Posts Tagged With: terrorism

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS: PART II

When I was young, (yes, electricity had already been discovered and was in general use) there was term often used by newspapers and other media to disparage or otherwise shame certain members of society. That term was “being on the dole” and it came to signify those unfortunates that were having a tough time financially and required governmental assistance to get thru the transactions of day-to-day living. That phrase originated in England in 1917 and was in reference to benefits being “doled” out by the government to generally poor souls that couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. Since the U.S. at the time, had a hard-core, laissez-faire, capitalistic type of thinking ingrained into most people’s psyches, having to receive government assistance was considered especially shameful. The mark of a slacker, one too lazy or otherwise too indolent to provide for themselves. Indeed, according to newspapers that were published in those days, no criminal’s deeds were as heinous as that of someone “being on the dole.”

With the advent of FDR’s New Deal, however, the use of that term began to lose it’s luster. It turned out that with the creation of Social Security and Medicare legislation, virtually all seniors were eventually “on the dole,” so to speak. More social programs regarding veterans benefits, student loans, housing and other government assistance came into being, so it seemed almost everyone “was on the dole” at some point in their lives, and that inglorious phrase was eventually tossed into the dustbin of history. It was to some degree revived in a new form during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s. The term “welfare queens” suddenly came into existence as racist code to denote single black mothers who were supposedly having babies out of wedlock in order to receive larger government welfare checks. When it was pointed out that the preponderance of welfare payments were being made to white people, that derogatory phrase also faded from the public forum. But the on-going efforts of the fortunate to stigmatize the unfortunate in some shape or manner continues on unabated.

This is kind of a long way around to come to the main point of how genetics is often the determining factor in the way our lives will unfold and the destinies in store for all of us. Some time back I wrote a piece called “Genetic Predispositions” which still receives “views” years later, and I thought I would update the original with additional insights. In the original, I cited some extreme examples of how one’s genes are often the determining factor of the life being led. How, due to genetic malfunction, some fetus brains are bathed in an overdose of serotonin while in the womb. Hence, when these individuals grow into adulthood, they cannot derive pleasure or comfort from those activities that normally satisfy most of us, and thus, are often likely to turn out to be brutish rapists or serial killers to satisfy their lusts. Even when the brain develops normally, genetic make-up is usually the name of the game.

Those whose DNA is formed with a talent for fiscal matters often do the best in our capitalistic society. Bankers, Wall Street brokers, hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs etc. often accomplish the most financially, and are able to lead the most luxurious materialistic lives. Not that such bountiful materialism necessarily translates into lifelong happiness and serenity. Just ask those who knew Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston for starters. All four of whom had not only acquired immense riches, but, also millions of adoring fans and worldwide fame; but still managed to kill themselves at a fairly young age. On the the other hand, those whose DNA thrusts them into the artistic side of human performance usually receive the short end of the stick from a capitalistic oriented society. Very few writers, artists, musicians, etc. receive just compensation for their efforts and often live in poverty throughout their lives. This could also result in early demise. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe, neither of whom caught a break as far as public recognition of their talents while they were still alive, and who also died at an early age

Most of the rest of us are somewhere in the middle, living anywhere from relatively lower middle class, to reasonably comfortable lifestyles, depending on the talent programmed into our DNA. But what I didn’t mention last time are the environmental factors that one grows up with, that also have a huge influence on our future lives, and must be considered along with genes as one of life’s determining forces. An Irish poet put it best when he wrote that “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad; they fuck you up real good.” Those coming from abusive or dysfunctional homes where parents might be alcoholics, druggies, or child molesters, hardly have a chance in life, no matter how strong their genes may be. Some hearty, brave souls do manage to escape an horrendous upbringing, however, and go on to thrive in life.

It the end it virtually all comes down to a matter of genetic inheritance and environmental upbringing. I think, though, that genes are more of the determinant factor. As for me, at this stage of my life, I’m quite content to be “on the dole” and receive my government benefits.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FRANCE CHOOSES SANITY

How come the French were able to act so rationally when it came to their run-off presidential election held yesterday, while the United States behaved so badly in its presidential balloting held last November. How come France, by a two-thirds vote margin, was able to elect the candidate of moderation and common sense instead of the one pushing an agenda of white supremacy, economic supra-nationalism, and favoritism toward Russia’s tyrant Vladimir Putin, while we in the U.S. did just the opposite. Perhaps it’s something in the drinking water; or the outstanding quality of French wines.

In yesterday’s presidential run-off election in France, independent moderate Emmanuel Macron easily defeated National Front far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to win a 5 year term. At age 39 Macron is the youngest president in French history. His campaign rested on reviving France’s sclerotic economy which has been virtually on life-support since almost the end of WWII. France’s unemployment rate is more than double that of the U.S., and its economic productivity and growth rates are less than half of that in this country. Marine Le Pen’s demagoguery regarding those issues, however, never caught fire during the French campaign the way Donald Trump’s demonizing of those matters in the U.S. gave him an unexpected victory. Le Pen promised, if elected, to pull France out of the European Union, renounce the euro in favor of the franc, deny entry to Muslim immigrants fleeing into Europe from the Mid-East, and cozy up to thuggish Vladimir Putin in Russia while dis-engaging from NATO and the EU. Almost an exact female replica of Donald Trump. She called herself a “nationalist” as Trump’s key advisor, Steve Bannon, has described himself. In both cases, the term “nationalist” was code for white supremacist.

