Lost in Space – Episode XXIII – Obama’s Dilemma

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Shit just got real with Russia today when their government announced that the United States would be barred from the International Space Station after 2020. In addition, they will no longer sell engines to the United States for military applications. I hope that we have a bunch of them on the shelf but somehow I doubt it.

The NK-33 (1,505 kN) and RD-180 engines (4,150 kN) are two of the key powerplants for our space program. The NK-33 is used in the first stage of the Antares rocket, which launches payloads of up to 5,000 Kg into low earth orbit; basically satellites. The RD-180 is used as the first stage of the ULA (Lockheed Martin & Boeing JV) Atlas V heavy lift rocket for satellite launches. It was also projected to be used in a new Atlas V CTS (Crew Transportation System), a heavier lift version originally scheduled to come on-line in approximately 2020.

The Thiokol Ares solid rocket booster used in the Space Shuttle at 14,000,000 N is the most powerful booster ever made. The Saturn V delivered 6,770,000 N and was the most powerful liquid fueled rocket ever built. The most powerful rocket now being built in the United States is the Aerojet RS-68 liquid rocket, which produces 2,950Kn.

The current delivery vehicle to the ISS is the Russian Soyuz, which uses 4 liquid fueled rockets developing 813 Kn each at liftoff. The Zenit engines used in Sea Launch’s vehicles develop 8,100,000 N and can deliver 30,000+ lbs into low earth orbit. The Zenits are built by the Russians as well. As I am trying to outline for liberals who may not understand science, we are screwed.Houston, we have a problem.

Every rocket system is different and there is very little mixing and matching. It is, in fact, rocket science.

We were until today looking at having another Russian technology and hardware based heavy lift capability in 2020, but are now being told rather impolitely to go screw.That the message was delivered by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin one of Putin’s closest cronies and a target of our sanctions as well as being the head of Russia’s space program, is even more to the point.

Obama’s NASA is more interested in climate change and Muslim outreach today and now we are faced with either a dispute over ownership of one of our own technology jewels or another climbdown by the Obama administration. The most popular dish in the White House Dining Room these days seems to be crow.

The is something fundamentally wrong with the administration’s ideology. It shows up in a chaotic foreign policy and a decision-making process that is almost exclusively politically driven. It now shows up in our greatest scientific endeavors where it has no place at all. It is time to face the fact that this is the most incompetent and dangerous government in our history.

 

Addiction is a disease

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The papers are still trying to figure out what happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman. One of the most engaging actors of our day died with a needle still sticking in his vein sitting on the can in his apartment. It was a “hot shot” and now his family is stricken with the loss of a father and lover and his friends are devastated.

The costs of addiction are terrible. I know. I have seen the needle and the damage done. A family member is struggling with recovery and it ebbs and flows. My wife and I pray on this every day and night.

There are many kinds of addictions. Prescription drugs are the worst at the moment. There is a pipeline from “Pain Management” centers to the pharmacies who are the new dealers. Oxycontin? Vicodin? Zanax? Opama? Percocet? Morphine? Valium?  Add Meth to the list as well. Ecstasy has had its toll as have many other drugs.

National Review’s Kevin D Williamson describes the Oxycontin Express, a bus route that runs from Florida to Kentucky and West Virginia bringing prescription drugs to the “Pillbillies”. It’s a short hop from Oxycontin and Opana to heroin. Oxycontin is expensive. Heroin is cheaper and more available and more pure than it has ever been. Philip Seymour Hoffman is an example but here in Orange County where I live, we lose 1 to 2 young people per week to narcotics. The toll from alcohol addiction shows up in the hospitals and police statistics. The toll from these addictions and others such as sex or gambling addiction show up in divorce rates and broken families and repetitive behavior from generation to generation.

The world is facing a crisis of addiction. In Iran, in Afghanistan and in the West and even in China.

20% of our population is susceptible to addiction according to the statistics. The National Institute on Drug Abuse data indicates that 50% of addicts have experienced childhood trauma. Close to 90% of young addicts start with pot and alcohol. If one wishes to add in adult trauma, the numbers increase even more. Veterans returning home with PTSD reach for a bottle or a joint or something more and once they are hooked, the monkey is well and truly on their back same as with all other addicts.

It doesn’t want to let go. It is there for the duration. Alcoholics Anonymous has pointed this out since 1935. A gentleman named Rowland H. visited Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst, who told him that the case was hopeless from a medical treatment perspective. Jung directed Rowland H. to the Oxford Group, who were dedicated to recreating the spirit of the first Christians. They were founded on the Four Steps and the Four Standards, the predecessor to every 12 step program today.

Addiction is powerlessness. It is physical and it is spiritual and it is biochemical and neurological. You cannot run from it just as you cannot run if you are infected with HIV. In fact, the recovery rate from HIV is better than that of some addictions. Addiction is not a choice.

Addicts are often filling a psychic or spiritual hole. They are often damaged goods long before that first toke or sip or pill at a party. Others become addicted in more traditional forms. An athlete is injured and begins to use painkillers. A veteran does the same. Slowly the drug hijacks the body and the soul. I have met all of these types. They are our children and neighbors and co workers and friends and even go to the same churches and schools and jobs. There are functional and non functional addicts, but in the end they are all non functional since they usually die long before they should have.

The drugs themselves are ruthless. Heroin, cocaine, and meth can all grab a soul in just a few days. And then Satan owns their soul until they can crawl back to normalcy. Addicts often believe they can handle it at the outset; that they are in control. But the statistics say otherwise.

The illness of addiction is often linked to our dysfunctional mental health system and is certainly wrapped up in our penal system. Over 50% of the prisoners in the Federal system are there for drug offenses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health over 50% of all prisoners in our penal system have mental health issues. What is the overlap? 30%? 50%? More?

Fr. Don Calloway is a Catholic Priest. He wasn’t always. He was an addict when he was young. He was in rehabilitation and the doctors, the best in the field, told him that he had a 3% chance of recovery. He was stunned. He said to himself “They are telling me that I have a 3% chance of recovery? With all of the best minds and years and years of experience they say only 3% of opiate addicts will recover? They’re doing it wrong!”

We, as a society, are doing it wrong. As a society we do not wish to credit faith and moral guidance as key elements of recovery and yet time and again these have proven to be the keys. It is a constant process. It is not easy. But just as a HIV infected patient or a diabetic can keep death at bay, so can addicts. Addicts also have a disease of the soul. All of the symptoms and the root causes must be addressed.

But we have to begin to view the problem from a new perspective. With compassion and empathy and respect. Just as the Catholic faith teaches to condemn the sin, not the sinner we must begin to do the same. The addiction must be viewed separately from the person.

Treatment, sober living and living with relapses are all a part of recovery. Continual reinforcement is necessary, even years later. Perhaps especially years later as in the case of Mr. Hoffman. Mental health related issues are one of the scourges of our times. But we can do better. The solutions are there if we wish to seek them out. Neuropsychology, Neurology, Metrology and other sciences are pushing the boundaries back on our understanding of the brain. We have always known the source for the understanding of the soul.

We can do this. But first we must rethink our strategies of dealing with this scourge.

The UN goes to war with the Catholic Church

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The headlines in the press all over the world are screaming about the UN’s condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church for child abuse by a small number of priests of a faith that encompasses 1.2 Billion adherents around the world.

The members of the committee of 18 experts include representatives from Saudi Arabia (vice-chair), Egypt, Bahrain (vice -chair), Tunisia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, The Russian Federation, Norway (chair) among others. In fact, one could hardly ask for a more hostile Commission.

You can get the flavor of the attacks here, here, and here. They include:

UN accuses Vatican of adopting policies that allowed priests to rape children

Daily Telegraph

U.N. panel blasts Vatican handling of clergy sex abuse, church teachings on gays, abortion

Washington Post

U.N. Panel Assails Vatican Over Sexual Abuse by Priests

New York Times

The headlines capture a broad condemnation of the Church’s perceived failings, including its stances on gay marriage, birth control, and abortion. Little of this made the headlines. But if you dig deeper and read the report some of the gems include:

“The Committee recommends that the Holy See undertake a comprehensive
review of its normative framework, in particular Canon Law, with a view to ensuring
its full compliance with the Convention.”

How very statist.

“The Committee welcomes the information provided by the Holy See during the
interactive dialogue that it has initiated a review of its legislation with a view to
withdrawing the discriminatory expression “illegitimate children” which can still be found in Canon Law, in particular Canon 1139. While also noting as positive the progressive statement delivered in July 2013 by Pope Francis, the Committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same-sex couples.”

The Committee willfully and categorically misstates the Church’s position.

“The Committee recommends that the Holy See bring all its laws and regulations, as well as its policies and practices, in conformity with article 2 of the Convention and promptly abolish the discriminatory classification of children born out-of-wedlock as illegitimate children. The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.”

The Committee wishes to reinvent the law and the language.

“Amend both Canon Law and Vatican City State laws to explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children, including within the family”

Spanking? Really? It worked in my case.

“The Committee also regrets that the Holy See did not provide precise information on the measures taken to promote equality between girls and boys and to remove gender stereotypes from Catholic schools textbooks.”

Hmmmm….same size fits all? I think the facts speak for themselves.

“The Committee is concerned that the Holy See restrictively interprets children’s
right to express their views in all matters affecting them, as well as their rights to freedom of expression, association and religion.”

Children are children and it is integral to teach them in all matters, including faith and morals. Freedom of expression in a child can range from tantrums to acting out to inappropriate behavior. Let’s ask the Saudi, Bahraini, and Malaysian delegates how they interpret this.

“The Committee strongly urges the Holy See to cooperate in studies to determine the root causes of the practice of anonymous abandonment of babies and expeditiously strengthen and promote alternatives, taking into full account the right of children to know their biological parents and siblings, as enshrined in article 7 of the Convention.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to life is centered on the protection and care of children, wherever they are. In India, where Mother Teresa care for thousands of babies born into other faiths. The Church takes in the abandoned, the halt, and the lame and yet the UN Commission has the effrontery to challenge this mission, which has been abnegated by the state in so many countries?

The Committee also urges the Holy See to contribute to addressing the abandonment of babies by providing family planning, reproductive health, as well as adequate counseling and social support, to prevent unplanned pregnancies as well as assistance to families in need, while introducing the possibility of confidential births at hospitals as a measure of last resort to prevent abandonment and/or death of a child.”

“The Committee urges the Holy See to adopt a policy for the deinstitutionalization of children placed in Catholic Church-run institutions and for the reunification with their families, where possible. The Committee also recommends that the Holy See take all necessary measures to ensure as a matter of priority that children under the age of three are not placed in institutions.

“The Committee urges the Holy See to review its position on abortion which
places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls and to amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”

“The Committee is seriously concerned about the negative consequences of the Holy
See’s position and practices of denying adolescents’ access to contraception, as well as to sexual and reproductive health and information.”

“Assess the serious implications of its position on adolescents’ enjoyment
of the highest attainable standard of health and overcome all the barriers and taboos
surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive
information, including on family planning and contraceptives, the dangers of early
pregnancy, the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the prevention and treatment of sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs)”

“Guarantee the best interests of pregnant teenagers and ensure that the
views of the pregnant adolescent always be heard and respected in the field of
reproductive health.”

These last demands by the UN Commission go against the core teachings of Christianity.

The Church’s teachings are believed by Catholics to be the Word of God. The Church is centered upon the imperfection of man and on the redemption of sin through faith and good works. The Roman Catholic Church established the world’s first hospitals and orphanages and considers caring for the world’s poor, regardless of faith as a central mission. As the UN Commissioners met in Geneva, one of the world’s most elegant and expensive cities Catholics all over the world were carrying out this mission. In a world that sees more dark clouds every day the Church has been a ray of hope.

We believe that our Bible is the Word of God and that we must follow its tenets. Central to these beliefs is the Right to Life.

The United Nations has most decidedly advanced a statist, anti-life agenda in this document.The report is a contradiction in itself. It is deeply in error. This is unsurprising considering the composition of the Human Rights Council. It includes a number of countries where Sharia Law rules and women are supremely oppressed. In the Russian Republic the Orthodox Church is the state religion and religious freedom for other faiths, especially Roman Catholics, is forbidden. In many of the member states on the Committee Christianity is suppressed and persecuted.

At the same time the diseases of the libertine Left permeate the report. Anything goes and everything is allowed.

It is deeply ironic that in this country those same Leftists who almost uniformly condemn the Church are silent in the face of Woody Allen’s  crimes.

And while the Church is deeply imperfect, to question its fundamental teachings is a grave offense.

When will we read of a report on the enslavement and stoning of women in Islamic countries? Or the Abrahamic code of punishment of Sharia? Are these not greater offenses? Or will we see a report on the damage done by the casual taking and ending of life through abortion and euthanasia?

Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church in particular have become easy targets for the failings of men. Lost is the message that faith should lift humanity to a more responsible and moral life. Much of the report’s condemnation concerns practices that ended many years ago. Where is there a recognition of this?

The clouds of darkness are gathering. Again I think of Yeat’s Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The United Nations, the supposed guarantor of religions freedom, has spoken. And now its position is clarified. It is at war with Western Values.

The Left’s Hypocrisy – Bristol Palin – LA Times edition

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Here is the link to an Op/Ed piece by someone at the Los Angeles Times. He seems to forget how his colleagues made a blood sport of Bristol Palin, the daughter of a Vice Presidential candidate in 2008 who chose to have her child rather than abort it. The Left was a pack of wolves tearing at Ms. Palin with the most vile rhetoric.

Ms. Palin dared to speak out against Wendy Davis, the darling of the Left in Texas who is best known for her support for late term abortions and abortionists such as Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is serving a life without parole term for the most heinous and vile death factory perhaps in all of American history.

Now, Ms. Palin chose to comment on Ms. Davis, noting that her life narrative is  fictitious and that Davis’ positions on abortion are diametrically opposed to hers. Those are the same positions held by Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, Joseph Biden, John Kerry, Andrew Cuomo, Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama. To them a woman has a right to an abortion all the way to term.

Only four countries in the world allow this; China, North Korea, Canada, and the United States.  The child has no rights whatsoever and Planned Parenthood has even advocated post partum abortion.  Josef Mengele would be proud.

And so what was the Left’s reaction to Ms. Palin’s comments?

“So, the JUNIOR Monkey Queen can fan her way thru the fat folds on her face to spew out a word ?? Holy Moly… Did her mom help her get all that out of the way ??

Bristol, the dancing bug pile, has absolutely no concept what Mrs. Davis is about. She has NO CONCEPT what Mrs. Davis’s life has been like. Just like NO BODY CARES WHAT SHE OR HER TROGLYDOTE MOM THINK, Bristol’s best move is to fade into the Alaskan/Arizonian background before the fickle figure of the public SMASHES HER FACE INTO A GUTTER. These Palins best learn their place… In the trash heap of bad history where they belong.”

Beast of Burden at 6:18 PM January 29, 2014 The Palins – the family of illegitimate children – complain about other people’s parenting. How rich is this?”

theantipalin at 5:46 PM January 29, 2014 Would anyone with an I.Q. even hovering around room temperature take anything seriously that moronic Bristol Palin would say?  Remember when her mom said that pregnant Bristol and father to be Levi would be married soon?  Also, Sarah apparenty thought it was fine to leave her family to run for Vice-President–wasn’t that putting her ambition ahead of her maternal duties?  The hypocrisy of the right-wing is truly limitless.”

impocerous48 at 5:38 PM January 29, 2014 Well I will step up to defend Bristol!

She is a mindless twit who has about the same intelligence as a mosquito.  You simply cannot expect anything better from her.  There is no better.

You may as well believe that someday her mother, Sarah (remember her?  The woman with the big mouth and empty head?) to say something intelligent.  That aint gonna happen either.”

gopwabakadesu at 4:19 PM January 29, 2014 Bristol Palin – unmarried mother and great role model for America. What a stupid fascist pig.”

twwhla at 2:33 PM January 29, 2014 Bristol Palin is a Carnie who had a child out of wedlock, and according to her Mom, the child is a bastard…..who cares what this white trash has to say.”

laxlopez at 1:18 PM January 29, 2014 At least Wendy Davis had more intelligence to hook up with a man who could provide her a path to a future and economic independence.  What’s Bristol been offered other than hanging on to the apron strings of her mother?  I hope she uses more prudent judgement when selecting the next man in her life because her first go-around with Levi leaves much to be desire.”

And that was just the LA Times. Fuck you LA Times and the horse you rode in on.

Bridgegate versus Benghazi – A Story of a Press Corps worthy of Pravda

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The truth is, Pravda is more honest today, but I am referring to the Pravda of the bad old days of the Soviet Union, when it was the laughingstock of the country.

The media had created a maelstrom with the Bridgegate scandal. Editorial writers are weighing in all over the country on the fate of Governor Christie. And yet compared to the real scandals of the nation this sensationalism is an anthill. Our press is doing the equivalent of what Pravda and Izvestia did to Stalin’s enemies when he liquidated them.

Just this morning, the State Department confirmed that Sufian bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo detainee, was one of the planners’ of the attack in Benghazi and that Al Q’aeda was behind it. The president of Libya told us this on December 13, 2012 and the New York Times said so on the 11th based upon US government sources. On September 26th, 2012 The Daily Beast outlined the case emphatically.

So we have a Gitmo detainee who should obviously not have been released and confirmation of what the press initially published. We have a President who knowingly lied. We have a SecState who knowingly lied. We have a UN ambassador who is now the National Security Advisor who knowingly lied.

All of them blamed an obscure video. Hillary even filmed an apology to the Pakistani people for the video that was aired in the country, God knows why.

4 Americans died in a premeditated attack by terrorists.

Robert Gates account, it was “low level” White House staffers who were trying to give the orders to the military, which never came. Remember, the President claimed that he went up to the White House personal quarters at 5:30 after speaking with Panetta  and did not come down until the next morning. In the middle of a crisis. The victims of Benghazi fought for hours afterwards and help never came. The US Ambassador’s body was dragged through the streets.

Hillary then stood before Congress and shouted ” The fact is; we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?” This was over one year after the attack when the facts had established without a doubt. Crickets.

The White House is still hiding witnesses and punishing those who testified before Congress. The FBI case, which was announced shortly after the attack was a farce.

All of these facts have been established. The trail of crumbs is clear. There has been great malfeasance at the very top of our government. But somehow, it’s all about a 4 day lane closure 24/7. 20 to 30 times the coverage of Benghazi and growing by the day.

Our press and media being in the tank has reached a new low. Joe Stalin would be proud.

Fundamentalist Atheism

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Yesterday I had a meeting at a local Starbucks. After we got our coffee and sat down I noticed an older man across from me reading a book entitled “A Manual for Creating Atheists” written by a professor at Oregon States named Peter Boghossian.

He would stop occasionally and look around the room. He would leer unpleasantly, seeming to dare anyone who disagreed to debate, presumably to practice the tactics Mr. Boghossian preaches; Socratic discourse and friendly persuasion. Following on the heels of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Mr. Boghossian is simply one more in a herd of new atheists who have substituted their own dogma for faith. At least Hitch respected people of faith.

In the UK and in this country, Boghossian has been adopted as the new apostle of an aggressive atheism that seeks to suppress faith one believer at a time. Others have worked through the court system as we have seen a campaign against the 10 Commandments in courthouses and public places.

In San Diego County, the ACLU and a group called the Jewish War Veterans finally found a judge who gave them what they wanted; the removal of a cross on Mt. Soledad erected as part of a war memorial in 1954. There was no request for inclusiveness, simply for the removal of a symbol of faith.

Bill Maher, who in Playboy Magazine years ago noted that he masturbates before every performance wishes for us to believe he is a rationalist even as he degrades those who disagree with his politics and stance on faith in the most belittling and childish terms. There is a phrase for men who masturbate excessively which I will not use but applies to Mr. Maher most aptly.

Even Christmas, a specifically Christian holiday, is under assault by way of bans on religious music, connotations, and celebration in public. Holiday creches, signs of faith and public gatherings are being neutered and bastardized. You can celebrate and consume to your heart’s content, but just don’t mention the reason for the season.

Much of this suppression is being done in the name of civil rights. Freedom from religion has subordinated freedom of religion.

As Dawkins and other atheist fundamentalists argue a purely Darwinian theory of evolution and that genetics supercedes all else, Boghosian uses Derridan deconstructionism and Gramscian historicism to negate 3,500 years of logic, metaphysics, ontology, and apologetics. They discard Socrates, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, the Stoics, St. Augustine in favor of the Sophists and a nihilistic worldview.

Kierkegaard argued in Either/Or that the well lived life of purpose and faith is superior to the hedonistic life. And what do we face so much in today’s society? How do we balance purpose and duty with our sense of the aesthetic? Today the battle is between hedonism and faith not only in the conventional sense but in the matter of our very concepts of who we are. It is an existential conflict.

Somehow, the militant atheist seems to believe shit just happened. I would have to ask then which belief system is more absurd? Which withstands intellectual rigor more successfully?

As man advances knowledge we must also advance our relationship with the universe. Every organism and physical substance in our universe is constructed of matter that reflects a complexity far beyond a simple theory. A million monkeys typing on a million typewriters for a million years will still not create Romeo & Juliet or even Animal House.

As we are faced with a universe expanding at an incredible pace from a central point which we may never know and as we attempt to unlock the secrets of the Higgs Boson we are still faced with the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know.

As we find out how lonely our universe is and realize our limitations in space as organic life forms, a very small planet in a very large universe seems to have somehow been singled out for something so wondrous and complex that it is indescribable. Somehow, “primitives” 3,000+ years ago created an ethical and religious system that hangs together far better than the alternative on offer by the atheists.

The sciencists would have us believe that they have the ultimate Truth and yet we can know the fatal flaw in their argument based upon a rational and empirical examination of the facts. When someone asks me to erase 2,500 years of written knowledge that has been examined by the finest minds in history and believe an utterly simplistic theory I must wonder what they are selling.

When sin has been so clearly defined going back to the mists of history and yet rings so true thousands of years later, how can one not believe it to be true? Occam’s Razor.

The battle between evil and good has been at the heart of the great religions from their outset. Sciencism and fundamentalist atheism have no rational structure to support these concepts. If  faith is just an illusion, then our legal and ethical structure is simply a house of cards. We cannot evolve our way into an ethical system. Even Voltaire, one of history’s great skeptics, posited the existence of  a Supreme Deity through reason.

