Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chinese Communists Defeated by Freedom

Blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guagcheng, made a daring nighttime escape from extralegal house arrest on Friday.  The United States embassy may be sheltering.  According to the New York Times, Chen is “one of the best-known and most politically savvy Chinese dissidents.

After evading the security forces surrounding his home, he was aided by an underground network of human rights activists and travelled 300 miles to Beijing.  American officials refused to confirm reports by the Chinese Ministry of State Security that they were harboring Chen.

The New York Times reports that his escape “represents a significant public relations challenge for the Chinese government, which had sought to relegate him to his home in the remote village of Dongshigu and surrounding him with plainclothes security guards, even though there are no outstanding legal charges against him.”

The Times goes on to say that his escape “poses a major new diplomatic test for the United States – as it seeks to improve its relationship with Beijing.  The case also poses a major new diplomatic test for the United States. In February, the Obama administration was thrust into an internal Chinese political dispute when Wang Lijun, the former top police official from the region of Chongqing, sought refuge in the American Consulate in Chengdu.  Mr. Wang revealed details about the killing of a British businessman, setting off a cascade of events that led to the downfall of Bo Xilai, who was the party chief in Chongqing and a member of China's Politburo. American diplomats said they had determined that Mr. Wang’s case did not involve national security, and he was turned over to Chinese officials, prompting criticism from some in Washington about their handling of the case. Both sides insist Mr. Wang left of his own accord. 

“Administration officials are likely to be far more cautious in handling Chen’s case.  His advocacy for the handicapped and for families subject to forced abortions and other coercive population control methods is widely known in the West. He also became a symbol of the deficiencies of China’s legal system after he was convicted of criminal charges in 2006 in a prosecution that Chinese lawyers — and even some officials in Beijing — felt made a mockery of China’s claims to be developing better legal norms.

“Mr. Chen, according to those who have spoken to him, slipped away on Sunday evening from his home in Shandong Province, where he has been held incommunicado since his release from prison in September 2010.  Ai Weiwei, the artist and government critic who has also been subjected to residential detention, though far less draconian, said he had spoken to a friend who met with Mr. Chen in Beijing on Wednesday. The friend said Mr. Chen had climbed over a wall at night and evaded multiple lines of guards.

“’You know he’s blind, so the night to him is nothing,’” Mr. Ai said the friend told him. “’I think that’s a perfect metaphor.’

“Among those who helped Mr. Chen was He Peirong, a family friend who said Mr. Chen had planned his escape far in advance, staying in bed for long periods of time to trick guards into thinking he was too sick to walk. In an account she wrote on her microblog early Friday, Ms. He said that Mr. Chen had called her after fleeing the village. She said she then picked him up in her car, and they drove to Beijing. By late morning on Friday, Ms. He had been taken by public security agents from her home in Nanjing, according to Bob Fu, president of China Aid, a Christian rights group in Texas. Her microblog account was later deleted.

“A spokesman for China’s foreign minister on Friday said he had no information about the episode, but one intelligence officer expressed bewilderment that Mr. Chen had evaded his local government captors and had probably entered the embassy.

“’It’s still not clear how this happened,” the intelligence officer said. “Was this happenstance, or was it planned this way? Are there others planning to do the same?”

“The timing is especially inopportune for Beijing, given that it is preparing to welcome Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and other American officials next week for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue.  A vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, said Saturday morning that the meeting would go ahead as planned next week. Mr. Cui also played down the Chen case. “I don’t think this issue will occupy much time or focus,” he said, regarding the meeting. “So I have no information for you on it.”

“The escape creates headaches for Washington, which has been eager to improve relations with the Chinese on various economic and security issues. Those efforts have lately paid dividends, with Beijing increasingly cooperating with American diplomatic moves to pressure Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs. China has also shown a willingness to support United Nations efforts to broker a cease-fire in Syria.

“Mrs. Clinton has addressed Mr. Chen’s case on several occasions, most recently in a speech on Asian policy in November that prompted a sharp rebuke from Beijing.

“We are alarmed by recent incidents in Tibet of young people lighting themselves on fire in desperate acts of protest,” she said then, “as well as the continued house arrest of the Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng. We continue to call on China to embrace a different path.”

On Friday, however, the State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said she would make no comment about Mr. Chen’s escape or his whereabouts. The White House also declined to comment, and a scheduled briefing on Mrs. Clinton’s planned visit was postponed.

“Chen Guangcheng is a very strong candidate for asylum,” said Susan L. Shirk, a former State Department official who is now a professor at the University of California, San Diego. “A blind lawyer who is being persecuted for exposing forced abortions? I don’t think there’s any question about it.”

But, as in the exploding scandal surrounding Bo Xilai, the Obama administration has sought to keep itself out of China’s internal politics.

