Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rebuttal to Senate Intelligence Committee Report

Yesterday I posted a blog, which outlined the characteristics of the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report having to do with enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA prior to their discontinuation in 2009. The blog sought to say why the Democrat members of the Committee opposed the techniques and the reasons the Republicans on the Committee opposed the report. Now, however, I want to express my own opinion of the released report.

I believe that the report was obviously political in its essence. In spite of all the ethical, high-minded, patriotic rhetoric coming from the Committee Chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, I don’t believe a word of it. The document was obviously meant to draw one last gasp of criticism against the administration of President George W. Bush before the Republican-dominated Senate and Congress is seated. The publishing of that report would never be allowed by a Republican Senate.

Any government report that is endorsed by only one party with the total objection of the other party is highly suspect of being a partisan, political, statement and not a well-rounded and well thought-out piece of truth finding.

Critics of the report ably point out that the report was submitted to the public without giving a good consideration to the CIA’s statement; and the majority members of the Committee (the Democrats) did not even attend most of the 60 hours of meetings with the CIA designed to explain their side of the questions being considered. The report was published  without first submitting it to the Intelligence Community for fact checking.

The real damage done by the report, however, is the damage it has done to the function of the CIA and other intelligence agencies that seek to keep our nation safe from terrorist attack. No reasonable intelligence agent is going to take any risks to his own safety from damage meted out by government liberals or any other members of the “blame America first” bunch for doing his job of finding terrorist offenders and bringing them to justice. That report has put an end to covert action necessary to run an effective intelligence agency.

The report’s findings of errors could have been used effectively by the government to correct errors without publishing it to the general public and overseas observers and, thus, stirring up a firestorm of criticism against American intelligence agencies. This report should have been used in another way. But…politics comes first!   

On top of all that, production of the report absorbed no less than $40 million of tax-payer money!!

If any of my readers have not read yesterday’s blog, I would suggest that you go to http://manringen.blogspot.com and go the blog dated 12 December 2014.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Is It Torture or Justice?


“…peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Defense of one's self or others could be a necessity, especially when authorized by a legitimate authority.” Saint Augustine
 

The news is full of articles today about America’s C.I.A. interrogation tactics. We learn there is a great difference of opinion about the effectiveness of the C.I.A.’s methods of getting information out of “detainees” at various facilities around the world. How can we know who is right?

Several things can be certain: These “detainees” are not regular prisoners of war. They have targeted thousands of our own civilians and killed them—3000 at one time on 9/11. They have killed their own people by the hundreds and probably more. These “detainees” are not uniformed military soldiers; and in the history of warfare, non-uniformed combatants like these would have been summarily executed as spies and saboteurs. At least one of the detainees worked on the attack of the USS Cole.

How have we treated them? After costing the lives of our own soldiers who captured them, they were “read their Miranda rights?” (Miranda rights are rights for the American people. The captured killers, not being American citizens, do not have any legal rights under U.S. law.) Next, their “legal cases” were transferred out of military courts into the civilian courts—supposedly because military courts are more likely to be too harsh on them. Lately, the government has been transferring the prisoners out of Guantanamo into various places—the last cohort of prisoners were sent to Uruguay—does that make any sense?

Senator Diane Feinstein, in her report believes that interrogation techniques were “cruel, inhuman, and degrading.” Far be it from us to do anything “degrading” to people who randomly murder 3000 innocent Americans!

The Democrats (only) on the Senate Intelligence Committee  issued the recent report on how the torture procedures of the C.I.A. has been so unfair and vicious to these “detainees.” The committee report has specified that

1)      Enhanced interrogation techniques were not an effective means of gaining useful information. The most efficacious method of getting information out of detainees was to confront them with information already known by the intelligence community.
    
  2)  Conditions of confinement were more harsh than represented by the C.I.A.

3)      C.I.A. provided inaccurate information to D.O.J. about the techniques being used.

4)      C.I.A. actively avoided Congressional and executive oversight of its use of interrogation techniques.

5)      C.I.A.’s activities impeded the other intelligence agencies from doing their jobs effectively. Their work even impeded the oversight of the agency’s own Office of Inspector General.

6)      CIA detained people who were not legally authorized for detention.

7)      C.I.A. gave inaccurate information about its interrogation techniques to the media.

8)      CIA ignored criticisms of its activities by internal operatives.

9)      CIA did not evaluate the effectiveness of its interrogation procedures.

10)      Other countries that hosted the detention centers put pressure on the U.S. to quit coercive interrogation techniques.

