Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Neville Chamberlain returning from Munich 1938
It's been 70 years since British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain flew back to London from his meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich and waved a piece of paper in his hand proclaiming, "Peace in our time." Of course, the following year, the world was plunged into World War II. Today, instead of Nazism, the world is faced with a new scourge, Islamo-Terrorism, Islamo-Fascism or whatever you want to call it. One would think that we had learned the lessons of history when it comes to appeasing the forces of evil. Yet, it seems that when it comes to Islamic terror, we have forgotten the lessons of the past. There are some notable parallels, in my view, between today and the 1930s.
After his failed 1923 Putsch, Hitler found himself incarcerated in Landsberg Prison near Munich in 1924, where he wrote Mein Kampf. In this book, he spelled out his hatred of Jews and plans to re-establish Germany's greatness through re-militarization and territorial expansion to the east. The world did not take him seriously. They thought he would never be able to attain that kind of power, even within Germany. They were wrong.
Islamic terrorists take their inspiration from passages in the Koran that they feel give them guidance in killing those who don't share their religion. Virtually every sura (chapter) reinforces the belief that non-believers will burn in Hell.
Once Hitler took power in Germany, after years of agitation and street brawls, he acted quickly to establish a dictatorship. On April 1, 1933, Nazis launched the boycott of Jewish businesses. In 1935, the so-called Nuremberg Laws were promulgated, codifying the second-class status of German Jews.
In 1936, German troops reoccupied the Rhineland-in violation of the Versailles Treaty. Great Britain and France took no action-further emboldening Hitler.
In 1938, Hitler marched into Austria, annexing that country into a greater German Reich. Great Britain and France stood by and watched.
Then, the same year, Hitler demanded the Sudentenland region of Czechoslovakia, based on the fact that it was primarily inhabited by ethnic Germans who were being mistreated. This brought Europe close to war. Within the space of a fortnight, Neville Chamberlain flew to Germany three times to meet and negotiate with Hitler. Chamberlain was determined to avert war over "a people of whom we know so little" to use his words. When the meeting was over, the Czechs were advised that the Sudetenland would have to handed over to Germany-or they would be on their own-previous commitments notwithstanding. Chamberlain flew home to announce "Peace in our time."
In November of 1938, the world watched in shock as the Nazis carried out Reichskristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), by which Jewish shops, homes and synagogues were smashed, Jews were dragged to jail, and-in some cases murdered. Once again, the world stood by and did nothing.
It wasn't until Germany invaded Poland in 1939 that the scales dropped from the eyes of the British and French and war began. It was only then that the Brits and French realized that they could not negotiate with Hitler.
Meanwhile in the US, President Roosevelt, who understood the threat, was thwarted by public opinion that wanted no part of another European war. Famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh, was an ardent admirer of Hitler. He led the fight to keep America neutral. Another prominent voice for neutrality was Joseph Kennedy (father of JFK), even though he was the American ambassador to London. Then there was the Nazi-supporting German-American Bund, a 5th column German-American organization on our soil. It was only after Pearl Harbor, when the US declared war on Imperial Japan, and Hitler declared war on our country, that we entered the European war.
Today, we see similarities vis-a-vis Islamic terrorism. In spite of everything that has happened and continues to happen every day, there are many in the West who will not face reality. We have experienced 9-11. The British experienced the subway and bus bombings. Madrid experienced its train bombings. How did the Spaniards react? They voted out their government in favor of a new soft-line prime minister who pulled his troops out of Iraq.
The situation in Britain is most disturbing. Muslim clerics in mosques preach hate and violence against British society. Muslims demonstrate on London streets demanding that anyone who "insults" Islam be "butchered" or "beheaded". How does Britain react? They bend over backwards to toe the politically correct line. Just in the past few days, "The Three Little Pigs" has been suppressed because pigs are offensive to Muslims. Now acts of terror are officially being called "anti-Islamic acts" since they do damage to Islam's image. British jails have re-installed toilet seats to ensure that Muslim prisoners don't have to face their backsides toward Mecca.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, they have witnessed the bloody murder of film producer Theo van Gogh on a Dutch street for the "crime" of making a film critical of Islam's treatment of women. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant and Muslim apostate, who collaborated in the film, has been living under intense security ever since. Currently, a Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, is trying to produce a 10-minute film critical of the Koran. Not surprisingly, he lives under threat of murder while Iran makes veiled threats against the Netherlands, trying to force them to prohibit the showing of the film.
In other major European cities like Paris, Rotterdam and Malmo, Sweden, police are afraid to enter Muslim enclaves, where practices like "honor-killings" and female circumcision are carried out though in contravention of national law.
Here at home in the US, where have we been so far spared the Muslim violence seen in Europe, we are witnessing a growing disaffection from American society on the part of many Muslims. On many universities (like mine-UC-Irvine), Muslim Student Unions regularly bring in radical Muslim speakers who advocate hate and violence toward Israel and "Zionist Jews". Many of these speakers also direct their vile hatred toward America as well. In some places, like Minneapolis, some Muslim cab drivers refuse to carry passengers who have alcohol. Some Muslim check-out clerks in grocery stores will not service customers purchasing pork. Not long ago, a group of radical Imams deliberately provoked airline passengers while boarding a flight, managing to get themselves removed from a flight so that they could start a lawsuit, aided by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). So how do we react to all this effrontery? The University of Michigan at Dearborn has installed foot baths in their restrooms-courtesy of the Michigan tax-payers. Secondary schools all over the nation have initiated courses for children to provide them with a positive image of Islam-while any recognition of Christianity or Judaism is considered unacceptable.
The problem is that both here and in Europe, we are being governed by political correctness. We must all proclaim that we respect Islam, and we consider Islam to be a religion of peace. It doesn't matter how much violence and expressions of hate are carried out by certain Muslims. When was the last time you heard a Democratic politician use the term, "Islamic Terror"? The reality is that most Americans, while trying to be fair and not punish decent, innocent Muslims, really are wondering about the true nature of this religion. Religion of peace? Well, we have doubts. We want to believe the best about other faiths, but how can we not have doubts given what is going on in the world, not just in the Middle East, but in Western countries where large numbers of Muslim immigrants have settled? This is not to paint all Muslims with the same brush, but some have not conducted themselves like ideal guests.
How great it would have been if the millions of decent Germans had risen up to overthrow Hitler and the Nazis. Tragically, they did not-or could not since the police state was too powerful. Similarly, how great it would be if the decent, peace-loving Muslims would rise up and defeat the murderers and hate-mongers among them. Whether they will remains to be seen.
My point is this: While we want to live peacefully with our Muslim neighbors, we must make it clear that we will defend ourselves against Islamic terror. We will not throw away our own religions, traditions, customs and laws because they are "offensive" to Muslims. There will be no Shariah law in our countries. We will not submit to them. Unfortunately, Western Civilization has been infected with a "peace in our time" mentality that says that, if we just make a few more concessions here and there, we can peacefully co-exist.
Neville Chamberlain would be proud.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
"Fousesquawk says that Obama is the fairest of them all-at least among you Democrats"
With the results of the Republican Florida Primary in, it is looking increasingly obvious that the race is now between John McCain and Mitt Romney. With the California Primary fast approaching, I am at the horns of a dilemma. My preference is now Mitt Romney, but there is just one problem. As a registered non-partison, I can't vote for him-or any other Republican. You see, in California, the Republicans will not allow non-Republicans to vote on their slate of candidates. The Democrats will take votes from non-Democrats, be they Republicans, independents or whatever. (In fact, they welcome votes from dead people, illegal aliens and prisoners as well.)
So here is my dilemma. I cannot obtain a Republican ballot. I can, however, get a Democrat ballot, Independent ballot, or any other party ballot. What should I do?
I don't want to stay home on Primary day; there are various ballot issues that I need to vote no on. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say, they have been put on the ballot by our lunatic government in Sacramento and involve spending vast sums of money, keeping corrupt politicians in office beyond term limits and some questionable deals between the State Government and Indian gaming casinos.
My dilemma is this: Should I do the only meaningful thing and cast my vote for Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate? It's not that I am swept away by Mr Excitement himself-I am not. But the idea of casting a vote against Hillary Clinton is exciting in itself. This is not an easy decision. Though I am an independent, I have never in my life voted for a Democrat. I am proud of that distinction, not only because I detest the Democrats, but also because I am the only member of my family that isn't a card-carrying Democrat.
On the one hand, a principled position would be not to vote for any candidate and let Democratic voters decide upon their own candidate. Yet, on the other hand, if Democrats can go after the votes of dead folks, illegal aliens and convicted felons, why deny them my vote in this "special circumstance"? I think I've made up my mind. Hee, hee, hee.
"He put me in my own jail"
From 1970-73, prior to joining DEA, I was working as a US Customs agent at Terminal Island, California (near Long Beach). I worked in a group that investigated drug smuggling by private or rented aircraft (which mostly consisted of marijuana being smuggled out of Mexico in quantities of hundreds of pounds per load.)
