The Abuse of Presidential Pardons

In the wake of several pardons and commutations that were recently granted by the President, I have noticed that people's reactions to those pardons and commutations generally fall into one of two categories:

  • People who hate the president are screaming about "abuse of power"
  • People who like or tolerate the president do not seem to care

Setting the record straight, Article II Section 2 of the US Constitution states:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

So there is no "abuse of power" here; the President is performing the duties that are granted to his office by the Constitution.

That being said, the following meme has been making its way around social media:

Presidential-Pardon-Statistics

Just in case someone doubts the authenticity of those statistics, here is the official Department of Justice website where they came from: https://www.justice.gov/pardon/clemency-statistics. For the record, the numbers in that meme are 100% accurate.

Of course, Trump is only ¾ of the way through his term as President, so I would expect his numbers to continue to climb. But not nearly as rapidly as Clinton's infamous Pardongate, and nowhere near the level of Obama's shockingly high numbers.

Some Thoughts on Bernie and Socialism

I recently posted the following image to social media, knowing full well that it would launch a tirade of complaints. However, with all of the information that has been offered by the prospective Democratic Presidential candidates during their debates, I think that it is an honest observation.

socialism-101-the-welfare-of-humanity-is-the-alibi-of-tryants

My intention was not to start any arguments on social media, and thankfully no arguments took place. However, there was a friendly differing of opinions offered by several people on my friends list, and I thought that I would share a few of the things that I said during our debate.

First of all, one of my friends labeled a veiled accusation that those who agree with that image must feel that providing Americans with access to healthcare is tyrannical. That was, of course, drawing an entirely false conclusion from the quotation. If healthcare was the only thing that "The Bern" was trying to socialize, then we'd have something to debate. But the truth is, Bernie is espousing a completely unrealistic, multi-trillion-dollar seizure of nearly every asset within our borders in order to fund an everything-for-free fantasy world that will fail horribly and permanently devastate our economy. Bernie's plan is so ridiculous because he's not actually a socialist; he's just using Socialism as a smokescreen to get into power. Bernie is a card-carrying Communist who's never held a job, and he is so far out of touch with the common man in this country that I am astounded on a daily basis that anyone is even bothering to listen to his incoherent ramblings.

The trouble with providing everything for free is that "Free" just means "Someone else is paying for it," and I highly resent the fact that the "someone" in this equation might be me. And this is one of the problems that I have with the "participation trophy" generation; they expect to receive "free stuff" simply because they're here - without having to do anything to earn it. Whereas everyone in the preceding generations worked our butts off for that we have; during my time in the military I spent hundreds of loooong hours separated from my loved ones doing manual labor in crappy conditions. I did all that with little to no thanks, and yet I expected nothing in return - except that which I have earned. So when a delusional Communist comes along and says that he wants to take away more than half of what my generation fought for our whole lives and give it to someone who hasn't done a thing, my reaction is - what a load of crap.

Now that being said, there are a few social programs in America: Social Security and Medicare are two such examples. However, those are opt-in/opt-out programs. What people resent and mistrust is a government that raises taxes to obscene levels in order to create programs that will steal from productive people to pay for the lifestyles of lethargic people. Therein lies the whole problem with Socialism, which we have seen played out through history around the world. While it is not necessarily the goal of Socialism per se, the net result of Socialism is to share or redistribute wealth across an entire population. There are many people who will remain content to do nothing so long as someone feeds them, while there are others who will remain productive because they desire to achieve more. However, eventually the productive people will grow tired of supporting the lifestyles of the lethargic people, which will often result in each productive person trying to find a way to cease having to pay the way for one or more unproductive people, and the economy/society will eventually devolve into a situation where the government will have to seize assets in order to make sure that those who want to be less productive are escalated to the level of those who want to be more productive.

Capitalism, despite its many flaws, has done more for the common man than any other system in history; it has elevated more of the poor to middle class, distributed vast swaths of cash around the world through philanthropy, and helped elevate the United States into one of the wealthiest countries in world history. Yes, there is corruption under Capitalism; but here's a big surprise for you Socialists out there: there's LOTS of corruption under Socialism. And as history has played out, there has generally been far more corruption under Socialism. Think about this: look at how awful our government is with managing - well, EVERYTHING. But it's especially awful at managing finances. Do we really want those clowns in charge of the redistribution of wealth? And that is precisely why most governments that enact wide-scale Socialism eventually fail and become state-run monstrosities where the only equality is that everyone suffers together - except for those in charge, who live comfortably in their taxpayer-funded palaces.

