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LOOKING INTO THE SOUL OF PUTIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on July 23, 2014 at 10:12 am

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 MH 17/MAS17, an international flight, took off from Amsterdam for Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

It was scheduled to reach its destination in 11 hours and 45 minutes.  But the flight–and its 283 passengers and 15 crew–never made it.

Instead, as the plane cruised above Hrabove in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, it came under fire by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists.  A single Buk surface-to-air missile slammed into the aircraft, almost instantly killing everyone on board.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Since March, 2014, pro-Russian groups have aggressively–and often violently–tried to destabilize the Ukrainian government.

The reason: Ukraine has been showing an increasing desire to align itself with the West, especially the European Union.  And Russian President Vladimir Putin has made clear his intention of preventing that.

A former KGB agent, Putin has called the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union as “a major geopolitical disaster of the [20th] century.”

According to John Bolton, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations: “It’s clear he wants to re-establish Russian hegemony within the space of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine is the biggest prize, that’s what he’s after. The occupation of the Crimea is a step in that direction.”

The most damning evidence for Russian separatists’ culpability in the airliner’s destruction came from United States military officials who cited:

  • Sensors that traced the path of the missile;
  • Shrapnel patterns in the wreckage; and
  • Voice print analysis of separatists’ conversations where they claimed credit for the strike.

Furthermore, data and photos from various social media sites all indicated that the missile had been fired by the separatists.

But the Republican Party quickly found another culprit to blame for the tragedy: President Barack Obama.

Just hours after the shootdown, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain appeared on the Sean Hannity show, which is carried on the Right-wing Fox News.

“It’s just been cowardly,” McCain said. “It’s a cowardly administration that we failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves.”

McCain then told Hannity what he would do in response to the deadly crash:

“First, give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory. Second of all, move some of our troops in to areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin, in other countries like the Baltics and others.

“Move missile defense into the places where we got out of, like the Czech Republic and Poland and other places. And impose the harshest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia. And that’s just for openers.”

Yet America’s frustrations with Russia generally–and Vladimir Putin in particular–long predate those of Barack Obama.

And relations between the United States and post-Soviet Russia were definitely not helped by the naivety of President George W. Bush.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia.  During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush.  When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush.  “Very good briefing.”

But more was to come.

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President.  May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond.  He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed.  “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution, Updated Edition: Peter Baker, Susan Glasser: 97

Of course, no one from the Right is now willing to recall such embarrassing words.

It’s far more politically profitable to pretend that all of America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And that those tensions will vanish once another Rightist President enters the White House.

AGGRESSORS AS VICTIMS: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Social commentary on July 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm

The mindset displayed by Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, reflects that of the German Wehrmacht during the titanic battle of Stalingrad, which raged from August, 1942, to February, 1943.

This mindset was vividly captured in the diary of Wilhelm Hoffman, one of the 150,000 Germans who died in the battle.

The document reveals how a would-be conqueror can quickly turn from arrogant euphoria in triumph to self-righteous anger and self-pity when faced by unyielding opposition.

Hamas has reacted similarly.  When its rockets blasted Israel, that was in accordance with the Will of Allah.  But when the Israelis returned fire with planes and missiles, Hamas members rushed to TV cameras to shed copious tears and wail about the barbarity of their intended victims.

A Hamas funeral

Wilhelm Hoffman was a member of the elite Sixth Army, which had scored impressive victories over Poland in 1939 and France in 1940.

After Adolf Hitler launched the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, it had destroyed one Soviet army after another.  By August, 1942, it was poised to strike the city of Stalingrad and seize the Russian oil fields of the Caucuses.

Instead, it became bogged down in deadly inner-city fighting.  Then a Russian counteroffensive trapped the Sixth army and, through attrition and starvation, forced it to surrender on February 2, 1943.  It was a major turning point in World War 11.

German soldiers besieging Stalingrad

Hoffman’s diary reflects the euphoria of those early months, when yet another Nazi victory seemed in sight.  But as his fellow Germans took increasingly heavy losses, Hoffman grew resentful at the Russians’ refusal to meekly surrender.

September 13: An unlucky number.  This morning “katyushi” [multiple rocket launchers] attacks caused the company heavy losses: 27 dead and 50 wounded. 

The Russians are fighting desperately like wild beasts, don’t give themselves up, but come up close and then throw grenades.  Lieutenant Kraus was killed yesterday, and there is no company commander.

September 16Our battalion, plus tanks, is attacking the [grain storage], from which smoke is pouring–the grain in it is burning, the Russians seem to have set light to it themselves.  Barbarism.  The battalion is suffering heavy losses.