In our group, we had an older agent named Don (when I say older, I guess he was in his late 30s at the time.) Don was heavy set, with a butch haircut, dressed like a cowboy-usually in black and was known for his blunt talk. Though a nice guy, he was not known for his tact. He also had the dubious knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the early 1970s, as plane highjackings had become a problem, the Treasury Department instituted its Skymarshall program principally on flights between Europe and the US. Don served as a skymarshal on several occasions. One evening in Geneva, Switzerland, Don walked into his hotel bar to relax after a long transcontinental flight from New York. There were only a few people in the bar, so as Don placed his order, he told the waiter to serve drinks to everyone in the house on him. Well, seated at the bar was a Russian military attache and his ladyfriend. When the drinks arrived, and the waiter explained that the drinks were courtesy of the American, the Russian reacted angrily.
"No American is going to buy me a drink", said the Russian as he threw the glass at Don breaking a wall mirror in the process. After the big fight that ensued, Don wound up paying for much more than the drinks.
Then there was the time when Don walked into a Jewish deli in New York City, an elderly lady took one look at him and screamed, "It's Martin Bormann!!" Faster than you can say mistaken identity, the police were on the scene to ID Don and calm the old lady down. (Martin Bormann was Hitler's Chancellary adjutant who disappeared during the fall of Berlin in 1945. It was not confirmed until decades later-after this event-that he had, in fact, died in Berlin.)
But my greatest memory of Don was the one I was personally involved in. One night in 1971, our group was conducting surveillance on the home of a known smuggler based on information that he was going to pick up a load of marijuana being brought in from Mexico via private plane. It was a rainy night, and at about 9pm, the suspect and another person came out of the house and drove off in a van for who knew where.
As we followed them , they drove east from the Los Angeles area, past San Bernadino on I 15 in the direction of Las Vegas. Along the way, we had our radio operator call Don at home because he lived in that area in Apple Valley. Within minutes, he joined in the moving surveillance.
Keep in mind, we had no idea where the suspects were headed for their pick-up point to meet the plane carrying the marijuana. Due to the terrain of the Southwest, it was either a small uncontrolled airport or possibly a dry-lake bed in the vast desert area, where planes could land undetected.
Around 2 am, we found ourselves entering Las Vegas, where the van stopped and the suspects entered a Denny's restaurant to eat. At this time, we contacted the head of the US Customs office in Las Vegas, who joined in the surveillance.
While we were sitting in our cars conducting surveillance in the parking lot, we attracted the attention of a local police officer ( I will call him Officer X)who approached one of our cars, at which time one of our agents identified himself as a Customs agent conducting surveillance. The officer was puzzled by the presence of Customs agents so far from the border, but backed off. Yet, somewhat suspicious, he didn't leave the area, but parked nearby watching the scene.
After a while, the suspects got back in their van and continued their trip, with us following. Also following was Officer X, who fell in behind our cars. A short distance away, he decided to stop the last car in our surveillance-which was driven by Don. What happened next was not pretty.
As the officer approached Don's car, Don said something to the effect that the officer should go back to writing parking tickets and let the "big boys" worry about real crime. Not only was this undiplomatic, but it was the last thing you want to say to a brother law enforcement officer. The reaction was immediate:
Officer X: "Get out of the car and let me see some ID."
At this point, Don told the officer that he was on surveillance,and if he didn't let him go immediately, he (Don) was going to put him (the Las Vegas officer) in his own jail. Don also got on the radio and asked our Las Vegas agent to return to the scene or he would put this officer "in his own jail". (I should add at this juncture that unfortunately, these incidents do occasionally happen between officers of different law enforcement jurisdictions-unfortunate as they are.)
To make a long story short, it took our Las Vegas agent and a local police supervisor to iron out the dispute-as we continued our moving surveillance.
As time dragged on in the wee hours of the morning, we continued following the suspect van through the desert, mostly with our lights out, now joined by a helicopter. At one point, about 4 am, in the middle of nowhere, I saw a couple of buildings off the road lit up as if it were Christmas. I asked over the radio, "What are those lights off to the side of the road?"
"That's a whorehouse, you idiot!"
Again, to make a long story short, the next day, the van met a plane that landed on a dry lake bed loaded with hundreds of pounds of marijuana. As they drove back in the direction of California, they were stopped, arrested, and taken to the Clark County Jail in Las Vegas for processing.
A few hours later, we started making our way back home to LA. Don stopped at the Las Vegas Airport to make a call to the jail trying to contact the agent in charge of the case who was booking the prisoners. The call was answered by none other than Officer X- who had just been disciplinarily transferred to the jail for interfering with another law enforcement officer.
" Clark County Jail, Officer X speaking."
Don: "Officer X! You SOB! I told you I'd put you in your own jail!"
"By the way, Osama, do you drink?"
In the wake of the Ted Kennedy endorsement of Barack Obama for president, at least some feminists are howling betrayal. The most notable is Ms. Marcia Pappas, the head of the New York State chapter of NOW (National Organization of Women). Prior to the endorsement, Ms Pappas had written (on January 11) that Hillary Clinton was the victim of a "psychological gang-bang", in effect, being ganged up on by Obama and John Edwards. This, according to Ms Pappas, was "proof that we need a woman in the White House". Ms Pappas' unfortunate choice of language was meant to buttress the image of Hillary as victim-in this case of sexism. Whether that image will benefit Clinton in the long run is dubious since it is doubtful that the majority of Americans want a victim as their president.
But Ms Pappas' reaction to the endorsement of Obama by Kennedy highlights the fixation that liberals have on issues of race and gender. In her letter, Pappas calls Kennedy's endorsement a betrayal and abandonment (of women). Ms Pappas said that Kennedy has joined the list of "white progressives" who can't handle the thought of a woman president-who is Hillary Clinton.
Ms Pappas, I have a question for you:
What does Kennedy's being white have to do with anything? Are you ignoring the fact that Obama is getting the votes of black men- black "progressive" men, if you will?
Ms Pappas also mentioned that "women" have repeatedly forgiven Senator Kennedy for being "late in support of" Title IX, ERA and the Family Leave and Medical Act.
Ms Pappas, another question:
Where were you when Kennedy left a young woman to drown in his car at Chappaquidick? Where were you as Kennedy was gradually destroying the life of his wife, Joan through his numerous affairs? Did you forgive him for those things also? Where were you when the senator was periferally involved in the rape accusation against his nephew, William Smith? Did you ever speak out against the senator on those occasions? Did you demand that he resign? Did you demand that he be investigated and removed from office? Did you? Did NOW?
Further, since you feel so strongly that we need Hillary (and Bill) back in the White House, where were you when Bill was using the White House as a private bordello, while Hillary led the effort to discredit and destroy all the women who claimed to have had affairs with or been sexually assaulted by Bill? Where was your organization during the Clinton White House years? (Yes, I know the NOW website stated that you "condemned" the Lewinsky affair-but that it did not "rise to the level of impeachment". The old "Move On" argument.)
It should be added here that the New York City and national chapters of NOW have issued statements praising Ted Kennedy's work on behalf of women, and that they respect the senator's endorsement. Maybe they should address the above questions as well.
But it is Ms Pappas' above two statements that give the lie to the NOW organization. In reality, their concern is not about "womens' issues", rather liberal politics. Ms Pappas wants to see a woman president, which is her right. Of course, she doesn't want a conservative woman president like, say Condi Rice. It must be a liberal like Hillary Clinton. Some years back, Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) was running in the Republican primaries for the presidential nomination. Do you think Dole got any support from NOW or Marcia Pappas? Of course not.
This issue is just more proof that NOW is about liberal politics. It also reminds us of liberals' fixation on race and gender-two issues that are dividing Democratic voters as we speak. Contrary to what Ms Pappas thinks, I anticipate seeing a woman and/or black president in the near future. I think America is ready for either-but who they are matters. I am prepared to vote for either-as long as they are conservative.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The guy on the far left is a Secret Service Agent.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the whole Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal was the role of the US Secret Service while Clinton was president. Just like the Arkansas State troopers who had been assigned to guard then-Arkansas Governor Clinton, the Secret Service was severely compromised by having to protect a president who was a serial philanderer.
Let me state at the outset that I have great respect for the Secret Service as an agency. During my DEA career, I had occasions to work with some of them. (Aside from their protection duties, they also have jurisdiction for enforcing counterfeit crimes.) When I was stationed in Milan at the US Consulate in the 1980s, the USSS also had an office in the consulate because there was a lot of traffic in US counterfeit currency in Italy. When I left Milan to return to the US in 1987, the head of the office presented me with a certificate of appreciation signed by their director. To this day, it hangs proudly on my wall, as does a (facsimile) signed portrait of Ronald Reagan, which was a gift from the agency.
Yet, regrettably, I think it is obvious that the agency was greatly compromised during the Clinton Administration by a president who could not control his womanizing impulses. I don't have any inside Clinton stories provided by USSS contacts, but common sense tells me that it is impossible for any woman to gain access to the President of the United States without getting past the Secret Service Protection Detail. Such was the case in the Kennedy Administration, and it was obviously no different in the Clinton Administration. Any fling that Clinton had while in office-or after, for that matter, has to be known to his guards.
