Posts Tagged ‘TWITTER’


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2015 at 12:36 am

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resolved to meet with Adolf Hitler, the German Fuehrer, to peacefully resolve the latest Nazi-created crisis.

Having conquered Austria, the German dictator now wanted Czechoslovakia.

And Chamberlain was determined to grant his every demand–so long as this meant avoiding a second world war.

The two European leaders met in Berchtesgaden on September 15, 1938.

Neville Chamberlain meeting with Adolf Hitler

During their talks, Chamberlain said he had come to discuss German grievances. But, he added, it was necessary in all circumstances to exclude the use of force.

Hitler appeared to be shocked that he could be accused of such intentions: “Force? Who speaks of force?“

Then, without warning, he switched to an aggressive mode. He accused the Czechs of having mobilized their army in May. They had mobilized—in response to the mobilization of the German army.

“I shall not put up with this any longer,” shouted Hitler. “I shall settle this question in one way or another. I shall take matters in my own hands!”

Suddenly, Chamberlain seemed alarmed—and possibly angry: “If I understood you right, you are determined to proceed against Czechoslovakia in any case. If this is so, why did you let me come to Berchtesgaden?

“In the circumstances, it is best for me to return at once. Anything else now seems pointless.”

Hitler was taken aback by the unexpected show of defiance. He realized he was about to lose his chance to bully the British into accepting his latest demands.

So he softened his tone and said they should consider the Sudetenland according to the principle of self-determination.

Chamberlain said he must immediately return to England to consult with his colleagues. Hitler appeared uneasy. But then the German translator finished the sentence: “…and then meet you again.”

Hitler realized he still had a chance to attain victory without going to war.

Chamberlain agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.

Chamberlain met Hitler again in Godesberg, Germany, on September 22 to confirm the agreements. But Hitler aimed to use the crisis as a pretext for war.

He now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories. This would give the Czechoslovak army no time to adapt their defense measures to the new borders.

To achieve a solution, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich.

On September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini’s proposal. They signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland.

The Czechoslovak government had not been a party to the talks. Nevertheless, it promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.

It actually had no choice. It faced the threat of an immediate German invasion after being deserted by its pledged allies: Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Chamberlain returned to England a hero. Holding aloft a copy of the worthless agreement he had signed with Hitler, he told cheering crowds in London: “I believe it is peace for our time.”

Neville Chamberlain: “I believe it is peace in our time”

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

Hitler—still planning more conquests—also knew better. In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Chamberlain would soon be seen as a naive weakling–even before bombs started falling on London.

Hitler next turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.

When his generals balked, warning that an invasion would trigger a war with France and Britain, Hitler quickly brushed aside their fears: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.”

Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland 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.

But for the postwar Republican party, Hitler’s my-way-or-else “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massive cuts in social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Sign of The Black Hand extortion gang

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA.”

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2015 at 12:07 am

After winning the 2012 Indiana GOP United States Senate primary, Republican Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock appeared on the May 9 edition of CNN’s “Starting Point.”

There occurred this exchange between Mourdock and the show’s host, Soledad O’Brien:

MOURDOCK: What I’ve said about compromise and bipartisanship is I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so that bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes, and get America moving again. The stimulus plan hasn’t worked.

O’BRIEN: So what I hear you say is that you’re not going to compromise. In fact, the only compromise you’ll do is really getting other people on the other side of the aisle to come to your side of the aisle, which, I  guess, is the definition against compromise. You said this in the New York Times–

MOURDOCK: Well, it is the definition of political effectiveness.

Richard Mourdock

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler couldn’t have phrased it better.

Adolf Hitler

Anyone wanting to understand how Republicans intend to apply such a philosophy need only consult history.

On February 12, 1938, two Chancellors—Adolf Hitler of Germany, and Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria—met at Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg.  At stake lay the future independence of Austria.

Although Austrian by birth, Hitler considered himself a German.  Annexing Austria, he believed, would ensure its return to “the Great German motherland.”

HITLER: “I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight. You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?

