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Posts Tagged ‘THE WASHINGTON POST’

GUN INSTRUCTOR + STUPIDITY = DEATH

In History, Military, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 28, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Guns are not toys.  You’d think that a firearms instructor, of all people, would know that.

Especially when the gun in question is an Uzi submachine gun.

Developed in the late 1940s by Israeli Major Uziel Gal, it was introduced into the Israeli Special Forces in 1954.

Two years later, it was pressed into general issue among the Israeli Army.

It’s compact, easy to carry (weighing about seven pounds) and utterly lethal, firing 600 rounds per minute.

This was designed purely as a weapon of war.  Its purpose is to quickly kill as many enemy soliders as possible.

In short, it’s not a toy for the amusement of children.

On August 25, a firearms instructor named Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, learned that the hard way.

He was showing a nine-year-old girl how to use an Uzi submachine gun at the Last Stop outdoor shooting range in Dolan Springs.

The girl pulled the trigger and the recoil sent the gun over her head, shooting the instructor in the head.

He was flown to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, but did not survive.

Clearly, this was yet another entirely preventable killing.

First of all, why does a nine-year-old girl need to learn to use an Uzi?

As stated previously: This is a military weapon, designed solely for killing large numbers of people as quickly as possible.

So unless you’re a soldier–or a serial killer–this gun has no use for you.

Its bullets–up to .45 caliber–will not only go through their intended target–but into any bystanders who are unlucky enough to be behind him as well.

Contrast this with ammo like the Glazer Safety Slug, which uses No. 6 birdshot suspended in liquid Teflon. Upon impact, the round explodes within the target, scattering the birdshot for an almost certifiably lethal wound.

Thus, the Glazer round won’t pass through its intended target to strike someone standing behind him.  And if the round hits a wall, it will shatter, thus reducing the danger of a ricochet.

Second, the instructor should have known that a 600-round-a-minute weapon is bound to have a big recoil.  So he should have put his arms around hers to ensure that she had a firm grip on the weapon.

The result: Another casualty of the NRA mentality that says: Everyone of any age and inability should have access to high-caopacity military firepower. 

This latest tragedy bears a striking resemblan/ce to the one that just as needlessly killed “American Sniper” Chris Kyle.

 Chris Kyle

As a Navy SEAL sniper, from 1999 to 2009, Kyle recorded more than 160 confirmed kills–the most in U.S. military history.  Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.

After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training at the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team.  And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.

Upon retiring from the Navy, he created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares.  Its mission: to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

And he was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD–Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was this last activity–and, more importantly, his approach to therapy–that cost him his life.

On February 2, 2013, an Iraqi War veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD turned a semi-automatic pistol on Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

The accused murderer is Eddie Ray Routh, of Lancaster, Texas.  Routh, a corporal in the Marines, was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

Police later found the murder weapon at his home.

It was apparently Kyle’s belief that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said that Routh’s mother “may have reached out to Mr. Kyle to try to help her son.

“We kind of have an idea that maybe that’s why they were at the range for some type of therapy that Mr. Kyle assists people with. And I don’t know if it’s called shooting therapy, I don’t have any idea.”

Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States. Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.

And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm.

And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.

Charles Vacca made a similar elementary mistake: He assumed that a nine-year-old girl was ready to take on the challenges of military hardware that was never designed for children.

And it killed him.

HEROES: REAL AND FICTIONAL

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 22, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Steven Pressfield is the bestselling author of several novels on ancient Greece.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

In Gates of Fire (1998) he celebrated the immortal battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans held at bay a vastly superior Persian army for three days.

In Tides of War (2000) he re-fought the ancient world’s 25-year version of the Cold War between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he chronicled the military career of Alexander the Great–through the eyes of the conqueror himself.

And in The Afghan Campaign (2006) he accompanied Alexander’s army as it waged a vicious, three-year counterinsurgency war against native Afghans.

Besides being an amateur historian of armed conflict, Pressfield is a former Marine.  His novel, Gates of Fire, has been adopted by the Marine Corps as required reading.