During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, we learned that on one occasion after she had been reassigned to the Pentagon, Lewinsky came to the front gate of the White House attempting to gain entry to see Clinton. While at the guard booth, she became unruly and began shouting that she knew Clinton was being visited by some other woman-all this in public view.
We also know that the then-director of the USSS, Lewis Merletti, whom Clinton had appointed to the position, made a strong legal effort to preclude any of his agents and officers from having to testify before the Grand Jury as to what they knew about Clinton and Lewinsky, citing presidential-security privilege. That,of course, was a dubious claim as there is no legal precedent for this kind of legal privilege (such as doctor-patient, husband-wife or minister-penitent). If a Secret Service agent saw or heard something that was a crime or evidence of a crime by the president, he/she would be obligated to reveal that knowledge. In the case of Lewinsky, it is obvious that there were Secret Service personnel who had personal and direct knowledge of the relationship. Once Clinton was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice in trying to conceal that relationship, the knowledge of the agents would have been pertinent to the investigation. To take this to its extreme, what if the Secret Service had walked into a room and found a president committing a rape-or murder? Would their testimony have been precluded? Clearly not.
The Secret Service does have an agency code of conduct to the effect that agents will not publicly speak about their intimate knowledge or observations of the president and his family. That is laudable, but it has no basis in law. (Within the USSS and federal law enforcement circles, such stories do get around. The Secret Service stories about Lyndon Johnson were legendary.) In my view, Merletti's attempt to create a firewall between the Special Counsel, Kenneth Starr and his agents was reprehensible and a disservice to his agency.
This is a problem that will arise any time we have a president who is engaged in this kind of activity. It cannot possibly be carried off without the knowledge, indeed, the acquiescence of the Secret Service. Thus, the agency is automatically placed in a compromising position that it does not deserve to be placed in.
For those who continue to argue that Clinton (and Kennedy's) presidential philandering was of no consequence to the public, they might want to ponder if they really want the Secret Service placed in a position of being nothing more than a palace guard. It is the duty of the USSS to protect the president, not help cover up his indiscretions-or crimes. There is no doubt in my mind that the members of this agency feel the same way.
Should the Secret Service agents publicly reveal affairs and other indiscretions by a president? No. That is against their professional code of conduct. Once it crosses the line into illegal behavior, that is entirely different.
Adolf Hitler at the 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally
The emergence of Barack Obama has highlighted the talent of certain politicians to engage in stirring oratory when speaking before the public. There is no doubt that Obama possesses the gift of oratory. His victory speech in South Carolina yesterday was spectacular. Though overshadowed by Obama, John Edwards is also a gifted public speaker, honed by years of work in North Carolina courtrooms convincing gullible jurors that birth defects are caused by negligent doctors and hospitals. Edwards' talent for oratory has paid off for him, making him one of his state's wealthiest citizens, even as he goes around describing an America that comes straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.
In our more recent history, we have seen other gifted speakers in America, most notably Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, and of course, arguably the greatest, Martin Luther King. It is undeniable that masses of people can be swept away by a great speaker. Depending on the nature of the speaker and what he or she really stands for, that can be a good-or bad thing. Most would argue that the above three were also mostly good (perhaps great) men with a positive message. But there are exceptions.
After I completed my tour of military service in Germany in the late 1960s, I became fascinated by the history of the Third Reich, particularly because I was stationed just outside Nuremberg, the so-called "shrine" of Nazism. Over the years, I became sort of an amateur scholar on the Nazi era. As part of my historical research and study of the German language, I collected many recordings of speeches and radio broadcasts from the times, including speeches by Hitler and Josef Goebbels. There is no question that Hitler was a gifted public speaker, who rallied the masses behind a message of hate. In my opinion, Goebbels was even more talented because he had a much better voice than Hitler and, with his superior education (PHD), a greater command of the German language. His Totalen Krieg (Total War) speech in the Berlin Sports Palace in 1943 was a masterpiece of German bombastic oratory, and the response from his audience was wild. Of course, in those days, bombast was the order of the day, and the German language lends itself well to that style of speaking. Since World War II, of course, that style has gone out of fashion lest people be reminded of the Nazi era. If you listen to German news programs now, what you hear is a very low key, "talking head" style of speaking.
This brings me to my point about politicians who are great speakers. It has nothing to do with their intentions, policies, fitness for office or character. Now let me state clearly at this point that I am not trying to draw a moral comparison between Hitler/Goebbels and Obama/Edwards. I am merely suggesting that when we listen to someone speak, we can enjoy the oratory, but we should not lose track of what the real message is-if there is one at all. Hitler and Goebbels had a message, but it was one of hate. Edwards has a message too-not of hate, but one of victimhood and class resentment, even though he is of the class that he wants his listeners to resent. Jesse Jackson is another wonderful speaker, though, like President Bush, he is in trouble without a prepared text-and he has been discredited in the eyes of millions of Americans, including a growing number of blacks. As for Obama, I am still not sure what his message is because he doesn't really get into specifics-just about "change" and a "better America", etc. Once you get past the sterling oratory, you are not left with much of substance. We should not overlook this.
On the opposite side, we have seen plenty of politicians who are bad public speakers, including several presidents. Nixon, Bush (the elder)and LBJ come to mind. George W Bush, of course, is noted for being inarticulate once removed from a prepared speech-though he has had outstanding speech writers. Though Jimmy Carter was often wooden in his speeches as president, I saw him speak last year at the University of California at Irvine. His style was conversational and rather effective-though there is little or nothing that I agree with him on. The point is that these persons' lack of speaking skills is unrelated to how good or bad they were, either in character or competence.
It is fine to enjoy the speeches of talented orators, but the audience should not lose sight of the actual message, nor the person behind the words. After all, if you show me a great speaker, I will show you-a great speaker.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
"Another beer for my American mate, Fousesquawk"
In 1982, I had occasion to go to Bangkok on a case from my home base in Los Angeles. (I had been stationed in Bangkok from 1975-1978.) Prior to leaving LA, I paid about $100 dollars extra for a triangle fare in order to visit Australia for three days on my return. While in Bangkok, I called an old Australian Customs colleague (Frank)with whom I had worked in Bangkok. having finished his stint in Thailand, he was back in Canberra. It was arranged that when I was finished with the case in Bangkok, I would let him know of my arrival in Sydney, and he would come to Sydney to spend a couple of days.
Upon my arrival in Sydney, I was met at the airport by a couple of Frank's Customs colleagues who took my to my hotel. I learned that Frank was unable to get away from Canberra, but that his colleagues would take care of me in Sydney, and, in a day or two, put me on a flight to Canberra.
During my stay in Sydney, the Customs guys treated me with incredible hospitality, showing me the town, taking me out to lunch and dinner (at their expense). But it was then that I learned first-hand about the drinking habits of Australian men-particularly cops. Let's just say that few nationalities can match the Australian men for their love of drinking. Every lunch turned into a three houyr affair-lunch followed by endless rounds of beer; then dinner followed by endless rounds of beer or other spirits. One night at dinner, the meal was followed by about 15 rounds of port-to the point that when the cops went to the bathroom, I was pouring the wine into a potted plant near the table.
After that, it was off to the King's Cross section of Sydney for more pubs. Finally around midnight, desperately searching for a way to end the evening, I spotted a lady at the other end of the bar paying her bill and getting ready to leave. Somehow, in my clouded head, I came up with a brilliant idea. Getting up from the barstool, I said, "Hey mates, watch this." I then walked over to the lady, who promptly told me she was leaving and not interested in starting up a conversation.
"No, no. You don't understand", I explained. "You see those maniacs at the end of the bar? I need to get away from them and go back to my hotel. Just walk out the door with me, then I'll go my own way." Hearing my American accent, she sized up the situation immediately. Another American guy being drunk under the table by the Aussie guys.
"Sure", she said smiling.
As we walked out the door, the Customs guys were all giving me the thumbs up sign, big smiles on their faces. The lady and I got outside the door, I thanked her and went on my way alone back to my hotel.
The next day, the boys took me to the airport and put me on a plane to Canberra, courtesy of the Australian taxpayers. Upon arrival in Canberra, Frank met me at the airport and took me to lunch, followed by hours of beers until it was time for dinner-followed by more hours of beers until we got back to his place about 3am.
The next morning, after breakfast with his obviously unhappy wife, Frank took me back to the airport for my return flight to Sydney and a connection to Honolulu and Los Angeles. By this time, I was pretty much pickled from three days of non-stop drinking with the Aussies. I had a 6 hour layover in Sydney and I planned to put it to good use-sleeping.
Frank told me, "Listen, the guys in Sydney are busy on a case today, but when you get in, call them and when they're free, they'll come to the airport and meet you."
"Sure", I told him.
At 1pm, I was at Sydney Airport and had a 6 hour wait for a 7pm flight. I proceeded to find a corner in the farthest corner of the airport from my gate and closed my eyes. After about 30 minutes, a guy came up to me and asked, "Are you Gary?"
