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A BRIEFCASE, A GUN–AND FATE: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In History, Politics on August 31, 2012 at 12:32 am

On July 20, 1944, a one-eyed, one-armed man tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943 when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle.  He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: Germany was losing the war it had launched on the world–and they feared the worst.  This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg–more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect once the “1,000 year Reich” shattered in defeat.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans–even members of the Wehrmacht–were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces–well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

For Stauffenberg, arresting Hitler wasn’t enough.  Stauffenberg wanted him dead.

A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But–how to do it?  Hitler was a closely-guarded target.  He was surrounded by SS bodyguards who were expert marksmen.  He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel.

But his single greatest protection–he claimed–was an instinct for danger.  He would often suddenly change his schedule–to drop in  where he was least expected.  Or to suddenly depart an event where he was scheduled to stay a long time.

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life.  He had been set to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers.

Sixteen years earlier on that day, Hitler had led them in a disastrous attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government.  Police had put down the effort, killing and wounding about a score of storm troopers in the process.  Hitler himself had later been arrested, tried and convicted for treason–and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.

But instead of proving to be the end of Nazism, the “Beer Hall Putsch” turned Hitler into a national celebrity.  And it launched his career as a legitimate, ultimately successful politician.

So Hitler was expected to speak to his longtime supporters for a long time that evening.

Instead, he suddenly cut short his speech and quickly left the beer hall.

Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar–before which Hitler had been speaking.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler.  All of them involved time-bombs.  And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode.  In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off.  He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg.  He would carry his bomb–hidden in a briefcase–into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber.  He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb–also rigged with a time-fuse–would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave.  Once the explosion came, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup–“Operation Valkyrie”–would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government.  The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender.  Provided, of course, that the Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians.  Mny had died in combat.  Others had been murdered as captives.  Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the legendary Russian winter.

So the Germans–both Nazi and anti-Nazi–knew what they could expect if the Soviet Union landed its soldiers on German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it–appropriately enough–“Wolf’s Lair.”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the confernce was in session.  He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler–who was standing with his generals at a heavey oaken table.

Then Stauffenberg excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

With only minutes to spare, he calmly left the conference–and waited for Hitler to die in a burst of fire and smoke.

WATCH THEIR HANDS, NOT HER LIPS

In Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2012 at 12:05 am

Secret Service agents will tell you: Watch the hands.

If someone’s going to assault you, he’s going to use his hands.  Don’t worry about his mouth–unless he’s using it to distract you from his hands.

Or, as in the case of Ann Romney, her mouth.

Consider Ann Romney’s address on behalf of her husband at the Republican National Convention on August 28.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): It’s the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • “The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • In short, re-criminalize abortions. 
  • Imprison doctors who perform them and patients who receive them.  
  • Allow businesses to refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive use.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): You can trust Mitt.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.” 
  • In short: Let’s retain the system that allows the Presidential candidate with the lowest number of popular votes–like George W. Bush in 2000–to assume office.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): And I want us to think tonight about the love we all share for those Americans, our brothers and sisters, who are going through difficult times, whose days are never easy, nights are always long, and whose work never seems done.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Despite the growing disparity between the richest 1% and the rest of the population, refuse to accept any tax increase on America’s most privileged individuals and corporations. 
  • In fact, their taxes should be vastly reduced, if not eliminated.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): We were very young. Both still in college. There were many reasons to delay marriage, and you know? We just didn’t care. We got married and moved into a basement apartment.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • If you’re gay, forget about any marriage rights for you. 
  • Affirms the rights of states and the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriage.
  • Backs a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): You know what those late night phone calls with an elderly parent are like and the long weekend drives just to see how they’re doing. You know the fastest route to the local emergency room and which doctors actually answer the phone
when you call at night.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Radically change Medicare and Medicaid. 
  • Turn Medicare into a voucher healthcare system–where elderly patients must go shopping among insurance companies hoping to find an affordable plan.  
  • Raise the age of eligibility so that patients must wait longer to begin receiving treatment under this plan.
  • Transform Medicaid services for the poor into a block grant program where states could use as little of those monies as they wanted to provide sub-minimum care. 
  • Monies not used for medical care could be used to cover other politically-oriented costs, such as filling potholes.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): No one will work harder. No one will care more. No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live!

