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THE MYTH OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 17, 2018 at 12:21 am

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

No one should be surprised that Putin came out strongly against an American air strike on Syria.

Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is, after all, a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and  dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

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Putin, of course, is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

He grew up under a Communist dictatorship and clearly wishes to return to that era, saying publicly: “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

So it would be unrealistic to expect him to view the current “Syria crisis” the same way that President Barack Obama did.

(A “crisis” for politicians is any event that can be exploited to increase their own status—and thus power. Few politicians really care about the “human rights” of other nations—unless promoting this issue can empower themselves and/or their own nation. 

(President Ronald Reagan, for example, often wailed about the Soviets’ oppression of the Polish union, Solidarity—while firing hundreds of unionized air traffic controllers who went on strike.)

(A “crisis” for the media is any event that can be exploited for higher ratings.)

In his September 11, 2013 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • It was used by “opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”

But it was the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Vladimir Putin

This is the belief that the United States is unlike other nations. That it is unlike other nations in its innocence and steadfast dedication to human rights above all else.

Citizens of nations whose governments have been overthrown by the United States—such as Chile, Iran and Nicaragua—and replaced with brutal dictatorships would strongly disagree.

Referring to then-President Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

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President Barack Obama

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.”  As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”?  Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa once made an observation that clearly applies to this situation.

Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of meaning, focusing on the relation between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that when a person hears a message, he has four ways of responding to it:

  1. Accept the speaker and his message.
  2. Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  3. Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  4. Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 in the recent case of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2018 at 1:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, wrote that there are three periods of danger in a conspiracy:  

  • Dangers in organizing the plot
  • Dangers in executing the conspiracy
  • Dangers following the execution of the plot.   

The first two were covered in Part Two of this series.  Now, as to the third:

Dangers following the Execution of the Conspiracy: There is really but one—someone is left who will avenge the murdered prince. These can be brothers, sons or other relatives, who have been spared by negligence or for other reasons. 

But of all the perils that follow the execution of a conspiracy, the most certain and fearful is the attachment of the people to the murdered prince. There is no remedy against this, for the conspirators can never secure themselves against a whole people. 

An example of this occurred in the case of Julius Caesar, who, being beloved by the people, was avenged by them.  

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Julius Caesar 

Machiavelli closes his chapter “Of Conspiracies” with advice to rulers on how they should act when they find a conspiracy has been formed against them.  

If they discover that a conspiracy exists against them, they must, before punishing its authors, strive to learn its nature and extent. And they must measure the danger posed by the conspirators against their own strength.

And if they find it powerful and alarming, they must not expose it until they have amassed sufficient force to crush it. Otherwise, they will only speed their own destruction. They should try to pretend ignorance of it. If the conspirators find themselves discovered, they will be forced by necessity to act without consideration.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

The foregoing was taken from Book Three, Chapter Six, of Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses on Livy, which was published posthumously in 1531. But elsewhere in this volume, he notes how important it is for rulers to make themselves loved—or at least respected—by their fellow citizens: 

Note how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an empire, conformed to her laws like good princes, than those who took the opposite course. 

Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus and Marcus Auelius did not require the Praetorians nor the multitudinous legions to defend them, because they were protected by their own good conduct, the good will of the people, and by the love of the Senate.

On the other hand, neither the Eastern nor the Western armies saved Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and so many other wicked Emperors from the enemies which their bad conduct and evil lives had raised up against them.  

In his better-known work, The Prince, he warns rulers who—like Donald Trump–are inclined to rule by fear:

A prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.

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Donald Trump

* * * * *

If Trump is aware of Machiavelli’s warnings, he has shown no signs of it.

Most Presidents have sought to make themselves seem friendly and caring toward their fellow Americans.

This held true even for Richard M. Nixon, when he made an impromptu visit to the Lincoln Memorial and engaged in a rambling dialogue with Vietnam war protesters. 

The encounter happened around 4 a.m. on May 9, 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia. Nationwide outrage had exploded on college campuses, climaxing in the killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4.  

So young Vietnam antiwar protesters who had descended on Washington, D.C. were startled when Nixon suddenly appeared in their midst.

