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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A reasonable solution to the debate over President Trump's Executive Order on refugees.

Less than three months into Donald Trump's Presidency, its become obvious that the opposition will oppose and obstruct everything the Trump Administration attempts to achieve.  I realize I'm wasting my time when I ask certain questions, but can you imagine the indignation of the Democrats if the GOP had behaved in the same manner to Barack Obama, who had his cabinet approved with no drama and his Supreme Court choices approved by near unanimous votes?  Regardless, President Trump will outlast his opponents because the Constitution is on his side.  For instance, President Trump's Executive Order delaying the resettlement of refugees for a three-month or less time period, while Homeland Security and the FBI complete thorough reviews of each applicant, is authority guaranteed the Executive Branch by the Constitution.  Barack Obama put a six-month ban on refugees from Iraq in 2011, and other Presidents also exercised this authority, with not a word of disagreement.  A quick check of Google will turn up volumes of commentary pointing out that Trump targeted a handful of nations, while Obama only focused on Iraq; but the issue is not about the differences in what Obama and Trump were trying to accomplish, this issue is about the legality of the Executive Order.  The fact that previous Presidents have delayed immigration and refugee resettlement for National Security concerns, makes it clear that such authority rests with the Executive Branch, not with District Courts. 

President Trump's original Executive Order included Iraq, which caused a great deal of inconvenience for Iraqis who had assisted the U.S. government during the last war, from legal resettlement in the United States.  After District Judge James Rodart in Seattle ruled against Trump, instead of pushing the appeals process all the way to the Supreme Court, Trump and his legal team removed Iraq from the Executive Order.  Actually, Judge Rodart wasn't that interested in potential injustices dealt to the Iraqi community.  His justification for ruling against the Executive Order was its "apparent" discrimination against Muslims.  Since President Trump had been quoted on the campaign trial occasionally talking about Muslim refugees and immigration, Rodart makes the assumption that Trump is a racist, and that the Executive Order purposely targets Muslims solely based on their religion.  Can we assume that if Trump added Norway and Luxemburg to the list, Rodart would change his ruling? Don't count on it.  As expected, President Trump issued a re-worded Executive Order, basically with the same intent, but with Iraq removed.  And as anticipated, Hawaii, a left-leaning state, and Obama-appointed District Judge Derrick Watson wasted no time in ruling against Trump once again, but with the same justification.  Both Rodart and Watson believe that President Trump's Executive Orders are motivated by racism and unfairly target Muslims.  The problem is, neither Judge has the authority to rule against the Executive Branch on this issue, just as any Republican District Judge who decided to rule against President Obama in 2011 would have been overstepping his authority.

Sadly, my argument will fall on deaf Democrat ears, but I have an idea that makes so much sense, we just might make a breakthrough.  If Trump would be willing to withdraw his Executive Order on refugees, and forego a Supreme Court showdown which likely would be won by the Administration, would Hawaii and Washington State, which seem oh-so proud of their District Judges, be willing to accept and resettle the refugees in their respective states?  At this point, the numbers don't seem to be overwhelming, and I know that the great Northwest has lots of space to fill up, so why not take on this responsibility?  Why should Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and a host of other "Red States", be beholden to an Oregon or Hawaii-based District Judge's ruling?  If Oregon and Hawaii can thumb their nose at a legal Executive Order from the President of the United States, then why should the twenty-some Red States have to accept refugees because of decisions made by two activist, progressive District Judges?  To get to the heart of the matter, I'm getting a bit tired of liberals who feel some obligation to save the world, trying to force the results of their agenda on everyone else.  If YOU feel that way, then YOU take the refugees!  Its actually quite simple.  California, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Illinois, Washington and Hawaii are all wealthy states in their own right, and are in a much better position financially to support an influx of refugees, as opposed to Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina, who are not.  The important message here?  The latter states would no doubt approve of President Trump's Executive Order, and the former would not.  We have an opportunity to agree on something here, folks.  President Trump needs to forego any additional Executive Orders dealing with refugees, and the seven states mentioned above agree to accept responsibility for the refugees.  I see no reason why this shouldn't work, at least until some event forces us to regain our common sense, drop political correctness and all the nastiness that has replaced normal discourse, and start working together again.  Heck, maybe we can get President Trump to cancel his Twitter Account as part of the deal.  That might be too much to hope for......

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Airport security screening a disturbing example of abuse of authority.

For those of you who haven't seen the video of this incident in question, I apologize, but I really feel uncomfortable creating a link and making it available.  The mother of the young boy being searched purposely put the video on Facebook in order to spread awareness of what can occur at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport screening, and I applaud her interest in increasing public awareness, but personally, what I saw on the video bothers me to my core.  To what incident am I referring?  On Tuesday morning at DFW Airport, Jennifer Williamson, her daughter, and her thirteen year old son Aaron arrived at the TSA Security Checkpoint, the screening we all must pass through if we have any intention of boarding a plane.  Williamson and her daughter cleared the machine with no problem, as did Aaron.  At that point, she was informed that there was a issue with the computer in her son's carry-on bag, and he would be required to go through an additional screening.  This was a concern for her, as Aaron suffers from Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), which can make thorough physical contact with a stranger a very distressful experience.  Ms. Williamson inquired if TSA could use an alternative method of inspection or "pat-down", given Aaron's condition.  The TSA's own rule book appears to address persons with conditions that require additional consideration, which from my perspective, is exactly what Ms. Williamson was requesting.  Instead, Aaron was given what I would describe as a very intrusive physical inspection.  Did the problem with the laptop somehow leave Aaron not eligible for an alternative inspection?  TSA's comment on the issue is as follows: "TSA allows for the pat-down of a teenage passenger, and in this case, all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger's laptop."  After examination, Aaron's carry-on, including the laptop, was returned to Ms. Williamson and Aaron, who, by the way missed their flight.

