Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Israel-Mea Culpa


Mea Culpa

Israel formally admitted it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria ten years ago and served notice to others within the region that it would take similar actions again if necessary.
“Israel will not allow the establishment of capabilities that threaten Israel’s existence,” the BBC quoted an official statement as saying, following the lifting of an order banning officials from discussing the operation.
“This was our message in 2007, this remains our message today and will continue to be our message in the near and distant future.”
Israel was widely believed to have carried out the strike on the facility, but this is the first official confirmation of responsibility. Syria has repeatedly denied that the plant in question was a nuclear reactor. In its official statement, Israel said it believes that it was being built with the help of North Korea.
The implicit warning comes amid growing Israeli concerns about Iranian involvement in Syria.

My Wife Elena And I Are Both Survivors Of South American Military Dictatorships And Death Squads-Here Is The Harsh Reality!

A poster asking about kidnapped children in Buenos Aires in 1998.CreditRafael Wollmann/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images
MEXICO CITY — The man who sent my parents to their death, along with thousands of other people, died while under house arrest a few weeks ago. He was 90 years old and serving 14 life sentences. Death has died, and yet it brings me no joy.
In Córdoba, the Argentine province where I was born, death was named Luciano Benjamín Menéndez. I saw him on the street on a winter afternoon in 1996. I was 18 years old, studying at a friend’s house, when my friend’s mother announced, “Menéndez is out on the sidewalk.”
I peered through the window and watched as he stepped out of a car and walked to a house across the street, where his daughter lived. Old age had slowed his stride — he was close to 70 at the time — but he retained the arrogant demeanor of a military officer. His family came out to meet him. No hugs were exchanged.
I was gripped by fright, and for the remainder of the afternoon we stayed far away from the windows.
Running across a person who had committed genocide was always a possibility in Argentina in the 1990s. The dictatorship had ended, but many people had walked free, thanks to the laws, pardons and cunning of later governments that refused to pursue full justice. Murderers bought groceries at the supermarket, torturers waited in line at the bank. I learned that Mr. Menéndez went to the same cardiologist as the mother of a friend.
I had always been afraid of that man with those eyebrows, wide and black like coal. When I was a little girl I was terrified by the stories I heard of the torture and thousands of murders he ordered and oversaw at La Perla, a clandestine detention camp. There was one image of him in particular, clutching a knife in a gesture of rage, that always filled me with horror. That photograph was etched into the collective memory of Argentina, taken just when he tried to kill a group of protesters in 1984, a few months after the military junta lost power.
Mr. Menéndez acted as if he owned the lives of others, and from 1975 to 1979, he did. He was the commander of the Third Army Corps during Argentina’s last military dictatorship, with 10 provinces under his charge. His cruelty was such that he regarded Jorge Rafael Videla, the dictator who had led the charge in the coup d’état of 1976, 42 years ago this week, as “soft.”
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Mr. Menéndez was not a lone madman, though. The Argentine armed forces carried out genocide because they were hired guns at the service of economic and military powers that fleeced the country (the foreign debt went to $46 billion, from $9.5 billion, under the junta). And for that reason they exterminated the people who irked them, like my parents: Ester Felipe, a psychologist, and Luis Mónaco, a journalist. Both were members of the People’s Revolutionary Army. My mother was 27 at the time, my father 30, and I was 25 days old.
When I lived in Argentina I always dreaded the possibility of coming face to face with the people who had murdered my parents and so many other opponents of the regime. Other children of the disappeared, though, wanted to confront them, insult them. And every time they did, we would celebrate over our little moral victory.
My generation grew up seeing these killers not being brought to justice. We felt vulnerable, frustrated and angry. This may sound like an exaggeration, but this frustration seeped into everything. What, we asked, was the point of democracy?
Former Army Gen. Luciano Benjamín Menéndez at his trial in Cordoba, Argentina, in 2010.CreditNatacha Pisarenko/Associated Press
Our frustration gave way to an idea: If the authorities were going to let criminals walk the streets, we would turn the streets into a prison. In 1995, the children of people disappeared, murdered, exiled and imprisoned for political reasons founded the Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice, Against Forgetting and Silence, or Hijos. We would find out the home addresses of these mass murderers, photograph them, then walk through their neighborhoods in a peaceful protest. The idea was to alert the neighborhood: “Watch out, there’s a murderer living here.” We called it “escrache,” which means “exposure.” It was our way of fighting impunity.
We didn’t have to investigate anything about Mr. Menéndez, because we all knew where he lived. Calle Ilolay, 3269, in Córdoba. A one-story house, with white walls and a tile roof. He entered and exited at his leisure, attended official events and traveled around the city without protection, just as he had that afternoon in front of my friend’s house. None of us, however, the tens of thousands of families whose relatives had been disappeared, chose the path of violence.
In 2013 I saw Mr. Menéndez again: in a courtroom, during a trial — the La Perla “mega-trial,” with 52 defendants and 716 victims. I was witness No. 167. When the judge called me to the stand, I stood there facing Mr. Menéndez. His hair, totally gray, was slick with gel, and his eyebrows were still black. What once had been large under-eye circles were now large bags of hanging skin. His eyes were glassy with an icy, pitiless stare.
I testified on behalf of my family, those who were living and those who had died along the way. We, the survivors of a bloody dictatorship, were the ones who pushed the government to prosecute the murderers with the legal guarantees that they had denied our dead.
“Lots of people will be happy if I die,” Mr. Menéndez once said in an interview. But he was wrong. We do not forgive him, nor do we cry for him, but we are not happy, either. We don’t celebrate death. When he died he left cloaked in cowardly silence, never revealing where he hid the remains of our loved ones. His family, however, was able to bury him because he died in a very different Argentina from the one he terrorized. He died in a country that was more just, which was what our parents had wanted.
Mr. Menéndez went to his grave with more life sentences than anyone else in the history of Argentina. And though there are days when I feel that no conviction will ever be enough, the day that he died I felt proud, because I was able to say to my 7-year-old son that his grandparents’ murderer died a convicted man, that the struggle is worth it, that justice is something that can be built.
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Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Water Color From 1976

