What I Remember from the States 1/2

Mike Booth remembers the US after half a century of life abroad.

 

Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado

In a Spanish Polish Restaurant

Quite a few years ago my best friend, Mark Little, took me to a Polish restaurant near Fuengirola, just off the Mediterranean coast of Málaga. I was anxious to go because he had told me that the owner had grown up in Siberia when her parents were exiled there, and I wanted to meet her. Her appearance didn’t disappoint. She looked like a kindly grandmother with a ruffled apron, her grey hair in a bun. She wanted to know about me. I told her I wrote feature stories for a magazine down the road, nodding at Mark. Then I got to pop the question. “Mark says you were exiled to Siberia when you were young. Would I be intruding if I asked what it was like?” “Nooo,” she replied with a big smile, “not at all. It was wonderful. Anyplace is wonderful when you’re 15 years old.”

My experience with the States was a bit like that. It was wonderful.

Life Begins at Grandma’s House

Elaine_Lake_Superior
Lake Superior, photo by Elaine Klassen

I remember my grandmother’s house. I still recall the phone number: 44791. It was warmer than our house and my grandma would make a proper dessert for every suppertime. She was tiny, with a size four, triple-A shoe, but a woman to be reckoned with. She may be the reason I enjoy obeying women and my kids do, too. Matriarchies die hard. Whenever I arrived there as a little boy she would grasp my ear between her thumb and forefinger, take an embroidered hanky from between her breasts, wrap it round her other index finger, wet it with her tongue, stick it in my ear and start twisting it. “You could plant potatoes in there,” she would always say.

My grandfather had a vegetable garden out back and, 65 years later, I still can’t step into my own tomato patch and, smelling a broken tomato vine, be swept back to an afternoon when I was eight or nine years old, picking tomato worms off the plants with him and throwing them on a bonfire. I was raised by my grandparents until the age of three, as my mother was working in a defense plant. I was the first grandchild and a boy so I must have been doted on. Is this why I’m such an insufferable prick today? I’m guessing it is.

My grandad was a small-time electrical contractor. I remember him getting out of bed on bad stormy nights, climbing into his panel truck and driving out to help restore electricity to people in the blacked-out village. Whenever I read in the papers about “contractors” in Iraq, though it’s an odious comparison, I am reminded of my grandfather. Near the end of his working life he nearly went broke wiring the new Baptist church building for free.

Aged Eight, I’m a New Man

I was reborn at summer camp. My first experience came about in an unexpected, random way. When I was eight years old I threatened to kill my three-year-old brother and one-year-old sister. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t quite so cut and dried as that. You
see, both my father and mother worked and after work they liked to stop by the bar for a drink. So, at the age of eight I was largely responsible for my baby brother and sister. It became entirely too tiresome, and I spent some weeks trying to figure a way to get out of it. So one day I said to my mother, “I’m tired of taking care of Steve and SuzAnne. I’m going to kill them.”

My parents’ response to that brief declaration was beyond my fondest dreams. First came a series of visits to a nice lady who wanted to sit down and listen to me, to ask me questions and to watch me draw. Then she would sit down with my parents, apart, and talk about me. It was grand, but that wasn’t all. When school was out that year–it must have been 1951–my mom told me that I had been invited to attend a one-month summer camp, the University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp, at Pinckney, Michigan.

University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp
University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp, Pinckney, Michigan

Looking back on it over more than half a century I think my experience at Pinckney might have helped to determine significant aspects of my life. It was a summer camp for disturbed children but to me it was heaven. There was so much to be learned. I think it turned me into the project person I have been ever since. There were so many new people, things to do, challenges to be met. There were ghost stories and songs around campfires, handicrafts, swimming, hikes, communal dining, roughhouse in Cabin 11 when no supervision was around. It was perfect. I immediately fell in love with our cabin counselor, Doris. She was 18, blonde with a pixie haircut and, as I remember, spent the entire summer in a bathing suit. She taught me to swim and at the end of the second
month I earned my blue cap by swimming a mile across the lake. Funnily enough, I can’t remember if there were any girls at that camp. I must have been eight years old.