The new Atheism is more of a childish rebellion against reason and logic than an ethical or philosophical movement. A similar rebellion is referenced in the first sentences of Genesis, the most ancient of Hebrew texts when Satan urged Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s admonition to refrain from eating the fruit. Any parent can relate, I think.

Atheism as an ethical alternative in the modern world simply does not have the logical horsepower of faith. To paraphrase, send better philosophers.

 

 

 

The budget negotiations – We’ve seen this movie before

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We are about to enter week three of the shutdown in which despite the name 87% of the federal government is in operation as “indispensable’. Payments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for close to half a billion dollars and to a supplier of mechanical bulls for $40,000 were made and the spectacle of World War II veterans in their late 80′s and 90′s being turned away at the World War Two Memorial made Fox News but few other networks.

The president has hunkered down at 1600 Pennsylvania to emerge occasionally to state the he will be happy to negotiate as long as Congress gives him 100% of what he has demanded.

This movie is getting old quickly, though. We have seen it before. In 2011, when there was a dire prediction of disaster, Bob Woodward was the fly on the wall as the President careened towards disaster.

Members of Congress from both sides described the President as arrogant and incompetent in “The Price of Politics”. As one political blog called it at the time, “The Price of Politics is a stark recollection of the collapse of cooperation in government during Barack Obama’s first — and potentially only — presidential term from the inside out.”

The president survived that debacle and was re-elected only to have his administration riven with scandal after scandal. I am sure there are many in the Administration deeply grateful that Fast & Furious, the IRS Scandal, the DoJ/AP Scandal, and the Benghazi Scandal have been driven off of the front pages.

The shut down is a Godsend to Obama. He can remain intransigent and claim to hold the high ground on Obamacare and demonize the Republicans and the Tea Party all the while staving off accountability for his ever-growing record of incompetence, extralegal activities, and malice.

Woodward was very instructive. The President’s arrogance was legend, whether it was one day after promising shortly after his election telling House Minority Whip Eric Cantor “Elections have consequences, and I won”  the day after pledging a bipartisan administration or as The New Republic describes:

“The most vivid scene takes place in February of 2009, as Congress is laboring to ward off an economic collapse. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker, is hunkered down in her office with Harry Reid, her Senate counterpart, to negotiate a stimulus bill that can pass both chambers. This is no easy task. The bill must be modest enough to survive a Republican filibuster, but ambitious enough to satisfy Pelosi’s liberal caucus. But, then, these are veteran legislators—born deal-makers at that. They get to work with all the seriousness you’d expect.

At which point the president calls in via speaker phone and starts droning on about “unity of action” and “unity of purpose” (Woodward’s paraphrasing). It’s the kind of blather that can wow a stadium full of college students but means nothing in the power corridors of Washington. Pelosi and Reid thank the president coldly, and yet he doesn’t take the hint. Finally, Pelosi reaches over and hits the mute button. “They could hear Obama, but now he couldn’t hear them,” Woodward writes. “The president continued speaking, his disembodied voice filling the room, and the two leaders got back to the hard numbers.”

Very harsh indeed. The President’s frosty relations with both sides of the aisle are well documented. And today it is doubtful we will have a Boswell like Woodward to document the process. After the publication of his book he was vilified and attacked by the President’s minions. I don’t think he has been allowed back in on this one.

The White House staff have repeatedly been described as an unruly, callow political machine akin to a herd of cats. And now that the “A” listers in the administration have left the building, the cats are a tad more out of their league and unruly. Obama has always been a more successful campaigner than president and governs accordingly.

And yet the vitriol has been directed overwhelmingly against the opposition with the assistance of a supine media that simply takes the president’s dictation. The President’s press conference the other day was an especially low point where no questions that might discomfit a most vulnerable president were asked. Perhaps, like Cristina Kirchner, he is allocating newsprint. Or perhaps the media are simply fellow travelers.

The stories of the incompetence of the Obama Administration during the 2011 budget negotiations are legend. The Republicans have their own share of the burden to bear. It always takes two sides to negotiate.

From Woodward’s description it was wrestlemania with actors jumping in and out of the ring and the Sequester as the primary product. A sequester suggested by the President and never intended to have been executed. It was a stop-gap intended to allow more time for real structural improvements. And here we are at the cliff again.

But today the stakes are even higher. The Sequester has had barely any effect on our economy. Today we face a shutdown of which the primary images are of National Parks and Monuments closed to spite the public.

The debt ceiling is once again the central flash point. The President has refused to address our out of control debt nor his health care fiasco. Every day that now goes by without an agreement is squarely on his shoulders. In the meantime I expect the President to revert to the same “No Pasaran” tactics he has used time and again.

We have seen the movie before, but like many Hollywood movies these days, there alternative endings on the Director’s Cut DVD,. In this case almost none of them good for the American People.

 

 

The Administration of Diminished Expectations

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When Barack Obama was elected he campaigned on the message of hope. Today we live in an era of hopelessness for the first time in our country’s history. Unemployment and underemployment are at all time highs. Many have simply left the work force.

Our national reputation is in tatters. Our energy policy is insane. Our national debt is twice what it was just 6 years ago and now our Senate leaders want to remove any cap or control of  it. We are on the path of fiscal insanity. Our Treasury issues debt and the Fed buys it and the primary reason that the economy has recovered to the minimal extent that is the unceasing pumping of more and more debased money into the global financial system. The markets expectations of a cessation of QE is global disaster.

Our education system continues its accelerated deterioration. Race relations are at their lowest level since the early 1960′s.

And all the while, our President and his Administration have sought to avoid blame and manage expectations lower and lower and lower. This is the same Administration that has accrued more power to itself than any since Nixon’s Imperial Presidency. In fact, the new push to eliminate the debt ceiling would disembowel Congress’ power of the purse strings and with that what little power Congress seems to have retained.

He has left the global economic field to the Chinese, who are exercising soft power around the globe, and to the Russians, who have taken great joy in opposing our government in every way possible and rubbing our noses in it.

On the environment he has allowed the EPA to arrogate ever more power in its Luddite policies against conventional energy. The price of gasoline has doubled from the $1.80/gallon level to $4.00/gallon and this suits our president just fine. he has obstructed coal and oil and nuclear power and even natural gas, the cleanest option.

The president’s primary contribution seems to be leading from behind. Whether it is his Shakespearean inner conflicts on the Surge in Afghanistan or his verbal gymnastics on Syria or his lies and silence on Benghazi and the IRS scandal and the NSA scandal.

The “most transparent” administration in history is the most opaque. And as the president arrogates power, he has also instituted internal witch hunts and assaults on the press which resemble Stalinist Russia more that the world’s leading democracy.

His signature health care policy is being shown to be a disaster every day it continues. Access to care will be diminished at ever higher costs.

And yet the president seems to wear a Teflon cloak and goes unchallenged. We are at a schwerpunkt, as the Germans call it; a crisis, and the president is sitting utterly idle within the White House with nothing at all on his schedule. Don’t you consider this tolerable strange?

The propaganda machine blames the Tea Party as if it was a mass movement of Luddite nihilists and yet when facing one of our greatest crises there is little balance, or even proper analysis of the root causes of the problems at hand. Such is a world of diminished expectations.

Promise them little and then underdeliver is the order of the day.

Wagging the Dog – Obama Style

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Ever since he got back from vacation, the President has created a global crisis with his plan to punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons. The Europeans are alarmed. The Russians have threatened to intervene. The Iranians are threatening retaliation. And Congress is up in arms in one of the most confusing and incomprehensible tempests in a teapot in many years.The credibility and integrity of the united States is said to be on the line.

Don’t get me wrong. The consequences could be dire. Escalation. World War. Spiking oil prices and financial confusion. But the root of it all is a threat by the President to launch a very limited strike or series of strikes to punish the Assad regime for the tactical use of chemical weapons.Weapons the Assad has used time and again. But this time, according to our president, it’s different.

And in the meantime the most scandal ridden administration in the past 40 years is getting a free ride. Everything else has been driven from the front pages except the football scores. And Benghazi, coming up on its first anniversary with the key questions still unanswered.

The IRS scandal has been driven to the sidelines. And the AP/ Fox news scandal, where the Department of Justice was secretly wiretapping reporters e-mail, has also fallen off the radar.

The Administration feels that it has carte blanche to do whatever they please whether it is to blatantly lie to the people or use the tools of government against its opposition or to conduct witch hunts violating the First Amendment. They feel that they are above the law.

Now the president is trying to deflect blame for his failed policies in Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere onto Congress, our allies and anyone else he can find so that he can escape responsibility for his disastrous actions. He has put the prestige of our country on the line in a no-win game.

The sycophant press has lined up behind him and his own partisans are twisting into pretzels in their attempts to rationalize his bizarre gambit.

We are witnessing a man who will put the best interests of his nation behind his own statist agenda, but we should not be surprised after the last 5 years. Every step of the way his policies have accrued ever more increasing power to the state as he rewards his cronies and punishes his enemies.

He seems destined to fail in his Syria gambit, but we must hold him accountable for all of his major transgressions. it will take years to undo the damage that he has done both internationally and domestically.

In 2008 he promised change. We have seen how disastrous that promise has become.

This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan,” Obama said.

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This is not Pakistan. This is not Somalia. This is not Yemen. This is not Libya; he should have continued.

We are waging war all through Western Asia and Africa. mainly against terrorists but we also took on Muammar Ghadaffi and now Bashar al Assad; the legitimate leaders of their respective countries.

We are still waiting on the case against Ghadaffi and for honest answers on the impending anniversary of the Benghazi massacre.

For a president who pledged to push the “reset” button, Mr. Obama has become the most warlike leader our country has ever known. In May he declared the “War on Terror”, which he had renamed “contingency operations”, over. Now he wants to go once again to war.

He drew a red line in the sand and then redrew it again and yet we still do not have a compelling case nor a desired end state for an operation in Syria.

The Syrians, Iranians, and Russians have promised a wider war should we act. Russian destroyers have been located to the Mediterranean near Syria to back this threat up, and the Iranians have promised missile strikes on Israel. We are in a high stakes poker game and Mr. Obama is the mark.

In the background the Saudi Arabians and Gulf Arabs are supporting some form of moderate resistance in Syria to counter Iran, but are unable to rein in the Islamist extremists. There is a tri-polar political conflict between the Sunni moderates; the Islamists and the neo-Iranian Empire. And then comes the ROW (Rest of World).

In reading the political history of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1700′s and 1800′s one can begin to understand the complexities and importance of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Ottomans balanced constantly changing relationships very similar to today.

The dream of empire by Napoleon in Egypt and the changing alliances of the Ottomans with the British Empire, the Tsar, and Napoleon, especially with the fates of subject peoples such as the Greeks, Moldovans, Armenians, Bulgarians, Syrians, etc in constant play required that the Sultanate despite is decrepitude and corruption be upheld.

Now,  200 years later the chronological snobbery of the new great powers is leading to an even more volatile end state. Under the Sultan, Shia and Christian and Sunni were allowed to practice their faiths but now we have a state of religious civil war at hand. Egypt narrowly missed being drawn into the maelstrom. Libya is in constant tribal conflict.

But Syria represents a new Karbala, a call to the front lines for Sunni vs. Shia.

But this time the dark shadows of modern warfare overhang everything. Chemical warfare, air strikes, and heavy artillery generate massive casualties very rapidly. Syria is tearing itself apart with the help of a wide range of outside enablers. A dictator willing to use all means at his disposal is fighting to hang on.

And in Washington and Moscow and the West there is no clearly iterated reason for our involvement. We cannot abide the use of chemical weapons except when we can, as we did with Saddam Hussein’s use of poison gas versus the Iranians and his own people.

Mr. Obama means well, but the sad fact remains that the down side in getting involved in Syria is much greater than the up side.

 

Obamacare, Death Panels and the end of life

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A friend of mine posted a very thoughtful article on end of life care written from a physician’s reflections upon his own demise. Doctors know the odds and some of them sometimes choose to forego further treatment and make their peace.

In the case of many diseases the probability of remission is poor. And as we approach the implementation of Obamacare, one of the key takeaways is that many of us will no longer receive the level of care that we had under our old policies.

We are seeing corporations limiting coverage and limiting working hours in a desperate drive to reduce exploding insurance costs. Already, the insurance companies battle every step of the way in approving many treatments. This is done in the name of cost management.

Now the government is stepping in adding another layer of cost and more roadblocks between patient and doctor. As a part of Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board is being formed to control costs. In the UK, the Liverpool Care Pathway has caused an uproar with the abuse of its principles by doctors and bureaucrats. Worse, the British bureaucracy has a direct function in approving and denying specific treatment.If a patient is determined to not deserve a certain treatment, it is not performed, resulting in death in many, many cases. It is not isolated and it a part of the system. There is extensive evidence.

And this is what is now being implemented here. Both Howard Dean and Paul Krugman have fessed up to this reality. Costs are out of control and growing exponentially. People are living longer. The technology to help resist disease and prolong life has grown immeasurably, along with costs.

And within all of these arguments and issues, the relationship between the patient, their doctor, and with the Great Beyond has become lost in the shuffle.

In the end the decisions must be between patient and doctor; not between patient and bureaucrat.

I had two friends who were told they had pancreatic cancer within a year or so of each other. Peter used every tool in the toolbox to fight back. He had radical surgery and highly aggressive treatment. He came back to work eventually, but 18 months later he was dead. He had bought himself two years and lived those years well knowing the eventual outcome.

Not too long thereafter I found out my friend Paul also had contracted pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in August and by mid-October he was dead. He had made his peace with God and chose palliative care and the first his friends knew of his condition was when we received a call or an e mail inviting us to the funeral.

Each of them chose their path as they saw fit. each of them were faced with difficult and life threatening choices. They made these decisions without bureaucratic intervention.

These are the most personal and agonizing of choices. And sometimes the patient is unable to choose as when they are on life support and unconscious.

In “The Ends of Human Life” Ezekiel Emanuel examines medical ethics on a spreadsheet and posits communitarian examination of the issues and the just distribution of medical resources. He discusses the politics and the justice of medical care. But he does not discuss how to frame the discussion that matters the most in the end. The ethical discussion. The discussion of choices to be made. As with the NHS and Obamacare, the assumption is the rationing of resources by the state.

The governmental medical bureaucracy has grown from the implementation of Medicare in 1965 to a behemoth today. Include programs such as the military TriCare program and the Veteran’s Administration hospitals and state programs and one can readily agree that there is already a massive public sector bureaucracy in place. This will be layered over by more indirect costs from the new bureaucracy being built. And the patients will get even more lost in the system.

How is this beneficial to our society and to the individual?

Today’s health care system is driven by spreadsheets and first, second and third tier case management. How does this deliver the best care at the lowest unit cost?

End of life care is expensive. CBS News stated that care in the last 2 months of life in 2010 cost the nation $50 Billion. The total size of the Medicare budget alone for 2012 is estimated at $536 Billion. Medical spending was estimated by the UN at 17.9% of the GDP of the United States in 2011; $2.8 trillion. So why are we having this conversation in the first place?

There are many problems to discuss about health care management. But government intervention in end of life care is not one of them. The issues are bureaucratic and administrative and there are many, many fingers in the pie. The other issue is control. Holding Grandma hostage is a powerful weapon. Statists like control. Single payer health care has been the stated goal of the left-wing of the Democratic Party for the past 50 years.

The conversation is really about control. And when doctors start talking in spreadsheets and when bureaucrats in both the public and private sector have financial stakes in the game and the decisions are made by corrupt and venal politicians who do not live by the same rules, it is wise and prudent to be very, very skeptical.

 

 

 

Reading the Hieroglyphics in Egypt

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The world’s press is focused today on Cairo, where hundreds are dead in the crackdown by the military on the Muslim Brotherhood. Our government is at cross purposes and complicating this is a visceral hatred of the Obama Administration, and by extension, our government, by a vast majority of Egyptians.

In this country some cry for a complete cutoff of American aid and on the other side there is silence in the face of what must realistically be called a massacre.

But we must remember that there is a much larger game in play. It involves Iran and radical Sunni Islam. It is a battle for power. Part of it is being played in Syria, where the civil war has spilled into Lebanon and Iraq. Part of it is the continued attempts at destabilization in the Gulf States. Part of is the destabilization of states as far away from each other as Yemen and Afghanistan and Iraq. It also affects Israel.

Much of this is about a new Persian Empire. Iran with the support of Russia has been behind Shiite resistance in a number of states including Bahrain. The Muslim faith has been manipulated in the interests of temporal power time and again, and the vision of a new Persepolis still resonates in Qom and Teheran. The Salafist dream of a new caliphate is in direct conflict with this.

Events in Egypt play against the backdrop of the Syrian civil war, where the opposition has been recently reinforced by heavy weaponry from the Gulf. Remember the 20,000 M-16′s that disappeared from a Kuwaiti arsenal? They are now in play, but we don’t yet know where. Hezbollah has doubled down in Syria and the Sunnis in Lebanon are commuting to the war. Iraqi Shiites fighting in Lebanon are called Iran’s Foreign Legion. Former Egyptian president Morsi lent his support to radical Egyptian imam’s calls for volunteers.  Iran cannot afford to lose for it will affect their power everywhere.

The Western powers are dithering in their support of the rebels. The Sunni states are not. Disorder in Egypt is antithetical to their strategic interests.

The Iranian government is waging a proxy war on many fronts. Five years into our own administration, our Middle Eastern policy is incoherent and does not seem to recognize this. The Iranians have their fingers in many pies and the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend whether it is supporting the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan or shipping arms to terrorists in Sinai and to Hamas in Gaza. The art of war can be ecumenical at times. Instability in Egypt, Jordan and other states is to the advantage of Iran.

What is certainly forming is a major Sunni – Shia conflict driven by Iranian expansionism. The Israeli fears of the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran also factor in for it is not just the Israelis, but all of Iran’s neighbors who have now become nervous. This ups the ante in Egypt even more.

The King of Saudi Arabia spoke forcefully today in support of the Army in Egypt. Stability in the heart of the Arab world is paramount in the face of multiple threats. Reuters reports this morning that the Muslim Brotherhood has been behind a persecution of Copts and other Christians in the country with 62 churches, schools, monasteries and other buildings burned down along with hundreds of businesses and hundreds dead.

What we are seeing in Egypt is the reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempt to create an Islamist state in the face of the opposition of the overwhelming majority of the people.

I spoke last night with a friend whose family is at the heart of the Egyptian establishment. His cousins, nephews, nieces and friends were in Tahrir square when the Mubarak regime fell. The are a mix of secular and religious Muslims, but they are all Egyptian nationalists with a very international perspective. They are clued in at every level to the events of the past 2 years.

From his conversations with friends and family he said 80% of the people oppose the Brotherhood vehemently. The Brotherhood attempted to change the government, the courts and the constitution as soon as they took power. The country has fallen into crisis because of the instability at the top. Ordinary citizens are fearful of Brotherhood thugs.

He also said that over 50 soldiers and police have been killed in the past 2 days. The army has been seizing Brotherhood weapons caches all over Cairo and elsewhere which include heavy weapons. They have been arresting Chechen, Afghan and Pakistani Islamist soldiers in Cairo. There is a lot more going on than is being reported in the Western press.

It has been reported that the Israelis and Egyptian Army have been working very closely to contain Islamic radicals in the Sinai who can move towards either Cairo or Tel Aviv if not contained. Again, these are mainly foreign fighters.

Egypt has had a taste of the Brotherhood for almost exactly one year, and that was enough. The Muslim Brotherhood is a violent organization. Members have staged numerous terrorist attacks against Egyptian leaders, including the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Evidence of a parallel fighting force and the hard-line tactics used by Morsi to accrete power had the country on edge for months. North Africa is awash in weapons from Libya. Conditions for a civil war were ripe.

The evidence so far in Egypt indicates the overwhelming sentiment that the Army is the savior of the country. General al Sisi commands the respect of the vast majority of Egyptians and is beholden to no one, especially our government. He is governing the country together the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University, considered one of the most important Islamic leaders, and the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II. This is seen as a unity government despite the resignation of Mohammed El Baradei.

The Syrian war is spilling into Iraq and Lebanon. Libya is still a seething cauldron. We cannot afford instability in Egypt as well. And remember, as the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan there may be thousands of Islamist warriors willing to move on to the next jihad.

The Muslim Brotherhood will not go easily, but they will nonetheless go. Egypt does not want an Islamist state. They do not want religious repression. The Egyptian people do not identify with extremism. And they do not want our meddling or manipulation or incompetence. They want and need our humanitarian aid.

Our foreign policy has been playing checkers while the real game of chess has been ignored.

 

 

Yumpin Yemeni!

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Way back in the day when our ethnic groups used to self deprecate, Jumpin Jiminey was was an exclamation used by the Nordic ethnic groups. Today, in our great excitement, it seems our defense and political leaders have pulled the emergency handle on Yemen.

It seems that the NSA overheard a conference call between Ayman al Zahawari and his contacts in Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere. He basically told them to “do something” from the news reports. Al Q’aeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been a special concern of the United States ever since Anwar al Awlaki decamped there, running much of the global organizations recruiting efforts.

Al Awlaki was the magical connection between 9/11 and the Ft. Hood bombings and the London bombings.He conducted a high-profile radicalization program in the UK from 2002-2004 before moving to Yemen to further the goals of Al Q’aeda. He recruited hundreds of  fighters and was one of our most dangerous enemies. It was a good thing that a Hellfire missile found him and sent him on his way to Allah.

He was hiding out in his family’s traditional tribal area of Yemen; Shabwa, which was one of the areas of the Aden Protectorate at the time where the British military fought a low-grade war for many years in the 1950′s and 60′s, primarily against the communists and the tribes associated with Gamal Nasser’s pan-Arabist movement. A perverse coincidence but indicative of the culture of warfare.

South Yemen is a land of treachery and vendetta and home-grown terrorism long before the was an Al Q’aeda. During the Emergency the two major rebel organizations fought each other and the British, tossing hand grenades into British children’s parties and in on case blowing up an airliner full of civilians. Shabwa was a major center of insurgency. Today it is no different.

Nasir al Wuhayshi, the leader of AQAP is from Mukayras not far from al Awlaki’s Shabwa. he was ignored for the most part by intelligence services in favor of al Awlaki and other high value targets. He was Bin Laden’s secretary, probably the person closest to the terrorist mastermind for the longest period of time. Bin Laden’s Boswell, if you will.