Ex-Vice President Cheney and other members of the Bush administration, along with a large majority of the American people believed, after the 9/11 debacle that America should protect itself as a top priority; and coercive techniques for getting information out of perpetrators of terror from al Qaeda should be used if necessary. No holds were barred by the American population as a whole, during that stressful time. It has also been true that no organized terror strike against America has taken place since 9/11 thanks to the diligence of the Central Intelligence Agency.

A minority view of Republican committee report by Senators Chambliss, Burr, Risch, Coats, Rubio, and Coburn has asserted:

Minority members were largely excluded from contributing to the final report because they were not given enough opportunity to review the report. Majority members did not consistently attend the meetings set up by the CIA to explain their interrogation techniques. And…CIA’s response of 6/27/13 was largely ignored. The committee, itself, decided not to interview relevant witnesses. The committee report has cost the taxpayers $40 million to complete; and it has no recommendations for further action.

Following is a list of links that bear on the subject of enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA:

1)      Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture http://1.usa.gov/1D3JftU 

2)      Republican minority response to majority Democrat Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture http://1.usa.gov/1qrrxuu

3)      CIA response to Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture  http://nyti.ms/1zpD9zY

4)      Justifiable war theory http://bit.ly/1zYbO6a

5)      Justifiable homicide http://bit.ly/1vYkk6a

6)      Miranda rights http://bit.ly/1zgCT5l

Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it. Philip K. Dick

Ed and Nancy Manring

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Who Is Dominant in the World, U.S.A. or China?

In the United States’ recent “pivot to Asia,” we see our government reemphasizing the fact that our country needs to reassess our relationship to the Far East. A problem of political and military dominance in the area obviously exists.

We, Americans have steadfastly considered ourselves the saviors of the world, as concerning how a country should model itself. Henry Kissinger has recently emphasized in his book, “World Order,” that American exceptionalism seeks to show the world how a legitimate political arrangement should be manifest in all nations. He points out that a legitimate government must provide its people with influence in their government, a modicum of civil rights, and a free and open market for goods and services. It must also provide safety to its people by maintaining an effective military establishment. We see the United States as a “missionary” power filled with the righteous conviction that it must usher the earth to liberty and democracy.

The Chinese see themselves as an anti-missionary power convinced by their own bitter experiences of foreign domination that nonintervention in the affairs of other states is a necessary form of respect. The traditional Chinese view of world affairs is that China has the only proven model of national policy; the Chinese see their country as one that will eventually lead the whole world by setting an example of peace and non-intervention into the internal affairs of other nations. They have a vision of their nation’s eventual dominance, which will come about through their quiet and peaceful attitude built up by their concept of their own moral rectitude.

However, a look at the history of China reveals that the nation has hardly been a model of peace and nonintervention in the affairs of neighboring nations. The history of the Song dynasty (960-1279) and the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) shows that Confucian China was far from being a pacifist state. On the contrary, Song and Ming leaders preferred to settle disputes by force when they felt the country was strong, and in general, China was expansionist whenever it enjoyed a preponderance of power. As a regional hegemon, the early Ming China launched eight large-scale attacks on the Mongols, annexed Vietnam as a Chinese province, and established naval dominance in the region.

In the early fifteenth century, the Chinese dispatched seven spectacular voyages led by Zheng He to Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and East Africa. That Chinese fleet consisted of 27,000 soldiers on 250 ships-which allowed the Chinese to "shock and awe" foreigners into submission. The Chinese fleet engaged in widespread "power projection" activities, expanding the Confucian tribute system and disciplining unruly states. As a result, many foreigners came to the Ming court to pay tribute. Moreover, the supposedly peaceful Zheng He used military force at least three times; he even captured the king of modern-day Sri Lanka and delivered him to China for disobeying Ming authority.

No matter how the Chinese want to think of themselves as passive observers of the world scene, not intervening in the affairs of other nations, it is simply not so.

The American dream of victory for the American model rests in a belief that our enlightened self-interest in the name of the collective good on a shrinking planet will carry the day in foreign policy. What will matter above all is the capacity of the United States and China to avoid fatal misunderstanding. In a state of mutual incomprehension, clashing interests will escalate.

 http://nyti.ms/1vPW9Fb (This is the article by Roger Cohen in NYT 10-20-14. China Versus America)

The Myth of Chinese Exceptionalism by Stephen M. Walt 3-6-14 in foreign Affairs. http://atfp.co/1vQioLl

Friday, December 5, 2014

Is This What America Needs?

William Galston has opined in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal on 2 December 2014 that the following questions must be answered if America is to become the prosperous country it once was.

“If the information revolution is transforming the labor market, how can we bring computer-science courses into every American public school?