Second month? Yes, that was great, too. When my parents came to pick me up, the camp director whisked them into his office. When they came out my mother said, “Mikey (always ‘Mikey’ when she wanted to wheedle me), how would you like to stay at camp for another month?” The sky opened up and I was wafted back into heaven. So I stayed on for a second month, more of the same wonderful world where people listened to you and took notes. When I got home my mother explained to me what had happened in the camp director’s office. It seems there was a deeply-disturbed boy who was unable to communicate with anyone. That is, anyone except me. So they wanted me to stay on to act as a bridge between that lost boy and the rest of the world. The truth is, I have no memory of that boy. The Pinckney experience was one of the most important, most formative periods of my life and it came at a critical time. That must have been when I became a person, with my own self-awareness, tastes and prerogatives, a whole person . I felt so lucky.

I told this story to a good friend 20 years later. His reply came too fast: “You know why you didn’t remember that retarded kid?” “No, why?” “He wasn’t so retarded. As for the story they told your parents? Yeah, that’s what they told the other kid’s parents, too.”

Turn, Turn, Turn

Michigan Center Lake
I tried to find images of the Michigan Center Lake I knew as a boy. I couldn’t recognize anything. It seems it’s all been up-marketed.

I loved the seasons, barefoot with a cane fishing pole in summer, and in winter ice skates and sleds and the crunch of the snow on the way to school in sub-zero weather. On one of those mornings Terrie Bristol dared me to put my tongue on the iron-pipe hand railing at the entrance to the school. That was a valuable lesson in chilled hand railings–and girls. The Boy Scouts were important in my life between the ages of 11 and 13. We would meet one night a week in the basement of the First Methodist Church. (Were they expecting a second one?) There we planned hikes and campouts, worked on merit-badge projects and plotted against one another. Our scoutmaster, Waldo, was a good guy and was not a pederast. After my first year of college I returned to the First Methodist Church to tell the pastor that I wanted to cancel my subscription with God and with Jesus and Mary. “Oh, that’s a very serious step to take,” said the Reverend Winnacker, “and besides, it can’t be done. Once you’ve joined the sacred fellowship you can’t back out. Once you’re in, it’s for good. So I didn’t back out. I walked out.

Great Teachers Are the Breath of Life

I loved everything to do with school, teachers, friends, books, sports. When I was six years old my first-grade teacher, Miss Wolfle, would take me out to her farm on weekends and give me advanced reading books. I had great teachers straight through school, and when I reached college (MSU) a group of hip young professors just pried my head open and dumped all the contents of Pandora’s box in there. The most important thing I learned was critical thinking: don’t believe everything you’re told; do your own research, consult people you respect, think for yourself. That has stayed with me. The other great thing about a university education is that you learn to learn. Once you’ve mastered that you can learn anything you like or need and the world is your oyster. I now see how lucky I was regarding education. I was born into that post-war window of opportunity when a college education was inexpensive and, with the help of scholarships and part-time jobs a working-class kid could graduate with no debt. But the times of guns and butter are over. Now it’s just guns and loan repayment.

Mexican_migrantsWhen I was a teenager, working part-time jobs and having my own money made me proud to be self-sufficient. I started when I was 13, spending that summer working, alongside a brigade of Mexican families and a few local farm hands on a muck farm where they raised mint and onions. Mainly we pulled weeds. You haven’t lived till you’ve pulled all the nettles out of a field the size of four football fields, parking lots included. The Mexicans, despite their hard, itinerant lives, were light-hearted, good company. I still remember them with respect. Occasionally the boss, himself, would come out to the fields and work alongside us. Wayne Gruesbeck told us jokes under the unforgiving midday sun. He was not only a good guy; he was smart. It was long hours and hard bend-over work, but I was earning $75 a week, a fortune for a 13-year-old. horno_lena2

I loved eating American food. Hamburgers in a basket with onion rings, eggs and hash browns, chili con carne, New England clam chowder, inch-thick steaks and roasted marshmallows. I almost forgot the roast turkeys. In the fifty-some years we’ve lived in Spain we’ve only celebrated Thanksgiving once. That was when my wife Maureen’s studio assistant, María José, wanted to learn how to do a stuffed turkey. Maureen prepared it and I drove it down to the bread oven in the village. Old-fashioned Spanish bread ovens–they hardly exist anymore– have a special heat and that turkey was historic. All it lacked was cranberry sauce. How do you imitate cranberry sauce?

