Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cinfici Is Appointed Reading School Director

            I was appointed to the Reading School Board of Directors by a vote of the Board Wednesday night to fill a vacancy on the Board.  My swearing into office is expected in May.  I had been elected a School Director in 2005 and served a four-year term.   

The vacancy was created by the resignation of a Democratic School Director whose candidacy I had supported in 2011 when we ran together on a bipartisan ticket.  The appointment is to fill that vacancy until early December.  In the meantime, a special election will be held simultaneous with the General Election for the remaining two years of the term.  After the Primary Election, each party will meet and decide whether or not to nominate a candidate for School Director according to party rules, as the ballots for the Primary have already been set.  The Reading School District’s boundaries are the same as the City of Reading.

Although I will not be the only Director with at least conservative leanings on the Board, I will be the only Republican.  The appointment of a Republican is not unprecedented, but rare.  I join only a handful of Republicans ever to serve more than one term in citywide office in Reading’s history where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5:1.  Reading has been Democratic since the party’s founding that was inspired by Andrew Jackson. 

In a three-part series of posts from May to June of last year entitled William Cinfici, a Successful Conservative School Director in an Urban District, Parts I-III,,,, I had offered advice for other conservative elected officials in urban districts, explained some of my reasons for success and listed my accomplishments.

I am honored and humbled to be appointed.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve and am eager to get to work.  The District faces major financial challenges.

Conservative Thoughts on the Boston Marathon Terrorist Attacks and the Battle of Boston

           The bombing of the Boston Marathon by Islamist terrorists was the first successful terrorist bombing in the United States since before the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks and was the act of terrorism that inflicted the most casualties since then.  The Ft. Hood Massacre in 2009, although not an act of terrorism because it targeted a military base, was the act of violent jihad that caused the most fatalities.

            The bloody bombing, the subsequent killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology guard in Cambridge and the terrorists’ shootouts with and attempting bombing of law enforcement officials in Watertown constitute the Battle of Boston in the War on Terrorism.  Note this battle demonstrates, as has occurred in foreign states, that the war is not necessarily fought by the military, but even by civilian police and other law enforcement agencies, or even by ordinary civilians.  Tips by civilians were critically important in this case.  The Boston bombers intended to carry out additional terrorist attacks before they were killed or captured.  The bombings and shootings were acts of violent jihad.

            The bombing was carried out by Chechen-Americans, one of which was a permanent resident and the other a naturalized U.S. citizen.  The movement for independence from Russia for Chechnya, which was brutally suppressed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in two civil wars in the 1990s, has evolved more into violent jihad, that is to say, it is now more religious than political.  Like Chechnya, the neighboring administrative regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia continue to be plagued by Islamist violence. 

            The terrorists who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing claimed they were upset over the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Such political claims are excuses for acts that are unjustifiable.  Targeting innocent civilians for violence is not a rational response to political decisions.  The true motivation for the terrorist attacks was Islamism.  It is only because the United States liberates people instead of imposing Islamism on them that they are upset.  In other words, it is not our invasions that upset Islamists and motivate them to commit violent jihad, including terrorism, but our reasons, which are based upon who we are.  Indeed, the Boston terrorists falsely perceived the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as wars against Islam.  Only Islamists who regard Islamism as true Islam would perceive wars against Islamism and wars against Islam.                                

            Other than for security reasons, it is irrelevant whether the Boston Marathon terrorists were aided by foreign terrorist organizations.  They were clearly inspired by foreign ideas of violent jihad, including terrorism.  Therefore, the Boston bombers made themselves part of global terrorism, regardless of whether these enemies in the War on Terrorism received any advice, training or assistance from foreign terrorists, and regardless of the American citizenship of one of the terrorists.  Like communists who believe in the violent overthrow of other governments and in using any means necessary to further revolution and build socialism, Islamists believe in imposing strict Islamic law by force.  Therefore, they are enemies at war with their country by virtue of their allegiance to those ideas and their commission of any acts in furtherance of those goals.

            The terrorist attacks were successful in causing over 260 casualties, including three fatalities, and in terrorizing many Americans, especially an entire major metropolitan area, forcing the suspension of transportation, the closure of businesses and the sheltering-in place of hundreds of thousands of residents for most of a day during the pursuit of the terrorists, as well as terrorizing many others around the world.  The terrorists, despite one being killed and the other captured, were also successful in drawing attention to their goals.  However, they were unsuccessful in their goal of intimidating the U.S. into giving into their demands.  In short, as is usually the case, the tactic of terrorism was successful, but the strategy was a failure.

