In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2015 at 12:16 am

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States is going to become more complicated.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security.  And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope?  The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

Your old New York driver’s license may make it harder for you to fly in 2016 | syracuse.com

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.  As one soon-to-be affected New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certifcate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.  A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, whch gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Got all that?

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports.  They certainly looked impressive.  But passengers would have felt far less reassured had they known the assault rifles they carried had no bullets.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching this going on assume: “The security guard must know what he’s looking for.  So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience.  Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, security guards earned a median average salary of $24,070 in 2013. The best-paid earned about $43,150, while the lowest-paid made approximately $17,510.

Repeated showings of security theater can be seen every weekday at the San Francisco Federal Building, at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.

To enter, you must show a driver’s license or State ID card.

Then you must remove

  • Your belt;
  • Your shoes;
  • Your watch;
  • Your wallet;
  • All other objects from your pants pockets;
  • Any jacket you’re wearing;
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying.

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Finally, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re allowed to enter.

Now, suppose you want to report a crime to the San Francisco field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

You take an elevator to the 13th floor and walk into a large room filled with several comfortable chairs that sit close to the floor. You approach a window such as you find in a bank–made of thick, presumably bulletproof glass.

A secretary on the opposite side greets you, and asks why you’ve come.

You offer your reason for wanting to speak with an agent. Assuming the secretary thinks you have a legitimate reason, she says you must first show her your driver’s license or State ID card.

You slide these through the bottom part of the glass window.  Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, you have to fill out a single-page form, which requires you to provide your:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Social Security Number;
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent.

Of course, you can refuse to fill out the form. But then the secretary will refuse to let you meet with an FBI agent.

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But this demand  for so much private information is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on October 7, 2015 at 12:40 am

Russia has started launching airstrikes in Syria to bolster the dictatorship of Syrian “president” Bashar al-Assad.

The Obama administration is worried. And Republicans are furious, with some of them demanding that American military forces directly confront the Russians..

But there is actually no reason for alarm.

On the contrary, there are several major reasons why the United States should quit Syria–now.

First, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safehouse in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–-the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

Second, there are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–-only murderers who have long served a tyrant and other murderers who now wish to become the next tyrant.

Third, the United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”  But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria–or what he intends to gain by attacking it.

President Obama has said he’s “not after regime-change.” If true, that would leave Syria’s brutal dictator, Bashar al-Assad in power–-and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

Fourth, Russia is intervening to support its longtime ally, Assad, which is now engulfed in civil war.

This began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of al-Assad.  More than 310,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Fifth, the Assad regime is backed by the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God). Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims.  A sworn enemy of Israel, it has  kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

Flag of Al Qaeda

Sixth, the United States hasn’t defeated ISIS through air power alone–and neither will Russia. 

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS in September, 2014.  Since then, the United States Air Force has dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL convoys.

But this has not destroyed ISIS.  And this failure has only led to demands by hawkish Republicans and Democrats for “boots on the ground.”

Seventh, China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–-and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.

Any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.

What happens if American and Russian forces start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–-that triggered World War l.

Eighth, while Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

* * * * *

The United States owes Syria–and the Syrians–nothing. But it does owe its own citizens security from Islamic terrorism.

That’s why it’s time to “let Vladimir do it.”

Putin’s intervention in Syria’s four-year civil war offers three possible outcomes for the United States.  And they’re all positive.

First, the Russians will kill thousands of America’s sworn enemies.

Russians are well-known for their disregard for human life.  During their invasion of Germany in 1945, Russian soldiers literally nailed civilians to barn doors, squashed them under their tanks, and raped countless women of all ages.

In Syria, they will slaughter everyone who gets in their way. Thus, they will kill far more of America’s Islamic enemies than even our own military–hamstrung by do-gooder “rules of engagement”–could possibly eliminate.

SecondRussia will replace the United States as “The Great Satan” in the eyes of  most Islamics.  

The Soviet Union waged a ruthless war against Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Out of that war grew Al-Qaeda.  Millions of Islamics still hate Russians for their brutalities.

From 1999 to 2009, Russia fought a brutal war against Islamics in Chechnya. Chechens responded with terrorism across Russia.

