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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

George Wallace 1963 Inaugural Address

Today, it is 2015.  We should be well beyond this bigoted phrase.  However, we have not passed beyond the world of bigotry and hate.  Government officials in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, among others, have taken up this mantra.  The only difference is that they are now wrapping themselves in the hatred of religion.  Or, I should probably say they are wrapping themselves in the false Religion of Hate!

Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected in all 50 states.  Even before this decision, the Religion of Hate was busy passing laws that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry and/or get services from private business to celebrate their marriages.

This Religion of Hate came to us under the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” laws they passed.  According to these laws, if you wish to discriminate against same-sex couples, all you have to do is say “I have a deeply held religious belief” against them.  That makes everything perfectly legal for you to discriminate against anyone you wish.

During the Civil Rights era, we heard the same stupid arguments about segregation that we are hearing now about same-sex marriage.  It was “God’s Will” that the races be separated.  They used that wonderful phrase from the bible that said “each shall seek their own.”  It was nothing more than Religion of Hate and it was endorsed by many politicians like George Wallace.

The Attorney General of Texas has openly said that county clerks in his state do not have to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples if they don’t want to.  They are being allowed to break their Oath of Office with his blessing.  He even said there are hundreds of lawyers who are willing to defend these oath breakers, many pro-bono.  How nice.  The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, has just joined the long list of bigots in political power like George Wallace.

Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee has said that clerks should “resist” this ruling.  He is calling for “civil disobedience” by pubic officials because he believes the court “overstepped” its bounds and “created a civil right that does not exist.”

First, the court did not “create” anything.  This ruling came about because someone challenged the same-sex marriage ban in their state as being unconstitutional.  They argued that these bans denied them “equal protection under the law.”  The court simply agreed with their argument and said that the laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Second, there was nothing in the Supreme Court’s ruling that said that ONLY same-sex marriages were protected.  They did not ban heterosexual marriages.  They did not say that a Roman Catholic Priest MUST marry a same-sex couple.  This was a ruling that declared same-sex civil marriages have the same legal rights as heterosexual marriages.

No one lost any civil rights in this case.  No one has suffered any harm in this case.  No one has been allowed to “attack” Christians in this case.  To the contrary, all this case did was ensure same-sex couples have the same civil rights as everyone else.

But, when you subscribe to the Religion of Hate, you are expected to deny civil rights to those terrible “others.”  You are expected to be able to deny dignity to people of religions that do not subscribe to the Religion of Hate.  You are expected to claim that you are the ones under attack even though you have not been affected at all.

There have been a lot of instances of hate in our country.  We have endured the evil of slavery.  We have endured the evil of the Jim Crow laws.  We have endured bigotry against Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.  We have seen the Religion of Hate preached from church pulpits and state houses and even the halls of Congress.

The real unfortunate part of this narrative, is that the Republican Party has endorsed this Religion of Hate.  Where are the other Republicans bashing their right-wing nuts?  Where are the complaints from other Republicans that these members of the Religion of Hate are not speaking for the party?  You don’t hear any of that because the party as a whole has endorsed, and placed its political future, with the Religion of Hate.

The Religion of Hate says that marriage was defined by God as between one man and one woman.  A few weeks ago, I saw a church sign at an Episcopal Church, I don’t remember where it was located, that read:

There are thousands of Christians that are homosexual.  Get over it!  God

We need to see more signs like that one.

All of this hate speech from people like Paxton, Cruz, Gohmert, Huckabee, Jindal, and the rest of the so-called “Christian Right” only proves how un-Christian these nuts are.  They do not subscribe to the religion of Christianity.  They do not subscribe to any religion that teaches tolerance and love.  No, they are the new purveyors of the Religion of Hate.

Even non-believers know that Jesus taught love.  He taught tolerance.  He taught not to judge others.  His was a religion of peace, tolerance, and love.  Three things that were basically unheard of at the time.  That is why I can say absolutely that Conservative Christians are NOT Christians at all.

They are simply bigots, racists, and haters.  They are nothing more, and nothing less.  That is the religion they want to force on everyone else.  As the song said:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor.  Go ahead and cheat a friend.  Do it in the name of heaven.  You can justify it in the end.  There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day.

Is there anything more evil than the Conservative Christian’s “Religion of Hate?”

