Archive for the ‘International Relations’ Category

It’s difficult to understand why law enforcement, city, state, and federal, as well as the President of the United States, took so long to state the obvious about San Bernadino. I just don’t comprehend what is so difficult about seeing this couple, dressed as they were, not being immediately identified as ‘terrorists.’ However you wish to slice it, this was a terrorist act. It certainly terrified the crap out of the people who were being shot and those ducking for cover. With the discovery of the ammunition and pipe bombs in the house occupied by that couple and their baby would indicate preparation for a ‘terrorist’ attack. So we’re at war. Is there anyone in the USA who doesn’t understand that? Are there actually people whose heads are stuck so far up…in the sand that they aren’t aware that Americans are considered by some people who actually live and work here, as the enemy. Take a look at Dylan Roof who thought that blacks were taking over America. Can you understand why an ignoramus like that would think such a thing? Who does he see on television when the President speaks? Who does he see when the Director of Homeland Security speaks? Granted, the kid is probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s probably just a wee bit prejudiced against black folks in the first place. Someone said to me the other day, “I saw a family of Muslims in traditional dress coming in the store and I didn’t panic,” as though that was a major friggin’ achievement. It’s clue time…this country is filled with all sorts of people; some came here to escape terrorism and want to live peaceful lives. Others are here but are nothing but crazy fucking assholes who are influenced by other crazy fucking assholes and who will go out and kill anybody they see who is not dressed or look exactly as they do. They do have sufficient smarts to make certain they kill at a gathering…just walking up and down the street is not going to give one maximum exposure nor maximize your kill rate…riiiight!

To top off our understanding that we are at war, we have public panic purveyors like Donald “I-can-fix-everything-but-I-won’t-tell-you-how-because-I don’t-really-know-what-to-do” Trump. I find it truly difficult to understand how this man became a billionaire. The only thing I can think of is that he bullied his way to riches; he was the loudest shouter in the room; his face got so red, his opponents thought he was going to literally explode and shit would be flying everywhere since he was so full of it, so they gave in. It’s all I can think of. He speaks such ridiculous bullshit that no one in their right minds could possibly believe what he says. And yet, what is he doing? He’s appealing to the frightened, the uninformed, people who don’t know, or care to know, understand or care to understand other cultures. These are the folks who believe that blacks eat only fried chicken and watermelon; they may see hummus in the store so that’s what “they’ eat; Asians eat only fish and seaweed or some other shit like that. They don’t know, and one who preys on their fears such as Trump becomes their hero. The media is proving to be just as gullible. Trump speaks; it’s a sound byte they have to get on the air before the competition. Don’t react; don’t cover, and see how long Trump stays in this race. The media are “feeding Seymour” and he continues to grow. If the media ignore him, Trump will be within his rights to demand an equal amount of time as is given to other candidates; that is his right. However, the minute his talk becomes inflammatory, as it has been through most of his campaign, cut off the microphone; he has overstepped his bounds.

On November 8, 2016, America will go to the polls to elect a new President. That is eleven months from this very day. Should this country, in its ultimate stupidity, elect Donald Trump, I will make every effort to move to Nova Scotia and to renounce my American citizenship. I have little doubt that the world will become a nuclear wasteland before his term of office has ended.

Lone wolf terrorists on American streets will become more identifiable and stopped as we move along in our war. At some point, they will be identified before they enter the country. ISIS or some offspring of it will continue to function in the Middle East. It is only when America says, “Enough, solve your own problems,” that we will be able to breathe easily again. If “secure the homeland” is a dirty turn of phrase, forgive me. However, I don’t want to see more gold star flags hanging in more windows than are already there. We can “preserve, protect, and defend” the United States of America by putting our own nation first and let other nations solve their own problems.

The United Nations appears to be a useless group of foreign representatives suckling at the American teat and little else. Let us move their headquarters to someplace like Belgium, Luxemburg, or Lichtenstein, and see how quickly they dissolve or get their collective acts together to solve the world’s problems. America is too rich and too developed a nation to be playing host to a bunch of spies and neer-do-wells. Is this laissez-faire attitude going to work? No, because it will never receive bi-partisan support, nor will Wall Street allow it to happen. It would be nice to give it an honest try; to attempt to make other nations wholly responsible for their actions. We can’t; we’re America. We’re the supposed 800-pound gorilla in the room. That’s why poor families raise cannon fodder and we cry crocodile tears when they’re blown to pieces. If we really cared about our young men and women, we’d be expanding our efforts to keep them out of harm’s way rather than putting them directly in its path.

We have a great many problems in our own country that are in dire need of solutions. We need solutions to our problem of poverty. We need solutions to our problem of racial injustice and profiling. We need a unified, national police force that is fully trained and fairly paid. We need to stop teaching our children to pass some damned standardized test and teach them what it means to be a citizen of this country. We need more, better trained, and again, fairly paid, teachers. We need term limits for members of Congress to weed out the do-nothings, hangers-on, and radical assholes who somehow find their way into Congressional seats every now and then. We don’t need equalization of wealth, because if you’ve got the brains and ideas, God Bless You for making the money you’ve made, but we do need workers who are paid above a poverty level to build what you’ve designed or to sell what you have made. We need equal pay for equal work. We need to stop treating women like second-class citizens by telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Our problems are tremendous; they’re hard to solve and they will continue to get harder until and unless we take some positive steps to address them. However, remember this: Over half of the Pilgrims who made the voyage on the Mayflower died before a year had passed – OVER HALF – yet the rest didn’t just lay down and die. Seventy-five thousand colonists died in the Revolutionary War; that’s 1 in 20 what we now call Americans. Yet, the men who signed the Constitution didn’t give up and say, “Screw this; take it back England.” No, the problems of their day were no more or less complex than the problems we face today. Sure, the world’s a smaller place, and the problems are terrifying. Problems of the magnitude facing the Pilgrims and the colonials and that guy who lives down the street from you today are daunting, but they can be solved. That’s our job – yours and mine – to chip in and ask what we can do to help solve those problems. No, I won’t give you the Jack Kennedy tag line; you can do that for yourself. I will say a couple of things: “If you see something, say something,” and “Don’t listen to fear-mongers and loud mouthed know-nothings like Donald Trump, because he’s not worth your time.”