"Well, I'm so and so from Customs, the boys sent me here to meet you. They'll be along shortly. C'mon. Let's go have a beer."
So off we went to the airport bar. The boys arrived and we proceeded to have another 24 beers. When my flight was called, my colleagues literally dragged me to the plane, a Qantas flight to Honolulu. At the gateway, they flashed their badges and told the hostess, "Put this guy in first class." Dropping me in a window seat next to a distinguished middle-aged gentleman in a business suit-who had paid good money for a first-class seat, they bid me good-bye and bon voyage. The hostess walked up with two bottles of champagne, starting to ask me if I wanted white or pink - or whatever the hell it was, then stopped and said, "I don't think you are really interested in this. Why don't I just turn out the lights for you, sir?"
"Thank you", I mumbled-and slept the whole way to Honolulu.
The moral of the story is this: If you ever go to Australia, don't tell anyone you're coming.
South Carolina to Hillary: "It's Obama! And by the way, Queenie, you're ugly!"
As the returns are still coming in, Barack Obama has been declared the landslide winner in the South Carolina Democratic Primary. With 95% of the precincts counted, Obama has 55%, Hillary Clinton 27% and John Edwards 18%. While the Clinton campaign had all but conceded the state, the landslide numbers must be considered cause for real concern for Hillary. Blacks, as predicted, voted overwhelmingly for Obama in spite of Hillary's courtship of black leaders that a few months ago, seemed to foretell a victory in the Palmetto State. Obama also did rather well with white voters, which may be a refutation of the apparent Clinton strategy of turning this into a racial divide within the Democratic Party.
This can only reinforce the growing perception that Democrats are becoming turned off by the ugly Clinton tactics. Conventional wisdom has up to now been that Hillary is in line to win big in places like California, New York and New Jersey-and eventually win the nomination. However, if it is true that Democrats are (finally after all these years) becoming revulsed by the tactics of the Clintons, then South Carolina may be a harbinger of things to come.
"Don't worry! Fousesquawk is looking out for security"
*I thought I would add a new wrinkle to this blog based on my 25 years career with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (actually 2.5 years of that were with US Customs). In my career (1970-1995), I had the chance to travel all over the world and live 3 years in Thailand and 5 years in Italy. The experiences I will recount are not so much "war stories" as they are humorous in nature. Anyone who has spent a career in law enforcement has a boatload of genuinely funny stories to tell besides the obvious ones that are shocking, scary or sad. I hope you enjoy them.
From 1990 to my retirement in 1995, I was assigned to DEA's Office of Training, located at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. The final two years were spent in our International Training section. Working in teams of about five members, we literally traveled the world putting on drug law enforcement training seminars for foreign narcotic officers. The entire program was funded by the State Department.
The last trip I took in the summer of 1995 before I retired was to Riga, Latvia, where we held a training seminar for officers from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The seminar was held in the SAS Hotel, which was just opening. In fact, construction was still on-going. The front facade of the hotel was still being painted, and there was a giant construction crane (cherry-picker)being used during the day by the workers. We also stayed at the hotel, as did the cops from Lithuania and Estonia, who received per diem to cover their living expenses while in Riga.
The cops from Lithuania (5-6 of them as I recall)were, to put it bluntly, wild men. Most of the money we paid them for per diem was used to carrouse at night-with all that term entails.
Late one evening, the Lithuanians returned to the hotel accompanied by a few "ladies of the evening". Upon entering the lobby, hotel security immediately stopped them and informed them that they could not bring the girls into the hotel. Little did the security people know that these Lithuanians were very resourceful guys. Seems one of them had been a construction worker and knew how to operate a cherry-picker. Well, you can guess how this story ended; seeing the crane, the cops put the girls into the cabin- up to the top floor, over the balcony and into the room.
Needless to say, the hotel manager was not too happy when he found out. (He had no sense of humor.)
Friday, January 25, 2008
L-R Hillary, that slum lord, Rezko, Bill
(It's a Small World!)
For years, the Democratic Party has prided itself as the "Party of Inclusion", in other words, the party that represented women and minorities. In recent decades, they have dominated the black vote as well as the Hispanic vote (with the notable exception of Cuban-Americans). In addition, the Democrats and their liberal supporters have demonized the Republican Party as the party of "the white boys", to borrow a phrase from Donna Brazile. True, Republicans have been slow to attract black voters with their conservative message as opposed to the liberal give-away programs of the Democrats. Their most recent president, Bill Clinton, has often been referred to as "America's first black president." However, with Barack Obama making a strong challenge to Hillary Clinton's expected coronation, the Democratic Party, led by the Clinton machine, is finding itself increasingly divided by race and gender-more reminiscent of the old "Dixiecrats".
As things stand now, Obama is getting the black votes, as evidenced in Michigan and Nevada. Hillary is getting the white vote, especially white women. With South Carolina coming up (with half of the Democratic voters being black), the lines are apparently being drawn even more clearly. Mr Clinton has acknowledged that Obama will win the black vote in South Carolina (and thus probably win the state). Some of the Clintons biggest detractors, like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Morris, are pushing the theory that the Clintons are planning to use the loss of South Carolina to create a "white backlash" in Florida and the other major states.
Hillary has also raised some hackles with her comparison of the civil rights contributions of Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson. (That seems to me to be a case of hyper-sensitivity-ditto for Bill's "fairy tale" remark, which was taken out of context.) Bill, for his part, has made the usual fool out of himself with his angry attacks at reporters who ask inconvenient questions. In spite of the pleas of many in his party, Bill can't stop being on center stage.
One factor that I think has been largely overlooked is the Hispanic vote-particularly Mexican-Americans. Largely Democratic, like black voters, it seems the (Mexican-American) Hispanic vote is going to Hillary as evidenced by the 64% who voted for her in Nevada and the endorsement of the United Farm Workers. Why is that? Unfortunately, notwithstanding public statements made by black and Hispanic public figures, there is a degree of antipathy between the Mexican and black communities in places like Los Angeles and other large cities, where black and Hispanic gangbangers are killing each other on city streets. The same situation exists in California prisons. (I don't mean to suggest that gangbangers and prison inmates are representative of those communities, but this conflict can't be ignored.)
This is what happens when you put ethnic groups into categories or tribes, if you will. Now the Democrats are learning that race-based politics can boomerang. Now the Democrats are tearing themselves to pieces over race and gender. But who will call them racists?
In addition, two significant events have occurred regarding Hillary in the last 48 hours. First, she won the endorsement of the New York Times, not surprising, but notable in the gushing tone of the editorial. (Of course, the New York Times is now only a shell of its former great self-now one of the most partisan newspapers in the country.)
Then there's this: Remember the South Carolina debate a few days ago when Hillary threw out the charge that Obama was doing business with "that slum lord contributor, Rezko"? (Tony Rezko, friend of Obama, Chicago developer and accused racketeer, who is under federal indictment on corruption charges). On today's Today Show, Hillary Clinton appeared with Matt Lauer who threw up an old photograph from the Clinton White House years showing Bill, Hillary and guess who? Tony Rezko! Explanation? "We have had our picture taken with thousands of people- Can't be expected to know them all". (I'll say!)
I sure hope that the mainstream news media does their job and reports on Mr Rezko. The Chicago press has reported for some time on the relationship between Obama and Rezko. This week, the LA Times has followed suit. Many of the details are out there just waiting for nation-wide dissemination. Now, it is the job of the news media to investigate the relationship between the Clintons and Rezko. How did Rezko get his picture taken with the Clintons? What did he contribute to the Clintons and what did he receive from them?
Maybe the New York Times will get to the bottom of it. (Don't hold your breath.)
Just as John McCain was resurrecting his presidential bid and moving towards the top of the pact, comes this blockbuster news courtesy of Michelle Malkin and Hot Air: It seems that McCain now has a senior advisor on his staff for outreach to the Hispanic community. His name is Juan Hernandez. If you don't know who Juan Hernandez is, you need to do some research.
Juan Hernandez appears periodically on the Fox News shows, specifically Bill O'Reilly and Hannity and Colmes. Mr Hernandez is a dual citizen (American-Mexican)who previously worked in ex-President Vicente Fox's cabinet in Mexico. Mr Hernandez, to put it mildly, is an open borders advocate and activist. He is also a fellow in McCain's Reform Institute. When appearing on Fox News debates, Mr Hernandez comes across and congenial, always smiling, ever polite. But make no mistake. His cause is not just "immigration reform", but open borders.
That McCain would have this man in his inner circle puts the lie to his recent claims that "he has gotten the message" about border security. I have heard McCain tell voters on CSPAN that he will "build the fence". Others have overheard McCain talk angrily about "building the Goddamn fence if that's what they want." Hernandez' presence on McCain's staff tells me that the Arizona senator has no intention of building any fence if elected president.
Like many conservatives, I was willing to give McCain a second look as he was making his surge. No longer. This man strikes me as arrogant and dismissive of anyone who disagrees with him. His experience as a military hero and POW is worthy of respect from all of us, and I have heard none of his political opponents belittle his military record. In that regard, he is a true American hero. Unfortunately, his record as a politician does not live up to his military record. There are several issues about which he is right on- the War Against Terror, winning in Iraq and cutting pork. But for me, the issue of illegal immigration is too important to overlook in a candidate.
