Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Listen up Republicans - you have a problem!

“We’re headed to the point where a political candidate who is perceived as anti-gay at the presidential level will never connect with people under 30 years old,” Ayers said, citing the rapidly changing views on same-sex marriage in America.
Republicans don't need to obsess about how to supress the vote or gerrymander elections. Instead, they're apparently turning voters away, without closing polling stations.

It's hard to believe the Grand Old Party (GOP) that swept the US Congress during the 2014 elections (because Democrats didn't vote!!) are now screwing up their opportunity to lead. 

Instead of moving America forward, by creating jobs, rebuilding deteriorating roads and bridges, and supporting middle class prosperity, they are focused on religous liberty. Hello? What's the point of our US Constitution? Americans already have religious liberty. What our nation really needs is political leadership!

Republicans have a problem. It's called "leadership". For the past several decades, Republicans have managed to get away with leading by creating fear among the electorate. The fears they've created are windmill issues like "welfare" or "Medicaid fraud". 

As a matter of fact, if Professor Howard Hill were a politician, instead of a slick illusionist salesman in "The Music Man", he'd rile up the entire nation, to march all "non-religious people", into the Gulf of Mexico. "Right here in America, I say 'trouble.., right here", said Hill. "Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here!

Just like in "The Music Man", the electorate believed the Republicans about their ridiculous war on Medicaid, food stamps fraud and other small budget items, like welfare or income assistance.

Except, now the poor people are even "poorer", due to massive cuts to anti poverty programs, so the Republicans quickly needed to trump up new "trouble", by creating the myth of religious liberty. 

In fact, the religious liberty the Republicans created are euphemisms, intended to discriminate against anybody who's "not us", whoever we think we are, or are not.

This time, however, many Americans aren't being quickly tricked into believing the homosexual community and LGBT people are a threat to well being as we knew it, before the GOP "religious liberty" was enforced.

Francine Kiefer a Christian Science Monitor Staff writer reports:

WASHINGTON — At a Monitor breakfast Tuesday, GOP pollster Whit Ayers praised Indiana’s political system for adapting “remarkably quickly” to the “value conflict” that has erupted over its new religious freedom law, which opponents say discriminates against the gay community. The state’s top legislators say they will adjust the law so that discrimination is no longer an issue.

Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence has come under scathing criticism for his defense of the law. 

Several potential GOP presidential candidates have expressed their support for Governor Pence, including Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whom Mr. Ayers is advising. (This will be interesting in 2016)

While a majority of Americans support gay marriage, nearly three-quarters of Republicans do not, according to Gallup. That’s not true for young Republicans, however. More than 60 percent of Republican voters under 30 do support gay marriage, said Ayers, the founder and president of North Star Opinion Research. 

Gay rights is at the bottom of the list of issues for Republican voters, competing with climate change, he pointed out.

When asked what he might advise a candidate, who said he believes in equal rights but thinks marriage ought to be between a man and a woman, Ayers said he would never advise a candidate to alter his or her fundamental beliefs.

But, he said that he would work with the candidate to lay out his or moral beliefs in a way that has “a tolerant and accepting tone.” People will accept candidates with whom they disagree, he said, as long as a candidate doesn’t seem judgmental.

In his view, the Republican Party, “more than anything else,” needs to adopt “a tone and an attitude of inclusion and acceptance” if it wants to take the White House.

Particularly, he’s talking about the demographic necessity of appealing to Hispanic voters in a presidential election, a point he makes in a new book entitled “2016 and Beyond: How Republicans can Elect a President in the New America.”

White voters are shrinking as part of the electorate, he said, and Republicans must make inroads with non-whites. Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012. To win in 2016, a Republican will have to perform in the 40s with Hispanics, Ayers said.

It’s doable with a “transformational” candidate – similar to the way Bill Clinton reversed the Democratic presidential losing streak by going more centrist and having his “Sister Souljah” moment, when he repudiated the hip hop artist. Ayers described his client, Senator Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, as “the most transformational” of all the GOP hopefuls.

To win the presidency, a Republican will have to send a signal to voters who have not recently backed the GOP that “we want them as part of a center-right coalition because it’s better for them and their families and their children,” Ayers asserted.

On immigration, that means “some sort of accommodation” to a broken system.

“It’s safe to say that if your position is that you want to deport 11 million Hispanics, you’re going to find it very difficult to persuade Hispanic voters that we want you in the Republican coalition,” he said.

(Julie's not - remember, Hispanic voters are having children while many traditional Republican voters have stopped reproducing. Consequently, this Republican problem will be multi generational, carried by word of mouth, through close knit families.)

Republicans, you have a problem and it seems like you're quickly being outnumbered, besides.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Governor Mike Pence is driving business out of Indiana

"...'never seen anything like it in Indiana. It’s been just awesome' Katie Blair, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, told The Huffington Post on Monday." 

Americans simply can't ignore, not even for a minute, the dangers of right wing extremism, as though it might somehow go away or not be relevant to "all politics being local".  

In other words, it's dangerous to assume that right wingers won't infect politics near you.

There's no end to the harm these right wing people do to other people. Now, as a result of extremism, the recently signed Indiana law signed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence reveals the GOP's challenge. In other words, can Republicans explain what they stand for?  More importantly, what the GOP stands against obviously blocks progressive ideas....assuming they even have any to offer.

Incredulously, it takes an extraordinary act to finally get people to pay attention to the dangers of extremists who run amok. Perhaps, the Indiana discriminatory "religious liberty" law, signed by Governor Pence, is the final straw for the public. It seems like the backlash to this law is vitriolic.  When religious liberty is really a euphemism for "hate the people you want to", it's no different than branding Stars of David on Jews, like the Nazi's did, or the ISIS branding of Christians with certain Arabic symbols.  

Republican followers of Indiana's Governor Pence obsess about right wing issues, to the exclusion of basic human rights.

Huffington Post blogger Lila Shapiro reports:

Good Things Are Happening In The Wake Of Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' Law

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called it "dangerous." 

Ashton Kutcher has tweeted his outrage. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce deemed it "entirely unnecessary." Even as gay rights supporters reel from the passage of an Indiana law that critics argue will allow businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the resulting outrage offers what might be considered a silver lining.

“I’ve honestly never seen anything like it in Indiana. It’s been just awesome,” Katie Blair, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, told The Huffington Post on Monday. “To see folks actively speaking out and taking a stand, people you never thought would say something about it, it says a lot.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law last week. Supporters claim that it is designed to protect business owners from being forced to act against their strongly held religious beliefs. 

Yet, many business leaders, inside the state and out, have rushed to declare their opposition to the law -- and their embrace of diversity -- in a seemingly unprecedented show of almost immediate public support for the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transvestite) communities.

Cook, an especially high-profile corporate executive, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.”

Some corporate leaders have threatened to pull business out of Indiana. Last week, the CEO of actually canceled the company’s upcoming events in the state, following employee and customer “outrage.” On Saturday, the CEO of Angie’s List, which is headquartered in the state, announced that it was putting on hold a planned $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters.

