Monday, January 31, 2011

Keep Manufacturing Quotes - We May Win in Vietnam!

Here's another email:

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis"
Dante Alighieri

General Vo Nguyen Giap

General Giap was a brilliant, highly respected leader of the North Vietnam military. The following quote is from his memoirs currently found in the Vietnam war memorial in Hanoi:

'What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi . You had us on the ropes.  If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two,we were ready to surrender!  It was the same at the battle of TET.  You defeated us!

We knew it, and we thought you knew it. 

But we were elated to notice your media was helping us.

They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields.

We were ready to surrender. You had won!'

General Giap has published his memoirs and confirmed what most Americans knew.

The Vietnam War was not lost in Vietnam -- it was lost at home. The same slippery slope, sponsored by the US media, is currently underway. It exposes the enormous power of a Biased Media to cut out the heart and will of the American public.

A truism worthy of note: ... Do not fear the enemy, for they can take only your life. Fear the media, for they will destroy your honor.
Even at first glance, this email strains credibility.

Let's say that this quote IS from General Giap's memoirs.  (More on that later.)  Most of the time, memoirs are written in one's own native tongue.  Yet, it quotes the phrases, "on the ropes", and "pressed us a little harder".  These are thoroughly Western phrases - I doubt they'd make much sense to most Vietnamese.

But supposedly, they're published in his memoirs, lovingly kept in the Vietnam war memorial in Hanoi.  Let's take a look at the expansive collections of this memorial:

It's a memorial, sure.  But any research would reveal there's no room for a library here.

Okay.  Maybe someone took some liberties in translating these memoirs for Western audiences.  And maybe the author of this email got a little confused when he tried to remember where he actually read this.  Are there actually a set of memoirs where he might have said something remotely similar?

Well, according to the historian Edward Moise, he's never published any memoirs.

I'm calling this quote 100% bogus.

Oh, and if you were wondering...  My dad enlisted in the National Guard in order to avoid the Vietnam war draft.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Terrorist Theme Park?

Here's one that seemed pretty unbelievable.  In Beirut, where people are still recovering from their ill-concieved rocket attack on Israel... this video describes a $4 million dollar theme park:

However, it's confirmed by several news sources.  And you can visit their website here.

And, of course, it's full of the usual double-speak.  With guides making statements like "If the Israelis don't attack us, we won't attack them".

Makes perfect sense.  If you consider "attack" to mean "have any presence in the middle east."

Or if you consider the targeting of civilian complexes (such as airports and hotels) in Israel to be "self defense."

Peaceful "resistance"?  Actions in self-defense?  I think not.

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Islamophobia...

Here's yet another "Stop the Muslims from taking over the world" piece.

I agree with some points.  People who endorse violence to create "Islamic" totalitarian regimes need to be stopped.

But this email piece keeps on repeating the "point" - that moderates are just as guilty as the folks who commit the violence.  Because they're doing nothing.

Nothing at all.

Still nothing.

See?  They never say a thing in protest.


Ignore those links.  Because it never happens.

Because no "moderate muslim" will ever fight to stop the spread of Islamic totalitarianism.

Or, you could do a quick, half-assed google search like I just did and find plenty more.

Well, here's the email.

Just do Dr. Tanay a favor, and don't write him.  Because he didn't write this piece.

Holocaust Survivor's View on Fanatic Islam
The author of this email is Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well-known and well respected psychiatrist.

A Holocaust Survivor's View on Islam

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march... It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous.
Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:

Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.

Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts -- the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world-wide, read this and think about it, and send it on - before it's too late.

Emanuel Tanay, M.D. 2980 Provincial St. Ann Arbor , MI 48104
*Dr. Emanuel Tanay MD is a well-known forensic psychiatrist who has been an expert witness in many famous cases. He has served as an officer or committee member on the Michigan Psychiatric Society, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and others. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and of the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry and a distinguished fellow of the APA and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFC).
A Holocaust survivor himself, Dr Tanay coauthored a book about the survivors of the Holocaust and was asked by the German governmen t to consult on just compensation for the Holocaust survivors. Dr. Tanay has served on several journal editorial boards, authored many publications, and presented countless times on forensic medicine. His efforts have also produced many awards and commendations from groups such as the Michigan State Medical Society, APA, the Detroit Institute of Technology, and AAFC, among others.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Frequently Assumed Falsehoods: Congressional Retirement

Next, I'd like to talk about that next frequently-emailed complaint about congress: Their pension scheme.