I can only hope that this revelation regarding Mr Hernandez will be disseminated quickly enough and widely enough to bring an end to McCain's rise in the primary polls.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
"Todas las noticias apropiadas para imprimir"
("All the news fit to print")
On New Year's Day, John Kerns, 49, was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was walking along the sidewalk on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles. The vehicle is believed to have swerved across the width of the street before striking Kerns. The driver of the car, who has been identified as Cristobal Arellano, fled the scene on foot. To this date, he has not been captured and is believed to be hiding in Mexico. It is also believed that Arellano, a Mexican male 22-25 years of age, is an illegal alien. It is also believed that he was intoxicated while operating the vehicle.
On January 18, 2008, the LAPD held a news conference to ask for the public's help in locating Arellano. As is customary, all the local news outlets were notified of the press conference in advance, including the Spanish language outlets- Telemundo and Univision. All of the local news outlets attended the conference with the exception of Telemundo and Univision. Naturally, the LAPD asked the public through the news organizations to call in with any information as to Arellano's whereabouts.
While the other English-language news organizations reported the incident, the Spanish outlets did not. To date, the LAPD officers investigating the case have received no calls.
Today, the sister of Kerns, Lynn Stanton, was interviewed on the KFI John and Ken show, expressing her frustration at the lack of cooperation and lack of interest from the Spanish media.
It goes without saying that if the police are trying to gain help from the public in locating a suspect, the help of the news media is crucial in publicizing the incident. If the suspect is from the Spanish-speaking community, the help of the Spanish-language media is crucial. Yet for some reason, Telemundo and Univision seem unwilling to publicize incidents of this nature. Why? Why cannot these two organizations do their civic duty as a Los Angeles-based news outlet? Is it because they don't want to publicize crimes by illegal aliens? Is it because they are unwilling to aid in the capture of an illegal alien?
John and Ken have put the telephone numbers of Univision and Telemundo on their website for anyone who would like to call and inquire as to why they are not reporting this story.
Univision News- 310-3483495
Telemundo News- 818-260-5712
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
"While I was saving the world, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Walmart"
"While I was saving the world, you were representing that slum lord contributor Rezko"
It looks like my recent posting (Hillary's Dilemma) was timely. In last night's Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach, SC, Hillary and Obama, while supposedly talking about economic matters, took off the gloves and went at each other while John Edwards stood by masquerading as a potted plant, and the hapless "moderator", Wolf Blitzer,looked like a referee at the World Wrestling Federation.
Obama verbally dominated the debate-not with his brilliant debating skills-but by engaging in a repetitious monologue. It was like listening to a 2-hour speech. He complained about statements made about him by Bill Clinton, statements he said were not accurate.
Hillary fell off that tightrope I was referring to in (Hillary's Dilemma). She angered the largely black audience telling Obama that it was hard to make him take responsibility for his votes. At that, she was greeted with boos. She also lost her temper when Obama made reference to her work as a lawyer for Walmart, throwing Obama's relationship with accused Chicago racketeer, Tony Rezko, in his face.
Obama dodged challenges about his relationship with Tony Rezko and his voting "present" in Illinois senate votes, both times changing the subject.
How nice it would have been if the debate had gone deeper into Tony Rezko. How nice it would have been if this had led to a real food fight where Hillary's own "Rezkos" came out- You know, people like Norman Hsu, Charlie Trie and those characters.
Edwards, for his part, struggled to break into the verbal fray, once reminding everyone that it was a three-way debate, not two-way. He effectively joined Hillary in asking Obama why he would vote "present" instead of "yea" or "nay". Obama did not handle it well.
A large part of the debate was centered around economic issues. Here the three candidates competed with each other over whose programs would hand out the most government cheese.
"Can't pay your bills?- We can help."
"Can't keep up with that mortgage?" We'll crack down on those unscrupulous lending companies."
All in all, this debate just showed that among the three, there is very little or no difference between them. If you are a Democrat, you might as well vote for the one whose personality you like the most. I think Obama and Clinton did nothing to help their cause. They both came across as petulant and petty.
The winner in the debate?.....The Potted Plant.
Monday, January 21, 2008
"Why of course all of my subjects love me, you fool, Fousesquawk"
As the battle for the Democratic nomination goes on between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama, hard feelings continue to grow between the two. Unfortunately, in spite of their joint efforts to smooth over the racial tension in the last debate in Las Vegas, it is still there. If I had to make a prediction right now, I would guess that Clinton will have a big day on super Tuesday and go on to the nomination. (I hope I am wrong.) Until then, Hillary has to walk a fine line in trying to beat back Obama. We all know how the Clinton machine will play hardball to destroy their opponents. Hillary, however has to defeat Obama while not destroying black support in the general election. That is her dilemma.
There is no denying that some ugly elements crept into the Nevada caucus, especially when the Culinary Workers Union announced their support for Obama. (Witness the attempt by Clinton supporters to challenge additional precincts in casinos.) Bill, as is his custom, has acted like a jerk in his public comments. Now he has most recently claimed that he and Chelsea overheard (in their presence) an Obama union supporter proclaiming that if anyone voted for Obama, their job would be in jeopardy. Obama, for his part, is becoming increasingly vocal in his criticism of the ex-president's comments.
Specifically, Hillary's dilemma is that if the primary race continues to be nasty, and if racial overtones are present, then she risks not having Obama's active support as the nominee once she wins. She also runs the risks of many black voters choosing to stay home in November if they feel Obama was treated badly.
The obvious way to avert all this would be to offer Obama the VP slot as her running mate, especially if she feels the black vote has been damaged significantly. (Of course, the Democrats always assume that they own the black vote no matter what.) The question is-would Obama accept? If he does and Hillary wins, then as VP, he would be considered the heir apparent in 8 years. Of course, if he declines and continues as a senator, he would still probably be the obvious front-runner in 8 years. Same calculation in 4 years if Hillary is defeated.
It is also quite likely that this primary contest will continue to be a hard-fought battle that goes down to the wire, with the Clintons being forced to pull out all the stops in order to win-and that is what they have always done. At that point, Obama might just play the good Democrat, congratulate Mrs Clinton, give her the requisite endorsement-and then sit on his haunches. Many black voters, in spite of Bill's popularity in the African-American community, might decide that Mrs Clinton is just an ambitious phony (Gads!)and stay home on election day. That would be catastrophic for her chances.
Of course, Mrs Clinton is fighting hard for the black vote in the primary. Recent developments should give her concern. In Michigan (whose delegates have been taken away by the party anyway for moving their primary up), Mrs Clinton, virtually the only contender on the ballot, couldn't even carry 60% (55%). Obama was supported by black voters voting "uncommitted"- a large bloc (40%). The remaining 5% was "split" between Kucinich and Gravel. In addition, Hillary figures to lose South Carolina to Obama where about 50% of the Democrat vote is African-American.
So Hillary now has to walk that tightrope, always calculating how to beat Obama without alienating an important voting bloc in the general election. She especially has to be concerned over charges of "playing the race card". For example, is there a point when the Clinton campaign feels so in danger of losing that they would bring up the subject of Obama's radical, Afro-centric pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago-and his close ties to Louis Farrakhan? (I refer to Wright's close ties to Farrakhan-not Obama). If that issue comes up in the primary race, then Clinton will be perceived as having played "the race card".
It is unfortunate that there is a racial aspect to this election. I really believe that America is ready for a black, Hispanic, Asian or female president. I also think Obama can win with significant white vote. But I'll let Hillary worry about that for now.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Since I retired from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1995 and went into teaching and writing, I have been pretty much removed from the drug enforcement scene. Once in a while, I see some of my old DEA colleagues in California at retirements and funerals, but a lot of my old friends are spread out across the country. The so-called War on Drugs (a misnomer in my view) has been largely overshadowed by the War on Terror-which is very real. However, the drug scene is still out there. I remember when I began my career in 1970, I hoped that by the time I retired, our efforts would cause drug use to decline to a manageable level. I, of course, was wrong. Not only are drugs still prevalent, but the drug legalization advocates are still out there. They say that in a free society, people should be allowed to put whatever they want in their bodies. They also say that enforcement has neither reduced the supply nor the demand. They say by keeping it illegal, the price remains higher and more lucrative for the traffickers. Many feel that DEA should be abolished. In their view, drug use would actually decline if made legal. Occasionally, I get asked about my views on legalization. My basic response is that legalization advocates should answer a few questions.
First of all, which drugs would they legalize? Would they legalize only "soft" drugs like marijuana, hash and LSD while keeping heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine illegal? Or would they legalize all drugs? Unless they are willing to legalize all drugs, there would still be a need for enforcement.
Second, would the advocates of legalization put age limits on who could use drugs? Would it be 21, 18, 12? Unless there are virtually no limits as to age, there would still be need for enforcement. That means that virtual infants and toddlers could be given drugs by an adult.