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As with all tragedies there is an emerging bright spot in the Charleston shooting.  I don’t say things like this lightly.  But, if anyone really cares to listen to all of the talk about the shooting, one pattern emerges more than anything else.  That one pattern is that race is still a huge issue in America.

Since the shooting we have seen the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, state publicly that the Confederate Flag should be taken down permanently.  Senator Reid has said that we need better background checks for people buying guns.  More and more people, even Republicans, are talking about race in America.

But that isn’t what I am talking about when I say there is an emerging bright spot in this horrible tragedy.  I am talking about the obvious denial syndrome that has taken control of the right-wing.  The Republican Party openly recruited this wing into their party.  They always talk about the very things that the right-wing wants to hear.  Now, if anyone cares to really listen, they are telling you that when it comes to racial issues, they don’t give a damn.

Naturally, Fox News is taking the lead in this denial syndrome.  Sean Hannity claims there is no institutional racism in America.  Why?  Because slavery doesn’t exist anymore.  Bill O’Reilly last night went into a tantrum saying that anyone talking about racial issues in America is really an anti-American “hater”.

Ann Coulter even got into the act.  On last night’s edition of “Kennedy” on Fox Business she said that she really wanted to like Nikki Haley because she is a Republican.  But, she couldn’t really like Nikki Haley “because she is an immigrant and doesn’t understand American history.”

She explained this by saying:

The Confederate flag we’re talking about never flew over an official Confederate building. It was a battle flag. It is to honor Robert E. Lee. And anyone who knows the first thing about military history, knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.”

I guess Ann studied different history books than I did.  I must write my American History professors, if they are still alive, and complain.  The books I read and the history I learned stated rather clearly that the “Confederate Flag” was not just a battle banner.  It was the “official flag of the Confederacy.”  Which means it did fly over official Confederate buildings.

By the way, Nikki Haley is not an immigrant.  For the record, she was born in Bamberg, South Carolina.  Or, maybe the citizens of South Carolina are thrilled to learn that they are a foreign country according to this wise lady!

To follow along, a total of five GOP Presidential hopefuls have refused to take a stand on the Confederate Flag.  These include Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson.  These candidates don’t even want to be questioned about the issue claiming it is a “small issue.”

While all of this is going on, the Republicans in Congress are quietly dismantling the social safety nets.  They want to throw millions of people off medical insurance.  They are trying to cut food stamps again.  They are trying to reduce Social Security and Medicare.  They are gutting funding for the Department of Education.

All of these cuts in the budget are targeted towards minorities and the elderly.   What they are ignoring is that they will also hurt millions of “conservative” white people.  But, they keep getting away with it because they claim that only the minorities are the “takers” and their white constituency buys into their lies.

We face a myriad of problems in this country.  Not the least of which is racism.  However, when one political party refuses to even acknowledge it as a problem, meaningful debate can never get started, much less help fix the problem.  But then, as I wrote before, that is what conservatism is all about.  Stick your head in the sand and pretend something doesn’t exist and that yesteryear was far better than today.

If anyone cares to listen to this “debate” raging in the media, especially over at Fox News, you will discover that the conservative movement in America is telling you it is okay to be a racist.  As long as you are white and a Christian.  That is the true meaning behind all of their rhetoric.  All the while statistics prove that the biggest “terrorist threats” in America are from White Supremacist Groups not foreigners.

So, yes, there is a potential bright spot in this horrific tragedy.  The right-wing is openly proving what most of us have believed all along.  They are simply racists and proud of it!  I don’t know about you, but these are not the people I want governing our country!

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On Monday morning, there was a completely odd interview or “conversation” on race.  As you might expect, it took place on Fox News “Fox and Friends.”  I guess it may not be all that odd since the people they were talking to was Erick Erickson and talk radio show host Richard Fowler.

However, even for these folks, it really got bizarre.  They started discussing whether racism was a “mental health issue” or just plain “evil.”  As such, you know they don’t believe that the Republican base is racist since they do not suffer from “mental health issues” or are just plain “evil.”

On Friday, Erickson wrote a piece that blamed the Charleston massacre on America’s inability to confront the fact that certain people — among them, Caitlyn Jenner — are mentally ill, and should be called out as such.  “A society that looks at a 65-year-old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and ‘a new normal’ cannot have a conversation about mental health or evil because that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good,” he wrote.