Russia’s intervention in Syria will only harden its image as an enemy of Islam–even if it’s supporting one group of Islamics (the Assad regime) against others.

If Islamic terrorism starts raging throughout Russia, Putin may be forced to back down from his military moves against Syria and Ukraine.

Third, if Russian planes get shot down or Russian soldiers kiled, Russia will suffer the casualties–not the United States.

The Soviet Union never fully recovered from its losses in Afghanistan–13,310 soldiers  killed, 35,478 wounded.

If Russia starts taking heavy losses in Syria or at home through terrorism, this could lead to widespread unrest.  Even Vladimir Putin could find himself in danger of being replaced.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States is going to become more complicated.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security.  And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope?  The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

Your old New York driver’s license may make it harder for you to fly in 2016 | syracuse.com

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.  As one soon-to-be affected New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certifcate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.  A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, whch gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Got all that?

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

And while TSA is beefing up security at the back door, the Obama administration is about to cast aside the front door.

On September 10, the administration announced that it will take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year.

That is on top of the 2,000 Islamic refugees the United States has already accepted.

According to U.S. Census data, America welcomes about 100,000 Muslim immigrants legally each year. This represents the fastest growing segment of immigrants coming to the United States.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.5 million Islamics in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts the figure at seven million.

The Troubling Math of Muslim Migration | National Review Online

And while all this is happening, the FBI is being overwhelmed by the demands of countering Islamic terrorism against the United States.

On July 8, FBI director James Comey testified before Congress about the increasing burdens his agency faces in combating terrorism.

“We are stopping these things [Islamic terror plots] so far through tremendous hard work, the use of sources, the use of online undercovers.

“But it is incredibly difficult.  I cannot see my stopping these indefinitely.”

Consider the math: The FBI has only 35,000 agents and analysts–against seven million potential suspects.

And only a portion of those agents and analysts are charged with investigating terrorism.

How did all of this come to be?

To start at the beginning: On March 15, 2011, protests broke out in Syria, with demonstrators demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

These protests, met with government repression, continued to grow into a wholesale civil war.  Since then, more than 310,000 Syrians people have been killed.

Put another way: More than 310,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never again pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe.

But European nations and the United States have chosen to see this truth as a negative, not a positive.

The United Nations refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimates that 366,402 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year.

And all it took to make this happen was a photo that’s been seen the world over: A photo of a three-year old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi, lying dead on a Turkish beach.

A parody of this picture highlights a Politically Incorrect truth:

While European nations are being swamped by hundreds of thousands of these uninvited “guests,” the Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing almost nothing for Syria’s refugees.

According to Amnesty International, the “six Gulf countries–Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain–have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”

These nations are far closer to Syria than are Europe and the United States.  And they contain some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets and its highest standards of living.

Note the contradiction: Democratic, non-Islamic countries are exposing themselves to increasing numbers of potential–if not actual–Islamic terrorists.  Meanwhile, the Arab world is closing its own doors to Syrian refugees

The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees – The Washington Post

* * * * *

During the 1980s, the United States waged a cold war against Islamic nations.  These acts of anti-American terrorism were seen as simply crimes, and not acts of war.

The September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center changed that.  For the last 14 years, the United States military has actively fought Islamics in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. And now Syria.

To be admitting huge numbers of a population with which the United States is now waging all-out war is worse than stupid.  It is a guarantee of national suicide.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on September 25, 2015 at 12:01 am


During a GOP primary debate on June 13, 2011, CNN moderator John King noted that FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–was about to run out of money.

And so he asked Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“There are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.

“How do you deal with something like that?”

“Absolutely,” Romney replied. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.

“And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut–we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What should we keep?

“We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?

“And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”

On October 30, 2012, one day after Hurricane Sandy lashed the densely-populated East Coast of the United States, reporters wanted to know if Romney still wanted to eliminate FEMA.

And, as he had on so many other issues, Mitt Romney once again refused to answer questions.

“Governor, are you going to eliminate FEMA?” a pool eporter shouted to Romney.

Hurricane Sandy

Romney refused to answer.

The reporter asked Romney at least five times: “If you’re elected President, would you eliminate FEMA?” and “What would you do with FEMA?”

No reply.

Another reporter asked: “Governor, are you going to see some storm damage?”

