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Archive for the ‘Lies & Lying’ Category

What a country II

I really must stop asking, “How stupid can he possibly be?” Donald Trump seems to be taking it as a personal challenge…really. His increasing fall from reality must be looking pretty darned good to what few Cabinet members he has as well as a growing number of Congressmen and women. I mean, come on, when you get into a pissing contest with the dictator of North Korea who couldn’t care less about his own people and you bring your country pretty close to the brink of a nuclear war, you really should be checking in with your shrink to see if your elevator is still going all the way to the top. If that’s not bad enough, you forget your obligations to American territorial possessions, sign an executive order that is going to screw millions of poor people, and manage to alienate several of our closest allies by disavowing a nuclear deal that has the approval of those allies. What am I missing? American voters thought they were electing a businessman, not a politician. Donald Trump isn’t a businessman. He’s a billionaire who played at being a businessman. And he certainly has no political intelligence whatsoever. His screws aren’t loose, they’re ready to fall out, and I expect to see Heckel or Jeckyl pop up as the head falls off. At least those two crows knew enough to get out of trouble when it happened.

While Germany, France, Great Britain, and the rest of the civilized world is wondering, “Whatever happened to America,” we’ve become embroiled in such critical questions as, “Will Trump’s admonition of NFL owners result in new standards of behavior during the playing of the national anthem,” and “Who gives a damn about those millions of poor people and their health care anyway.” I think Goldilocks’ next move will be to name Harvey Weinstein as Secretary of Health and Human Services. It just seems logical for a jerk to appoint a jerk-off. It appears to me that Mr. Trump is making waves in every direction but one, that being Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. It’s called keeping Mueller off the front page and out of the television headlines.

Speaking of the NFL, if the owners vote to force all their players and staff to stand during the national anthem, isn’t it a violation of the First Amendment rights of the players. And when a group of those players decide to protest anyway, by taking a knee or whatever, how will the owners punish them. It certainly cannot be by benching them. The alternative would be to dock their pay. I’d like to see them enforce that one without finding themselves involved in a lawsuit. Perhaps Trump will issue another executive order absolving the owners of any responsibility for their actions and put the blame where it so rightly belongs…on Roger Goodell and the NFL. If that makes sense to you, you might wish to apply for one of the unfilled deputy secretary positions that Trump has yet to fill. Speaking of executive orders, Trump was highly critical of Barack Obama back in 2012, tweeting “Why is Barack Obama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?” Trump has signed 50 executive orders to Obama’s 26 at this point in his Presidency. It’s truly amazing how short Trump’s memory is, and I’m certain that were he to be confronted about the executive orders he would maintain that he never, ever, made that tweet. Trump’s lie-ability is truly fascinating; both The New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as Politico and several other sites are keeping track of the lies told by this man since taking office. I stopped counting at somewhere over 400, and that was only from the Times tally.

It seems to me that Donald Trump, in addition to all of his other lovely qualities, is a racist white supremacist. Elaine Chao and Ben Carson are the only minorities in his Cabinet, and his intense, secretive hatred of Obama is coming out as he attempts to destroy anything that smacks of success from the Obama Presidency. First, Trump was one of the first authors of the “birther movement,” which stated that Obama was not a viable candidate for the office. Once Obama was elected, the tweets from the “tower” constantly bombarded America’s first black president. Oh, and among those tweets was the number of times that Obama was ‘caught’ playing golf. In a tweet from October, 2014, dear Donny wrote, “Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter” Sorry, Donald, but at this particular point in time, you are a plus seven over former President Obama. Try this one, “Can you believe that, with the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, Donald Trump spent the day playing golf.” See, what goes around, Donald, can come around and bit you right square in the ass!

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Is this a great country or what? We’ve got a national security adviser who can’t be trusted to advise the President, a nominee for the position of Secretary of Labor who withdraws his name before the Congress even has a chance to lay into him, and a Secretary of Education who can’t even spell at a third grade level. And don’t forget anorexic Kellyanne Conway, that paragon of ‘alternative facts’ who is totally clueless about what actually goes on in the West Wing. Hey, we’re on the road to making America great once more! I’m not allowed to say ‘again,’ because that would be pilfering someone else’s line, and I wouldn’t want to do that. Then we show a picture of the first daughter sitting at the boss’s desk in the Oval Office – looking, incidentally, much more presidential than dear old dad. It appeared that she was about to sign her first executive order that any store not carrying her clothing line would no longer be allowed to do business in her country…oops!

One of the things that I fully understand is the national intelligence agencies’ fear of giving classified briefings to Mr. Trump. While he has a tendency to blame his mistakes on everyone and anyone else, it has become patently obvious that he is the principal leak in the White House. On General Flynn’s resignation, Trump immediately blamed the intelligence community and the media for revealing the telephone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Certainly, the agencies wouldn’t leak it because they understand what the word “classified” actually means, and I have serious doubts about most media outlets reporting it unless they have a minimum of three unimpeachable resources. In this regard, it’s more than apparent that Mr. Trump doesn’t understand how either the intelligence community or the media actually work.