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • “We will end the EPA’s war on coal and encourage the increased safe development in all regions of the nation’s coal resources.”
  • In short: Despite rapidly escalating evidence of fluorocarbons as the cause of global warming, let’s make full use of the filthiest source of energy available.
  • Demand that Congress prohibit the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations “that will harm the nation’s economy and threaten millions of jobs over the next quarter century.”
  • Forget about the wholesale environmental pollution triggered by BP’s oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. 
  • Set up similar rigs along the fragile Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a “storybook marriage.” Well….those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Gut the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. 
  • Allow insurance companies to once again discriminate against patients for pre-existing conditions.  
  • Allow insurance companies to once again place caps on lifetime coverage. 
  • Allow insurance companies to once again be able to arbitrarily cancel your coverage. 
  • Re-impose insurance company barriers to getting emergency service–if a hospital lies outside your plan’s network, that’s your tough luck.

ANN ROMNEY (mouth): Tonight I want to talk to you about love.

REPUBLICAN PLATFORM (hands):

  • Provide unlimited magazines for assault weapons–and the would-be mass murderers who wish to possess them. 
  • End background checks on those wanting to buy weapons designed entirely for military use.

* * * * *

Of course Ann Romney loves her husband.  Fine.  Let’s congratulate her for the happiness she’s shared with him and wish her well in the future.

Then let’s elect a President–and a Congress–who oppose everything stated within the Republican platform.

REPUBLICANS: HANDS OFF BUSINESS, HANDS ON YOUR SEX LIFE

In Bureaucracy, Politics, Social commentary on August 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Want to know the true Republican position on “smaller government”?

These two Huffington Post headlines say it all:

D.C. ABORTION BILL FAILS IN HOUSE–July 31

KEVIN McCARTHY: DOMA DEFENSEe IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY–August 1

Consider the first story:

On July 24, House Republicans voted on a bill, centered on Washington, D.C., that would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“We will stand for a commitment to protect little babies that have no other people to protect them,” shouted its author, Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). “By the grace of God, we’re going to do that!”

The bill was defeated on a vote of 220 to 154.

And on August 1, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that he and his fellow Republicans had a duty to defend the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

DOMA is a federal law passed in 1996 that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

In March 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder deemed it unconstitutional and refused to further defend it.

McCarthy, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) then hired outside counsel to defend the law on behalf of the House of Representatives.

So far, Republicans have spent at least $742,000 doing so.

But on July 31, they marked their fifth consecutive loss in federal court when a Connecticut judge threw out the law as unconstitutional.

It speaks volumes about the priorities of the radical right generally and the Republican party in particular.

On one hand, when it comes to causes they support, Rightists demand a hands-off” approach to government regulation.

As they see it, corporations should be allowed to

  • pollute as much as they want;
  • pay their employees as little as they want;
  • avoid paying workers compensation or unemployment;
  • pay little or no taxes;
  • churn out useless or even unsafe goods;
  • put out deceptive advertising;
  • discriminate against job-seekers and employees as much as they want.

Thus, agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the Internal Revenue Service should be abolished.

And since Medicare and Social Security serve an aging population that’s not made up of millionaires, Rightists want these programs shut down. Remember the roar of approval that went up at a Republican debate over the thought of an uninsured patient being left to die?

