Week three of Corona and the “woke” generation

Third week into our Corona isolation and weird is the norm.  The epidemic is slowly revealing a generation of unable to cope with life.  The angst has reached shrill pitch and staying home is now requiring mental health “advisors”. The “woke” generation is learning a stiff lesson in accountability, responsibility, and financial inconvenience.  Stupid has peaked into hysteria.

My morning paper is cover to cover Corona.  An annoyance in itself since I keep on reading the same crap day after day.  How many times do we have to tell morons to stay home? But then how many times did we tell people that they should saved at least two months’ salary? The gizmo generation is stuck on a couch with only Sony or Apple as companionship.  Their fingers tired from texting, and brain fried by microwaves, they are itching for the outside world, suddenly realizing that they have been zombies for the best part of their lives.

My mother’s generation managed to go through WWI, Spanish flu, Polio epidemics, diphtheria, measles, mumps, chickenpox, WWII and Korea; with limited resources and sans much angst. Some of them managed to later walk on the moon. They managed to survive by sheer belief that one must plough through the bad to get to the good.  They conquered adversity like warriors not entitled twits.  I wonder what  my mother would have said if she had read that women are in total panic because childbirth “support” people have been denied access to the delivery room? Oy Vey!

My mother’s generation of women delivered millions of kids, us included, in bedrooms, barns, fields, and if lucky enough; a hospital.  Their “support” person totaled a midwife or a neighbor.  If things went well, the baby was born and the mother was up in two days cleaning the house and probably taking care of other urchins.  Often things did go bad.  But life went on.  Pragmatically and sustainably. Fast forward to my generation, when albeit conditions fared better and with more comfort, we also managed to deliver kids sans “support” persons.  We sweated, we cursed, we kicked, and we blamed the son of a bitch who put us through the hell we were going through in the first place. We all swore off sex on that delivery bed.  I could have easily reached for the nearest IV needle and stabbed anyone in the groin.  It was childbirth. The grit women were made of. What most of us boasted about. The ante we had on men. Unfortunately, today’s feminists define grit only as marching for the right to abortion in pink goofy hats. An oxymoron on resilience and courage.  We substituted our Amazonian hutzpah with political activism that is often vulgar, minute, and extremely underrated.

And so the angst continues. I sip on my coffee and gag as I read that pregnant women are now in unsolicited panic because hospitals are restricting “support” people during delivery.  So I keep on reading how In recent years hospitals started  “stork nesting” programs; allowing for  “support” people to be in attendance.  The insured have been footing the bill for people who want to feel good about themselves.  A natural process has been reduced to a another “feel good” entitlement. A generation conditioned to think that it is entitled to a life without pain, discomfort, and bad experiences. A generation totally immune to unpleasantness. I was unaware that childbirth had suddenly morphed into a team building event. Who’d have thought?

But my daily dose of nausea was not over yet. Over a bite of apple and peanut butter I discovered that we are entitled to be saved from ourselves. Bring on the morons who are stuck on cruise ships off the coast of Florida, bitching because the governor is refusing them landing.  And this is his and our problem how?  The virus has been making its party rounds since January, and seriously spreading since February.  Opting to lull on a large sea faring Petri dish  with 5,000 other morons is your problem.  That’s like knowing there are flames inside a building and you still insist on entering. My sympathy has been reduced to minus digits. Stupid is as stupid does. I personally refuse to have my tax dollars spent on saving idiots who might produce other idiots from their loins.

Corona is an eye opener.  When staying home for two weeks is psychologically damaging, then the nation’s brains we have supposedly nurtured have sprung a leak.  Trace the lack of fortitude to thirty years of telling kids that they are God’s gift to humankind.  Dumb or not, they deserve a trophy. A big pat on the back to the “equality” politically correct police who convinced parents, educators, and the easily swayed morons that everybody is equal in substance and intellect.  We raised the village idiot to the status of Einstein.  We have provided “safe spaces” for the inept, and compelled them to pursue useless “studies” that are neither marketable nor needed. Yet we failed to teach life coping mechanisms and survival skills. We have even given them “life” coaches whatever and whoever they are.  We put this crap on the forefront of our children’s lives and put common sense, discipline, will power, and disappointment on the back burner; raising a generation of idiotic self-centered weaklings.

My breakfast is over, which is my cue to stop reading more “needy” anguished garbage. I close my paper and wonder how many distraught couch potatoes are on the brink of despair.  I also wonder how many parents are tearing their hair out because they have suddenly realized that they have raised little shits (I stole that from my teacher daughter)  not shining star geniuses.  Yes, the virus might be a blessing in disguise; but for how long?

Is life as we knew it over? Second week in lockdown.

We are now into week two of our Bavarian Corona lockdown.  One can easily get used to the silent streets, clean air, quiet neighbors, and boredom. But eventually we get comfortable in our day wear (pajamas) while days roll by like an old rolodex.  I now know how hamsters feel.  Lock them up, spin that wheel long enough, and they will eventually look forward to it.  It is an insidious situation of wanting to leave the house but our butts won’t budge because it is too much of an effort.  We are now conditioned. I don’t leave the house without carrying latex gloves like a pervert. When this blows over (pardon the pun) I would still be walking six feet away from everybody else just in case.