Even some of the most diehard Republicans on the hill are going “WTF!” You have to figure that when Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings are smiling at each other, the US of A has some serious problems. It was my understanding that one of the principal jobs of an incoming president was to unite the country, not send it into paroxysm of laughter on the late shows or anti-anti demonstrations in town hall meetings and outside in city and town streets.

I have returned to this essay after watching several minutes – it was all I could take – of Mr. Trump’s press conference. My epiphany came while he was speaking. I now know how to tell when he is telling the truth and when he is lying. While listening to a question from the reporter, he is in a moment of truth, but the minute he speaks, whatever he says, it is a lie. This leads me to believe that Mr. Trump cannot tell when he is lying. It’s the fabric of his life. Lying, to him, is like breathing to the rest of us. In the brief time I listened, he told three different stories about why his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was asked for his resignation. He went on to lay blame for Russian election hacking on Hillary and the Democrats. He talked about “fake news” in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, three of the most respected newspapers in this country. Why he charged a black reporter with the task of setting up a meeting with himself and the Congressional Black Caucus was beyond my comprehension, but it was certainly an opportunity for Trump to denigrate both Congressman Elijah Cummings as well as Representative Charles Schumer of New York.

There will, no doubt, be those who find my condemnation of Mr. Trump’s actions over the first few weeks of his presidency much too harsh. That is their prerogative. However, it has become apparent to me that the Republican Party has made a tragic error in allowing this man to become a candidate unfit for the office to which he aspired and, even more tragically, to allow him to usurp the office of President of the United States. Would Mrs. Clinton have been a better choice? Not in this writer’s opinion, and that is the single most important question for America to answer…where is our next true leader? Where is the next Dwight David Eisenhower? Where is the next William Jefferson Clinton? Where is the next Ronald Reagan or Jack Kennedy? He…or She is out there somewhere, and somehow, he or she must be located and convinced to dedicate him/herself to a nation that is in dire need of leadership. It does not lie within the mind or the soul of Donald J. Trump, if, indeed, a soul he possesses.

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Norbert Fullington was a terrific European History teacher. As one of the questions on his final exam, he presented a blank map that looked something like Europe. Our job was to outline the countries and to then mark the approximate location and name of each country’s capital. The nice thing about Professor Fullington was his consideration for our time. This particular question was to take us no more than 20 minutes…yeah, right, good luck, Norbert. The funny thing was that after you stared at this piece of paper with the single funny line for about five minutes, everything began to fall into place. I told you he was terrific. Okay, so maybe it took 25 minutes to half an hour, and maybe there were a few erasures along the way, but he was one hell of a teacher.

Norbert is dead now but I still remember him as one tough SOB who could really make you think and think hard before you answered any of his questions. He was interested in the facts behind what happened in Europe. Had we presented him with “alternative facts,” his first question might have been, “And what are your sources?” He was very persistent. Had we the temerity to cite something from an “alternative” history text, he probably would have read it, and countered with, “And the author went on to state what?” and eventually we would find that the hole into which we had dug ourselves was nigh on impossible from which to emerge. Norbert would just smile, shake his balding head, and ask, “Anyone else care to contribute?” It wasn’t so much frightening as it was…terrifying! Fullington was one of those faculty members you loved to hate and hated to disappoint.

Today, “alternative facts” appear to be a hallmark of the spokespersons for the 45th President of the United States. I don’t know what they call “alternative facts” where you come from, but in Norbert Fullington’s classroom and in my own personal life, we called them “lies.” A lie is not an alternative fact. It is an untruth. It is not a fact because it is fiction. If you would care to tell me that the white stuff falling on a winter day in New England is ash from some distant mountain in Japan, I would have to say that you have just presented me, a native New Englander, with an alternative fact. Although, to be frank about it, I would probably say, “You’re full of shit. It’s snow!” You see, I’m not as tactful as my dear, departed professor. I have more of a tendency to cut right to the heart of the matter.

It’s really not so much the lies that are coming out of the Trump administration when a week has yet to pass since the inauguration, it’s what they are lying about. Who really cares about the size of the crowd at the inauguration, whether it was bigger than Obama’s crowd? Who is truly interested in the fact that Clinton won the popular vote? It doesn’t matter. The fact – not alternative by the way – is that Donald J. Trump was elected to the Presidency of the United States in a peaceful transition of power. If the size of the crowd or illegal voters are of such great concern to the President, what the hell will he do when something of consequence actually happens? Since, to date, his tactic appears to cast blame on someone other than himself or anyone in his administration, perhaps he will blame the mayor of the city or the governor of the state where that ‘something of consequence’ took place…and that would be wrong. Example number one is blaming Chicago’s problem on Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Certainly, the buck stops at the mayor’s desk, however, to say that he bears the full responsibility for creating Chicago’s “war zone” is a bit of an exaggeration.

Another “alternative fact” coming from the new administration is to believe that it will be possible to recruit 5,000 new border patrol agents. When police departments in the country are hiring people who actually have minor offence police records, what makes us think that we can just grab 5,000 good and honest people to guard our borders? Perhaps we would be wiser to invest in technologies to limit the number of illegals crossing our borders.

