WAR WEARY AMERICANS

In 1864 the Civil War between the states had been dragging on for over 3 years. Soldiers on both sides were being slaughtered by the tens of thousands on blood-drenched battlefields. It appeared that both sides had fought to a stalemate, and war fatigue or weariness was beginning to set in big time, especially in the North. Although the Union had superior forces, its incompetent generals were continually being out-manuevered by the Confederacy’s more clever Robert E. Lee and his generals. (At one point in 1864, Confederate troops had come within 5 miles of the White House.) Northerners were becoming sick of the on-going bloodshed and mayhem. There was a growing feeling in the North that the South should be allowed to leave the Union, and keep their slaves, if that’s what it would take to end the bloody conflict. President Abraham Lincoln himself, believed that his re-election effort due in November of that year would almost certainly fail, because of the public’s sour mood.

And then, suddenly, the Union finally got its act together. For years, Union troops had been led by incompetent or timid leadership, that was largely responsible for the ensuing stalemate. But with the appointment of Ulysses S. Grant as Commanding General of all Union forces, and William T. Sherman as head of the Union armies marching through the deep South, the Union’s fortunes improved dramatically. Sherman’s march through the South was unparalleled, and left a trail of total destruction of Confederate resources. When Sherman’s troops captured Atlanta on September 3, 1864, burning most of it to the ground, it was apparent to everyone that Confederate aspirations were doomed. The mood in the North improved dramatically, as it was believed that the war would quickly come to an end, and Lincoln easily won reelection. He would live to see passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that would ban slavery forever. The problem was, however, that war weariness resulted in Union troops leaving the South on its own, too quickly.

Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, and was succeeded by his Vice-President, Andrew Johnson from Tennessee. Johnson’s primary objective was to ensure that the country returned to normalcy as quickly as possible. So he pulled Union occupying forces out of the South in short order, leaving the Southern states to their own devices. But as what usually happens when the good guys leave the scene and a vacuum is created, did occur. Evil moved in to fill that vacuum. Each Southern state quickly passed strict segregation laws which made blacks second class citizens. Poll Tax legislation was also enacted which effectively barred most blacks from voting in all elections. These laws and practices, known as Jim Crow, effectively kept blacks in a state of semi-slavery for the next hundred years, until they finally started to break down in the 1960s.

Now fast forward to the outbreak of World WarI, in 1914, or a hundred years ago. The war pitted Germany against the allies of Britain, France and Czarist Russia. As I’ve written before, that conflict soon broke down into a despicable nightmare of trench warfare, where again, troops on both sides were being killed by the tens of thousands. Being stuck in the trenches was a hellish existence of mud, filth and disease. It was estimated that more soldiers died from disease, than from bullets or bombs. Again, that conflict was stalemated and people around the world were sick of it all. But President Woodrow Wilson, after being reelected in 1916 on a platform that said-“he kept us out of war”-decided that U.S. forces did, indeed, have to go overseas in order to break the stalemate. Shortly thereafter, the Bolshevik revolution took place in Russia, which then pulled out of the war. That meant that Germany had to be concerned with fighting the war on only the western front. But with the infusion of fresh American troops the stalemate was finally broken, and the Allies went on to victory. But the trouble, once again, was that the good guys pulled out too soon, leaving a vacuum for the bad guys to fill.

With no Allied forces left in Germany, it was open season on hate and deception. A little man, with a funny mustache and bad haircut, who had been a Corporeal in WWI, nevertheless found that he had enormous powers of persuasion to peddle his hate-filled invective, and beyond all odds, rose to become dictator of Germany. With no U.S. forces left on the continent, Adolph Hitler and his Nazi troops were left unfettered to rampage through all of Europe. It was only the British Royal Air Force (RAF) that prevented Hitler from taking England too, at least until the U.S., unwillingly, finally came to the aid of Allied forces. But not until 60 million lives were lost during that bloody conflict. The U.S. had finally learned its lesson the hard way, and this time, kept U.S. forces in Europe
after the war’s end. Today, almost 70 years since the end of WWII, U.S. troops and bases are still stationed in England, Germany, Italy and other countries.

So, we now come to present day world events. The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for 13 long years and has just pulled out of Iraq after 10 bloody years that cost 6000 American military and civilian deaths, and tens of thousands more of severely wounded American troops. Talk about war-weariness. Who isn’t sick of it all. Who doesn’t want us to just get out of Afghanistan and be done with the Mid-East once and for all. The trouble is, as we’ve seen before, when the good guys leave, evil comes in to fill the vacuum. And like clockwork, evil has made a grand entry into Iraq upon our departure. A terrorist group with the initials ISIS, that makes Al-Qaeda look timid, has suddenly captured thousands of square miles in Iraq and Syria, all the while committing unspeakable crimes and murders, and threatens further gains and advances. They recently beheaded a British journalist, just for kicks, I presume, and they threaten to gobble up the rest of Iraq. The current U.S. Administration’s response has been to launch a few lackluster bombing raids against ISIS trucks and other vehicles.

So the question is, do we launch a full throttle military assault on ISIS and other similar terrorist organizations, while it still can be done relatively cheaply in terms of lives lost and resources expended. Or do we sit back and watch events unfold from the sidelines. Each day that we delay meaningful action, they get stronger, and a future conflict becomes more costly. Will it take a repeat of 9/11 to make us realize that we don’t have the luxury of not taking military action. Evil, as I’ve said before, is a bottomless pit, and if the good guys don’t act to crush it in its infancy, it will just keep spreading across the planet. Yes, we’re all war-weary, but sometimes you just have to put all that weariness behind you, and do what needs to be done.