Of course, Le Pen was fighting a huge uphill battle to begin with. Her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who had founded the National Front party in the 1970s, was notoriously bigoted, especially toward Jews. He was a Holocaust denier exhibiting a distinctly fascist profile. Marine tried to scrub off her party’s bigotry, but her whitewash job didn’t work as well with the French electorate as it did here in the U.S. with Trump’s demagoguery. Perhaps the fact that France suffered for five years under the heel of a fascist tyranny until liberated by the Allies a mere 72 years ago might have been a factor. A five year span when virtually every French Jew was rounded up by French quislings and sent to Nazi death camps. In any event, Macron won handily as Hillary Clinton should have done in the U.S. election, except for monumental Democratic incompetence and blunders.

So now, instead of living with a Clinton Administration of moderation and rationality, Americans are forced to cope with the right-wing agenda and hysterics of the Trump follies. Jeff Sessions, the arch-typical white southern bigot from Alabama that Trump made his Attorney-General, wants to deny the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana, the right to do so. He would still have the Feds go after and prosecute marijuana sellers as well as buyers. (Whatever happened to the GOP’s insistence on “states rights.”) And forget about anything resembling civil rights enforcement coming out of the Justice Department. Meanwhile the top priority of the moment for Trump and his Republican Congress is to repeal and replace Obamacare. They shoved such a bill through the House, which is long on repeal and minutely short on replace. So what if the poor that can’t afford health insurance become gravely ill. I guess they should just curl up in a ball and die somewhere, so as not to bother us righteous folk that do have health insurance. Some 20 million people that were able to sign up for Medicaid under Obamacare, as minimal as that is, are now in jeopardy of losing that coverage under the Republican proposed legislation. Supposedly, the GOP plan will be drastically overhauled when the Senate takes it up.

And the beat goes on. Next up on the Trump agenda is income tax overhaul. The proposed legislation is once again distinctly Republican. Heavy tax cuts for the rich, with a few crumbs tossed to the middle and lower classes. Trump in this instance is following Ronald Reagan’s formula of large tax cuts for the upper classes while substantially increasing our military and defense spending. The same formula that started us on the road to the $20 trillion budget deficit this country now so sublimely endures. How does that line go- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Trump, always the comfortable occupant in his parallel universe of delusional paranoia, recently said words to the effect that a government shut down is needed in this country, and is long overdue. Current appropriations to keep the government running expire on September 30 of this year. Congress must appropriate and the president must sign new legislation to keep the government operating for the new fiscal year starting October 1st. Trump has threatened to veto any new appropriations that don’t contain funds to build his myopically insane border wall with Mexico, or don’t slash funding for agencies that he considers useless such as the National Institutes for Health, or the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of others.

These and many, many other examples are the consequences of a Trump versus a Clinton regime in the White House. The consequences of less than a hundred thousand votes going the wrong way in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Anyway, congratulations to the French for finally doing the right thing. After the Brexit vote in England, and the Trump victory in the U.S., it seemed like the end of Western civilization as we know it; but France has shown that it doesn’t have to be so. Perhaps we should all move to France.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT

It’s late 2015 and Donald Trump is having a small gathering at his penthouse at Trump Towers in Manhattan. His family is there including his children and grandchildren, as well as some friends and associates his known over the years. The conversation invariably begins to dwell on politics and how the upcoming 2016 primaries are starting earlier and earlier. Suddenly, Donnie Jr. loudly comments that- “You know, Dad, you could take another run at it. It’s not too late to get your name on the ballot for the Iowa caucuses.” “Right,” replies Trump. “Because it worked out so well for me in 2012.” But Donnie Jr. is persistent. “The only reason that went bust was because you let Corey talk into running as a “birther.” (He’s referring to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager in 2012, and the first half of the 2016 campaign.) “That was a losing issue from the beginning. There just wasn’t enough true believers in the Republican base to convince that Obama was secretly born in Kenya. Besides this time, you would be running against Hillary, a much weaker candidate than Obama ever was.”

“This time you can focus on the stuff that has the Republican base all in tizzy,” continues  Donnie Jr. “Like all the Mexican illegals pouring over the border. Most Republicans really hate that. And ISIS terrorism and the flood of Moslems coming into this country as well as Europe are certainly issues to rile people up. Look at the recent attacks in Europe and California. Both of these areas could give you plenty of traction in the primaries.” “I don’t know Dad,” injects Ivanka, speaking for the first time. “Aren’t there like 20 guys running for the nomination. How are you going to stand out from the rest.” “By being different than rest, and politically incorrrect” declares Steve Bannon,” a close associate of Trump over the years, and head of the Alt-Right propaganda outlet called Breitbart News.  “I mean, look who he would be running against. Jeb Bush? Give me a break. Not only has his time come and gone maybe a dozen years ago, but I don’t believe the country is ready for still another Bush in the White House. Ted Cruz? Outside of Texas, his drawing power is diddly-squat. Rubio? Too young and inexperienced. The rest are just political pigmies.”

Trump turned to Melania seated next to him, and said- “You know, the kids pretty much run the business on a day-to-day basis as it is. It’s not like I don’t have the time.” “But you would be out campaigning for about the next year,” she protested. “I’d still make time to come home to you, every now and then,” Trump replied. Melania did not look pleased, but said nothing. Turning to everyone else Trump declared that- “If I did do this, I’m not going to spend a lot of my own money, I’ll tell you that. It will be a like a take it or leave proposition. This is who I am, take it or leave it.” And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Trump entered the Republican primaries with 16 other potential candidates. His ratings alongside the others stood at about 5%. That’s when he decided to be as politically incorrect as possible, as Steve Bannon had advised. He denigrated Senator John McCain’s service to his country when he was captured and held prisoner by the Viet-Cong in the hellish “Hanoi Hilton” for 6 long years. Trump stated that he- “liked people that weren’t captured.” (I’m still trying to figure out in what universe that’s a coherent statement.) When Megyn Kelly, Fox News host, was critical of him during a debate, Trump stated that “she had blood coming out of her whatever.” He said that Mexico was deliberately sending us “their rapists and murderers,” and promised to build a 2000 mile long wall to keep them out. He said he would bar Moslems from entering the country, and would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” (I’m still waiting on some action concerning that last promise.) But the more outlandish the Trump remarks were, the more his poll numbers shot up. From 5% to about the 35-40% range.