So Pressfield knows something about the art–and horrors–of war.  And about the decline of heroism in the modern age.

Consider the events of November 9, 2012.

On that date, General David Petraeus suddenly resigned his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  He had held this just slightly more than a year.

The reason: The revelation of–and his admission to–an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, the woman who had written an admiring biography of him called All In.

Ironically, this happened to be the same day that “Skyfall”–the latest James Bond film–opened nationwide.

Since Bond made his first onscreen appearance in 1962’s “Dr. No,” England’s most famous spy has bedded countless women.  And has become internationally famous as the ultimate ladykiller.

It seems that real-life doesn’t quite work the same way.

What is permitted–and even celebrated–in a fictional spy is not treated the same way in the real world of espionage.

Prior to this, Petraeus had been the golde            n boy of the American Army–the best-known and most revered general since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

David  Petraeus

The man who

  • had given 37 years of his life to protecting the nation;
  • had rewritten the book on how to fight counterinsurgency wars;
  • had turned around the stagnated war in Iraq;
  • had presided over the winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

As President Barack Obama put it:

“General Petraeus had an extraordinary career.  He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA.

“I want to emphasize that from my perspective, at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service.  We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done.

“And my main hope right now is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.”

It’s why Pressfield candidly admits he prefers the ancient world to the present:

“If I’m pressed to really think about the question, I would answer that what appeals to me about the ancient world as opposed to the modern is that the ancient world was pre-Christian, pre-Freudian, pre-Marxist, pre-consumerist, pre-reductivist.

“It was grander, it was nobler, it was simpler. You didn’t have the notion of turn-the-other-cheek. You had Oedipus but you didn’t have the Oedipus complex. It was political but it was not politically correct.”

To illustrate what he meant, Pressfield cited this passage from Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, on how ancient-world politics took on its own tone of McCarthyism:

To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member.

To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward. Any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character.

Ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.

As if speaking on the ongoing scandal involving David Petraeus, Pressfield states:

“Our age has been denatured. The heroic has been bled out of it.

“The callings of the past–the profession of arms, the priesthood, the medical and legal professions, politics, the arts, journalism, education, even motherhood and fatherhood–every one has been sullied and degraded by scandal after scandal.

“We’re hard up for heroes these days, and even harder up for conceiving ourselves in that light. That’s why I’m drawn to the ancient world. It’s truer, in my view, to how we really are.

“The ancient world has not been reductified and deconstructed as ours has; it has not been robbed of all dignity. They had heroes then. There was such a thing, truly, as the Heroic Age. Men like Achilles and Leonidas really did exist.

“There was such a thing, truly, as heroic leadership. Alexander the Great did not command via satellite or remote control; he rode into battle at the head of his Companion cavalry; he was the first to strike the foe.”

Today, generals stationed thousands of miles from the front command armies.  Andthey face more danger from heart attacks than from dying in the heat of battle.

SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: OURS AND THEIRS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on August 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

It didn’t take much for American Right-wingers to start salivating–and celebrating.

All it took was for Russia to move troops into its neighboring territories of Ukraine and Crimea.

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the American Right has felt dejected.  Accusing Democrats of being “terrorist-lovers” just hasn’t been as profitable as accusing them of being “Communists.”

The torch had barely gone out at the much-ballyhooed Sochi Olympics when Russian President Vladimir Putin began menacing the Ukraine.

Even while the Olympics played out on television, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted their corrupt, luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych.

And this, of course, didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”–Putin.

Yanukovych had rejected a pending European Union association agreement.  He had chosen instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia.

And that had sat well with Putin.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin had yearned for a reestablishment of the same.  He had called that breakup “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

So it was almost a certainty that, when his chosen puppet, Yanukovych, was sent packing, Putin would find some way to retaliate.

And since late February, he has done so, gradually moving Russian troops into Ukraine and its autonomous republic, Crimea.

By late March, it was clear that Russia had sufficient forces in both Ukraine and Crimea to wreak any amount of destruction Putin may wish to inflict.

And where there is activity by Russians, there are American Rightists eager–in Shakespeare’s words–to “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

Or at least to use such events to their own political advantage.