"Angie's List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents," chief executive Bill Oesterle said, according to Reuters.

“I have been impressed with the way the business community has stepped up to expose discrimination,” said Camilla Taylor, a lawyer with the LGBT advocacy group Lambda Legal.

Taylor said she sees the business community’s swift and forceful response as a sign of the changing times. “It used to be we needed to educate everyone about the fact that lesbian and gay people were their friends and neighbors, their colleagues or their employees at work," she said. But now, she said, the American public knows that “gay people exist and that they share the same dreams for their families as the rest of us do and deserve to be treated fairly.”

The opposition has not been limited to the business community. Celebrities like Kutcher, Miley Cyrus and James Van Der Beek, and athletes from Charles Barkley to Reggie Miller -- even the NCAA itself -- have all spoken unequivocally against the law. And the backlash among the political class is growing.

On Monday, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) issued an executive order barring state-funded travel to Indiana, because of the new law. Two major cities, San Francisco and Seattle, have imposed similar bans.

Closer to home, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard (R) on Monday announced his opposition to the legislation and called on the Indiana General Assembly to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under state law. "Our city thrives because we have welcomed and embraced diversity,” he said, according to the Indianapolis Star. This law “threatens what thousands have spent decades building.”

Freedom Indiana, Blair’s group, is now pushing for additional legislation to add LGBT protections to the state's anti-discrimination laws and to clarify that the new Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not shield discrimination that is otherwise prohibited under state or local laws. She hopes that the current uproar will help push the proposed Fairness for All Hoosiers Act through the legislature.

“We don’t want to look like a state that's unwelcoming,” Blair said. “It’s called Hoosier hospitality and that's what we pride ourselves on. We don’t have mountains or oceans, but we have our good hospitality that we go off of, and this doesn’t speak well for that.”

Over the weekend, Gov. Pence said that he was taken aback by the negative reactions, according to The New York Times, and that he would consider legislation to clarify the intent of the law.

Lambda Legal's Taylor scoffed at the idea that the governor would be surprised by the public response. After all, a similar proposed law in Arizona collapsed last year after public outcry. “We’ve seen this movie before,” she said.

Julie's note:  Governor Mike Pence is a coward because he obviously didn't stand up to right wing extremists.  In fact, Pence should never have signed this bill. Obviously, he never read the bill before he signed it.  

It's time for Americans to understand, once and for all, that Republicans have lost their political way. They've become more about extremism, to the exclusion of the human condition. 

In other words, in Indiana, it's their way or the highway. What people say you are, brands what you are. So, the highway into Indiana is about to become the escape route. Governor Pence has now branded Indiana as an unfriendly place to do business. Hit Republicans where they hurt. Forget about morals.....ethics....the human condition. It's the economy, stupid. Whatever works. It's time for Republican supporters of Governor Pence to be branded for what they are - bigoted homophobic zealots.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Thank you Pope Francis - looking for encyclical on climate change and progress

Pope Francis might pluck the feathers out of right wingers when he issues a Papal encyclical about climate change.  

Tom Krattenmaker reports in USA Today:

It comes as bad news to many that Pope Francis' tenure at the Vatican might be short. 

Nevertheless, there are probably some Catholics in this country who gave a silent cheer when Francis intimated recently that "the Lord has placed me here for a short time" — especially the surprisingly numerous Catholics who are leaders in the Republican Party.  (including several US Supreme Court justices). (Julie's note: l'chaim, to Pope Francis!)

Francis had already antagonized monied interests in the GOP with his populist admonitions against economic inequality and the excesses of capitalism. Now, in the run-up to this summer's greatly anticipated encyclical on climate change, the pontiff is making things even more awkward for Catholic Republicans.

If you're a progressive and you like a little with your politics, you're probably enjoying the obvious squirming that many high-profile Republicans are doing when the climate issue comes up. Outright denial seems to have been replaced by the currently favored "I'm not a scientist" talking point, which seems at best a stalling tactic

Francis is not a scientist either, but that has not stopped him from leaning on something very close to scientific consensus and speaking confidently about global warming as a reality with dire moral implications — especially for the poor and vulnerable who are at the heart of Catholic social teaching.

Pulls no punches:  "A Christian who does not protect creation," Francis says, "is a Christian who does not care about the work of God."

The relationship between the GOP and Vatican looked a lot different when it was mainly Protestants playing lead roles in the Republican Party, and when popes were placing more emphasis on things, such as the dangers of secularization and sex or, back in the Ronald Reagan years, the evils of communism.

But a funny thing happened on the way to 2015. Francis became pope. And Catholics came to greater prominence in the Republican Party. There are the presidential prospects — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Rick Santorum. In Congress, there's House Speaker John Boehner and other influential Catholic Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan.

Doesn't Francis, with his wild popularity and liberal-sounding rhetoric, have these Catholic conservatives in a bind?

Yes. And optimists can savor the possibility of something better than that — a breakthrough on this crucial issue.  (Imagine, a Pope is educating politicians about science? OMG. Galileo is redeemed!)

Reports are circulating that some Republicans in Congress are looking for a lifeline on the issue. Who better than the widely respected pope to provide one?

There are reasons for skepticism, too. As Catholic Democratic leaders have shown for decades, U.S. politicians can always find a way to tune out their least favorite papal exhortations and church teachings. Consider the liberal Catholic giants of recent decades, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, and high-ranking Democrats of today, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — all committed to the legal availability of abortion despite the church's hard line against it.

Boehner's take on pope:  Boehner, for one, seems to be following a similar tack when it comes to Francis and the climate. Sure, the House speaker has waxed positive and enthusiastic about the pontiff. Boehner has even invited Francis to address Congress. But he has yet to signal any change of heart or strategy on climate.

In January, several weeks after the news that Francis would issue his environment encyclical, Boehner pulled out the standard "job killer" line in response to the latest White House action against carbon emissions. As to the reality of human-caused climate change, Boehner said he would leave that to the scientists to debate and resolve, as if they hadn't already.

Also sobering, polling data show the climate issue occupies relatively low status on Americans' lists of concerns, even though a majority accept that something is happening with the climate.

That's where the pontiff's exhortation can make the biggest difference. If the upcoming encyclical is transformative the way many hope, public opinion will swing, perhaps dramatically. Perhaps so much so that the House speaker and his GOP colleagues will realize that addressing climate is an imperative they can neither tune out nor wait out, regardless of how long Francis remains in the Vatican.

Tom Krattenmaker is a writer specializing in religion in public life, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors and communications director at Yale Divinity School.  His latest book is The Evangelicals You Don't Know.

In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tragic Germanwings air disaster families suffer the preventable losses

Although Europeans were spared the horror of finding the Germanwings flight diaster was not the result of terrorism or an airplane malfunction, the mass murder-suicide by co-pilot Andreas Lutitz was, nevertheless a wake up call about the future potential for such an event.

