Saturday, March 28, 2009

War on Terror Cannot be Won

What Bushies and his neocons never seem to understand is that we cannot "win" a war against insurgency any more than police can win a riot. We can only quell and mollify. Certainly we need to eliminate as much of the murderous al-Qaida who actually instigated the terrorism as we can, but in a manner that those most directly affected will accept as right and sensitive to their morality and culture.

We'd have done much better in Afghanistan had we poured money and rebuilding immediately after the initial 2002 invasion coupled with a more direct and stronger hounding of OBL's Taliban in Bora Bora. This was the only time when we likely had them on the ropes, but let them off when we diverted resources by invading Iraq.
We sacrificed our moral high ground at that point. Our high-handedness and failure to study the British examples produced the chaos and increased resentment. The clumsy use of torture (of course we’ve always used it; everybody does, but discreetly and sparingly) and the sanctioning of it gave the antiwar extremists legitimacy.

We created them monster that we later have to defend ourselves from. It’s called “blowback.” It’s also called “come-uppance” by some who would either support us or not oppose us had not President Bush declared “You’re either with us or against us.”

Right now, the Afghan economy is supported almost entirely by the opium trade, but all we do is destroy their fields and tell them not to plant. In the meantime, we're allowing Turkey to plant opium since it is the only source of our analgesics. Perhaps we ought to extend that monopoly to Iraq, thereby both lowering our price for it and providing them with a legitimate means of making a profit. There are not many other cash crops that can be grown in that semiarid environment. It's about being "smart", something sorely lacking in the former administration that was ideologically based.
“If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road.” - George W. Bush

Boy, was that man smart!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG call and stall

When my wife lost her job last year, the income reduction left us perilously close to home foreclose. In a last-ditch attempt to stave it off, I contacted AIG to cash out my Sun America annuity February 27 thus beginning a pattern of call-and-stall which I can only conclude was deliberate and methodical.

The AIG representative did send me the form I requested which I immediately filled out, had notarized and faxed to the number given before noon that Friday. Three hours later I tried calling for confirmation (I had been asked for a PIN which had not been requested before after frantically searching my records for any sign of a PIN, I called another AIG number only to find out that the four-digit PIN was merely the last four numbers of my SSN so I called the original number initiating a the next in a series of 20-30 min. holds). I finally spoke with a representative who said she had no way of knowing if the company received my fax and it might be as long as 48 hours before that could be ascertained. Nearly 48 hours later (that Friday) I found another open half-hour and called to see if they had indeed received my request. They hadn’t.

I took off from work the following Monday, calling again (the extension number I had been given to expedite my call hung up on me three times-I reverted to the original number which resulted in an additional 20-min hold) only to find out I had submitted the wrong form, and that the correct one would be mailed to me. I was also told that it could be downloaded from their site and was given a form number. Possessing reasonably competent Internet skills, I located the AIG site and search engine, entered the form number given only to be told there was no such form available. Using common sense, I located two forms that appeared to request annuity account liquidation, (one called ERISA and the other non-ERISA). Just to be certain, I sacrificed another half-hour to confirm I indeed had the right form and filled out correctly. I recited the information I had written line-by-line to the representative and asked directly if there was anything else I needed to fax. He said that since I had already sent the notarization, the form I was sending would be sufficient to release the funds.

I finally faxed this document at 11 a.m., calling back near 5 (only 10-min. hold this time!) to find out if the fax had been received. Again, the canned response to my increasingly irritable challenge was that it may be as long as 48 hours before they could even ascertain whether the form had been received. I took off that Wednesday, calling ion the morning only to find out that I had not submitted documentation proving the necessity of obtaining these funds. I asked if “Notice of Default” would be sufficient and was told it would. Again, I promptly submitted the required form, calling in the next day to see if it had been received. I was told that it had been received and that to expect another 5-7 working days before the request could be processed.

So nearly three weeks after the initial request and my mortgage default hanging in the balance (Texas law permits foreclosure proceedings to begin only 20 days after notification of default) I can only wait and beg the mortgage company to have patience while AIG holds the money I’ve paid them, taking full advantage of the time value of this insignificant (to them, not me) amount.

March 18, 2:30 pm update:

I received a check for $600 today with the following explanation dated March 13 from Angie Davis, Distributions Team 2:

"We have received your request to surrender your annuity under a hardship qualification. We were unable to process your request asyou (sic) cannot surrender the annuity under a hardship. We have processed a hardship withdrawal for the maximum available."

Can somebody please explain their logic for their NOT releasing the full amount of that annuity ($1631)?