Right-wingers such as Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachussetts who lost the 2012 Presidential election by a wide margin to Barack Obama.

“There’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia,” said Romney on March 23.

“And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you’re seeing in Syria.”

All of which overlooks a number of brutal political truths.

First, all great powers have spheres of interest–and jealously guard them.

For the United States, it’s Latin and Central America, as established by the Monroe Doctrine.

And just what is the Monroe Doctrine?

It’s a statement made by President James Monroe in his 1823 annual message to Congress, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

It has no other legitimacy than the willingness of the United States to use armed force to back it up.  When the United States no longer has the will or resources to enforce the Doctrine, it will cease to have meaning.

For the Soviet Union, its spheres of influence include the Ukraine.  Long known as “the breadbasket of Russia,”  in 2011, it was the world’s third-largest grain exporter.

Russia will no more give up access to that breadbasket than the United States would part with the rich farming states of the Midwest.

Second, spheres of influence often prove disastrous to those smaller countries affected.

Throughout Latin and Central America, the United States remains highly unpopular for its brutal use of “gunboat diplomacy” during the 20th century.

Among those countries invaded or controlled by America: Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Columbia, Panama, the Dominican Republic.

The resulting anger has led many Latin and Central Americans to support Communist Cuba, even though its political oppression and economic failure are universally apparent.

Similarly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) forced many nations–such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslavakia–to submit to the will of Moscow.

The alternative?  The threat of Soviet invasion–as occurred in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslavakia in 1968.

Third, even “great powers” are not all-powerful.

In 1949, after a long civil war, the forces of Mao Tse-tung defeated the Nationalist armies of Chaing Kai-Shek, who withdrew to Taiwan.

China had never been a territory of the United States.  Nor could the United States have prevented Mao from defeating the corrupt, ineptly-led Nationalist forces.

Even so, Republican Senators and Representatives such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy eagerly blamed President Harry S. Truman and the Democrats for “losing China.”

The fear of being accused of “losing” another country led Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to tragically commit the United States to “roll back” Communism in Cuba and Vietnam.

Now Republicans–who claim the United States can’t afford to provide healthcare for its poorest citizens–want to turn the national budget over to the Pentagon.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Syria–even though this civil war pits Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of America’s greatest enemies, against each other.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Ukraine–even though this would mean going to war with the only nuclear power capable of turning America into an atomic graveyard.

Before plunging into conflicts that don’t concern us and where there is absolutely nothing to “win,” Americans would do well to remember the above-stated lessons of history.  And to learn from them.

ISLAMICS VS. THE WEST – HE PREDICTED IT: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 19, 2014 at 9:10 am

During the 1930s, Winston Churchill, a seemingly failed politican, repeatedly warned his British countrymen against the growing menace of Nazi Germany.

The leaders of Britain, France and the United States–the three great victors of World War 1–hoped that if they simply ignored the increasingly aggressive behavior of Adolf Hitler, they could somehow escape catastrophe.

Winston Churchill

When, in the early 1930s, Hitler began re-building a powerful German army (Whermacht) in open defiance of the Versallies Treaty that had ended World War 1, Churchill gave warning–and was ignored.

When Hitler ordered his army to occupy his native Austria in 1938, Churchill warned that the Nazis would not be content with the conquest of one nation.  And was ignored.

In 1938, Hitler demanded that Czechoslavakia cede the Sudetenland, its northern, southwest and western regions, which were inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Adolf Hitler

When British Prime Minister Nveille Chamberlain surrendered to Hitler’s demands at the infamous “Munich conference,” his fellow Britons were ecstatic.  He returned to England as a hero.

Churchill knew better: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor.  They chose dishonor.  They will have war.”

In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Hitler next turned his attention to Poland–which he invaded on September 1, unintentionally triggering World War II.

In time, historians and statesmen would regard Munich as an object lesson in the futility—and danger—in appeasing evil and aggression.

It is a lesson that current world leaders have forgotten as Islamic fundamentalists increasingly flex their military and economic muscles–and demand that Western nations bow to their demands.