I don’t eat junk food anymore. Nobody from my family will accompany me to McDonald’s. They’re all anti-junk-food fundamentalists. The fact is, American fast food in Spain is not as good as I remember it in the States. It’s not fast and they don’t heat the buns. European anti-hamburger snobbery, by the way, is based on ignorance. They have never tasted a proper hamburger.

kennedyI admired President Kennedy and I perceived him as a true American hero for facing down Premier Kruschev over the Soviet missiles in Cuba. It wasn’t till I read Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot that I became convinced that Kennedy was not only a cynical opportunist and a shameless satyr but probably a gangster, as well. As for the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy did not stare down Kruschev eye to eye “until he blinked.” What really happened was that the Kennedys (John and Bobby) cut a secret back-channel deal to remove the American offensive missiles from Turkey. So there was no heroism, just simple horse-trading. ” Hersh makes a convincing case for all this and a lot more.

I loved the American writers of the time: Hemingway, dos Pasos, Steinbeck and especially Kurt Vonnegut, for whom I have a special devotion. Later, reading the Hemingway biographies, I learned that the grand old man (who wasn’t actually that old; he died at 61) was first and foremost a drunk and a blowhard. It just happened that he could write. As for his passion for the bullfight, you only have to see one corrida de toros to see how full of bullshit he was. Nor can I tolerate the idea of him roaming across Africa shooting everything that moved. Look how he left Africa. Though, maybe it wasn’t his fault. His mother made him wear dresses until he was five years old.

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Go to Part 2
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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There’s an Algorithm Going Round Taking Names

Mike Booth discusses the scarier implications of modern electronic surveillance in America.

Analysts prepare for the Cyber Storm III at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington Virginia

Meet Covert Big-Data Warrantless Surveillance of Americans

Don’t Say Johnny Cash Didn’t Warn You

Johnny_Cash_The_Man

There’s a man going around taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around

Who’s Turning These Algorithms Loose on America, the Russians? No, It’s the US National Security Agency

Totalitarianism used to be when the Gestapo kicked down your door. Not any more. Now it’s when the United States government, in the person of the National Security Agency and under the pretext of anti-terrorism, kicks down your firewall and gathers up and analyzes your phone calls and emails, your Twitter and Facebook accounts, your browsing history, your credit card and bank transactions, your Skype conversations with your grandchildren and your communications metadata. With all this raw data in their swag bag they can identify you, sort you, categorize you, locate you, follow you and, when they think you’re ripe, take the necessary measures. What can you do about it? Keep an overnight bag prepared with your toothbrush and clean underwear.

This situation would be alarming enough under a sane and reasonable government but under the current atypical American administration, it’s a clear and present danger. This is not to suggest that there’s no opposition to these procedures. Since 2006, when Edward Snowdon released the secret NSA papers to the press, The American Civil Liberties Union began working on the case, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading nonprofit defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation.

Electronic Surveillance Is Not New

Wiretapping1Wiretapping in the United States goes back more than 150 years, long before the telephone. The earliest statute prohibiting wiretapping was passed in California in 1862, just after the Pacific Telegraph Company reached the West Coast. The first person convicted was a stockbroker named D.C. Williams two years later. He was listening in on corporate telegraph lines and selling the information to stock traders.

