World Policeman No More

New York policemen on the Beat 1940s -  vintagephoto.com

New York policemen on the Beat 1940s – vintagephoto.com

The world is coming to the steady recognition that the forces that secured a peaceful resolution of the intense 20th century battle between totalitarianism and democracy are unraveled.  The key ingredient, and the accompanying heavy burden of responsibility, was founded on the concept of a “world policeman” to secure trading routes, work to resolve local strains, achieve regional alliances, and as necessary impel cooperation to maintain security.   In the first four decades it was the role of Great Britain, and with the cataclysm of the second world war, progressively the role of the United States in the next six decades, to take on the mantle, economic and military responsibility, and moral persuasion that produced the eventual triumph of democratic ideals over totalitarian unity. The device of “world policeman” so effectively maintained a will and clarity over the decades  that historian Francis Fukuyama declared in 1989 to have seen the “end of History”with the world settling on the victorious governmental form of political and economic liberalism known as western democracy as a final form of governance.

The world of today bears little resemblance to the post historical world declared by Fukuyama.  The role of world adjudicator and stabilizer appears to have achieved a progressive moral insecurity and spiritual and financial exhaustion in those two countries that accepted the burden.  Neither Great Britain or its successor the United States has the desire any longer  to be the forward defender of free people and free ideals,  and the world is noting the vacuum created.  The result is a return to local passions potentially creating a kindle for international violence that will make the world yearn back to the days when there was someone “in charge”.  It turns out that history abhors a vacuum and the number of unstable forces willing to fill the vacuum is growing exponentially.

President Obama took the opportunity of the world stage with his speech in Berlin to declare the end of a different history than we all remember.  The President, whose philosophy of “lead from behind” has defined his five years as President, sought to frame the current world as the triumph of such thinking.  The greatest threat to world security for this president, nuclear arms and global warming.  The means of achieving security against such threats? Peace with justice.

Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be.  And so, as President, I’ve strengthened our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and reduced the number and role of America’s nuclear weapons.  Because of the New START Treaty, we’re on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons to aggressive totalitarian states like North Korea and Iran is therefore to be solved by the reduction of nuclear weaponry by the United States.  This policeman will unilaterally disarm, to show those who would arm themselves the moral futility of their aggressive nature.  That’s likely to work.  The president could not even bring himself to  acknowledge the stated goals of both North Korea and Iran to be nuclear weapon powers.

At the same time, we’ll work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.  And we can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking.

North Korea has already tested atomic weapons, shown its desire to achieve an intercontinental missile capacity, and threatened its neighbors with nuclear destruction.  Iran has declared its goal the annihilation of the state of Israel.  Beyond the unilateral disarmament far afield from either threat and the moral rejection he states above, how will he achieve the stability and suppression of proliferation declared by such rogue states?  Thankfully by “hosting a summit in 2016 to secure nuclear materials“.

After such logic, it becomes increasingly difficult to rally behind this leadership for the even bigger threat to world peace with justice – global warming.

Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet.  The effort to slow climate change requires bold action.  And on this, Germany and
Europe have led.

With a global middle class consuming more energy every day, this must now be an effort of all nations, not just some.  For the grim alternative affects all nations — more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise.  This is the future we must avert.  This is the global threat of our time.  And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late.  That is our job.  That is our task.  We have to get to work.

The storms we need to defend ourselves against to propel humanity forward turn out not to be storms of terroristic violence, nuclear proliferation,  religious fundamentalism, governmental attacks on liberty, and dangerously unstable regimes, but rather…thunder storms and the floods they cause.  This President who has declared himself the most scientifically directed in history continues to talk about a science that is in outcomes free fall, with no identified warming in the 15 years that we were supposed to be overwhelmed by biblical calamities from man’s desire to drive his car and heat his house.  Science’s need to hypothesize is understood, but the need to test the validity of such hypotheses has been sacrificed to the political ideal, when it has been progressively shown that no validity exists.  The lack of validity would be sad, if it weren’t so economically and socially destructive to true human progress.

To this President, our current threats can be summarized as springing out of our own flaws and shortcomings as a people:

We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.   We may strike blows against terrorist networks, but if we ignore the instability and intolerance that fuels extremism, our own freedom will eventually be endangered.  We may enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the world, but so long as hundreds of millions endure the agony of an empty stomach or the anguish of unemployment, we’re not truly prosperous.

The summary translation might look as follows:  People don’t kill people. Guns kill people. Get rid of our guns (nuclear armaments), and we can finally feel safe.  It is our forcing our ideals of freedom on others and intolerance for their nihilistic, anarchistic tendencies that fuels terrorist’s extremism, not their desire to reek havoc on an ordered civil society.  Our standard of living that has brought spectacular development for the world and fed it for the greater part of a century, is tool of suppression and hunger.

The logic boggles the mind.

The argument that world policeman is an unenviable, potentially corruptible, and likely long term intolerable burden is an appropriate  discussion for a society to undertake, as long as the alternative to such stabilizing forces is understood.  The policeman that walks the beat rarely must inject himself forcibly when the neighborhood understands that he stands for lawful behavior and will protect the citizenry if necessary.  Its becoming clear to the neighborhood thugs that no one is in charge, and the risks of some real spasms of violence are growing by the day.  Syria, at one time a local revolt against a tyrant, is now becoming the fault line for two massive antagonistic religious philosophies with jihad as their common  logical expression of moral certitude.  China, sensing the American withdrawal, now looks to enforce a new East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere with Chinese naval dominance to put previous ancient enemies of Vietnam and Japan in their place.  Europe decays from within with a loss of identity from reduced birthrates and societal suicide  through social spending at the expense of any residual effort to support their own defense, or cultural clarity.

And America?  The world’s policeman shackles its own economy, mortgages its own future through profligate spending, increases its governmental spying and suppression of its own citizens, destroys its foundational compact with its citizens through porous borders and arbitrary enforcement of law, and pretends that the world would be better place if we weren’t in it.

The world could turn out to be a very scary place in a few years, with the devils on the ascendant, no one left to call for help.