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I’m going to use this quote: “During the Iraq War, 4,475 U.S. service members were killed and 32,220 were wounded.”  It’s taken from Journalist’s resource, which also states that as many as 460,000 combatants and non-combatants may have been killed during the war and occupation. That’s a horrible loss of life…but what do we expect?

In Korea, we battled the “red menace,” and the same was pretty much true in Vietnam. In Iraq, we battled…what the hell did we battle in Iraq? We’re we battling to keep the oil flowing? Were we battling because Sadam Hussein was a threat to the United States? Did we honestly believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the means to launch them at the United States and our allies? Did we actually sacrifice nearly 4,500 of our young people because of faulty intelligence? Or is it, perhaps, that we hadn’t had a good war in a while and a group of idiots decided it was time?

Don’t tell any of the above bullshit to the kids who lost limbs; to the moms and dads of the young men and women who came home in a box. Don’t say that America and its friends kicked the crap out of the bad guys and now everything is peaches and cream…because it’s not true. Once again, the politicians have lied to the American public. The sacrificial lamb who threw himself on his sword was Secretary of State Colin Powell. How or why he did it is beyond me. Powell was an outstanding member of the Officer Corps of the United States Army. Somehow, the minions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue blackmailed him into making a presentation that was filled with lies and exaggerations as an excuse to make war on a dictator whom the incumbent President of the United States did not like. While it may have been a bit more complex than that – not really, but I have to make concessions somewhere – the fact of the matter is that we went into another unwinnable war against an opponent who has been fighting itself for somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 years.

Now, today, over this past weekend, Fallujah has fallen back into the hands of Al Qaeda and the Sunnis. America lost 1,500 soldiers to take Fallujah and to keep the Sunnis out. As one veteran asked on the Internet, “what it felt like for ’nam vets in ’75?” Another, a Marine vet, asked, “Why did they have to die?” They’re right. It makes no sense. However, it’s nothing more than we should have expected. It’s the manner in which war is conducted in the Middle East and Americans will never, under any circumstances, understand this type of war.

The Middle East, at least in many parts of it, are tribal. They still stone people to death and cut off the hands of thieves. They hold grudges for hundreds of years and then exact revenge. These people have different value sets than Westerners. By and large, they don’t give a good goddamn about weapons of mass destruction. They fight to keep their tribe together. They fight to keep their mud hut and their family alive. All we have done by going in and “driving out the bad guys” is to piss off the bad guys, helped to unite them into one cohesive unit and bring them back stronger than ever, particularly in terms of their hatred for “The Great Satan.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, says, “No boots on the ground.” That’s great, but at some point, if the government we put into power in Iraq is truly threatened by Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, what are we going to do? How will we justify not saving the people we put in power? What happens when the Iraqi Army looks around and sees their brother soldiers deserting because their families have been threatened? What do we do when it becomes obvious that the only way to stop this is by boots on the ground? Will we go back in, and if so, how do we justify it? There is no justification that can possibly put young American lives in jeopardy again…none. We lost…again. We lost because we are totally ignorant of how these people fight.

People who are old enough to remember still believe that the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. A small intelligence unit, of which I was a part, had just returned from a nine-month tour of duty at the Pentagon. We learned the year after the crisis that we were on the verge of being activated again…bluntly, that was some serious ‘stuff!” Today, we live in a world in which nine countries have nuclear capability, among them Israel, Pakistan, and India, and the last two are not all that friendly toward one another.

It was inevitable that someone would come up with an atomic bomb and that weapons would advance from there. It was inevitable that earth and its population would find some way to completely destroy itself. It’s sad to say that this world destruction may come about because a small group of ignorant people are unwilling to understand the consequences of their actions. Let the tribes continue to kill one another. Let them do whatever it is they wish to do as long as we are vigilant. Our job, America’s job, the job of any coalition forces is not to install governments that are friendly to coalition and American interests; our job is to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of people who will not think twice before using them. Therefore, it is incumbent on the part of the United Nations, as ineffectual as its shown itself to be, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear capability by any more nations around the world. In addition, it should also be the position of the United States that we will no longer be the world’s policemen and will no longer place our young men and women in harm’s way. We’ve shown the way for too many years. Let some other nations step up; if not, bye-bye world!

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We live in techno-world. Is there anyone who has been living under a rock who is unaware of this? Those who believe that their lives are private are also those who use their head as a cork for their collective butts. Much of this we have brought upon ourselves through the use of social media. I have one friend who posts everything on her Facebook page except the number of times she pees during each day. From her Facebook page, I not only know where she lives; where she works; where her husband is employed; the layout of their house; where and when they go on vacation and; the number and ages of her children and where they go to school.  I haven’t even tried to get her Social Security number but it wouldn’t shock me if it’s out there somewhere…and available.

So many people were pissed when Edward Snowden began to unveil what has been going on in many parts of the world, including the United States, for decades. In his Christmas Day message, Snowden noted, “A child born today will never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.” I have news for you, Mr. Snowden, we haven’t had a moment to ourselves in years, particularly if we haven’t deserved to have that privacy…for whatever reason. As America’s population of immigrants has grown, many have become bitter after learning that the “American Dream” is, for the most part just that…a dream. Very few have returned to their native country. Instead, they have developed a bitterness and hatred for the country that has taken them in. Does that sound strange? It shouldn’t. All one has to do is look at the number of homegrown terrorists we have created and what they have done or have tried to do to disrupt he way in which things have been done in our country for years.