In the beginning, it was mainly detectives and corporations who resorted to electronic eavesdropping but when Prohibition came along wiretapping became a valuable law-enforcement tool. That is not to say it didn’t face opposition on moral grounds ever since. (Source: Smithsonianmag.com)

This_phoneFollowing the September 11th, 2001 attacks, American domestic and international surveillance capabilities escalated intensely. Today’s mass surveillance relies upon annual presidential executive orders declaring a continued State of National Emergency, first signed by George W. Bush on September 14, 2001 and then continued on an annual basis by Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and upon several subsequent national security Acts including the USA PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s (FISA ) PRISM surveillance program. Critics and political dissenters currently describe the effects of these acts, orders, and resulting database network of Fusion centers as forming a veritable American police state that simply institutionalized the illegal COINTELPRO tactics used to assassinate dissenters and leaders from the 1950s onwards. The American Civil Liberties Union says on its website:

Our Constitution and democratic system demand that government be transparent and accountable to the people, not the other way around. History has shown that powerful, secret surveillance tools will almost certainly be abused for political ends.

Today’s advances in information technology allow the creation of huge national databases that facilitate mass surveillance in the United States by Department of Homeland Securitymanaged Fusion centers, the CIA’s Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) program, and the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Data Base (TSDB). (Source: Wikipedia)

What’s a Fusion Center and Why Do We Need It?

A fusion center is an intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination state or major urban area center, which is owned by state, local, or territorial law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security entities, many of which were jointly created between 2003 and 2007.

The National Network of Fusion Centers was established after the September 11 attacks to provide a focal point for successful collaboration across jurisdictions and sectors to effectively and efficiently detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. It is a decentralized, distributed, self-organizing national asset composed of state and major urban area fusion centers and their respective nodes within each center’s area of responsibility. This composition enables the National Network to meet local needs while providing valuable information to understand the national landscape of threats and criminal activity. (Source: Wikipedia)

What They Say They Do and What They Actually Do

When I read a line like, “This composition enables the National Network to meet local needs, while providing valuable information to understand the national landscape of threats and criminal activity,” it brings out the skeptic in me. What sordid realities lie behind that curtain of bland and comforting officialese? Identification and neutralization of political opposition? Following of wrong-thinking journalists and academics? Tracking down dissidents and whistleblowers? Total control of civil society? What controls are in place?

Natos_secretThere is a horrendous historical precedent for “what they actually do.” After the Second World War the British MI6 clandestine service had the wholly laudable idea to set up, staff and equip secret “stay-behind”  military units all over Europe, against the possibility of a Russian invasion. So far, so good. But in 1949 the stay-behind groups came under the authority of the recently-formed NATO, and that British defensive operation soon morphed into a Europe-wide terrorist network made up of Nazi collaborators, fascist fugitives and criminal gangs that indulged in false-flag bombings and shootings against random European citizens and blamed the actions on left-wing “terrorist groups.”

The purpose of these NATO-sponsored horrors? To instill massive doses of fear in European voters to prevent them once and for all from voting for Socialist or Communist candidates, who had gained a lot of credibility in Europe thanks to their role in the fight against the Nazis. This long-term terrorist operation is referred to as Operation Gladio, in Italian, as it was in Italy where it was first uncovered by government authorities. It was a typical, if particularly cynical, manifestation of standard, corn-fed anti-communism, and the cost to the Americans was bearable as all the victims were European civilians.

And it’s not over yet. Now it seems we have Gladio B. Here’s what Sibel Edmonds, ex-employee of the American clandestine services and whistleblower par excellence, has to say about NATO and the CIA creating ISIS:

How can in two years some ferocious terror group get to form and they have all these guns all these bombs, and they have range rovers and they have jeeps, and they have all this sophisticated training, military and paramilitary training. They have two billion dollars plus. They have IT networks and they are the worlds scariest terror organization. That is the hallmark of Operation Gladio B. That is what they have been doing since the 1950’s and now with people getting likely to buy they types of brands and subscribe to these types of brands to them, they are being marketed to the consumers in the west. They are gobbling it up with the mainstream media about this ISIS. They even have uniform like looks with the special bandanas. They look like ninja turtles.

Utoya_massacre1Recent terrorist actions, including the July 22, 2011, massacre of Norwegian adolescents–sons and daughters of Norwegian socialists–on the tiny island of Utoya outside Oslo, might also be attributable to Gladio B. This is what Danish author and investigator, Ole Dammegard, claims in a two-and-a-half-hour talk called “When Terror Struck Norway,” which you can see on YouTube. Dammegard’s rambling presentation is thoroughly convincing and enhanced by his frankness regarding the limits of his investigation. When there are aspects that he has failed to clear up he admits as much with refreshing humility.

