Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Quick Observation about Petraeus

Just a quick observation this morning, apparently Gen (ret) Petraeus won't face any further punishments from the Pentagon according to The Washington Post.  As you may remember, Petraeus plead guilt to mishandling classified materials back in 2012.  The matter was even more tawdry as it involved the information being shared with Petraeus mistress.  There had been a call for the general to lose his fourth star which now won't happen.

It would seem though more might be at work here.  Petraeus was the darling of the war on terror and was highly respected by the troops and public.  But his disagreements with Obama and the White House seemed to foreshadow his demise.  As I've previously shared, the Pentagon has no problem allowing Vice Adm. Branch to remain on the job as Chief of Naval Intelligence even though his clearances have been revoked but they wanted to take Petraeus completely down.

Except now would be a terribly inconvenient time for the White House to slay a former four-star general for mishandling classified information.  For as even the casual observer may be aware, there is a certain former Secretary of State who kept a private email server (unsecured) with at least 24 emails that are so highly classified they can't be released to the public.  This same former Senator from New York sent at least one email to a staffer telling him to strip the header (classification) off and send it in the clear (through un-secure email).

Going after Petraeus while not launching criminal charges against Clinton appears to be too much hypocrisy even for the firm of Lynch and Obama.  Can't keep protecting one while destroying the other, at least not during the primaries.

It still remains to be seen if Clinton will be charged or not.  There is a division between the FBI and the DOJ as to whether to charge Clinton or not.  For those that may not realize this, the FBI does not fall under the DOJ, something old J. Edgar Hoover planned for many moons ago.  Conceivably the FBI still could charge Clinton even though Lynch is unlikely to do so.

We are just getting into the second month of 2016 and its looking more and more to be one helluva of an interesting year.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Things are not what they seem

Despite the advent of the internet and smart devices, we are still as enamored as ever with titles.  Compound this deference to assumed legitimacy and expertise with a decided lack of willingness to do even the most basic fact-checking (despite living in the "information age") and we get the following;

Exhibit A:  Vice Admiral Ted "Twig" Branch has been barred from reading, seeing or hearing classified information since November 2013!  As bad as that sounds, it is actually a lot worse since Vice Adm. Branch happens to be the US Navy's intelligence chief!  The admiral is the focus of a Dept of Justice investigation which was supposed to be quickly over.  The US Navy thought it prudent to suspend the admiral's access to classified information pending the outcome of the investigation.  However, no charges have been brought but neither has Vice Adm. Branch been cleared.  Rather than go through the appointment process to find a new chief of intelligence, the US Navy has left Vice Adm. in place.

You would think the chief of intelligence for any organization would have access to any and all of the information collected and analyzed by his staff but you would be wrong.  I cannot imagine how one is supposed to be the "spymaster" over some 55,000 Navy personnel (including the US Navy cybersecurity) yet is not allowed to see, hear or read any classified information.

Who is directing their efforts?  How are the efforts of the US Navy intelligence to be coordinated with the other service intelligence efforts if their chief can't even sit in the same meetings?  What in the value of any intelligence assessments now from the US Navy when they leave a flag officer in place who is utterly powerless to do his basic task of oversight?

Exhibit B:  Fox News has been making headlines more for its feud between Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump than about its actually news department.  But what really should be catching more attention is the matter concerning one Wayne Simmons.  Mr. Simmons was up until last March a Fox News "expert" on intelligence and foreign affairs.  HIs background was both impressive and mysterious, he was often simply referred to as a "former CIA operative".  He was supposed to have been a deep-cover operative, recruited by the CIA while still working for the US Navy.  Mr. Simmons had become a member of a panel of military experts for Fox that regularly commented on world events.  Turns out Mr. Simmons was a fraud.  He never was a "CIA operative", in fact he never worked for the CIA at all.  Now Mr. Simmons is facing federal charges and if convicted will spend some time in prison.

How did a news organization such as Fox fail to do some simple fact-checking?  With all of those reporters they didn't have anyone who could make a phone call to the CIA just to see if the guy was legit?  So what the hell else hasn't Fox and the other news networks failed to fact-check?

Exhibits A and B should cause us to be ever-vigilant whenever we hear things like "credible sources are reporting a threat" or "experts warn of the dangers of".  Who exactly are these sources and experts? In the case of Simmons, he was taught as an expert yet even a simple check by the human resources department should have sent up a red flag.  Vice Adm. Branch is an expert and holds the position yet an investigation has removed his access to the very information has is supposed to be in charge of.  These are not isolated cases, just ones that have made the headlines in the last  few days.

It is important to keep these stories in mind whenever we hear about "credible threats" or "imminent attack".  We have no idea who is making these calls nor what information they used to draw this conclusion.  I've written before about the dependency of intelligence agencies of today to rely extensively on information collected by sensors and algorithms. Analysts then are making assessments and conclusions based on the assumption that the data they are using is correct.  The end-user (inlacing the general public) assumes that those analysts are all Jack Ryan, when in fact they may be more Stan Smith.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Manipulation of media messages and thoughts on Iran

Sharyl Atkisson giving a lecture on "Astroturf and manipulation of media messages" at a TEDx event.  As a former journalist for CBS, it is especially illuminating to hear her descriptions of how special interest groups, professional social media manipulators, and plan old propaganda shape our opinions in the 21st Century.  I've touched on how Google and other search engines "optimize" what we see based on our preferences but Ms. Atkisson shows how results are manipulated before we even seen them.