The controversy over whether to give the terrorist his Miranda warnings reignites the debate over whether Islamists terrorists are at war with us – and therefore whether we are necessarily at war with them – or if these incidents are criminal matters that are better handled by law enforcement and criminal prosecution.  The mindset of treating Islamist terrorism as a criminal matter was one of the reasons for the lack of a successful counterterrorism strategy in the Clinton Administration.  The Obama Administration seems to have adopted a policy of treating the rest of the world as a battleground in the War on Terrorism, but ignoring the fact that terrorists have been making America a battleground.  Moreover, its focus on al-Qaeda in particular instead of Islamists in general minimizes the threat.  The practical effect of this mindset in this case is to have cut short fruitful interrogation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation prematurely instead of declaring the terrorist an enemy combatant and continuing to interrogate him in order to learn of accomplices, other explosives and weapons, training or inspiration, in addition to details on how the terrorists carried out the attack and their additional plans.  The terrorist still could have been prosecuted in federal civilian court later.  The Administration also similarly cut short the interrogation of the Christmas Day bomber, even though he was not a U.S. citizen.

It has widely been reported that the American experience in the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq in the War on Terrorism was beneficial to the providers of healthcare to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, as medicine has developed methods to treat wounds from improvised explosive devices used in the war of the kind used in the terrorist attack in the U.S.  The knowledge gained in prosthetics will also prove to be helpful for the recovery of the civilians who lost limbs.

Update: Italy Forms a New Center-Left-Right Coalition Government

           Enrico Letta has formed a grand coalition that has been approved by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to take over Italy’s technocratic government of Mario Monti.  

           Letta will be prime minister in a government that includes not only his center-left party, but also several ministers from the center-right People of Freedom Party (PDL) led by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, as well as a few from the leading centrist party and some of the technocrats from Monti’s executive.  The Italian news agency ANSA reports that the conservative People of Freedom Party Secretary Angelino Alfano will be Vice Premier and Interior Secretary.  The PDL’s coalition partner, the Northern League, will not participate in the government.  The inclusion of the PDL in the new government of the Italian Republic represents a personal political comeback for Berlusconi.

            As I explained in my last post, the parliamentary elections over two months ago produced an inconclusive result as the center-left party won the most votes and a majority of the seats in the lower house, but failed to win a majority in the upper house because of a late surge in popular support for the center-right bloc.  The center-right’s main demand in its eight-point plan for its participation in the grand coalition was the repeal of the hated property tax and refund of the tax paid in 2012.  Berlusconi’s government had repealed the tax, but it was restored by Monti.  Letta shares the PDL’s priority of boosting Italy’s economic growth over continuing austerity measures initiated by Berlusconi and Monti’s governments.  Italy, which is eliminated its budget deficit, remains mired in its longest post-war recession.  Its weak economic growth threatens its ability to reduce its massive debt of well over a trillion dollars that represents 120% of its gross domestic product.  As the third-largest economy in the European Monetary Union, the formation of a government should reassure the financial markets, although there will be little confidence the left-right coalition can endure long beyond the approval its initial program of economic stimulus and electoral reform – if it can even be successful in passing them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Italian President Napolitano Asks Letta to Form a Government; A Center-Left/Center-Right Coalition to Be Sought

Newly-re-elected Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has asked Enrico Letta to form a new government to succeed technocrat Mario Monti as prime minister.  Letta, 46, of Milan, is the Deputy Secretary of the center-left party.  The center-left bloc of parties had won the most votes in the Italian parliamentary elections and seats in both houses of Parliament, but failed to win a majority in the upper chamber, the Senate, which has led to a hung parliament for two months. 

Letta had served in the Cabinet of the last center-left government.  His uncle had served as Deputy Secretary of the center-right party in its last government, under Silvio Berlusconi.  The Italian news agency ANSA reports that the younger Letta, who is known for his skills as a mediator, has good relations with the Secretary of the center-right party.  The center-right bloc of parties won the second most votes and seats in the Italian Parliament.  Berlusconi’s successful electoral campaign to deny the center-left a majority in the Senate is about to pay a political dividend: Letta is expected to try to form a grand coalition with Berlusconi’s center-right party to continue fiscal and economic reforms.  He will need his skills as a mediator to convince members of his own party who oppose a coalition with the center-right.  The previous leader of the center-left, who had failed in his effort to form a coalition with the third-place populists, resigned last week after failing to win confirmation for the candidates he backed for president, thereby throwing his party into turmoil.