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ELECTRICITY JUNKIES

These days, when most of us arise in the morning, we’re likely to scan our I-Phones for any texts, or missed calls we may have received while we were sleeping. Who knows, maybe we’ve won a giant jackpot somewhere in the world during during the previous night. Or someone is texting to inform us that our long lost Uncle Willy, that we didn’t even know we had, just died and left us a fortune in his will. Then, still using our I-Phones or perhaps a laptop or tablet, we’ll next check our e-mail to see if such fortuitous news might be lurking there. Perhaps we might turn on the TV to keep up with the latest events both audibly and visually. We might also get out our ATM card because we plan to stop by the bank to obtain some cash. Or our credit card if we’re headed for the department store or the gas station. (I’m an exception to all this, since I generally read the newspaper when having breakfast.) All of this, of course, totally depends on the free flow and availability of an unseen product called electricity. Something that didn’t exist when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, or when the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

But what would happen if the silent, unseen current of electricity that we all take for granted, suddenly vanished like the morning mist. Devastation is what would happen. Devastation beyond beyond all imagination. Planes would fall out of the sky and massive traffic jams and accidents would occur. Your ATM cards would be useless at banks no matter what your account balances were. Credit cards would also be worthless. Food inventories in stores would be ransacked by roving mobs until the shelves were empty. All this, and much, much more would occur within an hour should our electrical grid be destroyed. Unfortunately, such an event is well within the realm of possibility. Welcome to the world of EMP, or electromagnetic pulse.

A sudden burst of EMP could create an apocalyptic nightmare, which would destroy, in moments, the electronic gadgetry that civilization increasingly depends on. Here’s the scenario.  A U.S. enemy, like say North Korea or Iran, or a terrorist organization that could its hands on a nuclear weapon, could launch a nuclear missile at high altitude above the U.S. The explosion of such a weapon would release a burst of radiation that would interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and deliver a powerful burst of electrical current that could totally devastate our grid and all electrical appliances. And don’t think that terrorist groups around the world are not working around the clock to secure such a weapon and bring this event to fruition.

A recent report by a Congressional EMP Commission stated that: “terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear warheads may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may gain the greatest political utility from one or a few such weapons… in an EMP attack.” And by the way, in 2012, North Korea successfully orbited a satellite, the KSM-3, compatible with the size and weight of a small nuclear warhead. The Commission further stated that within one year of a nation-wide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population would likely perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown. One other thing. Even if an enemy does not strike in such fashion, the possibility exists that a catastrophic EMP could occur naturally, triggered by a severe solar flare.

Congress, in reaction to the EMP Commission’s findings, did introduce legislation in 2013, that would initiate actions that could  possibly shield our electrical grid from EMP attacks. The legislation, thus far, has gone nowhere. After all, enacting such legislation would require a spirit of cooperation, instead of the dysfunction and polarization that Congress is so well noted for. Meanwhile the vulnerability is there, and the saddest part is that most people are totally clueless that it exists in the first place. It’s far more important to keep up with the Kardashians than to worry about things like EMP attacks.

Like the assault on our ecology, electrical grid vulnerability falls into the category of ignoring the steady ecological degradation of our planet’s resources, such as the disappearance of phytoplankton from our oceans, which provide a large chunk of the Earth’s oxygen. (Most people have probably never even heard of phytoplankton.) Or the steady disappearance of our rain forests which give forth most of the rest of the planet’s oxygen. They’re only important if you decide to inhale all the time. But there is one difference, however. While ecological degradation won’t be seriously felt for perhaps decades, a successful EMP attack will impact us within minutes. So while we can pass along all the ecological damage that’s occurring on to our children or grandkids, we can’t do that in the case of EMP. In the meantime, we’ve all become electrical junkies, depending more and more each day on electronic gadgetry and appliances in the functioning of this country.

I guess Ben Franklin never fully appreciated the impact electricity would have on our lives, when the kite he was flying was supposedly struck by lightening. That event, however, would truly change the world as it had existed for tens of thousands of years.

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BRAZIL’S MORAL EQUIVALENCE

So there’s a new 72-hour cease-fire in the on-going war between Hamas in Gaza and the Israelis. We’ll see if this one will hold for awhile, or if it will collapse into a new round of violence and bloodshed. But I thought that one interesting aspect of this conflict was the fact that Brazil, about a week and half ago, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, apparently because of the disproportionate number of casualties suffered by the Palestinians versus those on the Israeli side. Let’s see. Hamas began this war by murdering 3 Israeli teenagers, and then launched a barrage of missiles directed at Israel’s civilian population; but, somehow, it all turns out to be Israel’s fault. Several other smaller South American also followed Brazil’s lead in severing diplomatic relations with you know who.

Brazil’s current President is Dilma Rousseff, who succeeded the very popular President Lula da Silva, a couple of years ago. President Lula was considered a left-winger when first elected, but moved to the center after taking office. He turned, pragmatically, to championing a market economy, and was credited with substantially expanding the Brazilian economy and reducing poverty levels. His approval ratings were through the roof when he left office after 8 years. However, his chosen successor, Dilma Rouseff, has been struggling since being being elected. The Brazilian economy, the seventh largest in the world, has begun to stagnate under her leadership. Poverty levels are inching up. There was great controversy over the vast sum of resources spent to host the World Cup Soccer Tournament earlier this year. The supposed benefits of increased tourism spending didn’t seem to quite cover the expenditures of building a new soccer stadium, increased security, etc.

So, did President Rouseff run out of problems at home, that she suddenly thrust her country into diplomatic affairs regarding a Mid-Eastern war. Not hardly. While tourists from all over the world flock to Rio, especially during carnival time, few ever venture forth to see its seamier side. While wealthy tourists are enjoying Rio’s golden beaches, about a hundred thousand people live in some of the world’s worst slums in the hills above Rio. Drug lords and cartels pretty much rule the lives of these slum dwellers. The police, over the last 10 years, have significantly increased their presence in these slum neighborhoods in an attempt to quell the crime and violence evident there, but have barely made a dent in criminal activity. Speaking of the police, a human rights organization has found that a greater percentage of people in Brazil fear police brutality, than any other nation in the world. With all the tyrants that rule so many countries on this planet, that’s quite a finding.

