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LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2019 at 12:05 am

On January 25, 2019—the 35th day of the Federal Government shutdown—President Donald Trump did what no one expected. He caved.

In a White House press conference, he said:

  • Lawmakers would have until February 15 to negotiate a compromise on border security.
  • Otherwise, the government would shut down again.
  • If Democrats did not give in to his demands to fund a border wall, he might use his executive authority to command the military to build the wall instead.

Essentially, he agreed to the same deal he was offered in December, 2018—before he allowed himself to be bullied by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh into shutting down the government.

For all of Trump’s defiant words, his action was universally seen as a serious defeat—by both his opponents and supporters.

Among the latter was Right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter. Summing up the reaction of his Hispanic-hating supporters, she tweeted: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States.”

On the PBS Newshour, liberal political analyst Mark Shields said: “it was a total defeat for him. And, believe me…there will not be the will among Republicans in three weeks to go back and do this again. Once it’s open, it’s going to be opened.”

His counterpart, conservative analyst David Brooks, agreed: “It is a total—a total victory for the Democrats….If Donald Trump wants bring this on again, [Democrats will be] happy.

“The Republicans are miserable. They never want to come back to where they are right now. And so the odds that we will have another shutdown strike me as low. And it would be—for Trump, it would be suicidally low to—just to try this again.”  

* * * * *

During his years as President, Bill Clinton tried to win over Republicans by supporting measures they liked—such as making it harder for the poor to get welfare via the Federal government. 

In the end, his efforts to win over Republicans convinced them that he was weak. So they tried to impeach him for getting oral sex from a White House intern.

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Bill Clinton

Similarly, Barack Obama spent the first two years of his Presidency hopelessly trying to gain Republican support. This only led to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s saying that his goal was to make Obama “a one-term President.”

At least for the moment, Democrats seem to have learned that cowering before bullies only wins you their contempt. As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Prince, his classic work on politics:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

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

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

At the time of the 1938 Munich conference, a group of highly-placed German army officers were preparing to overthrow Adolf Hitler in a military coup. They counted on France and England to stand firm against the Fuhrer, handing him a major foreign policy defeat.

The officers intended to use that as an excuse to remove him from power—before he could plunge Germany into a disastrous war it could not win.

But when Britain and France surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler, his prestige in Germany shot to unprecedented heights. Knowing that overthrowing such a popular leader would be suicidal, the army officers abandoned their plans for a coup.

Convinced of his own invincibility, Hitler recklessly plunged ahead, demanding that Britain and France agree to cede Danzig, a city in northern Poland, to him.  

This time the Allies held firm. The result was World War II.

At least for now, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats fully understand the lesson of Munich. You must stand up to tyrants—or there will be no end to their evil demands.

The only question is: Will they continue to make use of that lesson—or once again allow themselves to be cowed by a ruthless tyrant?

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2019 at 12:07 am

Billionaire Wilbur Ross—the Trump administration’s Secretary of Commerce—had a suggestion for the 800,000 Federal employees made destitute by the government shutdown: Take out a loan.

“So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that. 

“True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.” 

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

It was a remark worthy of Marie Antoinette’s reported (but inaccurate) dismissal of the miseries of impoverished French citizens: “Let them eat cake.” 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives had undergone a massive sea-change in membership. Ending two years of Republican rule, Democrats had won 27 seats in that body during the November, 2018, elections.  

And Nancy Pelosi had gone from being House Minority Leader to wielding the Speaker’s gavel as House Majority Leader on January 3.

Now she blasted Ross’ attitude during a press briefing: 

“Is this the ‘Let them eat cake,’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money?’ Or ’This is character-building for you; it’s all going to end up very well—just as long as you don’t get your paychecks?’” 

Nancy Pelosi

Thirty-five days passed, with each one bringing increasing stress and fear to the lives of 800,000 Federal employees—those forced to not work and those forced to work for no pay.

Pelosi, meanwhile, did what many of her Democratic colleagues had long refused to do: She dared to stand up against Republicans’ “my-way-or-else” demands.

“The impression you get from the president is he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own,” Pelosi said in an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning.” 

Pelosi, unlike many Democrats, realized this was America’s version of the Munich Conference: Democrats must hold firm against a tyrant’s extortionate demands. Otherwise, every time Trump didn’t get his way, there would be no end to such shutdowns in the future.

