Monday, May 29, 2017

Thoughts on the Observation of Memorial Day

           Memorial Day is the time to honor all those Americans who died in service to the United States for their independence and liberty. 

            As I have posted in previous years, Memorial Day often gets conflated with Veterans Day, which is the holiday to honor all veterans, living or dead, particularly those who did not die in service.  Note: Armed Forces Day, which is celebrated the Saturday a week before Memorial Day, honors active duty servicemen. 

And as I have also posted, Memorial Day is not a day of celebration, but a solemn commemoration of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for America.  Alas, the day has become for too many Americans a festive occasion, as people wish each other “Happy Memorial Day” and use the three-day weekend in late Spring which has become traditionally regarded as the “unofficial start of Summer” to picnic and engage in other recreational activities, instead of setting aside the day as one of mourning, albeit in gratitude to those who gave their lives for the U.S.

Memorial Day has been observed in late May since after the end of the Civil War, while Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11.  That date formerly was Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of the First World War.  The difference between observing a holiday on the last Monday in May versus a fixed date is that between a three-day weekend versus a holiday that may occur on a weekday in the middle of the workweek, which makes the latter less conducive to travel and recreation.  Furthermore, the observation of Memorial Day in late Spring is more conducive to a more festive occasion than a holiday observed in mid-Autumn. 

I propose switching the observation of Memorial Day with that of Veterans Day.  As Veterans Day honors living veterans, it should be a more festive occasion and could be celebrated accordingly on a three-day weekend in late Spring, whereas Memorial Day ought to be more solemnly observed on mid-Autumn at a fixed date less conducive to festiveness, as it may occur at mid-week.  Late May is as appropriate a time as any to honor veterans while November 11, the anniversary of the end of the First World War, is a particularly appropriate time to commemorate those who died in service.  Switching the observation of these two holidays would allow for their observation to be more patriotic and appropriate than they are currently observed.  

May we recall today especially the sacrifice of those who died for America and strive every day to preserve the independence and liberty that is their legacy.  May God bless America.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jim Bunning, Rest in Peace

           Hall of Fame Baseball Player and Former United States Senator James “Jim” Paul David Bunning died Friday in Fort Thomas, Kentucky at the age of 85.  The conservative Republican was remarkable for his great success in two different careers.

            Born in Southgate, Kentucky in 1931, Bunning graduated Xavier University with a degree in economics in 1953.

            Bunning began his professional baseball career in 1950, pitching in the Detroit Tigers organization.  Detroit called him up to the major leagues in 1955.  He pitched for the Tigers through 1963, the Philadelphia Phillies from 1964-1967, the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1968-1969, the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1969 and again in Philadelphia from 1970-1971.  Bunning, a perennial All-Star, achieved a number of firsts in regard to pitching in both leagues and was a league leader in several categories.  The highlight of his career was his perfect game on Father’s Day of 1964 at New York.  At the time of the rare feat, Bunning had seven children.  He and his wife of 65 years would go on to have two more.  Bunning was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.  The Phillies retired his uniform number in 2001.  He was one of the founders of the major league players union.

After his major league career, Bunning managed in the Phillies minor leagues for five years, starting with the Double-A Reading Phillies in 1972, working his way up to the Triple-A level.  He was later a major league player agent.             

After his sports career, Bunning worked as a stock broker, which he had done in the off-season, as players were not as richly-compensated at the time, before starting his political career.  In 1977, he was elected to the City Council of Fort Thomas.  Two years later, the Republican Bunning was elected to the State Senate, becoming minority leader as a freshman.  He was nominated by the GOP for Governor in 1983, but was not elected. 

Bunning was elected United States Representative in 1986 and was reelected five times.  He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998 and reelected six years later, serving until 2011.  Bunning thus served in Congress for a total of 24 years, evenly divided between its lower and upper chambers.  During his congressional service, just as he was a dominating defensive athlete, Bunning staunchly defended Kentucky’s interests, including tobacco, coal and its military bases.  