Because Trump’s comments were considered so utterly vile, NBC fired him from their “Celebrity Apprentice” show. Macy’s fired him from being one of their spokespersons. But a large chunk of the Republican base really liked what they heard. Every white supremacist organization from the KKK on down considered Trump “their kind of guy.” The “Bikers of America” flocked to the Cleveland Convention Center to provide the necessary protection and muscle to assure that for the first time in their lives, they would have a kindred spirit occupying the White House. To this day, the large and growing white supremacy movement in the U.S. maintains nothing but adoration for Trump and his cohorts.

Despite his demagogic appeal to white racists and bigots, Trump still would have lost the election had his campaign not suppressed the voter turnout amongst blacks, Latinos and other minorities that normally vote Democratic. As I’ve said many times, elections are often decided more by the people who stay home and fail to vote, then by the numbers that do cast a ballot. The Trump campaign cast Hillary in such a derogatory light, that many voters that would have normally turned out for her were too discouraged to make the effort. Also, of course, if we didn’t have this unfathomable electoral college system, Hillary would be occupying the Oval Office today.

I wrote last time about the upcoming French presidential election (this Sunday), where the female version of Donald Trump is trying to use the same tactics of voter suppression on her opponents base. Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right, who hopes to become the new French president, is telling her opponent’s base voters that it’s not worth their effort to come out and cast a ballot on Sunday.  It would be much more pleasant for them to take a liesurly stroll in the park. Interesting to see if that tactic will work a second time.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE….”

I’m one of those people that faithfully reads the obituaries every day in the morning newspaper. Perhaps it’s because, as the old joke goes, I’m checking to see wether my name is listed there or not. Well, this morning’s obits had a bit of surprise for me. Listed as one of life’s casualties was a person that I had gone to college with named Reuben Goldstein, so many decades ago. He too was my age and born and raised in Brooklyn, but unbeknownst to me, was living in Las Vegas well before we had moved out here. I guess we were like two ships passing in the night. How unfortunate.

In those days of yesteryear (as the Lone Ranger might have said) I went to City College in Manhattan. It’s now called City University of New York or CUNY. Living in Brooklyn, I had to walk 12 blocks to the nearest subway station and take the train for about a 45 minute ride into Manhattan. A total joy in freezing cold, or rainy or snowy winter days. This station was elevated (above ground) and Reuben was often already there for the morning commute before I had arrived. When he saw me approaching, he would call out my name and shout that he would wait for me even if a train was pulling into the station to pick up passengers. And so he waited until I arrived and we then took the next train so that we could commute together and avoid the loneliness and monotony of those daily subway rides.

Reuben was not a great student as I came to realize when we sometimes did homework together after class. It turned out to be mainly a case of me helping him cope with subject matter that seemed to baffle him. In the end I wound up doing most of his homework in addition to mine. It wasn’t long after I graduated, that I latched onto a cushy assignment in Europe for three years (which I’ve written about in previous pieces) and lost complete contact with Rueben. That is, until now, when his entire life’s journey is summed up in a very brief paragraph in the daily obits. How sad. In those days, tuition at City College amounted to a $10 registration fee per semester for New York residents. When I had to spend $50 each term for school books, (used, of course) I considered it an outlandish rip-off. A subway ride initially cost a nickel then, and when it was raised to a dime, New Yorkers howled in protest, as if they were being slaughtered by Jack the Ripper. I don’t even want to know what obscene amount is being charged today. Garbage was picked up 6 days a week, even in poor neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. Now you’re lucky if they come around once a week. Is this what they call progress?

The title of this piece is taken from a song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary. It’s an anti-war song about loss and death, which Reuben’s passing made me think of. Speaking of P,P,&M, the wife and I saw them perform here in Las Vegas when they were well into their sixties, or perhaps older. I’ve often written that Las Vegas is where dead performers can come back to life. For a fraction of the price that it would cost to see a headliner like, say, Celine Dion, perform at a strip hotel, one can see a has-been  perform at an off-strip hotel. Think Frankie Valli, and the Four Seasons. And so it was with Peter, Paul and Mary, who were well past their prime when we saw them go on stage at one of the local hotel/casinos. Peter and Paul were in reasonably decent shape but Mary had aged considerably. I remember in her youth, with her long blonde hair and bangs tossing about as she performed on-stage with huge vibrance and vitality.  Now she had gotten fat with multiple ailments and had to walk on-stage using two canes and sit while performing. Their voices were a whisper of past glories. The audience sat there respectfully, knowing it was likely to be the last time they would come together on-stage. Mary, sadly, would die not that long after, at the premature age 72. And so goes the cycle of life and death.

Today I also learned that a man my age, who lived in my community, and who we used to socialize and play cards with, also just died, this time from cancer. Add one more to the obits list. Indeed, where have all the flowers gone. Turned to dust, every one.