  • In Iran, scientists continue to fashion a nuclear weapons program–while insisting they intend to use the atom only for “peaceful purposes.”
  • In Pakistan–which has 90-110 nuclear warheads–Osama bin Laden lived less than a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy, the country’s West Point.  So much for America’s “ally” in the “war on terror.”
  • The rising tide of Muslim population growth spells deadly challenges for non-Islamic nations.

Winston Churchill’s warnings fell on deaf ears until other world leaders–most notably Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin–were forced by events to take action.

So did the warnings of Harvard political science professor Samuel P. Huntington.

In 1993, he published an essay in Foreign Affairs called “The Clash of Civilizations?”  In this, he argued that the post-Cold War would be marked by civilizational conflict.  Among his assertions:

  • People are divided along religious and cultural lines.
  • Islamic civilization do not share the general ideals of the Western world–such as individualism and democracy.
  • Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state.
  • When the Muslim world conflicts with other civilizations, tensions and wars result.
  • Arab dictatorships were fragile and could be overturned by the masses of unemployed young men. But even if they fell, the new regimes would not modernize along Western lines.
  • A fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is inevitable.
  • Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims–such as Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews–have been marked by Islamic antagonism and violence.
  • Western nations should distance themselves from Islamic ones.  The more both civilizations interact, the greater tensions between them will be.

Huntington’s critique of Islamic civilizations ignited a firestorm of controversey–especially his statement: “Islam has bloody borders.”

In 1996, Huntington expanded his thesis into a book–also called The Clash of Civilizations.  Once again, he minced no words:

“Some Westerners, including President Bill Clinton, have argued that the West does not have problems with Islam but only with violent Islamist extremists.  Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise.”

Huntington cited British scholar Barry Buzan as giving several reasons for an inevitable war between the West and Islam:

  • Western secular vs. Islamic religious values.
  • Past historical rivalry between Christianity and Islam.
  • Jealousy of Western power by Islamic nations.
  • Islamic resentments of Western domination during the post-colonial restructuring of the Middle East.
  • Islamic bitterness and humiliation at the achiveements of Western civilization over the last 200 years.

Much of the fury Muslims were directing toward the West, wrote Huntington, was aimed at its embrace of secularism.  Westerners were attacked not for being Christian but “for not adhering to any religion at all.”

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, a quasi-war developed between some Islamic nations and some Western ones.  On the Islamic side: Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  On the Western side: The United States and Britain.

“In this quasi war,” wrote Huntington, “each side has capitalized on its own strengths and the other side’s weaknesses.”  For example:

  • Muslim terrorists exploited the openness of Western societies to plant car bombs at selected targets.
  • Western powers used their superior air power to bomb selected targets in Islamic countries.
  • Islamics plotted the assassination of Western leaders.
  • The United States plotted the overthrow of hostile Islamic regimes.

Writing at a time before the United States directed its full military power at conquering Afghanistan and Iraq, Huntington ominously noted:

“During the 15 years between 1980 and 1995…the United States engaged in 17 military operations in the Middle East, all of them directed against Muslims.   No comparable pattern of U.S. military operations occurred against the people of any other civilization.”

The war that Huntington warned was coming and was, in fact, already in progress, has since erupted into full-scale conflict, with no end in sight.

ISLAMICS VS. THE WEST – HE PREDICTED IT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2014 at 10:54 am

There is a famous joke about racial profiling that’s long made the rounds of the Internet. It appears in the guise of a “history test,” and offers such multiple-choice questions as:

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:

  • Olga Korbut
  • Sitting Bull
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:

  • Lost Norwegians
  • Elvis
  • A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

During the 1980s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:

  • John Dillinger
  • The King of Sweden
  • The Boy Scouts
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:

  • A pizza delivery boy
  • Pee Wee Herman
  • Geraldo Rivera
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked. Two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Center; one crashed into the Pentagon; and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:

  • Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
  • The Supreme Court of Florida
  • Mr. Bean
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

It’s well to remember the bitter truth behind this joke, especially in light of the latest Islamic atrocities:

  • On April 15, two pressure-cooker bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injuring 264.  The culprits: Two Muslim brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan  Tsarnaev, who had emigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union.
  • On May 22, two Islamic terrorists, wielding machetes and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great!”)   hacked a British soldier to death on a London street.

