DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

That famous quote from 1961 belongs to Yogi Berra, all-star catcher for the New York Yankees, and was made in the context of on-going baseball events. Yogi had a way of mangling the English language, (or in this case, the French) but in a humorous fashion that sports writers loved to quote. If you’re interested, you can Google for other Yogisms. The trouble is, however, when deja vu keeps occurring in the unfolding events of mankind, it no longer becomes funny, but instead takes on tragic proportions. And the funny part is how it keeps happening over and over and over again.  Today, we have history repeating itself, with devastating consequences, but with hardly anyone seeming to learn from the lessons of the past. Let us then try to understand how and why this is occurring.

I’ve written many times before about how Adolf Hitler and his Nazi thugs came to power in Germany in the the 1930s, and the ensuing consequences  for the rest of Europe; but the 1930s so closely parallel today’s world events, that it bears repeating. Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1932, largely through the democratic process. But upon taking office in 1933, Hitler swiftly abolished all semblances of freedom and democracy in Germany, as well as any future elections, and became dictator for life. If you opposed his regime, it was off to the concentration camps, or you were just simply executed. In contravention of the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI, Hitler started to militarily re-arm Germany, soon after he took office. If the French had sent troops into Germany at that point, as they were legally obliged to do by the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler could have been quickly deposed, WWII could have been avoided, and 60 million deaths in Europe as a result of that war would have also been avoided. But the French did nothing but just stood by as the Nazi military grew in strength. After all, who wants to undergo the messiness of war when one could luxuriate in peaceful endeavors. So, seeing that both France and England were essentially paper tigers, Hitler made his next move in early 1938 by invading and swallowing up Austria. The pretext was that Austria was a German speaking nation, so they should have belonged to Germany all along. Never mind that Austria was a separate country with its own government; it now became part of the Third Reich. That event came to be known as the Anschluss, as the Allies (France, England, and now the U.S.) rationalized Hitler’s aggression as being no big deal. A policy of appeasement with Nazi Germany could forestall military engagement. Or so it was thought.

Hitler, now convinced that all of Europe was his for the taking, in 1938 moved his Nazi war machine into northern Czechoslovakia, again on the pretext that most of its inhabitants were also of German ethnicity. This time, the leadership of France and England started to become “concerned.” A conference was arranged in Munich, Germany between Hitler and Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, of England and France respectively. The Munich Conference, as it came to be known, would go down in history as the ultimate failure of a policy of appeasement when dealing with aggressor tyrants.  A pact was signed there in Munich on that day in 1938, that allowed Hitler to retain the spoils of his adventurism in Austria and northern Czechoslovakia as long as he committed no further acts of aggression. After the conference, Chamberlain came home to cheering crowds in London and proclaimed he had achieved “peace in our time.” The British were in ecstasy because they wanted so much to believe this was true. Daladier also returned to Paris and was similarly greeted by mobs of elated Frenchmen at Orly Airport. But Daladier didn’t delude himself. He knew that a long, bloody war was just around the corner. Looking haggard and sleep-deprived as he gazed upon the cheering mobs, he was heard to mutter-“the damn fools.”

The ink was no sooner dry on the Munich pact than Hitler moved his troops into the rest of Czechoslovakia and gobbled up the entire country. Might as well, since nobody was around to stop the Nazi war machine. France and England continued to look the other way. The U.S. Congress continued to follow a policy of strict isolationism, despite President Roosevelt’s desire to become militarily engaged. It wasn’t until 1939, when Hitler formally invaded Poland, that the Allies were forced to come to terms with the fact that WWII was officially underway, and they had better deal with it quickly. By that time, it was almost too late. In the East, the Nazi army drove to the very gates of Moscow. If Russia had fallen, all of Europe would have been under Nazi rule, except for Britain, and the British were hanging on by their fingernails. The German Luftwaffe was bombing London on a daily basis, until it was mostly a pile of rubble. It was only the long, bitter cold Russian winter that stalled the Nazi onslaught in the East, and allowed the Red Army to regroup and begin to push back against German troops. In England, Neville Chamberlain was quickly thrown out of office and replaced by Winston Churchill who rallied the British to engage in a stout-hearted defense of their homeland. But it wasn’t until U.S. forces finally entered the war in late 1941, that the tide began to turn in favor of the Allies. At the height of WWII, the U.S. would have 10 million troops fighting in both Europe and the Pacific, at an horrendous cost of lives and treasure. So much for waiting until the last minute to do what has to be done.

Now comes the deja vu part as we fast forward to present day. In Europe today, there is another tyrant who is on the move against his neighboring countries. This time it’s, of course, Vladimir Putin, the Godfather, or Boss of Bosses who rules Russia with an iron fist. For over a year now, he has decided to slice and dice neighboring Ukraine, annexing chunks of it into what he hopes will be another Russian or Soviet empire. The first chunk he bit off was Crimea, a sizable portion of what was once the Ukraine. France, Germany, Britain and the U.S. pretty much stood by and proclaimed that well, that’s how the cookie crumbles. The Allies did put into effect some mild economic sanctions against some of Putin’s cronies, but none have had any significant results. Next, Putin began supplying Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine with heavy weapons as they battle government forces that are trying to prevent the eastern part of their country from falling under Russian domain, as the Crimea has. Russian troops, undercover, have also joined the battle with the separatists.  Thousands have already died as the war continues to rage. So last week, the PMs of both Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, schlepped to Moscow to sign a peace accord with Putin that was supposed have put an immediate cease-fire into effect in the Ukraine. But once again, the ink was was barely dry on the accord when vicious fighting broke out and hundreds of government forces were slaughtered. Sounds a lot like Munich to me. Deja Vu. All over again.

All the while, the consummate evil of terrorism in our time continues to spread. Isis, Al-Qaeda, Boko Harem, Taliban or whatever you want to call these mass serial killers, are on the march and growing stronger. They’ve officially spread their wings in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, and to a some extent in Jordan and Egypt. If the U.S. and its European allies struck militarily against these barbarians now, i.e. by putting boots on the ground, instead of just engaging in token bombing raids, destruction of these terrorists is within reach at a relatively small cost. Every day that we hesitate, however, they grow stronger and the cost of confrontation becomes more expensive and deadlier. But, after all, who wants to become engaged in an all out war. It’s so much messier that the peaceful pursuits we’re all engaged in. Who needs that. As I said, it’s deja vu. All over again.

 

 

 

 

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AND ….THEY’RE OFF AND RUNNING

Probably, over 99% of Americans living outside of New York state have never heard  of George Pataki. Within the state of New York, perhaps about a quarter of the population still remembers that he was governor from 1995-2006. A pretty fair governor to be sure, but nothing that would set off a cavalcade of fireworks. Nevertheless, Pataki, at age 69, is putting together an exploratory committee to determine the feasibility of seeking the GOP nomination for president in 2016. His chances of success are about the same as mine if I ran for president. And why would anybody really want the job. Just the thought of having to deal with Congress would make me nauseous. Sure, there’s the fun stuff like getting to fly on Air Force One, or playing at elite golf courses, or hosting lavish state dinners. But every now and then the president has to deal with serious items such as combatting terrorism, Iranian nuclear ambitions, and budget and tax issues. The Obama presidency has seemed to focus more on the fun side such as playing golf, and as little as possible on world affairs such as the Ukrainian civil war and other other crises. But who needs all those headaches. I would probably do the same in Obama’s shoes.