Keep her presentation in mind as you read about the incident with the US Navy sailors and Iran.  The whole story is ripe with buzzwords and key phrases to slant information towards your particular view points.  If we go back in time just a little, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry were busy slapping themselves on the back for negotiation a deal that would cause Iran to give-up their nuclear weapons program (well at least for the next 18 months or so).

But there was always an assumption in this deal that Iran's nuclear program was an imminent threat to the US.  North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is run by a despot whose lineage has detested the United States.  Yet neither Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry (and previously Hillary) were engaged in trying to disarm North Korea, however Iran doesn't have any nuclear weapons but is somehow more of a threat?

Let's assume for the moment that Iran was indeed the threat that Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry would have us believe and that indeed the negotiated deal has made us safer.  One conclusion may be that Mr. Obama wanted to make Iran seem more dangerous so that a successfully negotiated nuclear arms deal would be his legacy.  Then on the same day as Mr. Obama's final state of the union speech the US Navy sailors were captured by Iran.

If everything were as copacetic, why then risk sending US Navy vessels anywhere near Iranian forces? We will never know the true reasons these sailors were sent in for it could have been to test Iranian resolve or to monitor Iranian compliance with the arms deal.

In either event, the incident is already being spun as "proof" that things are much better between the United States and Iran.  Odd, I don't recall US sailors being sent in near British or French forces.  And regarding the myth of a nuclear Iran, how is having Iran armed with nuclear weapons any less destabilizing than having the only non-Muslim nation in the region (Israel) most likely having nuclear weapons?

We are probably now in the most difficult time in history to be able to discern the truth since information is being manipulated not only by the usual suspects such as the government but now special interest/social media as well.  

All of this reminds me of a minor bit of clarity that came to me a few weeks ago.  There was this major bad guy named Hitler that United States and the Allies fought during WWII.  What made him so awful was he exterminated 6 million Jews.  It was so reprehensible that there is even a Holocaust museum here in the United States.  Ask any school kid and they probably know how to Google this.

However, you really don't want to think about this too hard for if you do you might be faced with a big question.  If Hitler was truly the anti-Christ that many believe for exterminating 6 million, then what does that make Josef Stalin for exterminating 20 million (estimated because Stalin also purged all records of the existence of those he had executed) of his own people during the Purge?  Oh and those purges happened between 1936-38, way before Hitler and the US were at war (and we knew anything about the Holocaust) yet we still sided with Stalin?  Keep that in mind as more details come out about Iran.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Public Service Announcement to Ladies

This post will be completely off-topic from my normal ramblings about national security, the military and politics.  Yet as you will see, there is a reason why.

Ladies, this is a public service announcement.  Please, please, please don't jump on the bandwagon about the so-called "gender tax" where ladies products (in this case razors) cost more than men's.  The short answer is yes you are paying more but what you are paying for is a MYTH!

For you see, I don't care if you are male or female shaving still is just dragging a sharpened piece of steel across the skin to remove hair.  Don't care about racial, ethnic, national or gender issues this remains true across the human species; razors are used to remove unwanted hair.

Companies such as Gillette and Bic make a fortune from the need for humans to remove body hair by shaving and convincing you that removing hair from a female body is somehow radically different from removing hair from a male body.  Thus was created the myth that in order to remove female hair requires dainty razors with curved handles and special tape to prevent "nicks and cuts".

This is all marketing bullshit that guys have fallen for as well.  The following is just a quick history synopsis on razors and shaving to give you some insight into how the myth was perpetrated.

Originally, when one wanted to remove unwanted body hair your turned to the straight razor.  These were glorious pieces 17th Century technology (yes, men have been putting sharp implements to their own throats for at least that long), used to slough off unwanted facial hair.  But in 1680, when the first listing for straight razors are found, women's fashion did not require women to bare legs or arms.  Therefore women did not have to worry about attempting to maneuver a straight razor around their legs, underarms or other parts.

A straight razor to this day still gives the best, most affordable shave.  The blade can be sharpened before each use thereby ensuring a smooth, clean shave.  A quality straight razor, when properly maintained, can be passed on for several generations.  However, straight razors are very difficult to use and can inflict serious wounds when not held correctly.

Around 1880, the double-edged safety razor was invented.  The safety razor takes the blade and bends it at the correct angle to shave along with a bar, the "safety", to keep the blade a safe distance away from the skin.  The invention of the safety razor reduced the skill need to shave safely.

The invention of the safety razor meant companies like Gillette could make money not only selling the safety razor but also the replacement blades.  Unlike straight razors, safety razors needed new blades on a regular basis creating a whole new industry based on hair removal.

The timing of the safety razor could not have been better for round the turn of the 20th Century, women's fashion started to require showing of the legs and arms.  This meant "unsightly!" hair had to be removed and the safety razor was one of the only ways to go about that initially.