But when it comes to causes they dislike, only the most punitive government measures will do. Thus:

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration should have its budget and agent-force greatly expanded, to go after pot-smokers and pill-poppers.
  • The FBI should declare all-out war on the pornography industry.
  • Abortion should be re-criminalized–especially at the Federal level. Doctors who perform abortions and patients who get them should be executed or hauled off to lengthy prison sentences.
  • Certain forms of birth control–such as those that prevent an unfertilized egg from attaching itself to the womb–should be criminalized.
  • The right to divorce should be sharply restricted–especially for women.
  • Homosexuals should not only be forbidden to marry, but should be rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps, where they will be prevented from “contaminating” heterosexuals.

And when Rightists call for “downsizing government,” they do not include the military. How else could President George W. Bush have waged an unprovoked war against Iraq under the lie that it held “Weapons of Mass Destruction”?

When Rightists campaign for office, they ignore or downplay the inherent contradiction between these two different sets of priorities.

It’s like the story of an ancient arms-peddler who claimed to offer a spear that could penetrate any shield–and a shield that could repulse any spear.

At first, his listeners were excited. Who could resist the promise of weapons that would make their user invulnerable?

Then an old man stepped out of the assembled mob and pointed out the contradiction: Either the spear could penetrate the shield, or the shield could deflect the spear. But one of them had to prove false.

The question was: Which one?

The same holds true when Rightists campaign for office.

A current joke neatly sums up the real philosophy of the right wing movement:

Some Republicans say they’re moving to Canada because the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.

They may not know that Canada also has socialized medicine.

So here’s another suggestion:

A country that has:

No universal healthcare.

Few entitlement programs.

A low, flat tax system.

A deep reverence for God.

Faith-based government.

Extremely strict limitations on abortion.

Marriage is strictly defined as a union between a man and a woman.

Homosexuality is a sin and punishable by death.

Enforcement of appropriate dress codes.

Tattoos and piercings are widely banned.

Death penalty–which they relish using.

Strong private school system with religious focus.

Widespread oil drilling.

Non-existant environmentalist movement.

Growing nuclear program.

Culture that promotes the family and appropriate roles for men and women.

Where, you ask, is this conservative paradise?

Is this Heaven?

Is this Nirvana?

Actually, it’s Iran.

TREASON ON THE RIGHT

In History, Politics, Social commentary on August 28, 2012 at 12:05 am

Supporters of Mitt Romney have accused President Barack Obama of leaking top-secret details of the U.S. Navy SEALs raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound.

The reason–so they claim: To provide Hollywood screenwriters for material to glorify the President’s role in authorizing the May 1, 2011 attack that killed the mastermind of 9/11.

Now it turns out the Right has its own secret-leakers.  And they operate under the name of Fox News.

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin  Laden, is a book slated to hit bookstores on Sept 11. It is penned under the pseudonym “Mark  Owen.”

But the real name of the author–a 36-year-old former Navy SEAL Team 6 member who took part in the raid–is Matt Bissonnette, of Wrangell, Alaska.

Bissonnette’s real name became public after multiple sources leaked it to Fox News, who revealed it on August 23.

The Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden had previously been left unidentified.

It’s Fox News that has repeatedly accused President Obama and members of his administration of treasonously leaking military secrets to the media to glorify the President.

Many former and current SEAL members worry that the book will release information that could compromise future missions.

U.S. Navy SEALs insignia

One Navy SEAL told Fox News, “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?”  Some SEALs have called Bissonnette a “traitor.”

And Col. Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, said the author  “put himself in danger” by writing the book.

“This individual came forward. He started the process. He had to have known where this would lead.  He’s the one who started this so he bears the  ultimate responsibility for this.”

But Bissonnette has placed more than his own life in jeopardy.  He has endangered the lives of every one of the men who participated in the bin Laden raid.

If Bissonnette were to fall into the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists or sympathizers, he could conceivably be tortured into revealing at least some of the names and locations of his former team members.

And Fox News not only revealed his true name but even named the town where he lives.

Even the liberal Nation magazine was appalled at the recklessness of this right-wing propaganda outlet.  Jeremy Scahill, a writer for Nation, tweeted:

“Why on earth would FOX News publish the alleged identity of one of the ST6 members who was in the OBL raid? Seriously.”

