“Who the Hell do you think you are?” – America’s proper response to Washington

Washington is mired in scandal and yet the response has been muted. People may be troubled in many cases but they are not yet angry. The IRS has become a tool of political intimidation as has the FBI, and there are many in this country still saying “what scandal?”.

This kind of intimidation has never been practiced on the national level. No President or Administration has ever stepped this far over the line in its efforts to intimidate the opposition using the instrument of the state or to lie so blatantly to us.

This happens in Russia and in China and the Ukraine and other countries but it doesn’t happen here. Until now.

Free speech and the freedom of association are guaranteed by the Constitution for a reason. Consequences are delivered at the ballot box but are not supposed to extend to your tax returns and who you speak with or to intimidating the press into not doing its job.

That these things have been done with the greatest of hypocrisy should be elevate them to high crimes.

The Administration already owns a good portion of the press. They’re fellow travelers. If you read major papers such as the L.A. Times you wouldn’t know there were scandals affecting our very freedoms occurring. “Nothing to see here. Move along.”

And yet every American should be concerned or alarmed or angry. Because it cuts both ways. One day the other side will be in office and the rules are being reestablished for what is and is not allowed.

Every man who has sat in the Oval Office has respected the rights of the People. They have been moral men who honestly disagreed about policy. Many have had their failings, but none of them turned to thuggery and criminality. The one president who broke the law was forced out of office as he should have been.

There is a culture of corruption in Washington from the top down that envelops both parties and all who work there. Washington has become the richest metropolis in the nation but it produces nothing except laws and regulations. Cronyism and washing the other hand are the order of the day from Solyndra to KBR to General Electric to whole industries buying and selling legislation.

As the parties pit us against one another the real problem is clear. There is contempt for the rule of law and for justice and common sense in Washington. It is all about power and holding onto it, legally or illegally.

We know who the crooks are. IRS officials smirking at Congressional committees; a Department of Justice run amok and trampling on our liberties; A Department of Homeland Security that does not secure our borders and spies on us and considers decent Americans as suspects. An Administration that has made the lowest form of  gutter politics the standard. A Congress that can’t resist graft every time a bill is brought to the floor.

Howard Beale

The phrase “Who the Hell do you think you are?” is a primal scream of the wrongness of something. Who the hell do these people think they are?

And why aren’t more people asking that question?

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Blood on the President’s hands

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Yesterday I read the speech given by the President on his evolving position on the Global War on Terror, also known as contingency operations, also known as The Atlantic tells us now as “a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” or The PTE for short.

At the end, the speech was a poor rationalization for the blood on the hands of the President. The Establishment had its opinion. I have mine.

The speech was pedantic; a recital of the history of where we have been in conflict for the past 30 years, invoking the Beirut bombings of 1983 and Lockerbie in 1988 and even the murder of Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists aboard a cruise ship. Historically and philosophically the president was rolling the history and motives for Middle Eastern terrorism into a great big ball and declaring victory.

He declared victory a couple of years ago after Bin Laden was killed, but then came Benghazi and Boston and now London. Now he is really declaring victory, I guess.

With over 7,000 military deaths and the imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan, the President also declared victory in Somalia and Yemen and that we have driven Islamic radicalism into the shadows. He ignored the reality of the radicals in Syria who have taken to beheadings and ritual cannibalism and of the Shia/Sunni divide that is being fought out and threatens to engulf neighboring states.

He minimized the underlying nature of the conflict in North Africa where the militants want to establish their own state or where Sudan has been waging war on non-Muslims for 20 years. Boko Haram in Nigeria is a recent phenomenon. And through all of this runs the thread of Al Quaeda.

Radical Islam has extended its influence throughout the tenure of this administration; in Egypt; in Yemen; in Libya. In Pakistan. The resentment and hatred have waxed rather than waned. While Brand Al Qaeda has been damaged, it has also gone underground and gone viral. Al Qaeda is now live on the internet 24/7.

As rioters take to the streets night after night in Sweden radical Islamists in Britain and America go DIY. Whole sections of French towns and some major cities such as Marseilles are no-go zones for the police where Sharia is the law and drug gangs and violence rule. There is an inherent contradiction in that last sentence, isn’t there? Why don’t we recognize this?