I happen to be Massachusetts born and bred, and when I die, I’ll be Massachusetts dead. What the Tsarnaev brothers did last April at the Boston Marathon finish was a perfect example of why I have no problem with the NSA as long as we the people are informed. If greater surveillance means the loss of a little freedom, I have no problem with that. If you want to monitor my calls to Pakistan to talk to a Babson alumnus, feel free. Ahmad is just another guy trying to make a living in his home country…and it hasn’t been easy for him or his family.

Back in the eighties, I was teaching a class in creative problem solving to police officers. It was part of a residential three-week command training course for newly minted first-line supervisors. One of the ways of loosening their minds a bit was to pose situations. Here’s one I always enjoyed using: “The year is 2330; how has policing changed?” The first answer generally was that there would be one unified national police force. However, invariably, someone would say, “Every citizen, when born, would be implanted with a chip that would tell us who they are and where they are at all times.” Whoa, if you think what Snowden has leaked is Orwellian, how ‘bout that chip idea? Remember, these are police officers who are saying this, and most of them are arch conservative in their thoughts. I have mentioned the chip idea to others, and while they find it repulsive, they also admit that “some of them” should have the chip. Your guess is as good as mine as to who “them” are.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother are perfect examples of ‘them,’ but how do we know? How did we know about the Times Square bombing that failed? How have we learned of other terrorists in the United States? How many other plots to bomb subways, national monuments, trains, or buildings have been stopped, and stopped quietly because of what the NSA has done? The answer is that we don’t have any bloody ideas…and we never will. Having a private life is wonderful. I like my privacy as much as anyone; in some cases, probably more. However, if listening to my call to Pakistan – I really don’t make that many – tells Homeland Security to run a check on me, have at it guys, because I don’t have one damned thing to hide. If I did, would I be putting this on paper.

Just as my friend with her Facebook page is so open, so, too, do I have friends who guard their privacy to the other extreme; they wouldn’t have a Facebook or LinkedIn or any other public page to save their lives. That is their prerogative. If they live that kind of life, they will never have to worry about the NSA or any other agency checking on them…that we know of! Electronic intelligence or ‘elint’ has been around since the late fifties. Technological advances have been such that if a government agency, hell, if a dishonest technogeek wants to get personal information from you, they can. I believe it was Will Rogers who said, “Live your life in such a way that you wouldn’t be afraid to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

I would venture to say that those who complain the loudest about having a lack of privacy are exactly those who are doing something their afraid will be discovered. Frankly, I rather doubt that these so-called “spy agencies” are concerned that you’re a closet alcoholic; that you’re a sex addict or that you’re a guy who likes to dress up in women’s clothes, or whatever else you can dream up. There are a lot of weird people out there…”even as thee and me”…as the saying goes.

Snowden is right. What was done was to a large extent wrong. Spying on the heads of state of our ‘friends’ was unconscionable. However, I don’t disagree with keeping an eye on some people within our own nation. If people in our own country decide that they want to disrupt something by bombing it, why should we discourage those who might just lean about it ahead of time by doing a bit of snooping? But, Snowden is also wrong…and he knew it. Otherwise, why would he fly out of the country to reveal what he had to say? As a former analyst, I consider his actions treasonous. As a private citizen who has been out of that business for nearly fifty years, I think he’s a naïve citizen who should have known better than to think privacy still exists today. Hell, look at all of the street cameras in Great Britain, in America, in God-only-knows-where-else. Look at the pinhole cameras that are available for use everywhere.

I just love these ads whereby a security company can allow you to keep an eye on your house from your telephone. You can set the temperature, tell the roast when to turn on, watch the kids come home safely from school, tell the dog to get off the couch, and even watch the burglar steal your television set. And you believe that no one else in this whole wide world can’t tap into that if they so desire? Oh, please.

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“You cross this line, you’re gonna be in trouble!”

“Cross this line and I’ll kick your ass!”

“There is a line you must not cross or there will be consequences.”

“I am drawing a line in the sand. If you cross it, we will take action.”

Now here’s one you don’t hear all that often…”You cross that line and you’re going to get a $50 ticket.”

There are lines everywhere that someone doesn’t wish someone else to cross. Exactly what the hell does crossing a ‘line’ mean anymore? In this world of nuclear super powers, it could mean turning a town, city, countryside, or nation into an unlivable hell for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, there are, we hope, cooler heads that will prevail and prevent that from happening. The downside to that is that the proliferation of nuclear capability appears to be falling into some hands who don’t listen to the cooler heads and who don’t really give a damn.

Whether it’s Syria, Iran, North Korea, Chechnya, or East Bumf**k, somewhere, someone, somehow has drawn a line. I wish to hell we could do the same thing in the town in which I live or to the towns to which I travel. It seems that it’s no longer a case of stopping your car at the painted stop line on the road; now drivers also feel the need to cross the lines that denote pathways for pedestrians to cross, e.g., the idiot this morning who was stopped at a traffic light, halfway into an intersection. This dipstick was totally oblivious to the fact that he was making it damn near impossible for drivers making a turn to go around him. It’s too bad a pedestrian wasn’t crossing and just stepped up and over this @#$%&*’s car. [Please take note of how good I’m being by not spelling out certain curse words; that may change!]

No one appears to believe that lines, signs, or lights mean anything anymore. Obama tells Assad that if he crosses a line, there will be a military strike…why? What does that mean? Why should America care? We keep saying that we don’t want to be the world’s policeman, and then, when the situation arises, guess who becomes the world’s policeman? Why? What is it about us that we feel the need to interfere in a civil war, particularly when we don’t really know who or even if there are any good or bad guys? “Oh, we have to help the rebels because the regime is a dictatorship!” Really? Who are these rebels? What are their objectives? In this particular case, are they even Syrians, or are they Al Quaeda rebels who just want to create chaos in another Middle Eastern country in order to draw the Americans in? Here, again, cooler heads have prevailed; largely I believe because Russia is an ally to Syria and would have felt the need to engage in a military conflict with the Americans if this country had done something of a military nature. This could have escalated into who knows what kind of war and devastation could have come out of that clusterf**k?