Even more startling: He had come with only a small number of Secret Service agents and his devoted White House valet, Manolo Sanchez.

Nixon, in his awkward way of trying to establish rapport, asked some of the students where they were from. When they said they attended Syracuse University, Nixon replied that it had a great football team.  

But Nixon and the protesters were separated by too many differences–in their views on sexuality, civil rights, dissent and war—to find common cause.

Still, Nixon at least made an effort to understand and reach an accommodation with his critics.

Since taking office on January 20, Donald Trump has made none.

Instead, he has:

  • Held a series of “victory rallies” with his Right-wing followers—which comedian Bill Mahrer calls “hillbilly Nurembergs.” 
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges who struck down his travel ban on Muslims.
  • Called the nation’s most prestigious news media “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Slandered truthful stories about his staffers’ ties to Russian Intelligence agents as “fake news.”
  • Falsely accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him.

These and other infamous actions have led to only 45% of Americans approving of his performance—while 52% disapprove. 

By Machiavelli’s standards, Trump has made himself the perfect target for a conspiracy: “When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 11, 2018 at 12:19 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, authored The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice.  

And so will those who wish to foil such a conspiracy.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Writes Machiavelli:

For conspirators, there are three ways their efforts can be foiled:

  • Discovery through denunciation;
  • Discovery through incautiousness;
  • Discovery through writings.

Discovery through Denunciation: This occurs through treachery or lack of prudence among one or more conspirators.  

Treachery is so common that you can safely tell your plans to only your most trusted friends who are willing to risk their lives for your sake.  You may find that you have only one or two of these. 

But as you are bring more people into the conspiracy, the chances of discovery greatly increase. It’s impossible to find many who can be completely trusted: For their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment.  

Discovery through Carelessness: This happens when one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a third person overhears it  Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when a conspirator tells the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person.  

When a conspiracy has more than three or four members, its discovery is almost certain, either through treason, imprudence or carelessness. 

If more than one conspirator is arrested, the whole plot is discovered, for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements.  

If only one is arrested, he may—through courage and stubbornness—be able to conceal the names of his accomplices. But then the others, to remain safe, must not panic and flee, since this is certain to be discovered.

If one of them becomes fearful—whether it’s the one who was arrested or is still at liberty—discovery of the conspiracy is certain. 

The best way to avoid such detection is to confide your project to your intended fellow conspirators at the moment of execution—and not sooner.  

A classic example of this occurred in ancient Persia: A group of nobles assembled to discuss overthrowing a usurper to the throne. The last one to arrive was Darius.

When one of the conspirators asked, “When should we strike?” Darius replied: “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all. For I will not give any of you time to denounce me.”

At that, they went directly to the palace, assassinated the usurper and proclaimed Darius their new king.

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Discovery through Writings: You may talk freely with anyone man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

Thus, you should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.  

If you are denounced, there are means of escaping punishment:

  • By denying the accusation and claiming that the person making it hates you; or
  • Claiming that your accuser was tortured or coerced into giving false testimony against you.

But the most prudent course is to not tell your intentions to anyone, and to carry out the attempt yourself.  

Even if you’re not discovered before you carry out your attack, there are still two dangers facing a conspirator:

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

  • An unexpected change in the routine of the intended target;
  • The lack of courage among the conspirators; or
  • An error on their part, such as leaving some of those alive whom the conspirators intended to kill.  

Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have a sixth-sense for danger, was famous for changing his routine at the last minute. 

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Adolf Hitler

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He had been scheduled to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers. 

But that evening he cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Conspirators can also be doomed by their good intentions.  

In 44 B.C., Gaius Cassius, Marcus Brutus and other Roman senators decided to assassinate Julius Caesar, whose dictatorial ambitions they feared.

Cassius also intended to murder Mark Anthony, Caesar’s strongest ally. But Brutus objected, fearing the plotters would look like butchers, not saviors. Even worse, he allowed Anthony to deliver a eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.

This proved so inflammatory that the mourners rioted, driving the conspirators out of Rome. Soon afterward, they were defeated in a battle with the legions of Anthony and Octavian Caesar—and forced to commit suicide to avoid capture and execution.