Rights advocates said Mr. Chen was not seeking to leave China, but would try to negotiate his freedom with the Chinese authorities.

“He is reluctant to go overseas and wants only to live like a normal Chinese citizen,” said Mr. Fu.

“Shortly after news of Mr. Chen’s daring escape began circulating, a video appeared on YouTube on Friday, filmed in the days since he gained his freedom, in which he described life under house arrest. The video, in the form of an appeal to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, detailed the abuse that he and his family suffered.

“He told of how his daughter was followed to school by three guards each day and how guards had kicked his wife for hours on end. “Prime Minister Wen, you owe the people an explanation,” he said. “Are these atrocities the result of local officials violating the law or a result of orders from the top leadership?”

“It is not the first time that Mr. Chen has sought to publicize the details of his confinement. Last year, he and his wife were reportedly severely beaten after a video they secretly recorded inside their home was smuggled out of the village and posted on the Internet. Friends say the subsequent abuse by their captors had left Mr. Chen in frail health.

“Mr. Chen, 40, is a self-taught lawyer, who was once lauded by the state media for his work defending farmers and the disabled. But he angered local officials after taking on the case of thousands of women who had been forcibly sterilized in Linyi County. During a brief trial in 2006, he was sentenced to 51 months in jail on charges of destroying property and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic — charges that advocates say were trumped up, given that he was under house arrest at the time.

“After his release, he was taken directly to his family’s stone farmhouse, which was turned into a makeshift prison. His wife, and for a time his young daughter, were also confined inside the house, which was ringed by surveillance cameras, floodlights and a rotating cordon of guards.

Reporters, diplomats and Chinese activists who tried to visit Mr. Chen were violently repelled by guards.
Rights advocates on Friday expressed concern for Mr. Chen and for his wife, Yuan Weijing, who activists said was left behind. Still, Mr. Fu of China Aid said he was optimistic that Mr. Chen
might be able to negotiate his freedom. “The fact that he’s escaped will really shake up Chinese security forces,” he said. “It tells them that they are not almighty God.”

No wonder Chen’s escape leaves this administration in a shaken up quandary – and reported by the New York Times, no less.  Who knows?  The day may come when we will tell Obama and his Progressives that they are not “almighty God.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Call Out the Cheerleaders

The tidings from the most recent Pew Research survey bode ill for federal politicians of all stripes, and also hint and how Americans really feel about Woodrow Wilson’s 17th Amendment.

More Americans trust their state, and even municipal, government to be honest than the federal government.  The statistics about municipal governments seem a bit incredible.  It’s the way Americans felt about the government 15 years ago, according to Pew.  That would take us back to 1997.  The year before, Congress approved the line item veto bill, only to have it struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

James and Susan McDougal, friends of the Clintons were convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the Whitewater case, although Pres. Clinton was never indicted for any crimes, nor was Hilary.  Al Qaeda blew up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and a major welfare reform bill was signed into law, guaranteeing Bill Clinton’s re-election.  Major welfare reform succeeded; Hilary Clinton’s universal health care did not. 

A decade ago, Americans felt similarly about their local, state and federal governments.  No longer.  Today, just one in three has a favorable view of the federal government — the lowest level in 15 years, according to a Pew survey. The majority of Americans remain satisfied with their local and state governments — 61 percent and 52 percent, respectively, according to party affiliation — but only 33 percent feel likewise about the federal government.

In 2002, nearly double that figure, 64 percent, viewed the federal government favorably, and Americans held their local and state governments in similar esteem, at 67 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

There’s the expected partisan gap: A majority of Democrats, 51 percent, view the Obama-led government favorably, compared with 27 percent of independents and 20 percent of Republicans. During the Bush presidency, a majority of Republicans viewed the federal government favorably, while support for it faded among Democrats.

The poll also reveals that more Americans trust their state governments to be honest, efficient and less partisan than the federal government.  The survey of 1,514 people was conducted Apr. 4-15, with a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

The Democrats should be worried that their guy holds a majority of only 51 percent.  Among the vaunted independents, he only has a meager 27 percent, only 7 points above the Republicans, which is really much too high a number for GOP voters.  The number should be something like minus 10 percent.  What were they afraid of?

The good news is state governments are getting better numbers thanks to Gov. Chris Christie, Gary Johnson (a fiscal conservative), and Mitch Daniels.  There’s also more emphasis on state government thanks to the Tea Parties, who believe everything begins in their own backyards.

But never fear; the cheerleaders are in training for the summer campaign season and will be out in force to bolster support for the current administration and cheer on the riots that are expected after May Day.