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Vercingetorix and Drunken Wolves

VERCINGETORIX wikipediaIn no other part of the world does a mix of history, romantic legend, factors of geology, and a curious genetic quality for maximizing quality of life come together as it does in France.  Though fitted with spectacular alpine peaks and thousands of kilometers of picturesque seascape, it is the center core of less spectacular landscape that carries the real mystique.  The temperate part of the planet is full of nondescript rolling hills and rock outcroppings, but leave it to the French to create from a querky ridge of metamorphic limestone known as the Cote de ‘Or, a wonderful tapestry of heroes, stories, legends and magnificent wines that make the region of the Bourgogne famous the world over.  The tapestry is of Roman proconsuls and barbarian kings, the bones of pilgrimage and Benedictine monks, engineers and future French presidents, even rampaging wolves, and they all have their story, but perhaps it can be simplified in saying at a base level they all came for the grapes.  Those special grapes of Pinot and Chardonnay that reach their zenith on the limestone bluffs beyond the towns of Chablis, Chambertin, Beaune, and Nuits St Georges make for some of the greatest wine in the world, and bring us to look in wonder at the characters that were drawn by their allure.

The first recorded burgundian wine interloper happened to write an excellent travelogue of his experiences, and from which we draw our first acknowledgement of the region.  Our author was none other than Gaius Julius Caesar, who in his epic Commentaries on the Gallic Wars introduces us to our first local hero, Vercingetorix, leader of the local tribes of Gaul.  The Gaul of Roman times was already known for its wine crop when Caesar decided to make his mark in history(and expand his bank account) by subduing the tribes of Gaul.  Vercingetorix was more noble than barbarian, but for the haunty Romans, apparently a man much in need of subjugation. Vercingetorix as heroes go was not exactly a humane figure, but rather crafty and violent Celtic leader of the Avernii tribe that fought Caesar to a draw on several occasions before meeting his final defeat at Alesia just outside the modern burgundian town of Alise Sainte-Reine,  in 52 BC .  There was no doubt much burgundian wine consumed by Caesar and his legions as the brought the captured Vercingetorix back to Rome for public humiliation, imprisonment, and in due time, death by strangulation.  To the locals of Burgundy who still see themselves as Aedui, the original inhabitants of the Cote de ‘Or, Vercingetorix is the triumphant hero of the region, and perhaps the first historical French resistor.

The Romans having finally successfully subdued the Celts, converted the celtic lands into the Roman Provence of Gaulus Lungdenesis, and contributed to the agricultural development of the wine crop with high demand for drink, excellent ramrod straight roads like the Via Agrippa for transport of goods, and relative peace.  Nothing lasts forever and that was certainly true of Pax Romana.  Half a century later and it was the “barbarians” that returned the favor on Rome, sacking it, it making wine once again a local product.   It was left to the successor to Roman empire building, the administration of the Christian church, to bring the area back to prominence as a nursery for leaders.  the Benedictines founded one of their great abbeys in Vezelay, and wine is a tonic for all great meditation.  VEZELAY ABBEY BASILICAThe town became a mecca for pilgrims who sought to begin their great pilgrimage on the way of Saint James, and to get close to the bones of Mary Magdelene herself, said to be housed as relics in the cathedral at Vezelay.  The fact that this was only one of several churches holding the so called remains of Mary, required Pope Stephan IX in 1058 to declare the Vezelay relics as the genuine article, making the little town in Burgundy a center for visitors from all over Europe.  The popularity made the local dukes very rich and very powerful, and the Dukes of Burgundy, ruling from Dijon, became important rivals of the House of Valois for the French throne, stopped only by their lack of fecundity leaving the Duchy without an heir, absorbed in the fifteenth century into the greater kingdom of France. The house of Valois had their Bordeaux and Loire valley wines but nothing quite like the chardonnay and pinot of the Burgundians, thus completing the greatness of the French Kingdom.

As Paris progressively became the center of French power and prestige, the homeland of Vercingetorix concentrated on exploiting the the encarpment of limestone but still occasionally contributed to French civilization with great engineers like Gustave Eiffel, Dominique Denon, developer of the Louvre Museum, and Francois Mitterand, mayor of Chateau Chinon (Ville) , parttime Vichi collaborator and French resistor, and later, President of France.  Well, maybe I should have stopped with Denon, as Mitterand was not a Burgundy native and definitely not Aedui.

800px-Vineyards_Combe_Lavaux Gevrey Chambertin

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the little towns of Burgundy take full advantage of the unique terrior and create some world famous vintages of their special grapes, bringing the Pinot Noir of Gevrey Chambertin and Nuits St Georges and the Chablis of Les Preuses and Blanchot, and the Chardonnays of Montrachet to the pinnacle of world prominence and wine excellence.  I had the occasion to drink a young 2009 Gevrey Chambertin last night, full of flavor to the point of being slightly tart, but already showing the finesse known for burgundy Pinot Noir.  It set off the lamb chop rosemary sweetness perfectly and made me go home and order some more as well as a few Nuits St Georges for my more economical nights of relaxation.

And so with all the history we’ve reviewed, where do the drunken wolves come in?  Well, World War II legend has it that the war made the towns and chateaus of Burgundy  so devoid of people that food was scarce and the wine crops undefended, resulting in hungry wolves from the countryside forests seeking any food they could find feasting on the fermenting grapes, and sauntered into the towns drunk . Laying around burgundian  towns drunk without a care in the world, they met their maker, as the horrified town residents found their presence, drunk and docile as they were, unacceptable.  To this day, one can understand, that there is little sympathy and consolation for those who would drink and travel, regardless of the context.  Loving the Gevrey Chambertin as I did, and wolfishly devouring the bottle, I made sure to have someone else drive me home, so as not to meet the fate of those poor drunken wolves, and miss out the next time I experienced the greatness of the wines of Burgundy.

Posted in FOOD AND WINE, HISTORY | Leave a comment

Crusade Against the Darkness

OmahaBeachFromNormandyCemeteryTo watch the gentle waves timelessly crest against the quiet beach sands, it must seem to be all about inevitability.  From our venue, we see a open serenity, with a path through the cove of the cliff leading to the beach below and it seems inevitable, that like the rising tide we would leave the beach to the environs within through this peaceful cove, up this quiet cliff.  Like the countless beaches the world over, the endless communication of the sea to the land takes place every day all day in peaceful solitary.  As it was. As it is. As it ever will be.

The serene beauty only becomes haunting and and laced with trepidation if we look down from our visage and recognize the beach is French, located in the Provence of Normandy, and has held an attached moniker for almost seventy years- as the beach known as Omaha.