When originally commenting on the experience, Williamson claimed that she and her son were kept in the screening area for one hour.  In an embarrassing attempt at one-upmanship, TSA felt it was important to note that in fact, the Williamsons were only being interviewed/examined for forty-five minutes, and that Aaron's "pat-down" was accomplished in two minutes.  Later, TSA one-uped itself, by claiming that the incident only lasted thirty-five minutes.  At the end of the day, I don't care if the screening took all afternoon.  What is tremendously disturbing to me is the video of Aaron's "Pat-down", which the TSA defends as "appropriate."  From appearances, I would guess that Aaron was wearing one thin t-shirt, shorts, and underwear, which comes to three pieces of clothing for all  you math majors out there.  Having spent my life in Federal Law Enforcement and Intelligence Collection, I've been trained to search an individual, and the level of intrusiveness is directly related to a host of circumstances.  This explains why it's so important to know what problem TSA had encountered with the laptop.  The TSA Officer began the search by checking Aaron's side and underarm area, then moved to the back.  The officer was doing a thorough and proper search, trying to eliminate the possibility that the subject was hiding a knife or something of similar size.  From here on out, things get confusing, at least from my perspective.  Too much time was spent examining Aaron's buttock area (repeatedly), and when the inspection moved to the front of Aaron's midriff, I was again disturbed by the amount of time spent checking this one area.  Just as the viewer thinks that the inspection is complete, the TSA officer comes back, for another "go-over" of Aaron's thighs and sensitive area.  For anyone with children who watched this video clip, and even for those of us who have no kids, would you be OK with a stranger touching your child in this manner?  Was it necessary?  What happened with the computer that necessitated this kind of response?

I take this incident personally because I have defended TSA and its agents repeatedly in my blog.  It is a very difficult and thankless job, and the great majority of TSA officers do great work.  We have been fortunate in the United States that our transportation system has not been successfully compromised since 9-11.  No doubt the bad guys have tried, and I'm sure TSA has disrupted numerous attempts at violence, incidents that Federal Law Enforcement authorities believe are best kept confidential.  I understand the overall necessity to follow-through on every inspection, because in the United States, all persons are given the presumption of innocence and should not be singled out beforehand based on appearance or other personal factors.  But we aren't in Kabul, Baghdad, or Tripoli.  If TSA hires an individual I assume they trust that person to utilize authority appropriately and wisely.  There is still room for discretion, folks, and the physical inspection given to this boy was unnecessary, unjustified, and inappropriate.  I would be happy to apologize to TSA and the officers involved, if I learn that something on the laptop (or tablet) in question led the officers to believe that it was a detonator of some sort, or provided evidence that Aaron was concealing a blade somewhere.

The question remains, "why would TSA single-out this boy?"  Before I proffer a hypothesis, please understand that this is only conjecture on my part.  I have no idea why TSA put this boy through this "thorough" physical inspection.  I've been referred for additional screening myself numerous times, and I've had my private area "gone over", but never twice during one episode.  Just like most of you (bless those of you who already have all the answers), I don't know the motivations behind this unfortunate event.  Could it be that Ms. Williamson was not having a great day, and she approached TSA with her initial inquiry in a "brusk" or demanding manner?  Its also possible that her attitude was misconstrued, as she was obviously distracted by concern for her son?  But if Ms. Williamson did push the wrong buttons, one way to respond would be to make sure she received that dispensation, but just not in the form she had anticipated.  She wanted special treatment (not many people have heard of SPD), and they made sure she got it.  I would hate to think that any U.S. government employee in a position of authority, would deal with a twelve old suffering from this condition, with EVEN MORE intrusive physical contact, regardless of the alleged behavior of the parent.  This is a bit of "Devil's Advocate"; I have no reason to believe that Ms. Williamson was anything but polite, patient and responsive during this incident, although most of the parents with whom I 've spoken would have stepped in and ended the physical inspection before it was complete.

*Its important to keep in mind that in the video clip that has been made available (I'm curious if TSA will release theirs), the TSA officer closely observes policy regarding inspections, and I'm sure a Supervisor was present.  Ms. Williamson deserves the same benefit of the doubt, as she isn't audible or visible in any part of the clip that I've seen.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Observations regarding Wednesday's terrorist attack in London.

They say old habits are hard to break; in many circumstances, I certainly agree.  My career as an Intelligence Officer had just gotten off the ground when 9-11 turned everything upside down.  No doubt espionage and intelligence collection would be more important than ever, and an essential part of the process has always been about understanding the target.  Now that I'm retired, I get my details from the news, just like everyone else.  But things have come a long way since my days as a rookie Intel Officer, and I can always find a treasure trove of useful information by switching from one news channel to the next.  Having spent time in Europe, I am familiar with the various press agencies, and during the Nice terror attack of last July, my knowledge of French kept me watching the live news bulletins directly from France.

Aside from the horrific terrorist attack in Brussels on March 22, 2016, which killed thirty-two civilians, the last three prolific terror attacks on European soil took place in Nice, Berlin, and most recently in London.  I have separated these three from the Brussels incident for a number of reasons.  The terrorist group known to the west as ISIS has long made use of vehicular weapons. For years, Iraqis and Syrians have been victimized by car bombs which purposely target large public events, including holiday celebrations and funerals.  ISIS will continue to use this method of delivering death because it's a basically simple way to cause a high number of casualties.  Rigging a vehicle with explosives and attaching a detonator does not take a munitions expert, and it's just about impossible for security in some countries to disrupt this manner of attack.  In Nice, Berlin and London, though, no explosives were used.  The perpetrators used their vehicles as weapons, flooring the accelerator and running down civilians with no warning.  In all three attacks, the perpetrator intended to exit the vehicle after coming to a halt, to continue their rampage with either handguns or knives.  It's important to note that these three attacks were carried out by one person.  No doubt, other persons either new of the attack beforehand and/or provided assistance, but the actual event itself was carried out by one individual.  The perpetrators were not rank-and-file ISIS operatives, but rather Islamic Extremists who had made contact with like-minded persons through Social Media.  For some time, law enforcement in the United States has been rightly concerned with the possibility of well-trained, terrorist sleeper cells embedded on our communities.  The reality is, as we open our borders to refugees who have traveled directly from countries which are known to harbor large numbers of ISIS operatives and sympathizers, we increase the possibility of either type of attack.

