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Posts Tagged ‘THE NEW Y ORK TIMES’

A MORALITY LESSON FOR LABOR DAY

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 2, 2019 at 12:13 am

Every Christmas, TV audiences find comfort and triumph in the rerunning of a black-and-white 1946 movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.

But in its depiction of the endless struggle between management and labor, it could just as well be shown on Labor Day.

It’s the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a decent husband and father who hovers on the brink of suicide—until his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes.

Its A Wonderful Life Movie Poster.jpg

Clarence reveals to George what his home town, Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born. George finds himself shocked to learn:

  • With no counterweight to the schemes of rapacious slumlord Henry F. Potter, Bedford Falls becomes Potterville, filled with pawn shops and sleazy nightclubs.
  • With no George Bailey to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in a frozen pond, Harry drowns.
  • With no Harry to live to become a Naval fighter pilot in World War II, he’s not on hand to shoot down two Japanese planes targeting an American troopship.
  • As a result, the troopship and its crew are destroyed.

George is forced to face the significant role he has played in the lives of so many others.

Armed with this new knowledge, he once again embraces life, running through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he meets.

Audiences have hailed George Bailey as an Everyman hero—and the film as a life-affirming testament to the unique importance of each individual.

But there is another aspect of this movie that has not been so closely studied: The legacy of its villain, Henry F. Potter, who, as  played by Lionel Barrymore, bears a striking resemblance to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter.jpg

Henry F. Potter

It is Potter—the richest man in Bedford Falls—whose insatiable greed threatens to destroy it. And it is Potter whose criminality drives George Bailey to the brink of suicide.

George dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and building skyscrapers. Meanwhile, he works at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which plays a vital role in the life of the community.

Potter, a member of the Building and Loan Association board, tries to persuade the board of directors to dissolve the firm. He objects to their providing home loans for the working poor.

George persuades them to reject Potter’s proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan. Reluctantly, George agrees.

Potter tries to lure George away from the Building and Loan, offering him a $20,000 salary and the chance to visit Europe. George is briefly tempted.

But then he realizes that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and deny financial help to those who most need it. Angrily, he turns down Potter’s offer: “In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

Momentarily defeated, Potter bides his time for revenge.

On Christmas Eve morning, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for George’s brother, Harry. George’s scatter-brained Uncle Billy visits Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds.

Related image

He taunts Potter by reading the newspaper headlines announcing the coming tribute. Potter snatches the paper, and Billy unthinkingly allows the money to be snatched with it.

When Billy leaves, Potter opens the paper and sees the money. He keeps it, knowing that misplacement of bank money will bankrupt the Building and Loan and bring criminal charges against George.

It’s at this point that George almost commits suicide—only to be saved by Clarence, his guardian angel.

Then, word of George’s plight suddenly reaches his wide range of grateful friends. A flood of townspeople arrive with more than enough donations to save George and the Building and Loan.

The movie ends on a triumphant note, with George basking in the glow of love from his family and friends.

But no critic seems to have noticed that Henry Potter’s theft has gone unnoticed.  (Uncle Billy can’t recall how he lost the money.) Potter is richer by $8,000. And ready to go on taking advantage of others.

Perhaps it’s time to see Potter’s actions in a new light—that of America’s richest 1%, ever ready to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

Justice never catches up with Potter in the movie. But the joke-writers at Saturday Night Live later conjured up a satisfactory punishment for his avarice.

In this version, Uncle Billy suddenly remembers that he left the money with Potter. Enraged, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leads his crowd of avenging friends to Potter’s office.

Potter realizes the jig is up and offers to return the money. But George wants more than that—and he and his friends proceed to stomp and beat Potter to death.

The skit ends with with George and his friends singing “Auld Lang Syne”—as they do in the movie—as they finish off Potter with clubs.

America is rapidly a divided nation—one where the richest 1% lord it over an increasingly impoverished 99%.

The time may be coming when many Americans are ready to embrace the SNL approach to economic justice.

HUMOR AS A (NEGLECTED) WEAPON

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2018 at 12:14 am

Donald Trump has attached nicknames to his many political opponents.

“Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

“Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren

“Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz

“Crooked Hillary” – Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State, now the all-but-confirmed Democratic nominee for President. 

Donald Trump

Nicknames and ridicule can be powerful weapons. 