Of course, Doocy just couldn’t resist bouncing off that comment.  He asked Fowler and Erickson whether “the real problem with our culture [is] that we cannot label mental health as an issue because we have accepted too many ‘eccentricities’ as normal.”

Erickson agreed by again linking transgender identity with evil, saying that “we can no longer label mental health issues, we can no longer label evil as ‘evil’ — we try to explain around that and immediately move to the political solution.”

According to Erickson, we shouldn’t be asking GOP potential nominees questions about mental health or evil either as that would “politicize” the issues.  Even though both agreed that the suspect in the church killings was a racist and a terrorist, we shouldn’t be talking about it being a mental health issue, because the suspect isn’t mentally ill.

That leaves us with talking about the “evil” portion of the equation.  But, according to Erickson if we try that, it will just go around to “gun control.”  So, let’s take into consideration several items about pure “evil.”  Do you know that more people are killed in the nation by gun violence than traffic accidents?  Do you know that about 99% of all serial killers or mass murders are white?  I would put that into the category of “evil.”

On the other hand, racism is pure “evil” as well.  There is no other explanation for it.  It started in this country when we began importing slaves to work the plantations in the south.  The simple fact that some believed that it was okay to own fellow humans is nothing short of pure “evil.”

The Civil War was fought with slavery as the backdrop.  Ever since the Civil War, there have been “evil” people in politics that wanted to keep segregation alive and well.  The Jim Crow laws are a perfect example.  The term of “equal but separate” in my interpretation is “evil.”  Denying people their civil rights based on anything other than common law is pure “evil.”  That is what Jim Crow laws did.

Today, we see additional examples of “evil” in our world and politics.  Denying people the right to marry and give them the same rights that other married people have, is “evil.”  Denying a person without a Photo ID card that perfectly matches everything else, is “evil.”  Denying women the same pay for the same work as men do is “evil.”

Allowing mentally ill people and criminals to purchase guns without having to go through a background check is “evil” since it puts guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t own them.  Lumping all members of certain religions as all being terrorists is “evil.”  Denying women to make their own choices about their own health is “evil.”

If the right wants to hold a conversation about evil, let’s have that conversation.  But, they don’t want that conversation either.  Why?  Because it is their policies that I am calling evil.  You cannot have a meaningful discussion about evil if the other side is endorsing policies that most reasonable people find evil.

All of this talk by Erickson and the rest of the right-wing is just a smoke screen so they can continue on their evil progression of taking rights away from everyone but themselves.  This incident even brought up the old argument about the Confederate Flag again.  Lindsey Graham, a Presidential Candidate, says that “it is part of who we are.”

That may be true.  But, I am sure that Lindsey Graham would be screaming at the top of his lungs if the government of Nuremberg, Germany started flying the Swastika over its government buildings.  After all Lindsey, it is “part of who they are.”  I have said for many years, the Confederate Flag is a symbol of “pure evil.”  It is time it goes away, except for maybe some history museums.

The biggest problem with the right-wing is that they not only want to “pick and choose” the parts of the Constitution they want to believe in, they also want to define what is evil and what is not.  If you are a transgender, you are evil.  If you are gay, you are evil.  If you support political policies that deny groups of people their civil rights, you are not evil.

No matter how you paint your picture, racism is pure evil.  Until the right begins to understand that, we will never get away from it.

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I am not sure which event yesterday is more disturbing.  As I wrote yesterday, nine people were shot and killed in an Historic AME Church in Charleston by a white man.  I outlined my arguments as to why this should be classified as Domestic Terrorism.

Since I wrote that article, there has been more information about the shooter.  This man, whom I refuse to name so he won’t get any ink here, was an avowed racist.  He let one woman at the church live so “she could tell the world what happened.”  It has also come out that he has been planning this attack for six months and wanted to start a civil war.  And, according to a witness he said:  “You rape our women and are taking over our country and you have to go.”

Now, after hearing all of this, I don’t know how anyone could classify it as anything but Domestic Terrorism.  Well, apparently I was wrong.  Yesterday, Fox News tried to call this another case that proves there is a “war on Christianity.”  That’s right, the white man who entered a church and killed nine black people because “You rape our women and are taking over our country” was really killing them because he apparently hates Christianity.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before such notable Presidential Candidates like Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, etc., were all chiming in with the same outrageous claims.  According to them, the real “hate” in this “hate crime” was a hate towards Christians.  Fox News host Hether Childers even said on-air:  “Could the shooter have been motivated by pure hatred for religion?”

