Tuesday, October 25, 2016

When War is No Longer Dangerous

Imagine a war that has been going on for 15 years, it seems inconceivable that such a thing could even happen yet US forces have been doing exactly that.  How can this happen?  For that answer, we need to turn to George Orwell and his titular novel "1984" where the character Winston learns in "The Book' that if a war continues look enough, it is no longer perceived as dangerous.

Think how you felt on Sep 11, 2001 after watching the towers fall.  There was no one in the country who could stand against sending US forces after the people who sent the hijackers.  But 15 years and after countless casualties on both sides, do you still feel the same?

We no longer feel the same level of danger that we did back then.  The public has become numb to the never-ending deployments.  Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney (and continued by Mr. Obama) in their quest to privatize war hit on sustainable model by simply NOT asking the public to make sacrifices.  We honor the troops because they make the sacrifices and no one else has to.

But to feel no danger means to also feel no reason to build new weapons.  Some of us might start to ask uncomfortable questions like how many college degrees could have been paid for with the cost of the F-35 program?  Or just the price of the USS Zumwalt ($4 billion) could have been used to build a nationwide passenger rail system?

Thus to keep people from asking those kinds of questions we must be reminded of the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran, North Korea or Russia.  Dangers that can only be kept at bay by the latest technologically advanced weapons (which may or may not work as advertised).  The need to remind us of these dangers is especially important during the election cycle.  Hence the headlines letting us know that Russia MIGHT shoot down a US aircraft should a no-fly zone be imposed in Syria (and who started everything in Syria?).

Regardless of who gets into the White House, they will have to overcome the public laissez faire attitude towards war and danger.  Inciting racial tensions is good in the short-term to remind people of danger but it isn't sustainable and doesn't not buy more Zumwalts or F-35s.  ISIS has been kind of filling that role but again terrorism isn't sustainable way of creating a sense of danger.  For that, you need nuclear weapons.

Trump's foreign policy is unknown.  Forget stump speeches, we will only now for sure what he will do if he wins the election.  Hillary on that other hand has a track record of wanting to shutdown North Korea and then Iran's nuclear weapons programs.  Should she get elected, expected the nuclear threat to ramp up to full speed.  For that matter, don't be surprised to see nuclear civil defense drills to come back  into vogue under Hillary.

To be sure, there is danger out there but how much of that isn't due to the hardline stance taken by Hillary as the Secretary of State?  In order for her foreign policies to continue, she will need to continue the development and deployment of strategic weapons.  There is no money in peace and if there is one thing we know about Hillary she is about money.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Jill Stein: Hillary Clinton's Declared Syria Policy Could Start A Nuclear War

Historically, Third Party candidates have not gotten to even 10 percent in the polls.  Maybe it's time for that to change.  Jill Stein gets it…the real danger isn't a Trump in the White House.  The real danger is putting another Clinton in the White House;

'The wars have gotten bigger, we are now bombing seven countries.

It is important to not just look at the rhetoric but also look at the track record and the reality is the lesser people and greater people is a race to the bottom, and even Donald Trump in the right wing extremism grows out of the policies of the Clintons, in particular Nafta, which sent our jobs overseas and Wall Street deregulation, which blew 9 million jobs up into smoke.

That is what is creating this right wing extremism. A vote for Hillary Clinton isn't going to fix it...

It is now Hillary Clinton that wants to start an air war with Russia over Syria by calling for a no fly zone

Read more here;

Jill Stein: Hillary Clinton's Declared Syria Policy Could Start A Nuclear War

The headlines are full of disgusting stories about Trump but he is still a point or two ahead of Hillary.  Even the ones showing her ahead aren't showing her ahead by much.  People hate Trump but the secret the media is hiding is many more hate Hillary.  Forget her husband for a moment.  Forget her shenanigans while an attorney.  Hell even forget about her private email server.  Just consider that while Secretary of State, three major figures where killed…Osama bin Laden, Qaddafi and al-Awlaki (who was still an American citizen when he was killed).  Once Kerry became Secretary of State, not a single leader of major political figure has been terminated.  Don't think Hillary will start a nuclear war?  Then read this;

CIA Prepping Possible Cyber Strike Against Russia

'The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News."

