I Cannot Take Putin's Side in Ukraine

A well-intentioned veteran with whom I served in the military several years ago presented a challenge on social media: he asked everyone to consider information from all sides before deciding how to personally react with regard to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. To that end, he brought up a philosophy that we were taught in military intelligence: if you want to defeat your enemy, you must first understand him. This piece of wisdom can be traced back to the writings of Sun Tzu, and it is solid doctrine. My friend went further to say that listening to false intelligence about your enemy was worse than having no intelligence, because it could lead to fatal decision making. Once again, this is a solid piece of advice when considering world affairs.

Combining these two outlooks, my colleague shared the following video of a speech by Vladimir Putin, in which Putin asserts that his military aggressions over past two decades have been a reaction to NATO's eastward expansion. To paraphrase my former comrade's beliefs about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he felt that Russia has just cause to feel threatened by the West because of NATO's continued expansion; therefore Putin's actions were acceptable - and somewhat inevitable - given the situation described by Putin in his speech.

However, I do not - and cannot - share my former colleague's opinion of this invasion. While my friend made a valid point that everyone should look at any given situation from all sides, that does not mean that every position has equal worth. With that in mind, here are some additional thoughts for everyone to ponder.

I watched Putin's speech in the above video some time ago, and I've heard when Putin expressed similar sentiments at other times. It's wonderful propaganda, to be sure, and Putin has outdone himself as a former member of the KGB with regard to his ability to spin his military aggressions as some sort of defensive posturing. However, his actions do not line up with the lies that he is telling. If you re-watch the above video and listen to Putin's version of events, he claims to be a peace loving individual minding his own business, while the West has been slowly threatening him. But if you ignore all the excess noise about NATO and the USA, what has Putin been doing for decades? He's been rolling his military into neighboring countries and grabbing up land and resources when neither NATO nor the USA have had anything to do with the situation. In other words, if some hypothetical person listened to Putin and believed his warped version of reality, that person is being played. Although to that hypothetical person's credit, they're being played by one of the most-skilled political manipulators to emerge onto the world stage. Putin is the kind of bully that will punch you in the face and then convince you that you need to apologize for it.

Here is something else to consider: does Putin actually care about the reasons that he is citing for his military aggression (like NATO expansion), or has Putin simply been given the opportunity of a lifetime to do as he pleases because he has a somewhat plausible reason for blaming everything he does on someone else? Consider the following PBS documentary from seven years ago, which documents Putin's rise to power from a lowly KGB agent through decades of corruption, embezzlement, and ruthlessness to become President of Russia.

Throughout Putin's ascendency, he formed powerful alliances with other corrupt politicians and oligarchs, from which Putin has personally profited handsomely. In addition, you might recall from recent years that Putin has no qualms about imprisoning or poisoning his political opponents in order to preserve his autocracy.

Like any good Soviet, Putin does a masterful job of committing atrocities and then blaming it on others. Here are a few recent cases in point:

  • Putin accused Ukraine of hurting Russian separatists in the Donbas region, which provided him with his "justification" for attacking Ukraine.
  • Putin has accused Ukraine of using chemical weapons, which - despite a lack of evidence - could provide Putin with his "justification" for using chemical weapons in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces infamously bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, then blamed Ukraine for using the hospital to house neo-Nazis.

Putin is clearly using the same playbook that the Soviet Union used during the Cold War: the Soviets would accuse the West of doing something bad, which provided the Soviets with their "justification" for doing something bad themselves.

Harkening back to one of my opening statements about understanding one's enemy, there is a part of the collective Russian psyche that warrants examination: decades of post-WWII Russian fears about being invaded from the West - as Germany did during WWII - are not easily forgotten. This state of fear provides Putin with an excellent pretext to mobilize public sentiment behind any political or militaristic whim that he might concoct. In other words, Putin can claim, "I need to attack Govnovia because our security is threatened by the West," which he can use to conceal any actual intentions.