From the start, Pelosi insisted that Democrats would not cooperate with threats to shut down the government if Trump didn’t get the $5.6 billion he wanted for a border wall. And Democrats held firm, refusing to make concessions on the wall.

Second, Pelosi publicly stated that she would not let Trump make his annual State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives until the government was re-opened.

Since both the House and Senate must jointly issue an invitation to the President to make such an address, Pelosi’s veto effectively scotched Trump’s appearance. 

For the publicity-addicted Trump, who revels in pontificating to adoring crowds, this was a major blow.

Trump refused to take “No” for an answer and dared Pelosi to deny him access. 

She took him up on his dare and issued a statement saying that the speech was off—until the government re-opened. 

Soon afterward, Trump agreed that the State of the Union address would have to be postponed.

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Donald Trump giving State of the Union address in 2018

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza saw it: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.” 

And Julian Zelitzer, another CNN political analyst, agreed: “Pelosi did not hesitate to use her political power aggressively. From the start of this process, she has remained steadfast in her insistence that closing the government was not a legitimate way to make demands for new forms of spending. 

“While sometimes Democrats become leery about seeming too partisan and not being civil enough, Pelosi and the Democrats stood their ground. She drew a line in the sand and stuck by it.”

As Pelosi and the Democrats held firm, Republicans began getting desperate.

  • They were being depicted in the news as extortionists while 800,000 of their fellow Americans suffered.
  • Those businesses that served Federal employees—such as grocery stores and auto repair shops—were being starved of revenue.
  • There was legitimate fear that the entire airline industry might have to shut down for lack of enough air traffic controllers to regulate air traffic. 
  • Worst of all for Republicans, chaos at airports threatened the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people traveling to and from the upcoming Super Bowl. Most Americans might not know the name of their Senator, but they take their sports fetish seriously.

By January 25, the 35th day of the shutdown, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53% of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown. His popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%. And 60% disapproved of how he was handling negotiations to re-open the government. 

So, on that same date, Trump did what his Hispanic-hating base thought was impossible: He caved. 

He walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to re-open the government for three weeks. 

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2019 at 12:08 am

“If we do not have these negotiations over border security with an open government, this president will continue to use this tool. And if we give in, if we pay the ransom now, what will happen the next time there’s a disagreement with this president and Congress?”

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass.

Republican leaders in Congress didn’t want to be blamed for shutting down the government. They seemed to persuade President Donald Trump to back away from his threat to do so if he didn’t get funding for his border wall.

The Senate passed a short-term funding measure without his wall money. 

Vice President Mike Pence told lawmakers that Trump was open to approving it 

Then the Fox News Network stepped in

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“I think a lot of people who voted for President Trump counted on him on this particular issue,” Fox & Friends host Jedediah Bila said.

“I think their feet were to the fire. And you see a lot of people around the country saying: ‘Hold on a second. You told us that you weren’t afraid to shut down the government, that’s why we like you. What happened? You just gave in right away?’”

And Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter said: “Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.

“Trump will very likely not finish his term and definitely not be elected to a second term.”

For a man who had “joked” that having a “President-for-Life” would be “great,” Coulter’s words were a nightmare.

On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the government.

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

And Trump told Congressional leaders the shutdown could last months or even years.

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Donald Trump

For Trump, “the wall” was absolutely necessary—but not to keep illegal aliens out. They would go over, under or around it.

The real intent of the wall was to keep Trump in—the White House. 

Trump’s fanatical base believed that a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border would stop all illegal immigration. And he knew that if he didn’t build it, they wouldn’t re-elect him.

Like Adolf Hitler, who ordered the complete destruction of Germany when he realized his dreams of conquest were over, Trump’s attitude was: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

Among the agencies directly affected by the shutdown: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—whose employees included Secret Service agents.

In short: The men and women guarding Trump were facing financial ruin—along with their families—because Trump didn’t get his way

The effects of the shutdown quickly became evident:  

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Smithsonian museums closed their doors.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” Those who showed up to work without pay grew increasingly frazzled as they feared being evicted for being unable to make rent or house payments. 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.
  • Celebrity chef Jose Andres launched ChefsForFeds, which offered free hot meals for government employees and their families at restaurants across the country. 
  • Many workers tried to bring in money by babysitting or driving for Uber, 

Those employed by the government could at least expect to receive reimbursement for missed pay once the shutdown ended.

The question was: Would they be evicted, need medical care or be unable to pay for food before that happened? 

For Federal contractors, the situation was far worse. 