Writing in the British newspaper, The Spectator, Douglas Murray issued a warning to his fellow Britons: “Over recent years, those who have warned that such attacks would come here have been attacked as ‘racists’, ‘fascists’ and–most commonly–‘Islamophobes.’

“A refusal to recognise the actual threat (a growingly radicalised Islam) has dominated most of our media and nearly all our political class.”

One man who did foresee the present conflicts with stunning clarity–and had the courage to say what has since become Politically Incorrect–was Samuel P. Huntington.

Samuel P. Huntington (2004 World Economic Forum).jpg

Samuel P. Huntington

A political scientist, Huntington taught government at Harvard University (1950-1959, then at Columbia University (1959-1962).  He returned to Harvard in 1963, and remained there until his death in 2008.

The author of nine books, in 1996 he published his most invluential one: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.  Its thesis was that, in the post-Cold War world, people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary sources of conflict.

Among the points he makes:

  • Modernization does not mean Westernization.
  • Economic progress has come with a revival of religion.
  • Post-Cold War politics emphasize ethnic nationalism over ideology.
  • Civilizations are fundamentally differentiated from each other by centuries-old history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion.
  • As the world becomes smaller, different civilizations increasingly interact.  These intensify civilization consciousness and the awareness of differences between civilizations.
  • Economic modernization and social change separate people from age-old identities (such as hometowns and familiar neighbors).  Religion has replaced this gap, providing a basis for identity, socialization and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
  • The West, at the peak of its power, is confronting non-Western countries that increasingly have the desire, will and resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.
  • Cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.

The most controversial part of The Clash of Civilizations focuses on Islam.  Huntington points out, for example, that Muslim countries are involved in far more intergroup violence than others.

And he warns that the West’s future conflcts with Islamic nations will be rooted in the Islamic religion:

Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”

Huntington argues that civilizational conflicts are “particularly prevalent between Muslims and non-Muslims.”  Among the reasons for these conflicts: Both Islam and Christianity have similarities which heighten conflicts between their followers:

  • Both seek to convert others.
  • Both are “all-or-nothing” religions; each side believes that only its faith is the correct one.
  • The followers of both Islam and Christianity believe that people who violate the base principles of their religion are idolators and thus damned.

Other reasons for the Western-Islamic clash are:

  • The Islamic revival, which began in the 1970s and is manifested in greater religious piety and in a growing adoption of Islamic culture, values, dress, separation of the sexes, speech and media censorship.
  • Western universalism–the belief that all civilizations should adopt Western values–infuriates Islamic fundamentalists.

These are not differences that will disappear–overnight or even over the span of several centuries.  Nor will they be sweet-talked away by Politically Correct politicians, however well-meaning.

SEVERED HEADS IN SYRIA: LET ALLAH SORT IT OUT

In History, Military, Politics on August 14, 2014 at 10:57 am

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has some advice on Syria.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition on June 15, 2013, Palin said the United States should not intervene in Syria while Barack Obama holds the Presidency:

“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing… let Allah sort it out!”

Actually, she got it half-right: “Let Allah sort it out”–regardless of who is President.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of this should look at a photo now making the rounds on the Internet.

Taken in Syria, it shows a seven-year-old boy, wearing a baseball cap and, with both hands, holding aloft a severed head.  “That’s my boy,” reads a caption underneath.

It may been written by Khaled Sharrouf, a wanted terrorist who fled Australia to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It is ISIS that now threatens to overwhelm Iraq and re-establish an Islamic Caliphate.

Click here: Seven-Year-Old Jihadi Poses with Severed Head

That photo is the real face of Syria.  It’s worth remembering as Democratic and Republican politicians seek to prove their toughness to voters.

One of the Democrats is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who blames President Obama for not sending military forces to Syria.

