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Archive for June, 2016|Monthly archive page

PRIORITIES OF THE POWERFUL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 30, 2016 at 12:17 am

In the 1970 film, Patton, General George S. Patton is a man driven by his obsession to be the best field commander in the war–and to be recognized for it.

George C. Scott as George S. Patton

And he sees British General Bernard Montgomery–his equally egotistical rival–as a potential obstacle to that latter ambition.

So, in Algeria, he conjures up a plan that will sideline “Monty” while he, Patton, defeats the Germans–and bags the glory.

The trick lies in throwing a sumptuous dinner–in the middle of the African desert–for a visiting British general: Harold Alexander.

As Patton (George C. Scott, in an Oscar-winning performance) tells his aide: “I want to give a dinner for General Alexander. I want to get to him before Montgomery does.  I want the finest food and the best wine available. Everything.”

The aide pulls off the dinner–where, indeed, “the finest food and the best wine” are on full display, along with attentive waiters and a candelabra.

So think about it:

  • In the middle of the desert
  • while American and British forces are forced to subsist on C-rations
  • and are under repeated air attack by the Luftwaffe
  • and tank attack by the Afrika Korps

a handful of ultra-pampered American and British military officers find the time–and luxuries–to throw themselves a fine party.

Now, fast-forward from Algeria in 1943 to Washington, D.C. in 2016.

Returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $23 billion in food stamps for the poor. This would include include ending waivers that allow some adults to get temporary assistance, while they are in school or training for a job.   

The cuts could include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, served more than 46 million Americans and cost $74 billion in 2015. 

A single person is eligible for food stamps if his total monthly income is under $1,265 ($15,180 per year).  A family of four is eligible if their total income is less than $2,584 per month ($31,008 per year).

Republicans claim the program is unbearably expensive at $74.1 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to spend billions of dollars for another project: An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers is Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard–and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He–like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration–falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie–or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter–not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice–who also helped lie the nation into the needless 2003 Iraq war–is another big promoter of “give war a chance:”

“My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead–and one cannot lead from behind.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war are John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graman (South Carolina), who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.

“In addition, we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad’s forces.”

Except that there are no “moderate, vetted elements” of the Syrian opposition.  The opposition is just as murderous as the Assad regime–and eager to replace one dictator with another.

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles.  A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials say it costs about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people–whether generals, politicians or the wealthy–will always find abundant money and resources available for projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that the powerful will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

FBI SPELLS “PC”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2016 at 12:01 am

Even at the height of World War II, citizens of the United States could take comfort in the following:

  • Nazi Germany had a capitol–Berlin–and a single, all-powerful leader–Adolf Hitler. Once Berlin was occupied and Hitler dead or captured, the war would be over.
  • And, for all their ferocity, German soldiers were easy to recognize: They wore gray uniforms, spoke German and waved flags emblazoned with swastikas or imperial eagles.

Wehrmacht soldiers marching through conquered France

Today, Western nations under attack by Islamic “holy warriors” face none of those advantages. Islam has no single capitol city–or leader.

Nor do Islam’s jihadist legions wear uniforms. Many of them don’t speak Arabic or wear clothing associated with Arabs, such as flowing robes and headdresses.

More ominously, millions of Islam’s potential “warriors” live within the very Western nations they despise. They can get all the instruction and inspiration they need to wreck havoc simply by going to the Internet.

Or, if they have the money, by traveling overseas to such terrorist-recruiting centers as Syria or Afghanistan.

And yet, faced with an unprecedented threat to their security, many Western leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge this fundamental truth:

Even if the West isn’t at war with Islam, Islam is at war with the West.

Leaders like President Barack Obama, who insisted, at a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February, 2015: “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Cameron David.jpg

David Cameron

And leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on August 29, 2014: “Islam is a religion observed peacefully by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a poisonous ideology observed by a minority.”

On June 20, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a censored version of gunman Omar Mateen’s call to a 9-1-1 operator. While taking a break from slaughtering 49 defenseless men and women and wounding another 53, Mateen pledged his loyalty to ISIS.

Fortunately for the United States, the Bureau hasn’t always been so craven.