We are now in the pre-corona remembrance state.  Do any of us recall what life was like when we could be obnoxious without having to think about catching anything?  The joy of being jostled on a busy street, bus, or subway? Businesses are out of business.  Whether a brothel or a jewelry store, we are all up the same creek. The joy of working from home.

I understand the trepidation in Europe, because borders were nonexistent and travel across EU states was virtually unhindered. Which is why the virus spread so rapidly.  Italy took the brunt. Started in the North, in Milan, where fashion designers and brand name houses wheel, deal, and flourish. They are the ones who do the most business with China.  From fabric to leather, China provides high end brands with lower priced resources and labor.

 Milan is “China Town” to name brands like Prada, Gucci, Armani, and many others.  In 2007, Gucci, D & G, and Prada were investigated by investigative journalists from one of Italy’s national television stations, RAI-3.  The journalists discovered that the expensive “stuff” might have been “made in Italy”,  but by Chinese immigrants often in slave labor conditions. In 2008, The Los Angeles Times wrote a piece called “Slaving in the Lap of Luxury”. Another expose on fashion houses in Tuscany and other parts of Northern Italy. Large manufacturing factories of high end goods were little more than sweatshops with poor sanitary conditions, and extreme low wages.  Most of the Chinese were from the Wenzhou region in China.  According to EU labor laws, a manufacturer can claim the country where the product is manufactured or assembled as the country of origin. A subtle legal loophole that brought myriad of Chinese workers into Northern Italy.  The perfect connection from China to Italy to corona.  Greed knows no bounds.

We are now living in the epicenter of the Chinese Virus, except that we can’t call it that because it is considered racist, or so we are told.  We had no problem calling a flu Spanish although it never originated in Spain.  No problem calling a flu African either.  But this is the dawning of the age of politically correctness where stupid is raised to another level.  In the meantime, our lives as we knew them, have changed forever.  Akin to 9/11, we will never travel the same way again, interact with people the same way again, or even leave our homes the same way again.  If this continues through the summer, we would have conditioned ourselves to never shake hands, hug, or touch anyone again.  Are we anticipating a science fiction pod type of life in the corona aftermath?

I for one am taking the entire experience as a work in progress. Each day I brace myself like a trooper. My eyebrows are still plucked, and I will hopefully manage to hide the grey from my hair long enough to psych myself into believing that grey is the new blond.  I might even wear my grey as a badge honor like those “I survived” goofy t-shirts college kids wear.  My nails remain trimmed and even if I have to venture into the grocery store, stand at my pre-conditioned social distance, watching the masked latexed cashier run my groceries; my make-up remains impeccably applicated.

Gas is now at its lowest price I can remember in probably a decade. With no one on the streets, gas stations are lowering prices from one masked breath to the next.  The price I drive by in the morning changes south by mid afternoon.  No complaints here.  But I can also envision the prices going up the minute we are told that we are free to continue our lives sans corona.

The virus has replaced all other world angst.  Heard anyone talking about Climate Change lately?  Where is our teenage climate change ninja; Greta? She must be going through some serious withdrawals. Her face contorts as she realizes that we are experiencing the cleanest climate in decades. China has stopped producing toxic crap and instead went into biological zoolonic crap.  Oh for a whiff of carbon emissions at this moment. Will Greta and other banshee activist morons ever realize that they barked up the wrong tree?  That the West is not the main culprit of climate degradation?  I wonder what convulsions Ms Greta would experience if she realizes that the “climate friendly” boat she sailed on was probably made in China, and contributed more to the world’s pollution than my emission guilty roadster ever will.  Well, the oomph has gone out of that balloon with a swipe of a contaminated hand and a cough.

Every day is a moment in time when we attempt to establish some norm in this crazy.  I find myself timing my day between writing, eating, studying, working, and Netflix.  What to do first?  I am sleeping later because the quiet is surreal. Not a sound of tires, footsteps, or dogs.  The mail person is the highlight of the day. If at all possible, he or she would throw the mail through the mail box.  Last week I had the first package delivered at the established corona distance.  The DHL man did not want my signature on the receipt.  If he could have thrown it through the front door he would have.  So I gingerly balanced myself to grab it as he tailed it out of dodge.  I was compelled to yell: “Hey, I’m not sick!” Skid marks are still on the asphalt. Oy Vey.

I heard that distilleries are going to start manufacturing sanitizers.   Adding a little bit of this and that to their original product.  I intend to use the sanitizer on both hands, lick them, then settle down with a good cigar!  Car manufacturers will be going into respiratory equipment; let’s hope that we have no recalls. I can stand behind a BMW, Mercedes, or Volvo respirator; but I have a problem with a Ford.

Every cloud has a silver lining.  This exercise in regimental regulated living should sit well with the young socialist voters.  We are going through a quick drill in socialist living.  Nothing to buy, nowhere to go, nothing to do, and miserable.  This is life under government regulations.  A government that dictates what is good for you, when, and how.  Which brings me to the young college morons at Spring Break in Miami.  The  intellectual elite who want us, taxpayers, to pay for their education because they think they deserve it.  After their blatant refusal to abide by the restrictions imposed by the government, I submit that they would not fare very well in a Socialist “Amerika.”  Good luck with that dream.