All of this gave Gillette and other companies the grand idea to market razors to women.  More "feminine" designs and marketing campaigns to coincide hair removal with the latest fashions served to produce a terrific market growth.

Then around the 1970s Bic stirred up trouble by introducing a disposable plastic razor, the Bic Shaver!  Now men and women could buy a shaving instrument that your simply threw out once it got dull.  Awesome, now even a bigger market could be created and people fell for "cheaper" disposable shavers that actually cost more than the safety razor blades.

Gillette came back with inventing "twin-edged" disposable razors for "an even closer shave"!  Before you know it more blades were added along with strips of lubricant to prevent razor burn and avoid nicks.  Women's razors followed lock-step, all the while costing more because of the marketing used to convince you that removing hair from a woman's body is so fundamentally different that removing it from a man's.

Actually two myths have been perpetrated on women who shave.  One is that you need a different razor from what men use and second, that you need special strips and curves to prevent nicks and cuts.

Now here is the secret that women and most men don't know, all of those extras you are paying for the get a "smooth, nick free shave" is just marketing.  Period.  Nothing more.  The reason you aren't getting a "smooth, clean nick-free shave" is because you are using a cheap razor!  No, I'm not talking about the actually price but the construction of your razor.

Rather that demanding some elected official take action, or worse waiting until some lame-brained celebrity champions the cause, here is how you beat the "gender tax".  Learn how to shave.

What?  But, you may already been saying, I've been shaving for years!  Right but ladies, as well as most modern men, don't know how to shave.  And it's because Gillette and other companies have been marketing cheaply-made disposable razors to you.  Those cheaply made razors lack the weight to generate enough force on the blade to remove hair, hence people the bad habit of pushing harder on the handle to shave.

You don't need to wait for Washington and Mr. Obama to act.  All you have to do is throw out those cheap-ass razors marketed for women and buy a real safety razor.  Here are two sites where you can find them;

West Coast Shaving

Classic Shaving

Ignore all of the male-centric headlines and look at the safety razors.  Notice anything?  They are all made out of METAL and have a weight and heft to them that may make them seem "manly" but that's the secret to getting that hair off of your skin without nicks, cuts or burn.  What women and men don't know about shaving is that it's the RAZOR and not your hand that does the work.

A good safety razor can be dragged across the skin just using your thumb and forefinger and it will produce smoother shave than anything you get with those shavers for ladies.  No additional pressure necessary and that will greatly reduce your getting nicks and cuts.

The other culprit for nicks and cuts is pitting.  The more blades you have touching your skin, the greater the chance that one of those blades has uneven wear or pitting.  Women especially (I know, I had two daughters plus my wife living with me) like to leave their razors in the shower after they're done.  Whenever one of those hits the floor, it potentially dulls the blades.  The moisture in a shower also tends to corrode the blades leaving microscopic pits.  Those two things combine to give you those cuts on your legs.

For some bizarre reason, people treat items of value with greater respect than disposable items.  No one will leave a high-end safety razor out to rust or get dropped but they will with a disposable.  How much sense does that make to put a dull, rust piece of steel against your skin?

Safety razors are far more economical.  The safety razor can last indefinitely and the blades only cost around ten cents!  That means the minute you feel the blade get dull, toss it and put in a fresh blade.  It is cheaper than buying a whole new pack of "razors" and it's better for the environment as well!

Okay, hopefully you now have your safety razor.  Buy a sample pack of blades to try.  No one but you can tell which blade works best for you.  Oh and while you are at it, ditch the can of shaving cream.  It isn't helping you that much with your shave.  Instead, buy some quality shave cream or shaving soap from those same companies.  You will find it provides a much nicer glide for your new razor.

So please, ladies don't let this turn into another talking point for the politicos and celebrities.  Take matters into your own hands, ditch the marketing crap and buy yourselves a quality safety razor.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Thoughts on Surviving a Mob Attack

It seems like the headlines are becoming filled with even more accounts of riots, insurrections, mobs and of course terrorist attacks.  While I do believe there has been an increase in violent attacks of all manner, it is important to keep in mind that even in the 21st Century the media still has to sell "copy" (or "hits" to the website).  The best way to do that is of course to show violent incidents.

Still, it seems like it's time for us to review our own strategies in advance for dealing with violence, especially if we are in a crowd.  Most self-defense classes focus in on a single attacker, rarely multiple attackers, never mobs.  Mobs are how Reginald Denny was attacked which began the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.  Mobs attacked and raped reporter Lara Logan in 2011.  Mobs are a particular danger since the mass numbers nullify most martial arts and shooting techniques.  They also can form quite rapidly out of thin air.

In 1993, my unit was in eastern Turkey for an exercise.  A group of about 25 of us from the different units participating in the exercise had gone into town for dinner.  The group I was with, about five of us, were walking back to get a taxi.  Ahead were four women from another unit also walking to get a taxi.  Once we got to the taxi stand, the women became surrounded by locals (where no one had been just a few moments ago).

After first, the group of men were a few and seemed like they were just flirting with the nice American women.  Then the group multiplied to 20-30 in the blink of an eye.  You could sense the women were getting scared the group of men surrounding them were becoming more emboldened.