Again, no answer.

“Governor,. has Chris Christie invited you to come survey storm damage?”

No answer.

“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times, why are you refusing to answer the question?”

Again, Romney refused to reply.

Finally, under mounting public pressure, he gave this reply:


“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

“As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need.”

In a court of law, a defendant has the right to refuse to take the witness stand and answer questions.  And jurors are told by the judge they should not assume the defendant is guilty for doing so.

Courtrooms are often places for a game of let’s-pretend:

  • Let’s pretend that a man who’s accused of rape or murder is innocent–even if he refuses to answer legitimate questions; and
  • Let’s pretend that a truly innocent man wouldn’t want to clear himself from a totally false charge

But this is the real world.

And, in it, unlike a courtroom, experience teaches that:

  • People who are honest want to testify to that truth; and
  • People who refuse to answer legitimate questions usually do have something to hide.

Think of Richard Nixon refusing to answer questions about Watergate.

Think of Ronald Reagan refusing to take questions about Iran-Contra.

Think of George W. Bush refusing to take questions about why he ignored months of terrorism warnings before 9/11.

And think of Mitt Romney refusing to answer questions on any number of subjects.

So it’s natural to distrust those who refuse to give specific answers to specific questions–especially when those questions apply to matters that direclty affect people’s lives.

For millions of Americans who profess to be deeply religious, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 should have been instructive:

Ask, and it shall be given you.  Seek, and ye shall find.  Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For every one that asketh receiveth.  And he that seeketh findeth. And to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In a democracy, those words are a call to citizen action:




In the Soviet Union, the truth about the workings of government and the realities of everyday life was carefully guarded.

Only those who gained special access to the Kremlin’s hidden archives could learn at least some of that truth.

Everyone else had to settle for the official, self-serving, lie-filled pronouncements of the Soviet leadership.

But Americans have no such excuse.

They do have access to a wide range of news from differing sources–ranging from the far left to the far right.  At least 1,382 daily newspapers–both domestic and foreign– provide information on a wide range of national and international issues.

More than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks exist.  Among these: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, The CW.

Nevertheless, millions of Americans remain ignorant of the well-revealed truth about the issues that most affect their lives.

As a result, Cassius’ words to Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar apply to them:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”


In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2015 at 12:04 am

On November 7, 2013, American television culture took yet another step deeper into Toiletville.

It was the Two and Half Men episode, “Justice in Star-Spangled Hot Pants.”  And it starred Lynda Carter as the target of a crush that was both infantile and obscene.

Carter, of course, is the singer/actress best-known for her role as Wonder Woman (1975-1979).

And watching this episode of Men, it was hard to tell where the real-life Carter left off and the fictional character she was playing took over.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Here, in brief, was the plotline:

Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) learns that his roommate, Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher) knows Lynda Carter.

Having an enormous crush on Carter from his years of watching her as Wonder Woman, Alan asks Walden to set him up on a date with her.

Against his better judgment, Walden agrees to invite her to the house for dinner.

Now, if Carter had been playing a fictional character, there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with this premise. Nobody, after all, would have mistaken Laurence Olivier for Richard III.

But she wasn’t.  She was playing herself.

And, in her real-life self, she was then 62.  An admittedly good-looking 62, but, even so, a woman about 40 years older than the character (Alan) who wants to meet her.

And not simply meet her.  Bone her.

Bone her?  Yes–that’s exactly what he says when Walden initially turns down his request to introduce him to her: “Now I’ll never get to bone Lynda Carter.”

And since Carter was playing herself, it’s useful to recall that she is, in real-life, a married woman (since 1984 to attorney Robert Altman).

And the show achieved an even lower level of crassness when Walden says Alan is so desperate to meet Carter that he’d skulk around in the bushes in front of her house.

“Wow, Lynda Carter’s bush,” says Alan, practically salivating over the contemplation of a 62-year-old woman’s vagina.

But males weren’t the only gender who got to descend to new depths of bad taste in this episode. There was the character of Jenny (Amber Tamblyn), the lesbian sister of the departed character Charlie (Charlie Sheen).

Again, the show’s writers simply couldn’t resist the temptation to mix real-life with fantasy.

