Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Government Funding Deja Vu

The sequester episode brings to mind very bad memories of my government service.  I basically quit the Foreign Service because of the government's refusal to fund things I thought it should have funded in the turmoil around the government shutdown in 1995 and 1996.

In the early years of the Clinton administration, before Newt Gingrich and the Republicans came to power in 1994, two years into the Clinton administration, the US had signed a agreement to provide funding for joint science projects between the US and Poland and other former eastern bloc countries for five years.  When I arrived in Warsaw, the US had already provided $2 million funding for one year, and it provided the same amount for the second year, which was the first year of my assignment in Poland.  But Congress refused to provide funding for what would have been the third year of the program.

A fairly senior Polish diplomat repeated called me into the Foreign Ministry to berate me on behalf of the United States for failing to live up to its obligations.  I told him that if wanted results, he should call in the Ambassador rather than me, but at that time Poland was not yet a member of NATO, much less of the EU, and it did not want to do anything that would damage its efforts to join those organizations.  So, he continued to tell me how upset Poland was at the US default.  Having been raised in the South with a heavy dose of lecturing on the importance of honesty, honor, integrity, etc., the fact that I was the representative of a country that failed to live up to those standards hurt me deeply.

About six months or so after the US decision to abrogate the cooperation agreement, the Ambassador decided that the embassy had no need of a science officer, because there was little scientific activity outside of the cooperation agreement.  He said that I could finish my tour, but I would not be replaced when I left.  A little while after that, the State Department in Washington asked if I would be willing to transfer from Warsaw to Rome to take the science job at the embassy there.  I agreed and was scheduled to leave in a few weeks.

It turned out that the day of my departure from Warsaw to Rome was the day the United States Government shut down, November 14, 1995, according to Wikipedia.   My wife and I had moved everything out of our government housing in Warsaw.  Most of our things had been shipped to Rome, but we had a car full  of clothes and two dogs that we planned to drive to Rome.  At about 4:00 pm, while I was saying farewell to some friends in the embassy, Rome called and said not to come because I had been furloughed and there was no funding for travel.  However, we had nowhere to live in Warsaw and everything we owned was either in transit or in the trunk of the car.

Unfortunately, this reminded me of an experience in the Army during the Vietnam War.  My artillery battery was stationed on a mountaintop at a base called Firebase Barbara, west of Quang Tri, near the Laotian border, where we were shelling the Ho Chi Minh trail.  Vietnamization had started; so, we had no American infantry to defend us.  Instead we had two "dusters," old anti-aircraft weapons systems that shot 40 mm rounds like a machine gun.  The duster crews were always stationed in isolated, dangerous places and had a reputation of having gone native and not being very professional.  One night we got an intelligence report that enemy troops were massing at the base of our mountain, apparently planning to attack us.  I got a radio call from our headquarters telling us not to give the dusters any gasoline, because they were famous for not having any, and it was too hard to get it out to us.  However, it looked like if the dusters could not shoot, we were all going to die.  We made sure the dusters had gas; they blew away the area at the base of the mountain where the enemy was supposed to be assembling, and the attack never materialized.

But that's how it struck me -- that the US Government would rather that my wife and I freeze to death in Poland than provide us shelter.  A government that sends troops into the field and then fails to provide them with ammunition and other necessities is a pretty worthless government, and that's what I thought of our government.  We weren't going to die, but for all the government cared, we could have.  Unfortunately, a similar attitude led to the deaths of the American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, a few months ago.

I tended to be just a soldier in the Foreign Service.  I was not an outstanding diplomat.  The assignment in Rome was a plum, but it had fallen into my lap.  Most people who go to nice places lobby hard for the assignment.  I didn't know much of anything about the personnel in Rome.  I was so mad that this time, rather than be the good soldier and camp out in some hotel in Warsaw, I called Rome to complain about being left on the street.  It turned out that the DCM, the deputy ambassador, was someone I knew from a previous assignment in Brazil.  He said to go ahead and travel to Rome and they would figure out the paperwork somehow.  I did, but that basically ended my desire to serve the US government.  I would not serve a government that abandons its troops in the field.

A diplomat is many things: a journalist reporting on the country where you are assigned, a mailman carrying messages from our government to theirs, but also a salesman, both for American products and for the American way of life.  When the government I was representing fell to some mean-spirited, dictatorial, third-world standard, I didn't want to represent it anymore.

I went to Rome.  One reason they wanted me there was that Italy was assuming the presidency of the European Union, which meant that most of the diplomats in the embassy did double duty, they had to deal with the Italian government on the usual bilateral issues, but also on European Union issues.  The presidency lasts for six months.  I stayed for six months to take care of the extra work, but then retired from the Foreign Service and left.