“Who knows—perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm. Then you will go through something! I’d like to spare the Austrians that.

“The S.A. [Hitler’s private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] Legion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody–not even I–could stop them from wreaking vengeance.”

British historian Robert Payne noted in his 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler: “Schuschnigg was not a coward, but he showed fear, and it was precisely this look of fear that Hitler was waiting for.

“He had worked out the program of intimidation very carefully. The thunder and lightning in the morning; then a period of calm, when the unsuspecting victim might believe he had relented; and then he would come in for the kill with such savage fury that there would be no resistance.”

After lunch, Hitler presented Schuschnigg with an ultimatum:

  • Austria must join in an economic union with German.
  • Austria must lift its ban on membership in the Nazi Party (which had assassinated the country’s previous Chancellor).
  • Within three days there was to be a general amnesty of Nazi prisoners.
  • Three key government ministries—of war, interior and finance—were to be given to members of the Nazi Party.

With these in their possession, the Nazis would be able to take over Austria in two to three weeks.

At first, Schuschnigg refused to sign. He explained that the Austrian constitution did not give him the power to sign it. But Hitler insisted—threatening to invade Austria otherwise.

Schuschnigg, a virtual prisoner of his host, facing the destruction of his country by a powerful and aggressive neighbor, signed. It marked—until the defeat of Germany in 1945–the end of Austria as an independent nation.

Seven months later, in September, 1938, Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods. This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.

So, once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”

This consisted of the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Then he followed this up with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”

For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.

Neville Chamberlain

Something had to be done to prevent it.  And he believed himself to be just the man to do it.

He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow.  Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting.  I should be grateful for a very early reply.”

Once again, another head-of-state was prepared to meet Hitler on his home ground.  Again, Hitler took this concession as a sign of weakness.

And Chamberlain’s use of such words as “please” and “grateful” only further convinced Hitler of another impending triumph.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Fuehrer for 12 years, had a favorite phrase: “So oder so.”

It meant: “One way or the other.”

That might sound innocuous.  But, in Hitler’s case, it carried a sinister tone–as did nearly everything else about the dictator who ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Adolf Hitler

When Hitler faced what he considered a problem, he said he would solve it “one way or another.”  Which meant that if he didn’t get his way, he would apply whatever means it took until he did.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who sought to become the state’s U.S. Senator in 2012, seemed to be channeling the spirit of the late Fuehrer.

Appearing on the May 9, 2012 edition of  right-wing “Fox & Friends,” Mourdock offered his definition of “compromise”:

Richard Mourdock

“I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”

Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thusly:

“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse. He was incapable of bargaining.

“He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”

Mourdock: “…I hope to…help build a conservative majority in the United States Senate and continue to help the House build a Republican majority and have a Republican White House and then bipartisanship becomes having Democrats come our way.”

(Mourdock went on to lose the Senate race. A fierece opponent of abortion even in cases of rape, he lost the women’s vote with his infamous comment: “I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God.

(“And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”)

A classic example of Hitler’s “bargaining style” occurred in 1938, when he invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany.

Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany.

Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation.  He had been assured that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.

By studying Hitler’s mindset and “negotiating” methods, we can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of our own Republican party.

Shuschnigg opened the discussion with a friendly compliment.  Walking over to a large window, he admired the breathtaking view of the mountains.

HITLER: We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!

Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business.  The German Reich is a great power.  Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers.

SCHUSCHNIGG: I am aware of your attitude toward the Austrian question and toward Austrian history….As we Austrians see it, the whole of our history is a very essential and valuable part of German history….And Austria’s contribution is a considerable one.

HITLER: It is absolutely zero—that I can assure you!  Every national impulse has been trampled underfoot by Austria….

I could call myself an Austrian with just the same right—indeed with even more right—than you, Herr Schuschnigg. Why don’t you once try a plebiscite in Austria in which you and I run against each other? Then you would see!

SCHUSCHNIGG: Well, yes, if that were possible. But your know yourself, Herr Reich Chancellor, that it just isn’t possible. We simply have to go on living alongside one another, the little state next to the big one. We have no other choice.