Mr. Obama, along with the usual suspects of Jarrett and Rice, are setting the events in motion to allow Hillary (the presumed next President) to have just cause to launch an attack against Russia.  Mr, Putin sees what is about to happen and isn't going to be caught unprepared.  The article about the cyber strike isn't from some obscure site or overseas press, it is from NBC.  Yet, there are still many voters that will still vote for Hillary.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Better GOP

PR firms data-mine blogs relevant to their clients expertise and send out unsolicited emails to the blogger encouraging them to write about their clients or cause.  It comes as part of the territory, these invites to set-up interviews, especially during the silly season aka elections.  Our Congressman, Steve Stivers from the 15th District, sends out periodic emails to let us know what he is doing (truth in lending; Congressman Stivers and I met a few times when we both were officers in the Ohio National Guard).  His most recent email blast caught my attention, titled "Addressing the Growing Threat from North Korea" I quickly clicked on it.

Congressman Stiver's email summarized many of the recent acts of hostility committed by North Korea in the region and called for more US action to intervene in the future (presumably by the next administration).  There was a link within his summary to "better.gop" as well.

The link takes you to Speaker Ryan's website and under "national security", I found Ryan and the GOP's strategy listed:

- We must make it our top national security priority to prevail in the war against radical Islam.

- We must keep terrorists out of America, secure our borders, and stop cyber attacks.

- We must make sure our country is ready to tackle the threats of our time and beyond

- We must restore American influence, advance free enterprise, and expand the community of free nations

The 4 bullet points read like those mission statements everyone was writing for the company or organization back in the 1990s.  You know the ones, they went something like "A world class organization posed nimbly to rapidly respond to global changes in a dynamic environment with a well seasoned, diverse staff of experts ready to meet your needs".  Try fitting that on a business card!

The GOP "Better Way" strategy is much like those mission statements; an amalgamation of the latest buzzwords that really don't say anything.  Take for example goal number 1, "Defeat the Terrorists", we are admonished to make it a top national security priority to prevail in the war against radical Islam. It begs the question, so for the last 15 years we haven't?  Does this mean non-radical Islamic terrorists get aren't a top national security priority?

Perhaps the most frustrating part is Ryan's intellectual laziness in using the term "radical Islam".  I challenge you to find 5 people, experts of lay people, who can give you the same definition of radical Islam.  It is lazy since Ryan (and whoever wrote this for him) chose a sound-byte rather than a more workable definition.  Why even mention Islam?  A terrorists is a terrorist and if we only are concerned about the theological motivations we are going to be missing a more people who want to kill Americans.

In "Protecting the Homeland", Ryan and the GOP want to keep terrorists out of America.  To which you need to remind them, the terrorists are already here.  ISIS has been recruiting their operatives virtually from around the world.  They don't need to smuggle operatives in, they are already here.  Securing our borders really means the border with Mexico now doesn't it?  Why not say so and instead of building a wall or some other such nonsense, why not develop a strategy with the Mexican government to improve conditions for their own people?

"Tackle new threats" makes it sound like the Pentagon hasn't ever though of a new threat.  That's all students in the various war colleges are challenged to think about and write papers about.  And exactly how much of the taxpayers money is Mr. Ryan and his GOP friends will to spend on this?

"Defend our Freedom" and restore our influence.  Careful, this sounds suspiciously like empire-building but moreover, why?  Why should taxpayer dollars be spent on this?  What does "expand the community of free nations" mean exactly?  Those countries that are beholding the United States?

Each time I read through these, I get a little more upset.  Someone, or a group of someones, probably got paid handsomely for this tripe and it is passing as a national security platform.  Nowhere was North Korea and its nuclear weapons addressed.  Nowhere was Iran and its blossoming nuclear program addressed.  Nowhere was Russia and its increased paranoia towards the US addressed.  Nowhere was China's expansion in the Pacific Rim addressed.  Almost all of the bullets were about terrorism or trying to invoke Donald Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again".