Millions of right-wing Americans have been conditioned by decades of Fascistic propaganda to believe that:

  • Democrats are all traitors–or at least potential traitors.
  • Even those Democrats who aren’t traitors are too weak-kneed to protect the nation from its sworn enemies.
  • Democrats have betrayed/are betraying/intend to betray national security secrets to the Soviet/Chinese Communists.
  • Democrats have betrayed/are betraying/intend to betray national security secrets to Islamic Jihadists.
  • Only right-wingers generally and Republicans in particular can be trusted to protect the nation.

Republicans blamed the Truman administration for “losing China” to the forces of Mao Tse Tung in 1949–as though China was an American colony that was ours to lose.

And as though Americans could have somehow kept a corrupt and incompetent Chiang Kai-Shek from being driven off the Chinese mainland by Mao’s overwhelmingly powerful armies.

Then, in 1950, Senator “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy charged that the State Department was infested by Communists–and that the Truman administration knew it but refused to take action.  The charges were false.

Joseph R. McCarthy

Even when, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy took the nation to the brink of nuclear war over the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, the Right was not satisfied.  On the contrary: The Right accused Kennedy of “selling out” to the Russians by refusing to invade Cuba.

On the other hand, when President Richard Nixon arranged “detente” with both the Soviet Union and Communist China in 1972, the Right was generally supportive.

Mao Tse-Tung and Richard Nixon, 1972

After all, the man who had accused Democrats of “thirty years of treason” couldn’t possibly be guilty of selling out the country to the Communist Menace.  Could he?

Forty years later, tens of thousands of willing-to-work Americans have been thrown into the streets after their companies deserted the United States to set up shop in China.

Such treasonous behavior allows CEOs to ignore American laws that:

  • protect employees from unsafe working conditions;
  • protect the environment;
  • require paying employees at least a minimum wage;
  • require payment of business taxes.

Yet even in the wake of the massive economic and social wreckage inflicted by such desertions, right-wing CEOs insist that President Obama is the traitor selling out American security.

In the August issue of the New Yorker, journalist Jane Mayer reports that at least 33 billionaires each donated at least a quarter of a million dollars to groups aiming to defeat Obama’s re-election.  Most of this money has flooded into attack ads in swing states.

And among the most fervent Obama-haters are the corporate executives of Fox News–which has “patriotically” jeopardized the lives of every SEAL who avenged the tragedy of September 11.

MITT AND MACHIAVELLI

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 27, 2012 at 12:05 am

The Republican Convention is poised to convene on Monday, August 27, and that can mean only one thing: It’s time to break out The Portable Machiavelli.

Republican pundits have been complaining for weeks that voters really don’t know their candidate for President: Mitt Romney.  They claim he’s been the victim of months of relentless Democratic slander.

So the top agenda of the upcoming Republican National Convention is to relentlessly tell viewers what a great family man Romney is.  And to let the cameras focus on his blonde wife, Ann, and five sons.

It will be reminiscent of the 1992 Republican convention, which nominated President George H.W. Bush and his Vice President, Dan Quayle, to take on Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

At one point during the convention, Bush’s wife, Barbara, took the podium to gush over what a great father he had been: “And, you know, I don’t think George had to spank the children even once.”

Considering how his son, George W.,  eventually lied the United States into a needless and bloody war in Iraq, perhaps George Bush, Sr., should have spent more time with a paddle.

But, to return to the present: The avowed purpose of the convention will be to show “the real Romney, the man you don’t know.”

That’s where The Portable Machiavelli–or at least that portion of it devoted to The Prince–comes in.

It’s in Chapter 18, “In What Way Princes Must Keep Faith,” that viewers will find what they need to understand about the unfolding Republican message:

A prince must take great care that nothing goes out of his mouth which is not full of the above-named five qualities, and…he should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion. 

And nothing is more necessary than to seem to have this last quality, for men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….