Most police officers in the United Kingdom are unarmed, as are law enforcement personnel in a number of European countries.  From my perspective, as long as the policy suited each respective country, then its a good thing to have fewer weapons on the streets.  I assume that this policy is being reconsidered, given that Police Officers have certainly become targets, and they should have the right and the ability to defend themselves.  The London attacker used a car and two knives to brutally kill four people.  A society can go to extreme lengths when trying to create a weapons-free environment, but time and again we are reminded that a person who is intent on harming another person will always be able to find a weapon.  Its much easier for the perpetrator to carefully choose what type of normally innocuous instrument to use as a weapon, but more difficult for the victim, when being attacked, to make a split-second decision on what to use for self-defense.

I chose to highlight the three vehicular attacks in Nice, Berlin and London, because they do not appear to be intricately-planned, resource-intensive attacks.  ISIS was not directly responsible for any of the three vehicular attacks in question, although they do deserve total responsibility because of their efforts through Social Media to encourage these type of attacks.  What is so frightening is that ISIS can claim responsibility and benefit from these heinous events, without actually having to utilize valuable, professional operatives, who are free to continue hiding in plain sight, until all the pieces come together to conduct a Brussels and Paris style attack, one that is heavy on resources and personnel.  It may be too late for Europe, but it is essential that the United States government take all necessary precautions regarding the resettlement of refugees from areas of conflict.  The Executive Order that has caused such an uproar, does nothing more than delay resettlement of refugees for three months. I believe National Security and the integrity of our international border are worth the effort.      

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Goodbye to a truly unforgettable lady and friend.

Earlier today, a dear friend passed away.  This beautiful lady wasn't someone with whom I had daily contact, but somehow I always felt her presence in my heart.  She was one of my mother's closest friends, probably more like a sister than anything else.  I had known Louisette for almost forty years, although no matter how much time passed, she never aged a day in my eye.  It's that way for me with most French women, who seem to me to always have a little secret tucked away in their hearts.  My mother and Louisette were from the same generation, and both met and married U.S. servicemen at relatively young ages.  The fact that Louisette was from Poitiers, less than a two-hour drive from my mother's hometown, only increased the blessing when they met and became friends in the late 1970s. I was barely a teenager at that time, and I can remember how much I enjoyed listening to my mother and Louisette speaking French together.  Not only did it stir up nice memories of France, but it was easy to see that both ladies relished the opportunity to converse in their own language.  Louisette and her husband had two daughters, relatively close to the same age as me and my siblings.  We went to the same schools and became good friends. 

Time passed by, bringing changes for both families.  The kids finished High School and moved on to build lives of their own.  My mother and father started traveling more frequently, and would stay gone for months at a time.  What had been regular weekend visits for the families became less frequent.  I was also usually far from home, but I always managed to get home for Christmas, and one of the great joys of this holiday was the opportunity to see Louisette.  I so looked forward to smelling her familiar perfume when she gave me a hug, and enjoyed sitting back for an hour or so, catching up on all the family news.  Her daughters, Lisa and Tracy, had successful lives of their own, and I can imagine what a joy it was for Louisette to have grandchildren.  Life changes continued, and after being single for some years, Louisette met and married Mark, who then became a welcome fixture at Christmastime gatherings.

My career choice eventually required that I spend too many holidays away from my family, and   although my mother stayed in touch, my contact with Louisette evolved into long phone calls whenever I was in town.  Last week I learned that she was in the hospital, and that her condition was very serious.  Its one of those odd, unwelcome events when life reminds you that even those who always seemed so strong, so indestructible, are only human after all.  I've known Louisette almost my entire life, and I never had the chance to thank her for being a friend to my mother and being so kind and considerate to me and my family.  Louisette always carried herself with such refinement and class, that people would naturally gravitate towards her, and I always enjoyed sharing funny stories with Louisette, because she genuinely loved to laugh.  In fact, I know whenever I picture her, she will be smiling.

Louisette's illness and subsequent passing were unexpected, and the emptiness we feel will never totally fade away.  Again, she never changed in my minds eye, and she never will.  To those of us who love her, she will remain unchanged, in our memories, and in the faces of her grandchildren. 

Au revoir Louisette; nous vous aimons et vous serez toujours avec nous.      

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Meet "The Resistance"- the name chosen for the anti-Trump storm troopers who flood social media with ignorance and hate.

Last week, I was asked to participate in a taped radio interview dealing with allegations of Russian espionage and possible attempts to impact the 2016 Presidential Campaign.  When I discovered that this interview would be taped as opposed to live, I almost canceled; I've been burned by "selective editing" before, and I didn't enjoy the experience.  I eventually chose to participate in the hope that I might be able to actually explain what it means to request a FISA, and how common it has become for Judges in our day and age, to ignore established case law and become political activists.  During the interview, I was asked to comment on California-based artist Karen Fiorito and the growing controversy surrounding the billboard she had painted/created.  As I was unfamiliar with Fiorito, I was unable to comment, and we moved on to other subjects.  The interview itself was for local consumption, and I have no guarantee that it will ever actually be broadcast.  But I had committed the artists name to memory, and that evening, on the internet, I introduced myself to Karen Fiorito, her billboard, and to "The Resistance".

Fiorito is a modern-day hippy/artist from California who burst onto the scene in 2004, with a billboard accusing then-President Bush of lying to the American people, and then asking to be trusted as he ran for a second term.  The current billboard in question sits overlooking downtown Phoenix, and has no written message.  In the center of the billboard is President Trump, who is flanked by two large mushroom clouds.  At either end of the billboard are dollar symbols, altered to also resemble swastikas.  I spent a bit of time examining the image, trying to understand why Fiorito left out long lines of starving refugees and illegal immigrants.  I can only assume that she felt it was time to introduce a new line of attack, but your guess is as good as mine.  Its possible that Fiorito received new talking points/marching orders, which point out that the Left's focus on immigrants and refugees is about to come apart, and a new allegation/attempt to frighten people must be released.  But why mushroom clouds and dollar-swastikas?  Is the Left about to jump-start the "Trump is a war mongerer" narrative?  Its true that Trump is determined to spend more money on National Defense and to use government resources to rebuild the Veteran's Administration, although President Trump has yet to twitter any clues as to which countries might be on his shortlist for annihilation.  And what about the dollar-swastikas; is this somehow a warning that President Trump is planning to send financial aid to fascists and dictators?  Probably not.  Its more likely aimed at the tax issue, including the never-ending accusation that President Trump will find a way to lower taxes on the richest Americans, and transfer the burden to the poorest (you know, the poorest forty-five percent that pay no income taxes whatsoever). 