My group plus bother group of men from the base were standing next to the women but this didn't dissuade the Turkish men, in fact it seemed to make them even more belligerent.  An interpreter standing next me suddenly turns to me and says, "We've got to get the women out of here".

A taxi pulls up right then and I shove the women into the taxi.  At first, the now mob didn't realize that the women had left.  Once they did, they started to argue with the rest of us (there were now easily 50 Turks to about 15 US troops).  I got my group into the first taxi we could and got out of there!

As far as I know, there was no violence but that was just timing.  The whole thing probably took less than 10 minutes to go from calm to near riot.

I hadn't thought about that incident for many years but the way things are going today, we all need to learn from the attacks in mobs.  Here are some points to remember;

1.  Avoid crowds whenever possible, especially crowds that are ingesting alcohol or drugs.  This includes nightclubs, concerts and major sporting events.  These venues elicit strong emotions at the best of times which can quickly spill over into violence at the worst of times.  All of those events are also loud making it especially hard to pick subtle changes in the crowd's behavior.  Political events are another opportunity for violence to erupt.  Stay home and watch it on TV.

2.  Have an exit strategy.  Know where the exits are in advance, however keep in mind that sometimes that might be part of the trap.  In the 2012 shooting in Aurora, the shooter used the aisles to his advantage pinning the audience in and preventing them from exiting.  You may have to climb out, break through a window or find a place to hide.  Remember, your plan has to continually update as you move around.

3.  Whenever possible, don't go out alone.  This goes for men as well as women.  A partner is another set of eyes that can help spot trouble or call for help if the situation deteriorates.  The details are still unknown but I'm guessing ABC producer Anne Sweeney was alone when she was murdered in Belize.

4.  Pay attention to your surroundings.  I know, this seems obvious but we get wrapped up in our own thoughts and block out the environment.  People fail to notice when someone is getting agitated or is showing signs that they may be suffering from mental health issues.  A confrontation between two people, even if it's not with you, can escalate into a riot in seconds.  If you decide to go to a club or concert, pay particular attention to the mood.  An altercation between security and some drunken patrons is all it may take to ignite a riot.

5.  Mobs are anonymous.  There is safety in anonymity which causes people in a mob to act differently than if there were alone.  Just think about how people act attending a sporting event.  Screaming and shouting is perfectly but it is also now part of the mob.  If the mob suddenly becomes violent, people who were not violent previously will often just go along.

6.  Don't stand around and watch!  If things start to get ugly, GET OUT!  Don't wait to see what happens next.  Two drunks throwing wild punches at one another may seem hilarious but that's only because they have pulled out any guns yet.  Also be aware that the fight may be a distraction from the real attack.  While you are laughing at the drunks fighting, someone else has pulled out a gun.

7.  Remember your goal is to get away.  Too often people who have received self-defense training of one kind or another think its time to stand toe-to-toe with their attacker.  Wrong!  Use what you know to get away.  Don't care if you know have mastered dim mak, a mob can and will run over the top of you.  Don't care if you carry a Glock 17 with 5 spare mags, you can still only shoot one attacker at a time!  A bum-rush can put any shooter on the ground.  Use your training to create space between you and the nearest attacker to GET THE FUCK AWAY.

8.  Mobs are fluid and predatory.  Just because no one is around, doesn't mean a mob can't form.  Look at the "flash-mob" phenomena from a few years ago.  A pre-coordinated meeting can have dozens of people in an area quickly where previously there were none.  It seems the attacks in Germany are following this pattern.  Muslim immigrants are randomly moving around and only attack when the find a solitary victim.  Keep that in mind the next time you go out or your morning walk or jog.  It also means that just because the mob is focused on someone else, it won't suddenly turn on you.

9.  But if necessary, bring overwhelming violence.  You goal is to get away, however if you have to become violent don't hold back!  You increase your chances of getting away and may actually diffuse a situation from becoming a mob event.  Just don't wait around to receive your championship belt!

10.  Keep moving!  If you all else fails and you do find yourself enveloped by a mob, keep moving!  Stopping is a fast way to get captured, that's what happened to Reginald Denny.  Once you are captured, you are now at the whim of the mob.  Don't let yourself get pinned against a wall or on the ground.  Stay on your feet and keep moving!

11.  Put the cellphone down already!  The next time you go to the store, look at how many people are texting or otherwise looking at their phones.  If you eyes are on your phone, that means they aren't on the environment.  Look up!  You might be surprised at what is about to happen.

12. Remain calm!  This is the most basic yet hardest part.  If you have never been in a mob situation, there is an adrenalin, panic-inducing energy running through everyone.  It is easy to become overwhelmed by it and you will panic.  If that happens, remember to say to yourself "I know what to do" because hopefully you've read this or other articles on mob-violence and have learned what to do.  Just like when we were in elementary school and we learned during fire drills to "Stand up, walk out single file, quietly".  The teachers were teaching us not just where to go but how to survive a fire by remaining calm.  Surviving a mob incident means above all else, we need to remain calm!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Are we really stronger?