And that is why I ask you to tell me what your concrete complaints are. We will do all in our power to sort things out and establish a friendly relationship, as far as it is possible to do so.

HITLER: That’s what you say, Herr Schuschnigg. And I am telling you that I intend to clear up the whole of the so-called Austrian question–one way or another. Do you think I don’t know that you are fortifying Austria’s border with the Reich?

SCHUSCHNIGG: There can be no suggestion at all of that—

HITLER: Ridiculous explosive chambers are being built under bridges and roads—

This was a lie, and Hitler knew it was a lie. But it gave him an excuse to threaten to destroy Austria—as he was to destroy so many other nations during the next seven years.

* * * * *

Republicans used precisely the same “negotiating” style during the summer of 2011 to threaten the United States with financial ruin unless they got their way in budget negotiations.

And they are threatening to do the same again this fall.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Fascism is a lie told by bullies.
–Ernest Hemingway

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.

Had he done so, he would have prevented the 2013 shutdown of the Federal Government over Republican demands that he de-fund “Obamacare.”

He would have also pre-empted current Republican demands to shut down the Government over continued funding for Planned Parenthood.

Passed by Congress in 1970, as Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968, the goal of the RICO Act 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.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States is going to become more complicated.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security.  And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope?  The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

Your old New York driver’s license may make it harder for you to fly in 2016 | syracuse.com

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.  As one soon-to-be affected New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certifcate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.  A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, whch gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Got all that?

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

And while TSA is beefing up security at the back door, the Obama administration is about to cast aside the front door.

On September 10, the administration announced that it will take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year.

That is on top of the 2,000 Islamic refugees the United States has already accepted.

According to U.S. Census data, America welcomes about 100,000 Muslim immigrants legally each year. This represents the fastest growing segment of immigrants coming to the United States.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.5 million Islamics in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts the figure at seven million.

The Troubling Math of Muslim Migration | National Review Online

And while all this is happening, the FBI is being overwhelmed by the demands of countering Islamic terrorism against the United States.

On July 8, FBI director James Comey testified before Congress about the increasing burdens his agency faces in combating terrorism.

“We are stopping these things [Islamic terror plots] so far through tremendous hard work, the use of sources, the use of online undercovers.

“But it is incredibly difficult.  I cannot see my stopping these indefinitely.”

Consider the math: The FBI has only 35,000 agents and analysts–against seven million potential suspects.

And only a portion of those agents and analysts are charged with investigating terrorism.

How did all of this come to be?

To start at the beginning: On March 15, 2011, protests broke out in Syria, with demonstrators demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

These protests, met with government repression, continued to grow into a wholesale civil war.  Since then, more than 310,000 Syrians people have been killed.

Put another way: More than 310,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never again pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe.

But European nations and the United States have chosen to see this truth as a negative, not a positive.

The United Nations refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimates that 366,402 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year.

And all it took to make this happen was a photo that’s been seen the world over: A photo of a three-year old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi, lying dead on a Turkish beach.

A parody of this picture highlights a Politically Incorrect truth:

While European nations are being swamped by hundreds of thousands of these uninvited “guests,” the Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing almost nothing for Syria’s refugees.

According to Amnesty International, the “six Gulf countries–Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain–have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”

These nations are far closer to Syria than are Europe and the United States.  And they contain some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets and its highest standards of living.

Note the contradiction: Democratic, non-Islamic countries are exposing themselves to increasing numbers of potential–if not actual–Islamic terrorists.  Meanwhile, the Arab world is closing its own doors to Syrian refugees

The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees – The Washington Post

* * * * *

During the 1980s, the United States waged a cold war against Islamic nations.  These acts of anti-American terrorism were seen as simply crimes, and not acts of war.

The September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center changed that.  For the last 14 years, the United States military has actively fought Islamics in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. And now Syria.

To be admitting huge numbers of a population with which the United States is now waging all-out war is worse than stupid.  It is a guarantee of national suicide.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on September 25, 2015 at 12:01 am


During a GOP primary debate on June 13, 2011, CNN moderator John King noted that FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–was about to run out of money.