There are not nore than 60 men left in each company.  The elevator is occupied not by men but by devils that no flames or bullets can destroy.

September 18:  Fighting is still going on inside the elevator….If all the buildings of Stalingrad are defended like this then none of our soldiers will get back to Germany.

September 26:  Our regiment is involved in constant heavy fighting.  After the elevator was taken the Russians continued to defend themselves just as stubbornly.

You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including from our rear–barbarians, they use ganster methods.

The Russians have stopped surrendering at all.  If we take any prisoners it’s because they are hopelessly wounded, and can’t move by themselves.  Stalingrad is hell.

Those who are merely wounded are lucky; they will doubtless be at home and celebrate victory with their families.

October 3:  We have entered a new area.  It was night but we saw many crosses with our helmets on top.  Have we really lost so many men?  Damn this Stalingrad!

October 14:  It has been fantastic since morning; our aeroplanes and artillery have been hammering the Russian positions for hours on end; everything in sight is being blotted from the face of the earth.

October 22:  Our regiment has failed to break into the factory.  We have lost many men; every time you move you have to jump over bodies.  You can scarcely breathe in the daytime; there is nowhere and no one to remove the bodies, so they are left there to rot.

Who would have thought three months ago that instead of the joy of victory we would have to endure such sacrifice and torture, the end of which is nowhere in sight.

October 27:  Our troops have captured the whole of the Barrikady factory, but we cannot break through to the Volga.  The Russians are not men, but some kind of cast-iron creatures; they never get tired and are not afraid to die. 

We are absolutely exhausted; our regiment now has barely the strength of a company.  The Russian artillery on the other side of the Volga won’t let you lift your head.

German prisoners taken at Stalingrad

December 11:  Three questions are obsessing every soldier and officer: 

When will the Russians stop firing and let us sleep in peace, if only for one night?  How and with what are we going to fill our empty stomachs, which, apart from the 3%-7 ozs of bread, receive virtually nothing at all?  And when will Hitler take any decisive steps to free our armies from encirclement?

December 26:  The horses have already been eaten.  I would eat a cat; they say the meat is also tasty.  The soldiers took like corpses or lunatics, looking for something to put in their mouths. 

They no longer take cover from Russian shells; they haven’t the strength to walk, run away and hide.  A curse on this war!

AGGRESSORS AS VICTIMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Social commentary on July 21, 2014 at 11:43 am

On June 22, 1941, three million soldiers of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht charged into the Soviet Union, destroying or capturing one Red Army after another.

The Fuehrer, ecstatic, had waited decades to launch this invasion: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.”

That expectation proved to be false.

But then Hitler made a comment whose truth should still be noted:  “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room.  One can never know what is hiding inside.”

Adolf Hitler

Such proved to be the case in his campaign to destroy the Soviet Union.

By December 1941, the Wehrmacht had killed 360,000 Soviet soldiers, wounded one million, and captured two million more.  Red Army losses totaled around 3.4 million.

In six months, German troops and their allies had advanced 600 miles and occupied more than 500,000 square miles of Soviet territory.

And yet, in the end, Operation Barbarossa–the code name for the invasion–proved Hitler’s fatal mistake.

By the time Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, Germany lay in ruins and the Wehrmacht had suffered 85% of its losses on the dreaded “Eastern front.”

Similarly, the militant group Hamas opened hostilities with Israel on July 7, apparently confident that it could defeat the awesome power of an unleashed Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

In June, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered.  Israeli authorities suspected the culprits were members of Hamas, the terrorist organization that’s long called for Israel’s destruction.

In a desperate search for the missing teens, Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians, injured 130 and arrested 500 to 600 others.

Hamas, in turn, began launching rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since June, 2007.  By July 7, 100 rockets had been fired at Israel.

Israeli planes retaliated by attacking 50 targets in Gaza.

On July 8, during a 24-hour period, Hamas fired more than 140 rockets into Israel from Gaza.  Saboteurs also tried to infiltrate Israel from the sea, but were intercepted.

A Hamas rocket streaks toward Israel

That same day–July 8, 2014–Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, a full-scale military attack on Gaza.

Hamas then announced that it considered “all Israelis”–including women, children, the elderly and disabled–to be legitimate targets.

On July 8, Hamas–acting as though it were laying down peace terms to an already defeated Israel–issued the following demands:

  1. End all attacks on Gaza;
  2. Release Palestinians arrested during the crackdown on the West Bank;
  3. Lift the blockade on Gaza; and
  4. Return to the cease-fire conditions of 2012.