So while the President was talking about how much stronger the US is now since he has been in office, this was happening;

"Iran says seizure of U.S. boats a lesson to 'troublemakers' in Congress"

And this;

"IRAN WARNS US OF WAR – Missiles Are Locked on US Aircraft Carrier USS Truman"

And for good measure;

"The Trouble With The US Bomber Overflight Against North Korea"

No matter how you chose to view Mr. Obama's administration, to the rest of the world he appears to be reluctant to take definitive action.  The headlines show that those same threats Mr. Obama feels have been contained are now testing the waters.  North Korea and Iran know this is an election year and are watching the chaos of the Republican nomination process with bemusement.  

Mr. Obama also claims that Daesh is much weaker than we think.  Perhaps, but he seems to have conveniently forgotten about these guys;

And despite sending 300 US troops to Cameroon, we still have not heard about the fate of the school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

The US appears more divisive to them than Mr. Obama's claims allege us to be.  Expect more aggressive actions as they continue to test US resolve.

UPDATE:  Iran releases U.S. Navy sailors held for 16 hours

Monday, January 11, 2016

Of Rough Men and Violence

The following is a quote from Allen B. West on his blog, "If you’re not aware, we’re witnessing a military with an Army at pre-World War II levels — we were woefully unprepared then. Our Marine Corps is at World War I levels. We have the smallest Navy since 1917, almost 100 years. And our Air Force is the smallest and oldest fleet since we created the modern U.S. Air Force."

There is a part of me that is as alarmed as LTC (ret) West regarding the state of our military, especially when our show of force to North Korea is the 60 year old B-52 (I guess the Pentagon and White House are a little more worried about North Korea having a hydrogen bomb than they were willing to admit last week).

But there is another part of me that thinks having large standing militaries, including our own, causes us to look for fights more than simply being prepared to defend against an attack.  I was in this frame of mind after listening to arguments both supporting and against gun ownership based on the Second Amendment.

One of the problems whenever you read or listen to Constitutional scholars argue about the Second Amendment is they always become extremely myopic towards their particular take.  They rarely discuss the bigger issue which is the Second Amendment was designed, regardless of if you take it mean an individual's right own firearms or the right for states to form militias, to protect Americans from federal tyranny.

I heard one learned expert today on the radio more or less call the Second Amendment passé since the Pentagon is more powerful than the American public.  Yet this academic dumb ass failed to make the next conclusion, why in the hell has the Pentagon been allowed to get that big in the first place?

Large standing militaries in Europe 18th Century and earlier were housed on people's land where they ate their food, hunted their game and raped the women.  The Founding Fathers knew this and tried to insure the Constitution would prevent this hence the Second and Tenth Amendments.

The framers knew governments can't be trusted all of the time and the Second Amendment especially was designed to allow the states the ability to protect themselves from federal tyranny and oppression.

I can't remember if it was the same expert or a different one brought up another point that doesn't get mentioned much in the discussion about gun ownership and the Second Amendment.

Blacks were originally denied the right to own firearms, especially in the South.  Eventually even 19th Century white minds began to understand blacks needed to protect themselves from marauders as much as anyone else.  The mindset took a long time to change even amongst the black community.  It really wasn't until the Black Panthers figured out that yes, you could carry weapons in the open during the 1960s.

None of the people today making the argument for or against gun ownership seem to realize minorities and the poor are the people who most need the right to be able to own a firearm.  We here all of the time how black people are most often the victim of violent crime, then why in the hell does the same people making that argument want to see black people (or any American for that matter) unable to protect themselves?

Now looping back to my first paragraph, the US military is downsizing but  at a cost of losing its warrior focus.  The US military is trying to become more "gender-neutral" and opening all positions to everyone.  Reading Allen West's blog, he quoted a CNS News interview with Marine General John Kelly, Commander of U.S. Southern Command; "---if we don’t change standards, it will be very, very difficult to have any numbers, any real numbers, come into the infantry, or the Rangers or the Seals, but that’s their business.”

General Kelly was speaking about the recent Pentagon decisions opening all combat positions to women.  Based on my experience, the general is right.  The bureaucrats will be "shocked" or "disappointed" by the low to non-existent numbers of female applicants to the elite combat units so some obsequious general or colonel looking to make general will have a re-look at entrance qualifications.  You guarantee that promotion seeker will write a white-paper determine that lo and behold, the standards need to be changed (read, lowered).

The military has always been a social experiment, as much as my fellow vets hate to admit it.  Where else can you get the fittest 18-25 year olds and subject to a variety of trials without fear of being sued?  the US military of course!  Unfortunately recently the trend has been to make the US military look more like the rest of American instead of like the warrior caste it was meant to be.

We have created specialized offices to investigate sexual assault and to teach people how to be more sensitive towards LGBT troops while seeming to forget the main job is to kill the enemy and blow shit up.  Operators, trigger pullers, the elite troops…in order to function at that level you are basically functioning as a borderline sociopath.  You can't be empathetic towards the enemy or you will get killed or get those around you killed.  So after we've trained these young men and women to kill, now we want them to take time out and also be empathetic?

Ponder that next time you are considering your particular take on the Second Amendment and gun ownership or gun control.  I'll close with the same quote Allen West used from George Orwell, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The German Problem

I was first stationed in Germany right after the Berlin Wall came down reuniting the two Germanys.  While stationed at Rhein Main (Frankfurt), reports started to come in about immigrants (not the refugees of today, these were foreigners who had legally migrated to Germany) were being attacked throughout southeastern Germany (which had just recently been part of East Germany).