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2018 at 12:01 am

In the 1973 movie, The Day of the Jackal, a methodical assassin devises an ingenious plan to kill French President Charles de Gaulle.  

Despite the best efforts of French security forces to entrap him, he eludes them time and again—and comes within an ace of assassinating de Gaulle.

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The Day of the Jackal is fiction, based on a 1971 novel by Frederick Forsythe. In real life, most would-be political assassins lack the skills and sophistication of Forsythe’s anti-hero.

Take the case of the man who, on March 18, 2017, jumped over a bicycle rack outside the security perimeter of the White House. Within two minutes, agents of the U.S. Secret Service had tackled and arrested him.

Then, hours later, a motorist drove up to a White House checkpoint and claimed to have a bomb. Secret Service agents immediately arrested him and seized the stolen 2017 Chevrolet Impala. After a careful search, no explosives were found.

Both men will face criminal prosecution—and probably years in prison.

Even if they had been armed, President Donald J. Trump would not have faced any danger.

For the fifth time since taking office on January 20, he was in Florida, vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

That does not mean, of course, that future assassins will prove so inept.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, offered sound advice for would-be conspirators—and for rulers seeking to thwart conspiracies.

Niccolo Machiavellil

Niccolo Machiavelli: When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing the prince is widely loathed. 

A prince, then, should avoid incurring such universal hatred….

By doing this, he protects himself from such vengeance-seekers. There are two reasons for this:

(1) Men rarely risk danger to avenge a wrong; and

(2) Even if they want to avenge a wrong, they know they will face almost universal condemnation because the prince is held in such high esteem.  

So much for Machiavelli.  

Now consider some of the tweets of “White House Staffer,” a self-proclaimed member of the Trump administration who claims 160,000 Twitter followers.

Since January 27, 2017, he has blasted a series of short, information-crammed tweets about daily life in the Executive Mansion.  

[NOTE: Although I can’t confirm the legitimacy of his status or his tweets, I believe they are real. They contain too many small, intimate secrets of life in a paranoia-laced White House to not be genuine.]  

March 1, 2017: Well the good times didn’t last long here. POTUS is back to flipping out on us.

March 13: POTUS [President of the United States] is thinking about suspending daily press briefings until the media “learn to be nice.” [Steve] Bannon [a top Trump adviser] is pushing for it.

March 16: Sean Hannity was asked to be Press Secretary last week. He turned it down because he didn’t want to take the pay cut. [Sean] Spicer survives.

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Donald Trump

Niccolo Machiavelli: He who is threatened, and decides to avenge himself on the prince, becomes a truly dangerous man.

Anger is most likely aroused by injury to a a man’s property or honor. A prince should carefully avoid injuring either, for such a victim will always desire vengeance.  

White House Staffer – February 25, 2017: The President keeps saying we’re a finely tuned machine. If that’s true why has he been fricking screaming at us all week? He’s losing it.

February 27: [Steve] Bannon is the scariest person here. He’s broken so much White House stuff by throwing it in anger. Plates, phones, chairs, etc.

February 27: It’s one thing to swear but [Steve] Bannon does it in front of the women here. C**t this, c**t that. He can’t finish a sentence without it.  

Machiavelli draws a distinction between plots and conspiracies. A plot may be formed by a single individual or by many. The first isn’t a conspiracy, since that would involve at least two participants.  

A single plotter avoids the danger faced by two or more conspirators: Since no one knows his intention, he can’t be betrayed by an accomplice.  

Anyone may form a plot, whether he is prominent or insignificant, because everyone is at some time allowed to speak to the prince. And he can use this opportunity to satisfy his desire for revenge.    

On the other hand, says Machiavelli, the dangers of assassination by a trusted intimate are slight: Few people dare to assault a prince. Of those who do, few or none escapes being killed in the attempt, or immediately afterward. As a result, only a small number of people are willing to incur such certain death.  

Those who take part in a conspiracy against a ruler are “the great men of the state, or those on terms of familiar intercourse with the prince.”

These are men who have access to him. Julius Caesar, for example, was stabbed to death by members of the Roman Senate, who feared his assuming dictatorial powers.

