Thursday, March 31, 2016

Musical Sanity Break- The Wailing Wailers- Simmer Down

by Nomad

Has there ever been an election like this?
Some excellent advice comes from the 1965 debut album from The Wailers, consisting of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Czar Vladimir: How Putin Wasted Russia's Best Chance for a Liberal Democracy 2 / 3

by Nomad

In Part One of this three-part series, we examined how the fall of the Soviet Union should have provided Russia with its best hope for liberal democracy.

In this part, we will look at how Vladimir Putin's autocratic tendencies and hi use of Russian nationalism was a wrong turn for the nation.

Stability, Nostalgia and Nationalism

In some sense, it was inevitable that Putin would make use of Russian nationalism to unify Russia. In the end, there are only two responses when you lose your empire: Acceptance or something else. 

The "something else" in the Russian case was not gradual acquiescence and recognition that a new way of thinking had to emerge. What happened was a defensive surge in Russian nationalism, a return to stabilizing traditions and conservative values.  After years that threatened to tear the nation apart, Russian citizens yearned for stability and something in return for lost prestige. 
This reaction coincided with the rise of Vladimir Putin who promised security and stability. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev credited Putin with having "pulled Russia out of chaos." 
That's probably not inaccurate. It was, however, a stability required some sacrfices when it came to civil liberties, transparency and human rights.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Czar Vladimir: How Putin Wasted Russia's Best Chance for a Liberal Democracy 1 / 3

by Nomad

The collapse of the Soviet Union offered the Russian people an unprecedented chance at liberal democracy. Unfortunately, what has taken root in Russia was a strange mashup of its autocratic past.

In his book, Putin’s Wars : The Rise of Russia’s New Imperialism, Marcel H. Van Herpen  examines the tragedy of Post-Soviet Russia. in particular its failure to seize the opportunity that destiny unexpectedly offered.

As a Dutch security expert and director of an independent European think tank, the Cicero Foundation, Van Herpen has spent a lot of time studying and analysing the Russian state and the men who run it.
One chapter entitled "Putin and the End of Russian “Empire Fatigue” offers a good jumping-off point for a little more scrutiny.

The Trauma and Promise of Christmas 1991

For a man like President Vladimir Putin, the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991 was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. His entire career- indeed all of his hopes- had depended on the continuation of the Soviet Union's rule. Putin had served 15 years as a foreign intelligence officer for the KGB with the rank of lieutenant colonel. 

The shock was understandable. He wasn't alone. The entire world, after all, watched in profound amazement when, on Christmas Day 1991, the Soviet flag flew over the Kremlin in Moscow for the last time.

Until that time, the existence of the Empire had been one of the Cold War's immutable facts. We in the West had grown up believing that the Soviet Union was incapable of change and reform. 

Its economy might be a wreck but it was not going anywhere. We were told for years- right up to the minute things turned to dust- to accept that a long and slow evolution and gradual enlightenment was the best that could be expected in the East bloc.
It was an evil empire that we had to live with.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Handwriting on the Wall: What's the Surprisingly Good News about the Decline of Religion in the US?

by Nomad

A interesting podcast about one man's call for an open discussion at a Christian website and the surprising results.
News about the overall decline of religion in American actually may be good news for a Church that has disconnected from the real world. 

The Impossibility of Dialogue

If you've never heard of On the Media,(OTM) you might need a small introduction. It's one of NPR fastest growing programs and is now heard on 300 public radio stations. These weekly one-hour shows cover a range of topics focused primarily on how the media shapes our lives and our opinions.

In the featured podcast, we meet a young man named Will Rogers from Texas. After discovering a website named GodTube- a kind of YouTube for Christians, The site is sponsored by Liberty University, the old stomping ground of Jerry Falwell.
After exploring the site, Rogers was disappointed at seeing how the people he met there seemed so  cut off from the larger world. Quite literally, they were preaching to the choir.
Where was the dialogue in that?

To rectify what he saw as a stumbling block of his faith, he set out to start a dialogue of different perspectives. What happened next, Meredith Haggerty reports, was not exactly what Rogers had anticipated.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Epicurus and the Prayers of Men: How Materialism Perverted the Quest for Happiness

by Nomad

The lost philosophy of one ancient Greek offers an answer to what's gone wrong with modern society. 

Quest for a Happy Life

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus lived about 300 years before Christ. His writings survive in mostly in notes collected by later biographers. It's enough to understand, in a general way, the philosophy he taught back then and why the ancients thought so much of the man and his ideas.