Third, if drugs were legalized, who would be authorized to provide them? Pharmacists, doctors, pharmaceutical companies? Who would supervise their commerce? The government? Perhaps we would have government sites that would dispense drugs.
Once that issue was settled, how would the traffickers and dealers react? Would they just be grateful for being decriminalized and go away to pursue honorable and legal jobs? Or would they try to compete underground by lowering their prices, offering a better product-or would they resort to violence and intimidation against the newly-established drug providers. Remember, we are talking about criminals here. Contrary to the claims of many that people in prison for drug crimes are non-violent, that is a disengenuous argument. Most drug organizations do use violence as a part of their business. Think of traffickers world-wide and the carnage they have brought to places like Colombia, Mexico and Sicily. These people will continue to be criminals one way or another.
You may think the above scenarios I listed are ridiculous, but this is the situation we would face if we decided to eliminate drug laws. When I was stationed in Italy in the 1980s, I had an occasion to go to Paris on a case. Also there on the same case was a British Customs Agent. One evening, while we were checking out the various libraries in Paris, I asked him about the British experiment in dispensing legal heroin to registered addicts (since discontinued). He explained to me that the practice had been an abject failure and was stopped because it only managed to triple the addict population.
I mention the UK because many people here like to point to Europe as the example to emulate. "Why don't we do like the Dutch do?", they ask. I had a few occasions to go to Holland and work with the Dutch drug cops. If you have not been to Amsterdam, I highly recommend a visit. Then you will see the effect that a liberalized policy has had on that society. Amsterdam is a magnet for druggies from all over the world. But then again, we are talking about a society that thinks that child porn is a minor issue.
I also worked with the Swiss cops in Zurich on numerous occasions and had a chance to see the infamous "Needle Park" where addicts could freely shoot heroin, putting a blight on an otherwise beautiful city. Not surprisingly, the town also became a magnet for drug users from elsewhere. If you don't like the immigration picture in the US now,see what it's like if we legalize drugs. We will be inundated with drug-users who will flock here-and not to find jobs.
I personally don't demand that people be put in jail for simple possession or use. DEA has never been involved in enforcing and prosecuting that level of drug offense. Most jurisdictions recognize that we have too few resources to devote to this level of the drug world. However, there should be no apologizing for incarcerating traffickers and dealers. Their actions are a scourge on our society.
Yet, many say that all the enforcement of the past 4 decades has not shown results. Well, I answer yes and no. Had it not been for enforcement, we might have sunk under the weight of our drug problems years ago. Yes, the level of drug abuse has not really declined. However, if that is a reason to eliminate drug laws, then why not get rid of laws against murder, robbery, rape and so on? Our murder rates continue at a disgraceful number every year. We continue to enforce these laws because it is the right and moral thing for a civilized nation to do. In reality, what is needed is a three-pronged approach; enforcement, education and rehabilitation. While enforcement has not been entirely a success, either have education and rehabilitation either.
Much of the public is not aware that to legalize drugs would abrogate international treaties that we and virtually every civilized nation have signed to prohibit cultivation, production and traffic of illicit drugs. Indeed, the US, through the State Department, DEA, Customs and other agencies have led the way in encouraging other nations to crack down on the traffic. If we give up, who will bother to carry on?
I am as much a proponent of limited government control over our lives as anyone. Keep in mind that we have not employed truly draconian measures against drug traffickers since we are a democratic society. Yet, at a certain point, a society has the right and the responsibility to avoid becoming a cesspool that will adversely affect the lives of everyone. Legalization advocates who had a chance to see a crack house or (heroin) shooting gallery might not be so convinced that we should tolerate their existence. In the final analysis, if we were to legalize drugs, government would have to,in one way or another, involve itself in the providing of drugs to its people. If my government were involved in any way in providing drugs to my children, I would cease allegiance to that government.
"This guy Fousesquawk has some serious issues, Dr Phil"
In case you haven't noticed, Dr Phil (McGraw) is back in the news again (When isn't he?) The self-agrandizing TV psychiatrist recently had a sit-down with troubled singer, Britney Spears-and promptly shared his diagnosis with the world. Even though Ms Spears seems determined to share her breakdown with the public, the question still remains about the ethics of Dr Phil's public comments.
This is not the first time that McGraw has counseled a celebrity and then gone public. A couple of years back, TV celebrity show host Pat O'Brian got caught making inappropriate,late-night drunken phone calls to women. Before O'Brian could even hang up the phone, Dr Phil was on the scene counseling O'Brian and going public with his findings.
Whatever happened to doctor-patient privacy?
Dr Phil burst on the scene in the 1990s as a result of his assistance to Oprah Winfrey in Texas when she was being sued by a bunch of cattle farmers for bad-mouthing beef. Oprah had to go to Texas personally for extended periods. She was so impressed by the long, tall Texan that she gave him a weekly spot on her TV show in Chicago. Once a week, Dr Phil would appear on the show and share his wisdom with troubled members of the audience who were having family problems. Next thing we knew, Phil was in Hollywood with his own show, "getting Real with Dr Phil", or something like that. As if that isn't enough, his wife appears on the show giving advice to women while son, Jay is running around giving advice to teenagers. It seems everybody but the family dog has their own gig now.
Not content with having his own TV show, McGraw works hard to promote himself as a celebrity. Like Jesse Jackson, he seems to have a nose for public trainwrecks, even inserting himself into the Natalie Holloway disappearance in Aruba by meeting with the Kalpoe brothers.
I have caught segments of McGraw's TV show since my wife used to watch it regularly. While his advice seems to make good sense, it strikes me that this guy has the perfect answer for everything. In other words, he is a know-it-all. Like Dr Laura, he can listen to a problem for 30 seconds and immediately hand out the solution. Folks, one thing I have learned in life: No one knows it all.
To sum it all up, there is something unseemly about a mental health professional using his profession and practice to promote himself while violating the confidence of public figures, all for the sake of his own publicity.
Hopefully, this guy's star will burn out quickly.
Friday, January 18, 2008
There is an e-mail going around the Internet which claims that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim. It refers to his early years spent in Indonesia (a Muslim country), and claims that Obama attended a medrassa (Islamic school) as well as a mosque. Further, the e-mail states that the Illinois senator took his senatorial oath on a Koran rather than a Bible. The subject of this e-mail came up in this week's Democratic debate in Las Vegas. In response to a question, Obama stated unequivocally that he is a Christian and took the oath on a Bible. (Obama was born to a non-practicing Kenyan father and non-practicing-nominally Christian-American mother.
First of all, I take Senator Obama on his word that he is a Christian. The part about taking the oath on a Koran is in error since it was Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, who used a Koran for his oath in the House of Representatives. As for Obama, it appears that he may have had brief contact with an Islamic school or mosque while a child in Indonesia, but it has not been established by anyone that he underwent any prolonged Muslim training. Thus, I am concluding that this e-mail, wherever it came from is uncorroborated if not downright misleading.
Some observers have raised the question of how a President Obama would be received by Muslim peoples around the world; more specifically, if they might view him as an apostate-and thus, appropriate for assassination. I think that is a valid question.
Barack and Michelle Obama attend the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. It is that church which causes me concern. Specificaly, the minister of that church, Dr Jeremiah Wright, is a controversial figure who has brought considerable embarrassment to Obama. There is no denying that this is an Afro-Centric church, one which, in its own literature, espouses a "Black Value System". Minister Wright is a fiery speaker who talks of liberation theology. He has appeared on several talk shows, including Hannity and Colmes, where he has engaged in hot debate with Sean Hannity reciting a litany of grievances against American and Western Civilization.To call Dr Wright confrontational is an understatement.
In 2007, Wright added to his controversial reputation by giving an award to Louis Farrakhan on behalf of Trumpet Magazine, which he (Wright) publishes. (It should be noted that Obama has criticized his minister for giving the award to Farrakhan.)
Just last Sunday, Wright told his congregation that "Some argue that blacks should vote for Clinton because her husband was good to us. That's not true. He did the same thing to us that he did to Monica Lewinsky."
While I think that the Muslim issue will fade away, I look for the issue of Obama's church and minister to grow-at least if he wins the Democratic nomination. Does Obama, in fact, belong to a church that believes in racial exclusion? I think at this point it would be appropriate for the mainstream media to begin asking Obama to explain his thoughts about Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ. (Of course, up to now, they are downplaying that angle lest the public at large become aware.) Does Obama subscribe to the philosophy of this Church and all of the words of Jeremiah Wright? Obama portrays himself as one who reaches across racial lines. The words of his own pastor contradict that image. If more Americans knew about Jeremiah Wright, they might hesitate before voting for Barack Obama.
Back to school, eh Chris?
Last night, Chris Matthews opened his "Hardball" show with an apology for his recent comments about Hillary Clinton to the effect that the only reason she was a senator and candidate for president was the fact that her husband "messed around". The remark raised eyebrows both on the left and on the right (and the center for that matter). Of course, there are probably those who agreed with Matthews' assessment; nevertheless, in my view, the remark was totally inappropriate.