Time will tell the tale.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rumors of War III

Despite the Administration’s announcement that the War on Terror is over, Glenn Beck’s GBTV documentary, Rumors of War III, presents compelling evidence that is far from over and that we’re being betrayed by our own government.

Among the contributors are Frank Gaffney and Andrew McCarthy. McCarthy prosecuted the Blind Sheikh for his role in the New York City Landmarks Plot and the first bombing of the World Trade Center in the 19902. Gaffney began his public service career in the 1970s, working as an aide in the office of Democratic Sen. Henry M. Jackson. From August 1983 until November 1987, Gaffney held the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy in the Reagan Administration. In April 1987, Gaffney was nominated to the position of U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. He served as the acting Assistant Secretary for seven months, though his confirmation was ultimately blocked by the U.S. In 1988, he established the American Center for Security Policy (CSP).

This didactic documentary limns the increasing appeasement of radical Muslim groups like CAIR (the Council for American Islamic Relationships) which adopt a moderate posture to gain political favor. Viewers learn how these groups take advantage of an American public thoroughly inured to political correctness and use civil rights as a shield to carry on their work.

The report draws direct links between these allegedly moderate Islamic organizations and the present administration, and even Republican administrations. As McCarthy points, when the goal is to establish Sharia law in America, replacing our own Constitution, it matters very little whether the Islamists use EMP weapons or propaganda (with the help of a willing Media).

Gaffney reports that the Iranians are testing EMP weapons in the Caspian Sea. EMPs – electro-magnetic pulse – are nuclear-based weapons set off high in the atmosphere above a target.

The radiation is minimal; the object is to disrupt a targets electronic systems. Planes and cars would crash. Water systems, which depend upon electronic security and operations, would cease to function. In fact, anything electrical would be wiped out. Permanently.

We have a family friend who served in Army intelligence for years who told us about EMPs decades ago. It was scary then, but far-off. Gaffney reports that the Iranians are firing missiles straight up in the air, which he tells Glenn is a certain sign that their object is to fire EMP weapons. Once the weapons explode, there would be no going-back, no return fire because our electronic-firing systems would be wiped out. When Glenn asks the panel if our own military wouldn’t see this thing coming in time to shoot it down, they decline to answer.

Another serious matter is that a member of the Department of Homeland Security turns out to have ties with radical Islamist groups. He had access to sensitive security files, which he took home with him. When Janet Napolitano was questioned by Congress, she shrugged it off, saying she would investigate the matter herself. Yeah, right.

In a radio interview with Glenn Beck, Gaffney said that there were six people connected to the White House who “on the basis of just the open source information had extensive ties themselves to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The technical term for it,” he explained, “the statutory criminal prohibition on it in the U.S. code is something called misprision of treason and what that fancy term means is if somebody either knows or had reason to know that seditious activity is underway, seditious activity like trying to overthrow the government of the United States or destroy Western civilization from within, for example, that is a criminal offense under our laws and should be treated as such.

“And it appears in the code right next to, you know, sedition because it’s meant to say you can’t let this kind of thing happen and not do something about it without being culpable yourself.”

“Misprision, m‑i‑s‑p‑r‑i‑s‑i‑o‑n, misprision of treason,” Gaffney continues.“And it appears in the code right next to, you know, sedition because it’s meant to say you can’t let this kind of thing happen and not do something about it without being culpable yourself. And when you look at the six people we’ve identified, and I think there’s some correlation to the ones you’ve looked at, the six people we’ve identified who either are in the Obama administration, in the White House, in the State Department or elsewhere, the people who are serving on advisory committees, in official capacities at the Department of Homeland Security and FBI and elsewhere, people who are being used for Muslim outreach by various agencies, six people who it is possible to show on the basis of just the open source information had extensive ties themselves to the Muslim Brotherhood, well, these folks are, I’m afraid, very much a part of the problem that we’re confronting that’s keeping us witless, willfully blind or, worse, actively submitting to the Muslim Brotherhood agenda in America.”

Gaffney, McCarthy and the other panelists showed tremendous courage in appearing on Glenn’s program. In 2005, Congressman (Pa.) Curt Weldon, then Vice-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, felt the situation particularly concerning Iran was so dangerous that he wrote a book, “Countdown to Terror.” He published details from an anonymous source named “Ali” chronicling Iran’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons and the help they were receiving from the former Soviet Union.

Suddenly, Weldon was investigated by the FBI on some spurious charges regarding his daughter and some business conduct. He consequently lost his Congressional seat and was never heard from again. However, even Weldon was bamboozled by the moderate Islamic shills and he advocated for streamlining the process for hiring Arab-American intelligence personnel.