If you watch the following documentary, it describes how over the past few decades, Ukraine has continuously threatened Russia's profits from oil and natural gas, and sales of these fuel resources comprise 50% of Russia's GDP. Since Putin has made a career out of skimming billions of dollars from Russia, Ukraine's reduction of Russia's profits hurts Putin's pocketbook. Ergo - the true cause of Putin's actions is profits, and all his rhetoric about NATO and tapping into Russia's history of paranoia where the West is concerned is nothing but a smoke screen.

In summary, there was a grain truth to what my former colleague was saying when he pointed out that NATO has advanced eastward over the years. However, countries that have been recently added to NATO were not invaded militarily by the West. On the contrary, those nations asked to join NATO in order to avoid the exact scenario that is happening with Ukraine right now. However, let's set that aside for a moment, and consider the person who is claiming that NATO expansion is somehow a problem. As I said earlier, does Putin actually care? Or has the West inadvertently given Putin the ammunition that he needs to use military aggression to achieve his personal ambitions?

In the end, my colleague was correct when he said that one must understand his enemy and avoid false intelligence, and yet he has failed in both of those capacities: by accepting Putin's propaganda at face value, my former comrade has chose to base his worldview on false intelligence, and as a result he has failed to understand his enemy.


POSTSCRIPT:

In an ironic twist, Putin has become the same sort of dictator that Russia has feared; all of Putin's speeches about Russia needing to annex Ukraine sound just like Hitler's proclamations of needing "Lebensraum" prior to WWII. From my perspective, history is repeating itself in one of two ways: either Putin is attempting to rebuild the Soviet Union like his Communist predecessors (while personally profiting as a Capitalist), or Putin is making a land grab like the other infamous despot that I just named (and is therefore using the memory of Nazism to behave like a Nazi).

Taxation without Realization

If you've read my blog in the past, then I am sure you're aware that I have no problems speaking my mind about any number of disparate subjects. Although, in the interests of full transparency, I have shown far more restraint than most people would assume. Nevertheless, I am occasionally obliged to say something when I think that a particular issue warrants my unsolicited opinion, which leads me to today's topic of discussion: taxes.

Throughout my life, I have seen hundreds of people display a general ignorance when it comes to paying taxes. To be clear, no one wants to pay taxes, and many people tend to complain incessantly about paying taxes. However, most of their arguments demonstrate a complete failure to understand why taxes are a necessary evil. With that in mind, when I saw the following image turn up in my news feed on social media, I couldn't help but think, "What a stupid thing to say."

Why Am I Paying Taxes

Wage taxes - both state and federal - are collected to pay for police services, fire departments, road construction and repairs, traffic lights, national and state parks, public health, military defense, and thousands of other necessary services that keep our society safe and protected. However, I freely admit that there are thousands of useless projects and salaries for useless public servants what we shouldn't be paying for, but I'll come back to that in a minute.

Nevertheless, the taxes to pay for all these public services and infrastructure costs are withheld from every paycheck in order to avoid forcing taxpayers to pay a lump sum in taxes at the end of every year. With that in mind, think of taxation on wages as a type of payment plan. However, if a taxpayer hasn't set up their withholding correctly, then they might wind up paying additional taxes during tax season to make up the difference between what they should have paid and what was withheld, or taxpayers might receive a refund if they have overpaid in their withholding.

Taxes on purchases are a somewhat ingenious/infamous concept that forces wealthier taxpayers to pay far more than those who earn less, because higher wage earners tend to spend more on unnecessary purchases, which increases the amount of taxes that they pay. Sales tax on property purchases follow suit, though there are additional property taxes that residents are required to pay after they've purchased their property, which are ostensibly used to provide services at the community level (e.g. local police, fire, etc.).

