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Thursday, May 25, 2017

A trip down memory lane to Baghdad, circa Fall, 2003, and Operation Blue Eyes.

In the Fall of 2003, Mark and I were both posted to Baghdad, spending our days and nights trying to find contacts that we could work into penetrations of the Insurgency.  At the time, the enemy had temporarily coalesced into a nasty, potent force that was making it very difficult for our troops to accomplish their mission, not to mention the civil service folks that had arrived for the purpose of rebuilding Iraq.  Normally, the hard-core terror networks like to keep their hands clean from association with local militias and armed groups, like the ones that constituted a big part of the Insurgency.  As time went on, though, these groups started working together much more effectively.  Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been sent to Iraq by Al-Qaida to create a new organization, Al-Qaida in the Land of the Two Rivers.  Zarqawi had no qualms working with the various insurgent groups, which provided greater access to the different provinces of Iraq.  Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide bombers were popping up everywhere, including Baghdad.  At this particular time, travel outside of the Green Zone, the safety corridor established for civil servants, diplomats, etc., had become very difficult, not to mention dangerous.  Regardless, the officers in my Branch were having success utilizing our network of contacts to locate freshly planted IEDs and notifying the military in time to prevent casualties.  We had the authority to leave the Green Zone, which was a calculated and necessary risk, given that my colleagues were absolutely the best of the best, and there was a job to do.  Social visits to Baghdad were out of the question, at least temporarily.

Every few months, I would return stateside to see our medical staff and my personal physician, and get approval to return to the field.  This was an arrangement that was crafted by my close friend Gretchen, who was also the chief personnel officer for our Baghdad facility.  After initially receiving the assignment, I didn't think I would be able to accept the job.  As much as I wanted to go, and Baghdad needed competent officers, I couldn't see how the medical folks would sign on.  Gretchen went to battle for me, and when all was said and done, she had put together a plan which was satisfactory to all, and in the end, worked perfectly.  Gretchen is one of those rare personalities that you seem to meet more often in the halls of the CIA than in the real world.  Brilliant, hard working, one-step ahead of everyone else, and funny as hell.  She is known for her reputation, and for having the most beautiful, piercing ice-blue eyes you can imagine.  If you needed help, and she thought the effort was in the best interests of all involved, Gretchen would go to bat.  That being said, I would never want to get on her shit list, although I don't know that she's ever had one.  She was damn good at measuring up people within five minutes of walking into her office.

On one of my return trips to DC, I went in to visit Gretchen and chew the fat.  I was really excited when she told me that she would be making a short TDY visit to Baghdad, because Gretchen was a priceless cog in the big machine that kept the Baghdad facility well-oiled and productive.  She wasn't someone, as opposed to Homeland's Carrie Matheson, who could just get up from her desk, pack away her Baretta, and fly First Class to wherever takes her fancy.  Gretchen always had to deal with someone asking for something, so I was surprised and pleased to find out that she had arranged the time to come to Baghdad.  Her trip was all about work, and she didn't get much sleep during her stay.  Personally, I was thinking that Mark, his fiance, Gretchen and I could hang out in my hooch, playing games, drinking a bit of wine, and watching DVDs.  Gretchen had other ideas.  Besides the workload that would undoubtedly be waiting for her on arrival, Gretchen told me that she would just love to get out of the Green Zone.  At first, I couldn't figure out how I could make it work.  She was known to everyone, and her presence, or lack thereof, would have been noticed in our facility.  I returned to Baghdad a few weeks before Gretchen, so when I returned, I brainstormed with Mark, and we eventually came up with "Operation Blue Eyes".

I wish I could say that Operation Blue Eyes was a great success, and Gretchen was able to buy three rugs at the local suq, and the original lamp containing Barbara Eden, but events didn't play out as planned.  During Gretchen's first full night in the Green Zone, while the four of us were chatting in my digs, we had a mortar attack, during which the three veterans who knew the location of the bomb shelters, up and ran out of the hooch, leaving Gretchen to find her own way (I address the escapade in greater detail in my memoir, Mukhabarat, Baby).  That experience encouraged Mark and I to shelve our original plan, given the heightened state of security.  What was Operation Blue Eyes?  Frequently Mark and I would have interviews with sources so sensitive that, utilizing disguises, we would bring the contact into the Green Zone for debriefing.  We were going to create the illusion that we were returning a source outside of the Green Zone following an interview.  The fun part would have been instructing Gretchen to don a man's wig, sunglasses, and a big mustache.  In the real world, Gretchen is light complected and very feminine.  This Op, which would have required an entire chapter in my book all to itself, contained other really fun details that I'm forced to keep to myself (including a "fake" Gretchen!).  The truth is, we would have been obliged to break a few rules (oops!), and stretch the security issue too much for comfort, so this operation never saw the light of day.  Regardless, it was great having Gretchen with us for a bit.  She made every occasion funnier, brighter, and special.  I don't think Gretchen was ever aware of the original Op- I had basically forgotten itself until today.  But I assure you, no one would have appreciated the effort we made more than Blue Eyes.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reuters releases a story on the recently-announced Special Prosecutor which clearly demonstrates how close they are to becoming a second-rate distributor of left-wing talking-points.