This week marked the 69th anniversary of the moment when powerful forces of light and darkness clashed at this very spot and determined that inevitability would be defined by the winner and suffered by the loser, at the cost of great death and destructive violence. The cove leading up from the beach would be littered with bodies of men who were pushing up against the scythe of Death himself, against the will and lives of men who were determined to throw them back into the sea.  For someone 20 years old today, the drive up this path would have been led by men who were the father to their grandfather if they somehow survived the dash up the cliff, so long ago are the events of that day. So long ago that it seems inevitable to believe, that the forces of freedom and individual liberty were overwhelming, and that victory was assured over the forces of evil.  So long ago, that we see newsreels and read books regarding that day and see it as if in a movie or a fairytale, with snapshots of action that seem out of an ancient silent time, almost dramaless in its quiet inevitability.  First the scenes of the soldiers in preparation, then the boats slowly unloading, a few soldiers traversing the beach, a few dropping silently, quiet puffs of smoke, then cheering French crowds.  It all seems inevitable, a good action story, with a happy ending.

For the generation alive actually lived it, they know there was nothing inevitable about the ending.  For 5 years the entire world had been sucked into the blistering vortex of a battle between two diametrically opposed visions of humanity.  A totalitarian behemoth held most of Europe and the cliffs of Omaha beach, driven by dual passions of powerful efficiency and bottomless hatred, under the assumption that an ordered world ruled by an all powerful state and a superior race, was the pinnacle of human advancement.  Attempting to gain a foothold on the continent was a messy alliance of diversified races and religions, bonded only by their sense that a society that celebrated individual liberty and personal freedom of action were the perfected outcome of 3000 years of civilizational development and adversity.

5 years of hellacious conflict was compressed into a moment in time at 630 am June 6th, 1944, as the first troops unloaded on the beaches at Omaha and four other beaches of the Normandy coast to attempt to settle the issue as to the superior societal version.  The Allied forces had coalesced for two years on the British Isles collecting in massive amounts the means of war, training hundreds of thousands of men, thousands of ships and planes and endless hours of planning to attempt the largest amphibious landing in the history of conflict.  The goal was to land 165,000 men securely on the French coast in 12 hours, cracking the “impenetrable” Atlantic Wall devised by Nazi soldiers and engineers.  Previous allied attempts to deliver sea, air, and land forces in a coordinated fashion against the German defenses had proved bloody and disastrous in the landings at Dieppe in 1942 and the beaches of Anzio in January 1944, with much smaller scale and complexity.  Failure of such a spectacular investment in men and material gambled in the landings at Normandy would likely have required years of retrenchment before another attempt, if ever.  A successful push of the landing force back into the sea would have likely allowed Nazi troops to reorient towards the east and likely stalemate Russian forces, probably securing the permanence of a Nazi Europe.

The story of such immense forces would be told in future celebration by the forces of good only because of the individual will of every soldier that stormed the beach that morning.  In particular at Omaha Beach, there was every reason to give in to defeat.  Three hours into the landing thousands of soldiers lay dead on the beach and the waters behind, with the few survivors clinging to a breakwall under a withering hail of shrapnel, and the American commander Bradley contemplating abandoning the beach.  So broken was the plan, that the impetus that allowed the surviving beach officers to drive their men forward, was the appeal that the chances of dying were less attempting a charge up the cliffs under fire then they were huddled behind a wall of bodies on the beach.  Better to be a moving duck, then a sitting duck. One by one, men decided they were dead anyway, and decided to push up the coves against the machine gun and mortar fire.  One by one, the coves were taken, then the hills then the cliff and finally the pillboxes and machine gun nests.  The allied deaths on Omaha were so appalling that for years after, the official toll was reported by authorities as 2500, so as not to devastate the public knowledge of the butcher’s bill.  It seems the truth, that over 5000 casualties incurred on the beach on that one morning at Omaha, had to wait until sons of the fighting fathers were grandfathers themselves.

Somehow, what had never been successfully done before, in much smaller and less complex fashion, succeeded that day at Normandy, and changed the world on its axis.  It turned out that it was not the clash of civilizational will that Hitler was counting on that won the day.  It was something he could never have contemplated, the role a free man feels he plays in making his own destiny.  The soldier that Hitler was counting on, the American soldier softened by easy society and lacking in discipline who would prove weak under the stress of fire, existed only in his fantasy.  The reason that the cliffs were taken that day is perhaps personified in the story of one man, Private Hal Baumgarten, who determined to fight his own war against Hitler. Baumgarten, a Jewish college student at New York University, volunteered for infantry, when he saw how poorly Jews were treated in Hitler’s Germany.  Knowing the consequences of a Jewish soldier potentially being captured by Germans, American military authorities recommended that Jews not put their religion on their dogtags.  Baumgarten decided not only to list Jewish as his religion on his dogtags, but to have a large Star of David placed on the front and back of his army  field jacket beneath the words The Bronx New York, because he wanted ‘the bastards to know exactly who they were shooting at and who was coming to get them’. A single man defending his free will proved sufficient to crack an impenetrable wall of collective obedience.

We are coming to the end of those who personal remembrances of how awful it was, how uncertain it was, and how close it came to extinguishing liberty’s light forever.  The current populations of free societies now willingly give up their freedom and personal privacy without a whimper, and could not conceive of what D-Day soldier felt as he left the landing craft. Our personal Atlantic Wall of hard earned freedoms are proving as porous as the supposed impenetrable wall constructed by the Germans so long ago.  Our own government has declared war on those who would articulate the value system of our Constitution and proselytize it to others less aware.  In honor of  Private Baumgarten, we should “wear” the Constitution and the acquired freedoms he and others sacrificed so much to preserve on our sleeves, and make sure the bastards know exactly who they are shooting at, and who’s coming to get them.

 

 

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…And That’s The Way It Would Have Been…

Brian Williams NBC NEWS - latimesblogs  Good evening.  This is Brian Williams NBC News reporting your world of May 25, 2005.  Tonight, all signs point to a Presidency in crisis and the whispers of impeachment are in the air, as the Bush administration has been rocked on its heels with a series of scandals that threaten its very existence. 

Democrats howled in protest as President Bush named U.S, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to undertake an internal investigation to review potential Justice Department improprieties related to the  utilizing of Patriot Act powers to investigate reporter Seymour Hirsch of New Yorker Magazine, who built the story of U.S. atrocities at Abu Graib through anonymous sources.  In an unprecedented action that may indicate violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, Gonzalez was recently reported to have approved naming Hirsch as a ‘co-conspirator’ in order to obtain powers to obtain Hirsch’s e-mails, phone calls and video his visits to government facilities, to get at the source of the leaks within the administration. Attorney General Gonzalez had only recently informed the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, that he had no knowledge of who had arranged for the secret investigation of the reporter. 

Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware(video)”the idea that the Attorney General of the United States can investigate himself  is laughable and absurd, and points to the President using his friendship with Gonzalez as a buffer against any possible connection to himself and an effort to bury the facts.  Well, that won’t be allowed I assure you.”