Jenny is, at first, not even aware who Lynda Carter is until Alan, shocked, clues her in on the juvenile series she’s best-known for.

And, after meeting Carter, Jenny remains unimpressed.  There’s an edginess in her voice as she comes face-to-face with the actress who’s well-known for supporting gay and lesbian rights.

“I understand you’re into cuffs,” she tells Carter–a reference to the “magic bracelets” worn by her character, Wonder Woman.

But it’s also a double entendre, conjuring up the image of Carter (perhaps in her Wonder Woman outfit) staked out on a bed in a bondage fantasy.

For all of Alan’s over-the-top infatuation with Carter, it’s not him that she’s interested in.  It’s his buddy, Walden (Ashton Kutcher).

Lynda Carter and Ashton Kutcher

And to prove it, she gives him a real smackeroo of a kiss.

Which may well have conjured up, for him, real-life memories of his May-December marriage to the actress Demi Moore.

Kutcher was 27 when he tied the knot with Moore in 2005.  Moore, by contrast, was 42.

The marriage ended in 2013, amid tabloid reports that Kutcher had cheated on her with Sara Leal, a 22-year-old San Diego-based administrative assistant.  Moore by then was 51.

Kutcher, born in 1978, was still rolling around in his cradle while Carter–born in 1951–was wrapping up her third and final season as Wonder Woman.

So, for Kutcher, maybe it was a case of deja vu all over again.

So much for network TV censors’ attitude toward sleaze.  Now for their attitude toward patriotism.

On Veterans Day from 2001 to 2004, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) aired the 1998 Steven Spielberg World War II classic, Saving Private Ryan, uncut and with limited commercial interruptions.

Both the grity, realistic battle scenes and profanity were left intact.

Storming the beach at Normandy in Saving Private Ryan

But in 2004, its airing was marked by pre-emptions by 65 ABC affiliates.

The reason: The backlash over Super Bowl XXXVIII’s halftime show controversy (starring the infamous bared breast of Janet Jackson).

The affiliates—28% of the network—did not clear the available timeslot for the film.

And this was even after the Walt Disney Company–which owns ABC–offered to pay all fines for language to the FCC.

No complaints, however, were lodged with the FCC.

It speaks volumes to the priorities–and values–of American television when a film honoring the wartime sacrifices of American soldiers is banned from network TV.

And it speaks volumes as well to the priorities–and values–of American television when a casually juvenile and crudity-laced series like Two and a Half Men becomes CBS’ biggest cash cow.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 23, 2015 at 10:33 am

On Friday, September 23, 2005, my phone rang at 5 a.m. The caller was James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist.  He had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

Now he informed me that my request for military honors for my late father was being processed.

But he warned me that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.

Later that morning I got a call from the National Personnel Records Center.

A woman named Connie asked me to type up and submit, via fax, a twice-signed statement declaring that, under penalty of perjury, the information I had provided about my father’s military service was true and correct.

Upon receipt of this, she would fax to the funeral home a copy of my father’s service number and Separation Document.

Shortly after faxing this off, I got a call from Ursula, another employee of the National Personnel Records Center.

She said that the above-mentioned items had been faxed to the Richard Pierce Funeral Service Chapel in Napa. All that I now had to do was arrange for the Chapel to make the arrangements with the military.

I called the Chapel around noon and was told that the documents had arrived, but that all of the home’s funeral directors were comforting grieving families.  I said I would call back later.

When I did, at about 1:45 p.m., I was told that the home’s director had been informed. Messages had been left with several military institutions, requesting an honor guard.

The question was: Would they call back in time?

So I called several numbers at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, finally reaching a chaplain at the Chaplain’s office.

Related image

Travis Air Force Base

He promised to do what he could for me.  He warned me that it might not be possible to assemble an honor guard on such short notice.

The reason: This was hurricane season, and many soldiers had been deployed to the Gulf Coast area to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

His parting words were an expression of sorrow for my loss, and “God bless you.”

Next, I spoke with Jacob Bergholtz, a senior airman at Travis Air Force Base.  He promised to make some calls on my behalf.

He also gave me the number to the Army Honor Guard and I put in a call.

Finally, in late afternoon, I got a call from Tina Patterson, with the Army at Fort Lewis in Washington State, and she assured me that “it’s a go.”

