Thursday, December 20, 2012

Identifying the enemy

I have been resisting the urge to blog about the recent events in Connecticut, in the school shooting. You've heard more than enough by now without my two cents. But, since the gun control issue has again reared it's ugly head, maybe a comment on that won't be out of order.

First, let me say I am well aware what the opinions of most of you who read this blog are concerning guns in America. My position hasn't changed on that either. As long as you keep blaming guns instead of killers, then you are not going to see true improvement.

Almost all - if not 100% - of the perpetrators of these mass shootings are mentally disturbed, unbalanced, crazy, misfits. loons -- whatever term you care to use. Therefore, the key seems obvious to me: you keep loons from going on the rampage and killing other people, whether with guns, as has happened recently, or with big truck bombs like what happened in Oklahoma. Or drowning children in bathtubs, or gas attacks, or whatever.

Notice I didn't say "keep the guns out of the hands of loons" but rather "keep the loons from going on the rampage." By this I mean identify the loons and keep them away not only from guns but away from society in general. Lock them up. Bring back the looney bins. Commit them. Forget this stupid civil rights attitude that gives loons the right to walk our streets; the right to buy guns with no psycho evaluation and waiting period and no complete background history check; the right to kill people. Nobody can get them all off the street, but we can sure do a better job than we are doing now.

And, while we are at it, let's kill all the lawyers.

Stop the CULTURE of violence: on TV, in movies, in video games. You are willing to take the guns out of the hands of tens of millions of sane people to stop a few loons from going berserk, so why are you reluctant to stop the uncaring corporations from producing TV shows, movies and video games that glorify murder and mayhem?

Can not the majority of kids sort those things out and live a sane life? Sure. But the loons will be influenced. The ones living in a twilight dream world will be enabled and encouraged. What is wrong with keeping our kids and teens minds from being saturated by all manner of bloody violence? We used to censor. Stuff that is commonplace for 11 year olds would never have been allowed in earlier times.

Teachers know which of their students are crazy and at risk and antisocial. SAY SOMETHING! How many of these people (including the Connecticut shooter and the Colorado theater shooter) were known to be "weirdoes" by their peers, antisocial psychopaths? ALL OF THEM! So say something. SAY SOMETHING. Before, not after. And don't expect  to not reap the whirlwind if you allow children's minds to be saturated every waking moment with unspeakable violence and the glorification thereof.

Although I am not in favor of unrestricted sales of all types of guns without any safeguards, I also say we should go after the ones who create psychopaths at least as earnestly as you go after the makers and sellers of guns.

If we know that we need to do in order to make changes in our culture and refuse to make those changes, to the detriment of future generations, we are the enemy of those future generations.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Community organizing, part deux

I was looking up previous occupations for U.S. Presidents, don't remember why, and I found that our present occupant of the White House shows on his resumé college professor and community organizer. I then realized I didn't know exactly what a community organizer was. I knew what a union organizer was. Turns out community organizer is much the same thing.

Community organizing is laudable in many circumstances, just as union organizing is laudable in a few circumstances; when the community citizens (or rank and file workers) are getting the shaft from management. "Management" in the case of communities is City Hall.

There is strength in numbers. That's the premise. Wrongs can be righted. It's a beautiful thing.

Not always.

In my opinion, from my recent reading on the subject, there are two things that need to be analyzed. First, who is behind the community uprising and does that person or group have ulterior personal motivations beyond the obvious problem being addressed; and, second, are the underlying demands reasonable and legitimate and not simply bullying to get some personal agenda made into law so everyone is forced, by law, to do things YOUR way.

I think these things need to be scrutinized before one automatically jumps on the bandwagon and makes the broad statement, "Community organizing is a good thing." Sometimes it isn't. In my humble opinion. Let's take some theoretical examples.

Let's say a lot of poor people are living in a neglected tenement building in  a large inner city neighborhood. Let's say their complaints about living conditions have long been ignored by the slumlord. What to do?

Or, let's say a lot of poor people have minimum-wage jobs in a sweatshop clothing (or microchip) factory. They have no union and their employer is large enough to pull strings to stop union troublemakers that work there. Maybe the company is Walmart, and maybe they are in the habit of making the employees work "off the clock" without pay, even locking the doors so they can't go home. (If you think this sort of thing only happens in Bangladesh and never happens in America, you are more than simply naive.)

In both of these examples, you might quickly say the answer is to organize the community (of tenants or workers) and force the business or slumlord to stop exploiting these people. Nothing is black and white, though. There are always outside influences to take into consideration. For example, what if the slumlord is the Federal Government? Or, what if the slave driver is Intel or Walmart?

A lot of people automatically take the side of the "downtrodden" - and not just Democrats or "bleeding-heart liberals" or commies. For example, I myself am not exactly a political Progressive, but I don't like to see children going hungry or living in rat-infested tenements (or, worse, on the street) or not able to get a decent education. And a lot more.

Sometimes the "community organizing" is much larger than a local community or neighborhood, and the issue in contention becomes a political issue. Nationwide even. Like gays and lesbians having the right to get married. Or legalization of drugs. Or putting forth a political candidate for office. And many more.

It is obvious that the "community organizing" in many cases is not exactly "grass roots" as claimed. Often there are powerful outside forces at work -  forces who have a personal agenda to advance.

To me, a grass roots organization is one which simply arises, like grass, when the abused and neglected people in the neighborhood or tenement or factory have had enough. Leaders from the ranks emerge. Plans are laid.

Often, though, (perhaps MOST often) someone from outside the actual community comes in (usually with an already established organization) and tells the people, "I feel your pain. I am here to help. This is what we need to do." I am speaking generally here, and I hope you don't think I am picturing Barack Obama and his ACORN folks in my mind, or Romney with his vested interest SuperPACs, as I write this. Unless the shoe fits.

There is potential for both good and bad in community organizing: good when evils are addressed and solved; bad when people in the community are simply being used by outsiders.

Almost always there are two sides to every story, shades of gray wherein the actual truth is often found.

What would I personally do if I were one of those poor people living in that rat-infested drug-terrorized tenement?

Same as you, probably: I wouldn't have been there in the first place. I would live in a proper dwelling which is safe. Why? Because I have enough money to do that. Why? Because I chose to educate myself, and, when that wasn't enough, chose to work my ass off at more than one low-paying job. That's why.

But others don't do that. They accept what life "throws at them." They believe poverty is their lot in life, and they believe government is both the villain and the answer. Government and people with money. They tell themselves education is not available to them because the cards are stacked against them or their skin is the wrong color to make it in America. I know that is a lie. You know that is a lie. Maybe you grew up in a really poor family as I did, and you know poor people can rise in America. But if people BELIEVE they are oppressed and can't do anything about it, then it doesn't matter if it is a lie, does it? Then, one of the things they do is look for a messiah.

So, some people find themselves in a cold tenement building with rats running around, both furry rats and drug rats. I would want to help those people. Truly. However, I am not one to pass out food forever; I am one who would teach how to hunt and fish. So, is it right for the community organizers to concentrate on using the poor peoples' collective political votes to force the government to send them a paycheck of some kind each month? Is it? Is that the proper use of community organizing?

Look at America today. Look at the recent election. What were the differences between the two candidates? One promised to continue giving stuff and not make cuts to "programs," and one said he was going to work to cut government spending. Which one won? If nothing else, that tells you what the majority of Americans want - what they want out of their government. Most want direct financial help from the government, and they want the government to take money and property from other people in order to get their dole. Is that too harsh of an assessment? Is that oversimplification?