And I've seen some whoppers.  Some emails have claimed that senators, after one disgraced year in congress, are immediately able to retire for over $15,000/month.

Now that seems unreal.  And it is.

The fact is, anyone who wants to see what the congressional retirement plan is can easily find it online.

So... let's take a look.

A tale of two pension plans

Actually, there are two (maybe three or four, if you want to get technical) congressional pension plans.

The first congressional pension plan started in 1920.  Back in those days, there was no social security.  And if you had a decent job, you were usually eligible for a defined pension plan from your employer.

So, in order for the federal government to attract reasonably qualified folks, they had to offer a pension as well.  And so, they did.  And senators, with a few minor tweaks (to reflect the fact that they faced a risky reelection process rather than less-risky professional performance evaluations), recieved the same pension plan that other federal employees recieved.

Well, time marched on.

Social security passed congress 15 years after the congressional pension plan was initated.

Unfortunately, that left legislators in a dilemma.  If someone were forced to pay into social security and the federal pension plan, they'd have to give over 13% of their salary toward their defined retirement plan.  And a lot of the features of these plans, essentially, would have been duplicated.

So, congress, in it's infinite wisdom, decided that most federal workers (including congressmen) were satisfied with the retirement benefits they already had.  And so, they were exempted from donating to, or recieving social security benefits.

Time continued to march on.  The "defined benefit" pension became a much rarer thing in the job marketplace.  Most folks were in 401(k)s, or similar plans.  And folks started wondering whether federal employees should recieve the "defined benefits" that most people no longer recieved.  Or whether they should be exempted from social security.

So, the federal retirement plan was modernized in 1984.

Folks who were initially elected into office before 1984 could choose one of four ways to proceed.  They could:
  • Keep their old, expensive retirement plan, without social security payments or benefits.
  • Keep their old retirement plan, pay into social security, have their costs (and retirement earnings) offset by what they contributed to social security, and recieve social security.
  • Join the new (less expensive) retirement plan, recieve a lower annuity, and be eligible to set aside money in a "Thrift Savings Plan" (similar to a 401k).  Folks in the new retirement program, however, are required to pay into social security, and are eligible for social security benefits.
  • Only pay into social security, and only recieve social security.
Folks who were elected after 1984 are only eligible for the "new" retirement plan, and have to contribute to social security.

This begs the question:  How many congresspeople can grandfather into the old retirement plan?

Not many.  As of this writing, only 9 senators and 28 representatives elected before 1984 are still holding onto their seats.

And of those congressmen, I don't know how many have decided to actually keep their old retirement plan.  Perhaps some more industrious bloggers will call their offices to ask...  but I'll stop here, only quoting the document above when it states that most congresspeople who kept the old plan also decided to utilize the social security offset.

The Pension Plan of the Modern-Day Congressman

First of all, congresspeople starting their first term after 1984 have to donate to social security.  No exceptions.

Now - for the defined benefit.

First of all, in order to collect anything from this plan, congresspeople need to:
  • Have 5 years of eligible federal service.  Either as a congressman, or in another federal job recieving retirement benefits.  So, no, congresspeople unable to hold their jobs for 5 years get no federal pension.
  • Avoid being convicted of certain crimes.  These include treason, espionage, bribery of public officials or witnesses, conspiracy to commit an offense against or defraud the United States, perjury, or subordination of perjury.  So, disgraced congresspeople don't earn pensions.  At least if they get convicted.
  • Reach retirement age.  The conditions are a little bit complex (read the document if you want the full story), but in order to recieve a full pension, a congressperson must be 60 years old.  Early retirement can be taken as early as age 55, with a penalty.  So, no, unless you're old, or you've served 20 years in federal service (with 10 as a congressman), you have to wait to get your pension.
So, after all that, what do you get?  The formula is:
(Average of highest 3 years salary x .017 x years of service through 20) + (Average of highest 3 years salary x .01 x years of service after 20) = Annual pension
So, let's say that a representative (under the "new" pension plan), is elected at age 25 (the minimum age), and retires at age 65.  Assuming that they're retiring this year (again, this is fictional), the average highest 3 years salary is $174,000.  So, our fictional representative is eligible to retire on $93,980 per year.  A nice benefit - but no where near the $15,000/month claimed in some viral emails.