And our president has taken our security posture  to the next level. We live in a police state for our own protection with a constant erosion of civil rights.2509226125_174d71b55d

And the president would just as soon change the subject right now. Why not close Guantanamo? Problem gone and political voucher obtained. He now wants to convene a committee on drone strikes. Imagine this scenario: A terrorist is on the loose. A drone picks him up. Obama convenes a panel. This is worse than LBJ’s micromanagement of the Vietnam War.

There have been over 200 drone strikes. Hundreds of civilians and bystanders have been killed sparking outrage in Pakistan, where most of these strikes have taken place. The drone strikes have more than any other factor turned that country into an enemy.

The President has refused to account for the actions of our government during and after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi.

For over three months the President dithered in making a decision to attempt another Surge in Afghanistan in 2010, a surge that was undermanned and undercut by unrealistic timelines. We declared victory in that as well, if you recall.

Three years after that Surge, our troops now do ritual patrolling, much as we did in Vietnam before pulling out in 1972. Our soldiers and sailors will still die, but the spirit of construction and nation building was lost long ago in a miasma of corruption, underfunding, and a refusal to institute the rule of law.

From the moment in 2011 when the president telegraphed his intentions to withdraw by next year, the Taliban had already won. They just had to wait. But then, magically, the Taliban are no longer the issue. Only Al Quaeda and its defeat is the issue, at least as of yesterday. Declare victory and go home.

So for the past 5 years, every ounce of the blood of our military and of our international allies and of good Afghan allies can be considered wasted. The mission was not accomplished.

How does a leader live with himself or herself knowing that they have sent their best to to a death that strategically or tactically has little meaning? The sand will simply blow over our FOB’s and our COP’s as if they never existed. The Taliban will pose on what’s left as mongrel victors who simply outlasted their enemies.

Al Quaeda was always a distributed network and became even more so as we chalked up our successes against it. In response it morphed. Bin Laden was holed up in a safe house using messengers to communicate when he died. We reduced the organization’s effectiveness for a time, but it has not gone away as we would be led to believe. Jihad burns in the hearts of more people than ever before.

In the end, the buck stops in the oval office, much as the current tenant has tried to avoid this fact. He began by blaming Bush. But his vacillation and his poor decisions are his own and the blood is on his hands now.

It is Memorial Day weekend. I hope that our President remembers this and the cost in both the lives of our own and those whose lives we have taken.

The LA Times disconnect

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Reading today’s Los Angeles Times one would not realize there were three major scandals consuming the Obama Administration in perhaps the greatest political meltdown in our country’s history.

We can read of an accident on the 210 Freeway or that North Korea seized a Chinese fishing boat or that Star Trek did well at the box office, and only in the third lede in the politics section does one learn that the Administration is valiantly fighting back against the accusations that it targeted conservatives groups and even individuals through the IRS.

Elsewhere, the Administration is losing with some of its biggest supporters in Glenn Greenwald, Jon Stewart, and even the New York Times. As the scandals have expanded, the coverage in Los Angeles has decreased and the Op/Eds become more outlandish telling us how it’s all really okay. The Times is beginning to verge on “Baghdad Bob” territory.

Los Angeles, as most of who live here know, is a lost cause. There is an alternate political reality in the city where a do nothing mayor has been elevated to a national political figure and two very liberal Democrats running for his replacement have been accusing each other of being conservative or horrors, a secret Republican.

The city is on the verge of bankruptcy and has one of the worst school districts in the nation. Ballots in Los Angeles are available in over 100 languages and you can take your driver’s test in Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Persian/Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, and Vietnamese. I am not sure if they understand “Yield” or Merge” and the roadways are in fact dangerous. The Times pursues a liberal, white agenda.

Los Angeles has been a one party state for many years now and the Times is our Pravda.

Recently, a rumor arose that the Koch Brothers might buy the paper, prompting a majority of the editorial and reporting staff to threaten to resign. This might be a good thing.

A city as dynamic and vital as Los Angeles needs a dynamic and vital press. The Times is neither. It has withered away and disconnected itself from what makes a great paper. There is a groupthink that allows no dissension that is common to today’s media. The editorial staff have undergone self-hypnosis and report through the rose-tinted glasses of the Left. Maybe it’s the legal pot.