So why did a Brazilian president suddenly break diplomatic relations with a country far from South America, that it had scant economic ties with in the first place. My theory is that it all goes back to WWII. After that war, a number of high-ranking Nazi war criminals managed to elude Allied capture, and made their way to South America where they found a safe haven. Even back then, it appeared that Latin America was so envious or otherwise so distrustful of the United States, that they tended to side with Nazi Germany during that bloodiest of all wars. Hence those Nazi officials that managed to escape being tried for their crimes, naturally made their way to S.A. For example, Adolf Eichmann, who was in charge of the Nazi death camps that killed 6 million Jews, wound up in Argentina. He was actually captured  there by Israeli agents in 1960, and brought back to Israel to stand trial. It was during that trial that he uttered the famous phrase that would be used by scum all over the world, ever since. In his defense, he stated that he “was only following orders,” that were issued by his superiors. He was found guilty and hung for his crimes, in 1962. Another prominent Nazi war criminal that ended up in S.A. was Dr. Josef Mengele, who performed the most heinous physical experiments on Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. Mengele  managed to elude Israeli agents hunting for him, and supposedly drowned while swimming off the coast of Brazil in 1979. There’s no proof of that, however. Other, lesser known Nazi war criminals also made a haven for themselves in S.A. after the war.

So, continuing a 70 year tradition, the president of Brazil naturally sides with the enemy of the Jewish state. No matter that Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians in attempting to register as many kills as possible. No matter that Hamas uses its own people, including small children, as human shields to deliberately run up the Palestinian civilian death toll. It’s certainly of no importance that Hamas hides its rockets and weaponry in civilian apartments and houses, in schools, in Mosques, in shopping centers, etc. so that deaths among civilians can be further increased. And, of course, the multitude of tunnels Hamas built from Gaza into Israel in order to kill or capture Israelites is also of no consequence. To say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of tons of cement and the huge amount of resources it took to build these tunnels.

This is called selective moral equivalence. Since Israel has suffered far fewer casualties in the current conflict, they must automatically be considered the bad guys. But where is the moral outrage from Brazil when it comes to Syria. The despot Assad has killed 150,000 of his own countrymen during that 4 year, on-going civil war, but not a peep of protest from Brazil. Less than 2000 Palestinians killed versus 150,000 dead Syrians. Hmmm. I guess that when it comes to Muslims killing Muslims, they get a free pass from the Brazilian president. How about the on-going slaughter of thousands, currently taking place in the Ukraine. Where is Brazil’s moral anger against Vladimir Putin’s tyranny that is fueling that civil war. No mention of Brazil breaking diplomatic relations with Russia that I read about.

Of course, Brazil is certainly not the only country indulging in moral equivalence, so perhaps it’s unfair to single them out. But it’s highly illustrative of the collapse of civilized behavior that should be inherent in the human condition, but apparently isn’t. When countries that are supposed to know better, seek to accommodate the increasing strength of the new spreading, terrorist barbarism, instead of promoting decency, compassion and humanism, this planet is in a whole heap of trouble.

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A CENTURY OF VIOLENCE

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. It was called the war to end all wars; but, sadly, it turned out to be the war that heralded in a century of increasingly bloody armed conflicts that has resulted in tens of millions of casualties. It began in 1914 almost by accident; but in a certain sense it’s still on-going 100 years later. And it best illustrates the ultimate failure of the human condition.

WWI was fought between 1914-1919, and was incredibly bloody with huge losses of life, and precious little ground gained or lost. It came to be known for its trench warfare, as both sides become bogged down for years in filthy, disease-ridden trenches. At least 10 million military lives were lost and an estimated 20 million more were wounded. And in the end, Europe looked almost exactly the same as it did previous to 1914. The war was sparked by the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie while they were visiting Sarajevo in what is now known as Bosnia. The assassination was carried out by a Serbian anarchist, who today, would probably be called a terrorist. Austria then demanded apologies and reparations from Serbia which in the end, never materialized.

It’s important to note that both Austria and Serbia were two-bit players at that time, in the European scheme of things. If the hard feelings resulting from the assassination had been confined to just Austria and Serbia, WWI would likely never have occurred. However, Austria, getting nowhere in the demands it placed on  Serbia, then called on its much more powerful ally, Germany, to come to its aid. After all, they were both German speaking nations. Serbia, realizing that the German Army could conquer them in days, called on its more powerful ally, Russia, to protect its borders. The trouble was, that Russia also had treaties with both France and England, who were also major players, so the festivities were on. It became a shooting war, essentially between Germany and the allies of Russia, France and England.

Germany realized it probably couldn’t win a 2 front war (Russia to the East, and France and Britain to the West) so its plan was to destroy France and drive the British off the continent in the 2 months or so it would take Russia to mobilize enough troops and armaments to engage in the fighting. It didn’t quite turn out that way, however. The French were able to stop the German invasion before it reached Paris, and both sides became mired down in deeply dug trenches, shooting at each other across a patch of ground known as no-mans land. Each side fired long-range artillery or lobbed grenades at one another, but any significant territorial advancement seemed impossible. The trenches were muddy and filthy beyond description, and soldiers on both sides contracted and died from disease by the tens of thousands. Never had the futility of war been so clearly demonstrated.

Finally the Allies were able to persuade the United States to come to their assistance. The U.S. up to that point had been highly isolationist, but President Woodrow Wilson finally agreed to aid the Allied cause, and the first U.S. troops entered WWI in 1917. At about the same time, Russia became swept up in its Communist revolution and decided to withdraw from the fighting arena. Germany then could concentrate its war efforts on only one front. The fighting then continued on for another year with millions of more casualties; but the infusion of fresh American troops made all the difference, and Germany was finally beaten in 1918. On a personal note, my father fought in WWI, and was wounded by mustard gas in the Argonne Forest in France. Both sides, at the time, started using chemical warfare, but the results were so horrific, that this type of weapon was rather quickly banned from use. It seemed so much more humane to kill people with bullets and bombs, rather than chemicals.