And Adolf Hitler was conspired against by colonels and generals of the German Army. He was in fact holding a war conference when a briefcase bomb exploded, killing three officers and a stenographer, but leaving Hitler only slightly injured.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2018 at 12:10 am

On February 18, 2012, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the Right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs.

“It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)
  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13)

A modern-day stoning–in Somalia

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. 

The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). 
  • This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels. This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.

The sun

  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God.  Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession.  Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention–as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens.  With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

* * * * *

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2018 at 12:03 am

Bernardo Gui was the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s). 

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

Here’s how such an interrogation might go:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

Interrogator: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

Accused Heretic: (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks….But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

Men like Bernard Gui—and Franklin Graham—do not seek a golden future. They crave to return to a “golden” past—which includes the power Christians once held to forcibly impose their religious beliefs on others.

Among those slated for forced conversions by the Religious Right:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

To gain absolute secular power over the lives of their fellow Americans, the Religious Right will support any candidate, no matter how morally despicable. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, evangelicals—and their leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.—fervently supported Donald Trump, despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

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Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

And they continue to fervently support him.

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—-by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. 

Legislation such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

Islamic countries are notorious for their persecution of non-Muslims. Now the Religious Right wants to impose its own version of sharia law on American citizens.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2018 at 12:23 am

American Right-wing elements relentlessly claimed that President Barack Obama was waging “a war on religion.”

GOP candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney intended to make this a major theme of their respective campaigns for President.

Obama supported a woman’s right

  • to obtain abortion—including in cases of rape and incest;
  • to obtain birth control; and
  • to obtain amniocentesis (pre-natal testing).

By promoting women’s rights, Obama was “waging a war against religion”—according to American fascists.”

Since access to such medical procedures as birth control and pre-natal testing has long been entirely legal, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s simple: The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose reactionary religious beliefs on religionists who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have less in common with Jesus Christ than with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498), the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada—claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church—presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

Tomas de Torquemada

Nor did these unfortunate victims of religious fanaticism meet their death quickly or painlessly. They died by perhaps the cruelest means possible—by being burned alive at the stake.

Torquemada didn’t hesitate to pronounce someone a heretic. He “knew” who such people were. They were Jews, Muslims, atheists. They were “lapsed Catholics” who, in his view, failed to show fervent devotion to the religious authorities—like himself—who tyrannically ruled their lives.

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

But before the fire-stakes came the fire-mindset: The arrogance of “knowing” who qualified as “saved” and who would be forever “damned.”

Unless, of course, his or her soul had been “purified” by fire.

“Heretic” burned at the stake

Fundamentalist Christians can no longer sentence “heretics” to the stake.

But the mindset that ruled the Spanish Inquisition has not disappeared. It has been vividly displayed by no less a religious authority than Franklin Graham, son of America’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham

Appearing on the MSNBC program, “Morning Joe,” on February 21, 2012, Graham was asked if he thought that Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney qualified as Christians.

On Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

On Santorum: “I think so. His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

On Gingrich: “I think Newt Gingrich is a Christian, at least he told me he is.”

On Romney: “Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith. They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.”

Thus, Graham pronounced as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich. He also gave a pass to Santorum, who married a woman who had lived “in sin” with an abortionist for six years.

But he unhesitatingly damned a longtime churchgoer like Obama or a devout Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Six years later, in 2018, Graham defended President Donald Trump, a notorious womanizer and multiple-adulterer, against charges that, in 2006, he had slept with porn star Stormy Daniels.  

“I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect.”

This differs greatly from his position on President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

It’s easy to imagine Graham transported to the French city of Toulouse in the 14th century. And to imagine him wearing the robes of Bernardo Gui, the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s).

Bernardo Gui

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such an interrogation might go. The following is taken from that manual:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.” 

This is not a dialogue between equals. The Inquisitor literally holds the power of life or agonizing death over the man or woman he is interrogating.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2018 at 12:08 am

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist in Saudi Arabia, decided to celebrate the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a truly unique way.