During the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed to “outsource” many federal responsibilities to private contractors. This was hugely supported by Republicans and even many Democrats.

Now, in the wake of the shutdown, these employees faced a cruel reality: Since they were not Federal employees, they would not be reimbursed for the time they were forced to not work.

Adding insult to injury were the callous remarks of two Trump administration officials.  

“A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year’s,” said Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

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Kevin Hassett

“And then we have a shutdown, and so they can’t go to work, and so then they have the vacation, but they don’t have to use their vacation days. And then they come back, and then they get their back pay. Then they’re—in some sense, they’re better off.”

Another equally contemptuous remark was offered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross—a billionaire. Asked on CNBC if he knew that many Federal employees had been reduced to going to food banks, Ross said yes, but he didn’t understand why.

His suggestion: They could just take out a loan.   

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 29, 2019 at 12:51 am

After selling out Czechoslovakia, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to England a hero. Holding aloft a copy of the worthless agreement he had signed with Germany’s dictator, Adolf Hitler, he told cheering crowds in London: “I believe it is peace for our time.”

Neville Chamberlain

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. Speaking of the British and French leaders he had intimidated at Munich, he later asserted: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.”

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. But, this time, France and Britain refused to be intimidated—and pledged to go to war if Hitler invaded Poland.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939—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.

President Donald J. Trump used precisely the same “negotiating” style during his December 11, 2018 Oval Office meeting with then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY). 

And, true to his love of publicity, Trump made sure the meeting was televised live.

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Nancy Pelosi

Trump opened with on a positive note: “We’ve actually worked very hard on a couple of things that are happening. Criminal justice reform…[Republican Kentucky U.S. Senator] Mitch McConnell and the group, we’re going to be putting it up for a vote. We have great Democrat support, great Republican support.”

But he soon moved to the matter he truly cared about: Demanding $5.6 billion to create a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border: “And one way or the other, it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time.”

“One way or the other”—“so doer so”—was a favorite phrase of Adolf Hitler’s, meaning: If he couldn’t bully his opponents into surrendering, he would use violence.

PELOSI: “I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown. You have the Senate. You have the House of Representatives. You have the votes. You should pass it right now.”

Trump claimed he could get “Wall” legislation passed in the House but admitted he didn’t have the 60 votes he needed in the Senate.

PELOSI:  “Well, the fact is you can get it started that way.”

Trump then contradicted himself:  “The House we can get passed very easily, and we do.”

PELOSI: “Okay, then do it.”

Trump kept insisting that “the House would give me the vote if I wanted it.” 

PELOSI: “Well, let’s take the vote and we’ll find out.”

SCHUMER: “We do not want to shut down the government. You have called 20 times to shut down the government….We want to come to an agreement. If we can’t come to an agreement, we have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now, and will not shut down the government. And that’s what we’re urging you to do. Not threaten to shut down the government because you can’t get your way.”

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Charles Schumer

TRUMP:  “We need border security. And I think we all agree that we need border security.”

SCHUMER: “Yes, we do.”

TRUMP: “The wall is a part of border security. You can’t have very good border security without the wall.”

PELOSI: “That’s simply not true. That is a political promise. Border security is a way to effectively honor our responsibilities.”

By “political promise,” Pelosi meant this is was an appeal Trump had made to his hardcore base. which he expected to re-elect him.

SCHUMER: “And the experts say you can do border security without a wall, which is wasteful and doesn’t solve the problem.”

TRUMP: “It totally solves the problem.”

Schumer then goaded Trump into taking responsibility for closing down the government if he didn’t get funding for his border wall.

TRUMP: “I’ll take it. You know what I’ll say: Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government. Absolutely.”

Thus, Schumer guaranteed that any government shutdown during the Christmas season would be blamed on Trump.

But Republican leaders in Congress didn’t want to be blamed for shutting down the government. They seemed to persuade him to back away from his threat. The Senate passed a short-term funding measure without Trump’s wall money. 

Vice President Mike Pence told lawmakers that Trump was open to approving it 

Then the Fox News Network stepped in. 

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 28, 2019 at 1:03 am

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

“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.” 

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

A classic example of Hitler’s “negotiating style” came in September, 1938, when he focused his rage and aggression on Czechoslovakia. 

Seven months earlier, he had absorbed Austria. He had done so by inviting its Chancellor, Kurt Shuschnigg, to Berlin. Then Hitler threatened Austria with invasion if Shuschnigg did not immediately agree to make his country a vassal-state of Germany.

