The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Syria’

CALLING A SPADE A SPADE

 

There are those who claim that poker is a game of skill.  Usually, those are people who have just taken down a big pot or won a tournament.  There are those who claim that poker is a game of luck.  Usually, those are people who have just taken what is affectionately known in the poker world as a “bad beat.”  My personal view is that poker is a game of luck combined with an element of skill.  I base that on the fact that if poker were simply a game of skill, each of the sixty-five events at the World Series of Poker would see the same faces at the final table.  That is simply not the case.  Even the greatest marksman is not going to be able to show his stuff if he does not have a supply of bullets.

Back in the days when I played a great deal of live poker I noticed that there were certain days that I could do nothing wrong.  It was as though I were a magnet for the winning hand.  Sadly, those days were few and far between.  More often the rules of random mathematical probability held sway (whether poker is a game of luck, skill or a combination of the two, there is no question that it is a game based on math), and I would receive my share of good, bad and indifferent starting hands.  Then there were the times that I would sit at the table for hours without having a hand that had any high probability of being the best when then final card was dealt.  For some reason, those slumps seemed to last for an inordinately long period of time – once for over a month of daily play.

As I was in my “slump” period, I began wondering why I subjected myself to this sort of abuse.  Anyone who has experienced the phenomenon of consistently bad cards has probably asked the same question.  I was about four hours into the session and nothing had changed when I picked up my cards and saw the six of spades.  I slid the bottom card to the right, keeping my cards sequestered from the player to my left who had a habit of staring over to see if he could make out what I had been dealt when I saw the corner of the top card, a black ace, the ace of spades.  If you don’t play poker you might think this was a good hand – but it isn’t.  In fact, A – 6 is the worst holding with an ace that you can have.  The fact that it was suited only slightly improves the hand.  But as my stack of chips had dwindled through four hours of antes, I decided to play it anyway.  There were four callers so that gave my hand some improvement through what is known as “pot odds.”

The dealer removed the first card from the deck, placing it on the discard pile and turned over the first three cards of the hand, otherwise known as the “flop.”  Much to my delight, three spades came up, the queen, eight and deuce.  I had, at that moment, what is known as “the nuts,” in other words, the best hand that could be held at that particular stage of play.  I kept my poker face and showed no reaction to the cards on the table.  One of the players to my right made a moderate bet and three of us called.  I presumed he held a queen and was betting top pair.

The next card, the “turn” was dealt.  It was the seven of hearts.  Unless you were holding a seven or two of them, this didn’t improve anyone’s hand.  The original bettor made a more aggressive bet, which another player raised.  I figured the raiser either was holding a pair of sevens or a seven and another card that had already appeared on the board.  At that point, I called with all my remaining chips and the original bettor called.  Then the final card, the “river” was dealt.  It was the three of diamonds.  I had survived and my “nut flush” had finally broken my long run of terrible cards.

The first bettor turned over his cards, A – Q for a pair; the second player turned his cards up and, as expected had three sevens; and with glee I turned up my cards, only to discover that what I had taken for the ace of spades was in fact the ace of clubs.  I had mis-read my cards and had nothing.  So I picked myself up from my seat, went home and took a month long sabbatical from playing poker.  That improved my attitude – a great deal – if you’ll pardon the expression.

Was it wish fulfillment that I saw a spade where a club existed?  Was I simply tired and misread the card?  Perhaps it was some combination of the two.  But this episode reminded me of the turmoil in which we in the United States now find ourselves – primarily because we are being fed a line that says that a club is a spade – if it’s more opportune to call it that.  While some call that “political correctness” my name for this form of communication is deceit.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve used the term “senior moment” from time to time to explain why I lost my train of thought or forgot the reason that I went into the cupboard.  Fortunately, those moments are relatively rare and only affect me.  But there is a more pernicious lapse afoot that I have named “an Obama moment.”  Should you wonder what that is, here’s my definition:  Diddling around while a solvable problem festers into a crisis and then, finally, making the wrong decision on how to handle it.