At the end of the day, whether we are discussing Socialism or Capitalism, the root cause of failures in either system is the same: they have people, and people have different needs, desires, ethics, etc. There is an old adage that says something to the effect of, "Only a fool would say that the only reason why Socialism has never worked is that the right people have never been in charge;" and therein lies the rub - it takes a special kind of hubris to look at a failure after failure after failure and think, "If only I was in charge, I'd get this right." And that's how dictatorships are formed. What we need is to reform some of our shortcomings, condense our bloated government, while ensuring that we have the appropriate level of oversight for areas that are prone to misuse (like the healthcare industry).

As I mentioned before, healthcare is a serious issue, and warrants a much greater conversation that I can fit into a blog post. But that being said, that is just one issue; the idea of abandoning a flawed but successful economic model (Capitalism) in favor of a economic system with a proven track record of catastrophic failure (Socialism) is ludicrous. And I reiterate, if Bernie was ONLY talking about socialized healthcare, then he'd have some serious debate fodder. But he's not; he is espousing a complete shift of economic models, despite the fact that Socialism has not - and will not - ever work. Yes, some individual programs are socialized overseas in tiny countries with small GDPs and much smaller populations. Conversely, the USA is a huge country with 50 states that each want to self-govern as much as possible. If one state, let's say Ohio, decided to socialize their healthcare, that's up to them. But what about Pennsylvania? West Virginia? Indiana? They might not want to socialize their healthcare. Now can you imagine trying to organize that at the Federal level? With our politicians? People in Congress like AOC can't do basic math; should we allow someone like that to decide who gets healthcare? I think every state would eventually take the Federal government to court over one point of implementation or another.

Having said all of that, let's tale a quick look at Bernie; here is a man who has consistently praised Communists like Castro for his social policies, while completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands who that same leader and those same policies put to death. This is why many people believe that it is by no coincidence that Bernie is such a strong advocate for gun control, because in every failed Socialist society, one of the first steps to domination has been to disarm the public. I am no conspiracy theorist, so I do not subscribe to alarmist conjecture. However, I am not blind to history, either. Bernie's proclamations - and those of his devotees - follow a very dangerous pattern, which is summarized in the initial meme that launched this discussion, which I will restate here with a little more context since I think Camus' second point is also apropos to this discussion: "The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."

Circling back to the initial meme - that quote sums up Bernie's sales pitch perfectly; Bernie is acting like he has the best interests of Americans in mind, but his plan is impossible to implement, so it's just a power grab. We have seen this political behavior manifest itself in the past, and we will undoubtedly see it again.

No One is Above the Law

There is an old adage that says, "If it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all." I think the recent impeachment debacle in Washington DC is a perfect illustration of that concept. According to Nancy Pelosi and the House, "No one is above the law," and yet...

  • The Obama administration withheld national security aid to the Ukraine, unless they fired their prosecutor; regardless of whether that prosecutor was investigating Biden's son is immaterial - it was still an abuse of power. (The same abuse of power that House Democrats tried unsuccessfully to pin on Trump.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with foreign nationals to create a false narrative in order to illegally obtain FBI wiretaps against the Trump Campaign. (Oddly enough, this is the same crime that Democrats have held against the Nixon administration for years.)
  • The Obama administration deliberately misled the American Public about the details within Obamacare in order to push it through congress. (The writer of that legislation actually said that the only way that bill would succeed would be to rely on the economic stupidity of the American voter.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to steal the 2016 primaries from Bernie Sanders through manipulation of their "Super Delegates." (Oddly enough, Bernie was winning the Democratic popular vote, and the DNC played with the numbers to give the nomination to Hillary anyway, which casts a hypocritical light on the DNC's continued whining about Trump not winning the popular vote.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to provide the Hillary Campaign with the questions and answers for 2016 presidential debates. (The DNC chairperson was fired, but no one was prosecuted.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the FBI and the Attorney General to sweep Hillary's guilt under the rug when the FBI had sufficient evidence to prosecute Hillary for crimes and obstruction of justice. (Those crimes would be running an illegal email server to avoid government oversight, the loss of a wealth of classified information to foreign intelligence services when her illegal email server was hacked, sending volumes of classified data from her illegal email server to unclassified devices, and the destruction of cell phones and her email server when they were subpoenaed.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the Secretary of State (Hillary) to mislead the American public about their ineptitude regarding the destruction of an American Embassy in Benghazi and the death of an American Ambassador. (Despite a multitude of requests for additional security from the Embassy in Benghazi, the Secretary of State refused to provide reinforcements, resulting in several deaths. After their cataclysmic blunder was discovered, the Obama administration and the Secretary of State pinned the blame on an innocent filmmaker, whom they threw in jail, and intentionally lied to the American people to cover their guilt.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the IRS to use IRS resources as a weapon against political rivals. (When this crime was discovered, hundreds of hard drives across the IRS were suddenly wiped clean, and amazingly enough - none of those computers had backups, despite being one of the largest agencies in our government with a huge IT staff. Note that all of the hard drives were destroyed before FBI agents were allowed to inspect them.)
  • The Obama administration illegally traded five known terrorists from Guantanamo for a known traitor, Bowe Bergdahl, without approval from Congress. (This was an illegal abuse of Executive power, for which no one was prosecuted.)

