September Letters to Jim: Afghanistan and California Oh No

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Top Illustration by Tim Forkes

In honor of Labor Day, I am choosing not to wear white while I answer some fan mail. I have no idea why we are not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, but since I have always been one to abide by rules, respect authority, and not want to break fashion trends, I figure why start now?

If you read to the end of this column, I will reveal what color I chose to wear. Until then, enjoy the mail.

Dear Jim,
You are from that weird state California. Have you any thoughts about the recall election of your governor?  Have you voted and if so, what did you select?
Proud Texan

Dear Proud,

It’s a good thing you are from Texas where only Republicans can get elected. That keeps people like Ted Cruz from living in our state.

As for the recall election, I think it is nothing more than sour grapes and shows how far a flailing political party has to go to win in a state that has pretty much rejected them. Now, I do not always agree with just how liberal my state has become. Still, since I have to choose between the current offerings of the two major parties, I will stick with the Democrats.

Look, if Governor Pretty Boy Newsom had done anything wrong to warrant this recall, I would be fine ousting him.  However, since that is clearly not the case, I see no point in changing who the voters selected. Good or bad, nice hair or bald, right or left, we must live with our choices when the person we elected has not broken any laws or embarrassed the office. You see, in a democracy, we live with the majority decision.

I also find it more than just a bit hypocritical that the GOP wants Newsom gone and has rallied behind a self-promoting radio talk show host with a less than stellar personal background and no real political experience. Larry Elder is someone I am well familiar with having listened to him on the radio many times. He comes up with the occasional good idea, but for the most part is nothing more than an armchair expert who has all the answers after something has happened, but no real clue to what is going on. Voters need to understand, if Elder becomes our governor, he won’t accomplish anything because Sacramento is controlled by Democrats. They will wait him out until the next general election that will likely produce a Democratic opponent who wins convincingly.

Elder also has a spotty record of decision making when it comes to how he lives his life. Recently, it has come out his former fiancé and ex show producer had an ugly falling out with him that included Elder taking out a loaded gun during an argument. He met his ex at a Playboy Mansion party and it turns out she used to be employed by none other than Heidi Fleis, hooker/pimp to the stars. If he makes political decisions like he makes personal decisions, this state is literally screwed if he is elected.

For now, I will wait out Governor Newsom and see what other train wreck of a human the GOP offers to run against him next time around. Who knows, maybe Ted Cruz will move here by then thinking he is in Mexico on another one of his vacations.

Dear Jim,
Why has the Afghan withdrawal turned into such a gigantic mess? Any chance it will bring down Biden if he runs for reelection?
Very Concerned

Dear Concerned,

If this is the worst thing that happens in Biden’s first term, he will survive it. While it has played out terribly, there is plenty of time until the next election for him and for all this to blow over. However, unless he can rebound with a few big political victories, it could have a big effect on the midterm elections and how the two houses are reshaped.

I do not think it was all that surprising to see the Taliban take over Afghanistan although it was faster than most anyone predicted. What I find odd is there seems to have not been any plan in place for a worst-case scenario when it came to getting American citizens out of the country. Why we waited so long to do this is a head scratcher and needs better explaining to us.

I also question why we were so lax in having an option for Afghans to get out of the country before the Taliban took over, especially regarding the people who worked for our government and whose lives are at risk.

In the end, I am concerned whether we learn anything from overstaying in the region. How long before we march in with our troops to another God forsaken place and set about nation building? We need to take a good hard look at how we fight wars, under what circumstances we fight them, and most of all, what options we pursue before we get mired down somewhere for 20 years.

Dear Jim,
What in the name of Alex Trebek is going on at Jeopardy? Why has it been so controversial seeing who the two people are to replace him as host of the show? Have you any suggestions as to who would make a great replacement?
Jeopardy Lover

Dear JL,

There used to be a time when television was run by the ratings system. A guy like Alex Trebek would have been replaced and the ratings would have decided whether the new host kept the gig or was run out of town. It’s much like when Johnny Carson left the Tonight Show.

Unfortunately, we now live in a world where fans feel entitled to make company decisions because they can’t be bothered, or perhaps they do not know how, to change their viewing preferences. Consequently, they go to war with other fans who have their preferred choice of replacement to Mr. Trebek.

While guest hosts do their stints, armies of techno warriors begin dredging up everything ever said or written by these potential replacements and at the push of a button, they unleash explosive tweets, comments, and messages about the people selected, all because they feel they were mistreated by the faceless folks who failed to select the person they wanted. In the end, you have an unhappy fan base.

My suggestion would be to just continue with a series of guest hosts. It has a way of reaching out to all the different fans of the show and pays the ultimate tribute to Alex Trebek by saying he was irreplaceable. That said, I take all of this back if it means I get the gig.