Romney got into trouble - maybe even lost the election - by saying 47% of the American population were slackers who were receiving a government check. Unfortunately for him, it turned out to be more like 51%. Ok, that's a cheap shot. The truth is that most Americans (at least 51%) believe in the philosophy that big government is the real answer to the problems of the poor (and everyone else) and that "Social Justice" (take money from me and give it to you) is a legitimate goal and a proper use of power.

I believe the needy should be helped. Jesus admonished us to attend to "the least of these." I get that. I believe that. But what happens when despots (or people who refuse to face reality) have turned us all into equal citizens in poverty? What happens when we are ALL the least of these?

I do believe in community organizing as a tool to confront evil, lest that fact got lost in the above rant. I simply believe it is being misused and manipulated.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On community organizing

  • A People's Organization is a conflict group, [and] this must be openly and fully recognized. Its sole reason in coming into being is to wage war against all evils which cause suffering and unhappiness. A People’s Organization is the banding together of large numbers of men and women to fight for those rights which insure a decent way of life. . . .
  • A People's Organization is dedicated to an eternal war. It is a war against poverty, misery, delinquency, disease, injustice, hopelessness, despair, and unhappiness. They are basically the same issues for which nations have gone to war in almost every generation. . . . War is not an intellectual debate, and in the war against social evils there are no rules of fair play. . . .
  • A People's Organization lives in a world of hard reality. It lives in the midst of smashing forces, dashing struggles, sweeping cross-currents, ripping passions, conflict, confusion, seeming chaos, the hot and the cold, the squalor and the drama, which people prosaically refer to as life and students describe as 'society'. [From Alinsky's 1946 book, "Reveille for Radicals]

From a 1972 interview with Saul Alinsky in Playboy magazine:

ALINSKY: ... if there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell.
ALINSKY: Hell would be heaven for me. All my life I've been with the have-nots. Over here, if you're a have-not, you're short of dough. If you're a have-not in hell, you're short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I'll start organizing the have-nots over there.
PLAYBOY: Why them?
ALINSKY: They're my kind of people.

From another tireless community organizer:

"I'll never forget this training began on the streets of Chicago doing what so many of you have done. 
Organizing and working to make people's lives just a little bit better. 
I know how hard it is.
It comes with little sleep, little pay, and alot of sacrifice.
There are days of disappointment.
But sometimes, just sometimes, there are nights like this.
A night that years from now when we've made the changes we believe in...
when more families can afford to see a doctor...
when the world sees America differently...
You'll be able to look back with pride and say that this was the moment when it all began.
This was the moment.
Years from now, you'll look back when America began to know what it means to hope." [Barack Obama, community organizer]

Pontius Pilate was a governor. Jesus was a community organizer. (Seen on a T-shirt)

Friday, November 23, 2012


I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving yesterday.

I hope some of you remembered it was also the day JFK was killed in Dallas.

I am currently reading two new books on the subject, one real and one fiction, "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'reilly and "11/22/63" by Stephen King (who was nice enough to keep his book down to 800-900 pages.) Actually, I started reading King's book and can't put it down, so O'reilly (is that how you spell his name? - rocket scientist will know) will have to wait until I finish the last 400 pages of King's.

I think I know how they both end. But you can never really tell with Stephen King.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kids explain how to cook a turkey

From local newspaper. 2nd - 5th grade school kids from area elementary schools write in:

Kill it...

First kill a turkey. Then take all the fethers out. Next get a big bowl and put the turkey in the bowl and put it in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 101° F. Once it is done, put salad around it. Then cut some of it and put it in the salad. Next set your table and eat your turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

25 minutes seems right...

First you get a turkey at the store. Then you put it in the oven for 25 minutes. Finally it's done.

Shot the sucker and whish...

First I will hunt a turkey and shot it. I will take out the guts and frie it. I take the whish bone out. I will make a whish and pull it. Next cut the turkey. Take the turkey cut the turkey put the turkey on a plate. Finally I get a forck and eat it.

No nonsense method...

First I buyed a turkey. And I took it to my house. Next I turned on the oven and I put the turkey in the oven. Then I wait 30 or 25 min to cook. I take it out of the oven and I eat it.

By by...

I would buy a real turkey and pluck his feathers. He would say pugo! I would skin him. He would say peek! I would say by by to the turkey. We had a feast. It was good. I'm a good cook after all.

Let's eat!...

First get a turkey and a oven. from the store. second I am going to cook it. I put it in the oven for two hours. Last it's done Let's eat!

Stik it..,

First I wold put the turkey in the oven and let it bake for 20 min. Then I would take it out of the oven and stik thermometer inside of the turkey so I know the tempcher inside the turkey. Finally it is done.

Wait for it to cool...

First you take it out of the bag. Next, put it into the oven for 20 minutes at 60 degrees. Then, take it out and wait for it to cool down. Last, get the table ready to eat it when its cooled down and eat it up.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vote early. And, if in Chicago, vote often. It's tradition.

The political ads are almost at an end.

If you can legally vote, please do so.

I urge you to vote for the best candidate - Gary Johnson - but vote, one way or the other..

Myself, I have long since given up on voting for a Republican or a Democrat; experience shows me neither will change anything. There are six or so candidates that have a "mathematical" chance of winning, so if you are turned off by the "big two" you can still vote for someone better.

Your vote is NOT wasted if you don't vote for the eventual winner. Vote for someone you really want to win.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The people own all the land

Not to sound communistic, but, in many countries, all the land is owned by the people who live in that country. This is true in the U.S.

To use the U.S. as an example, land is obtained in several ways, and then it is "put in trust" for the people by the government. The government then decides who can use the land. The main thing to remember is that the government can take the land back at any time if it wants to use it for some public purpose. In recent years, the courts in the U.S. have been illegally legislating on this issue (illegal because they don't have the right to legislate, but they do anyway) by taking land from private citizens and giving it to private land developers.

Some of the ways the U.S. came to own the land (theoretically in the name of all the people) include

1. Taking it from previous owners by war (war-ending treaties or driving them off the land)
2. Getting it deeded to them by English, French and Spanish kings who owned by control
3. Buying it from previous owners
4. Having the previous owners deed over the land due to various other treaties

The government then begins to parcel out the land as it sees fit: for development, homesteading, putting it in trust for certain purposes (reserves, parks, etc.) or simply affirming private ownership which had already existed. None of this giving or reserving has to be permanent. This ultimate control of the land by the government is known as "eminent domain." The ultimate top government is called the "sovereign lord" from English times.

The U.S. Constitution allows the use of eminent domain ONLY for the purpose of a public good or benefit. It is obvious to all who can read, that the constitution was talking about using land for roads and bridges and dams and the like. In other words, they are not supposed to be able to take your land just to give to a builder to build condos there because more housing may be needed in your town. But they can do that now. You can thank former Justice John Paul Stevens for that ruling. I remember there was a petition drive to confiscate his personal country farm when he retired just to let him share in the blessings of his ruling, but nothing ever came of it.

Large public works projects almost always require the exercise of eminent domain. Many landowners or people living on the land which is needed for the project are displaced (and compensated, in the U.S. version, though such compensation doesn't have to be for any amount the landowner wants.)

What does a person do when he doesn't want to move and let the government take over his land? He finds out in a hurry that the government ultimately owns all the land; he will be forcefully removed from "his" land. If he persists in blocking or hindering the project, he will be imprisoned.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Benefits and sacrifice: The needs of the many

Since the turn of the last century, since the advances in electricity and what it can do, the U.S. and other  countries have concentrated on getting the benefits of electricity to more and more people. Soon came the great electrification projects of the Great Depression and later. Huge numbers of people benefited. Quality of life improved for much of rural America. Farmers' way of life changed drastically. Factories were vitalized. A whole new age changed our lives forever.