I respectfully advise anyone who is interested in the Federal Budget and National Security to do a bit of research on the issue of military spending.  Certain technologies advance at a head-spinning rate, and no-doubt our scientists and researchers in the military industrial complex are on the top of their game.  But with the introduction of every new application and the improvement of existing hardware, upgrades must be made across-the-board.  Having the world's greatest military is a tremendously expensive obligation, but an obligation that we can't afford to relinquish to China, Russia or anyone else.  Realistically speaking, military spending grew stagnant under the Obama Administration. His reluctance to spend money on the military was only matched by his determination to avoid using U.S. personnel in a combat posture.  Trying to unravel the Obama agenda vis-à-vis our military always brings on a huge headache, mostly related to the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, and the immediate, subsequent invasion of Iraq by ISIS.  Today's blog post has a different focus, thank goodness, although trying to decipher the dollar-swastika message might just bring along a headache in its own right.

Since Hillary Clinton conceded the 2016 election to Donald Trump, the Left has done everything possible to damage the Trump Presidency.  It began with a confused attempt at recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, with the result of a handful more votes for Trump-Pence.  Then the media lathered itself into a frenzy over a few electoral voters who announced opposition to Trump, also a dead-end.  It was about this time that the Progressive Democratic opposition got itself together, and created a plan to cripple the Trump Administration.  Its marching orders were to make a mess out of Congressional Hearings for trump nominees, and to direct leftover Obama personnel in the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Agencies to create a false narrative that Trump campaign personnel were involved with Russian efforts to mess with the 2016 Presidential Campaign.  The goal of this effort may be to neuter the Trump Administration, but in their heart-of-hearts, they are dreaming of, dare I say it, IMPEACHMENT.  They've managed this operation well, with the media jumping through hoops to print any and all negative allegations, regardless of merit.  They will fail, simply because as John Adams once said, "Facts are stubborn things".  There is no evidence whatsoever that Trump personnel were involved with Russians intent on impacting the 2016 campaign. The is the end, folks, not the middle or the beginning.  Now the Trump Justice Department, hopefully removed of its politically active Obama leftovers, will find out the truth about leaks from government agencies, and discover if FISAs were issued by some activist Judge to allow the wiretapping of the Trump campaign and possibly even a sitting U.S. Senator. 

This group of Progressive Democrats that have declared war on the Trump Administration, are all battle-hardened veterans of the Clinton Campaign, and they understand how to make the best use of a compliant, friendly media.  I've noted a handful of separate Leftist groups with catchy names, but "The Resistance" seems to be leading the pack.  I came to this conclusion by checking out the Twitter accounts of the most offensive members of the entertainment and professional sports communities.  All the well-known loud-mouths have aligned themselves with this group, although the more respectable, suit-wearing political activists have to be a bit more discreet, and the ones behind the scenes are the most dangerous, because they hide behind this mask of fake moderation; they are no more moderate than Alec Baldwin.  Another reason why I'm keeping my eye on this group, is its unclear connection to the media.  For those of us who identify as conservative, oppose big government, support the Second Amendment, demand effective border control and a strong military, stand by local and Federal Law Enforcement, expect a repeal of Obamacare and expect tax policies that encourage economic growth, we are well-aware that the media will not hesitate to manipulate the news in support of liberal political causes (with the exception of Fox News, Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart, and a few brave others).  This new billboard in Phoenix, crafted by Progressive Lefty Karen Fiorito, serves notice as to what "The Resistance" and the Democrats are going after next: support for the military/military spending, and taxes.  No doubt the Trump Team will be ready.  Stay tuned......       

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Media plays Kingmaker in the Netherlands

All eyes were on the Netherlands this past week, as the Dutch went to the polls to elect a new government.  Since Donald Trump shocked the political establishment in Europe as well as the United States by winning the 2016 Presidential Election, the Liberals and Progressives in countries from France to Austria have been petrified that a European version of Trump was waiting in the wings.  In January opinion polls in Holland had the Conservative, anti-immigration leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) Geert Wilders, running even with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his ruling People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).  As sometimes happens in politics, an unexpected "event" occurred a week or so before the election.  The Netherlands is home to over three-hundred thousand Turkish-Dutch dual citizens, and it just so happens that the Turks are preparing for elections as well.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was determined to have certain ruling party government ministers campaign in the Netherlands, to round up votes for his Justice and Development Party (AKP).  From out of nowhere, Prime Minister Rutte decides to stand up to Erdogan and refuse entry to a Turkish politician who was traveling to Holland for the purpose of building political support for Erdogan's incumbent government. 

In a bizarre switching-of-hats, Rutte was able to look tough with regards to Turkish immigrants, just as the Dutch are heading to polls to elect a government.  In an even stranger flip-flop, the Dutch media, who had been painting Wilders as a neo-Nazi because of his opposition to the resettlement of refugees in the Netherlands, begin to praise Rutte for his uncompromising position regarding Turkish immigrants.  Why the about-face?  Because recent polls in the Netherlands had made it clear that the Dutch people were no longer supporting an extremely liberal policy with regards to refugees and immigrants.  Wilders has never wavered in his policies regarding the immigration issue, and in response, he has been vilified in the Dutch and European Press and accused of being both racist and out-of-touch with the mainstream of Dutch society.  Let me be clear- while I am able to use terms like "Nazi" as I write this blog post, that kind of language can get you into big trouble in Europe circa 2017.  No problem for the press; they just make use of more "polite" adjectives and phrases to paint Wilders as a bigot.  In the end, the EU political establishment was able to breath a sigh of relief.  Wilders and the PVV gained five seats in Parliament, and it appears that Rutte and the VVD will lose roughly eight seats.  But Rutte won the day, as he will be able to patch together a governing coalition and continue on Prime Minister.