As I walk past my neighbors’ front doors I realize that I have not seen them for almost two weeks.  They have vanished. Swallowed by brick , mortar and fear.  I stop as I get this sudden strong urge to yell, “Is anyone still in there?” But I hesitate , as I conjure up third eyes, two heads, and long fangs creeping behind dark walls. I slowly tiptoe past a front door and suddenly catch a familiar hand waving through the laced curtains of a closed window.  A sigh of relief. I am safe. I can now return to my corona life of tranquility and day wear (pyjamas)!

So what’s with toilet paper?

It is the epidemic of the century, or so they say, and what is getting people mostly hyped about is the possibility of their life without toilet paper.  It’s a phenomenon worth looking into.  Shelves and shelves of toilet paper disappeared overnight like the “rapture” in a Hallmark movie.  The eighth locust plague was a doddle compared to the insidious snatching of rolls on our supermarket shelves.  The panic and the angst of a life sans toilet paper would have given Sigmund Freud a new purpose in life.  So why the compulsion?

I can understand older Europeans in their 80’s and 90’s being concerned with food and staple shortages.  They lived through the devastation of WWII Europe, where toilet paper would have been considered a luxury.  I remember my own mother who went  into a hoarding frenzy every time the news mentioned “war”.  It could have been in South America, but the buzz word was enough to send her to the local store and buy enough toilet paper to last her through several life times.  That I can possibly wrap my mind around.  But the younger generation is an enigma to me.  Are they so utterly unprepared for any kind of hardship that they cannot imagine or have a plan B for ass wiping sans Charmin?  One can’t help being crude because it does involve that part of our body that is taboo in polite company but fair game in a supermarket.

The penchant for hoarding is not new.  If a heat wave is predicted; stores run out of ice, fans, and air conditioners.  If the weatherman predicts cold; then oil prices rise, we run out of heaters, snow shovels, and salt.  The panic of today’s society is beyond any other that our parents or grandparents ever exhibited.  They were told to suck it up.  That gave them a sense of perspective of what should be considered a catastrophe. Life and death was a panic situation, not having enough paper to wipe your ass was not.  But we are talking about the current “trophy” generation ;  conditioned to think that they are God’s gift to mankind and anything short of complete comfort is Armageddon.  They are sans grit, sans gravitas.

The virus panic has crossed ethnicity, gender, time zones, and social standing.  “Doctors” opine on cable news and put their two cents in promising us that their truth is the truth.  Which should make us ask; if we do not have a reasonable vaccine or a cure, doesn’t logic dictate that we really don’t know shit about it? Why speculate?  Because it sells ratings.  In the meantime mainstream media’s over the top call to arms has raised everyone’s blood pressure and urged some of us to become rabid and raid supermarkets out of toilet paper.  

To put everything in perspective. The world population is approximately 8 billion. According to the latest WHO statistics, the current number of Corona infected individuals worldwide is 101,000; .00128% of the world population.  Influenza infects approximately 1 billion individuals worldwide each year.  Killing annually between 291,000 – 646,000 people worldwide. Approximately 45 million are infected by influenza each year in the US.  According to the CDC approximately 56,000 die of it. Currently, the US corona cases have numbered to approximately 2,000 with 56 deaths; mostly elderly and those suffering with immune systems. The current population of the US is approximately 333 million. 56 deaths is .00000017% of the population.  Catch my drift? But the frenzy trumpet sounded, and the unmitigated rush to the toilet paper aisle took off.

Cans of soup, sauces, and sundry still remain gently resting on our supermarket shelves in Germany.  However, one does notice shopping carts filled to the brim with beer and wurst.  After all next to “ass” comforts,  to a true Bavarian, a beer and a wurst makes the prospect of quarantine more bearable.  In Bavaria, the angst is less apparent. Less pronounced.  Schools have closed for an extended spring break and Gast Hauser are taking a sabbatical.  But other than that, the tranquil life of Bavaria is still moving along at its usual slow pace.  At least for now. Frau Merkel did crease her Arian brown in constrained Corona concern, but not to the extent that we have seen in other parts of the world. Germany has a population of approximately 81 million. Up to date: 3,795 cases have been identified and 26 deaths reported. More than 26 Germans have died on the autobahn this year. Perspective?

I will not predict what unprecedented angst will suddenly arise tomorrow. Toilet paper at a neighborhood Lidl  left the building as quickly as Elvis left a Vegas stage.  A young German couple were lately interviewed on a local television station at an attempt to explain the toilet paper corona caper.  They divulged that their next door neighbors made three separate trips to the supermarket to buy the much coveted toilet paper.  They each bought three large packets of 24 rolls.  By the time the young interviewed couple decided to get their quota of toilet paper; the local store had none .  When the reporter asked what they intended to do, they stoically, quietly, and without missing a beat replied; “go next door”.

According to Mary Alvord, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine; toilet paper represents an almost “infantile” primal desire to be clean.  It’s inherent. It is a product that we associate with cleanliness, good living, and beautiful people.  It’s a desperate urge to remain unsoiled.   It’s a psychological drive that compels us to keep our asses clean. A behavior attributed to our upbringing and social expectations.  Just for the hell of it I Googled “hoarding toilet paper” and a long list of possibilities dropped down like manna.  From Time to the media guru The Washington Post; psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and all genre of “experts” opined on a myriad of mental possibilities and conditions that compel us to go out in droves and clean supermarkets of ass wipes. I’m sure some Ivy League university has a “study” on “toilet paper compulsion in the world today.”