The recent revelations about the Attorney General regarding Hirsch piggy back recent acknowledgements of a virtual war on the press media, with indications that the Justice Department had previously gathered over two months of Associated Press emails and telephone conversations related to the same story. NBC News  asked Constitutional Scholar Lawrence Tribe to comment.

Tribe (video) ” Brian, this is truly an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech and the Freedom of the Press.  Our Founding Fathers made these rights the FIRST Amendment because they considered it the vital foundation of a free society.  These series of attacks brink back haunting echoes of Nixon’s Enemies List and can not be tolerated in our democracy.”

On other news, the Senate is initiating hearings to mirror the House’s efforts regarding the President and his team’s actions in the recent calamity of the deaths of Iraqi U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremmer and 3 of his consulate associates when the consulate in Erbil was attacked by Al Qaida.   Information continues to paint a bleak picture for the competence of the Administration in the events that cost Bremmer his life as well as the events that led to it. The Administration’s attempt to suggest the attack on the consulate was the result of a spontaneous reaction to a video, as suggested by the President himself for weeks after the event, appears to have been a coordinated effort of the Administration to avoid an enormous embarrassment before the election, potentially swinging the race to John Kerry.  The meme that Al Qaida in Iraq ended with the death of Al-Zarqawi was obviously threatened by the brazen attack on the consulate and appears to have been covered up throughout the channels of command as high as Secretary of State Condeleza Rice and possibly the President himself: 

(video)Senator Barrack Obama of Illinois – ” the President is ultimately responsible for the safety of his representatives.  We need to know why Ambassador Bremmer was in Erbil in the first place.  Was he trying to arrange for arms to be smuggled to Iranian reactionaries? Where was the President in the long hours the consulate was under attack; was he completely in abrogation of his responsibilities as commander in chief while his Ambassador was assassinated? Why didn’t he call for re-enforcements to protect the survivors and protect this country’s assets and authority?  Why was the President the next day in the midst of a crisis at a fund raiser in Dallas, instead of aggressively organizing the search for survivors and meting out justice to the belligerents? This Senate Committee will not be denied answers.”

Add up such scandals for President Bush, and it appears the threshold to impeachment hearings has been crossed by the new revelation that the President or his team may have used the Internal Revenue Service to harass and suppress progressive organizations prior to the election, thereby cementing his re-election.  Further information is now pouring in from whistle blowers that the President’ re-election team may have coordinated a ‘win at all costs’ strategy that included the illegal use of IRS power to intimidate and weaken opponents such as George Soros, Media Matters, and ACORN  to suppress voter turnout and organizing enthusiasm for John Kerry. 

Senator Diane Feinstein -California (video) – ” the Internal Revenue has to be impartial and above any manipulation as its function strikes at the very foundation of the trust a  free citizen ascribes to his government.  What this Administration has allowed to take place is nothing short of tyranny and we would do well to remember that the first declared Article of Impeachment against President Richard Nixon was abuse of power by subverting the Internal Revenue Service for its own political ends. The time has come for a Special Prosecutor and real accountability.”

The firestorm this President faces from media, this Congress, and the American people is one we have seen before, and the future of President George W. Bush and his administration to maintain a viable governance is very much in doubt on this day of MAy 25th, 2005.  This is Brian Williams. Good Night.

 

(And this parody is very likely the way it would have been, just a few years and with another party at the levers of power…)

Posted in CULTURE, POLITICS | Leave a comment

Anatomy Of A Scandal

Clinton impeachment - washington post The anatomy of political scandals in Washington DC, in particular, the ones that take hold versus the ones that rapidly fade are not necessarily predictable.  The elements of outrage usually associated with the temperature of a scandal and therefore its longevity are fickle.  One would assume the age old collection of cardinal or “deadly” sins – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, gluttony, lust, and envy- would be the fundamental constituents of actions considered scandalous from government officials by which the public could not abide, but the reality is that the daily function of large bureaucracies skirt these sins daily without any real concern about admonition. There are instead other sets of considerations that provide the right mix of fuel for a scandal that gives it legs, and these have proved often to be a reflection of their time and the way and by whom the story has been told.  There is every indication that the collective colossus of “sins” present in the current Obama Administration maelstrom of a potential cover-up with Benghazi and abuse of power with the IRS and Associated Press actions have all the elements of the explosive scandals of the past.  As usual, however, the end story will depend on the public’s perception of the extent of the problem, the likability of the culprit, and the media’s handling and interest in investigating of the incident, as to its epilogue and its place in history.

The Shifting Over Time of “Sin” 

For the first 150 years of the American republic, the government was small and non-obtrusive and the private nation was vast and wild.  Scandals were not so much about the private peccadilloes or affairs as they were about advantage- who in private society could win advantages government could provide to overwhelm their competitors.  The crisis in government wasn’t the presence of private marauders like Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, or John Rockefeller. Everybody assumed that in the world of cutthroat capitalism, men would do what ever they could to gain advantage. No , the crisis came when government officials personally benefited from the manipulations of such men to gain advantage.  Greed was an accepted sin of private men, not national public servants.  When Jay Gould attempted in 1869 to corner the gold market by using his connections with Abel Corbin, President Grant’s father in law to attempt to influence the President, Grant was forever stained by the association despite history showing that once he recognized what was transpiring he interceded to stop any advantage Gould may have had.  A more direct example was the infamous Teapot Dome scandal of the Harding Administration, in which the Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was eventually convicted of accepting large bribes to “smooth ” the process of private oil companies to gain oil concessions on public lands, the first cabinet official in American history to serve a prison sentence for official sins.  It additionally may have been the first time  Senate Committee hearings captured public attention by Senator Robert Lafollette’s Senate Committee on Public Lands driving the story through investigation.  Both Presidents Grant and Harding had significant blows meted to their reputations though both used the defense of ignorance of the actions as to explanations as to why the processes continued for as long as they did.