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, assessed Trump’s ability to effectively use both. He did so on the May 27 edition of the PBS Newshour

Said Brooks: 

“Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton]. 

“And that’s a word. And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under. It sticks, and it diminishes. 

“And so it has been super effective for him because he knows how to do that. And she [Hillary Clinton[ just comes on with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’ 

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.”

Related image

David Brooks and Mark Shields

But Democrats can fight back with catchy nicknames of their own: Such as: “Deadbeat Donald,” “Nazi Boy,” “Devious Donald” or “Der Fuehrer.”

So far, only one opponent has managed to verbally stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.

A May 12 story on CNN–“Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump a Dose of His Own Medicine on Twitter”–notes:

“In the past week, the Massachusetts Democrat has refined an aggressive anti-Trump message through a series of so-called tweetstorms.”  

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

On the May 27 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted Warren’s ability to rattle Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trump’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

David Brooks added: “And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like bull-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”

Yet that need not remain the situation.

The Democratic convention could have used ridicule to strike a deadly blow against the Presidential ambitions of Donald Trump.

Everyone expected this convention—like all political conventions—to be filled with boring, self-serving speeches.

And its purpose—to nominate Hillary Clinton for President—was a foregone conclusion.  

But the message of this convention—the necessity for defeating Trump—didn’t need to be forgotten. And it wouldn’t have been—if convention planners had been willing to do something truly daring and memorable. 

In 1988, Mel Brooks did exactly this with his now-classic comedy, “The Producers.” 

Brooks used this as a vehicle for lampooning the criminality of the Third Reich—and especially that of its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler.  Especially memorable: Its production number, “Springtime for Hitler.”     

The press had had a field day with Melania Trump’s plagiarizing of Michelle Obama’s speech before the 2008 Democratic convention. 

Facebook and Twitter had been filled with ridicule—such as a “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon image of Boris Badinov’s femme fatale Natasha Fatale saying: “I write. But Moose and Squirrel say I copy.”  

So it’s easy to imagine how a staged musical number like “Springtime for Trumpland”–complete with Nazi uniforms–could have raged through the Internet.

Even more importantly, it would have made a great TV commercial. 

SPRINGTIME FOR TRUMPLAND 
(To be sung to the tune, “Springtime for Hitler”)
 
America was having trouble
What a sad, sad story
Needed a new Leader
To restore its former glory.
 
Where oh where was he?
Who could that man be?
We looked around
And then we found
The man for you and me.
And now it’s….
 
Springtime for Trumpland and bigotry–
Trumpland is happy and gay.
Our Leader’s put on a Nazi face–
Look out, here comes the Whiter race.
 
Springtime for Trump goons and bigotry–
Winter for Reason and Light.
Springtime for Trump goons and infamy–
Come on, Trumpsters, let’s go pick a fight.
 
I love Trump
My name is Dave
I’ll hunt you down
And dig your grave.
 
Don’t be stupid
Be a smarty.
Come and join
The RepublicaNazi party.
 
Springtime for Trump goons and infamy—
Killing is thrilling again.
A-bombs are saving us from toil
Soon we’ll have all the world’s black oil.
 
Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Prisons are filling once more.
 
Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Means that soon things will be swell.
You pray they will be swell
You know we’ll be going to HELL. 

 

The question remained: Would a political party noted for its cowardly Political Correctness be willing to take the comedy plunge? 

As always with the timid souls who inhabit the Democratic party, the answer turned out to be: No.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (FOR A CRIMINAL)

In Business, Entertainment, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 25, 2017 at 12:01 am

Every Christmas, TV audiences find comfort and triumph in the rerunning of a black-and-white 1946 movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a decent husband and father who hovers on the brink of suicide—until his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes.

Its A Wonderful Life Movie Poster.jpg

Clarence reveals to George what his home town, Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born. George finds himself shocked to learn:

  • With no counterweight to the schemes of rapacious slumlord Henry F. Potter, Bedford Falls becomes Potterville, filled with pawn shops and sleazy nightclubs.
  • With no George Bailey to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in a frozen pond, Harry drowns.
  • With no Harry to live to become a Naval fighter pilot in World War II, he’s not on hand to shoot down two Japanese planes targeting an American troopship.
  • As a result, the troopship and its crew are destroyed.