The military has a proud tradition of honoring its dead. Those who have died in combat are held in a special reverence. But even those who have died in peacetime still command respect for having served their country.

It was that tradition that, above all else, I had counted on to make this possible.

I was so caught off-guard by the unexpected good news that at the end I thanked “Miss Lewis” for all her help, then corrected myself and thanked her again.

At about 1:40 p.m. on Sunday, September 25, 2005, the front door to the funeral home opened and in walked three men wearing green military uniforms.

One was a bugler, who held the rank of sergeant.  The second was a sergeant, who would take part in the actual flag-folding.  And the third was a sergeant-major, who wuld preside over the ceremony.  A fourth sergeant was scheduled to arrive, and he soon did.

At 2 p.m., the memorial service began.

When the tributes ended to my father ended, the funeral director introduced the honor guard.  The buglar remained in the back of the chapel, as the other three strode to the front.

The bugler launched into “Taps” and gave it a melancholy feel, letting each note linger.

When the last notes died away, the sergeant-major ordered the two other sergeants to unfold the tri-cornered American flag that had been placed on a stand at the front of the chapel even before the ceremony had started.

Related image

A flag-folding ceremony

They did so, and then slowly re-folded it, in a process that took longer than I had imagined.

The flag folding ceremony now over, the sergeant-major accepted the flag, walked to my sister, Erica, leaned forward slightly, and presented it to her “on behalf of a grateful Nation and the Army” in recognition of the service of her father, Technical Sergeant Gerald A. White, for services to his country.

Erica accepted the flag, and I–sitting on her right side–saw her show emotion as she did so.

At 2:45 p.m., the four sergeants then strode out of the chapel, and the memorial service was over.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 22, 2015 at 11:53 am

It’s widely assumed that bureaucracies are so cumbersome they simply cannot be managed–by their own members or by anyone else.

But this isn’t always true.

The key ingredients to obtaining what you need from a bureaucracy–whether a public or private one–are:

  • Patience;
  • Perseverence;
  • Professionalism; and
  • A wilingness to go to the top of the organization’s hierarchy.

On September 21, 2005, I learned that my father, Gerald White, had died at 83, less than a month short of his 84th birthday.

He had been an artist, photographer and art director, including work for Playboy in the 1950s and the Mondavi Winery in the 1980s and 90s.

During World War 11 he had been posted in the Pacific Theater, serving in Burma, China and India.  He had held the rank of technical sergeant and worked as an official U.S. Army photographer.

On Wednesday, September 21, my sister, Erica, called me to say that Jerry had died of natural causes in a nursing home at 1:57 a.m.

She was driving up on Saturday to pack up his belongings and to preside over a memorial service for him in Napa. I told her that, as a veteran (1942-1945) he was entitled to a military funeral, or at least an honor guard.

Related image

World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I expected Erica to object–she tended to do that reflexively when I made a suggestion.  To my surprise, she didn’t, and she and I set out separately to explore the process of obtaining proof of his military service in time to qualify him for an honor guard.

But here we faced two problems:

  1. Neither of us had his Army serial number; and
  2. Neither of us had a copy of his Document of Separation, which all those leaving military service receive.  This lists all their ranks, postings and honors received.

Complicating matters still further: He had died on a Wednesday–and the memorial service was to be held that coming Sunday. That gave us only two days–Thursday and Friday–to try to arrange such honors.

Erica soon found the process a waste of time.  Calling the Veterans Administration (VA) she was told that there wouldn’t be time enough to get the paperwork approved.

I reached a different conclusion–after repeatedly getting only recorded messages when calling the VA. Even the office of my Congressman failed to get any closer to success than I had.

I decided that it might still be doable–but not through conventional channels. The next day, I would fall back on what has always been classic Standard Operating Procedure for me.

Tomorrow I wouldn’t waste any more time on going through regular channels.  Instead, I would create my own, starting at the very top–the White House.

The White House

I called the White House at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, September 22. I was quickly put through to the Military Office, which referred me to the office of the Army Chief of Staff.

This, in turn, referred me to the Human Resources Casualty Assistance Department. But this got me nowhere–I was urged to call the VA office in Napa and ask them to deal directly with the funeral home.