To summarize my feedback thus far: everything that is addressed in that meme illustrates the way that governments work around the globe - there are services that are needed to keep people safe and commerce flowing, and taxes provide for those services. If we briefly set aside the concepts of useless projects and useless public servants for a moment, objecting to the basic concept of taxation is akin to claiming that you can provide your own protection from crime, fire, invasion, disease, etc., while also creating your own means of transportation (e.g. building your own roads). At the end of the day, any notion of doing away with taxes is beyond ludicrous. You might as well wish for anarchy, which leads almost immediately to being conquered by another country that developed its superior military forces through... taxes.

All that being said, there are several things about taxes that I find equally ludicrous.

I have already mentioned thousands of useless projects and salaries for useless public servants what we shouldn't be paying for, and better public transparency from our government would help take care of that. However, better public transparency isn't in the best interests of the useless public servants that are wasting money, so the useless public servants tend to hide their useless expenditures from the public, and our only recourse is to vote those people out of office when they are discovered.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, "It is difficult to free people from the chains they revere," and as we have seen in states like California, some useless public servants continue to spend themselves past bankruptcy by continuously adding unnecessary services and appointing unnecessary people to govern them, and yet their gullible constituents continue to vote these useless public servants into office year after year. Although as we have seen recently, residents of California have slowly awakened to the fact that their useless public servants have created an untenable "tax and spend" society, and hundreds of thousands of California's former residents have fled the state. However, as these California expats have begun to settle in states that have historically been more fiscally sound, these domestic political refugees are demonstrating their continued ignorance by voting in the same sorts of useless public servants that they were fleeing in their home states, and thereby destroying the rest of the country with the same level of apathetic stupidity that destroyed their previous locales.

Having said all of that, another form of taxation that I find morally reprehensible is taxes on Social Security. Wage earners have been forced to pay a lifetime's worth of income that has already been taxed into the Social Security program, on which they earn a pittance of interest for their involuntary participation; then insult is added to injury when their meager returns are taxed yet again. This is grossly insulting to everyone who is required to participate in Social Security.

The last form of taxation that I think is brainless beyond measure is paying taxes on military wages. Taxpayers are paying the costs for national defense, so the requirement for military personnel to pay taxes to themselves is just plain stupid. I think it would be a great incentive for military recruitment if military wages were tax free. Many enlisted personnel are earning far below the federal poverty line anyway, and I think that removing taxes from their wages would be extremely beneficial to them.

In closing, any general objections to paying taxes are ridiculous, and they typically do little more than to illustrate that the person who is complaining about taxes doesn't understand how to govern anything more than themselves. (Although I have known more than my fair share of people who objected to taxes that were incapable of balancing their checkbooks, but I digress.) Taxes are essential for the common good, and someone who fails to understand that simple concept should take a few basic economics courses.

At the end of the day, as the old saying goes, "Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes."

Facing the Horrors of War

Like many of my colleagues from the 511th MI Company, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp during my tenure in Fulda, and it was a sobering experience. It is difficult for any rational individual to come to terms with the sheer magnitude of horrors that took place in that single camp. On that note, I just read the following article from HistoryNet, which describes the retributory actions of US soldiers during the liberation of Dachau:

I have to admit, I find it difficult to find fault with soldiers who retaliated against the guards that were still defending the camp with the US Army arrived. It is easy during a time of relative peace to passively judge the actions of soldiers who exacted vengeance upon unarmed guards several decades ago, and it is likewise easy during peacetime to believe that any of us might have behaved differently in a similar circumstance. Nevertheless, none of us trod the path those soldiers walked, and I am willing to bet that coming face to face with Dachau's camp guards - whom we now perceive as inhuman monsters - could alter anyone's sense of morality.

 


ADDITIONAL REFERENCES:

More information about the Dachau Concentration Camp and the reprisals that were taken by US soldiers is available in the following WikiPedia articles:

Al Gore and the Invention of the Internet

There is an age-old story circling within political spheres that former Vice President Al Gore once claimed to have "invented the Internet." And in contrast to that story, there is a counter-rumor floating around that Gore never said any such thing. To help put this issue to rest, Tech Insider created a video a few years ago that was designed to promote the idea that Gore has simply been "misquoted" over the years.