There are, of course, many other crimes committed and scandals that happened during the Obama administration; these are just the ones that I could think of right now. As I said earlier, if it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all.

pelosi_justice

The International Bonhoeffer Society Denounces Trump

Someone I know recently posted the following article to Facebook, International Bonhoeffer Society Calls for 'Ending Donald Trump's Presidency' in 'Statement of Concern', and I thought that I'd share a few thoughts about that article. Before I continue, I need to point out that I have written no shortage of posts on this blog about my dislike for the current president. I stress that fact up front so that nothing that I say here will be misconstrued as though I am carrying the flag for him. With that being said, I'd like to discuss the problem that I see with the official statement from the International Bonhoeffer Society (IBS). (By the way, if I might take a brief moment to interject a bit of humor: did anyone at their society bother to realize that they share the same initials as an intestinal disease? But I digress...)

Here's the problem with statements like the one issued by the IBS: what gives them the right to speak on behalf of a long-dead theologian? By what right do they support their claim that they are the "grateful recipients, and now custodians, of the theological, ethical, and political legacy of ... Dietrich Bonhoeffer?" That is a self-appointed mission, and I have no cause or reason to recognize their authority in any political or moral debates where they are operating in Bonhoeffer's name. I have also read and studied various publications from Bonhoeffer, and if I chose to do so, I could cherry-pick specific phrases to reinforce any point of view that I personally held with something that Bonhoeffer had said. That's the essence of "Proof Texting," and people do that with the Bible every day; people posses moral or political points of view, and they choose something that will back up their opinion. It's done all the time, but it's immoral. It's unethical. And it violates scripture. Nevertheless, trying to demonstrate that some late personage who can no longer defend their point of view is a popular tactic for those who are otherwise incapable of defending their stance.

Here's a rather inane example that should illustrate my point quite nicely: I have spent the past 40+ years of my life as a Rush fan. I have at one time or other learned the lyrics to every song, learned how to play all of their songs on the guitar, read books written by their band members, read and watched interviews with band members, gathered together with various fans and discussed or debated the deeper philosophical meanings of their lyrics, and seen Rush live on over a dozen occasions. That being said, their drummer, Neil Peart,  passed away last week, and it would be thoroughly asinine for me to gather together with a group of like-minded Rush fans and issue a statement that, "It is our belief that Peart would agree with us that Justin Trudeau is God's choice for Canada's Prime Minister," or "No right-minded follower of Peart would ever support Justin Trudeau." Do you hear how literally stupid that sounds? And yet this is EXACTLY what the IBS is doing. They have no ethical right to do so; but without the weight of a fabricated association with Bonhoeffer, the IBS has no voice. And yet, they have no more right to issue proclamations in Bonhoeffer's name than the Chesterton Society does for G. K. Chesterton, or the Martin Luther King Society does for MLK, or the Augustinians do for Augustine, or we do for Christ. If something isn't specifically in scripture, then we have no right - NO RIGHT - to say, "Jesus would agree with me."

Having said all of that, the IBS is certainly correct in their assertions that "evangelicals" are often guilty of proclaiming that "God chose Trump." And in that respect, those "evangelicals" are guilty of what I was just saying that no one should be doing; they should not be speaking for Christ. But the irony is, the IBS is trying to call out sin by committing their own sin. The SAME sin, to be exact. This is, of course, the textbook definition of hypocrisy. However, throughout their official statement, the IBS makes other points abundantly clear; for example: by calling out "evangelicals" for their behavior, the IBS outs themselves as orthodox. And if I'm not orthodox, then I have little cause or desire to agree with them theologically or philosophically. In addition, the IBS's talking points easily out themselves as liberal theologians, and if I am a conservative theologian, then I have even less cause to agree with them theologically or philosophically. And in a like manner, many of the IBS's political stances are clearly the regurgitation of talking points from political liberals, and if I am politically conservative, then I have even less cause to agree with them politically or sociologically.

In the end, the official statement from the IBS is based on authority that is entirely self-appointed; it does not exist in any fashion other than their own self-infatuation, and I have no reason to accept their proclamations based on authority that I do not recognize. In addition, I am diametrically opposed to their theological, philosophical, political, and sociological positions on many issues. I may dislike our president as much as the IBS does, but I use my own voice to make my arguments. Ultimately, the IBS appears to be a group of petty, misguided academics, who are locked safely away in their ivory towers of liberal thought, issuing useless missives that they believe have some form of impact. So immoral. So unethical. So childish...