This would ensure that the required documents reached the mortuary within the next 12 days!

Reflexively, I found myself quoting a favorite line of my father’s: “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”  The woman on the other end of the line wasn’t thrilled, but that was the least of my concerns.

Next, I called the U.S.National Personnel Records Center, where records are held for all current and former members of the armed services.

National Personnel Records Center

An official there was so empathetic that I took heart.  Only later did I blast myself for having failed to ask for her name or extension, so I could reach her again.  As the day wore on, I assumed this would prove a lost cause.

In the evening–Washington, D.C., time, that is–I again called the White House Military Office. A Marine gunnery sergeant said that someone was trying to process a records request, but he didn’t say specifically that it was my case being worked on.

He gave me the name of James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist, and I tried to reach him before 5 p.m. closing time at the White House.

Unfortunately, my call wasn’t returned, and, once again, I assumed the effort was almost certain to end in failure.

On Friday, September 23, my phone rang at 5 a.m. with word from the White House Military Office that my request was being processed.

The caller was McCoy, who had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

But there was a possible catch: I was warned that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.


In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 18, 2015 at 12:11 am

During the 1930s, Winston Churchill, a seemingly failed politican, repeatedly warned his British countrymen against the growing menace of Nazi Germany.

The leaders of Britain and France–the two great victors of World War 1–hoped that if they simply ignored the increasingly aggressive behavior of German Fuehrer Adolf Hitler, they could somehow escape catastrophe.

Winston Churchill

This behavior included:

  • In the early 1930s, Hitler began re-building a powerful German army in open defiance of the Versallies Treaty that had ended World War 1.
  • Hitler ordered his army to occupy his native Austria in 1938.
  • In 1938, Hitler demanded that Czechoslavakia cede the Sudetenland, its northern, southwest and western regions, which were inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.
  • British Prime Minister Nveille Chamberlain surrendered to Hitler’s demands at the infamous “Munich conference.” Believing they had avoided war, his fellow Britons were ecstatic.
  • In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • Hitler next turned his attention to Poland–which he invaded on September 1.
  • In doing so, he unintentionally triggered World War II.

Adolf Hitler

In time, historians and statesmen would agree: Trying to appease dictators is futile–and a guarantee for their further aggression.

It is a lesson that current world leaders have forgotten as Islamic fundamentalists increasingly flex their military and economic muscles–and demand that Western nations bow to their demands.

  • In Iran, scientists continue to fashion a nuclear weapons program–while insisting they intend to use the atom only for “peaceful purposes.”
  • In Pakistan–which has 90-110 nuclear warheads–Osama bin Laden lived less than a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy, the country’s West Point.  So much for America’s “ally” in the “war on terror.”
  • On January 7, 2015, the worst terrorist act in France since World War II occurred when three Islamics slaughtered 12 people at a satirical magazine that had published cartoons about the Prophet Muhammed.
  • The rising tide of Muslim population growth spells deadly challenges for non-Islamic nations.

Winston Churchill’s warnings were ignored by other world leaders–most notably Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin–until their countries became victims of unprovoked aggression.

So were the warnings of Harvard political science professor Samuel P. Huntington.

In 1993, he published an essay in Foreign Affairs called “The Clash of Civilizations.”  Its thesis: In the post-Cold War world, nationalism would decline and differing cultures and religions would emerge as the primary sources of conflict.

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Huntington’s critique of Islamic civilizations ignited a firestorm of controversey–especially his statement: “Islam has bloody borders.”

In 1996, Huntington expanded his thesis into a book–called The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

Among his assertions:

  • People are divided along religious and cultural lines.
  • Islamic civilization do not share the general ideals of the Western world–such as individualism and democracy.
  • Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state.
  • When the Muslim world conflicts with other civilizations, tensions and wars result.
  • Arab dictatorships were fragile and could be overturned by the masses of unemployed young men. But even if they fell, the new regimes would not modernize along Western lines.
  • A fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is inevitable.
  • Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims–such as Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews–have been marked by Islamic antagonism and violence.
  • Western nations should distance themselves from Islamic ones.  The more both civilizations interact, the greater tensions between them will be.