The attacks were by neo-Nazis but what was more interesting were the towns that these attacks were occurring were some of the same towns were Nazism was started.  Germans don't like talking about Nazis and the neo-Nazis were always a source of embarrassment for most Germans.  However, despite the shame over the past there were still some young Germans that did not want their country soiled with foreigners, especially if there were Muslim or Asian.

Flash forward to just a few weeks ago.  Immigrants from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East attacked at least 120 women in Germany (and yes, all of the women were white and all of their attackers were non-white migrants).  German officials tried their best to hide the news and pretend like this really didn't happen.  The US press can't understand why the German government seems to be in such denial.  But the answer is more complicated then simple denial.

If the German government officially recognizes the situation and starts to implicated Muslim immigrants then all hell will break lose.  The right wing, and especially the neo-Nazis, will come storming back into power.  As much as Germany officially condemns its Nazi past, there are still Germans today that don't share the government's take on things especially when it comes to pro-immigration.  Social Democrats and other left wing Germans are terrified they are seeing the kinds of things right wingers and neo-Nazis have been protesting about for decades….German women being sexually assaulted by dark-skinned foreigners!

The question becomes, can Germany still pretend to "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" if German women continue to be assaulted by Muslim immigrants?  The attacks are occurring in other European countries as well (Sweden and Switzerland to name a few) so even if the German media keeps hush, other European news sites will be covering the situation.

The new year is barely into its second full week and things are continuing to emerge that promise to make 2016 a very interesting year.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016, Week One

Not quite the first week of 2016 and already we've had some amazing stuff happening.  Let's start off with the something most of us have been enjoying, record low prices at the gas pump.  A combination of a high mileage vehicles, record low temperatures in the easter US and a glut of surplus oil in the supply systems has kept prices low with no end in sight.

Unfortunately, as our economy is based around higher prices for oil, the low price of gas has meant chaos for the stock market.   Compound this with the worries over China's stock market and you get the Dow tumbling nearly 400 points (WSJ).

The one sector of the market that is enjoying a huge bump is the gun manufacturers thanks to the President.  Records gun sales have factories struggling to keep up with the demand.  After shedding a tear the other day and sending federal agents to deal with Oregon ranchers, Mr. Obama is keeping things interesting on the domestic front.

Of course the week began with news that North Korea may have tested a hydrogen bomb (to which the White House Press Secretary assures us did not happen).  North Korea, unlike Russia and China, is more unpredictable than in the past.  Kim Jong-un has executed much of his staff so what type of advice his new staff gives remains to be seen.

While reading the stories about North Korea, I came across some reader comments that if true, should be of even more concern than North Korea.  Supposedly, according to readers posting on different websites, China may have developed a sophisticated under tunnel system to protect their nuclear missiles.  If the reports are true, the US may not be able to target these missiles.  China has the technical expertise, manpower and finances to build such an infrastructure.  So the alarming conclusion is if they did build, it wasn't built just for show.

Whilst the major stuff plays out away from much of the public's view, women in Germany and Sweden are being attacks and/or sexually assaulted by immigrants.  Of course these headlines are coming at bad time for the pro-immigration advocates as details are showing a very aggressive stance by Muslim immigrants in Germany and Sweden against western women who they seem as unclean.  The Muslim immigrants in Germany and Sweden (and perhaps other countries, these are the only ones though that they media has reported) feel they can abuse women who are wearing hajibs and dress moderately.

I feel that this is all being put out by the media to cause us to panic and take us off our guard.  Create enough paranoia and eventually something blowing up.  I'm just not certain if all of this is coordinated or just a bunch of unrelated incidents happening simultaneously.

And let me finish with an honorable mention by she-who-would-be-President, Hillary Clinton.  She has managed to run an unsparing campaign thus far and seems more and more like an animatronic puppet that have to wheel out for each appearance.  Her campaign foolishly trotted out Bill Clinton only to restart the old fires over his past affairs.  If that wasn't bad enough, headlines were flying around this week that she may be indicted over the classified emails in as little as 60 days.  No wonder Joe Biden was quoted as saying he regrets everyday not running for President.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Tear

By now, you surely have seen the photos or video of Mr. Obama shedding a tear over the Sandy Hook shootings.  As much as I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, I suspected this display by our President was just some calculated theater to make his ineffectual attempt to lessen gun violence to seem more heartfelt.

Instead, Mr. Obama comes across as even more of a wimp than ever.  Couldn't he have portrayed more of a righteous indignation as opposed to a "80s guy" (one who felt so much they cried.  See "Lethal Weapon")?  Mr. Obama and handlers, as well as his detractors, have created situation where the Presidency has been lessened.  All of the vitriol directed to Mr. Obama really has also eroded the office of the President.

How are other world leaders to take a President seriously that gets so wrapped-up in his own lame executive order that he cries?  It did not come across heartfelt, perhaps because Mr. Obama has an almost artificial way of speaking.  Worse, if you look at how many months he has left in office one wonders if he isn't crying more about his inability to make "change" than about the children killed at Sandy Hook.  Essentially he is crying because he is powerless.