Link: Reuters has access to people who know "how the White House thinks".

 For decades, conservatives and Republicans have groaned about a perceived liberal bias in the news.  Poll after poll confirms that the great majority of journalists support the Democratic Party, and to be fair, most members of the media have never denied this reality.  During the 1980s and 1990s, those of us on the right had to put up with the media's almost ferocious defense of Anita Hill and President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but the public at large seemed to understand the media's inclination to sympathize with liberals.  Some people unforgivably associate conservatism with fascism, and I've noticed many left-wing thinkers like to promote the idea that Democrats are the defenders of free-speech.  In truth, the actions of numerous groups who have been supported by the Democrats in the past, which include forcibly preventing guest speakers from delivering their addresses, call into question the left's true intentions regarding the First Amendment.  Not surprisingly, the media has been all-but silent on the repeated instances of conservatives being denied the right to speak, which falls in line with the less-than-fair way President Trump has been treated by the press.  Since his arrival in Washington DC, the media has attacked President Trump on a daily fashion, and from many different directions.

Taking a chance on public burnout, CNN, MSNBC, and the three traditional news stooges, ABC, CBS, and NBC, take turns printing front-page stories that detail a White House in absolute chaos.  Every third or fourth story, though, reminds the public of Trump's plan to outlaw Muslim immigrants in perpetuity, and to hide the "fact" that he and his staff colluded with Russian espionage to unfairly steal the presidential election from the oh-so deserving Hillary Clinton.  Actually, the media can take full credit for turning a non-story with absolutely no evidence, into an investigation with a Special Prosecutor, which will cost the U.S. taxpayer untold millions of dollars.  The Justice Department has a legal threshold that they are obliged to meet before enacting the Special Prosecutor option; that threshold certainly includes the existence of evidence.  Once this investigation is complete and the Trump Administration is vindicated, we all know that the media will bring up sources who claim that the Trump Justice Department "fixed" the outcome.  Regardless, I want to know which media billionaire big-shot is going to pick up the tab for the cost of an investigation that should never have been initiated.

The fact that the mainstream media is aggressively pursuing an agenda to discredit the Trump Administration is no longer "news", so to speak, to conservative listeners of Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.  That being said, the Reuters story that I've linked at the top of the page leaves me both angry and a bit perplexed.  I realize that there are folks on both the right and left who are going to believe the worst of the other side, regardless of the truth, as this is the nature of politics in today's day and age.  The problem of leaks emanating from the White House has become a full-blown crisis, and President Trump needs to appoint someone (Vice President Pence would be a great choice from my perspective, if not, I'm happy to do the job myself) who will focus exclusively, every day, on finding, firing or reassigning persons suspected of leaking.  Heck, why not just can everyone who has "Obama" written on their resume?  Also, keep Jared Kushner and Ivanka as far away from Operation Plug the Leak as possible.  There is no question that life-long Democrat Kushner elbowed his way into getting a few like-minded friends hired, and they may not actually be part of the problem, but I would look at those people very closely regardless.

Reuters claims to not only have sources in the White House who can report on conversations and events, they also claim to have sources who are familiar with how the White House thinks (see link, first paragraph, last sentence).  Are they referring to the White House as a living, breathing creature, or just certain people inside?  How long has Reuter's sources been able to tap into the thoughts of people in the White House?  Shouldn't this be an issue for the Secret Service and the FBI?  In a very bizarre way, things are beginning to make sense.  Since the Associated Press, the United Press International, Reuters, the Washington Post and the NY Times all have multiple sources in the White House, maybe we are dealing with only a handful of leakers, all with the ability to know what Trump and his closest advisers are thinking.  During my years with the CIA, I was not aware that this type of "information collection" was legitimate, but I can't account for what is now acceptable after two terms of Obama.

My tongue-in-cheek comments about Reuters is meant to shed light on the media and their self-authorized efforts to steal information from the Trump White House that is meant to be classified.  Shouldn't the President of the United States be afforded the opportunity to converse with his staff in private?  Why is the media allowed to repeat White House conversations involving the President of the United States?  Since the beginning of this embarrassment, we have assumed that these sources exist, and what they are reporting is accurate.  Since the media has no obligation and certainly no intention of disclosing their sources, how can we be sure that the details being printed in the Post and NY Times isn't all bullshit?  Is it beyond the pale to consider that the media might INVENT something?  Actually, history is replete with journalists doing just such a thing, as both the NY Times and the Post are aware.  In today's over-the-top, angry-left political environment, I have absolutely no reason not to approach everything I hear that has been published by Reuters, the Post or the NY Times, with great cynicism.  I voted for Donald Trump, as did enough Americans to put him in the White House.  He deserves just as much respect from the media in his first term as the Community Organizer got from me in 2008.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Congressional Republicans selfishly refuse to defend President Trump from a never-ending, orchestrated campaign to destroy his agenda.