Soon came efforts to "harness" the great rivers in the U.S. to produce electricity. There were a few great falls. Niagara comes to mind as one of the first that was harnessed to provide electric power. There are not many great falls of that magnitude, though, so the imagination turned to building dams to use the power of water. It was very costly. Hugely costly. But many were put to work at a time when work was hard to find. The great public works projects of the Great Depression helped pull America out of a terrible time in our history.

In the case of every dam we built, the river backed up and created the lake needed for falling water. People lived in these areas that had to be flooded. They had to be relocated. Sometimes smaller groups of people must sacrifice for the good that will affect so many more people for the better. So they say, and I suppose it is true. In some cases, many of the people that had to be relocated were Native Americans. That is a whole other post.

The Tennessee Valley Authority comes to mind as one of the earliest and largest of these huge projects. Remember how the heros of the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?" were saved at the end of that movie? One of the first dams built in this system was Norris Dam, begun in late 1933. This project relocated 2900 families and necessitated the removal of over 5,000 gravesites. That sounds pretty gruesome.

Another huge public works project begun in the Great Depression, also in 1933, was on the Columbia River in Washington State, a dam across the Grand Coulee gorge. It was another monstrous undertaking of engineering. Huge benefits in electricity and crop irrigations were realized. But again, the created lake flooded much land and people had to be relocated. Some of the Native American descendants of those people are still in court even today, trying to get more money because they were relocated and don't think they were compensated fairly.

Hoover Dam was begun in 1931. It is a marvel of engineering. It is the largest dam in the U.S. It provides power for people in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Lake Mead was created by Hoover Dam, and, of course, people had to be relocated that used to live along the Colorado River. As usual, many were indigenous people living on ancestral lands.

Great dams exist in Canada as well, and great benefits are being derived from these structures. Again, vast numbers of people benefit and a (relatively) few people must be displaced.

There was also a need for electrification of Central and South America. These projects are extremely expensive and beyond the means of most of these small and unstable countries. That is one of the reasons the world bankers, the U.N., and the International Monetary Fund exist. Some of the dams built with "loans" from the word banks, and via the U.N., were not spectacularly huge, but each time, as is always the case, people who lived in the new flood plain had to be displaced.

In the next post, I want to talk about one of these dams, financed by world banks, located in Guatemala.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


The history of humans in the Americas goes back perhaps 18,000 years. It's hard to pinpoint such things, so scientists give estimates. White people tend to think history in the Americas began with the first voyage of Columbus, but many civilizations rose and fell long before his excursion. Even mass murder didn't start with Columbus. That is to say, the "Indians" learned to fight and kill each other thousands of years earlier. Then there was religion. Christopher brought his religion to the Americas, of course, but the ancient American civilizations were practicing mass human sacrifices long before Columbus began killing in the name of Catholicism. The history of religion is the history of bloodshed and control of one's fellow man. This is not to deny the good of religion. The history of man killing other men needs no excuse, though. It has gone on since the beginning of time.

The people who lived in the Americas before Columbus did their share of killing and treating their fellows unfairly. The Spanish came and killed and brought disease and took new diseases back home to Europe and treated the residents of the Americas terribly. This went on for a few hundred years before the British and the French came and killed and brought disease and treated the Americans terribly and unfairly. And, along the way, the people in America tried to kill as many of the invaders as possible.

I don't know if anyone would say things are much different today. Some people on both sides try, but mostly things don't get better for many of the descendants of those early Americans. As I see it, we have no real way to turn back the clock and make amends or do things differently. We do have the opportunity to change ourselves starting now, and some people of goodwill already have started doing their small part. Maybe someday we will all live in peace. I am not optimistic.

I like to read history books and look at the collections in museums. As I said before, I can't go back in time and make any changes, but I feel it helps me make better choices for the future if I study history and try to understand how we got to where we are today and why we are liked by some people and disliked by other people. As I read and study, I am horrified sometimes, but I never have the urge to try and apologize for what my racial ancestors did wrong. I think the very thought of apologizing for a whole race of people long ago is ridiculous. If I personally do something bad, I will apologize and try to make it right.

So I study history to learn how we got to where we are today, and try to use history to guide future choices, choosing as much as possible from knowledge instead of prejudice.

This post was intended to give an overview of Guatemala, because the history of Guatemala is typical of the history of much of Central and South America. In many ways it is typical of of the European takeover of North America as well.

With very few exceptions, the people who live south of the U.S. speak Spanish as their main language. Of course, individual "Indian" languages are preserved as well. In both North and South America, the system of conquest by the Europeans was pretty much the same: they came and took what they wanted, killed as many people as it took to subdue them so they could enslave them and take their land and goods and try to turn them into good Christians along the way. After that it was a simple matter of exploiting them as if they had no rights as humans at all. That is still the situation today, in the main. We are still in the exploitation stage and treating them as rather subhuman. From time to time, we ponder why they don't seem to like us.

In what is now known as Guatemala, the Spanish came and killed and took everything and enslaved the people and turned them into serfs. That is to say they took over from the former rulers who had enslaved the common people and treated them like serfs. After the Spanish were driven out, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, more or less, the white people from the north began to come down and be their new friends. Banana and rubber plantations. Mines. Puppet governments who served the interest of the U.S. and others. And new novel religions.

In short, the history of Guatemala, and so many other countries, has, from the standpoint of the real owners of the land, been a history of oppression by outsiders, hatred of outsiders, exploitation by outsiders, a hope of someday throwing off that oppression. As we have mentioned before, this is the fertile ground for Communism - another form of oppression of the common people, but with the cruel false promise of liberation. Of course, the native leaders who promoted communism were not meaning to be cruel. They truly believed communism was the pathway for getting their land back from the oppressors. The leaders of numerous revolutions were taught the communist way by outsiders and then took it upon themselves to put theory into reality. They got some land back from the foreigners, but the new leaders didn't make their lives any better.

Is that where we are today in Latin America? Are things getting better? Certainly the governments seem to last longer than they used to. There seem to be more and more democratic elections, or at least manipulated democratic elections. Outsiders still covet their natural resources, but seem to have begun more and more to paying for them. Some countries are still communist or communist-leaning, but a lot of the people have stopped trusting that that is any better than anything else. There still seem to be a lot of large multinational companies making insider deals with the various elected governments.

The "recent" history of Guatemala is a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996, and events leading up through the present day. The civil war involved the national governments/army juntas and their various supporting factions; and the left wing "insurgents." The left wingers unfortunately tried to sabotage the economy as well as fight. And the government soldiers were brutal against the population as well. The people were squeezed in the middle as usual. The military massacred citizens.

In 1982, Rios Montt was elected under the Christian Democracy Party. He was a lay pastor in the Protestant evangelical "Church of the Word." In his inaugural address, he stated that his election resulted from the will of God. He had the support of U.S. President Reagan. He formed a three member  military junta, annulled the constitution, disolved congress, suspended political parties, cancelled electoral laws. Then he dismissed the junta and declared himself "President of the Republic." [Wikipedia]

And indeed he was.

Rios Montt, July 1982, to an audience of indigenous Guatemalans: "If you are with us, we'll feed you; if not, we'll kill you." The Plan de Sanchez massacre occurred the same day.

The government began to form PACS (local defense patrols.) Young men who wouldn't join PACS were labeled guerillas. It was boys and old men too. At their peak, the PACS had a million "patroller" conscripts.

Rios Montt's brief presidency was the most violent period of the civil war. Thousands of indigenous peoples, noncombatants, and others, were captured, tortured, killed. Montt was deposed a year later, but survived to become President of Congress in 1995 and 2000.

In 1999, President Clinton apologized for U.S. support of the wrong people.