Huntington cited several reasons for an inevitable war between the West and Islam:

  • Western secular vs. Islamic religious values.
  • Past historical rivalry between Christianity and Islam.
  • Jealousy of Western power by Islamic nations.
  • Islamic resentments of Western domination during the post-colonial restructuring of the Middle East.
  • Islamic bitterness and humiliation at the achiveements of Western civilization over the last 200 years.

A point of Islamic irony:

Islamic terror groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS damn Western nations as havens of corrupt infidels.  But it’s to Europe and the United States that tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis are now fleeing.

And they are fleeing to escape the barbaric slaughters of their fellow Islamics.

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, a quasi-war developed between some Islamic nations and some Western ones.

On the Islamic side:

  • Iran
  • Sudan
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • Syria.

On the Western side:

  • The United States
  • Great Britain.

“In this quasi war,” wrote Huntington, “each side has capitalized on its own strengths and the other side’s weaknesses.”  For example:

  • Muslim terrorists exploited the openness of Western societies to plant car bombs at selected targets.
  • Western powers used their superior air power to bomb selected targets in Islamic countries.
  • Islamics plotted the assassination of Western leaders.
  • The United States plotted the overthrow of hostile Islamic regimes.

Writing at a time before the United States directed its full military power at conquering Afghanistan and Iraq, Huntington ominously noted:

“During the 15 years between 1980 and 1995…the United States engaged in 17 military operations in the Middle East, all of them directed against Muslims.   No comparable pattern of U.S. military operations occurred against the people of any other civilization.”

The war that Huntington warned was coming and was, in fact, already in progress, has since erupted into full-scale conflict, with no end in sight.


In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 17, 2015 at 12:01 am

There is a famous joke about racial profiling that’s long made the rounds of the Internet. It appears in the guise of a “history test,” and offers such multiple-choice questions as:

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:

  • Olga Korbut
  • Sitting Bull
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:

  • Lost Norwegians
  • Elvis
  • A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

During the 1980s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:

  • John Dillinger
  • The King of Sweden
  • The Boy Scouts
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:

  • A pizza delivery boy
  • Pee Wee Herman
  • Geraldo Rivera
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked. Two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Center; one crashed into the Pentagon; and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:

  • Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
  • The Supreme Court of Florida
  • Mr. Bean
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

* * * * *

It’s well to remember the bitter truth behind this joke, especially in light of the such  Islamic atrocities as:

  • On April 15, 2013, two pressure-cooker bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injuring 264.  The culprits: Two Muslim brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan  Tsarnaev, who had emigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union.
  • On May 22, 2013, two Islamic terrorists, wielding machetes and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great!”)  hacked a British soldier to death on a London street.
  • On January 7, 2015,  2015, the worst terrorist act in France since World War II occurred when three Islamics slaughtered 12 people at a satirical magazine that had published cartoons about the Prophet Muhammed.

Writing in the British newspaper, The Spectator, Douglas Murray issued a warning to his fellow Britons: “Over recent years, those who have warned that such attacks would come here have been attacked as ‘racists’, ‘fascists’ and, most commonly, ‘Islamophobes.’

“A refusal to recognise the actual threat (a growingly radicalised Islam) has dominated most of our media and nearly all our political class.”

One man who did foresee the present conflicts with stunning clarity–and had the courage to say what has since become Politically Incorrect–was Samuel P. Huntington.

Samuel P. Huntington (2004 World Economic Forum).jpg

Samuel P. Huntington

A political scientist, Huntington taught government at Harvard University (1950-1959, then at Columbia University (1959-1962).  He returned to Harvard in 1963, and remained there until his death in 2008.

The author of nine books, in 1996 he published his most influential one: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.  Its thesis was that, in the post-Cold War world, people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary sources of conflict.

Among the points he makes:

  • Modernization does not mean Westernization.
  • Economic progress has come with a revival of religion.
  • Post-Cold War politics emphasize ethnic nationalism over ideology.
  • Civilizations are fundamentally differentiated from each other by centuries-old history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion.
  • As the world becomes smaller, different civilizations increasingly interact.  These intensify civilization consciousness and the awareness of differences between civilizations.
  • Economic modernization and social change separate people from age-old identities (such as hometowns and familiar neighbors).  Religion has replaced this gap, providing a basis for identity, socialization and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
  • The West, at the peak of its power, is confronting non-Western countries that increasingly have the desire, will and resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.
  • Cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.