In any event, with the election still more than a year and a half away, the race for the Republican nomination has attracted more than a dozen players, some whose chances of success are about as ludicrous as George Pataki’s. First off, like the ghost of Christmas past, Mitt Romney returned to the political arena figuring that the third time had to be a charm. It seemed for awhile that despite his losses in 2008 and 2012, His Mittness still had enough popularity amongst the GOP rank and file to secure the nomination for 2016. But as I’ve written many times before, financing is the name of the game in buying an American election, with the winning candidate usually being the most costly that money can buy. In our faux democracy, if a potential candidate can’t raise at least tens of millions of dollars, just for openers, he or she is usually toast. Romney did have huge money supporters until former Florida governor Jeb Bush figured that it would be a neat idea to follow the family heritage and become Bush number three to occupy the Oval office. When that happened Romney’s big money donors decided that the Busch name still had more commercial value than that of a previous two-time loser, and they swung over to Jeb’s side. Once Romney lost his major donors he knew it was all over, and time for him to get out of the game. The problem is, however, that Jeb Bush might be a tad too rational and sane to satisfy the looney-tunes element of the GOP which continues to grow even larger and more powerful.

The Rush Limbaugh faction in the Republican Party has focused on a number of potential candidates (excluding Jeb Bush) that would satisfy their far-right ambitions to basically destroy what’s left of the non-military portion of the U.S. government. First off, there are the holdovers from the 2012 Republican debates, such as Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania who is still seeking to criminalize social affairs such as birth control, abortion and gay marriage; as well as bible thumper Rick Perry, ex-governor of Texas, who couldn’t remember, last time around, all the government departments he would eliminate upon becoming president. Then their are new figures that  have lunatic fringe especially enthralled. One is Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, who pretty much was able to destroy public worker unions in Wisconsin that state employees belonged to, by taking away their rights to collective bargaining. He had to face a recall election because of that action; but thanks to heavy financing by the Koch brothers (whom I’ve written about before), Walker won the recall and is now the darling of the far, far right. He’s being hailed as another Ronald Reagan, their all-time favorite hero. With heavy money interests starting to galvanize in his direction, I would not discount Walker’s chances of securing the Republican nomination.

Of course he would have to contend with others that even the lunatic fringe considers lunatics, such as Rand Paul from Kentucky and Ted Cruz from Texas, who also have strong presidential ambitions. And, for the dingbat faction of the GOP, which is also growing in strength, there is always Sarah Palin who has mumbled something about entering the fray. I think more than half the fun of watching this circus unfold, would be lost if Sarah Palin didn’t have a go at the nomination. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, was thought to have a shot for awhile, but his balloon seems to be deflating. Again, he seems to possess too much of that sanity thingy to be a viable GOP candidate. But, if you want irrationality,  there’s always Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, who traded in his Hindu heritage for a strict brand of fundamental Catholicism, and who would also criminalize abortion and gay rights. And the beat goes on with a slew of more aspirants, each seeking to outdo the others in their extremist views.

If the Republican side of the coin has an over-abundance of candidates striving for the presidency, the Democratic side has decided to put all their eggs in one basket; which, of course, belongs to Hillary Clinton. Which is a very dumb idea to begin with. First of all, Hillary will be 69 in 2016 and has had health issues that could raise a number of red flags. Secondly, Hillary has enough political baggage to fill every flight leaving out of JFK for a month. Republicans, who are so much better than Democrats at practicing the politics of personal destruction, would immediately jump on husband Bill’s personal foibles from the 1990s and blame them all on Hillary. Already, they are printing up bumper stickers that say: “Monica Lewinski’s ex-boyfriend’s wife for president.” You can be sure that all of Bill Clinton’s prior misdeeds would be dredged up all over again. Also the Benghazi fiasco, where 4 Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, were slain by terrorists on Hillary’s watch as Secretary of State, would be thrown in her face. Add to that, the fact that Hillary isn’t exactly the most dynamic or charismatic candidate around, and you can see that the Democrats are in a real pickle. The problem for the Democratic Party is, however, that they have such a thin farm system, who else could they nominate that would have a viable chance of winning the presidency.

My prognosis is that the election of our next president is the Republican candidate’s to lose. Which wouldn’t be the first time that they’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Think back just to 2012 when Mitt Romney should have won by at least 10-15 points. In any event, it will be a fascinating spectacle to watch along the way, as the political scene unfolds over the next 18 months in our pretend election process.

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A VACCINE AGAINST STUPIDITY?

There’s been a lot of news, lately, about children coming down with measles because their parents refused to protect  them through vaccination against this sometimes deadly disease . A recent outbreak of measles that occurred in children visiting the Disneyland theme park in California was attributed to the fact that many of those in attendance at the park spread the infection to others simply because they remained unvaccinated. To make matters worse, the issue was then demagogued by 2 high profile Republican politicians, each desperately seeking the GOP nomination for president in 2016. Both Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, and Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky both made similar pronouncements regarding the sudden outbreaks of of an affliction that is 99% preventable through inoculation. Each politician stated that it should be within the parent’s prerogative as to whether to allow their children to receive disease-preventing vaccinations. Never mind that children are far too young to be knowledgable enough to make such decisions. And that both men made sure to have their own children receive the full regimen of available immunizations against all preventable diseases.

Christie made his remarks because he fears that the right-wing looney-tunes element within the GOP is large enough to deny him the nomination if he appears in favor of too much common sense regarding rational decision-making. Which, unfortunately, it is. After all, you can’t have the government controlling the populace through a program of mass vaccinations, or some such fantasy, as their thinking goes. Christie later tried to walk back his comments regarding parental prerogatives in this area by pointing out that his children had all their vaccinations, but the damage was done regarding his flight into looney-tunesville. As for Rand Paul, he’s a resident in good standing within the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, so his comments were not a problem. But he’s also a physician, so, as I’ve said, he had his own children fully inoculated. But it brings up the larger issue of why parents are willing to travel into a parallel universe of delusional paranoia by denying their children, who are supposedly their most precious possessions, essential inoculations to protect them against some very ugly diseases.

Let’s start with the bible-thumpers. Those who are fanatically devoted to what they think is the will of God, as expressed in both the old and new testaments, are likely to avoid having their off-spring vaccinated. The fact that both bibles were 100% written by flesh and blood humans with zero input from God is of no concern to these zealots. The fact that it took committees of men over a period of centuries to decide what to include in the new testament, and more importantly, which of the many writings to exclude, is also of little concern. If it’s not dictated in the bible, it’s not going to happen. In 2013, two such zealot parents from Philadelphia were arrested and subsequently convicted of murder because they allowed their two young children to die from pneumonia (on separate occasions) rather than seek medical treatment. A common anti-biotic could have saved both children’s lives. But the parent’s religious fanaticism would not allow for outside medical assistance. One can only wonder how the human mind can become so warped.