“I know that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton recently said.

There’s an old saying: When your enemy is digging himself into a hole, let him keep digging.  And that is exactly the case with those groups now waging all-out war against each other in Syria.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.  A sworn enemy of Israel, it has  kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 Marines.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of Islamics.  Intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims, it has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.   Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

In a June 1, 2013 column entitled, “Stop the Madness,” Dr. James J. Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, warned:

“What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody battlefield pitting sects and their regional allies against each other in a ‘dance unto death.’

“On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

“Arrayed against them are a host of Syrians (some of whom have defected from the armed forces and others who have formed militias receiving arms and support from a number of Arab states and Turkey) and a cast of thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (some of whom have affiliated with al Qaeda) who have entered Syria to wage war on behalf of their brethren.”  [Emphasis added.]

But Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one urging Obama to waste American lives in a cause that only Islamic terror groups and right-wing Americans find compelling.

Republican U.S. Senator from Arizona John McCain has repeatedly urged the Obama administration to wage war on Syria.

He has demanded that the United States create a “no-fly” zone over Syria to deny Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad the use of his air force against his rebellious subjects.

McCain, unlike Clinton, served in Vietnam as a U.S. Navy pilot.  In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.  He remained a prisoner of war until his release in 1973.

Now McCain wants today’s young servicemen to have the same opportunities he did–to be blown out of the sky and taken prisoner for another worthless cause.

President Obama is reportedly weighing his options for intervention in Syria.  But it’s not too late for him to draw back from the brink.

He can establish an all-volunteer brigade for those Americans willing to fight and possibly die in yet another pointless war.  And he can especially offer the same opportunity to tough-talking politicians eager to put others’ lives in harm’s way.

Finally, Obama can offer to fly them to the border of Syria so they can carry out their self-appointed “conquer or die” mission.

If these armchair strategists refuse to put their own lives on the line in defense of a “cause” they claim to believe in, Obama should have the courage to brutally–and repeatedly–point this out.

HIPPOCRATIC OATH–OR JUST HYPOCRITES?

In Bureaucracy, Business, Medical, Social commentary on August 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm

A friend of mine–I’ll call him Sam–recently broke his big toe.

But Sam has a bigger problem than his big toe.  He’s on Medi-Cal, the California medical plan for the poor.

And if you think the nation’s veterans have it bad, try getting medical care when doctors refuse to honor your insurance.

After breaking his toe while tripping over a bag, Sam went to his regular doctor, a general internist at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco.

The doctor examined Sam’s toe and said he was worried.  It was a big fracture, and if the bones didn’t knit together properly, Sam could be in for big trouble.

So he advised Sam to see an orthopedic surgeon.

Luckily for Sam, said his doctor, there was one close by in the same office.  The doctor would ask him to check out Sam’s injury then and there.

Unluckily for Sam, he was on Medi-Cal--and the orthopedic surgeon refused to honor his insurance and see him.

Sam’s doctor sent him home, saying, “I’ll try to find someone as soon as I can.”

At home, Sam called Anthem Blue Cross, the private insurance company now providing coverage to the poor under the state Medi-Cal program.

The Anthem representative soon emailed Sam a list of Anthem Blue Cross orthopedic surgeons who would supposedly accept his insurance.

He then printed out the list on his computer.

Sam then made another phone call–to the office of Dr. Vernon L. Giang,  Chief Medical Executive for CPMC.

There he spoke with an assistant to Dr. Giang.  He explained his difficulties in getting medical care at CPMC.

He added that he had obtained a 14-page list of Anthem-Blue Cross-approved orthopedic surgeons who should be willing to accept his insurance.

The assistant said she would gladly check out the list for any doctors affiliated with CPMC.

But there was a problem.

Sam needed to fax her the information–and Sam didn’t have a fax machine.

Nevertheless, Sam hobbled several blocks to a nearby Kinko’s/FedEx office, which had fax machines.

The next morning, Sam called Dr. Giang’s office.  He reached the same assistant, who told him that the faxed material had come in.

The bad news: There wasn’t a single doctor on that list whom she had called who would accept Sam’s insurance.