The war finally concluded with an armistice at the end of 1918, and then was followed by the infamous Treaty of Versailles in 1919. That treaty’s provisions were so harshly written against German interests that it allowed a little man with a funny mustache, but with powerful demagoguery instincts, named Adolph Hitler, to rise to power and set the stage for WWII. That war, again initiated by Germany as well as Japanese militarism in the Pacific, was estimated to account for the loss of a mere 60 million lives before it concluded in 1945. Once again the U.S. retreated to isolationism after peace was declared. Surely, after seeing the horrors of WWII, the concentration camps, the holocaust, the starvations, people would never again engage in such despicable adventurism, would they? Well, it didn’t take long thereafter for the U.S. to be engaged once again in a shooting war, this time on the Korean peninsula, which started around 1950, a mere 5 years after the end of WWII. President Harry Truman called it a police action at the time, instead of war. Like sweetening the cough syrup, it goes down much easier that way. In that fracas, the U.S. had to settle for half a loaf, as South Korea was freed to become a democracy, but North Korea, to this day, is dominated by a brutal despot.

And as we all know, it was a hardly a few years after the end of the Korean War that we once again became burdened with a shooting conflict, this time in the hellhole jungles of Viet-Nam. About 58,500 Americans lost their lives in that fiasco, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Viet-Namese deaths. And the beat went on. Hardly a decade later, the first Iraqi war was thrust upon us, although with far less casualties. Not too long after that came the Afghan war followed by the second Iraqi war from which we’ve finally disengaged. But it’s not just the U.S. Today war rages on in the Mid-East, in the Ukraine, and in Africa. It’s as if the human condition has degenerated to the point where the only way to settle our differences is by killing one another. The last man or woman standing gets to have their philosophy of life prevail on the planet. As it was in the dark ages, welcome to the new era of unbridled barbarism.

 

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DERANGEMENT AS THE HUMAN CONDITION

How does the world seem to be spinning these days? A bit wobbly you might say. Well, perhaps wobbly is too mild a word. Deranged disintegration might be a more apt description. Lets look at what has transpired just in the last couple of weeks, to observe the depths of new lows in the human condition.

About a week or so ago, Ukrainian rebels seeking to break the eastern part of Ukraine off from the rest of the country and join the Russian “empire,” such as it is, decided what jolly good fun it would be to fire a surface-to-air missile at an unarmed civilian aircraft. Of course, the missile found its target, and just under 300 innocent civilian travelers were killed in an instant. There was no military advantage that could accrue to the rebels by bringing down Malaysian flight #17. It was just killing for the sake of killing, perhaps similar to the way a serial killer gets his kicks by murdering innocent victims. The missiles and launchers and other weaponry have been supplied to the Ukrainian by Russia’s dictator, Vladimir Putin, who has dreams of reassembling the old USSR under his leadership. Of course, after this heinous act of destruction, the missile launchers were quickly returned to Russian soil, and everyone from Putin on down to the lowest Ukrainian rebel denied culpability in this tragic incident. These days, truth and reality is what you choose to proclaim, not what actually transpired.

I’ve written before about what a thug and tyrant Vladimir Putin is, and how the Russian people have been suffering under his despotism, so I won’t rehash previous postings. Well, maybe a little rehash, just to point out that economic conditions are so bleak in Russia that the Russian population has been spiraling downward for at least 2 decades. Only major influxes of Muslims from Arab countries have kept Russia afloat. Their economy depends almost solely on large deposits of oil and gas that Russia exports, mainly to other European countries. Should those countries ever start developing their own sources of energy, the Russian economy would collapse like a house of cards. Nevertheless, this is what the mind-numbing rebel idiots in the Eastern part of the Ukraine are trying to become part of. And in the process, picking off a commercial airline flight when things get a little too dull.

Of course, the epitome of human derangement continues in the on-going war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel. Again, I won’t rehash what I wrote last time, except to point out the reasons for the disparity in casualties between the two sides. In Israel, all military personnel and activities are confined solely to military bases. In  Gaza, Hamas has arranged just the opposite. Hamas has placed their missiles and missile launchers and all other weaponry amongst the civilian population. Rockets and their launchers have been put in civilian apartments and houses, in schools and hospitals, in mosques and UN refugee camps, in market places, and all other locations that civilians tend to populate. Hence when Israeli forces seek to destroy these weapons, there will be a very high toll of civilian casualties. But that’s the idea in the terrorist’s mindset. Run up as many civilian deaths as possible, even among your own people, in order to win the PR campaign. Hamas can then go forward and say to the world- look at all the innocent civilians the Zionist entity is killing.

Hamas terrorists, when going to a different location, ride in ambulances crammed with young children, daring Israel to fire at these vehicles and destroy the lives of their young hostages. Who does things like that? What kind of a mindset does it take to fire rockets out of civilian apartments or mosques in order to run up the tally of non-combatant deaths? It’s the mindset, as I pointed out last time, of a people that cherish death over life. And in the end, its it’s the mindset of of the Palestinians themselves living in Gaza, that voted Hamas into a government leadership role, and who today, even amidst all the death, destruction and misery, continue to cheer Hamas rocket launches into the Israeli civilian population. Can human derangement get any lower than that.

To date, the death toll stands at about 750 for the Palestinians and about 30 for Israel, a country that actually does deeply mourn each loss of life. One of the discoveries coming out of this war is the vast network of tunnels that Hamas has developed in underground Gaza. These tunnels were created at enormous time and expense in order to allow Hamas terrorists to burrow their way into Israel and kill or capture as many Israeli civilians as possible. As I pointed out last time, when Hamas took the reins of Gaza leadership in 2006 they could have taken a different route. They could  have asked the U.S. and the European Union to invest heavily in a peaceful Gaza. They could have pointed out that there was a huge pool of workers in Gaza, hungry for decent paying jobs. They could have pointed out that large investments in plants, factories, tourism, etc. would return handsome profits to the investors. Instead Hamas decided to spend all their time, energy and resources in devising methods to kill Israelis.

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human folly. In the on-going 4-year old civil war in Syria, brutal dictator Assad has butchered over 150,000 of his countrymen in order to stay in power. Yet it’s hardly a blip on anyone’s radar screen these days. Maybe the trick is to run up the death toll so high that no one cares anymore. In Iraq, where we fought for 10 years at huge human and resource sacrifice, a terrorist group even more violent than Al-Qaida has taken over large swaths of territory. In Nigeria, another terrorist organization is killing people by the hundreds. Libya, the one place where the U.S. did take military action, has pretty much degenerated into its own civil war. And the beat goes on.