President Obama spoke about the tragedy yesterday, too.  He even lightly brushed over the issue of gun control.  That was all the right-wing wackos needed to hear.  The outrage about how “one bad apple” is going to be used to “take our guns away” rantings began almost immediately.

Also, Ron Lott at foxnews.com said the main reason for this killing was that it took place in a “gun-free zone.”  He blames gun-free zones for all of the mass shootings that have taken place in our country.  Crackpots with guns aren’t the problem, gun-free zones are the problem.

Obviously, the most important part of any gun control law would be Universal Background Checks.  The purpose of Universal Background Checks is to ensure that everyone who purchases a gun must go through a background check first regardless of where the gun was purchased.

Currently, in most states, you can purchase a gun online, at a gun show, or from a private person and not have to go through a background check.  Why a background check?  Well, because even the NRA says criminals and people with mental health issues probably shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun.  Without Universal Background Checks, you never will know if the person you are selling a gun to falls into one of these categories.

But, no, not even something as sane at this is allowed to be even talked about after such an incident.  The wackos say it is just an attempt to take away their guns.  If thousands of people must die in this country each year by gun violence, so be it.  Gun ownership is more precious than people’s lives.  By the way, have you ever noticed that the people who cry the loudest about background checks always seem to be people who wouldn’t be able to get a gun if they had to pass one?

I checked Fox News website today to see how they are handling the reports of this man being a racist.  They have a headline that says he was a racist.  The piece that follows is something off the wires though.  There is no “opinion” about how racism was the motivation behind this attack.  I wonder why?  However, they were very happy to report that the President had attempted to pass meaningful gun laws after other mass attacks, but that those efforts failed.

If anyone had any doubts about there being a race issue in this country, Wednesday night’s event should cure you of that problem.  On the other hand, when you have news outlets like Fox News slanting the event into something they are trying to push, it is hard to overcome the real problem.  Fox News is pushing the war on Christianity as the real reason behind this attack because they want you to believe that there is no race issues in America.

Fox News is nothing more than a propaganda machine for the ultra-conservative movement.  Hell, even their Presidential Candidates fall in line very quickly with what Fox News says.  There are some people who are waiting for July 1.  That is when Rupert Murdoch steps down as head of his empire, which includes Fox News, and hands over control to his two sons.

It is reported that neither of his sons are very happy with Fox News.  There was even a report of a “smack down” of Roger Ailes by the sons.  Something that never happened before.   According to the reports, Ailes told his reporters at Fox Business to report that even though Rupert was stepping down, he – Roger Ailes – would still report directly to Rupert.  Later, a report from corporate headquarters at Fox’s empire said that Roger would report to the sons, and NOT Rupert.

I don’t know very much about Murdoch’s two sons.  I do know that the Murdoch empire has had some very sleazy news reporting around the world.  As a result, I am not as optimistic as others that Fox News will undergo a major change in the near future.  In the Murdoch empire, money talks very loudly!   I hope I am wrong because without that major change, stupid arguments like the ones being put forth at Fox about this event will not go away.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last attack on a black church.  There have been attacks against Mosque’s and Synagogues as well.  But you never heard Fox report them as part of an attack on Islam or Judaism.  This is the first time they even tried to report an attack on a black church as an attack on Christianity.  But, if you are wondering why they would try it now, just look at what Brian Kilmeade had to say in a lead up to this ridiculous claim:  “Is it a church that has white congregants as well as black?”

That is the key phrase behind all of this stupidity.  If a church has “white congregants” as well as black congregants, the reason for the attack cannot be race related.  At least in Kilmeade’s mind.  The bosses at Fox News must think the same way.  They hired this crackpot.

Fox News was never very good at “reporting” the news.  But, it has become more-and-more of a propaganda machine as the years have passed.  They don’t even try to hide that fact anymore.  The more outrageous the claim, the more they will sink their teeth into it and never let go.

The problem they have created in the Republican Party is exposed with one Presidential Candidate.  Lindsey Graham “told off” Fox News one day, and then he mouths the exact script put forth by Fox News another day because it suits his political agenda.