Ronald Kessler, author of the 2011 book, The Secrets of the FBI, quotes Arthur M. Cummings, the Bureau’s then-executive assistant director for national security:

“I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here in [Washington] D.C. And he said, ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?’”

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom were seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings. “It’s not the Irish, it’s not the French, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Protestants. It’s the Muslims.

Occasionally, Muslims will condemn Al Qaeda. But “rarely do we have them coming to us and saying, ‘There are three guys in the community that we’re very concerned about,’” said Cummings.

“They don’t want anyone to know they have extremists in their community. Well, beautiful. Except do you read the newspapers? Everybody already knows it. The horse has left the barn.”

Cummings has no use for such Politically Correct terms as “man-caused disasters” to refer to terrorism. Nor does he shy away from terms such as “jihadists” or “Islamists.”

“Of course Islamists dominate the terrorism of today,” he says bluntly.

In May, 2014, Steven Emerson, a nationally recognized expert on terrorism, posted an ad in The New York Times, warning about the dangers of PC-imposed censorship.  And he posed the question: “How can we win the war against radical Islam if we can’t even name the enemy?”

He has a point–and a highly legitimate one.

Imagine the United States fighting World War II–and President Franklin Roosevelt banning the use of “fascist” in referring to Nazi Germany or “imperialist” in describing Imperial Japan.

Imagine CNN-like coverage of the Nazi extermination camps, with their piles of rotting corpses and smoking gas ovens, while a commentator reminds us that “Nazism is an ideology of peace.”

Then consider these Islamic terrorist outrages of our own time:

  • The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., which snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans.
  • The 2004 bombing of Madrid’s commuter train system.
  • The attack on the London subway in 2005.
  • The killing of 13 U.S. Army personnel at Fort Hood, Texas, by a Muslim army major in 2009.
  • The bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.
  • The kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014.
  • The slaughter of 12 people at a Paris satirical magazine that had published cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed in 2015.  
  • The murders of more than 100 people in ISIS attacks across Paris in 2015.  
  • A series of deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels, killing 31 and injuring 270 in 2016.

In every one of these attacks, the perpetrators openly announced that their actions had been motivated by their Islamic beliefs.

In his groundbreaking book, The Clash of Civilizations (1996) Samuel Huntington, the noted political scientist at Harvard University, noted:

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.”  

The West may not be at war with Islam–as countless Western politicians repeatedly assert. But Islamics have no qualms about declaring that they are at war with the West.

FBI SPELLS “PC”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2016 at 12:06 am

On June 12, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old former security guard, slaughtered 49 men and women and injured 53 more inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Mateen was then shot to death by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff.

Omar Mateen.jpg

Omar Mateen

It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history–and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.

The massacre was widely decried as an act of Islamic terrorism. But many others insisted it was simply a hate crime.

Among those opting for the latter: Officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

This despite the fact that:

  • Mateen, born in New York in 1986 to Afghan parents, praised the highjackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks that slaughtered 3,000 Americans. At the time, he was attending an alternative high school for problem students.
  • He also said that Osama bin Laden was his uncle who had taught him how to shoot an AK-47–this while it was not known that bin Laden had masterminded the attacks.
  • During the night of the Orlando massacre, Mateen stopped killing long enough to call 9-1-1, take responsibility for the attack and pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In releasing a transcript of the 9-1-1 call, the Justice Department claimed that it would withhold some details to avoid putting the victims through any more pain–and to not further the propaganda efforts of ISIS.

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice

“What we’re not going to do is further proclaim this man’s pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups and further his propaganda,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch told moderator Chuck Todd on the June 19 edition of Meet the Press.

“We will hear him talk about some of these things, but we are not going to hear him make his assertions of allegiance.”

On the morning of June 20, the FBI released the following edited version of the transcript:

MATEEN: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic].  I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OPERATOR: What’s your name?

MATEEN: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].

OPERATOR: OK, what’s your name?

MATEEN: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].

A firestorm of protest erupted from Republican Congressional leaders, most notably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Since Mateen’s pledge to ISIS had become widely known, they demanded, what was the point of censoring it in the transcript of his phone call?

“We know the shooter was a radical Islamist extremist inspired by ISIS,” Ryan said in a statement. “We also know he intentionally targeted the LGBT community. The administration should release the full, unredacted transcript so the public is clear-eyed about who did this, and why.”