During the past month or so I’ve begun many posts.  But almost as soon as I began, a new issue has arisen which distracted me from my original writing.  This is, clearly, a fast paced world and we no longer have to wait for the evening paper to find out what has been happening here and abroad.  While many hope for their five minutes of fame, that fame has now been reduced to the length of a nanosecond.  It’s almost as though there is a concerted conspiratorial effort to so overwhelm us with “news” that we are being distracted from what is really happening and what events are truly important.  As I am not a fan of “conspiracy theories” I dismiss that – with a modicum of reservation.  So what are the real “crises” that President Obama has allowed to reach their present state?  They are immigration; ISIS and Ebola – although I can’t blame him for inventing Ebola.  More importantly, might these three be potentially interconnected?

The vast majority of Americans support legal immigration and a path to citizenship for those who want to come here.  They also support our having borders that are secure.  While charges of “racism” are lobbed because the vast majority of illegals (or “undocumented people” per Ninny Pepperoni, a/k/a Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi), are of Mexican or Central American origin, there are documented cases of people from Iraq, Iran, Syria and other middle eastern countries where ISIS has grown exponentially, who have also made it across our southern border and were apprehended.  At least some of them were apprehended.

Virtually everyone who has seen the acts of terrorism which ISIS regularly employs would agree that it is an organization based on consummate evil – and something that the rest of us in the world who do not subscribe to its tenets – would be better off without.  Certainly those who have been victims would, if they were still with us, agree with that statement.

Yet while ISIS grows in size and controls a greater amount of territory almost on a daily basis, this administration and its supporters engage us in a debate about whether using the term “Islamic” is a term of racism.  It hardly seems like a worthwhile argument since ISIS or IS (or in the administration’s preferred variant ISIL) uses Islamic as the first word in its acronym.  While we engage in that meaningless discussion, we see the focus of the liberal left applauding the speech that high school dropout Leonardo DiCaprio gave as he waxed eloquently before the UN about the evils of climate change.  Unfortunately, Mr. DiCaprio and his cohorts in Hollywood would have little to fear from climate change as, if ISIS were to prevail in its objective of theocratic domination, they would be among the first to face the executioner’s sword.

Then, of course, we have the West African Ebola outbreak.  We should all feel reassured that the president went on record that no cases would be spawned here – other than the fact that we now hear there may be several people who are  currently under observation for the disease.  Politicians, and the rest of us for that matter, should refrain from using the words none or all, since one exception makes our statements incorrect.  But to the average Joe or Juwanna, making sweeping statements is very reassuring – until the exception manifests itself.

Now what do all three of these issues have in common?

We know that ISIS’ members are so fanatical that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for an assured place with Allah in the afterlife.  I applaud their devotion and wish them all a speedy trip.  One of the ways to make that dream a reality is dying while killing the infidel – namely any or all of the six plus billion people or so who do not subscribe to Islam – and, for that matter, many of their Islamic brethren who do not adhere to their exact interpretation of that faith.

Given the porosity of our borders, the ease of international air travel, what is to prevent these zealots from sending a contingent of their fellow jihadists to West Africa, purposely infecting themselves with Ebola and then travelling to the United States and dispersing among many of our cities?  Purportedly, we have five medical centers nationwide which are equipped to treat patients who are affected by the Ebola virus.  How would we handle hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of such cases?  The answer is that we couldn’t.  And, sadly, that’s true no matter how much Obama, his cronies and supporters claim otherwise.

The nation has endured nearly six years of an administration that is either ineffectual, indifferent or incompetent.  It’s hard to imagine suffering through another two more years of the same.  Should President Obama decide that the greatest contribution he could make to the country is taking an early retirement and heading for the golf course, I’d be willing to chip in to help pay his greens fees.  And while gaffe stricken VP Biden doesn’t seem much of an improvement, at least he would provide us with a little comic relief.  And just about now, based on the pessimistic view most Americans hold of the future, we could all use a good laugh.

And that’s calling a spade a spade.