Dear Jim,
You are both a retired teacher and a parent. If your kids were in school today, would you have them vaccinated against COVID?  How would you feel having to teach in a classroom where some students were not vaccinated?
Just Wondering

Dear JW,

When it comes to the wellbeing of my children, I would not hesitate to have them vaccinated, just as I did with all their other required vaccinations. If getting them vaccinated decreases their odds of catching the coronavirus then it just makes sense to do so. If vaccinating them decreases their odds of catching a bad case of it, then it makes sense. If vaccinating them decreases other kids chances of catching it, it makes sense.

I have never had a problem with parents who do not want to vaccinate their kids from any illness. It’s a personal choice and it is not for me to talk them into or out of doing what they do not want. However, I also support schools, and any other public institution, rights to require vaccinations as part of protecting ALL the kids and staff. This idea that society should be expected to change every time someone does not want to go along with what is expected is only adding to our inability to get along with one another.

If you do not agree with public education’s curriculum, keep your kid at home and teach him yourself. If you think the rules of a school are too harsh for your kid, keep him home and teach him yourself. And if you do not want to vaccinate your kid, keep him home and teach him yourself.  As a parent, if keeping your kid home is a hardship for you because it interferes with your career, you have to make a choice between what is more important. Don’t expect society to make an exception for you.

As far as teaching in a classroom where some kids may not be vaccinated for COVID, all I can do is make sure I go to great lengths to protect myself. I would make sure I am vaccinated and if need be, I would wear a mask for added protection. Then again, maybe I would use the many sick days I saved up and just stay home.

Dear Jim,
Now that Afghanistan is in the hands of the Taliban, does our country need to fear groups like ISIS rising back to power? How should we deal with them?
Concerned About Another War

Dear CAAW,

For all those folks who love Trump and claim he got rid of ISIS, you are about to find out they are back. So is Al Qaeda. Worse, now that many of the leaders of these groups are no longer in prisons in Afghanistan, they will be more determined to go to any lengths to exact revenge on America. It is just the mindset of terrorists.

I believe we need to invest more in counter terrorism and less into fighting wars that can’t be won. Two trillion dollars invested in counter terrorism would have us more secure today than the trillions we spent on two unwinnable wars.

Nation building abroad has to be replaced with nation protecting at home. This means we have to stand up to our military mindset and begin looking at more intelligent ways to secure our nation while not getting sucked further down the military budget rabbit hole we seem stuck in.

I have no problem with eradicating the world of terrorist groups. I just do not think it requires all-out war. Intelligence gathering, cooperation with other nations, and decisive strikes aimed at the leadership of terrorist groups is more effective in the long run than sending men and women in large numbers to far off places to hunt for an enemy adept at hiding.

Fighting a war and fighting terrorism are two different things. Wars should be aimed at enemy nations and involve us using an overwhelming use of force to bring them to their knees (think Desert Storm). Fighting terrorism is a constant game of cat and mouse and we would be wise to work with more cats to rid ourselves of a rodent problem.

Dear Jim,
As a California resident, how do you think we should go about fighting all the fires that rage out of control? I do not see us making any headway on them and I worry about the years to come and what will happen to our state.
Fired Up

Dear FU,

There is no doubt raging fires are going to only get worse with each passing year. It is not just a California problem. It is a problem that affects the entire western United States, from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast. As it is now, we lack the manpower to fight these infernos and we have nowhere near enough water dropping planes and helicopters to keep these fires from growing out of control.

What we do have is a large and bloated military budget with plenty of people and equipment that can and should be enlisted into this fight. In fact, I would go so far as to create an entire new military branch designed to combat climate change. Such a branch would be armed with plenty of tanker planes, most of which are in existence now, to be retrofitted to carry thousands of gallons of water to drop on fires. We have plenty of Air Force bases and mid-size airports capable of keeping small fleets on the ready come fire season.

We also lack a sufficient number of firefighters to do the groundwork needed. Why not offer young men and women an opportunity to earn money for a college or trade school education in exchange for serving on the front lines of firefighting? They can also help with recovery efforts from flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes, all the result of climate change and all that affect the eastern and southern portions of our country.

What I would not be doing is investing in a Space Defense system when by the time it is of any use, we will all be choking on smoke or drowning from floods. It’s time we invest in protecting our planet rather than conquering nations or controlling space.


So now is that point where I reveal the color I chose while answering my fan mail. Like many great writers, I prefer to read my mail buck naked. Thankfully, it is a warm day, and my creepy neighbor is on vacation so only my dogs have been exposed to my whim. Until next month, stay dressed unless of course you are reading my columns. For now, it is time for more sunscreen.