In deference to Tech Insider's claims, there is a vast difference between being "misquoted" and "misspeaking." Al Gore has NOT been "famously misquoted" with regard to his comments to CNN in that video, in which he clearly says, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." That is a direct quote, not a misquote. Of course, history tells us that Gore was misspeaking when he said that, which could be attributed to hubris, deceit, or ignorance.

Putting things in perspective, Al Gore uttered his now-infamous boast during his failed presidential run against George W. Bush. Gore's campaign took place at the height of the Internet dot-com boom, when billions of dollars were pouring into the economy as a result of the Internet explosion. With that in mind, it is not outside the realms of probability that Gore was attempting to ingratiate himself to voters by claiming that he was the one responsible for all of that new-found wealth. Which, if you think about it, is a pretty good strategy, as long as you can count on what Jonathan Gruber once called "The Stupidity Of The American Voter." In other words, you can say anything you want - like claiming to invent the Internet - as long as your voters are too stupid to know better.

Nevertheless, Tech Insider's and other people's insistence that Al Gore has been "misquoted" are ludicrous. Regardless of his reasons for doing so, it is a matter of undisputed fact that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. And it is also a matter of undisputed fact that Al Gore did not invent the Internet.


If you'd like a brief introduction as to what really happened when the Internet was created, the following three-minute video should tell you everything you need to know.

By the way, if you've read some of my old blogs, you'll see that I wrote the Request for Comments (RFC) document number 7151, which defines a method of multi-hosting for the Internet's File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Since that document has been published as part of the Standards Track for the Internet, I can legitimately say that - unlike Al Gore - I actually took the initiative and helped reinvent the Internet. Oh sure, it's only a small, obscure part of the Internet, but still... I can honestly say that I did something that Al Gore can only claim to have done.

Foreign Responses to the United States’ Withdrawal from Afghanistan

It is interesting to see what our allies across the Atlantic think of the United States' recent handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The following quotes are from the article British Parliament Unloads On Biden: Biden May Have Condemned The World To Chinese Domination In Future; although, to be clear, these quotes are from the British House of Lords, so one should take the source of these quotes into account when considering their worth.

Lord Dannatt: "First, notwithstanding his attempted explanation on Monday, the manner and timing of the Afghan collapse is the direct result of President Biden's decision to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. At a stroke, he has undermined the patient and painstaking work of the last five, 10, 15 years to build up governance in Afghanistan, develop its economy, transform its civil society and build up its security forces. The people had a glimpse of a better life, but that has been torn away. With US forces withdrawing, other NATO allies, including ourselves, had no option but to leave too, denying the Afghan national army the technical and training support that it needed and the moral support of friends who encouraged them to take the fight to the Taliban. Until a few weeks ago, the Taliban was being contained and may even have been persuaded over time that a military victory was impossible and a negotiated settlement was the better course. Those possibilities are now a closed chapter of history, an opportunity lost, and the world's western superpower is looking enfeebled. The only glimmer of hope today is that the Taliban of 2021 is not the Taliban of 2001."

Lord Howard of Lympne: "The responsibility for the decision to withdraw rests with President Biden. Up to now, many of us have been rather impressed with the president's performance in his first few months in office, although that may in large part be due to the relief at the absence of his unlamented predecessor. But I am afraid that President Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan is, and will be seen by history as, a catastrophic mistake which may well prove to be the defining legacy of his presidency."

Lord Robathan: "...we should not underestimate the disaster and humiliation that this has been. It is on a par with the first Afghan campaign, which humiliated the East India Company and then the British Empire when Dr Brydon returned alone from Elphinstone's army. This is a humiliation of the West, of NATO, of us, of course, but especially of the US - which, apparently, leads the free world, or so we are told. President Biden said that 'America is back'. Robert Gates, Defense Secretary to the Administrations of both George W Bush and Barack Obama, said in his memoirs that Biden had been on the wrong side of every national security issue of the past 20 years. I agree very much with what my noble friend Lord Hammond - who I worked under as Minister for the Armed Forces - said on this point. The humiliation and disaster of the West is appalling. The West is seen as an unreliable ally."