Had Matthews said merely that the only reason that Mrs Clinton was a senator and presidential candidate was because she was married to an ex-president, the observation would have been appropriate and fair game. The part about her husband "messing around" was the bad part. True, Mrs Clinton's "vast, right-wing conspiracy" explanation was absurd and deserving of criticism and ridicule. However, I really don't see how the philandering of Bill Clinton has contributed to her political success-unless you think the sympathy vote is significant.
During his career, Matthews, a fast-talking easterner, has made many comments that have drawn listeners' ire. To be fair, he has often criticized Democrats even though he himself is a liberal Democrat. We also should remember that commentators have more leeway in expressing opinions than traditional reporters. (You wouldn't expect a TV news anchor to make that statement on the 6 o'clock news.) Matthews, a commentator, has pretty much implied that Hillary Clinton is not his preferred candidate.
Should he have apologized? In my opinion, yes, even though it would be fair to argue that Bill and Hillary Clinton are public figures who aspire to run the country, plus the fact that Bill brought all of this on with his behavior. Nevertheless, an apology was the gentlemanly thing to do. Of course, it is nice to know how much pressure was brought upon him to make his apology. We know that well-known feminists, such as Gloria Steinem and Kim Gandy went berzerk over the comment and complained to Matthews' bosses. Was Matthews' job in jeopardy? Who knows? If Matthews had been fired for his comments due to pressure from the feminists, I would take his side as a victim of political correctness.
So,in my opinion, it was correct for Matthews to be a gentleman and apologize. It would also be appropriate for Bill Clinton to apologize for the fact that his long-standing behavior has led to comments of this nature and will continue to do so.
Oh, one more thing: I will not apologize to Hillary for portraying her as the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Besides, she doesn't even know about it.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Bonnie and Clyde Clinton in Nevada
Notwithstanding the recent debate in Las Vegas, in which Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tried to smooth over the perceived racial overtones of their campaign for the Democratic nomination, the contest in Nevada has again turned ugly. Subsequent to the endorsement of Obama by the Culinary Wokers Union, the state teacher's union and a handful of Clinton supporters have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Democratic party establishment of 9 Las Vegas resorts as at-large voting precincts for the upcoming caucus. The obvious intent of the lawsuit is to limit the impact of the resort culinary union's votes for Obama, claiming that it gives them unfair advantage over other voters. (A judge threw out the lawsuit today.)
The second story behind all this was Bill Clinton's standard reaction to a San Francisco TV reporter asking him about the lawsuit brought by Clinton supporters. Once again, Bill lost his increasingly-famous temper. "You have asked the question in an accusatory way. If you want to take that position, get on the television and take it. Don't be accusatory with me. I had nothing to do with this lawsuit", Clinton fumed as he got in the reporter's face. (If you haven't noticed by now, Bill Clinton does not like unfriendly questions.)
Well, there you have it straight from the horse's mouth. If Bill Clinton says he had nothing to do with it-then by golly, it must be true. Or is this another example of Clinton's parsing of words? "It wasn't me, but it could have been Hillary or her campaign." Let me put it this way. If you think the Clinton campaign had nothing to do with this lawsuit, I have a nice bridge that would look great in your back yard. This is just another example of how the Clintons react to an upstart (Obama) standing in the way of what is Hillary's rightful entitlement. They get mean; they get tough; they crush anyone who stands in their way.
As I said before, it's fun sitting back and watching the Democrats tear each other to pieces over race and gender and now unions, showing the nation just how important those issues are to them. I would like to see Obama really take off the gloves and go after the corruption and shallowness of the Clintons.
Which leads me to my final point, which I think would be a great campaign strategy for Obama: Keep pushing Bill's buttons.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
March on Washington
This coming week, we will observe Martin Luther King Day. Since I am old enough to remember Dr King, I would like to add my own thoughts on his life and legacy.
I was in the US Army in Germany in 1968 when the news came that King had been assassinated in Memphis. While many American cities witnessed riots in the wake of King's death, many military posts overseas, including Germany, experienced violent outbreaks as well, albeit on a smaller scale. During that era, racial tensions in the Army were somewhat comparable to racial tensions at home in civilian life. Of course, attitudes were different in those days on many fronts. We were in the middle of the Civil Rights era. So many blacks were torn between following King's example of non-violence as opposed to other voices preaching a more militant and sometimes separatist approach. King's death caused many frustrated blacks to conclude that non-violence could accomplish nothing.
Today, four decades later, Martin Luther King is an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. In his life, he was one of the most gifted orators who ever spoke in the English language. Most remembered is his "I have a dream" speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Besides his speeches and marches, he was also somewhat controversial in some areas. Many suspected him of communist ties, pointing to certain leftist figures who were tied to his movement. Then, after his death, the stories came out about his womanizing-even though he was a married minister. For those (like me), who admired him and his courage, these aspects are a troubling part of his legacy.
I think however that his flaws do not detract from his accomplishments. His contributions-not only to African-Americans-but to the entire country cannot be understated. He was not the only courageous civil-rights figure. However, he was arguably the most inspirational to the country as a whole in convincing white America that injustices existed in our society-injustices that had to be rectified. Some may disagree with me, but I believe that unbelievable changes have been made in this country in the last 40 years-changes that no other society could have accomplished in so short a period of time.
Since King died in 1968, it is difficult to judge how his positions on the race issue would have evolved if he were alive today. Would he support affirmative action today? Would he be marching in tune with the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons? (Jackson was, in fact, an associate of King and was present at the assassination.) This is a tough question, and we can only speculate. However, I think we have to take him on his words up to the point he died. In the above-mentioned "I have a dream speech", one of the most famous lines was his dream that one day his children would be judged on the content of their character-not on the color of their skin. That brings us to a central question in black-white issues today. Have we reached the point that we can and should be color-blind? Or is race still so pervasive that it must be a factor in every decision we make? This seems to be a point of division between conservatives and liberals be they black or white.
I suppose that is a question each person has to ask himself/herself in his/her daily interactions across racial lines. As a (white) American who saw it all unfold in my lifetime, I think Dr King's words were not only true in his life, but are also applicable today.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
"All the news that's fit not to print"
The NY Times article about disproportionate crime and violence among military veterans-based on interviews, police reports, newspaper articles, anecdotal and other non-empirical measures, is just another in the long line of hit pieces on our military. What is also remarkable is the fact that the Times, which has always opposed the War in Iraq, continues to criticize everything about the war-while ignoring the success of the "Surge" and the fact that our troops are now winning.
Up until the Surge, the Times (and most other mainstream news outlets) delighted in reporting all the bad news coming out of Iraq. Whether it was soldiers killed in action, Sunnis vs Shia killings, car-bombs, Abu-Ghraib, soldiers killing civilians, the Times made sure we all knew about what a bad thing this war was.
Now that the Surge is working, and our forces have gained the cooperation of Sunnis against Al-Qaida (a good thing, right?), the Times has chosen to find other things to write about. Echoing the Democratic line, the message of the day became the failure of the Iraqi government to form a stable regime. Now it's returning veterans as marauding psychopaths. Of course, we have been getting that line from Hollywood movies for years, ever since the Viet Nam War. Now it's the New York Times, our "most prestigious" newspaper, the one that carries the slogan "All the news fit to print" on its masthead.
We should not be surprised at the advocacy journalism being practiced by the Times. After all, what they report is only a reflection of what their owner, Arthur Sulzberger, wants them to report. He is a far-left type, and he would never tolerate one of his reporters going against the party line. But is that any way to run a newspaper? Isn't the job of a paper to report the news? Of course, every paper has an editorial page devoted to opinion. The problem with the Times (and the problem with most of the mainstream media) is that they manage to insert their opinion into the front page. More than ever, it is the responsibility of the reader to read critically and read between the lines.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Effective today, Mike Carona, the indicted sheriff of Orange County (Ca) has resigned in order to concentrate full-time on his legal defense. His trial for corruption is scheduled for June. Previously, Carona (briefly known as "America's Sheriff")had granted himself a 60-day paid leave from office to work on his defense. Upon his return to work a few days ago, Carona attended a local conference on the issue of jail overcrowding (certainly a legitimite concern for one who may be going to jail himself).
Now that the sheriff has enjoyed his 60 day paid holiday from work, he has (in the words of his lawyers of whom more will be said later), realized that his legal defense requires too much time to continue as sheriff.
Actually, there may be a tactical maneuver in the sheriff's decision to quit. His legal defense is being provided by attoneys who are working "pro bono" (for free) on behalf of Carona. Up until this point, it was being questioned as to whether a sitting sheriff could legally accept the favor of pro bono representation. His resignation now removes that obstacle.
One of Carona's attoneys, H. Dean Steward, stated that Carona is resigning for "the good of the department". He went on to add that, "The good of the department and the good of the people of the county were far more important than any politician who wanted to take a grandstanding position", referring to local politicians who had urged Carona to resign when he was indicted, advice that Carona had, up until now, ignored.
Maybe Mike Carona should have taken "the good of the department and the good of the people of the county" into consideration when he entered into relationships with documented sleazebags that ultimately brought on his downfall.