By the 1950s greed was replaced by wrath and sloth, as the Administrations of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower were accused by Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin of passively accepting and abiding the presence of individuals of Communist sympathies or formal Communist ties in the inner workings and strategy development of the United States at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.  The wrath of McCarthy and the  Select Committee on Government Investigations slammed directly against the sloth of the federal bureaucracy. The obvious problem, described by foreign affairs specialist George Kennan, creator of  the American Cold War Containment strategy, was that “the penetration of the American government from the 1930s onward by members or agents of the American Communist Party was not a figment of the imagination. It really existed, and assumed proportions that, while never overwhelming, were not trivial.  Warnings which should have been heeded, too often fell upon deaf ears.”  The McCarthy hearings became the first to have television take a roll and make the participants actors on the stage of public opinion.  The bombastic McCarthy ever so sure of his righteous position played loose with facts and reputations and made himself an easy mark for character assassination as the villain, ‘ an alcoholic demagogue and destroyer of innocent lives’, and the harried government officials such as Alger Hiss and the legal counsel for the Secretary of the Army Joseph Welch as heroes who were standing up to the Bully’.  McCarthy’s destruction was cemented by a new weapon, the television “expose” when reporter Edward R Murrow on the Sixty Minutes precursor See It Now, took it upon himself to selectively investigate McCarthy’s antics  and profoundly destroy him  in the court of public opinion.  Murrow almost single handedly created the concept of “impartial” investigative reporter hero “above the fray”, who could voice selectively damaging opinions, because their very role as media crusaders could not be impugned.  This model would evolve over the next generation into stratospheric levels with Walter Cronkite pontificating, “and that’s the way it is” at the conclusion of every nightly news broadcast and profoundly effecting Johnson and Nixon Administration actions in Vietnam, culminating in citadel of the reporter as “crusading valorous Knight” in the Washington Post reporters, through an unvetted source “Deep Throat”, taking down a President in the Watergate scandal.

The scandal of the 1990’s flipped the abuse of power concept to the sin of “lust” and clouded further the difficulty of holding a “likable” official accountable for their actions. “Likability” in  the Clinton scandals was not just personal likability but instead professional likability. As the perception of the official as good or bad, progressively developed over time to the media’s perception as to whether the official was “good” or “bad” on a politically conscious level, the argument seesawed around how the story would be framed to a national consensus and began to lead to huge hypocrisies. Feminists who had spent their lives arguing that sexual predatory behavior in the workplace was a crime at the level of rape and who had nearly destroyed the reputation and professional advancement of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court on the basis of alleged remarks in the office place, suddenly closed ranks around a President who stood for their ideals and supported their legislative agendas, while treating women in his workplace like dessert on the menu.  Media that had spent a generation exposing the potential abuses of power by ideologically “bad” presidents like Nixon and Reagan, suddenly made concessions to Clinton as making poor decisions or showing bad behavior as if he was a mischievous school boy rather than the chief executive, chief law enforcement official, and commander in chief of the country who had sworn fealty to the Constitution.  It was left to a new phenomena, the “new” media, a character described as wearing pajamas and providing ‘sourceless’ information, the internet investigator epitomized by someone named Drudge, that stunned the established media and congress into finally performing some semblance of their supposed responsibilities.

The last absurd attempt by the traditional media to be the supreme judge and jury as to impartial investigation was destroyed forever by this new media in 2004, when Dan Rather of CBS News attempted to influence an election by reporting supposed factual documents showing President Bush attempted to use family influence to avoid Vietnam service and get out of National Guard service requirements early, proved by the internet media to be crude fakes within 48 hours.  The obliviousness of the traditional media to their developed bias regarding ideologically “good” versus”bad” Presidents was confirmed in Rather’s stunning cluelessness in later remarks that, although the documents upon which his whole story was based may have been faked, the implications of the story itself were irrefutable.

We are perhaps in the final stage of the development of what stands for the concept of a government scandal in the actions of the Obama Administration.  All the elements of previous scandals are there to be noted.  The use of government finances to influence who will be the winners in private economic markets in the auto industry bailouts and the Solyndra payouts.  The active avoidance of law enforcement responsibilities in current immigrant laws or border security.  The use of cover-up to hide gross negligence in the international theater highlighted by the Benghazi buildup, incident, and aftermath.  The dramatic abuse of power in utilizing the IRS to target conservative groups and individuals to intimidate sufficiently to dis-empower and help swing an election.   The attack on the First Amendment rights to free speech  and the Second Amendment on the right to bear arms. The strong-arming of healthcare industries to “donate” to the government to underwrite the horrendous economic consequences of Obamacare.

We see in this final stage the absurd, oxymoronic argument by the officials of this administration that although an ever growing government is the best vehicle to run impartially all facets of American life, that individual leaders of that government have no knowledge of and are innocent of any wrong doing because the government is too vast for effective management.  We see a media whose credibility has been crushed by several generations of progressive partiality, being forced against their will to shine a light on their political champion from the simple overwhelming evidence of directed malfeasance.  In this President, we have the perfect final stage of scandal, promoted as intellectually brilliant yet apparently ignorant of all the malfeasance beneath him.  The perfect executive who can be trusted with complete control of his society yet who apparently finds out about his administration’s missteps only with the rest of us when reported in the newspapers.  The hands on Commander in Chief who has returned sanity to American foreign policy, only to be an unapologetic no show when a crisis erupts in Benghazi and lives are at stake, chemical weapons are used in Syria crossing the very line he stated was uncrossable, and the people of Iran rise against their dictators in response to his demagogic statements, only to find his support to be thrown to the very dictators he had opined against.

Has the government grown to the point where even sin and morality are passé and marginalized? We are about to find out.

 

 

 

 

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Benghazi: The Scandal Shows Echoes of Watergate

THE 4 AMERICANS KILLED IN BENGHAZIOn September 11, 2012, the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in history on the United States, and just under two months before the re-election of President Barrack Obama,  ugly events in Benghazi, Libya resulted in the deaths of four American patriots whose major mistake was they believed they were the forward representatives and projection of the national integrity and interests of America.  As is becoming progressively apparent, they were instead the unfortunate dupes of an administration that saw its survival as the overarching American interest, and that was comfortable sacrificing perhaps the individuals themselves  if it meant the administration could persevere for another term.