“If soaring costs are reducing college attendance and imposing large debt burdens on students, can we use technology to deliver high-quality postsecondary education more affordably?

“If new businesses are a key source of innovation and jobs, what should we do to turn around the alarming decline in startups?

“If basic research is both a public good and an essential foundation for long-term growth, where can we find the public resources for the sustainable investments in research that the private market will not make?

“If the public sector can no longer muster the funds required to meet our infrastructure needs, how can we create incentives for private capital to fill the gap?

“If we want a tax code that favors growth, job creation, and opportunity for average Americans, what are the key ingredients of tax reform?

“If a rising tide no longer lifts all boats, how can we ensure that average Americans share the fruits of 21st-century economic growth?”

Mr. Galston sees all improvements as economic goals. I doubt that the real causes of our national malaise are economic, or political, or social, or cultural, or educational. Our problems, at the roots, are moral and spiritual. Until we regain our spiritual equilibrium, we will never again be a world leader. We need to recognize the Creator of our world and His ways; we need our Savior to become the Lord of our lives. Our country is rife with dishonesty, greed, and unfaithfulness to spouses and family. The American family is missing fathers to guide and admonish the children and to give them examples of faithfulness and hard work. What ever happened to the old-fashioned principles of working hard on the job, earning enough money to support the family, buying the things needed and avoiding overspending? What ever happened to the principles of electing moral leaders to guide our country? What ever happened to the old-fashioned altruism and patriotism that made our country strong in the first place?

These latter things are what our nation needs—all the economic items listed above are necessary, of course; but…they will all take care of themselves if we can only gain the moral and spiritual footing necessary for a Christian society to flourish.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How Can You Effectively Express Your Opinion to the Government?

          The advent of the Internet has made it infinitely easier to express your opinion to government officials. I am not sure how seriously they take the opinion of citizens; but, at least, there is a venue in which we can all tell our representatives just what we think about the work they are doing. Following are some suggestions of how to do it:

          Go the USA.gov. This web site is a central spot from which you can easily contact every government official you have ever heard of. You can contact everyone from the President to the local dog catcher by just choosing the appropriate link.

          Let me give you some useful tips, however, about contacting legislators.

1)   Keep your communication very short; legislators do not have time to read an extensive letter. As a matter of fact, they very probably don’t read anything in your letter; they have staff members who do all the reading. I believe the staffers likely read only the subject line of your e-mails. So…put the essential information in the subject line. For instance a subject line should read something like this—“Vote NO on HR 499, Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibiton Act of 2013.”

2)   Always refer to bills before Congress and Senate by their number. If you cannot find the number of the bill to which you are referring, it is probably best not to write; because the legislator cannot know exactly what you are talking about. Frequently, web sites advocating for or against a certain bill will not give you the number of the bill—if you can’t find it, don’t write.

3)   Of course, sometimes it is prudent to write to a legislator about something other than a bill. In that case, it is perfectly okay to simply state your subject in the subject line and carry on the conversation in the body of your letter.

4)   You can find the number of the bill in question on CONGRESS.gov. You can also read a helpful summary of the bill there, too. Not infrequently, especially in state legislation, you can fine the fiscal impact of the bill. In the fiscal impact you can often find a very useful summary of the bill that is easier to understand than in the formal summary.

5)   Be sure to write to legislators with whom you do not agree—not just the ones who agree with you. After all, it is the opponents of your opinion that you would like to influence.

6)   Mention in your letter how the bill and your suggestion apply to you, personally.

7)   It is often more effective to call a legislator by phone than to write an e-mail. If you do that, call the official’s hometown office rather than the Washington switch board.

8)   If you are writing to a federal official, be sure to write to the President, too. Write to him, even if you are absolutely sure he does not agree with you.

9)   Be sure to remain respectful of your legislator when writing. Don’t make insulting comments.

You can even write to the Supreme Court from USA.gov. Just follow the prompts. To write to the Supreme Court, go to the bottom of their home page and click on Contact. Then, scroll down to Webmaster—a form will appear where you can write your opinion about any matter you wish.  

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

We Need to Look at All Sides of Welfare Programs

          Nancy and I worship in an inner-city church in Cleveland, Ohio. The church is in one of the worst slum districts of the city. It is attended by drunks, drug addicts, homeless people, and vagrants. Last week a man in that church was interviewed about his financial income. He is receiving food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and, perhaps, other forms of government welfare. He was asked where the money for these programs is coming from. He immediately said, “From the government.” He actually believes that the government is the source of his income.

