Some News

StonedSo, I haven’t been a whole lot of public about this, but blogging is going to slow down significantly in the next couple of weeks.

After a few years of stepping on a crack, turning my ankle, falling on my face, icing the sprain, hobbling around, wash, rinse, repeat, I’m finally getting my ankle fixed. The surgery is tomorrow. They’re basically going to tighten the ligament that holds my ankle together, since it apparently resembles an elastic from a pair of trousers that’s older than my dad, and no longer does what it’s supposed to do. I’m told I’ll be on crutches for about a month – just in time to travel to Ft. Sill for Danny’s Basic Training graduation next month.

What that also means is that at least for a couple of weeks, I’m not going to be in the mood to blog, and if I do blog, it will either be ragey or nonsensical. I’m a pain wuss, and I may be doing a whole lot of lying around on drugs. Of course, I’ll have more time on my hands after the initial few days where I’ll be stoned on all kinds of painkillers, but I imagine some pretty entertaining stuff will pop up on here every so often!

Try to enjoy it, and don’t expect it to make much sense. Leaving me alone with painkillers, a laptop, and a bunch of free time could spell disaster! It could also be funny… in a clown-in-a-woodchipper sort of way.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Book Review: Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine

freedomIt’s always fun to read a novel written by a fellow immigrant – especially one who escaped from the same region of the world as I did, who consciously chose to become an American, and who appreciates the principles of freedom on which this nation is based. My fellow immigrants, especially those who were born and raised in oppressive environments have a unique appreciation for America. When you grow up in a place where you don’t have opportunities to excel, where corruption is the status quo, where what you read, watch and listen to is regulated by an ever-intrusive state, and where the citizens are rewarded for reporting suspicious activity to a tyrannical government and have no problem turning their friends and family in for a little extra booze or toilet paper, you feel like you begin to breathe again when you step foot onto U.S. soil.

So what happens when your adopted country careens toward the very thing you escaped?

Not every immigrant can write a killer novel, but Marina Fontaine has. Marina’s first novel “Chasing Freedom” avoids the usual mistakes by first time authors and liberty advocates who preach to death the ideology at the expense of the plot. Her book is not a delivery for her ideology. It’s an adventure story about love, perseverance, courage, corruption, the will to fight, and the will to live. I’m not going to post spoilers, because I do want you to pick up this book and read it.

I will tell you it’s focused on a dystopian America that is the logical conclusion of where we are headed if certain elements of society have their way – surveillance state, secret torture rooms for those daring to resist, corrupt government bureaucrats, propaganda, scarce resources, and lack of tolerance for dissent. Amidst over-regulation and lack of respect for human life, a resistance movement grows, featuring characters willing to sacrifice everything to gain freedom. The book focuses on the movement and how it grows. It tracks the resistance fighters from their teenage rebellion years to adulthood. It shows the progress they make and the emotional growth they experience on the way.

You can see how it would be easy to get preachy in this type of plot, but Marina avoids that trap, and presents a story filled with intrigue and action – a story that moves, a story that captures attention, and a story that impacts the heart. She doesn’t engage in lengthy descriptions of how horrible this futuristic America is. You will not find John Galt-length speeches in this book. She allows her characters’ distinct experiences to deliver that message. She doesn’t divide her characters into BAD GOVERNMENT and GOOD REBELS. She presents them as human, faulty, and real.

No, there’s no attempt to awkwardly shove diversity into the novel. It exists organically within the story, and there’s no need to push it.

Yes, there are hideously evil bureaucrats in this book, but not every character is black and white, not every resistance fighter is an angel, and not every government employee is a power-hungry, evil, sub-human piece of garbage.

And finally, what I really enjoyed about “Chasing Freedom” was that it didn’t focus on the darkness. Yes, it’s a pretty depressing vision of America. Yes, there are points that will break your heart. But at the same time, it’s a story of optimism – a refusal to surrender to the darkness and a brighter future.

Pick it up. You’ll like it.

Russia Nexus in Election 2016

Remember yesterday, when I left a few thoughts on the Trump campaign and the GOP’s relationship with Russia?