The ugliness that is just being uncovered in congressional hearings has echoes of similarity to a long ago scandal, with similar elements of abuse of power and cover up misdirection.  One forgets that the monster scandal that was Watergate, eventually effecting the resignation of the most powerful man in American governance, the President of the United States, was birthed in a minor event of a political dirty trick, breaking in to an opponent party’s political headquarters, that in the short space of two years led to the connections of cover up, IRS abuse, wiretapping, political corruption of the FBI and CIA, eventual whistleblowers, and eventual ties to the oval office itself.  It broke the political back of Richard Nixon, and would have been easily avoided but for the arrogance and defensiveness of the primary participants. The recent statement on May 4th by Presidential spokesman Jay Carney that “Benghazi was a long time ago” may soon be placed alongside President Nixon’s Press Secretary Ron Ziegler who proclaimed Watergate “a third rate burglary attempt“.  The epicenter of all scandals in democratic governments  is not the event itself, as it is the light the event shines on the ongoing arrogant sacrifice of truth and constitutional adherence. The need for truth and integrity in a democracy, may be the eventual positive principle that these brave Americans, who thought they were fighting terrorism, will have sacrificed their lives defending.  The questions and similarities separated by the four decades between these two superficially dissimilar events are provocative echoes that bear further investigation:

1) The Committee to Re-elect the President:      The politicization of a President’s actions are particularly acute in the year they are standing for re-election.  The President typically forms a re-election team that positions themselves to format a theme and strategy that will lead to victory, as the President theoretically has the burden by constitutional oath to act in the nation’s best interests, not  specifically his own re-election needs.  The two motivations can come in conflict with each other, but one presumes the national interest would supercede any potential storyline.  In 1973, the burglary of the Democrat National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel was ordered by the head of the President’s re-election committee, Jeb Macgruder, to obtain intelligence as to the Democrat party’s strategy to defeat the President.  The bizarre logic that would suggest a very popular president with a huge lead in the polls against his adversary George McGovern would need such information, defies understanding, considering the risk and illegality of the act.   In 2013, after the Benghazi incident, an immediate and concerted effort to change the facts on the ground,  “scrubbing” of the facts and the trail of communications, possible intimidation of participants,  and deception of the voting public by blaming  the event on an obscure American’s unwatched video was present within days.  The scope of such actions would suggest advanced coordination and involvement of powerful people, whose single mission was to protect the presidential re-election story.  Questions that need to be asked, as to who could achieve such widespread actions and who gave the orders for such coordination, raise the obvious implication that the political arm of the President was directing traffic on an issue of national security.

2) Involvement of the highest officials:    The Watergate trail eventually not only showed the corruption of the political arm but also the corrupted politization of the highest executive branch officials, with the direct tie in of such officials as the head of the FBI, the Attorney General of the United States, the Chief of Staff to the President, and the Chief Counsel to the President. It eventually led to the firing of a Special Prosecutor, the resignation of an Attorney General, and prison sentences for two Attorneys General, two Presidential Counsels and the President’s Chief of Staff.  The trail of the misdirection and possible whitewashing of facts to deceive the voting public regarding the events leading up to Benghazi, the terrorist attack,  and its aftermath, is to this point unresolved, but may point to a Secretary of State or the President’s own National Security Advisor. Linkages this high would suggest malfeasance at the highest levels, particularly if it is shown the Secretary of State perjured herself before Congress.  The driver for the truth, and the ultimate destruction of the Nixon Administration, was the appointment of a Special Prosecutor and the establishment of a Select Congressional Committee.  A few more whistle blowers with Benghazi and the investigation may take on a whole new life of its own.

3) The Establishment of the Select Committee: The Democrats in congress had the most to gain in injuring the President in 1973, but the continuing drip, drip, drip of facts eventually led to increasing participation of Republicans in asking tough questions, as the scope of the cover-up became clear.  One wonders if a bipartisan search for the truth is still possible in today’s blind political obedience, but facts have a nasty way of bringing inevitable conclusions despite the best efforts of some to try to bury or distract.  If the investigation begins to show that involvement of far flung and apparently unrelated scandals are connected by the effort to re-elect the President, such as directed use of the IRS to harass through audit opponents of the President, or the  inter agency manipulations of Fast and Furious, the scope of the scandal will  go in unforeseen directions that may threaten the democrat party’ prospects itself.  That is usually the trigger that brings legislators to “seek the truth” regardless of party, so they are not caught on the wrong side of history.

4) The Hubris of the President:  President Nixon was convinced his entire political life that the political and media elite were out to get him.  The fact that they very well may have been does nothing to obscure the fact that Nixon himself created most of the opponent’s ammunition for his own destruction.  Hubris is defined as extreme pride or arrogance, and the current inhabitant of the White House and the 37th President have much of this flaw in common.  President Obama’s conversion of American international interests as subservient to his overweening desire to “re-fashion” America as a socialist democracy to be cemented through his re-election, is the unspoken driving force behind the tawdry events in Benghazi.  The addressing of previous Benghazi attacks with less, not more security for his on the ground representatives, the apparent sleep through during a direct attack on an  American consulate when the very scope of the attack suggested the need for a reprisal for both safety of the survivors and the integrity of the American prescence, the bold faced lie that a video was the inciting prod for otherwise passive demonstrators to become agitated to the point of violence, fall directly in the lap of the commander in chief.  So many international events that have resulted in the aversion of eyes by this commander in chief suggest instead a more malign neglect designed to progressively weaken America’s position in the world, and risks her safety.  In this particular case, deaths of four Americans punctuated the unwillingness to engage in the very maelstrom he helped create in Libya . We will soon see, I suspect, whether this President can maintain distance from the scandal with the help of his enablers in the media.

Despite the above ruminations, I am not a conspiratorialist, and do not claim that the Benghazi debacle  is a perfect mirror of the more complex Watergate scandal.  Skirting your responsibilities, letting down people who work for you, and being a perfectly awful Secretary of State or President does not rise to the stature of burglary or obstruction of justice.  There is little role in my mind for impeachment committees to form on the basis that the President is crummy at his job.  That is what elections are supposed to be for. The lurking connector out there, though, that becomes the inevitable echo, is if a clear recognition develops that an election was manipulated by the coordinated withholding of crucial information through any means possible, or there exists evidence of premeditated neglect of duty to sacrifice others to save one’s own skin.  Then, the hounds of scandal may be unleashed in unpredictable ways.

 

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People We Should Know #24 – Donald Kagan

The Mentors     In  a humbling perspective, the presence of man as a thinking, actionable being in the scope of time as compared to bacteria as the first living organisms seeking interaction with their environment is a pittance.   The relationship of a few score of thousands of years to the greater than three billion years that bacteria have survived takes shape when one compares it to some objective knowable reference.  In perspective of time as distance, if thinking man were walking in the same travelled steps that bacteria have already taken referenced to the three thousand mile distance between Los Angeles and Chicago, man as a rational creature would occupy only the last 20 feet of the journey.  This brief presence hardly seems worthy of historical adulation, but it is of course the impact made by this relatively new participant to history that makes man’s action so worthy of study.