Now he is the head terrorist in charge in the wildest, most violent corner of the world. It is a country with a little bit of oil and a useful port and that’s about it. AQAP is much more interested in infiltrating Saudi Arabia next door, but it is a safe haven for the bomb makers.

al Wuhayshi’s family connections as well as al Awlaki’s are vital to AQAP. They extend  into the very heart and soul of Yemeni identity. The al Awlaki clan is among the most powerful in south Yemen. And underlying all of this is the hatred between North and South Yemen.

The People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) was the only socialist country in the Middle East, primarily because of the union movement when it was called Aden under the British. It had a history of intrigue and violence that would make a great movie.

So you have North Yemen, formerly run by the sheikhs and traditional in nature and South Yemen, which was ruled for 20 years under a radical Marxist, xenophobic regime. And in the hinterlands, the tribes, who never changed.

Many reporters are now writing about losing Yemen. This is absurd. We never had Yemen to begin with. Our strategic interest is to, as the British did, suppress piracy and to keep Al Q’aeda bottled up like bees in a jar. Cut off their travel options. Let them trash their own country and forget about them. And if they ever try to pull something, lay waste to them.

California’s invisible 35% tax increase

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Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1234, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. This has been hailed by progressives as a solution for those workers in the state without retirement savings or programs to provide for their income as they grow older. It forces them to contribute 3% of their income into a state managed retirement program.

With Social Security on the brink of failure by 2030 and incomes increasingly challenged by the part-time job phenomenon it is challenge enough for California’s workers to plan for retirement. With exorbitant energy taxes, a carbon tax and recent tax hikes falling most heavily on the poor, the state has grown ever less competitive as it has grown ever more expensive to live in.

But with the Democrats holding a supermajority in both houses of the legislature they can do anything they please.

The state has arrogated a power unto itself that didn’t exist without consultation or input from the public. And all of this has occurred largely under the radar screen. The newspapers and media have been silent.

The devil is in the details and the details of SB 1234 are vague. How the program is managed, safeguards, etc are all to be worked out later on. But California already has a history of mismanaged pension plans to reflect upon. How will this huge pool of money be different?

The state has been pilfering its existing pension plans to plug the gaps. It has raided gasoline taxes and highway funds. What makes it different this time?

California has the highest gas tax in the country at $0.72/gallon, which just went up 3.5 cents on July 1.With a 9.3% income tax rate that kicks in at $48,029 and a base sales tax of 7.5% rising as high as 10% in some cities and counties. The middle class has become an illusion.

The new retirement program will cost an additional 35% to the income withheld from low wage worker’s wages and will be managed by the same people who have gotten the state into a mess in the first place.

The money grab by government in California has been done by stealth and subterfuge. The state has unsustainable pension obligations for its public worker’s. The unspoken agenda is that the unions and their cronies come first and the rest of us be damned.

 

The Big Lewinsky – The Democratic Party’s War on Women

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Last year we heard about the Republican Party’s War on Women nonstop for months. Radical feminists demanded that Rush Limbaugh be thrown off the air for his comments mocking Sandra Fluke and her demand for free condoms at a Catholic university, a manufactured scandal if ever there was one.

The radicals rode this right into the Democratic Convention, where the platform on abortion; “safe, legal, and rare” was tossed to the wind. All the while they were castigating Mitt Romney for his binders full of female candidates for senior positions in his administration when governor of Massachusetts.

The Huffington Post warned that Romney would overturn Roe V. Wade and that he opposed pay equity when there was nothing in evidence of such. In fact his record as governor was moderate, much to the chagrin of social conservatives.

But these faux-crises agitated the base and got them to the polls. Agitprop at its most effective.

In the meantime where it really mattered the Democratic Party had institutionalized the repression and subjugation of women to the point of rape. This misogyny goes all the way back to Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd’s predatory sexual practices and to Bill Clinton’s  base conduct towards Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and of course the aforementioned Ms. Lewinsky.

Mr. Clinton exited impeachment and the White House to give speeches at $100,000 – $250,000 per while Ms. Lewinsky’s life was destroyed. Hillary Clinton had made her deal with the devil and won a Senate seat for her stand up support of her dissolute husband. Playing the victim pays well. But Hillary is the exception. Her thirst for power equals or exceeds that of her husband.

The real victims are the jetsam of the sexual appetites of other Democratic Party politicians. Cast aside and left to drift.

James McGreevy’s affairs and coming out destroyed his family and his credibility. It also damaged the State of New Jersey.

John Edwards while running for the Presidency imploded in a scandal that captured headlines for years with its stories of XXX videotapes and adultery conducted while his wife was dying of cancer. Who would even consider electing such a world class scumbag?

Then there was Barny Frank’s boyfriend running a male prostitution ring out of their Washington apartment.

This week it is Anthony Weiner’s revelations of digital adultery that continued even after he was forced to resign from Congress. And it turns out that Bob Filner’s sexual harassment of staffers and virtually any woman who came within a yard was covered up by the California Democratic Party for years.

How can anyone rationalize the existential contradiction between a party that has used the shiny ball of “The Right to Choose” and allows sexual predators and to run rampant? How can a Party defend women’s rights and then allow wholesale violation of those same rights?

The “Right To Choose” itself is an invented phrase of propaganda used to mask the true meaning of the message, which is abortion rights. It makes it sounds as if one can choose a cantaloupe or a Christmas card or a 24th week abortion, all of which are equal moral choices. If we are intellectually dishonest, how can we make true progress?

The Democratic Party has become a mythmaking and propaganda machine. It now specializes in misdirection, flummery, and graft. It is ground zero for Newspeak. It can argue for women’s right’s and then oppress women at the same time with no debate or discussion of the inherent lies at the core of their philosophy.

While espousing rights and freedoms, the Democratic Party propagates inequality and oppression.

Our Insane Race Dialog

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I have been in a funk this week as I have watched our country struggle once again with the issue of race in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. On the one hand by all rational accounts justice was served, while on the other the raw emotion at the senseless death of a young black man has opened up the race wound once again.

One late summer day in 1963 Mom took me to the museum in Washington, DC. I was crazy about the Smithsonian, and I was going with Mom, the best possible partner. She would explain things in a clear and concise way which made the complex understandable to a precocious 7-year-old. I remember it being hot on the bus. Mom didn’t drive. And then I remember looking out the window and seeing hundreds of thousands of people. Mom decided we would get off the bus near the Jefferson Memorial and have a look.

It was only later that I found out it had been the demonstration at which Martin Luther King had given his “I have a dream” speech. I of course was more interested in going to see the cowboy and Indian exhibits.

Mom was a devout Catholic and a devout conservative, but her social views were very strong. She taught us to respect everyone no matter their color or social standing.

I guess it came from her time in an orphanage and then taking the most menial of jobs just to get by during the Depression. It was still a time when NINA, or No Irish Need Apply, existed and so she remembered what it was like to be held down. Being young and alone and Irish and female taught you to fight back. She did so quietly in her own way. Education was her salvation. Not a formal one, but one of libraries and voracious reading.

There was another reason my mother was an egalitarian. Her sister had married a black man and they had a child. This may have been scandalous in many homes and places, but not in our family. Mom taught us to try to live the Christian ideal, not that we were very good at it. Everything that Martin Luther King said and did resonated with me as the right thing to do.

And so we are here now, almost at 50th anniversary to the day of Dr. King’s speech, and the hate mongers bait us and spread their poison. We are also approaching the 50th anniversary of the inception of the Great Society social welfare programs that were supposed to end poverty in the richest country on earth. And what have we achieved?

The United States is the most multicultural country on earth. We have virtually every single nationality represented in our population. Most have Americanized and many have retained their roots, but we are all, first, Americans. Go onto any Army or Marine Corps base and you will see immigrants from across the globe buying into the American Dream, sometimes at the cost of their lives.

But then on the other side we have the separatists. The exploiters. The destroyers. It can be seen in the Occupy Movement and in the universities and in the headlines.

The United States and the individual states have spent trillions of dollars on the social safety net. We have spent trillions on the War on Drugs. And what have we accomplished? Very little. So it’s not the money spent.

We have had African-American Secretaries of State and Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet level officials, so it can’t be institutional racism. A half white – half African man won two terms in the White House with approximately 52% of the vote. With only 12% of Americans identifying themselves as of African descent where did the other 40% come from?

But the problem runs much deeper and tears at our psyche. The was a collapse in the African-American nuclear family  in the 1950′s and 60′s. Before that, fatherless homes were relatively uncommon. Just at the time when the goals of the civil rights movement were being achieved the basic social network disintegrated.

In 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, almost the prototypical liberal Democrat, wrote a study for the Department of Labor called “The Negro Family:The case for national action”. It centered on the destruction of the nuclear family in the African-American community and argued that both slavery and discrimination were key factors influencing collapse.

Moynihan was vilified at the time and has been condemned time and again for his findings, but today it is our culture itself that is tearing itself apart as those same factors pull at the central node of human existence; the family.

It isn’t rocket surgery. We are assaulted by a culture of misogyny rooted in the African-American community with no one except perhaps Bill Cosby willing to condemn it. And it isn’t just African-Americans; there are plenty of young Hispanic and Asian American and Anglo gangstas as well.

Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel can barely speak intelligible English and cannot write in cursive and they call it keepin’ it real. Our high schools churn out kids like this of all colors every day and the teacher’s unions fight any improvement to a now horrific education system like it is Stalingrad.

We have institutionalized stupidity and enacted a legal code without morality and we wonder how we got to this point. The states are legalizing general anesthesia as  revenue enhancement and we wonder why our kids get stoned.

500+ people are killed by guns in a gun free zone called Chicago and the media and the government avoid confronting the problem like leprosy. African-Americans represent 12% of our population but 50% of the homicide victims in the country were black in 2010, the most recent year for statistics. 90% of the perpetrators in the murder of African-Americans were other African-Americans.

And yet the President and the Attorney General and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have used the Zimmerman – Martin case to stoke the flames of racism. What is worse is that the President and the Attorney General are both lawyers and know that the Zimmerman – Martin case is probably the worst example that could be cited as a race based case. But it serves the political needs of the President and his supporters to flame the fires and bury the scandals surrounding the Administration.

On May 15, the Washington Post printed an article on the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries and the United States was ranked as one of the most tolerant. We are a nation of mutts.

First it was the homogeneity of a predominantly Northern European Protestant majority and an oppressed minority in the South, but wave after wave of immigrants flooded the country and with each wave the walls fell down. Today we are a melange, and yet our president, who is half white, refuses to acknowledge his non – black heritage except when exploiting it as his wife recently did in Dublin. This is a man who grew up in comfort in Indonesia and Honolulu and at Occidental College and Columbia and Harvard and the gentrified part of Chicago and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who is telling us how the man has kept him down. I am no longer buying it, not that I ever did. Limousine liberals come in the colors of the rainbow.

The schools, especially in the cities and, as African-American families are pushed out of them because of gentrification, even in the suburbs, are a mess. Family life in America is a mess. Our government has in every way imaginable, encouraged extreme irresponsibility; whether in the management of our social programs or the abortion battles or the legalization of marijuana or any number of other ways. It has in many ways also declared war on our faith-based society. Liberty does not equal irresponsibility. It argues for greater responsibility of the civitas.

The current administration promised hope but has instead at every turn delivered a lack of hope. There is less faith in government than at any time in our history, and yet government has become ever more intrusive in our lives. This has affected the African-American community more than any other.

So let’s have a dialog. What are the real issues and how do we solve them? How do we take responsibility and ownership of the problems and work to fix them?

And let’s leave the race baiters behind. We are better than that. This is America.

Fifty Shades of Blue – New York City Politics

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Way, way back in the day X Rated films were called blue movies. Then came Red State, Blue State. Now we have the ultimate result of these trends merging in New York City’s psychosexual political circus. The city is headed from Nanny Bloomberg to the Penthouse letters column in record time.

Anthony “look at my” Weiner is running for Mayor and the puns are are fast and furious while disgraced former state governor Eliot Spitzer has swallowed what pride he has left to run for City Comptroller. Like a moth or a sex addict, he doesn’t seem to be able to steer away from the light. The delicious irony is that the former madam, Kristen Davis who procured women for Spitzer is running against him on the Libertarian ticket. No, I am not making this up.

New York, with the exception of perhaps San Francisco, is America’s most liberal and most libertine town. If you can “make it” there you’ll make it anywhere, as the song goes. They don’t ride down the streets on floats in “G” strings as in Frisco, but despite Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts, the sexual smorgasbord is as diverse as ancient Rome’s. Money equals power and power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

New York is less flamboyant these days only because the middle class has been driven out of the city and it is now Upstairs, Downstairs. It’s hard to be on the fun fringe when the fringe was the first thing the city government targeted.

But now it’s in the headlines. For the next few months Mr. Weiner is going to get more exposure (in more ways than he expected) than ever before, while I am sure the city is waiting with bated breath for the first Spitzer – Davis debates. As the kids would say, “Awk-ward!!!”

Obama’s Green Scam

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The other day, Glenn Reynolds labeled the Obama Administration the Omerta Administration. This morning the president is once again demonstrating his mob-like contempt for the law with his speech at Georgetown University.

The audience has been limited to approximately 400 sycophants, and the President is expected to unveil his plan to use executive power to shut down the coal power generation industry. This has been his goal all along, along with stymieing all other conventional fuels. He is once again bypassing Congress to ram through his agenda.

At a time when America desperately needs jobs he and his green allies have done their best to sabotage conventional energy sources. They have 5 year record of harassment and obstruction of the oil industry. They have crushed the nuclear power industry into submission. And they have monkey wrenched the natural gas boom. Everywhere that real, profitable and even clean energy alternatives have shown themselves the fury of the Left ensures their demise.

They have used crony capitalism and graft to develop solar and wind power, both of which are incredibly more expensive than conventional energy. And in doing so they have squandered the competitive advantage of our country. How can we compete in the global economy with foolish and dishonest limitations that play right into the strengths of our competitors?

What is more disturbing is the confluence of scandals pointing towards a sinister power grab that echoes of dictatorship.The President has muzzled his opposition any way he can. He has waged vendetta on his political opponents through the IRS. He has persecuted whistleblowers and criminally prosecuted anyone who is not one of his official mouthpieces.

All the while he sits like Alfred E. Neumann with a Cheshire cat smile as one after another scandal swirls around the White House. His minions stonewall subpoenas and claim executive privilege while his Attorney General runs interference. This is not democracy. It is a putsch.

President Obama has proven to be the most devious and dishonest politician in our history. From his stonewalling of his personal records to his arrogation of power to the White House to his Administrations criminal misapplication of the law he has brought dishonor and disgrace to his office.

How many scandals does it take? How many of our liberties must be infringed upon?

The Left is running rampant over our civil rights. The United States founded on the principles of small government and civil liberties. Property rights, the rule of law, and enlightened capitalism are our underlying principles. Today, every one of these rights is under assault by our own government.

Mental Health & Violence – The Great Disconnect

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The other day a woman taking a picture of three homeless men holding up signs using profanity was stabbed to death in front of a high-end retail store on Hollywood Blvd.

I had just been in the neighborhood the week before. Standing and waiting to get into a Tom Petty concert at the Fonda Theater, it could have been one of those same hustlers with the same sign accosting the crowd. They are street drunks and junkies who have hit rock bottom and just don’t care anymore except for the next buzz.

The mother of the murderer, a police officer in Arizona said that she was not surprised at what her son had done and that he had to pay the price for his actions. She had tried for years to get him the help he needed, but our mental health system failed him.

In Aurora, Colorado and in Newtown, CT and in Tucson, Arizona the crazies with guns have focused attention on the state of mental health care in America. But the same primal urges and demons drive people like Dustin James Kinnear, the Los Angeles murderer.

You can find them muttering to themselves or fighting over imaginary slights or a bottle on any skid row. They litter our penal system. These are our violently mentally ill. Only when they commit an atrocity do they come to our attention.

But this happens every day. The cops scoop them up and maybe dry them out and then they’re back on the street in 90 days or less. If the crime is homeless on homeless it doesn’t reach the papers.

Back in the 1960′s and 70′s Thomas Szasz argued that societal reaction to mental health problems violated the human rights of the mentally ill, and in fact that mental illness was a construct of control. He ignored the reality of the mentally ill and those closest to them, as well their effect upon society at large in favor of a libertarian interpretation that the rights of the individual supersede those of society.

My grandmother had a nervous breakdown in the mid 1930′s and never came back. She was committed to the notorious Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queen’s, NY. She lived there for 35 years. It was the state’s answer to a pressing issue. What to do about those who are incapable of caring for themselves and  are a danger to themselves or others. The failings of the mental health system were as much in funding and management as for the one size fits all governmental model. If anything, the nature of mental illness is that it sometimes requires the most complex and individually based treatment.

In reaction to Szasz and other campaigners, and in response to medical professionals seeing patients who had fallen through the cracks and were in the “snakepit”, as it were, politicians sought to both reduce costs and solve the problem of too many patients held against their wills.The New York Times had an article in 1984 on what went wrong.

29 years later, nothing has changed.

In 1959, California had 37,500 mental patients in state facilities. By the time of Jerry Brown Jr., there were less than 20,000. By 2011, there were 4,300. The population of the United States has grown from 226 Million in 1980 to 308 Million today and we are losing facilities, not gaining them.

And the pundits and politicians wonder why and how the violently mentally ill are abroad and without supervision. There is no wonder at all. It is public policy.

It ties into narcotics abuse and other social issues as well. But instead, politicians argue for gun control.

The original planning for community treatment and local services was cast aside, and the psychiatric community freely admitted that their plans were misguided. And what has been done since to ameliorate the problem. Nothing.

It doesn’t matter whether it is an unknown street crime or a mass shooting or a sensational murder on Hollywood Boulevard. We must address the issue of the violently mentally ill. Their families know this. Mental health professionals know this. But our political class knows this as well and refuses to address it. What is to be done?

Look Imam! I’m on top of the World!

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The afternoon’s UK Independent reports exclusively that Iran is now sending 4,000 troops to Syria to support Bashar al Assad. Al Jazeera reports that Egypt has cut diplomatic ties and is demanding a “no fly” zone. Assad has received crucial backing from Russia and Iran and China, and with his victory in al Qusayr and support from Hezbollah  is now going for the jugular.

Lebanon is being dragged even further into the war but the Sunnis have no leadership.

In the meantime the United States has promised small arms and the U.K. and France are pleading poverty.

What we are about to see is the triumph of authoritarianism. The West is weak and dissolute while the axis of Russia, China, Iran, and even Venezuela has grown more powerful. This is not just about Sunni – Shia, but about geopolitics writ large. The same alliance that challenged the Bush Administration is in place to put the Middle East oil patch in “check”.

Turkey is self absorbed. Israel is threatened and while Hamas has been kicked to the curb for the time being by Iran, the Sunni Ummah will be outraged and will not sit still. And most of our government is now on summer hours and being run by rank amateurs.

Despite the promising election results in Iran this morning nothing has changed. The country is run by the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard, Assad’s most important supporters. Iranian officers are rumored to have replaced many of the senior defectors from the Assad regime.

Unless there is a decisive punch thrown soon on behalf of the rebels they will have lost. Hezbollah will have been strengthened. Assad will be completely beholden to Iran and Russia, and Iran will have extended its naked power to the Mediterranean.

With the threat to accelerate to building 30 bombs per month, the mullahs in Qom will feel unassailable, much like Jimmy Cagney in Public Enemy. “Look Imam! I’m on top of the world!” And this time we are living with a geopolitical power structure that lets the bad guys win.

The Real Problem

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Jared Loughner – Tucson, Arizona                          24 Years Old                  Mentally Illjared-lee-loughner_1

James Holmes – Aurora, CO                                25 Years Old                        Mentally Illjames-holmes-red

Sung Hui Cho – Virginia Tech, VA                          23 years Old                      Mentally Ill

sung Hui Cho

Adam Lanza – Newtown, CT                                20 years Old                         Mentally IllAdam Lanza

John Zawahri – Santa Monica, CA                         23 Years Old                      Mentally IllJohn Zawarhi

 

There have been repeated efforts to enact firearms bans in an unprecedented assault on the Second Amendment rights of ordinary citizens. There has been nothing done to address mental illness in this country, specifically that which affects so many young men.

Kermit Gosnell, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, and Barack Obama – the intersection of politics and murder

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On January 19, 2011, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist, was arrested and charged with 8 counts of murder.Dr. Gosnell specialized in late-term abortions. It was estimated that he had performed thousands of them over the course of his career. This despite the fact that to do so past the 24th week is considered murder in the State of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Gosnell was convicted on May 13 of First Degree murder of three of his victims, enough to merit the death penalty. He immediately plea bargained for life without parole.

And Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Kathleen Sebelius, three of our highest officials, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, are strong advocates for late-term abortions. Close to 70% of the American people oppose late-term abortion and yet the support of the Bloody Four is adamant.

Sebelius has a history of virulent advocacy for late-term abortion. Dr. George Tiller, the late-term abortionist who was gunned down in church, was one of Sebelius’ biggest supporters. Sebelius protected Tiller even in the face of criminal charges filed by her own state’s Attorney General. She went so far as to declare a vendetta against Phil Kline, the AG.

The other day, Nancy Pelosi was asked about the Gosnell case and replied that the case was disgusting, which was dutifully reported in the mainstream press. However, in the longer clip, she also asserted a “sacred right” to abortion, including late-term abortion.

Barack Obama has been clear in his support of late-term abortion. In 2003 when running for the Senate, he stated unequivocally so. His wife has also gone on the record.

While first trying to bury the Gosnell story the media then declared it “local news” after a massive uproar. The coverage of the case expanded and the Left professed, as Captain Renault in Casablanca said, to be “shocked” at Gosnell’s actions . The only thing that shocked them was the mass revulsion to the mindset of the “pro-choice” megalith.

And good Catholic she, Nancy Pelosi reminded us of our sacred rights.

We have a right to be interrogated and investigated and snooped on, so long as we do not agree. We have a right to be forced from providing adoption services as has happened to the Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations if we do not kowtow to their politically correct philosophy.

We also have a right to be demonized and hated if we do not keep our mouths shut.

The abortion industry is huge and is a huge supporter of the Pro – Choice movement. Over 700,000 abortions are performed per year. The industry generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Planned Parenthood has a budget of $1 Billion and performs close to 1/2 of all abortions. There are thousands of independent abortion clinics around the country.