I have written before that the GOP candidate for president has been kissing Putin’s assthrough the primary season. Indeed, they have much in common, and Putin has publicly admired Trump.

The primary season culminated with the Trump campaign ensuring that the GOP platform didn’t include weapons aid to Ukraine against continued Russian aggression, while Trump publicly threatened NATO with gutting the Article 5 collective security guarantee. (Let’s remember why NATO was created in the first place, eh?)

And finally, Paul Manafort. Trump’s campaign manager used to work as a lobbyist for Putin crony and ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. This guy is ass deep in dodgy Russian money!

The New York Times did an interesting piece this morning on this very issue that makes some very salient points.

dwsAs many of you know, WikiLeaks has released thousands of DNC emails obtained by hackers, showing the Democratic Party’s efforts to subvert the Sanders campaign in favor of Hillary Clinton. These stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, have embarrassed Democratic leaders and caused party chairhag Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to resign (only to be rehired by the Clinton campaign – how’s THAT for corruption?)

The release also has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 campaign.

Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult. But researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers. Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess.

On Sunday morning, the issue erupted, as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the emails were leaked “by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump” citing “experts” but offering no other evidence. Mr. Mook also suggested that the Russians might have good reason to support Mr. Trump: The Republican nominee indicated in an interview with The New York Times last week that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the countries had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance.

Now, whether the emails were stolen by the Russians, or not is irrelevant when it comes to the issue of corruption within the Democratic Party that was revealed in those emails. That’s just a red herring by Mook to draw attention away from the fact that the DNC apparently actively tried to sabotage Bernie Sanders and subvert the democratic process.

As corrupt and disgusting as the DNC is, this is a separate issue from the one I discussed briefly yesterday, which is the interesting, and (I assess) dangerous relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia.

This is a revelation that, if true, will have serious repercussions on our foreign policy and our national security interests abroad, especially when coupled with the ass loads of Russian money Paul Manafort has been sucking up from his Putin crony buddies, the Trump/Putin mutual admiration society, and Trump’s promise to gut the Article 5 collective security guarantee.

That scares me.

ISIS inspired terrorism

In January of this year I discussed terrorism on this blog. I assessed that IS-inspired terrorism is actually more dangerous than IS-directed terrorism.

Why?

IS directed terrorism is easier to track. There will be planning. There will be electronic communication. There will be money transfers. There’s always a chance that someone will report suspicious activity, whether it’s banks or individuals. Planning can be compromised by lack of electronic security.

Contrast this with ISIS-inspired attacks in which lone wolves decide to take it upon themselves – for whatever reason, be it anger, religious zealotry, or mental illness – to murder scores of innocent people and screech their allegiance to Allah, the Islamic State, or whatever terrorist entity of the day moves them. IS doesn’t take part in planning. There are no money transfers, no plans being made by phone, text, or email. ISIS isn’t directly involved, although their leadership is certainly delighted by the results!

When the two scumbags launched an attack on San Bernardino, ISIS praised the two terrorists, but stopped short of claiming responsibility. The female gargoyle pledged her allegiance to ISIS in an online posting, but the attack doesn’t appear to have been directed by them. They simply stockpiled guns, went on a rampage, and tried to get away in a car, which didn’t work out so well for them.

We were just there. The US Embassy is on the left side as you face the gate.

We were just there. 

During the past couple of weeks, a series of terrorist attacks rocked Europe. There were several attacks in Germany, only one of which doesn’t appear right now to have been inspired by ISIS (although one witness claims she heard the murderer screaming “Allahu Akbar”), and one in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day, which killed more than 80 people when a terrorist named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel plowed a into crowds, leaving a street strewn with bodies before taking a hike to swine humping hell.

It doesn’t matter if the attackers were mentally ill, bullied, or inspired by radical Islam. There was no planning, no strings to unravel in terms of tracking potential future attacks, and lots of carnage.

Worse yet, it requires no effort or resources on the part of ISIS, other than to applaud the bloodshed and publicly claim credit for inspiring the attacks. Hell, it’s free labor for them that doesn’t require their fighters to leave the AO! It’s free publicity, and it’s like a contagious disease that empowers and encourages other frothing loons to stage rampages of their own.