That is precisely what Republicans hope will happen–that viewers will see Romney as he and his well-heeled backers want him to be seen.

They certainly don’t want viewers to see him as the greed-fueled CEO of Bain Capital (1984-2002).  True, he’s talked endlessly about what a genius he was at business–and how he would apply this experience to running the United States.

Bain Capital

But he hasn’t talked about the dealings he had with powerful El Salvadoran families–who supplied start-up funding for Bain Capital while also bankrolling right-wing death squads responsible for the murders of thousands.

Nor has he talked about the businesses that Bain bought and ran into the ground–and the thousands of Americans who were left unemployed and broke as a result.

Nor has he talked about how much money he made while at Bain–although it’s estimated to be as much as $250 million.

His father, George Romney–whom he idolizes–released 12 years’ tax returns when he ran for President in 1968.  But Romney has released only part of his returns for 2010.  And he claims he’ll release the ones for 2011 just before or after the election.

He’s been equally silent on his tax-dodging schemes–such as a Swiss bank account and offshore holdings in the Cayman Islands.

Swiss bank

Meanwhile, his Vice Presidential pick, Paul Ryan, has promised to release only two years’ worth of his own tax returns.

The man who wants to rewrite the tax code on behalf of wealthy individuals and corporations doesn’t believe average Americans deserve to know where his own financial interests lie.

So the less said about Bain, the better.

Nor do Republicans want viewers to see Romney as the former governor of Massachusetts (2002-2006).  To get elected there, he ran as a moderate generally and as pro-choice on abortion in particular.

As governor he developed and signed into law near-universal healthcare reform legislation–the precursor of The Affordable Care Act, otherwise despised by Republicans as “Obamacare.”

But now Romney needs to sell himself to the extreme Right as “a severely conservative” candidate who’s utterly anti-abortion.  And whose first priority, as President, would be to repeal “Obamacare.”

Thus, for Romney, the less said about his four years as governor of Massachusetts, the better.

And of course Romney doesn’t want to discuss his Mormon faith–which is seen by millions of evangelical Christians as a cult.  Its polygamous history–now more than 100 years past–is never far from their minds.

So what does all that leave Romney and his supporters to talk about?

His wife.  His sons.  What a “wonderful father” he is.  What a “wonderful husband’ he is.

As if any of that is relevant to his plans to lower the tax-rate for the wealthy while burdening the poor and middle-class with higher taxes.  Or to gut programs–like access to healthcare insurance–most needed by average Americans.

So watch the convention if you wish.  But keep The Portable Machiavelli close at hand while doing so.

OBJECTIVE NEWS AND RELIGION DON’T MIX

In History, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2012 at 1:15 am

You expect this to happen every year, starting in early November.

Even the most hard-nosed reporters–including those for major TV networks–get misty-eyed as they speak wondrously about the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to a new-born infant in Bethlehem.

And how that child would grow up to be crucified and rise from the grave three days later.  And how, having taken upon himself the sins of humanity, he would become the long-awaited Savior of mankind.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with crediting this story to its ancient source, the Bible.  As in the phrase: “According to the Book of Matthew….”

But when you report as objective fact a fantastical story that cannot be objectively verified, you leave behind the world of journalism and enter that of theology.

Such as happened during the August 20 segment of ABC World News With Diane Sawyer.

Early in the broadcast, Jonathan Karl reported that a group of House Republicans had visited Israel in summer, 2011.  The trip was supposedly a “fact-finding” tour, including visits to Jewish holy sites and meetings with top Israeli officials.

But then, one night, several members of the delegation decided to mix alcohol with swimming at the Sea of Galilee.  Some jumped in fully-clothed.  One member peeled off all his clothes before plunging in.

Sea of Galilee

That member was Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had accompanied the Congressmen to Israel but wasn’t present at the late-night frolicking.  When he was told about it, he was furious.