Politicians are if nothing else self-serving. Waving the abortion flag became a fundraising technique. Pro-choice became the mantra rather than pro-abortion. And then the Democratic Party decided that Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare would be excised from the party platform at the convention last year. Why?

Thus Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius can magically declare that they are not only pro-choice but radically so while maintaining a facade of Christian faith. It’s good for votes and for donations.

Barack Obama has turned political fundraising into a high-tech machine that vacuums up every dollar (or Pound or Euro) he can find. The Obamas have already declared themselves as leading supporters of the most violent abortion procedures. Why not make money from it as well?

It is not about the child or the mother’s health in the end. It’s about political power and money. Who cares about a doctor who swore the Hippocratic Oath who instead kills the helpless and then dismembers their bodies?

Their enablers can simply go on television or radio and state how horrible it was, get right back on the late term abortion bus, and move on as if nothing ever happened. This is truly an American tragedy.

Iran is winning in Syria and we are screwing it up

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If you haven’t noticed, Hezbollah has changed the tide of the Syrian civil war. Their troops with the Government forces took back Qusair, a key junction for supplying the rebel forces. More than 50 people were killed, including many civilians as artillery shells dropped on the town at a rate of over 50 per minute.

Qusair is 6 miles from the Lebanese border, where fighting has been going on in Tripoli for at least 3 weeks. On the other side of Syria, central Iraq and especially Anbar province have become a Wild West. The country had its highest kill rate since 2008 in May with over 1,00 killed in car bombings, political assassinations, and minor massacres. Factions are jockeying for position and the Sunni/Shiite struggle is raising its head again. Prime Minister Maliki is seen as weak and a tool of the Iranians. Iraq has, despite several warnings from the United States, been allowing unfettered transit both by land and air of arms shipments from Iran to Bashar al Assad’s forces and to Hezbollah.

The Russians have now raised the stakes even higher for the West by shipping advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria. Those systems will directed specifically at NATO and Israel’s first line air forces.

Hezbollah has gone all in with Assad, their closest ally, now. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, broadcast a television message to his supporters and the world that the alliance of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran was the new paradigm in the Middle East. “According to the Iranian Kayhan newspaper, the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah entered he Syrian civil war “in response to the injunctions” of Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei.”

The spillover into Tripoli and Hezbollah’s involvement have effectively dragged Lebanon into the war. A war most Lebanese have no taste for.

On the southern border of Syria the Israelis bombed a convoy carrying heavy armaments destined for Hezbollah with massive corollary explosions on the outskirts of Damascus as Assad threatened to retaliate against Israel. News of Syrian rebels begging for  Israeli assistance in providing surgical support of wounded rebels is being touted in the Syrian press as evidence of Israeli involvement rather than as humanitarian aid.

At Turtle Bay, the Russian government has been obstructing and obfuscating the case against the Assad regime for over 2 years now.

And in the background the Gulf Arab states and Iran have been supporting the Sunni and Shia factions respectively with hundreds of millions of dollars in arms.

With the entry of Hezbollah and Russian support, Assad is on a roll. Our Secretary of State, John Kerry and Senators such as John McCain are like deer caught in the headlights with no clue what to do as our president dithers. The same is true in Europe. Leadership is clueless.

And in the meantime, Iran is ready to install Saeed Jalili as their next strong man upon the orders of the Supreme Council. Mr. Jalili has been the fox in the henhouse on Iran’s nuclear negotiations for the last several years. He has lied every step of the way, and with news of Iran’s desire to develop up to 30 nuclear warheads per year according to an Israeli MP, the Iranian government is clearly reaching for the matches to light the gasoline.

Israel has been on edge for the last 5 years. In the Fall of 2008 as the election went down to the wire, President Bush was rumored to have reined in Israel’s plan to strike at Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Our country revised its MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) program to deliver bombs that could go deeper and more destructively in order to stave off what would be a necessary Israeli nuclear strike on secret Iranian weapons facilities.

The STUXNET virus which was revealed through a White House leak was directed at this program. And now Mr. Jalili wants to build 30 warheads per year.

So what are our next steps? The risk of an Iranian nuclear option has all of the Gulf States and Israel on edge. The risk of a pan Iranian empire from  the Afghan border, where they are interfering,  to the shores of the Mediterranean is real and present.

Our government and our people are tired of war. Only this morning did I receive the news of another Green on Blue attack which killed an American Colonel and of another VBIED attack  which killed a young LT and and an SPC.

And yet we are looking at the Megiddo spoken of in the Bible. Sunni vs Shiite. Damascus, one of the oldest cities in history, is partially destroyed and now the specter of nuclear weapons has risen.

There is a weird confluence of interests. The West, Israel and the Gulf States desire to rein in Iranian interests. Turkey and Lebanon must stabilize their borders.

if Iran wins in this conflict, the world is fundamentally changed, doubtfully for the better. The nexus of crazy wins.

So what is next? Do we have the thinkers and doers to find a solution?

 

 

 

Tom Petty – Running down a Dream – Fonda Theater, Hollywood

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The first time I saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play was deep in the winter of 1976/77. I had just come back home to LA from 3 1/2 years in college in New York City. The last 60 days or so were a disaster.New York was electric and raw and alive but when it turns on you it can crush you.TPHB

It was the coldest winter in memory and I was living in a -20 sleeping bag on the sofa in the living room of a friend’s apartment in Bensonhurst. There was a 2″ gap under front door, and an incredibly bitter wind was blowing in right off of the Atlantic.

My relationship had gone to hell and I was outraged at one of my professors enough to quit school with a few months left to go. I figured I could make up the semester later on. I was done with the city.

But while there it was in fact electric. it was out of control; bankrupt, on its knees and it was the middle of the bad old 70′s. But down in SoHo and up in Harlem the was a new message. It was “screw you and your contrived music and your contrived society.”

At places like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s and a bunch of no name clubs bands like Television and Talking heads and the Dictators and the New York Dolls and Patti Smiths and Blondie were all inventing a new genre.

Uptown it was Gil Scott Heron and the Last Poets and Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaata were inventing hip hop. And any band worth anything was playing everything from the Garden to the Schaefer Music festival to the clubs and palaces.

I left that for Los Angeles. Walking into my parent’s house with my few possessions on my back it was Hotel California once again, almost literally. Stunning neighbor girls, the surf, sailing. Warm. Warm is good when you roll in from the Arctic.

But I was a musical outrider. I had seen the next big thing. It was incredible and vital and raw unlike the highly produced LA Sound. And it was just beginning to filter into LA. I said to my brother, “Deacon, you have to check this out.”Tom petty

And so we went up to LA one winter night, probably with the top down on his Fiat 124 and got to the Whiskey a Go Go to see this hot chick with a band who could, on a good night, knock your socks off.

We got there for the first show and the place was pretty much empty. Maybe 50-75 people. No one had ever heard of Blondie. And then the openers got on stage and proceeded to blast anything in their paths off of their foundations.

It was a primal American band, maybe the primal American band. Incredible, minor key narratives of love lost, betrayed, shredded and freedom and raw ya ya emotion played very loud.

I am guessing, 35 years later that they may have had their first album out. But their set was for the ages. I loved Blondie at the time, but they had just had their doors blown off.

Breakdown, American Girl, Anything that’s Rock & Roll, Rockin Around with You, there wasn’t a bad song played that night. We walked out of the club a couple of hours later stunned. I had seen Springsteen break it open with Born to Run at the Bottom Line 6 months earlier and there I was again.

The next day I found the vinyl and it became a cult object played at full volume at least once per day. Strangers would appear at the front door asking who the mystery man was. I was the main man at parties. Chicks dug it. Slowly the world caught up.

A few years later, married and in my Magic Christian phase we went again to Mike Campbellsee the Heartbreakers at the Hollywood Bowl. This time it was a limousine and dinner at the Polo Lounge. A night for living large with my other brother and his wife. Tony Curtis and one of the old cowboy movie stars were a couple of tables away and it was Hollywood classic. The show was great as well, Petty in his prime in the mid-80′s.

I would see the Heartbreakers a number of times over the past 20 years and it was always enjoyable, always different. One of the things I respected most was their own respect for the music and for rock & roll.

Tom Petty is not a classicist. The music is far too alive to him and his cohorts. It’s still fun to stretch and bend the notes. Speed it up or slow it down or remake a song into something new. Over the past few years it seems his geographic center is somewhere between Memphis and Chicago. A lot of blues and roots rock. The Heartbreakers were Florida swamp rock long before rockabilly made its appearance and yet they have that rock mentality that everything in rock & roll is fine.

They are at the stage now that the could give a sh*t. They play for themselves and for their fans and every set list is mixed up. That’s what happens after so many years together. It would be boring otherwise. This tour is different as well. A lot of small venues and extended stays. It’s tough to be on the road and moving all the time. We were lucky that they still live in LA for the most part, so the Fonda Theater at 1,200 capacity was a perfect venue.Every other night and not a lot of the weirdness of their younger days. I think John Entwhistle’s death on the eve of The Who’s tour a few years ago was a memento mori.

The show Sunday night was special for another reason. Both of my daughters insisted on going. from their earliest years, the Heartbreakers were part of the soundtracks of their lives. Unusually for their age, they have always dug deeper into the past than their contemporaries. Of course this was Dad’s master plan anyway.

A part of my parental duty was their musical education, and so James Brown and Ray Charles and Etta James shows were part of the curriculum along with the symphony and the opera. I tried to keep them away from those nasty bluesmen and they never had a huge taste for gangsta rap.

And so there were the three of us standing towards the back on Sunday as the band led in with one of the old standards. They followed with another classic, but newer. The same rock & roll fire; a bit more grizzled and the highs not quite as high but now tom sounds like one of those whiskey voiced bluesmen. The latest album, Mojo, plays to this with several classics thrown in with some incredible new stuff like “Candy” and “U.S. 41″.  “I just want to make love to you” was a bit of an embarrassment for a father with his daughters there, but they even knew that Muddy Waters classic. Strange kids.

A little like Dylan. A little like Muddy Waters, but all TP. The kids were engrossed. They may have been some of the youngest people there in their 20′s but they know the songs and the vibe.

On Saturday night the band was shut down by the fire marshals for overcrowding, which I doubt would have happened 30 years ago. But the band made it up to the fans with full refunds. It sucks to miss the whole set, but free is good. Sunday we got the full show.

Unfortunately this old man had to bug out. Tom and the band can sleep in on a Monday morning. I can’t.

Hopefully someday soon we will renew our acquaintance. Hopefully the girls may come back with me, maybe with the next generation. If not, well, like the Dude, Petty abides.

A Simple Proposition

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This morning the debate over the NSA’s PRISM program is all over the internet and news. It has entered the general national conversation as we debate privacy in the age of data mining and the monetization of information obtained from internet users, cell phones, and other communications media.

At the same time, the issue of government overreach and deception is being investigated in the Fast & Furious, Benghazi, AP/Rosen, and IRS scandals.

Trust in government is plummeting as a result. It would seem that the concerns of the Tea Party and Occupy movements are dovetailing into perhaps the greatest fear of our own government and its intentions in our history.

We are being told by the most secretive President in our history “trust me” just as his administration has displayed reckless abandon with the law.

And we now find that the use of the PRISM program was expanded even further than originally intended with no public scrutiny.

The NSA and other organizations such as Google use huge screening tools to scour the various nets for keywords such as “bomb” or “allahu akhbar” (in any language of one’s choosing) or “secret Bat plan”. These key word searches amass incredible amounts of data which is almost impossible to process in real time.  The exception is of course active programs such as specific searches on specific organizations or individuals.

Most of the data ends up in a huge data dump somewhere. However, there is the question of why it is being collected in the first place.

So, perhaps we can collectively send the data miners a message. I would propose that at 1:00PM Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, anyone who reads this to e mail or text a message using what you think would be a probable code word. It doesn’t even have to be at that time.

During World War II and even today, airplanes eject “chaff” to confuse enemy radar and targeting systems. Why not use digital chaff?

Because even the NSA and GCHQ in England don’t have the storage space for billions upon billions of messages should enough people participate. Pass the word. If they want to analyze our data try analyzing this.

Losing face with China Obama style

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In Asia, “face” is everything. Standards of conduct and ritual are strictly defined, as they are in the diplomatic world. Image is managed to a precise degree.

Yesterday, Michelle Obama’s office announced that she would not be attending the Presidential Summit in Rancho Mirage this weekend in order to spend time with her children as the school year closes. This is a very bad mistake for our country’s face.

Xi Jinping is the recently installed General Secretary of the CCP and President of China. His wife, Peng Liyuan, is a superstar singer in China with what has become a massive global impact. Her stardom was earned, and she is herself a major celebrity. They have been on their first trip to the Western Hemisphere visiting Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad, and now the United States.madame pengmadame Peng Trinidad

There are serious issues under discussion; North Korea, the trade imbalance, the fate of nations.And there is serious kabuki necessary to the greasing of the political and cultural wheels. Face time is a big part of this.

Xi is under pressure from China’s military to support an expansionist agenda aimed at securing the nations raw materials and to a large order, the respect of the world, especially the United States. China is our country’s largest business partner and our debtor as well as the largest country by population in the world. Their culture is over 3,000 years old and highly defined even now.

And Michelle Obama has just caused Mr. and Mrs. Peng to lose face. By not attending the summit she has denied Ms. Peng an opportunity to shine on the global stage with one of her most important counterparts. She has denied her the dinners and shopping and photo ops and the bonding that comes with these meetings.

Especially in Asia, the medium is the message. And the message that can be crafted in the media not only in China but throughout Asia is that Mrs. Obama either doesn’t care or has deliberately offended Mrs. Peng. During World War II Eleanor Roosevelt met times with Madame Chiang at the White House and at Hyde Park to show the friendship between China and America.Eleanor Roosevelt - Madame Chiang

Since then, the first ladies of China have been in the background with the exception of Jiang Qing, of Gang of Four fame, and now Madame Peng.

Having spent much of my time in Asia and with my somewhat inadequate understanding of the culture and politics thereof, even I know how Americans can be completely insensitive to deeply held customs and protocols. With a massive State Department protocol section and her own Protocol Officer, Mrs. Obama must surely have known the importance of simply showing up and being nice. Smile for the cameras and go home.

This is a message almost all of our First Ladies have understood and most wives and many husbands do as well. make an appearance and make nice to help your spouse do their job, whether it is with the boss and his wife or ones colleagues at work or at a school function. It is common courtesy.

You can bet this will be reported not only in China but throughout Asia. While the Chinese President is winning friends and influencing people our President and his wife have committed a very serious faux pas.

And at a time when we are so dependent upon cooperation with China and other countries as our president has chosen that the United States is just one among many countries, we are especially dependent upon the good will and friendship of countries like China.

A Venn Chart of the Administration’s Scandals

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It is getting hard to keep up with the sludgefest coming out of Washington DC recently. Yesterday it was David Plouffe claiming the IRS’s targeting of conservatives was not political while calling Congressman Darrell Issa a car thief and arsonist. Robert Gibbs weighed in on Issa as well to cover for his replacement, Jay Carney. Of course, Mr. Gibbs had recently returned from a highly questionable junket to Azerbaijan, so he may have been groggy or out of the loop.

This morning comes the revelation that former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s secret alter ego, Richard Windsor, won a coveted “scholar of ethical behavior” award for three years running.  Except that Ms. Jackson – Mr. Windsor was working with leftist environmentalist organizations and  government agencies to coordinate the EPA’s policies and agenda. This is against the law both for the coverup and for the underlying actions taken outside the public purview. Phony e mail addresses and secret meetings within nominally open agencies sound like plot elements of a bad movie, but now seem to be standard policy. It is the progressive way, it seems.

Consider how IRS Director Lois Lerner sat in front of a Congressional subcommittee and thumbed her nose. First she read a prepared statement declaring her innocence and then immediately upon being asked the first question took the Fifth. Even Nancy Pelosi said in her own elliptical way:

“I don’t know that it’s in the public interest [to invoke the Fifth],”“The American people deserve answers. I wish that she would have provided them. I don’t know what her basis is for taking the Fifth, [but] it’s her legal right.”

Douglas Shulman, the former IRS director, visited the White House 156 times and there is no accounting whatsoever of what was discussed. There is only a very large stone wall. The same stone wall that has been erected over and over and over by the White House.

On Benghazi . And when Congress subpoenaed e mails and communications between the West Wing and the Department of Justice on Fast & Furious. This resulted in a contempt of Congress citation for Eric Holder which has still not been resolved. Holder is hitting for the bleachers now with his dissembling on the AP/Fox News scandal.

It is becoming hard to keep track as the President’s ball of string unravels. The dirty secrets of Obamacare are slamming the public daily. Huge premium increases; fewer health care options, and greater restrictions than ever had been imagined by even the President’s worst critics are all coming to light.

The IRS is daring Congress to do something about its criminal transgressions and political vendetta. The Department of Justice with its civil rights scandal, the Fast & Furious scandal, and now AP-Gate has never been more vulnerable.

Unless, of course, the crooks get away with it. The was a reason to highlight Plouffe’s mudslinging at the outset. These are the same Chicago-style tactics underlying the past 4 years of government. In your face and with no regard for the law.

The Administration’s criminality surpasses both Boss Tweed and Mayor Daley. Crony deals and spitting on the Constitution and common sense are the order of the day. Fifty years from now, the Obama era will be remembered as one of the most corrupt and undemocratic in our nation’s history. And where does it all lead eventually?

To put it into perspective:

Venn Chart - Obama Scandals

Blood on the President’s hands

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Yesterday I read the speech given by the President on his evolving position on the Global War on Terror, also known as contingency operations, also known as The Atlantic tells us now as “a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” or The PTE for short.

At the end, the speech was a poor rationalization for the blood on the hands of the President. The Establishment had its opinion. I have mine.

The speech was pedantic; a recital of the history of where we have been in conflict for the past 30 years, invoking the Beirut bombings of 1983 and Lockerbie in 1988 and even the murder of Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists aboard a cruise ship. Historically and philosophically the president was rolling the history and motives for Middle Eastern terrorism into a great big ball and declaring victory.

He declared victory a couple of years ago after Bin Laden was killed, but then came Benghazi and Boston and now London. Now he is really declaring victory, I guess.

With over 7,000 military deaths and the imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan, the President also declared victory in Somalia and Yemen and that we have driven Islamic radicalism into the shadows. He ignored the reality of the radicals in Syria who have taken to beheadings and ritual cannibalism and of the Shia/Sunni divide that is being fought out and threatens to engulf neighboring states.

He minimized the underlying nature of the conflict in North Africa where the militants want to establish their own state or where Sudan has been waging war on non-Muslims for 20 years. Boko Haram in Nigeria is a recent phenomenon. And through all of this runs the thread of Al Quaeda.

Radical Islam has extended its influence throughout the tenure of this administration; in Egypt; in Yemen; in Libya. In Pakistan. The resentment and hatred have waxed rather than waned. While Brand Al Qaeda has been damaged, it has also gone underground and gone viral. Al Qaeda is now live on the internet 24/7.

As rioters take to the streets night after night in Sweden radical Islamists in Britain and America go DIY. Whole sections of French towns and some major cities such as Marseilles are no-go zones for the police where Sharia is the law and drug gangs and violence rule. There is an inherent contradiction in that last sentence, isn’t there? Why don’t we recognize this?

And our president has taken our security posture  to the next level. We live in a police state for our own protection with a constant erosion of civil rights.2509226125_174d71b55d

And the president would just as soon change the subject right now. Why not close Guantanamo? Problem gone and political voucher obtained. He now wants to convene a committee on drone strikes. Imagine this scenario: A terrorist is on the loose. A drone picks him up. Obama convenes a panel. This is worse than LBJ’s micromanagement of the Vietnam War.

There have been over 200 drone strikes. Hundreds of civilians and bystanders have been killed sparking outrage in Pakistan, where most of these strikes have taken place. The drone strikes have more than any other factor turned that country into an enemy.

The President has refused to account for the actions of our government during and after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi.

For over three months the President dithered in making a decision to attempt another Surge in Afghanistan in 2010, a surge that was undermanned and undercut by unrealistic timelines. We declared victory in that as well, if you recall.

Three years after that Surge, our troops now do ritual patrolling, much as we did in Vietnam before pulling out in 1972. Our soldiers and sailors will still die, but the spirit of construction and nation building was lost long ago in a miasma of corruption, underfunding, and a refusal to institute the rule of law.

From the moment in 2011 when the president telegraphed his intentions to withdraw by next year, the Taliban had already won. They just had to wait. But then, magically, the Taliban are no longer the issue. Only Al Quaeda and its defeat is the issue, at least as of yesterday. Declare victory and go home.

So for the past 5 years, every ounce of the blood of our military and of our international allies and of good Afghan allies can be considered wasted. The mission was not accomplished.

How does a leader live with himself or herself knowing that they have sent their best to to a death that strategically or tactically has little meaning? The sand will simply blow over our FOB’s and our COP’s as if they never existed. The Taliban will pose on what’s left as mongrel victors who simply outlasted their enemies.

Al Quaeda was always a distributed network and became even more so as we chalked up our successes against it. In response it morphed. Bin Laden was holed up in a safe house using messengers to communicate when he died. We reduced the organization’s effectiveness for a time, but it has not gone away as we would be led to believe. Jihad burns in the hearts of more people than ever before.

In the end, the buck stops in the oval office, much as the current tenant has tried to avoid this fact. He began by blaming Bush. But his vacillation and his poor decisions are his own and the blood is on his hands now.

It is Memorial Day weekend. I hope that our President remembers this and the cost in both the lives of our own and those whose lives we have taken.

The LA Times disconnect

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Reading today’s Los Angeles Times one would not realize there were three major scandals consuming the Obama Administration in perhaps the greatest political meltdown in our country’s history.

We can read of an accident on the 210 Freeway or that North Korea seized a Chinese fishing boat or that Star Trek did well at the box office, and only in the third lede in the politics section does one learn that the Administration is valiantly fighting back against the accusations that it targeted conservatives groups and even individuals through the IRS.

Elsewhere, the Administration is losing with some of its biggest supporters in Glenn Greenwald, Jon Stewart, and even the New York Times. As the scandals have expanded, the coverage in Los Angeles has decreased and the Op/Eds become more outlandish telling us how it’s all really okay. The Times is beginning to verge on “Baghdad Bob” territory.