Exacerbating the devastating Germanwings disaster in the French alps, are the enormities  of the sufferings experienced by the victims' families. Survivors of the 149 victims of the Lubitz suicide how realize how the airline tragedy was preventable. It turned out, Lubitz was unfit to fly. Nevertheless, he was obviously too delusional to accept his fate. Instead of facing the reality of the depressive disorder he suffered from, Lubitz decided to avenge his fate and take innocent lives along with him, as he took the Germanwings airplane into a delusional plunge into the alps.

Of course, Europeans and people around the world held our collective breaths about the Germanwings disaster, thinking it had the look and feel of a terrorism plot.  Realistically, why else would a sane pilot take an airplane into a deliberate decline, heading into a mountain, on a clear night during an otherwise uneventful flight? Well, of course, Lubitz was not sane. Rather, he was experiencing a psychotic episode most likely accompanied by delusions. We'll never know for sure what Lubitz was thinking, but I'm confident he had a history of paranoid delusional behavior.  Left untreated, the victims of this mental disease are difficult to treat because they refuse to believe anything is wrong. They deny treatment and eventually wind up doing some kind of a delusional deed. Tragically, Lubitz wasn't caught in time to save the lives of those who were killed in his delusional psychosis.

There's no solace for families and friends of the Germanwings victims in knowing their loved ones were killed by one psychotic airline pilot. It's hard to accept the fact that the deaths were preventable.

Yet, the Germanwings disaster brought grieving European leaders together in realizing how the crash may, indeed, have dodged a terrorism bullet. Hopefully, it was a major wake up call for the Europeans, alerting them to be hyper aware about the risk of terrorists who, very likely, would be in a mind set to "copy cat" the Lubitz delusional plan.  

Those suffering Germanwings disaster surviving family members, colleagues and friends will never overcome the emotional trauma caused by one delusional airline pilot. Yet, those killed may have raised European awareness to prevent the potential for something worse, in the future.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Indiana governor Pence proves there's no limit to right wing exceptional extremism

Governor Pence of Indiana was considered a potential presidential candidate. Sure doesn't seem likely now. He's summarily  excluded about five percent of his state's population from feeling like they have any civil liberties.  Although this doesn't amount to a huge number of people, the numbers equate to a considerable margin in any election, because the homosexual community votes.

In spite of the governor's right wing extremism, his support for draconian treatment of homosexuals demonstrates how the right wing extremists are dangerous. Leaders are supposed to stand up for all of their constituents, regardless of their sexuality.  Governor Pence has said his political leadership represents almost everybody.

Indiana law that allows biz to reject gays

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's decision to sign into law a measure that could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of "religious freedom", has left the NCAA fretting ahead of next week's men's basketball Final Four (college basketball teams) in Indianapolis.

"We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

He said the NCAA will "work diligently" to ensure competitors and visitors at next week's Final Four are not "negatively impacted by this bill." Emmert also said the organization, which is based in Indianapolis, will "closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

Indiana is the first state this year to enact a measure that's being pushed in a dozen others, and Emmert's comments were just the latest in a series of stinging criticisms issued after Pence signed the bill in a private ceremony with Republican state legislators and socially conservative lobbyists Thursday morning.

Already, the gamer convention Gen Con and the Disciples of Christ church group had threatened to pull their conventions out of Indianapolis. Tech giant Salesforce said it would halt its plans to expand in the state, too.

The NCAA had hinted for days that the bill -- which has the effect of allowing businesses to challenge local laws that forbid discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation in court -- could damage the city's reputation as a host of major sporting events.

Jason Collins, who last year became the first openly gay active NBA player, asked Pence in a tweet whether it is "going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come" to the Final Four.

Still, Pence signed the bill in his office Thursday. In a statement explaining his decision, he pointed to President Barack Obama's health care law -- which triggered a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby to ensure the company wasn't required to cover birth control through its employees' health insurance plans.

Julie's note - Republicans are anti-science, anti-meteorology, anti-women's physiology and anti-evolution, seems they're also anti mathematics.  Surely, Republican who believe these draconian laws about homosexuality won't show up in their elections?  Calling all 5 percent of homosexuals to your voting registration district.  Let's show Republicans how to count!

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Supreme Court stands up to Gerrymandering but Black Justice Clarence Thomas and right wing Antonin Scalia go apoplectic

Supreme Court nixes redistricting or gerrmandering that packed in black voters. A divided court revives challenge over Alabama redistricting.  Sadly, it's a shame Justice Clarence Thomas couldn't, just once, stand for principle on this ruling. Instead, in my opinion, Thomas wrote a dissent that micro-managed the districting process, claiming the plan was a racial quota.  Hello?  Dear Justice Thomas, have you considered how the Republican re-districting plan was a racial quota in reverse? Republican districts are gerrymandered quotas whereby Democrats are deliberately marginalized.

Obviously, I'm not an expert on voting rights laws or "districting". Nevertheless, I observe how Republicans are obsessed about creating voting districts that minimize minority groups into sort of "voting ghettos". 

My impression is that Republicans draw district boundaries whereby the voters will elect and re-elect Republican candidates, regardless of who the Democratic opponents are, because the majority of voters are Republicans.  

Supposedly, the assumption is that Republicans will never live in communities where minority groups reside so the district lines are drawn to protect the white voting districts.

Challengers who accused Alabama officials of unlawfully using race to craft political boundaries will get another chance to argue against the new districts. 

A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday sent the case back for further review, finding lower court judges made a series of legal errors. But Black justice Clarence Thomas and right wing Antonin Scalia are reported to be "apoplectic" over the divided 5 to 4 ruling.

Those errors included considering the state as a whole instead of conducting a district-by-district analysis to determine whether district lines were impermissibly drawn based on race, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the 5-4 decision. The district court also incorrectly balanced racial-versus-nonracial factors in deciding whether race was the “predominant motivating factor” during the redistricting process, the majority held.

“For example, once the legislature’s ‘equal population’ objectives are put to the side—i.e., seen as a background principle—then there is strong, perhaps overwhelming, evidence that race did predominate as a factor when the legislature drew the boundaries of Senate District 26, the one district that the parties have discussed here in depth,” Breyer wrote.

Breyer was joined by justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, writing that the majority disregarded the district court’s findings that the challengers never pleaded, let alone proved, district-specific claims of racial gerrymandering with respect to majority-minority districts. The majority’s opinion allowed the challengers “to take a mulligan,” Scalia wrote, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.

“Today, the court issues a sweeping holding that will have profound implications for the constitutional ideal of one person, one vote, for the future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and for the primacy of the state in managing its own elections,” Scalia wrote. “If the court’s destination seems fantastical, just wait until you see the journey.”

Thomas also wrote a dissenting opinion.

“I do not pretend that Alabama is blameless when it comes to its sordid history of racial politics,” Thomas said. “But, today the state is not the one that is culpable. Its redistricting effort was indeed tainted, but it was tainted by our voting rights jurisprudence and the uses to which the Voting Rights Act has been put.”

In Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama and Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, the challengers had argued that the Republican-led Legislature packed black voters into districts in which minority voters already comprised a majority to make other districts more white and Republican following the last census.
Read more:

USA Today Reports how the Court nixed the redistricting that packed in black voters in Alabama by Richard Wolf

WASHINGTON - A deeply divided Supreme Court dealt a blow to a Republican redistricting plan in Alabama on Wednesday, that packed black voters into urban districts to dilute their impact elsewhere.  By a 5-4 vote and over the vigorous objection of its lone black member (Justice Thomas) the court upheld the objections raised by Democratic and black lawmakers and sent the case back for further review by a lower court.

The decision represents a legal reversal from earlier decades, when the federal government forced mostly Southern states to create "majority-minority" districts more likely to elect black lawmakers. Now, the justices are saying it may be illegal to have too many blacks clustered in one district at the expense of others. 

Although I'm not an expert on voting rights or gerrymandering, my opinion of Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia aren't helped by their "apoplectic" response to the 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling. It seems to me, both  of these justices have out served their ability to be objective.  In modern Supreme Court deliberations these two justices have become caricatures of right wing conservatism. They've lost their credibility. Nonetheless, these justices are two votes Americans must contend with until another president has the opportunity to appoint more reasonable replacements.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yemen’s Former Ambassador Charles Dunbar spoke to Topsham group

Yemen’s Former Ambassador Charles Dunbar spoke to Topsham group

A timely presentation by Ambassador Charles Dunbar (link above).  
Following the presentation came more disturbing news out of Yemen.  Files about U.S. intelligence operations taken by Yemen rebels: LA Times

(Reuters) - Yemeni intelligence files containing information about U.S.-supported counter terrorism operations and the names of informants have been looted by Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper, citing U.S. officials, said the information was taken when the Houthi fighters seized the office of Yemen's National Security Bureau, which had worked with the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

It added that intelligence officials believed additional files were given to Iranian advisers by Yemeni officials supporting the rebels.

The paper said there was no sign, however, that the Houthi militias had gained direct control of U.S. intelligence files.

But it said the loss of the intelligence played a role in the Obama administration's move to evacuate its remaining personnel from Yemen last weekend, including about 100 special operations forces. The report did not say when the files were seized.

The end of a U.S. security presence inside the country has dealt a blow to Washington's ability to monitor and fight al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate.

Yemen has been hurtling toward civil war since last year when Houthi militia seized the capital, Sanaa, effectively removing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a U.S. ally who had supported Washington’s campaign of deadly drone strikes on the al Qaeda branch based in Yemen.

The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies declined comment on the Los Angeles Times report.

Clearly, the world is at war with radical Islamic extremists. There's a preponderance of evidence to support the increasing violence against western interests is growing, by Islamic fringe groups.  

Now, with intelligence information compromised in Yemen (and the country's president having escaped!), it's just a matter of time before an event of ominous consequences brings the world leaders around to admit the obvious.

Enormity and gravity of Germanwings air disaster in French alps

A New York Times scoop on information from the Germanwings voice recorder recovered from the airplane's bombastic crash site leaps through several theories about what happened to bring the flight to a disasterous collision with a mountain. An unbelievable debris field is now littering a mountain in the French alps.

It's difficult for anyone to say the obvious, but if the end of the Germanwings flight was caused by nefarious criminal actions, the enormity and gravity of the information will lead to a "Lusitania" type crossroads.

RMS Lusitania sunk by a German U boat in 1915, when 1,198 people died including 128 Americans

In 1915, the sinking of the British RMS Lusitania by a German U Boat, was a definitive incident that led to the exacerbation of World War I.  Germans fired on a non-military ship without warning. As a result, the sinking caused a storm of protest in the United States, as 128 Americans were among the dead. The ship's deliberate sinking helped shift public opinion in the United States against Germany and influenced America's eventual declaration of war in 1917, when the US entered to support the allies.  

Intelligence about the Germanwings crash reveals some evidence to support an unusual event in the airplane's cockpit. It's sobering to ponder what will happen if all reasons for the airplane's descent into a mountain in the alps are ruled out and criminal intent is determined to be the cause of the crash. Nevertheless, the crash of the Germanwings aircraft has opened a Lusitania type situation for the European nations. It was only a matter of time before a disaster would follow the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine. Now, the Europeans including the English, the French, the Spanish and the Germans must respond. A delayed response is not acceptable. If criminal intent is the cause of the air crash where 150 people were murdered, the root cause of the nefarious act must be determined so a rapid response can be launched.  

Sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the Germanwings air disaster.  

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Germanwings is another mysterious air accident without apparant cause or distress signal

Regardless if the Germanwings air disaster was caused by human error, aircraft anomaly or criminal intent, the Europeans have every reason to be alarmed.

It's difficult to believe the Germanwings aircraft disaster in the French Alps was the result of pilot error or an engine anamoly. In the unlikely event the airplane's pilot experienced an in flight emergency, it's likely a distress call would have been sent. It seems more likely that something overtook the airplane in mid air, causing it to crash into the Alps, killing everyone of the 150 passengers, including many children.

If criminal intervention is proven in the Germanwings air disaster, the incident will be the equivalent of the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania, the world's largest passenger ship at the time she was attacked by a German U Boat, causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew.

Obviously, the evidence to either prove or disprove any criminal intent in the Germanwings crash will have to be convincing. There's an incendiary environment in Europe right now, following the terrorist attacks in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, with subsequent killings at a Jewish Kosher grocery market and the murder of a policewoman. Therefore, the prospect of retaliation against the "Je suis Charlie" spontaneous European response to the attacks seems likely to be launched by terrorists.

A cause for the Germanwings air crash must be quickly forthcoming. If criminal intent is proven, then Europe must take more of a role in responding to terrorism than just organizing a massive street march, like Je Suis Charlie. Nevertheless, whether the airliner crash was caused by criminal intent, structural weakness, human error or mechanical failure, the startling loss of another airplane is a startling reminder, yet again, about how vulnerable innocent people are the victims of terrorism. Somehow, the terrorism spiral threat must end, but there appears to be no viable path to a solution.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Ask Marilyn - response to reader about not paying terrorism ransoms

Readers of the popular Parade Magazine don't expect the genious "Ask Marilyn" column to provide important humanitarian advice. Usually, the genius responses are answers to readers questions related to complicated existential issues.  

But, on Sunday, March 22, 2015, Marilyn's answer was about the lives of American hostages, who are at risk of execution unless a ransom is paid to save them from a horribly violent death.  

Many of the barbaric executions were conducted on videos, attributed to the English speaking hangman given the name Jihadi John.  He's obviously a British man, identified by his accent, who is thought to be the person seen in several videos produced by the Islamic extremist group ISIL, showing the beheadings of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015

An "Ask Marilyn" reader, who signed the query, "M.V. New York", wrote, "Can you tell me what's so wrong with the U.S. paying ransoms for hostages held by terrorists? Even a price in the millions is paltry compared to our government's vast financial resources, and it's obviously morally right to use a micro-percentage of it to save American lives."