This time, his threats were aimed at Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister of Great Britain, and Eduoard Deladier, the prime minister of France. Both countries had pledged to support Czechoslovakia against Hitler’s aggression.

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.

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The Cenotaph, in London, honoring the unknown British dead of World War 1

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.

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, Germany, on September 15, 1938.

Neville Chamberlain and 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. 

THE PHYSICS OF BUREAUCRACY

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2018 at 12:06 am

The 1989 movie, Fat Man and Little Boy, provides useful insights into the real-life workings of bureaucracies.

In it, the brilliant and ambitious physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Dwight Schultz) comes—too late—to realize he’s made a deal with the devil. 

The same proved true for the J. Robert Oppenheimer of history. 

In 1942, America’s top military officials become convinced that German scientists are furiously pursuing work on an atomic bomb. 

Image result for iMAGES of "Fat Man and Little Boy" movie

The full horror of the extermination camps has not yet been revealed.  But “Oppie” and many other Jewish scientists working on the Manhattan Project can easily imagine the fate of Jews trapped within the borders of the Third Reich. This spurs them on to frenzied efforts to build a bomb that will quickly end the war and end that suffering.

But then something unforeseen happens.

On May 8, 1945, the Third Reich collapses and signs unconditional surrender terms. Almost at the same time, the U.S. military learns that although some German physicists had tried to make an atomic bomb, they never even got close to producing one. 

Oppenheimer now finds himself still working to build the most devastating weapon in history—but now lacking the enemy he had originally signed on to destroy. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has invested nearly $2 billion in the Manhattan Project—at a time when $2 billion truly meant the equivalent of $1 trillion today. Is all that money to go for nothing? 

What to do?

Oppenheimer doesn’t have to make that decision. It’s made for him—by his immediate superior, General Leslie Groves (Paul Newman), by Groves’ superiors in the Army, and ultimately by the new President, Harry S. Truman. 

A man smiling in a suit in suit and one in a uniform chat around a pile of twisted metal.

J. Robert Oppenheimer (left) and General Leslie Groves

The bomb will be used, after all. It will just be turned against the Japanese, who are even more hated by most Americans than the Germans. 

It doesn’t matter that: 

  • The Japanese lack the technological skill of the Germans to produce an atomic bomb.
  • They are rapidly being pushed across the Pacific to their home islands.
  • American bombers are incinerating Japanese cities at will.
  • The Japanese are desperately trying to find a way to surrender without losing face.    

What matters is that Pearl Harbor is still fresh in the minds of Americans generally and of the American military in particular.

And that now that the Japanese are being pushed back into their home islands, they are fighting ever more fanatically to hold off certain defeat.

General Douglas MacArthur, who is scheduled to command the invasion of Japan, has estimated a million American casualties if this goes forward.

Oppenheimer, who has taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley, now finds himself being taught a lesson about the physics of bureaucracy: That, once set in motion, bureaucracies—like objects—continue to move forward unless something intervenes to stop them.

So, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber drops “Little Boy” on Hiroshima.

An estimated 80,000 people die instantly. By the end of the year, injury and radiation bring total casualties to 90,000-140,000.

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The bombing of Hiroshima

On August 9, it’s the turn of Nagasaki.

Casualty estimates for the dropping of “Fat Man” range from 40,000 to 73,884, with another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

For Oppenheimer, the three years he’s devoted to creating an atomic bomb will prove the pivotal event of his life. He will be praised and damned as an “American Prometheus,” who brought atomic fire to man.

Countless Americans—especially those who would have been ordered to invade Japan—revere him for bringing the war to a quick end. And countless Americans condemn him as a man whose arrogance and ambition have enabled mankind to destroy itself.

Upon witnessing the first successful atomic explosion near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer had been stunned by the sheer magnitude of destructiveness he had helped unleash.

Faced with the massive toll of lives taken by the device he had created, Oppenheimer became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in abolishing nuclear weapons. He vigorously opposed the creation of a “super” hydrogen bomb.

His advice was overruled, however, and construction of this went forward at the same pace that Oppenheimer had once driven others to create the atomic bomb.

The first test of this even more terrifying weapon occurred on November 1, 1952. By 1953, just as Oppenheimer predicted, the Soviet Union launched its own H-bomb test.

In a famous meeting with President Truman, Oppenheimer reportedly said, “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.”Truman later claimed that he had offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief, saying, “Here, this will wash it off.”