So how is the planet spinning these days? A hell of a lot more than wobbly. More like the pits of a deranged, murderous, dysfunctional entity, I would think.

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WHEN VENGEANCE TRUMPS A MOTHER’S LOVE

To best understand the unfolding events in the Middle East, one should go back to a statement made by Osama bin Laden shorty after 9/11. He stated that what Americans and those in the West don’t understand is that while they cherish life, we in the East cherish death. That statement pretty well hits the nail squarely on the head and is key to understanding the roots of the latest Israeli-Palestinian crises currently on-going. As well as the on-going events of death, destruction and misery among various Arab factions in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

Some years back, one of our news outlets made a documentary about about a Palestinian family living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This family had a large number of children, perhaps 11 or 12, if memory serves me correctly. The oldest child was a boy about 17 years of age. But what makes the story unique was that this son was already being prepared to die as a suicide bomber, all with his mother’s blessing.  While the mother professed great love for her son, she stated that her greatest joy would be for the boy to achieve martyrdom by strapping on a belt bomb loaded with explosives. He would then slip his way into a crowded marketplace in, say, Tel-Aviv, and detonate the bomb. Of course the boy would die instantly, but if he could destroy the lives of a dozen or so Jews with that act, there would be huge celebration in the Palestinian territories. The son would instantly be recognized as a martyr and hero to the Palestinian people. He would bring a sense of huge gratitude and honor to his family from Palestinian authorities. The fact that he sacrificed his young life for an act of murder and terrorism would be of no consequence. Is there any mother in the West that could possibly even consider thinking along those lines. Yet, this type of motherly “love” is not uncommon among among the Palestinian people. It takes place when the vilest form of hatred and quest for vengeance triumphs over the natural instinct of paternal love for one’s children.

It’s this type of mentality that explains the latest violence going on (with no end in site) between Israel and the Hamas controlled Gaza strip. It started back in 2006 when Israel withdrew all its troops and settlements from Gaza and turned it all over to the Palestinians. Gaza is a relatively small strip of land with a high density, crowded population of about a million and a half Arabs. Being in complete control, the people of Gaza had great opportunity to develop the region into a peaceful, economic powerhouse. They could have built dozens of seaside hotels and resorts which could have attracted thousands of tourists willing and eager to spend their money, and enhance the Gaza economy. They could have made clear that foreign investment would be more than welcome, as well as the development of new factories and plants. They could have worked economically with Israel to the mutual benefit of both sides. Such actions would have been a boon to the Gaza economy and could have lifted its inhabitants out of the miserable poverty they’re so deeply mired in. But instead, Gaza chose a different path.

The people of Gaza chose to turn the reigns of power over to a terrorist organization called Hamas, which has only 2 professed objectives- the killing of Jews and the destruction of the State of Israel. No consideration was given to potential economic development, as people in Gaza were basically left to rot in their own poverty. Instead Hamas put it’s priorities in acquiring missiles and rockets and other weapons that could be fired into civilian populations in Israel.  So for the third time now, Hamas has started a campaign of firing rockets into Israel with the hope of killing as many Jews as possible. And as in the previous 2 times, Israel has responded by pounding suspected terrorist sites and homes with aerial bombardment. I guess some things never change. Hamas has deliberately placed most of its rocket and missile launchers in civilian homes and mosques. Thus, when Israel bombs these sites, there’s sure to be significant civilian casualties. According to the Hamas party line, this is a good thing. To their thinking, the more civilians that are killed by Israeli bombs, the more world powers will condemn Israel for such atrocities. After all, isn’t it death that’s to be worshipped rather than life.

The sad thing is that amidst all the death and destruction going on in Gaza, amidst all the rubble and carnage, the people in Gaza still appear to strongly support Hamas’s launching of about hundred missiles a day into Israel. Amidst the vastly disproportionate death tolls and wounded that Gaza is experiencing, Palestinians are still cheering for this conflict to continue indefinitely. Such is the power that hatred and lust for revenge can have on the human mind. The propensity to despise is like a bottomless pit.

And it’s not just hatred of Israel that’s driving the forces of death and destruction in the Middle-East. As I mentioned earlier, Arabs and Moslems are killing each by the thousands in places such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and are currently threatening Jordan. New terrorist groups such as ISIS are now calling older terrorists such as Al-Qaida too timid in the amount of killings and destruction they achieve. These are the new barbarians at the gates. Similar to the barbarians such as the Huns, Visigoths and Vandals that eventually brought the mighty Roman Empire to its knees, and ushered in centuries of dark ages; these new barbarians, or terrorists as we call them today have pretty much the same goals. Destroy all vestiges of Western civilization, and bring in a new version of the dark ages where Islamic fanaticism rules every facet of life. Even if it takes hundreds of years to achieve. Never underestimate the power of pure, distilled hatred.

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CRAZIER-THAN-THOU

The way I see it, the Republican Party is divided into 3 factions- crazy, crazier, and craziest. Off the charts on the far end of this spectrum in the craziest category are senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. They really represent the heart and soul of the Republican base as it exists today. If this base had its way, one of them would achieve the GOP nomination for president in 2016. However, deep in the hearts of most Republicans is the knowledge that these guys are just too lunatic to actually win  a national election for the presidency. So the next search is in the crazy set. Most prominent in the just plain crazy category is Chris Christie, Republican governor of New Jersey. Although he professes to basically believe in the essence of the Republican platform, (tax cuts for the rich, trickle-down economics, slashing government expenditures for the poor, the sick, and the elderly, etc.) he does exhibit a sliver of rationality and sanity every so often. Even just a tiny bit of such common sense may be too much for the Republican base to handle. Christie’s problem, therefore, is that while he could likely win a national election for president, it will be extremely difficult for him to obtain the GOP nomination. Can’t have too much of that sanity going on if you want to be prominent in Republican politics.

