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. Continue reading “What I Remember from the States 1/2”

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

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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 Continue reading “There’s an Algorithm Going Round Taking Names”

Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way

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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

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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

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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

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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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