The attack at AME Church in Charleston was simply a domestic terrorist attack carried out by a white supremacist.  Nothing more, and nothing less.  But, the conversation about how to stop such attacks can not happen when a so-called news organization keeps changing the script about what it really was.  Fox News has really sunk to a new low in their reporting of this case.

I would say they should be ashamed of themselves, but in order to be ashamed of your mistakes, you must first have enough of a conscience to admit the mistake in the first place.  Since their “reporting” of incidents like this is very deliberate, you can be sure they have no conscience.  So none of them will ever be “ashamed” of their false reporting.

 

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Last night a white man, said to be in his 20s walked into the AME Baptist Church in Charleston, SC and shot and killed nine people.  Included in the dead was the pastor of the church, who was also a State Senator in the South Carolina Legislature.

The Police Chief in Charleston has called the incident a “hate crime.”  He vowed to prosecute this crime as a “hate crime.”  What has not been said, at least as of this writing, is that this was by definition a Domestic Terrorist Act.  Why won’t anyone call it that?  Is it because the suspect is white?  Is it because the crime was against people of color?  Was it because there weren’t any Muslims involved?

Despite all of the talk by conservative talk shows that race is behind us, the vast majority of Domestic Terrorist crimes are committed by white people against minorities.  The problem is that the media won’t call it Domestic Terrorism.  They call it other things like a “hate crime” or one “bad apple” acting out in frustration.

It is not a coincidence that just prior to this shooting a white police officer in Charleston, SC killed an unarmed black man.  The police officer is facing charges of murder.  But, the shooting resulted in protests and highlighted racial tensions in the area.

The Mayor of Charleston said the shooting was:  “an unfathomable and unspeakable act by somebody filled with hate and with a deranged mind.  Of all cities, in Charleston, to have a horrible hateful person go into the church and kill people there to pray and worship with each other is something that is beyond any comprehension and is not explained.  We are going to put our arms around that church and that church family.”

Governor Niki Haley decried the violence:  “We’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

All of these people, all public officials claim that this was an unspeakable act of violence, which it was.  None of them have called it what it really is, Domestic Terrorism!  But, to me, the worst act came from a Charleston reporter that was shown on MSNBC.  He asked African-American activists, community leaders what the black community could do to prevent events like the mass shooting at Emanuel Baptist.

So, according to this outstanding reporter, this act of Domestic Terrorism was the fault of the black community who just lost nine members of its community.  How can he even think that was an appropriate question.  He totally ignored the fact that this was a white-on-black murder of innocent people.  It was a Domestic Terrorist attack and nothing less than that.

I wonder what that reporter would have said if the response was that “we should arm ourselves for self-defense.”  I bet that wouldn’t have gone over well.  That is what a lot of white groups would have said.

I am sorry, but this shit has been happening since the Civil War.  Cowards who claim to be the “superior race” go around killing people just because they aren’t “white” and the media refuses to call it what it is.  Domestic Terrorism!  As a matter of fact, there have been more instances of this type of Domestic Terrorism than any other form of terrorism in America since 9/11.

I am sure that another bubble-head like Megyn Kelly will chime in that “well that pastor wasn’t a saint either.”  In the coming days, you will hear all about this “bad apple” and how “sick” he must be.  You will hear arguments that it wasn’t really a race issue, just one bad apple going nuts.  You will hear politicians talk about how tragic it is that such a crime could take place in a church.  But you will not hear any of these people in politics or the media call it “Domestic Terrorism.”

Until that happens, this form of violence will never be stopped and none of us will be safe.

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We are about half way through the year.  The Presidential election process for 2016 is underway with a myriad of candidates.  The budget is supposedly being worked out and there are a lot of questions which the budget could answer, but probably won’t.

A few years ago, sequester became a reality.  Mitch McConnell has claimed that was a major victory for the Republican Party.  But, as always, things have changed since then.  We have seen the rise if ISIS in the middle-east.  We have seen the Ukraine problems and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

These have all sent the war hawks into a tizzy.  They ask: “How are we expected to fight all these things with the Defense Department hampered by sequester?”  So, the new budget being proposed by Republicans in Congress will increase the Department of Defense budget by about 9 percent.

Unfortunately, that increase isn’t really going into the Defense Budget.  It is a gimmick where the money is going into a special fund used to “fight wars.”  That is a whopping $38 Billion dollars.  In the meantime, non-defense spending is supposed to remain under sequester.