George is forced to face the significant role he has played in the lives of so many others.

Armed with this knowledge, he once again embraces life, running through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he meets.

Audiences have hailed George Bailey as an Everyman hero—and the film as a life-affirming testament to the unique importance of each individual.

But there is another aspect of the movie that has not been so closely studied: The legacy of its villain, Henry F. Potter, who, as  played by Lionel Barrymore, bears a striking resemblance to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter.jpg

Henry F. Potter

It is Potter—the richest man in Bedford Falls—whose insatiable greed threatens to destroy it.  And it is Potter whose criminality drives George Bailey to the brink of suicide.

The antagonism between Bailey and Potter starts early in the movie. George dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and building skyscrapers. Meanwhile, he works at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which plays a vital role in the life of the community.

Potter, a member of the Building and Loan Association board, tries to persuade the board of directors to dissolve the firm. He objects to their providing home loans for the working poor.

George persuades them to reject Potter’s proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan. Reluctantly, George agrees.

Later, Potter tries to lure George away from the Building and Loan, offering him a $20,000 salary and the chance to visit Europe. George is briefly tempted.

Related image

But then he realizes that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and deny financial help to those who most need it. Angrily, he turns down Potter’s offer:

“You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter!

“In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

It is a setback for Potter, but he’s willing to bide his time for revenge.

On Christmas Eve morning, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for George’s brother, Harry. George’s scatter-brained Uncle Billy visits Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds.

He taunts Potter by reading the newspaper headlines announcing the coming tribute. Potter  snatches the paper, and Billy unthinkingly allows the money to be snatched with it.

When Billy leaves, Potter opens the paper and sees the money. He keeps it, knowing that misplacement of bank money will bankrupt the Building and Loan and bring criminal charges against George.

But at the last minute, word of George’s plight reaches his wide range of grateful friends. A flood of townspeople arrive with more than enough donations to save George and the Building and Loan.

The movie ends on a triumphant note, with George basking in the glow of love from his family and friends.

But no critic seems to have noticed that Henry Potter’s theft has gone unnoticed.  (Uncle Billy can’t recall how he lost the money.) Potter is richer by $8,000. And ready to go on taking advantage of others.

Perhaps it’s time to see Potter’s actions in a new light—that of America’s richest 1%, ever ready to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

Justice never catches up with Potter in the movie. But the joke-writers at Saturday Night Live have conjured up a satisfactory punishment for his avarice.

In this version, Uncle Billy suddenly remembers that he left the money with Potter. Enraged, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leads his crowd of avenging friends to Potter’s office.

Potter realizes the jig is up and offers to return the money. But George wants more than that—and he and his friends proceed to stomp and beat Potter to death.

The skit ends with with George and his friends singing “Auld Ang Syne”—as they do in the movie—as they finish off Potter with clubs.

America is rapidly a divided nation—one where the richest 1% lord it over an increasingly impoverished 99%.

The time may be coming when many Americans are ready to embrace the SNL approach to economic justice.

“SPRINGTIME FOR TRUMPLAND”

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 at 12:05 am

Donald Trump has attached nicknames to his many political opponents.

“Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

“Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren

“Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz

“Crooked Hillary” – Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State, now the all-but-confirmed Democratic nominee for President.

Donald Trump

And now he’s picked out another catchy nickname–this time for Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kane, chosen by Hillary Clinton to be her Vice Presidential running mate: “Corrupt Kane.”

Nicknames and ridicule can be powerful weapons. 

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, assessed Trump’s ability to effectively use both.

Related image

David Brooks and Mark Shields

He did so on the May 27 edition of the PBS Newshour.  Said Brooks:

“Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton]. 

“And that’s a word. And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under. It sticks, and it diminishes.

“And so it has been super effective for him because he knows how to do that. And she [Hillary Clinton[ just comes on with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

Hillary Clinton official Secretary of State portrait crop.jpg

Hillary Clinton

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.”

But Democrats can fight back with catchy nicknames of their own: Such as: “Deadbeat Donald,” “Nazi Boy,” “Devious Donald” or “Der Fuehrer.”

So far, only one opponent has managed to verbally stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.