An additional reason for the fury aimed at the Justice Department: On June 12, ISIS had claimed responsibility for the massacre: 

“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.”

AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg

Flag of ISIS

Finally, buckling to pressure, on the afternoon of June 20, the FBI released the full, uncensored transcript of Mateen’s call to 9-1-1:

OPERATOR: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

MATEEN: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]

OPERATOR:  What?

MATEEN: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic].  I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OPERATOR:  What’s your name?

MATEEN:  My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OPERATOR:  OK, what’s your name?

MATEEN: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OPERATOR:  Alright, where are you at?

MATEEN:  In Orlando.

OPERATOR:  Where in Orlando?

[End of call]

J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building 

Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department apologized for having censored the transcript.

“Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime,” both the DOJ and FBI said in a statement.

Since September 11, 2001, Americans have been actively at war with Islamic nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Yet high-ranking officials in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have repeatedly and loudly denied that America is at war with Islam.

Even if this is true, a large portion of the Islamic world is at war with the United States.

Only Donald Trump–alone of the 2016 Presidential candidates–has dared to say what the vast majority of Americans know: America is at war with Islamics who openly proclaim that their actions are motivated by their Islamic religious beliefs.

And it’s a major reason why Trump is about to receive the Republican nomination for President.

TAKING BACK OUR BORDERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 27, 2016 at 12:19 am

If Americans decide they truly want to control access to their own borders, there is a realistic way to accomplish this.  

And it doesn’t involve building a wall along the Mexican border–which would prove ridiculously expensive and easily circumvented.

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2) The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities which have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, for example, former District Attorney Kamala Harris—who is now California’s Attorney General—created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony.

(3) Indicting such officials would be comparable to the way that President Andres Jackson dealt with the threat South Carolinians once made to “nullify”–or ignore–any Federal laws they didn’t like.

Jackson quashed that threat by making one of his own: To lead an army into that State and purge all who dared defy the laws of the Federal Government.

(4) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile. 

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(5) CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least twenty years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./Mexican border. CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.

Without employers luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(6) The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.

If they’re not here legally at the time of birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(7) The United States Government–from the President on down–should stop apologizing for the right to control the country’s national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should we.

(8) Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language–English. 

In Mexico, voting materials are published in one language–Spanish.

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.

(9) Those who are not legal citizens of the United States should not be allowed to vote in its elections.

In Mexico, those who are not Mexican citizens are not allowed to participate in the country’s elections. 

The Mexican Government doesn’t consider itself racist for strictly enforcing its immigration laws.

The United States Government should not consider itself racist for insisting on the right to do the same.

(10) The United States should impose economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens. 

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price.  Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

TAKING BACK OUR BORDERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2016 at 1:30 am

In 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order, declaring that illegal aliens living in the United States since 2010 could become citizens or lawful residents, thus shielding them from deportation.

Texas challenged that executive order, claiming that Obama had acted unconstitutionally by encroaching on the duties of Congress. Another 25 Republican states joined the lawsuit.

The case went to the Supreme Court–which, on June 23, blocked the implementation of Obama’s executive order. 

The Justices deadlocked on the issue 4-4, thus returning the case to the lower court in Texas that ruled against the administration’s carrying out the policy.

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U.S. Supreme Court

In doing so, the Justices denied at least 4 million illegal aliens the right to remain in the country without fear of deportation.  

For Republicans, the ruling upheld the separation of powers.  

Donald Trump–the presumptive Republican nominee for President–issued a statement: “Today’s 4-4 Supreme Court ruling has blocked one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a president.”  

And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) declared:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling makes the president’s executive action on immigration null and voice. The Constitution is clear: The president is not permitted to write laws—only Congress. This is another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers.”

Obama quickly expressed his disappointment, saying that the decision “takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.”  

Other Democrats were equally upset by the Court’s decision.  

One of these was Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who wrote on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by divided #SCOTUS decision in #USvTexas. We should be keeping families together, not tearing them apart!”  

Another was Hillary Clinton–the presumed Democratic Presidential nominee–who used the Court’s decision as a way to troll for Hispanic votes. 