Meanwhile, folks who only managed to eke out 5 years (the minimum needed to collect a pension)?  They earn $19,818 per year at age 65.  Again, not a shabby reward for 5 years work.  But, again, no where close to $15,000 a month.

But What About The Folks On The Old Plan?

I'm not going to go in as much detail here, considering there are only 37 congresspeople eligible for it.  And probably fewer are actually on it.

Under the old pension system, payments are capped at 80% of their final congressional salary.  This would occur after 32 years of congressional service.  So, if such a member were to retire today, they would earn an annual pension of $139,200.

A very nice retirement.  And actually starting to come (somewhat) close to $15,000/month.  But not that close.

So where did these inflated figures of congressional pensions come from?

Beats me.  It's just another frequently assumed falsehood.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Frequently Assumed Falsehoods: Getting Rich in Congress

It seems, lately, congressional pay and perks have been some of the most persistent complaints contained in right-wing emails.

Take this one that my father recently sent:

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. Term Limits.

12 years only, one of the possible options below..

A. Two Six-year Senate terms

B. Six Two-year House terms

C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete

You are one of my 20+. Please keep it going.
The funny thing?  I received this email on January 9th.

One day after Rep. Giffords was shot.

Great timing, dad.

But this email does repeat a lot of viral untruths... so I think it's time I took a break and started breaking this crap down.

Let's start with the most obvious:

I'm a congressman!  Gimme my money!
Very well.  You're doing a job, you are paid a salary.  Fair enough.

This year, congressional salary is $174,000.

You don't need to take all of it.  Many congresspeople don't.  But that's what's on the table.

Sure, that is really good money.  The average american earns around $49,777.

But, then, you have to realize:  We want a rate of pay that will encourage talented folks to compete for one of the 535 seats.  We'd like those seats to be filled by the top 535 legislators in America.  (I said we'd like to.)

Do you think that corporate CEOs would make good legislators?  The CEOs of the S&P 500 had a mean salary of 7.5 million dollars a year.  A congressional seat would be a huge paycut.

How about our country's highest paid lawyers?  They know the law, after all.  I can't figure out what the top 500 lawyers earn - but the highest paid 10% (making them the top 111,697) earn at least $145,600.  The 10th top paid lawyer earned about 12 million dollars in 2007.  So it's in between those figures - probably closer to the $12 million.  Again, this is looking like a pay cut.  And probably, a big one.

Oh, and let's not forget.  You're having a million reporters trying to dig up your personal dirt.  And there's the constant threats by random nutbags.

Hmm... maybe those radical free-market proponents might think about whether raising the salary might attract better congresspeople.  I'm not sold.  But I'm willing to listen.

Okay, salary's good.  When's my next pay raise?
Well, congress has voted against receiving pay raises in the last 2 years.

I don't want to be one of those folks saying "during these economic times...", so I'll let you come to the obvious conclusion of why a salary increase would be a bad political move.

But, our emailer wants more.  He wants a constitutional amendment guaranteeing that a congressman wouldn't vote for his or her own pay raise.

It's a good thing that our emailer identified 27 amendments.  The trouble is - if he read #27, he'd see it's already there.

Yes, congress can vote a pay increase into effect.  But they have to face reelection before they can get it.  And if they're out of line - they can easily be voted out.

So, the writer already has what he wanted - a set salary, with set COLA increases.

He doesn't need a "constitutional convention" for a "congressional reform act".

Come to think of it - you don't need a constitutional convention for a congressional act.  Last I checked, an "act" is a law, not a constitutional amendment.

Oh well.  We'll tackle more of the "frequently assumed falsehoods" in this email soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vatican Blames Jews for Coptic Christian Bombings?