“An antiquated process for granting security clearances,” he wrote, “necessary to hire intelligence personnel with skills vital to U.S. national security, can paralyze recruitment. Applicants for employment with the intelligence community must undergo extensive background investigations, and psychological and polygraph testing, before being granted the necessary security clearances.

“However, in practice, the long delays imposed by the recruitment and security review process is doing more harm than good. The process has the effect of excluding from recruitment Arab Americans and other ethnic groups who have language skills vital to winning the war on terrorism.”

That is how even well-intentioned, Conservative, freedom-loving legislators can be misled. Still, Weldon’s instincts about the Iranian threat were right on the money. He perceived well the threat overseas, but not the threat from within, propagated by our Media and the present Administration and its Congressional allies.

Yet everyone is worried that this documentary is a “ploy” by Glenn Beck to get them to subscribe to his network. For God’s sake, people: you subscribe to the propaganda on CNN and MSNBC, don’t you? We used to get the propaganda networks for free. At least, we didn’t have to pay for them because they were subsidized by advertisers, “evil, capitalist advertisers.” Now, thanks to Al Gore, we do pay to listen to their communist advertorials and think nothing of it.

And what if Glenn Beck does get rich? What of it? Wouldn’t you rather see your money go to Glenn, who’ll give you everything you pay for and more, than, say, Bill Maher? Steve Jobs was rich, and we knew it, but we still bought his products, didn’t we? Do you take your kids to see Disney movies? Do you know what kind of garbage Disney produces these days? Uncle Walt must be turning over in his grave. But you still take the tots to see the latest movies, don’t you?

Don’t you think maybe the truth is just a little more important, and a little more worth your time and money, than “Mirror, Mirror”? Or is it because you’re afraid to look in the mirror and see the reflection of indifference and complacency? What did the character of Su Yin say in Love Is a Many Splendored Thing when the communist doctor angrily urged her to look in the mirror and see the truth? “Maybe that’s the difference between us,” she replies. “You look in the mirror and see truth. But I do not think think it shows the truth; it is an illusion.  For in the mirror, everything is backwards. What is left is right and what is right is left.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mayday! Mayday!

Mayday!” is an emergency procedure word  used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications.   It comes from the French phrase, venez m'aider, meaning “come help me!”

We’ve been given warning by Occupy Wall Street, and the Occupy movement, that they will occupy the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the George Washington Bridge on May 1st, or May Day, the official holiday of communism (Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818).

May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half a year from November 1, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European pagan and neopagan festivals such as Samhain.

May Day marks the end of the unfarmable winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations. As Europe became Christianized the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new Christian holidays as with Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and All Saint's Day. In the 20th century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again.

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe. A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning of the Queen of the May. Various neopagan roups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on  May 1st.

The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian pagan cultures. While Feb. 1 was the first day of Spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer. In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary’s month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In this connection, in works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary’s head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning.  Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of “May baskets,” small baskets of sweets and/or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbors’ doorsteps.   Another tradition involved children dancing around the May Pole, with brightly colored ribbons.

In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht  celebrations of pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of a Maibaum (a maypole).  Young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air.  Motto:  “Tanz in den Mai!”  (“Dance into May!”).  In the Rhineland, May 1 is also celebrated by the delivery of a maypole, a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before. The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike.

As Christians transformed this holiday into a celebration of the Virgin Mary, Communists and Labor Unions have re-transformed the day into something less innocent and wholesome.  Commuters trying to travel over the GW Bridge or through the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels will certainly not have roses tossed at their cars but something more noisome.

Occupy Wall Street’s choice of targets - the GW, and the tunnels - is interesting and telling.  These pieces of infrastructure were once the targets of Sheikh Abdel Rahman, as well as other ambitious terrorists intent on making the New York City commute longer, more difficult, and more dangerous than it already is.

But never fear:  the Administration has declared that the War on Terror is officially over.  Commuters need worry no longer.  The George Washington Bridge, from now on will be festooned in brightly colored streamers and spring flowers.  No need for any mayday distress calls.  All will be well on
May 1st.  People will be dancing in the streets.

Won’t they?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Compromise is Bad for America

Rob Eichmann, the Republican state committeeman from Gloucester County, wrote a guest editorial in Sunday’s N.J. Star Ledger about why the Tea Party is bad for Conservatives.  He may as well just have written why it’s bad for moderate members of the GOP.

Mr. Eichmann expresses dismay over the humor of some Tea Party websites in their representations of Obama.  The picture to which he takes exception and is shown in the column depicts Obama wearing a tank-top tee shirt that says, “No Job, No House, No Gas, No Food, No Problem – C’mon, Baby, Gimme One  More Chance.”  He also cites websites that boast of Obama punching bags and Tea Partiers bragging about “shooting Lefties.”  One Tea Party leader, he says, called a woman an “ugly Lib.”  They’ve said much worse about us.

