Monthly Archives: August 2016

THE DICTATORS CLUB

It has come to pass that tyrannical dictatorships that have sprung up in many parts of the world have two things in common. They are all enemies of the United States and its western allies, and most of them have become more powerful militarily. To an increasingly large degree, they have become an existential threat to the world’s functioning democracies as they seek to continually expand their powers and reach. And because of a very tepid response by the U.S. and its NATO allies, the dictators club keeps increasing while democracy and decency on this planet is in a shrinkage mode.

Lets start with that giant concentration camp known as North Korea. The current, unhinged tyrant ruling that unfortunate country is Kim Jong-Un, who now represents the third generation of a dictatorship started in the early 1950s by his grandfather, and then passed on to his father. The country is in a perpetual starvation mode because it can’t produce enough food to feed its population. Thousands die each year from malnutrition or diseases that are easily preventable in more civilized societies. It relies on Communist China for virtually all its basic needs. It’s an automatic death sentence for anyone caught seeking to escape this tyranny by fleeing the country. But the one area where North Korea spends a vast amount of resources is the military and its weaponry. It has huge military force which perpetually threatens to invade South Korea and make the Korean Peninsula “whole” again. And it has developed a sizable nuclear weapons arsenal that threatens the U.S. west coast, and blatantly boasts about its ability to take out cities such as Los Angles with its nuclear missiles. Previous Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush allowed food supplies to be sent to North Korea as an humanitarian gesture, based on the dictator’s promises that nuclear weapons would not be developed. But, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, guarantees not to develop nuclear weapons evaporated with the morning mist, and the U.S. now faces a most potent nuclear armed enemy that despises western values.

For the next members in good standing in the dictators club, we have to look no further that the Americas. The Castro brothers, first Fidel, and now Raul, have destroyed the Cuban economy since the late 1950s, and have driven just about every Cuban into dire poverty. Everyone, that is, except the ruling elite. When Fidel Castro, after taking over the country, decided to ally Cuba to the old Soviet Union instead of the United States, it became the death knell for decent living conditions and freedom of expression in that unfortunate country. To this day, anyone protesting the Castro regime in Cuba, is routinely jailed, tortured or murdered outright. Moving on, slightly south is the sad plight of Venezuela, which until 2013 was ruled by another deranged dictator named Hugo Chavez. This tyrant came to power through what passed as the democratic process in Venezuela; but once in office ended any semblance of democracy that may have remained.  Chavez did the world a favor by dying of cancer in 2013, but he was succeeded by his favorite henchman named Nicolas Maduro. Like the Castro brothers, the Chavez/Maduro regime in Venezuela has managed to destroy the economy to the point where the average citizen has to cross over into Columbia to obtain life’s basic supplies such as food, drink, toilet paper, etc. because Venezuelan stores are often barren of such items. Along with empty shelves and empty promises, this dictatorship has also pretty much emptied out any semblance of a democratic promise.

Moving on to Europe, we find one of my most favorite tyrants who despotically rules Russia with all the finesse of the Godfather of Mafia fame. I’m talking, of course, about Vladimir Putin who is the boss of bosses in Russia. He also came to power thru a supposedly democratic election process which he has now done away with. He operates a system of crony capitalism, whereby his cronies get all the capital, and the rest of the populace is left to drown their sorrows in Russian-made vodka. Like a prominent figure currently on the American political stage, Putin is a bloviating bully who, in order to maintain his popularity among the Russian masses, invaded and militarily annexed the Crimea which belonged to the Ukraine. Next, he has sent Russian forces and military supplies into the Eastern Ukraine in an attempt to further carve up that luckless country. Thousands have already died in the Ukraine due to Putin’s adventurism. Next, Putin has sent Russian troops and planes into Syria in to further roil all the horrors going on in the Mid-East. Average Russians may not have enough to eat, but they can enjoy the spectacle of seeing Russia spread its military wings as they watch thru a stupor induced by cheap vodka.

