Posts Tagged With: Winston Churchill

THE UNRAVELING OF CIVILIZED SOCIETY

A woman at a recent campaign rally holds up a huge sign that says-“Thank You Lord Jesus for Donald Trump.” Now Trump may be many things, but the one thing he’s not is a bible-thumper.  Yet, the rather large evangelical community of Christian zealots in this country do appear to be solidly in the Donald’s corner. Hmmnn. Strangely, religious fanaticism and Trump seem to fit together like hand in glove. On the opposite side, a noted Wall Street Journal columnist recently called out Trump for his demagoguery, and compared him to the late tyrannical dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who ran his country’s economy into the ground before dying of cancer in 2013. In terms of belligerence, bellicosity, and bullying, there are definite similarities between the two men. But I would more likely compare Trump to Vladimir Putin, who runs Russia mafia-style, with himself as the godfather, or boss of bosses. Those on the right who think Trump will have any respect for the U.S. Constitution, or the traditions and practices of U.S. government operations, once he reaches the Oval Office, are in for a rude awakening. Both Chavez and Putin came to power largely through the democratic process, similar to the one we practice in this country. Once in power, however, both men casually tossed aside any semblance of democracy, and became dictators for life. And now we seem to be traveling down this same road.

Of course, the unravelling of American society pales in comparison to the horrors being perpetrated in much of the rest of the world. In the Mid-East, Islamic fascist terrorism is destroying the societies of countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, thereby creating a huge humanitarian crises. Hundreds of thousands have already been slaughtered by tyrants such as Hafaz Assad in Syria, or by Islamo-Fascist terror organizations such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Hundreds of thousands more, trying to escape a similar fate, have attempted to flood into Europe, the nearest port of entry that’s supposedly safe. Thousands have already drowned at sea trying to cross the Mediterranean and reach the shores of Greece, a country, by the way, that itself is drowning under the burden of unaffordable economic debt. The irony is all too transparent. From Greece, the plan for most of these refugees is to move north into the more prosperous nations of Germany and France. But the problem is that most of these European countries are relatively small, and can ill-afford to absorb the tens or hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants pouring into their boundaries. The prime minister of Hungry has decried this huge Muslim influx, saying that it will change the very core of Christian prevalence over the European continent. And it probably will. Political battles are going on in virtually every European nation as to whether to admit these desperate immigrants, and if so, how many.

What’s at play here is an unravelling of civilized society as we have known it. When a vacuum is created, evil appears to inevitably move in to fill that vacuum, and those opposing that evil are merely jailed or executed. That vacuum came into existence by the withdrawal of NATO from policing world affairs, primarily in Europe and North Africa. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was created originally to counter the aggressive ambitions of the old Soviet empire, consisted of military forces from primarily the U.S., but also from European countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the rest of Europe. But with the disintegration of the USSR, NATO began to wither on the vine, if it even exists today, other than on some parchment.

With huge budgetary debt piling up throughout most of Europe, as well as in the U.S., it has become expedient to attempt to achieve savings by cutting back on military hardware and troops. The military resources of virtually every European country is now just a shadow of its former self, and there has been significant decrease in this country as well. Which makes it a prime opportunity for the bad guys to move in and fill the vacuum left by the hollowed forces of the good guys. An opportunity too ripe to pass up. Thus, the Mid-East is in a process of steady disintegration, Europe is being overwhelmed by waves of desperate refugees fleeing for their lives to a continent ill-equipped to absorb them, and the U.S. is pretty much observing from a safe distance, but doing nothing.

Perhaps it’s in the very fabric of the human condition to eventually end up on a course of self-destruction. Winston Churchill once said that a lie travels half way around the world while truth is putting its boots on. The same exact thought could be made about the forces of good and evil. In the late 1930s, the good guys pretty much twiddled their thumbs while Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan nearly destroyed the world. The price paid for late entry into world events was merely in excess of 60 million human lives. Today the U.S. and its allies fiddle while the Mid-East burns. Of course, such conditions create fertile soil for demagogues like Donald Trump to plant the seeds of fear and anger on his quest to be the most powerful person in the world. Reacting out of fear or anger is a sure-fire route for those on the road to perdition. I wonder how Jesus feels, being thanked for the rise of this snake oil salesman.