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The most controversial part of The Clash of Civilizations focuses on Islam.  Huntington points out, for example, that Muslim countries are involved in far more intergroup violence than others.

And he warns that the West’s future conflcts with Islamic nations will be rooted in the Islamic religion:

Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”

Huntington argues that civilizational conflicts are “particularly prevalent between Muslims and non-Muslims.”  Among the reasons for these conflicts: Both Islam and Christianity have similarities which heighten conflicts between their followers:

  • Both seek to convert others.
  • Both are “all-or-nothing” religions; each side believes that only its faith is the correct one.
  • The followers of both Islam and Christianity believe that people who violate the base principles of their religion are idolators and thus damned.

Other reasons for the Western-Islamic clash are:

  • The Islamic revival, which began in the 1970s and is manifested in greater religious piety and in a growing adoption of Islamic culture, values, dress, separation of the sexes, speech and media censorship.
  • Western universalism–the belief that all civilizations should adopt Western values–infuriates Islamic fundamentalists.

These are not differences that will disappear–overnight or even over the span of several centuries.  Nor will they be sweet-talked away by Politically Correct politicians, however well-meaning.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 16, 2015 at 12:05 am

Americans like to believe they choose rational men and women for their political leaders.

This is especially true when it comes to deciding who will govern the country for the next four years as President of the United States.

But this has not always been the case.

One such irrational President was Richard M. Nixon, elected in 1968 and re-elected in 1972.

In 1970, while deciding whether to widen the Vietnam war by bombing Cambodia, he repeatedly watched the movie “Patton.”  Then he ordered the bombing to begin.

Richard Nixon

In 1974, as Justice Department investigations of Watergate increasingly threatened his Presidency, his behavior grew increasingly erratic.

He drank heavily, took pills by the handful, and, on at least one occasion, was seen talking to pictures of Presidents that adorned the walls of the White House.

In the final weeks of his administration, as impeachment for his Watergate abuses seemed increasingly certain, Nixon inspired fears of a military coup in his Secretary of Defense.

James Schlesinger warned all military commands to ignore any direct orders from the White House–or any other source–without the counter-signature of the SecDef himself.

On his last night in the White House–August 8, 1974–Nixon summoned Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the Oval Office.

Half-rambling, half-crying, Nixon asked Kissinger to kneel with him on the White House rug and pray for God’s forgiveness. Kissinger, though Jewish, had never shown any interest in religion.  Neverheless, he reluctantly did so.

Later that night, Nixon called Kissinger and pleaded with him to never tell anyone “that I cried, and I was not strong.” Kissinger promised to keep his secret–and then promptly leaked it.

Nixon, however, was not the only President whose irrationality played havoc with history.

In June, 2001, George W. Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia.  Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

And Putin was quick to take advantage of it.

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George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin 

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

BUSH:  Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned. Things are meant to be.

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

In early 2003, Bush telephoned French President Jaques Chirac, hoping to enlist his support–and troops–for his long-planned invasion of Iraq.

Failing to convince Chirac that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was politically advantageous, Bush took a different tack.

BUSH: Jaques, you and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we’re both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord.

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.  Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.

This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins.

When the call ended, Chirac asked his advisors: “Gog and Magog–do any of you know what he’s talking about?”

When no one did, Chirac ordered: Find out.

The answer came from Thomas Roemer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne.

Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel.

Jehovah vows to slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament book of Revelation (20:8) Gog and Magog are depicted as gathering nations for battle: “And fire came down from God out of Heaven, and devoured them.”

Chirac decided to oppose joining the upcoming invasion of Iraq.  France, he said, would not fight a war based on an American Presient’s interpretation of the Bible.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald

Bush’s war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans–and an estimated 655,000 Iraqis.

Bush, however, was not the first President to invoke Gog and Magog.

Ronald Reagan predicted that this Biblical confrontation would pit the United States against the Soviet Union–which had abandoned God at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Evangelical Christians twice elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the Presidency.

In light of this, voters should think carefully before choosing candidates who accept superstitious beliefs over rational inquiry.


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