And so he asked Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“There are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.

“How do you deal with something like that?”

“Absolutely,” Romney replied. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.

“And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut–we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What should we keep?

“We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?

“And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”

On October 30, 2012, one day after Hurricane Sandy lashed the densely-populated East Coast of the United States, reporters wanted to know if Romney still wanted to eliminate FEMA.

And, as he had on so many other issues, Mitt Romney once again refused to answer questions.

“Governor, are you going to eliminate FEMA?” a pool eporter shouted to Romney.

Hurricane Sandy

Romney refused to answer.

The reporter asked Romney at least five times: “If you’re elected President, would you eliminate FEMA?” and “What would you do with FEMA?”

No reply.

Another reporter asked: “Governor, are you going to see some storm damage?”

Again, no answer.

“Governor,. has Chris Christie invited you to come survey storm damage?”

No answer.

“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times, why are you refusing to answer the question?”

Again, Romney refused to reply.

Finally, under mounting public pressure, he gave this reply:


“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

“As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need.”

In a court of law, a defendant has the right to refuse to take the witness stand and answer questions.  And jurors are told by the judge they should not assume the defendant is guilty for doing so.

Courtrooms are often places for a game of let’s-pretend:

  • Let’s pretend that a man who’s accused of rape or murder is innocent–even if he refuses to answer legitimate questions; and
  • Let’s pretend that a truly innocent man wouldn’t want to clear himself from a totally false charge

But this is the real world.

And, in it, unlike a courtroom, experience teaches that:

  • People who are honest want to testify to that truth; and
  • People who refuse to answer legitimate questions usually do have something to hide.

Think of Richard Nixon refusing to answer questions about Watergate.

Think of Ronald Reagan refusing to take questions about Iran-Contra.

Think of George W. Bush refusing to take questions about why he ignored months of terrorism warnings before 9/11.

And think of Mitt Romney refusing to answer questions on any number of subjects.

So it’s natural to distrust those who refuse to give specific answers to specific questions–especially when those questions apply to matters that direclty affect people’s lives.

For millions of Americans who profess to be deeply religious, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 should have been instructive:

Ask, and it shall be given you.  Seek, and ye shall find.  Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For every one that asketh receiveth.  And he that seeketh findeth. And to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In a democracy, those words are a call to citizen action:




In the Soviet Union, the truth about the workings of government and the realities of everyday life was carefully guarded.

Only those who gained special access to the Kremlin’s hidden archives could learn at least some of that truth.

Everyone else had to settle for the official, self-serving, lie-filled pronouncements of the Soviet leadership.

But Americans have no such excuse.

They do have access to a wide range of news from differing sources–ranging from the far left to the far right.  At least 1,382 daily newspapers–both domestic and foreign– provide information on a wide range of national and international issues.

More than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks exist.  Among these: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, The CW.

Nevertheless, millions of Americans remain ignorant of the well-revealed truth about the issues that most affect their lives.

As a result, Cassius’ words to Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar apply to them:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”


In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2015 at 12:04 am

On November 7, 2013, American television culture took yet another step deeper into Toiletville.

It was the Two and Half Men episode, “Justice in Star-Spangled Hot Pants.”  And it starred Lynda Carter as the target of a crush that was both infantile and obscene.

Carter, of course, is the singer/actress best-known for her role as Wonder Woman (1975-1979).

And watching this episode of Men, it was hard to tell where the real-life Carter left off and the fictional character she was playing took over.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Here, in brief, was the plotline:

Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) learns that his roommate, Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher) knows Lynda Carter.

Having an enormous crush on Carter from his years of watching her as Wonder Woman, Alan asks Walden to set him up on a date with her.

Against his better judgment, Walden agrees to invite her to the house for dinner.

Now, if Carter had been playing a fictional character, there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with this premise. Nobody, after all, would have mistaken Laurence Olivier for Richard III.

But she wasn’t.  She was playing herself.