Marilyn responded, "This is an example of how an action that may be morally right may also be unwise to actually perform.  First, paying ransoms to liberate hostages puts a price tag on every American, thus encouraging terrorists to take more hostages.  Second, which may be even worse, is that ransom payments help fund the various activities of the terrorist organisations, thus making them stronger and helping them grow and succeed in their mission.  This is why hostage trading is usually  preferable."

"Ask Marilyn" has affirmed the correct international hostages policy, meaning absolutely no ransoms. Marilyn Savant is a qualified genius. Her advise on this somber subject is a must read for all, especially for the evil hostage taking terrorists.  

In other words, executions of innocents won't bring terrorists any advantage. (By the way, Jihadi John is a dead man walking. As a matter of fact, I can't imagine anyone in the history of humankind who would even consider paying a single piece of black coal to ransom Jihadi John's life.)  

Thank you Marilyn Savant for explaining the obvious.

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Hospitals: LePage budget threatens medical services

Hospitals: LePage budget threatens medical services

Maine has one consistent  and major quality of life network in the state's high quality of medical care, accessible at the community level.  In other words, nearly every community has access to health care.  This provider network has saved thousands of lives while providing excellent employment for generations.  Therefore, as the governor moves forward with cuts to this infrastructure to the quality of life in Maine, where the oldest "per capita" population needs access to care, the best of the best in Maine will be eroded.  

Proposed cuts to mental and behavioral health will increase stress on municipalities to provide more emergency medical services.  

It's irresponsible and unconscionable for Governor LePage, a man who claims to care about domestic violence and "the underdog", to support these terrible health care cuts.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Senator Ted Cruz claims Elmer Gantry credentials

Ted Cruz wants a new job. He wants to transfer his Elmer Gantry charisma to become President of the United States. His campaign is based on incendiary rhetoric about preventing a nuclear Iran and protecting the Constitutional Second Amendment. Cruz believes the Second Amendment is somewhow exempt from the Ten Commandments law of "Thou  Shalt Not Kill".  Rather, the Second Amendment envisioned by Cruz will provide for everybody to carry guns, regardless of how many people die preventable deaths as a result of gun violence.

Obviously, everybody who wants a new job knows how important it is to have a current resume. So, let's take a look at the resume for Senator Ted Cruz, because he will proclaim his intention to be President of the United States when he campaigns for the Republican 2016, nomination.

Here's what we know:

Senator Cruz was born on December 22, 1970 in Calgary, Canada.
He is, in fact, the son of American Hispanic immigrants.  He's the first Hispanic Senator to be elected in Texas.  He received his education from Princeton and Harvard - hardly right wing religious institutions. It's possible Senator Cruz wants to run for the lofty job as President because the likelihood of being re-elected Senator is at risk, when voters figure out how his conservatism is inconsistent with his immigrant ancestry and liberal education, in his resume.

Meanwhile, to increase his name recognition, so it isn't a barrier to his ambitious goals, Cruz has led uncompromising and intransigent moves to obstruct any progressive political agendas. Apparently, the Senator's Harvard education didn't enlighten Cruz about how to be a high minded statesman.  

Unfortunately, it's difficult to understand how Cruz learned to be such a right wing obstructionist, when his resume indicates that he should know better.

Senator Cruz acts like a modern day Elmer Gantry. Nevertheless, his Canadian roots and academic education should have taught him to be much more liberal than he presents to the public.

When Sinclair Lewis created his protagonist Elmer Gantry, he described a man who preferred easy money while converting a traveling tent revival crusade. "Easy money" for Cruz will be tunneled to him via the conservative Koch brothers funnel. They will keep the Cruz crusade for President going, regardless of how inconsistent his resume is with conservative credentials.

It's very difficult to understand how Senator Cruz can become President of the United States when we know he was born in Canada. We love Canadians. Nevertheless, given the brouhaha over where President Obama was born, when he was challenged by "birthers", who said he was born in Kenya, it's impossible to understand the duplicitous presentation of the Canadian birthplace of Cruz, who admits he wasn't born in the US.  

In my opinion, Senator Cruz wants money. He's running for President because the cash he earns will be like picking low hanging fruit. Cruz will eventually earn big bucks in speakers fees while he sells his Elmer Gantry political crusade, supporting right wing "windmills". Between speaking engagements, he'll spends his hot Texas summers in a private ocean resort. There are no statesman like credentials in the Cruz resume to be President of the United States. Moreover, Democrats must continue to remind voters about the inconsistencies in the Cruz resume.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Crimea - so what has Russia done for you "lately"?

".....extraterritoriality — meaning exempted from local law — and it negates all past efforts to stop Chechnya from being an extraterritorial region...." ( In other words....seems like Russia has created a Crimea where law is a territorial limbo zone.)

Ukraine a year later without Crimea is a grim anniversary. 

Russia stole the Crimea from the Ukraine, but the separation hasn't exactly been an idyllic transformation.

Nevertheless, even if the Crimean people may have some "buyers regret" about the aggressive move toward a unification with Russia, the fact remains that rejoining the Ukraine may not be the country's primary choice.

Why Russia Won Nothing in Chechnya
By Ivan Sukhov  Mar. 18 2015 17:52

Events connected with the investigation into the murder of (Putin opposition leaers) Boris Nemtsov have forced Russian society to face an issue it has long put off: the situation in Chechnya. 

The federal center has resorted to the large-scale use of force twice over the last quarter-century in order to suppress the separatist movement there. It claims to have succeeded in that struggle, but has it really?

In the late fall of 2014, Moscow police, with support from the special forces, attempted to detain someone in the capital who was suspected of conducting fraudulent cash transactions. However, the special forces were unable to even enter the hotel where the suspect was staying. The man's armed guards fought off the officers, almost resorting to hand-to-hand combat. As a result, the suspect fled and the police operation was cancelled.

The investigator from the Moscow criminal investigation department who planned the sting operation lost his job, although he was one of the "golden group" of Moscow police. It turned out that the man they had wanted to detain was Ramzan Tsitsulayev, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's special enjoy to Ukraine. Tsitsulayev lives openly in Chechnya, but Moscow investigators lack the resources to bring him to justice.

In February 2015, a group of Dagestani residents were charged with planning the murder of Saigidpasha Umakhanov, the mayor of the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt. Dagestani investigators had done a great deal of work, even managing to infiltrate the group that received instructions for the assassination.

Some of the results of that investigation were published. That information revealed that one of Kadyrov's advisors, the separatist Shaa Turlayev, was the mastermind behind the planned murder. 

Everything about him is known — his name, job, even his home and work telephone numbers. Dagestani investigators know that Turlayev is connected with the group planning to assassinate the mayor. The only problem is, they cannot bring him to justice because he's in Chechnya.

This is what's called extraterritoriality — meaning exempted from local law — and it negates all past efforts to stop Chechnya from being an extraterritorial region.

The problem that Moscow investigators face in the Tsitsulayev case and that Dagestani investigators face in the Turlayev case is no different than the difficulties that Russian prosecutors encountered when trying to obtain timely information in the search for those who had kidnapped and killed four foreign engineers whose heads were found beside a Chechen road in October 1998.