It didn’t.

Accused during the hysteria of the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of being a Communist traitor, Oppenheimer found himself stripped of his government security clearance in 1954.

Unable to prevent the military bureaucracy from moving relentlessly to use the atomic bomb, he could not halt the political bureaucracy from its own rush into cowardice and the wrecking of others’ lives.

Although Oppenheimer returned to teaching, at Princeton University, he never recovered from the shame of having lost his security clearance. 

A chain smoker, he died of throat cancer in 1967.

NO SENSE OF DECENCY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2018 at 12:01 am

“Senator, may we not drop this?…You’ve done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army—then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.

It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.

Joseph McCarthy

When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy—totally surprised at his sudden reversal of fortune—was finished.

Today, however, other Americans should be asking themselves the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Americans like Rick Santorum, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania (1997 – 2007) and Republican Presidential candidate in 2012.

Rick Santorum

Santorum has fervently sought to ban legalized abortion—even in rape cases.

He also wants to ban birth control: “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

But this did not stop him from marrying, in 1990, a woman—Karen Garver—who had spent six years as the unmarried bedmate of an OBGYN-abortionist named Tom Allen, who was 40 years her senior.

Today, as Mrs. Santorum, she has totally reversed her view on abortion and wants to see it banned.

Then there’s President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

On July 15, 2018, Trump tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” 

He was, of course, referring to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, charged by the Justice Department with investigating the subversion of the 2016 Presidential election by Russian Intelligence agents.

The next day, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.   

“Mr. President,” said Jeff Mason, a reporter from Reuters, “do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?”

Trump, refusing to condemn Russia, blasted the Mueller probe: “I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.

“People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually, none of it related to the campaign. They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign.”

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump responded by attacking Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy:

“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

“I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying. With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”

Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” meant nothing to McCarthy—just as it means nothing to Santorum and Trump.

But it should mean something to the rest of us.

In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do. The samurai code of Bushido told them when they had crossed the line into eternal damnation.

And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor—seppuku.  With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of a trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.

In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.

Considering the ready availability of firearms among Right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for either man.

But of course it will be. It takes more than a trigger pull to “do the right thing.”

It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.” And it takes courage to act on that insight.

In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever missing. They are beyond redemption.

Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7:17-20:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

TRUMP: INSULTS FOR AMERICA’S FRIENDS, HUGS FOR ITS ENEMIES

In Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 at 1:24 am

“He appeared to need enemies the way other men need friends, and his conduct assured that he would always have plenty of them.” 

So wrote William Manchester about General Douglas MacArthur in his monumental 1978 biography, American Caesar. But he could have written this just as accurately about Donald Trump, both as Republican Presidential candidate and President.

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.  

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger 
  • News organizations
  • Beauty pageant contestants 

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war 

As President, he has continued to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets have included Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders (most notably North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong On) and even members of his Cabinet. 

The one major figure that Trump has never attacked is Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

But Trump has no such hesitation about insulting leaders of nations which have been America’s traditional allies—such as Canada. 

On June 10, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of undermining the US and its allies with comments he made at the G7 economic summit in Quebec.

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Justin Trudeau

The G7 is comprised of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the United States and Italy.

“It was a betrayal,” Kudlow accused Trudeau on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He really kind of stabbed us in the back.” 

Kudlow said the allies should have been more supportive of Trump because of his scheduled June 12 meeting in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong On.

“They should have said to him, ‘God speed, you are negotiating with the crazy nuclear tyrant in North Korea, and we are behind you.'” 

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Larry Kudlow

On June 9, the prime minister had said in a press conference that Canada would “move forward with retaliatory measures” on July 1. 

The reason for this: Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico

“I have made it very clear to the President that it is not something we relish doing, but it something that we absolutely will do,” Trudeau said. “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.” 

And Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, went further: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.

“And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One.”  

Given the sheer brutality of the language, there’s no reason to doubt that Navarro was absolutely reflecting Trump’s own venomous anger.    

“He [Trump[ did him [Trudeau] a favor,” Navarro said. “He was even willing to sign that socialist communique.”

On June 10, Trump tweeted: “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!,” 

But while Trump has made clear his detestation of socialism, he has no qualms about rewarding the aggression of a hardcore Communist like Vladimir Putin. On June 9, he called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7.  

“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said during an impromptu press conference at the summit.

“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better.”  