And, in her real-life self, she was then 62.  An admittedly good-looking 62, but, even so, a woman about 40 years older than the character (Alan) who wants to meet her.

And not simply meet her.  Bone her.

Bone her?  Yes–that’s exactly what he says when Walden initially turns down his request to introduce him to her: “Now I’ll never get to bone Lynda Carter.”

And since Carter was playing herself, it’s useful to recall that she is, in real-life, a married woman (since 1984 to attorney Robert Altman).

And the show achieved an even lower level of crassness when Walden says Alan is so desperate to meet Carter that he’d skulk around in the bushes in front of her house.

“Wow, Lynda Carter’s bush,” says Alan, practically salivating over the contemplation of a 62-year-old woman’s vagina.

But males weren’t the only gender who got to descend to new depths of bad taste in this episode. There was the character of Jenny (Amber Tamblyn), the lesbian sister of the departed character Charlie (Charlie Sheen).

Again, the show’s writers simply couldn’t resist the temptation to mix real-life with fantasy.

Jenny is, at first, not even aware who Lynda Carter is until Alan, shocked, clues her in on the juvenile series she’s best-known for.

And, after meeting Carter, Jenny remains unimpressed.  There’s an edginess in her voice as she comes face-to-face with the actress who’s well-known for supporting gay and lesbian rights.

“I understand you’re into cuffs,” she tells Carter–a reference to the “magic bracelets” worn by her character, Wonder Woman.

But it’s also a double entendre, conjuring up the image of Carter (perhaps in her Wonder Woman outfit) staked out on a bed in a bondage fantasy.

For all of Alan’s over-the-top infatuation with Carter, it’s not him that she’s interested in.  It’s his buddy, Walden (Ashton Kutcher).

Lynda Carter and Ashton Kutcher

And to prove it, she gives him a real smackeroo of a kiss.

Which may well have conjured up, for him, real-life memories of his May-December marriage to the actress Demi Moore.

Kutcher was 27 when he tied the knot with Moore in 2005.  Moore, by contrast, was 42.

The marriage ended in 2013, amid tabloid reports that Kutcher had cheated on her with Sara Leal, a 22-year-old San Diego-based administrative assistant.  Moore by then was 51.

Kutcher, born in 1978, was still rolling around in his cradle while Carter–born in 1951–was wrapping up her third and final season as Wonder Woman.

So, for Kutcher, maybe it was a case of deja vu all over again.

So much for network TV censors’ attitude toward sleaze.  Now for their attitude toward patriotism.

On Veterans Day from 2001 to 2004, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) aired the 1998 Steven Spielberg World War II classic, Saving Private Ryan, uncut and with limited commercial interruptions.

Both the grity, realistic battle scenes and profanity were left intact.

Storming the beach at Normandy in Saving Private Ryan

But in 2004, its airing was marked by pre-emptions by 65 ABC affiliates.

The reason: The backlash over Super Bowl XXXVIII’s halftime show controversy (starring the infamous bared breast of Janet Jackson).

The affiliates—28% of the network—did not clear the available timeslot for the film.

And this was even after the Walt Disney Company–which owns ABC–offered to pay all fines for language to the FCC.

No complaints, however, were lodged with the FCC.

It speaks volumes to the priorities–and values–of American television when a film honoring the wartime sacrifices of American soldiers is banned from network TV.

And it speaks volumes as well to the priorities–and values–of American television when a casually juvenile and crudity-laced series like Two and a Half Men becomes CBS’ biggest cash cow.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 23, 2015 at 10:33 am

On Friday, September 23, 2005, my phone rang at 5 a.m. The caller was James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist.  He had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

Now he informed me that my request for military honors for my late father was being processed.

But he warned me that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.

Later that morning I got a call from the National Personnel Records Center.

A woman named Connie asked me to type up and submit, via fax, a twice-signed statement declaring that, under penalty of perjury, the information I had provided about my father’s military service was true and correct.

Upon receipt of this, she would fax to the funeral home a copy of my father’s service number and Separation Document.

Shortly after faxing this off, I got a call from Ursula, another employee of the National Personnel Records Center.