“[Donald] Trump has pledged to repeal President Obama’s executive actions on his first day in office,” Clinton said.  

“He has called Mexican immigrants ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers.’ He has called for creating a deportation force” to tear 11 million people away from their families and their homes. I believe we are stronger together.”

Both Lee’s and Clinton’s accusations ignored a blunt reality: Families of illegal aliens did not have to break up.

Some members did not have to stay in the United States while others were deported.  Instead, they could leave together and live together in the Latin or Central American country of their origin.  

Illegal immigration has always been a highly emotional issue for conservatives.  But it’s been given added impetus this year.

For years, Republicans and Democrats have clashed over the subject of illegal immigration.

Democrats favor wholesale grants of unearned citizenship to the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens who brazenly violated the law when they sneaked across American borders. 

And Republicans favor beefing up security against future waves of such invaders. 

But the brutal truth is that neither Democrats nor Republicans truly want to end these invasionsNor do they want to deport the millions of illegals who have already taken up residence here.  

They don’t care that these illegals:  

  • Flood the United States with millions of poor non-citizens who don’t speak English.
  • Overwhelm the public school system with children–who also don’t speak English–who require bilingual education.
  • Overwhelm the public healthcare system–especially emergency rooms–with poor illegal aliens. As a result, urgently-needed medical care is often denied to legal American citizens.

Democrats, primarily governed by liberal ideology, believe it’s racist for whites to demand control of their own national borders. They also see illegal aliens as a huge constituency. 

And Republicans want them as low-skilled, low-wage fodder for their major campaign contributors–such as corporate-farms and retail outlets like Wal-Mart.  

Unlike Democrats, however, Republicans like to feign outrage at the presence of so many illegal aliens within their midst. 

It’s the Republican base that’s demanding an end to illegal immigration. 

Those masses of alienated and angry whites who find themselves living in a nation that’s increasingly alien from themselves. And who have made Donald Trump their overwhelming choice for President in 2016.

Meanwhile, both Democrats and Republicans ignore a blunt reality: Mexico–America’s largest source of illegal aliens–strictly enforces control of its own borders.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under ralse pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned are deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

Meanwhile, Mexico uses its American border to rid itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.  

GIVING ADVICE–SAFELY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics on June 23, 2016 at 1:14 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:  

“For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.  

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it–” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

VIETNAM–MIDDLE-EAST STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2016 at 12:39 am

Michael Hastings was the Rolling Stone reporter whose 2010 article on “The Runaway General” ended the illustrious military career of General Stanley McCrystal.

In 2012, Hastings greatly expanded on his article with a 2012 book: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan. 

According to its hardcover dust jacket: “General Stanley McCrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking, commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large.  He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a ‘rock star.’

“During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McCrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone.

“For days, Hastings looked on as McCrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership.

“When Hastings’ piece appeared a few months later, it set off a poiltical firestorm: McCrystal was ordered to Washington where he was fired  unceremoniously.”

General Stanley A. McCrystal

But there is an even deeper element to be found within Hastings’ book–that is, for anyone with even a general knowledge of the war in Vietnam.

Hastings (who died in a high-speed car accident in 2013) does not make any direct parallels between the almost 11-year conflict in Afghanistan and the 14-year conflict in Vietnam. 

But those parallels are definitely there for anyone to see:

  • Ngo Dinh Diem, the “president” of South Vietnam (1955 -1963) was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2004 – 2014) was from a wealthy Pashtun family and is alienated from members of other Afghan tribes.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • Karzai’s authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Ditto for Karzai–despite American claims that he sought to bring democracy to Afghanistan.
  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for Karzai.

Ngo Dinh Diem

Hamid Karzai

  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers were sent to Afghanistan because America feared terrorism.
  • Americans were ordered to train the South Vietnamese to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troops were ordered to train the Afghan army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans quickly determined that the Afghan army was worthless–and decided to fight the Taliban in its place.

American soldiers in Vietnam

  • There was massive distrust between American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
  • Ditto for relations between American and Afghan soldiers.
  • American soldiers in Vietnam felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • Ditto for American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
  • President John F. Kennedy doubted that Americans could win a war in Vietnam and tried to contain the conflict.
  • President Barack Obama came into office determined to contain the Afghan conflict and withdraw American troops as soon as possible.
  • The Pentagon saw Vietnam as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.
  • The Pentagon sees Afghanistan as one of several wars “we’ve got” and has pressed to insert greater numbers of men.