Lord Ricketts: Confidence in NATO has been damaged. China is the main beneficiary of President Biden's decision. 'America is back' now sounds rather hollow - 'America is backing down' fits the case better. The British priority must be to address the damage done to NATO, to rebuild effective political consultations within NATO, and to focus on European security and the risk of Islamic terrorism in Europe. Rather than tilting to the Indo-Pacific, that is where the UK needs to put its national security energies."

Lord Stirrup: " President Biden has suggested that the Afghans are not prepared to fight for their own country. But this ignores two facts. The first is the very large number of Afghan security forces personnel who have been killed on operations over the past two decades, and the second is that Afghan society has always placed much greater importance on loyalty to family, village and clan than to a central Government. In such a society, a military force modelled on the US army could never, in the short term, endure without the logistical, technical and moral support of the US armed forces. ... President Biden purportedly wishes to withdraw from Afghanistan in order to concentrate on China. Yet his actions have immediately benefited China on several fronts. China is increasingly engaged commercially in Afghanistan and has been negotiating with the Taliban. Taken together with Pakistan's increasing reliance on China, this creates a disturbing nexus of power in the region. Even more important is the perception of other countries. If the western powers are to resist China's assault on the current rules - based international order, they will require strong political, economic and technological allies in the Indo-Pacific region. Who now, though, will be prepared to throw in their lot with a US-led effort, when that country's leadership has proved such a fickle friend to Afghanistan? Perhaps the Minister can say what the implications are for the UK's own tilt to the Indo-Pacific, which was such a prominent feature of the recent integrated review."

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: "It is very hard to overestimate the scale of the catastrophe following the Biden Administration's disastrous implementation of the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. ... It was utterly disingenuous for President Biden to present the Afghans as unwilling to fight for their country, after having withdrawn vital US support services without an agreed ceasefire, precipitating the collapse of the Afghan state."

Lord Blencathra: "My Lords, all my life I have been pro-American and favourably disposed to the United States, but not any more at this moment. What Biden has done in Afghanistan will go down in ignominy as one of the most shameful and despicable acts of betrayal by any American President. Tens of thousands of men will be slaughtered, thousands of young girls forced to marry these Taliban brutes and 14 million women driven back into slavery. Afghanistan was emerging into the light with freedoms for women and children, who will now be ruled with 500 year-old barbaric religious laws. That is Biden's legacy. He cannot blame it on Trump; Biden boasted that in his first 100 days he issued a record 24 executive orders, all of which were direct reversals of Trump policies. He should have listened to his generals and changed this policy also. This is not like Saigon; it is far worse. First, the retaliation against the population by Islamist fanatics is likely to be far greater than what the North Vietnamese did to the beaten south. Secondly, the appalling humanitarian crisis described in this House today will centre on Afghanistan but the terrorist consequences of this US sell-out will affect us all. The Viet Cong had no agenda outside Vietnam but Afghanistan is now under the control of Islamist fanatics who want to wage war on every western democracy. ... Biden has put America back, all right - back into the bunker. The lesson for China is this: play a long game and America will not have the stomach to stick it out. China is a threat to world peace, but how can we now trust the US to lead the long battle against it? Biden may have condemned the world to Chinese domination in future and the end of western liberal democracy."

Lord Anderson of Swansea: "What is the Government's best analysis of the reasons for the rapid defeat? What are the geopolitical consequences of that defeat? President Biden, alas, will be diminished, certainly abroad. Do the Government see any danger of the US retreating into a new isolationism, abandoning the aspirations of nation building, spreading democracy and human rights, and a corresponding loss of trust in the US?"

Lord Dodds of Duncairn: "President Biden's speech the other day, blaming everyone and everything except his Administration's precipitative pull-out, was truly awful. ... I fear that the US decision to pull out in the way that it has will have dire consequences. It sends a message to the terrorists and rogue states that the West can be defeated. It sends a message to our friends that, at the end of the day, they can be abandoned. It sends a message to those who want to live in freedom and with human rights guaranteed, especially the women and girls of Afghanistan, that we cannot be relied upon."