Hamza Kashgar

In early February, 2012, he posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and Muhammad:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

“No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets sparked some 30,000 infuriated responses. Many Islamic clerics demanded that he face execution for blasphemy.

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because…I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

Soon afterward, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then King of Saudi Arabia, ordered his arrest.

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud January 2007.jpg

Saudi King King Abdullah 

Kashgari fled to Malaysia, another majority-Muslim country. He was quickly arrested by police as he passed through Kuala Lumpur international airport. Three days later, he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups feared that he would be executed for blasphemy, a capitol offense in Saudi Arabia.

After nearly two years in prison, Kashgari was freed on October 29, 2013. Kashgari used Twitter to inform his supporters of his release.

Outrageous? By Western standards, absolutely.

Clearly there is no tolerence in Saudi Arabia for the freedoms of thought and expression that Americans take for granted.

Meanwhile, Right-wing American ayatollahs are working overtime to create just that sort of society—where theocratic despotism rules the most intimate aspects of our lives.

One of these is the former GOP Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. In early January, 2012, he said that states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court.

Rick Santorum

In an interview with ABC News, Santorum said he opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling that made birth control legal:

“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception]. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a Constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have.

“That’s the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court—they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide.”

In the landmark 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law that made it a crime to sell contraceptives to married couples. The Constitution, ruled the Justices, protected a right to privacy.

Two years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended Griswold by striking down a law banning the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples.

Santorum has left no doubt as to where he stands on contraception. On October 19, 2011, he said:

“One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘“Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also…procreative.

“That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act….And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.”

“How things are supposed to be”—according to Right-wing fanatics like Santorum and the evangelicals who support them.

Like the Saudi religious religious zealots who demand the death of a “blasphemer,” they demand that their religious views should govern everyone. That means Jews, Catholics, Islamics, atheists and agnostics.

American Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists fervently agree on the following:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

The important difference—for Americans who value their freedom—is this:

The United States has a Supreme Court that can—and does—overturn laws that threaten civil liberties. Laws that GOP Presidential candidates clearly want to revive and force on those who don’t share their peculiar religious views.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The same holds true—in a democracy—for candidates who seek dictatorial power over their fellow citizens. Don’t give them your consent.

INFAMY REVISITED—AMERICA’S CARROT CALIGULA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2018 at 12:07 am

The first six months of Gaius Caligula’s reign were successful and popular.

After that, wrote his biographer, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus: “So much for Caligula as emperor; we must now tell of his career as a monster.”

Gaius Caligula

Among his litany of crimes, according to Suetonius:

“He forced parents to attend the executions of their sons, sending a litter for one man who pleaded ill health, and inviting another to dinner immediately after witnessing the death, and trying to rouse him to gaiety and jesting by a great show of affability.

“He had the manager of his gladiatorial shows and beast-baitings beaten with chains in his presence for several successive days, and would not kill him until he was disgusted at the stench of his putrefied brain.”

Donald Trump has never been charged with murder. But during his second Presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he previewed the dangers of a Trump Justice Department: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”

Donald Trump

Nor did he limit himself to making threats against Democrats. On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”

Caligula’s egomania soon reached psychotic heights.

  • He  gave himself several surnames: “Pious,” “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”
  • Flattered that he had risen higher than princes and kings, he began to believe himself a god.
  • He appeared at the temple of Castor and Pollux to be worshiped as Jupiter Latiaris.
  • He also set up a special temple to his own godhead.

Trump’s egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them—52%—bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.”  

Among the references he’s made to himself: 

  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” 
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
  • “My IQ is one of the highest–and you all know it.”

When Caligula wasn’t ordering wholesale Stalin-like purges–ranging from Roman aristocrats to slaves–he was setting new records for debauchery.

According to the Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus: “He lived in habitual incest with all his [three] sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above. Of these he is believed to have violated Drusilla when he was still a minor.”

Trump has never been charged with incest, but he’s repeatedly made sexually inappropriate comments about his daughter, Ivanka:  

  • “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …”
  • When Trump appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, he was joined on stage by Ivanka. After they kissed, Dr. Oz said: “It’s nice to see a dad kiss his daughter.” Trump: “I kiss her every chance I get.”  The remark was edited before the show aired.
  • When asked how he would react if Ivanka, a former teen model, posed forPlayboy, Trump replied: “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”  
  • “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her. Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall, she’s got the best body.” 