Italy, which has the third-largest economy in the European Union, but one of the largest debt burdens in the world, has significantly reduced its budget deficit, which has decreased its borrowing costs sharply.  However, its economy is in recession, which casts doubt over its ability to eliminate the deficit and pay its debts.  Italy is regarded by the financial market as a firewall within the European Monetary Union against debt contagion.  The markets hailed the progress in breaking the Italian political deadlock, but fear a grand coalition – if it even can be formed – in fractious Italy might be short-lived.  One of the incoming government’s priorities will be a reform of the Italian Republic’s electoral laws.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Foreign Digest: Venezuela, Italy, Iraq

Venezuelan Presidential Election

            The Acting President of Venezuala was declared the winner of the presidential election.  The Chavist successor of late dictator Hugo Chavez was credited with a slight majority in the official count, which was controlled by the regime – without foreign observers.  The state also controlled nearly all of the media during the campaign while it handed out largesse to the impoverished electorate.  The declaration of victory by the Chavists was thus not surprising.  However, the regime has promised a review of the election.  There have been violent street protests.  The opposition has appealed for calm, to which the people have responded by refraining from violence.

Italian Presidential Appointment
            The Italian parliament and the grand electors chose to break with tradition and re-elect President Giorgio Napolitano for another seven-year term.  No president has served more than one term since the formation of the Italian Republic in 1946.  The president is a unitive figure, but several rounds of balloting for a new president this week had instead bitterly divided the parties.  The ex-Communist Napolitano, who had reiterated his intention to serve only one term, is respected by all parties as fair-minded and a patriot who does what is in the best national interest.  The choice was hailed by the major parties on all sides.  The octogenarian’s re-election is the key to ending the current parliamentary deadlock, as his assent is required to form a new coalition or minority government or he to call another round of elections for parliament.

Iraqi Provincial Elections

            Iraq held provincial elections today.  They were the first elections since the withdrawal of American forces.  There was some violence by Islamists, but it did not deter the Iraqi people from voting.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lady Margaret Thatcher, in Memoriam

           Lady Margaret Thatcher, the greatest peacetime British Prime Minister, champion of free markets and staunch anti-communist, died last week at her residence in London at the age of 87.  She led the United Kingdom from economic decline to prosperity, from military weakness to respectable might and from despair to pride and self-confidence.

Born, Margaret Hilda Roberts, she was the daughter of a grocer from Lincolnshire.  She attained a degree in chemistry and later became a lawyer.

Thatcher was elected to Parliament in 1959 and served until 1992.  She became a member of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Edward Heath as Secretary of Education, from 1970-1974.  The following year, Thatcher was chosen the leader of the Conservative Party in 1975.  She led the Tories to victory in 1979, becoming Prime Minister.  Thatcher served from 1979-1990, the longest serving in modern times, winning three elections, two of which were landslides.  She was made a Baroness in 1992 and became a peer in the House of Lords, serving for a decade.

            As Prime Minister, Thatcher stood up to powerful labor unions, thereby ending the cycle of crippling strikes.  She notably ended the illegal strike by coalminers in 1985.  Thatcher privatized many commercial industries owned by the British government and reduced taxes, including lowering the highest rate from 86% to well under half.  “The problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money,” she famously observed.  Her free market policies lifted the British economy.  She also maintained British independence of the European Union, which she recognized as a folly, refusing to abandon the pound sterling and join the Monetary Union – a decision that seems increasingly prescient during the current Eurozone crisis.  Many of her policies have endured, despite the continued criticisms from liberals.  Indeed, she transformed British politics by forcing the Labor Party to move from the far left to the center-left, which was the only way it was able to find electoral success by 1997.

            The parallels with the United States and the U.K. at the time were obvious, as Ronald Reagan also faced economic and military weakness upon taking office as President.  Indeed, Thatcher maintained a special relationship with Reagan, her ideological soul mate, and was a staunch ally of the U.S., despite occasional differences.  Like Reagan, she was anti-Communist, which earned her the epithet from the Soviets while she was still a young MP of the “Iron Lady,” a sobriquet she bore with pride.  Accordingly, she was the strongest backer in Europe of Reagan’s successful policy of placing American nuclear missiles there to counter the rising Soviet threat, despite strong criticism from the Left. 

