Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Look Back

As 2012 closes and as 2013 dawns, I find myself reflecting back on some of the more poignant stories of the year. After all, our past is often a guide to our future. So, let's take a brief stroll and look at a year that was.

2012 was marked as a year of change. We had the revolutions for democracy throughout the Middle East. Egypt, Libya, and Syria started a massive movements to end their totalitarian dictatorships. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets and protested for weeks. Some of the protests were peaceful, while others degenerated into Civil War. But , here's the puzzlement. If , as in Egypt's case, this was a revolt for freedom, then how did Morsi, a member of the rightwing theocratic Muslim Brotherhood get elected? This is not a pro-democracy, but pro-Islamic oriented government; the exact opposite of what the Egyptian wanted.

Morsi, after promising to support religious diversity and support democracy, declared himself virtual dictator, with more power and authority than the former president, Hosni Mubarak. Then after back off, and again promising to support the concept of democracy, proposed a new constitution essentially wiping out freedom for many Egyptians, especially the Christian minority and women. Again, tens of thousands of angry Egyptians took to the street in protest. It was so bad, Morsi and his Cabinet hide behind palace walls and called in the army to protect them.

But despite two votes, the Sharia oriented constitution is ratified. How is that possible? Well, it shouldn't be. There's no way Morsi should have ever been elected in the first place. Secondly, Egyptians, angry at the outcome make a tactical mistake. In protest, they decided to stay home and not vote, thinking that would make a difference. Stupid mistake. In doing so, with only a 34% turnout, Morsi got his supporters to the polls and pass the constitution they wanted, not the one the Egyptian people wanted. Morsi used every terroristic threat he could, including "rape gangs" to keep women at home and men there to protect them (not unlike what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq previously, and is now happening in India). By the way, by staying at home, Egyptian women may lose their right to vote, and with it, just about every other basic human right.

The Egyptians have to learn that democracy means voting no matter the threat, and it's not just voting, it's who counts the votes the matter. That's the only way Egyptians will rise out of their poverty and backwardness to become a great power again. The same can be said of Libya and Syria, not to mention Iran and practically the rest of the Middle East.

Speaking of Libya, another highlight of the year was the Obama Administration's blunder at Benghazi. Here we had a terrorist attack on a US Embassy resulting in a dead ambassador and three aides. The ambassador had been communicating for weeks about the changing situation in the area, but Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of the State and various government agencies ignored the warnings. Even with the assault underway (including a nearby CIA station), Washington refused to authorize any type of military relief, up to and including relieving US Commander, General Carter Ham, of duty when he said he was moving ahead with relief efforts (Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refused to authorize relief efforts. General Ham, head of military command for the region, advised a second time that he was prepared and going forward. Panetta, within 30 seconds, relieved him of command). Despite the overwhelming evidence, the White House continued to deny this was anything but an ad hoc attack by a random group. Even now, the "blame game" continues. Washington must be a very warm place with all the covering up going on.

In America, Barak Obama was re-elected to a second term despite a full on assault by Conservatives, a failing US economy and foreign policy. For years, the Right had been waging a not-so-covert attack on Obama's character, birth, and his alleged "plans" to turn America into a "socialist" gulag. Yet, all the Republican Party could muster was a uber-rich white dude with no charisma and poor communication skills who couldn't even begin to relate to the average American. There was no realistic plans put forward; no attempt to reach out to an increasingly diverse electorate. Was Romney really the best the GOP could do? Seriously? The result was a narrow victory for Obama. The secondary result was to show how of touch the Republican Party was from ordinary Americans. Like with Egypt, I am perplexed at how what was a seemingly forgone conclusion turned into a continuation of the status quo. Reminds me of an old mafia fixed boxing match.

The Tea Party too showed its weakness. After being formed as a "back to basics" political movement, it's become infested with much of the right wing nutterry that has all but destroyed the viability of the GOP as a national party. While there's little hope for the future of the Republican Party in its present form, the question is whether the Tea Party can reinvent itself into what it once was and carry the banner of the traditional Conservatism. Meanwhile, the Occupy movements have turned into a "tempest in a teapot" to borrow a line from Shakespeare. While there's much to legitimately protest, without organization and a plan of action, it will waste its energy like a storm at sea. With the two key groups for change having thus been nullified, the status quo can carry on without further interference.

Sadly, there's been an increasing number of mass murders in America, with 151 victims for 2012 alone. Some involved only a few people, while others involved dozens. Regardless, all were lives lost needlessly. The most recent, and the most painful was at Newtown where evil walked into a school and murdered 26 children and teachers. However, some good may come out of the tragedy with treatment of the mentally ill back in the limelight. For far too long, the mental ill were basically tossed aside as funding for treatment was cut or eliminated. However, darker forces have been stirred too as talk of "gun control" is back as the hot topic in liberal media.

Now, while I agree that the average person doesn't need incendiary or armor piercing ammo or military oriented weapons, the majority of the guns used in these recent killings were not "assault rifles". They were actually typical hunting caliber with fancy stocks to give them the "look" of being military. Nevertheless, those who wish to disarm Americans for their own nefarious agenda, use these tragedies as an excuse to disarm all Americans of their guns. Does depending on the government and law enforcement to show up after the fact or you being able to defend yourself at the time make you more secure? That's the crux of the argument.

While this may seem hard for others to understand, guns and the right to own them are as fundamental to the American psyche as free speech or freedom of or from religion. It was written into our Bill of Rights expressly to protect us from a tyrannical government; something our Founding Fathers feared. Next to our right to openly express ourselves without fear of government reprisal, it is our most important right. Some individuals have voluntarily turned their guns in, mostly in exchange for cash. In these severe economic times, some value cash more than their rights. Perhaps it's part of some grand plan.

Then there is the looming "financial cliff". In yet another example as how dysfunctional our government has become, both Congress and the White House are still engaged in a game of "Russian Roulette" with the gun aimed at the head of the American People. Of course, neither Congress or the White House have any fear of repercussions. They'll merely find some other crisis to divert the public's limited attention, and there is always gerrymandering to partially guarantee their re-election. But not to worry America, we have the best economy of any second tier nation in the world.

As if to throw salt on the national economic wound, Congress quietly agreed to extend portions of the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978" dealing with monitoring, opening emails, unwarranted wiretaps, and surveillance on all domestic and foreign suspects so long as its intended goal to gather foreign information. In exchange, as if a Presidential "thank you", the White House agreed to a pay raise for Congress of .5%. Yelp, while many Americans are struggling to keep their homes, pay their bills, and afford their healthcare coverage, Congress got a nice pay increase. Wasn't that nice of you America? After all, the pay raise was made possible with your tax dollars, which, by the way, are going up again.

Lastly, this article marks the 200th edition of AO. It's been a pleasure to reach out to each and every one of you over the years, and I hope to do so for many more. I hope I've inspired at least some of you to look up and question what's going on around you. It has been my goal to encourage and challenge you to think for yourselves; to step away from the herd and accept that you are an individual capable of thinking your own thoughts and reaching your own conclusions. Remember, John Lennon told us it was "Power to the People", not "Power to the Sheeple". So, as I ask in every blog, what are you prepared to do?

General Losing His Job Over Benghazi

A Guide to Mass Shootings

Congress Extends FISA Wiretapping Act

Obama Order Raise

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