            As one of the most conservative members of the Senate, Bunning was especially opposed to wasteful spending.  He was the co-author of the 2004 flood insurance reform legislation, which reduced the costs of federal flood insurance.  Although unsuccessful, Bunning took a stand against increasing unemployment compensation without paying for it with offsetting spending cuts, as I posted in March of 2010, Bunning’s Heroic Stand and Update,  His stand nevertheless served as a good example.  Spending offsets for increased unemployment compensation have become typical ever since.  

            Bunning was also known for his interest in the 2009 congressional investigation into steroid abuse in Major League baseball, over which Congress had extra leverage because of its anti-trust exemption.  The combination of the outspokenness of President George W. Bush, who had been the owner of a major league team, the Texas Rangers, and the congressional investigation over the national pastime led to improved testing of major league players.  Baseball has since been cleaner and safer and thus a better example to younger athletes.  Ironically, pitching has become more dominant as a result.

            The blunt-spoken and stalwart conservative Bunning once remarked that the experience of having been booed by 60,000 fans at Yankee Stadium while standing on the pitcher’s mound had led him not to be overly concerned with negative opinions during his political career.  His fierce competitiveness in sports also carried over to his political career.  

           Few people have achieved such career success in two different careers as did Jim Bunning.  It is noteworthy that, just as he began his sports career in college and the minor leagues, he began his career of elected public service by first getting elected to local office, which is an example for others to follow humbly.  Although he will probably be best remembered for his baseball accomplishments, Bunning’s significant service to his state and country and to conservatism and his party will long be remembered and appreciated.  

The NATO, G-7 and European Union Summits

NATO summit
            The North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced the adoption at its summit of its mission against the so-called “Islamic State,” which has repeatedly attacked several member states.  Many NATO members had already been participating in anti-Islamic State efforts.  NATO also announced better anti-terrorism coordination, particularly the increased exchange of information on foreign fighters.

            NATO unity was undermined, however, by the Trump Administration’s leaks of anti-terror information shared by the United Kingdom and especially by the lack of the expression by Donald Trump of a commitment to NATO’s core commitment to common defense, which has deepened fears by European allies that Trump is too pro-Russian to depend upon the United States to defend them against Russian aggression.  Instead of praising fellow NATO members for meeting the target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense or at least increasing defense spending and contributing in other ways, Trump demanded the U.S. allies pay more, as if NATO collects dues and as if Americans are mercenaries.  He did not acknowledge the vital role NATO plays in defending U.S. interests.  Indeed, the only time NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense provision has been invoked was after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaeda Islamists. 

            Montenegro is joining the alliance in early June.  As I have posted, anti-NATO pro-Russian parties failed to win the election in October while simultaneously a Russian-backed coup d’etat, which included an attempt to assassinate the Prime Minister, failed in the former Yugoslav state.

European Union summit
            At its summit, the European Union reached an accord that balances welcoming and rescuing migrants and refugees with border security, including limits on immigration.

The Group of Seven Major Economic Powers summit
The annual summit of the Group of Seven major economic powers was hosted by Italy in Taormina, Sicily, which is strategically located at the center of the Mediterranean.  Then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who had been Mayor of Florence, moved the G-7 summit to Sicily from his city to dispel negative stereotypes about Sicily and Southern Italy

Russia has been excluded from the G-7 since its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

At the meeting, Trump thanked Italy for its antiterrorism assistance and in regard to its mission in LibyaItaly has been bearing much of the burden of rescuing migrants in the MediterraneanGreece has been among the others most burdened.  The European Union is assisting in the rescue mission.
            The G-7 pledged better anti-terrorism coordination, including in regard to cutting off terrorist funding and limiting terrorist access to the Internet.  

           Note: in addition to the leaks about the British counterterrorism investigation, during his first trip abroad, Trump himself also leaked military intelligence secrets to the leader of the Philippines, who did not need to know them and who then leaked them to the public.  Also, Trump praised the “Filipino Trump” for the latter’s crackdown on drugs, which is most notable for extrajudicial killings of “suspects” by police and citizens.  As I had posted before, Trump praised the Turkish dictator for his grabbing of additional constitutional powers through a rigged referendum.  Such statements undermine American moral prestige.  I had warned about Trump’s authoritarian tendencies in posts before Trump’s election and inauguration.  