Link: List of Major Obama Administration Scandals.

The Obama Administration struggled through one Congressional investigation after another, with the Departments of State, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, and Agriculture all getting their turn on the hot seat.  Interestingly, the public never really connected these scandals to Obama, instead associating Lois Lerner, Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, and other career bureaucrats with the various investigations.  When President Obama first took office, his administration focused on placing political appointees in various government positions of influence.  Performance may have suffered when someone unqualified individual took over a powerful agency, but concern for the average citizen was not on the list of priorities.  In some instances, persons were appointed to certain positions for specific purposes.  Leon Panetta, whose intelligence experience was limited to two years as an Intelligence Officer in the Army from 1964 to 1966, was appointed Director of the CIA in 2009.  Panetta spent two years as CIA Director, which was more than enough time to conduct an internal investigation into the interrogation practices of the agency under the Bush Administration.  Lerner, Napolitano, Holder, and Clinton closely followed the script, as none of the scandals involving these agencies were ever connected to Obama.

President Obama was particularly adept at manipulating public perception.  Without exception, during every political crisis the GOP took the hit.  The Republicans were responsible for the shutting down of government over budget disagreements, and because the Republicans were so obstructionist, the President was forced to address prolific legislation through the use of Executive Orders.  At times, it appeared as if Obama would not find a way to avoid criticism.  The U.S. role in crafting the nuclear Treaty with Iran, and the subsequent night-time delivery of  four-hundred million dollars to the Iranians, not to mention the gift of one-hundred thirty tons of Uranium, didn't seem to sit well with the American people.  But the Democratic Party, Congressional Democrats in particular, in-step with the main stream media, put out the fire in shockingly quick fashion.  The weak-kneed Republican Congressional leadership probably was too tired of fighting the fight, and focused instead on upcoming elections, which brings us to a big part of the problem.

A friend who works on the staff of a GOP Congressman frequently complains about how much time is allotted to campaigning.  He remarked that the next campaign always begins the morning after winning an election.  For a number of reasons, members of Congress are never prepared to move on to a live outside of Capitol Hill.  No doubt the most common reason for wanting to get re-elected in perpetuity is the sense of power public office can provide.  In addition, the great majority of Congressmen and women have enriched themselves while serving, which is why I am always pleasantly surprised when I learn of a Senator or a Representative from any political background who has not become a millionaire while in office.  These politicians take the access they are afforded through their position very seriously, which explains why so many Republican Congressmen refuse to support President Trump.  The Democrats have demonstrated how successful a president can be regarding his/her agenda, with the support of a united party, but the message just hasn't caught on with the right.  Republicans on Capitol Hill are constantly worried about Trump's "numbers", because they don't want to lose votes in the next election by supporting a damaged president.

President Trump has had precious little time to introduce his agenda, as the media has totally signed-on to the anti-Trump campaign.  Not long after Trump was elected, the power-brokers in the Democratic Party met to discuss what steps to take regarding the new president and an agenda which threatened to guarantee Trump's re-election in 2020.  Because of the total politicization of the Justice Department, they were aware of concerns regarding Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.  Fortunately, they also had almost three months to continue collecting intelligence and disseminating it as ammunition to a frenzied and angry media.  The decision was made to declare war on the Trump agenda, and the plan included using political activist Judges to slow-down Trump's efforts in the courts.  In addition, a willing mass of unemployed young protesters would be bused from one location to the next, to give the impression of spontaneous opposition to this administration's policies.  The media promised to do their part, by taking full advantage of any mistakes made by the administration to keep unflattering stories alive.  The most important effort would be the cooperation between the media and persons leftover from the Obama Administration to edit, politicize, and disseminate information from ongoing Justice Department investigations.  The leaks, which also include salacious stories of internal fights within the administration, have not only proven to be hard to stop, they are illegal.  Most recently, the Washington Post alleged that President Trump shared classified information with Russia regarding ISIS operational activities in Syria.  While accusing Trump of wrongly sharing classified intelligence, the Post included the details of the information in their story.  Should the Post be criticized for disseminating classified information?  Not in our lifetime.