And, of course, prominent membership in the dictators club would not be complete without mentioning those crazy kids that rule Iran with an iron fist-the Ayatollahs. Tens of thousands of Iranians have already been put to death for opposing the fanatical type of Islam that the Ayatollahs have imposed on the populace. Iran has now built a powerful military, and is inches away from having a nuclear weapons capability. The Ayatollahs routinely threaten, almost on a weekly basis, to wipe a despised Israel off the map, and they possess the military capabilities of achieving that goal. Their funding supports terrorist organizations, not only in the Mid-East, but all over the globe. And Iran and Russia have now entered into an unholy alliance to further damage Western interests in the Mid-East and elsewhere. All this has been allowed to flourish and expand primarily because of a weak-kneed response by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

Of course, there are dozens of other tyrannical regimes around the world, but I think I’ve covered the more prominent ones. But before we get too judgmental, bear in mind that the U.S. is just weeks away from putting another bloviating bully into the most powerful position in the world. One who will also likely do away with the democratic process and Constitutional rights once he has achieved that power. The way Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Putin did once they reached their ultimate goal. And as it occurred in North Korea, a Trump dynasty can then be formed, with eager sons ready to grab the reins of power once the old man decides to retire.

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THE HATRED TOWARDS JEWS

When a friend informed the late comedian Alan King, that he had converted to Judaism, King characteristically replied-“Congratulations. You’re now entitled to 2000 years of retroactive persecution.” This was illustrated just last week by a little reported incident that occurred at the recently concluded Olympics. A weight lifting competition in the first round pitted an Israeli athlete against an Egyptian. The Israeli won, and extended his arm to shake the Egyptian’s hand, as is customary in all Olympic competitions, but the Egyptian refused to shake the hand of a Jew. Even though Israel has diplomatic relations with Egypt, and even though the professed Olympics goal is to promote peace, harmony,  goodwill and friendship among all participating nations through sports competition. It further illustrates how an all-consuming hatred toward Jews among all Arab counties and citizens in the Mid-East is virtually universal, and largely accounts for the reason that almost all Arab countries are such a basket case upon the world stage. As I’ve stated before, hate hollows out the container it’s kept in, from the inside out.

Hatred in the Mid-East, not only toward Israel, but also toward fellow Arabs through sectarian rivalries is as common as sand in Saudi Arabia. All Arab nations (with the possible exception of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia) are total economic and social disaster areas. A place where Islamic Jihadist terror groups thrive like weeds in an unkempt garden. Where economic living conditions are barely sustainable, and yet, are on an unstoppable downhill slide. Where ideological obsessions trump all standards of decency and rationality. For not only is there an all-consuming hatred toward Jews, but a similar type of bigotry exists between the Shia and Sunni factions of Islam, even though there are only minor ideological differences between the two sects. And, of course, you have Iran, a non-Arab but fanatical Moslem state whose ayatollahs routinely threaten to wipe Israel off the map. Which is a distinct possibility since Iran has supposedly armed Hezbollah, a devoutly terrorist organization located in Lebanon, with as many as 100 thousand missiles, all aimed at Israel.

And then, of course, there is the Palestinian problem. The Palestinians want their own nation consisting of the West Bank and Gaza. The problem is how to exist side-by-side with a people seeking your total destruction. The Gaza Strip is now all Palestinian, but is ruled by the terrorist organization known as Hamas. There have been at least 3 wars between Israel and Hamas, who is quite willing to sacrifice the lives of their people by the thousands, if it leads to resultant Israeli deaths. And a fourth war seems to be on the horizon. In the supposedly more moderate West Bank, Arab “martyrs” are given special places of honor in Palestinian society. “Martyrs” who have stabbed to death unarmed Israeli civilians peacefully going about their business. Who have murdered babies in their cribs, and recently stabbed to death a 13 year old Israeli girl sleeping in her bed. Whose very charter calls for the total destruction of the nation of Israel. Yes, Israeli settlements on the West Bank have dramatically complicated the task of those seeking a two state solution. My feeling is, however, that you cannot have a two-state solution when there is such huge enmity on both sides of the fence. Only a one state solution is possible, but that won’t happen until the level of hatred among both Jews and Moslems subsides. It will probably take another couple of hundred years or so through the evolutionary process for all this hate to run its course.

