Showing posts with label Willie Nelson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Willie Nelson. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

U.S. Army abandons Bagram Airfield at night--doesn't tell local commander: Good luck, guys! Don't forget to write!

 Afghanistan soldiers guarding Bagram Airfield woke up Tuesday morning to discover that the U.S. Army had sneaked out in the night without telling its ally.  

But the Army left some going-away gifts to soften the blow: several hundred armored vehicles, small arms, and tons of ammunition.

Good luck, guys! Don't forget to write!

Retired General Jack King, a television news analyst, said the Americans made a mistake. We should have left enough troops to support the Afghan army--particularly air support. Otherwise, the Taliban--America's sworn enemy--will retake the county in a matter of weeks or months.

And the Taliban will retaliate against the local people who worked for the United States as translators, security guards, and informants.  Those people will have to leave their native country or be killed.

King is being proven right. Aljazeera News reports that the Taliban now controls about a third of the country, and Afghan soldiers are fleeing across the border into the old Soviet-era Asian republics.

 Remember those hapless Vietnamese people scrambling onto retreating American helicopters? Yes, we've seen this movie before.

On the other hand, America's twenty-year war in Afghanistan--like a bad marriage--had to end sometime.  The British were in Afghanistan in the nineteenth century and got their clock cleaned. If you want to read a fictional account of that disaster, check out George McDonald Fraser's humorous novel Flashman and the Great Game

Then the Russians invaded Afghanistan and got their Slavic butts kicked.  Wanna see a movie about that? Watch Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Amy Adams.

Would America have been better off spending trillions of dollars on infrastructure rather than blowing it in Asia? What if we had built a high-speed train system like the Europeans or stabilized our eroding coastline instead of hauling gasoline into Afghanistan over the Khyber Pass?

But I do not claim to be a foreign-policy expert. Maybe our government did the right thing by invading Afghanistan after 9/11. I simply don't know.

When I face a philosophical quandary, I often consult the archives of country music, which ponders the cosmic issues. The Afghan army may be listening to Willy Nelson this morning as it tours the abandoned American military bases:

[T]he last thing I needed
The first thing this morning
Was to have you walk out on me

But Willie knew the end was coming when his girlfriend stayed out all night and came home drunk. And the Afghanis surely knew the U.S. would be feckless in the end.

But America better not pull out on Israel the way it pulled out on Afghanistan.  Because if we do, the consequences will be dire not just for the Israelis but for our children and grandchildren.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Message to Distressed Student-Loan Debtors: Don't Give Up! Change is In the Wind

Don't give up
'cause you have friends
Don't give up
You're not the only one
Don't give up
No reason to be ashamed
Don't give up
You still have us
Don't give up now
We're proud of who you are
Don't give up
You know it's never been easy
Don't give up
'cause I believe there's a place
There's a place where we belong
Don't Give Up
Lyrics by Kate Bush & Peter Gabriel 

If you are overwhelmed by your student-loan debt, discouraged, and don't know where to turn, take my advice. Go to your refrigerator, pop the cap off a Shiner, and then listen to Don't Give Up, written by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Several artists have sung the song, but I prefer Willie Nelson's version.

Some of the lyrics prompt me to reflect on the millions of Americans who are burdened by their unpayable student loans. "Don't give up," Willie tells us. "No reason to be ashamed." You still have your friends.

And I personally believe that change is in the wind regarding the federal student loan program. I think the magnitude of the student-loan disaster has grown so enormous that the federal government can't ignore it.  I see faint signs that help is on the way.

Why do I think this?

First, the Department of Education is finally moving forward on banning mandatory arbitration clauses in student-enrollment contracts at the for-profit colleges. If DOE follows through, students who were defrauded by their colleges can sue and can even join class actions. This is a good sign, and could mark the beginning of the end for the rapacious for-profit college industry. 

Second, Hillary essentially embraced Bernie Sanders's call for free college education at public universities this week (with some qualifications). This is also a good sign, because no scheme to offer free tuition is workable without massive reform of the federal student-loan program.

Third, and more importantly, Hillary called for a 3-month hiatus on student-loan payments while students refinance their loans to take advantage of lower interest rates. Once the federal government begins a wholesale effort to refinance millions of loans,  it will be apparent to everyone that the student-loan program is a train wreck. Broad relief could emerge from Hillary's idea.

Fourth, the bankruptcy courts are beginning to remember their purpose, which is to offer a fresh start to honest but unfortunate debtors. The recent cases are all over the place, with some courts still issuing callous decisions. But there are a lot of good decisions: Roth, Hedlund, Krieger, Abney, McDowell, Fern, etc.

Fifth, the Department of Education issued an important letter in July, 2015 outlining when it would not oppose bankruptcy discharge for student-loan debtors. DOE said creditors should consider the cost of opposing bankruptcy discharges, whether or not they think a debtor can show undue hardship if forced to repay student loans.

So far, this letter has been largely ignored. In my opinion, DOE did not act in harmony with the letter when it opposed bankruptcy discharge in the Abney case out of Missouri.  But DOE is now on record that it recognizes a variety of circumstances when a bankruptcy discharge is appropriate for some student loan debtors.

Richard Precht used that letter to his advantage in a Virginia bankruptcy decision earlier this year. He presented the letter to a very receptive Virginia bankruptcy judge, and DOE agreed not to oppose a discharge of Precht's debt. 

I acknowledge that all these signs of hope are faint and that a lot of misery lies ahead for millions of college borrowers who now hold about $1.5 trillion in student-loan debt.

But this catastrophe will someday come to an end--it can't go on forever. I recall my father, who was captured by the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula during World War II ad endured the living hell of a Japanese prison camp from April 1942 until August 1945.

Two thirds of the men who were captured with my father did not survive the war. Some were murdered, some starved to death, and a few committed suicide. But my father survived, and the war ended.

Likewise, the federal student-loan program will eventually collapse, and millions of deserving college borrowers will get relief.  So, remember Willie's advice: Don't give up. 

And keep a six-pack of Shiner on hand  in your refrigerator. (My advice, not Willie's, but I'm sure he would agree.)

Image result for shiner beer
Don't give up: You've still got your friends


Stephanie Saul and Matt Flegenheimer. Hillary Clinton Embraces Ideas From Bernie Sanders's College Tuition PlanNew York Times, July 6, 2016. Accessible at

Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip. Clinton to propose 3-month hiatus for repayment of  student loansWashington Post, July 5, 2016. Accessible at