According to Epicurus, the study of philosophy was actually a quest of a happy tranquil life, which he defined as a life free of pain, filled with tranquility and free from fear of things that could not be controlled. A happy life, he taught, could only be attained "by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

Friendship, indeed, was key to happiness. 
Epicurus held that a wise man would feel the torture of a friend no less than his own, and would die for a friend rather than betray him, for otherwise his own life would be confounded.
Later his teaching would be criticized as being hedonistic since he taught that pleasure and pain were measures of good and evil.
Other philosophers would push the envelope even further with the idea of "eat, drink and be merry." An insouciant and indifferent life filled with luxury and no thought of tomorrow. 

The Romans later seized upon this Epicurean philosophy as a license to ostentatious excess and greed on a scale never seen before.

Wealth was flowing into the Roman capital and on an "unprecedented scale in the form of tribute, taxes, and profits from commerce and banking." It wasn't just gold and silver, but luxuries items too. All meant for the ruling class with none at all for the lower classes. (The trickle down had yet to be discovered, I imagine.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Misfired: How Donald Trump's Security Fears Betray his Support of NRA and Gun Ownership Rights

by Nomad

The hypocrisy of the Republican candidates once again comes to the forefront, this time with the support of the NRA. If Second Amendments rights are so vital, then why doesn't Trump put his money where his mouth is? 

The Canceled Rallies of a Fearful Candidate

A couple of days ago, CNN reported that Trump was forced to cancel a rally in Chicago and Cincinnati after consulting local law enforcement. Trump's campaign staff issued a statement which read that the candidate had determined..
"that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed to another date.”
Many who have watched the increase in violent imagery in Trump's speeches wouldn't be surprised that things have become overheated.

There's no question that security at Trump rallies is becoming more and more problematic. As with any mass public event in the age of terrorism, security is extremely tight.

When it involves a presidential candidate - especially one known for his fiery rhetoric- the security has to be extensive and layered. It is coupled with a strong police presence with careful searches at entrances and exits of the rally halls. 

Naturally we are not allowed to know the full extent or the details of the security plans but suffice to say, they are extensive and thorough. In short, it is a nightmare for the people who deal with public safety. 

Just a few days ago, US Secret Service agents had to rush onto the stage to surround the Republican presidential candidate.
Supposedly there was an attempt by a member of the crowd to get close to Trump. The frantic reaction was normal but embarrassing nonetheless. 

Despite all that, the security staff has been incapable of filtering out protesters. They are only able to remove them. Trump claims these noisy demonstrators are interfering with his right to free speech.

Monday, March 14, 2016

European Perspective on Trump: Have Americans Lost Their Minds?

by Nomad

And it is very possible they might be correct.

A Most Dangerous Man

Certainly the support for Donald Trump has a lot of people scratching their heads. For some Americans, he is a source of worry, for others a reason to cheer "USA! USA!" Still others have come to the conclusion that he represents a Republican party past its expiration date, incapable of producing a sane vision for America.
But what do Europeans think?

Attempting to capture that European bewilderment and concern a recent BBC article explained:
Here's a sample of the public disapproval. Germany's Der Spiegel has called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. Britain's David Cameron says his plan to ban Muslims is divisive and unhelpful.
The French liberal newspaper Liberation has described him as a nightmare turned reality. JK Rowling tweeted that he's worse than Voldemort. A recent Economist cover has a picture of Trump dressed as Uncle Sam with just one word, "Really?" That pretty much sums up the mood of global elites.
It's not just the elites. Common folk have also made their opinions felt.

A petition to have him banned from the U.K. it gained 500,000 signatures. That was more than enough to force Britain's parliament to consider a debate on the issue.
The members did discuss the petition but eventually concluded such a ban would violate Trump's free speech.
Ironically, the same free speech he uses to stir up Islamophobia. 

According to Newsweek, Trump elegantly confirms European's anti-American attitudes. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Remember When Reagan Nominated an Anti-Labor Lobbyist of a Neo-Nazi, Pro-KKK Propaganda Machine?

by Nomad

President Reagan 1981 Early in Reagan's first term, the administration suffered a minor setback with one of its nominations. The problem? The nominee's work with an organization that had long been a propaganda machine for the most extreme right wing and dangerous organizations.

Beware The Ides of March

On 30 March 1981, two events in Washington occurred: one  of them stunned the nation. The other event was completely overshadowed the other and is largely forgotten today.

On that rainy afternoon, at about 2:30. President Reagan was leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington. Waving to the small crowd, the president stepped out onto the sidewalk on his way to his limo. Before he got there, an attempt was made on his life. 