If this is what the GOP is hanging their hats on in regards to national security, perhaps this is why none of their candidates were able to beat Trump.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A cautionary tale

Whenever people hear the term "mind control", they think of some dark and sinister government facility were people are programmed via drugs or other means.  What the average person doesn't understand our minds are controlled everyday.

Think about a stage magician.  He or she performs trick based on getting your mind to think something is going on that really isn't.  Or the street hustler running a game of Three-Card Monte, he gets you to think you have found the "lady"  All of these are examples of mind control that we see all of the time and none of it occurs inside some type of secret facility.

The media has been manipulating our minds by all of the sensational coverage of the elections.  Quite frankly, our election process may never recover.  Certainly the candidates bear much of the blame, however the media has set in the background and manipulated matters to an even more fevered pitch.  Doubt it?  Quick tell me if any African-Americans are on the ticket this year?  No?  Look up Ajamu Baraka, he is Jill Stein's running mate. (So Hillary isn't only woman running for office?)  Of course the media doesn't cover anyone else but the two party candidates these days.  Oh and for veterans, Baraka is the only veteran (US Army, Vietnam) running this year.

If you haven't already unfriended people on Facebook over the election (or have been unfriended yourself), then you may have had a few choice words for friends or colleagues who don't see things like you do.  Therapists have been reporting an uptick in the number of patients who are being stressed out by the election coverage.  Their advice?  Tune out!

But of course humans are drawn to sights of violence and destruction, just watch how people slow down to look at road accidents.  They will keep watching the election and getting more upset.

If they aren't upset about the election, then they are likely upset about the continued state of race relations in the US.  African Americans still have yet to get the issue of police shootings moved out of the soon-byte arena and into a meaningful forum.  Oh and just so you understand, there are as many whites being shot by police as blacks but the media doesn't cover those so if you are white, you don't feel the outrage that blacks do.

Or perhaps you are pissed off about the state of immigration.  You are convinced everyone of those immigrants illegally entering our country are terrorists or rapists (Keep in mind this is the mentality that led a certain nationalist party to power, one that we keep saying will never happen again).  Why do you or those you know feel that way?  Because the media goes out of their way to put "Muslim" or "Middle Eastern" in the headline of any terrorist attack or sensational rape case (especially if the victim is a white female).  No, I'm not denying the cases but I'm pointing out how we are being manipulated by how these headlines are written.

The NFL is losing viewers all because one quarterback refused to stand for the national anthem.  Some how or other, this became tantamount to high treason or at least flag burning.  Even with the trend now spreading to high school athletes, there has been no dialog about what the gesture is really about and people are in patriotic hysterics about how disrespectful his and the other athletes actions are towards fallen vets.  Really?  I've never heard one of these athletes saying anything disrespectful towards our troops or fallen vets yet the press remains silent and just lets the hatred and vitriol spread like cancer.

Now let's say you have managed not to follow the elections, live in an area where your community and the police get along, and have no interest in pro-sports.  But if you live in the Southeast or have friends or family that do, you are tracking Hurricane Matthew.  This powerhouse storm flattened Haiti (or what was left after the 2011 earthquake and the ensuing cholera epidemic) and is hitting the US.  Even the most kind-hearted, non-news following people will be checking in the storm's progress.

Going back to my original point, all of these headlines are being crafted to keep our minds away from some very frightening that is going on.  Russia has now pulled out of nuclear security pact with the US (and the US followed suit) saying relations with the US has deteriorated into "hostile actions".  Moscow sees a lamb duck president and a contentious election going on with neither candidate appearing to be very pro-Russia.  Many military experts say this along with "no-fly zones" in Syria means World War III (Russia is taking this seriously and has re-instituted civil defense drills).

Last nigh was the second presidential debate and it served to embolden people's opinions of their own candidate over the other, it did nothing to persuade people to look at the other candidate with fresh eyes.  Remember in the not too distant past, debates where an opportunity to learn something about the candidates policies or positions that you may not have known.  Instead, the debates are playing out like an episode of some sleazy reality show.