Personally, I gave my nephew a rare Obama bobblehead doll dressed in a money suit, and have Obama and Nancy Pelosi squeezeheads.  Humor is a difficult concept, especially for Liberals when they become the butt of jokes themselves.  They’re not used to it.  As for showing the current president respect, perhaps Mr. Eichmann doesn’t recall George W’s first inauguration parade, when Liberals lined the streets, catcalling to him and throwing garbage at his limousine. 

We’re supposed to be the tea party of tolerance, are we?  Of impeccable manners, even temper, good sports, and door mats for Liberal vitriol?  We’re supposed to shrug when they call us “tea-baggers”?  We’re supposed to hold our pinkies in the air while we drink the Progressive Kool-Aid?  We’re supposed to quiver in our shoes when adolescent independents reprove us for criticizing Obama even while they laugh at The Daily Shows’ daily Conservative barbs?

“Gone are the days when the tea party hoped to be a bridge between the parties of those fed up with politics as usual,” Mr. Eichmann opines. “Nowadays, the tea party is viewed by many voters — especially swing voters — as angry, divisive, partisan and, in some instances, racist.”

Since Day One, the Media has depicted us as angry, divisive, partisan, and racist – in some instances, he admits.  You’re darned right we’re angry and partisan.  But we are not divisive.  We’re simply standing our ground.  The Tea Parties are not responsible for dividing Americans into racial, ethnic, and gender-based entities, all clamoring for their share of the federal pie.

Mr. Eichmann says there was a time when the Tea Party represented hope for conservatism and America, when it was still a grassroots reaction to Liberalism and its overreaching program.  When our focus was narrow, Mr. Eichmann approved of the Tea Party.  But too many volunteers “burst the old pathways of activism, spreading in all directions…Existing group simply couldn’t organize them quickly enough.”  And control us?  No, indeed.

We didn’t need anyone to organize us.  We organized ourselves.  “Without leadership to provide ‘focus’, dozens of local warlords,” Mr. Eichmann writes, “began to call the shots.”  Imagine that?  American citizens taking matters into their own hands – and without Republican bullet points telling us to compromise and negotiate.

Eichmann bemoans the lack of political experience of these “tribes,” many of whom didn’t even bother to vote before 2009.  Gee, why was that?  Could it be the Republican voters were frustrated with compromisers and negotiators?  The Tea Parties don’t democracy, at all, he tells confused independent voters.  We understand enough.  We don’t need lessons on what kind of government we have – a federated republic.   “A representative democracy requires patience and compromise. That’s the way a republic works.”

A representative democracy, Mr. Eichmann, requires representatives who actually represent their constituents’ wishes.  We have no patience with representatives who compromise away our American values or pander to independent voters who don’t even realize that Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house; that the words were spoken by an actress on a Liberal, late-night comedy show.

In voting for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Conservatives were mocked for electing a former actor.  Now, we are mocked by actors for holding Conservative values.  Tea Party members are hard-working activists who deserve better than to be smeared by concocted caricatures drawn by the Media and even moderate Republicans like Mr. Eichmann.

Mr. Eichmann should know we have as much to fear from Bill Pascrell’s Democrat rival, Steve Rothman.  This is what he said, in part, on NJ12 on Sunday:

“I’ve faced down the Tea Party – and they showed up by the thousands.  I held 10 town hall meetings; Pascrell held none.  Ask yourself who’ll bring home the federal money?  Ask yourself who’s the most Progressive Democrat?  That would be me.”

The GOP does not wish to align itself with the Tea Parties and claims that it holds the key to Conservative values.  Compromise is not a conservative value and it is not the way a federated republic works.  If we were to surrender every value, every principle, and every belief to Liberal mockery, Progressive agendas, and Independent dithering, based on adolescent notions of acceptance and peer pressure, we would not be a federated republic at all, nor even a democracy; America would be a socialist tyranny.

Mr. Eichmann and the GOP may fret all they want over the perceived “antics” of the Tea Party.  Meanwhile, we will continue our job of educating the public about the growing size of an encroaching, bureaucratic government and the danger it poses to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wal-Mart: Bribe, Operating Procedure or Blackmail?

“A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets.”  Rose Calvert, Titanic (1997)

A woman’s heart may be a deep ocean of secrets, but Big Government’s is deeper and Big Corporation’s is even deeper.  In fact, Big Government’s ocean isn’t very deep or secretive, at all:  it’s as clear as well water that the current administration intends to betray the U.S. Constitution and transform us into a socialist, if not communist, nation.