If the Republican members of the Senate and the House of Representatives make the decision to defend President Trump with half the vigor that the Democrats demonstrated during the Obama Administration, the American people would regain the Bully Pulpit. I'm convinced that the majority of Americans are much more in line with the politics of the right, as opposed to what they see coming from the left.  The average American is not comfortable with protesters destroying property and denying people the right to speak.  The Republicans need to tie these demonstrations around the neck of the Democratic Party like a scarf, because I have yet to hear Democratic opposition to the behavior of these hooligans.  But more important is the need for the Congressional Republican leadership to support the Trump Administration.  Individual members look to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to unite the Congressional GOP behind this president, because come election time, regardless of the polls, a Trump endorsement for a Republican Primary opponent will be tough to overcome.
Although the left continues to absolutely dominate the dissemination of information to the public at large, conservative media has become more relevant in the last decade.  Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Matt Drudge and Breitbart give us a voice, but so many Americans still rely on CNN and the three fossils of news programming, ABC, CBS, and NBC, for their daily smidgeon of news. 

The effort to cripple the Trump agenda, which is about controlling our borders, fighting terrorism abroad and at home, creating jobs, and standing up for the Constitution, will not stop.  In their own way, the Democrats want to make this country ungovernable, expecting that the blame will fall on President Trump.  The Democrats flirt with the idea of Impeachment, but aside from having no basis to bring proceedings, the left is petrified of a Pence Administration.  They are much happier with the status quo, which from their perspective leaves a sitting president bereft of party support.  This must end.  The Republicans in Congress must stand with President Trump, instead of cowering before accusations and allegations which all of Congress realizes are politically motivated lies.  Sure the Russians made an effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign, just as they have with every election since 1944, alongside the Chinese and Iran.  The Special Prosecutor will eventually confirm that there was absolutely no collusion on the part of the Trump Campaign, a fact which is known to the Democrats.  I only wish we could hand Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein the bill for the millions of dollars that this unnecessary investigation will cost the nation.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, out of step with Spurs fans, will never bring another championship to San Antonio.

Spurs Coach trashes President Trump....again.

Sunday afternoon, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich once again took the opportunity to complain about President Trump to the media.  During his long and highly successful career, Popovich seldom discusses anything but basketball during his pre-game interviews, but recently he has broken with habit in order to remind all us idiots out here in the real world who voted for Donald Trump, just how stupid we are.  Given that the Spurs were just embarrassed on national television, losing to Golden State in the Western Conference Finals by thirty-six points, my advice to Popovich would be to think more about basketball in pre-game interviews, and less about politics.  Be that as it may, Popovich must know that the majority of Spurs fans do not agree with his politics (its a guess on my part, but Trump handily won Texas and the south), and will never have the chance to let him know how they feel about Hillary Clinton and the rest of the snakes running the Democratic Party.  Lucky Gregg, a multi-millionaire just because he's a good coach, and he keeps getting lucky.  Because we love our basketball team and we want to hear the pre-game perspective from the head coach, Popovich gets to lecture to us, and he never has to listen to us in return.  Actually, the more I see of the Anti-Fascists and Black Lives Matter Nazis shutting down free speech all over the country, the clearer it becomes to me that Democrats like Popovich think that they shouldn't have to hear what other people think. 

Unfortunately Popovich will not read this commentary; he's an incredibly intelligent guy, and maybe he might have recognized that Spurs fans want to know how Coach Popovich plans on shutting down Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, not how much Popovich truly despises President Trump.  If it has nothing to do with basketball, Popovich, then don't bring it up during a pre-game interview.  Otherwise people like me are going to get a case of the red-ass and comment on your lifestyle and just how misguided your political perspective is, not to mention misplaced.  In the world of Gregg Popovich, athletes and coaches make millions upon millions of dollars because of their direct involvement in professional basketball.  Popovich, just like the like-minded geniuses in the entertainment industry, have lost all concept of what life is like for average people, which is why the elites in America today vote Democrat, and the working folks vote Republican.  Since Popovich likes to discuss politics so much, I would love to show up to his next pre-game interview disguised as a sports journalist, and ask him this question: "Are you comfortable making in three months what it takes the average teacher to earn in a twenty-five year career?"  I will never have a seven or eight figure salary, but I have no problem with someone working hard, earning loads of money and living well.  Frankly, I would rather it would be nurses, teachers, soldiers, police officers, bus drivers, medical researchers, and librarians as opposed to entertainers and athletes, but I can't change the way our society has evolved.  Regardless, I will never be comfortable being lectured to about politics, be it from the right or the left.  Maybe its a bit of jealousy on my part, but these turds already have the market cornered on financial security, do they think they get to influence politics as well?  Sadly, that's exactly what they do.  Many young people who are voting for the first time, will go into the voting booth and choose a candidate just because George Clooney or Katy Perry said they should.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much.  I wouldn't exchange our system with another, and at the end of the day, we really do get the government we deserve.  That being said, I don't want a political lecture from anyone unless I'm watching a debate or the evening news.  It's interesting that the famous folks who feel entitled to preach politics to the rest of us average, middle of the road nobodies always seem to be Democrats.  When was the last time you heard a sports personality or an entertainer (or a Drag Queen- it seems everytime I turn on the television I'm looking at a transgender person or a Drag Queen) take the microphone and start promoting conservative values?  Don't hold your breath; it rarely happens.  Normally, conservatives don't feel comfortable sharing their political opinions with strangers.  As for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, I can only hope that the series will turn around in San Antonio and the good guys in silver and black will win. Oops, I almost started lecturing about my favorite sports team, and nobody wants to hear about that!      