American soldiers in Afghanistan

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) posed no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war as a way to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraces the Afghan war as a way to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Vietcong in Vietnam–where it didn’t work.
  • Counterinsurgency is now being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

From this, the United States should draw several conclusions:

  • Commit forces only when American security is truly threatened.
  • Go in with overwhelming force, destroy as much of the enemy as quickly as possible, then get out.
  • Occupations are costly in lives and treasure–as Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler discovered–and should be avoided.
  • Don’t try to remake the cultures of other nations–especially those of a primitive, alien nature such as Afghanistan.

Hastings’ book does not cover the Afghan war to its end.  It can’t, since there is no telling when that war will end.

But by the end of its 379 pages, it’s clear what that outcome will be: Another futile exercise in “nation-building” at an exorbitant cost in American lives and treasure.

LOVING FETUSES, DESTROYING PEOPLE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on January 22, 1973, the Republican Party has been committed to saving fetuses.

Even if this puts the lives of adult men and women in jeopardy.

In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released several videos that had been secretly recorded.  These purported to show that Planned Parenthood (PP) was engaging in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. 

The videos attracted massive media coverage.  Congressional Republicans immediately started pushing bills to strip PP of Federal family planning funding. 

Officials in Indiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Georgia and Massachusetts investigated the charges and found no evidence that Planned Parenthood had broken any state laws concerning the collection of fetal tissues.

On October 8, 2015, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), stated that the GOP investigation found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

In fact, all of the videos were found to be altered, according to an analysis by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research company. Members of CMP have since been indicted by a Texas grand jury on felony charges for tampering with governmental records.

None of this, however, prevented Republican candidates for President from claiming that the videos were, in fact, legitimate. 

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, falsely claimed in the second GOP Presidential debate that the videos showed “a fully formed fetus on the table…while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

Although Fiorina claimed to have seen that footage, she never produced any copy of it.  Nor has anyone else found evidence to sustain her claim.

Carly Fiorina (21317198176) (cropped).jpg

 Carly Fiorina

Nor was Fiorina the only Republican candidate making this false claim.  Others included Texas U.S. Senator Eduardo “Ted” Cruz, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

On November 27, 2015, Robert L. Dear, armed with a rifle, attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  He killed one police officer and two civilians, and wounded five more officers and four civilians. 

After a five-hour standoff, SWAT teams crashed an armored vehicle into the lobby and rescued several people trapped inside. At that point, Dear surrendered. 

After his arrest, he gave a rambling interview to police. At one point, he said, “No more baby parts”–a direct reference to the false and inflammatory charges made by GOP members.

The latest case of Republican irresponsibility on the abortion issue came in March.

That was when the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives subpoenaed a list of names of doctors and researchers involved in fetal tissue research.  

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who chairs the panel, claimed that her investigation had uncovered evidence that StemExpress, a bio-medical company, and three abortion clinics, violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In early June, Blackburn sent two public letters to the Obama administration.

Related image

Rep. Marsha Blackburn

These contained the names and contact information of researchers at StemExpress, university and hospital researchers, and Planned Parenthood staffers.

The unredacted letters were also posted on the select panel’s website. In an interview with Rewire, a representative for Blackburn said that the “staff just made a mistake.”

At the panel’s first hearing on March 2,  Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY) had warned Blackburn: 

“The committee has no rules in place to protect the names of those subpoenaed–raising the possibility of Congress effectively painting targets on the backs of scientists and researchers for no particular reason other than the Republicans’ desire for a culture war.”

In another letter sent to Blackburn, House Democrats charged that Republicans on the panel may be feeding sensitive information to anti-abortion groups who wish to harm members of the reproductive rights community.

They noted that the panel had publicly released the name of a doctor who had previously been threatened by anti-abortion groups, along with the specific information about when he would appear before the panel.  

“Assurances that you take seriously individual privacy and security concerns are insufficient,” the letter read.

