have expanded Medicaid to provide affordable, quality care for everyone who needs it.

4. Research, Development, and Manufacturing: (Original plan $480 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $100 billion.)

Jobs: The good news is that the bipartisan infrastructure bill will create jobs: “Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimates growth of about 660,000 jobs could result by 2025.”

The bad news is that the funding is sketchy: “The spending is partially paid for with unused covid-19 relief dollars, unused federal unemployment aid, sales of spectrum and oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased fees for some superfund sites and customs, and delaying a Medicare expense for a year. Some money would also come from tighter enforcement to ensure cryptocurrency investors pay taxes once they sell and realize their gains.”  Many progressives feel that the appropriate way to pay for infrastructure improvements is to increase taxes for millionaires and corporations.  Unfortunately, Republicans in general, and some Democrats, won’t support this.

Playing the bipartisanship card: President Biden lauded the bipartisan plan: “Democracy requires compromise. The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will make life better for millions of Americans, create a generation of good-paying union jobs and economic growth, and position the United States to win the 21st century, including on many of the key technologies needed to combat the climate crisis.”

Clearly, Biden relishes the idea of Congress passing a significant bipartisan piece of legislation.  Writing in a June 28th editorial ( Biden observed: “The deal… is a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can work and deliver for the people.  Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted in this agreement. But that’s what it means to compromise and reach consensus — the very heart of democracy. When we negotiate in good faith, and come together to get big things done, we begin to break the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place and prevented us from solving the real problems Americans face.”

Nonetheless, Biden hasn’t given up on the other components of his original infrastructure proposal.  In his editorial,  Biden noted: “I will continue working with Congress to pass the remainder of my economic and clean energy agenda. We have an urgent need to invest in housing, clean energy deployment and the care economy. And we need to make equally critical investments in our human infrastructure: in childcare and paid leave, universal pre-K and free community college, and tax cuts for working families with children. They are inextricably intertwined with physical infrastructure.”

Next Steps: On August 11, the Senate narrowly approved Biden’s $3.5 trillion framework for improving health care, family services, and environmental programs.  In These Times noted ( ): “For Medicare, there is an expansion of benefits to cover dental, vision and hearing, and a reduction of the minimum age of eligibility, along with a lowering of prescription drug prices. The new expanded Child Tax Credit is extended beyond the current year. If the bill is passed in its current form, Americans will finally have access to at least some paid family and medical leave, child care, as well as two free years of community college and universal Pre‑K. The government will make massive investments in affordable housing, as well as a Civilian Climate Corps.”

Now the action moves to the House of Representatives which will return early from recess — on August 23rd: “to vote on the fiscal blueprint, which contemplates disbursing the $3.5 trillion over the next decade. Final congressional approval, which seems certain, would protect a subsequent bill actually enacting the outline’s detailed spending and tax changes from a Republican filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, delays that would otherwise kill it.” (

BB prediction: The bipartisan infrastructure plan will pass this summer.  The remainder of Biden “Jobs Plan” will pass in the fourth quarter by means of reconciliation.

The Dumpster Blues

Lost my baby at the dumpster
As I stashed my toxic load
Distracted by the offal
As she lit out down the road.

My girl took of with a tin man
Saw them dancing at the bar
He won’t know what hit him
When she drives off in his car.

Now I’m sitting here drinkin’
Just as sad as I can be
Wondering where I’ll dump my garbage
And if she’ll come back to me.

New Friend

If I tell you something,
will you keep it secret?

“Of course,” I said.
We’d been close for years.

I have a new friend.
I want you to meet him
“Okay,” I said.
She’d been alone too long.

He’s a little shy.
I’m hoping to have a party to introduce him.

“Let me know.”
I was happy for her.

There’s one thing about him.
He’s not from around here
“Probably for the best.”
She’d grown beyond local culture.

He’s from another planet.”
She gripped my hand.
“Like, L.A.?”
I thought she was kidding.

Like beyond our solar system.
Like somewhere unpronounceable
My mouth fell open.

Is that too weird for you?
She squeezed my hand.
“A little.”
I didn’t know what to say.

He’s very nice.
You’d never guess he’s an alien
“I’d like to meet him.”
My heart pounded in my chest.

How about tomorrow?

“Sure. Any time.”
I was worried.

I’ll call you.”
She smiled
Walked off with a lilt.
Disappeared forever.