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DISTRACTIONS

What is the real motivation for President Obama’s call to action again Syria?  The stated view, of course, is that humanity must protest the use of chemical weapons.  Humanity, based on the number of those allying with him internationally, apparently doesn’t have the same view or appetite for yet another conflagration.

Even those who believe that we should take a military stand against President Assad are hesitant because Obama has shown so little consistency in his approach to this that one can only wonder if he is bipolar.  In fact, a review of his positions on almost every issue since he has taken office have shown so little commitment to any principle or ideal, it is fair to ask whether he is capable of maintaining a position that isn’t influenced by the latest poll.

Once again, I return to the question of whether the president is inherently nefarious or merely incompetent.  I’ve pretty much concluded that there is no sense of ethics which guide his actions – but I have to admire his manipulation of the nation’s agenda predicated merely on the achievement of his political objectives.  What are those objectives?  The simple answer is – control.

Look at the entire history of this administration.  Under the guise of doing what’s best for “the common good” it has an unflagging record of restricting individual freedom and replacing it with government oversight and control.  This mindset is an expression of the communist concept that “all men are created to serve the state.”

How has this control manifested itself in the nearly five years America has had the misfortune to have the Obama administration in place?  The examples are countless, but there is none which is more threatening to the individual’s life and liberty than the ACA (Obamacare).

So how does that relate to the Syrian misadventure which we may or may not undertake?  It’s simply a matter of distraction.

During the two and one half years that civil war has been waged in Syria, despite the hundreds of thousands killed, the administration kept silent.  We never heard then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak out on the massacre – nor did we hear the president make any comments of outrage.  Now, with the utilization of chemical weapons – apparently for the third time – we have crossed Obama’s “red line” – which he has subsequently disavowed.

Obviously, using weapons that ninety-eight per cent of the world’s population have banned is horrific.  But as I mentioned, this is supposedly the third time that these weapons have been used in Syria.  So why take action now – and not before?

I have a scenario which I can’t prove but which seems plausible.  It is to distract us from the implementation of the most controlling portion of the Obama administration’s agenda – implementing the ACA.  If you control a person’s ability to receive medical care, you control the person at the most fundamental level – his very life.

Consider the following events which have yet to unfold.  The first is that the Congress has now to spend its time debating Syrian intervention – when it should be turning its attention to funding the government.  That funding may or may not include a provision to pay for Obamacare.

The administration has constantly made comments about Republicans’ attempting to “shut down the government.”  The Obama White House has mastered the art of the “spin” and elevated it to an art form.  Unfortunately, the “leadership” of the Republican party have demonstrated as little recognition of principle as their counterparts across the aisle and in a race for “who is the weakest of them all,” it’s a pretty close race between them and the president.

So let’s assume that we do take military action against Syria.  The Congress has still to determine which parts of the government should be funded.  The hew and cry, now that we’re engaged in yet another war effort, will be, “We’re at war and those horrible Republicans are trying to defund the military at a time when we most need to be funding them.”  Speaker Boehner, who has already established himself firmly as a member of the Beltway power elite, will crumble as usual – his greatest strength.

With the distraction created by this military action – and the consequent reaction in the Middle East which could easily bring us into a regional war, the debate over funding the greatest controlling law ever enacted, Obamacare, will proceed and be implemented.  And that will eliminate the rights of any of us to maintain control over our own lives.

Weapons of mass destruction are horrifying.  They are rightfully outlawed by the international community.  But with the prospect of what might evolve into World War III, it is rational to ask the question, “Is the greatest and most lethal of these living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?”

DISPUTIN’ PUTIN

Vladimir Putin isn’t a very nice guy.  There’s a lot of that going around among world leaders.  For one thing he has a low opinion of President Obama.  There’s a lot of that going around as well.  And he’s not all that favorably inclined to Secretary of State John Kerry – calling him a liar.  Obama’s meeting with Putin and the other G-20 heads has got to be creating a lot of angst for our president.