Now that the Dutch have voted, all the attention turns to France.  This French presidential election is unlike any France has previously experienced, as the Socialist and Center-Right candidates seem to be finished even before the first round voting is complete.  Marine Le Pen, leader of the Far Right National Front (FN), is all but guaranteed to be in the second-round runoff, as she can confidently guarantee at least twenty-five percent support in the first round.   Unfortunately for Le Pen, it has proven exceedingly difficult for the FN to build on that percentage.  As for the other candidates, Francois Fillon of the Center Right Republicans, seemed to be the safe bet.  He had emerged from a bruising inter-party struggle with former President Nicolas Sarkozy and Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppe with momentum and enthusiastic support, but a serious controversy derailed his candidacy early-on, and with outgoing President Hollande deeply unpopular, the Socialists are just about out of the race as well.  Who is left to run against Marine le Pen?  Emmanuel Macron, a middle-of-the-road politician who is the leader of a new, moderate political movement called "En Marche!", has moved into the catbird seat, and will probably be the next President of the French Republic.  As French politics go, Macron is middle-of-the-road, but in reality, he is left-of-center.  Most analysts give Le Pen no chance of winning, but recent polls have shown her staunch supporters have grown from the twenty-five percent figure to somewhere closer to thirty-five percent.  Once the second-round is set, the entire French political community will put aside its difference and support whoever runs against Marine Le Pen and the FN.  The French media, which has turned lampooning and insulting Le Pen into a daily exercise, will no doubt ratchet-up the accusations of racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.  Outside of supporters of the FN, the press will be happy to lead the Crusade to send Le pen packing.  What is always so fascinating to observe is just how similar the media in Europe and the United States have become.

At one time, the press in western Europe prided itself on unbiased, non-political reporting.  The obsession with editorializing, at least as it is manifested in today's society, originated in the United States.  That's not to say that the British don't have a history of activist journalists; in fact, they've been an essential part of the British unwritten "checks-and-balances" tradition for centuries.  But on the continent, reporting, while at times quite sensational (Italy),  seemed to take very seriously its responsibility to present unbiased news.  The last two decades have ushered in quite a sea-change with regards to the media and press, particularly in France.  Analysts will argue that the European press has become more editorial-driven and political because of the rise in right-wing political parties.  Interestingly enough, the European political environment has seen an increase in far-left political activism as well, but don't expect to see the Green Party ever mentioned in the same breath as Marine Le Pen's FN.  As the new Left-oriented movement has been labeled "Progressive", the right-wing political groups have been called "Populist".  Analysts who believe that the Trump victory in 2016 will help conservatives and the Far Right don't really understand the current political environment in Europe.  Since mid-November 2016, after Donald Trump was declared the winner and it became obvious that recounts and other extreme efforts to rescue Hillary Clinton's candidacy were going to fail, the European media mobilized it resources to ensure that every media outlet and every newspaper stayed on message-that message being the deconstruction of Donald Trump as an honest, qualified, deserving President-Elect.  In December, Austrians elected Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen over the conservative Nicolas Hofer.  Poor Hofer never had a chance, not after the Austrian media continually compared his candidacy to Donald Trump.  The media in Sweden, Italy and France have fallen in line, as any Trump allegation that fins its way across the Atlantic automatically becomes fact.  Much of this development is driven by a media on both sides of the ocean who were blindly enamored with former President Barack Obama, and Trump.  The European people share their media's love affair with Obama, and Trump is perceived as the "anti-Obama".  Any candidate who truly wants to win, self-identified as populist or not, had better think long and hard before praising anything related to the new U.S. president.  Marine le Pen has been supportive of Trump since he won the Republican nomination, so she is obliged to ride this out.   She isn't too concerned, though, as she knows the media would be lined-up against her candidacy regardless of her opinion of Donald Trump.

The media in the United States has lost all pretense of "fair and balanced".  With the exception of Fox News, the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and the upstart Breitbart organization, the Left enjoys an intimidating dominance in mainstream news sources.  For years, the media's liberal bias was well-known, but never admitted, as some of the crusty old farts who ran these organizations demanded that at least the claim of unbiased reporting must be defended.  Most of the old-school geezers have been swept-aside, and the press in 2017 actually embraces its bias in favor of the Progressive Agenda.  The media is smarter than we are, which explains why so many Americans are still skeptical about Global Warming, and why others want to own their handguns for self-defense.  The media feels an all-encompassing obligation to support what is on our best interest, since, in from their perspective, many of us act contrary to what is best for our country and our planet.  This attitude is alive and well in Rome, Paris, Berlin, The Hague, Vienna and London. As our world gets smaller, the ties that connect the U.S. media to their peers on Europe grow stronger, therefore it should come as no surprise that every disproved, absurd, tired allegation made against candidate Trump somehow made its way into the European newspapers as well.  The pesky allegations made against Hillary Clinton were treated by the European Press as politically-driven exaggerations and lies.  Whether its in Brussels, Oslo, Dublin or Prague, conservative candidates in Europe have an uphill climb, and unfortunately, the press will make sure that Donald Trump is more of a hindrance than a help.  I was not surprised that Mark Rutte managed to stay Prime Minister in Holland, but I wouldn't get too comfortable if I were in his shoes.  Being one-half French, my heart always brings me back to this year's Presidential Election in France and its consequences.  Everything points to a victory for Emmanuel Macron and "En Marche!", but yet, Marine Le Pen represents so many things which are sacred to the French people.  She is the decided underdog, and she has never been afraid of sitting down and breaking bread with the underemployed and struggling poor white families of Marseille, Bordeaux, Paris, Calais and Brest.  She has finally broken with her father's legacy, as she is more likely to be criticized for advocating French departure from the EU than she is of being a bigot.  Marine Le Pen sings loudly and boldly about the French language, French history and French culture, and this appeal alone could push her over the fifty percent mark in the second round.  But like Trump last November, le Pen must battle not only a room full of political opponents, but an aggressive, entitled media as well.   

Saturday, March 11, 2017

At the risk of being labeled a bigot, the Transgender issue raises some questions which deserve to be answered.

Link: The truth about Transgender Suicide.