“The Sea of Galilee is a popular tourist vacation spot in Israel,” continued Karl, “but also a place of great religious significance for Christians.”

So far, so good–that is, for reporting objectivity.  But then came this:

“It’s where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s where he fed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  It’s where he walked on water.”

Click here: GOP Reacts After Skinny Dipping Incident in Israel | Video – ABC News

That would certainly have been appropriate for a Christian Sunday school class.  But it was totally inappropriate for a reporter who is supposed to stick to what can be objectively proved.

Where, for example, is the evidence that Jesus–or anyone–was able to feed “5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish”?

How can we be factually certain that Jesus actually “walked on water”?

Karl would have been journalistically correct had he said: “According to the Bible,” Jesus performed such miracles.  Or if he had said: “Devout Christians believe” that Jesus fed 5,000 people or walked on water.

Of course, for devout Christians, such statements are those of fact.  For journalists striving for objectivity, such statements must be treated as subjective claims.

Because one man’s religious certainty can be another’s superstition.

Consider the following Q&A found at Catholic Answers Forums, which bills itself as “the largest Catholic Community on the Web.  Here you can join over 300,000 members from around the world discussing all things Catholic.

“Membership is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who seek the Truth with Charity.”

On April 18, 2008, a member posted the following:

“A few days ago I came across some very interesting news.

“Everyone knows that after Jesus arose from the dead He Ascended into Heaven shortly afterwards, marking the fulfillment of His work on earth. I was always under the impression Mohammed ascended into Heaven when he was done preaching, in a way similar to Jesus.

“The place where Mohammed ascended was in central Jerusalem at a shrine called the Dome of the Rock (the gold dome you see in pictures).

Dome of the Rock

“It TURNS OUT that I was wrong this whole time, Mohammed did ascend to Heaven at the Dome, but it was not at the end of his life.

“According to Islamic history there was a time when he was in Saudi Arabia (Mecca) and a flying horse came and they flew off to Jerusalem, and from there the horse took him to Heaven to talk with the Prophets of the past. Afterwards they flew back to Mecca. This is the ‘ascension’….

“I think the Resurrection of Jesus and His Ascension is much more inspiring.”

Of course he did!  He was, after all, a Catholic–or at least a Christian–and he had probably heard the story of Jesus’ Resurrection as a child.  It was familiar to him.  And few people question what they feel comfortable with.

But if he had grown up a Muslim, he would have heard the story of Mohammed’s Ascension, and he would have felt comfortable with that from long familiarity.

Americans often complain about the lack of objectivity in the national news media.  It’s doubtful, however, that many complained about the utter lack of it in ABC’s report about the skinny-dipping Congressman.

In an age which pundits claim is witnessing a “clash of civilizations” between Christianity and Islam, members of both faiths would do well to remember that religious truth truly lies within the heart of the believer.

THE HEIRS OF HITLER

In History, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2012 at 12:00 am

It seems so long ago–71 years this December, America declared war on global Fascism.  And won.

In April, 1945, with Italy in ruins, Benito Mussolini–Il Duce–was shot by anti-Fascist partisans.

Benito Mussolini

In a ravaged Nazi Germany, its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler shot himself in an underground bunker.

Adolf Hitler

But Hitler and Mussolini may be having the last laugh after all.  Their methods and goals are very much alive and flourishing–among the Americans who once drove them into the earth.

If you doubt it, consider the following from MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” for August 15, 2012:

MATTHEWS:  Here is a group of less than average Joes.  Joe the Plumber [Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher], Sheriff Joe Arpaio of [Maricopa County] Arizona, and [Illinois Congressman] Joe Walsh all spew insanity.  But rarely do they go back to back to back.

Well, first up, you have Joe the plumber telling an Arizona Republican fund-raiser that he wasn’t worried about being politically correct.  He was going to tell it like it is.  The way to protect the border, he says, is to build a fence and then start shooting.