Putin disputes the reliability of the evidence that the Assad regime is responsible for the gassing of its citizens.  A reasonable person would take that denunciation with a grain of salt.  After all, Putin and the Russian government are supporting the current Syrian administration and Assad.

But a reasonable person also has to question the reliability – or more important, the believability of what is coming out from Obama and his administration.  This is an administration that has bald-faced lied about virtually everything since it found itself first empowered.  Yesterday in Stockholm, the president said, “It was not his red line that was crossed – it was the world’s red line.”  If that isn’t a bald-faced lie, what is?  I know because I’ve seen the tape about twenty times.

With the debate currently raging in Congress over whether to support a military initiative in Syria, the focus has now switched from humanitarian concerns to whether we should pass this resolution to allow the president – and by extension the nation – save face.  That is hardly an adequate reason for going to war – in Syria or anywhere else.

By now it should be obvious that we have managed to put together a national team which consists of a lot of scrubs.  That is not restricted to the executive branch.  The leadership and a fair amount of the membership of the Congress fall into that same unfortunate category.  While legally, they do represent America – they certainly don’t exemplify the American ideal.  And any thinking person either in this country or elsewhere realizes that.  There is no face to save for these people.

Speaking of legality – there are two sets of laws which we need to consider.  The first are those of the United States and the second of the international community (the PC way of speaking of the UN).

With the constant disregard for the laws of the United States that Obama has demonstrated by violating acts of Congress through executive fiat, I suppose the question of U. S. law is more or less irrelevant.  The law, as it is viewed by this administration, is something that should be enforced when it meets their objectives and ignored when it doesn’t.  So as U. S. law has essentially been minimalized by Obama and company, let’s not waste time on the academic exercise of debating whether the president can commit us to a military action in Syria or whether he needs Congressional consent.

So that leaves us with the question of international law.

As I understand it, there are specific conditions under which an outside party can involve itself in the affairs of another, sovereign nation.

The United States can engage in a war if we are threatened or believe that we are about to be attacked by another nation.  That is not the case in Syria.

The United States can engage in a war if we are asked to assist one of our allies who are being assaulted by another nation.  That is not the case in Syria.

The United States can engage in a war if we are asked to do so through a resolution passed by the United Nations.  That is not the case in Syria.

There is no legal justification under international law for us to be involved in Syria which is engaged in an internal struggle – a civil war.  We might take a lesson from England in this matter.  Queen Victoria was reputedly tempted to get involved in the American Civil War but was convinced by her husband Prince Albert not to get Great Britain into the fray.  I can only imagine how President Lincoln would have reacted if English war ships suddenly showed up on the shores of the east coast.

So there they are in St. Petersburg – President Putin and President Obama.  One straightforward tyrant and one wannabe I’m not sure what.  I guess the biggest difference between the two is that one shoots from the hip – the other from the lip.  And that lip smacking is precisely what has gotten us to where we are today.

AMERICAN MORALITY

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing in an effort to convince those members who either oppose or are undecided  about whether the Congress should vote to support military action in Syria.

There was a great deal of speechifying about our (the United States’) moral obligation to punish an obvious atrocity.  I am nominating Secretary of State John Kerry for an Oscar – both for his performance today as well as for his moving speech on Friday.  Category – Best Performance in a work of fiction.

The Secretary expressed a concern that some members might vote against a resolution authorizing “limited military activity” because of their antipathy toward the Commander in Chief.  I’m no fan of the President’s – but I do not believe he needs to be embarrassed by the Congress.  He is perfectly capable of accomplishing that on his own.  Therefore, I hope that the members make their determination based on the facts and not on the politics.  For better or worse, for the next 1200 days or so we have the present administration in place and we have to live with that.

Looking back about fifty years, I remember another President, John F. Kennedy, who sent some advisors to a place called Viet Nam.  There was a bit of turmoil going on over there.  The French, incidentally our only potential ally in a Syrian adventure, had been dealing with those nasty Communist insurgents in that country for a decade.  This was a “limited” action on the part of our nation and stemmed from the “Domino Theory” that suggested that communism would gain strength and grow as it took over country after country.