The next category of reality deniers are parents, mostly mothers, who allow themselves to be conned by junk-science, and thereby come to fear for the safety of inoculations. As a phenomena of our times, it has come to pass that many well-educated mothers have come to believe that the medical community urging them to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping-cough is lying to them. But a has-been model and sometimes actress such as Jenny McCarthy, who tells them on afternoon TV talk shows that vaccinations cause autism must know what she’s taking about. I guess it’s due to Jenny’s impressive medical credentials and advanced degrees in micro-biology. In any event, in these days of over-dependence on electronic gadgetry and social networking, McCarthy knows that if she can plug her celebrity status into social media, her opinions will create an electronic torrent that will be virtually impossible to stop. The theory, however, that inoculations are somehow linked to autism in children has been thoroughly debunked in one scientific study after another. So who should we believe- the opinions offered by a fading model or the proof offered by the scientific community.

Not all vaccination deniers come, however, from bible-thumpers, government-haters or those conned by the electronic media. There’s a group of relatively wealthy elitists who usually support left-wing causes that also refuse to allow inoculations for their off-spring, because the vaccines are artificially produced in factories, and for the purpose of earning a profit. Vaccines must be either worthless or harmful if they’re chemicals manufactured on the assembly line, in companies beholden to their stock owners, rather than coming from plants grown in nature. And organic plants preferably, i.e. those plants harvested without the use of chemicals during the growing process. Such as organic poison ivy, or organic poison oak.  In some of California’s most affluent neighborhoods, school teachers have started noticing that between 5-10% of their students are showing up in class without the necessary inoculations. There’s no discrimination between poverty and affluence, apparently, when it comes to self-delusion over immunization.

When I was in high-school during the early 1950s, the polio epidemic was raging through America. I watched as a girl on my block in Brooklyn came down with this affliction and had to be transported from her house into an ambulance with the use of an iron lung. I gave thanks that it wasn’t me. Polio is an especially nasty infection wherein the virus usually invades the spinal column and paralyzes its victim for life. Everyone, at the time, literally prayed for a remedy. So when doctors Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin finally developed an inoculation against this disease, a huge sigh of relief could be heard throughout the land. People stood in line for hours to receive the vaccination as quickly as possible. But that was then and this is now. That was before people allowed themselves to get dumbed-down by the electronics revolution and social networking. When scientific discovery still had merit and value in the American psyche. Before Americans allowed their brains to become mush by that which was supposed to have made us smarter.

It leads one to believe that the next great scientific challenge is to develop a vaccine that prevents stupidity, especially when taking the necessary actions to enhance one’s health and well-being. That would really be the jackpot of all immunizations. I guess, however, that one can only wish.

 

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AUSCHWITZ, 70 YEARS LATER

Even after 70 years, pronunciation of the word still evokes feelings of terror, alarm, and revulsion among civilized societies. Even after 70 years, the full scope of the horror and atrocities committed there has not been totally documented. Last week, January 27th to be exact, marked the 70th anniversary since the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by Russian troops. There was a major ceremony that day at the camp, with dignitaries from nations around the world in attendance. Camp survivors numbering about 300 now were also there, with some giving testimony as to the nature of their hellish experiences. A decade ago there were 1500 survivors in attendance at the 60th anniversary ceremony, but slowly their numbers continue to dwindle. The youngest of the remaining survivors is now in their late 70s. The buildings and gas chambers are empty now in the dreary cold; but to their credit, about 1.5 million tourists are visiting the Auschwitz every year to experience first hand, the epicenter of the human capacity to perform total, undiluted evil. An evil that could not have been perpetrated by Hitler and his Nazi thugs alone, without the willing accomplices of tens of thousands of civilian bureaucrats that organized and shipped all the logistics to that camp, including the poison gas that killed so many. As if they were manufacturing and shipping clothing to a department store. The banality of evil, as some have called it.

Auschwitz is located in northern Poland and was part of a network concentration and extermination camps built by the Nazis starting in September 1941, that included nearby Birkenau. The camps were built in response to Hitler’s “final solution” regarding European Jews, which was their total annihilation. A system of of railway tracks brought trains filled with supplies into the camps on a daily basis. The Holocaust murdered 6 million European Jews, 1.1 million of whom were killed at Auschwitz. Thanks, in large part, to the efforts of tens of thousands of faceless bureaucrats that came into play. Another 100 thousand people, mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime, or Gypsies, were also slaughtered there. Auschwitz was staffed by about 7000 Nazi goons, but only a small handful of higher ranking officers were ever brought to justice. The rest of the murderers lived out their lives un scathed by the Allied justice system. One officer, Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz, was captured by the British in March 1946, brought to trial, and hung for his crimes in 1947. Mass murder, torture and starvation were not the only crimes committed at Auschwitz. Nazi criminals such as Dr. Josef Mengele performed gruesome medical experiments on on prisoners which usually resulted in their agonizing deaths. As I’ve written before, Mengele escaped the Allies dragnet, and made his way to South America after the war, ending up in Brazil. He supposedly drowned while swimming off the coast off Brazil in 1979.

Life at Auschwitz usually began at 3 in the morning when all prisoners had to come out into the yard for attendance. Even the ones that died during the night. After shivering for 4 hours in the freezing cold, Nazi troops would arrive at 7 AM to take roll call. All prisoners had to be accounted for, even the dead ones. If any were found missing, troops were promptly sent out to search for them. Almost all potential escapees were eventually hunted down and immediately shot to death. Those prisoners that weren’t dispatched to the gas chambers were given grueling work to perform all day, with little or no food. Starvation in the concentration camps was endemic. When supreme allied commander Dwight Eisenhower and his forces entered Auschwitz a few days after the Russians, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The Nazis had fled and left behind a few thousand prisoners that were like walking skeletons. Piles of corpses lay everywhere. Eisenhower stated that it was like descending into the pits of Hell, and that it made him ashamed of his German heritage.

With the destruction of the Third Reich in 1945, the anti-semitism that had prevailed in Europe for 2000 years, and that gave rise to the Nazi empire, was supposedly laid to rest. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi thugs could not have achieved their spectacular successes in evil domination and mass murder, if hatred and persecution of Jews had not been ingrained into the fabric of the European psyche for the past 2 millennia. Along with the many pogroms against Jews during that period. So it seemed that Jew-hating in Europe during the decades after WWII was finally discredited and became a thing in the past. But in actuality,it was just laying low, waiting for the opportune time to rise again. Now after 7 decades, it’s re-gaining its sea legs. The new rise of anti-semitism in Europe, is, in reality, just a return to the norm. The past persecution and pogroms against Jews were always the norm until the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly where-in anti-semitism became socially unacceptable. The hiatus is over, however.