When I was younger, persons who were convinced that they should have been born as the opposite sex were call Transexuals.  I'm no fan of labels, and this particular word is a good example why we should avoid them when possible.  Its an ugly and very limiting word.  Most of society lumped the Transgender community in with Transvestites (another gross word) and Homosexuals.  The simplistic manner in which we labeled and grouped these folks is not only an embarrassment, its a shame.  But we've come a long way towards understanding how different people can be, and how essential it is that discrimination based on sexual identity or preference becomes a thing of the past.  That being said, I'm finding myself at odds with the campaign to give self-identified Transgenders the option to use the public bathroom of their choice.

As of right now, the State of Texas is working its way through this controversy, with the debate focused on the public school system.  Should students be allowed to choose which bathroom to use, Male or Female?  The progressive argument is that since Transgenders are born in a body of the wrong gender, they should have the right to use the bathroom that corresponds to their correct sex.  The State of Texas is arguing that the system as it exists today works just fine, and needs no changes.  Texas is one of thirteen states that are in litigation regarding this issue.  To many people, particularly in conservative areas, its a question of, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Apparently, up to now, Transgender folks have been using the bathroom that corresponds to their birth gender without much trouble.  If the law is changed to allow for persons to use the bathroom that corresponds to their "true" gender, exactly how to do we know who is being sincere and who is taking advantage of the opportunity to invade the privacy of persons of the opposite sex for prurient motivations?  This issue seems to be particularly disturbing to parents of pre-teen and early-teen girls.  What is to stop a pedophile from claiming to be Transgender, only to enter the ladies restroom for voyeuristic purposes?  Is it possible for Transgender persons to be issued a pass or a license from a medical professional, that would allow authorities to distinguish between legitimate Transgenders and sick perverts?  This does not strike me as a viable solution; I can't think of anything more offensive than requiring people to show some form of identification/pass in order to use the public facilities.

Some folks have argued that the time has come for unisex bathrooms.  I like this idea, as long as the original options are still available.  Maybe the State of Texas should consider requiring schools to provide three options: male, female, and unisex.  Unfortunately, Everytime this option is suggested, the progressive groups shoot it down.  They argue that Transgenders are not unisex; they are male or female, just like the rest of the population, and that they should have the legal right to use the bathroom that is meant for their gender.  Personally, if a person who is physically a female but identifies as a male chooses to use the bathroom I am using, its something that I could get used to, although I would hope that they would have the good sense not to sit/squat in the urinal.  I would hope that any physically male who identifies as female and chooses to use the woman's restroom would at least be dressed as a woman.  Heck, with a little effort, they probably wouldn't even be noticed.  Most folks avoid eye contact in public restrooms anyway.  But the issue is much more complicated than avoiding eye-contact or deciding what equipment should be included in which restroom.  Its an issue of privacy, and it seems that the more our society attempts to address gay and Transgender issues, the easier it becomes to ignore the sensitivities and privacy of the great majority of Americans, who, the last time I checked, were not gay or Transgender.

The United States military separates male and female living quarters for a very important reason.  There is a real concern that an unhealthy fraternization would take place in unisex living quarters, which would prove a great distraction for our soldiers.  Also, if men and women shared showers, you can bet that some serious "right to privacy" issues would be raised.  Women value the right to chose which men get to see them naked.  Now that "don't ask, don't tell" has been tossed out, exactly how will the U.S. military protect the rights of the male soldier, and who gets to see him naked?  No doubt some of his bunkmates will be gay, and there is no way to guarantee that certain men will be the subject of voyeuristic intrusion.  Before we tackle the issues of Transgender soldiers, shouldn't we resolve this problem of privacy?  Maybe the answer is to make all bathrooms unisex, with separate, locking showers and toilets.  I guess this would address the potential Transgender soldier problem as well, although some of the details will still present quite a headache for Uncle Sam.

One aspect of the Transgender lobby argument really causes me concern.  Everytime the issue of Transgender rights are discussed in a public forum, someone claims that Transgender teens across the country are resorting to suicide because they see no end to their suffering.  This claim bothered me so much, that I started asking people I know about their High School years.  I couldn't find one person who recalled a Transgender person committing suicide in High School.  In fact, no one could remember a gay student committing suicide, which is also something that gets repeated frequently.  I went to Judson High School in Converse, Texas from 1981 to 1984, and we had no suicides during that time period, at least to the best of my recollection.  My mother and sister are retired teachers, and they couldn't recall a Transgender suicide.  Another friend has been teaching High School Math for roughly a decade, and she can't remember a Transgender suicide.  I have included a link from the Huffington Post which goes on and on about Transgender suicide, but never mentions any real statistics.  The only actual figure mentioned is that "forty percent of Transgender persons have attempted suicide", which really clarifies the root of the problem.  People attempt to commit suicide for many reasons, including as an effort to get attention.  Don't misunderstand; many times people have to resort to desperate measures in order to break through the indifference or fear exhibited by family and friends.  Regardless, I can only imagine how many of the "forty percent" were trying to make a statement, or get loved ones to be more aware and involved.  In my book Mukhabarat, Baby, I addressed the issue of suicide from a very personal perspective, and I'm not afraid to say, that anyone who truly wants to commit suicide, will succeed.  So the issue here really isn't about Transgender teens killing themselves, its about young people searching for a way to communicate with their loved ones, and getting an accepting, considerate response.

Two weeks ago, a young man who was in the process of clinically transitioning from female to male, won the Texas High School State Championship in wrestling for his weight classification.  His achievement was monumental, finishing the entire season without a loss.  Unfortunately, if the young man had undergone a blood test, he would have been disqualified because of the high amounts of Testosterone in his system.  You see, the young man was completing in the women's division.  Before the season began, he requested that the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) allow him to complete in the male division, but this request was denied.  No doubt the UIL was thinking "one high-profile crisis at a time, please".  So the young man chose to compete regardless, and the results are now part of history.  Off the record, more than a few of the young lady wrestlers competing this year expressed disenchantment and confusion.  Any one of these young lady wrestlers would have been disqualified if Testosterone were discovered during blood testing.  At the end of the day, the process was turned on its head to accommodate the circumstances of one individual, to the detriment of who knows how many others.  The young man who ended up with the Championship should have discontinued the Testosterone treatments during wrestling season, and if that wasn't possible given the clinical requirements, then he should have voluntarily removed himself from competing.  When he made the decision to begin this life-changing process, it should have been understood that some things may have to be sacrificed.  Our culture is obsessed with removing any and all obstacles for persons who, like Transgenders, are dealing with extremely difficult and complicated issues.  But sometimes its necessary to face the extra challenges, as a reminder of the importance and value of the end result.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A humble suggestion to the Trump Transition Team.......