When Israel was first formed shortly after WWII, surrounding Arab nations immediately declared war and sought destruction of the Jewish state, but Israel prevailed. In the years after, while Israel began to thrive, while most surrounding Arab nations saw their economies and cultures go steadily downhill. In the past 70 years, the Arab world rid itself of over 900,000 of its Jewish citizens, but still held onto its hatred of them. Over that period this hatred has proved fatal to Arab society. A combination of lost human capital, ruinously expensive wars, and mis-directed ideological obsessions have taken a huge toll on most Arab nations in the Mid-East. And yet the beat goes on, unabated, with no end in sight.

Of course, the entire spectacle of anti-semitism began in Europe, shortly after the death of Jesus, when the Roman Empire drove most Jews out of their homeland, with many migrating to various European countries. It wasn’t long after, that the Catholic Church in Rome began labeling Jews as “Christ killers” thereby setting off a wave of pogroms and bigotry against a small minority of each country’s inhabitants. Never mind the irony of the fact that Jesus was a Hebrew Rabbi, and that all his disciples were Jews, and that Christianity didn’t exist when Jesus strode this planet. And it wasn’t just Catholic bigotry. Martin Luther, who launched the Protestant movement in the 15th century, was rabidly anti-semitic, and posted many writings on church doors, expressing his virulent hatred toward Jews. And, of course, the hit parade of violence against Jews would not be complete without mention of the Spanish Inquisition, during which Jews were burned at the stake in  order to purify their souls for entrance into Heaven. One could even make a cogent argument that the Holocaust could never have taken place if Europeans had not been injected with the anti-semitic virus over nearly 2000 years. After all, it took hundreds of thousands of European bureaucrats to provide the logistics, trains and bodies that enabled Nazi death camps to function so efficiently.

After WWII, anti-semitism in Europe was pretty much forced to retreat into the shadows but never really disappeared. Today, Jew haters in Europe now feel free to come out into the open, and express their enmity toward “Zionists” as if that was any different than anti-semitism. The United States is probably the only friend Israel has left in the world today. One can only wonder how long that will likely last.

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FOREIGN POLICY DISARRAY

George Washington, the first president of the United States, was also the last president to preside over a fairly unified country. Washington ruled for two complete terms during an era of general goodwill, but when he left office fierce bickering and character assassinations began occurring among the rest of our founding fathers, such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and others. The attacks on John Adams, our second president, became so virulent that Adams pushed through Congress a series of anti-sedition laws that were in direct violation of the freedom of speech and press provisions of the Bill of Rights. These laws made criticism of the presidency an act of treason with severe penalties attached. Thomas Jefferson, our third president,  who co-wrote the Declaration of Independence with Adams, became a fierce critic of Adams and his anti-sedition laws, and to Jefferson’s credit, he managed to have them repealed during his term in the White house. He accomplished little else after that, however. But amid all the back-biting going on among our leaders in those early days of the Republic, there was one concept that they apparently all agreed upon. And that was George Washington’s admonition that the U.S. should not become entangled in the affairs of foreign nations. In other words the U.S. should follow a policy of isolationism.

Protected by huge oceans to our east and west, and mostly friendly countries to our north and south, the U.S. with a few exceptions during the 19th and early 20th centuries adhered fairly strictly to to the Washingtonian concept of non-interference with other nations internal affairs. After all, it wasn’t as if foreign countries could launch bomber or missile attacks on U.S. soil. This policy of isolationism received a severe setback however, as the U.S. became militarily involved in WWI shortly after the election of 1916. With U.S. allies including Britain, France and Russia bogged down in a trench warfare stalemate with Germany that neither side seemed capable of breaking, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson deemed that it was necessary for U.S. intervention to break that stand-off. As a side note, more soldiers on both sides died from disease caused by the filthy, disgusting conditions of the trenches they occupied, than from the opposing side’s bullets. In any event, U.S. involvement quickly broke the stalemate, and, of course, the Allies went on to defeat Germany and end the war. To help change the American mindset from isolationism to intervention, composers such as George M. Cohan wrote patriotic songs in support of the war effort. You can still hear theses tunes, such as “Over There” on YouTube.