I find it difficult to believe that others cannot see through this alternative facts malarkey. The only world leader who seems to be having some fun with this at Trump’s expense in German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said in a recent speech, “There needs to be an understanding of persuading people with facts instead of fakes.” It appears that we have entered the “post-truth” era in which objective facts and candor are being replaced in shaping public opinion by appeals to emotion and personal belief. We must make every effort not to allow another leader to achieve supremacy by telling the big lie.

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When I asked about one of my high school classmates recently, I was told, “Aw, he drank himself to death some time ago.” I thought to myself, “Well, that makes two from our class that I know of.” It’s not a pretty picture. How many others, I wonder, abused alcohol? We had less than 80 people in our senior class, and while two out of eighty might not sound so bad, you go ahead and do the math as it may concern the teenage and adult population in the United States. Let me save you some trouble…there are more than 12 million alcoholics in the United States.

Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing. As the cliché goes, it’s 20/20. Looking back to my days at Northeastern and at Babson, I can now recall people I knew who always had alcohol on their breath and who would act confused at times. Naïve little me, I guess. Today, I can honestly say that I was really too damned dumb to notice erratic behavior. Perhaps that’s because there were more than a few mornings when I was nursing a hangover. Thankfully, Joan and I came to our senses before things went too far.

Looking at the statistics on alcoholism, I find that three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics. That’s really a staggering number – no pun intended – of people who abuse alcohol. Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol…and that’s not even counting moonshine. In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes. Perhaps this explains why, even on my early morning drive to the gym or whenever Juli and I are out in the car, my eyes are always shifting to what’s going on in the oncoming lane. Sure, I’m going to die, but I’m not eager to have it be at the hands of some drunk I don’t even know! Two other facts that were somewhat surprising…people with a higher education are more likely to drink, and the same is true for people who are considered to be wealthy. I’m not certain what the correlation is, but it seems that if you’re well educated and rich, you’re more likely to be a drunk…for some reason, that just doesn’t compute, but it’s out there.

A friend of mine recently went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told me that he’d finally had enough and that it wanted to quit drinking. His feeling was that he couldn’t do so without help. He indicated that he was shocked when he went to his first meeting because he knew every other person in the room. As I’ve learned over the years, alcoholics are very well versed in how to hide the disease from others. Yes, alcoholism is a disease. It’s not a choice that most people make. It consumes the mind and body of the alcoholic, but it also affects those around him or her. While there are 12 million alcoholics as I’ve said, there are another 50 – 60 million friends and family members who are affected by this debilitating disease.

At this point, time has elapsed since the last paragraph was written. I became angry while writing it, and that’s when objectivity leaves, ergo I’m better off walking away and coming back when I’ve cooled down. My anger stemmed from the fact that I can remember, during my drinking days, of how my family was affected by my drinking. I didn’t like who I was or what I did, but thankfully, those days are long past and there don’t appear to be any residual effects.

Just because you or I may live in a ‘dry’ town doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t easily accessible. There seem to be more “Town Line” liquor stores abutting the dry town lines than there are restaurants or any other type of establishment. No, liquor is a very easy thing to get one’s hands on. Drinking is one of society’s more widespread and accepted forms of addiction, so how do we spot the alcoholic? ‘We’ don’t have to spot someone with an alcohol dependency. Alcoholics know who they are. It’s one of the few self-diagnosable diseases there are. Asking one’s self a few simple questions can provide answers. Do you drink to relax or feel better? Do you hide your drinking or bottles of liquor? Do you drink to the point of blacking out? How often do you drink to this point? Are you unable to stop once you start drinking? Do you drink in dangerous situations, e.g., when you may have to get behind the wheel of your car? Is your tolerance to alcohol increasing? Do you find that you are neglecting things at home, work, or school? Have you tried to quit but find that you are unable to do so? These are just a few of the signs or symptoms that alcohol is no longer your friend but has become your master. I had a boss who, when we went out to lunch, had to have at least two drinks to get him through the afternoon. In addition, he would become upset if I didn’t drink with him. It made for a few awkward situations.

Why am I writing about all of this…again? It’s been done to death, and no one needs to be reminded about the dangers of alcohol. Well, maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we all need to be reminded of it. God only knows we see enough of the results of it on television…cars wrapped around trees or driving the wrong way and killing others just trying to get home. Yeah, we do need to be reminded of it…and on a fairly regular basis. Alcohol dependency is one of those things that for which we do have treatment centers and programs. Let’s make it personal…I used to drink to the point where I wasn’t very pleasant to be around. I used to drink and drive, but I got away with it. I no longer drink and I’m better off because of it. Every so often one friend or another will tell me that they are going to meetings or that they’ve been sober for so many days, weeks, or months. I understand that. I will always understand that. And I will always help anyone who seeks my help to quit. None of us wish to become one of the 100,000 who die each year from alcohol-related accidents.