I had always imagined that when a new President was elected, the staff of the previous Administration would pack up and vacate during the weeks before the inauguration.  Actually, its not that simple.  A great many former staffers do move on before the new President makes himself home in the White House, but invariably some folks are obliged to hang around, in order to ensure a smooth transition with regards to certain sensitive positions.  The goal is, with few exceptions, to eventually have an entirely new team in place within the first few months.  Managing the various government agencies is a completely separate matter.  Although the new Administration is expected to appoint its own folks to run the Central Intelligence Agency, the Justice Department (Attorney General), Homeland Security, and other vital government agencies, its assumed that most management level positions belong to career employees who have been promoted on merit.  Basically, this allows the various agencies to continue functioning as before, but with a new Director who is more in-line with the intentions of the incoming President.  In both instances, outgoing personnel have traditionally been on their best behavior with regards to supporting the new Administration, so as to keep the Executive Branch functioning without too much confusion.  Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has been forced to deal with illegal behavior on he part of personnel who did not move on prior to the Inauguration, and serious opposition from within the Intelligence Community and Federal Law Enforcement.  This development has no precedent, with the last such behavior in my memory being the removal of all the "W's" from the computer keyboards by Bill Clinton staffers, as a welcome to incoming President George "W" Bush.  What President Trump is facing is much more serious, and hopefully will be investigated by the FBI.

Since President Trump took office, he has been subject to one leak after another.  Confidential information that has come from within the White House has somehow found its way onto the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times.  I think its safe to assume that the leaks are being generated by a few "leftovers" from the Obama Administration, unless we are expected to believe that Trump's own folks are already attempting a coup of some sort.  Any confidential information that originates in the White House is on its face classified, therefore whoever has been sharing that information with journalists has broken the law.  I wish I could say that the FBI has jumped at the opportunity to protect the incoming Administration, but I'm not really sure at present what to make of the Department of Justice.  You see, the Trump Administration is dealing with leaks coming from the Justice Department as well, not to mention the Intelligence Community. Since last November, the press has had very disturbing access to details of ongoing investigations into alleged Russian attempts to impact the 2016 campaign.  Forgive me for being "old school", but shouldn't the FBI and the Intelligence Community wait until its investigations are complete before commenting?  What is most troublesome is the politicization of the process.  Up to now, according to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, not one shred of evidence has been uncovered that indicates Trump personnel were aware of or involved with Russian activities regarding the 2016 campaign.  So why has the media been able to headline this "fake" story for months on end?  Because of leaks from within the investigative authorities.  All that was needed was notification from the Bureau that certain investigations were underway, and confirmation from the Intelligence Community that Russia was trying to fiddle with the campaign, to put the Trump Administration on a "media-trial" for treason within the first month following the inauguration.

The best way for the new Administration to deal with this problem is to remove any and all Obama personnel as the earliest opportunity.  Its just as important for the Administration to clean house in the various government agencies as well.  During the last eight years, a flood of honest, patriotic officers in both Federal Law Enforcement and the Intel Community chose early retirement because of dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration.  Just last year, I recall a number of reports indicating the high-rate of turnover with regards to FBI supervisory personnel.  If I'm correct, then the Trump Administration should reach out to these officers, and ask them to return.  It shouldn't be difficult to determine who in DC is willingly trying to impede the efforts of the new Administration, and if they are using their job in such a manner, then they should be removed immediately.  In eight years, President Obama and the Democrats were successful in seeding every government agency with political appointees who may not have known diddly-squat about their new jobs, but certainly understood their marching orders.  No doubt the rank-and-file of Federal Law Enforcement and the CIA continue to do yeomen's work, sacrificing and defending the nation despite all these distractions.  The problem is limited to a few individuals who feel justified in doing what they can to disrupt the efforts of the new Administration.  Trump needs to root out these folks at IRS, Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Intelligence Agencies to promote personnel whose priority is to serve the American people, not obfuscate and meddle for political purposes.  Again, there are many former officers who are anxious to return, to further the goals of national security and provide the American people with fair and honest work.  I should know, I happen to be one of those officers.    

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Without the media, the Democratic Party might just cease to exist.

Donald Trump has been in office less than two months, and efforts to impede his Administration show no signs of abating.  Late in the 2016 presidential campaign, the press asked candidate Trump if he would be willing to accept a Hillary Clinton victory.  Its becoming more and more apparent every day that the press should have been addressing the question to candidate Clinton and lame duck President Barack Obama, because the left is determined to impede all Trump efforts to establish a working government.  Aside from the anticipated nasty, rude, and politically motivated questions asked of Trump appointees, Congressional Democrats have besmirched the reputations of former friends and colleagues.  Since it became obvious that Donald Trump would win a substantial electoral victory, the left has resorted to one road block after another.  In the beginning, these efforts were little more than sideshows, as recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania actually added to the Trump victory.  While Elizabeth Warren and her flock of progressive activists were getting plenty of media exposure, the Democratic establishment, no doubt to include Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, circled the wagons and crafted a strategy to at least cripple the new administration.  This plan includes making use of every political opportunity to stall and embarrass President Trump, and also relies heavily on the military arm of the Democratic Party, the media.