            It was Thatcher who first recognized the possibility of negotiating with the rising Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, which she recommended to Reagan, who trusted her judgment and who concluded fruitful negotiations with Gorbachev after he became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.  The extraordinary combination of leadership by Reagan, Blessed Pope John Paul II, the Great, and Thatcher is widely credited with facilitating the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by 1989.

            Thatcher lived up to her reputation as the “Iron Lady” after an Argentine dictatorship seized the British colony of the Falkland Islands in 1982, dispatching an armada to retake the islands.  The Falklands War restored pride to the British people.  She was also tough on terrorism, both by the Irish Republican Party, which led to an assassination attempt by the IRA at a Conservative Party meeting, and Libya.  Thatcher provided support for the American bombing of Libya in 1986.  She opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, sending troops to Saudi Arabia as part of Desert Shield in 1990 before the end of her time in Number 10 Downing Street.

            Baroness Thatcher became a much-sought speaker in both the U.K. and the U.S., where she was admired, authored an autobiography and another book, Statecraft, and established the Thatcher Foundation to promote the free market.

            Lady Thatcher will be given the largest funeral for a former prime minister since Winston Churchill.

            The admiration on the right for Thatcher refutes the childish myth of the Left that conservatives are sexist.  Indeed, she was a heroine of the right and a role model for any female conservative politician. 

Thatcher remains an inspiration to the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom to this day, as well as to conservatives round the world.

            Margaret Thatcher’s legacy is freedom – freedom from Communism, Socialism, terrorism and aggression.  May her policies endure and may she continue to inspire conservatives to champion liberty with confidence.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Update on the Italian Election

There is still no new government for the Italian Republic since the parliamentary elections in February in which no party gained a majority in both chambers.

The center-left party, despite winning a majority in the lower house of parliament, has been unable to form a government because it was unable to gain a majority in the upper chamber.  It tried to form a coalition with the third-place-finishing populists, but the upstarts’ leader ruled out a compromise with any of the other parties.  A half-hearted attempt by the center-left to form a grand coalition with the center-right, which came in second, also failed.  The centrists have expressed a willingness to form such a coalition, but they came in a distant fourth, thereby winning too few seats to be kingmakers.

Meanwhile, the term of the President, Giorgio Napolitano, whose assent is required for a government to be formed, is coming to an end in mid-May.  He has insisted he will not seek another term, despite the hung parliament.  Instead, Napolitano has appointed ten sages to propose proposals intended to gain a consensus and propose electoral reform, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency, as a way to avoid the dissolution of parliament by his successor – a power he lacks within the last six months of his term – and the calling of a second parliamentary election.

As of the time of this posting, ANSA is reporting a possible planned meeting between the center-left and the center-right to form a grand coalition to break the deadlock, or at least to come to a consensus on a new president.  Stay tuned for updates.

Italy’s political stalemate has taken on global significance because of the continued fiscal crisis of the European Monetary Union.  A new, stable government that could continue to reduce Italy’s debt, but also spur economic growth, would reassure the markets.  

Four-Year Blog Hit Report

There were over 1,230 visits from April 2, 2012 to April 2 of this year, for a grand total of over 5,530 in the four years since StatCounter has been tracking pageviews of my blog.  This total does not include my own visits and only counts as a separate visit those pageviews that are least one hour apart.

Among the most exotic sources of visits to my blog in the last year were Nicaragua and Tanzania.  There have been visits from 106 foreign states, other foreign territories, and all 50 American states and several U.S. territories since 2009.  The most visits from foreign states continue to come from Malaysia and Algeria, whereas visits from American states are more proportionate to the size of the population of the state.  In the last year, the United States Senate, Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the 9/11 Memorial were the most interesting sources of visits.  Visitors have landed on over 300 posts and visited more than 75 others, in addition to those who landed on or visited my blog homepage or archive.  The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization continues to be the most popular post by far, with well over 1,300 visits.  The second-most popular post, Commentary on the Roman Influence on America Exhibit at the National Constitution Center has attracted over 350 visits.  They are among many posts that continue to be viewed.

As I have noted in other reports, Blogger, the host of my blog, tracks many more pageviews than StatCounter, but the latter’s much greater specificity allows for better analysis.

I am sorry that I have posted less frequently of late, as I have been preoccupied with work, local politics and recently had to be treated at the hospital with illness. 

I was saddened by the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  I plan to post a memorial soon.

Thank you for visiting my blog.