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I must be going blind. This is not a literal statement, but in a figurative sense, there is no question that my vision has taken a bad turn somewhere. I cannot see why anyone in their right mind or with corrected vision would ever consider Donald J. Trump to be Presidential. Custodial perhaps, but Presidential? It’s not difficult to see why many Americans believe Trump to be a Messiah of some ilk. He boasts; he brags; he puts forth plans that, on the surface, appeal to those with little or no knowledge of how the plans would actually work. He’s a showman; a carnie man, a television personality, a failed businessman who bends the truth to meet his personal requirements.

Trump states that he inherited one million dollars from his family. History shows and Forbes Magazine confirms that the amount was closer to $40 million. With that money, he has amassed an enormous net worth of, according to him, $10 billion. Again, going back to Forbes, that net worth is closer to $4.7 billion. It’s still a lot of money but how it’s been garnered is open to question. In the 1980s, when Trump Plaza was being constructed, a sub-contract when to S&A Concrete, a company partially owned by the mafia. “Trump World Tower, supported by the Quadrozzi Concrete Company, is also tangentially related to La Cosa Nostra. The head of the company, John Quadrozzi Sr., was tied to the Lucchese crime family and indicted for making illegal payoffs to the mob in 1992.”1 The list goes on and on about Trump’s nefarious dealings with the mob. If one of the qualities of a President is assumed to be “A person of strong character,” Trump fails to meet the standard.

Let’s take a moment to look at some of Trump’s business failures: The Eastern Airlines Shuttle from Boston to New York and Washington ran for 27 years. Many was the time that I would hop a 6:30 am shuttle to head to either destination. It was a great convenience (plus free parking). In 1988, Trump purchased the service for a reported $365 million. He improved the look of the service by adding maple-wood veneer to the floors, chrome-plated seat belt clasps and gold bathroom fixtures. It didn’t work and the Trump Shuttle never turned a profit. The high debt accrued forced Trump to default on his loans, and the shuttle ceased to exist in 1992. In 2006, Trump introduced Trump Vodka, designed to compete with Grey Goose. If you happen to own a bottle of Trump’s vodka, hold onto it because it’s highly doubtful you’ll find it on liquor store shelves today…but you will find Grey Goose.

Claire Sudduth of Time Magazine noted in an article about Trump’s bankruptcies, “”I don’t like the B word,” Donald Trump said in 2010 while testifying in a New Jersey bankruptcy courtroom about his gambling company, Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which had filed for bankruptcy for the third time. Given the number of times Trump has flirted with bankruptcy, you’d think he’d be used to that word by now.

“In 1990, the banking institutions that backed his real estate investments had to bail him out with a $65 million “rescue package” that contained new loans and credit. But it wasn’t enough, and nine months later the famous developer was nearly $4 billion in debt. He didn’t declare personal bankruptcy, although his famous Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, N.J., did have to file for it  Trump’s economic troubles continued through the early ’90s, while he was personally leveraged to nearly $1 billion. In 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts also filed for bankruptcy. The company was only a small portion of Trump’s real estate empire, but he did still have to personally cough up $72 million to keep it afloat. In 2009, the same company filed for bankruptcy again. Yet during all of this, no one ever told Trump, “You’re fired!” Probably because no one could.2 In case you weren’t counting, Trump has gone bankrupt four times. He later claimed that those were not his failures as a businessman but strategic decisions to help him make more money. In other words, he manipulated the system for personal gain. Gee, isn’t Bernie Madoff doing time for that, along with several other sleazebags?

Much more could be said about Mr. Trump and his potential candidacy for President of the United States. In truth, he’s a bully, a bigot, a racist, a sexist, a liar, and perhaps the worst individual ever to be considered for the highest office in the land. I never cared much for Mitt Romney when he was Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but you can bet your boots that should he run as a third party candidate, I will be checking his name off in the voting booth.

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  1. Politifact…a division of the Tampa Bay Times
  2. Claire Sudduth, Time Magazine, April 29, 2011

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“In the online age, we live our lives openly and loudly rather than with dignity.” That’s a line, somewhat paraphrased from The Heist by Daniel Silva. It’s one of those novels that the pure academics would call “trash,” but which I chose to call enjoyable reading. I read these books for the very same reason that I write essays for this blog and latch hook rugs. I do these things so that I won’t kill people. Juli, on the other hand, has her knitting, crocheting, jewelry-making, silver-smithing, and reading a variety of books so that she will not join me in killing people.