Bavaria’s roads are reasonably quiet, the weather is getting warmer, and spring is around the corner. As I contemplate what other panic-button restrictions I might have to endure in the next few days, I quickly jump out of my chair on a mission of great import. I must  check on my staple storage room in the basement.  I open the door, turn on quickly the light, and a sigh of utmost relief escapes my puckered lips.  Toilet Paper is safely tucked on the top shelf.  What a wonderful feeling of contentment. The world is as it should be.

Why I love National Geographic…

I have never yearned or had the compelling urge to visit third world countries, eat monkey brains, bat wings, snake innards, worm soup, or other bizarre shit of that ilk.  Any place that I would have to forage for unmentionables as a source of food was off my list.  My bucket list is obviously short.  Which brings me to China and the Corona Virus.  Has anyone noticed that these viruses and diseases always seem to take root in developing countries?  I have never heard of a virus from Finland, Sweden, Norway, or Iceland.  Their taste of exotic food stops at fermented fish; disgusting yes, but causing viruses no.

Fried Cockroaches

I am a closet Netflix watcher and an avid “cooking show” junkie.  Whatever they are cooking I watch.  I got hooked on a new series called Restaurants on the Edge.  Started watching it when the first episode featured a restaurant in Malta.  Much of the same reality premise just rehashed: three personalities from the US descend upon a restaurant that needs help.  An interior designer, a chef, and a social guru, visit the restaurant than decide on how to give it a facelift, new menu, and the push needed to stay in business.  On one of these episodes, they travelled to Hong Kong, China. 

The Chef whose mantra is local produce and local flavors, was taken to a street market which also doubled as “street” food.  He oohed and aahed as he watched little Chinese old ladies cook snakes, cow innards, and other unmentionables in spices and sauces.  He supped, licked, and drooled over flavors that tasted like “chicken”.  And we wonder how diseases get transferred from China to an apartment in NYC! A short note of interest: when the Chef returned to the restaurant to upgrade the menu, it was sans snakes, innards, or other creepy crawlies that tasted like “chicken” a few hours prior.  Go figure.

Wet Market in China

Eating street food in Calcutta or “nowhere” China is a far cry from selling and eating food in Los Angeles or New York.  What goes in those huge woks is as mysterious as what comes out of a bad magician’s hat. Africa is no better.  Aids and Ebola come to mind.  The Corona virus which is normally animal specific spread to humans through a “wet” market place in Wuhan, China. The market happened to be in close proximity to a research lab home to approximately 600 bats.  At least this is what the Chinese government allowed us to know.  But some Chinese scientists in Beijing are now suspecting that someone from the Wuhan science lab, inadvertently caught the virus through a bat encounter, and then spread it through the neighboring “wet” market. The virus is categorized as zoolonic , but when transferred to humans it changes composition and mutates attacking our respiratory system. Which is why it is more dangerous in older folk. By the way, for those of you who are not sure what “wet” markets are; live stock and other animals are slaughtered and sold at open air markets generally under very unsanitary conditions.

Swine Fever in China

In 2019, China lost over 100 million pigs to African Swine Fever.  Notice; it was not called German Swine Fever, or Swedish Swine Fever, or even California Swine Fever.  Diseases and epidemics continue to spread because developing countries remain unhygienic, with little or no government sanitary oversight, and traditional eating habits which include animal species carrying intrinsic viruses and often plagues.  Which brings me to the point of why I love National Geographic. 

National Geographic does the travelling, eating, and contaminating on my behalf without detriment to my well being.  I can sit comfortably in the comfort of my couch sipping a glass of wine while watching presumptuous yahoos eat monkey brains in the Congo.  At the same time I can wonder and marvel at how a seemingly intelligent individual can bring himself to eat snake tripe, scorpion soup, and beetle fricassee just because he can.  The National Geographic “journalist-explorer” will look at the camera while eagerly chewing on fried cockroaches.  I’m sure they too taste like chicken. Yes, spare me the pain but still give me the adventure.

Enters exotic world travel that sends morons to nether regions of the world to have an “awesome” experience. We then compound the situation by the sick crap they bring back. And as we relax with a Starbucks somewhere on Main Street USA, we are unaware of the garbage that will soon hit the proverbial health fan.  The double and triple digit tonnage of a floating Petri dish with 5,000 or more souls on board, eating food that has been exposed to the elements for days, and who disembark in ports that are less sanitary than a New York City public toilet; further adds to the incoming plethora of unknown viruses and diseases. 

The penchant to travel to countries not best known for hygiene has become an obsession among this generation.  In my youth, only medical doctors, nurses, archeologists, and missionaries ever ventured out into an “awesome” experience.  On their return they were immediately put in quarantine.   But I digress.  Some might call me a bigot but once again I must remind you that serious diseases have never originated in western countries.  Even the European plagues were brought to Europe by ships carrying vermin from “exotic” places.  Again I digress.