Secretary of State Kerry and Sen. McCain, both of whom are advocating for the Congress’ endorsement of a military strike against Syria, served in that war.  So did a great number of young American men and of those who were primarily drafted, 58,209 came home in body bags and another 153,303 returned home wounded.  These are the results of a  “limited” war strategy.

The opening remarks were made by the committee’s Chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez (D – NJ).   One of his statements in his brief remarks was the following:

”This is not a declaration of war.  This is a declaration of our values to the world.”

The profoundly important question that each of us should ask is, “What values does America have?”  Are we to look to our politicians and the Washington bureaucracy to define those?  Are we to look to the examples they set for us as our guiding light?  Are we to have confidence in the values that a Sen. Menendez exhibits in his personal conduct?

Perhaps you may remember that the senator was involved in a scandal in the Dominican Republic, for hiring prostitutes as young as 16 while he stayed in that beautiful paradise setting.  And as recently as June of this year he was apparently involved in an affair with a married woman in Puerto Rico.  Now if you’re an old-fashioned person like me, you might find this sort of behavior reprehensible.  There are fewer of us with that view left in today’s America.  And to expect a thorough investigation by the Congress of one of its members is unlikely – since this sort of behavior is hardly restricted to Sen. Menendez as we have seen.

Perhaps you are of the opinion that a person’s sex life is his or her own business.  Consenting adults are free to do as they will – and the guidance for their actions must come either from within or from some higher power.  But the case of the Dominican incident did not involve adults but children – the same kind of children whom al-Qaeda presses into prostitution.

For some reason, we categorize al-Qaeda as degenerate, medieval bullies for those activities.  Yet we give a pass to a United States senator for utilizing those same children for his personal pleasure.  In fact, we make him the Chairman of a committee which expresses American ideals to the world – both to our foes and to our allies.  And what is more incomprehensible is that our military aid in Syria has, at least in part, gone to support the anti-Assad al-Qaeda rebel faction.

During the course of his testimony, Secretary of State Kerry, when pressed as to whether the proposed “limited strike” might escalate, finally admitted that if there “were a response by the Syrians or others, it might be necessary to send military forces in to Syria.”  He categorized that as a “remote possibility.”  While I’m no military strategist, I would put the likelihood of a “reaction” being pretty close to one hundred percent.

When the United States began sending more and more grunts to Viet Nam to win what the French had already learned was an unwinnable war, American frustration led to our using new and innovative weapons – specifically, napalm.  This was a petroleum based gel, first used during WW II but later perfected and used extensively by our military personnel in Vietnam.

Napalm clings to the skin and causes horrific epidermal burns.  Here is what a Vietnamese napalm survivor had to say about this weapon:

“Napalm is the most terrible pain you can imagine,” said Kim Phúc, known from a famous Vietnam War photograph. “Water boils at 212°F. degrees. Napalm generates temperatures of 1,500-2,200°F.”

In the photo below, Kim is the nude eight year old girl , center left, running down the road after being burned by napalm.

kimphuc

There is no morality in war.  In fact, war is the ultimate expression of a failure of morality.  Whether it’s napalm or sarin gas, nuclear weapons, machetes or assault rifles, the intent of war is to kill.  It doesn’t matter to the dead if she is a Syrian or Vietnamese child or a child in one of America’s inner cities.  Murder is an offense against all of humanity. And until each of us learns to live that truth, there will be murders and we will continue to excuse them by using the legalized term “war” to justify them.

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice.  It demands greater heroism than war.  It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

– Thomas Merton

THE IHOP PRESIDENT

With all the news that has assaulted us in the last ten days, I’ve made at least eight different attempts at putting up a post.  But the sensory overload of all the noise in the news left each of those pieces unfinished as something new always seemed to distract me.  I have no doubt I will get back to them at some point in the near future.

The inspiration for this post is the furor raging over the President’s lack of decision over the atrocities the Assad regime is perpetrating in Syria – and a commercial that sums up the administration’s paralysis.  Specifically, it was an IHOP commercial which promoted their new line of waffles.  I can’t think of no better analogy for how the President has mishandled this entire affair.