I rather liked Christie ever since he posted on his personal blog, a recommendation for a certain pancake house in New Jersey. I figured if there was anyone who knew good pancakes, it had to be Chris Christie. From what I heard, that pancake joint really does live up to its reputation. There are a few other prominent Republicans that are also in the just plain crazy category, such as governor of Ohio John Kasich, and 2 female senators- Susan Collins from Maine, and Lisa Murakowski from Alaska. (Interestingly, in 2008, if John McCain was looking for a conservative female from Alaska as his running mate, he could have picked Murakowski who actually has a brain in her head, instead of a mindless dingbat like Sarah Palin. Who knows, that might have just given him the election.) In any event, as I’ve said, just being crazy may not be irrational enough to secure the GOP nomination for president in 2016.

It thus comes down to the crazier category whose leading figure is Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Well spoken, and with boyish good looks, I believe that Rubio’s core beliefs lie mostly in the extreme craziest portion of the GOP. But Rubio is smart enough to know that if he publicly  espouses the same looney-tunes babble about slashing government as a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, it would also make him un-winable in the general election. So Rubio has learned to moderate his speeches and actions to the point where he sounds a little bit more crazy rather than craziest, in hopes of securing the nomination and winning the general election. He possess abundant charisma, and since he’s Hispanic, he would be in a perfect position to cut dramatically into the lead that Democrats have with Latino voters. Therefore, my money is on Marco Rubio being the next president in 2016. The Las Vegas sports books aren’t taking bets yet on the 2016 election, but if they were, I would be tempted to put a few shekels down on Rubio winning it all.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are putting all their eggs in Hillary Clinton’s basket, which I think is a huge blunder. First of all, she would be 69 come election time; and let’s face it, she’s not aging all that gracefully. Men can generally get away with looking old and haggard; but women, not so much. Secondly, there are lingering questions about her health. She did spend about a month in the hospital after a seizure caused by a fall. But most of all, she has enough political baggage to fill every flight leaving out of JFK for a month. From the Whitewater scandals from when husband Bill was president, to the whole Monica Lewinski fiasco, to her less than scintillating performance as Secretary of State, which included the Benghazi disaster, there is sufficient ammo for the Republican smear machine to kick into high gear. And you can bet that GOP mudslinging will reach staggering levels in radio and TV ads, since Hillary is despised almost as much as Barack Obama. Yes recent polls show her leading potential Republican candidates; but that will likely change once the demonization of her begins in earnest.

I believe the Democrats would be better off looking for a fresh face. If they’re looking for a female candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren from Mass. would be an excellent choice. A dedicated progressive with impressive credentials and little if any political negatives, all she needs is some national publicity to enable her to become a viable candidate. Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Martin O’Malley of Maryland would also be top choices. But they also need promotion on a national scale. However, no matter who achieves the Democrat nomination, I’m still going with my prediction that Marco Rubio will be the next president.

Of course, why anyone would be crazy enough to desire the presidency is beyond me. Yes, it does have its perks such as flying on Air Force One, or playing at elite golf courses. Its just that the governing part is so annoying. Just the thought of having to deal with Congress would make me nauseous. With a good portion of the world in flames, or at each others throats, and with all the dysfunction and polarization here at home, who needs such headaches. That’s why Barack Obama mostly plays golf or flies on Air Force One to fund raisers these days. It beats trying to manage the mess that world has made of itself. It would truly take someone crazier-than-thou to desire the job of becoming the next president.

 

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HOLIER-THAN-THOU

Some years back there was a highly amusing Broadway musical called “Nunsense.” It was about a group of nuns affiliated with a certain church group performing all kinds of silly actions. The closing number in the show was called Holier-Than-Thou and had each nun singing about some supposedly godly act she had undertaken and was therefore holier than the other nuns. As I’ve said, quite amusing when done on-stage; not so amusing when exhibited in real life. Nevertheless, some people feel compelled to display in public the vast amount of homage they give obsessively to the invisible man. Public displays of their religious beliefs becomes a daily necessity. Some call it wearing their religion on their sleeves. Others, like myself, might simply term it religious lunacy.

A good example of this occurred about 2 summers ago. Dan Cathy, the CEO of a chain of fried chicken joints called Chick-fil-A, located mainly in the South and Midwest, revealed his family’s bias toward anything homosexual, and especially toward gay marriage, during a radio interview. He stated that: “As it relates to society in general, I think we’re inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” So there you have it. If we, in this country, allow marriage between 2 consenting adults of the same sex, God is going to crush us like a bug. He will stomp all over us as if we were ants trying to build an earthen colony. How sad that people even think along those lines. It had to take a lot of bible-thumping when they were young to get them so thoroughly brainwashed.

Sadder still is the tens of thousands of mostly Baptists that turned out to support Chick-fil-A’s religious fundamentalism. They picked a sweltering Saturday in July to line up at various Chick-fil-A outlets in order to stuff their bellies with greasy fried chicken sandwiches. Some of the lines at the restaurants were supposedly over an hour long as people sweated in the broiling sun. A small price to pay, however, if one is out to prove that they’re holier-than-thou, as well as to stave off God’s wrath and vengeance. I don’t know about you, but I sure hate the idea of having to put up with another 40 days and nights of hard rain.

Tim Tebow is another example of wearing one’s religion on his sleeve. An all-star quarterback in college, he was drafted into the pros with high expectations. But Tim liked show his religious devotion by going down on one knee when he was on the sidelines. I assume he was praying for Jesus to allow him to score more touchdowns, but it didn’t quite work that way. Despite all of Tim’s knee-bending, his quarterbacking skills in the pros just didn’t to pan out. Jesus would somehow not intervene to allow Tim to achieve more pass completions. After 2 years he was cut from the pros, and now, I believe, he does sports broadcasting.