Meanwhile, what makes inspired attacks even worse is that it gives clueless politicians reason not to acknowledge problems with ISIS, radical Islam, or anything related to it, because the attacker was sick/mental/bullied/*insert stupid reason that’s not terrorism here*.

I know some will claim that it really doesn’t matter. Lives have been lost. Security has been compromised, as has the people’s confidence in their governments’ ability to protect them from violence.

But it does matter, because the terrorists’ goals are being accomplished without much effort or risk on their part. And that’s a big problem.

Typical Russia

russia-dopingSo apparently, Russian athletes will be banned from competing in the Olympic games in Rio this year, because the Russians have been using a state-sponsored doping program to give themselves an unfair advantage. The New York Times reports individual athletes will have to prove their innocence to the individual sports federations before being allowed to compete, but apparently the Russian flag will fly in Rio after Russian president Putin whined that Russia was unfairly targeted, and that the international community was just out to get poor Russia due to politics.

Now, I’ll be honest here. I haven’t given a shit about the Olympics since I was a kid. Too many commercials, too much extraneous crap, and given the bribery scandals that mar the selection of sites for the Olympic games, too much corruption within the International Olympic Committee, which I don’t want to support with my viewership. Screw that.

But I did want to briefly discuss what I find interesting.

Russia is once again being typical Russia, and it takes me back to the days of the old USSR.

The current resurgent Russia is an aggressive, cunning power that works to build up nationalist sentiment by annexing Crimea, for instance, threatening its neighbors, publicly building up and spending billions on modernizing and building up its military, and implementing a countrywide doping program to ensure its athletes dominate the sporting world.

All for the glory of mother Russia.

Meanwhile, as part of its strategy – Russia is simultaneously playing victim.

Oh, poor Russia! It’s athletes were banned for political reasons!

Oh, poor Russia! Economic sanctions were imposed for political reasons – to keep poor Russia down – not because it illegally annexed part of another country, messed with its political process, and threatened its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Oh, poor Russia! NATO threatens it just by existing, so it has to threaten the Scandinavian countries if they dare even think about joining the alliance!

It’s what Russia is really good at – being the aggressor and then blaming everyone else for victimizing it.

I’ve mentioned several times that when it comes to Russia, everything old is new again.

Putin creating himself a nice little armed force that’s solely under his control – partly to project power to any who dare challenge him.

Putin ordering school history books to be rewritten to reflect Soviet history in a more favorable light.

Putin repatriating the body of Ivan Ilyin, who preached an almost pathological love of the Russian state, law and order, and nationalism.

Russia careening toward a new nationalism that’s creepily reminiscent of fascism.

History repeating itself?

It’s interesting to note, as I have previously, that Mitt Romney – for all his faults – called it as far as Russia being a resurgent threat. Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs both named Russia as an existential threat to the United States, both in its resurgent aggression due to its significant nuclear arsenal and asymmetrical warfare such as cyber, and it’s not just empty drama, given the threat of terrorism that constantly looms over the West.

So this latest Olympic drama, as uninteresting as it is to me on its face, is another puzzle piece that falls into place as to the future of Russia’s place in this world.

Another thought.

I’m not a conspiritard by any stretch, but a couple of things are interesting to note.

17-putin-trump.w529.h352I have written before that the GOP candidate for president has been kissing Putin’s ass through the primary season. Indeed, they have much in common, and Putin has publicly admired Trump.

The primary season culminated with the Trump campaign ensuring that the GOP platform didn’t include weapons aid to Ukraine against continued Russian aggression, while Trump publicly threatened NATO with gutting the Article 5 collective security guarantee. (Let’s remember why NATO was created in the first place, eh?)

And finally, Paul Manafort. Trump’s campaign manager used to work as a lobbyist for Putin crony and ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. This guy is ass deep in dodgy Russian money!

I don’t know about y’all, but to me, this all adds up to a major policy shift on the part of the GOP and its nominee that doesn’t bode well for our national security.

Your mileage may vary.

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