Monday, May 15, 2017

As part of the effort to silence the leaks, President Trump needs to question how personnel were hired in his Administration.

Link: Trump incensed by continued White House leaks.

Last week, after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, he was met with a barrage of hostility and criticism, at first from the predictable Democratic loud-mouths, and followed up by the media, which now editorializes everything.  Not surprisingly, many Republicans in Congress took their marching orders from the Democrats and the media, and joined in the criticism.  Would President Barack Obama have face this type of response?  Of course not, but the "eat your own" Republican Party, many of its members singularly focused on re-election, leave President Trump with no real political support.  Some will blame President Trump, but the problem is much more a symptom of why Trump chose to run for president in the first place.  He should be able to rely on a Republican-controlled Congress for support, and to leave the criticisms and calls for Independent Counsels to the Democrats.  But GOP Senators and Representatives have become so worried about getting re-elected, that they obsess over the vagaries of public opinion.  First and foremost, President Trump had every right to fire Comey.  The Democrats had been calling for his head ever since Hillary Clinton announced to the nation that Comey is the reason she lost the election.  Recently, many of Trump's supporters started questioning why the FBI wasn't tackling the problem of leaks more aggressively.  Since former National Director of Intelligence James Clapper and Comey had publicly stated that no evidence has yet to be discovered linking the Trump Campaign Staff to Russian efforts to impact the election, why is the FBI still knee-deep in that investigation?  Just when was Comey planning on winding things down?  It had become a serious distraction, especially when the only illegal activity that had up to now been uncovered was the politically-motivated "unmasking" of 1,934 citizens, in an investigation which had yet to find even a scrap of evidence of wrongdoing by the Trump team.

Attorney General Sessions needs to take the lead in putting a stop to the leaks.  Trump needs to explain to his staff that all phone calls to the Washington Post and the NY Times must stop, and make a point of finding the next culprit and summarily firing said person.  Frankly, President Trump needs to revisit the list of people who have become his closest advisers.  The media continues to claim that much of the leaking can be attributed to the Trump Administration's hiring of so many people who are unfamiliar with the White House and politics in DC.  The last time I took a good look, most of the mid-level staff in the White House are professional political workhorses.  What about draining the swamp?  I am truly surprised by the number of highly qualified loyal Trump supporters who applied for positions with the Transition Team, and never so much as heard a burp in reply.  I happen to be one of those individuals.  As an author with a successful career in the CIA on my resume, along with time as a Federal Agent, and a vocal supporter President Trump during the election, I am just the kind of person the Transition Team should have considered for one of those mid-level positions, which doesn't provide the opportunity to speak, but allows one to observe and listen.  I believe the majority of the leaks in this White House comes from the numerous unspoken bodies in the room, who stand in the background in case their Cabinet member boss needs something.  Once previously I wrote a blog questioning the hiring methods of the Trump Transition Team, and I received hundreds of email responses from persons in positions similar to my own.  Professionals in the Department of Justice, Department of State, and in the Department of Homeland Security, who had chosen early retirement because of their unwillingness to continue working for the Obama Administration, but had volunteered to return in support of the Trump Administration and his desire to Make America Great Again.  Why weren't we considered for any of the thousands of jobs that were supposedly being filled?  The truth is, most of those jobs were filled with former Obama officials and others who have no interest in seeing President Trump succeed.

President Trump needs to re-evaluate the team he has put in place to hire the staff which has access to the daily routine of the White House, and ask his Cabinet members to take stock as well.  Anyone with Obama on their resume should be given the boot.  In addition, Cabinet members and anyone with similar access, including the CIA and FBI Directors, need to monitor their personal staff with the goal of identifying anyone engaged in leaking.  For President Trump to be distracted in this manner is as devious as it is unfair.  Those opposed to the Trump Agenda, with the media at the front of the pack, are using this access to paint whatever picture matches their narrative, of an administration in crisis and a White House in conflict. I don't believe the Trump Administration is in crisis and I certainly don't believe the juicy tidbits about Bannon arm-wrestling Jared Kushner for the President's ear.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of ever knowing President Trump understand that he expects a lot from his team, as he tackles the real challenges of North Korea, Russia, Syria, ISIS and our broken immigration system.  Everyone in the White House who is truly loyal to this administration needs to prioritize the identification and removal of leakers, and whatever mechanism is currently in place to hire qualified persons who will support this President without reservation, needs to review the stacks of resumes they received in December and January.  We haven't gone anywhere.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

As we moves to outlawing tobacco use altogether, one state after another is legalizing marijuana use.