While killing people may sound rather extreme, there are times when it appears to be the last recourse against stupidity and downright “assholedness” to which we are exposed on a far too regular basis. As one example, I would cite the Netflix series, “Making a Murderer,” which is based on the 2005 Wisconsin case in which Stephen Avery was convicted of killing Teresa Halbeck. The series is presented as a documentary but in such a manner as to paint Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey as the victims rather than as the killers. The result has been a White House petition signed by 300,000 to free the two men and to demand an investigation of the police department which did the legwork and prepared the case against Dassey and Avery. The series has also resulted in the prosecuting attorney receiving over 3,000 e-mails with death threats against him and his family as well as disgusting actions to be taken against his family. Let’s just take a minute to examine this: First, it’s a documentary that has a slant because it did not present all of the evidence used in the trial against the two men. Second, anyone who knows anything about how prosecutors work, particularly in murder cases, there is generally a backlog of evidence that is held back until it’s absolutely needed. This was not the case in the Avery/Dassey trial. It was laid out meticulously at trial, but not in the documentary. Third, DNA evidence, given at trial, was not given in the documentary. In other words, what the unknowing American public has signed as a petition and has used as a basis for threatening the prosecutor is a single, one-sided, prejudiced view of what really happened, Remember the old adage, “Believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you see.” It was coined, as I recall, at a time when newspapers were notorious for slanted journalism (oh, gee, and they’re not today?). In today’s world of instant news because of television and the many satellites circling our planet, we also must be cautious when we watch television news or supposed “in-depth stories” about anything. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that Netflix didn’t do its homework…or if they did due diligence on the story, they elected to sensationalize and glorify two obvious killers, and in the process, have created 303,000 people who actually believe the bullshit they have shoveled. That’s 303,000 sheep who have been told what to believe, accepted it, and have not bothered to do any of their own research; they are also 303,000 sheep who breed and who vote…scary, huh?

There are more of these sheep who believe that Donald Trump should be President because he’s telling them exactly what they want to hear. He tells us that he will keep the Muslims out of America. Does that mean that he will deport the more than 20,000 Muslim doctors in the U.S.? Does it mean that he will close the Muslim charities, including Helping Hand for Relief and Development which, in 2013 was rated as one of the top ten charities in the United States? Yet, the sheep will follow and vote for a bombastic, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, bully who appears to believe that even when he’s wrong, he’s right. The person who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not a dictator who can make and keep such idiotic promises as building a wall to keep the drug smugglers and emigres out of our country…and have the country from which they are coming pay for said wall. People….think. Stop listening to nonsense and begin to think for yourselves.

Donald Trump’s appeal to certain groups is understandable. After all, Congressional politicians have been using his formula for years. If you tell the people in your district what they want to hear; put their needs ahead of the needs of the country; bullshit them into believing that you can get them what they want, they will vote for you without fully knowing the difficulties of meeting their needs. Is this dishonest? Sure, but if the sheep believe what you’re shoveling at them, what the hell, it gets you back into office. Too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads.

Ours is a nation of checks and balances. Surely, everyone knows that from the Constitution. Therefore, any candidate for any office may make any kind of promise to his or her constituents. However, unless they are promises that will be approved by another branch or successfully tested by the third branch, they are just so much hot air blowin’ in the wind.

Sheep are everywhere and easily lead. It’s those of you and those of us who think independently and don’t believe everything we are told or even see, who will determine the future of America.

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The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a warning to parents that ISIS is using social media to influence young Americans to join them in fighting for…for what? For an independent Islamic state; for a chance to get their heads blown off by an Iraqi, Iranian, Jordanian, or anyone else who sees Isis for what it Is…a bunch of trigger-happy idiots who are interpreting – I should say misinterpreting – what the Quaran actually teaches. They can make all of the claims that they wish, but the fact of the matter is that if you hate this country so much, go, get out. Live the dream; become a terrorist; but understand this…those are not toy guns that are firing back at you. If you get hit by a round from anything other than a Kalashnikov – I don’t care if it hits your little finger – you will probably die, as much from the shock as anything else. This is not a game that is being played. It is not a television show where you get shot and killed one week and miraculously recover by the third episode. If our children are being radicalized by ISIS on social media, we have some very real and very serious problems.

What is this “radicalization” of which we speak? According to one of this country’s most senior terrorism authorities, radicalization is “the process of adopting for oneself or inculcating in other a commitment not only to a system of [radical] beliefs, but to their imposition on the rest of society.” By imposing their beliefs on the rest of society, he is speaking of the use of violence, which in this case means those who don’t believe as the radical believes, must be punished in order to make them conform.

Why and/or how does radicalization to the point of condoning or actually participating in violent behavior occur? No one really seems to know despite the amount of research that has been done. What actually changes in a person that causes them to accept this violent manner? Most research dictates that change goes through a variety of stages. The first thing that must occur is that the potential recruit must think that an injustice or humiliation has occurred. It might be something as simple as seeing pictures or videos of dead civilians when America was fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. These horrible sights may be blamed on American air strikes even if that is not an accurate portrayal of the horror. Over a period of time, the recruit is provided with motivational sources that make him or her more likely to believe in violence.

Research appears to show that “An individual’s search for identity may draw him or her to extremist or terrorist organizations in a variety of ways. The individual may be searching for a purpose or goal in life that defines the actions required to achieve that goal. A violent act may be seen as a way to succeed at something that makes a difference. The absolutist, “black and white” nature of most extremist ideologies is often attractive to those who feel overwhelmed by the complexity and stress of navigating a complicated world. Without struggling to define oneself or discern personal meaning, an individual may choose to define his or her identity simply through identification with a cause or membership in a group.”

Think with me for a moment about the youth who join gangs. What is their primary need? It’s a sense of belonging to something; of connecting with others who feel similarly, ie, that they have been dealt a rotten hand in life (injustice or perhaps some form of humiliation); that they are searching for some form of identity, eg, gang tats or signs, and; that they are willing to be violent in order to be recognized.