          What the man does not realize is that the government does not produce one dollar of the money it redistributes to the poor. Every bit of that money comes from others who work to produce it and who pay the taxes to allow the government to distribute it to the poor.

          In order to understand the effects of government welfare programs, one must realize that there are always two parts to welfare redistribution programs—there is the visible part and the invisible part. The visible part is far more obvious than the invisible. In this man’s case, the visible part is the man who now has food to eat, a roof over his head, and medical care when he needs it. These are things that everyone can obviously see are quite beneficial. Who would not like to see all these ends accomplished?

          The invisible parts are not nearly so obvious. These invisible parts include the fact that when money is taxed away from the population at large, the taxpayers no longer have money for business improvements, for infrastructure, and for investment in projects that produce jobs. They cannot put that money back into the economy to work efficiently so as to multiply itself by real stimulation of the economy. That money that is no longer in the hands of entrepreneurs who can use it to create the jobs and the sense of self-accomplishment that the poor man badly needs if he would work for it, himself. Real production of real goods and services that can only be obtained by investment in the private economy is delayed or prevented from doing so by the visibly desirable effects of immediately available beneficial results on the poor. Government welfare programs effectively transfers money out of the hands of those who know how to increase wealth and puts it into the hands of those who do not know how to increase wealth. In the long run, this decreases the effectiveness of money that might be used to create jobs. Both the rich and the poor suffer from that effect.

          No thinking, compassionate, person would object to a reasonable government redistribution policy if it were not so extremely large and completely out of hand as it is today. At this time, the total amount of federal and state welfare spending is $10,000 for every man, woman, and child in this nation. That does not include the cost of enhanced welfare payments that does not require the government to tax and spend on the welfare programs, themselves. That is, this amount does not include the amount of money transferred to the poor by direct contributions required of business, e.g., minimum wages, maximum hours and mandatory benefits for employees, and rent control for tenants. (Imprimis October 2014)

The most insidious effect of these government give-away programs is that they leave the poor just as poor in the end as they were at the beginning. They leach away self-respect by making the poor man ever more dependent on more and more government give-away programs.

          Fortunately for the man with whom I spoke, another member of our church has taken him under his arm, so to speak, and provided him with money to pay for attendance at a local trade school in which he is learning skills necessary to become a diesel mechanic.  That is REAL charity. That kind of charity will probably make the man independent and finally allow him to become a self-supporting, independent, and happier man. Unfortunately, there are reasons why many of the church members do not or cannot realize the benefits of getting off government welfare programs any time soon. But…the government’s current policies do not seem likely to encourage many of today’s poor to raise themselves up out of the gutters of despondency and dependency to really make them self-respecting members of society. We need a smaller safety-net program for the truly disadvantaged and disenfranchised citizen.

 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Capitalism: The Best Anti-Poverty Program

The World Bank reported on Oct. 9 that the share of the world population living in extreme poverty had fallen to 15% in 2011 from 36% in 1990. Earlier this year, the International Labor Office reported that the number of workers in the world earning less than $1.25 a day has fallen to 375 million 2013 from 811 million in 1991.

Such stunning news seems to have escaped public notice, but it means something extraordinary: The past 25 years have witnessed the greatest reduction in global poverty in the history of the world.

To what should this be attributed? Official organizations noting the trend have tended to waffle, but let’s be blunt: The credit goes to the spread of capitalism. Over the past few decades, developing countries have embraced economic-policy reforms that have cleared the way for private enterprise.

China and India are leading examples. In 1978 China began allowing private agricultural plots, permitted private businesses, and ended the state monopoly on foreign trade. The result has been phenomenal economic growth, higher wages for workers—and a big decline in poverty. For the most part all the government had to do was get out of the way. State-owned enterprises are still a large part of China’s economy, but the much more dynamic and productive private sector has been the driving force for change.

In 1991 India started dismantling the “license raj”—the need for government approval to start a business, expand capacity or even purchase foreign goods like computers and spare parts. Such policies strangled the Indian economy for decades and kept millions in poverty. When the government stopped suffocating business, the Indian economy began to flourish, with faster growth, higher wages and reduced poverty.

Those who would castigate capitalism in favor of socialism should think carefully: We have a grand example before our very eyes of the effects of socialism. That example is the former U.S.S.R. That country was not able to produce the consumer goods needed by their people. Oh, they were great at building dams and moon rockets; but they were miserable at producing the things that people needed to live. And…they were very bad at providing jobs and motivating their people to go to work to earn a living. America should take the Russian economy as a warning to the U.S. Socialism is a dead end!

(This blog post was redacted from the Wall Street Journal November 2, 1914, the editorial page.)