Los Angeles, as most of who live here know, is a lost cause. There is an alternate political reality in the city where a do nothing mayor has been elevated to a national political figure and two very liberal Democrats running for his replacement have been accusing each other of being conservative or horrors, a secret Republican.

The city is on the verge of bankruptcy and has one of the worst school districts in the nation. Ballots in Los Angeles are available in over 100 languages and you can take your driver’s test in Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Persian/Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, and Vietnamese. I am not sure if they understand “Yield” or Merge” and the roadways are in fact dangerous. The Times pursues a liberal, white agenda.

Los Angeles has been a one party state for many years now and the Times is our Pravda.

Recently, a rumor arose that the Koch Brothers might buy the paper, prompting a majority of the editorial and reporting staff to threaten to resign. This might be a good thing.

A city as dynamic and vital as Los Angeles needs a dynamic and vital press. The Times is neither. It has withered away and disconnected itself from what makes a great paper. There is a groupthink that allows no dissension that is common to today’s media. The editorial staff have undergone self-hypnosis and report through the rose-tinted glasses of the Left. Maybe it’s the legal pot.

As the paper’s circulation falters and management tries paywalls one week and tearing them down the next they have forgotten that even in a politically liberal city there is still a strong independent and conservative minority who have become alienated by the paper’s policies. Even the funny pages aren’t very funny these days and a newspaper is still a business expected to make a profit unless it is subsidized by “The Party”.

It’s a shame, as Los Angeles went from having several good papers to really, one large and poorly run one.

 

 

 

Benghazi & the FBI wiretaps – the connection

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This morning, the Washington Post reported that the FBI wiretap investigation of the Associated Press was initiated because of leaks of classified information from the government. In the words of the Post:

“The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material. Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.”

The Post also reported:

“The two leak inquiries were started after Republicans in Congress accused the Obama administration of orchestrating news stories intended to demonstrate the president’s toughness on terrorism and improve his chance for reelection. The Republicans sought a special prosecutor, but Holder instead named two veteran prosecutors to handle the inquiries.”

If you recall, in June of last year, in the heat of the election, Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and others accused the White House of leaking information on the highly classified Stuxnet cybervirus program to the New York Times. Of course the Democrats called it politics but it was serious enough to force meetings with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Clapper then suggested wider polygraph testing of intelligence officials.

In fact, the suspected source for this leak was at the very top at the White House.

In May of 2012, world headlines reported the arrest of a second underpants bomber in Yemen. It was later reported that the United States government blew the cover of an allied agent in place who tipped off the British intelligence services. Even Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta condemned the leak. A full investigation was supposed to have been launched, but then it sank mysteriously into obscurity. Again, the White House was the prime suspect.

For an Administration that has been more aggressive in policing the intelligence community than any of its predecessors, there is a gaping hole in its narrative.

And so now the important facts are coming out about the Benghazi attack. It was a coverup and it was political.

And the FBI has been caught in delicto flagrante wiretapping one of the Administrations favorite news organizations for vague, unspecified reasons. Again quoting from the Washington Post article.

“This investigation is broader and less focused on an individual source or reporter than any of the others we’ve seen,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “They have swept up an entire collection of press communications. It’s an astonishing assault on core values of our society.”

Translated into English, it was a fishing expedition.

So as the Administration has been using intimidation and threats to our intelligence apparatus at every step it has itself been engaging in a Byzantine level of political corruption to forward its narrative.

CIA Director David Petraeus was humiliated on a national stage 2 days after the election. This wasn’t an accident. It was an act of political destruction. The Benghazi coverup wasn’t an accident. The FBI investigation was a political fig leaf meant to both show Congress that something was being done on the larger scandals while being used as a tool to quash the Administration’s enemies.

Machiavelli and Boss Tweed and the Borgias have got nothing on this bunch of treasonous crooks.

 

The Smoking Gun in Benghazi

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Ambassador StevensWe are still being fed a narrative by the media on Benghazi. The problem runs much deeper than they are willing to admit.

First we were told it was a protest against a video. Then, after weeks of lies, we were told the Administration was looking into it. Then there were Congressional hearings where State Department officials were pilloried. Then Hillary Clinton faced Congress and said:

hillary-clinton-testifies-on-benghazi-2

” The fact is; we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said:

Panetta covers ass

“The United States military is not and should not be a global 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world,”

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff denied that there was time to send a response team or for that matter any support until hours after the attack was over. The attack went on for at least 5 hours.

Panetta then went on to say:

“You can’t willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of place. … You have to have good intelligence.”

And yet in later testimony it was acknowledged that there were drones broadcasting real time data back to Washington and to other sites almost all through the entire attack. The defenders of the Consulate were lasing targets in the expectation of strike aircraft support. We had good intelligence and we had specific targets.

The resignations at the State Department after the hearings were another smoke screen. State has been underfunding security around the world partially because their embassy construction budget is insanely high.

Our new embassies look like and are fortresses, which projects a terrible image across the world. But that is the policy of the our government these days.

The crisis on 9-11-12 was a multi-jurisdictional crisis. DoD, CIA, NSA, and all the other alphabet agencies were involved and the manager was supposed to be the DNI, James Clapper, who has very little actual authority.

Every agency involved fell flat on its face either through incompetence or the orders of the political masters running the show. Obama checked out at 5:00pm, and Hillary and Panetta and even Petraeus shortly thereafer. No one with authority was on-line to hear the screams or watch the tracers and RPG’s that finally ended this debacle. There was clear dereliction of duty.

Someone at the very top pulled the plug and let these people die and in all likelihood it was Obama and his minions. The 5:00PM checkout is a smoking gun.

It’s like one of those bad movie devices when they turn off the computers and the phones and the lights and the last person out of the room closes the door and the screen goes black.

And the next morning the lies and the coverup began. And even now the media are doing their best to cover up the truth.

Walking the Camino – Six Ways to Santiago – Newport Beach Film Festival – Review

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The Camino de Santiago has been one of the sacred pilgrimages of Christianity since the latter part of the first Millennium. Pilgrims travel the path, which starts wherever they embark on the journey, as a symbol of faith or of repentance.

Munich, Paris; Cluny, Carcassonne, Madrid and Lisbon are the overland start points of some of the many paths that all lead to the same incredible Galician city that sits not far from Cape Finisterre, which the Romans believed was the end of the world. Some journeys are a few miles. Some are a couple of hundred. These are the real thing.

In the Middle Ages traveling the Camino and receiving the Compostela (certificate) means also receiving a plenary indulgence, which remits full temporal punishment, which was quite harsh in the Middle Ages. Today, spiritually, it is a sign of submission and reverence.

In the 1980′s the Camino became a European Cultural Route which really opened the doors to all as a part of the common heritage. It is an incredible journey that can be started on foot or by bicycle or on horseback from all over Europe depending upon the faith and available time and the stamina of the pilgrim.

Walking the Camino is the work of Lydia Smith; her first as a director I believe.  A documentary, it is a labor of love from start to finish. Funding the work was hand to mouth from friends, donors, and a wide range of “angels” along the way.

The production values are simple but profound. The light of Spain turns out to be a pretty good way to find a warmth and spiritual glow that reflects beautifully the images captured.

The pilgrims in their common humanity and in their differences tell the story. The Camino is not easy. Most of them started from 500 to 600 miles away in Spain. The weather can be harsh. Rain and hail and 20-25 miles/day of hiking for 45 days can challenge the endurance and health of anyone.

One pilgrim is a French single mother with her young child and a rather free-spirited, unbelieving brother. She is committed to the Camino as an act of faith. Another is a Portuguese college graduate who took up the Camino as an adventure. Another is a Brazilian/English woman whose life has left her wondering how she will go forward. Another pair are two Canadians; one a priest, the other his friend, adrift after having lost his wife. The choice of stories and individuals who made the final edit is inspired but I am sure everyone who traveled on this particular journey had their part in the film’s success.

Each of the pilgrims has a different reason. Each has their own interpretation of the Camino. Each has their own challenges. It is a hard journey not meant to be undertaken lightly. An American woman walks the Camino but has to struggle with both her own competitiveness and her physical frailty. Along the way she encounters incredible kindness that has a deep impact on her understanding of the Camino, of herself, and of others.

Cutaways of priests discussing the religious meanings of the Camino and its ways; of Hospitaleros along the way give a varied and very enjoyable view into the care and feeding of pilgrims,  and various religious and temporal highlights add depth and meaning beyond a conventional narrative.

The pilgrims tells us their stories along the way and the camera is a willing listener and diarist. They tell us without art or artifice what they are feeling and how they are reacting and interacting with the Camino and their fellow travelers.

The film is beautifully framed and edited. You are in the modern but can sense the timelessness of the journey. The scenery is often incredible and takes the pilgrims through mountain passes; dirt trails one pilgrim wide; and major cities.

The pilgrims discuss faith and their varying beliefs matter of factly. Some are devout Christians. Others are not. But all of them are changed and Ms. Smith captures these metamorphoses beautifully. The act of completion is liberating both spiritually and physically. It is a passage and it is something that no one can ever take away from the those who have completed a Camino.

There is no preaching; only the story. Tough to do when picking an inherently spiritual subject. Films tell stories. They educate us and they entertain and once in a great while they enlighten us. Walking the Camino does all of these.

 

 

Obama’s Middle Finger to America

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Obama FingerSince when has an Administration given the finger to virtually the entire American People?  And since when has there been an almost complete silence on the issue by the media?

The President badly misjudged  the effects of Sequestration on the American political landscape. The first few weeks had been a non-event despite the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth by everyone from the President himself to the Cabinet to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

So now the President has ratcheted the game up, Chicago-style.

The Sequester represents a 2% cost reduction from the increased budget for this year and the next 10 years. This year’s portion is approximately $85 Billion (2%) from a budget of $3.8 trillion, 40% of which is being borrowed. In most families and companies, this would mean a few less nights out for pizza or movies. To the Federal government under President Obama, it means war.

Consider the following:

White House tours cancelled. White House parties continue.

Aircraft carrier deployment cancelled. Military exercise with Morocco cancelled. Air shows cancelled. Worthless programs continue.

Government threatens the most vulnerable; education, HIV patients, Meals on Wheels; HeadStart

. Government threatens closure of  national parks.

Government orchestrates air traffic control slowdown.

In other words, the leadership in government wants you to feel the pain while they continue to spend beyond all reason.

When he was selling Obamacare to the American people, the President said that he had identified $65 Billion in waste and fraud in the Medicare program that would offset higher costs for wider coverage. Not a thing has been done about that fraud since. Even some reform would have mitigated the cuts.

The Federal government has added hundreds of thousands of additional jobs, year after year until it has become a bureaucracy more bloated that any in the world. Federal unions have some of the most generous pension plans and benefits in the country as well. Taking care of your special interests is vital to crony capitalists. Think of the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on green energy projects.In a time of lean, one must consider anything that is peripheral to the common good, but not this government. Not now.

And when one tries to discuss greater efficiency or common sense solutions, the reply is crickets. They don’t want the problems solved.

Our government has never set out to oppress its own people until now. Now, we are all pawns in the President’s battle to assert his will. Never before has a President been so arrogant as to do so. He is directly confronting us with his power and daring us to respond.

And to date no one has directly responded.

This is clearly the president’s crisis. He was the one who recommended and campaigned for sequestration in the first place and now he is reaping what he has sown. And in his vindictiveness he is giving the finger to all of us.

 

Failure Analysis – Asking the hard questions on the Boston bombings

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It has been one week since the Boston Marathon bombing. We now know that the perpetrators were two brothers acting in jihad. A primary and a secondary device were planted to maximize casualties.

The perpetrators went to ground for 3 days before they surfaced. One of them, Dzhokhar Tsaraev, went back to his dormitory room and acted as if nothing had happened. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to those who knew him. None of those who knew him seem to have any recollection of anything out of the ordinary leading up to the bombings.

The trail of the other brother, Tamerlan, is much more clear. At a certain point he turned towards a very conservative Sunni interpretation of Islam. His family was concerned. From what little we know of his wife, a convert, she adopted the hijab and lived as an observant Muslim in a small town in Rhode Island. Not the most normal state of affairs in small town New England.

Tamerlan began to follow ultra conservative imams and posted their sermons on his web page. He also posted jihadi videos taken in Syria and elsewhere.

According to Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, the FBI visited him at some point. According to Tamerlan’s father the visit was a warning. “We know where you live. We know what web sites you are frequenting. We know who you are talking to” was the message.

And yet this week the FBI reported that the U.S. government was asked by Russia to investigate Tamerlan, did so, found nothing amiss, and were legally required to close the file.

The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars building a security apparatus that includes the most sophisticated surveillance systems; that allows for an unprecedented invasion of the privacy of its citizens, and that has access to virtually every database on-line.

When speaking with a FBI Agent based in the Santa Ana, CA office recently, I was told that the office had become one of the largest in the country because of the ongoing programs monitoring the Muslim community. Mosques have been bugged, imams are regularly interviewed, and close attention is paid to anything out of the ordinary.

And yet we find this week that Tamerlan Tsaraev was thrown out of his mosque in Massachusetts because of his radical and aggressive actions.

We also found that he spent six months in Dagestan, a known region for Islamist unrest, and may never have been questioned about his stay.

The UK’s Channel 4 reported that Tamerlan was under surveillance for 5 years. So said his mother. The Dail Mail reported:

The FBI said in a statement released Friday that it had investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaeva in 2011 at the request of a foreign government. The FBI did not reveal which country’s government that was.

‘The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups,’ the FBI statement said.

The FBI said that in response to the request the bureau culled through its databases and interviewed both Tamerlan Tsarnaeva and members of his family, but were unable to find any evidence that he was connected to a terrorist organization.

It would seem that the Wall Street Journal’s account and that of the FBI differ, or perhaps there was more than one meeting. Tamerlan’s father mentioned no questioning by the FBI.

Regardless, it now seems obvious that Tamerlan Tsaraev should have been on the terror watch list at least 2 years ago. The question is why was he overlooked? The press does not seem to want to ask that question yet.

The press has also been remarkably forgiving of an administration that stonewalled on both Fast & Furious and on Benghazi. Will they ask the hard questions now?

1 – What are the full and complete circumstances of Tamerlan Tsaraev’s interactions with our government?

2 – How and where was he radicalized?

3 – How, where, and why did he take the steps to become a terrorist?

4 – Why did his family know and his mosque know he had become radicalized and the FBI not know?

5 – How and why did the FBI and other agencies, especially Homeland Security drop the ball?

6 – Could this have been prevented by better tactics and strategy?

The carnage was minimized through the heroic actions of many and a lot of luck. The apprehension of the perpetrators is still murky, but after the largest lockdown in American history, it was a citizen who made the final link. It was ordinary Americans who finally solved the case; a dead cop in Cambridge led to the chase to Watertown and a bloody exchange with the terrorists. Some guy who noticed a tear in his boat cover.

Did we need every SWAT cop within 100 miles out there marching around and searching without warrants? Did we handle the lockdown properly? Was it an intrusion too far on civil rights?

We need answers to all of these questions and we cannot afford to have bureaucratic or political agendas keep us from the truth.

Islamist Terrorists Bomb Boston

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10 days ago,, the Associated Press removed the term “Islamist” from its style book as a perjorative term for Muslim extremists. This morning we woke up to find that Islamist terrorists bombed the Boston Marathon on Monday.

The two terrorists, for they admitted that they did commit the act; in fact they bragged about it, were from Chechnya, one of the most violent places on earth 15 – 20 years ago. Chechnya experienced one of the most devastating civil wars of the past 100 years between the Russian state and Muslim separatists. As the war which began in 1994 expanded, brutality begat brutality. The First Chechen War ended in 1996, while the Second Chechen War ended in only 2009 after a 10 year insurgency.

The Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002 where 170 died and the Beslan School massacre, where 380 people lost their lives in 2004 were perpetrated by Islamist terrorists. Grozny, the capital of Chechnya looked like Stalingrad 1943 after the first Chechen War. This is the reality of being Chechen.

Chechen fighters today are considered the shock troops of Islamist armed struggle from Bosnia to Afghanistan to Syria. mention Chechens to a jihadi and it is like mentioning the Navy SEAL’s or the pro’s from Dover to an American.

The Tsarnaev brothers were escaping that part of the world, it is clear. They were brought to this country and given refugee status. The elder brother, Tamerlan, came here when he was approximately 16. The younger brother was probably 9 when he arrived. At those ages, young men are very impressionable. And instead of dreaming of becoming firemen or cops or other American dreams they were isolated and insulated.

Somewhere along the way they became radicalized. One does not simply think to assemble and place improvised explosive devices one day. It is a process.

The press tells us that jihadi web sites such as Al Q’aeda’s have the manuals and instructions for the pressure cooker bombs used at the Boston Marathon posted.

Djohar Tsarnaev had Jihadi and Islamic devotional videos on his VK profile and linked it to a Chechen web site.

When confronted by a MIT campus policeman, Sean Collier, they shot and killed him. They then robbed a 7-11 and carjacked a man who stated that they had admitted to the Marathon bombing. Tamerlan died in a hail of bullets and may have detonated a suicide vest.

The cops are calling it terrorism, but not Islamist terrorism. At least not yet. Our government is deathly afraid of labeling it for what it is, just as at Ft. Hood.

But when it walks like an Islamist and quacks like an Islamist and smells like an Islamist, I think AP might want to reconsider the changes in its style guide and our president and his government their disconnect from reality.

There is a faction of Islam at war with us. On 9/11. In London. In Madrid. In Yemen. On a Christmas Day flight to Detroit from Amsterdam. At Fort Hood, and now in Boston.

Al Q’aeda was never an organization with clear lines and uniforms and unit patches. And Al Q’aeda is just one part of Salafism. You can go out and say you’re an AQ without having a membership card or you can go out and blow up innocent civilians and not affiliate yourself. But the motives and results are the same. Death to infidels. That’s why the term Islamist was used in the first place.

All Muslims are not Islamists, but all Islamists are Muslim. The president “vanished” the Global War on Terror. It disappeared from the lexicon. But it never disappeared. Not in Benghazi nor in Boston.

The Tsarnaev brothers are simply the latest link in a chain of Islamist terrorism that will continue until the Muslims themselves extinguish this fanaticism.

One sentence that captures the Left’s position on Abortion

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In an article in this morning’s Washington Post entitled

“Will Kermit Gosnell change the abortion debate?”

, author Juliet Eilperin captures the Left’s position with pellucid clarity. She writes:

“Can the allegedly egregious acts of one provider shift the broader abortion debate?”

That Dr. Gosnell is an abortionist has been established by his license from the State of Pennsylvania. That he performed late-term abortions was advertised by the doctor. The results of those abortions have been entered into evidence and are unquestionable.

That Ms. Eilperin uses the terms “alleged” and “egregious” is clearly indicative of her perspective regardless of the Post’s style manual. They are a semantic smoking gun.

This is the position of the Left and of this Administration specifically. Late term abortion is perfectly legal to this faction. 10 days ago in Florida, a representative of Planned Parenthood endorsed post delivery abortion or as most of us call it, murder.

This is the logical extension of the eugenics policies advocated by Margaret Sanger when she founded Planned Parenthood in 1916. Eugenics, the policy of selective breeding and culling of human beings to establish a superior genetic stock was the policy of Adolph Hitler as well, if you recall.

Sanger and her allies, who included Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to eliminate defective traits and populations and specially targeted African-Americans. Abortion rights are part and parcel of the Progressive agenda, and that includes Ms. Eilperin, the President of the United States, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services.

You see, the President’s has been very clear on his support for late-term abortion. He was interviewed in 2003. And in 2007

“Obama sharply criticized the Supreme Court for its 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart decision upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. He said, “I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling…I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women.”

Kathleen Sebelius, a nominal Catholic, invested her tenure as the Governor of Kansas into the support of late-term abortion. Jack Cashill in The American Thinker connects the dots in the web of corruption and Leftist maneuvering in Kansas in the abortion debate centered around Dr. George Tiller, another late-term abortionist. The story was never reported in the national media. Sebelius led a coordinated campaign for six years to fight for Tiller’s right to abort late term fetuses.

In November of 2012 Human Events magazine reported that the wife of Attorney General Eric Holder, OB/GYN Dr. Sharon Malone Holder and her sister own, through a family trust the building in Georgia housing the offices of controversial abortionist Dr. Tyrone Cecil Malloy. AG Holder’s Department of Justice has been aggressive in targeting anti-abortion groups, not so much the potential violations of abortion laws on the books. There is a clear conflict of interest.

So we have the President, his HHS Secretary, and the Attorney General all far to the left of the American People on reproductive rights. We have spokespeople for Planned Parenthood acknowledging their support for post natal abortion.

And then we have Ms. Eilperin concerned that the abortion debate is turning against late-term abortion definitively, arguing that abortion clinics are overburdened with rules and regulations as it stands. She points out that the National Abortion Rights League (NARAL) has given an “F” to Pennsylvania for the states restrictive abortion policies. She argues that emotion is overcoming reason. But is it?

Is it reasonable to take the life of a viable human being simply for the fact of its existence? Go down to any hospital with a maternity ward and look at the section for premature infants. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent per case to keep these infants alive. How does this dichotomy reconcile itself in any humane society? When does a fetus or in the case of late-term or post delivery cases have its own human rights? Our policies are schizophrenic.

And the Strangelovian rhetoric of the Left must be recognized for what it is. In the newspeak of the Left calls it reproductive rights. Except the product has no rights. Even until the final stages of pregnancy and beyond, if they had their way.

I cannot and would not post the photographs of the souls lost to Dr. Gosnell’s snips, but they are little different from those of healthy, living infants.

Scientifically, life begins at conception. Our society has decided that a life may be terminated prior to birth. Those limits have been legally established and yet the abortion rights movement wants no restrictions whatsoever. How is this just? And how do we reconcile having some of the strongest advocates for those extreme positions writing the rules and regulations and then enforcing, or not enforcing them?

Dear Mr. President, please stop BS’ing us on AGW

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Yahoo today ran photos from across Europe this morning of the effects of early Spring snow. Britain, France, Germany and much of the rest of Europe have been faced with some of the most snow and cold since the 1960′s. I was a miserable winter and at Easter, still a miserable early Spring.

Today’s Telegraph estimates that 30,000 people will have died this winter season from weather related conditions. Earlier this year, a group of Norwegian students made a video mocking both the celebrity driven cause industry and global warming. Radi – Aid, sending radiators to Norway, can be seen here.