His detractors are reveling in that but this presents us with a very dangerous situation on the world front.  As Russia continues to try to regain its global prominence, and China not far behind, how will the US maintain any sort of balance?

Some reading this may applaud and think, "that's why Trump is my man!".  But despite Trump's wide appeal and readiness to flip-off the establishment, he may be unable to conquer the machinations of the Republican party nomination process.  The delegates are almost hard-wired to vote for establishment figures like Rubio or Cruz.

If that happens, I see even more unrest occurring with Republican and Conservative voters abandoning the election altogether and opening the door for Hillary.  Contrary to what most of her supporters, and even critics think, Hillary is much more of a hawk than any of the other candidates including Trump.  In eleven months, we will know the answer to the question who is the next president and depending on that answer, we may all be shedding a tear.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Executive Action

If the headlines in my news feeds are to be believed, we have gone from worrying about police brutality (Ferguson) to mass shooters (San Bernardino) to executive action mandating gun control.  Perhaps I've grown somewhat inept in age but I can't seem to find any headlines explain how the issues of police brutality, racial tensions or even the mental health issues of mass shooters have been solved but we are in a tizzy over Mr. Obama's executive orders.

The right are aghast and see the BATF agents storming into everyone's home even though the BATF is woefully undermanned to make such a scenario a reality.  The left feel their hearts aflutter for their "man", Obama, has finally shown what he is made of.  The problem is Mr. Obama's actions really don't do a damn thing except cost the taxpayer more money without reducing the threat of mass shootings/serial killers/terrorism.

That isn't just a snide comment by yours truly, just take a look at this article that appeared on Forbes last year about the costs of the war on terror.  According to Forbes, at the time of the article (Feb 2015) the war on terror has cost $1.7 trillion!  For that kind of money, there shouldn't be a terrorist left but of course that didn't happen.  But people are willing to believe that somehow Mr. Obama's final few executive actions will be different (either impacting gun owners or reducing gun violence).

Look at Chicago, Mr. Obama's old stomping ground.  The Windy City has some of the most stringent gun controls in the nation and yet it also enjoys one of the highest gun homicide rates.  Yes we need to address the gun violence but the solution won't come from some paper pusher in Washington.

But there is something else that should cause us alarm over Mr. Obama's expected executive action.  Namely, it could sent things in motion to create even more instability within the US.

The US landmass is too large and too far away from other countries to ever really face a large scale invasion.  Therefore if any nation would like to attack the US, it would be far easier to stir dissension amongst its citizens (which some extreme right wing goofs are already calling for in response to Mr. Obama's executive action).  Mr. Obama may be unwittingly playing right into this.  If a civil war is possible in the 21st Century US, we may just be seeing the beginning in 2016.  And wouldn't that make things a lot easier for our adversaries if we were all shooting at each other?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday Headlines

Normally Sunday is a day for relaxing and reflection but today's headlines are just too compelling to ignore.  "Armed Anti-Government Protestors" (CNN) have taken over a building on a federal wildlife refuge.  One of the protests is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who had staged his own anti-government protests earlier.  Both incidents are in response to the government's harsh response to ranchers who refuse to sell their lands.

Right below that headline appeared this gem "Come And Take It" (Breitbart).  Texas Governor Greg Abbott made the remark in response to Mr. Obama's anticipated executive action to impose more gun control measures.

At a time when we could very easily be facing WWIII, battle lines are being draw along pro-gun versus anti-gun Americans.  The actions of the anti-government/pro-gun camp in Oregon and the "molon lane" reference from the Texas Governor are the very things Mr. Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch have been waiting for, an opportunity to prove how dangerous the right wing, gun-toting lunatics are.  Executive orders may be the least of the measures Mr. Obama will feel compelled to enact especially if there is any shooting between the Oregon protests and federal agents.

Now here is the more interesting part of these stories that most news outlets won't point out.  What would the government's response (including state, county and local) had the been black instead of white?  Would the anti-government protestors be portrayed in the media the same way had the been part of the Black Lives Matters movement?

As we head towards some ugly confrontations amongst ourselves, keep in mind that Saudi Arabia just executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 others resulting in the Saudi embassy being overrun by pissed off Iranians (hmm, where have we seen that before?).  Now Saudi Arabia has cut all ties with Iran (further isolation of Iran?).  A jaded and cynical former analyst might be inclined to suspect Saudi Arabia did this with a subtle nod from Valerie Jarrett and Obama just to put more pressure on Iran.

Let's keep things real when we speak about the Middle East.  We will here a lot during the election cycle about needing to support our ally in the Middle East, Israel.  Truth of the matter though is Israel isn't out ally as much as our "stick" in the Middle East.  Israel does not contribute to the stability of other Muslim nations in the region so the US had to find a "carrot" and landed on Saudi Arabia.  Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is no more of a stabilizing force in the region and the Saud family is widely hated throughout the region.