We have in today’s society a rather arrogant view of our current knowledge base, as if it is infallible and purified to a level of perfect reason, that would make spending time to reflect upon ideas in perspective to past thinkers unworthy.  We see it in such comments as global warming as “settled science”, the Constitution as “outdated”, and the study of philosophy and history less worthy than psychology and social science to “understand” ourselves.  This  concept of all that has come before as immaterial to modern thinking unless in agreement with modern thinking, is a disease that has pervaded our entire educational system.  The current common belief is that a crucial component of modern life is a college degree, with little if any focus on what the degree actually comprises or contributes to modern society. The college graduate of today after 16 years of layered education foundation struggles to recall half of the critical elements of knowledge that codify his or her freedom, or form the basis of reason or literacy.  They graduate from a campus that often has an entire faculty uniform in its political correctness and opinions regarding major societal issues.  The sharing or weighing of ideas comes under extreme stress from those who would suggest that the answers are already confirmed, and that education’s role is to instruct individuals on how to continue to uphold, protect, and at most, perfect immutable facts and theorems.

Perhaps it is the guilty recognition of how far we have fallen in our pursuit of age old concepts of virtue, reason, and truth, that has led to the adulation that was conferred this past week on one the last warriors for time honored educational development of an individual, Yale University’s Professor Donald Kagan.  PowerLine presented for review this week Dr. Kagan’s final lecture at Yale, regarding the evolution of critical thought and its current state in the modern educational process.  Dr. Kagan, one of the world’s most prominent authorities on the ancient Greek city state and the epic issues surrounding the Peloponnesian war, has been a lonely voice for diversity of thought on campus, and has come up hard against the entrenched interests that pervade modern universities and seek to suppress thought and education to students that don’t fit their pre-determined “truth”.  Dr. Kagan has argued for decades for a core curriculum for western civilization at universities to assure all students the background and principles that would allow them to better understand and uphold their responsibilities in a western society.  He sees no prejudice in teaching the roots of reason and truth, laws and obligations, religion and natural science, democracies and republics in the fashion of a student capable of putting these foundational principles to work in whatever they eventually determine to study.  The overwhelming logic of his argument is the primary argument against it applied by the educational forces in power.  To accept the huge amount of intellect and reasoned argument that form the centuries of development and success of western ideals, would be to accept their superiority, and that is a concept the entrenched powers will never accept.

Dr. Kagan is acknowledged to be one of those great formative teachers,  like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle before him, who are able to take obtuse subjects and make them an understandable and relative to the student, in such a way that the teacher becomes their pathfinder to knowledge that is permanently relevant in their lives.  In an educational world where teachers have been required to achieve higher and higher educational degrees, and their students are showing less and less understanding and competence, appreciating a giant in the ancient science of teaching is a pleasure indeed.  Watch below how Dr. Kagan introduces why understanding the ancient Greeks are critical to who we are in his introductory Greek History course at Yale and you will be returned to the power and life changing experience that a great teacher can provide.  Professor Donald Kagan is Ramparts People We Should Know #24, because what we should know to be relevant in our own lives has been a lifetime’s vision of this exceptional teacher.

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American Disconnect

The tragic events in Boston have brought to bear many uncomfortable reminders of the 9/11 horror, but none more all consuming than the need to try to understand the incomprehensible, in the form of the simple question, why? The use of brutal violence against innocents was repeated with the conversion of weapon of choice from plane to pressure cooker, but the intent was the same…to reek havoc, to maim and kill as many as possible.  The application of violence is not unique for such goals.  It happens everyday somewhere on the globe – on the streets of Damascus in Syria, the markets of Kabul, on the subway in London, the transit train in Madrid, the night club in Indonesia, the center city  of Mumbai, India.  The point of such violence is its inherent pointlessness, its anarchistic rage, against those that are seen as insufficiently aware of the bomber’s cause.  What is somewhat new with the Boston tragedy may be seeds of a new reality that America assumed itself to be immune from because of the particular openness of this society, home grown terrorism. On September 11th, 2012, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took an other declaring his fidelity to American values and became an American citizen.  Seven  months later, he declared his complete disavowal of those ideals, in wanton slaughter of his fellow citizens.

It will be along time if ever that we understand the process that converts individuals like Dzhokhar from being an engaged high school athlete earning a scholarship to higher education to a radicalized cold blooded killer in just a few short years.  The strands of two formative impulses are increasingly apparent, though,  the radicalization of a religion, Islam, into promoting the anarchistic impulses of a whole generation of disaffected youths, and the progressive disconnect of American society from the value set of what it means to be an American.  The power of these dark forces to provide the spark to the internal explosive instability in the Tsarnaev brothers is a discussion we need to face.

The use of Islam as a front for radical anarchy has been in front of us now for several decades.  The civil, modern  world has been slow to the recognition of the marriage between institutional Islam and anarchy, but to continue to deny it is ludicrous.  Billions of dollars poured into the celebration of death and martyrdom, the hate spewed from the mouths of mullahs expressing racial superiority, subservience of women, and holy war, the fueling of internet sites linking violence and the means to achieve it, have radicalized a generation of young people who feel no personal connection with their life and need to express their rage and evict their powerlessness. There is no sense any longer arguing about this being a fringe of the religion – it is deeply embedded in its institution.  The President of Egypt, a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, refers to Jews not as people he disagrees with, but pigs.  The President of Iran, looks forward to the day when he can lead the annihilation of an entire nation state, Israel.  The Supreme Leader of Iran, promotes a fatwa demanding the death of an author Salman Rushdie, for the crime of expressing a dream sequence about the prophet Mohammad. A member of the Saudi elite family Bin Laden, promotes a caliphate of 11th century ideals through a network of anarchists murdering thousands of people for two decades.  Until the religion of Islam achieves its own Reformation and enters the modern world, it will continue to use the potent weapons of the 21st century, to attempt to achieve the rejectionist dogma of the 7th century.  The civil world owes it to itself to finally come to grips with this clarity.  The Tsarnaev brothers were rudderless in their hate, until institutional Islam helped weaponize it.

The second thread is a uniquely American one.  The photo above movingly expresses what used to be the immigrant dream – to come to America, to become American meant to leave the rigidity and constraints of a previous life behind, and be accepted as an individual with the limitless possibilities offered in a free society.  It was understood by every immigrant that entered Ellis Island that the sacrifices and struggles  were not behind them, but the societal restraints were.  They would have to learn the language, work long hours, struggle to achieve, but for the generations to follow all would be possible.  The power of a free society was that whatever your roots, the constitutional rights assured you your place in the American dream, because being an American was not where one was born, but what one believed.  It has been assumed that this remains a force today and has kept America free of the disconnected  and disaffected that have plagued other societies. Unfortunately that is a myth we know must additionally face up to.  The Tsarnaev brothers lived the immigrant dream.  From a youth crushed by the extreme prejudice and intense violence of being Chechnyan in the world of Kyrgyzstan and Dagestan, to living in Boston and achieving university status and athletic success, one would assume the juxtaposition would be a positive.  It becomes increasingly evident that with the success of the brothers the isolation and sense of disconnection became increasingly intense.  The older brother previously expressed, ” I have no American friends”.  The younger, superficially expressing the importance of American ideals by bothering to become a citizen, increasingly followed his older brothers fidelity to the superiority claptrap of radicalized Islam, and rejected his potential role in an American free society.  The immigrant process of celebrating your roots while venerating your American conversion was entirely lost on the brothers.  We will probably find out if disconnect switch was Islam, and that we may need to face up to as well.