While we continue to hate each other for our presidential choices, Russia is not taking the time to wait for the election.  Mr. Putin and his advisors see things deteriorating within the US and thus its relationship with Russia.  Mr. Obama is a lamb duck president, he can't offer much to persuade Mr. Putin that the future will be just fine.  So Mr. Putin's latest is to move nuclear weapons next to Poland.  It is an aggressive move, one that shows how little faith Russia has in being able to negotiate with the US via diplomatic means.

Americans in general tend to forget that what happens here in the US concerns other nations as well.  How we treat each other is how we are likely to treat foreign nations in the event of a confrontation.  People running around saying things like "race relations have never been worse" makes other countries think we are on the verge of a race war or civil war. They aren't going to wait around to see what happens, countries like Russia are going to get ready now.  But the media has convinced the public that the far greater danger is from each other.

Monday, October 3, 2016

An open letter to TSA

Open Letter to TSA;

After traveling this weekend by air, my observations of TSA is things aren't getting any better for them.  The organization is still centered around preventing another 9/11 and as such, all of their methods and techniques revolve around that particular scenario.  The moral of a typical TSA screener is akin to a prisoner doing hard time.  Moral is not helped by the ridiculous testing standards and micromanagement that can get an agent written up for the smallest infractions.

In the last six months, I have been the TSA screening process at Columbus, San Antonio, Dayton and Jacksonville, FL.  Each time the experience was pretty much the same, search checked baggage for explosives.  Search carry-on bags for banned items.  Have passengers remove belts and shoes and go through full body scanner.  Move along, move along.  Hardly the stuff to recruit young, vibrant workers towards your agency!

In my admittedly small sample group, not once did any TSA employee engage passengers.  Everything was robotic, no conversation.  No smiles.  Just do as we say.  Everything spoken was done from rote and sounded like a recording instead of being uttered by a human.  Not a single TSA employee looked happy (by far the saddest ones are the lone TSA agents posted at the exit points.  It makes you ask yourself, "Who did you piss off to get stuck out here?"

The TSA approach of "guilty until proven innocent" stresses both passengers as well as employees.  It also causes TSA to miss opportunities to learn more about passenger behaviors.  I saw no one being friendly towards a TSA agent so the agents aren't friendly back.  Ask any cop, getting people to talk is an invaluable tool.  TSA could be getting so much more information but quite frankly, their approach sucks.

Few if any of the TSA agents make eye contact with passengers other than the BDOs (behavior detection officers) who stick out like sore thumbs because they are the only ones looking (more like glaring).  In most other countries, the role of the BDO is unobtrusive.  You will never know who is looking any everyone conduction the screening is engaged with the passengers.  Not because they are friendlier than TSA but because each one knows they could be the one to discover a vital indicator that the passenger is a threat.

TSA spends ridiculous amounts on technology and manpower.  It also adds ridiculous amounts of time to travel and causes delays in flights without any evidence to show that it was necessary in the first place.  TSA needs to seriously revamp itself.

First, get rid of the quasi-police looking uniforms.  TSA agents aren't law enforcement and shouldn't pretend to be.  Perhaps a polo shirt and cargo pants would be too informal but the current uniform creates an "us vs them" impression.  Second, stop looking just for explosives and start looking more for "tells".  Not everyone traveling is a threat so learn to look for those that are (can't figure that out?  I'd go ask the Israelis for a start).  Single those out for additional screenings and let the rest go through.  Third, and perhaps most importunely, GET OVER YOURSELVES!  Your grim determination is off-putting and ineffective at doing what your are supposed to be doing; making passengers feel safer!  Passengers are tired, stressed they may miss their flight, and many are traveling with small children or infirmed family members. They aren't in the best mood and really don't care for your grim, save-the-world attitude.  If however you learned how to be friendly, you would not only improve the gathering of information but your employees moral improve as well (don't know where to start?  Go talk to Disney.  They seem to have it figured out pretty well)

Screening should make us feel safer, not aid in turning travelers into anti-social hooligans.