 

 

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DEVISING AN EXIT STRATEGY

In my last posting I described how the United States has been the sin eater for the rest of the planet during the past century. How the U.S. has come to the rescue of everyone else, over and over, when the world appeared to be overtaken by some very evil forces. And how most Americans are becoming sick and tired of sin-eating the rest of the world’s most dire problems. Yet with the rise of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups, as they continue to gobble up more chunks of territory and expand their caliphate in the Mid-East, as well as commit the most heinous of crimes while doing so, there are renewed calls from powerful figures in this country  and elsewhere, for the U.S. to once again initiate military action against these jihadists. And not only against jihadism. Many militarists would have us go to war with Iran by bombing their nuclear facilities, since they have no faith that current negotiations with Iran will lead to a cessation of that country’s nuclear weapons ambitions. For example, our illustrious former Vice-President during the Bush Administration, Dick Cheney, has come out with a new book recommending the use of military force in both situations. As well as in the Ukraine, where Russia’s Vladimir Putin seems intent on taking over huge chunks of territory through military means. The problem is that the U.S. has become like a person treading water while stranded in the ocean and waiting for rescue. Our arms are getting tired.

So let us see if the U.S. can devise an exit strategy from it’s role as the world’s sin eater. First, it should be noted that more and more Americans are having less and less interest in the U.S. becoming involved in foreign entanglements, much less being involved militarily. When the I-Phone 6 came on the market not that long ago, huge, hour-plus long lines formed at Apple stores around the country. Those on line just had to be among the first to acquire the new cell. I guarantee that everyone standing in those lines already had an I-Phone 5, but thought that by acquiring the new model, their lives would somehow be magically transformed from the pathetic existences they actually were. Same situation when the Apple Watch started being sold. Does anyone think that even one person on those lines had any interest for the U.S. to engage in militarily adventuring overseas. Of course not, since that would not increase their instant gratification impulses. Same is true for those worrying about who the next American Idol will be or those keeping up with the Kardashians, etc. The U.S. has become too soft and mushy to even consider the sacrifices needed and the costs incurred in going to war overseas.

Those that would have us militarily engage ISIS point out that the U.S. was steeped in isolationism when Nazi Germany was on the rise during the 1930s; and that by the time we did enter WWII the Axis countries had become so powerful that the cost in lives alone was unspeakable. Which is all very true. But it was a different time and a different  country. Americans at the time were willing to make sacrifices if it enabled the war effort. Food was rationed by giving every family a book of stamps that limited the amount of goods that could be consumed each week. Such basics as meat, sugar, dough, baking powder, etc. were only available in very limited quantities. Consumer products were virtually nonexistent, as factories around the country were transformed into producers of military hardware. You think consumers today, contemplating their next purchase of a top of the line Lexus or Mercedes, would be willing to make similar sacrifices. It’s almost laughable.

Also to be considered is the fact that if we did engage Islamic-Jihadists on the battlefield, it would not be the same conditions as military operations against Germany and Japan during WWII. The jihadists know that they would be no match for superior American forces and equipment, and that they would be slaughtered in a head-to-head battlefield confrontation. Most would, therefore, slip away and meld into the local population and bide their time. Some might stand their ground and would likely be killed. But, as I’ve said, most would avoid such a scenario. Unlike WWII battlefields where each side had huge tank forces that sought to destroy the opposing forces tanks. If we engaged militarily today, once we cleared the area of terrorists and the like, we would eventually have to leave. The terrorists are quite patient at waiting us out, and would simply re-organize and move back in when the U.S. left Dodge City.

So how do we get out of this mess. Is there an exit strategy short of war? I believe there is. The key is in understanding what motivates young men, and some women, to likely sacrifice 60-80 years of their lives by joining organizations like ISIS in the first place. While some recruits may be true believers in the cause of Jihadism, most come to join because they’re from poverty-stricken backgrounds with little or no skills, and virtually no prospects for a better future. So what if they’re gunned down while in their twenties. Their lives are filled with nothing but misery and poverty to begin with, and none of that is likely to change. ISIS likes to boast that it doesn’t matter how many of their members get slaughtered, because thousands of new recruits are willing to join their ranks every month.

Thus the key to ending the terrorist initiative is to convince would-be recruits that they do have something to live for, and that it’s myopically brainless for them to throw their lives away in such meaningless fashion. We need to fight ISIS on-line, where much of its recruitment efforts and propaganda take place, rather than fight them on the battlefield. Only when we can convince those that are down-and-out even at a young age, that their future is not as bleak as they imagine, will the terrorist thrust begin to wither.

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RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM

At the heart of religious fundamentalism is the unquenchable thirst to dominate other people’s lives. To dictate to the populace what it can and cannot do. The self-gratifying, lustful power to reward or punish others based on how they respond to religious edicts. That power to include torturing, imprisoning or out-right killing other human beings should they disobey those edicts. This has been on-going for tens if not hundreds of thousands of years, or ever since mankind began forming into various types of societies such as tribes or clans. Most early tribal leaders had the power to destroy the lives of their fellow clansmen should they disobey the craven idols they had carved and called gods. Such power has always been too intoxicating for most leaders to ever relinquish.

Which brings us to the events going on in most Arab countries in the Middle-East. It was only a few years back that the world was enchanted by what was called the Arab Spring. Ruthless dictators that had been in power for decades, such as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, were being overthrown and the prospects of freedom and democracy throughout the Mid-East seemed to burn brightly. Today those dreams have turned to ashes, as most Arab countries have become hollowed-out shells of their former beings. You can thank religious fundamentalism for most of this, including the fact that people all too often make incredibly bad choices and turn out to be their own worst enemy.