One postscript, were I one to "Proof Text," it would be trivial to shut down many of the IBS's arguments through the misuse of scripture - for example:

  • Peter 2:13: "For the Lord's sake, submit to all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed."
  • Romans 13:1-2: "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished."
  • Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work."
  • Titus 3:1-2: "Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."

Please bear in mind, I do my best to follow those points of scripture, regardless of who our president is. But that being said, I do NOT claim the authority of Christ to say, "God chose Trump as our president." However, according to scripture - that is true. Just as God chose Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, etc., all the way back to Washington. And yet, we are not called to follow blindly; if our government asks us to do something that violates scripture, we are commanded to follow Christ first. But in many situations, we follow Christ by following our leaders - even when we disagree with them.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written that I later discovered had never been set to "public."

Presidents versus Terrorists

Let me say up front that I think Trump is the least-presidential president that we have had in many years. In fact, I have made it abundantly clear in other blog posts that quite often I think Trump acts like a world class buffoon. But that being said, I recently read a social media post wherein someone who simply hates Trump was spouting off about Trump attempting to act like the King of America and starting wars after a US drone airstrike killed Iran's General Qasem Soleimani. This person is one of a growing group of misguided malcontents who are so blinded by their rage against our current president that they are incapable of properly analyzing the situation.

With that in mind, here are a few facts that everyone should consider.

  • First of all, the President is Commander in Chief (CiC) of our Armed Forces; everyone in the military reports to him. For all intents and purposes, Trump outranks every general in the Pentagon. If the military has viable intelligence that they can take out a known terrorist and Trump gives them the go ahead, then that's well within the powers that are granted to his office.

  • Second, our military killed a known enemy militant who was actively engaged in planning additional acts of terrorism outside of his own country. Soleimani was an Iranian general and terrorist who was in Iraq in order to direct the actions of several groups of insurgents who were attempting to overthrow their democratically elected leaders. Soleimani was directly responsible for an indeterminate number of innocent deaths; and if left on his own, it is guaranteed that additional lives would have been lost.

  • Third, in contrast to the killing of an Iranian terrorist on Iraqi soil, when Obama gave his permission to kill Bin Laden, a group of heavily armed American forces crossed into a foreign nation (Pakistan) and killed someone who was hiding out with their permission. As Commander in Chief (CiC), Obama - like Trump - was operating within the powers that were granted to his office.

    • However, in the grander scheme of political diplomacy, Trump killed a positively-identified enemy combatant with a precise drone strike, whereas Obama ordered the slaughter of an entire household of civilians based on unconfirmed intelligence (that thankfully turned out to be true).

    • But make no mistake: when US forces went after Bin Laden, our military violated the borders of a sovereign nation. In no uncertain terms, we invaded Pakistan when we killed Bin Laden. Whereas in Soleimani's situation, our military was already stationed in Iraq as a peacekeeping force, and the Iranian general and his cohorts were the invaders.

    • Think about it this way: when a group of revolutionaries recently attempted to stage a coup in Turkey, they were doing so under the orders of a man who is currently residing in the USA, whom Turkey considers a traitor and terrorist. How would you feel if a heavily armed group from the Turkish military snuck over the borders into the United States and slaughtered every man, woman, and child in that guy's house? Most Americans - including you - would be highly offended; but that's exactly what we did with Pakistan, and no Americans care.

  • Fourth, when you compare the conditions of Obama's and Trump's operations, Obama ran the risk of open hostility with an ally, whereas Trump ran the risk of open hostility with a country that was already openly hostile to us. Remember, Iranian insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy just a few days ago. With that in mind, let's examine presidential reactions to acts over terror over the past few decades:

    • When a crowd of Iranians overthrew one of our embassies during President Carter's administration, a large number of Americans were held prisoner and psychologically tortured for the next couple years.

    • When a group of terrorists from Libya bombed US forces in Germany, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Gaddafi's private palace - and we never heard from him again (until his own people overthrew and executed him in 2011).

    • When Sadam Hussein invaded one of our allies in the early 1990s, President Bush Sr. deployed our military in overwhelming force and routed the Iraqi invaders in a brilliantly-executed military campaign.

    • However, when terrorists working for Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 1993, President Clinton did nothing. In fact, President Clinton passed on every opportunity to kill Bin Laden that the military presented during his time in office. What is worse, whenever terrorists would bomb or kill US forces anywhere on the planet, Clinton would withdraw all US forces from the region, thereby giving the terrorists EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED ALL ALONG. In the end, the Clinton Presidency was the greatest terrorist training program in world history; President Clinton proved that terrorism works - the US will withdraw its forces, and no one who is responsible for terrorist acts will be punished.

    • When Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, President Bush Jr. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, deposed their corrupt governments that sponsored global terrorism, and allowed their people to democratically elect their leaders for the first time in many, many years.