The Oslo mass murders have an interesting post-script.  The Norwegian politician, Jens Stoltenberg, was prime minister when the events took place in 2011. In 2014, just three years later, he was named NATO Secretary General. Then, last month, Norway hosted 50.000 NATO troops for “Trident Juncture,” their largest military exercises since the Cold War. Norway shares 198 kilometers of border with Russia. In all, this is a curious set of coincidences. One is inclined to wonder if it’s not too many coincidences.

What’s the PRISM Program? Is It Reassuring or Frankly Sinister?

PRISM is a code name for a program under which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) captures internet communications from various U.S. internet companies. PRISM collects stored Internet communications based on demands made to internet companies under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms. According to an article published on Mic.com on June 7, 2013, the nine companies that knowingly participate in this data collection include (in order of entry into the PRISM program) Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

PRISM began in 2007 in the wake of the passage of the Protect America Act under the Bush Administration. The program is operated under the supervision of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Its existence was leaked six years later by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as “dangerous” and “criminal” activities. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6, 2013. Subsequent documents have demonstrated a financial arrangement between the NSA’s Special Source Operations division (SSO) and PRISM partners in the millions of dollars.

Documents indicate that PRISM is “the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports”, and it accounts for 91% of the NSA’s internet traffic acquired under FISA section 702 authority, as well as a making a substantial contribution to the President’s daily briefings.” The leaked information came to light fortuitously one day after the revelation that the FISA Court had been ordering a subsidiary of telecommunications company Verizon Communications to turn over to the NSA logs tracking all of its customers’ telephone calls. Had it not been for that accidental revelation we might still not know about at least some of the specific uses of the greatest citizen surveillance operation in history.

If the NSA Can Intercept German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s Emails and Eavesdrop on Her telephone Conversations, What Can They Do with Yours?

Merkel

PRISM began under the Bush Administration in 2007 in the wake of the passage of the Protect America Act. The program is operated under the supervision of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Its existence was leaked six years later by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as “dangerous” and “criminal” activities. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6, 2013.

Snowden’s subsequent disclosures included statements that government agencies such as the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the principal British cryptography and intelligence agency, also undertook mass interception and tracking of internet and communications data – described by Germany as “nightmarish” if true – allegations that the NSA engaged in “dangerous” and “criminal” activity by “hacking” civilian infrastructure networks in other countries such as “universities, hospitals, and private businesses”, and alleged that regulatory compliance offered only very limited restrictive effect on mass data collection practices (including of Americans) since restrictions “are policy-based, not technically based, and can change at any time.” This German commentator notes that “Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications”, with numerous self-granted exceptions, and that NSA policies encourage staff to assume the benefit of the doubt in cases of uncertainty. (Source: Wikipedia)

We’re Living in a Dystopian Uber-Capitalist Science Fiction Comic Book and We Don’t Even Know It!

SJM-PALANTIR-09XX

Unfortunately, it’s more like science reality. Did you ever hear of Palantir? Not many people have, but its influence in American society, both civil and military, is gargantuan. Founded by billionaire, Peter Thiel, one of the original PayPal team, and a group of other rich tech entrepreneurs, Palantir writes and implements predictive software based on big data. Its operation is so secretive and militarized that its headquarters in Palo Alto, California is bunkerized both physically and electronically. They call it a “SCIF,”  a “sensitive compartmentalized information facility.” Palantir requires its building to be resistant to any and all sorts of intrusion.

According to The Guardian, which refers to Palantir as “the ‘special ops’ tech giant that wields as much real-world power as Google”

Palantir watches everything you do and predicts what you will do next in order to stop it. As of 2013, its client list included the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the Centre for Disease Control, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Special Operations Command, West Point and the IRS. Up to 50% of its business is with the public sector. In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture arm, was an early investor.

Palantir tracks everyone from potential terrorist suspects to corporate fraudsters (Bernie Madoff was imprisoned with the help of Palantir), child traffickers and what they refer to as “subversives”. But it is all done using prediction.