The only difference is that in 1998, Chechnya was de facto independent, whereas now, at least ostensibly, it is not. In fact, Moscow practically holds up Chechnya as an example for other Russian regions to emulate.

Of course, it is wrong to conclude that everything in Chechnya has been going badly in recent years based on the failure of a few investigations. After all, the Chechen war ended long ago and Grozny has been rebuilt and outshines every other city in the North Caucasus.

What's more, Chechnya is perhaps the only place in Russia that not only scrupulously accounts for every ruble it receives from the federal budget, but where residents can even show you every building, road and bridge that that money has purchased. Taken together, that cannot but create a very positive impression.

But, who resides within those new buildings and drives over those new roads and bridges? The problem is not that part of Chechnya's current establishment consists of former separatists. That is nothing to be ashamed of — in fact, it shows that Russia not only found a positive solution to the conflict, but also has something positive to offer, if former die-hard freedom fighters have given up their struggle.

The problem is that those former rebels have never adopted Russian laws. Chechnya is a unique experiment, although the locals are usually reluctant to discuss the subject with outsiders. 

Of course, every Russian region has its share of legal abuses, but Chechnya has become a practically lawless society.

The stabilization of Chechnya is touted as one of, if not the main domestic victory of Putin's rule. Indeed, events in Chechnya played a significant role in Vladimir Putin's rise to power. 

And whereas prior to Putin, Chechnya was a Somalia-like failed state in the patchwork fabric of Russia's North Caucasus, and still lay in ruins during the early years of Putin's rule, by about the end of his second presidential term the situation in Chechnya took a turn for the better.

Apparently, the point is not whether automobile showrooms and jewelry stores now stand on the site of former ruins, but that, for example, Russian officialdom completely ignored the 15th anniversary of the heroic death of the 6th company of the Pskov Airborne Division.

In the spring of 2000, those men encountered a huge gang of insurgents on a wooded hill above the Chechen village of Ulus-Kert. Almost every soldier in the company was killed, but the survivors did not flinch or give up.

Only the surviving paratroopers, the relatives of the slain and Russian nationalists commemorated that battle, even while the Russian media suggested several times recently that a Chechen who shoots someone whom he feels has insulted Islam can be considered a patriot.

There are no grounds for asserting that some of the insurgents who killed the Pskov paratroopers at Ulus-Kert now hold official positions in Grozny, but more than a few Russian siloviki and law enforcement officers working with Chechnya are veterans of the war there.

And whenever they confront a cynical silence in response to their latest request for assistance with an arrest, for example, they must ask themselves: Was it really worth it to fight two wars to restore constitutional order here if it was never actually restored? Are the people holding power in Chechnya the same who rained heavy fire down on Russian positions in Grozny in 1996 and 2000? If so, then what victory was achieved there?

But this "victory" in Chechnya became the foundation not only for Putin's first election campaign, but for the renaissance of imperial ideology, militarization and the readiness to achieve future victories.

The entire current political system in Russia is based on the assumption that in Chechnya, after long years of struggle, numerous erred decisions and countless victims, victory is finally secure. Too much stands on that idea, on that foundation, to simply admit now that it is untrue.

And yet that is exactly the conclusion that the investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov will demonstrate if the authorities conduct it honestly, impartially and without fear of recrimination.

That is the type of investigation desired by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of military personnel, police, prosecutors, FSB agents and military intelligence officers who fought and now work in Chechnya for the restoration of constitutional order, and not for the creation of an odious and expensive regime that is quasi-colonial in every sense of the word.

They understand how things actually stand, and are deeply and personally offended by it. But their complaint will never be heard by a society that believes it achieved victory in Chechnya.

In a sense, it is not Chechnya that has adopted Russia's constitutional order, but Russia that has assimilated much of what has become customary in Chechnya over the last 10 years.

Ivan Sukhov is a journalist who has covered conflicts in Russia and the CIS for the past 15 years.

It seems to me, the Crimea will soon be set adrift on its own, without a viable government.  It's possible the Ukraine will never reclaim this former region, but Russia won't have unmitigated access to the region, either. This is a terrible situation for the people in the Crimea. Nevertheless, they voted for the separation from the Ukraine.  What were they thinking?

Obviously, an example of "be careful what you wish for".  

They must ask, "So, what has Russia done for us, lately?"

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Capitalism is an economic system where wealth is shared - Republicans Alert

"...look at what Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton did when he inherited a $6.2 billion state deficit from Republican Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty cut state taxes to show his credentials as a presidential candidate. After eight years in office, Pawlenty left office with a 7 percent unemployment rate and a total of only 6,200 new jobs."

Republicans who praise the laurels of living in a Capitalist society have no idea about what this really means. Listen up Republicans! Capitalism means "sharing the wealth".  In other words, tax money must be reinvested to help the civilized world to progress.

Columnist Tom Zirpoli of the Carroll County Times writes about how investing tax money improved economies:

Best states invest in education

Tom Zirpoli
March 18, 2015

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is following the GOP's failed philosophy of trying to boost the state's economy by cutting taxes. Never mind that, according to Hogan, Maryland already has a significant deficit. Never mind that he has already proposed drastic cuts to education funding to help balance the budget, and that cutting taxes will only make it necessary to make more cuts on the backs of our children.

There is now overwhelming evidence that cutting state taxes does not grow a state's economy or create jobs. This experiment was tried on the national level by President George W. Bush, who cut taxes and then watched the federal budget surplus he inherited disappear. Oh, and then there was the Great Recession of 2008 -- so much for growing the economy by cutting taxes.

The evidence is also overwhelming at the state level, where Republican governors and legislatures have watched their states' deficits grow and their economies fail after big tax cuts. Then, in response to their recklessness, they cut education funding instead of restoring the revenue.

Hogan wants to cut Maryland K-12 education funding by $144 million because, according to his budget secretary,David Brinkley, "We want responsible budgeting here." But there is nothing responsible about cutting revenue while proposing massive cuts to our children's education.

Hogan is following the same failed formula of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Arizona Gov. Douglas Ducey of cutting state taxes, growing the state deficit and then cutting education funding to balance the budget on the back of the states' children.

Instead, Hogan should look at what Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton did when he inherited a $6.2 billion state deficit from Republican Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty cut state taxes to show his credentials as a presidential candidate. After eight years in office, Pawlenty left office with a 7 percent unemployment rate and a total of only 6,200 new jobs.

Dayton raised state taxes on the rich and raised the state minimum wage after he took office. Minnesota now has the fourth highest state income tax rate in the country. His actions were called a "jobs killer" by state Republicans. However, after four years in office, between 2011 and 2015, Minnesota added 172,000 new jobs, the unemployment rate dropped from 7 percent under Pawlenty to 3.6 percent under Dayton and the state now has a $1 billion surplus which it can invest into better schools, stronger infrastructure and better services for its citizens.

As a result, Forbes rates Minnesota the 9th best state in the nation for business. In the same study, Forbes rated Walker's Wisconsin, next door to Minnesota, one of the worst states to do business. When will Republicans learn that businesses want to locate in states that invest in education, infrastructure, technology and good services for citizens? Smart business men and women want the best schools for their own children. They also understand that to attract strong employees they need to be located in states with good schools and other family services.