The killings of 4 Jews at a kosher food store in France a few weeks ago only gained prominence because it was done in conjunction with the murders at Charlie Hebdo. But the previous murders of a Rabbi and 3 school children in Toulouse garnered virtually no world-wide attention. Nor do terror attacks against Jews that have now become common in many other European nations. There are movements all across Europe (and most prominently, with our supposed allies) to boycott Israeli products, or even to expel in-country Jewish populations. It has now become respectable again in Europe to despise Jews. No more hiding in the shadows. European anti-semitism is not a Jewish problem, however. It’s a European problem, a stain on the human condition, a continent-wide disease that Europe is congenitally unable to rid itself from. And the size of this tumor continues to grow.

Hatred for any group based on their religion, skin color, ethnicity or for any other reason always occurs when the group in question is a minority. It’s the bully’s mentality at play. Among school children, the bully and his gang can always beat up a defenseless kid to compensate for their feelings of self-loathing. Among adults, the bully mentality transforms into hatred and discrimination for some minority group that similarly is in no position to take on the much larger majority. Another insidious aspect of the human condition.

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DO CRY FOR ME, ARGENTINA

At the beginning of the 20th century, the economies of both the United States and Argentina we’re almost identical in terms of production, output and wealth of their citizenry. During the next century, the U.S., despite its many problems, would soar to become the number one economic power in the world, far ahead of number 2 which is China. The economy of Argentina, however, during this time period, went slip-sliding down to 25th place among the nations of the world. Even Columbia, a much smaller country has a more vibrant economy. How to account for such a dramatic divergence? After all, Argentina is a large nation with an abundance of natural resources and a well educated populace. Blame it on the failings of the democratic process, which I’ve written about extensively before, wherein voters made bad decisions which led to corrupt leadership, which in turn led to disastrous results. All of this came to a head last week with the murder of a high ranking government prosecutor that was made to look like a suicide. I’ll get to that in a little bit.

Argentina’s downhill momentum started to gather steam around the time of WWII. For inexplicable reasons, Argentina, as well as most South American countries, sided with the axis powers during that war, instead of with the U.S. and its allies. Perhaps it was jealousy of U.S. successes or beliefs that the U.S. was treating the rest of the Americas rather shabbily. Which it probably was. In any event, most of South America sympathized with the Nazis during WWII, and became a safe haven for Nazi war criminals to flee to after the war. Argentina was no exception, and was the country that housed Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi commandant of the entire Holocaust operation. Israeli agents eventually captured Eichmann and smuggled him out of Argentina to Israel, where he was tried for crimes against humanity, found guilty, and hung. Nevertheless, bad choices in Argentina began to multiply after the war and send that country well into its downhill descent.

It started with the election of Juan Peron as president shortly after WWII ended. Peron, formerly a high ranking official in the Argentine military, began to operate his presidency by bribing the country’s elite and its peasants into supporting him. Corruption was the name of the game. He ran the country very much the way Vladimir Putin rules over Russia these days, i.e. Mafia-style, with Putin, and back then, Peron, being the boss of bosses. The god father. The generals and admirals in the Argentine military especially had to receive generous bribes in order for Juan to maintain power. A few crumbs were tossed to the mostly poverty-stricken masses in order to keep them in line. And behind Juan’s throne stood his overly ambitious wife, Eva, who thirsted for the acquisition of even greater power. Yes, the same “Evita” from Broadway musical and Hollywood movie fame who sang “don’t cry for me Argentina.” However, Eva’s dreams of succeeding her husband as president and becoming, in effect, dictator, were cut dramatically short when she developed cancer and died at an early age.

Of course, once bribery and corruption had become epidemic, the Argentine economy started to significantly falter. It got to the point that even the military couldn’t take it anymore even though they continued to receive generous handouts. Finally in the mid-1950s, Juan Peron was thrown out of office in a military coup, and fled to Spain who agreed not to toss him in the clink. But the Peronista movement continued to stay alive in Argentina, and Peron was eventually returned to the throne in the 1970s, this time with new wife Isobel. Juan died in office shortly thereafter, and Isobel took over the reins of government, and continued on with the same style of Peronista corruption. Succeeding presidents after Isobel were also mired in similar Peronista mediocrity and failure.

Now fast forward to June 1994 when 8 Iranian supported Hezbollah terrorists were allowed to infiltrate into Argentina. They made their way to Buenos Aires and proceeded to bomb a Jewish community center on a busy day. In what the New york Times called the greatest act of murder against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, 87 people were slaughtered that day with over 100 more seriously injured. Over the succeeding years, feeble attempts were made by the Argentine government to bring the perpetrators to justice; but all efforts failed abysmally. In the meantime, in a replay of the Juan and Eva Peron fiasco, the Argentine people elected another power couple to run the country, who were also devout Peronistas named Nestor and Christina Kirchner. The year was 2003 and the Argentine economy had sunk to the point where government bond holders were being stiffed when they tried to redeem their bonds. Now one might believe that if people were that stupid as to invest in Argentine bonds, they got what they deserved. Nevertheless, receiving, say, 15 or 20 cents on the dollar at bond redemption time is never a pleasant occurrence.

When Nestor was unable to run for the presidency again because of constitutional limitations, the office was merely handed over to wife Christina who remains in power to this day. Living the dream first sought after by Eva Peron. Nestor Kirchner died of a heart attack in 2010, leaving the reins of government solely in Christina’s hands. Once in power, Christina nationalized the country’s largest airline, wrested control of billions of dollars of private pension funds and put them into government coffers, and waged battle with farmers protesting huge tax increases that paralyzed agricultural exports for months. Even as the economy continued to sink. Now she has become virtual dictator so good luck with trying to remove her from office.

Meanwhile a young government prosecutor named Alberto Nisman never gave up on attempting to bring the terrorists behind the Jewish community center bombing to justice. By last week he had amassed 300 pages of evidence and testimony naming who the killers were, that he was going to present to the courts on last Monday. Except that the day before, he was found dead in his apartment of a gunshot wound to the head, with the pistol lying next to his body. The evidence was purported to show that Christina and her administration had been seriously obstructing the investigation for years, in return for price-discounted Iranian oil and an agreement that Iran would but Argentine grain. At first Kirchner claimed that the death was a suicide. This was so ludicrous that social networks like Twitter and Facebook lit up like a bonfire. Finally Christina had to walk back her statements and proclaimed that she did not believe that Alberto Nisman committed suicide. She blamed his death on unknown bad guys lurking out there somewhere.

Nisman’s evidence did make it to the courts and it does show a continual obstruction of justice by the Kirchner government. But with Christina entrenched in a virtual dictatorship, good luck with anyone being incarcerated for this deadly crime. More evidence of how the democratic process could go horribly wrong when people make really, really bad choices.

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RE-LEARNING THE LESSONS OF HISTORY

When Jesus walked the Earth over 2000 years ago, the Roman Empire was at its zenith. Ruled by its emperor Augustus Caesar, (who was ultimately responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus), the Roman Empire covered virtually all of Europe including England, North Africa (now called the Mid-East), and Western Asia. Its power and military might was considered almost invincible, as it mercilessly and brutally ruled over conquered lands. To challenge the mighty Roman army was considered a suicide mission. Rebellion against Rome in in countries they ruled was often brutally suppressed with the opposing fighters usually crucified or slaughtered outright, or captured and sold off into slavery. Women were also put on the market for slaves or as concubines and prostitutes. In essence, conquered lands were considered primary sources of free labor or sexual slavery.