Only then would Hamas be open to a ceasefire agreement.

Egypt offered a cease-fire proposal.  Israel quickly accepted it, temporarily stopping hostilities on July 15.  But Hamas claimed that it had not been consulted and rejected the agreement.

Palestinians continued to blithely launch hundreds of rockets at Israel–but went into ecstasies of grief before television cameras when one of their own was killed by Israeli return fire.

The mindset displayed by Hamas reflects that of  the Wehrmacht during the titanic battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August, 1942, to February, 1943.

German soldiers at Stalingrad

This mindset was vividly captured in the diary of Wilhelm Hoffman, one of the 150,000 Germans who died in the battle.

The document reveals how a would-be conqueror can quickly turn from arrogant euphoria in triumph to self-righteous anger and self-pity when faced by unyielding opposition.

July 29, 1942: The company commander says the Russian troops are completely broken, and cannot hold out any longer.  To reach the Volga and take Stalingrad is not so difficult for us.  The Fuehrer knows where the Russian weak point is.  Victory is not far away.

August 10:  The Fuehrer’s orders were read out to us.  He expects victory of us.  We are all convinced that they can’t stop us.

August 12:  We are advancing toward Stalingrad along the railway line.  Yesterday Russian “katush”  [small rocket launchers] and then tanks halted our regiment.

“The Russians are throwing in their last forces,” Captain Werner explained to me.  Large-scale help is coming up to us, and the Russians will be beaten.

This morning outstanding soldiers were presented with decorations.  Will I really go back to Elsa without a decoration?  I believe that for Stalingrad the Fuehrer will decorate even me.

August 27: A continuous cannonade on all sides.  We are slowly advancing.  Less than 20 miles to go to Stalingrad.  In the daytime we can see the smoke of fires, at nighttime the bright glow.

They say that the city is on fire.  On the Fuehrer’s orders our Luftwaffe [air force] has sent it up in flames.  That’s what the Russians need, to stop them from resisting.

September 5:  Our regiment has been ordered to attack Sadovaya station–that’s nearly in Stalingrad.  Are the Russians really thinking of holding out in the city itself?

We had no peace all night from the Russian artilery and aeroplanes.  Lots of wounded are being brought by.  God protect me.

September 8:  Two days of non-stop fighting.  The Russians are defending themselves with insane stubbornness.  Our regiment has lost many men from the “katyushi” [Soviet multiple rocket launchers] which belch out terrible fire.

GENERAL SHERMAN’S ADVICE TO ISRAEL

In History, Military, Politics on July 15, 2014 at 9:19 am

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the great Southern general of the American Civil War (1861-1865) had a simple philosophy of war.

To end Union efforts to crush the newly-minted Confederate States of America, he urged, Southerners should quickly make its cost as high as possible.

Confederates, he believed, should take no prisoners.  Instead, they should kill every Union soldier they could lay hands on.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Jackson’s views on war were shared by not only his fellow Southerners but, ironically, by one of the fiercest enemies of the Confederacy: William Tecumseh Sherman.

Sherman was the Union general who cut a swath of destruction through the South while “marching through Georgia.”

He is credited–or reviled–as the father of “total war,” thus making the suffering of civilians an integral part of any conflict.

In March, 1985, a staff officer told Sherman about Jackson’s opinion on not taking prisoners.  Asked for his reaction, Sherman said: “Perhaps he was right.

“It seems cruel, but if there were no quarter given, most men would keep out of war.  Rebellions would be few and short.”

William Tecumseh Sherman

Contrast that with the way Israel is now responding to hundreds of unprovoked rocket attacks by the Hamas terrorist group.

Since July 8, the Israeli Air Force has bombarded more than 900 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strp.

Israel claims it’s trying to avoid civilian casualties in the crowded urban landscape.  Members of the Israeli military have been telephoning Palestinian residents whose homes have been targeted, warning them to leave.

One resident, Sawsan Kawarea, claimed she received a call  from “David,” who said he was with the Israeli military.

“He asked for me by name. He said: ‘You have women and children in the house. Get out. You have five minutes before the rockets come,’” Kawarea said in an interview.

She ran outside with her children. A small rocket hit the house soon afterward. Five minutes later, a larger missile hit, destroying the house.

For years, the Israeli military has delivered such warnings via cellphone calls and small “warning rockets”–usually sent from drones.

The strategy has a nickname: “Roof knocking.”

It’s Israel’s response to longtime criticism for “collateral damage.”  That is: Civilians killed while its military takes action in the crowded Palestinian territories.