If the US even gave the slightest hint to Saudi Arabia to execute those prisoners and/or cut off ties with Iran, this could have been one of the worst foreign policy blunders in decades.  Iran already has strong ties with Russia, this may cause matters to take some unexpected turns.  For example, Turkey has been taken pot shots at Russia.  Russia has responded by exposing oil sales between Turkey and ISIS.  Iran and Russia may be draw into a conflict with Turkey.  Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabia government may start falling apart over the executions and ensuing backlash in the region.

It will be interesting to see what else Monday brings along with Obama's executive orders.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Effete Leadership and its results

Mr. Obama may leave office with one of the worst rankings of any President and I fear he won't really understand why.  His approach to sky-rocketing health care costs was to mandate everyone have insurance instead of dealing with with the actually costs.  Instead of dealing with the racial and societal factors behind mass shootings, he makes much to do about gun control that won't stop people from hating one another.  In light of the shootings in San Bernadino and bombing in Paris, he admonished Americans to not give into fear instead of admonishing the media for spreading fear in the first place.

In a word, Mr. Obama appears effete.  He has a bad habit of dismissing fears of Americans the way an irritated parent does when a child can't sleep because of monsters in the closet.  Mr. Obama doesn't even try to open the closet to prove there is nothing to fear, he instead jets off to deal with climate change.  Then he wonders why no one applauded his efforts.  Americans are not worried about climate change they way they are about the economy (read, jobs), race relations, or even education.  He then appears to leave again, this time to vacation in Hawaii, about as far away as he can get from the public.

Mr. Obama is certainly not the first, and undeniably not the last, US President to have a high-brow approach with America.  Unfortunately the state of affairs surrounding his administration makes his approach especially egregious.  The US military has been at war for 14 years, the longest in its history with no end in sight.  The original players of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have given way to the newer and bigger Daesh (ISIS).  Since the advent of ISIS, there have been more lethal attacks.

Domestically, race relations have deteriorated under the first black President.  This has further turned into a worsening of relations between the police and minority communities.  In turn, more mass shooters may arise in response to the worsening state of race in the US.  Compounding racial tensions is the push for increasing minimum wage to $15 an hour.  The majority of people effected by this are minorities, the very people most likely to be displaced when employers are forced to enact the $15 minimum wage.

In the midst of this uncertainty, Mr. Obama has pushed for more immigrants to be allowed into the country which is spurring even more tensions along racial and economic lines.  Not to mention the fear of increased terrorist attacks.

Mr. Obama's response is to act as though these fears are just hose of a petulant child and go about his business as normal.  As a result, we are about to see one of the most chaotic Republican nominations ever and Presidential election that more about repudiating Mr. Obama's policies rather than about moving forward.

None of this is going unnoticed by our adversaries.  A few mass shootings here, a bombing there, maybe a cyber attack or two and the US could be sent into complete chaos.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016, The Year of Living Dangerously

The world continues to be an interesting place.  We've made tremendous advances in healthcare and technology yet many people in the US feel more uncertain than in earlier decades.  My natural inclination was to attribute this to changing spectrum of foreign affairs or the continued need for US troops to be sent into harm's way.  However, none of those events alone seemed to adequately explain what is going on here in the US (and I would venture to say the rest of the world).

Then something occurred to me as I watched the social media feeds explode with headlines about Mr. Obama's executive orders next week in respect to guns.  Depending on how you social media newsfeed identifies you, you either get headlines about how Mr. Obama is going to use his executive powers to begin gun confiscation or how Mr. Obama is finally going to do something about the rampant gun violence in the US.

A dispassionate review of what Mr. Obama executive orders are likely to encompass are more background checks for potential gun buyers and prohibiting those on the no-fly list from buying guns.  If these are his only courses of action, then then are neither as draconian or omnipotent as the social media feeds would lead readers to believe.  And that's when it hit me, in 2016 the most dangerous thing is our social media feeds.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. track our likes and clicks to develop algorithms about what we want to see in our news feeds.  Compare your Facebook feed to your spouse or friend's feed.  You're likely to see completely different ads and headlines.  We are unconsciously being manipulated by how these algorithms generate the content on our social media.

The problem is it doesn't stop with if you see an add for L.L. Bean while I see an ad for Nike, the news content on your Google and Yahoo searches are also skewed by algorithms.  Compare the news articles  between you and your siblings or children.  Information is divided up along lines of age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.  Most of this is nothing new except now the algorithms are being used by the traditional news outlets as well.

Trump is a perfect example.  Headlines about him that appear in your newsfeeed will tend to slant to however the algorithms have identified your political leanings.  By the way, the algorithms know more about us than your want to believe.  That's why I'm less likely to see articles on education reform in India than about terrorist groups in India.

The algorithms driving social media are blinding us to alternative news and analysis.  Think how quickly your newsfeed exploded about some celebrity making a racist remark, only to find out it was taken out of context or completely fabricated.  But by then, you've already made up your mind to hate that person.

Now imagine headlines only telling you that black people are organizing to attack cops or that cops kill black people are being acquitted.  Or headlines that tell you that train stations in Germany were shutdown due to credible terrorist threats, the same kind that caused Los Angeles to shutdown its public schools for a day.

2016 will be an especially dangerous year for this phenomena as we are getting to elect a new President whom our opinions about will be shaped not by thoughtful analysis but by algorithms designed to appeal to our preferences on social media.