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OVER THE FISCAL CLIFF WE GO

By now you should have all heard about the “fiscal cliff” and how we are about to plunge over it, if Congress does not act by around Christmastime. Lots of luck with that. The fiscal cliff came into being in August 2011. The voters, in their infinite wisdom during the November 2010 elections, elected  a Democratic majority in the Senate, but a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Most of the newly elected House members were Tea Party stalwarts, with a supposed mandate to sharply reduce Government spending by cutting the budget. Then, in July of 2011, a piece of legislative idiocy known as the debt-ceiling had to be raised in order for the Government to go on functioning. The debt-ceiling, which is not stipulated anywhere in the Constitution, mandates that the Government cannot borrow anymore money above an amount previously designated by Congress, unless Congress passes a new law designating an increased amount of debt. I know that this is utter nonsense that attempts to appeal to voters who otherwise are not paying attention to the machinations of the way things get done in Washington, but this nonsense is codified in statute.

So, if any of you haven’t fallen asleep yet, I’ll plow on with more explanation of how Congress functions on the taxpayers dime. Thus, back in July 2011, if the debt-ceiling wasn’t going to be raised on Government spending, where 40 cents out of every dollar spent had to be borrowed, it would have meant that major components of the Government would have to be shut down, and Federal employes sent home with no paycheck. It would have meant missed social security or medicare payments, as well as failure to pay Defense and other Government contractors. It would have meant that if you had payed for a trip to any of our national parks, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite, (over 300 million people visit our national parks every year) you were out-of-luck since park personnel would have been sent home, and the parks closed. You get the picture. But catastrophic or not, House Republicans vowed they would not go along with raising the debt-ceiling unless the Obama administration agreed to drastic cuts in Federal spending to begin January 2013, as well as renewal of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012. Otherwise the Government would be shuttered, starting August 2, 2011. Just before midnight on August 1, Obama caved, and agreed to all the Republican demands, and the Government was allowed to stay in business through the end of 2012.

By now, those of you that haven’t fallen asleep are probably propping open your eyelids with toothpicks, but, hey, I didn’t make the rules whereby the Government functions in all its splendor. So now we are in December 2012 and the “fiscal cliff” which sounds a lot better than “congressional stupidity” is about to befall us in just a few weeks. If the Administration and Congress can’t come to an agreement, the Bush tax cuts expire, and taxes go up for nearly everyone. This will be noticed immediately in reduced paychecks due to increased tax withholding. Automatic budget cuts will take effect, including a $50 billion annual cut in Defense spending. This has a lot of  Republicans all upset, since spending on military hardware and troops is the holy grail for conservatives. As if the Defense budget was funded by the money tree that grows in the Pentagon courtyard. Small Defense contractors, heavily concentrated in the Washington DC suburbs of Northern Virginia and Maryland, are claiming that they will have to close their businesses should these Defense cuts be allowed to take place. Other non-Defense contractors are also claiming they will have to reduce payrolls or shutter their companies, causing more unemployment and further weakening an already tepid economy. And so it goes, on and on.

President Obama is willing to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, except the wealthiest 2% of the population. For them, (couples earning over $250,000) the marginal tax rates would go up 4.6% on earnings after $250,000. Which is where they were during the Clinton years. Yet Republicans are absolutely not willing to accept 98% of the loaf. They are insisting that it has to be either the entire 100% of the loaf, or no bread at all. After all, doesn’t everyone know that a small marginal tax increase on the richest 2% of Americans will cause an irreparable breach in the very space-time fabric of the universe. A breach that can never be healed and will eventually cause the universe to crumble into a heap of ashes. That, in effect is the Republican position on income taxes, and they’re not budging from it.

The Republicans also want to overhaul social security and medicare to lower their costs, both of which are unquestionably breaking the budget. In this instance, it’s the Republicans that are facing up to reality, and the Democrats that are being irrationally stubborn in refusing to come forward with reform plans that are clearly necessary for those 2 giant entitlement programs. Raising the eligibility age for both programs to 67, and eventually to 70, would make them solvent overnight. And such action would be completely justified because the life span of Americans has significantly increased since these programs were enacted. So there you have it- the GOP won’t budge on on a tax increase for the rich, and the Democrats are just as stubborn on reforming social security and medicare. If both parties hold to their positions we go over the fiscal cliff come January.

Awhile back I wrote a piece on the failures and dysfunctions of democracy, and democratic forms of government in general. I pointed out that Winston Churchill had said that democracy was the worst form of government, (except for all the others that have ever been tried.) And now with this extreme polarization among the ruling parties in this country, dysfunction has never been more clearly highlighted. I believe that members of both parties become highly agitated just at the thought of having to compromise with the other side. Thus, we appear to be stalemated. My feeling is, that at the last minute, some sort of agreement will be reached preventing our plunge over the fiscal cliff. Or not.

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