Samuel Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher

At that same fund-raiser, Sheriff Joe Arpaio…said his investigation [into] the president’s birth certificate is proceeding and [he] is convinced the document from Honolulu is a fraud.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

And a few days earlier, Tea Party favorite Joe Walsh told a town hall audience in Illinois there were radical Islamists in the Chicago suburbs trying to kill Americans every week.

Congressman Joe Walsh

What do these Joes have in common?  They [are] all trying to be as incendiary as possible and they all succeeded.

Turning to David Cantanese, a reporter for Politico, Matthews says:

MATTHEWS: These are heroes in the Republican culture.  These are people like Donald Trump, he knows how to make money as least.  They love these people, David.  They’re the heroes.

DAVID CATANESE, POLITICO:  I would actually put Joe Walsh in a bit of a different category….I think he’s a true believer. 

This is a guy who says things on the record that most politicians would never do off the record.  And again, he is an elected congressman in a very tough race.  When he says something, I think he believes it.

I think…the Plumber and the sheriff are more showmen.  They’ve got books to hawk.  Joe the Plumber was revealed that he gets paid sometimes to go into these congressional districts. 

Remember, Joe the Plumber is a congressional candidate running in Ohio, what is he doing in Arizona if he really wants to win that race?  You know, it was revealed after her endorsed Herman Cain last year, Herman Cain campaign paid him $10,000.

MATTHEWS: We’ll skip ahead to Joe Walsh and what he’s been saying.  He’s an elected an official, a United States congressman.

Let’s hear what he has to say about the near threat of radical Islam in this country.

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS:  In this country, it’s not just over there, trying to kill Americans every week.  It is a real threat.  And it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was right after 9/11.  It’s here. I’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin. It’s here.

MATTHEWS:  The specificity of this insanity, I guess it`s the old Joe McCarthy trick.  The more specific you sound, the more credible you are.  If you give a lot of details about the near threat of Islamic terrorism in this country plotting against us as a real threat — I guess it rings true to those people watching his pointer there as if he was the mad professor.

Well, there’s one common thing here.  There’s a common thread in this insanity and it’s racial and ethnic.  I mean, they go after people, Mexican-American, and other people who have come here to this country from Latin America, South America, they attack them.  That’s Joe the Plumber.

Arpaio does the same thing.  He’s going after the president because he’s African-American, go after his birth certificate.  Let’s face it, he wouldn’t do it to a white guy.

* * * * *

Candidates like Joe Walsh, Joe Arpaio and “Joe the Plumber” (who isn’t a licensed plumber) don’t get on the ballot by accident.

They do so through the support of men and women whose hates and resentments they share–and exploit.

These voters are seeking a representative who will inflict their hatreds onto those they despise.

Adolf Hitler, for example, did not create anti-Semitism in Germany.  He simply shared it–and exploited this poisonous hatred within his audiences to attain political power.

Postwar Germany, however, had an advantage that America now lacks.

The United States was determined to root out Nazism among the Germans.  And, to a large extent, it succeeded: Germany today is a far different country from the one Hitler ruled.

But who will exorcise America’s own Fascistic elements?

TIME TO FIND THE EXIT

In History, Politics, Social commentary on August 22, 2012 at 9:45 am

When you can no longer trust your supposed allies, it’s time to declare the “alliance” over.

On August 17, an Afghan policeman turned his weapon on U.S. troops, killing two soldiers. The rogue cop was then shot to death by an American soldier.

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 31 attacks on American soldiers by their supposed Afghan comrades-in-arms, resulting in 39 deaths. In 2011, there were 21 such attacks.

Arlington Cemetary

As a result, the U.S. military in Afghanistan has ordered service members to now be armed at all times, inside and outside their bases.

It’s time for American policymakers to draw the appropriate conclusions:

  1. They have forgotten the real reason why we invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001.
  2. They have allowed a war against Al-Qaeda to become a war to transform Afghanistan into a civilized nation.
  3. They have repeatedly overlooked the truth: The Afghans don’t want us–or any other foreigners–in their country.
  4. They cannot count on the Afghans to be reliable allies.