I

Ivanka Trump

For all his cruelty and egomania, the trait that finally destroyed Caligula was his joy in humiliating others.

His fatal mistake was to taunt Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Among the groups Trump gratuitously insulted during the 2016 Presidential race:

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War
  • Journalists
  • Celebrities
  • Ordinary citizens

The number of people, places and institutions Trump has insulted is so extensive The New York Times compiled a list of 273 of them.  

Before taking office as President, Trump added to this list the United States Secret Service. He did so by keeping his longtime private security force, and combining its members with the elite federal agency.

By marginalizing the Secret Service, he clearly sent the insulting message: You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you. 

It remains to be seen if Trump suffers the final fate of Caligula.

INFAMY REVISITED—AMERICA’S CARROT CALIGULA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2018 at 12:21 am

Donald Trump has reigned as the 45th President of the United States since January 20, 2017.

But even many Republicans secretly believe he’s better-suited for the role of Gaius Caligula. It was Caligula who, as the mad emperor of Rome, once said: “Bear in mind that I can treat anyone exactly as I please.”

Gaius Caligula

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women.

The remarks came during a 2005 exchange with Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood (and now host of Today).

The two were traveling in an Access Hollywood bus to the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, where Trump was to make a cameo appearance.

Neither Trump nor Bush could be seen during the exchange–the video focuses entirely on the bus. But the audio came in clearly–and, for Trump, damningly:

Donald Trump: You know and I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it.  I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump: No, no, Nancy. No this was—and I moved on her very heavily, in fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.

I took her out furniture. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

[At that point, they spot Adrianne Zucker, the starring actress in Days in Our Lives.]

Donald Trump

Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple. Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

Trump: Look at you. You are a pussy. Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s her. It’s—

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything. 

When the Washington Post broke the story on October 7, the reaction was immediate—and explosive.

This was not a testosterone-fueled teenager fantasizing about making love with a girl he adored.

This was a 70-year-old man bragging about having used deceit to try to lure a married woman into bed.  And about having used his celebrity status to force himself on other women. 

“Grab them by the pussy.  You can do anything.”

Gaius Caligula himself couldn’t have said it better.

Caligula lived 29 years and ruled Rome three years, 10 months and eight days. When he died, his reign of depravity and terror died with him.

Today, millions of Americans fear a similar fate will sweep their country under Donald Trump.

Caligula’s life spanned August 31, 12 A.D. to January 24, 41 A.D. His chief biographer was Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.

Related image

Trump was born on June 14, 1946.

Caligula became Emperor in 37 A.D. after succeeding the Emperor Tiberius, his uncle who had adopted him as a son after his father died.

Trump was elected President on November 8, 2016, after winning 304 electoral votes to 227 for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. He rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.

Caligula’s reign began well—and popularly. He gave Tiberius a magnificent funeral—then recalled to Rome all those whom Tiberius had banished, and ignored all charges that Tiberius had leveled against them.

He gave bonuses to the military and destroyed lists of those Tiberius had declared traitors. He allowed the magistrates unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire—hotels, golf courses, casinos, skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. He named many of them after himself.

He appeared at the Miss USA pageants, which he owned from 1996 to 2015. He hosted and co-produced The Apprentice, an NBC reality television series from 2004 to 2015.

The ancient historians describe Caligula as a noble and enlightened ruler during the first six months of his reign. But in October 37 A.D. he fell seriously ill or perhaps was poisoned.

Caligula soon recovered but emerged a changed man. He began laying claim to divine majesty, and killing or exiling anyone he saw as a threat. He ordered a tribune to murder his brother Tiberius, and drove his father-in‑law Silanus to cut his throat with a razor.

He favorite method of execution was to have a victim tortured with many slight wounds. His infamous order for this: “Strike so that he may feel that he is dying.” 

Trump hasn’t been charged with murder. Yet he has repeatedly boasted: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

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