The Palantir program was first used successfully in the Iraq war to track patterns of roadside bomb deployment, but its applications, both military and civilian, are virtually universal. The features of this utopian/dystopian system are so uncanny that they inspired Steven Spielberg to make a science- fiction film (Or was it the other way around, the movie inspired the creators of Palantir?). Minority Report, released in 2002 and starring Tom Cruise as a cop who works in a “pre-crime” unit. This is an action-detective thriller set in Washington D.C. in 2054, where police utilize a psychic technology to arrest and convict murderers before they commit their crime. And courts convict them before they have a chance to commit any actual crime.

Surely Palantir is the dictator’s ultimate toy until something more terrifying comes along…

Counting2Ten

Wait, This Surveillance Is Illegal, Immoral and Unconstitutional!

Never mind, it comes under the authority of the Universal American Axiom: We Do Whatever the Fuck We Please.

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Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way

how

Are Americans Just More Depraved?

In reality, they probably aren’t but it would seem so. According to Drug Policy.org, with less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States houses almost 25% of the world’s prison inhabitants. In relation to their populations the US is the country with the most prisoners in the world. That’s more than Russia, more than China, more than Iran…

But if Americans are not five times as evil as the rest of humanity, why are so many of them in jail? It’s a long story, a veritable trail of tears, with its roots in some of the country’s most hallowed traditions: ultra-conservatism, racism, religion and the lust for power and profit. The MacGuffin has always been drugs. Continue reading “Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way”

Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be

shell-game_narrow

Wikipedia: The shell game (also known as thimblerig, three shells and a pea, the old army game) is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is almost always a confidence trick used to perpetrate fraud.

A Burning Bush on the Way to the Dentist’s Office

One day I’m walking to the dentist’s office  and I notice the bold bronze letters glowing over the door of a Granada University building: “Facultad de Sociología y Ciencias Políticas.” That was when it finally hit me. The traditional base elements of democratic politics–idealism, honesty, goodwill, life, liberty and the pursuit of the happiness of the citizenry–have been substituted for sociologized “political science.” The essence of western democracy has been downgraded to pandering to the lowest common voter, by means of numbers, statistics and opinion polls. The modern political model, which the United States has exported all over the world, calling it “democracy,” is no longer about noble ideas and the struggle for human rights, equality and citizen well-being.  It’s about opportunism, not idealism, as the leaders of the Free World would have you believe.

Abraham Lincoln would not recognize his country’s governors today. Continue reading “Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be”

American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind

President Donald Trump arrives at Newark International airport
Washington’s illustrious company of Chicken Hawk Militarists, war-mongering politicians who didn’t actually do any military service, has a new Chicken Hawk in Chief, President Donald J. Trump. It’s a dubious honor.

The Chicken Hawk, the Most Ignominious Bird of All

The military service records–or lack thereof–of American war-mongering politicians are an excellent place to scrutinize their particular kinds of patriotism. The patriotic sentiments of those lacking in military experience are usually not of the Nathan Hale “I-only-regret-that-I-have-but-one-life-to-give- for-my-country” variety. The most common type of patriotism to be found among your non-combatant militarist politicians is of the vocal variety. Their mouths are admirably patriotic, the rest of their makeup not so much. These reluctant warriors who strongly support military action everywhere, all the time, yet went out of their way to avoid military service when of age are aptly referred to as “Chicken Hawks.” The term has a nice ring to it and an interesting set of connotations. Continue reading “American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind”

How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3

drone_truck

The Abuse of Power Is a Downward Spiral

What we have seen in the transition from the Obama to the Trump administrations is that the abuse of power under one administration leads to the abuse of power under another. Trump may be driving it more recklessly, but he’s still operating a machine the Obama administration built.

During his last year in office, responding to increasing criticism, Obama gave a speech attempting to clarify the boundaries of his drone target selection and his “signature killings,” based exclusively on behaviors observed on the ground considered indicative of possible terrorist activity, whatever that means.