In Egypt, after the fall of Mubarak, Egyptians were allowed to hold free elections that would determine their next government. In an act that can only be described as incredible stupidity, the people chose leaders of the Moslem Brotherhood to run their country. The Moslem Brotherhood had, over many decades, openly espoused and advocated for the imposition of strict Islamic fundamentalism for Egyptian society. Once in power, that’s exactly what they began doing. Who could have guessed? When those very same Egyptians that had voted the Moslem Brotherhood into power, began seeing the ugly face of Islamic fanaticism being put into practice, they cried and begged for relief. They held massive demonstrations and prayed that the military would intervene and save them. Fortunately for them, the Army did come to their rescue and overthrew the Moslem Brotherhood. Today, there’s a new Army General in charge of a government that allows and tolerates secularization in Egyptian society.

Most other Arab countries, however, are not as fortunate. It was not long after the Prophet Muhammed established the Moslem religion that two factions of Islam suddenly sprung up. Both factions pray to Allah, both recognize Muhammed as the prophet, so that the religious differences among the two sects are relatively minor; yet the two have created a chasm between themselves that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon. One faction is called Sunni and the other Shia, and their hatred of one another has led to deaths among Arabs in the hundreds of thousands or more. It’s all about the power and the ability to impose one’s religious beliefs on often unwilling populations. All this division and dysfunction has led to terrorist organizations being created, such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS who view killing people and instigating atrocities to be such jolly good sport. Ostensibly their intentions are to kill western heathens such as Americans and Europeans. And, of course, Israelis and Jews. That goes without saying. But in the end, they wind up slaughtering  their own fellow Arabs and Muslims by the thousands. Much easier to kill Arabs since they’re right there in the Middle-East and so readily available. Today, Iraq, Syria and Libya have been almost totally destroyed by terrorism, while Jordan and Tunisia are tottering on the brink. The terrorists have carved out a huge hunk of territory in Iraq and Syria, with stated intentions of taking over the whole Mid-East. And somehow, all this derangement, slaughter and destruction, in the name of Islamic-Jihad has proved to be an attractive recruiting tool for hundreds of young Europeans, and even some Americans. They have gone over to the Mid-East to join the terrorists on their murderous quests. After all, why should only Arabs have all the fun.

In a way, it’s a bit unfair to cite Islam as the only example of religious fanaticism, since Christianity has its own bloody history. From the time that Roman emperors allowed Christianity to become the official faith of the Roman Empire, (a few centuries after Christ’s death), the Papacy was established and became a dominant power in the affairs of almost all European nations. Europeans that deviated from various papal proclamations were often imprisoned or burned at the stake. One of my favorite episodes on the top ten list of religious fundamentalist hits was known as the Spanish Inquisition. Started in Spain in the late 15th century, the Inquisition sought to convert mostly Jews, but some Muslims also, to Christianity in order to save their souls from hell and damnation. Those “heretics” that refused to convert were often tortured and then murdered. The religious theory behind the killings were that since these Jews and Muslems would be dying at the hands of God’s children, (Christians), their spirits would be pervaded by the wisdom and knowledge of God’s followers, and they would therefore be spared from the fires of hell, and be transported into heaven. The old kill the person to save their soul gambit. This practice went on for centuries before some semblance of reason and sanity finally did away with the Inquisition.

Today, Christian fundamentalism, at least in the U.S. and elsewhere, takes the form of trying to forbid a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, or seeking to deny homosexuals their basic rights such as marriage. Certainly a lot tamer than beheading those that are considered unholy heathens. But sort of the same mentality of trying to force their fundamentalist view of life and religion down the throats of people that don’t share their beliefs. As I’ve said before, religious fundamentalism is all about the power to foist one’s beliefs on everyone else. After all, wouldn’t God want it that way?

 

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THE TERRORIST MINDSET

Not too long ago I was walking across a large intersection buried deep in thought and oblivious to surrounding conditions. Sort of standard operating procedure for senior behavior these days. Suddenly I became aware of a large truck bearing down on me, full throttle. It was readily apparent that I had but the smallest fraction of a second to leap out of the way, or be flattened like a latke. I didn’t have time to deliberate on the fact that I’ve lived a long time, and with all my aches and pains and other assorted maladies, did I really want to continue being in this lifetime. Nor did I have time to ruminate over what horrible shape the world is in these days, and getting worse all the time. Who needs it all? In fact, I didn’t have time to think at all. The natural instinct toward self- preservation kicked in, and I jumped to safety in the nick of time. But for some people the instinct toward self-preservation seems to be in short supply.

I’ve written before about living in a seniors community here in Las Vegas, and about all the foibles of senior behavior. One frequently observes seniors with canes, or walkers, or in wheel chairs, or hooked up to oxygen tanks while in wheel chairs, frequenting smokey Las Vegas casinos seeking some diversion. As physically impaired as they might be, the quest to hang on to what’s left of their lives remains as powerful as ever. A few years ago a man we knew  in our community, in his mid-60s, who had led a highly robust life, came down with pancreatic cancer. An extremely nasty business, that pancreatic cancer. He fought it tooth and nail for almost 2 years before succumbing. Toward the end he could have gotten a part as one of the zombies on the TV show, “The Walking Dead.” Due to the ravages of cancer, no make-up would have been required.

So, if the natural human instinct is to preserve life at all costs, why do some men in their twenties (once in awhile there’s a female, but it’s almost always men) strap on a belt of dynamite and seek to blow themselves up, thereby destroying about 60 or 70 years of future life, as long as they can kill others they perceive to be their enemies. Welcome to today’s modern terrorist, whose mindset revels in death rather than life. While there have been terrorists throughout the ages, (in ancient times they were called barbarians,) modern day terrorism’s evil registered in everyone’s consciousness with the tragedy of 9/11. Nineteen young Islamic-Jihadists pulled off the feat of destroying almost 3000 American lives, bringing down the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and damaging part of the Pentagon in an act of vengeance against hated Americans. Of course, they destroyed their own lives in the process, but that apparently seemed to be of little concern on their part. Interestingly, shortly before 9/11, these 19 men visited Las Vegas, apparently to experience a taste of the decadent life style they were committed  to destroying. And, as we all know, there’s been a slew of terrorist acts throughout the world, resulting in death, destruction and misery, in the ensuing 13  years since 9/11. The most recent being the beheading of 2 American journalists by a particularly vicious set of psychos known as ISIS.