    • However, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy in Libya during President Obama's administration, both Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (SoS) and Obama as Commander in Chief (CiC) ordered our military to stand down. As a direct result - our ambassador to Libya was killed (along with several other people), and our embassy compound was burned to the ground. (And don't even get me started on how Obama gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran, traded a host of known terrorists from Guantanamo prison without the required congressional approval in exchange for a known deserter and traitor, and he made it possible for Iran to create Nuclear weapons.)

    • On the other hand, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow one of our embassies under Trump's tenure, he sent in the military to reinforce the embassy and disperse the crowds of insurgents, and then he ordered their ringleader killed with a drone strike.

So, yeah - Trump is a doofus. But what Trump did was perfectly legal, as it was for Obama with Bin Laden. However, there is no comparison when it comes to results:

  • Carter (as CiC), both Clintons (Bill as CiC and Hillary as SoS), and Obama (as CiC) were all miserable failures with regard to foreign policy and terrorism.

  • On the other hand, Reagan (as CiC), Bush Sr. (as CiC), and Bush Jr. (as CiC) were demonstrably better at foreign policy.

The future will tell as to whether Trump will fare as well at foreign policy during his time as CiC. But that being said, just because you cannot stand Trump does not grant you the right to disparage what was well within the realm of his duties as Commander in Chief. In fact, at the moment it appears as though his decision to take out a known terrorist was incredibly well executed; with minimal loss of life to US, Iraqi, and even Iranian personnel.

As I said earlier, these are just some things to consider.


UPDATE: When this blog was originally published, it made no reference to the drone airstrike. As a result, the context was missing. That gaffe on my part was corrected later.

Political and Civil Divisions

A little while ago, one of my friends posted the following meme to Facebook:

obama-divisions

I have to say, I disagree with that meme. To that end, let's look at the past four decades of US Presidents:

1976-1980 President Carter narrowly won his election; he made mistakes in office, and took ownership of his mistakes.
1980-1988 President Reagan won both of his elections in massive landslides; he made mistakes in office, and took ownership of his mistakes.
1988-1992 President Bush Sr. won his election in a massive landslide; he made mistakes in office, and took ownership of his mistakes.
1992-2000 President Clinton won both of his elections due to fact that the Conservative vote was split between the official Republican candidate and Ross Perot running as an independent Conservative; without Perot's interference and hubris, the official Republican candidate would have defeated Clinton in either election. Nevertheless, Clinton made a lot of mistakes in office, yet he and his wife spent their entire tenure in office claiming that: 1) they didn't remember making any mistakes (even when caught), or 2) everything was a "vast right-wing conspiracy" pitted against them. In short, the Clintons did not own up to their mistakes; they blamed everything on their opponents, which created the foundation of the division that we now see.
2000-2008 President Bush Jr. narrowly won both of his elections, although the first several months of his first term were wasted on the incessant whining of the DNC and Al Gore, which dragged the country through a never-ending stream of recounts and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, and furthered the climate of division that was created during the Clinton years. Nevertheless, despite years of being mocked by the press, Bush Jr. took ownership of his mistakes.
2008-2016 President Obama won both of his elections by a wide majority; he made mistakes in office, yet he largely followed President Clinton's example by blaming others for his mistakes - although never to the same degree as the Clintons. However, President Obama created a great deal of additional division by refusing to become involved in a myriad of press-manufactured riots that occurred during his tenure in office; there was never a President more situated to step in and request that everyone involved lay down their arms and cease fighting, yet he did nothing - thereby proving once and for all that his Nobel Peace Prize was a farce. That being said, the Obama presidency was also marred by the continuous promotion of Liberal agendas that Conservatives find anathema to common sense, scientific thought, and basic morality; this created additional division, to the point where some pundits now consider our country engaged in a "Cold Civil War."

It is unmistakable that the roots of political division within this country were planted firmly during the Clinton years; both preceding Presidents (Reagan and Bush Sr.) were elected to office in massive landslides and therefore had the support of most of the country behind them. When those Presidents made mistakes, they publicly took ownership of their mistakes. However, they were superseded by a serial liar/rapist who only won both of his elections because the Conservative ticket was split between two candidates running in parallel, and Clinton spent his entire tenure in office shifting the blame for all of his mistakes to someone else. The flames of division may have been fanned into a bonfire during the Obama years, but they were ignited during the Clinton years.


UPDATE: To be fair, I should add a note that the president from 2016-2020 was also a serial liar/philanderer, who also barely won his election, who also constantly shifted the blame for his mistakes to others, and who also created a great deal of additional division. If there was a bonfire of division during the Obama years, there was a raging inferno of division during the Trump years.

Remembering the Fall of the Wall

Today is November 9, 2019, which is exactly 30 years since the opening of the East German border; that event has since become known as "The Fall of the Wall." I was stationed along the East German border when it was opened, and I still have vivid memories of what the world was like at that time.