The policy allows Israel to say: We did our bes to avoid killing civilians.

But in waging Politically Correct warfare to head off criticism, Israel has made a dangerous mistake.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the 15th century Florentine statesmen, carefully studied both war and politics.  In his major work, The Discourses, he advises:

…Often individual men, and sometimes a whole city, will act so culpably against the state that as an example to others and for his own security the prince has no other remedy but to destroy it entirely. 

Honor consists in being able, and knowing when and how, to chastise evil-doers.  And a prince who fails to punish them, so that they shall not be able to do any more harm, will be regarded as either ignorant or cowardly….

Meanwhile, on the Gaza Strip: After a week of Israeli bombing more than 900 Hamas targets, Palestinian medical officials claimed that 186 people had been killed and at least 1,390 wounded.

That works out to about 26 people killed every day.

Contrast those figures with the casualties suffered by a single German city during World War 11 air raids during eight days and seven nights.

Beginning on July 24, 1943, the U.S. Air Force and the British Royal Air Force killed 42,600 civilians and wounded 37,000 in Hamburg and practically destroyed the entire city.

The bombing ignited a firestorm that incinerated more than eight square miles, baking alive many of those who sought safety in cellars and bomb shelters.

Hamburg, Germany, after Allied bombing raids

For the vaunted Israeli Air Force to have killed so few of its enemies after dropping so many bombs testifies to a massive waste of ordinance.

Clearly, the only people making good on these raids are the arms makers supplying the bombs.

If the United States had managed to kill only 26 Germans a day in World War II, America and Nazi Germany would still be at war today.

No wonder Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel.

Machiavelli knew–and often warned–that while it was useful to avoid hatred, it was fatal to be despised.  And he also warned that humility toward insolent enemies will only encourage their hatred for you.

An Aesop’s fable well sums up the lesson Israel should have learned long ago:

A snake was stepped on by so many people he prayed to Zeus for help.  And Zeus said: “If you’d bitten the first person who stepped on you, the second would have thought twice about it.”

PC: CONCEALING THE TRUTH WITH LIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on July 14, 2014 at 10:37 am

On June 8, 2010, newspapers around the world headlined the latest triumph of Politically Correct language.

The Israeli government had apologized for circulating a video parodying the lyrics of Michael Jackson’s hit, “We Are the World.”  Its purpose: To mock terrorists from the Gaza flotilla smuggling arms into Gaza.

In early June, 2010, six Hamas ships set out in defiance of the Israel’s blockade of Gaza.  One of those ships, the Mavi Marmara, suffered nine casualties during a subsequent Israeli raid on the flotilla.

In the video, Israelis dressed up as activists offer their own take on the incident through song.

Among its lyrics:

We’ll make the world
Abandon reason
We’ll make them all believe that the Hamas
Is Momma Theresa
We are peaceful travelers
We’re waving our own knives
The truth will never find its way to your TV

Click here: The Flotilla Choir Presents We Con The World – YouTube

The Israeli Government Press Office distributed footage of the music video to foreign journalists on June 4, but then sent an apology to reporters just hours later, insisting it had been an accident.

“The contents of the video in no way represent the official policy of either the Government Press Office or of the State of Israel,” Israel’s Government Press Office later told CNN.

But the retraction did not stop “We Con the World” from becoming an Internet hit, getting over three million views in less than a week

By issuing such an apology the Israeli government forfeited a vital weapon in its ongoing struggle for not simply sovereignty but survival: Ridicule.

Every great tyrant has feared the laughter of his enemies. For that reason, the Roman Emperor Augustus banished the satirical poet, Ovid, from Rome and the KGB worked overtime to suppress anti-Communist jokes.

It’s clear that Israeli bureaucrats–like American ones–have caught the Political Correctness disease, where even the most criminally depraved are off-limits as targets for satire.

During most of the eight-year Presidency of Bill Clinton, the State Department applied the “rogue state” moniker to nations like Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

In a 1994 lecture, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defined a rogue state as one that actively tried to undermine the international system.

But in 2000, the State Department declared that it would no longer refer to such nations as “rogues.” Instead, they would now be referred to as “states of concern.”

“Rogue,” said a State Department spokesman, was inflammatory, and might hamper the efforts of the United States to reach agreements with its sworn enemies.

In short, it’s become Politically Incorrect to refer to even our sworn enemies as enemies.

As Steven Emerson, president of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) puts it: “If you can’t name your enemy, how can you defeat him?”

During World War 11, GIs–and their commanders–routinely referred to German soldiers as “krauts.”  Japense soldiers were universally referred to as “Japs.”