This week’s Economist gives another data point. Apparently, the models predicted by AGW advocates such as James Hanson, the NASA propagandist, for global warming are not working out the way they thought they would. Surface temperatures across the planet are at the low-end of the predictions and there hasn’t been any actual, you know, global warming in 10 years according to the numbers. What is emerging is that the climate change advocates really don’t know. Climatology is hard, you see. The weather in most places changes every day.

And those anthropomorphic polar bears the AGW crowd are using as poster bears for climate change? Well, there are a hell of a lot more of them on the planet than there were 25 years ago according to every single study written. It seems that our government has been trying to cover this up as well. ‘When the facts don’t fit the narrative change the facts” is government policy.

We have gone from Global Warming to Climate Change to WTF.

Yes, climates on the planet are changing. Why and how? We do not know. Climatology is a new science. It used to be called meteorology and we didn’t have a lot of faith in the TV weathermen in predicting tomorrow’s weather back in the ancient times oh 20 years ago or so.

Now we have experts with a kernel of data extrapolating some amazing consequences 50 or 100 years down the line. The data does not meet the bullshit test.

But this is what Al Gore and our President believe as gospel, and therein lies the rub. The president has authorized hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars in green energy projects that have failed or for which there is no real financial expectation of a reasonable return on investment, either ecologically or financially.

At the same time, the Administration has done its best to exterminate the coal industry, interfere with oil and gasoline prices, stymie nuclear power, and oppose natural gas. This is all part of their strategy. It is no accident. It is the stated goal of the green energy industry to work with government to raise the price of conventional energy to a point where green energy is competitive. Cheap energy is the enemy.

Bjorn Lomborg, the original skeptical environmentalist, wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently that the actual cost of green energy is much higher. The models used by corporations and government do not accurately reflect the energy, materials, and labor input in manufacturing green energy technology, which already relies far too much on government subsidies. I keep on thinking of all of those poor Germans in their worst winter in ages and their commitment to solar power. I wonder what the output of a solar array is in a snowstorm or the fog?

Solar power survives on voodoo economics. They don’t discuss the failure rates of modules or inverters or other components or the fact that dirt will drop the efficiency of a module array by 30-50%. All of the models reflect and unicorn and rainbow logic.

Just this morning, the EPA announced a new set of rules reducing sulphur and its emissions that would raise the price of a gallon of gasoline by a minimum of $0.09/gallon at a time of already record energy prices.The United States consumes 368 million gallons of gasoline per day, so this new tax will cost us $33 Million/day or $12 Billion/year. And who pays? Everybody. Who does it hurt the most? The middle class and poor.

The heavy thumb of government is already being felt in CAFE standards driving the standards for MPG up to a level that will kill the current automobile industry. And by the way, you and I have no voice in the discussion. It is a diktat by bureaucratic fiat. Stroke of the pen, law of the land government.

And the guy at the top of the pyramid is driving this bus. It is one of his core beliefs. The President is willing to use all of these tools because he feels that the United States uses too many of the world’s resources. How he came to that conclusion I am not sure, but it probably has to do with his elitist leftist education and the echo chamber he lives in. Facts, to them, are an inconvenient truth. It is about control.

So as the central tenets of anthropogenic global warming become shakier and the economics of green energy are seen to be a lie what happens? The record of this president indicates that he will double down. It is crucial to his political agenda to be right in all things.He is still in campaign mode. And if one of his core beliefs is challenged he is inflexible. This much we do know after four years.

But facts are pernicious. He has created an edifice based upon inaccurate information, and his policies must be challenged. BS should not be government policy.

The President’s New Policy – A Fable of the Modern Age

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Gather round, children, and I will tell you the story of the President’s New Policy.

Once upon a time, there was a vain president in far off Washington whose only worry in life was to make grand pronouncements and dress in elegant clothes and have parties. He began by making grab bag policy speeches and then holding weekly soiree’s, and then twice per week, and then three times per week. And at each event he loved to show off his new clothes and played with the presidential Teleprompter telling ever more outrageous stories.

His consort, Princess Shopping Cart, would also dress up in the most expensive and outrageous outfits, which disturbed the common folk to no end while the sycophants and hangers-on all cried with joy at her inventiveness. The plebes, however, began to call her Princess Gaga.

The President and his Princess had the most wonderful times eating cake and spending the plebe’s money with their rich liberal friends, who all professed their solidarity with the plebes as they ate cake.

One day, two clever economists from far off Italy named Dolci and Gabbano heard of the vain president and decided to take advantage of him.

They went to the President’s gate dressed in the finest clothes and said to the guards “We are two very fine economists who also happen to moonlight as tailors, and can not only fix your economy, but also weave a policy of whole cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. We’ll even throw in an extra pair of pants for free.”

The head guard heard the strange story, but did not know what to make of the two outrageously dressed strangers. He summoned the Chamberlain of the Economic Policy Council. The Chamberlain notified the Chief of Staff, who ran to the President and disclosed the incredible news.

The President’s curiosity got the better of him, and he immediately summoned the two economists to his throne room.

“We have done many years of research, and can not only fix your economy, but we have also invented an extraordinary method to weave a policy so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact, the policy is so fine and incredible that it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality.” And we will throw in the pants for free.”

The President gave the two scoundrels a large sack of TARP funds, and said “Just tell me what you need and I shall give it to you”.

They asked for a loom, silk, an Apple MacBook Pro and 100 kilograms of the finest gold thread, and began to pretend to work. They promptly converted the TARP funds into RMB Yuan and transferred them to an untraceable bank account in Austria, which everyone knows is much more secure than Switzerland these days. The gold thread was melted down into bar and hidden in a safe place in case of hyperinflation.

The President thought he had spent his money quite well. He would fix his economy, get a new policy, and find out which of his plebes were ignorant and incompetent, along with an extra pair of pants.

He promptly held another soirée, where the clothing was the most outrageous yet and the cake was made of the finest ingredients. He invited Princess Oprah and Lord Harry and Nancy of Marin and Princess Shopping Cart outdid herself in a dress made of environmentally sustainable materials including dixie cups and duct tape and lawn clippings and tinfoil.

Once the door closed behind them, the two economists chortled with glee. “Whadda Maroon” said Dolci. “whattan embezzle!” said Gabanno. For days they pretended to work deep into the night at the loom, but in fact were listening to iTunes on their Bluetooth headsets.

Several days later when he had heard nothing from the economists, the President said “I would really like to know how they are coming along with my policy and my extra pair of pants.” But he was a bit uneasy when he recalled that anyone who was unfit for his position would not be able to see the policy or the material. Of course he himself had nothing to fear, but still he decided to send someone else in order to follow White House protocol.

“I’ll send my honest old Treasury Secretary to the economists” thought the President. He’s the best one to see how the policy is coming along and knows good clothing. He is very sensible and no one is more worthy of his position than he. So the honest old Treasury Secretary went into the hall where the two economists sat busily working their empty looms and typing on the computer. They had printed out 1,000 pages of incomprehensible gobbledegook, but the loom seemed empty.

“Goodness, thought the Treasury Secretary, I cannot understand a single phase of this policy and I cannot see a thing.” But he did not say so.

The two swindlers invited him to step closer, asking him if wasn’t the most beautifully elegant policy and if the colors of the pants were not the most magnificent he had seen. They pointed to the empty loom and the thousand pages of gobbledygook and the poor old Treasury Secretary opened his eyes wider and wider. He still could see nothing for nothing was tthere. “Gracious, he thought. Is it possible that I am stupid? I have never thought so. Am I unfit for my position? No one must know this.  No, it would never do for me to say that I am unable to understand the policy or see the extra pair of pants. “

“You aren’t saying anything!” said one of the economists.

“Oh! The policy is magnificent! It will solve all of our problems and will only penalize those with incomes over $250,000 dollars, depending upon how we define it. Peering through his glasses, the Treasury Secretary said ” The patterns and colors of the extra pair of pants are magnificent! Yes, I will tell the president that it is beyond our greatest expectations!”

“That makes us very happy!” said the two economists, and they called the policy and the colors and the pattern by name. The old Treasury Secretary listened very closely so that he would know exactly which words to say when he reported back to the President, and that is exactly what he did.

The swindlers now asked for more money and silk and gold and shares in Exchange Traded Funds, all of which were immediately granted and all of which were immediately laundered. They then continued to weave on empty looms as before and download Latvian folk poetry translated through babelfish and parsed through Lexis/Nexis.

The President then sent other officials as well to observe the economists progress. They too were startled when they saw nothing and they too reported back to the president how wonderful the policy was and how beautiful the extra pair of pants were, advising him to carry the policy and wear the pants in a grand procession. The entire city was alive with praise of the policy and of the pants. “Magnifique!!,  Prima!!!,  Nysseligt!!, Incredible!!” they said in all languages. The President awarded the economists with medals of Nobel, bestowing on each of them the title of Senior Policy Advisor and Master Weaver.

The swindlers stayed up the entire night before the procession was to take place, burning more than 16 compact fluorescent lamps. Everyone could see they were in a great rush to finish the policy and the extra pair of pants. They pretended to take the material from the looms and ordered 3 extra printers and a collating machine in order to print the new policy. They cut the air with large scissors, and bound the policy with the most exquisite bindings of fine Corinthian leather. They sewed the air with needles without any thread. Finally, they said “Behold!

The President’s policy is completed! And while we ran 3,000% over budget, behold the extra pair of pants, along with a frock coat and vest, are finished!”

The President came to them with his most trusted advisors, Congressmen, Senators, and Princess Shopping Cart. The two economists handed the President the exquisitely bound new policy, which he promptly passed to a page as he strode forward to see the new clothes. The two swindlers raised their arms as if they were holding something and said ” Just look at this extra set of pants! Here is the jacket! This is the vest!!” and so forth. “They are light as spider webs! You might think you didn’t have a thing on, but that is the good thing about them!”

“Yes!” said the advisers and Congressmen and Senators and Princess Shopping Cart, but they couldn’t see a thing because nothing was there.

“Would your Presidentness, if it pleases, kindly remove your clothes so that we may dress you?” asked the swindlers. “We will then fit you perfectly with the new ones, in front of this mirror.”

The president took off all of his clothes, and the economists pretended to dress him, piece by piece with the new ones that were to be fitted. They took hold of his waist and pretended to tie something around it. They pretended to tie his tie in an exquisitely formed knot just so. Then the president turned and faced the mirror.

“Goodness! Don’t the clothes fit you well! What a wonderful fit!” everyone said. “What a pattern! What colors! Such luxurious clothes!”

“The canopy to be carried above Your Presidentness awaits outside” said the Director of Protocol.

“Yes! I am ready!” said the President. “Don’t they fit well?” Princess Shopping Cart could only smoulder at all of the attention he was getting.

The chamberlains who were to carry the train held their hands just above the floor as if they were picking up the train. As they walked, they pretended to carry the train high. For they could not let anyone notice they could see nothing.

The President walked beneath the beautiful canopy in the procession, the new policy symbolically carried by two carefully chosen members of special interest groups, and all of the people on the street and in their windows said ” Goodness!! The new policy will save us all (except those with incomes over $250,000), and the President’s new clothes are incomparable. What a beautiful jacket! What an exquisite pair of spare pants!” Scribes Krugman and Sullivan and Friedman and Robinson all praised the policy as they were told to do by Journo List. No one wanted to admit that they had not read the policy nor that they could see the President’s new clothes, for then it would be said they were unfit for their position or that they were stupid. None of the President’s clothes or policies had ever received such praise.

“But he doesn’t have anything on,” said a small child in a wondering voice.

“Good Lord! Let us hear the voice of an innocent child!” said the father, and whispered to a reporter what the child had said.

” A small child has said the President doesn’t have anything on!” said the reporter. “And having seen a copy of the policy it seems to be nothing but Latvian folk poetry!” he continued.

Finally, everyone was saying “He doesn’t have anything on! The policy is gobbledygook!”

The President shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he thought “The procession must go on!” He carried himself even more proudly as the pages of the policy began to come loose from their bindings and dance in the breeze, and the chamberlains carried the train that wasn’t there.

The two Italian economists, Dolci and Gabbano, crept softly into the night onto a G5 bound for the Cayman Islands, where they could not be extradited, and were warmly greeted by Angelo Mozillo, Lloyd Blankfein, Jack Lew, Jon Corzine and George Soros.

The End

All due respect to Hans Christian Andersen.

Dereliction of Duty on Benghazi

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Look at last week’s  New York Times or Washington Post or Los Angeles Times or even the Wall Street Journal, and it is hard to find any mention of the Congressional hearings that took place on the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi  last September 11. In less than 24 hours and it had already disappeared down the mainstream media’s memory hole. It is a non-story just like they used to do in bad old Russia.

But what did we learn? Secretary of Defense Panetta testified that in a 30 minute teleconference with the President he informed Mr. Obama of the situation in Benghazi.

“By our best estimate, the incident at the Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi began at 3:42 p.m. eastern daylight time on September 11th”. The conversation took place at approximately 5:00pm, one and a half hours after the attack had begun.

“AFRICOM directed that an unarmed, unmanned, surveillance aircraft that was nearby to reposition overhead the Benghazi facility.” We watched the attack unfold in real time.

“Soon after the initial reports about the attack on Benghazi, General Dempsey and I met with President Obama and he ordered all available DoD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”  The President asked to remain informed, and then disappeared from the scene.

Panetta then describes the assets tasked to support the Americans under assault in Benghazi. FAST Teams and Special Operations Forces are mentioned, but then no air assets could be tasked because they were “9 – 12 hours away”.  Within hours, a response team from the Embassy in Tripoli was dispatched. And only 12 hours after the attack began, all American personnel were evacuated.

The battle at the Consulate lasted at least 5 hours. In that time the personnel on the ground brought down a world of hurt on the terrorists.

General Carter Ham, the head of Africom, had the same real time drone feeds and radio communications from the Benghazi team that the DoD had, the White House had, the Department of State had, and the NSC had. Apparently, General Ham had a response team ready to lift off almost immediately after the data came streaming in. Apparently, General Ham was ordered not to proceed. Who gave that order?

The Administration knew immediately that this was not a protest of an obscure video on the internet, but an honest to goodness terrorist attack.

Prior to this, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified that the State Department had not interviewed the surviving employees at the consulate afterwards. It took the FBI weeks to get agents on the ground, and the press had a field day photographing secret documents in the days immediately following the attack. Since the attack, no one has been brought to justice.

On November 16, outgoing CIA Director David Petraeus admitted that “the CIA knew within minutes that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a terrorist act planned in advance.” Mr. Petraeus also stated that the CIA report was later altered by another Federal agency.

On September 12, the day after the attack, First, the New York Times offered a remarkably accurate report of the attack on September 12. A report that surely came from inside sources.

We had the President and Secretary of State implying on September 12 that it was the video and not a terrorist attack. The State Department could not move fast enough to produce and air advertisements on Pakistani Television apologizing for the video.

On September 14, the Libyan government had four men in custody according to Al Jazeera. On the 19th, the president of Libya laid out the details to that same network.

On September 24, the President appeared on “The View” and said the investigation was continuing, and did the same on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on the 25th, the President stated “If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis”. And yet he knew the deeper causes and did not say a word. He continued with the lie.

The Daily Beast had the president dead to rights on September 26.

In her testimony before Congress on January 24th, Secretary Clinton was unapologetic. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

In his testimony on the 7th, Secretary Panetta said “The United States military is not and should not be a global 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world.” And yet with all of the military units scattered around Europe, he claimed that no one was available over a 5 hour firefight and that no one was sent until after the fighting had ended.

In the reportage surrounding the firefight, the calls by the personnel defending the embassy were clear, including one that indicated that the mortar teams bombarding the compound were being “lased” , or targeted for any airborne assistance that could remove the threat. But there was none of that either. With U.S. fighter squadrons based in southern Italy and allies close by, no one was available.

The defenders of the consulate fought to the last bullet and then died and the response by our leaders was “what difference does it make?” and “the United States military is not and should not be a global 911 service.”

All of this of course in the aftermath of Ambassador Stevens repeated warnings and requests for more security support. On December 19, four senior State Department employees resigned after the publication of a report by a committee headed by former JCS Chairman Mullen , who stated

“We did conclude that certain State Department bureau level senior officials in critical levels of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by the special mission.”

The President was AWOL. No one can seem to remember who was responsible for what, and the response by two Cabinet level officials was basically “What, me worry?”

In the meantime on Feb 10, the Mail in the UK reported a claim by two authors, both of them former special operations experts that  “John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, had been authorizing ‘unilateral operations in North Africa outside of the traditional command structure,”

With Special Operations Command; the CIA, and a plethora of other secret organization all linked together in the black operations world, it seems that the Deputy National Security Advisor may have been directly tasking his own private army. This in itself is a bombshell. It clearly violates the chain of command and also the scrutiny of Congress if true.

What we know to be true is that the Ambassador to the United Nations lied. The President lied. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied.  The question is whether it is gross incompetence or something darker.Regardless, it was clearly a dereliction of duty by our highest officials.

Stephen King does comedy

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We were blessed by a by a new novel from Stephen King this week; one you can purchase for only $0.99 on Amazon.

He calls semi automatic firearms “weapons of mass destruction” echoing the language of the Left during the Iraq War. For man who has plumbed the depths of the human soul for profit on the scale of Croesus, this is pretty friggin’ funny.

He has animated automobiles, anthropomorphized wolves, and turned hotels into malevolent protagonists, herding his characters wholesale into madness and mayhem.

He has led his readers through the labyrinth of madness like no other modern writer and yet he gets it all wrong on the issue of gun control. Guns are inanimate except in King’s novels and novellas. They just sit there in a closet or a drawer or in a safe.

His book “Rage” spoke of the alienation of young men and was a template for at least three murderous assaults. He is unapologetic.

He does nothing to address the real issue; mental health. Many murders are extemporaneous. Some are premeditated. But those such as Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown were the product of the darkness of the human soul, which Mr. King knows better than anyone.

He mocks the fears of the citizens who buy “assault” rifles characterizing them as “self-serving lies promulgated by fundamentalist religious types and America’s propaganda-savvy gun-pimps”. He sort of epitomizes the Blue State ethos where everyone is crammed together into dense communities. Communities with fears he has in many cases created.

Going back to the math; John M. Browning had some interesting concepts. During the Moro Insurgency in the Philippines, he designed a “knock down” pistol in the M 1911 .45 caliber. A target hit with a .45 stays down. However, just a few years later he designed the Browning Hi Power, a 9mm (.354 caliber) with a 14 round magazine, which also became a global standard. Why? In one word, marksmanship. Many militaries, police agencies and other users around the world felt the .45 caliber was too inaccurate in the hands of non-experts. Mr. King didn’t come across that gem in his research, I guess.

He mocked semi-automatic pistols as only good for killing. I guess he forgot revolvers do the same thing.

I appreciate Mr. King’s concern but bans are not the answer. It is the individual we must examine. State of mind, motive, and then means. If we do not address issues such as mental health we will never be rid of the curse. In England, China, Germany, and elsewhere, a knife has been proven just as efficient, and no one should know this better than Mr. King.

It’s funny in a very dark way when someone as talented as Mr. King misapplies logic and the facts. It’s black comedy, almost. But then again, it really isn’t.

 

 

 

Hillary dances around Benghazi

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Hillary dancing - BenghaziToday we have the spectacle of the Secretary of State emoting on cue while saying nothing of substance regarding the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 of last by Islamic terrorists. She is waltzing effortlessly around the greatest deliberative body in the world and making them look like fools.

In addition to the usual fawning by Democrats, she has largely been tossed softballs by the Republicans. Consider these potential questions:

1 – Where was Ms. Clinton during the attack? Was she a part of the decision making team? Who participated in the decision making team during and after the attack?

2 – Why was this declared as a mob attack when State and the government knew in  real-time that it was a terrorist attack? Why did the government continue to propagate this trope for months afterwards?

3 – Why was no effort made to intervene during the 5 hours the attack took place?

4 – Why was every warning regarding the dangers waiting in Benghazi, including pleas by Ambassador Stevens on the very day of the attack, ignored?

5 – Who was responsible for the White House and Department of State descriptions of the attack, and for coordinating the misleading response of the UN Ambassador, the Secretary of State, and the President?

6 – Who was responsible for the decision to tape an apology for the video that purportedly caused the attack that was recorded by Ms. Clinton and broadcast on Pakistani television? who participated in this process? Was this discussed with the President? What was the thought process behind this?  Why was the decision made? Why was the decision made when the facts were known to be otherwise?

7 – Why was the Department of State caught completely off guard not only in Benghazi, but in Cairo as well?

8 – Why did the Secretary of State continue to insist weeks and even months later that the attack was caused by a protest when she had the facts at hand that stated otherwise?

9 – Why have senior officials of the State Department repeatedly contradicted each other regarding the responsibilities and cost of improving security at State Department run facilities around the world?

After four months, there are no answers. The White House, the Intelligence establishment, and the State Department have been playing a game of keepaway with witnesses; have stalled and prevaricated, and danced with their enablers in the media to quash the investigation and its mention in the news.

I am sure Ms. Clinton will have thought this is the last chapter, but it is incumbent upon those responsible to provide a full accounting. Ms. Clinton is far too well known for dancing instead of doing the hard work of representing the American people’s interests.hillary - dancing - south africaHillary in South Africa

Hillary Dancing ColombiaHillary in Cartagena

The Problem with Mali isn’t just Mali

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The papers and the Internet and the foreign policy magazines are all now talking about Mali. Once again, there is a war in a country most people couldn’t find on a map.regional-map-north-west-central-africa

 

Islamist insurgents, primarily from the Tuareg, a nomadic people, have been declaring jihad against what government exists in one of the harshest terrains in the world. The Sahara and Sahel make Afghanistan look like a summer camp. This is the land of 1,000′ sand dunes and tiny oases, and dusty, remote towns like Timbuktu, the legendary end of the line in 19th Century literature. Beyond Timbuktu there was nothing but endless desert for thousands of miles.

The Land of the Tuareg is called Tinariwen and extends from the inner deserts of Libya to those of Niger, Mali, Chad, Algeria, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria.Other tribes are allied with or subject to the Tuareg in these regions. The Tuareg have been in an almost constant state of war and rebellion against first the Western colonial powers, and the national governments in each of the aforementioned countries.