Since I have little input and therefore little interest in international affairs, other than getting our troops home safely and hoping that some doofus doesn’t push the wrong button, allow me to focus on the assholes at home…and there are many. We are taught, pretty much from birth, that our life will revolve around rules and – as we get older and can understand the word – parameters. “You can do this but you can’t do that.” We, being the new kids on the earth, tend to stretch these rules and parameters. How much can we get away with before we get our bottoms warmed by a swat from the hand or across the back of the head [as we get older, of course; wouldn’t want to stick our finger in the soft part of the skull]. If mother says, “Bobby, don’t do that. Don’t do that, Bobby. Mummy’s getting upset, Bobby so don’t do that. Bobby, if you do that again, you’re asking for trouble.” This goes on interminably until ‘Mummy,’ in a sense of complete and utter frustration, says, “Okay, Bobby, that’s it; you’re in time out.”  Will somebody kindly tell me what the fuck is ‘timeout?’ Is it like the kid in the television ad who serves his timeout in the kitchen, making a mess with the water; scaring the crap out of the poor dog; throwing pots and pans everywhere, and finally riding his pot-covered head into the refrigerator? If it is, the message there is…”Hey, I sorta like this timeout punishment; I’ll be doing this tomorrow…maybe even later today.” This is the same kid who, if he always gets away with bending the rules at home, is going to test everyone he ever meets, particularly those whom he is supposed to obey. And his parents are the ones who attend parent/teacher conferences and wonder why the teachers tell them their kid’s a little shit…probably not in those words. Teacher honesty and ethics preclude their saying anything quite so honest.

Another scenario might go like this: “Bobby, you do that again, you’re going to regret it.” Bobby does it again…THWACK! “You were warned.” Through the tears, Bobby is thinking, “Hey, that hurt. I don’t think I’m gonna do that again.” If something similar happens again…THWACK, THWACK! The kid will soon learn – we hope – that bad behavior is not acceptable…no timeouts, no continued warnings; one “don’t” and then the strike!

In truth, it can go either way. Parents are only one of the influencers in a child’s life. However, and I believe this sincerely, sparing the rod and spoiling the child is absolutely true. If you set limits beyond which a harsher punishment than “stop it” is repeated every five minutes, what incentive does the child, young adult, older adult, etc., have to obey laws they consider insignificant? Despite lines that have been drawn, these folks just have to see how far they can stretch them.

I know a motorcycle cop in a neighboring town. His kid brother was killed by a speeder. If you pass Paul doing a mile over the speed limit, he’ll let you go; if you’re five miles over the speed limit, forget it…you, my friend, will get a ticket. It will say, “Forty-five in a 40 m.p.h. zone,” and he will be in court if you wish to fight it.

Rules are rules; lines in the sand, whether figurative or literal, are just that, and when they are crossed, punishment should be expected. Was the President right in agreeing to a diplomatic solution to Syria? The jury is still out. Were the American people right in saying, “Oh no you don’t; not again.”? Yes, I believe they were. Let us all hope and pray that all of our international problems can be solved by diplomacy. On the other hand, let’s tighten up on the lines that can’t be crossed…in our country; in our states; in our cities and towns, and; in our own homes.

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Let’s all gather round, sit in a circle, and sing Kumbaya while the Black kid jumps up and down outside the circle screaming, “No,” and the guy who didn’t show up continues to use chemical weapons on his own people. Oh, yeah, it’s a brave new world we have in this 21st Century.

Meanwhile, back in Vatican City, which we all know is the center of the universe, the guy in the white robes is say, “Peace my brothers; peace unto all of you.” Well, Francis, I hate to break the bad news to you, but there are a whole lot of people who aren’t as kind and loving as you are. There are a whole lot of people who love their kitties and their puppies but would slash the throat of a human being just for shits and giggles. The world is not made of cotton candy any more than the moon is made of green cheese.

We don’t know for a fact that Bashar al-Assad is the one who ordered the use of Sarin nerve gas on the people of Syria; we don’t know that Adolph Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews; we don’t know that Mao Zedong ordered the execution of the proletariat; we don’t know if the Mongol hordes were good guys trying to clean things up or if they were just a bunch of thugs…like hell we don’t! If the world really knew what was going on in terms of war, it would elicit a collective gasp that could be heard on tiny little Pluto.

Obviously, American leadership believes that what has happened in Syria deserves some kind of retaliation against the Assad regime. Why? I don’t really have a clue. Is it because chemical, biological, and radiological weapons were banned by “…the international community after World War I and reinforced in 1972 and 1993 by prohibiting the development, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons.” Is it because American leadership believes, with some justification, that the ban on these weapons is being ignored by leaders of other countries? Is it because  countries such as Russia and China, while not in a declared state of war with the West, will foment catastrophes just to see America and her allies drawn into conflicts that will, somehow, weaken them? Or perhaps, just perhaps, countries such as Russia and China would have no qualms about using chemical, biological, or radiological weapons on their own people or anyone else?

Harry Truman did not go to Congress to ask about dropping bombs on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Franklin Roosevelt went to Congress merely to tell them that the United States of America was now in a state of war with the nation of Japan. Congress wasn’t about to turn down George Bush’s request to go to war, not with 3,000 citizens of this country lying dead on the streets. Obama doesn’t have the luxury of having built a coalition of other nations to hit Syria. He can’t go to the UN because Russia and China have already said they will veto any request for retaliation.