You know?  This viral article wouldn't be so bad.  If it weren't for the headline.
Islamists Slaughter Christians, and Jews Are Blamed
It’s about time for the Church to learn from its mistakes in World War II and instead try speaking out against its true enemies – the radical Islamists who seek to cleanse the Middle East of both Jews and Christians.
Posted By Evelyn Gordon On December 27, 2010 @ 8:14 AM In Contentions |
The recent wave of deadly attacks on Iraqi Christians must have cast a pall over Christmas celebrations worldwide this year. But one can’t help wondering whether it also prompted any soul-searching at the Vatican.
After all, it was just two months ago that a synod of Middle East bishops proclaimed Israel the main source of Middle East Christians’ woes. As the Jerusalem Post reported [1], it “blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring the flight of Christians from the Middle East” and “laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel.” The synod’s president, Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, even implied that Jews had no right to a state here at all and that Israel should be eradicated through the “return” of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees. And though the Vatican disavowed that comment, Pope Benedict XVI also said [2]that Middle East peace – a term usually synonymous with “Israeli-Arab peace” – was the best way to halt Christian emigration.
In reality, of course, the plight of Palestinian Christians pales beside that of their Iraqi brethren. More than half of Iraq’s Christians – hundreds of thousands in all – have fled their country since 2003, after being targeted in numerous deadly attacks. And not even Al-Qaida has tried to link these attacks to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, though it’s not shy about inventing “justifications”: For instance, it deemed [3]October’s bloody siege at a Baghdad church retaliation for an alleged offense by Egypt’s Coptic Church.
Compare this to the booming business scene [4] in Bethlehem, where tourism is up 60 percent over 2009 despite Israeli “oppression.” One astute Palestinian businessman attributed the boom to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to reduce violence – a tacit (and correct) acknowledgement that what previously destroyed the PA’s economy was not Israel, but Palestinian terror. Or compare Iraq’s Christian crisis to the fivefold [5]increase in Israel’s Christian population, from 34,000 in 1949 to 152,000 in 2009.
This month, the New York Times reported that [6] many fleeing Iraqi Christians “evoked the mass departure of Iraq’s Jews” after Israel’s establishment in 1948.
“It’s exactly what happened to the Jews,” said Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, with his family from Dora, a once mixed neighborhood in Baghdad. “They want us all to go.”
It’s eerily reminiscent of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous statement about the Nazis: “They came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me. And by that time, there was no one left to speak for me.”
But there’s one crucial difference. The Church, as the synod statement shows, isn’t merely remaining silent; it’s actively speaking out against the Jews – and thereby collaborating with its own enemies, the radical Islamists.
It evidently hopes to thereby turn the Islamists’ wrath away from Christians. But as the recent attacks show, appeasement hasn’t worked.
So perhaps it’s time for the Church to learn from its mistakes in World War II and instead try speaking out against its true enemies – the radical Islamists who seek to cleanse the Middle East of both Jews and Christians.

Article printed from Commentary:
URL to article:
URLs in this post:
[1] reported:
[2] also said :
[3] it deemed :
[4] the booming business scene:
[5] fivefold :
[6] reported that:
Wait... the Vatican is blaming the state of Israel for the recent Egyptian Coptic Church bombing?  Okay, maybe the article doesn't go quite that far.  But the headline certainly does.

Let's take a second look.  Here's the article about the Vatican Synod.

Date of the article: October 23rd, 2010.

Date of the bombing: January 1st, 2011.

So, the vatican synod blamed Israel for a future bombing of the Coptic Christian Church?

I didn't know they had that power.  If they did, I wish that the Vatican would have had the good sense to warn the church.  It would have saved a lot of lives - a laudible goal in the Christian faith.  At least, the last time I checked.

But if you really wanted to see where the Vatican places blame for the bombing, you wouldn't have to look far.  The Pope himself has issued the following public statement:

"Yesterday we heard with great pain of the ferocious attack against the Christian Coptic community in Alexandria. This vile gesture of death, like that of putting bombs near to the houses of Christians in Iraq to force them to leave, offends God and all of humanity, when just yesterday we prayed for peace and started the New Year with hope."     

So, clearly, the Vatican has placed blame for the bombing where it's due: Upon the bombers. And not the state of Israel.