 Why else would it have taken seven years – seven years! – for the U.S. government to uncover this “scandal” of Wal-Mart bribing local Mexican officials to come to the surface?  How bright to you have to be to know that Mexico is riddled with corruption?  China is no better, yet they’re our leading trading partner.  Why, who knew that allowing the Chinese to violate patent laws and steal your company’s designs was the price for doing business there?

For that matter, why is this all coming up now?  Are people getting bored with the salacious details of the Secret Service scandals?  Do they need something to new to cover up the fact that Obama failed the initial eligibility test in New Jersey?  That his own lawyers admitted that the long-form birth certificate that he produced in April 2011 on national television, and declared to the American people was the real deal, was a baked fake?

Wal-Mart is well-known for its pro-business, anti-union, conservative leanings.  In 2010, Wal-Mart was the store with largest revenues in the world.  That’s a lot of anti-union money that could help get Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate, get elected.

The news, if you hadn’t heard, is that Wal-Mart is now under investigation.  In 2005, seven years ago, Wal-Mart’s Mexican affiliate allegedly paid local government officials $24 million to dominate the Mexican market.  It’s not against Mexican law but it is against the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Wal-Mart is a U.S.-based corporation.

Wal-Mart’s Mexican unit has 2,100 stores and over 200,000 employees, making it Mexico’s  biggest employer and Wal-Mart’s largest foreign subsidiary.

The New York Times broke the story on Sunday, April 22nd.  In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico.  A Wal-Mart executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexican committed bribery to achieve dominance in the market.  In its rush to build stores, the unnamed executive said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.

The former executive claimed he had been the lawyer charged with obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.  He gave names, dates, and how much the bribes cost.  Wal-Mart sent its own investigators to Mexico City, according to the NY Times and within days, unearthed evidence of bribery.   The Times reporter says the officials found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way:   “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and U.S. laws have been violated.”

The New York Times reported Sunday that a former Wal-Mart de Mexico employee had warned headquarters of the bribes but management shut down an investigation into whether the company had violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“At the municipal level [in Mexico], anyone who wants to open a business, it’s difficult to get all the permits you want to get without paying off low-level officials,” he said.  “It's pretty hard to get anything done unless you spread money around...The quicker you want to do something, you'd better do it this way.”

David Tovar, Vice President, Corporate Communications of Wal-Mart released the following statement on Sat., April 21, before the story was published, a statement that has been met with unease by those in the business world who believe it weakens Wal-Mart’s image:

“We take compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) very seriously and are committed to having a strong and effective global anti-corruption program in every country in which we operate.

“We will not tolerate noncompliance with FCPA anywhere or at any level of the company.

“Many of the alleged activities in The New York Times article are more than six years old. If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for. We are deeply concerned by these allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened.

“In the fall of last year, the Company, through the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, began an extensive investigation related to compliance with the FCPA. That investigation is being conducted by outside legal counsel and forensic accountants, who are experts in FCPA compliance, and they are reporting regularly to the Audit Committee.

“We have met voluntarily with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to self-disclose the ongoing investigation on this matter. We also filed a 10-Q in December to inform our shareholders of the investigation. The Company’s outside advisors have and will continue to meet with the DOJ and SEC to report on the progress of the investigation.

“We are committed to getting to the bottom of this matter. The audit committee and the outside advisors have at their disposal all the resources they may need to pursue a comprehensive and thorough investigation.

“We have taken a number of actions in Mexico to establish stronger FCPA compliance. We have implemented enhanced FCPA compliance measures including:

• robust policies and procedures
• internal controls;
• training;
• enhanced auditing procedures; and
• issue escalation and remediation protocols.

“In addition, we have established a dedicated FCPA compliance director in Mexico that reports directly to our Home Office in Bentonville.

“The investigation is ongoing and we don’t have a full explanation of what happened. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on the specific allegations until we have finished the investigation.

“We are working hard to understand what occurred in Bentonville more than six years ago and are committed to conducting a complete investigation before forming conclusions. We don't want to speculate or weave stories from incomplete inquiries and limited recollections, as others might do.

“Unfortunately, we realize that, at this point, there are some unanswered questions. We wish we could say more but we will not jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.

“We are confident we are conducting a comprehensive investigation and if violations of our policies occurred here, we will take appropriate action.

“Over the last several years, Walmart has focused diligently on FCPA compliance and implemented a series of changes to our FCPA compliance program to further strengthen them. This work is ongoing and continues today.

“As part of that effort, in the spring of 2011, we initiated a worldwide review of our anti-corruption program. We are taking a deep look at our policies and procedures in every country in which we operate. This includes developing and implementing recommendations for FCPA training, anti-corruption safeguards, and internal controls.

“Acting with integrity is the essence of our corporate culture. We have the same high standards of integrity for every associate – regardless of his or her position – and everyone is held accountable for those standards.