Right now, the President of the United States is caught between a rock and a hard place. He told Syria publically that if it crossed a line in its dispute with its rebels, America would kick his ass. They crossed the line. He wants to kick their ass, but he can’t find anyone to stand behind him while he does so…not even in his own country. In other words, his threat was blowing smoke up Assad’s robes. Here’s some free advice, Mr. President: “It’s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.” Obama has missed an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that he means what he says. He may as well call for a special election right now because he will not get one more piece of legislation passed, and he will never again be any kind of a force on the world stage. He has exposed his lack of courage to the world and that is too bad. By his inaction, he has embarrassed the nation. This was one of those seminal moments that will be discussed far into the future, if America now has a future.

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Wynton Marsalis made an excellent point recently. He was talking about the civil rights march on Washington 50 years ago. It wasn’t billed as such; it was supposed to be a jobs march. Marsalis noted that while as many as 25 of the speakers were White, the march is remembered mainly for Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. He said that while that is the quotation that most remembered, he remembered how King tied the races together when he said “…they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

His comment made me realize that in at least one way, America is little different from some of the countries in the Middle East. I have spoken on more than one occasion how we might as well leave Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq alone because they will merely return to tribal warfare when we leave. That may be true enough, but doesn’t that also hold true for Americans. We talk about the “haves” and the “have not’s;” We talk about the Black gangs, the Latino gangs, the Russian and Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Haitian, Dominican, and God only knows how many other “gangs” in the United States. Aren’t they behaving in the same kind of tribal warfare that takes place in parts of the world that we would like to call “uncivilized?” Yet, there are the same trades and professions in those Middle Eastern countries that we have in the United States. Lawyers practice law; doctors see patients; there are nurses and sales clerks, and all sorts of other skills. Perhaps we should stop interfering with what is one of their national problems and begin concentrating on ridding our nation of some of those same idiots who prevent our economy from growing; who kill cities like Detroit, East St. Louis, and so many others. Maybe we shouldn’t be closing our doors to immigrants. Instead we should open a door that leads only one way…out! Let’s use our Homeland Security, FBI, NSA, and all of the other acronymic agencies at our disposal to identify and ship back the assholes that create so many problems. Pareto’s principle, a.k.a., the 80/20 rule, apples beautifully in this situation…it is twenty percent of our population that creates eighty percent of our problems. Let’s determine where that twenty percent came from and ship them back. Oh, wait a minute, you say they were born right here in America? No, no, no, not the people I’m talking about. These are the people who parade their nationalities as badges of honor in their gangs. These are the people we should hunt down and dispatch…oops, I mean export to their native lands. If they brand themselves as African-American, that is unacceptable. African-Americans are Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Sidney Poitier, Rahm Emmanuel, Berry Gordon, Leo Kennedy, Jimmy Proctor, Pat Blackman, Amos Andrews, and millions of others. You don’t know all those names? Well, the last four are people I know and there are plenty more where they came from…good people who want just what you and I want – to be recognized for our skills; to be able to get a good job; to pursue with all of our heart the American Dream, however each one dream.

I don’t know about you, but I never dreamed of becoming a multi-millionaire.  I just wanted to make a comfortable living, get married, have kids who I could send to college – if that was what they wanted – a house that I could pay off some day, a new car every few years, and maybe, just maybe, a place at the beach in my later years, possibly one where I could retire. Pretty high aspirations, eh? Isn’t that basically what all of us are or were seeking? Did you want more? Did you want to be the richest man or woman in the world? Good for you; hope you make it; I sure as hell am not going to get in your way…at least, not until you begin to infringe on my rights. You see, your rights end where mine begin, just as mine end where yours begin. What it means is that you achieve your goals with due regard to everyone else. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, told an audience at Babson College, “Remember, you meet the same people going down the ladder that you stepped on to reach the top.” Is this Pollyanna speaking? Of course not: Life is simple if you let it be. There are struggles of all kinds. How would you like to be Black and face the potential for sickle cell anemia? How would you like to come from a family where every male has died of a heart attack before the age of 50? How would you like to be a woman whose mother and sisters died of breast cancer? Sure as hell makes you feel pretty lucky to have your own life, doesn’t it?

We have come a long way since 1963. Whites and Blacks, Latinos and Asians, Europeans and Middle Easterners who have come to this country to pursue their dreams have, for the vast majority, been able to pursue and sometimes even achieve their dreams. I’m not quoting anyone in particular but I agree with those who say we have a long way to go, and it’s not just the races; we have a long way to go to meet equality among the sexes. Will we ever find or create a Utopian society? No, we won’t. There will always be those who are dissatisfied with their own lot or who want what the other guy has. There will always be jealousy among nations or countries that wish to expand their borders. That’s life on this little blue marble.

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What must the people of many other countries think of Americans? I guess we can now add Australia and its citizens to the list of nations’ citizenry who believe we still ride around with six guns in holsters strapped to our leg and ready to be pulled at the least provocation or just for shits and giggles. Last year I met a massage therapist whose husband was a post-doctoral student at MIT. They had a couple of school-age children, and she was terrified whenever the kids left for school. These people were from Prague in the Czech Republic. She thought that America was beautiful when they first arrived. She told me before they left that she thought it had to be one of the most frightening countries on earth. Gee, that made me feel really proud…NOT!

We have a court system in this country that is completely out of touch with reality. It’s little wonder that police are hesitant about going into domestic violence situations when the judges treat the crime and the criminals in such a cavalier fashion. Getting a restraining order is just about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. Restraining orders will not stop a knife or a bullet or a baseball bat.

“You’re disobeying this restraining order so get out!”

“Here’s what I think of your restraining order, bitch!” Bang, bang, bang.

There’s another side to that coin and it goes something like this…

“…Oh, don’t arrest him; it was my fault.” Real meaning equals “If you arrest him, there goes my meal ticket. He may kick the crap out of me, but he pays for the food for my kids…and our booze and drugs.

My solution is that the first time there is a domestic violence situation, the perpetrator or both get a week in jail and the kids go to social services. If booze or drugs are found, it’s a month in jail for both parties. The second time around is a year in jail and the kids are removed from the home permanently. If there is a third time, it’s a ten-year stretch for both. This is all explained the first time the parties go to court.