Russia was ousted from the group in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea—the first violation of a European country’s borders since World War II. 

“Today crystallizes precisely why Putin was so eager to see Trump elected,” said former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“For Putin, this is return on his investment, and it’s safe to say that his investment has paid off beyond even his wildest dreams,” he said in a statement to CNN.   

And, in a turn of events that some might call poetic justice, moments after he arrived in Singapore for his meeting with Kim Jong On, Trump tweeted: “Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center.” 

FROM “BIG STICK” TO “BIG MOUTH”

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2018 at 1:12 am

There is a poignant scene in the middle of John Milius’ classic 1975 adventure film, The Wind and the Lion, that Americans would do well to remember.

The movie is set in 1904 America and Morocco. An American woman, Eden Pedicaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children have been kidnapped while vacationing in Tangier.

The kidnapper is a Berber brigand named Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli (Sean Connery—then successfully trying to shed his recent James Bond image).

To Raisuli, the Sultan and his uncle, the Pasha of Tangier, are corrupt and beholden to the European powers struggling to control Morocco.

Raisuli issues an outrageous ransom demand to provoke an international incident, embarrass the Sultan and start a civil war.

In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is running for re-election. He sees the crisis as a way to win votes and demonstrate America’s military strength as a new power.

So he issues a demand of his own: “Pedicarus alive—or Raisuli dead!”

While events rapidly spiral out of control in the Middle East, Roosevelt decides to vacation in Yellowstone National Park.

One night, a grizzly bear attacks the camp and is shot by Roosevelt and several other campers.  The next morning, Roosevelt holds an imprumptu press conference for the reporters who have accompanied him.

Brian Keith (left) as Theodore Roosevelt

REPORTER:  Did you take part in killing the grizzly, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Yes, unfortunately.

REPORTER:  Why do you say, ‘unfortunately,’ Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  The American grizzly is a symbol of the American character: strength, intelligence, ferocity. Maybe a little blind and reckless at times, but courageous beyond all doubt. And one other trait that goes with all previous.

REPORTER:  And that, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Loneliness. The American grizzly lives out his life alone. Indomitable, unconquered—but always alone. He has no real allies, only enemies, but none of them as great as he.

REPORTER:  And you feel this might be an American trait?

ROOSEVELT:  Certainly. The world will never love us. They respect us—they might even grow to fear us. But they will never love us, for we have too much audacity! And, we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.

REPORTER:  Are you perhaps referring to the situation in Morocco and the Panama Canal.

ROOSEVELT:  If you say so. The American grizzly embodies the spirit of America. He should be our symbol! Not that ridiculous eagle—he’s nothing more than a dandified vulture.

When the Pasha of Tangier refuses to negotiate with Raisuli to secure the return of Pedecaris, the American Consul to Tangier, Samuel Gummere, decides on action. He confers with Admiral Chadwick, commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, and a Marine captain named Jerome.

Gummere then orders a company of Marines, supported by a small detachment of sailors, to seize the Pasha. But then he admits to the riskiness of the decision:

GUMMERE:  You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we’ll all be killed.

CHADWICK:  Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.

JEROME: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world does go to war. 

CHADWICK:  A world ar war!

GUMMERE:  A world war. Now that would be something to go out on.

In just ten years, they will get their hearts’ desire when World War 1 erupts.

The Marines quickly overwhelm the Pasha’s palace guard, take the Pasha hostage and force him to negotiate.

During the hostage exchange, Raisuli is betrayed and captured by German and Moroccan troops.   His friend, the Sherif of Wazan, organizes the Berber tribe for an attack on the Europeans and their Moroccan lackeys.

Eden Pedecaris, who has grown to admire Raisuli, convinces a Marine captain and his men to rescue the Berber chieftain. She argues that President Roosevelt had promised that Raisuli would be unharmed if the Pedecarises were returned safely.

The Berbers and Marines team up to defeat the Germans and their Moroccan allies, rescuing Raisuli in the process.

Image result for iMAGES OF The Wind and the Lion

Thirteen years later—in 1917—the United States will officially take on the Germans in World War 1.  And in another 37 years—in 1941—America will again declare war on Germany.

The film ends with a confident Theodore Roosevelt expecting (accurately) to be re-elected—and telling reporters  that “the fate of Morocco will be decided tomorrow by me.”