We have seen a tragic accident on Amtrak.  Yet, under a bill just passed by the House, Amtrak’s budget is going to be cut by $242 million.  TSA has made the headlines because of failed tests of the screening they do at airports.  Yet, under sequestration, the TSA budget has been regularly cut.

Since the report of the tests became public, Republicans, the very party that insisted on TSA in the first place, now say it would be more efficient to turn it back over to the same private security that failed on 9/11.  By the way, when a Republican says something would be more “efficient” what they are really saying is “cheaper.”

In the past few years, we have seen bigotry raise its ugly head again.  It isn’t just about black and white anymore either.  It is about sexual orientation, it is about immigration, it is about women’s rights.  The same Republican Party that claims to defend the Constitution is working tirelessly to void rights to these groups of people simply because they are different.

If you just look at immigration, you can see the total hypocrisy in their arguments.  People like Ann Coulter say immigration, of any kind, should be stopped.  She doesn’t just hate undocumented immigrants, she hates legal immigrants, too.  Yet she is more than happy to show up on an immigrants news network to spew forth her hatred for immigrants.  Yes, I am talking about Fox News which is owned by an immigrant.

Since the 1970s we have seen our infrastructure start falling apart.  Our roads are overcrowded and dangerous.  Our bridges are collapsing underneath us.  Our dams are in danger of collapse.  Our electrical grid is antiquated and just waiting for the next trigger to cause a major blackout.

For example, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted, and got passed the Interstate Highway System.  He used public money and said it was for Defense purposes.  Having such a highway system, he argued would make it easier to transport troops in times of need.  Yet, that very highway structure supposed to make it easier to transport troops is so overburdened that it almost useless.

Additionally, our railroad system is suspect as well.  Look at all of the train derailments we have had just in the last couple of years.  This country lags the rest of the developed world in high-speed rail systems.  As a matter of fact, we DON’T HAVE a high-speed rail system.  These all hurt our economy as well.  We don’t transport our goods as fast as we should.

To make matters worse the only export business being conducted by our corporations, supported by Republican policies, is to export our jobs to China and other foreign countries.  All the while taking advantage of tax loopholes in the tax code so they don’t have to pay any taxes in this country.  Over half of the Fortune 500 companies in this country pay nothing in taxes!

We lead the developed world in the number of uninsured people, even with the Affordable Care act.  We are at the bottom of the developed world in terms of pensions and care for our retired people.  And, we are forced to work longer, because of our poor pensions, than anyone in the developed world.

The EPA is, as usual, under fire because it wants to do its job and protect our drinking water and the air we breath.  It wants to protect our planet’s climate.  Republicans claim climate change is a hoax.  Yet, the one department’s budget they want to defend the most, the Defense Department, has said that climate change is a severe threat to our national security!

Yet, all of these things are being sacrificed in the name of the Defense Budget.  We must remember, as Republicans tell us, we live in very dangerous times.  We must be prepared to defend ourselves from those evil people in the world.  That may all be true.  But, as a veteran, I am compelled to ask a simple question.  What exactly are we defending?

Why should anyone be willing to put their lives on the line for a country that treats its own people like they are the enemy?  Why should anyone be willing to put their lives on the line for a country that is willing to throw away any injured veteran?

We always hear Republicans talk about “American Exceptionalism.”  What is so exceptional about a country that says it costs too much to ensure everyone has health coverage?  What is so exceptional about a country that treats minorities like they are second-class citizens with no civil rights?  What is so exceptional about a country that treats its elders like they should just die off and make things cheaper for the survivors?

What is so exceptional about a country that asks its young to defend it, and then treats them like some leper when they need the physical and psychological help after fighting in wars?  What is so exceptional about a country that allows its infrastructure to collapse possibly killing people when a bridge falls down or a dam breaks?  What is so exceptional about a country that had an education system that was the envy of the world only to let it fall off the charts reducing the opportunities for those who graduate from that failing school system?

What is so exceptional about a country whose policies are driving good paying jobs overseas instead of fighting to keep them home?  What is so exceptional about a country that allows its working class to fall behind the cost of living while giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and arguing that the minimum wage isn’t necessary?