She said that the above-mentioned items had been faxed to the Richard Pierce Funeral Service Chapel in Napa. All that I now had to do was arrange for the Chapel to make the arrangements with the military.

I called the Chapel around noon and was told that the documents had arrived, but that all of the home’s funeral directors were comforting grieving families.  I said I would call back later.

When I did, at about 1:45 p.m., I was told that the home’s director had been informed. Messages had been left with several military institutions, requesting an honor guard.

The question was: Would they call back in time?

So I called several numbers at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, finally reaching a chaplain at the Chaplain’s office.

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Travis Air Force Base

He promised to do what he could for me.  He warned me that it might not be possible to assemble an honor guard on such short notice.

The reason: This was hurricane season, and many soldiers had been deployed to the Gulf Coast area to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

His parting words were an expression of sorrow for my loss, and “God bless you.”

Next, I spoke with Jacob Bergholtz, a senior airman at Travis Air Force Base.  He promised to make some calls on my behalf.

He also gave me the number to the Army Honor Guard and I put in a call.

Finally, in late afternoon, I got a call from Tina Patterson, with the Army at Fort Lewis in Washington State, and she assured me that “it’s a go.”

The military has a proud tradition of honoring its dead. Those who have died in combat are held in a special reverence. But even those who have died in peacetime still command respect for having served their country.

It was that tradition that, above all else, I had counted on to make this possible.

I was so caught off-guard by the unexpected good news that at the end I thanked “Miss Lewis” for all her help, then corrected myself and thanked her again.

At about 1:40 p.m. on Sunday, September 25, 2005, the front door to the funeral home opened and in walked three men wearing green military uniforms.

One was a bugler, who held the rank of sergeant.  The second was a sergeant, who would take part in the actual flag-folding.  And the third was a sergeant-major, who wuld preside over the ceremony.  A fourth sergeant was scheduled to arrive, and he soon did.

At 2 p.m., the memorial service began.

When the tributes ended to my father ended, the funeral director introduced the honor guard.  The buglar remained in the back of the chapel, as the other three strode to the front.

The bugler launched into “Taps” and gave it a melancholy feel, letting each note linger.

When the last notes died away, the sergeant-major ordered the two other sergeants to unfold the tri-cornered American flag that had been placed on a stand at the front of the chapel even before the ceremony had started.

Related image

A flag-folding ceremony

They did so, and then slowly re-folded it, in a process that took longer than I had imagined.

The flag folding ceremony now over, the sergeant-major accepted the flag, walked to my sister, Erica, leaned forward slightly, and presented it to her “on behalf of a grateful Nation and the Army” in recognition of the service of her father, Technical Sergeant Gerald A. White, for services to his country.

Erica accepted the flag, and I–sitting on her right side–saw her show emotion as she did so.

At 2:45 p.m., the four sergeants then strode out of the chapel, and the memorial service was over.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 22, 2015 at 11:53 am

It’s widely assumed that bureaucracies are so cumbersome they simply cannot be managed–by their own members or by anyone else.

But this isn’t always true.

The key ingredients to obtaining what you need from a bureaucracy–whether a public or private one–are:

  • Patience;
  • Perseverence;
  • Professionalism; and
  • A wilingness to go to the top of the organization’s hierarchy.

On September 21, 2005, I learned that my father, Gerald White, had died at 83, less than a month short of his 84th birthday.

He had been an artist, photographer and art director, including work for Playboy in the 1950s and the Mondavi Winery in the 1980s and 90s.

During World War 11 he had been posted in the Pacific Theater, serving in Burma, China and India.  He had held the rank of technical sergeant and worked as an official U.S. Army photographer.

On Wednesday, September 21, my sister, Erica, called me to say that Jerry had died of natural causes in a nursing home at 1:57 a.m.

She was driving up on Saturday to pack up his belongings and to preside over a memorial service for him in Napa. I told her that, as a veteran (1942-1945) he was entitled to a military funeral, or at least an honor guard.