With WWI, “the war to end all wars” concluded, the U.S. populace believed it was safe, once again, to retreat back into a comfy, cozy state of isolationism. But the 20 year respite between the conclusion of WWI and the outbreak of WWII showed otherwise. The U.S. was so militarily unprepared for war in 1941 because of isolationist policies, that if Japan could had invaded our West Coast right after bombing Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt Administration was prepared to cede all U.S. land west of Chicago before attempting to take a military stand. With the unbelievable horrors, atrocities and just pure evil emanating from WWII, and with new threats to world peace on the horizon from Communist Russia and China, a policy of non-intervention in world affairs seemed unthinkable to the American public. Isolationism appeared to be dead as a doornail, (as Ebenezer Scrooge might have put it.) Of course, a subsequent policy of global interventionism has not turned out to be all that terrific either.

It led to the Korean War in which we only able to save half of the Korean peninsula from tyrannical despotism, and then to that fiasco known as Viet-Nam where nearly 60 thousand American lives perished as well as hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, in a jungle war we eventually lost anyhow. And then on to the first Gulf War which let tyrant dictator Saddam Hussein remain in power, and then to the second gulf war which removed him from power at considerable cost in lives and treasure, and which also left chaos in its place. Also along the way during the 50 years after WWII, an anti-communist, “better dead than red” mentality sprung up in the U.S which cost us needless trillions of dollars that were spent beefing up our military-industrial complex in preparation for war against the old USSR which then collapsed under the weight of its own despotism.

Hence when Barack Obama moved into the Oval office in January 2009, people were generally fed up with globalism and ready to return back to a more isolationist policy. Obama appeared to comply with these sentiments by proclaiming that “America will lead from behind” when it came to military initiatives on the world stage. In other words, the U.S. would considerably lower its profile in world events. But there were serious consequences to that position. The U.S. is apparently the one indispensable nation in world affairs, and when it retreats, evil despotism seems to move into the vacuum. And so it has, as Islamic-Jihadist barbarianism has taken hold in the Mid-East countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, as well as launching terror attacks in Europe, and even in the U.S. The token bombing raids that we’ve launched against these terrorists have hardly seemed to make a dent in their operations. And let us not forget the despotic tyrant of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who has launched unprovoked military action against the Ukraine, which has led to the deaths of thousands, while we’ve stood by and again did nothing. As far as foreign policy goes, “leading from behind” seems to be pretty much failure.

To top it all off, neither of our two presidential candidates, one of which will be in the Oval Office next January, seems to be offering up any new initiatives to offset Obama’s mostly failed foreign policy. Maybe the U.S. is just too worn out, too burdened by debt and fatigue, to launch any new meaningful action on the world stage. As I’ve written many times before, perhaps it’s the inevitable destiny of powerful empires like Rome before us, to reach the zenith of its strength, and then watch that strength slowly dissipate  into dust.

 

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WHITE PRIVILEGE

When Richard Nixon ran for presidency for the second time, 1968 had already become one of the most turbulent periods in American history. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had brutally inflamed both white and minority citizens across the country. Although the walls of Jim Crow segregation had finally began to crumble, blacks and other minorities, for the most part, still found themselves confined to the rat infested ghettoes of the inner cities that were riddled with crime, drugs prostitution and other horrors. During protests over the MLK killing, these slums in most cities were set afire in protest over the horrible living conditions that blacks still had to endure after 250 years of slavery in America, followed by another 100 years of of Jim Crow semi-slavery. There were also massive marches and protests over the growing unpopularity of the Viet-Nam war which had already claimed tens of thousands of American lives in addition to the hundreds of thousands Viet-Nam dead. To say that for most Americans, the world had been turned upside down would be an understatement. But for Richard Nixon, a golden opportunity had presented itself.