The Wind and the Lion is set in an era when

  • Nuclear weapons did not exist;
  • Russia and China were militarily insignificant nations;
  • England was the world’s superpower;
  • America, Germany and Japan were on the rise;
  • Israel was still a distant dream in the eyes of European Jews;
  • The “Great Powers”—Germany, France and Great Britain—were struggling to carve up the Middle East to exploit its massive oil reserves; and
  • Americans did not feel threatened by Islamic radicals.

As complex and dangerous as that era often seemed to those living more than 100 years ago, it has been succeeded by one even more complex and dangerous.

In this new and even more lethal era, it is well to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that “we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.”

BRAGGING WORDS AND DEFEAT’S REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2018 at 12:07 am

By February, 1943, the tide of war had turned irrevocably for Nazi Germany.

The string of quick and easy victories that had started on September 1, 1939 was over:

  • Poland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Holland
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Greece
  • France.

All had fallen under the heel of the Nazi jackboot. The swastika flag still flew triumphantly over the capitols of these once-free nations. 

And the word—and whim—of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler remained law for their populations.

But by March, 1943, all except the most fanatical Nazis could see that Germany was on a collision course with disaster.

  • Under the unshakable leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Great Britain still remained a sworn enemy of the Third Reich.
  • After six months of spectacular victories against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht  had become hopelessly bogged down in the snow before Moscow.
  • On December 11, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by his ally, Japan, Hitler declared war on the United States—thus pitting the Reich against the world’s two most powerful nations: America and Russia.
  • In November, 1942, at El Alamein, the British Army halted the advance of General Erwin Rommel and his famed Afrika Korps across North Africa.
  • On February 2, 1943, General Friedrich von Paulus surrendered the remains of the once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The Reich suffered 730,000 total casualties, including nearly 91,000 German prisoners taken prisoner. 
  • On June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian armies overwhelmed German’s “impregnable wall of death” on the Normandy beaches. 
  • In February, 1945, following the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Red Army temporarily halted 37 miles east of Berlin. 

So, by March, 1943, Germany desperately needed to hear some good news.  And Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was eager to supply it. 

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Joseph Goebbels

He did so in one of his last public addresses, delivered to a large but carefully selected audience in Gorlitz. 

For Goebbels, the greatest challenge to the Reich lay in “the Bolshevist danger in the East.”  And, for him, the solution was clear: “Total war is the demand of the hour.” 

“Our soldiers, as soon as the great push on the Eastern Front gets under way, will ask no mercy and give no mercy.

“Already, our forces have begun softening up operations, and in the next weeks and months the big offensive will begin. They will go into battle with devotion like congregations going to a religious service.

“And when our men shoulder their weapons and climb into their tanks, there will be before their eyes the sight of their violated women and murdered children. A cry of vengeance will rise from their throats that will make the enemy tremble with fear!

“So, as the Fuhrer has overcome crises in the past, so will he triumph now.

“The other day he told me ‘I firmly believe that we shall overcome this crisis. I firmly believe that our army of millions will beat back our enemy and annihilate him. And some day our banners will be victorious. This is my life’s unshakable belief.’” 

Thunderous applause repeatedly interrupted Goebbels’ address. Yet this could not replace the enormous losses Germany had suffered since 1939. Nor could it reverse the march of the Allied armies as they closed in on the Reich from East and West. 

Now, fast-forward 74 years to November 23, 2017—Thanksgiving Day.   

Donald Trump, President of the United States, speaks by video teleconference to American forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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Donald Trump

President George W. Bus had flown into Baghdad in 2003 to spend Thanksgiving with American forces. He flew into Iraq once again to visit troops in June, 2006. 

And President Barack Obama visited American soldiers in Iraq in 2009, in Afghanistan in 2010, 2012 and 2014. 

Trump’s “visit” was unique—in that he addressed American troops from his Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

The address started off predictably enough: “It’s an honor to speak with you all and to give God thanks for the blessings of freedom and for the heroes who really have this tremendous courage that you do to defend us and to defend freedom.” 

But, being Trump, he could not resist paying homage to himself: “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win, but we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before; they we’re letting you play even. We’re letting you win….

“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration, and that’s because I’m letting you do your job….”

In short: All those sacrifices you made under Presidents Bush and Obama went for nothing.  

“A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time, and they’re really good—they’re really good. I especially like saying that companies are starting to come back.

“Now we’re working on tax cuts—big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we’ll get that and then you’re going to really see things happen.” 

Or, put another way: Be grateful they elected me—because you’re about to see the 1% richest get even richer.  Too bad you won’t be so lucky.

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