Rome, as the most advanced civilization at that time, also had acquired superior technology that was unknown by  other nations on this planet. The Roman government had built an extensive system of aqueducts that brought purified water to the homes of mainly the rich and elite. Advanced plumbing systems, roads and bridges were also being put into place. The Roman Colosseum was built to provide entertainment, such as watching gladiators being torn to shreds by hungry lions, again, primarily for the amusement of the upper classes. (Parts of the Colosseum still exist today as a tourist attraction for visitors to Rome.) But even at the height of its power, cracks began to develop in the foundation of the Roman Empire. Romans started to become soft and lazy, fixated only on the indulgence of usually depraved pleasures and sensuality. An estimated 32,000 prostitutes littered the streets of Rome. Subsequent emperors to Augustus Caesar, over the centuries, such as Nero and Caligula, became infamous for spending huge amounts of resources on lavish parties, where guests drank and ate themselves into almost a coma-like state. Diseases became rampant because of all the prostitutes and beggars living on the streets. Alcoholism was at epidemic proportions. So was political corruption. New, incoming emperors had to bribe the Army for a chance at the throne. If the bribe wasn’t enough, they would be thrown out of office or just murdered outright. During the 100 years starting in 186 A.D. Rome had 37 emperors, 25 of whom were assassinated.

Economic problems also started to multiply. Business owners who had to hire workers couldn’t compete with those that were able to acquire slave labor. Inflation started to skyrocket because once Rome ran out of nations to conquer, the supply of gold into the economy began to sharply decrease. The government had to lessen the amount of gold being put into its coinage, which made the coins less valuable. Eventually, the coins had so little gold that most merchants began to use a barter system. Then there was a growing disparity between the powerful and rich elite, and the rapidly disappearing middle class. (Sound familiar.) In addition, military spending to defend the Empire’s vast borders from barbarian hordes also greatly drained government resources. Finally, the government could not provide sufficient goods for its growing population. It was no longer conquering other civilizations and using their technology as well as their people for slaves. In fact, Rome began actually losing territory it could no longer maintain with its legions.

The final nail in the coffin came from the barbarian hordes I just mentioned. They consisted primarily of the Huns, Vandals, Goths and Visigoths, that came mainly out of what is France and Germany today. They were the terrorists of that era, envious of Rome’s wealth, (compared to the miserable poverty they were forced to live in), and determined to destroy the Roman Empire. The barbarians knew they couldn’t defeat the powerful Roman army in a face-to-face battle; so, as is the case of today’s terrorists, they resorted to acts of sabotage and gratuitous murder. They would attack outlying villages in remote corners of the Empire, that Rome could no longer defend, and murder all the men and children, and carry off the women as sexual slaves. At least those women they were attracted to; the others would also be killed. Then they would sack the village and burn it to the ground. While this was happening, Romans, over the centuries had become soft and lazy, with the rich being so heavily involved in debauchery that they had lost all desire for war. There was no will left to even defend themselves from the oncoming barbarian hordes that were marching toward the gates of Rome. So the government began the practice of hiring mercenaries to wage war on these various germanic and franco tribes. The trouble with using mercenaries, however, is that they’re usually willing to offer their services to the highest bidder. Thus, it was not unusual for these mercenaries to switch sides once they got a better offer from the barbarian terrorists  they were originally sent to destroy.

Finally after centuries of economic dysfunction, political corruption, eroding social conditions,  debauchery among the rich and powerfully connected, and a plain lack of will toward self-defense, the Roman Empire collapsed before the invading barbarians hordes. Historians put the final overrun of Rome by germanic and franco tribes as occurring in 476 A.D. From then on, roads and bridges throughout the former Roman Empire were left in disrepair and fields were left untilled. Pirates and bandits made travel unsafe. Cities could not be maintained without farm products, as trade and businesses began to disappear, because the Roman Empire was no more in the West. Europe then fell into the bleak and sorrowful period known as the Dark Ages, that lasted more than a thousand years, before reformation finally began to put civilization on a path to recovery.

So how is this relevant in today’s word. Today, we have a new set of barbarians at the gates of Western civilization, known as the Islamic-Fascist Jihadists. I’ve written previously and extensively before about the bottomless pits of evil that terrorist groups such as Boko-Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaida crawl out of to commit murder and mayhem. The latest outbreak being the murder of 17 innocent people in Paris last week, supposedly because of religious offense to unflattering cartoons of the prophet Muhammed. Think about it. People are actually being slaughtered because of cartoons in a newspaper. But the key question is whether the U.S. and its allies have the will to take on these present day barbarians and destroy them while it can still be done on the cheap. Or have we become too soft and lazy, or too intoxicated by our current pleasures and indulgences to wage meaningful combat against these cutthroats. Have our political and economic systems become too corrupt to engage in a meaningful battle to protect the gates of civilized behavior. Perhaps we should hire mercenaries to do our fighting since it worked so well the last time.

Every day we fail to take meaningful action, the Jihadists become stronger and the battle becomes more costly. The token bombing raids we initiated against ISIS in Iraq and Syria have had virtually no effect as the terrorists have expanded the territory they now occupy. Present leadership in the U.S. appears to be too dysfunctional and polarized to initiate a meaningful war against Islamic fascism, while Europe appears to have the same level of corruption and malaise, or lack of willpower, about going to war, as the Romans did when faced with their terrorism threats. If Western civilization falls again to the barbarians, the Dark Ages will reappear for at least another thousand years. Will you still be playing with your I-Phones when that takes place?

 

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SOBERING UP

Well, at long last the holiday festivities are coming to an end. The champagne corks have all been popped, the midnight fireworks all exploded, the Christmas lights and ornaments are being stuffed back into cartons, the trees have been taken to the curb for trash pickup, and most Americans are soberly returning to work or school. Is there any more mournfully sobering day of the year than the Monday after all the holiday festivities are over with. New Year’s resolutions, most dealing with diet and exercise, go into play now on this Monday. Have to try to take off that excessive weight gained by eating every piece of crap put in front of us from Thanksgiving  thru New Years. To say nothing of the calories consumed by binge drinking. Unfortunately, if the experience of past years is any indication, most of these good intentions regarding the reduction of calorie intake and working out harder, will crash and burn before the end of January, or during February at the very latest. Has to do mostly with that “talking to the man in the mirror, and asking him to change his ways” thingy that Michael Jackson sung about. Not an easy task to accomplish.

In any event, as American soberly get back into the groove of their normal lives, the world remains an exceedingly dangerous place, populated by a lot of exceedingly bad people anxious to create further murder, mayhem and destruction. While the rest of us were partying and not paying attention, these people and groups have, if anything, grown stronger and more murderous. So perhaps, as part of the sobering up process, we need to start focusing on these groups, and maybe, actually, do something about them. I thought, therefore, I might mention just a few contingents and what they are up to.