Much of the business of Guatemala today is concerned (some would say "bogged down") with investigations and litigations concerning events that happened in the civil war. Perhaps when everyone is hurt badly enough and enough money and retribution is exacted, the country can concentrate on making life better in Guatemala. I hope so.

President, 2000-2004

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Idealism, Idealists, Reality.

You seldom see a picture of Che Guevara without his famous beret or with it pulled back, but he had a cute widow's peak, just like Paul Ryan. Not many people have noticed that. I notice things like that. Worse, I talk about those things in my blog posts, making the posts even longer.

Paul Ryan was born after Che was executed, and Paul Ryan is 42 years old, and Che never saw 40, but they both had black hair and widow's peaks. Hey, I'm trying to find common ground here. That's about as close as I can come.

Che Guevara, an Argentinian, while still in medical school in Buenos Aires in 1950 and 1951, took two lengthy journeys (2,800 miles, then 5,000 miles) of exploration by bicycle and motorcycle, throughout Argentina, and then through most of South America's rural provinces. He and a friend went up the Amazon, and spent time volunteering at a leper colony. Che was enraged at the working conditions of Chilean miners, and by the way the poor people lived and how he saw poor people being exploited wherever he went. Peasants worked small plots of land owned by wealthy landlords. While in the leper colony, he was impressed by the camaraderie of the lepers.

"The highest forms of human solidarity and loyalty arise among such lonely and desperate people," he said. He soon came to hate the evils of capitalist exploitation, so rampant in Latin America mostly from the United States or U.S. Companies, such as United Fruit Company (later Chiquita Foods.) He began to form his vision of a borderless Hispanic America, a single liberated entity, controlling its own destiny.

He returned Buenos Aires and completed his medical education. He published a best-selling book called "The Motorcycle diaries." Then the newly-minted "Dr. Ernesto Guevara" returned to the rural provinces and tried to make a difference in the poverty, hunger and disease. Frustrated at "the inability to treat a child because of lack of money [for medicines]" he gradually came to the conclusion that, to make a difference, he would have to leave the field of medicine and enter the world of political struggle through armed conflict. Che began to fight instead of heal.

Che worked and Che traveled. Bolivia. Peru. Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador. What he saw intensified his hatred for the United Fruit Company and other U.S. "capitalistic octopuses" who controlled huge HUGE amounts of land and kept the common people - the rightful owners, as Che saw it - in grinding poverty.

In December, 1953, Che arrived in Guatemala. A new popular president was trying to enforce land reforms, taking unused land from United Fruit Company and giving it back to the people. Che was introduced to the President. He also was to meet two brothers during this time period, Raul and Fidel Castro, who had been involved with the July attack on the military barracks in Santiago, Cuba. Birds of a feather. Idealists. Pissed off at  The Establishment and capitalists - America and it's minions and puppets.


Throughout the world, whenever the vast majority of a population is being oppressed - enslaved - in hopeless poverty by dictators and other tyrants, the situation becomes ripe for a communist revolution.

Communism is a system of politics and economics - a method - by which an existing government is taken over because they are corrupt and unresponsive to the will and needs of the people. Communist take-over is the continual story of Central and South America since the 1940s. There is really no one to blame but our greedy capitalistic selves. In retrospect.

Communist takeover is usually a two-stage affair in which the population is infiltrated and propagandized until a covert militia resistance is formed; the second stage being the actual military conflict. It isn't hard to gain support and soldiers from an impoverished and oppressed population, and all the guerilla leaders have to do is wait for the inevitable major blunder by the existing government to ignite the revolution.

As part of the initial propaganda campaign, the people are told that the land will be taken back from the rich undeserving aristocrats, and will be divided among the deserving long-suffering poor.

Of course, history shows us that what actually happens is that the land is placed in the custody of the "provisional government" (pending elections, of course) and then a new group of tyrants arise from the ashes of the old tyrants - the leaders of the glorious revolution get the best of the spoils and live in mansions and get driven around in big black Mercedes just like the old dictators did, and they rule the poor people with an iron fist. The people are told they must endure hardship and sacrifice for a short period of time while the economy stabilizes. You've watched it happen time and time again. The trouble with communism is that the economy NEVER stabilizes and the temporary sacrifices never end. But, except for the fat cat leaders, you must admit that the common people are become equal again in their new hopelessness. Viva la revolucion, eh?

Incidentally (speaking of "eh?") that's what "Che" means in Spanish. Which is to say, it means nothing at all. "Che" is just a conversation-filler, something to say when you pause between sentences or to seek agreement with what you've just said. Eh. Umm. Ernesto said it so often it became his nickname.

Anyway, the above scenario is the story of the Russian Revolution, the story of the Cuban Revolution, the story of every communist governmental overthrow everywhere. The common people and workers are never really liberated; the workers' paradise never quite materializes; the elites who run the show live in marvelous luxury and privilege. Communism, promising the purest form of democracy, is, in truth, democracy denied.

Quickly we must add that capitalism is not the panacea either. Hardly. Capitalism unchecked is what causes the oppressed and destitute and exploited class in the first place. Yet, paradoxically, it is capitalism, when properly controlled and regulated by honest leaders, which holds the real key to lifting the poor to a higher station, generation by generation. The only thing - it never seems to be properly controlled and regulated, though, probably because of a lack of honest leaders. Power corrupts. Greed begets short memories.

I'm not sure if there is an ideal political or economic system that has been invented. I do know such a system is not capitalism and it's not socialism. I have long advocated a combination of both and a proper balance. However, without honest leaders, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Wasn't that a song? "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but in the meantime - in between time - ain't we got fun?"

No, actually.

Next: A very short history of Guatemala. You should know about this. Honest.

Remember dear little Eddie Munster? Of course you do.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Always On the Wrong Side?

If you live in Austria and a revolution fires up in Central America, your government has three choices of what to do:

1. Your government can support one side
2. Your government can support the other side
3. Your government can ignore the revolution and do nothing at all

Of course, the above statement doesn't just apply to Austria; it applies to most of the countries in the world.

Unfortunately, choice number three is seldom available if you are the world's "superpower." The world seems to expect the superpower to lead, to formulate some sort of policy about anything and everything (after secret consultations with it's "allies".) The friendly countries will then probably begin to support that policy, and the enemies of that superpower will almost automatically form an opposite policy, and their friends will then oppose the superpower as well.

Usually in Central America, Africa, or the Middle East - in countries which have a dictator or strongman of some sort in power - a smoldering revolution finally breaks out with the "rebels" (good guys) revolting against the dictator or strongman (the bad guy) moving from the "guerilla/terrorist" stage to open warfare, once the rebels get supplied from the superpower/allies or the Commie camp.

The question arises as to who the U.S. should support. Make no mistake, it must take sides and many people will always think they've chosen the wrong side. Criticism for U.S. foreign policy is a way of life now. If the U.S. does nothing at all (option three) they are, of course, criticized for doing nothing. This illustrates that the U.S. would be playing a losing game if it were to try and satisfy the rest of the world. You choose who you support and, at the same time, you are choosing who you offend.

In recent memory (maybe the last 60 years or so) the U.S. has had a priority of supporting countries, first of all, who were not Communist. Communist dictators were for the opposition to support and finance. Any sign of internal resistance in any Communist country was supported openly or clandestinely, with munitions or other supplies or simply money, by the U.S. - and often its "allies." If a country was NOT Communist, then the U.S. (and often it's allies) would support that government (even if not exactly democratic) against Communist infiltration or outright invasion. Most of you who are over 40 remember this policy.