Throughout the Vietnam war, North Vietnamese troops were called “gooks,” “dinks” and “Charlie.”  During the 1991 Gulf War, American soldiers called Iraqi soldiers “ragheads.”

Admittedly, that’s not the sort of language to use in polite company.

But there is nothing polite about war, and it’s unrealistic to expect those whose lives could be snuffed out at any moment to be Politically Correct in talking about their enemies.

The United States has been at war with Islamic nations since September 11, 2001.  But terms such as “jihadist,” “jihadi” and “mujahedeen” are now officially forbidden by the Pentagon.

So is “Islamofascism,” a term often used to describe Islamic aggression against other countries–especially non-Muslim ones.

Similarly, the American government now seeks to impose the same Political Correctness restrictions on how to refer to daily invasions of its sovereign bordeers.

“Illegal alien” is taboo–although totally accurate.   An “alien” is defined as “a foreigner, especially one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living.”

And a foreigner who violates another country’s immigration laws is in that country illegally.

“Undocumented immigrant” is the new fashionable term to be used by all federal agents charged with enforcing our immigration laws.

Liberals feel that this sounds nicer, and won’t offend our “little brown brothers” south of the Rio Grande.

“Undocumented immigrant” makes it seem as though the mass violations of America’s national border are no big deal.  You might even think the illegal alien simply lost his legal papers while sneaking across the border.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, laid out the guidelines for effective propaganda.  In his notorious book, The Prince, he wrote:

…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….

Apparently, many people in government are now convinced: If you don’t admit there is a problem, the problem doesn’t exist.

GREED? THY NAME IS AYN

In Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary on July 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

“Thirty years after her death, Ayn Rand’s ideas have never been more important.

“Unfettered capitalism, unregulated business, bare-bones government providing no social services, glorification of selfishness, disdain for Judeo-Christian morality—these are the tenets of Rand’s harsh philosophy.”

So reads the jacket blurb for Ayn Rand Nation: The Struggle for America’s Soul, by Gary Weiss.

“The timing of this book couldn’t be better for Americans who are trying to understand where in the hell the far-out right’s anti-worker, anti-egalitarian extremism is coming from,” asserts Jim Hightower, New York Times bestselling author of Thieves in High Places.

Ayn Rand Nation introduces us to the godmother of such Tea Party craziness as destroying Social Security and eliminating Wall Street regulation. Weiss writes with perception and wit.”

For those who believe that Rand’s philosophy is the remedy for America’s economic and social ills, a 2013 news story on 60 Minutes sounds a warning.

New England Compounding Center (NECC) pharmacy, based in Framington, Massachusetts, is under criminal investigation.  The reason: Shipping, in the fall of 2012, 17,000 vials of a steroid to be injected into the joints or spines of patients suffering chronic pain.

But instead of relieving pain, this steroid–contaminated with fungal meningitis–brought only agony and death.

The vials went out to thousands of pharmacies scattered across 23 states.

Forty-eight people have died, and 720 are still fighting horrific infections caused by the drug.

Just as Ayn Rand would have wanted, the pharmacy managed to avoid supervision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

NECC was one of thousands of pharmacies that Congress exempted from FDA oversight.  By law, they are allowed to make custom drugs for just one patient at a time.

So Congress figured: What could possibly go wrong?

But within a few years, NECC went national–and vastly expanded the quantities of drugs produced.

“The underlying factor is that the company got greedy and overextended and we got sloppy, and something happened,” John Connolly, a lab technician for the company, told 60 Minutes, the CBS news magazine.

And, also as Rand would have wanted, the four family members who founded the pharmacy were enriched by it.  From December, 2011 through November, 2012, they received over $16 million in wages and profits.

Bankruptcy records show the family members racked up $90,000 on corporate American Express credit cards, including charges made after the company shut down in early October, 2012.

A month before the first steroid death, Connolly says he warned his supervisor: “Something’s gonna happen, something’s gonna get missed and we’re gonna get shut down.”

His supervisor just shrugged.

NECC was shut down by the authorities.  Barry Cadden, the president and lead pharmacist of the company, was subpoenaed by Congress to testify.  In true gangster fashion, he pleaded the Fifth.

He claims he doesn’t know how the contamination started.

Which brings us back to Ayn Rand–and, more specifically, Ayn Rand Nation.