In addition, some of the doctors were “out of our plan.”   Which meant that even if they had been willing to accept Sam’s insurance, he couldn’t have seen them.

The assistant was polite and sympathetic, but candid: CPMC’s doctors aren’t required to treat any patient whose insurance they dislike.

In fact, CPMC cannot demand that they do so, since the doctors who are practice under its name are considered “independent practitioners.”

So Sam aimed higher.  He phoned the office of Dr. Warren S. Browner, the CEO of California Pacific Medical Center.

But he didn’t reach Browner–or even a secretary.

As a rule, when you call a giant corporation and ask to speak with its CEO, this doesn’t happen.  But what usually does happen is that you’re put through to the executive offices.

You won’t speak with the CEO, but you’ll usually reach a secretary for him.  And if your message is one that poses legal or public relations disaster for the company, the odds are excellent that you’ll soon get a call back.

Not from the CEO (except in rare cases) but from someone deputized to speak in his name–and to probably address your problem.

But, in this case, there was no secretary to answer the phone for Dr. Browner.  Just a message machine.  So Sam left an urgent message, outlining his difficulties in getting medical care from CPMC.

No one from Dr. Browner’s office called him back that day.

Meanwhile, the pain in Sam’s foot was getting worse.  So, later that day, he hobbled into an emergency room of CMPC.

A doctor examined Sam’s foot and ordered several X-rays taken of the broken toe. After examining these, he told Sam what he already knew: The toe was broken.

He also warned that if it wasn’t treated properly, Sam could have great pain–such as from arthritis–in the future.

Sam explained how he had been unable to get an orthopedic surgeon to look at his toe.

The doctor said he would try to find one who would.

Sam waited in the ER for almost four hours.  When he finally saw the doctor again, the latter seemed embarrassed to give him the bad news.

He hadn’t been any more successful than Sam at finding a CPMC orthopedic surgeon willing to treat Sam’s injury.

When Sam asked what he should do, the ER doctor said that “time” would take care of the injury.

The website for CPMC boasts: “At California Pacific Medical Center, our mission is to always give each patient the personal, hands-on attention they deserve.

Unless, of course, all of its doctors in a particular specialty refuse to honor the patient’s medical insurance.

NO “VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER” IN IRAQ

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

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, Obama 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 on August 7 he authorized “limited airstrikes” against ISIS forces in Iraq, to prevent the fall of the Kurdish capital, Erbil

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help,” said Obama.  “Well, today America is coming to help.”

By August 10, the United States announced a fourth round of airstrikes Sunday against militant vehicles and mortars firing on Irbil.

Yet giving that order will not alter the balance of power in Iraq.  It 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.

Here’s where fantasy became fact for America’s military–and p0liticians.

Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technicolor 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 was the largest amphibious invasion in history.  More than 160,000 troops landed–-61,715 British, 73,000 Americans, 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.

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

From 1964 to 1975, 14 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–-more than five times as many as it dropped 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.

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.

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm

President Obama claims to be a serious student of Realpolitick.  If this were so, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his Affordable Care Act (ACA).

And the remedy would have been simple: Require all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees, regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have produced two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones.

The reason: Employers would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

If the President ever considered the merits of this, he apparently decided against pressing for such a requirement.

Obama is one of the most rational and educated men to occupy the White House.   So what accounts for this failure to expect the worst in people–especially his self-declared enemies–and prepare to counter it?

Niccolo Machiavelli’s brilliant assessments have repeatedly proven invaluable to understanding the failures of the Obama Presidency.  Once again, he provides a shrewd insight into what may be the central reason for all of them.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Writing in The Prince, his classic work on the realities of politics, Machiavelli states:

I also believe that he is happy whose mode of procedure accords with the needs of the times, and similarly, he is unfortunate whose mode of procedure is opposed to the times…. 

On this depend also the changes in prosperity, for if it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure. 

No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it.

And therefore the cautious man, when it is time to act suddenly, does not know how to do so and is consequently ruined.  For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.