“You reneged on promises to protect the individual privacy and security of a deposition witness. Just last week, Panel Republicans leaked letters to FOX News and posted documents on your website that contained names, contact information, and other personally identifiable information of doctors and researchers.”  

Initially, some schools and organizations blacked out the names of researchers in documents provided to the committee to protect their researchers’ safety. But recent subpoenas issued by the committee didn’t allow for that security measure.

Scientists have warned that targeting fetal tissue research–and the researchers who work in that field–poses national security risks.

Fetal tissue research is invaluable for developing cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. It could lead to a vaccine for the Zika virus, which poses a serious risk to pregnant women.  

Yet it is “desire for a culture war” that takes top priority for Republicans.  

And Republicans know exactly what constituency they are arousing: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who can be easily manipulated by inflammatory rhetoric. 

Those men and women who stockpile weapons–and believe that God has empowered them to use violence to enforce their religious beliefs on others.  

Essentially, Republicans are calling upon this constituency to achieve with bullets what the party hasn’t been able to achieve in court or at the ballot box.

LOVING FETUSES, DESTROYING PEOPLE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 20, 2016 at 1:00 am

Intimidation–physical as well as political–has increasingly become the weapon of choice for influential Republicans in the pursuit of absolute power.

This consists of aiming violent–and violence-arousing–rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Hate-mongers like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs–and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcase” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked–shocked!–that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful–as in the January 8, 2011 Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrille Giffords–then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in this case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.  

Consider the following:

  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) yelled “baby killer” at Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on the House Floor.  
  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: “You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”  
  • Rep. Devin Nuines (R-CA) said Tea Partiers had “every right” to use racist and homophobic slurs against Democrats, justifying it via Democrats’ “totalitarian tactics.”
  • Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.  
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building.”  
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.): “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”  
  • Rep. Louisa M. Slauter (D-NY) received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families. 
  • In 2010 former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted a “crosshairs map” targeting Democratic members of Congress who had voted for President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them.  No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”

Sarah Palin’s “Crosshairs” Map

For more than 50 years, Republicans have vilified government–except when they controlled it. They have sought to convince Americans that Democrats are at least potential traitors, if not actual ones.

Among the slanders Republicans have routinely hurled at Democrats:  

  • Democrats are plotting to “take away your guns.”
  • Democrats are “anti-work” and want to turn America into a welfare-dependent society.
  • Democrats are “Godless” and want to force atheism on believing Christians.  
  • Democrats will allow United Nations “black helicopters” to stage a military takeover of the United States.

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Republicans slandered Bill Clinton as a brainwashed “Manchurian candidate” because he had briefly visited the Soviet Union during his college years.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Republicans lost their “soft on Communism” slander-line. So they tried to persuade voters that Democrats were “soft on crime.”

When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s.

When President Barack Obama set out to provide healthcare for all Americans–and not simply the wealthy–Republicans tried to frighten voters with lies. The most infamous of these was that healthcare reform would lead to wholesale murder by government “death panels,” as Sarah Palin put it.  

That insurance companies had functioned for decades as “death panels” in denying healthcare to patients was totally ignored.

Republicans have since encouraged right-wing groups to claim that Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya. The reason for this is to strip Obama of legitimacy as a leader.

Republicans–brandishing photos of President Obama bearing a Hitler forelock and toothbrush mustache–have claimed he intends to set up concentration camps for those who disagree with him.

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, charged that Obama was pursuing a socialist agenda to reform healthcare.

Newt Gingrich

In his book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine, Gingrich claimed that Obama’s policy agenda was as “great a threat to America as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.”

Almost immediately after Obama took office, he came under attack by an industry of right-wing book authors such as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

Among the terms they have used to demonize Obama:

  • radical
  • Socialist
  • anti-American
  • extremist
  • subversive
  • imperial

As Adolf Hitler, the master of 20th century propaganda advised in Mein Kampf: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”  

Nowhere has Republican fanaticism proven greater than on the issue of abortion.  

Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on January 22, 1973, the Republican Party has been committed to saving fetuses.

Even if this puts the lives of adult men and women in jeopardy.

BULLIES DON’T LIKE TO BE MOCKED: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics on June 17, 2016 at 12:05 am

In March, 2013, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its Right-wing allies declared war on comedian Jim Carrey.