A Water Color From 1976
Neil Sedaka once sang the song: “I Miss The Hungry Years.” Sometimes hard times leave you with some wonderful memories.
From 1993 to 1994 I lived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Times were hard. The country was in a deep economic recession. Unemployment was above 27%. I had a job as a pharmacy technician at a government facility. I got the job because of the kindness of a judge in Cape Town, by the way. I lived in a humble rented room. I did not have a car. I was able to eat in the officer’s mess at a nearby military base. I was dead broke.
The whole country was in fear and dread. There was a transition from a white minority government to a black-majority government. Many people feared that South Africa would go the way of Zimbabwe, Angola, Mocambique, etc. with the white population stripped of all their money and encouraged to leave.
I was blessed to have a wonderful employer in Captain Alan J. Henning. People were kind to me. I had many friends including the radio personality Shirley Veal, Anthony Brian van der Westhuzen, attorney Claud Knoesen, David Goldberg, and Debbie Louw. When it came time for the first all-race election in South Africa, I was able to go and vote on 29 April,1994. I was a part of an incredible moment in history.
My favorite hangout place in Port Elizabeth was North Hill. It had a remarkable resemblance to San Francisco. In those days, it was very- upscale and I couldn’t afford to even rent a room there. It always had and still has a special place in my heart.
I sometimes buy things from a rare book dealer in Port Elizabeth-Lindsay Christison. His catalogue came out and I made the most surprising discovery. I saw a water color of the North Hill area of Port Elizabeth, I was surprised. I ordered it. It arrived a couple of days ago. It exceeded all my expectations.
Yesterday I took it in for framing. As I worked with Aaron’s staff to design matting and a frame, I shared the story with them. Someone painted a water color in 1976. They had no idea that it would survive for 42 years. They had no idea that their painting would end up half a world away in San Francisco. They had no idea that it would touch someone’s heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Some Inspirational Words From Stephen Hawking


A Dear Canadian Friend Asked: "What's Going On Down There?" I responded:

Dear David:

      What we are seeing right now is the implosion of Donald Trump. I do a swim every morning from 05:00 to 06:30. As you can imagine there are not many Trump supporters in that pool. A report went out that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been fired. My mind raced. What I saw happening next was Assistant Attorney General Rob Rosen being fired and Special Counsel Robert Mueller being fired. It would be Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" all over again." When I got to the locker room and looked at my mobile phone, I found out that Rex Tillerson had been fired. I was sad for him but relieved that we did not have an immediate constitutional crisis.