 

My literary hero, Mark Steyn, reflects on the American disconnect and our role in it through the vagaries of “coexistence” with a religion that teaches that coexistence is an intolerable state.  We have extended our positive desire to accept all cultures for what they are with the damaging idea that all cultures are equal.  A culture that infuses a hatred of others, proclaims religious and racial superiority, declares the female half of the human race subservient and supports their mutilation, seeks the annihilation of nations, and demands our acceptance of such dogma is not an equal culture to modern society.  Our “co-existence” should include a rational and vigorous defense of our society’s freedom, and the disavowal of any thread of acceptance of such culture and such attitudes.  There is no real way to ever eliminate every individual who feels an internal hate for society who ends up acting out that hatred, but we can stop pretending that being American and living in a free society is something to apologize for.  Multi-culturalism should be the drive to incorporate the best principles of a culture, not accept the flaws and flagellation of a broken one.

My heart and prayers go out to the Boston victims.

 

 

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People We Should Know #23 – Martin Cooper

      The 2013 Marconi Award for contributions to information technology and communications science was awarded on April 5th, 2013 to a 20th century giant of the information revolution and its a reasonable certainty that you have never heard of him.  Martin Cooper, a Chicago born Illinois Institute of Technology trained engineer, however, probably did more to affect the way you live today than you can possibly imagine.  Martin Cooper will receive the Marconi Prize in October in Bologna, Italy for his critical vision and work in inventing and developing an indispensable modern tool, the mobile cell phone, and like his award benefactor Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio transmission, forever changed the way information could be shared  and propagated, to the everlasting benefit of humanity. For devising a practical tool  that has brought the world to any individual wherever they may be, Martin Cooper readily deserves to be Ramparts’ People We Should Know #23.

Imagine a world without your cell phone and the bounty of links to the world it provides. The phone allows you the power of a computer, the access of a communicator through phone and voice mail, the precise awareness of your location in the world around you through GPS, the networking capability of texting and e-mail, all provided in a device that fits into a shirt pocket.  Martin Cooper visualized it when the world of communication tethered you to a phone number linked by wire to a location and limited to the capacity of the wire to transmit sound or information, but not both simultaneously.  This was the world of 1973, when Mr. Cooper,an engineer for the Motorola Corporation, proved that phone communications could be transmitted in wireless fashion through a portable device powered by its own battery.

The Motorola Corporation was a great exemplar of the power of private capitalism to innovate, something that has been lost in this modern time of government overbearance with shepherding new technologies with companies  such as Solyndra.  It is estimated that Motorola invested over a hundred million dollars in 1970s currency value in Mr. Cooper’s team of visionaries from 1965 until 1993 when the first dollar of profit was finally realized in Cooper’s creation, without a hint that the technology would actually take hold.  Mr. Cooper’s team worked to convert ideas into practical devices.  He stated a large part of his inspiration was the entirely fictional device known as the hand held communicator, a device conceived out of fantasy by Gene Roddenberry, the producer of the Star Trek television show, to allow its fictional characters to communicate with each other and with their ship effortlessly.

The challenge was immense. What passed for the zenith of mobile communication was the car phone, a device that needed engine power and over thirty pounds of installed equipment to work, not exactly the kind of technology that would appeal to the individual walking about. Cooper’s first device was a behemoth, weighing 2.5 pounds, 10 inches long, with a charge lasting twenty minutes and requiring a ten hour recharge, and was indecorously referred to as the “box” or “shoe” phone. But in the fateful year of 1973, Mr. Cooper walked the streets of New York in a public demonstration of his phone, wirelessly called and wirelessly received a phone call, and personal communication was changed forever. From the first practical application of Motorola’s first successful models in the late 1980’s, morphing into the spectacularly successful “flip phone” of the 1990’s, to the incredible power of the iPhone today, dramatic advances in battery capacity, solid state, broadband capacity, and miniaturization were required. But in the space of thirty years, Martin Cooper converted the world to the idea that all information could follow an individual wherever they were, and to the immeasurable benefit of their personal freedom.

Want to know the effect of  Martin Cooper’s vision on our way of life?  The International Telecommunication Union estimated by 2012 that there were 6 billion mobile subscriptions in the world and that the developed world had achieved the saturation point  of over one mobile subscription per person.  87% of the world now has mobile communication capacity and over 73% of what was once referred to as the developing world.  Martin Cooper’s vision  has helped make mobile communications indispensable, practical, and affordable to almost every person on earth that desires it.  It looks like that 100 million spent by Motorola on Martin Cooper was a very good bet indeed.

One can never fail to be amazed at how humans create reality out of fantasy through the simple but magnificent force of their will and intellect.  Martin Cooper, Ramparts People We Should Know #23, proves again that solutions to overwhelming problems are best served by getting out of the way of the incredible capacity of the marketplace to invest in and vet ideas, without the bias of governments that seek to politically control the process.  Despite the billions and billions of tax dollars spent to “invent” a cure to fossil fuels, the likely solution will come from some unknown, obscure thinker, who was inspired by ideas entirely of their own creation, and driven entirely by their own intellectual need to solve the problem.  Somewhere out there, the next Martin Cooper will change the way we live forever.

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A Distant Mirror Into the Genius of Thatcher

Can we ever be sufficiently thankful for the magnificence that is the internet? After yesterday’s Ramparts eulogy reviewing the supernova that was Margaret Thatcher, the perfect record of the young and vibrant Thatcher describing with passion and wonderful intellect the basis for conservative political thought was posted by the Weekly Standard today, and it is a wonder to behold. Can we imagine our current political class engaging in such a thoughtful principle driven discussion of the fundamentals of human action and reaction?  Take a minute and revel- its this snapshot of Thatcher before she won the Prime Ministership that made grown men pause in awe, and drop their pretense that a woman could not lead men, breaking the glass ceiling forever:

 

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