Starting in 2006/2008 radical Islamists, including some influenced by Al Qaeda, began to proselytize in Tinariwen. The Tuareg have always been extremely conservative. They are sometimes still involved in the slave trade even now. This is a  pre-colonial African society, with some parallels to Afghanistan, I might add.

Tinariwen’s is among the driest climates in the world. The oases are life, and control of the oases is political power. While Saudi Arabia has its oil wealth and modern cities Tinariwen has no riches and is largely barren. It is even more tribal and more remote. A united Tinariwen would be larger than any country in Africa, including the formerly united Sudan.

The distances are vast and the ability to govern such a large area almost impossible. However, the attack on the gas processing plant in Algeria and rapid collapse of resistance in Mali point to a much larger problem. It isn’t a failed state. It’s a never had a state state.

In most countries the effort to relocate and anchor nomadic peoples has been a primary objective. Smuggling, banditry and rebellion are much more prevalent where there are no police or state controls. Virtually every one of the states where the Tuareg live have waged harsh wars of suppression with only limited success ever since their Independence in the 1960′s.

Now, with failed and dysfunctional states all around and the power of the word of the Prophet as interpreted by Al Qaeda, along with an infusion of modern weapons from Libya the Tuareg in the West see the opportunity to break away from governments to revert to purely tribal governance.

The West sees Al Qaeda training camps in the deep desert but at the same time the desert is the greatest enemy. Water is survival. Control of the oases is power. This is real live French Foreign Legion 1,000′ sand dune desert and hard Sahel scrubland where the nearest water could be 100 miles. the caravans have been plying the same routes for 1,000 years because of the same need for water.

While the first reaction of the military may be to bomb and strafe the jihadis it might be better to negotiate with the leaders. The Tuareg councils of elders are ancient and formalized to a far greater degree than in Afghanistan or Iraq with much less corruption. When you have nothing, there is nothing to steal.

This is not Lawrence of Arabia or one of Delacroix’s paintings or Afghanistan or any other desert war. It is probably a uniquely unnecessary war if properly handled. Much of the problem is in the actions of corrupt central governments. Even the crisis with Boko Haram in Nigeria is different. The Tuareg are in Nigeria, but they are not of Nigeria.

One of the critical mistakes make in Iraq and Afghanistan was simple hubris. We did not and do not have the T.E. Lawrences and Richard Warburtons who know the inhabitants intimately and are accepted by both sides. We seek to impose top down solutions and spend billions of dollars on a constantly revolving and changing set of priorities because it is our way.

The conflict in Mali is in its early stages. Let us hope after 11 years of constant warfare that somehow, someone comes to their senses. Expansion of this war will spread from country to country if we do not.

 

 

Government – The Firearm’s Industry’s Best Friend

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There is a perverse truth that has been overlooked in the latest effort by liberal activists and politicians to enact more gun control legislation. Gun sales are through the roof. Dealers are jacking up prices and shelves are emptying. Back orders at gun manufacturers are at all time highs. The threat to ban “assault weapons” has backfired. Instead of finding real solutions, the politicians are the single largest driver of gun and ammunition sales.

nics checks

In the 1980′s when the Brady Bill was passed, millions of firearms were sold in the panic that ensued prior to the ban taking effect.The assault weapons ban in 1994 triggered another round of panic buying.

This ban, which was the downfall of the Clinton presidency, lasted 10 years and was largely ineffectual, as the manufacturers simply redesigned their product and continued doing business.

The FBI only began releasing the data on background checks in 1998 , but in that time has not explained how the database is managed in order to ensure that unauthorized purchasers are kept from obtaining firearms. When Fast & Furious is considered there is reason to doubt the system works very well. Over 2,700 firearms were allowed to fall into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels, presumably having undergone FBI background checks. One of the official reports on Fast & Furious stated that  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, who were running the operation, weren’t even keeping track of the firearms purchases. There are some very strong reasons to believe the FBI system doesn’t work well.

In California in 2008, the Leftist state legislature, which has its own long-term romantic involvement with gun control, was at it again.  The state enacted a ban on .50 cal rifles, ensuring that any inventory remaining would sell out immediately. Again manufacturers adapted and the same firearms became available in other calibers, getting around the law.

In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting in 2011 the state enacted AB 962 to end mail orders of ammunition; require fingerprinting of ammunition purchases; and restrict purchases significantly. None of these measures addressed the issue of keeping guns from the mentally ill, but the shooting was an excellent excuse for more gun control.

Before the law was overturned by a state judge, there was a massive increase in sales of ammunition in the state, and with it of firearms.  Once again demand was driven by fear of the government’s actions.

The statistics are there for all to see. It is clear that the it is gun control legislation and government that has been the greatest single driver of gun sales since the 1980′s. Perhaps one day the Left will be willing to discuss the real issues, but it is doubtful.

 

Merts! The new men’s fashion fad!

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The men’s skirt, or Mert, is all the rage in fashion whether in a highland tartan or metallic minis with high heeled fringed jackboots. It recognizes men in touch with their feminine side; perhaps too much so. After the stunning reception on the London runways this week Merts will be seen in heavy evidence on the reviewing stand for the Inauguration. The President has issued an Executive Order for a full dress military version for senior officers, and all male Supreme Court Justices will also be re-equipped with a version 2″ below the knee to protect their dignity. Whether it is the runways of London or the streets of LA, Merts are where it’s at for fashion forward men.kanye west - mertUp on stage, Kanye West has men and women wondering whassup under his kilt as he tops it off with a funky Versace waistcoat. In Los Angeles those wicked spanking patrols at the Burning Man decom were spotted looking for a few good tushes. Fringed or traditional Tartan or leather,  the Mert is where it’s at in 2013. Fashion is definitely Forward.

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The short and sweet ballad of Al Gore

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There was an Emir from Oman
Who had a nefarious plan
He’d buy up a station
in a very large nation
and make Gore a very rich man.

That Al sold the turd to a Sheikh
Was considered completely unique
After carbon tax credits and fraudulent edits
Even Begly thought Gore was a freak.

So Al flew on to the Great Green Northwest
Where in his hotel he undressed
But the masseuse wasn’t buying and ended up crying that Al was just there to molest.

So the gist of the story is clear
Mr. Gore is just not sincere.
When he tells us one thing and he does something else we know that his actions are queer.

Firewall – thoughts on how to reduce gun violence

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The nation is still reeling from the Newtown, CT school massacre. Many of the funerals were held last week, and the national dialogue has become “he said – she said”. There is intransigence and wishful thinking and a tremendous lack on knowledge of the facts.

But there are some ideas that might help reduce some of the gun violence, and I would like to propose one.

The demographic of the majority of not only mass school shooters but many other murderers is well-known. It is similar to the demographic of terrorists, which we also ignore. In this case it is young men aged 17 – 26. That is an arbitrary range, but let the lawmakers come up with better.

This is the age range when mental illness often sets in and when the hormones are most active. It is the age of the man-child, especially in a culture that functionally delays the age of majority.

We recruit much of our military from the high schools and these recruits are then rigorously tested by a battery of psychological and other tests to determine aptitudes, skills, and suitability for various positions. The military is able to weed out those who cannot perform or are otherwise unsuitable.

But we do almost no psychological testing on the civilian side unless certain limits are exceeded, whether at home or in society. Our culture is drenched in an imaginary culture of blood that sometimes becomes all too real. The mythology of firearms is a powerful subliminal aphrodisiac. Power = manhood.

From video games to movies to street culture, violence is glorified and there are fewer and fewer social filters. Doing the dozens escalates on the streets of the inner cities and gang violence is a scourge.  Making ones bones or proving ones manhood or sometimes a twisted spasmodic urge to get even with the world results in death time and again. The narcotics trade is a prime contributor. And much of this revolves around young men 17- 26.

This is the time when gun usage should be controlled. This is where we need a Firewall. If we can limit access between these ages, crime will drop, and we will be able to limit the damage done by all shootings. The statistics support this argument unequivocally. There are outliers such as the Ft. Hood shooter and the Oslo shooter, but the worst of these murders have been committed by people sometimes not old enough to buy a beer legally.

There are exceptions to every rule and the vast majority of firearms users under the age of 26 are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But here too a sensible policy can help keep firearms out of the hands of madmen and criminals. Exemptions for serving military, shooters in supervised programs, and other classes of gun users can help sustain our Second Amendment rights.

And with this most of all must come an improved mental health system which can help identify and perhaps treat those most at risk. Thomas Szasz challenged the moral and scientific bases of psychiatry, but replaced this structure with nothing. The mentally ill are all around us and yet there seem to be no answers under modern treatment guidelines. Forced confinement and medication are applied only to the most severe cases and yet we are faced with Columbine and Newtown.

Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) and other mood disorders are treatable, but the patient must comply with the treatment protocol. How can this be done within our human rights? Again, I will leave that to the experts.

Pure evil does exist, but it is often shrouded in misinformation, ignorance, and politics. The massacre of 20 children and their teachers certainly falls within the definition.

But as human beings we are given the tools and intelligence to resist. The humanists deride faith and yet compassion, empathy, and sacrifice are all essential to a solution.These are found in much greater degrees within faith-based solutions and there is a verifiable record of success.

For we have seen an acceleration in mindless violence with the loss of faith. Science and the law will not solve this terrible issue alone. We cannot wish the problem away with gun free zones and firearms restrictions. These are humble suggestions humbly offered, but perhaps they can help inform the discussion.

We now know where the buck doesn’t stop

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We found out yesterday that “systemic failures” were responsible for the death of United States Ambassador Christopher Stevens on September 11 of this year. Somehow “systemic failures” pulled the trigger. Somehow “systemic failures” were responsible for complete inaction to save the lives of the ambassador and three security team members in a battle that lasted for over 5 hours.

It seems that “systemic failures” were responsible for Ambassador Rice lying about the incident 5 days after it occurred and Hillary Clinton going on Pakistani television to apologize for an obscure video and for the president prevaricating all the way into October on the true causes the terrorist attack. For this is all the report really tells us.

Hillary Clinton is said to have fainted and suffered a concussion while she has avoided being in Washington for the past 3 months, all to avoid testifying before Congress on the Benghazi incident.

The one thing we do now know is where the buck doesn’t stop. The buck that used to stop on Harry Truman’s desk seems to dart hither and thither in today’s Washington.

Despite direct ties to the office of the Attorney General, Fast & Furious was swept under the rug by both the Administration and the media. Despite direct communication between the Attorney General’s office and senior White House staff, executive privilege was invoked and no follow-up was done. Two federal agents dead; over 200 Mexican citizens dead, and a coverup of the murder last month of a Mexican beauty queen by a weapon implicated in Fast & Furious and no one in the Administration bears responsibility.

Vague reports of “senior staffers” miscommunicating and plausible deniability are all we see today from the “most transparent and open administration ever”. Top secret information leaks like a sieve from the White House itself with condemnation by both parties and no one bears responsibility.

Cabinet level officials such as Kathleen Sebelius line the pockets of friends and cronies and no one bears responsibility.

This is not bureaucratic ineptitude but rather a conscious effort to hide the facts and truth. It is still anyone’s guess why the Administration lied about Benghazi. But time and again, it seems that the Administration is doing its best to best the Nixon Administration in coverups.

Even in the negotiations on the fiscal cliff, the President has done his best to obscure the facts and refuses to consider spending cuts, promising that sometime in the future they might be considered. All the while he blames his opposition for intransigence.

The President cannot be pinned with any of the policy disasters of his administration. He slips like mercury through the fingers of responsibility.

Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II were all held accountable for their actions. But today, with a sycophantic press and docile Congress, Barack Obama has shirked responsibility time and again. It is very clear that the buck never, ever stops on his desk.

 

 

Gun Control Discussion Talking Points

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An interesting set of questions in the gun control debate from Glenn Reynolds:

Why do people who favor gun-control call people who disagree with them murderers or accomplices to murder? Is that constructive?

Would any of the various proposals have actually prevented the tragedy that is the supposed reason for them?

When you say you hope that this event will finally change the debate, do you really mean that you hope you can use emotionalism and blood-libel-bullying to get your way on political issues that were losers in the past?

If you’re a media member or politician, do you have armed security? Do you have a permit for a gun yourself? (I’m asking you Dianne Feinstein!) If so, what makes your life more valuable than other people’s?

Do you know the difference between an automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon? Do your public statements reflect that difference?

If guns cause murder, why have murder rates fallen as gun sales have skyrocketed?

Have you talked about “Fast and Furious?” Do you even know what it is? Do you care less when brown people die?

When you say that “we” need to change, how are you planning to change? Does your change involve any actual sacrifice on your part?

Is That All There Is? Our existential crisis

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Several hundred feet above me I can hear the clatter of the news helicopters flying mindlessly above the scene of an incident that was over 2 hours ago where some guy who lost his job shot a pistol into the air in the local Macy’s parking lot. The mall was locked down and the people evacuated. The helicopters are mindless recorders of nothing.

And on Facebook and Twitter the flame wars on firearms are in full engagement after the horrors in Newton, CT yesterday. Leftists from across the Blue Spectrum are calling for gun control, and yet the response from the Right is muted for the most part. They are still mourning the dead, for that is right and proper.

Accusations against the NRA and gun owners are flying fast & furious, and yet no one really has the facts, and the elephant in the living room has been ignored.

Pure evil does exist. We see it around us all the time ,it seems lately.  We are seing more pure evil every day. We are horrified by the murder of 20 children and their teachers, and yet there is no horror at the daily death toll in “gun free” Chicago. It is acceptable according to the rules of the game the way it is played today.

Back in the early 1970′s, Peggy Lee recorded a hit song titled “Is that all there is?”. It was the ultimate existential ballad. “If that’s all there is my friend, let’s keep on dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”

Existentialism has poisoned our society. From Nietzsche to Sartre to Camus the belief systems that have sustained humanity for thousands of years have been eroded to nothing. “Science” has been raised to the new godhead and yet the more we know, the more we realize that we don’t know.

The old belief systems have been undermined as well as a program of destruction of the moral system we live in. The philosophies of Derrida and Foucault deal in relativism and equivalency with nothing behind the curtain except the destruction of belief. The deep cynicism of humor today no longer reflects the conflicts within our relationships with the world but rather the desire to tear it all down.

The churches lose their parishioners and yet there is nothing with which to replace the belief system of 5,000 years.

And yet, as Dooley Wilson sang 70 years ago, the fundamental truths apply. Those are immutable. Nietzsche has attempted to replace Plato and Aristotle and the Tao with…..nothing. The superman? The Nazi and Soviet ideal which has been utterly disproven?

The bodies and souls of hundreds of millions of human beings and almost 100 years of experience point towards the failure of the existential model and of socialism. Maoism and communism and socialism have been disproven in technicolor and replaced with statism and crony capitalism where there is no morality. The statists today are offering nothing but more of the same damn fool nostrums that were disproven in 1989 and repudiated even by the most hard-core communists.

And yet we wonder why these horrible massacres occur. What the hell did you expect when you threw out morality and systems of morality built upon the critical thinking of 4,000 years?  Anything goes and “I’m OK, You’re OK”  are not valid moral philosophies.

And when one throws out morality, one throws out the entire basis for not only faith, but the law itself. How can one make judgements in a non-judgmental society? It all then becomes relative and subjective.there is no universally defined “good”.

So back to the gun debate. A gun is an inanimate object like a lawn chair or a pair of pliers or a trombone. It is only when it is picked up that it finds a use. It seems that we do not want to question the person who picks up the gun, but rather want to simply ban its presence.

And yet the essential question to all of this is “why?”. If one doesn’t ask that question, there will never be an answer.  The Constitution itself is pellucid on the reasons and purpose of the 2nd Amendment, and when one considers the police state that America is becoming, the justification has also never been more clear. The violations of the Constitution that have been perpetrated by our government are the most serious in our history.

But yet we have tolerated the evil use of those firearms. The debate is a necessary one, but we must examine first principles first.

In China the other day, a man ran amok with a knife injuring 22 people. Do we consider banning knives?

But without a strong moral compass it all means nothing. Nothing at all. And we shall descend even further into darkness.

 

 

 

The Presence of Evil

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I am sitting here at my computer, stunned to my core with the horror that has taken place in Connecticut. I know Newton and Danbury, having hitchhiked there as a teenager running away from home and to a friend’s house. A good friend lived there for many years as did my father. It is an archetypal place. The best of New England in many ways.

Danbury used to be a typical New England town and Newton a suburb. Danbury was the hat town but now that hats are out of fashion it faced the same crises single industry towns across the country have faced. It adapted. Today, there is a much more Latin flavor. Newtown is one of those small Connecticut towns packed with vague history.

Evil visited Newtown today. A classroom full of kindergartners was massacred. We don’t know why, but really, there is no answer for this. It simply is. There can be no justification or rationalization. There can be no politicization. Satan descended upon Newton. One can call it madness or resentment or getting even, but these excuses fall far short.

Dualism, the belief in good and evil goes far back into prehistory with the Egyptians and Chinese. It is found in the order and life of Osiris and the death and chaos of Seth and in Plato and Zoroastrianism and in Christianity. In Buddhist philosophy, one rises through states of grace to nirvana or is cast down for evil conduct. In Plato and Aristotle and Confucian philosophy it is right conduct. It’s funny how the modern interpreters have lost this fundamental truth.

Evil lives in Freud’s id and in Christian sin and the central Hindu concept of Dharma. it is universal.

27 people were gunned down today, most of them kindergartners. Our most vulnerable and most hopeful The best of us in so many ways. Those children were thinking of Hannukah and Christmas and probably a pageant and Christmas trees and baby Jesus. And toys.

And now they are gone in the most violent manner imaginable. With screams and sudden impact and blood strewn everywhere.

Evil is afoot in our world. This morning a man in China stabbed 22 children. I looked up the Seven Deadly Sins today and had to reflect. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride are everywhere it seems. The moral compass is badly askew.

There is a war on Faith. And yet faith is the only solace. Just as Evil exists so does Good. And yet Man in his pride and his hubris learns a little and assumes he knows all.

The universe before expands at the speed of light or faster and the complexity of existence is witnessed at the submolecular level and keeps on throwing curve balls, and as C.S. Lewis put it “Traditional values are to be ‘debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will of some lucky few people in one lucky generation who learned how to do it.”

As we see an ever more complex and incredible universe emerge around us, we have forgotton that Isaiah wrote in 750 BC “for My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. As high as the havens are

8th Grader dies of overdose – Media silent

b6fc9d2c155111e3931722000a1fc67c_6The other day, an 8th grader at Niguel Hills Middle School in Laguna Niguel, CA died of a drug overdose. The cause of Branden Stock’s death was Vicodin, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs.

The only media report of his death was on Channel 5 News. His school and the district said nothing at all beyond their confines. He died at home alone. Imagine finding your child or your best friend cold and lifeless and there’s nothing you can do. His friends held a memorial service at Salt Creek Beach, where I spent many days in the water surfing like Branden was said to have loved to.

The death of a child is the most painful thing a parent goes through. No one should have to endure this burden. And yet his parents will carry this sadness for their entire lives. His friends will remember for a while and then more rarely and maybe a few will remember to pray for his soul sometimes over the course of their lives.

That the death barely made the news is indicative of the problem. Drug abuse begins in 6th-8th grade now. Kids are experimenting and going through new emotions and have left the cocoon of grade school. And the availability has never been greater. The taboos are gone. “Everyone is doing it.” I heard the same thing when I was a kid. And here we are 40 years later and we’re still getting it wrong.

And it’s not just public schools. It’s everywhere. Catholic schools, prep schools. If you go to the parking lot of Gelson’s in Newport Beach you can usually score within minutes. The Port Streets in Newport are considered one of the last bastions of the Ozzie & Harriet lifestyle and the drugs and alcohol usage by kids is pervasive. Laguna Niguel and every town in Orange County are the same.

Prescription drugs are the new battlefield. Vicodin, Codeine, Oxycontin, Zanax, Opana, Percocet, and Valium are all being abused at record levels. Between dirty doctors, pill shopping, and stealing from mom & dad’s medicine cabinet it is an epidemic. That people can even obtain some of these drugs like Opana, which is prescribed for very limited applications, indicates how awry the system is. And it is hitting 12 & 13 year olds, those who haven’t got a clue, the worst.

And after they can’t find the prescription drugs or can’t afford them, heroin lurks in the background ready to offer a brown haze from which there is little chance of escape. $80 for an Oxycontin or $6 for a bindle of Afghan white or black tar? This is the reality on the street here in the OC.

The Orange County Register did an article a few weeks back on heroin abuse in our high schools. The number of OC kids trying heroin has doubled since 2006. And once heroin has you it is a monkey on your back that is very difficult to remove.

And a lot of people just don’t want to know. Two girls were caught recently smoking heroin in a bathroom at Laguna Beach High School. “The girls caught smoking was an “isolated incident,” Laguna Beach High Principal Joanne Culverhouse said.”

30 years ago when I lived in Dana Point, Laguna Beach High School had one of the worst drug problems in the county. Nothing changes much, it seems. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

In San Clemente, the community has bonded together through CURE, which links the church, counselors, schools, parents, other stakeholders and the kids. We need such programs in every city. Every loss of a child is one too many.

Education is vital and we need to get to the heart of the matter and educate parents and children about the consequences of bad choices. We have the resources. But first we must recognize the problem honestly and without blinkers.

Drug abuse and self medication are the scourges of our times. Between addiction and mental health issues we have responded in a woeful manner. We must open our eyes and our hearts to this plague.

 

 

Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Sartre, Foucault, Gramsci – Getting It All Wrong

Michael Totten noted the publication of the diary of the philosopher Martin Heidegger as critiqued in the most recent issue of The Weekly Standard with proper disgust. You see, Heidegger was an early convert to Naziism and even though he lived until 1976 he never expressed any regrets.

As  the most admired philosopher of the 20th century except for his political philosophy, Heidegger questioned the very essence of Being. That which had been assumed to be obvious for 2,500 years was called into question. “Cogito ergo sum” and all of the other variations on that theme became “WTF?”

The essence of philosophy centers on Ontology, or the nature of being; Epistemology, the nature and scope of knowledge; Logic, Metaphysics (the eternal why), and Aesthetics. Heidegger’s premise was to turn the work of his predecessors on its ear and deconstruct the history and principles of Western philosophy.

Heidegger’s work was considered the epitome of 20th century philosophy. His followers included Sartre, Derrida, and Foucault, the architects of modern existentialism, deconstructionism, and relativism and revisionism. His reputation was built on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Heidegger felt that Nietzsche was the culmination of Western metaphysics.