At the same time, there has long been a secondary policy of the U.S. to support the dictator in power, even though we didn't really like him (dictators never seem to be a "her") as long as he wasn't Communist-leaning and as long as his government was "stable." Support the guy who is in power and in control of the situation, even if you have to hold your nose. It would be hard to make a complete list of people like this we have supported and continue to support. In the past, Saddam comes to mind; the Shah of Iran; Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak; the Saudi and Kuwaiti and Jordanian royal families -- the list goes on and on. It continues with present-day dictators as well.

The point is, you support the government who is in power as long as it is not openly Communistic and turn your head at it's faults (like torturing its own people) and do your best to make sure a little of the financial aid gets to the populace instead of all going into the dictator's Swiss bank account. The alternative is to constantly have a dozen bloody wars going on all at the same time in the world. Luxembourg doesn't have to fret over this, but the U.S. does.

I say these things to lay the groundwork to talk about some of the things the U.S. Government has done or condoned/allowed the doing of in Central America.

That follows in a later post.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Unfortunately, it's political season again. Seems like it never goes away. Here's some trivia about past Presidents to take your mind off the current money-wasting nonsense.

1. Ronald Reagan was the oldest when he first took office (age 69.)
2. Kennedy was the youngest "elected" at age 43, but T. Roosevelt assumed office at age 42 when his predecessor was killed while in office.
3. Tallest? Lincoln. (6-4.)
4. Shortest? Madison (5-4.)
5. Can you name 5 who were Vice-President before becoming President? (There have been 14,)
6. One President never married. (Buchanan.)
7. 5 Presidents were remarried widowers, but only one was divorced and remarried. (Reagan.)
8. Most children? (Tyler with 15.)
9. Two Presidents were married in the White House.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Do you have a central purpose in your life? Do you know what it is? Can you define it clearly? Are you very familiar with that definition? Do you know thyself, as Socrates admonished?

When you were a child, someone probably asked you, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Now that you are, presumably, grown up, the question becomes retrospective: "Are you happy doing what you are doing, being what and who you are?"

Having a central purpose to your life – and being able to do that thing as your life's work – is probably what brings happiness. I've talked about happiness before on this blog. I've maintained that happiness can't really be set as a goal like concrete things: "I want a nice house." "I want a new 4x4 truck." "I want to be happy." I want to work at Walmart."


Happiness? Happiness is not a "thing," so it doesn't translate very well into the step-by-step attainment of goals you've written down. Happiness isn't a thing; it's a condition. When you are doing something that brings you joy, happiness "ensues." This is old territory for this blog, but it bears rehashing from time to time.

So, happiness is not the thing you feel so much when you actually attain a long-term goal (indeed, some people have even felt a sense of sorrow or let-down when the goal was attained and there was nothing to go to work on in the morning), but rather a life-long feeling of joy when you are STRIVING in some worthwhile endeavor.

Now we return to, "What is your central purpose in life?" Maybe you really enjoy playing in the mud with your new 4x4. Maybe it really makes you happy when you do that. But is playing in the mud with  your cool 4x4 really your central purpose in life? Probably not.

To me, a "central purpose in life" is something you gravitate towards, if at all possible, to earn your livelihood from. At the very least, you try to incorporate some of it into your livelihood. You mostly get a good feeling when you are doing this thing, because it just seems "natural."

Are we born with come sort of "purpose" wired in our genes? Maybe. I wasn't, that I know of, although, looking back, I can think of things that I have always done ever since I can remember. I envy, or used to, the people who seemed to be born knowing what they were supposed to be doing. I think of musical prodigies, like Mozart who did nothing but play and compose music all his life. Then I think of his father MAKING him do that as a child, and I wonder. I can't imagine Picasso doing anything with his life other than painting. Pavarotti. Yeats. Shakespeare. Dickens.

I read where W.B. Yeats went to medical school, even getting his apothecary credential. But he didn't practice medicine. His life's passion wasn't medicine. "I'm a poet," he explained to those who asked why. Could YOU turn down financial security because you had a burning desire to write poetry? Was  poetry in Yeat's genes? Maybe. I don't think he wrote any serious poetry until he was 19 or so, so it wasn't something he was obsessed with in childhood.

So, some people seem to know what they are "meant" to do from childhood, and do nothing else. And some (many) stumble through various things until they "hit upon" the right thing that makes them sing. Or dance. Or do math. Whatever.

How do YOU find out what your purpose in life is? I'm not going to use the word "vocation" because that means "calling" – and calling implies a Caller, and this post is not about religion. I think you find out over time, just by recognizing what it is you enjoy doing. Then, theoretically, you think up a way to make a livelihood from that thing or group of things, or activity. Or, if you are a poet, maybe you just keep your day job. Dunno about that one.

Sometimes when you walk into a person's house, you can tell right away what they like to do, even if they don't seem to know themselves. I mean, if there are three sewing machines in the spare bedroom, or a bunch of camera equipment all over, or a fancy kiln out back, those are clues to what a person likes to do which bring him or her enjoyment. Happiness.

Books, too.

Are there books all over the house? Books tell you something about what makes a person happy. No books tells you something about the person, too.

A lot of self-help books which purport to guide you to your "right livelihood" tell you to look for clues like the above. And, if there are a lot of books in the house, what kind? Fiction or non-fiction? What kind of fiction? What kind of non-fiction? I know, I know – self-help books. Ha!

With me it is books that tell the history of some event or person, or books that tell how to do something, or how things really are or were. The inside story. The truth. On my own bookshelf you would also find a fair amount of books written by political people, too. Unread, mostly - started but never finished, since I really don't like politics except for the sake of argument or theorizing - but I have a failing in that I think one of them might have the answer. Not so far.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012



If the world were run according to my personal values, it would be a lot different than today.

There would be no hungry or homeless.

Two people would have the right to marry no matter who they loved.

Fantastic medical care would be freely available to all.

We would all be color blind and race blind.

We all would live each day peacefully, with a genuine spirit of helpfulness.

No one would make anyone else feel bad because they were different.

We would not do things to others we would hate to have done to ourselves.

Not much time would be spent on war and preparing for war.

Everyone would be afforded a top-notch education with excellent schools and teachers.

We would all breath clean air and drink clean water and clean up after ourselves.

That's my top ten.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gentle Giant

The Bible speaks of giants walking the earth, "Sons of God" married earth women and their children became giants and men of renown. Apparently they survived the deluge, because giants are mentioned again as occupiers of the "Promised Land" before the Children of Israel took it over. King Og was a giant. Other ancient writings mention giants too.

Today, our giants are people with growth hormone problems. Oddities. Many basketball players are giants by definition. Our giants today don't match the height of the fabled giants of old who were supposed by many to be children of extraterrestrial beings.

The tallest human on record, one who was actually alive and walking around among us, that is, was one Robert Wadlow of Indiana, who stood nearly 9 feet tall (8 ft-11 inches.) He only lived to be 22 years old. I found his story to be sad and tragic, yet somehow heroic and inspirational at the same time. He was a very gentle giant. He died in 1940.

As a child I saw one of his shoes on a traveling display at a shoe store downtown.

Below: Robert Wadlow (1) as an adolescent and (2) shortly before his death.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Some Miscellaneous Guantanamo Thoughts

On the Purpose of Guantanamo Bay "Prison"

What I think.

I think this place maybe was never intended to be just a regular prison where people were sentenced and served out their time, but rather a place to interrogate special prisoners to get information out of them that will help us get the top leaders of Al-Qaeda, and also to try and learn about their major plans for attacks so we can thwart them.

That would explain a lot. It would explain why only certain captives are sent to this place. It would explain our relentless interrogations instead of just leaving them alone like prisoners. And it would explain why we don't want to see them go free until they talk.

Obviously, that is just speculation; a thought that occurred to me.

Why Guantanamo Bay?

Apparently a prisoner who is taken on the battlefield who doesn't qualify for the protocols outlined in the various Geneva Conventions presents a problem to his captors as to how and where to detain him and under what circumstances.