During the election that year, Nixon developed two strategies that would propel him to the White House. The first was his Southern Strategy. Ever since Republican Abe Lincoln had set the slaves free during the Civil War, the South had voted solidly Democratic in election after election. Even though Southern Democrats were usually highly conservative and generally racist, especially compared to their more liberal Northern counterparts, Southerners kept pulling the levers for for the Democratic Party through Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and into the 1940s. That began to change in 1948 when a young Democratic Senator named Hubert Humphrey induced his party to begin championing the civil rights of blacks and other minorities. (Humphrey would eventually become his Party’s nominee in 1968 and lose to Nixon.) While the black population in most southern states was significant, and would generally vote Democratic, they were no match for the white majority in these states that began to vote as a bloc for Republicans. This would give Nixon and his party an assured 200 or so electoral college votes in all future presidential elections, in a system where it takes 270 to win. Today, in the 2016 election, Nixon’s Southern Strategy is still in full blossom.

Nixon’s second strategy was to appeal to the nation’s “Silent Majority” which was primarily comprised of older white people that had become fed-up with massive anti-war demonstrations and the arson being committed in most inner city slums. Sound familiar? Today at almost all the GOP rallies, you’ll see people holding signs saying “The Silent Majority Stands With Trump.” As the song goes- “everything old is new again.” And, of course, this so-called silent majority is almost exclusively white. And why shouldn’t the majority of whites favor the GOP. It’s not whites, for the most part, that have to inhabit inner-city ghettoes. It isn’t whites that still face residual racism and discrimination in housing, employment, wages, social mobility and other areas. Hence, it’s primarily older whites that are propelling the Trump candidacy and placing a highly deranged, vulgar, obnoxious snake oil salesman peddling a neo-fascist and xenophobic elixir, within hailing distance of the Oval Office. The GOP is betting that the white majority in this country is still large enough to get The Donald the 270 electoral college votes he needs to be the next president. Even with hardly any support from minorities or younger white people. And since the Democrats have such a damaged candidate in Hillary Clinton, the Republicans are probably right.

As for Richard Nixon, he won 2 landslide elections and had many accomplishments; but his volatile and narcissistic personality, similar to Trumps, eventually did him in. He did end the Viet-Nam war to a great sigh of relief from the American public. He initiated diplomatic relations with China, which was a huge foreign policy initiative. Probably one of the top five foreign policy achievements of the 20th century. He significantly raised spending levels for health, education, and welfare. He even tried to legislate for universal health care; but, ironically, it was the Democrats that foiled him in that attempt. It didn’t go far enough, they said. But like Trump, Nixon had a fragile personality disorder. He kept an “enemies list” of people he thought were out to get him or do him in. If you were on Nixon’s enemies list, you were likely to receive a visit from an IRS agent seeking to audit your tax returns. He got involved and sought to cover up a break-in by some GOP low-level thugs of of Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in D.C. Nixon was re-elected in 1972 in a massive landslide, winning 49 out of 50 states. However, the Watergate scandal, as it came to be known, seemed to mushroom from petty larceny by some Republican hacks to presidential felony cover-up.

Two reporters from the Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein, gained huge reputations for themselves by uncovering the sleazy details of the Watergate cover-up, and Nixon’s involvement. The air was steadily seeping out of the Nixon presidential balloon until, one day, Congressional members of his own party came to the White House and told him he had to resign the presidency or face impeachment. Nixon thus became the first president to resign from the Oval Office and lived out the remainder of his days in disgrace and humiliation.

Today, thanks to a majority of white voters, we’re on the verge of putting into the White House, a man that has an almost exact replica of Nixon’s personality disorder. As Yogi Berra might have put it, it’s like deja vu all over again.

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