Is there another solution? Of course there is. There are many solutions, each of them with their own set of pros and cons. However, the worst solution of all is that piece of paper called a restraining order. It means absolutely nothing. Just ask the thousands of women who have been killed while their restraining order sits on the night stand or the kitchen table. Oh, that’s right; you can’t ask them because they are dead! The cops did their job; the courts failed the complainant.

Years ago, I was going to Nantucket to give a workshop to the police department. The chief picked me up at the airport and as we were sitting outside my hotel chatting, He noticed a couple coming out of the hotel’s lounge. The chief excused himself, saying that both the man and the woman had restraining orders against the other, and he’d better get them straightened out…again…before things went south.

Judges say that the prisons are overcrowded so they have to be careful with the sentences they pass down. Meanwhile, there are over 3,000 people on death row in American prisons. My own state, Massachusetts has abolished the death penalty. Isn’t that rather like giving a license to kill? “Hey, you’ll get three squares and a bed; what’s wrong with that?” Other than the fact that you’ll probably become someone’s bitch inside a month and get the crap kicked out of you regularly, sounds like a sweet deal. Yeah, right.

Are any of these 3,000 plus inmates innocent of the crimes of which they have been convicted? It’s a possibility, depending with whom you speak. The ACLU will tell you that many of them are. The police who caught them will tell you that none of them are. The courts will say that they have received a fair trial and been found guilty and sentenced by a jury of their peers. Who can say with 100 percent certainty who is correct. There are times when democracy just doesn’t seem to be able to make up its mind. In our efforts to be fair, we have become to quote the Spanish, “Que sera, sera,” what will be will be.

If our prisons are too crowded now, what will happen in 50 years, a hundred, pick a number? Will we just keep building more and more prisons? Will we continue to spend billions upon billions to keep our criminal class incarcerated? When will we wake up to the fact that it’s not nice to be nice all of the time? There comes a time when examples have to be made that will scare the crap out of the rest of the criminal population in this country. You may not get the death penalty for jaywalking, but you spit on the sidewalk…bye bye!

I can hear the screams of outrage already, “You can’t do that!” “It’s not right.” Prisoners have rights too.” Oh really; what about the rights of their victims or don’t they count? Perhaps they shouldn’t have been walking to school when the drunk driver plowed into them and killed two or three. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been home when the burglar broke in. Perhaps they should have been making deposits in a different bank when the robbers came in with AK47’s. The job of the police is to preserve and protect the citizenry of their area from people like those above, and for the most part, they do a hell of a job. The job of the courts is to put the criminals away where they can do no more harm. The job of the prisons is to keep the real assholes separated from those who might have a chance of never doing it again…probably the toughest job of all. Oh, and don’t kid yourself, many of the correctional officers in these prisons are just a very thin line from being on the other side of the bars. In sum, our entire judicial system, from the cop on the beat to the justices of the Supreme Court, have not moved into the 21st Century as quickly as those on the other side of the law.

The American State Department issues warnings to its citizens on a regular basis: “Don’t travel to this country or that.” Is that where America is headed? Will we become a nation that is called too dangerous for foreign visitors, scholars, or athletes? Truth to tell, incidents of foreign nationals being killed in this country becomes a huge news story (a) because it’s quite infrequent, and (b) the manner in which these murders happen are usually spectacular in some way. Several years ago, Florida was being called a place of slaughter by some foreign newspapers. That was when nine tourists were killed in one year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear of that happening any more. The case of Australian Chris Lane is just another murder, horrible as it may be. The fact of his citizenship has little to do with what these three kids were out to do. Lane just happened to be the unfortunate recipient of their diabolical idiocy.

Will white people come out and demand the death penalty for these three Black teenagers. Will Jesse and the Reverend Al appear on the steps of Congress and call for justice. Will Chris Lane’s parents come to America and hit all the talk shows? Probably none of those things will happen. I’ll leave you to figure the answer to that one.

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According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Polls further confirm that Americans are deeply concerned with the unconstitutional NSA spying programs. In a July 10 poll by Quinnipiac University, voters were asked whether the government’s efforts “go too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties” or “not far enough to adequately protect the country.” The poll revealed that Americans largely believe that the government has gone too far by a margin of 45% to 40%. This is a clear reversal from a January 2010 survey in which the same question found that 63% of voters believed the government didn’t “go far enough to adequately protect the country.”

How come no one asked my opinion? Did they ask yours? Who do they poll? Is it the people in their office? How are these figures collected? What are their polling techniques? What statistical analyses are used in calculating these figures? Oops, I’m sorry; is that too many questions to be answered? In my time on this earth, I have received a call from a polling organization. I can’t tell you exactly how old I was, but it was long before I was married – 50 years – and long before I went off to college – add another 10 – and I think we still had a four-person party line on our telephone. Suffice it to say, it was a long, long time ago. Hell, I’ve been called for jury duty more than anyone has ever polled me.

If anyone had ever asked me if the NSA overstepped its bounds on spying on American citizens, I would have replied, “Sure they did, but I would rather have them overstep their bounds by 2,800 people than allow one call to go unchecked that might just lead to another 911.” You and I are probably reasonably private people. I’ve had my life snooped and I didn’t like it one bit. When you are being investigated for a security clearance, your life becomes an open book. They investigate everything from the type of pen you prefer to your sexual preferences; they are harsh in their investigation…and with damned good reason. Of course, that was back in the sixties when WWIII was close to starting just 90 miles off the coast of the Keys. It was a frightening time. It appears that such aggressive vetting doesn’t take place in the 21st Century.