Common fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan (un-uniformed belligerents shooting at American soldiers) were simply placed in prison camps in Afghanistan. However, some of the people captured on the battlefield (all that could be killed were killed, but some were only wounded or surrendered) were leaders and probably knew helpful information.

In a normal war, uniformed prisoners who are attached to a country of origin, are housed in POW camps per Geneva and interrogated only in the manner Geneva prescribes. At the time this writer was in the military, the Geneva Convention only required a prisoner to give his name, rank, service number, and date of birth. The enemy was supposed to be satisfied with that, and not beat the rest of it out of you. I don't know if that has changed; the Conventions are modified over time. Of course, one is not always lucky enough to be captured by a signatory to the Conventions, or be assured that one's captors will abide by the Conventions even if a signer.

Of course, Al-Qaeda isn't a Geneva signer and doesn't abide by Geneva's rules of war, i.e., Geneva requires soldiers to wear identifiable uniforms, be attached to a recognized country, and not behead people or blow up buses carrying women and babies. I think it is also against the rules of war (god, but that sounds funny, even ridiculous, as I type the words - "rules of war") to hijack jets full of innocent passengers and crash them into buildings with thousands of innocent people inside. But I can understand why much of the world is outraged at America for draping a damp washcloth over the faces of the masterminds of 9/11 and dripping water onto it. That does seem extreme.

Thus the Americans were faced with a unique problem. In earlier days, non-uniformed combatants, civilian night fighters and the like, were simply executed at the will of the commanding officer. Hanging or shooting such illegal combatants was commonplace. The British executed American guerillas in the American Revolution and the Germans executed French resisters and so on in every other war. The treatment of non-uniformed disorganized fighters on a battlefield or who blew up things at night was easy: you executed them when you caught them.

But Al-Qaeda was different. NONE of them were representing any particular country and NONE of them wore uniforms, and NONE of them wanted anything to do with the Geneva way of making war. At least not until they were captured.

What to do?

The Americans and other NATO forces killed as many as they could, but some were only wounded and some simply surrendered. What do you do with these people? I know what the Germans in WWII would have done with them, and what the Russians would have done with them back then. However, as terrible as the world thinks Americans act, they didn't seem able to bring themselves to simply execute the illegal combatants.

One other point as to trials and guilt: these people were "caught in the act" you might say. As are all POWs, actually. Normally, POWs are not given lawyers and trials. They are thrown into prison camps. And that is what the Americans did to the bands of free-lancers who were killing them and otherwise shooting at them. Threw them in prison camps for the duration of the war. Mostly. Some, however, the Americans wanted further conversations with.

Going back to the title of this post, "Why Guantanamo Bay?"

For this, not being there, all I have is the word of George W. Bush. Even though few of you reading this are likely to be disposed to believe President Bush, I have evaluated his statements and have personally made the choice to believe him about "Why Guantanamo Bay".

"Initially, most al Qaeda fighters were held for questioning in battleground prisons in Afghanistan. In November [2001?] CIA officers went to interrogate Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners detained at a primitive nineteenth-century Afghan fortress, Qala-i-Jangi. A riot ensued..."

Bush goes on to recount how one of the officers was killed, the first American fatality of the war, and how it soon became obvious they needed to come up with a better and more secure place to hold and interrogate these prisoners - or "detainees" as he calls them.

Bush goes on to say that they tried putting them on Navy ships in the Arabian sea, but that wasn't suitable. Then he considered putting the prisoners on some remote island with a military base, such as Guam, but Guam belonged to the U.S. and that would mean American courts might start extending constitutional rights (such as the right to remain silent) to the prisoners of war, something that had never been done in any previous war. That would never do since the whole idea was to gain intelligence from the prisoners. We desperately needed intelligence on al Qaeda early in the war, according to Bush.

"We decided to hold detainees at a remote naval station on the southern tip of Cuba, Guantanamo Bay." [...] "The Justice Department advised me that prisoners brought there had no right of access to the U.S. criminal justice system." [.,.]

"At Guantanamo, detainees were given clean and safe shelter, three meals a day, a personal copy of the Koran, the opportunity to pray five times daily, and the same medical care their guards received. They had access to exercise space and a library stocked with books and DVDs. One of the most popular was an Arabic translation of Harry Potter."

On Torture

I used to think I knew what torture meant. Instinctively. When I thought of torture, images of the Japanese abusing British and American soldiers in WWII came to mind: how they starved them and beat them and crippled them and simply shot them. How they marched them without food and made them go nearly mad from thirst in the tropical sun. How they put them in hot boxes on rocks for days at a time with no food or water. Then there were the bamboo slivers pushed up under their fingernails.

Or I think of the Rape of Nanking by the Japanese, and the German doctors experiments on brain surgery and other surgeries on women and twins without anesthetic. The horrors were beyond my imagination as I read the accounts.

I can't even talk about the routine tortures in Elizabethan England.

I read about the Spanish Inquisition going on when Columbus sailed for the New World in 1492. I learned about the ingenious devices for torture. Strappado and squasation. The pear. The Judas cradle. The cat's paw. The heretic's fork. The rack: how bones and connecting tissue could be made to make crackling sounds before they snapped apart. Burning flesh. Hot coals in tongs brought near victims' eyes (I read somewhere that that is how Sampson was blinded by the Philistines - the Palestinians and the Jews have been going at it for thousands of years, you know.)

The thought of torture made me cringe. I felt sure I knew what it was, all right. And I felt sure my country didn't do those things.

As it turns out, according to the UN and organizations like Amnesty International, torture is much more than I thought it was.

Torture can be the act of making someone feel uncomfortable, inferior, controlled, humiliated, afraid, embarrassed. Making a person feel intimidated can have long-lasting emotional scars and even occasional sexual disfunction years later.

In other words, torture can be anything at all. Detention after school. Being made to listen to boring lectures in college. You think I am making fun? Go read the the UN definition of torture. If a person doesn't want to be there, that's torture.

Worst of all, I discovered that my own country tortures people mercilessly. They put prisoners in cages.  Guards react, often with obscene language, when urine and other bodily fluids are thrown through the bars on them. Often, it is said, American Marines will openly frown at helpless prisoners under their control, thus causing long-term feelings of inferiority and helplessness.

Americans need to be ashamed of this. And yet, is not the scorn of the world against the dastardly Americans also a form of torture in and of itself, according to the UN High Commissioner? Is not Europe, thus, also guilty of causing Americans to feel bad? Full of feelings of shame and inferiority? Bet your ass.

How I wish I had known all these things when I was a youngster, when my drill sergeant pressed his nose against mine and screamed obscenities in my face and described my low parentage in vivid and cruel terms. RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FELLOW DETAINEES! I mean "trainees." Is the statute of limitations still running on that? Can I still sue? Will the international courts hear my pleas of recurring nightmares while nodding sadly? Probably not.

If Americans think it is hurtful to have their premier city blasted by hijacked airplanes and watch as people burn and jump from high buildings to their death, how much MORE hurtful it is to offend the perpetrators and make them feel inferior, rather than simply inviting them to repeat the attacks over and over again. Treat them with respect and they will surely leave you alone.

On Waterboarding

What is waterboarding? Sort of like being placed on the rack or the impaler, right? Sort of like having one's intestines removed while still conscious and smelling them being barbecued on a grill next your face, right? - like they used to do did for Good Queen Bess I in England?

Not quite.

Waterboarding consists of placing the subject on his back on a board (duh) and strapping him to that board so he is helpless. Then a wet cloth is placed over his face. Then water is slowly poured over the cloth. Although the water doesn't actually go into the lungs, it feels like it does. The gag reflex kicks in and a very real feeling of drowning pervades. You feel like you are going to die and you can do nothing about it, struggle as you may.