Among the themes explored in Weiss’ book:

  • Atlas Shrugged–Rand’s 1957 novel–depicts a United States where many of its most productive citizens believe they’re being exploited by increasing taxation and government regulations.  So they go on strike. Their refusal to work conjures up the image of the mythological Atlas refusing to hold up the world.
  • Ayn Rand’s novels dramatically affirm such American ideals as independence, creativity, self-reliance, and especially a permanent distrust of government.
  • Rand’s 1936 novel, We the Living, is set in Soviet Russia.  Her heroine, Kira Argounova, tells a Communist: “I loathe your ideals; I admire your methods.” Rand’s followers believe in defending capitalism with the same ruthless methods of Communists.
  • In Rand’s ideal world, government controls only police, armies and law courts.  A government which performs more than these three functions is impractical, expensive and evil.

Many of those who embrace Rand substitute rage for logic: Tea Partiers are furious about the 2008 Wall Street crash, yet they blame the government for it.

(Ironically, in a way, they are right: The government can be blamed–but not for too much regulation of greed-fueled capitalists but too little.)

Weiss asserts that Tea Party members resent the social and economic realities facing the nation, but lack a coherent intellectual framework to help them focus and justify their rage.

But Objectivists–Rand’s hard-core followers–have and offer such a framework.

Thus, Tea Partiers form the ideological part of the right wing, and the clarity–and fanaticism–of their views gives them a power far out of proportion to their numbers.

Weiss believes that Rand is presenting a moral argument for laissez-faire capitalism.  This means eliminating  Social Security, Medicare, public road systems, fire departments, parks, building codes–and, above all, any type of financial regulation.

Weiss believes that Rand’s moral argument should be directly confronted–and defeated–with moral arguments calling for charity and rationality.

Given the fanaticism of Tea Partiers and the right-wing Republicans they support, success in countering Rand’s “I’ve-got-mine-and-the-hell-with-everybody-else” morality is by no means assured.

GO TO COLLEGE, BECOME A BABYSITTER

In Business, History, Law, Social commentary on July 10, 2014 at 11:41 am

Once again, June has come and gone–and, with it, an annual rite of passage for tens of thousands of college students: Graduation.

That occasion when young innocents formally leave the academic nest to make their way into the harsh realities of the work

Among those harsh realities: The average college graduate faces a debt loan of more than $29,400.

Click here: Average student loan debt: $29,400 – Dec. 4, 2013

But wait!  There’s something even more demoralizing awaiting these “heirs of tomorrow.”

The discovery that, for all the “we hire only the brightest” rhetoric by employers, having a college degree actually means little to most CEOs.

A new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity concludes that nearly half of the nation’s recent college graduates hold jobs that don’t require a degree.

In short, many of the jobs they hold aren’t worth the price of that diploma.

From that report:

Increasing numbers of recent college graduates are ending up in relatively low-skilled jobs that, historically, have gone to those with lower levels of educational attainment. This study examines this phenomenon in some detail, concluding:

  • About 48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests requires less than a four-year college education. Eleven percent of employed college graduates are in occupations requiring more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor’s, and 37 percent are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma;
  • The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs;
  • About five million college graduates are in jobs the BLS says require less than a high-school education;

Click here: Underemployment of College Graduates

But the future isn’t completely bleak–at least not for women willing to transform themselves into glorified babysitters for obscenely-rich families.

Consider a recent post on Facebook by AC Connections, which describes itself as “a nanny and household placement agency.”

Under the headline, “Growing Nanny Industry Is Enticing More College Graduates,” the ad/article begins:

“As more college graduates leave school and struggle to find work, they’re turning to the nanny industry.

“Many working moms love the idea of a highly-educated, experienced nanny providing individualized care for their children in their own homes. But it can come with a substantial price tag.

In this challenging economic climate, more college graduates are finding a little spoonful of sugar in the burgeoning nanny industry.

“These ‘modern day Mary Poppinses’ are educated, experienced, and in increasingly high demand.”

The International Nanny Association claims that the average salary is about $16 an hour. 

The ad asserts that “highly qualified and educated nannies in certain locations can make $100,000 or more each year. It’s not uncommon for nannies to start out with salaries comparable to entry-level finance careers.”

Click here: Growing Nanny Industry Is Enticing More College Graduates

Besides the money, says the ad, there are other reasons for becoming a nanny:

“Many love working with children, want a chance to use their college education, or enjoy the role of caretaker.”

“A chance to use their college education”?  As in cleaning up spills, changing diapers and feeding baby food to infants?

So if you’re a college graduate who can’t convince an employer within your chosen profession–such as pharmacy or engineering–to hire you, there’s always the Mary Poppins option.

Or some similar menial “career” that caters to the indulgences of the American plutocracy, for whom $16 an hour amounts to a Snicker’s candy bar for the fast-disappearing middle class.