Links:  A.  A link exists between marijuana use and schizophrenia.
            B.  Marijuana use can trigger schizophrenia.
            C.  National Institute on Drug Abuse summary on marijuana use.

When I was a child, people didn't appear overly concerned with the health issues related to smoking cigarettes.  I recall when the tobacco companies were ordered by the U.S. government to display a warning on every pack of cigarettes, but I didn't notice very many people quitting the habit.  When researchers were able to determine a direct link between tobacco use and cancer, some folks got the message, but millions of Americans continued to light up.  The real change started in the late 1980's, as individual states and the federal government started taxing the heck out of tobacco.  Once people started talking about second-hand smoke, and possible prenatal ramifications of cigarette smoking, organized efforts to ban smoking in public places popped up everywhere.
In some instances, smokers were made to feel unwelcome in public venues like sporting events and parades.  Today, smokers are treated as second-class citizens, at least as long as they have a cigarette or cigar in their hand.  I have problems regarding the way smokers are treated, and the issue does raise some interesting civil rights questions, but in the end, if tobacco smoking becomes illegal, millions of Americans will be spared the agony of Lung Cancer.  At the same time, a surprising number of states have either legalized or are in the process of legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Simply put, as our society moves to limit and eventually eradicate the use of tobacco, more and more states are making recreational marijuana use legal.  In the 1990's, a powerful lobby which existed to pressure states into legalizing medicinal-use marijuana, brought the issue to the forefront.  At the time, the public was assured that legalizing marijuana for pain relief would not result in the relaxation of laws against recreational use.  In fact, that's exactly what happened.  Talk about a slippery slope- one day the public was being inundated with stories about terminal cancer patients whose only pain relief came from marijuana use, and today, so-called experts have started spreading the lie that marijuana doesn't have the same harmful effects as tobacco use.

So much depends on how much marijuana a person smokes/eats, and if it has been diluted.  Although marijuana in its popular incarnation contains more tar than the average cigarette, the myth persists that pot smoking is much less dangerous than lighting up a cigar or cigarette.  As one state after another lightens the penalties for marijuana use or legalizes it altogether, tobacco continues to get pummeled in the media and in public forums all over the country.  The latest nation-wide campaign to discourage smoking is aimed at young people, and no doubt is being financed by a fat wad of taxpayer dollars, but who is behind the lobbying efforts to legalize pot?  Could it be the big tobacco companies, who are transitioning their operations to grow marijuana instead of tobacco?  As part of the effort to insure that pot for medicinal purposes is readily available, the federal government has approved some companies to begin growing marijuana.  If and when pot is finally legalized, don't be surprised to discover that the same tobacco companies that dominated the cigarette market now are making a nice profit growing marijuana.

When I was in grade school, I was taught that marijuana was a very dangerous drug.  For the life of me, I can't recall if anyone ever explained what about marijuana made it so dangerous.  Common sense and experience made it clear to me that pot was a gateway drug, because so many people I knew who started smoking pot at a young age, moved on to experimenting with acid, ecstasy, cocaine and prescription drugs.  It's very personal to me because it directly impacted my family, as it has millions of other families in this country.  Regardless of the warning signs, pot smoking is still a popular pass time for far too many young people.  Recent research has discovered other real problems with marijuana, as a clear connection exists between certain individuals who smoke pot and develop psychosis.  Schizophrenia seems to be the most common of the conditions which can be triggered by marijuana use.  Most pot smokers will not become schizophrenic, but a clear percentage of persons with a predisposition to chemical imbalances will become psychotic.  As is often the case, persons suffering from schizophrenia decide that the best treatment is to continue smoking pot, which only increases the frequency and severity of psychotic episodes.  I am very concerned that this information, which is readily available on the internet (google schizophrenia and marijuana), has not been adequately disseminated by the media or the government.  If respected researchers are regularly discovering more links between marijuana use and schizophrenia, why are we rushing to legalize pot?

I have added three links from well-respected sources which support the argument that marijuana can bring on psychosis in some individuals, not to mention the issue of decreased motivation/lack of ambition.  Someone other than the consumer is going to benefit from the legalization of marijuana in the United States, and I'm guessing that their lobbyists are spreading around enough campaign contributions to ensure that negative information will be smothered.  As more laws and ordinances are passed limiting tobacco use, tobacco growers are faced with the reality of losing their livelihood. At the same time, the legalization of marijuana will increase the demand.  Large-scale tobacco growers will simply start growing marijuana instead of tobacco.  It has been argued that legalizing marijuana will eliminate the black market and the smuggling of marijuana into the United States.  Nonsense.  Black market marijuana will still be available, as without federal and state taxes and fees, it will be much cheaper than the pot that is being legally sold.  I hope that the Trump Administration will recognize the danger in legalized marijuana, and assign the Department of Health and Human Services to complete a thorough review of current research into pot use, and responds appropriately.      