Obama is by nature a supreme rationalist and conciliator–not a confronter nor an attacker.  And his career before reaching the White House greatly strengthened this predisposition.

From 1985 to 1988, Obama worked as a community organizer–setting up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization.  Such activity demands skills in building consensus, not confrontation.

He then taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years—as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, teaching constitutional law.

File:Medium chicagoreflection.jpg

University of Chicago Law School

Law professors spend their time in clean, civil classrooms–far removed from the rough-and-tumble of criminal defense/prosecution.

If Obama had accused President George W. Bush of conspiring with Al Qaeda–as Republicans have repeatedly accused Obama–retribution would have been swift and brutal.

In short: Obama–who believes in reason and conciliation–is paying the price for allowing his sworn enemies to insult and obstruct him

Obama Mistake No. 6: Failing to closely study his proposed legislation.

Throughout his campaign to win support for the ACA, Obama had repeatedly promised:  “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. Period.  If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  Period.”

But, hidden in the 906 pages of the law, was a fatal catch for the President’s own credibility.

The law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans–so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law.

If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did.

It soon turned out that a great many Americans wanted to keep their current plan–even if it did not provide the fullest possible coverage.

Suddenly, the President found himself facing a PR nightmare: Charged and ridiculed as a liar.

Even Jon Stewart, who on “The Daily Show” had supported the implementation of “Obamacare,” ran footage of Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” promise.

Jon Stewart

The implication: You said we could keep our plan/doctor; since we can’t, you must be a liar.

As a result, the President now finds his reputation for integrity–long his greatest asset–shattered.

All of which takes us to the final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli:

Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil…. 

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Barack Obama is one of the most highly educated Presidents to occupy the White House.

When he took office, he intended to make healthcare available to all Americans–and not just the wealthiest 1%.

President Barack Obama

But he made a series of deadly mistakes:

  • In crafting the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare);
  • In building public support for it;
  • In underestimating the venom and opposition of his Republican enemies;
  • In failing to effectively counter that Right-wing venom and opposition; and
  • In underestimating the opposition of the business community to complying with the law.

Three of those mistakes have already been outlined.  Here are the remaining three.

Obama Mistake No. 4:  He allowed himself to be cowed by his enemies.

In The Prince, Machiavelli laid out the qualities that a successful ruler must possess.  There were some to be cultivated, and others to be avoided at all costs.  For example:

Niccolo Machiavelli

He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute—which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger…. 

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude.  As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.

So how has Obama fared by this standard?

On July 2, 2013, the Treasury Department issued a press release about a major change in the applicability of the Affordable Care Act:

“Over the past several months, the Administration has been engaging in a dialogue with businesses – many of which already provide health coverage for their workers – about the new employer and insurer reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively….We have listened to your feedback.  And we are taking action.

“The Administration is announcing that it will provide an additional year before the ACA mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements begin.”

[Boldface in the original document.]

In short: The administration is delaying until 2015 the law’s requirement that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines.

And how did Obama’s self-declared enemies react to this announcement?

On July 30, House Republicans voted to proceed with a lawsuit against the President, claiming that he had failed to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement.

“That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

John Boehner

Thus, Boehner intends to sue the President to enforce the law that the House has voted 54 times to repeal, delay or change.

Obama Mistake Nol 5:  Believing that public and private comployers would universally comply with the law.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week.

Yet many government employers claim they can’t afford it–and plan to limit worker hours to 29 per week instead.  Among those states affected:

  • “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, said in an interview with the New York Times.
  • Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32.
  • In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period.

President Obama and those who helped craft the Act may be surprised at what has happened.  But they shouldn’t be.

Greed-addicted officials will always seek ways to avoid complying with the law–or achieve minimum compliance with it.

And what goes for public employers goes for private ones, too.

A company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage for part-time employees who work fewer than 30 hours.

The result was predictable.  And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.

Increasing numbers of employers are moving fulltime workers into part-time positions–and thus avoiding

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One of these is John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who has been quoted as saying:

  1. The prices of his pizzas will go up–by eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order; and
  2. He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

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