Well, not "nothing" exactly. You can say, "Stop this and I'll talk."

The closest I have ever been to being waterboarded is when I go to the dentist and I am lying on my back and the hygienist is spraying water in my mouth and I can't talk and the suction is not keeping up with the water and I am trying to close my throat instead of letting it run down my throat and gagging. If the water DID go down my throat I guarantee I would start gagging an coughing and (since my arms were not restrained) trying to punch her in the gut to make her move the water thing away, I digress.

Waterboarding is (or maybe "was") a fairly common component of college fraternity "hazing" or initiation in yesteryear. Even at West Point - several generals have admitted that they were administered the procedure when they were plebes. Who else? Well, the American interrogators get it done to them so they know how it feels. Navy Seals and Army Special Forces "might" have undergone waterboarding during interrogation resistance training. They won't say for sure.

It is very realistic. You BELIEVE you are drowning, dying. You don't want it to continue. You panic. You will do ANYTHING to make them stop. You tend to even forget your religion.

When I first heard about waterboarding, I thought thousands of al Qaeda got it done to them, the way the TV news and newspaper columnists went on and on about the horror of it. But it wasn't thousands. It wasn't even two hundred and thirty. How many, then? "Three" says George Bush. Three of the top ringleaders.

1. Abu Zubaydah, a top personal associate of bin Laden, senior recruiter and operator of the training camp in Afghanistan where the 9/11 hijackers had trained. He was planning to attack America again. He was to give up much, much valuable information about al Qaeda leadership and operations. He gave up the mastermind of the 9/11 attack himself, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

2. Hambali,* chief of al Qaeda's operations in Southeast Asia and architect of the infamous Bali terrorist attack that killed 202 people.

3. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself, planner of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, and personal killer of kidnapped journalist Danny Pearl. He was harder to break, but when he broke he squealed like the rat he is. He gave up Hambali too.

Bush on Abu Zubaydah:

"Zubaydah had been severely wounded in a gun battle prior to his arrest. The CIA flew in a top doctor who saved his life." [...] "The FBI began questioning Zubaydah, who had clearly been trained on how to resist interrogation. He revealed bits and pieces of information that he thought we already knew. Frighteningly, we didn't know much." [...]

"Then Zubaydah stopped answering questions."

Bush goes on to say that the CIA believed Zubydah had more information to reveal, was hiding other important things, and we needed to avoid another attack on the U.S. Bush asked the CIA what the options were. Bush says he rejected one option outright. He doesn't say what it was.  Bush says he was assured that all interrogations would be performed by experienced professionals who had undergone extensive training, and that medical personnel would be present to guarantee the "detainee" would not be physically or mentally harmed. Bush further claims that the Department of Justice and CIA lawyers conducted a careful review and concluded what they were about to do would not violate the constitution or even the laws that ban torture. Bush gave the go-ahead to waterboard Zubaydah.

The "new techniques" proved highly effective. Zubaydah revealed large amounts of information on al Qaeda's structure and operations. He also provided leads that helped reveal the location of Ramzi bin al Shibh, the logistical planner of the 9/11 attacks. The Pakistani police picked him up on the first anniversary of 9/11.

At this point, Mr. Bush says something I found at first unbelievable.

"Zubaydah later explained to interrogators why he started answering questions again. His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate. 'You must do this for all the brothers he said."

That's hard to believe. That's hard to swallow. And yet, in some odd way it makes sense and unlocks a portion of how these people think. I'm not sure I fully believed Bush when I read this part. But, later, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured and waterboarded, he ended up saying much the same thing, and suddenly began cooperating fully, after taking what he felt was an honorable amount of duress.

President Bush:

"Kalid Sheikh Mohammed proved difficult to break. But when he did, he gave us a lot. He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and directed us to three people involved in the al Qaeda biological weapons program. He provided information that led to the capture of Hambali..." [...] "He provided further details that led agents to Hambali's brother, who had been grooming operatives to carry out another attack inside the United States, possibly a West Coast version of 9/11 in which terrorists flew a hijacked plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles."

"Years later, the Washington Post ran a front page story about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's transformation, [...] "It described how Mohammed 'seemed to relish the opportunity, sometimes for hours on end, to discuss the inner workings of al Qaeda and the group's plans, ideology and operatives...He'd even use a chalkboard at times.' "

Bush continues:

"Of the thousands of terrorists we captured in the years after 9/11, about a hundred were placed into the CIA program. About a third of those were questioned using enhanced interrogation techniques. Three were waterboarded."

*Possibly the third person waterboarded was Ramzi bin al Shibh instead of Hambali. Bush was not clear on who the third person definitively was.

On Muslims Hating America

Many people, for many years now, seem preoccupied with why Muslims hate America and want to kill Americans. Where did al Qaeda come from? Personally, I have never cared that much whether Muslims, or anyone else, for that matter, loved America or not. Their loss. I know I probably should care, but I just don't stay awake worrying about it. America steers her own course, except during weak indecisive times, like now and like Jimmy Carter's era. Perhaps that in itself pisses off other countries, that we don't consult with them enough. I don't know.

In the case of al Qaeda, though, it isn't a nameless hatred. It isn't just Muslim kids being taught hatred by their teachers in grade school and it isn't just that Muslim "clerics" preach hate of the infidel to their flocks every Friday, either.

Saudi Arabia is key with al Qaeda hatred of America. America the infidel set foot in the holy of holies, Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca and Medina and The Prophet, during Gulf War One. bin Ladin is a Saudi. His insult and idignation knew no bounds when America used Saudi Arabia as a base to beat back Sadaam in the early 90s. Never mind that Saudi Arabia would have certainly be overrun by Iraq had not the Americans intervened. It doesn't make sense, but that's how the fanatics think. Stay the hell out of Saudi Arabia.

I once advocated to anyone who would listen that we should make a firm threat that if al Qaeda attacked America again - ever - we would bomb Mecca. Preferably with a dirty bomb that would thwart any thought of pilgrimages there for a thousand years. I still think such a threat is a good idea. No, even I can't recommend that. But it is sort of like taking a hostage without having to lift a finger. The fanatics understand that. Even they have a few things they care about more than martyrdom and virgins.

Now, that is the spark that set al Qaeda off against America. There is an older and more personal reason that they hate America, and that reason is at the root of all the terrorism against us. It stems from the fact that America recognizes Israel as a legitimate entity, a real country.

Will all the hatred subside and all the fighting stop if suddenly Israel were to magically disappear? No, America would still be hated because it ONCE supported Israel. The fighting would also continue unabated. They would simply begin fighting among themselves as they did before Israel existed. It is their nature to feel slighted and seek unending revenge for this or that perceived injury. It is just the nature of the beast.

All of the friendly Palestinians have long since moved to Dearborn.

Knowing this, your job is to simply support the people who treat you with respect and with friendship while protecting yourself from the crazies as much as possible. No, don't think that switching sides and condemning Israel will make any difference with these people.

The Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance. Don't forget that. This is a sport to them.

How do you tell who the fanatics are?

Islam is a peaceful religion. We hear that all the time and I believe it, generally. Even though the Quran is pretty violent in places. But there is a way to single out the fanatics who are NOT peaceful and who want to kill you. Here's how: sit in an embassy compound and when a group of "protesters" approach yelling "Death to america!" and begin shooting at you and cursing you and try to bomb you and burn your flag and hang the President in effigy, this is a clue that these are your enemies. These are the fanatics. These are the non-peaceful segments of Islam. Kill them all. Kill them each and every time they congregate. You will be killing people who hate you and want to reenact 9/11 on America tomorrow. You will be doing America a favor. You will be doing yourself a favor. You will be doing peaceful and friendly Muslims a favor. You will seldom be able to kill that many of your enemies together in one convenient place, knowing without a doubt that they ARE your enemies. Such things are gifts from providence.