Let’s be honest and admit that the situation in the Middle East is profoundly complicated and has been for thousands of years.  Not only are there ethnic issues but conjoined with those are religious ones as well.  That’s a combination that allows for an environment of conflagration and that is exactly what has unfolded for centuries.

I question whether the most seasoned and informed diplomats would be able to find a workable solution that would lead to a peaceful solution.  Many have certainly tried.

Let’s further agree that Assad is a ruthless and heartless ruler.  The testimony to that statement is that he has killed one hundred thousand of his people in the past two and one half years.  The recent alleged murder of an additional fifteen hundred or so people including hundreds of children seems to pale in comparison to his former activities, notwithstanding the use of chemical agents, presumably sarin gas, to dispatch those to their deaths.

It is hard for me to understand the genesis for the President’s outrage against the use of chemical weapons.  They are horrible and they have been banned and condemned by the international community for eighty years.  The Geneva Convention strictly prohibits their use.  Of course, the Geneva Convention also outlaws the killing of civilians and Assad and his opponents have disregarded that at least 100,000 times in two and one half years – most of which occurred under the watch of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – now la dauphine assumptive of the Democratic Party as a presidential candidate in 2016.

Where is the outrage which came from this administration over the machete and gun murders that have killed an estimated 500,000 Congolese in yet another ongoing and seemingly never-ending civil war?  And how can we believe in the sincerity of an administration which has repeatedly denied the growing body of irrefutable evidence in scandal after scandal?

For rational people, war should be the absolute last step a nation should take – and then only after every other option has been considered and abandoned.  It should be undertaken only after a thorough evaluation of all the best evidence and weighing the different possible scenarios and their potential outcomes.  It should be considered by a thoughtful and moral President in consultation with other thoughtful and moral advisors.  Sadly, we do not have such a person in the White House and those advisors with whom he has surrounded himself are, in many cases, equally suspect.

Speaking of waffling, I find myself in the unusual position of flipping between the view that President Obama has an agenda to destroy America and the other that he is merely the most incompetent fool whom we have ever elected.  Frankly, there is a lot of evidence to support either viewpoint.  The one perception which is missing is that he has the nation’s best interests at heart and has merely made a few very substantial missteps despite his best intentions.  I see no evidence for that third scenario.

Perhaps it is the time in which we live which swept this very small man into office, replete with his tool bag of deception, deceit, no moral standards and nothing to commend him other than an appeal to the lowest, most carnal desires of a fawning plebiscite.  There are many in that electorate who will mindlessly defend their standard bearer, the facts not withstanding, because he serves and feeds their immediate lusts.  He is, truly, their man – and they are his.

For those of us who think outside the box and, despite the common fanfare broadcast by most of our nation’s media, come to rational conclusions, perhaps the greatest legacy of this president will be that he might have brought us to that cathartic moment when all around us is crumbling and it will awaken enough of us who believe in the vision and promise of the old America to take action to restore the nation and purge the sycophants who are leeching our society of its greatness.

Based on President Obama’s IHOP waffle “strategy,” it concerns me that we have placed in charge a man who, through executive order, would be able to order martial law should a true (or manufactured) national emergency exist.  And with an administration that has consistently sought to curtail civil liberties in its intrusion into our privacy and rights to defend ourselves in weapon ownership, one can’t help wonder whether this entire Syrian operation is merely a trial balloon to see how we would react should such an event occur.  Or, even more frighteningly, should the proposed minimal strike against Syria proceed, might this not provoke some response either here in America or against our allies in Jordan, Europe or Israel?

For nearly five years, we in America have had first hand evidence of an administration, headed by a puerile man, see how far and how fast he could bring down a once great and moral nation.  Now the world has a first hand opportunity to witness what we have had to live through.

That is perhaps the greatest transparency this administration has demonstrated during its term in office – and it has not made this revelation of its own volition.

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