It should be enough to make you hesitate before signing up for a loan to cover the average $57,000 cost of a public college education.

Or an even larger loan to cover the $132,000 cost of a private college education.

But if you’re still thinking that “employers really respect that degree,” consider this: Job recruiters spend exactly six seconds examining your resume.

According to The Ladders research, recruiters spend an average of “six seconds before they make the initial ‘fit or not fit’ decision” to interview you.

Not hire you–just meet you.  You’ll still have plenty of chances to get shot down during or after the interview.

Click here: What Recruiters Look At During The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Resume

According to the study, when scanning a resume, recruiters looked at the following items:

  • Your name
  • Current title and company
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Previous title and company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Education

American employers should be legally compelled to hire as responsibly as college students are expected to pursue an education.

Until this happens, those young men and women thinking of committing a big chunk of their time and going into massive debt to pursue a college degree should think twice before doing so.

THE LIE OF “VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on July 9, 2014 at 10:35 am

Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technocolor feature film released during World War II.  It’s based on the book–of the same title–by Alexander P. de Seversky.

Its thesis is summed up in its title: That by using bombers and fighter aircraft, the United States can attain swift, stunning victory over its Axis enemies: Germany, Italy and Japan.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, the overall impression given is that, through the use of air power, America can defeat its enemies without deploying millions of ground troops.

The movie has long since been forgotten except by film buffs, but its message has not.  Especially by the highest officials within the U.S. Air Force.

Although the Air Force regularly boasted of the tonage of bombs its planes dropped over Nazi Germany, it failed to attain its primary goal: Break the will of the Germans to resist.

On the contrary: Just as the German bombings of England had solidified the will of the British people to resist, so, too, did Allied bombing increase the determination of the Germans to fight on.

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

On June 6, 1944–D-Day–the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

It opened shortly after midnight, with an airborne assault of 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops.  This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history.  More than 160,000 troops landed–73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Allied air power bombed and strafed German troops out in the open.  But it couldn’t dislodge soldiers barricaded in steel-and-concrete-reinforced bunkers or pillboxes.  Those had to be dislodged, one group at a time, by Allied  soldiers armed with rifles, dynamite and flamethrowers.

This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

Then, starting in 1964, the theory of “Victory Through Air Power” once again proved a dud–in Vietnam.

Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay said, “We should bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age.”  And the bombers under his command did their best to achieve this.

From 1964 to 1975, 7 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–more than twice the amount of bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II.

Yet the result proved exactly the same as it had in World War II: The bombing enraged the North Vietnamese and steeled their resolve to fight on to the end.

The belief that victory could be achieved primarily–if not entirely–through air power had another unforeseen result during the Vietnam war.  It gradually sucked the United States ever deeper into the conflict.

To bomb North Vietnam, the United States needed air force bases in South Vietnam.  This required that those bombers and fighters be protected.

So a force to provide round-the-clock security had to be maintained.  But there weren’t enough guards to defend themselves against a major attack by North Vietnamese forces.

So more American troops were needed–to guard the guards.

North Vietnam continued to press greater numbers of its soldiers into attacks on American bases.  This forced America to provide greater numbers of its own soldiers to defend against such attacks.

Eventually, the United States had more than 500,000 ground troops fighting in Vietnam–with no end in sight to the conflict.

Now, with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launching a blitzkreig throughout Iraq, President Barack Obama seems to have caught the “Victory Through Airpower” disease.

ISIS has thrown the American-trained Iraqi Army into a panic, with soldiers dropping their rifles and running for their lives.

This has led Republicans to accuse the President of being about to “lose” Iraq.

As a result, he has shipped at least 300 American “advisors” to Iraq, to  provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad.

And he has authorized American Predator drones to traverse Iraq, keeping tabs on the advancing ISIS forces.

So far, no American aircraft has fired on the insurgent army.  But this could happen at any moment that Obama gives the order.

Yet the giving of that order will not alter the balance of power in Iraq.  It certainly didn’t work for America in the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq.

Both wars opened with massive barrages of American missiles and bombs.  The 1991 war saw the first use of the vaunted “stealth bomber,” which could avoid detection by enemy radar.

The 2003 war opened with an even greater bombardment to “shock and awe” the Iraqis into surrendering.  They didn’t.

 

Baghdad under “shock and awe” bombardment

Nor did air power prove effective on the Iraqi insurgency that erupted after American forces occupied Baghdad and much of the rest of the country.

That war had to be fought by U.S. Army regulars and Special Operations soldiers–especially Navy SEALS.  It was a dirty and private effort, marked by nightly kidnappings of suspected Iraqi insurgents.