“In a large global enterprise such as Walmart, sometimes issues arise despite our best efforts and intentions. When they do, we take them seriously and act as quickly as possible to understand what happened. We take action and work to implement changes so the issue doesn’t happen again. That’s what we’re doing today.

“Walmart is committed to doing the right thing and we are working hard every day to become an even better company.”

In a large enterprise such as Wal-Mart, not only can issues arise, but those who caused the issues can be long-gone by the time any misdeeds are discovered.  Seven years is a long time in the life of a company.  Seven years ago, my former company’s regional office had been through at least three or four vice presidents already, to say nothing of our department managers.  Now they’re all gone.  Good luck with finding any of them; everyone is either scattered to the four corners of the country, making their way up some other corporate ladder, or hoping to climb onto one.

Most companies insist that employees sign a non-disclosure agreement.  If you violate it, you can be sued and even imprisoned.  This attorney enjoys whistle-blower status because he’s reporting an alleged wrong-doing, but he’s doing so long after the chief actors have probably vanished to some non-extradition country.  The only thing this investigation will serve to do is give Wal-Mart, a politically-mortal enemy of Obama and his union backers a black eye in an election year.

Everyone assumes that officers, executives, managers and employees are all on the same page in a Corporation, and to the extent that they sign a non-disclosure agreement about the company’s activities, they are.  But there are as many layers, as many intrigues, as many secrets, as many private wars, as many factions as anything you would find in the vast, bureaucratic hallways of Congress or the Pentagon.  With all the politics going on, it's no wonder Big Business gets along so well with Big Government.

Most very large corporations even have their own secret security forces (Occupy Wall Street has been trying to take out Bloomingdale’s [the store]).  Generally, you don’t mess with the company.  Certainly, lower-ranking employees don’t.   Something nasty is going on within Wal-Mart; of that, you can be absolutely certain.  Corporations can have moles just as governments do.  They spy on one another, infiltrate one another’s corridors, steal away executives and employees, and make criminal decisions at the executive level, then make their getaway with a golden parachute long before the dirt surfaces, leaving the very highest levels of the company with no explanations for what happened.

Very often, the head doesn’t know what it’s left or right arms are doing, and certainly no one is going to bell the cat and tell them.  In any case, the executives are too well-guarded by insiders who will never let a word of the truth get by – until it’s too late.  In extreme cases, a rebellious but honest executive can even find himself pushing up daisies if he gets in the way of a billion-dollar deal.  But more often, such an executive is simply set up.  A drug deal.  Maybe prostitution or a manipulated financial sheet.

All a corporation can do is call out its army of lawyers and public relations spinners and make the best of it.

So, the new Wal-Mart scandal will give the Secret Service agents a breather from their scandal and give the cheerleaders something different to print in their scandal sheets.

Get Off the Bus!

Did you know that the original Ms. Frizzle was kicked off the Magic School Bus but that the teacher’s union insisted she be allowed back on board, and not only be allowed back on board but actually drive the bus?  Even the bus driver said so.

The MSB’s official authors may have credited a science teacher with the inspiration for the books.  They have an army of lawyers who can “prove” it, just as the environmentalists have an army of bureau-scientists to back up their falsified climate change theory.

Ms. Frizzle’s Creator is not amused.  But what can a Creator do?  God created the Earth billions of years ago.  Just how scientists can determine, with the help of some creative science, that the Earth is on a course towards inevitable destruction, driven by those evil humans when humans have only occupied a miniscule space on Earth’s timeline is just an amazing feat of engineering.

Nevertheless, “The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge” is practically a plagiarized version of – Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”  The authors use his same format and plot device of before-and-after photos of the 'devastation' of global warming and climate change.

“Have you heard about our teacher, Ms. Frizzle?” the book begins.  Well, yeah.  Some of us have had a personal relationship with her real life counterpart.  “In case, you did notice, Ms. Frizzle is the strangest teacher in school.”  The real Ms. Frizzle would have a good laugh over that.

She brings in an “old” book about the history of the world – complete with her first name from when she was nine.  “Well, I’ve heard her name is Valerie,” one student notes.  Funny - we hadn’t.  Nor would anyone of her “students” been allowed to use it.

The book has sidebars that are students’ notebook notes.  Clearly, they’d been assigned to read Al Gore’s book.  “Global warming is a rise in the average temperature of the land and water on Earth.  Today, the average temperature is more than one degree F. warmer that it was 100 years ago.”  Of course, that information came before Climategate, which discovered that this information had been wildly manipulated.

As Ms. Frizzle flies her bus higher in the atmosphere, she tells the class that natural phenomena do not explain today’s changes.  Neither do her facts.  One of her students wonders wryly, “Does anything explain what happens in this class?”

