Monthly Archives: January 2015

silver cuomo

by Reid Fitzsimons

Recently the Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on predictable corruption charges. Some people expressed surprise at this development, likely the same people surprised to discover liquids are wet or one shouldn’t eat batteries.

New York is ostensibly a state-level bicameral democracy but in reality it is a three-person oligarchy consisting of the Governor, Senate Majority Leader, and Assembly Speaker. The members of this troika usually include a Democrat from the assembly, a Republican from the senate, and one or the other as the governor and it generally rules by decree. The party affiliation doesn’t really matter because the policies and practices never really change. The members of this elusive body of three tend to hang around a long while, like that car up on blocks a few houses down that never gets repaired. Sheldon Silver, for example, has been Speaker for over 20 years. One of his brethren from the senate side was Joseph Bruno, who assumed the high office of Majority Leader in 1994 and remained until he resigned in 2008- soon thereafter he was convicted of fraud but, to be fair, this was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted at a retrial in 2014. I haven’t been to the Albany airport in a while but at one time at least there was a bust of him on display, artistically quite hideous in my opinion and it seemed kind of freaky overall considering he is still living, convicted criminal or not. ...continue reading


minimum mcdonlds

by Reid Fitzsimons

A retired friend of mine, a conservative, expressed his frustration in discussing the drawbacks of raising the minimum wage with his liberal/progressive friends. He felt his arguments were solid but perhaps he was presenting them ineffectually. For whatever reason he has confidence in my abilities of articulation and asked if I would write some basic points that would win over his progressive friends. I have to admit I fully lack economic credentials. I have certainly worked for minimum wage and at times for much less and, along with my wife, have paid the wages of local workers in our Central American charity project, but I never even took Economics 101.

My friend, however, joined by essentially all conservatives, is completely clueless in his rationale: that a reasoned, thoughtful, and logical argument can sway a person engulfed by the progressive mindset. For better or worse, my life experience has afforded me an opportunity to know the progressive mind close-up, and it is indeed hermetically sealed. Trying to describe this is not unlike attempting to describe an odor or color without similes. We’re essentially talking about people with addictions to a worldview that cannot be challenged, and not the kind of addicts who have some degree of insight or even awareness a problem exists. We’re talking about rock-bottom addicts who have permanently scarred their loved ones and otherwise lost everything they ever had and will angrily protest that just a little more scotch or cocaine will be their redemption. We are talking about minds so closed that undeniable direct evidence is dismissed with contempt, suspicion, and hostility. ...continue reading

drone result edit

During the Bush administration, suspected terrorists were captured, imprisoned and interrogated. Some critics (including Obama) argued that it would be better to view terrorist acts as crimes needing prosecution and punishment rather than as acts of war needing retaliation. Now the Obama administration, eschewing American soldiers on the ground and imprisonment or interrogation without “due process”, is relying instead on blowing up the terrorists in drone attacks. There is a tactical difference, and a legal similarity, between the two approaches. The difference is that the live prisoners at least had the possibility of revealing important information, whereas the corpses at the drone attack site do not. The similarity is that the death penalties meted out to the drone attack targets and their friends also lack legal “due process” and trial in a civilian court with lawyers present. To me those were, and still are, interesting topics, but it seems that many who found them interesting during the Bush administration are not interested in thinking and talking about them now. Why is that? Forward progress in developing our morality and ethics seems to be stalled.

However, progress in science and technology continues. (Actually, it seems to me that that disparity is at least 500 years old now. During that period, progress in science has been real, whereas progress in ethics has been mostly imaginary, existing mostly in human imaginations as an artifact of human narcissism.) Because of aerospace science, the US President will soon be able to deploy a small fleet of Lockeed-Martin / Kaman “K-MAX” unmanned external-load helicopters “as-is”, carrying a squadron of weaponized Lockheed-Martin unmanned “SMSS” vehicles The K-MAXes will drop the SMSSes near the target, and they will carry out their attack against a terrorist wedding, or whatever. After the “battle”, the K-MAXes will be able to go in to retrieve the surviving SMSSes and airlift them back to base, with no American humans being physically present for any of it. The unrecovered vehicles will be taken by the “enemy” to Iran for reverse-engineering, to discover and duplicate the latest tech secrets used in their design. However, one capability is still missing: that tactical plan does not yet include the option of capturing any suspects alive, imprisoning them, and interrogating them. Aerospace science "progress" means for military applications what it has meant for the last 100 years: increased ability to kill along with reduced risk of dying. But Augustine and Aquinas, cited by Obama during his Peace Prize acceptance speech, would not view that as "progress" at all. Hundreds of years ago, both of those guys viewed killing as far more problematic than dying.

Maybe all of that is OK from a “liberal” point of view, as long as no American soldiers are killed or injured, and none of the corpses are at any point subject to imprisonment or interrogation without due process. Maybe the meaning of the term “liberal” is changing over time, like everything else.

I suspect that living in Africa has enhanced my ability to imagine an attack like that from the point of view of the targets, and to extrapolate from that viewpoint what the long-term impact of it might be on America’s reputation in the world, and American success in the global war on terror. An obvious part of it will be the spread of the sentiment: those Americans who just send their demonic death machines to kill us, and are afraid to come out and fight us themselves, are the worst kind of vile cowards. But I’m just an ordinary guy, whose viewpoint does not matter much. For Samantha Power, current US Ambassador to the UN, it matters a lot, when she finds herself (for example) recommending to the President and to the UN that we keep soldiers out of Libya, but launch air attacks against one side in the Libyan civil war. From a distance I watch Samantha and try to see what she is seeing, but my perception of it remains unclear.



Imagine a cathedral crammed with 2000 unarmed civilians, all terrified that they are about to be killed by the screaming crowd outside, who are waving the machetes which they intend to use for the killing. Then imagine a thin line of 20 armed UN peacekeepers, equally terrified but well-equipped and well-commanded, dispersed around the entrances to the cathedral, carrying out their assignment to protect the people inside the cathedral from the ones outside. Understand this about the protesters outside: they believe that they are there protesting for social justice, and that they mean to correct the injustices and oppression accomplished by the people gathered inside the cathedral, and their ancestors. The worst crime of which those “oppressors” stand accused is “racism”, yet the protesters themselves have selected the targets of their current anger based on “race” as they understand it. It may sound absurd to American ears, but the moral and ethical arguments of those protesters is sufficiently compelling, that many of their country’s liberal and social-justice minded Catholic priests support them (although of course the priests are always careful to say about that support, that they would “never condone violence”). The US ambassador in that country is a pacifist-minded Quaker, but he also feels a great deal of sympathy for the plight of the “oppressed” protesters. The government of France also generally supports them. ...continue reading