It’s probably pointless to attempt to understand the psychology that goes into the terrorist mindset, but I thought I’d give it a shot. The first thing you need to understand about the terrorist’s thinking is the joy they derive from killing other human beings. It’s not unlike the serial killer who murders just for the pleasure and ecstasy (often sexual in nature) of snuffing out an innocent human life. Only the terrorist does it on a much grander scale. In other words, if you’re applying to join Al-Qaida, its probably not a good idea to check the “Yes” box on the application form where it asks-“Do you have any qualms about killing large numbers of people?” One is not likely to be accepted if they’re not willing to murder with impunity. If one is to be a terrorist, killing is the name of the game. Then there’s also the brain-washing factor to be considered.

A whole slew of radical Imams have sprouted up like poisonous weeds, not just in the Mid-East, but throughout the world. They preach intense hatred toward the West, toward Israel and Jews, and especially toward the U.S. They preach that it’s a moral imperative to kill and destroy all these heathens. Allah commands that the enemies of Islam should be destroyed. That a young man will curry great favor with Allah by sacrificing his life to kill those that would defile the Moslem way of life. He would, forever be considered a holy martyr, and his family would hold a place of high honor and distinction in Allah’s eyes, and in the Moslem world. And, sadly, to many young men, not only in Arab lands, but throughout the world, this is an appealing message. To young men, who at an early age are already down and out, with no prospects for any happiness or prosperity in their lives. Whose existences are already dismal and hopeless. Million and millions of such men populate this planet. This gives you some idea of what the world of sanity and the proponents of peace, are up against.

A couple of weeks ago there was a story about a young man from Minneapolis who despite being born and bred in the U.S., wound up joining and fighting for ISIS. Those that knew him said he was fun-loving and enjoyed pulling practical jokes. But most of all, he particularly enjoyed playing and watching basketball games. Basketball was his passion. Somehow though, along the way after high school and college, he met up with Islamic Jihadists and became brainwashed into joining their cause. Two weeks ago he was killed on an ISIS battlefield, at age 31. How many more Americans have gone over to the really, really dark side? Britain estimates that at least 500 of its citizens have joined ISIS. Almost all are of Moslem descent. Other European countries also have their citizens fighting and killing for terrorist causes. And there doesn’t seem to be any viable plan to cure this spreading disease.

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SCARLETT JOHANSSON FOR SEC. OF STATE

Readers of this blog know that I’ve often excoriated right-wing extremists for their delusional fanaticism. But there is also a cadre of left-wing extremists, like their far-right counterparts, that deserve the harsh light of reality to be shone on their biases. These left-wingers are often in academia or function as community organizers in anti-poverty poverty programs. Worthy activities to be sure, but it doesn’t exempt them from criticism of their extremist views on world activities. Thus, in certain left-wing circles, it is highly fashionable to completely side with one faction in the 65 year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And that side is, of course, is with the Palestinians. In their world view, Israel is totally to blame for all the bloodshed and and destruction that has occurred over the last 65 years because of its insistence of establishing a Jewish state in the midst of a region populated primarily by Arabs. They claim to be anti-zionist instead of anti-semitic, as if there’s a difference between the two. It’s okay for the English to have their own state, for the French to have their own state, and similarly, for the Germans, Italians, Poles, Irish, Japanese, etc., etc., to all have their own states. But, somehow, it’s not okay for the Jews to have a state of their own. So as usual in these conflicts, it’s best to examine the facts and see which side (if any) is to blame.

As everyone knows, the Olympics are supposedly all about sports competition without any political interference. But in 1972, with the Olympics held in Munich, Germany, Palestinian terrorists snuck into the Israeli encampment and captured 11 Israeli athletes. After days of fruitless negotiations, the German police stormed the encampment only to find that these terrorists had just murdered all 11 Israelis. The terrorists were then shot dead by the police, but the terror they had inflicted made world-wide headlines. All in the name of the Palestinian cause. The drumbeat of Palestinian terrorist activities continued on. In 1973 Palestinian murderers killed the U.S. ambassador to the Sudan, as well as his deputy. Then, in 1974, terrorists entered a public school in Ma’alot, Israel and massacred 25 people including 22 schoolchildren. Roars of approval were sounded in all the Palestinian territories. If there was one thing Palestinians treasured above killing Israeli civilians, it was the killing of Israeli children. This was shown by the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, in which 38 Israelis were slaughtered, including 13 children. And the parade of Palestinian terrorism has continued on and on to the present day.

Since 1980, until today, there has been 17 different Palestinian terrorist attacks in which 804 Israelis have lost their lives. And how have the Palestinian authorities reacted to this terrorism? In December, Palestinian President Abbas posthumously bestowed the “Star of Honor” on Abu Jihad, the mastermind of the Coastal Road attack. He was “the model of a true fighter and devoted leader” stated Abbas. The woman who actually led the attack had a square in the Palestinian territories named after her, for her bravery. One other item. When the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in this country brought down the World Trade Center and killed almost 3000 Americans, Israel lowered its flags to half-mast and went into a period of deep mourning over our casualties. On the other hand, there was literally rejoicing with fireworks and dancing in the streets of the Palestinian territories.