A May 12 story on CNN–“Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump a Dose of His Own Medicine on Twitter”–notes:

“In the past week, the Massachusetts Democrat has refined an aggressive anti-Trump message through a series of so-called tweetstorms.”  

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

On the May 27 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted Warren’s ability to rattle Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trump’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

David Brooks added: “And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like bull-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”

Yet that need not remain the situation.

The Democratic convention could use ridicule to strike a deadly blow against the Presidential ambitions of Donald Trump.

Everyone expects this convention—like all political conventions—to be filled with boring, self-serving speeches. And its purpose—to nominate Hillary Clinton for President—is a foregone conclusion.  

But the message of this convention–the necessity for defeating Trump–need not be forgotten. And it won’t be–if convention planners are willing to do something truly daring and memorable. 

In 1988, Mel Brooks did exactly this with his now-classic comedy, “The Producers.” 

Brooks used this as a vehicle for lampooning the criminality of the Third Reich–and especially that of its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. Especially memorable: Its production number, “Springtime for Hitler.”       

The press has had a field day with Melania Trump’s plagiarizing of Michelle Obama’s speech before the 2008 Democratic convention. 

Facebook and Twitter have been filled with ridicule–such as a “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon image of villainess Natasha Fatale saying: “I write.  But Moose and Squirrel say I copy.”  

So it’s easy to imagine how a staged musical number like “Springtime for Trumpland”–complete with Nazi uniforms–would rage through the Internet. Not to mention make a great TV commercial. 

SPRINGTIME FOR TRUMPLAND  

America was having trouble
What a sad, sad story
Needed a new Leader
To restore its former glory.

Where oh where was he?
Who could that man be?
We looked around
And then we found
The man for you and me.
And now it’s….

Springtime for Trumpland and bigotry–
Trumpland is happy and gay.
Our Leader’s put on a Nazi face–
Look out, here comes the Whiter race.

Springtime for Trump goons and bigotry–
Winter for Reason and Light.
Springtime for Trump goons and infamy–
Come on, Trumpsters, let’s go pick a fight.

I love Trump
My name is Dave
I’ll hunt you down
And dig your grave.

Don’t be stupid
Be a smarty.
Come and join
The RepublicaNazi party.

Springtime for Trump goons and infamy—
Killing is thrilling again.
A-bombs are saving us from toil
Soon we’ll have all the world’s black oil.

Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Prisons are filling once more.

Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Means that soon things will be swell.
You pray they will be swell
You know we’ll be going to HELL

The question remains: Is a political party noted for its cowardly Political Correctness willing to take the plunge?

Most likely, the answer is: No.

TERRORISTS AS VICTIMS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 7, 2015 at 12:02 am

On December 30, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestinians had joined the International Criminal Court to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas 

“We want to complain. There’s aggression against us, against our land. The Security Council disappointed us,” Abbas said at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.

Abbas has plenty to complain about.  The Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas, opened hostilities with Israel on July 7–and promptly lost the war.

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

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

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

Israeli planes retaliated by attacking 50 targets in Gaza.

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

A Hamas rocket streaks toward Israel

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

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

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

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

Only then would Hamas be open to a ceasefire agreement. Egypt offered a cease-fire proposal.  Israel quickly accepted it, temporarily stopping hostilities on July 15.

But Hamas claimed that it had not been consulted and rejected the agreement.

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

As a result, Israel has come under repeated verbal attacks by Hamas-sympathetic nations. The charge: Israel is being too effective at defending itself, killing more Palestinians than Hamas is able to kill Israelis.

Reuven Berko, a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recently addressed this charge in a guest column in the online newsletter, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).

A major reason for so many civilian deaths among Palestinians, writes Berko, is that Hamas turns them into human shields by hiding its missiles in heavily-populated centers.

On July 17, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Far East (UNRWA) discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant UN school in the Gaza Strip.

“UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations,” said the agency in an announcement.

“This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.” UNRWA claimed that “this incident…is the first of its kind in Gaza.”

But Israel counters that this is just one of many proven instances of Hamas hiding its fighters and munitions among a heavily civilian population.

Click here: UNRWA Strongly Condemns Placement of Rockets in School | UNRWA

At the heart of Berko’s editorial is the subject of “proportionality.”