   I trained for the intelligence function in the US Navy. When you are an analyst, things like troop, ships, and aircraft movements are interesting. What brings you to the right conclusion are very subtle details that many people would over look. A military intelligence person looking at Trump would take note of the following:

1) He is hiring a specialist lawyer who represented Bill Clinton in his impeachment indictment and trial in the senate.

2) Paul Manafort, Trump's ex-campaign manager, is the man who knows enough to tie Trump to Putin and finish him. So far, Manafort has refused to cooperate. He has a criminal trial starting in Alexandria, Virginia in July for tax fraud and bank fraud. The judge in that case warned him that he was facing 10 years in this case and 20 years over in Washington, DC for money laundering, etc. This judge pointed out that Manafort is facing 30 years in prison. Manafort believes that Trump will pardon him for being a loyal soldier. Once he realizes that will not happen, he will have no choice but to cooperate despite fears of "a hit" on he and/or his family from Putin (Like the London attempt on the lives of two Russians.) Once Manafort starts talking, Trump is finished.

3) Look at the congressional race in a suburb of Pittsburgh. It is one of the safest seats for Republicans. It appears that Democrat Connor Lamb has won in an upset. Look at several other prior races with Democratic Party upsets. The mid-term elections in November could very well see Democrats regain control of both the House and the Senate. The stage would be set for Trump's impeachment.

4) Tillerson was a man who was once decorated by Putin for being "a friend of the Russian people." He has been an outspoken critic of Putin and Russia. When Rex made a comment that he believed that Russia was behind the poisoning attempt in London, he was promptly fired. He was replaced by a right-wing lackey who will back Trump up on his Iran policy. The "torture lady" nominated to lead the CIA, might or might not get confirmed. Regardless of what she did in the Bush II years, she was able to keep her CIA job and avoid criminal prosecution.

   Now what happens going forward? As stupid as Trump may be, he already understands that he is "mortally wounded" in the political sense. He will talk tough and be arrogant. His battle will be to stay in office for as long as possible and to save he and his family members from criminal prosecution. He will also play"mad man's bluff" with Iran to intimidate them into making a better deal on nuclear weapons. The Europeans will not go along with him. He will also use his toughness here to intimidate Kim Jong Un. This will have just the opposite affect and deter Kim form making any sort of agreement with him.

    Let us watch what really happened in the Nixon fall from power. What most people do not know is the person who put Nixon out of power was Bush I when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee. Bush I came to the conclusion that Nixon "had crossed too many lines" and had to go. Bush I let Nixon know this and Nixon resigned. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Nixon did not have a deal for a presidential pardon from President Gerald R. Ford when he resigned.

    Nixon left the White House in disgrace. He flew to Southern California on Air Force One. When he landed at an air force base there, he was given a warm greeting by over 50,000 supporters.

    Gerald Ford soon got a report from the Justice Department. Any Nixon criminal trial would take up to two years. The whole country's attention would have been on this trial. It would have torn the country apart. Ford made the decision to pardon Nixon knowing full well that it would end his political career.

   With this case, Pence might be found to be heavily-involved with the Russians and forced out of office. Paul Ryan could end up being president. Either Pence or Ryan would face the same dilemma that Gerald Ford faced over 41 years ago. A trial of Trump and his family would go on for years It would tear the country apart. There would literally be "a right-wing revolt."

   In the back of all our minds is the fear that Trump will order some sort of nuclear strike against North Korea or Iran. Yes he has the authority to do this. What happens in the process to initiate a nuclear attack is Trump gets out "the black bag." He issues orders for specific weapons and targets. These codes are transmitted to a group of admirals and generals who do all the detail work to get the attack carried out. These officers have strict legal guidelines and face murder charges if they carry out an unlawful nuclear attack. One US Air Force general admitted this in a public speech. My personal theory is that Trump already ordered a tactical nuclear strike on North Korea and the officers refused to carry it out.

   I shall close with a Chinese proverb from many centuries past: "May you live in interesting times."

With kindest regards,

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Some Words Of Love For Elena

Who Gets New $415 Billion IRS Tax Deduction?

No One’s Sure Who Qualifies for This $415 Billion Tax Deduction

 Ben Steverman Mon, Mar 12 1:00 AM PDT