There is nothing exceptional about any of those things.  Yet, that is our reality today.  I served my country for 20 years.  I have never looked for praise or thanks.  I served because I believed I was doing the right thing.  I enjoyed my years in the Coast Guard.  I help save countless lives which was what I wanted to do.  It was a pleasure to serve my country… then.

But, things are a little different now.  When I was in the Coast Guard,  I served a country that was in favor of better living standards for the poor and elderly.  I served a country that was proud of its educational system.  I served a country where working class people had bargaining rights that ensured them fair pay for fair work.

I served a country that was fighting against bigotry at home.  I served a country where immigrants were welcomed and not spat upon and called names.  I served a country that was far closer to that fairy tale of “American Exceptionalism” than the one we live in today.  The country I served was not perfect.  We had a lot of problems.  But, it was different in that it was trying to solve our problems, not just blame someone for those problems.

Yes, all of these items I have mentioned costs money.  Yes, taxes may have to go up, especially for the wealthy, if we are to face reality and fix our problems.  Yes, civil rights must be more than a slogan or catch phrase.  They must be defended for ALL of our citizens.

Immigration policies must be reformed.  We must make it more costly for a company to “outsource” our jobs and cheaper for them to keep those jobs here in America.  We must ensure our poor and elderly are helped and not criticized for “being takers.”  We must protect our environment and our planet’s climate.

If we do all of these things, we will have something to defend.

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In case you haven’t heard, there is a problem at TSA.  The problem is so bad, the head of TSA has been forced to step down from his post.  The TSA is responsible for our airport security.  Mainly ensuring that “terrorists” cannot smuggle weapons, knives, bombs, etc., onto our airplanes.

In a recent undercover operations, the DHS tested TSA at several of our busiest airports.  They failed 67 of 70 tests.  Now that comes out to about 95%, but unfortunately, in the world of TSA, even one failure is bad news.  There was some coverage about this failure, but the media, and even the Presidential Candidates, all seem to have already forgotten about them and the persistent problems at our airports.

This is not the first time that TSA failed these tests.  Unfortunately, this problem is systemic and continuous.  That points to a very real problem at the top of each failing airport’s Security Department, and not just at the screeners.  Continuous failures prove Directors are not fixing the problems when the come up.  That is their fault.

After the tragedy of 9/11 when terrorists used airplanes as weapons and killed thousands of people, there was an outcry that something needed to be done at the airport security lines.  To the politicians who were looking for votes, the answer was that the TSA should be formed and made part of the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security.

At the time, I was against federalizing security screeners.  Not for the reasons you may think.  I wasn’t concerned about the concept that private security would be better, because it wasn’t.  Under the old rules, each airline, especially those who took up a whole terminal at an airport, was responsible to hire security and security scanners.  That led to the “low bidder” winning these contracts.

Low bidders always paid their employees low wages.  Something that is not necessarily congruent to high security.  I know, I was a Security Director after I retired from the Coast Guard.  No, my problem with the creation of TSA had more to do with the fact that it was being set up incorrectly.  I said it would become politicized and it has.

I am going to say something that may make a lot of people mad.  But, the problem at TSA is from the very beginning, they have hired the wrong people to head up each airport security.  They have never instituted proper procedures for how their personnel are worked.  They have basically failed in everything that security is supposed to accomplish.

Not all of the blame is to be put on those screeners you see when you go through the checkpoint.  Most of the failures come because the people in charge have failed simply because they are not really security professionals.  I actually interviewed for an Assistant Airport Security Director at one of the busy airports.  I didn’t expect to get the job, and I didn’t.  I was the only non-law enforcement person interviewed.

Almost all of the Airport Security Directors who have been hired are former law enforcement officials.  Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with that.  Many local police chiefs, FBI, etc., were hired to fill those positions.  The main reason for these hirings was that it was figured that these former “officials” would have access to the terrorist information that federal agencies were collecting.  Thus, making it easier to “catch” any terrorist suspect.

The failure in the hirings was that these people did not understand what professional security managers need to be successful.  In a word, “prevention.”  It was a professional security manager who first predicted that airplanes would be used for a terrorist attack.  Law enforcement officials scoffed at his suggestion.  Unfortunately, he was right, and he lost his life at the World Trade Center.

Law enforcement officials are trained in the collection of evidence and investigation.  They usually arrive at a crime scene, gather the evidence, conduct investigations, and hopefully catch the “bad guy.”  Professional security is different.  In professional security it is more critical to prevent something from happening than to catch “bad guys.”  As a result, security managers look at the world differently from law enforcement.