"Write this down, class. Conservatives are bad people who want to starve little children and pollute the environment."
As a teacher of English as a Second Language at the University of California at Irvine, I had a chance today to check out the brochure for the annual conference of Catesol (California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). For ESL teachers, there is a national organization (Tesol) and various regional organizations. (I belong to none of them.) This year's conference will be in Sacramento in April of this year. The conferences give ESL teachers a chance to attend in-service training classes, make presentations, attend job fairs and network. Since I have never attended one of these conferences, I assumed that the in-service classes were centered around teaching techniques and ways to teach English more effectively to foreign students. Apparently, this is not always the case.
In looking over the schedule for the Sacramento conference, I discovered the following:
Opening plenary speaker will be State Senator Darrell Steinberg (D)
Here are some of the scheduled presentations:
Heterosexism and Homophobia 101
" Confused about heterosexism? Not sure what it is or how to fight it? This interactive workshop will introduce participants to basic concepts related to heterosexism-what is it, how does it affect us, and what we can do about it? Sample ESL lesson plans and numerous handouts will be provided."
Comment: We have a new word-heterosexism! But seriously, what does this have to do with teaching a foreign language?
Government Funding for Workplace Language Training
"A panel of government representatives, union training directors and workplace ESL teachers will present information about successful grant-funded, vocational English programs for immigrant workers. Participants will learn how ESL teachers, employers, and unions can collaborate to apply for government funding for workplace training programs."
Comment: Is this something that government should fund using tax-payer dollars? If you are wondering, "immigrant workers" does translate into illegal aliens. And yes, California tax dollars are indeed going to provide them with English lessons.
Is Freedom of Speech for All?
"Do all students have the freedom to be heard, to be seen and to have all of their identities recognized and validated? In this colloquium, we will explore issues of identity from multiple perspectives and discuss implications of the recent clashes between immigrant groups and sexual minorities in California."
Comment: What does this have to do with teaching English? Also, ESL teachers, by their very nature, have experience with and enjoy working with different nationalities. Do we need a lecture on this topic?
I chose these topics out of several others which are being presented and which are certainly relevant to teaching a foreign language. However, I question the relevance of the above topics, which have a political agenda.
Teaching a foreign language should not involve political indoctrination, which is irrelevant to the topic. My students have absolutely no idea what my personal views are. Nevertheless, many of our textbooks are riddled with liberal, politically-correct dogma. I have seen texts where virtually every chapter is devoted to The Environment. Currently, I am using an assigned text in my reading class that contains an article about the building of the railroads in the West in the 1800s. In one passage, the book describes the hardships endured by the workers, including bad weather, sickness and "attacks by violent groups of people". Now who were those "violent groups of people"- skinheads, drug addicts, conservatives, Young Republicans maybe? The book doesn't say. (Maybe I should write to the author and ask for more specific information......)
Sadly, California regulations on textbooks have standards for political correctness. That means if you are a text-book publishing company and want to sell your books to California, the books have to pass political muster.
Now I know why I never joined this outfit.
"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"
Below is the letter I have sent tonight to the New University (University of California-Irvine campus newspaper) in response to this week's article reporting the findings of the Dept of Education Office of Civil Rights that there is no anti-Semitism at the campus.
UCI, its administrators and CAIR should not be so quick to congratulate themselves on the findings of the DOE Civil Rights Office that no anti-Semitism exists on this campus. As long as the MSU continues to bring in hate mongers like Amir Abdel Malik Ali and Alim Musa as speakers, there is a real problem with anti-Semitism.
Yes, the Israel-Palestinian issue is the basis for the controversy, and reasonable people can disagree on this issue. However, does that justify speakers like the above two in calling suicide bombers "heroes"? Does that justify those speakers advocating hate and violence in driving the Jews from the region?
I have listened to the words of both of these men. When Malik Ali rants about "Zionist Jews", he often literally spits the word "Jews" out in the same manner that German Nazis spat out the word "Jude". Putting the word "Zionist" in front of it doesn't necessarily remove the hateful message. To this day, the German word for Jew (Jude) is an emotionally charged word in that language. If spoken in a certain tone, no racist epithet is necessary. (The Nazis only used the word Jude in their lexicon.) It is also true (to a somewhat lesser extent) in English. I think Malik Ali knows that. Yet, he and his defenders will insist that it is only "Zionist Jews" with whom they have a problem. That is disingenuous.
It seems to me that UCI's concept of hate speech is centered around political correctness. In other words, certain groups can say what they want about certain other groups, and the university will stick its collective head in the sand and ignore it in the name of Free Speech.
But if certain other groups are the targets, that is a different story. Hate speech against any group of people is hate speech-period. There are plenty of soap boxes on the city street corners for the likes of Malik Ali and Musa. There is no constitutional requirement that any university provide them with a forum.
Unfortunately, the university and DOE have chosen to ignore the numerous complaints of its Jewish students about the above hate speech as well as numerous complaints of verbal and physical intimidation. With few exceptions, faculty has chosen to remain silent, either out of fear, apathy or sympathy with the radicals.
Notwithstanding the whitewash and the spin, UCI's nationwide reputation as a hotbed of anti-Semitic activity remains in full view. What is really sad is that a tiny minority of students and their supporters can cast a cloud over the 99.9% of UCI's students who are not involved in this disgrace.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Blumenthal, Sidney V.
Fousesquawk Exclusive: Official Sid Blumenthal Booking Photos
News reports today indicate that Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal was arrested the day before the New Hampshire primary for drunk driving in Nashua, NH. The Clinton campaign declined comment other than to confirm that he was an advisor to the campaign.
Apparently, Sid was driving 70 mph in a 30 mph zone shortly after midnight and was trying to find his hotel-going in the opposite direction. He reportedly told the arresting officers he was lost. (No wonder Hillary welled up earlier when she told a group of women voters that the country was "going in the wrong direction".)
Blumenthal, a former reporter, left journalism to join the Clinton White House as a political advisor. Known by many as "Sid Vicious", Blumenthal enjoys a reputation as one of the Clinton camp's most obnoxious attack dogs. Undoubtedly, many political figures in Washington are drinking a toast tonight.
Book him Danno!
Friday, January 11, 2008
"He's alive! (Unless he loses South Carolina)"
After the "shock" of the New Hampshire Primaries, it is amazing to watch the political pundits and pollsters continue to tell us who is winning and losing in this or that state even while they try to explain how they screwed up in the Democratic race in New Hampshire. Well, what did I expect, that they would all resign and find another line of work? Not hardly. They will still tell us that candidate X has to win state X to keep his candidacy alive. Conversely, if candidate Y loses state Y, then he/she is dead, and so on and so forth.
One of the more interesting ideas floated around about Clinton's victory was that voters might have been reluctant to tell a pollster that they would not vote for an African-American candidate, in this case, Obama. Thus, the reasoning goes, many (white) voters answered "Obama" to the pollster's question, then proceeded to vote for Clinton.
Another theory is that Hillary's "crying" episode swung the vote her way. I sure hope not because that would say a lot of things about the mentality of the voters. Dennis Kucinich, never to be left out of the fun, is calling for a recount in New Hampshire-certain that he will eventually be declared the "Real Winner"-a la "The Real Killer" in the OJ case.
At any rate, it seems that the race between the female candidate and the African-American candidate is now seeing the introduction of the "cards", gender card and race card respectively. First, it is Hillary as victim of sexism, then Obama as victim of racism. Can't we just let them fight it out and see who wins on their merits-or lack thereof?
Now we have Bill Clinton calling Obama's candidacy a "fairy tale"-a stupid comment from a classless former president. Equally as stupid are the reactions from some who think it smacked of racism. Sure enough, Bill immediately runs to Al Sharpton (Mr Great Moral Arbiter of Race in America)to gain absolution for an offense he didn't commit.
Then there was Chris Matthews taking a shot at Hillary in declaring that the only reason she became a senator and presidential candidate was because she was married to a husband/president who "messed around". Isn't it great to see liberal Democrats tying themselves in knots over charges of "racism" and "sexism"?
On the Republican side, the South Carolina debates last night are viewed generally to have been a gain for all the candidates-with the exception of the hapless Ron Paul. The others all performed well, and Fred Thompson really got high marks for his quips, especially the one about the virgins for the Iranian speedboat sailors. Frank Luntz, the Fox News Republican pollster, was there again with his EKGs hooked up to focus-group voters and measuring their responses to every word uttered by every candidate. (Just a joke- I like Frank.)
I also think (like Sean Hannity) that we should measure very carefully what the mainstream news media says about the Republican candidates. According to Hannity and others, the MSM favors Huckabee and McCain, both becuase they are probably the most liberal and the former because, if nominated, they figure they can tear him down more easily. You know, Baptist minister/intolerant religious fanatic and all that. Makes sense to me since we know that the MSM is about 80-90% Democrat. At any rate, conservatives who plan to vote Republican shouldn't let these characters form our choices.
In conclusion, I have one question for the pundits and pollsters, who are so much smarter than the rest of us: If Kucinich, Gravel and Paul finish every state primary in last place, are they still alive?