Nietzsche built his theories on Kierkegaard’s work and the dynamic of the aesthetic versus the ethical.  Nietzsche  attempted to synthesize Kierkegaard’s deeply held sense of the religious and of commitment and personal responsibility to strive for a higher level of being into the core principles of existentialism as outlined in “Man & Superman” which became the basis for Hitler’s Aryanism and perversely for Stalin’s New Soviet Man as well.

But it must be pointed out that Nietzsche was the Jim Morrison of 19th Century philosophy. He lived the lifestyle and threw philosophical bombs regularly. His arguments were contradictory, but the complexity and sheer scale of his eruptions of thought were overwhelming in the Victorian Age when all began to be questioned. He campaigned against morality and God Himself. He attacked the dichotomy of good and evil and his central expression of nihilism was the  greatest assault upon the nature of good and evil in history. He railed against Socrates and Aristotle and called for the death of metaphysics in favor of a transfigurative collapse and rebirth of the superman, separated from the masses through intellect and force of will.

This is the foundation of modern philosophy. The triumph of the Id over the Ego and Superego.

Existentialism fit the times. As all of the old order in Europe was collapsing in the midst of World War I the old ways were under extreme pressure. Religion, so deeply identified with the state in Europe, became another casualty of war. Faith was challenged by the carnage. The absurdity of war bred the absurdity of surrealism. Expressionism became another outlet for the authenticity demanded of existentialism.

Existentialists argues that authentic existence involves the idea that one has to “create oneself” and then live in accordance with this self. And yet Kierkegaard was explicit in his faith in an authentically Christian life well led. Nietzsche preferred the romanticism and role of the natural man outlined by Rousseau and this help synthesize his own ideal.

Marx and Engels developed the theories of dialectical materialism and class struggle that entranced those disillusioned by the economic divides of the Industrial Age. The romance of Nietzsche and of Rousseau was transformed into the new, atheist city on a hill offered by Marxism. In Germany Nietzsche’s social Darwinism drove National Socialism. the failure of both systems was both practically and philosophically inevitable in retrospect.

This was proven starkly by the fall of first the Nazi, and then the Soviet Empires. The moral and ethical underpinnings of each were rotten. Sartre defended Marxism, arguing that it had been applied incorrectly. We are still waiting on the workers paradise.

Foucault and Derrida pushed existential thought even further, into deconstructionism and revisionism. Gramsci’s contribution was historicism. Ideas simply cannot be understood outside of their historical or social contexts.  If all philosophies are simply alternative narratives how can one be held to be better than another? And if one can disassemble and then reassemble the facts into a new narrative that supports ones views, how can any narrative be true? There is, then, no objective truth according to these theories.

And yet this flies in the face of logic. Of course, both logic and metaphysics posit the existence of a higher force, God, who does not exist because His existence cannot be empirically proven according to the new rules.

But, as C.S. Lewis points out, the Tao exists across philosophies and cultures.

“The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.”

This set of principles has been arrived at completely separately in many cultures; In Greece; by the Jews; in India; in China. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other traditions all reflect similar values on the basic levels.

These were not formulated as the tools for domination or the social constructs rationalizing ruling classes as deconstructionists or Marxists believe, but rather as social compacts derived from divine sources.

The histories of civilizations were best prepared by scholars to accurately depict the events of the times under study. Perhaps certain biases seep into narratives, but overall these histories are confirmed by multiple sources; scientific, mathematical, and historical. In each tradition accountability was demanded by a shared responsibility to future generations. You may not like some of history, but you are not allowed to choose that history. It can be critiqued, but it cannot be changed.

So if the foundations for modern philosophy can be so easily discredited why have our intelligentsia chosen not to do so?

Rationalism demands logic and order. Facts must be confirmed. The greater the theory, the more demanding the criticism of that theory must be in order to confirm or deny it. And yet if rationalism and logic are denied, how can we ascertain the essential truth.

Marxist dialectics emphasizes the primacy of the material way of life over all forms of social consciousness and the secondary, dependent character of the “ideal.”Thus as with Nietzsche’s theory God does not exist.

As St. Thomas Aquinas argued for the existence of God, there are 5 principles:

Motion -Some things undoubtedly move, though cannot cause their own motion. Since there can be no infinite chain of causes of motion, there must be a First Mover not moved by anything else, and this is what everyone understands by God.

Causation- As in the case of motion, nothing can cause itself, and an infinite chain of causation is impossible, so there must be a First Cause, called God.

Existence of necessary and the unnecessary- Our experience includes things certainly existing but apparently unnecessary. Not everything can be unnecessary, for then once there was nothing and there would still be nothing. Therefore, we are compelled to suppose something that exists necessarily, having this necessity only from itself; in fact itself the cause for other things to exist.

Gradation- If we can notice a gradation in things in the sense that some things are more hot, good, etc., there must be a superlative that is the truest and noblest thing, and so most fully existing. This then, we call God.

 

Ordered tendencies of nature- A direction of actions to an end is noticed in all bodies following natural laws. Anything without awareness tends to a goal under the guidance of one who is aware. This we call God.

The alternative is that Sh*t just happened. Which is more logical?

Today the vestiges of Nietzsche, Marx, Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault live on in a world of wishful thinking. Our intelligentisia see the world as the want or demand it to be rather than as it is. The destruction of logic and of critical thinking is leading to a new dark age, not in a physical sense but rather as one of illogic and superstition.

As we are finding out the hard way with dictators and national interests, reality is conflicting with the received wisdom. Despite 2,500 years of dialectics, we are being coerced into beliefs which defy logic.

Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury and others wrote of the dangers of modern irrationalism. Hofer’s True Believer was based upon the zealots of Naziism and Communism. Book burnings did happen. Races and those who disagreed were exterminated. The Jews, the kulaks in Ukraine, 50,000,000 victims of the cultural revolution and 3,000,000 more in Cambodia were all sacrificed within living memory on the altar of atheistic idealism.

Even in the face of the evidence the intelligentsia still hold many of those same beliefs in historicism and relativism and failed ideologies.

And yet the alternative is so simple that it has been obfuscated in a hurricane of sophism. All God has ever asked is to be believed. It’s called faith. Nietzsche is long dead. God isn’t.

To be continued…..

 

A Great Disturbance in the Force – The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church

An incredible thing happened the other day and I am still digesting it. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and Saddleback Church held “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church“. This is a first certainly for California and perhaps for the world. From all over Southern California and the country, 3,500 people gathered at Saddleback Church and thousands more participated on-line in a frank discussion of how faith-based organizations can contribute more to ameliorate a problem that is growing out of control.

We live in an increasingly secular world today that is overwhelming us both emotionally and physically. New technology is bringing us closer together than ever before and yet isolating us even further. Old boundaries are crumbling and as a culture we are becoming ever more dysfunctional. The effects of our physical and psychological world are taking a toll on our souls that is sometimes unbearable. The widespread availability of drugs both legal and illegal has turned us into a self medicating nation.

According to the experts at the Gathering, 26% of adult Americans will be diagnosed with some form of mental illness this year. 7-8% of our population suffers from addiction. from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to personality disorders were are facing a crisis.

These are issues that hide in the back of our collective closets. Individuals feel stigmatized and marginalized and our societal bias against the mentally ill and addicted is deep and pervading. Families are tortured and damaged and the mentally ill are reduced to hopelessness by a system that is deeply fractured and nonresponsive.

There is a War on Drugs that costs over $50 Billion/year. Mental health treatment costs our nation over $170 Billion/year. Incarceration costs our country over $40 Billion/year. And there are significant overlaps. And what is ever more clear is that we are doing it wrong.

Government is the large hammer. Our medical system is designed to prescribe medicine and perform surgery. Even psychiatry has been increasingly defined as the adjustment and prescription of medications.

The etymology of the words psychology and psychiatry is the Greek word ψυχή, or soul. And yet in our modern, rationalist, scientistic world the soul is the last thing that is considered in the treatment of mental illness. Holistic treatment of mental illness is secondary to biochemical investigation and treatment. And this is where faith based organizations are increasingly seeing the need and the gap.

Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Kevin Vann assembled a stellar array of health care professionals, psychiatrists, neurologists, and mental health experts from a wide range of specialties in order to examine and propose how faith based organizations can deliver effective care to those with mental health problems.

Saddleback Church has taken mental health on as one of their core ministries. Church is one of the first stops for many people with mental health issues and their families. Faith helps individuals and families cope and hope.

But there is a wall between faith and the rest of the world today that must be broken down if we are serve our brothers and sisters effectively. I am not neutral in this. I have skin in the game. We lose two young people per week to overdoses just in Orange County and mental health issues have affected my own family.

In studying what works in addiction treatment, 12 step programs stand out as the most effective tool. What is even more evident is that compassionate faith based recovery and treatment increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. Almost every study confirms these results. Compassion and empathy are critical.

Working with those with addictions and mental illness is among the most challenging of callings. Addicts are often not nice people. Certain mental illnesses can be especially difficult to cope with on a daily basis. I know.

But it is often that engagement that is at the heart of the matter. Depression may not be logical but to know that someone cares and is listening can be a lifeline.Borderline Personality Disorder is a license for drama and conflict but can be managed. Dual diagnoses such as Bipolar Disorder/Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder/Addiction require fortitude and compassion as well.

And yet our society is doing its best to remove faith from our national dialog. We warehouse the addicted and mentally ill in our prisons and an emaciated psychiatric treatment system. The VA is very good at dispensing pills but is not so good at counseling and longer term treatment of problems such as PTSD. Government is the large hammer and a scalpel is often required in mental health treatment.

Modern humanism has become a cult of its own using deconstruction, revisionism, and disproven cultural models such as Marxism to support an ever growing disassociation from reality. Perhaps this may contribute to the psychological dissonance of the mentally ill and addicted. They are adrift in a culture that makes little logical sense.

Faith is the ultimate expression of reason. It is only through logic and metaphysics that we can make sense of the world around us. It is imperative that we as a society use all of the available tools at our disposal to re-think mental health care and treatment.

Stigmatization has done terrible damage to the mentally ill and everyone around them. The first step is to remove this stigmatization. The Church is one of the most effective tools for doing so.

The Church, as was made obvious time and again during the Gathering on Mental Health, can also take a lead position in working with specialists in providing a support network and counseling of the mentally ill and their families. As Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Vann said time and again, the Church can also take a lead role in counseling and providing resources to those with mental health issues. The Church is one of the first stops, regardless.

Mental health issues are some of the most delicate and complex to face those involved in them. Proper training, empathy, and the right personalities are critical to successful outcomes. It is not for the faint of heart. Compassion and competence must go hand in hand. It is not just a job. It is a calling.

Who better to make this critical contribution but the Church? We have been on the front lines of health care, both physical and mental, since the beginning. The Byzantine Church was the first to set up hospitals in the form quite recognizable now. Today we are being called to re-think and to commit to a new ministry, the healing of minds and souls.

The Gathering was a call to arms for Christians. To open our hearts and our eyes and our minds to the treatment of mental illness. Movements, like chemical reactions start with catalysts. I believe this was one of them.  The Force has been disturbed in a great and wondrous way.

 

The Deafening Silence on Leftist Corruption

The headlines have been full of the arrests of Democratic politicians on charges ranging from bribery to corruption to gun running and yet the opinion pages have been silent.

In 2006, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made the Republican “culture of corruption” a major campaign issue. The daughter of one of the most corrupt politicians in Maryland history, Thomas D’Allesandro, she hammered the Republicans for their support of legislation she and her allies deemed corrupt. It worked.

Then, in January of 2007, immediately after her election as Speaker of the House  the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $7.25. Pelosi had American Samoa exempted from the increase so that Del Monte Corporation would not have to pay the higher wage. Del Monte is based in her congressional district and at the time her husband held $17 million in shares in the company.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is famous for the influence she has peddled for her husband, Richard Blum. A few years ago she engineered a land swap that landed her husband’s company Pentagon held land that mining experts call perhaps one of the largest gold formations in the world in exchange for worthless rangeland in northern California. This is also the same man entrusted with the famous “Train to Nowhere” multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

So the recent arrests and convictions of a number of California politicians who happen to all be Democrats might come as a bit of a shock after such transparently obvious self dealing. Let’s look at the list, shall we?

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner – False Imprisonment & Battery

San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew – Extortion & Perjury

State Senator Leland Yee – Arms Trafficking, Money Laundering, Murder for Hire, Drug Dealing, Bribery, Corruption and being a member of a Chinese Tong.

State Senator Ron Calderon – Bribery & Corruption

State Senator Rod Wright – Voter Fraud & Perjury

All of these politicians are on the far Left of the political spectrum. They are the ones who regularly accuse their political opponents of corruption, greed, racism and base motives. But time and again it seems that the ones who cry “Injustice” the loudest are in fact the most unjust.

Yee is one of the most vocal opponents of Second Amendment rights in America and yet he was caught on tape discussing the sale of automatic weapons and shoulder mounted rockets to terrorists in the Philippines, where U.S. Special Forces have been working side by side with the Philippine Army fighting those same terrorists.

Calderon was even more of a crook. Michael Drobot, who owned Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, bilked the state and federal governments of over $500 million in a sophisticated medical equipment scam. The same type of scam that our president promised to stamp out when selling Obamacare. Calderon facilitated Drobot’s  corrupt empire that included crooked doctors, medical equipment companies, and hospital personnel.

But the corruption of the left goes far beyond California. It is especially strong in Illinois; in New York and in a number of other blue states. In New York it even includes some of the Republican leadership.

On a national level the Obama Administration is open for business. The green energy scandals cost the taxpayers over $1 Trillion and much of the stimulus bill was parceled out for projects of very dubious utility. The GM and Chrysler bailouts benefited primarily the unions.

Crony capitalism is everywhere one chooses to gaze and yet the media is virtually silent. It even includes some Republicans and yet the thought leaders have chosen to ignore the problem because it does not fit the narrative. Just as the Nomenklatura pillaged the Soviet Union with their special privileges and dachas today’s Leftist politicians are carving their own “fair share” at the expense of the people.

In his 40 year career as a professional politician, Willie Brown was able to avoid indictment despite a highly flamboyant lifestyle and several investigations. He was admired by many for his style but he was dogged by corruption and favoritism charges throughout his career. Today, there are a thousand Willie Browns and Leland Yees and Ron Calderons and Dianne Feinsteins and Nancy Pelosis.

Now, indictments are coming fast and furious. You would think there is an opportunity for a Pulitzer, even.

And yet the same grifters in the press, in academia, the unions and the special interest groups are silent. For they too are part of the gravy train. Spout the proper slogans and steal all that you can that’s not nailed down and some of what is.

When I was a kid California was known as a “clean government” state. Starting back in the 1890′s the Populist Party was a disorganized amalgam of small businesspeople, workers, farmers, and political leaders. Activists such as Theodore Roosevelt rose in opposition to the “Reckless Decade” of the 1890′s.The clean government movement was founded to stamp out the rampant political corruption in many states. California was seen as a leader in good government. Now it is a banana republic as are so many of the “blue” states.

The map speaks for itself. From the wars on charter schools in Chicago and New York and Washington to the checkbook legislation in Washington our politicians are sitting behind the cash register and don’t give change.

We are in a new Reckless Decade where the oligarchs and the crony capitalists have been allowed to pillage. And because the disease is overwhelmingly on the Left today the country suffers. Our faith in justice is corrupted, and this is a very dangerous thing for our republic.

 

The Eternal Spotlessness of Obama’s Mind

This afternoon our president provided further evidence of his refusal to recognize objective reality and substitute it with his own. When asked if Mitt Romney was right about the threat Russia poses to the United States he misrepresented the actions of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and stated that a nuclear threat to Manhattan was our greatest threat. He also misrepresented the nature of the Russian state as a regional power. Which region does the president want to pick?

As Russia holds thousands of nuclear warheads and China’s military is growing at its fastest rate in history and countries such as Iran and Syria and Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan are thumbing their noses at the United States, our presidents actions and statements are deeply disconcerting.

Russia has fleets in the Pacific, Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Black  Seas and can project power globally. China has also been flexing its muscles. Both countries are clearly global, not regional powers. Russia has worked against our interests in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Latin America.

Mr. Obama drew a line in the sand in Syria that has been ignored globally. He is perhaps the most hated man in Egypt today. Hamid Karzai, who depends on American support for his survival, has openly thumbed his nose at Mr. Obama and his envoys.

The president has squandered thousands of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and trillions of dollars with absolutely nothing to show for it. He has damaged our relationships with our allies throughout the world with his feckless policies and reckless spy programs.

And he has remained virtually silent in addressing the concerns of the American people with his actions. From his massive domestic spying program to being caught unaware of Russia’s coup in Crimea the president has faced almost no scrutiny for a lapdog press.

I was in Washington several years ago and had the chance to visit then Senator Obama’s office. I was amazed that it was almost pristine. No books, no memorabilia, no signs of what I had seen in 100 Congressional office over the years. It was sterile and disconcerting. For such a smart guy I was amazed at the lack of books.

Then, reports began to filter out of the insularity of the Obama White House. That the president did not engage with almost any of the members of Congress, including his own side. That the White House was an echo chamber for Obama’s ideology. That there was an “us versus them” attitude.

Then came the political control and use of the bureaucracy and its use against the president’s political opponents. Then came the czars and legislation through regulation.

And still there were few questions. And then came the stonewalling and use of secret e mail accounts and identities by senior government officials to communicate privately on public matters.

Bob Woodward has repeatedly described the insularity and extreme politicization of the White House staff. Bob Gates described the immaturity and insularity of the White House staff during his tenure under President Obama.

Even Dana Milbank, a strong Obama supporter quoted the Wall Street Journal about the administration’s distance from reality:

“In one account of what even administration officials acknowledge is a debacle, The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama’s policy advisers were aware long ago that the president’s promise that “if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it” wouldn’t hold up. “White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s ‘keep your plan’ promise,” the Journal reported, citing a former senior administration official. “They were overruled by political aides, the former official said. The White House said it was unaware of the objections.”

The presidential press secretary, Jay Carney has resorted to the most tortured logic in defending the president’s actions, resorting to lies time and again whether on the Benghazi debacle, Obamacare, or any of 100 other subjects. This is, unfortunately, an objective truth which cannot be denied. Repeatedly we have been told that the president was unaware of any of the scandals surrounding him.

So which is it? President Chauncey Gardener or a single-minded politician who doesn’t care about the truth? We know of Obama’s devotion to the tenets of Alinsky and of his friendship with Bill Ayers now. The president has pushed harder and further left than any of his predecessors.

So how are we to analyze his latest remarks? Is it as delusional thinking or a calculated political desire to harm American interests. His expansions of spying on our citizenry and our allies portray a desire to be the all-knowing OZ, but to what end?

He knows nothing but he knows everything. He operates in a vacuum, we are told. Long ago my father told me to watch what someone does, not what they say.

Judging by his actions, our president is perhaps the greatest deceiver in history. he has honed saying one thing and doing another to the sharpness of a sushi knife. So it is not really a vacuous foolish president we have but a knave of the highest order.

 

A Prayer for the Ukraine

The world is once again watching aghast as a dictator prepares to invade a neighboring country. Russia has massed its armies on the border of Ukraine.

Ukraine has been the bread basket of Russia for centuries. It was a primary goal of the German invasion of 1941. The Germans wanted to re-settle it in their quest for lebensraum. Prior to this, the kulaks of Ukraine were slaughtered by Stalin for their resistance to collectivization. It is the prize of Eastern Europe. And the same kind of oppression is once again stalking the land.

40 years ago the world was riven by the Cold War and the threat of a nuclear winter. A communist dictatorship oppressed all of Eastern Europe. It was unthinkable in 1978 that the Soviet Empire would fall. Communism was on the move through proxies in Central America and Angola.  The communists were supporting the ANC in South Africa. Vietnam and Cambodia had fallen. The Fulda Gap in Germany was to be the new Armageddon.The West was dismayed and confused.

There is an old saying that we Catholics get the Pope that we need in times of trouble.

By the late 1970′s a unique man had fought against the oppression and  tyranny of the human soul by communism in Poland for over 30 years. He preached non-violent resistance. He stood for God and for human dignity above all else. He preached the word of God in a country that imprisoned those who did so. He preached the community of faith, not just Catholic Christianity. His actions in defending Jews from the Nazi genocide and his transformation of relations with the Jewish faith are well-known. He met with the Dalai Lama eight times and stressed the bonds of faith between Christianity and Buddhism. He did the same with many faiths.

Karol Wojtila was elected Pope on October 16, 1978 and took the name John Paul II. For the next 10 years he worked tirelessly for the causes of faith, freedom and human rights around the world. This was done through prayer, diplomacy, and fostering the same principles used by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

He was God’s warrior in Eastern Europe, Nicaragua, Chile, Rwanda, Haiti, and anywhere there was oppression.

He worked with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to create the circumstances for change. And in 1979 when he visited Poland he inspired the Solidarity Movement, which led to peaceful change in Poland. In 1989 the Berlin Wall, the greatest symbol of communist oppression, fell. Then the communists fell, peacefully.

A world which had been in conflict for over 70 years had a chance at real peace. This was foretold by the revelations of Fatima. These are not religious mutterings but well documented predictions long in advance of any scientific or historical evidence to support them. What else can one think but that they are true? The facts speak for themselves.

And today we are once again faced with fear and repression. The world is deeply corrupt. The powerful have become more powerful and injustice reigns.

John Paul II stood against that same injustice and oppression and won a great victory for man and God. Religious freedom was restored and flourished in the East.

John Paul II was beatified and placed on the road to sainthood almost immediately after his death.

We Catholics do not worship our saints, as some people suppose. We venerate them for their holiness and pray for their intercession with God to help us endure the unendurable, heal the ill, and for God’s help with our own personal travails and problems. We believe in God’s infinite mercy and direct intercession in human life.

In 1979 no one in their right mind believed that the Soviet Empire, which was in total conflict with religion, would fall. Ten years later it did. Is that not miraculous?

And today, for different reasons, another dictator is on the move. Who more appropriate than John Paul II to pray to for his intercession with Our Lord? When presidents and kings stand helpless or worse, it can only be through prayer that we find another miracle to avert a disaster of the human soul.

Reach out to John Paul the Great as we now call him. The power of prayer is real and is awe inspiring.Together, perhaps we can make a difference.