The reason: His music parody video: “Cold Dead Hand,” which mocked gun fanatics and the late Charlton Heston, former president of the NRA.

Click here: Jim Carrey’s Pro-Gun Control Stance Angers Conservatives

Among its lyrics:

Charlton Heston movies are no longer in demand
And his immortal soul may lay forever in the sand.
The angels wouldn’t take him up to heaven like he’d planned.
’Cause they couldn’t pry that gun from his cold, dead hand.

The phrase, “cold dead hand,” originated with Heston himself.

Charlton Heston in his prime

On May 20, 2000, the actor and then-president of the NRA addressed the organization at its 129th convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He warned that then-Vice President and Democratic Presidential candidade Al Gore “is going to smear you as the enemy,” and concluded:

“So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!’”

Carrey’s stance on gun control couldn’t have been more opposite.

In in February, 2013, he outraged Right-wingers by tweeting: “Any1 who would run out to buy an assault rifle after the Newton massacre has very little left in their body or soul worth protecting.”

 Jim Carrey

Fox Nation referred to the tweet as “nasty.”  

Red Alert Politics writer Erin Brown dismissed it as “a careless remark …rooted in the shallow, parroted talking points so commonly espoused by liberal elites.”

But that was nothing compared to the rage that has greeted “Cold Dead Hand.” Reason TV’s Remy offered a parody rebuttal to Carrey’s song.  Its lyrics included:

It takes a talking ass
to oppose a vaccination
when your PhD is in
making funny faces.

None of which bothered Carrey. In fact, he exulted in Right-wing outrage, tweeting: “Cold Dead Hand’ is abt u heartless motherf%ckers unwilling 2 bend 4 the safety of our kids. Sorry if you’re offended…”

Among its lyrics:

It takes a cold, dead hand to decide to pull the trigger.
Takes a cold, dead heart and as near as I can figger.
With your cold, dead aim you’re tryin’ to prove your dick is bigger …..

Many psychologists have long theorized that a fascination with firearms can compensate for inadequate sexual performance.

But it’s one thing for an unknown psychologist to write this in an obscure medical journal and another for a famous comedian to splash it across the Internet.

Carrey is especially ruthless in attacking those who–like the NRA–make a lucrative living off gun sales:

Imagine if the Lord were here…
And on the ones
Who sell the guns
He’d sic the vultures and coyotes
Only the devil’s true devotees
Could profiteer
From pain and fear.

Many Rightists attacked Carrey for parodying a man–Heston–who died in 2008 and could not defend himself. But Heston had appeared several times on “Saturday Night Live” to spoof his granite-hard image.

In his video, Carrey dares to attack not simply the masculinity of the Rightist NRA crowd, but even its courage:

You don’t want to get caught
With your trousers down
When the psycho killer
Comes around
So you make your home
Like a Thunderdome
And you’re always packin’
Everywhere you roam.

Perhaps that’s what most outraged the Right–the accusation that its members live in fear and do their best to generate needless fear in others. 

Fear that can supposedly be abated by turning America into a society where everyone packs a weapon and every moment holds a potential High Noon.

Carrey was not shy in responding to his Rightist critics. On March 29, 2013, he issued this statement:

“Since I released my “Cold Dead Hand” video on Funny or Die this week, I have watched Fux News rant, rave, bare its fangs and viciously slander me because of my stand against large magazines and assault rifles.

“I would take them to task legally if I felt they were worth my time or that anyone with a brain in their head could actually fall for such irresponsible buffoonery. That would gain them far too much attention which is all they really care about.

“I’ll just say this: in my opinion Fux News is a last resort for kinda-sorta-almost-journalists whose options have been severely limited by their extreme and intolerant views; a media colostomy bag that has begun to burst at the seams and should be emptied before it becomes a public health issue.”

The NRA has spent decades bribing and intimidating its way through Congress. Those members who subscribe to its “guns for everyone” agenda get legalized bribes (i.e., “campaign contributions”).

Those who refuse to do so face the threat–if not the reality–of being ousted. 

Bullies are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Their only “defense” is to smash anyone who dares to mock their folly, brutality or pretense to omnipotence.  

Or, as Ernest Hemingway once put it: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

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