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sanctuary cities encourage selective application of the law.

Link: Texas Governor Abbott signs Sanctuary Cities Bill.

Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill which provides police officers with the authority to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they detain.  In addition, the bill requires local officials to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation.  Previously, immigration officers would place an Immigration Detainer on the suspect, which required that local authorities hold the suspect for up to forty-eight hours, to give federal law enforcement the opportunity to arrange deportation proceedings.  The new bill signed by Governor Abbott is in response to the Sanctuary Cities phenomenon, in which certain communities were choosing to ignore the Detainer request.  Opponents of the bill argue that it will encourage profiling and create fear in Hispanic communities,  while supporters call for even enforcement of the law.  San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas are just a few of the communities who
self-publicize their "sanctuary" status.  Police Officers in sanctuary municipalities are not allowed to inquire about a person's citizenship.

According to the law of the land, a person present in the United States without documentation is in this country illegally.  For years these persons were identified as "illegal aliens".  That term has since been designated "dehumanizing" by the progressives and the politically correct in our society, and since they make all the rules, "illegal alien" is a term no longer utilized to describe persons in our country without authorization.  At the same time, the politically correct machine has decided that any foreign national in the United States who wishes to stay permanently should be identified as an immigrant.  Again, back in the ancient days when I was studying Cultural Geography at College, the term "immigrant" was reserved for persons who had arrived in the United States legally, and had some form of documented status.  My mother was a French citizen who married my U.S. Citizen father; she obtained her legal residency through marriage.  The U.S. Department of State, through its various Embassies around the world,  issues Permanent Resident Visas by the hundreds of thousands every year.  These people follow the legal pathway to living in the United States.  With some rare exceptions, Visa applicants must wait years on the list before being selected.  These people are the true heroes in this mess.  While they wait to obtain legal authorization to live in the United States, hundreds of thousands cross the U.S./Mexico border every year without documentation.

The Democratic Party is very sympathetic to the plight of persons who are in the United States without permission; not surprisingly, every Sanctuary City has a Mayor and City Council dominated by Democrats.  The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to include Amendments to allow the people to change unpopular laws.  Its not the simplest of processes, nor should it be.  Laws are enacted to protect people and property.  Coincidentally, Sanctuary Cities, which flaunt the law, have become magnets for Mexican and Central American criminal gangs.  The criminal alien sans documentation but with a bit of common sense, will gravitate to the communities that are not allowed to ask his/her citizenship.  Gangs like the evil, violent Mara Salvatrucha Trece , which is roughly translated as "Gangster Salvadoran Soldiers", have established a dangerous presence in most of the Sanctuary Cities, as have the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels.  One way to combat these groups is through identification, but how to you identify someone when the law prohibits Police Officers from determining nationality?

For many years, undocumented immigrants kept a very low profile.  The idea was to find a job, send some of the money back home to help out, and hopefully find a way to adjust status to Resident Alien (Green Card).  Basically, all persons involved on both sides of the issue agreed that the rule of law was central to the discussion.  Not anymore.  The rule of law has no place in Sanctuary Cities.  Municipal authorities in places like San Francisco, Houston and Seattle have decided that they get to decide which laws should be respected and which should be ignored.  At the same time, they claim that undocumented immigrants have civil rights GUARANTEED BY OUR CONSTITUTION.  The hypocrisy would be funny of it weren't so scary.  The longer we allow Sanctuary Communities to exist, the greater the encouragement for others to give their life savings to a smuggler and enter the United States illegally.  Many Central Americans are tempted by the lure of Sanctuary Cities to first attempt illegally entry into Mexico.  The Mexican government has not the slightest sympathy for persons entering Mexico "sin documentos".  People are robbed, beaten, sometimes assaulted, and dumped back on the other side of the border.  For all the bleeding heart liberals who believe that the United States has some humane obligation to persons trying to enter the U.S. illegally, does it matter that thousands are ruined, with many losing their lives, because of the existence of Sanctuary Cities?

National security is any nation is only as strong as its borders.  It is unfair to expect the American taxpayer to support ten million citizens of the Republic of Mexico.  In 1776, we were faced with tyranny and taxation without representation.  Our Founding Fathers went to war, to build a Democracy under the rule of law.  Mexican citizens must follow our example and stand up to the corruptocracy that pretends to be a government, and enforce their Constitution.  This includes going to war with the narcotraffickers who have an unwritten understanding with the government to stay out of each other's way.  Like it or not, the problem of undocumented immigrants has become an issue of national security for the United States, and we must get control of our borders.  At the same time, we must stand up for the rule of law and eliminate the reasons people are tempted to risk their lives, break our laws, and cross our border illegally.  This includes legitimate sanctions and jail time for employers who knowingly hire "cheap" labor provided by undocumented workers, and the elimination of communities who promise a safe haven for persons to live whose entire presence in the United States is predicated on breaking the law.        