As the paper’s circulation falters and management tries paywalls one week and tearing them down the next they have forgotten that even in a politically liberal city there is still a strong independent and conservative minority who have become alienated by the paper’s policies. Even the funny pages aren’t very funny these days and a newspaper is still a business expected to make a profit unless it is subsidized by “The Party”.

It’s a shame, as Los Angeles went from having several good papers to really, one large and poorly run one.

 

 

 

Benghazi & the FBI wiretaps – the connection

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This morning, the Washington Post reported that the FBI wiretap investigation of the Associated Press was initiated because of leaks of classified information from the government. In the words of the Post:

“The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material. Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.”

The Post also reported:

“The two leak inquiries were started after Republicans in Congress accused the Obama administration of orchestrating news stories intended to demonstrate the president’s toughness on terrorism and improve his chance for reelection. The Republicans sought a special prosecutor, but Holder instead named two veteran prosecutors to handle the inquiries.”

If you recall, in June of last year, in the heat of the election, Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and others accused the White House of leaking information on the highly classified Stuxnet cybervirus program to the New York Times. Of course the Democrats called it politics but it was serious enough to force meetings with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Clapper then suggested wider polygraph testing of intelligence officials.

In fact, the suspected source for this leak was at the very top at the White House.

In May of 2012, world headlines reported the arrest of a second underpants bomber in Yemen. It was later reported that the United States government blew the cover of an allied agent in place who tipped off the British intelligence services. Even Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta condemned the leak. A full investigation was supposed to have been launched, but then it sank mysteriously into obscurity. Again, the White House was the prime suspect.

For an Administration that has been more aggressive in policing the intelligence community than any of its predecessors, there is a gaping hole in its narrative.

And so now the important facts are coming out about the Benghazi attack. It was a coverup and it was political.

And the FBI has been caught in delicto flagrante wiretapping one of the Administrations favorite news organizations for vague, unspecified reasons. Again quoting from the Washington Post article.

“This investigation is broader and less focused on an individual source or reporter than any of the others we’ve seen,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “They have swept up an entire collection of press communications. It’s an astonishing assault on core values of our society.”

Translated into English, it was a fishing expedition.

So as the Administration has been using intimidation and threats to our intelligence apparatus at every step it has itself been engaging in a Byzantine level of political corruption to forward its narrative.

CIA Director David Petraeus was humiliated on a national stage 2 days after the election. This wasn’t an accident. It was an act of political destruction. The Benghazi coverup wasn’t an accident. The FBI investigation was a political fig leaf meant to both show Congress that something was being done on the larger scandals while being used as a tool to quash the Administration’s enemies.

Machiavelli and Boss Tweed and the Borgias have got nothing on this bunch of treasonous crooks.

 

The Smoking Gun in Benghazi

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Ambassador StevensWe are still being fed a narrative by the media on Benghazi. The problem runs much deeper than they are willing to admit.

First we were told it was a protest against a video. Then, after weeks of lies, we were told the Administration was looking into it. Then there were Congressional hearings where State Department officials were pilloried. Then Hillary Clinton faced Congress and said:

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” The fact is; we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said:

Panetta covers ass

“The United States military is not and should not be a global 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world,”

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff denied that there was time to send a response team or for that matter any support until hours after the attack was over. The attack went on for at least 5 hours.

Panetta then went on to say:

“You can’t willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of place. … You have to have good intelligence.”

And yet in later testimony it was acknowledged that there were drones broadcasting real time data back to Washington and to other sites almost all through the entire attack. The defenders of the Consulate were lasing targets in the expectation of strike aircraft support. We had good intelligence and we had specific targets.

The resignations at the State Department after the hearings were another smoke screen. State has been underfunding security around the world partially because their embassy construction budget is insanely high.

Our new embassies look like and are fortresses, which projects a terrible image across the world. But that is the policy of the our government these days.

The crisis on 9-11-12 was a multi-jurisdictional crisis. DoD, CIA, NSA, and all the other alphabet agencies were involved and the manager was supposed to be the DNI, James Clapper, who has very little actual authority.