Tensions in East Germany had been building for some time, and thousands of East Germans had already fled through neighboring Warsaw Pact nations like Hungary and Czechoslovakia. When the border was opened unexpectedly on November 9, 1989, hundreds of thousands of East Germans poured into West Germany, where they were met with open arms by crowds of joyous West German citizens and US military personnel.

Within a few short years, the two Germanys were reunited, and the Soviet Union collapsed - which was the greatest manifestation of Communism's many, many failures. However, as a reminder of what the border was like before it opened, you might want to watch the following video.

Just two short months ago, a small group of my fellow 511th MI Company veterans and I met for a reunion at the former inner-German border. It was great for us to stand in erstwhile enemy territory next to the abandoned guard towers that had once kept the nation of East Germany prisoner. It was somewhat poetic that these relics of a bygone era are reduced to mere tourist attractions. (And by that I meant the guard towers, not us.)

2019-Reunion-Mosaic

Posing by the former border towers.

Not to beat a dead horse on the subject, but this is a chunk of the East German border fence that I have had in my office for the past three decades. I personally cut that section off the fence after the border was opened, and it's a nice little reminder that the plans of evil men everywhere will eventually fail.

Border-Fence-Plaque

The text is a little blurry, but it quotes Psalm 146:7 "The Lord sets the prisoners free,"
with the dates of 13 August, 1961 to 9 November, 1989.

Noble Causes Do Not Justify Exploitation

In the wake of Greta Thunberg's recent passionate speech about climate change before the United Nations, someone I know shared the following quote from Lawrence Reed:

"The people who have terrified this child with apocalyptic visions of planetary annihilation should be ashamed. You can see the fear, the hate, and the contemptuousness in her voice and her expressions. She reminds me of the teenage Maoists during China's Cultural Revolution; they too were absolutely certain they were right and were happy to torture you if you thought they weren't. Tragic. Any movement that uses children like this, that expects the rest of us to regard her as some sort of expert, deserves only our everlasting scorn." (Lawrence Reed, 09/23/2019)

greta-thunberg

Reed's comments understandably launched a flurry of differing opinions from both sides of the climate debate; most of their arguments were equally as impassioned as Thunberg's. However, what bothered me the most was that most people completely ignored Reed's main point; the issue is not whether you agree with Thunberg, or whether you believe that climate change is real. The slippery precipice upon which many people who promoted and applauded Thunberg's speech now find themselves is that they are exploiting a child to sell their agenda - and that is a terrible thing to do.

I weighed in on one of the ensuing debates, and I would like to paraphrase some of my thoughts for posterity.

We should all take climate change very seriously. And even if that wasn't an issue, the amount of toxic waste that humanity collectively dumps all over this planet should be taken even more seriously. Nevertheless, regardless of Greta Thunberg's motivations, the statement from Lawrence Reed should also be taken with the utmost of seriousness; any cause that exploits children to garner support for its message is immoral. It does not matter whether Thunberg is well-read and passionate about the subjects that she is discussing; at the end of the day, she is not a scientific expert on these matters, (though I am certain that she will be in the future). But for now, those who stand behind Thunberg are using her passion to promote their agenda, and when any segment of society uses children in that fashion, their message is degraded. Regardless of the morality of the underlying cause, exploiting children to endorse your message is immoral.

In Thunberg's speech, she accused politicians of ignoring long-term climate issues in order to profit from short-term financial gains, and I would agree with that assertion. And lest there be any mistake, greedy politicians aren't just an American problem; they are a global problem. That being said, I think anyone who thinks that climate change isn't real is not paying attention, and anyone who thinks that humanity isn't impacting the environment is burying their head in the sand.

However, science has shown us that our planet is pretty resilient; the climate has swung much further in both the warming and cooling directions over the course of its history; regardless of what happens to the climate now, the planet's ecosystems will recover from our climate stupidity in future centuries. My greater concern is that we're polluting the planet so badly that even if the climate recovers, the planet will be too toxic for anything to live on it. In that respect, climate change is only part of the problem - not the entire problem. (See Arnold Schwarzenegger's epic rant about climate change for more.)

While climate change is very real, I often see the "97% of climate scientists agree" comment thrown about during debates. Unfortunately, that is a made up statistic that everyone keeps quoting, and I really wish people would stop using it. Like many urban legends, the 97% figure is a self-perpetuating fabrication that refuses to die. You can read articles like 97% Of Climate Scientists Agree Is 100% Wrong for just one example on how some people erroneously invented and promoted that mythical number, and there are many more papers that have similarly refuted it. Here's the thing - if we want people to believe that climate change is real, we need to stop repeating garbage statistics, because all that does is reinforce the opposition's mistaken impression that everything else we say about climate change is equally bogus.