Interestingly, Dayton's family founded Target department stores and he is a billionaire. Yet, he campaigned on higher taxes for the rich and investing 33 percent of the tax increase to the state's public education system.

Dayton's strategy has been a big success. Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, Louisiana, Arizona, Kentucky and other GOP states where taxes have been cut and education funding slashed, the deficits keep rising and job creation lags behind the national average.

Hopefully, Hogan will look at the data and update his economic plan for Maryland. Simply put, Marylanders want to keep our strong public education system and are willing to pay for it. If retired folks want to move to Pennsylvania to avoid taxes on their retirement, good riddance. 

They are not the folks who will be growing the economy in Maryland's future; our children, however, will.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sophisticated technology can't detect a Congressional approval rating - Andy Borowitz

From what Andy Borowitz (of The New Yorker) reports, the US Congress needs urgent cardiac political care, because even modern technology can't detect a public approval rating.

When Americans vote for Senators and the Congress, we seem to fall into a misguided belief that we "own" the  winners of the elections.  In other words, if the candidate we voted for wins the election, it's wrongly assumed they owe us a political debt, regardless of the harm this potentiality causes to other constituents, who happen to have voted against them. This tug of war has created political grid lock in Washington DC.  Obviously, the inability of Congress to collaborate in a bi-partisan way, like political leaders should, has destructively polarized the nation.  

Important national issues that once united Americans by our heritages, like the Emma Lazarus inscription in the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", are now contentiously splitting civilized people into arguments about immigration.  

Every  person who is a US Citizen is descended from one or more of the tired, poor and huddled masses.  

Like Lazarus in the New Testament, entrance into the United States as immigrants, really did raise masses of people to new lives, brilliant with the hope of prosperity, heretofore unheard of in the history of the human race.  

Nevertheless, political polarization by anti immigration right wing extremism would, probably, destroy the Lazarus inscription on the Statue of Liberty, rather than support its vision of a better world for the tired, poor and huddled masses. It's likely America's immigration  history, for these selfish people, is romanticized revisionism. They ignore their own heritages.

So, the list of stalemate issues is too long to elaborate in this blog. Of course, there are plenty of other Maine Writer blogs to expound on my overall theme.  Yet, none of the essays, blogs, opinions and rants says it any better than Andy Borowitz, in The New Yorker blog of March 13, 2015

Congress’s Approval Rating No Longer Detectable by Current Technology BY ANDY BOROWITZ

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – After a challenging week for the legislative body, the approval rating of the United States Congress has shrunk to a point where it is no longer detectable by the technology currently available, a leading pollster said on Friday.

Davis Logsdon, who heads the highly regarded Opinion Research Institute at the University of Minnesota, said that his polling unit has developed highly sensitive measurement technology in recent years to gauge Congress’s popularity as it fell into the single digits, but added that “as of this week, Congress is basically flatlining.”

“At the beginning of the week, you could still see a slight flicker of approval for Congress,” he said. “Then—bam!—the lights went out.”

Logsdon said, however, that people should resist drawing the conclusion that Congress’s approval rating now stands at zero. “They may have support in the range of .0001 per cent or, say, .0000001 per cent,” he said. “Our equipment just isn’t advanced enough to measure it.”

Logsdon said that the swift descent of Congress’s approval rating below detectable levels has surprised experts in the polling profession. “A couple of years ago, when they shut down the government, I wondered, What could they possibly do to become less popular than this?” the pollster said. “Now we know.”

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Debulking email- there's no "there" there

It's impossible to understand how Mrs. Hillary Clinton's email became such a tempest in a tea pot. Wake up you media frenzies! Email is not the place where Mrs. Clinton would disclose her darkest secrets or reveal national security  Those  who are craving a revelation of extraordinary information are somehow forgetting who the victim is in this soap opera. Mrs. Clinton is the lady who has been investigated for every conceivable "windmill" in the political quagmire of media controversies, not one of them proving any substance. She isn't about to start putting anything of substance on email, when she's been abused by media bullies for decades without any evidence at all!  So, media freaks, and even main stream pundits who keep putting this non story in the headlines are loosing sight of who they are dealing with.  Rather than criticize Mrs. Clinton for her management of mega thousands of emails, these talking heads should, instead, read the  messages for any inconsistencies. If there's really email news there, so be it.....but there won't be anything to report. 

The Daily Beast is reporting on a deflation of this stupid story.

A surgical debulking of Mrs. Clinton's email would deflate the issue.  Of course, there's no cure for this media email fanatacism, but until somebody finds information to react to, there's no "there" there.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Sad commentary - only the dead have seen the end of war

A decade and a half after 9/11, the war on terror continues to open new fronts from Syria to Libya to Nigeria. And it’s hard to see this changing under a Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush administration. Perpetual war is unlikely to end in our lifetimes. Until we accept this, the post-9/11 erosion of human rights is likely to continue.- Rosa Brooks
Our civilization has proably never experienced a time of total peace. Humans have a habit of killing each other off, for reasons usually rooted in greed, religious dominance, political power or sex.   

In our time, the concept of peace could become an anachronism. Terrorism, religious zealotry and fear have replaced peace in our vernacular. In other words, the word peace risks becoming a decorative symbol on Christmas cards. Never to be a reality.

Columnist Rosa Brooks writes "There's no such thing as peace", in Foreign Policy News (FP). Here are a few excerpts from her colum:

There’s No Such Thing as Peacetime

We've spent years believing the war on terror will end and civil liberties will be safe again. 

It's time to accept that the war will go on forever -- and take steps to protect life and liberty in the new normal.

Most of us view perpetual war as deeply inimical to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

We’re not wrong: Since the 9/11 attacks, two successive U.S. presidential administrations have embraced indefinite detention, massive secret surveillance programs, covert cross-border targeted killings, and a host of other troubling practices. In reaction, those concerned with rights and the rule of law have called for an end to the post-9/11 “war paradigm,” insisting that counterterrorism should not be conceptualized as war and urging a return to a law enforcement framework.

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

“I do not believe America’s interests are served by endless war or by remaining on a perpetual war footing,” President Barack Obama said in February. That this statement came as the U.S. president unveiled his request for Congress to authorize military force against yet another enemy — the self-styled Islamic State, this time — was an irony lost on few observers.

In the century’s first 15 years, the United States has already fought two large-scale ground wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and used air power and special operations forces to kill perceived enemies in a dozen other places, from Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya to Somalia, the Philippines, and Syria.

The stunning rise of the Islamic State is yet another reminder that turning the page on war is easier said than done. The notion that states can monopolize violence seems increasingly quaint: The technologies of destruction are cheap and widely available, and acts of brutality can easily be broadcast on YouTube and Twitter

We are, as the military puts it, in an era of persistent conflict. It’s an era that won’t end soon.