In any event, this was kind of a long way around to discuss today”s Supreme Court verdict regarding birth control pills. It’s considered a big win for the bible thumpers, but it really amounts to much ado about nothing. An outfit called Hobby Lobby, which is almost identical in its religious fundamentalist views of life as the crowd running Chick-fil-A, sued all the way to the Supreme Court, so they wouldn’t have to pay for birth control pills in healthcare plans they provide to their female employees. It seems that providing such contraception is one of the requirements of ObamaCare. By a 5-4 vote the Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor. No big surprise since there are 5 conservative and 4 liberal judges on the Court. But it’s considered a twofer for those on the religious right. Not only don’t they have to be a party to “killing” babies (even before they are conceived), but they get to stick it to President Obama. Anytime that occurs, it cause for celebration on the religious right. Break out the crates of apple cider.

As I’ve said, this is not a big deal. Birth control pills are usually pretty cheap, going for about $10 for a month’s supply. Almost any woman can afford to buy them on their own. Or they can insist that the men in their lives use condoms which are also sold at cheap prices over the counter. Either way there’s ample access to inexpensive birth control. But the bible thumpers in looney-tunes-ville desperately needed a win after a series of setbacks in the courts regarding same-sex marriage. Like a series of falling dominoes, court after court in state after state, has been overturning local laws regarding existing prohibitions against same-sex marriage. As Dan Cathy might have put it, the courts have been shaking their fists at God’s natural laws. And boy, are we going to have to pay for such secular shenanigans.

Religious fundamentalism predates Christianity, and goes back to the days of paganism when men worshipped idols and craven images. It seems that that there has always been a portion of the population steeped in deep paranoia. People who believe that if they don’t strictly obey all their god’s whims, he will strike them dead. Usually by crashing a bolt of lightening down on them. So with all this ancient history I’m not taking any chances. From now on, to show my devotion and humility to God, I’m going to walk around with a shawl covering my head and body, even in the Las Vegas heat. (It’s supposed to be over 110 degrees today.) I’ll show all those other nambie-pambies around here who’s holier-than-thou.

 

 

 

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FROM D-DAY TO ETERNITY

A few days ago, June 6th, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and the beginning of the end of Adolph Hitler’s evil Nazi empire. About 160 thousand Allied troops consisting of mostly U.S. forces, but with some British and Canadian troops, stormed the beaches in Normandy, France, and endured unbelievably horrific and withering German artillery fire, as they endeavored to gain a foothold on French soil. Thousands lost their lives that day on those bloody beaches with thousands more severely wounded. But by the end of the day, the Allies did achieve a foothold, although just barely, and began their long trek towards Berlin. Heads of state, including President Obama, and other dignitaries attended the 70th anniversary celebrations in Normandy, especially paying tribute to those that were killed that day on the Normandy beaches as the ocean turned from blue to red. Also in attendance were some remaining veterans of that conflict, now in their late eighties or nineties. Their numbers, of course, dwindle with each passing year.

Within 11 months after D-Day, the Nazi Empire had crumbled and Hitler had committed suicide. But first the Allies had to contend with more horrific German firepower and ferocity in the towns and villages surrounding the Normandy beaches. Slowly grinding on, and again experiencing terrible casualties, Allied troops finally reached the outskirts of Paris. When the Allies finally broke through the German line, and American tanks rolled down the Champs-Elysees, Parisians by the tens of thousands, lined the streets, dancing in joy and tossing flowers and blowing kisses at the Allied troops. The U.S. was at its zenith back then, loved, admired, and respected by virtually every country in the world. Even by Germany and Japan, once they had rid themselves of the evil regimes that had taken over the reigns of their governments. Does anyone believe that U.S. troops would be greeted in a similar fashion if U.S. tanks made a similar entrance today. If U.S. tanks streamed down the Champs-Elysees today, or the streets of any other foreign city,  local citizens would be cursing, spitting, or shaking their fists at the U.S. presence. Just an indication of how far U.S. prestige has fallen in the eyes of the rest of the countries on this planet today.

But back in the 1940s and even the 1950s, America was looked upon as a savior from all the evil and nefarious forces lurking everywhere on this planet. The American economy began booming after the war’s end. There was a huge, pent-up demand for consumer goods, since U.S. factories during the war had shifted almost exclusively to the manufacture of military hardware. People were now buying everything from cars to kitchen appliances faster than they could be produced. It was an era of prosperity and good will; but dark clouds were already looming on the horizon. By the late 1940s Americans began to develop an inordinate fear regarding the spread of communism. This fear was not totally unjustified since China, the largest country on Earth fell to the communists in 1948. In Europe, Stalin’s Russia had spread its communist-style of governance through a slew of East European nations. Hence, the American fear concerning the spread of communism led to  epidemic proportions of paranoia.  It led us to go to war again in Korea; and to an eventual stalemate which freed only half of that peninsula. And, as usual under such circumstances, there were seedy politicians willing to take advantage of irrational fear mongering.

A senator out of Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy realized that there was much gain to be made out of anti-communist hysteria and political witch hunts, and began launching them with unbridled fanaticism. Hundreds, if not thousands of innocent lives and reputations were ruined or destroyed by McCarthyism, which actually became a new word in the dictionary. But the Senator’s very successes led him to overreach, which in turn led to his destruction. McCarthy finally drank himself to death in the late 1950s. With the end of that decade most Americans felt that the excesses of McCarthyism had been put behind them, and a new era of Camelot was about to begin with the election of John Kennedy in 1960.

It was thought that with movie star good looks, and exuding an excess of charm and charisma, JFK, of the Boston Irish Kennedy clan, would put America back on the ascendancy. Along with his glamourous wife Jackie, John Kennedy would surely re-establish the America dream to its full potency, and Camelot would reign throughout the land. Unfortunately, such hopes soon turned out to be bitter fruit. Kennedy allowed himself to fall into the previous decade’s anti-communist quagmire, and upped the ante on his predecessor’s involvement on conflict in a jungle hell-hole known as Viet-Nam. It was the most disastrous war the U.S. had ever engaged in, and the first war we lost out-right. It put us back on a downward slope. And if this weren’t enough, tragedy then struck. A deranged killer’s bullet laid Kennedy in his grave, in November 1963.  The country went into a deep period of mourning, from which it has never fully recovered, especially, the person closest to the slain President.