Circling back to Lawrence Reed's original point, I do not believe that Thunberg is being "forced" to do anything, but she's being "used." Many of the heinously awful movements throughout history have used children as their spokespersons, because putting a face to your message that can foster sympathy for your cause is a good marketing tactic. But it's still wrong. Thunberg is too young and naive to realize that she is little more than a political human shield in this debate; a sacrificial pawn that allows kings and queens to operate in relative obscurity while she takes the fall if something goes wrong. Climate change is worthy of championing, but not in this fashion; we need not stoop to methods employed by propagandists to promote what is right.

With that in mind, while I do not wish to appear as though I am reinforcing Godwin's Law, I believe the following image accurately portrays how I feel about the opportunistic cowards who are hiding behind Greta Thunberg's passion:

nazi-liberal-child-propaganda

Propaganda and Purges and the Death of Stalin

Here is a simple thought from Voltaire on the 66th anniversary of Josef Stalin's death: "It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Of course, Voltaire was not referring to Stalin directly, since Voltaire passed away 200 years before Stalin was born. However, Voltaire's observation is apropos when we consider the effectiveness of Communist propaganda on public opinion during Stalin's lifetime.

The text in the following photo reads, "Народы чтут память вождя," which translates as, "The people honor the memory of their leader." The mourners in that photo were obviously staged for propaganda purposes, but still - few people who haven't studied Russian history fail to realize how many Russians loved Stalin, even though he put to death nearly three times as many of his own citizens as the Nazis.

Stalins-Mourners

Stalin's level of adulation was primarily due to the USSR's disinformation machine, which spent years elevating Stalin's cult of personality to epic proportions. For many Russians, Stalin was their hero, their savior, their loving parent, and the sole victor of WWII.

When I was studying Russian, I was once involved in a heated discussion with one of my instructors. (In Russian, of course). She had recently defected from the Soviet Union, and she had yet to learn some of the actual facts about her own country; she only knew the propaganda that she had heard in her childhood. All the other students in the class were backing my discussion points, when the instructor broke down and started crying while lamentably exclaiming, "But I'm Russian! I should know my own history!" All I could say was, "Yes - you should know your history. But you need to visit a library, because you've been deceived." (It's amazing that our group of students didn't get in trouble for making an instructor cry.)

Stalin

While it is inarguable that every industrialized nation - to include the United States - has used propaganda to further its respective agenda, Communist nations like the USSR (and a few of its Communist allies) used a two-phase approach of propaganda coupled together with purges in order to subdue their populations. Propaganda is, of course, the use of state-controlled media to feed a carefully-constructed narrative to the masses, and purges are used to: a) reduce the numbers of those who are too intelligent [and therefore a perceived threat to the state], and b) terrify those who are left alive into silence.

Propaganda and purges were used with particular effectiveness and ruthlessness in Stalinist-era Russia, the result of which was that the average Russian - the peasants, the hawkers in the streets, the poorly-educated, and the bulk of the population - actually believed the lies. And why not? The propaganda is all they knew from what little education they had, and there were no other sources of information. The press and the media were both controlled by the Communists, and those who possessed enough knowledge to put up an intelligent argument were either killed or imprisoned.

large_1531048734stalin_cremlin

While I may agree that the US and its allies have certainly used one form of propaganda or other, the "state" controls neither our press nor our media, nor have we resulted to purges in order to wipe out mass segments of a dissatisfied population. As a result, we have had both the knowledge and the freedom to say, "This president sucked," or "That president sucked," or "We should vote every member of Congress out of office and start over."

propagandademotivator

To clarify what I said earlier when I was discussing Communist purges, I wasn't referring only to Stalin's purges - I was also referring to Lenin's Communist purges, and Mao's Communist purges, and the North Vietnamese Communist purges, and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge's Communist purges, and Cuba's Communist purges, and North Korea's Communist purges, and Eastern Europe's Communist purges, etc. It is a concrete statement of fact that in nearly every state where the Communists gained power during the 20th century, whole populations of people were eradicated. Communism has emerged as the single-greatest cause of deaths in human history; more than all the disparate diseases and wars combined.

And yet, whenever these purges are mentioned, some addle-brained miscreant who hasn't cracked open a history book will proffer a comparison to the "post-WWII demonization of Communists in the West," which resulted in a handful of arrests for acts of treason or conspiring to commit treason, and a few deportations, and a few misguided defections to the East, and several pro-Communist Hollywood script writers losing their jobs. Let me be clear, if anyone thinks that the post-WWII Red Scare was anywhere near the level of a Communist purge, then they have not been paying attention to history. The documented deaths of over 100 million people during the Communist purges of the 20th century are a genocide of epic proportions. There is simply no comparison between the complete eradication of entire populations in the name of Communism and the meager number of arrests that were made during the Communist scares of the 1920s and 1950s.