There are many other factors that appear to influence recruits to become extreme terrorists – in this day and age we think of Muslims, but they are just the latest in a long line of violent extremists – including the need for a mentor or leader. This mentor may be someone who is articulate and who shares the recruit’s values on the Internet. In the case of the Muslim jihadists, it might be an imam or other religious authority that condones violent behavior because of the manner in which they interpret the Quaran.

Another factor that has proven particularly successful for recruiting terrorists is the Internet. ISIS and other terrorist groups before them have produced some pretty slick videos that make it hard to ignore their messages. All it appears to take is an unhappy or dissatisfied individual, capable of violence, who is seeking something “better” for his or her life.

Parents may think they know their teenagers. Few do. You take it from here.

 

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Dr. Doolitlle sang to us that, “The world is full of beautiful things; butterfly wings, fairy tale kings. And each new day undoubtedly brings still more beautiful things.” That was then, my good Doctor; that is not now. The world today is not filled with beautiful things. It’s filled with the ugliness of street protests; of wars directed at terrorists, but which kill mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, babies not yet a year old. It’s filled with airplanes being shot down by people who call themselves patriots but who are no more than rebel rabble, encouraged by a 19th Century soulless lunatic who fancies himself a god and who won’t be happy until he controls the world.

The United States is no more immune to this ugliness than any other country. Shootings in schools, hospitals, on the street, and in churches dominate our headlines. “We take you now to so-and-so who is kneeling by the dying body of a citizen we have identified as John Jones.” Forget the fact that no one as yet has notified the family…

“…Tell me, Mr. Jones, how does it feel to be dying of gunshot wounds? What’s that, I can’t quite hear you? Would you please speak up for our viewers? Oops too late. Well, back to you in the studio.”

It’s damn near that bad. Meanwhile, Mrs. Jones, who happens to be watching the evening news, dies of a heart attack after seeing her husband killed on live television…but the news must go on.

What is wrong with our world? Children from Latin American countries coming streaming across the border into the United States because if they stay in their own countries they will be killed. That’s not right; it’s just not right. What makes these unaccompanied kids believe that they will not be sent back, that they might not be killed or worse here. America is filled with unscrupulous people who would love to get their hands on these kids for reasons so nefarious I won’t give anyone ideas.

Yes, the world used to be a beautiful place…but wait a minute; it wasn’t that the world was so beautiful; it was that we lived in ignorant bliss. It wasn’t beautiful during the Revolutionary or Civil War, World Wars I and II. It wasn’t so beautiful during the Crash of ’29. It wasn’t particularly pleasant during the period we look back on and call the Cold War, nor Korea, nor Vietnam. The world became less beautiful as we became more technologically proficient. Today, we can watch the missiles fly and the bombs explode. We can look at plane wreckage and pick out a leg here or an almost whole body there. Why? Because we can do it. Whether or not we should be doing it is not up for debate. And the majority of the American public laps this shit up like a thirsty dog at a water bowl.

The news must be reported. I have no quarrel with that. I watch the news and yes, I stay glued to the set when tragedy is the big story. Time was I wouldn’t watch news after six in the evening. Now I don’t watch it after seven. CBS has taken to ending their national news each evening with a “feel good” story, and I like that. The only problem is that the rest of the newscast is generally filled with blood, guts, and gore.

I also find that the news is filled with exaggeration and outright lies. Let me give you an example: This morning, a reporter attempted to speak with one of the parties in a supermarket feud that is happening in Massachusetts. The man absolutely refused to answer any of the reporter’s questions. He was polite and stated merely that he had to go to work and get ready for a board meeting. That was it. There was no interview per se. This afternoon, this same station led with, “Watch Byron Barnett’s exclusive interview with so-and-so.” That, my friends, is a bold faced lie. This morning, the station estimated the size of the crowd which was demonstrating as a part of this feud outside one of the markets. The talking head was trying to tell me that there were five to ten thousand people. Sorry, idiot, you’re speaking to someone who knows how to estimate crowds and there were less than a thousand people. This afternoon, when the camera went back, there might have been 2,500 but certainly no more. Stop; stop lying to me! Stop exaggerating.

Another line that is popular with those who read the news today – please don’t call them reporters – is “…a story you will see only on one station,” or “…a story you will see only on this station.” Fear not because other stations will have the same story; it will just be in a different format or from a different point of view.

Am I blaming technology for changing our world from a beautiful place to one of ugliness? No, we’ve done a fine enough job of doing that on our own. It’s just that we find out about tragedy and death and destruction as soon as it happens today. It’s almost as though ugly is the new beautiful. Blood and gore are the new June and Ward Cleaver, and the Beaver is the shooter…or is that Eddie Haskell?

Don’t worry, Dr. Doolittle; there are still many of us who believe that “The world abounds with many delights, magical sights, fanciful flights…and those who dream on beautiful nights…dream of beautiful things; beautiful people like you. Good is still the overwhelming force in our world. I hope and pray that it will remain that way forever.