Lord Touhig: "By withdrawing US troops, not only has President Biden destroyed the hopes of people in a fledgling democracy but he has made the world less safe. If ever there was a country that knows how dangerous a less safe world can be, it is the United States. That is even more so now, as we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Here in Britain, we too know how a less safe world takes the lives of men and women on our streets, of children and young people at a Manchester concert and of a brave police officer guarding this Parliament. Britain fell into line behind President Biden. In doing so, our Government have increased the risk of terrorism globally."

Lord McColl of Dulwich: "Although President Biden has tried to shift the blame on to President Trump, that simply does not work. President Biden had the power to stop the withdrawal of the troops but failed to do so. To be fair, this situation may not be easy for President Biden to deal with because he does not seem to me to be in good health. There are many examples of the disease of a national leader having a disastrous effect on a country, a continent or even the world."

Lord Bruce of Bennachie: "For President Biden to say that the collapse of the Government and the defence capability was the Afghans' fault is truly sickening. With limited allied troops and strategic air cover, the country was functioning, if imperfectly. The rapid withdrawal demoralised the domestic forces, who were often deployed far from home with no protection or support for their families against the Taliban, so it is hardly surprising that they chose not to fight. Now the cost of failure could outweigh by many times the cost of maintaining a minimal presence."

Lord Godson: "The role of the United States has been central to this and the Biden Administration have been rightly criticised, I think unanimously - as least, I have not heard any speaker defend their decision here today. It is a uniquely personal decision of this President ... However, the Biden Administration are not the totality of America. Through much of my political life, having been born an American citizen, I have noted many pessimistic predictions for the US after previous debacles, although perhaps none quite as serious as this, which rolls in many of the features of past debacles into one fell swoop. ... But because the Biden Administration are not the totality of the United States and its polity, America has an enormous resilience and ability to bounce back, to reappraise, regather and regroup."

Memories of Better Days Gone By

Facebook just reminded me that two years ago - before the pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe and killed 4.5 million people, before the domestic rioting and burning of our cities, before the collective meltdown of all mainstream news outlets into the primary sources of worthless and biased drivel, before the woke apologists began their Orwellian campaign of rewriting history and manipulating the English language in order to foster division between the classes, and before the second humiliating defeat of our armed forces at the hands of career politicians who have no idea how to fight/win a war - I was standing on a mountain in the Alps, looking across the glaciers and valleys at the Matterhorn. There are some days when I need to be reminded that there is beauty in this world that is worth seeing, and activities that bring you joy that are worth doing.

matterhorn-memory

Those Who Do Not Study History

In the 1980s, the Mujahedeen forces in Afghanistan beat the USSR by simply outlasting them. The USSR withdrew its forces in embarrassment after failing to achieve its military objectives despite a decade of fighting, and the USSR imploded a few years later.

32 years after the USSR’s humiliating defeat in Afghanistan, the Taliban forces have beaten the USA by simply outlasting them. The USA is withdrawing its forces in embarrassment after failing to achieve its military objectives despite two decades of fighting, while the USA is slowly imploding for its own reasons…

Memorial Day and the Pledge of Allegiance

One of my cousins shared the following video, https://youtu.be/2HGHdFmu5GU, which I have seen before, but it seems apropos to reshare it for Memorial Day weekend. In four short minutes, the late Red Skelton describes the meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance, which was a voluntary oath that was taught to students when I was younger. The pledge helped put the history of the United States in perspective; while our country is far from perfect, there is much to be thankful for.

Sadly, however, a reverence for the blessings that we have and the country that has provided them is no longer taught in schools. The youth of today are fed a never-ending stream of self-loathing propaganda, wherein our ancestors are depicted as nothing more than thieves, enslavers, and murderers, and our country should be condemned for sins in which no one living today participated.