Writes Berko: “Israel is held to an impossible moral double standard. “Israelis, proportionality advocates seem to believe, should be killed by Hamas rockets instead of following Home Front Command instructions and running to shelters, to say nothing of Israel’s blatant unfairness in protecting its civilians with the Iron Dome aerial defense system….

“Anyone who demands that Israel agree to a life of terror governed by a continuous barrage of rockets and mortar shells on the heads of its women and children in the name of restraint and ‘proportionality’ would never agree to risk the safety of their own families in a similar situation.”

war against radical Islam if we can’t even name the enemy?”

Berko points out that during World War 11, the Allies didn’t hesitate to retaliate for the Nazi blitz of London.  In February, 1945, British and American planes firebombed Dresden, killing about 25,000 people.

Nor did America feel guilty about dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, killing about 250,000 civilians.

Summing up his argument, Berko writes: “The ridiculous demand for proportionality contradicts every basic principle of warfare.“

According to American strategist Thomas Schelling, you have to strike your enemy hard enough to make it not worthwhile for him to continue…. “

In the Western world, killing someone in self-defense is considered justifiable homicide.”

Click here: Guest Column: The Double Standard of Proportionality: The Investigative Project on Terrorism

Berko could just as easily have ended his column with the words of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose Union forces cut a swath of destruction across the South in his famous “March to the Sea.”

William Tecumseh Sherman

Wrote Sherman: “Those people made war on us, defied and dared us to come south to their country, where they boasted they would kill us and do all manner of horrible things.

“We accepted their challenge, and now for them to whine and complain of the natural and necessary results is beneath contempt.”

START A WAR, GET BAILED OUT BY THE U.S.

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 13, 2014 at 12:15 am

Here’s some good news for terrorists: You can start a war, be defeated by those you intended to destroy, and America will still reimburse your losses.

On October 12, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States has committed more than $400 million to help Gaza rebuild after Hamas provoked a devastating war with Israel in July.

U.S. Department of the Treasury

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

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

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

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

Israeli planes retaliated by attacking 50 targets in Gaza.

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

A Hamas rocket streaks toward Israel

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

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

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

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

Only then would Hamas be open to a ceasefire agreement.

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

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

A Hamas funeral

The effectiveness of Israel’s response has brought that nation under repeated verbal attacks by Hamas-sympathetic nations.

The charge: Israel is being too effective at defending itself, killing more Palestinians than Hamas is able to kill Israelis.

Reuven Berko, a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recently addressed this charge in a guest column in the online newsletter, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).

A major reason for so many civilian deaths among Palestinians, writes Berko, is that Hamas turns them into human shields by hiding its missiles in heavily-populated centers.

Click here: Guest Column: The Double Standard of Proportionality :: The Investigative Project on Terrorism

On July 17, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Far East (UNRWA) discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant UN school in the Gaza Strip.

“UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations,” said the agency in an announcement.  “This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.”

UNRWA claimed that “this incident…is the first of its kind in Gaza.”   But Israel counters that this is just one of many proven instances of Hamas hiding its fighters and munitions among a heavily civilian population.

Click here: UNRWA Strongly Condemns Placement of Rockets in School | UNRWA

At the heart of Berko’s editorial is the subject of “proportionality.”

Writes Berko: “Israel is held to an impossible moral double standard.

“Israelis, proportionality advocates seem to believe, should be killed by Hamas rockets instead of following Home Front Command instructions and running to shelters, to say nothing of Israel’s blatant unfairness in protecting its civilians with the Iron Dome aerial defense system….

“Anyone who demands that Israel agree to a life of terror governed by a continuous barrage of rockets and mortar shells on the heads of its women and children in the name of restraint and ‘proportionality’ would never agree to risk the safety of their own families in a similar situation.”

Berko points out that during World War 11, the Allies didn’t hesitate to retaliate for the Nazi blitz of London.  In February, 1945, British and American planes firebombed Dresden, killing about 25,000 people.

Nor did America feel guilty about dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, killing about 250,000 civilians.

Summing up his argument, Berko writes: “The ridiculous demand for proportionality contradicts every basic principle of warfare.

“According to American strategist Thomas Schelling, you have to strike your enemy hard enough to make it not worthwhile for him to continue….

“In the Western world, killing someone in self-defense is considered justifiable homicide.”

And now the United States is underwriting–to the tune of $400 million–the losses Hamas incurred in its effort to destroy America’s chief ally in the Middle East.