Let’s start with an Islamic fundamentalist group of Jihadists operating out of Nigeria called Boko Haram, which loosely translated, means “Western education is forbidden.” They became prominent on the world stage, when, in 2014, they kidnapped 200 Nigerian school girls to great global consternation. Boko Haram attacks towns and villages with impunity, and murders many its residents. Its specialty is mass kidnappings of boys and young men that can then be brainwashed into joining their ranks and become Jihadist warriors. And of girls to become the wives/slaves of these warriors. Just this past week they abducted 40 hostages from a town in Northeast Nigeria. Unfortunately, the Nigerian government and military are too hopelessly corrupt and incompetent to effectively deal with these Jihadist cutthroats. A multi-African task force consisting of troops from Chad, Niger, and Nigeria recently did battle with, but were soundly defeated by Boko Haram. Which indicates that the Jihadists are confident and strong enough to take on even an organized military force and beat them.

So Nigeria has, of course, asked for U.S. assistance. As I’ve said, the Nigerian government is hopelessly corrupt and inept, but the U.S. has no good alternatives. A collapse of of Nigeria’s military, as bad as they are, would virtually turn the whole country over to Boko Haram. The calamity of human suffering and death, in such an event, would be on a par of what’s occurring in Syria these days. So far the U.S. has made only token commitments. In actuality, it would take U.S. boots on the ground in Nigeria to wipe out this vipers nest of Jihadists. A commitment that our present Administration would highly disfavor. After all, who wants to view Americans coming home in body bags from fighting in some jungle hellhole in Africa. So we essentially do nothing while Boko Haram grows stronger by the day.

An almost identical scenario is playing out in the Mid-East where a group of murderous cutthroats called ISIS has now taken over major portions of Iraq and Syria, and is on the march. ISIS came on the scene also in 2014, with its speciality being cutting off the heads of innocent victims they had captured. Originally an off-shoot of Al Qaida, ISIS displays the same fanatical Islamic Jihadism as Boko Haram in presenting the world with its unique brand of death, destruction and misery. In this instance, our present Administration has engaged in a daily air campaign of trying to bomb ISIS out of existence, but has experienced minimum success. It’s almost impossible to defeat a determined enemy such as ISIS with air strikes only. Once again it would take a large infusion of American ground forces to win this war, because, as in Nigeria, the Iraqi and Syrian governments are too hopelessly corrupt, inept, and pathetic to decisively engage ISIS. But, since putting American boots on the ground in the Mid-East will not happen because Americans are too fed up from previous wars such as these, ISIS will keep expanding, as thousands more die from their barbarism.

In the late 1930s, as the the Nazi war machine in Europe was growing more powerful with each passing day, as was the Japanese imperial military as it rampaged through the Pacific, Americans sat back and stated there was no need for the U.S. to get involved in all this messiness. After all, we had 2 huge oceans to protect us from all the nasty businesses of war taking place throughout much of the rest of the world. Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and we were sucked into 2 wars, like it or not. We were so militarily unprepared, that if Japan had followed up bombing Pearl Harbor by invading our west coast, the Roosevelt Administration believed we couldn’t defend this country, until we would possibly make a last-ditch stand at Chicago. About two-thirds of the country would have automatically been ceded to the Japanese in order to possibly defend the remaining third. And even that was likely to fail. Japan didn’t realize, until after the war was over, what a golden opportunity it had to defeat us right after Pearl Harbor, had it been more adventurous. But because the U.S. had taken an isolationist stance and didn’t get involved early on, over 60 million people died in Europe alone from Nazi fanaticism and brutality. To say nothing of the millions that were killed in the Pacific by the Imperial Japanese military.

Today, we still have the opportunity to take out, relatively cheaply, the fanatical Islamic Jihadists on the march in Africa, the Mid-East, Asia and other locations. But do we have the necessary will to initiate unpopular war-like actions. Apparently not. Such messiness, with all those American young men and women coming home in body bags. Who needs it? After all, we’re protected from all those nutcase terrorists by 2 huge bodies of water. Aren’t we?

 

 

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A BOTTOMLESS PIT

In May 1974 a group of Palestinian terrorists entered Israel from Lebanon, and made their way to the Israeli town of Ma’alot. Over a period of days they murdered several Israelis and then entered an Israeli public school. Heavily armed with grenades and bombs as well as guns, they took 115 hostages, mainly school children, and demanded that a bunch of Palestinian terrorists sitting in Israeli jails be released. Israel refused to accede to their demands and the hostage crises dragged on for 2 days. Finally an elite squad of Israeli troops burst into the school and killed the Palestinians; but not before the terrorists had murdered 25 hostages, 22 of which were school children. Proving once again that the capacity for evil in the human condition is a bottomless pit.

I was reminded of this event when a couple of weeks ago, Taliban terrorists burst into a Pakistani school and slaughtered 150 people, a 132 of which were also school children. The concept behind this act, according to the Taliban mindset, was to have the parents grieve and suffer miserably for the rest of their lives, due to the loss of their most precious loved ones. Here it was a case of Muslims killing other Muslims because of ideological differences. The Taliban are fanatical Islamic terrorists, and those that don’t share their lunatic religious beliefs are fair game for slaughter. It’s the type of religious fanaticism that has given the world the recently formed ISIS terrorists who now control large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and are on the march to expand their empire. They love to feature beheadings of civilians they consider apostates, all in the name of being faithful to Allah. How many people over the centuries and millennia have lost their lives in the name of religion, by those who believe they’re invoking God’s will here on Earth.

So here we are on Christmas Eve when the world is overflowing with bright lights and gifts and all sorts of merriment and festivities, to say nothing of goodwill toward man. At least that’s the way it’s portrayed in most of the Christian world where Christianity is heralded as a religion of peace and love. And today, that religion that was begun by a  young Jewish Rabbi and his impoverished disciples over 2000 years ago does, for the most part, preach peace and love. But it wasn’t always so. One only has to go back to the Spanish Inquisition a few centuries ago when mostly Jews, but some Muslims also, were tortured or burned at the stake, in the name of Jesus, in order to save their souls. After all, isn’t that what God would have wanted.

Actually, Europe has a rich history of Christian hatred toward Jews going back  almost two millennia since the Roman Empire destroyed the state of Israel and dispersed its Hebrew residents into mainly various European countries. Almost from the beginning of the rise of Christianity in Europe, Jews were called “Christ-killers” and subjected to intense hatred and discrimination throughout the continent. Never mind that Jesus himself was a Jew, and had always preached a philosophy of peace. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” I believe is one of his more famous proclamations. All this was obviously ignored, as a series of pogroms against Jews throughout most of Europe was begun and continued through the centuries. Pogroms were where people got up in the morning and decided it would be great sport to set upon the town’s Jewish population, either killing or robbing them, or sending them into exile. It was rare to find a European that wasn’t anti-semitic, and persecution of Jews was the name of the game.