Jack’s younger brother, Bobby, had been his campaign manager during the 1960 election, and was then appointed Attorney-General, when Jack was sworn in as President. It was the tumultuous ’60s with great civil rights demonstrations against the segregated South, as well as huge demonstrations against the war in Viet-Nam. Both the President and the Attorney-General were deeply involved with the civil rights causes of that era, and with their leader, a young black minister named Martin Luther King Jr. If the Kennedy Administration became too involved in Viet-Nam, it at least succeeded in breaking down racial segregation barriers throughout the deep South. As I said, Bobby took Jack’s death especially hard; but the grief made him a deeper and more empathetic figure.

Bobby ran for the Senate in New York in 1964 and won. In 1968 he was determined to run for the presidency on a platform of extracting us from the Viet-Nam war, removing the last vestiges of racial segregation and bigotry in our country, and having the Government become more involved in the plight of the poor, sick and hungry. Alas, all this was not too be.

Earlier in 1968, Martin Luther King had been gunned down by another deranged individual, and the civil rights movement lost their greatest leader. Then on June 5, 1968, just after he won the California primary in his race for the presidency, Bobby Kennedy was also shot by another sicko with a gun. He died the next day, June 6, the 24th anniversary of D-Day. I guess, as the song says, you don’t lose such quality and beloved leadership as John, Martin and Bobby, without serious consequences. Replacements for men of such caliber have been sadly lacking, and thus increasing the American Empire’s downward spiral. Today, we have dingbats such as Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz being mentioned for the presidency in 2016. A sign of the times of, indeed, how far we have fallen.

 

 

 

 

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GOOD OLE DIXIE

How many of you know that today is Jefferson Davis’s birthday. How many of you even know or care who Jeff Davis was. Well, for those of you that are historically challenged, Jefferson Davis was the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. In other words, he was Dixie’s equivalent to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. For those of you who may still view the Civil War as a long-time-ago kind of a spat among the states that sort of got out-of-hand, let me assure you it was the absolute opposite. The Civil War was every bit as brutal, nasty, and inhumane as the war this country fought against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during the 1940s. Today’s equivalent of over 6 million American lives were lost in that conflict 150 years ago, either on the battlefield or in abominable prisoner of war camps. And while atrocities were committed on both sides, Southern prisoner camps were especially despicable since Northerners held in captivity lived under conditions of unbelievable filth and disease, and were usually starved, beaten, tortured or just cold-bloodly murdered. Nevertheless many Southern states still continue to display the Confederate flag, and one state still celebrates Jefferson Davis’s birthday.

In Alabama today, state offices as well as many businesses will be closed in honor of the Confederacy’s first and only president. Jeff Davis was captured in 1865 and accused of treason, but was never tried in a court of law; and he was eventually released two years later. Just before his death in 1889, he advised Southerners that: “The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations.” But many, to this day, refuse to heed that advise. He is still memorialized throughout the South with statues, parks and highways, in places such as Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia, and even Washington, D.C. But Alabama is the last state to to legislate that the first Monday in June will be set aside to celebrate Davis’s birthday. It should be noted that other Alabamians who actually made huge and beneficial contributions to civilized society such as Hellen Keller, writer Harper Lee, and blues musician W.C. Handy are not similarly commemorated. Such are the foibles of the human condition. I think the head of a local Alabama chapter of the NAACP put it best when he said that: “We’re supposed to be one nation under God. When people keep honoring the Confederacy, we are no longer one nation under God.”

So what has the U.S. accomplished in the 150 years since the end of that tussle among the states. First we had to endure another 100 years of semi-slavery for blacks better known as Jim Crowe. Strict segregation laws were established in the South that made it a crime for blacks to drink out of the same water fountain as whites, or use the same bathrooms, or sit at the same lunch counters. Blacks certainly couldn’t send their children to the same schools that white kids went to. When some protested how despicable segregation laws were, and that the federal Government should step in to rectify this abomination, the cry went out from Dixie for states rights. Southern states hammered home the point that the Constitution gave the states the right to enact segregation laws if they so desired. And by and large, the Feds did stay out of the South’s preoccupation with segregation. It wasn’t until the 1960s, with increased pressure from Northern freedom riders and greater militancy  from black communities that Jim Crowism and resultant segregation in the South finally started breaking down. They were finally washed away in a tidal wave of righteous indignation.

One of the greatest friends, ironically, that civil rights workers had in the early 1960s was an Alabama sheriff named Bull Conners. Conners, as one can infer from his name, was a fierce segregationist who looked every bit the part. When civil rights leaders tried to de-segregate his town, Conners had the police turn gushing water cannons on the marchers. People were hurt by the velocity of the water coming out these canons; and those that weren’t injured were thrown into the local prison. Those scenes were shown on TV nightly news, which then enraged most of the nation, thereby speeding up the de-segregation process. John Kennedy, who was President at the time, often stated that what Bull Connors did for the civil rights movement was well beyond anything he could achieve as President.

One would think that by crushing Jim Crowe and segregation, the cry of “states rights” in legislative affairs would have been long discredited. But if one did think that, one would be dead wrong. Today, try to enact federal gun control laws and the NRA immediately begins to scream that such laws would be a constitutional infringement of states rights. States throughout the South and Midwest have already enacted severe restrictions on a woman’s right to have an abortion, under the banner of states rights. Despite the Supreme Court’s verdict in Roe V. Wade. And new ballot restrictions intended to intimidate minorities and the poor from voting have also become law, supposedly protected by “states rights.” The Republican Party, of course, has become the chief advocate for states rights, since it perceives itself to be the main beneficiary in upcoming elections. So one must presume that when the GOP takes control of Congress this year, and the Presidency in 2016, the states will have the power to enact whatever they damn well please, no matter how obnoxious the legislation may be.

In the the meantime, let’s raise a glass of champagne in celebration of Jeff Davis’s birthday. At least at the end, when he was on his death bed, he finally got it right.

 

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