So why exactly do these left-wing “intellectuals” continually take the Palestinian side. Well, perhaps it’s because in Israel, women are not allowed to drive a car on their own. If a woman wants to get behind the steering wheel, there must at least be one man to accompany her. Oh, wait a minute. Those rules actually take place in Saudi Arabia. In Israel, women have exactly the same driving privileges as men. Well then, maybe it’s because in Israel, women have to dress in long black wraps which include covering their faces. Oops, wrong again. That actually takes place in Iran, and through many of the Arab countries. Israeli women dress according to the latest Western fashions. Well, perhaps it’s due to the fact that Israeli schoolchildren are taught that Islamic Mullahs seek to slit their throats and drink their blood. Oh no, once again my bad. Such are the the teachings in our old friend Saudi Arabia once more; where schoolchildren are taught that Jewish Rabbis inflict such ghoulish acts on them. So what is behind the anti-Israeli bias so popular in so many left-wing circles. It seems as though anti-semitism is the one hatred that still has respectability among many on the left.

In any event, the Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry in particular, have recently been trying to broker a peace agreement to finally end this 65-year old conflict. However, from statements made by Kerry, and in accordance with Obama’s wishy-washy, weak as dishwater foreign policy, it appears that all the concessions needed to presumably reach a peace treaty are to be made by Israel. Nothing in the way of compromise is being asked of the Palestinians. God forbid. This is where Scarlett Johansson enters the picture. The well-known and beautiful actress recently cut a commercial for the Super Bowl touting sodas made by an Israeli company called SodaStream. Oxfam, a left-wing anti-poverty group condemned her action, and called on her to join with them in a boycott of all Israeli goods. Scarlett, politely but firmly declined, citing a fundamental difference of opinion regarding boycotting Israeli products. Finally, someone with a little spine and backbone. Perhaps we should make her Secretary of State in lieu of John Kerry. She certainly couldn’t do any worse regarding foreign policy, than what has been exhibited by this Administration thus far.

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HUMANS BEHAVING BADLY

Around the time that Jesus walked the Earth, the Roman Empire was in the process of reaching its zenith in power and control. Having conquered almost all of Europe and North Africa, virtually everyone outside of Asia found themselves under Roman domination. Or under the most advanced and enlightened civilization that ever existed on this planet, if one viewed it from a Roman perspective. But many people chaffed under this Roman rule and started to fight back. They were known as the Huns, the Vandals the Goths and other assorted barbarians. These groups knew that the Roman army was far too powerful to challenge head on, so instead they resorted to acts of barbarism, such as attacking villages at the fringes of Roman occupation; and murdering every occupant while burning these villages to the ground. Over a period of centuries, these attacks began to erode Rome’s military strength, and the barbarians started making steady headway as it just became too costly for Rome to continually defend the territories it had previously conquered. Finally, as we all know, the barbarians broke through the gates of Rome, and destroyed the entire Roman Empire. Europe was then plunged into what is known as the dark ages, as all the societal and technological advances that Rome had accomplished were washed away into a sea of ignorance and barbarism. Europe languished in  this black sea of primitivism, until finally the Reformation which started in the 16th or 17th century, began to take hold, and civilization began to advance back to the point of where the Roman Empire had left it.

Today we have a new set of barbarians chipping away at the gates of the American Empire (if you will);  only now we call them terrorists. But the goals and methods of today’s terrorists are remarkably similar to those of the barbarians that destroyed Rome. This came to light in a story that was mind- numbingly under reported by the media until very recently, but is deeply troubling in its implications. Back in April 2013, an attack was made by unknown individuals, on an electrical substation in San Jose, CA. In the dark of night, these individuals cut the fiber-optic transmission lines in the ground that transmitted the substation’s electrical output. They then set themselves up in sniper positions and began firing at the substation equipment with military grade rifles. The firing went on for nearly 20 minutes, and destroyed virtually all of the electrical equipment. More than 100 shots were fired. Then these individuals slipped away in the blackness, undetected. In all, the entire episode took 52 minutes, during which the police, or any other law enforcement officials were completely absent.

This event is so disturbing, on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, the attackers were not some college kids out for a midnight prank. The FBI agrees that these people were highly trained in military operations and sabotage. Speaking of the FBI, their investigation into this matter has turned up zero results, thus far. No clues, nothing. The assault destroyed 17 transformers which took nearly a month to repair and replace. Electric Co. officials battled to keep the lights on by rerouting power from nearby substations. But the most disturbing aspect is what if this was just a trial run.

It’s no secret that America’s achilles heel is its electrical grid. A similar coordinated and simultaneous attack  on a relatively small number of electric substations across the country could bring the U.S. to its knees within minutes. The barbarians wouldn’t have to wait for centuries. Without electricity, all business and commercial activity would come to a screeching halt. All planes would be grounded. Try getting cash out of your local ATM when the power is cut off. California law makers and power officials flat out consider this sniper attack on the San Jose substation to be an act of terrorism. It doesn’t have to be Al-Qaida; local, homegrown terrorists will do just as well. The Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has stated that “it was the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.” He further said that the lack of fingerprints on the shell casings left at the scene, indicated how well prepared the snipers had been.

Almost as disturbing as the incident itself, was the lack of coverage by the media. There was no reporting whatsoever, until the Wall Street Journal broke this story last week, 9 months after the fact. Nothing from Fox News for example. They were still too busy bashing and demonizing ObamaCare to allot time for coverage of an act of domestic terrorism. Nothing from the New York Times or Washington Post. Now the major media outlets have finally woken up to just how huge a story it is, and have begun giving it extensive exposure.