 

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A panicked Senate Majority Leader sent me a four-page hysterical appeal the other day. He expects me to send money to stop the Koch brothers from buying the United States Senate in the November 4th elections. Now you have to understand that the Koch brothers have a net worth that exceeds $100 billion. There’s an old Tanzanian proverb that says, “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” Okay, fine, but Mr. Speaker…that’s Harry Rein from Nevada…your own net worth is between three and ten million dollars. How much of your own personal fortune are you committing to ‘stop’ the Koch brothers?

It seems to me that American politicians are bought and sold on a pretty regular basis, depending on what bills are before Congress or what bills might come before Congress. Since, Mr. Speaker, your own net worth has more than doubled since you went to Washington, isn’t it fair to say that you, too, have been bought and sold a few times? Heck, the Koch brothers are just the latest in a long line of carpet baggers that have sought to line their own pockets with a few more shekels and enrich a few other people who believe as they do.

Another assumption you have made that I I don’t understand, Mr…oh, hell…that I don’t understand, Harry is why you address me as a “…fellow Democrat.”  That just straight out isn’t true. I’m not a party person – at my age, in more ways than one – but Harry, I’m not a Democrat. I am an independent voter who supports candidates, not parties. You’ve been in the Senate long enough to have heard Tip O’Neill say, “Country first; state second; party third.” You and your colleagues – on both sides of the aisle by the way, have changed that to be “Party first; me second, state third…and the nation a distant fourth.” The number of ethical violations of which you have been a part lead me to believe you’ve either completely bamboozled the voters in your state or that you have spent even more money to ensure they don’t know of your ethical abominations.

If you are so interested in defeating the efforts of the Koch brothers, why not turn to that great Democratic supporter, George Soros. Granted, he is getting along in years, but he certainly has much of the money required to dull the sharp blade of the Koch swords. You state in your letter that the Republicans are “…outspending us 3 to 1 in must-win Senate battlegrounds! Join us in the fight to retain our Democratic majority!” Well, hell, Harry, you don’t want me; I’m one of those senior citizens living on a fixed income. You need to turn to the big guns you’ve turned to in the past.

Although I’m quite certain you will say it’s a right-wing propaganda machine, Investors.com, states that “Right after the Supreme Court’s decision to lift limits on campaign contributions, Democrats and their left-wing supporters assaulted the decision as a boon to Republicans, “the party of the rich.”

“This of course is part of a far-wider narrative — slavishly repeated by largely unquestioning liberal media — that the GOP outspends Democrats on campaigns thanks to big-buck donors like the billionaire Koch brothers.

“But, as it turns out, that’s a lie — as big a lie, in fact, as “you can keep your insurance,” “you can keep your doctor” and “ObamaCare will bend the cost curve down.”

“By almost every measure, in fact, it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are the party of the rich.

Start with Congress itself. Who are the wealthiest members? Well, there are 269 millionaires among Congress’ 535 members. And most of them are Democrats.

“And contrary to the hand-wringing on the left about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling Wednesday, Democrats far outspend Republicans on elections. It isn’t even close.

“According to OpenSecrets.org, from 1989 to 2014 rich donors gave Democrats $1.15 billion — $416 million more than the $736 million given to the GOP. Among the top 10 donors to both parties, Democrat supporters outspent Republican supporters 2-to-1.

“But what about the villainous Koch brothers, those conservative plutocrats supposedly seeking to control American politics? They rank 59th on the list of big givers — behind 18 unions and No. 1 Act Blue, the massive left-wing fund raiser that gives only to Democrats.

Now there is no question in my mind that figures don’t lie, whether they are presented by left-wing extremist such as you and many of your colleagues or by right-wing radicals such as Rand Paul, Mario Rubio, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and company. But it’s a known fact that liars do know how to figure. You paint a portrait of disaster if the Senate should be taken over by the Republicans. Perhaps having them do so would not be quite as disastrous as you think. It just might rattle the American public sufficiently that they will begin to think once more about who should be running the country. If health care disappears for millions; if Medicare and Social Security sneak off into the sunset; if our children suddenly find themselves being taxed to death, then it won’t matter what the Tea Party and their Republican allies do to the planet, everyone will be dead and there will be no one left to care.

In your diatribe you state that “Republicans don’t care who gets hurt in the crossfire as long as they get their way. And trust me, their Tea Party and Super PAC’s must not have a free ride to spew their nonsense.”  I’m sorry, Harry, but that kind of scare tactic went out with Herbert Hoover. To paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but the scare mongers,” and that is exactly what you have sent to your “fellow Democrats.”

Senator, it’s you and your ilk, along with Mitch McConnell and his ilk that have brought on this terrible gridlock in Washington. Drop the scare tactics and begin discussing issues. Don’t tell me to fear the Koch brothers. Give me honest answers about why I should give you and your colleagues my vote.

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This is the time of year for inaugurations, state of the states, state of the union, town meetings, and, of course, the Grammy Awards. It’s that period where we take stock of what we have or haven’t, how we’ve done during the past year, and what bullshit we will perpetuate or inaugurate on the unsuspecting public during the next year. Therefore, in keeping with this time-honored and non-sensible performance, I shall present my own state of the mind for the upcoming year and for time in perpetuity, a.k.a. Bishop’s banal diatribe….