Apparently, the United States is willing to deplete its treasury for any reason–including financing the losses of its sworn enemies.

AGGRESSORS AS VICTIMS: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

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

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

A Hamas funeral

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

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

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

German soldiers besieging Stalingrad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

German prisoners taken at Stalingrad

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

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

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

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

AGGRESSORS AS VICTIMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

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

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

That expectation proved to be false.

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

Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli planes retaliated by attacking 50 targets in Gaza.

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

A Hamas rocket streaks toward Israel

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

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

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

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

Only then would Hamas be open to a ceasefire agreement.

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

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

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

German soldiers at Stalingrad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OBAMA LOSES, MACHIAVELLI RULES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on September 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

I was thoroughly glad to see the era of George W. Bush come to an end.  He had, I believed, become a terrible liability for America–in both foreign and domestic policy.

In foreign affairs, America had become entrapped in a totally needless war in Iraq.  And by authorizing the use of torture, he had turned the United States into a pariah nation in the eyes of much of the civilized world.

Domestically, he had allowed the sheer greed and arrogance of America’s most powerful corporations to push the nation to the brink of bankruptcy.

So during the early weeks of President Barack Obama’s first term, I sent him a gift: My favorite selections from the two major works of Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince and The Discourses.

Niccolo Machiavelli

I hoped that, on at least some occasions, the new President would find useful advice in the wisdom of the father of political science.

Unfortunately, such has not been the case.

For example:

United Nations officials estimate that more than 6,000 people have died in Syria since fighting erupted in 2011 against the regime of dictator Bashir al-Assad.

During that time, the world made no move to intervene–for a series of excellent reasons.  Among these:

  • Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.
  • There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support.  There is a civil war between rival terrorist groups.
  • Among these: Hezbollah and Hamas (pro-Assad); and Al Qaeda (anti-Assad).

This was the position of the United States as well.

Meanwhile, President Obama said on several occasions that if Assad used chemical weapons against his enemies, that would be “a red line in the sand.”

Then, on August 21, the Assad regime was accused of using chemical weapons in Damascus suburbs to kill more than 1,400 civilians.

On August 30, the Obama administration said it had “high confidence” that Syria’s government carried out the chemical weapons attack.

Having boxed himself in, Obama felt he had to make good on his threat–even if it risked the lives of those flying combat missions over Syria’s formidable air defenses.

He sent Secretary of State John Kerry before TV cameras to express America’s moral outrage at Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

And he positioned six American warships close to the Syrian coast.

On August 31, Obama announced that he would seek Congressional authorization before attacking Syria.  Obama said he was “prepared to give that order” to strike Syria because:

  • Syria’s use of chemical weapons “risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemicals weapons,” and
  • It put U.S. regional allies that share a border with Syria in danger.

It looked as though the United States was about to plunge into its third Middle East war in 12 years.

Then Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his own suggestion for averting war: Syria would agree to put its stocks of chemical weapons under United Nations control.

On September 14, the United States and Russia announced in Geneva that they reached a deal that provided a path for Obama to avoid the air strikes he had promised to launch against Syria.

Suddenly, Obama asked congressional leaders to delay votes on authorizing military action in Syria while the diplomatic process worked itself out.

As “Tonight” show host Jay Leno put it: Obama gave a speech calling for war–and then the rebuttal.

So what does Niccolo Machiavelli have to do with any of this?

In Chapter 19 of The Prince, his guide to successful rulership, he outlines “That We Must Avoid Being Despised and Hated.”

“The prince must…avoid those things which will make him hated or despised.  And whenever he succeeds in this, he will have done his part, and will find no danger in other vices….

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

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

By making a vigorous case for going to war with Syria, and then suddenly reversing himself, Obama has managed to offend everyone:

  • Right-wingers–who hoped to see America plunge into another Middle East war.
  • Liberals–who didn’t want to repeat the 2003 Iraqi war disaster.
  • Syrian rebels–who expected a full-scale American intervention to bring them to power.
  • The Assad regime–which no doubt believes Obama was bluffing.

Unfortunately, history is not a VHS tape that can be rewound.  No one–including Obama–gets a second chance to make a first impression.

By repeatedly showing timidity toward Republicans, Obama had forfeited credibility as a leader to be feared by his domestic Right-wing enemies.