If American troops once again face off with Iraqis, “Victory Through Air Power” will prove as hollow a slogan as it has in the past.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART SIX (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on July 8, 2014 at 12:22 am
“Those who are willing to risk everything, even death and destruction, to attain their ends will prevail over more responsible and prudent men who have more to lose and are rational, not suicidal.”
–Ernst Casier, Chairman of Philosophy, Hamburg University

 

In 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless their budgetary demands were met.

Yet President Barack Obama could have ended that threat via the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

Passed by Congress in 1970, as Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968, its goal was to destroy the Mafia.

Originally, RICO was aimed at the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates.  But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied as well to legitimate enterprises being operated in a criminal manner.

After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys.  Among those crimes: Extortion.

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.”

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with Republicans’ extortion attempts, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism.  Among the behavior that is defined as criminal:

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were now legally in place.  President Obama needed only to  direct the Justice Department to apply them.

  • President Obama could have directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether actions by Republican Congressman—and their Tea Party cohorts—broke Federal anti-racketeering and/or anti-terrorism laws.
  • Holder, in turn, could have ordered the FBI to conduct that investigation.
  • If the FBI found sufficient evidence that these laws had been violated, Holder could have empaneled criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

Criminally investigating and possibly indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such indictments and prosecutions–and especially convictions–would have served notice on current and future members of Congress: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

In short: Obama could have replaced the law of fear with the rule of law.

But Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists in another way: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

President John F. Kennedy did just that–successfully–during the most dangerous crisis of his administration.

Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy outlined a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis–most notably, a blockade of Cuba.  Then he sought to reassure and inspire his audience:

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party–by explaining to the American people:

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

And he could have ended his speech with a direct call for action by the American people:

“We stand on the edge of economic disaster.  Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“This is the moment when each of us must decide–whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: President Obama had to choose between timidity and confrontation.

He chose timidity.

He would get contempt and obstruction at every turn.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART FIVE (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on July 7, 2014 at 9:21 am

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out his threat to shut down the government.

Then he unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

Newt Gingrich

The shutdown proved a disaster for Republicans. Clinton was handily re-elected in 1996 and Gingrich suddenly resigned from Congress in 1998.

Still, the Republicans continued their policy of my-way-or-else.

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Barack Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked day and night to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later–on July 9–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But House Speaker John Boehner rejected that offer. He could not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

John Boehner

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

One senior Republican said talks would go right up to–and maybe beyond–the brink of default.

“I think we’ll be here in August,” said Republican Representative Pete Sessions, of Texas. “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

President Obama had previously insisted on extending the debt ceiling through 2012. But in mid-July, he simply asked congressional leaders to review three options with their members:

  1. The “Grand Bargain” choice—favored by Obama–would cut deficits by about $4 trillion, including spending cuts and new tax revenues.
  2. A medium-range plan would aim to reduce the deficit by about $2 trillion.
  3. The smallest option would cut between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, without increased tax revenue or any Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

And the Republican response?

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee:“Quite frankly, [Republican] members of Congress are getting tired of what the president won’t do and what the president wants.”

Noted political analyst Chris Matthews summed up the sheer criminality of what happened within the House of Representatives.

Chris Matthews

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” on July 28–five days before Congress reached its August 2 deadline to raise the debt-ceiling–Matthews noted:

“The first people to bow to the demands of those threatening to blow up the economy were the Republicans in the House, the leaders. The leaders did what the followers told them to do: meet the demands, hold up the country to get their way.

“Those followers didn’t win the Senate, or the Presidency, just the House.

“But by using the House they were able to hold up the entire United States government. They threatened to blow things up economically and it worked.

“They said they were willing to do that–just to get their way–not by persuasion, not by politics, not by democratic government, but by threatening the destruction of the country’s finances.

“Right. So what’s next? The power grid? Will they next time threaten to close down the country’s electricity and communications systems?”

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama faced three choices:

  1. Prosecute Republican extortionists under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Oganizations Act;
  2. Seek to rally the American people against a criminal threat to the financial security of the Nation;
  3. Cave in to Republican demands.

Unfortunately for Obama and the Nation, he chose Number Three.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama is easily one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

But for all this, he failed–from the onset of his Presidency–to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science.

In his classic work on politics, The Prince, Machiavelli warns:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. 

The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved….

Men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.  For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose.  But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails

Obama has failed to heed this advice.  And, predictably, his sworn enemies–which is what Republicans consider themselves to be–have felt free to demonize and obstruct him at every turn.

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