Contrary to what our children are force-fed in public education, our country has learned from its myriad mistakes, and created one of the most-prosperous, equitable, and free societies that the world has ever known. Yes, there is still room for us to grow as a nation and important lessons that need to be learned, and our people should strive for those ideals. But today's youth should be taught that our civilization has succeeded where so many past civilizations have failed because our nation has spent centuries growing and learning together, instead of tearing ourselves apart, driving divisions between each other, and cursing the forefathers who made our abundance of blessings and freedoms possible.

With that in mind, I would ask that everyone take a moment out of their busy schedules of BBQs and three-day sales this weekend to consider those whose sacrifices made today possible, and consider how you can personally contribute to the ideals that are expressed in the words: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Lester Holt is a Pompous Windbag with Delusions of Grandeur

As the title of this blog should indicate, I am no fan of Lester Holt, who has been the news anchor for NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC for many years. However, recent events have reinforced my low opinion of him, and I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on that subject.

Holt was recently presented with the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication Lifetime Achievement Award, and during the presentation ceremony Hold gave a keynote address that has raised a number of eyebrows across the globe. The reason why so many people took offense to Holt's comments were that he made it clear that he believes fairness in journalism isn't necessary, and how self-important he views himself, and what self-appointed role he believes he holds within our society.

I will include a rather lengthy quote from Holt's self-aggrandizing manifesto at the awards ceremony, but I want you to pay special attention to a few of the things that he is saying.

First of all, under the guise of separating 'truth' from 'misinformation,' Holt is giving himself unrestricted power to determine - by himself - what constitutes a 'fact,' and thereby granting himself the power to be as biased and subjective as he sees fit, instead of simply providing information to the public and letting the people choose for themselves what is newsworthy. Journalism is supposed to be unbiased and objective, which is the definition of 'fairness,' but Holt obviously doesn't see things that way; he believes that he is the arbiter of truth, and he has the power to withhold anything with which he disagrees. However, Holt isn't content with simply providing himself with tendentious superpowers, he takes one step further to insult his journalistic peers, whom Holt clearly views as far beneath him.

In other words, Holt sits in his ivory tower of voluminous wisdom that the ignorant masses and his foolish journalistic competitors do not possess, and he only reports on those things that his vastly superior intellect deems worthy of his merit.

Before I present Holt's comments, I should make one last thing very clear: when Holt refers to journalism as the "Fourth Estate," that is a concept that traces its roots back to the time before the French Revolution, when political power was shared between the "Three Estates" of the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. When Holt uses the term the "Fourth Estate," make no mistake - he is stating unequivocally that he believes that the news media deserves a seat at the table of power to make political decisions; and THAT statement should scare everyone.

And with that, the following excerpt is Lester Holt in all of his raw, unbridled hubris. The text is from https://youtu.be/AWIbAKI9PSA?t=1067, which is several minutes into Holt's speech, but it contains the sections that reveal how he views himself as a journalist. That being said, I will include a link to the full speech below this quote.

"The democratization of journalism, made possible by smartphones and the internet, has opened a whole new hyperspeed network of raw and often unfiltered information.

In the meantime, traditional journalists spent the last four years being labeled 'enemies of the people,' blasted from the world's biggest megaphone. And it didn't come without a price. It's hurt the standing of journalism, and allowed misinformation, some of it dangerous, to gain critical mass. And it forced us down a path towards what at times was a toxic relationship between the executive branch and the fourth estate. That's not a healthy place for any of us.

The media's reliance on truth and facts was turned upside down and weaponized as evidence of lies. The more we try to separate fact from fiction, the easier it became to label us as partisan tools.

'Dog bites man' is not a story. It's common, happens all the time. But 'man bites dog' gets your attention, right? We don't see that, so it's news. Safe to say, we chased a lot of those stories the last several years, things we'd never seen before. Now, whether they were good or bad is irrelevant, but we couldn't look away because they were new and different and had to be reported.