Cruise ships are not the only travelling Petri dishes.  Airlines are the ultimate toilets in the skies.  Crammed like sardines and breathing each other’s arm pits, the air that circulates comes from the breath of the 300 cramped transatlantic zombies strapped to their seats.  Add the fact that airline travelers  have morphed from the sophisticated 60’s Pan Am passenger to the unwashed masses that board a plane in their pajamas; they are the proverbial incubators for anything and everything they catch in some remote “must see” market in Timbuktu.

China, India, South America, and Africa create havoc in our world and we ignore it, because “racist” “bigot” and “insensitive” gets thrown in our faces like confetti on the 4th of July.  They are the worst polluters in the world, and they are the primary source of microbiological viruses and epidemics that spread like wildfire.  There was a short pleasant world reprieve; in the past few weeks NASA satellites noticed a sharp drop in pollutants over China.   The Coronavirus closed down lithium, coal, and other toxic factories for a few weeks.  I wonder if the 15-year old angry teenage twit in Sweden noticed.  Hey Greta, it’s not us who pollute!

The EU and US are at a crossroads on developing countries. They need to get a grip and start taking serious action against nations that take our money but refuse to clean up their acts.  I would not wish any economy to go South, but western governments throw money at these nations like a croupier in Vegas, yet they still spread AIDS, SARS, Swine flu, Ebola, and now Corona. Western religious organizations have spent billions on assistance, as have Doctors without Borders, UNESCO, and the WHO; to no avail. The global community must insist on a change in dangerous traditional eating habits, hygiene, and safety.  Stop the aid until they clean up their act. Stop the cruises, flights, and commerce until governments become serious enough to educate and change. If you want our hard earned dollars then make an effort to protect us when we visit you. Join the 21st century already.

In the meantime, I will wash my hands 20+ seconds, then position myself with a glass of wine as I turn on Netflix and National Geographic.  I heard that tonight the show features a special cooking show from the exotic jungles and rainforests of the Congo. Someone mentioned Gordon Ramsey’s famous Beef Wellington with a twist: African striped weasel en croute….YUM! I’m sure it will taste like chicken!

So much for gun control

We have been in Germany for 30+ years, and there isn’t a country in the western hemisphere with stricter gun control than here.  Regulations cover from how to store a gun to when to use it.  Licenses separate the hunter from the home owner.  Which brings us to yesterday’s shooting in Hanau, Germany. 

Courtesy BBC News

Hanau is situated approximately 45 kilometers from Frankfurt.  I am very familiar with Hanau because until 2008, it was home to one of the biggest US Army installations and depots in Europe.  It is also home to a few thousand Turks, Kurds, and immigrants from the Middle East.  Yesterday’s massacre was premeditated and calculated.  The perpetrator targeted two hookah lounges frequented mostly by Kurds.  The polizei  eventually caught up to the nutcase and they assumed he killed himself and two more people in his house.  He left a note.  He didn’t like immigrants.  No surprises there.

The polizei found a cache of arsenal in his vehicle and other weapons at home.  Which brings me to the opening of this rant: how could this guy buy weapons and openly transport them in the trunk of his car when Germany has the toughest gun control? This brings us to the conclusion that most anti gun activist seem to conveniently miss; if one wants to kill, one will find a way and means of doing it.  In recent years, the weapon of choice in London has been the knife, machete, or a vehicle.  So far no one has come out against any of these three weapons.  But the band goes on playing the gun control swan song.

Courtesy of The Guardian

Murderers do not normally pick protected targets.  Schools, churches, restaurants, and unprotected public places are fodder for these nut cases.  The constant harping on more regulation and gun control is no deterrent to one bent on killing someone.  There are over a 100 gun regulations in the US.  The majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens.  You would not know it if you listened to the shrills of some of the current candidates running for office. They want to be more like Europe, they claim.  How has that worked for Hanau?  Hanau is in the news because the number of victims is in double digits.  As of today, 10 have died.  But Germany has had its share of gun related violence which we also conveniently choose to forget. 

In the early 70’s and way into the late 80’s, the Red Army Faction or Baader Meinhof Gang,  managed to kill several airmen on Rhein Main AFB, and several high ranking US officers in Berlin.  They targeted anyone they remotely suspected of being “capitalist”. They went after bankers, politicians, and the US Military.  For years, we never left our house and got into our vehicles without checking behind our tires and under the cars for anything suspicious. That was normal for the US military families living in Germany. But I digress. The Red Army Faction were a far-left terrorist group who went on a rampage for over three decades.  They carried bombs, guns, explosives, and any other weapon of choice that killed the most human life.  They mostly used Russian arsenal which some alleged that the KGB was providing through Eastern Europe. Although never proven, they were probably funded by most socialist regimes in the Eastern bloc. How they managed to run amok carrying enough ammunition to blow up buildings is beyond belief, especially since Germany enacted its strict laws soon after WWII. But carry they did.

https://www.thelocal.de/20190405/what-germanys-red-army-faction-can-tell-the-world-about-terror

All the regulations and political rhetoric in the world will not stop anyone’s intent to kill. After a major shooting we get the rest of the story.  The killer was generally never “normal”.  Often pissed off at the world, unaccomplished, and seemingly attracted to the bizarre. The weapon is not the issue.  The individual is.  In the US, it is difficult to get seemingly normal individuals to turn anyone in for fear of law suits or worse.  The 2009 Fort Hood shooting by an Islamic Major Nidal Hasan could have been prevented.  After the shooting, colleagues came forward to admit that he had become weird.  He started making anti-US remarks.  They were apprehensive in turning him in. Why? Because they would have been labeled racist Islam phobic.   That is the trend.  The bad guys get a pass and the good guys die.  But that’s a story for another day.