President Theodore Roosevelt famously said: “I have always lived by a South African proverb: Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”

By speaking loudly and then putting his big stick aside, Obama forfeited credibility among his foreign enemies.

INSANITY VS. REALITY – PART THREE (END)

In History, Law, Politics on September 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

THE EMAIL:

  • …Once re-elected, Barack Obama, as confirmed by his willingness to do or say anything and his unscrupulous re-election tactics, would not only threaten government shutdowns but would deliberately withhold payments to those dependent on government support as a means of intimidating and forcing a Republican controlled Congress to surrender to his demands, thus neutering their ability to control the administration through spending constraints.

THE REALITY:

  • Republicans–not Democrats–have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way. 
  • In 1994, during Bill Clinton’s Presidency, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shut down the government because he felt slighted by Clinton on a trip to Israel. 
  • And earlier this year, Republicans threatened to force the United States to default on its loans by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to an extortionate budgetary deal–which expires in December. 
  • When that happens, Republicans will once again pull their extortion routine at the expense of the nation they claim to love.
  • Democrats have never threatened to shut down the government.
THE EMAIL:
  • Further, this administration has shown contempt for the courts by…stonewalling subpoenas and requests issued by Congress.
  • The  Eric Holder Justice Department has become the epitome of corruption as part of the most dishonest and deceitful administration in American history.

THE REALITY:

  • “Fast and Furious”–to which the reference to “stonewalling” alludes– was an operation begun during the George W. Bush administration. It involved allowing guns to be bought by members of the Mexican drug cartels to trace them to the outlaw bands.
  • Such operations–whether begun under Democratic or Republic administrations–are inherently risky and have nothing to do with politics.
  • When they go right the top leaders of the cartel go to prison. When they go wrong, it’s a scandal.
  • This one just didn’t work out.  Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lost control of the firearms–and one of the guns was used to kill a U.S. Border patrol officer.
THE EMAIL:
  • In a second term the arrogance of Barack Obama and his minions will become more blatant as he will not have to be concerned with re-election.
  • Who will be there to enforce the rule of law, a Supreme Court ruling or the Constitution? No one.
  • Barack Obama and his fellow-travelers will be unchallenged as they run roughshod over the American people.

THE REALITY:

  • “Fellow-travelers” is a term used by 1950s Republicans–such as Joseph McCarthy–to mean Communists. 
  • If Obama is a Communist sympathizer–let alone a card-carrying one–this email offers no evidence to prove it.  But then, for the Right, evidence of treason isn’t necessary–only accusation.
THE EMAIL:
  • Judging by his actions, words and deeds during his first term, [Obama] does not intend to work with Congress either Republican or Democrat in his second term but rather to force his radical agenda on the American people through the power he has usurped or been granted.

THE REALITY:

  • During the last three years. Obama has repeatedly sought compromises with Congressional Republicans.  But the Republicans have been the ones refusing to compromise.
  • Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who’s now running for U.S. Senator, perfectly summed up the Republican attitude: “I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”
  • That’s the sort of “compromise” Adolf Hitler understood, but it’s not the sort that’s acceptable in a democracy.
THE EMAIL:
  • …We the American people also must come to grips with this moment in time and our role in denying Barack Obama his lifelong goal of “transforming” us  into his slaves working on his government plantation.

THE REALITY:

It’s hard to imagine Americans’ being enslaved when, because of President Obama:

  • They’re finally able to get healthcare insurance that was previously denied them because of a “pre-existing condition.”
  • They’re able to get such insurance for their children.
  • U.S. forces are finally being recalled from Iraq, where they never should have been sent.
  • American forces are being withdrawn from Afghanistan, where they’ve spent eleven years trying to remake a backwards, alien land into a modern nation.
  • There’s finally legislation to prevent another Wall Street meltdown because of the uncontrolled greed of corporate “leaders.”
  • A massive polluter like BP is called to account and forced to put up money to at least partially repair what it has monumentally spoiled.

But for the Right, black-and-white have always been inverted.  Thus one of the marching songs of Hitler’s black-uniformed SS offered these lyrics:

Clear the streets, the SS marches! 
The storm-columns stand at the ready. 
They will take the road 
From tyranny to freedom…. 

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

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