Well, yeah, kid; politics.

The real driver of the MSB would never do anything to frighten her passengers, either improbable or outright dangerous.  She would have found a safe way to do even the impossible.  This impostor has the kids jump out of the bus onto sunbeams.  In an attempt to demonstrate the danger of greenhouses gases, she later flies the bus up towards the sun and melts the wings off the flying bus. 

“The bus made a crash landing.”  Excuse me?

Understandably, the kids have had enough.  They want to get back to school, where it’s safer and they can start regurgitating the propaganda.  Their attitude about biofuels has been necessarily been balanced by reality:  Biofuels is made from plants.  While it does emit CO2, it doesn’t emit extra carbons.  On the other hand, using food crops to make biofuels causes food shortages.  And making biofuels uses more energy than they create.

“Ms. Frizzle?  How can we change things all over the Earth?” one lad asks.  We can start right here in the classroom, she replies, calling the mayor, writing to the president, and bossing your parents around.  Ask your town to get a windmill, which will kill all the wildlife, or at least drive them, and your neighbors, insane.

No Progressive children’s book would be complete without the redistribution of wealth.  “Richer countries can help poorer countries get alternative energy!”  “We had finally found out what was causing climate change.  It was mostly people – including us.  We panicked!”

The real Ms. Frizzle would have told the students that all living things are carbon-based and that carbon dioxide is something we emit every day.  But there’s no need to panic, at all.  That’s what Mother Nature created trees and plants for.  There’s a lot more carbon dioxide because there are a lot more people than there were 100,000 years ago.  But there wouldn’t be more people if they had invented machinery to heat their homes, cook their vehicles, and make light.

The real Ms. Frizzle was – and is – a nature-lover.  She also knew how to drive.  This can’t be the real Ms. Frizzle in this book because she advocates communal action over individual action.    In the Q&A in the back of the book, a child asks, “Can a single person really change things?”  The answer is “One individual can’t make a big difference, but millions of individuals can!”

And who’s going to make them?  That’s what the real Ms. Frizzle would want to know.  Ms. Frizzle, the imposter, in the back of the book, has a flag that says, “Going Green.”  The real Ms. Frizzle was always green and conservative, in both senses of the word.  Nature is important, she would tell you, but so are human beings.

Individuals must choose which way to go:  to air dry their laundry or dry it in a machine; to drive a car to work or take the bus; to carry a canvas shopping bag or use plastic (they may be repurposing the plastic bags).  Certainly, businesses should, and have every reason to, conserve resources.  Creating government regulations is hardly necessary.  They would probably be more open to preventing air pollution were it not for the expensive bureaucracy behind the air pollution regulations.  The real Ms. Frizzle was always yelling at her own kids to save money and turn off lights.   She’s still yelling at them. 

She hates seeing trees cut down and wild animals being killed for sport.  However, while she might morally scold clear-cutting developers and hunters, she’d never willingly advocate regulations against them.  Ms. Frizzle knows they’re doing necessary work.  Ms. Frizzle is a staunch defender of the planet and freedom.  That’s why she loves wild animals – because they’re free.

Most importantly, the real Ms. Frizzle – the driver, actually, who had been a reporter, not a teacher – would never, never, never have lied to the students on her bus.  While she was angry about unnecessary pollution, she never taught children falsehoods to advance an agenda against Capitalism.  The ends did not justify such means.  She just wanted businesses and people to be more responsible.  Responsibility begins with the individual and she would have expected that effort to begin with her own students’ efforts at turning off lights and so forth first, not telling other people what to do before cleaning up their own messes on her bus (which they frequently left behind for her to clean up). 

The original teacher was the embodiment of the officious, bureaucratic Liberal school marm; that’s why the driver threw her off the bus.  She didn’t like hearing the truth, especially about propaganda, or being challenged about it.  The real teacher actually had frizzy hair.  The MSB was built to teach children about nature and science without the political moralizing or creating a nanny state.  She never spoke a negative word. 

The bus was hijacked long ago by Progressives with an environmental and social justice agenda.  We won’t even talk about how much money they’re making off that hijacked bus.  They’ve got a lot of nerve talking about redistributing the wealth.

It’s no surprise that Ms. Frizzle is a beloved character (children at a Read Across America event told me so) or that the children in the book find her “unusual.”  The real Ms. Frizzle got dozens and dozens of letters from school teachers whose classes she took on field trips.  The teachers were amazed at the depth of her knowledge and gratified by her love of nature.

The publisher has the legal copyright to the books and the profits.  Some things can’t be changed.  But they don’t have the monopoly on the truth, either about fictional environmentalism or environmental fiction.

And that, children, passengers, and readers, is your lesson for Earth Day, 2012.