Consider:

On September 11, 2001, Islamic highjackers slammed two jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and one struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center – September 1, 2001

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted–and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The man behind the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011–less than one month from the 9/11 attacks–American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden. 

But the Taliban held firm.  Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden.  CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan–to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to find repulsive about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban atrocities

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa–a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-present) doesn’t belileve in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority doesn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he is viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan feel surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (b) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency is being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their  Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies:

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person.  The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.  The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].  The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value.”

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

American soldiers long ago recognized that “friendly Afghans” were worthless as allies.  But only recently has the Pentagon publicly admitted that “friendly Afghans” pose as great a threat to American troops as self-declared Talibanists.

Can anyone recall such “ally-on-American” attacks by British or French soldiers during World War II?  Of course not.

It’s past time for the Obama administration to recognize this–and start shipping those troops home.

WONDER WOMAN MEETS REPUBLICAN MAN

In Humor, Politics on August 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

“Don’t worry, Wonder Woman. You can’t get pregnant if it’s legitimate rape.”

THE TRUTH CAN MAKE US FREE

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2012 at 12:05 am

Once in a while, a politician slips up.

He forgets the presence of his PR handlers.  He wanders off his carefully-prepared script.  He gets so angry at reporters that he does something he would never otherwise do.

He blurts out the truth–about what he actually intends to do, or how he actually feels about an issue.

And when this rare event happens, the effect is similar to a train wreck.

For at least a few days, the news media converges on the politician–who rushes to the safety of his PR reps.

They, in turn, quickly issue press releases to “explain” what the politician “really meant to say”:

  • He was “misunderstood.”
  • He was “misquoted.”
  • He’s the victim of a press “vendetta.”

Perhaps the most famous such “here’s-what-I-meant-to-say” statement was issued by Ron Ziegler, press secretary fo President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

Starting on June 17, 1972, the Washington Post had investigated a series of crimes committed by Nixon operatives to ensure his re-election.

For the next 10 months, Ziegler and other Nixon administration officials had denied any wrongdoing–and viciously attacked the Post as waging a vendetta against Nixon.

Then, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler once again stood before the White House press corps to offer yet another prepared statement: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

Ron Ziegler

By which he meant: “The statement I’m making now is the truth.  All the previous ones were lies.”

Once again, the Republican party is facing a “truth-will-out” scandal.

On August 19, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

During a TV interview, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate was asked if he supported abortion in the case of rape.  He replied:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare   If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Todd Akin

Akin won the Republican primary on August 7 and is set to face incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). in November.

McCaskill was quick to issue a response.

“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.  The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.”

This is not the first time Akin has “misspoke” on abortion.

On August 8, he said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

But the firestorm of outrage that greeted his “legitimate rape” comment caught Akin by surprise.  So he did what politicians do when they’ve mistakenly told the truth.

With the help of his PR handlers, he “clarified” his previous statement:

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.

“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

Mitt Romney, the all-but-anointed Republican Presidential candidate, also bitterly opposes abortion and wants to make it illegal once again.

But Romney also didn’t expect a firestorm to erupt over Akin’s truth-blurb.  Thus, on the day Akin revealed his true feelings about women, Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told the Huffington Post:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

Clearly, Romney believed that would be enough.  The press would move on to another issue and he would be off the hook once again.

Only the press didn’t move on to another issue.  Akin’s comment obviously recalled to voters the libelous statements made earlier this year by Rush Limbaugh against Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke.

Rush Limbaugh

In these, Limbaugh–America’s porcine version of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels–called her a “slut” and “a prostitute”  because she had urged Congress to make insurance companies cover contraception expenses.

Desperate to make the issue go away, Romney told National Review Online: “Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.  Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

What Romney and his fellow Republicans truly find offensive is this:  Akin’s candid statement now threatens to deny them the power they seek to rule Americans’ lives.

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