Last week, President Trump made the mistake of sending out an angry message on his Twitter account.  Trump has seriously difficulty refraining of shooting out Tweets when he seems to be the most frustrated, and I'm not the only American who wishes he would hang up his Twitter account for good.  The message to which I refer openly accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump's office in Trump Tower last year during the 2016 presidential campaign.  When I read the Tweet, I immediately understood that Trump was referring to the Obama Justice Department as being responsible for the alleged wiretap, but the media as literally as possible, and CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times published the story as a direct accusation from President Trump to President Obama.  We will eventually discover that indeed there was a wiretap in Trump's office, and I'm guessing it will be connected to a Justice Department FISA approval signed by a Judge, and justified by concerns of Russian interference in the campaign.  I think we will also discover that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was also the target of a FISA wiretap, hence the leaked information that he had a meeting with the Russian Ambassador when he was still serving as a U.S. Senator.  Regardless of the investigations and the leaks, not one shred of evidence has been discovered that points to the Trump Campaign's involvement or knowledge of Russian efforts to impact the campaign.  What the media should be most concerned with are the never ending leaks coming out of this new Administration, all of which are obviously intended to damage President Trump.  Before all is said and done, someone is going to ask, "where is the evidence of illegal or unethical behavior by the Trump Campaign as it relates to Russia?"  The media and the Democrats can't produce the evidence so they focus on Trump's unfortunate Tweet(s).  Again, when will the Feds start focusing on the countless illegal leaks that are coming out of both the Administration and the Justice Department?

For eight years, Conservatives such as yours truly, followed established protocol for the political opposition.  I didn't hesitate to express my disagreement with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's New Start Treaty, President Obama's precipitous removal of the U.S. military from Iraq in 2010, Obamacare, the appointment of unqualified political activists to the Supreme Court, Federal involvement in the Gay Marriage issue, the Treaty with Iran and subsequent, sneaky one-hundred forty million dollar payoff, and many other actions taken by the Obama Administration.  I wrote blog posts and spoke publicly when the opportunity presented itself, and in 2012, I volunteered on behalf of the Romney campaign.  I did not assault Pinata-effigies of President Obama, nor I did not refer to him as a Nazi or any other derogatory name (does Socialist count?).  Were we idiots for not protesting in the streets and breaking windows?  I hope not.  What I do know is that we played by the rules, waiting patiently until 2016 and the opportunity to put the nation on a different course.  We won the 2016, and had every right to anticipate the opportunity to see our ideas and our leaders put into action.  But somewhere in DC, in mid-November and December 2016, the Democrats were putting together a plan to disrupt the will of the American people by making it impossible for Donald Trump to govern.

The issue of Russian interference in the 2016 elect has been carried from one goal-line to the next by an aggressively partisan media, which provides us with a perfect example of what the Democrats intend to do.  During Congressional Confirmation Hearings, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked by Minnesota Senator Al Franken (a guaranteed embarrassment for Minnesota year after year) if Sessions had any knowledge regarding Trump officials and contact with the Russian government.  Sessions replied that he did not.  Since that time, it has been determined that Sessions met the Russian Ambassador with a group of other dignitaries at the GOP Convention, and had a one-time personal meeting with the Ambassador at his offices in DC.  Sessions claims that the meeting in DC was in the context of his responsibilities as a U.S. Senator, and not as someone affiliated with the Trump campaign.  Two other U.S. military officers were present at the meeting, during which, according to Sessions, nothing remotely related to the election was discussed.  Thanks to the media, the issue is no longer about Russia trying to impact our election, but about a Trump appointee "committing perjury" (my quotation marks).  More than a handful of Democrats have publicly called for Sessions to resign, and even more are requesting an Independent Counsel!  How easy it is for these career politicians to waste taxpayer money.  The hypocrisy is reaching levels never before seen.  Do you remember when Bill Clinton and Attorney General met on the Tarmac at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, when, coincidentally, the Justice Department was knee-deep into Hillary Clinton's server investigation?  The Independent Counsel Act was written for just such a circumstance.  To the person, the Democrats opposed an Independent Counsel for Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and today, to the person, they are calling for an Independent Counsel for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The daily barrage of leftist propaganda has found a permanent home on the front pages of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and just about every other newspaper that represents a major metropolitan area, not to mention the countless blogs and internet sites.  When I was younger, I realized that the press tended to side with liberal causes, but over the past decade, the issue has lost all sense of perspective.  The last non-aligned study that I reviewed listed the bias at something near 88% pro-Democrat; and the press wonders why they are no longer trusted.  There was a time when unabashed bias would put a newspaper out of business.  People can discern when someone is trying to sell them a load of horse crap, and what do you know, subscriptions would crash.  Things have changed, folks.  Today, newspapers are rarely exclusively dependent upon their own sales to survive.  Companies like the Hearst Corporation own a number of papers, and success in one location can offset failure in another.  Also, big money has become more involved with the media.  To put it bluntly, newspapers are no longer dependent upon the bottom line.  The NY Times has been in a downward spiral for years, and the Washington Post isn't breaking subscription records either.  The owners of some of the nation's biggest newspapers are much more interested in promoting a particular message than they are in profit margin.  The same can be said for CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and MSNBC.  Since its arrival roughly two decades ago, Fox News has rewritten the instruction manual for televised news. Actually, Fox News is the one News source that attempts to regularly provide a representative for both political perspectives.  Its true that Fox News does have a conservative orientation, and thank goodness.  The score is still eight or nine to three (Drudge and Rush Limbaugh certainly deserve a mention, but Breitbart is still finding its footing).  The fact the Fox News routinely destroys the opposition when it comes to viewership is a clear indication that conservatives watch the news as well.

While waging war with both the media and the Democrats, the Trump Administration appears more determined than ever to follow through with its campaign promises.  Thank goodness that I have lived long enough to see a candidate keep his word with such sincerity.  I support delaying refugee resettlement for ninety days, until Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Intelligence Community are able to ensure that we aren't welcoming terrorists into our communities.  The media and the Democrats continue to characterize this effort as a "ban on Muslims".  The Times, the Washington Post, Pelosi, and Schumer need a dictionary so they can look up the meaning of the word "ban".  What Trump is attempting to do has been done before, including by President Obama, albeit on a smaller scale.  In fact, the country targeted by Obama was also a Muslim nation, not that it matters to the media or a number of liberal, activist Judges.  The Trump Administration needs to put a moratorium on Twitter and stay solely focused on following through with the promises made during the 2016 campaign.  Those promises put President Trump in the White House, and the American people expect results.