Has Wikileaks done damage around the world? Of course it has. Did Edward Snowden blow the whistle on some programs that the country wanted kept under wraps? Yep, that happened too. Do we have the right to be pissed off at the NSA? Aha, there’s the rub. Who is ‘we’ and under what circumstances should we call the NSA to task? The name is National Security Agency. Their mission Is “…to help protect national security by providing policy makers and military commanders with the intelligence information they need to do their jobs. NSA’s priorities are driven by externally developed and validated intelligence requirements provided to NSA by the President, his national security team, and their staffs through the National Intelligence Priorities Framework.” Let me say it another way: These are the people who are one of our primary lines of defense against the United States going ‘boom’ and you and me, our kids and our grandkids, our aunts and uncles, etc, etc. no longer being alive.

In doing their job the NSA fucks up. Unfortunately, when they make a mistake, it becomes national and international news. “Oh, my God, the NSA could have been listening when I told my brother I was having an affair!” Oh, how awful. There are millions of examples that could be given, but why bother? Don’t kid yourself that you’re so important that the NSA is going to monitor your phone 24/7. You probably have a Facebook page on which you post most of your life anyway. “It’s the principle of the thing,” you say. This is one time when I have to disagree with Benjamin Franklin. He said, “Those who would give up an essential freedom to obtain a temporary liberty deserve neither liberty nor freedom.” I cannot regard a telephone as the essential freedom that so many people appear to do. Freedom is what the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, DIA, Homeland Security, and all of these others are trying to protect. The fact that they are contracting out what they should be doing is what scares the daylights out of me. I would like intelligence to be gathered by the people whose mission is clearly defined to do so. Screw these private contractors who submit bloated proposals and are granted overpriced contracts to do what our own intelligence agencies are supposed to be doing. That’s the part of this entire expose that bothers the daylights out of me. If an intelligence analyst at a government agency is caught making unauthorized use of his position, there are penalties in place to remedy the situation. What happens at some place like Booze, Allen Hamilton when someone abuses their authority? Oh, that’s right; they flee to Hong Kong and receive asylum in the new Soviet Union…whoops, Russia, with old KGB Commander, Valerie Putin.

Let us all think about our personal priorities as opposed to the priorities of our nation. There are too many people living here who believe that they are so important the world revolves around them. They are wrong; it revolves around me [just kidding]. Should our conversations be private? Of course they should, but given the choice, hey, listen all you want. Sometime ago, I wrote a piece for this blog which must have touched a nerve somewhere. It was political in nature and undoubtedly castigated the leadership of the nation, the members of Congress, or a particular politician somewhere along the way. It spiked my readership over ten times its normal level. I’ve never had readership like it before or since. It was no big deal, but I’m betting it was read by some poor analyst in a backroom somewhere. Having worked in the intelligence community that seems about the way things work.

If monitoring keeps us safe, I’m all for it. If you think it’s terrible, you can feel free to speak out against it. That’s one of the great things about this country; we have this thing call the Constitution, and the First Amendment to it guarantees that you and I have the freedom of speech. Isn’t America grand?

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What the hell is going on in politics today? In New York we have wily-willy-waving Weiner. In San Diego, Mayor Bob Filner is suing the city because he was denied sexual harassment training. In Washington, Rand Paul is calling potential presidential opponent, Governor Chris Christie the ‘king of bacon’ while Christie is calling Paul  (a) dangerous and (b) something akin to ‘the pork barrel master.’ Shouldn’t Christie, if he’s the king, be calling Paul ‘the queen?’ Oops, maybe that’s just not right. Meanwhile, back at the Senate Office Building, John McCain accidently goes through a door where the President is meeting with Democratic leaders, says “Excuse me,” and reporters from around the nation’s capitol begin touting it as a major story. I agree with Senator McCain on this one – don’t faint –when he tweeted, “Get over it.”

I really don’t know which of these American political tit-for-tats is more embarrassments. That we have reached this point in government is something for which we should all be ashamed. After all, we put these idiots – with the exception of you, Senator McCain – in positions of power. Weiner got waggled out of Congress but didn’t quit his dong-dinging. The fact that this guy has been asked to drop out of the race by everyone except God just isn’t getting through his head. I’d say that a lobotomy is in order but apparently he feels that this type of controversy is good for the polls. It’s a possibility that Weiner gets turned on whenever his chief spokesperson, Barbara Morgan, goes on a potty mouth rant. Sorry, Barbie but calling an intern a “slutbag, twat, and c*nt” demonstrates a remarkable lack of political understanding. Time you learned that in any political game, what you say in your sleep is fair game for rebuke.

San Diego’s 70-year old Filner, a former 10-term Congressman, is beyond laying the blame at someone else’s door. The man’s a ‘groper’ and a ‘grabber.’ This is the 21st Century, ‘Lil Booby;’ Sexual harassment has been around much longer than you’ve been in politics and don’t try to feed your constituents the bullshit that you didn’t know that what you were doing was wrong. Perhaps that’s why you’re divorced; the wifey got sick and tired of watching you play grab ass with every young thing that came – pardon the pun – within reach of your horny hands. Telling a woman that she should work without wearing panties also goes just a bit beyond sexual harassment. I understand you’ve admitted that you “have a problem.” Gee, ‘Headlock Bob,’ isn’t that what Ariel Castro, the Cleveland kidnapper, used as a defense. Ah, I guess if that’s what you’ll admit to, I have to ask how many run-down houses you own.  That may be unkind but not half as unkind as what you’re doing to the citizens of San Diego.

It seems that the feud between NJ Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is nothing more than an opening salvo between two 2016 Presidential contenders. Christie’s weight and his weight loss will undoubtedly become a point down the line, just as Paul’s crazy and ‘really, really dumb’ idea to cut off aid to Egypt will also be mentioned. When your own party tells you they’re not with you and beats your ass by an 86-13 vote on the foreign aid to Egypt proposal, you know that your views need some rethinking.  Paul has made enough mistakes in the Senate that it’s a wonder he isn’t gagged the minute he enters the chamber.