I was constantly watching the news, listening to news radio in the car, and reading several newspapers every day.  The internet hadn’t taken off just yet.  When I saw a story about any crime that took place, I had to consider what if that happened at one of my locations.  Better yet, how was I going to ensure that it never happened at one of my locations.

There are a lot of tools used by security to help protect the property and people.  But, these tools have limitations, and the people required to use them also have limitations.  Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) is one example.  Properties have CCTV cameras all over the place.  They may even have someone required to sit and watch several monitors to watch for things.

I conducted a personal test at one of my locations.  I discovered that if I required someone to sit in front of a monitor to watch CCTV, after about 20 minutes, that person’s effectiveness declined to a point where someone could walk through the room and never be seen by the officer watching the monitor.  This wasn’t his fault, it is part of human nature.  Our brain takes a break when it gets bored.  It happens to everyone.  As a result of this test, I had to come up with a better plan.

Now, take into consideration the rapid pace that TSA officers work under.  They have a very difficult time dealing with passengers, finding contraband, and getting the passengers to their gate on time to catch their plane.  That is not an easy task.  At busy airports, they scan literally millions of people a week.

Then the passengers get upset because they have been picked for a “pat down” or other security measure.  The pressure these people work under is tremendous.  Passengers complained about new “pat down” procedures.  They complained about new scanning equipment, like the body scan.  And, they constantly complain about the time it takes to get through security.

In the meantime, these officers are required to sit for long hours in front of the x-ray machine looking for bombs or other weapons.  They have to watch as hundreds of bags enter the screening equipment.  My own test shows that they will lose their ability to see something after about 20 minutes.  Yet, there they sit watching the same boring screen.

In the test, weapons were missed in the pat downs.  One case even had a plastic gun taped to the testers back, and the security officer missed it.  None of the reports say how long these officers were involved in the same task.  Meaning how long did that officer pat down passengers.  How much grief did that officer have to put up with.  How long did the x-ray monitor sit in front of his screen before being relieved.

I don’t know what the actual procedures for these officers are.  I have never seen their operating instructions.  Which is really a good thing because we don’t want people knowing them.  But, when I traveled to Europe last year, I was delayed.  So, I actually sat and watched the security area for some time.   Sorry, even though I am retired, I still am interested in my trade.

I did not see anyone be relieved or shifted from one job to another.  I sat for over an hour watching.  By the half-hour mark, alarm bells started ringing in my head.  I could see the focus and attention to detail begin to wane with each officer.  That is not good.

In the security world, we have to play a very sick and dangerous game of “what if.”  We have to constantly look beyond what we see in front of us and wonder “what if” all of the time.  That is the only way to really have any success preventing an incident.  We also understand that nothing is really “unpreventable.”  Which makes us lose sleep all of the time too.

However, knowing nothing is “unpreventable” we are constantly looking for new ways to do the job better.  All in all, security is the combination of equipment, procedures, and people.  They need to be upgraded and/or changed whenever a “what if” scenario dictates a whole in our security.

The problem with TSA, from my outside the window view, is that the “what if” game isn’t being played enough.  The types of things that need “fixing” at TSA starts at the top of the food chain at each airport.  It is the responsibility of the Airport Security Director and the Assistant Airport Security Director to play “what if” every single day.  They must conduct their own tests of the system.

They have to change procedures, and times people spend doing one job.  They have to look at prevention rather than “catching a bad guy.”  They must evaluate their personnel regularly and “train” them in any new procedures that they come up with.  Most importantly, they must listen to their people.  I found that even the newest security officer has some good ideas.

The positions at TSA are far too important for politicization.  The people hired at the agency must have proper training in properly planning for prevention.  I know many law enforcement officers who fit that category.  Unfortunately, too many law enforcement officers do not have that training.  And, all too often, they are the ones filling the top jobs because the city running the airport thinks it is the politically correct thing to do.

This attitude must change.  I mean really, would the city hire a part-time bookkeeper to fill the position of City Budget Director?  No, they hire professionals.  TSA needs to hire professionals as well.  In the meantime, you will continue to get angry at the screeners who are delaying you from getting to your gate.  You will continue to blame them when they fail the next test.  As always, we tend to blame the people in front of us, rather than face the real problem.

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