The end result of all this anti-semitism throughout the ages was finally the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich in Nazi Germany and the ensuing Holocaust. Hitler, and his band of Nazi thugs, could not have thrived as well as they did had not Europe experienced a rich heritage of hatred toward Jews. The Holocaust could not have been as successful as it was, i.e. the murder of 6 million innocent people, had not hundreds of thousands of Germans, as well as people in the conquered countries, participated so willingly in the logistics of shipping millions of people to death camps, and manufacturing the chemicals necessary to cause their deaths. Indeed, Hitler’s intense hatred of Jews was itself a product of the anti-semiticism and persecution of Jews that Europe had experienced since the rise of Christianity. Virtually all Europeans had been brainwashed into believing that anti-semitism was really a good thing.Talk about the bottomless pit of evil in the human condition.

With the destruction of the Nazi empire in 1945, Europeans were supposedly being cured of of their anti-semitic beliefs. After all, they had experienced, first hand, the death and destruction those instincts had caused. But Jew-hating amongst Europeans never really went away; it just became more covert. It was no longer fashionable for Europeans to express out loud how much they despised Jews. But those that were able to overhear conversations among young like-minded Germans or other those in other countries, recognized that the affliction of anti-semitism was still thriving in the European blood-stream. In recent years, anti-semitism has moved from the shadows into the open once again in Europe, especially since the disparate number of deaths that occurred in the latest shootout between Israel and Gaza. Several European countries have now called for boycotts of all Israeli products as well as other harmful sanctions. Mass protests against Israel in most European countries have become routine.

For anti-semitisim, or any hatred toward any religious or ethnic group to thrive, two things have to occur. The first is that the group you’re venting your hatred for has to be a small minority, and thus, incapable of defending itself in the long run against the larger, more powerful majority. The second thing is that the hater must despise some aspect of him or herself, and thus seeks to deflect that self-hatred by seeking vengeance against a relatively defenseless minority. Thus, the bottomless pit of evil begins with self-loathing.

In any event, it’s Christmas Eve, so by all means go out and have your Christmas dinners, drink to excess, exchange gifts and party on. For some people, however, this won’t be possible. People that are lying in hospitals, too sick to get out of bed. People that will die tonight. And people that are unfortunate enough to live in those parts of the world overrun by by religious fanaticism and terrorism. The very bottomless pit of evil.

 

 

 

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FROM SLAVERY TO FERGUSON AND BEYOND

To better understand the tumultuous riots taking place in many American cities due to the recent killings of young black men by white cops, one needs to go back in time, to almost 400 years ago, and the beginnings of slavery in the Americas. Because what happened in Ferguson, and Staten Island, and Cleveland, (where the black victim was only 12) can be directly linked to decisions and actions initiated by by our earliest settlers in North America. Historians place the origins of slavery in the North American territories as beginning in 1619, or not long after the first pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. It was the discovery of tobacco in Virginia and Kentucky, and what a valuable commodity it turned out to be, especially for export back to England and the rest of Europe, that set the whole process in motion. That’s when people of European descent, whose skin color was pinkish-beige, decided that great profit could be gained by enslaving people of African descent, whose skin color was ebony-toned, to grow and harvest this commodity. Free labor enabled those early settlers to charge rock bottom prices for tobacco and still make a handsome profit. Huge profit was also made by ship owners willing to sail to Africa and round up defenseless natives and return them to the Americas for sale at auctions. If some potential slaves died during the voyage back, due to being confined in the most squalid and filthiest quarters, and thereby contracting various diseases, well, that was just part of the cost of doing business. Charge it off to overhead.

With the discovery of the cotton gin, early in the 18th century, growing and marketing cotton turned out to be an even more profitable venture than tobacco, and the demand for slave labor increased significantly. Cotton was largely grown on Southern plantations where the weather was almost always hot an humid, similar to conditions in Africa. The slave trade mushroomed, and would not be discontinued until the early 19th century. By then there were so many millions of slaves in the U.S., that there was little need to import any more from Africa. Slaves on the cotton plantations usually worked from sun-up to sundown, at least 6 days a week. They were housed in tiny shacks with dirt floors, and fed barely edible slop that no plantation owner would allow his wife to put on his own dinner table. Their work in the hot, humid cotton fields was usually overseen by a white foreman, who would not spare the whip if he felt they weren’t working hard enough. They could be shot and slaughtered like cattle, if they somehow displeased the foreman or plantation owner, with no legal consequences. So if you ever wonder why there is still so much residual anger among so many black citizens, you might give a thought back to those wondrous days of yesteryear, when slavery was in full bloom.

And it didn’t just exist in the United States. England had a thriving slave market for working the sugar plantations on British colonies in the Americas, such as in Jamaica and British Honduras, (known today as Belize.) Finally, toward the middle of the 19th century, movements began forming in this country, that denounced the practice of slavery as being so morally reprehensible, that it must be totally abolished. The Abolitionist movement began growing in strength, and it resulted in the nullification of slavery in all Northern states. But the South refused to budge on this issue; and it was backed up by our Supreme Court in the infamous Dredd Scott decision in the 1850s, which ruled that the practice of slavery was permitted by the state’s rights clause of our constitution. We all know what ensued after that. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 resulted in a massive Civil War between the North and South with hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln in 1862, and later codified by passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 finally freed blacks from the horrors and degradation of slavery forever in this country, after almost 250 years. But did it really? Well, not so much, as we shall see.

Lincoln made one fatal mistake, regarding this issue when he decided to run for re-election in 1864. He picked as his Vice-Presidential running mate, a Senator from Tennessee named Andrew Johnson. This man was a racial bigot in every conceivable way; but Lincoln chose him because he was one of the few prominent Southerners who opposed the South from seceding from the Union. Remember that Lincoln’s primary objective was to hold the Union together, and the abolition of slavery was secondary. When Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Johnson, of course, ascended to the Presidency. Under Johnson’s regime, white Southern politicians were allowed to establish a series of race-based segregation laws known as Jim Crowism. Schools, factories, restaurants, lunch-counters, housing, public bathrooms and water fountains, etc. were all strictly segregated. Poll taxes and other discriminatory laws made it virtually impossible for blacks to vote in national or local elections. If any “uppity” black person sought to challenge these laws and customs, the was always the Ku Klux Klan to act as enforcers, usually through public lynchings. Because he had allowed all this to transpire, the House approved articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson; but the Senate, by one vote, refused to convict and remove him from office. Hence, blacks in the U.S., if not technically enchained by formal slavery, were forced to live in a state of semi-slavery, or Jim Crowism,  for the next 100 years.