Speaking of ObamaCare, I had a discussion recently with a friend who considered it a disaster, and in his mind, a primary reason that I should become a Republican. I was going to tell him that the GOP’s agenda of tax breaks for the rich, trickle-down economics, and slashing government assistance to the poor, sick and elderly was not exactly my cup of tea. Nor was the GOP’s social agenda of anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-immigration, and anti-gun control. Instead, though, I decided to be more flippant. I told him that the image etched into my brain from the 2008 campaign, of Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from a helicopter with a high powered rifle, and calling it sport, was still more than my body could cope with. Another example of humans behaving badly. Anyway our conversation sort of petered with that remark.

Anyway if the unpopularity of ObamaCare does cause the Democrats to lose control of both the House and Senate this year, as my friend predicted, think of all the fun that will ensue. You will have governmental gridlock, dysfunction, polarization, and ineffectiveness on steroids.

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THE GREAT DIVIDE

Last week’s tragic events at the Boston marathon was a perfect example of what happens when religious fundamentalism converges with one’s sense of delusional victimization. Two young brothers, with virtually their entire lives ahead of them, decided to destroy those lives as well as the lives of as many innocent victims as they could kill. They were immigrants from Chechnya; but had been in this country for about 10 years and seemed to be melding into the the mores and activities of our society. The younger brother had even become a naturalized citizen. But somewhere along the way, the older brother allowed himself to be deluded by Islamic jihadist religious fundamentalists. The only true objective of these jihadist imams is the destruction of western society. To accomplish that, they preach the vilest hatred toward anything western, and by the force of their “religious” preachings, are able to convince scores of young, vulnerable minds to destroy themselves while committing acts of terrorism. Chechnya has been fighting decades-old wars with Russia to gain independence; so it would appear that the older brother’s beef would have been with Russian domination and suppression of Chechnya’s quest for for freedom. But young, vulnerable minds can be so easily manipulated, apparently, to the point of where the U.S. instead of Russia become the evil villain in the older brother’s delusional thinking process. He then, obviously, brainwashed the younger brother into also destroying his life through some holy grail act of terrorism.

There is a great divide in values between western society and those of mid-eastern Moslem nations. Osama Bin-Laden said it best when he stated that western societies value life, while mid-eastern Islam values death above all else. Thus, the highest honor for a jihadist is to become a martyr by killing others and himself in an act of terrorism. (Notice I made the distinction between mid-eastern jihadism and the beliefs of other Moslem societies. For example, Indonesia, which is the largest Moslem nation in the world, seldom indulges in such jihadist fantasies.) The delusions that fuel jihadist terrorism probably go back a thousand years to the time of the crusades; when Christian knights from Europe set off on a “religious” mission to rescue the “holy” land of Jerusalem from the Moslem “infidels.” Grievances can be nursed a long, long, time, and the human tendency to play the victim is woven into the very fabric of the human condition. But what the jihadists really despise, is how much more advanced western society is, when compared to most Moslem societies, in every aspect: scientific, technological, economic, cultural, living standards, and so on. So instead of working to bring Moslem nations up to levels achieved by western societies, jihadists act to do just the opposite. Destroy western societies through acts of terrorism so they descend down to Moslem-nations standards. Which is generally where the west was about 700-800 A.D. Although this will never happen, that bit of reality will never be allowed to enter the jihadist’s planet of delusion.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Russia brutally invaded Afghanistan and took over control of that country. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, he decided that the U.S. should provide military aid to Afghan freedom fighters fighting a guerilla war against the Russian invasion. In particular his administration provided Stinger surface-to-air missiles to the Afghans which was especially effective in bringing down Russian fighter planes. Eventually, Russia found it too costly to continue the occupation, and withdrew their troops back inside Russian borders. One of the Afghan freedom fighters was a tall, lanky guy named Osama bin-Laden. The Reagan Administration never considered what the follow-on consequences would be once the Afghans obtained their freedom. It never considered that once the Afghans, and the Islamists that came from other Moslem countries to join the battle, gained their freedom, they would then turn their wrath on the west and the U.S. in particular. It took less than a decade for the Islamists in Afghanistan to reset their focus away from Russia and toward the United States. By the mid-1990s various terrorist activities began cropping up in different parts of the world, including in this country, often as the result of a group no one had heard about before. They called themselves Al-qiada, but who cared about some obviously deranged individuals who were killing innocent victims just for the pleasure of it. Until 9/11/2001. Then the whole world took notice.

The terrorist mindset is always one of victimization seeking revenge. We, of course, know that in this country we have have our own breed of murderous nut cases. Less than a decade-and-a half ago, our own home-grown Timothy McVeigh, because of some imagined, delusional grievances against the Federal Government, managed to slaughter 168 people going peacefully about their business, by blowing-up a Federal office building in Oklahoma City. Scores of these victims were very young children attending a day-care center. On a slightly smaller scale, we’ve experienced a series of recent heinous murders in Connecticut, Colorado and Arizona because of deranged “victims” that were out for revenge.

We all know that delusional nut jobs exist in our very midst. Some of us may even know some one like that. Law enforcement can only provide so much protection. Since law-enforcement officials are still just human beings, people with murder on their minds will fall through the cracks. As the 2 brothers did in Boston. Eventually terrorism, either home grown or imported, will strike despite our best efforts at prevention. Yes, the FBI was provided certain information that might have prevented the Boston tragedy. But since FBI agents are also human, mistakes were made.With the enormous proliferation of hand guns, rifles, bomb-making materials and other weapons so readily available in our society, terrorist acts become ever more easy to pull off. So welcome to life in the early 21st century. Where terrorism, serial killings, revenge killings, or just plain, good old-fasioned acts of murder become the new norm; to live with on a day-today basis.

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