I'm asked a lot now how the news media recovers from the damage. Let me first say the damage only goes so deep, as millions and millions of Americans still turn to news organizations - like mine - for trusted information. The unprecedented attacks on the press in this period I'm sure we'll fill plenty of books and be studied in classrooms, maybe even here. But I have a few early observations I'll share about where this moment brings us and what we can learn.

Number one is: I think it's become clear that 'fairness' is overrated. Whoa, before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit.

The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. Now I know recent events assure that you won't have to look far to find more current and relevant examples; I think you get my point.

Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of an agenda. In fact, it's just the opposite. Providing an open platform for misinformation, for anyone to come say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake, can be quite dangerous.

Our duty is to be fair to the truth. Holding those in power accountable is at the core of our function and responsibility. We need to hear our leaders' views, their policies, and reasoning, it's really important. But we have to stand ready to push back and call out falsehoods.

Now I understand what I just said will only reinforce negative sentiments some hold to journalists. And that leads me to my second point. The need to be 'respected' versus the need to be 'liked.'

Let me be frank. Media companies proudly invest in promoting the quality of their journalism, and rightfully so, but they also invest in the faces of their organizations to help weave a relationship and identity with audiences and readers. While we all like to be liked, we don't let that stand in the way of calling out uncomfortable truths. That we have had to be more direct in our language in recent times only speaks to the volume and gravity of particular statements and claims.

Remember this: fact checking is not a vendetta or attack. We all have a stake in us getting it right.

And lastly, on where we go from here. We will need to take a hard look at our respective lanes and how we make sure we stay between the lines. The TV and media landscape can look very, very much the same. People are who are well-dressed sitting at plexiglass desks against giant video screens with lots of words on them. But the content can be very different.

Opinion oriented cable programming, featuring provocative and often partisan voices, is popular, and it has its place. But it should not be confused with mainstream newscasts, which have their place too. Informed, knowledgeable analysis is not the same as opinion. I think all media could benefit from greater transparency as to who we are and what our chosen lanes are."

The irony of Holt's comments is that he is clearly incapable of realizing that the damage that has been done to public opinion of journalism during recent years has not been the result of insults from the Executive Branch of our government; on the contrary, people distrust journalists for precisely the behavior that Holt is advocating. It is not the role of the press to decide what the people should believe; the press should simply report what happened and relegate their opinions to editorial columns.

Nevertheless, I promised to include the awards ceremony in its entirety, and here is that video.

Guns Don't Kill People, Hollywood Kills People

In the wake of yet another tragic and senseless mass shooting, it is not surprising to see that - once again - the anti-gun crowds are up in arms. (Pun intended.) However, I would like to point out that the problem within our society is not guns, but the glorification of their misuse in popular media (e.g. Hollywood movies, video games, and music videos).

no-guns-allowed

The youth of today are constantly bombarded with the premise that guns are cool or a fast means to an end. Consider movie franchises like The Fast and the Furious, The Matrix, John Wick, Jason Bourne, and Die Hard, or video game franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike. All of these franchises have depicted graphic violence throughout each series; and more often than not, violent crimes are portrayed favorably.

The ultimate irony is that this same entertainment industry that consistently portrays guns in the worst possible way is populated by people who are the quickest to proclaim that every legal gun owner must give up their guns whenever something bad happens. But it is not the legal gun owners who have caused these societal problems; it is the entertainment industry.

I was raised around guns, and I was taught to respect them and their proper use. I was a safe and skilled rifle shooter as a teenager, and when I joined the military I continued to fire a variety of weapons safely and securely. Throughout my life I have known hundreds of people who obtained and used their weapons lawfully and respectfully. These people should not be punished for legally owning their guns and committing no crimes.

On the contrary, it is Hollywood and the other glorifiers of brutality who are at fault, and not the millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens who own guns. It is the entertainment industry that has created a climate of senseless violence through its never-ending stream of homicidal and bloodthirsty drivel, and they should be held accountable.