Whether people knew the Hanau murderer or not, I am certain that he did not become a far right wing bigot over night. It has also come to light that he imagined “voices”. Where have we heard that before? I am certain that if he had not used guns he would have found some other method to kill. He went out that night wanting to kill.  So what is the answer?  There is none. 

Which brings me to the pinhead politicians on both sides of the proverbial pond thumping the pulpit on gun control.  There aren’t enough back ground checks and bans to be had or made that would have prevented this or any other shooting.  The bad guys will find a way to get arsenal.  They will literally beg, borrow, steal, and kill to get it.  There aren’t enough laws in the western world that would have stopped Hanau or any other shooting. The hypocrisy of the anti-gun lobby stands alone.  Those on the campaign trail have armed guards.  Hollywood elite live behind thick high walls guarded by armed goons.  They have no problem with their protection, its yours they don’t want.  Typical socialist mantra; doing without is only for others not for us.

 All terrorist attacks carried in France, the UK, Germany, Netherlands, and the climate friendly Northern Scandinavian countries used guns. A lot of guns.  Those gunned down could not defend themselves or had anyone within a reasonable distance to defend them.  Everyone here in Germany is aghast and wondering how in a country where one needs a permit to take a leak, a crazy man could amass a car load full of armor and without anyone getting wind of it. My answer: because he could.  The old adage; where there is a will there is a way, is not just whimsical, it is true. 

Bavarians are the biggest gun owners in Germany because they hunt.  Hunting season is highly regulated in typical German beauracratic fashion.  Special gun locked cabinets must be purchased or insurers will not insure either the person or the house.  Licenses and permits are difficult to get and authorities can demand personally owned guns at any moment.  It is very difficult to bring a gun into Germany.  Foreigners who want to bring guns into Germany must first apply for a permit which takes months. If allowed, the gun has to be transported in an approved container.  The zoll polizei will meet the individual at the airport, and paperwork is drawn up on the spot. Accountability for the weapon lies strictly with the owner.  One would think that such an air tight system is impenetrable. Obviously not, and without hesitation, I would add that although in my opinion, Germany has the best gun control in the world, it still has gaps that can never be plugged.  In a country of approximately 82 million with open borders to several other countries, shit happens.  In recent years, shootings in Germany have increased albeit the fact that regulations remain the strictest. A testimony to the fact that if one wants to kill he or she will find a way.

The US population is approximately 334 million.  That is without counting the several million illegal immigrants.  Attempting to stop gun violence in the US is like chewing on water; equally senseless.  Even if the country bans every gun in the country, shootings will still occur. Bad guys don’t normally ask permission to carry.  Thinking that more regulation will deter drug dealers, nut cases, and other genre from shooting people up is not only naïve, it is downright stupid.  So what is the solution?  How can we stop the shootings? We can’t.

As long as movies and television shows remain open season to violence, and video game moguls keep on cashing in on violent games as amusement, and children are raised by technology instead of parents and God; we remain kicking dust like a horse in dry pasture.  Guns have always been part of life and in the US, our rights.  What changed is the world’s attitude toward parenting, personal responsibility, and beliefs.  Our parents and grandparents drew a line between good and evil and discipline built a sense of expectations in us.  Many children have been raised with guns.  But they were also raised with principals and respect.  Something this new world generation is sorely lacking.  

As I wind down my rant, I say a prayer for those who were victims of a horrific act of hatred in Hanau.  Will it happen again? Probably.  Can we prevent it? I doubt it.  If it isn’t a gun it will be something else.  Unfortunately it’s the world we live in.   

Why I love Netflix: two great relevant movies to watch

My New Year’s choice of movies is normally The Godfather trilogy.  It sets the mood.  “Leave the gun and take the cannoli”. “It’s not personal but business”. However, my recent ardent discovery of Netflix opened new doors to the world of movies. Not one to miss such an opportunity, I spent New Year’s week engrossed in two movies: On the Basis of Sex and The Green Book.  Two movies based on true stories and equally enthralling.  Both I would recommend to anyone interested in watching something substantial, relevant, and entertaining. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On the Basis of Sex is a short biopic of Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RBG).  It focuses on her early years as a struggling law student in a man’s world.  The movie was written by her nephew Daniel Stiepleman and edited by RBG and her daughter Jane.  Although Ruth admitted that some imagination was given license, the “meat” of the story remains true to what she had gone through as a woman attending Harvard’s Law School in the early 50’s.  The early 50’s, when women were not encouraged to go beyond teaching or typing. 

When RBG entered Harvard, the university was in its sixth year of admitting women, mostly because the Dean’s wife urged her husband to do so.  In 1956 RBG was one of nine women admitted to Harvard that year. One year prior she had given birth to a baby girl; Jane.  That same year, her husband Marty developed cancer but she urged him to continue studying law.  So she attended his classes and typed his papers as he dictated his thoughts. She did this while also attending her own classes. Marty went into remission and overcame the disease.  Eventually, RBG transferred to Columbia and ended up as a Law Professor at Rutgers; she needed a job.  She was top of her class at both Harvard and Columbia.