…My fellow Americans, illegal immigrants, alien terrorists on US soil, and children of all ages…to put things mildly, the Union is not in very good shape. There is too much violence in our own nation, whether on our college and university campuses, our local schools, our shopping malls throughout the land, the streets of our inner cities and – more and more – in neighborhoods where violence has not existed before. This is both unacceptable and intolerable.

After months of discussions with the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD, PTA, DARPA, CASE, CUPA, NRA, BSA, GSA, 4-H, ICOP, and several private contracting firms, we have reached agreement that, beginning, immediately…that means tomorrow for those of you nodding off…American soldiers and sailors, in pairs will begin patrolling every avenue, street, road, and drive in every city and town with a population of more than 500 people. Schools, from kindergarten to high school will have a pair of armed military in each and every classroom. Writ of habeas corpus is immediately suspended for the foreseeable future, and the penalty for any crime which inflicts any kind of harm on any American citizen will be punishable by immediate death. I have been reading, watching, and being told of too many crimes and I’m sick to death of it. We have ‘deevolutionated’ – okay, I made it up – back to cave man tactics as a society and, therefore, those who wish to act like Neanderthals shall be treated as they were back in the Neanderthal period. When the nation evolves back into a 21st Century society, with the mores expected of 21st Century men, women, and children, we will…slowly at first…begin to eliminate our police state.

Our plan calls for the withdrawal of all American armed forces from all bases throughout the world. I am sick to death of watching planes land at Andrews Air Force base to unload the coffins of young Americans who have died on foreign soil for no particular reason other than to make a small group of fat cats in our own nation get fatter. Just as we never see John Boehner smoking or drinking, so now, we will never see military caskets being brought home from foreign lands. In addition, we will not tolerate any attempt by any nation or combination of nations to invade – overtly or covertly – our land. We are open to free trade between our nation and others. However, the days of the US as world cop are over. If nations wish to make war among themselves or with other nations, have fun. If any nation should consider the use of nuclear weapons as acceptable, then and only then, will the United States turn the offending nation to glass. Granted, this will end the world as we know it, but what the hell, you started it, and we are fully prepared to end it.

Our native form of speech is American. While it was English for a while, it has been bastardized by various groups who now use such words as “whatevah,” “selfies,” “hinky,” and other bullshit words which have no place in a civilized society. Students using any slang in the classroom may be immediately bitch-slapped by a teacher or either of the two military peace keepers in the classroom…or all three. We will return to speaking a combination of correct English and American beginning tomorrow. Before immigrating to this country, those from other nations must demonstrate a proficiency in the English/American language that is free from native accent.

Beginning tomorrow, all citizens with assets of over five billion dollars will be required to establish foundations to benefit the less fortunate. The initial investment will consist of one billion dollars. I have requested and received consent from Messrs. Warren Buffet, William and Melissa Gates, Harry Reid, and Eric Cantor to select a board of no more than fifteen people of their choosing to administer this fund.

Beginning tomorrow, welfare families will be required to perform twenty hours of community service to be eligible for benefits. Babysitting services for children under the age of six will be provided by the National Board of Children’s Services. All adults over the age of 18 who are not attending school or college and who are unemployed will be required to participate in this Civilian Community Service Program. Those who refuse will be shot.

I could go on, but if you believe this sounds dictatorial and impossible, you’re right. That’s not the way America operates. Would we like to see our children and grandchildren more protected in our schools than they have been over the past half century? Of course we would. Does that mean patrolling the corridors of our classrooms with armed members of the military? No, not in this country…not yet… not anymore than we consider having our military patrol our streets.

Can we demand that people speak English? No, we can’t demand this. In American schools, English is the language of choice. Those unable to grasp this concept should either learn our language or return to where they won’t be burdened with having to learn it. I have always been embarrassed when I’m in Canada, not to be able to speak French, and I generally apologize for my inability to do so.

Can we demand that our billionaires use their monies to help others who haven’t been as fortunate? Of course we can’t. People like Mr. Buffet and Mr. and Mrs. Gates, just to name a few, are already doing more than their fair share to help others. As far as Harry Reid and Eric Cantor are concerned, well, you take your pick as to which one is the greater idiot.

No, I can’t give a state of the union address. We have checks and balances in this nation that protects the general public from the manner in which I sometimes express myself. But…we have many problems in this country that do need to be addressed. We seem to pay lip service and crocodile tears when a shooting occurs at an elementary or high school, a college or university, a theater or a mall, or on the streets of Boston, Chicago, or Detroit. In reality, we haven’t done a damned thing to prevent similar tragedies. We put thousands of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, but I don’t see the same effort being put into eliminating the cartels in Central and South America, and they are killing probably more Americans daily than are being killed on the sands in the Middle East. Our problems are myriad and many, and rather than face them head-on, we quibble; we squabble; we have elected officials who are more interested in loyalty to party than they are in loyalty to America. These are our real terrorists because they refuse to let the nation move forward. As the late Thomas P. O’Neill, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Country first; state second; party third. Or, if you prefer, how about Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Take your pick…either one works for me.

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