Monday, May 1, 2017

The citizens of San Antonio have a rare opportunity to elect an honest, fiscally responsible, hard-working small businessman and as Mayor.

Link: Keven Roles for Mayor of San Antonio.

San Antonio, Texas, the seventh-largest city in the United States, is a fascinating, beautiful place to visit, and every year, more families choose to make San Antonio home.  The city has always been important to the military, with Brooke Army Medical Center, Kelly Field, and Randolph Air Force Base providing training for new recruits and life-saving care to retired Veterans and soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.  Because of access to excellent support facilities, many military families chose to retire in San Antonio.  Military folks have a tendency to be very smart with finances, as good habits are born out of trying to feed two adults and three children on an enlisted soldier's paycheck.  In my lifetime, the cost of living in Bexar County has always been reasonable, and I've traveled enough in this country to experience how expensive some places can be.  San Antonio is not a wealthy community, which is why it's so important to elect a mayor who will utilize the city's resources appropriately.  Of the fourteen persons who are on the city's list of candidates for the office of mayor, I recognize only one who I believe is determined to balance the books. 

The San Antonio Express-News, which, sadly, is our only daily newspaper, leans heavily to the left.  On any given day, a review of Express-News articles will demonstrate just how difficult it is to separate actual news stories from editorials.  The folks who run the Express-News believe that that they are more intelligent than the average San Antonian.  Not long after the race began in earnest, the Express-News "ordained" three candidates as being the only mayoral hopefuls with any chance of winning.  I took the time to research all three, and on paper, they look like Democrats.  Mayor Ivy Taylor and Manuel Medina are both registered Democrats, and San Antonio City Councilman Ron Nirenberg seems to support more government and higher spending, which certainly makes him a Democrat in my book.  Ignore the Express-News and their effort to control this election by cherry-picking three big spenders as the only serious candidates in the race.  Citizens of San Antonio who believe the city should have a balanced budget and be accountable to the people for every cent that the City Council and Mayor spend, let me introduce you to Keven Roles.

Roles is as unlike the above-mentioned "front-runners" as you can imagine.  He runs his own company, "911 Training Services", which provides training and certification for persons interested in being EMTs or working with Emergency Services.  He has spent his adult life in this field, and has too many certifications and awards to list in this post.  Keven is a family man and a Christian, who does not run away from his faith as so many politicians do today.  I haven't met Keven, but I read enough about his governing philosophy to recognize that he is a leader who understands his constituents and works to make their lives more manageable.  Roles is a strong supporter of a balanced budget for the City of San Antonio, and he will deliver accountability for every penny that is approved by his Administration.  Keven Roles understands the city, its strengths and its realities.  The average citizen of San Antonio needs a reduction in water and electricity costs, and a responsible plan to repair our streets that does not include a wasteful Transportation Project that will accommodate only a small percentage of residents.  For too long we have suffered through city leaders who introduce high-profile projects that might be appropriate for somewhere else, but do nothing for the long-term interests of San Antonians.

Each candidate for mayor should be asked to identify the five most important issues facing San Antonio families in 2017.  Sorry, but the rail project doesn't make the cut.  San Antonio has a serious issue with crime and gang violence, which has certainly not diminished in the last few years.  Our Police Officers are targets for drug-traffickers and gangs who rule the streets in many neighborhoods as soon as the sun goes down.  When Julian Castro was mayor, his entire focus was on projects that might help him get elected to Congress.  Every election, candidates venture out into the south and west side of San Antonio, make a handful of promises, and don't return until the next election.  During my years in San Antonio, it was obvious that the Mayor and City Council were exclusively focused on bringing development to the north side of town (with one or two high-profile exceptions).  When will the lower-income neighborhoods finally get the attention that should be the obligation of City Hall?  I believe that Keven Roles is dedicated to fiscal accountability, and will work to make rates more affordable.  Roles will not shy away from pointing out and focusing on the criminal element in our communities, so that not only the wealthy can sleep safely at night, and he will address the issues that impact the daily lives of us all, not just a select few.  The citizens of San Antonio need safe streets, safe schools, reasonable electric and water rates, and a Mayor and City Council who are willing to spend time in all parts of our city.  If you vote  for Medina, Taylor, or Nirenberg, then don't expect your life to change for the better.  Make the right choice for accountability, and for the candidate who doesn't have a long-term agenda that identifies San Antonio as just another stepping-stone to higher political office.  Vote for the Keven Roles for Mayor of San Antonio.