America is a great country…in spite of those we elect to public office. First-term Senator, Elizabeth Warren sent me a letter the other day; a form letter to be sure but it also contained a sheet of stickers, similar to what teachers used to give the good little girls and boys in kindergarten. The stickers bore the face of the President, the Democratic logo, and some other nonsensical patriotic red, white, and blue decals. The plea was to give money in order that the Democrats maintain a majority in the Senate. The appeal was juvenile and pathetic. Cutesy doesn’t work for me. Yes, I’d like to see a Congress where the Democrats are in charge for the next couple of years, if only to allow Obama to get some much-needed legislation enacted through a Congress that has more to do than pass 20 pieces of largely useless laws in the first six years of this President’s term.

God Bless America, but certainly with reservations about some of the people who run it.

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“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.” James Garfield

A little over a decade ago, the following obituary appeared in a number of large city dailies across the country, “William Proxmire, a political maverick during 32 years in the Senate who crusaded against government waste and irritated presidents and lawmakers from both parties because of his contempt for the mutual back-scratching most politicians engage in, died yesterday in Sykesville, Md., about 40 miles from Washington. He was 90.” Just in case you’re too young to remember, Senator Proxmire (D) Wisconsin, was the originator of the Golden Fleece Award, presented whenever he damn well felt like it to government organizations for the wasteful manner in which they spent monies.

Included in those receiving the wrath of Bill Proxmire was the “National Science Foundation for spending $84,000 to determine why people fall in love.” According to one rather lengthy obit, “Another Golden Fleece Award went to the National Institute for Mental Health, which spent $97,000 to study, among other things, what went on in a Peruvian brothel. The researchers said they made repeated visits in the interests of accuracy.”  We’ve all heard of the $600 toilet seats and the $200 hammers that were supposedly purchased by NASA or the Defense Department, but did you know that the Defense Department spent $3,000 on a study to determine if members of the military should carry umbrellas when it rained?

After Proxmire left Congress in 1989, it appeared that more than a few Congressmen and women breathed a sigh of relief. Why Congress, you ask? Who the hell do you think hands out the monies to NIH, NSF, NIMH, DOD, and the many other acronymic, “Over here; over hear; my hand is out waiting to be filled with dough from your bottomless, brainless pit!” groups. So the pork barrel remained unquestioned until2003 when former(R) Oklahoma Congressman Tom Coburn stepped up and introduced America to Breach of Trust, an anecdotal recounting of his three terms as a member of the House of Representatives. While I have yet to read his first book – and I surely will – he began writing the Book of Waste in 2010 in which he openly challenges many of the wasteful expenditures that take place inside the beltway. The 2012 version, which I am currently reading is enough to make one sick.

“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Samuel Adams

Senator Coburn who can also be called Dr. since he is a physician, outlines the 100 most egregious expenditures, approved by Congress and doled out to organizations who (a) don’t need them (b) don’t use them for their original purpose, and (c) apply for them merely because they know a good rubber stamp when they see one.  Number 5 on Dr. Coburn’s list is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s $27 million plan to help Morocco improve its economic competitiveness. A key component of the project involved “…training Moroccans to create and design pottery to sell in domestic and international markets.” That might be all well and good except that Moroccans have been making pottery since before America was a nation, and should probably send some of their potters to America to train our folks in the art.. Another problem centered on the fact that the translator was “…not fluent in English and was unable to transmit large portions of the lectures to the participants.”

I find it difficult to believe…nah, I find it completely within the realm of academia, that researchers at San Diiego State University and the University of California at Davis spent a portion of a $325,000 NSF grant to build a robotic squirrel to answer that age-old question, “Will rattlesnakes kill a squirrel,” or some stupid crap like that. These are your taxpayer dollars that are paying for this. Are you beginning to get a bit irritated yet? If not, would you believe that the US Department of Agriculture is spending $300,000 this year to promote caviar; oh yeah, we’ll just have Jeeves jump in the Bentley and go down to the local Hannaford’s and pick up a case or two. Who the hell is kidding who? I cannot remember the last time we had a decent piece of meat at the dinner table and they’re out promoting caviar?

There has been a lot of talk about eliminating the penny from our monetary system. It’s not a bad idea since it costs two plus cents to make each penny. If I read Dr. Coburn’s analysis correctly, we could eliminate the penny and save around $70 million per year. Oh, and it should be noted that the nickel now costs eleven cents per coin to produce. Other countries have already realized the cost savings by stopping production of their lowest denomination coinage. What’s wrong with us?

The creation of video games by the US Department of Education, NASA, the National Endowment for the Arts, and several other government agencies is sickeningly expensive. If I have to watch a video on “How to watch television,” there is something seriously wrong.

The world’s largest snack food maker is receiving a grant of $1.3 million to build a Greek yogurt factory in New York. Food giant PepsiCo Inc, “…earned net revenues of $66 billion last year.” They now want to branch out and working with a German company, “bring premium yogurt products to the U.S.” The USDA seems hell-bent on getting us to upgrade our taste buds. Between the promotion of caviar and the building of a “premium” yogurt facility, I can hardly wait. I may have to, however, because Social Security and my modest retirement income certainly will keep me from $400 an ounce fish eggs and my reliance on Dannon.

A number of years ago a friend of mine went to Iraq as part of a police training program for the Iraqi police. This man is conscientious, hard-working , and a stickler for detail. Evidently, he’s one of a few. The State Department has pissed away over$400.2 million on what appears to be an undefined professional development program lacking in any goals or transferable skills for the Iraqi’s police. By the by, my friend is no longer in Iraq.

I would like to be able to recommend this book, if for nothing more than the “pissed-off-factor.” However, in all candor, I’m having trouble finishing it. To say that I’m mad about the wasteful spending by Congress and by the departments within our government is an understatement.  Dr/Senator Coburn has done a magnificent job of highlighting some of the waste of taxpayer dollars in our country. Read the book. It will show very clearly that there is no partisanship when it comes to wasteful spending. The real question is what can we do about it?

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