Brooks provides an in depth analysis about how the concepts of war and peace infringe on our human rights, and freedoms and especially on our civil liberties. Although much of her essay is a legal brief, her premise is chilling.  Peace in our time cannot be adequately defined, because the old fashioned rules developed by previous eras and civilizations to define "war" and "peace" no longer apply.  In fact, they're obsolete. Therefore, it logically makes sense, she writes, to reconsider the rules about war, in a "new normal" world, where the concept of peace cannot be experienced.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Vladimir Putin disappears: doing an international side step

Personally, I don't believe Russian President Putin is missing. Rather, I believe he's a coward who's hiding behind his Italian mistress, who may have given birth to his love child. (Congratulations, Mr. Putin!)
In fact, on previous posts in Maine Writer blog, I've reported how Putin's mortality will ultimately bring about a collapse of his bloodthirsty Russian regime. 

Unfortunately, it would be too bad if Putin happened to die, before his evil puppet Bashar al-Assad of Syria, was taken out of this earth.

Eventually, Putin will wind up in a mausoleum, similar to Les Invalides, where Napoleon Bonaparte is entombed, in Paris.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has created international drama about his whereabouts. Ironically, his disappearing act happened after he was publicly scorned over a series of ambitiously dangerous events, culminating with the assassination of opposition leader Mr. Boris Nemtsov, by assailants who don't really seem to be the root cause of the murder.

Now the report of a love child born of his gorgeous Italian mistress has surfaced. 

Given the evidence of how President Putin adores looking at himself, shirtless, plus knowing how his ego craves attention, I'm thinking he's deliberately playing a side step with the media.
Maybe, he's finally had a chance to see the funny movie "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas".  Putin's penchant for the macho is attracted to  glitzy titles like "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas".  Perhaps, Putin was as smitten as all fans of this movie are with the soliloquy by Charles Durning, the brilliant actor, who plays a corrupted Texas governor.  

In Dunning's performance, he sings the following lyrics:

Fellow Texans, I am proudly
) Standing here to humbly say
) I assure you
) And I mean it
) Now, who says I don't speak out as plain as day?
) And fellow Texans
) I'm for progress and the flag
) Long may it fly
) I'm a poor boy come to greatness
) So it follows that I cannot tell a lie
What the hell did he say?
Same as usual. Not a damn thing.

) Ooh, I love to dance a little sidestep
) Now they see me, now they don't, I've come and gone
) And ooh, I love to sweep around the wide step
) Cut a little swath and lead the people on...

God rest the soul of Charles Durning (1923-2012)

It's too optimistic to believe Mr. Putin will soon have a dash in his biography. Yet, just my opinion, but Vladimir Putin is artfully doing a "Durning" side step, in his international disappearing act. Nevertheless, Putin's mortality is as inevitable as that of his egotistical predecessor, Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

American "volunteers" fighting ISIS - this is news can they really fight without pay?

So,  this is the dangerous news the evil ISIS (Islamic State) was waiting to hear. American fighters are volunteering to be with the Iraqi army to defeat ISIS. These volunteers are not "American troops on the ground", say unsourced reports. Rather, they're volunteers. Nevertheless, the Americans are young men who look, to me, like they're capable of having good paying jobs at home. 

So, the question is , who's paying their expenses while they "volunteer" to fight the evil ISIS? Regardless of who's paying, or if they're truely volunteers, the fact is, it's just a matter of tiem before somebody is captured by ISIS.  Then what?

Apparently, the American volunteer fighters have an altruistic mission to reclaim the war they and others fought to win.  Other reports claim the Americans are just "media props". So, their purpose is unclear.

Here's what The Daily Beast is reporting:

Americans ‘Fighting ISIS’ Are Just Props

They went to Iraq and Syria to battle the (ISIS) beheaders. 

But when they got there, they were treated like prisoners—unless reporters were around.

ERBIL, Iraq — They’ve become icons of the ISIS war: foreign fighters, clad in their fatigues, wrapped in checkered keffiyehs, clutching AK-47s, and battling both for and against the so-called Islamic State.

But fresh out of leaving Syria, one American anti-ISIS fighter is cautioning that would-be volunteers’ expectations of battling jihadis don’t sync up with his experience on the ground.

“We were never really engaged in combat. We were never really taken to an area that could be considered the frontline. We were treated very poorly. We were kept in very poor conditions, and the only time we were put in good accommodations was in preparation for interviews for media that were coming through,” said Patrick, who joined the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) last winter before leaving the group in February.

Now speaking safely from the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil, Patrick agreed to be interviewed for this story on the condition he remain anonymous, as he is concerned about retaliation by ISIS or its sympathizers. Although Patrick is the only one of his former YPG comrades who consented to a formal interview, others he served with have supported his version of events off the record.

Patrick stressed that though he can’t speak for the experiences of all foreign fighters aiding the Kurds, he feels a good number of them now feel lied to about the role they would be playing against ISIS. Many of his fellow fighters, he said, now wish to leave the YPG due to their disillusionment with how it placed its volunteers in front of cameras and not on the frontline.

So, in Julie's opinion, all American fighters are at risk for being prime prisoners of war for the evil ISIS. Now that these American volunteers are subjected to media interviews, it's just a matter of time until one of them is captured and held hostage in front of video cameras. I can't bring myself to consider the consequences of this potential inevitability.

In my opinion, American volunteer fighters in Iraq are useless. They risk putting American security and clandestine operations in the cross-hairs ....unless...and this is another possibility, they're deliberately being used as decoys. 

Regardless of how the American volunteer fighters in Iraq are motivated, somebody is helping to fund their altruism. Who?

Let's pray for everyone's well being as the armies fight for the destruction of evil ISIS. Yet, at the same time, we must question how American volunteer fighters will be effective, when it's the Iraqi army that must win their nation back from evil ISIS.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

An Army Officer responds to the #47Senators letter inappropriately sent to Iran

"...this letter has and will continue to do serious damage..." retired Army Officer. 

Newspapers throughout the nation and Europe are denouncing the inappropriate letter signed by 47 Republcian Senators, who interered with foriegn relations by signing a stupid letter to undermine delicate international negotiations with Iran.  They're regretting their ambitious actions, especially since they've experienced a barrage of criticism deluged on them by the media. Yet, it's the military who are voicing the most compelling outrage against the actions of the pack of 47, led by the junior (sophomoric) senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton.  A retired senior US Army Officer sent me this letter today, used with his permission:

"I have spent most of my adult years working on issues affecting this country’s national security, including as a military officer and as a diplomatic representative. I cannot express in strong enough language my disappointment with the members of the US Senate who co-signed the March 9, 2015 letter sent to the Iranian leadership."

"There is no escaping that this letter has and will continue to do serious damage to this government’s reputation within the international community, as well as likely damaging our credibility in all future dealings with foreign governments, including our allies. As for the Iranian negotiations, this letter has the potential of undermining the political and economic pressures that underpin these efforts."

"If the intent of the letter is to scuttle the negotiations, as stated by its author, what then? War? This mindless partisanship has really gone too far."

Senate GOP’s Iran letter sparks American outrage, #47Traitors is a Twitter trend

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