Reagan and three others were shot and wounded by demented attacker John Hinckley, Jr.
The FBI said the weapon was a Saturday Night Special that Hinckley purchased last October for about $25 in a pawn shop in Dallas - the city where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
It was not immediately apparent how seriously Reagan's injuries were.
Only a few days before the assassination attempt, vice president George H. W. Bush received the assignment of running crisis management in case of emergency.
On that day, Bush was out of Washington, in Ft. Worth/Dallas as it turned out. Believing that the president had escaped intact, Bush flew on to make a speech in Austin.

With the vice president on his way back, the Secretary of State  Alexander Haig, in an effort, to calm things down told reporters that he was in control.  
As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending the return of the vice president and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.
As a war hawk, Haig's declaration sent a shiver down the spines of a lot of people. With his long military history in wars like Korea, Vietnam and as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe commanding all U.S. and NATO forces in Europe, his words should have been a comfort.
The world held its breath.
Reagan's hawkish comments about the Soviet Union had some world leaders uneasy and with this attempt on his life, nobody was ready to predict the US reaction.

An Hour Earlier

Less than an hour before the attempt on the president' life, something far less earth-shaking had happened. As was expected, the White House spokesman announced the nominations for many of the second-tier positions in various agencies.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gravitas of a Grifter: Why Trump's Art of the Deal is all about the Art of Butt-Kissing and Betrayal

by Nomad

In a recent deposition, Republican Presidential candidate Trump  allowed us a peek at his true nature. It wasn't pretty and reveals a man very different than his supporters see onstage. 

The Two Faces of Trump

As we have come to know, Republican front-runner Donald Trump likes to portray himself as a politically-incorrect kind of guy who says the first thing to comes to his mind. 
If it is childish, irresponsible or just plain racist, then that's who he really is. He's not been groomed and manicured and cultivated like a hot-house orchid. Trump is Trump, and he doesn't give a damn who likes it and who doesn't.
For that, his supporters love him.

His appeal is based primarily on the premise that he may be rough around the edges but he is, at least, honest. If he goes too far sometimes, it is, if nothing else, a step in the right direction, they'll tell you. 
Sure, he may rub a lot of people the wrong way, his supporters say, but he makes good points and gives a voice for angry people who feel forgotten. Trump may be a joke but he isn't a phony, they'll tell you.
If nothing else, Trump's a breath of fresh air and not part of the political game-playing that has made Washington such a despised place. 

However, the problem for Mr. Trump is that this particular persona is really a new innovative, more based on his reality-TV character. The real story, his actual history is radically different.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Rising and Falling Fortunes: Rothschild Empire Faces Criminal Investigation in US and France

by Nomad

It might be a name long associated with fabulous wealth and enormous political influence, but the Rothschild Empire has been had its share of humiliations of late.

Hard Times for Billionaire Dynasty

As pioneers of international banking (as well as probably the wealthiest family in the history of the world,) the Rothschilds have been the subject of many a conspiracy theory. The exact amount of their family fortune is undisclosed, but by one conservative estimate, the Rothschild family controls assets worth more than $350 billion when each of their personal fortunes is combined.

The Rothschild dynasty is the el supreme of all family dynasties and went thing go bad there are plenty of people to gloat and plenty more to send their condolences. Ah, the way of the world is such like. 
The family business has apparently been hit hard by the worldwide economic slump. That's not all the problems they have been facing. 

In June of last year, Baron David de Rothschild, chairman of the Rothschild Financial Services Group since 2003, was indicted by French police for his role in a fraud case. The independent investment banking organization which offers financial services to governments, corporations, and individuals worldwide. was charged with "falsely advertising an equity release loan scheme, bought into by more than 130 pensioners between 2005 and 2008."
More than 20 British pensioners in Spain took up legal action against Rothschild’s company after losing their dream properties and thousands of euros.
French investigators claimed that Rothschild’s product, the Credit Select Series Mortgage Loan, was sold to retirees as a legal tax haven, specifically as a mean to reduce the apparent value of their homes for inheritance tax mitigation purposes.

The problem is that it wasn't as legal as Rothschild executives had claimed. The French tax agency ruled that such a scheme was a nothing more than fraud and that Rothschild should be held accountable. Said one of the French prosecutors:
“In short, independently of what happened to the investment, Rothschild advertised a loan aimed at reducing inheritance tax, which is a breach of tax law."
The victims who now stand to lose their homes told the courts that they felt confident of the financial packages, having put their faith in the Rothschild name. In its defense, the investment banking company pointed out that its involvement was limited. It had only provided the loan, and "was not involved in the investment side of the deal, which was carried out by financial intermediaries based in Spain, most of whom were British."