“America’s actions are legal,” the president asserted of the drone war, which he claimed was being “waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” Self-defense? Obama might be able to claim the self-defense justification if he were killing enemies in the heat of battle in Ohio or Utah, but Iraq or Somalia? Not quite. This is just another case of clear and present bullshit. Continue reading “How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3”

Just Say Goodbye — 1/3

senegal2

Are You Fed Up?

So, you’re finally fed up with the seemingly endless string of cynical,  self-serving, and ruthless magnates, politicians, and generals, and the infirm society they have created for you and your fellow Americans.  You’re frustrated, ashamed and depressed. You really want out.  You’re convinced, ready to make your move.

Would you like to hear a few suggestions from someone who’s been through it, and who has met a lot of people over the years who have achieved the goal that you aspire to? Maybe I can help you out. Expatriating one’s self is like any other worthwhile project; it requires some planning. You don’t just pack your bags. First you think the whole thing through, consider your alternatives, make preparations, and cultivate contacts, both in your home and destination countries—you’re going to need all the friends and business contacts you can get.

Heady Stuff

This is one of the most exciting and rewarding times in the process of leaving. You’re actually beginning to act, to make choices, to savor the taste of change. This is the stage of active dreaming, and it’s heady stuff. Everything is possible. You get to choose your destination, make work plans, marshall your resources and do endless research on the Web. During this stage you can permit yourself the luxury of taking it easy and making careful plans.  Now that your mind is made up, there’s no urgency. More-careful preparation will save you surprises down the road. And you’re lucky, because leaving your country is not a cataclysmic, all-or-nothing act.  You get to test the water before diving in.

Be Discreet

First of all, be discreet. Do your best not to publicize your move as a protest or flight from an insufferable situation.  That will only complicate matters.  The fewer explanations you have to give, the better. And don’t worry about the legal aspects; they will sort themselves out in time.  This is, after all, a long-term project.  I arrived in Spain to stay at the end of 1968, but I didn’t renounce my American citizenship and take Spanish nationality till the early 1980’s. It was a 15-year process.  If they had asked me in the beginning if I wanted to become Spanish, I would have said no. I wasn’t ready yet. But, little by little, the country and I began to understand and appreciate one another, and over time—a matter of years—a bond was created which I wouldn’t trade for anything. So don’t be impetuous.  Don’t try to renounce your citizenship.  Under current American policy they won’t let you do that, anyway.  Don’t burn your passport. Don’t burn your bridges. You’re an idealist, but you’re not stupid.

Shall I give it to you straight in two words?  Just leave. Come up with a project which will take you abroad. Do your homework. Make a plan. Then do your best to carry it out. It doesn’t even have to be long-term or definitive. Make your first goal something feasible: “I’d like to spend a year teaching English in Italy.”  Why not? Go for it! As my old boss, Charlie Craig, used to say, “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have to go back home and get a job.” When I came to Spain I had no idea that I would spend the rest of my life here.  My initial goal was to stay out of the U.S. for five years, an objective which seemed to me wildly extravagant at the time. That was 50 years ago. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a wife and family, a house and garden, dozens of Spanish friends, then a whole clan in Spain, and enough animals to fill the Ark.

The “Business Plan”

A candidate for expatriation needs something very like a business plan, and if you’ve ever written one, you’ll recognize the similarities immediately.  Though you’re not primarily interested in profit, you’ve got a project and you’ve got a product.  Your project is expatriation and your product is you. You’ve got some resources and a timetable. You may be surprised to hear that your most important resource probably isn’t economic. It’s probably moral; call it conviction, desire, or aspiration. Mere money won’t get you where you want to go. You need vision, heart and a sound value system.

Though it’s a spiritual endeavor you’re embarking on, your expatriation project lends itself perfectly to a businesslike SWOT analysis. You’ve got Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and

cover-turncoat-final1_187Threats, and they can be written down and analyzed on a four-square matrix. This simple exercise is not only fun, but it will permit you to get a clearer idea of what you’re about to do, what your chances are of success, and maybe even how to head off disaster. How to go about it? Look it up in Google.

Next, in Part II, How to Get Started
Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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