Foreign Digest: Cuba, Italy, Turkish Embassy to the United States, South China Sea

Cuba: American-flag-carrying protestor beaten
A Cuban carried an American flag earlier this month at a rally attended by Communist Dictator Raul Castro.  The protestor was beaten and arrested, which demonstrated the continued lack of freedom of assembly and respect for human rights by the regime.  The United States with the people of its neighbor until all the Cuban people are free.

Turkish Embassy to the United States: Turkish guards beat protestors
            Turkish security guards outside of Turkey’s embassy in Washington beat up peaceful protestors earlier this month, apparently at the command of the Turkish Islamist authoritarian president, who had arrived at the embassy grounds during the protest.  The District of Columbia Police had to intervene to protect the protestors, who were attacked on American soil for exercising their freedoms.  Although such an assault is typical in Turkey, it is extraordinary at an embassy to the United States

The Trump Administration has neither condemned the assault by the Turkish guards, nor made any effort to prosecute the guards or at least declare them persona non grata.  The media and private citizens have been identifying the culprits, who should be prosecuted and expelled while the Administration must condemn this unacceptable violation of freedom by a foreign government. 

South China Sea: the United States defends the freedom of the seas
            After a delay of several months, the Trump Administration is now continuing the previous Administration’s policy of defending the freedom of the seas against expansive Chinese Communist territorial claims and threats by conducting freedom of navigation naval cruises through the South China Sea

Italy: reduction of state-sponsored gambling 
           The Italian Republic is significantly decreasing the number of state-owned slot machines because of the harmful social affects of gambling. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Russian-Backed Xenophobe Is Defeated in the French Presidential Election

           The pro-Russian anti-European “nationalist” far-right candidate was crushed in the French presidential runoff election today by the pro-European center-left candidate. 

Both the defeated conservative first-round presidential candidate and the most recent conservative President had backed the center-left candidate over the xenophobe who was supported by the Russian Federation, led by the authoritarian ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin.  The losing far-right candidate would have taken France out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and discarded the Western alliance. 

Donald Trump had favored the pro-Russian nationalist.  The Russians interfered heavily in the French presidential election, as they have elsewhere in Europe and in the American presidential election.  Some of the same far-right Americans and Russian-created fake social media accounts who had supported Trump also supported the French xenophobe.  Since Trump’s election, far right candidates, usually supported by Russia, have lost in Austria, the Netherlands and France, either to center-right or center-left pro-European candidates.   

The incoming French President had been a minister in the unpopular ruling Socialist presidential cabinet, but entered the field of candidates when his party’s candidate failed to attract enough support even to be competitive with the three leading candidates, who included also a far-left candidate.  Although their domestic policy included large tax increases, the Socialists have been good allies of the United States both in the War on Terrorism and in standing up to Russian aggression.  

The French people voted patriotically today against dominance by a hostile foreign power and for the Western Alliance.  May France enjoy independence, peace, security, liberty and prosperity.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Update on the Protests in Russia and Hungary

There were more arrests this week of protesters who were demonstrating against Russian Federation authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin’s plans for a fourth term as president.  Anti-Putin protesters in Russia risk arrest because the dictatorship does not respect the freedom of peaceful assembly.  They are protesting against authoritarianism and kleptocracy.

Meanwhile, the democratic opposition leader was injured by an attack earlier this week that may cause permanent blindness in one of his eyes.  The Russian dictatorship yesterday prohibited him from seeking healthcare outside of Russia.

Another major opposition figure had been poisoned earlier this year, which was the second time he was nearly poisoned to death.  Two years ago, the leader of the democratic opposition was murdered near the Kremlin.  Extra-judicial killings and other attacks, such as poisonings, of regime opponents, journalists and other critics are common in Russia, in addition to false prosecutions.  Hundreds have been killed and many others imprisoned or driven into exile.  In the tightly-controlled police state, the attackers, who certainly are operating on behalf of the regime, are never prosecuted.  

The latest protests in Hungary against the illiberal Hungarian government have also been pro-European and anti-Russian.