Monday, March 7, 2016

Gordon Parks' Images of Alabama Segregation in 1956 are an Important Reminder to All Americans

by Nomad

In honor of the tenth anniversary of the death of photographer, film director, musician, and writer Gordon Parks, we look at the man's life and work. His images serve to remind us that when people talk about taking America back to a better time, we need to pay close attention what they mean to every American.  

To appreciate the photography of Gordon Parks- or any artist- we need to understand his origins and his early experiences.

Hard Times in the Heartland

Parks was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of fifteen children. According to his biography, his family was dirt-poor in a town of considerable racial tension. 

When Gordon was 15, his mother died and he was sent to live with a sister and her husband in St. Paul, Minnesota. After an argument with his hosts, Parks ended up a homeless high school dropout.
Fortunately for him, he had a natural talent for the piano and, after a series of jobs, he joined a touring band. That gig took him to New York. 

After the band broke up, Parks again faced hard times, this time in Harlem. During the Great Depression, he was living in a rat-infested tenement and unable to find work.
In 1933, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). part of FDR's recovery program after the Great Depression.

Around this time, he married Sally Alvis in 1933 and returned to St. Paul a year later. He found work as a dining-car waiter and porter on the North Coast Limited. The couple had three children, Gordon, Jr., Toni, and David.

The Vision of an Invisible Man

One could say that at this point, Gordon's story was not a particularly distinctive life. He gave no outward sign that he would go on to do great things or even that he had impressive talents, outside of his musical ability. Had you been around at that time, it might have been easy to overlook this practically invisible man

Looking back at those hard times, Parks wrote:
I suffered evils, but without allowing them to rob me of the freedom to expand.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mass Exodus as Political Weapon: NATO thinks Putin Using the Refuge Crisis to Destroy Europe

by Nomad

A recent statement by a high ranking NATO official claims that the migrant-refugee crisis is a Russian conspiracy. The aim? To destroy the European Union.

Matthew Holehouse of the UK Telegraph reports that the Supreme Allied Commander -Europe and the head of the US European Command has a theory about what's actually happening with the refugee crisis in Europe. 

Four-star General Philip Mark Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Putin has intentionally created this crisis in an attempt to "overwhelm" and "break" Europe.
He explained:
"Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponising migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve."
Describing fleeing migrants as a "weaponized" migration is certainly one way to make victims into the enemy though I don't believe Breedlove meant it that way. He told the Senators:
"These indiscriminate weapons used by both Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces, I can't find any other reason for them other than to cause refugees to be on the move and make them someone else's problem.".
The Telegraph article, oddly, finds confirmation of Breedlove's remarks in the statements made by the Russian ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko. Yakovenko said that the ceasefire in Syria involving Russian forces “will help alleviate the migration crisis in the EU.” 
A link is not an example of causation

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Donald Trump and the KKK: Why Trump is Simply Following in the Footsteps of Ronald Reagan

by Nomad

CNN reported yesterday how Trump was attempting to "clean up" the controversy involving his refusal to disavow Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke's endorsement. Duke told reporters that the KKK had hundreds of thousands of followers online "who will vote for Donald Trump."
"Donald Trump has the potential to bring in millions of new voters who agree with our positions.Based on the analytics, I would say my support is very strong."
To this, Donald Trump was silent and later claimed he had no idea who David Duke was. The Republican establishment, now in total dread at the prospect of Trump becoming the nominee, claimed to be appalled that Trump didn't repudiate the support of Duke and other white supremacist groups.
Sounds to me that there's a little confusion here and quite a bit of hypocrisy from the GOP establishment. Seems like somebody could use a history lesson.  

What's to Clean Up?

To hear the outcry against Donald Trump's failure to reject the KKK love kisses, one would think the front runner is doing something out of the ordinary. 
Actually, Trump really ought to be commended for keeping alive the Reagan tradition of race-baiting.
Let me explain. This is actually a case of history repeating itself.

When Ronald Reagan was running for governor of California, there were a lot of political analysts who considered him an extremist. 

Part of that reputation came from a rousing speech he made on behalf of Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election. Goldwater famously said:
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!
Even though Reagan's speech was considered a fine piece or oratory, it could not save Goldwater who lost the election by one of the largest margins in history.

Reagan's detractors said that he was not a real politician at all. He was a TV and film actor. He had no experience in politics. The ones who protested the loudest against Reagan were the GOP moderates who thought Reagan would drive off the middle of the road voters and wreck havoc in the GOP.

It was during this race that candidate Reagan was confronted with a problem very similar to the one Donald Trump faced the other day.