Or you can try to reason with them and win their hearts and minds over. You can try to capture them and give them fair trials. Perhaps they will love you and America tomorrow if you do.

I'm guessing not.

I see a breath of fresh air in Libya now, though. Today, Muslims of good will took to the streets to confront the haters who attacked the American consulate last week, killing a good friend of Libya. It almost restores my hope. Godspeed to these peacemakers.

On Fair Trials and Habeas Corpus

Unless you can learn to separate military-style attacks and battles from criminal acts by people who live in a civil society, you will never understand why some are treated differently and afforded different legal rights.

I have heard silly statements on various blogs and newspapers, by otherwise intelligent people, such as "Everyone has a right to a speedy and fair trial" and "Habeas Corpus is basic human write that is inviolable." Or similar.

What balderdash!

You can't equate civil rights and the rule of law in a peaceful society to acts of war! You treat people who attack your country much differently. First, you fight back as hard as you can and with as much military force as you can muster and you kill your enemies and take the fight to his land and take what he owns. You subdue him. You put your foot on his neck and keep him at bay and away from your shores. You don't worry about if you offend him or not or if you treat him poorly and unfairly. Fair treatment and human rights are for people who are not trying to destroy your country and your way of life. See? They really are two separate things.

1. Do what you have to to protect your land, property, life.

2. Worry about the civil rights of your enemies after the war is over.

It's quite a simple concept. It's called self-preservation.

When someone attacks you and doesn't win, why, you get to take their stuff. If you are not nice, you get to enslave them. You change the lines on the map to show you now own what they used to own. They will call you "occupiers" and cry to the world to make you give their stuff back, but you don't have to because they attacked you and lost. So Israel was attacked several times, and each time Israel took more and more of their enemies' lands because they won those wars. They gave some back. They may give more back in the future if they feel they won't be attacked by those people again.

The U.S. was attacked. It now holds some of those attackers in a prison camp called Guantanamo. Speedy trials? Innocence or guilt? Civil rights? Well, those things are up to their captors. It is a sad consequence of you attacking and losing, you see. Since they were taken from battlefields and safe houses, there is really no need for a trial. They are simply at the mercy of those they attacked.

I know, I know, you still can't get it out of your head that these people are human beings, by god, and innocent until proven guilty, just like your next door neighbor. Well, it just doesn't work that way in war, bucky. In war, they take you off the battlefield and throw you in a prison camp. For how long? Until the war is over or until you get traded for some of our prisoners. Don't you get a trial? No. You stay in the POW camp until the war is over or you escape without being shot. No, no, no, no - don't get it confused with people who commit "crimes" on places other than battlefields. That is very different than war rules.

How about the Geneva Convention, dadgummit? Well, aside from the fact that, again, these folks don't qualify for Geneva Convention protections under Convention rules, we are still trying to treat them humanely by not letting them starve or live in filth and disease. This is because we are a civilized country. They are not, you see.

But what if they are innocent victims? Holy Moley! What about THAT?

Again, these people, these supporters of savage, rabid, senseless slaughterers of innocent civilians minding their own business, were not taken at random from movie theaters in Karachi or Kandahar. They were captured on battlefields engaged in mortal combat with America's finest. Except for the cowardly ringleaders and planners of mass murders who were in hiding and had to be tracked down, and except for some fighters who were on their way to the battlefield and got interrupted.

Now here's a bad thing that we did: Bush caved in to demands by outsiders who weren't involved in the war, like the UN and mindless protesters at home who apparently don't care if their country was attacked or not, and gave these military prisoners lawyers. Yeah! We did that! Can you imagine lawyers in a military prison camp? I can't. The only thing more ridiculous is the notion that these wartime fighters should be entitled to habeas corpus. Are you kidding me? Military fighters don't go before civil courts. C'mon. Two different things here. Get a grip.

Military tribunals will decide who can leave and go home, who will be sent to another prison for life, and who will be executed. That's how these war things work. They need to quit dragging their feet and get on with it so any of those who were small fry can get released to a prison in their own country and get their civil rights back when they arrive. The civil rights of their home countries, not ours. In the meantime, at our sole discretion as captors, we decide if they are still a threat to the U.S. We have been pretty poor judges so far, in that those few released seem to have a penchant for just returning to the battlefield and continuing the fight.

On Adnan Latif

Adnan Latif was a Yemeni national who traveled to Afghanistan at the wrong time. He says he thought  it was a good time to get medical help in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The U.S. says he was with a crowd of other Arabs of various nationalities who were on their way to help fight the Americans in Afghanistan. He spent his time in Guantanamo being belligerent and uncooperative, unlike someone who wanted to convince his captors that a mistake had been made. In such a situation, a person who was mistakenly imprisoned would, one assumes, be overly cooperative and make continual pleas to be allowed to talk to someone about his innocence. One assumes such a person would not spend as much time as Latif did spitting in the guards' faces.

Despite the Bush administration's contention that the prisoners at Guantanamo were not entitled to Geneva Convention provisions, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2004, ruled that the prisoners were entitled to be informed of the allegations against them and were entitled to try and refute those allegations.

Most prisoners of war are detained "extrajudicially", usually simply as enemies of the state without presenting any other formal charges.

"Why am I being held prisoner?"

"Because you are an enemy combatant against the United States of America in time of war."

Case closed. Unless he can refute that allegation. For example, by demonstrating he was really a French citizen on holiday in Islamabad at the time of his capture.

Here is a picture of Latif. The orange jumpsuit signifies he is considered a "non-compliant" prisoner (troublemaker.)
Outside sources say there were no charges against Latif except the enemy combatant one which allowed the simple extrajudicial detention. However, records show that he DID have actual allegations against him, mostly as a group with other enemy combatants, to wit:

"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif is an al Qaeda fighter."

"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif traveled to Afghanistan for jihad."

"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif took military or terrorist training in Afghanistan."

"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif fought for the Taliban."

"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif was one of the captives whose "names or aliases were found on material seized in raids on al Qaeda safehouses and facilites."

Here are his names and aliases:

  • Agnahn Purhan Abjallil
  • Allal, Ab Aljallil
  • Allal Ab Aljallil Abd Al Rahman Abd
  • Abdelrahman Abdulla Abdel Galil
  • Adnan Farhan Abd al Latif
  • Afnahn Purhan Abjillil]
  • George Jones (kidding)
(Why in the world does an innocent traveler seeking medical attention need that many aliases?)

"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif served on Osama Bin Laden's security detail."

What? A bodyguard for bin Laden? Could this be why we thought he had important information he wasn't sharing? His name showed up on a captured list of bin Laden's personal aides??

"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif was an al Qaeda operative."

At any rate, his supporters assert the U,S. Government and military is lying and that Latif was just a harmless poet criminally detained.

Latif says he was force fed with a tube and that it caused great pain when it was placed up through his nose and down into his stomach. Those of you who have been in a hospital probably have had such a tube placed up your nose and down into your stomach, but for continual evacuation, not feeding. At any rate placing the tube is not really torture. He had a history of going on hunger strikes. Were the Americans wrong to keep him alive by force-feeding him like that? If it really hurt, then I suppose he could have just started eating again the normal way. If it really hurt, I personally would have been tempted to feed him in 8 or 10 daily snacks instead of in one or two big meals. But that's just me.

Latif died in prison recently and is considered an example of U.S. torture and inhumanity.

On America Supporting Dictators in Central America

To be continued...


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