The movie brings up the legal and social divide between genders.  Harvard Dean Griswold’s  welcome speech to the new law students dismissed the presence of the nine women present and smugly asked the class; “What does it mean to be a Harvard man?” The movie goes beyond the now too familiar gender inequality of the 50’s through the 70’s; the film hones on a particular case which changed the mindset that the law is allowed to follow preconceived  traditional gender roles.  The case was based on the premise that women should be the lawful caregivers and nurturers.

RBG and her husband fought this first major case on behalf of a single male (Charles Moritz) against the IRS. Charles was the sole caregiver of his ailing mother.  He was not married. He was not entitled to any tax breaks. Tax breaks were only given to women or divorced men but not single males.  Teaming up with the ACLU, Ruth and Marty Ginsberg  co-chaired their appeal to the US Court of Appeals in an attempt to change the caregiver laws that discriminate against men. A great line from RBG’s alleged address to the Court of Appeals was: “Why shouldn’t men be nurses?” Bringing home the stereotyping of gender bias.

I have always had an affinity with RBG.  I can recall the many times some yahoo walked into my bank and asked for the manager “where can I find him?”  My scathing reply was always; “I am the manager and you have found HER”. As women we have been referred to as “the little lady” and for a long time military wives were “dependents”.  The joke went something like this: if the military wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one.

The social male umbilical cord  took a long time to break and not without pain. As the movie so eloquently brought up:  women could not apply for a credit card without the permission of their husbands, and when RBG was at Harvard there were no female latrines there either. At a dinner party for the female law students Dean Griswold asked each woman why she wanted to “take the place belonging to a man”. The US Court of Appeals judges tried to justify discrimination through tradition.  Dean Griswold who appeared for the defense (the IRS) blatantly declared; “let’s put gender equality to bed once and for all.” The Plaintiffs (Ruth & Marty) used the term “gender inequality” for the first time in their brief to the Court of Appeals.  The paralegal  typing up their brief thought it more appropriate than “sex discrimination”.   She felt that the word “sex” was too much “in your face”.

The movie made me like RBG even more than I had before.  I do not always espouse to her ideology but I sure admire this kick ass woman.  She interpreted equality within the spirit of the constitution.  In her tenure she has often brought out points of challenges and contention that few politicians or her colleagues want to address or comprehend.  She points out that nowhere in the constitution is “woman” ever mentioned.  How many of us have noticed that? “Freedom” appears in the 1st Amendment. 

RBG’s legal and social commitment has always been “equality”.  Possibly because of personal experience but probably because she was raised Jewish and by a strong mother. For example, her stand on abortion has always been justified by an “equality side” of the issue.  A woman should be equal to a man in decision making.  Nowhere is it more apparent then when she went to bat for Charles Moritz against the IRS. She was looking at the fundamental right of an individual to have the same rights as another individual who the law had given a preference to because of gender.  In this case it discriminated against men. The law was based on a predetermined traditional role of one gender against another. Her fight for equality was and has never been conveniently feminist, but always relied on undisputed individual rights for equal benefits. 

Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali as Tony Lip and Dr Don Shirley

The Green Book is Driving Miss Daisy backwards.  The story about Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a prolific piano player who in 1962, hit the US concert road in the company of the most unlikely driver; Tony Lip aka Frank Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen).  The movie was co-written by Nick Vallelonga from conversations and years of reminiscing with his father Frank.  The story takes flamboyant Don Shirley, who lives on the top floor of Carnegie Hall with a butler, across the mid-west to the deep South.  The 1962 Jim Crow south.  Dr. Don Shirley needed a chauffeur to drive him to the various concert halls, private clubs, and venues where he  performed with two cello musicians from Leningrad.  The chauffer’s job was given to Tony Lip; a Godfather-like character with limited vocabulary lost in vulgarity, and whose job experience included being a waiter/maitre d’/bouncer at the famous Copacabana in NYC.

In those Jim Crow days, black families took to the road using a guide book called The Green Book.  A book that listed “safe” places to stay and travel through with hopefully minimal harassment and danger.  The odds of being stopped by law enforcement and harassed were very high and often hazardous to your health if you were black. The movie has several scenes where Dr. Shirley was invited to play in high end venues only to be forced to find accommodations in sub standard “Colored Only” establishments.  The friendship between the two men developed on various levels of often comic relief between the articulate and well educated Don Shirley, and the Joe Pesce-like Tony Lip, who managed to sock a few Southern hicks in the mouth while protecting his boss.

The movie is a good example of racism that tears people apart but also brings unlikely people together.  NYC in the 60’s was not exactly haven to minorities either.  Bigotry and bias was based mostly on territorial dominance of the fittest.  The changing demographics brought problems which we discover in the first few minutes of the movie. Tony’s wife Delores gives a glass of water to two black men workmen at her house.  Tony  proceeds to slowly pick the glasses from the sink and throw them unceremoniously in the garbage.  There was no love lost between  Italians, Hispanic, or blacks in NYC.  The movie manages to expose the best and the worst of both men and their individual response to the environment and upbringing. 