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World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I expected Erica to object–she tended to do that reflexively when I made a suggestion.  To my surprise, she didn’t, and she and I set out separately to explore the process of obtaining proof of his military service in time to qualify him for an honor guard.

But here we faced two problems:

  1. Neither of us had his Army serial number; and
  2. Neither of us had a copy of his Document of Separation, which all those leaving military service receive.  This lists all their ranks, postings and honors received.

Complicating matters still further: He had died on a Wednesday–and the memorial service was to be held that coming Sunday. That gave us only two days–Thursday and Friday–to try to arrange such honors.

Erica soon found the process a waste of time.  Calling the Veterans Administration (VA) she was told that there wouldn’t be time enough to get the paperwork approved.

I reached a different conclusion–after repeatedly getting only recorded messages when calling the VA. Even the office of my Congressman failed to get any closer to success than I had.

I decided that it might still be doable–but not through conventional channels. The next day, I would fall back on what has always been classic Standard Operating Procedure for me.

Tomorrow I wouldn’t waste any more time on going through regular channels.  Instead, I would create my own, starting at the very top–the White House.

The White House

I called the White House at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, September 22. I was quickly put through to the Military Office, which referred me to the office of the Army Chief of Staff.

This, in turn, referred me to the Human Resources Casualty Assistance Department. But this got me nowhere–I was urged to call the VA office in Napa and ask them to deal directly with the funeral home.

This would ensure that the required documents reached the mortuary within the next 12 days!

Reflexively, I found myself quoting a favorite line of my father’s: “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”  The woman on the other end of the line wasn’t thrilled, but that was the least of my concerns.

Next, I called the U.S.National Personnel Records Center, where records are held for all current and former members of the armed services.

National Personnel Records Center

An official there was so empathetic that I took heart.  Only later did I blast myself for having failed to ask for her name or extension, so I could reach her again.  As the day wore on, I assumed this would prove a lost cause.

In the evening–Washington, D.C., time, that is–I again called the White House Military Office. A Marine gunnery sergeant said that someone was trying to process a records request, but he didn’t say specifically that it was my case being worked on.

He gave me the name of James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist, and I tried to reach him before 5 p.m. closing time at the White House.

Unfortunately, my call wasn’t returned, and, once again, I assumed the effort was almost certain to end in failure.

On Friday, September 23, my phone rang at 5 a.m. with word from the White House Military Office that my request was being processed.

The caller was McCoy, who had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

But there was a possible catch: I was warned that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2015 at 11:26 am

There are ten excellent reasons for withdrawing American soldiers from their current war on ISIS forces in Syria.

1. It’s been only four years since the United States disengaged from Iraq. On December 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had killed 4,487 service members and wounded another 32,226.

2. The United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. Although the United States’ military role formally ended in December, 2014, airstrikes against Taliban positions continue and U.S. troops remain in combat positions.

U.S. Special Operations troops, serving as advisors and trainers of struggling Afghan government forces, still unleash military operations against the Taliban.

3. Intervening in Syria could produce unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

American bombs or missiles could land on one or more sites containing stockpiles of chemical weapons. Imagine the international outrage that will result if the release of those weapons kills hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

Within the Islamic world, the United States will be seen as waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

4.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

5.  There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–only murderers who have long served a tyrant or now wish to become the next tyrant.

With no history of democratic government, Syrians aren’t thirsting for one now.

6. The United States had no part in creating the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashir al-Assad.

Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it since 2011.

7.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”

But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria. He’s said he’s “not after regime-change.” If true, that would leave Assad in power–and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

8. The Assad regime is backed by–among others–the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims.  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 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

9.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia.

The Russians recently sent tanks and artillery units to Syria, in addition to hundreds of Russian troops.  This is almost certainly an effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin  to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime.

What happens if American and Russian tanks and/or artillery units start trading salvos?  Or if Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l. The difference between 1941 and 2015: Today’s Great Powers have nuclear arsenals.

10.  While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda–or ISIS–makes the United States that much safer.

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them.  In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Damascus, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge.  And Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah destroys a mosque, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah–or vice versa.  This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.


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