For what it's worth, I learned the Russian language from teachers who had defected from the Soviet Union, and I learned first-hand of how they had suffered under Communism. Later, I was the translator for Russian defectors in Germany during the 1980s, and I heard their personal stories of why they were forced to flee for their lives. I met and spoke with several members of the Soviet Military prior to the fall of Communism, and learned of how atrocious their living conditions were. I learned Spanish from a woman who had defected from Cuba, and she told stories of her horrifying treatment by the Communists who ruined her country. I interviewed a man who had lived 10 years in a Communist gulag, where his only crime was fighting for freedom of speech. I attended Russian schools in Western Europe that were founded by and staffed with Soviet defectors, and I listened to their lectures on the many follies and failures of Communism. One of my Russian teachers had been a popular actress in the Soviet Union during her youth, and her husband was one of the Soviet Union's acclaimed directors... until they defected, and then their names were wiped clean from the pages of Russian history. She and I watched one of her movies together, where her name was stripped from the credits despite her appearance in the film, and her husband's name was removed as the director despite his work on the project. That being said, every other actor and actress involved in the film who stayed in the Soviet Union was dead - some were sent to gulags, some were arrested and never heard from again, and others killed themselves rather than continue to live under Communist rule.

These people whom I have mentioned were not faceless people from history books, these were actual Russians whom I befriended during a lifetime of studying the consequences of Communism and its caustic effects on society. If anyone cannot see the difference between the personal sufferings that I have described and the perceived injustices that were endured by a handful of people during our government's infatuation with chasing down Communists who had infiltrated Washington DC and Hollywood, then let me be very clear: those crimes are not equal in the annals of history. Charging someone with treason because they belong to organizations that are plotting to overthrow the country is not the same as killing millions of people because you disagree with their politics.

Returning to my earlier discussion of propaganda, here is an additional thought: I was physically present on the East German border when several people lost their lives attempting the flee their Communist captors. If Communist nations were lands of Golden Opportunity as Communist propaganda actively promoted, then why were people willing to risk their lives to leave those countries? If Communism had created Utopian Societies, then why did millions of people need to be slaughtered?

All of this discussion is academic, of course. Communism has emerged as the worst ideology to infect humanity in history, and anyone who believes otherwise merely stands to gain something from it.

Having taxed my readers' patience enough, I am reminded that it's time to watch one of my favorite movies: "The Death of Stalin."

Open-mouthed smile


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written that I later discovered had never been set to "public."

Removing Confederate Statues

There is a strange cult of personality that has grown up regarding Robert E. Lee, which has unfortunately given rise to several myths. With that in mind, let me discuss Lee with a few simple examples.

First, until the time that Benedict Arnold sold out his country, he was one of the greatest commanders in the fledgling United States Army. Arnold's skills were decidedly better than George Washington's. However, we have no monuments to Arnold, despite his long string of victories that helped establish our nation. Instead, Arnold's name has become synonymous with traitorous behavior.

In a like manner, Robert E. Lee may have been a decent commander, though perhaps not nearly at the level that modern-day mythology has portrayed him. Nevertheless, when faced with the decision of where his loyalties were, Lee turned his back on his nation in its hour of greatest need. Like Benedict Arnold, history should remember Lee for being the traitor that he certainly was.

Robert_E_Lee_Monument

Second, with regard to slavery, you cannot make the case that Lee opposed slavery while overlooking the facts that Lee was an outspoken racist who owned slaves, regardless of how well they may have been treated. Lee participated in the recapture of slaves, and following emancipation Lee felt that blacks were unequal to whites, blacks should not be allowed to vote, blacks lacked the intelligence to be involved in politics, and he supported plans to export African Americans to Liberia. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in opposition to slavery, yet he never did. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in opposition to racism, and he never did. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in favor of the rights of African Americans, and he never did.

In summary, Lee was not an American hero who is worthy of the misplaced adulation that many people have chosen to give him. Lee was not simply a product of his times - history clearly shows Lee was a traitor in every sense of the word, and racist to the core. The romantic vision that many people seem to possess of Robert E. Lee is completely undeserved.

Taking all of the preceding information into account, I do not consider the removal of public monuments to Confederate traitors - like Lee - as an attempt to "erase history," as some people claim. Personally, I believe that removing statues of men who sold out their country is finally putting history in its proper perspective. These men were traitors - not heroes. They are unworthy of public worship, and it is a great tragedy that our country is littered with dozens of shrines to the undeserving. However, their statues should be moved to museums, where people can still remember these men's treachery. If people truly wanted to "erase" these traitors from history, then we would be removing all mention of them from our history books, but that is not the case. Instead, our society is finally taking the time to correct a great injustice that has been done; we are reexamining the lives of these traitors, and removing testaments to their betrayal.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written that I later discovered had never been set to "public."