It wasn’t until the tumultuous 1960s that massive protests against Jim Cow laws and customs began to take place. In the 1950s that the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, finally outlawed segregated schools. But schools did, in in fact remain mostly segregated, until the 1960s; when led by a young Reverend out of Alabama named Martin Luther King, passive resistance and peaceful protest marches against Jim Crow laws and customs began occurring. King had actually adopted the passive resistance methods used by Ghandi to free India from British shackles in the 1940s. After huge peaceful and sometimes violent demonstrations during the 1960s the walls of segregation and Jim Crowism finally began to come tumbling down. Civil rights legislation was passed affecting voting rights, employment and housing practices, and many other areas where blacks had been denied equal opportunities by Jim Crow. The President pushing for these civil rights for blacks was, ironically, another Southerner named Johnson. This time it was Lyndon Johnson from Texas. So it seemed that blacks were on their way to achieving the same equal rights and opportunities as whites and other minorities. Somewhere along the way, however, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Because of 350 years of slavery and semi-slavery, most blacks were ill-prepared to mesh seamlessly into a mostly-white dominated society. Today, inner-city slums that are rife with drugs, prostitution, and crime are almost totally populated by the black and Latino communities. Black household income is, on the average, 40% lower than comparable white households. Blacks, although comprising about 12% of the U.S.population, make up about 38% of the U.S. prison population.Unemployment for young black men is more than double what is for young white men. Black on black crime, especially in the inner cities, is at horrific levels. I believe that all the anger and rage emanating from the white police killings of black men has a lot to do with the feelings that many blacks have of being second class citizens. They’re fed up and refuse to take it any longer.

The election of a black President in 2008 was supposed to have healed most racial wounds and scars that have occurred over the past 400 years. Instead race relations in this country have been frozen into prior and current recriminations. Since Barack Obama was elected, there has been a steady stream of invective and vitriol hurled on a daily basis at the first black President and the first black Attorney-General of the U.S. by the right-wing of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh, on talk radio that I wrote about previously, bellowed on his program that “I WANT HIM TO FAIL” before Obama was actually sworn into office. Now, who could possibly infer that there has been anything racist going on.

I won’t pass judgement on the Grand Jury findings in the cases of the 3 killings of black men by white police. Except to say that I’m still naive enough to believe that all the evidence was carefully weighed, without racial bias, in reaching their conclusions not to prosecute the individual cops. I could be wrong. But in any case, if you’re ever stopped by the police for anything, whether you’re white or black, no matter how wrong you think it is, never, ever resist arrest. If, in fact, the police did make a wrongful arrest, you can always hire a lawyer after, and sue their asses off.

 

 

 

 

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POINTS OF INTEREST

Las week the wife and I flew to the east coast to spend Thanksgiving with our daughters and their families. The daughter whose house we stayed at in Northern Virginia, always serves a sumptuous feast, with each course prepared from scratch. No store-bought prepared dishes like stuffing or sweet-potatoes for her. And being the especially good-hearted person that she is, she likes to invite as many people over for this feast as her house will hold. And then some. A cast of thousands I used to call it. This year, however, because she has had to contend with certain health issues, it was only a cast of hundreds. Much quieter that way. In any event, I was able to discern a number of items affecting the human condition during this journey that I believe are interesting enough to comment on.

Point I.  Self-Loading Freight. No business or company would last more than a month if it treated its patrons as shabbily as the airlines industry treats its customers. From ever-shrinking seat and aisle-room, to the lack of anything resembling edible food, to the often lack of on-time performance, to grossly over-priced tickets  etc., airline customers have to contend with a whole lot of crap to get from here to there. If you fly coach-class, which about 99% of the flying public does, airline crews will refer to you, derisively, as self-loading freight. Behind your back, of course. And why shouldn’t they. You’re herded onto the aircraft down the narrowest of aisleways, until you’re shoved into a tiny cubicle, laughingly referred to as a seat. The leg room is so minuscule that if you’re any taller than a dwarf, your knees are often pressed up against your throat. You have to practically arm wrestle with the person sitting next to you, to obtain a quarter inch of arm rest space. If you’re broadly built, and sitting in an aisle-seat, be prepared for the flight attendants to continually bang into the shoulder that’s resting on the aisle side, as they hurry up and down. If you’re not in an aisle seat, be prepared to hold it in for 4-5 hours, since your opportunity to make it to a bathroom ranges from slim to none. I’m old enough to remember when the airlines actually served meals on their flights. Now you’re lucky if they throw a small bag of pretzels your way, and tell you to gorge yourself on that.

We flew from Las Vegas to the east coast via Southworst Airlines…..uh, I guess they call themselves Southwest. In addition to all the discomfiture on the plane, there’s the endless monotony of hanging around the airport when they so capriciously decide not to arrive on schedule. On our return flight, the airline decided how delightful it would be for the flight to show up 55 minutes behind schedule. There was no bad weather anywhere, or any real excuse for the delay. If there is bad weather, forget about it. It would be faster to travel by mule-train. I guess Southwest felt that their passengers were having too much fun. Can’t have all that frivolity going on. Meanwhile, the price of an airline ticket keeps going up, even though the price of jet fuel has been plunging. Oil prices haven’t been this low since 2010, but none of those savings, god-forbid, are being passed on to the consumer.

Yet virtually every flight on every airline is almost always jammed packed. So why are people willing to put up with all this crap. I guess the answer lies in speediness. If your plane leaves early enough on Thursday morning, you can fly coast-to-coast, and still have Thanksgiving dinner with your family that evening. As for me, I think I might like  to leave a fews days early, and give the mule train option an opportunity.

Point II. The Free Lunch Syndrome. As we all know, the day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday, has become almost as big a deal as Thanksgiving itself. Some people, after they’re finished gorging on turkey and stuffing, will head for the nearest mall or department or electronics store, and camp out on the sidewalk overnight, if that’s what it takes to be among the first ones that get into the store on Friday morning. After all, who can pass up such huge bargains on the latest I-Phones, TVs, mattresses etc. being offered at deep discounts. Not one person will stop to think that none of this consumer frenzy will ever radically alter their life-style, which is usually pretty crummy to begin with. And that all the merchandizers’ are doing is reducing the already over-inflated profit margins on these goods, to more reasonable levels. And that what they think they may be saving on certain items, they will likely spend on other items in the store that are not discounted. I mean, as long as you’re in the store to begin with, why not shop til you drop.

I call this type of mentality the free-lunch syndrome, and you see it in abundance where I live, here in Las Vegas. I truly believe that there is no human passion stronger than the quest to obtain a freebie, even though almost everyone will admit there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The local casinos in Las Vegas, (those that are off “The Strip”) readily understand this human lust, however, and are ready to profit from it. So they will often issue to local residents, two-for-one coupons for their buffets, which generally cost in the $15-$20 range per dinner. Residents, and sometimes tourists, will often stand on line for over an hour at these buffets, just to save 20 bucks, and then knock down the slop that’s usually being served up. Then, after dinner, most will wander onto the casino floor, and drop maybe $200 or more without blinking an eye. After all, the important thing is that they got their free lunch, or dinner as the case may be.  Human nature is so immensely fascinating, especially in its predictability.

Well, I had intended to explore other human foibles, (outside of the political follies ever on-going in Washington), but I feel fatigue beginning to set in. I believe it to be that senior-thing, again. So I’ll have carry these thoughts over for the next chapter in trying to categorize the human condition.

 

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