Every agency involved fell flat on its face either through incompetence or the orders of the political masters running the show. Obama checked out at 5:00pm, and Hillary and Panetta and even Petraeus shortly thereafer. No one with authority was on-line to hear the screams or watch the tracers and RPG’s that finally ended this debacle. There was clear dereliction of duty.

Someone at the very top pulled the plug and let these people die and in all likelihood it was Obama and his minions. The 5:00PM checkout is a smoking gun.

It’s like one of those bad movie devices when they turn off the computers and the phones and the lights and the last person out of the room closes the door and the screen goes black.

And the next morning the lies and the coverup began. And even now the media are doing their best to cover up the truth.

Walking the Camino – Six Ways to Santiago – Newport Beach Film Festival – Review

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The Camino de Santiago has been one of the sacred pilgrimages of Christianity since the latter part of the first Millennium. Pilgrims travel the path, which starts wherever they embark on the journey, as a symbol of faith or of repentance.

Munich, Paris; Cluny, Carcassonne, Madrid and Lisbon are the overland start points of some of the many paths that all lead to the same incredible Galician city that sits not far from Cape Finisterre, which the Romans believed was the end of the world. Some journeys are a few miles. Some are a couple of hundred. These are the real thing.

In the Middle Ages traveling the Camino and receiving the Compostela (certificate) means also receiving a plenary indulgence, which remits full temporal punishment, which was quite harsh in the Middle Ages. Today, spiritually, it is a sign of submission and reverence.

In the 1980’s the Camino became a European Cultural Route which really opened the doors to all as a part of the common heritage. It is an incredible journey that can be started on foot or by bicycle or on horseback from all over Europe depending upon the faith and available time and the stamina of the pilgrim.

Walking the Camino is the work of Lydia Smith; her first as a director I believe.  A documentary, it is a labor of love from start to finish. Funding the work was hand to mouth from friends, donors, and a wide range of “angels” along the way.

The production values are simple but profound. The light of Spain turns out to be a pretty good way to find a warmth and spiritual glow that reflects beautifully the images captured.

The pilgrims in their common humanity and in their differences tell the story. The Camino is not easy. Most of them started from 500 to 600 miles away in Spain. The weather can be harsh. Rain and hail and 20-25 miles/day of hiking for 45 days can challenge the endurance and health of anyone.

One pilgrim is a French single mother with her young child and a rather free-spirited, unbelieving brother. She is committed to the Camino as an act of faith. Another is a Portuguese college graduate who took up the Camino as an adventure. Another is a Brazilian/English woman whose life has left her wondering how she will go forward. Another pair are two Canadians; one a priest, the other his friend, adrift after having lost his wife. The choice of stories and individuals who made the final edit is inspired but I am sure everyone who traveled on this particular journey had their part in the film’s success.

Each of the pilgrims has a different reason. Each has their own interpretation of the Camino. Each has their own challenges. It is a hard journey not meant to be undertaken lightly. An American woman walks the Camino but has to struggle with both her own competitiveness and her physical frailty. Along the way she encounters incredible kindness that has a deep impact on her understanding of the Camino, of herself, and of others.

Cutaways of priests discussing the religious meanings of the Camino and its ways; of Hospitaleros along the way give a varied and very enjoyable view into the care and feeding of pilgrims,  and various religious and temporal highlights add depth and meaning beyond a conventional narrative.

The pilgrims tells us their stories along the way and the camera is a willing listener and diarist. They tell us without art or artifice what they are feeling and how they are reacting and interacting with the Camino and their fellow travelers.

The film is beautifully framed and edited. You are in the modern but can sense the timelessness of the journey. The scenery is often incredible and takes the pilgrims through mountain passes; dirt trails one pilgrim wide; and major cities.

The pilgrims discuss faith and their varying beliefs matter of factly. Some are devout Christians. Others are not. But all of them are changed and Ms. Smith captures these metamorphoses beautifully. The act of completion is liberating both spiritually and physically. It is a passage and it is something that no one can ever take away from the those who have completed a Camino.

There is no preaching; only the story. Tough to do when picking an inherently spiritual subject. Films tell stories. They educate us and they entertain and once in a great while they enlighten us. Walking the Camino does all of these.