Hegel Confirmed

Chuck Hegel was confirmed today as Defense Secretary according to the Wall Street Journal.  The article cites Hegel's positions on Israel and Iran as obstacles to his nomination.  Iran is really a subset of the Israel issue, since Iran is much more of a military threat to Israel than to the US.  I have been upset that his nomination was being blocked by Jews who were more concerned about Israel than the US.  However, in the final vote, most of the Jews in the Senate are Democrats who vote for Hegel, while the good-old-boy,
Christian, conservative Republicans voted against him.  The one favor that some of them did was to vote against filibustering his nomination.  Many of these conservative, Christian Republicans were responding to urging by the Jewish lobby AIPAC, which represents the conservative wing of Israeli politics.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jewish Vendetta

This Politico article reinforces the impression that there is a Jewish vendetta against Hegel for his comments about the Jewish lobby.  It says that right-wing Hegel opponents were seeking a video of a speech he made to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League because they thought it would contain anti-Israel or anti-Semetic comments.  So, the opposition to Hegel seems motivated by those who love Israel more than America and who consider themselves Jews rather than Americans.  But Politico says Hagel said nothing of note to the ADL.  Nevertheless there seems to be a lot of race hatred behind the opposition to Hegel

Friday, February 15, 2013

Gutless Federal Government

Stephen Colbert had great segments tonight on the failure of the US to prosecute anyone in the banks responsible for the meltdown that led to the great recession, although it is going after one rating agency, and Wells Fargo is going after one employee who put slugs in a coin laundry 40 years ago.  But Wells Fargo thinks it is fine to defraud customers of millions of dollars.  No punishment for that!

The S&P rating agency was basically a character reference for the banks, who were the actual crooks.  It was the banks who put together the fraudulent financial packages.  S&P was stupid enough to believe the banks, who lied through their teeth to the rating agencies and there customers.  Is there no penalty for the banks lying in exactly the same way the rating agency did?  The difference is that the banks own the American government, which has become increasingly corrupt.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bloomberg in London

The N Y Times article about mayor Bloomberg's love for London and his big investment there goes against my hypothesis that Jews secretly love Israel more than America. The same may be true for Ralph Lauren, whose fashion inspiration often seems to come from Britain. I am happy about that, but I worry that there are many American Jews, represented by AIPAC, who do love Israel more than America. But fortunately it is not a universal phenomenon.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Too Tough on Jews

Not all Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States, but the Jewish outcry about the Hegel appointment has aroused my worst fears about Jewish disloyalty.

I really didn't think that much about Israel and the Jews until I was assigned to Poland in the mid-1990s.    First, as part of the acculturation process we went to visit the Holocaust museum which was just opening in Washington.  While it was moving, I was not pleased with the criticism of President Roosevelt for failing to come to the aid of the Jews in Europe sooner.  I suppose we will have more museums on the National Mall that are critical of America's history: museums condemning Washington and Jefferson for being slave owners and condemning the US Army for war crimes against Indians, etc.  But the Holocaust did not even occur in America, and none of the victims were Americans.

Then, in Poland in 1995, it was the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, and Clinton and Gore both came to mark different events.  It was all-Holocaust all the time.  There was no celebration of the Allied victory, in which my father fought.  It was just about the millions of Jews who died.  Of course, it's not clear in Poland what the war meant.  The US lost much less than one million killed in WW II.  The Soviets lost about twice as many killed as the 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.  The Jews did not really fight.  One of the biggest Jewish battles was the Warsaw ghetto uprising, but that uprising was insignificant compared to the Warsaw uprising by the whole city's population.  The ghetto uprising was put down fairly easily by the Germans; the Warsaw uprising led to the destruction of the whole city during the fierce battle with the Germans.

Of course, the Allies never made it to Poland; they hardly made it to Berlin.  The Soviet Union ended up controlling Poland.  It's questionable whether Britain and the US could have defeated Germany without the Soviet Union, which suffered horrendous casualties.  So, the Poles didn't have much to celebrate about the Allied victory.  The Jews didn't have much to celebrate either, except of the fact that some survived and wnt on to post-WW II lives, often in the US or Israel.  During the commemorations, I was not put off by those who had actually survived the death camps, but I was somewhat put off by the younger Jews who had not been through the Holocaust.  The survivors seemed to be grateful; the next generation seemed to have an attitude of, "You owe me,"  The West had not responded quickly enough, and they were there to collect for the West's failings.  There was some of the same attitude from the Poles for being abandoned to the Soviets, but in 1995 the were more joyful at finally getting out from under Soviet domination.

In any case, two years in Poland pounded the Holocaust into my head, not always in a good way.  Now Jews want Americans to hate themselves for not invading France sooner during WW II.  And to make up for not doing so, we must pay reparations to Israel, giving them billions and billions of dollars.  And making sure that we do is AIPAC, which is a Jewish lobby as well as an Israeli lobby, because many Jews cannot separate being Jewish from loving Israel.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Many Jews Hate Gentiles, Starting with Hegel

The Hegel confirmation hearings have illustrated Jewish hatred of gentiles.  I don't understand why gentiles like McCain, Graham, and other senators from the South join them in what is essentially self-loathing.  Meanwhile, the New York Times, which is owned by Jews, and which displays its nondiscriminatory policy by running an article about Israeli race hatred directed at Muslims on the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team.   No wonder Republicans hate the Times; compared to the Times they look like Nazi storm troopers.