In real life both men became and remained the best of friends until they both died in 2013.  Some critics pan the movie as nothing more than a soft story of a musician who was neither great nor significant.  However, they miss the point.  The movie is about the resiliency of the human spirit.  Both men had weaknesses; Don Shirley liked to drink and if so believed was also a closet homosexual.  Tony was ignorant with barely enough education to write a decent letter to his wife.  He could be described as the stereotypical street smart Italian American; carried a gun and got into fights.  But together they discovered a balance between their two lives and existences that brought them closer than any friendships they ever had.  They fought their stereotypical lives in their own way.

I am not a movie critic by any means; but these two flicks are worth the time, glass of wine, and cigar.  Both movies peel the nuances of an era when inequality was normal.  Both brought into the open the immoral and unethical justification of race and gender inequality as a convenience of the time.  Both got me thinking that the “good ol’ days” were not really that good or great after all.  Written in tongue-in-cheek cynic quotes, the writers were relatives of the protagonists and knew their subjects well.  Taking creative and entertainment liberties into consideration; both movies hit me with a sense of awakening.  Thank you Daniel Stiepleman for writing about your aunt who in true RBG character was pragmatic and told you that “if you must” to just go ahead and write about her.   Thank you Nick Vallelonga for sharing a story that would have otherwise not been told.  Thank you Netflix for being in my life!

The Berlin Wall – 30 years ago and yes I remember it well

30 years ago – The Berlin Wall
US tanks facing off Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie – 1961

Nothing in the world signified the evil of Communism and Socialism more than the Berlin Wall. Those of us who still remember the black and white images of American tanks facing off Soviet tanks across Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, also remember our angst that WW III might have also been just around the corner. That was 1961. A few months later without much fanfare, barbed wire was quickly unraveled dividing a city, a country, and eventually a continent.  Germany, and Berlin in particular was hastily divided into prosperity and misery depending where you stood on that morning in 1961.  Streets, buildings, and families were caught on either side of a wall that epitomized the Cold War and Soviet aggression toward the West.

West Berlin post 1989

Berlin became the proverbial thorn in the side for every Soviet leader in the good ole’ USSR.  It was the epicenter of contrasts. However, it was the East German puppet government that fared the worst.  Not recognized as legitimate by the rest of Western Europe or the free world; the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) became Russia’s bitch. Berlin was a city stuck between cosmopolitan capitalism and stagnant communism.  It must have irked the shit out of Moscow having to endure western culture literally on their doorstep. 

Duty Train orders

The difference between East and West Berlin was best seen at night.  Lights and life on one side, darkness and silence on the other. Divided into allied sectors, West “Berliners” were the isolated privileged stuck in a city that constantly reminded them that their war was far from over.  It was also a lesson in “allies” incongruity. The US, France, and Russia were the three allied countries controlling the city.  Russia of course controlled East Berlin, and for all purposes they were still our allies. Members of the US Armed Forces were authorized to drive through East Germany carrying travel orders. They also carried signs printed in Russian in case they were stopped by East German authorities.  Because East Germany was never recognized as a legitimate government, being stopped by East German authorities was considered illegal by the allies. Americans were instructed to demand to speak with a Russian official. 

The convoluted Allied agreement allowed US service members in uniform unhindered passage through Checkpoint Charlie into the East.  This also meant that Russian counterparts had the same privilege. A situation that Hollywood has attempted to capture on film many times but always missed the mark.  Reality was more dangerous.  It was easy for one of us to lose track of our surroundings and inadvertently find ourselves in East Berlin without authorization. Happened a few times when riding a U-Bahn (subway) and missing the last stop in the West a few yards from Checkpoint Charlie. Although spouses and dependents of US Service members were authorized unhindered passage into the East through Checkpoint Charlie, they still required US authorization.  Being captured as a spy was truism not a Hollywood script.

Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, US military presence in Germany numbered to approximately 500,000.  Combined NATO exercises like REFORGER (Return Forces Europe) visibly and intentionally demonstrated allied might that would intimidate any Soviet watching across the East/West German border.  Our family became part of the 500,000 when in 1985 we were sent to our next military station in Bremerhaven, North Germany. In the following four years we took advantage of the US Military Duty Train from Bremerhaven to Berlin, and visited the city often. Duty trains transported personnel and supplies to the US Sector in West Berlin and vice-versa.

US Sector and train station in Berlin

 Duty Trains traveled all across Germany between garrisons and occupied allied sectors and locations.  The Duty Train to Berlin was more interesting than most because it crossed from West Germany through East Germany to its final destination in West Berlin.  With limited space and capacity, those of us eager to travel to Berlin signed up days in advance.  We were issued travel orders written in English, French, and Russian.  We were briefed in detail on security and safety protocols that would eliminate any possibility of a Cold War “incident”.  As the train approached the East German border, it stopped at the last station in the West (Helmsted) long enough to swap the engine for an East German one (diesel), and for a Russian interpreter to come aboard.  With window shades down, and strict security protocols in place, we were on our way to Berlin. On arrival to Berlin, we still had to stop at the first East Berlin control point where East German & Russian guards scanned the undercarriage with mirrors and led K9’s around the train for possible stowaways. 

Security protocols

I have walked through the Checkpoint Charlie border many times in those four years.  Carrying 15 West German marks, I remember ringing a bell to enter a very small border control room. Stuck between two worlds.  Always unnerving. I handed my passport to an expressionless East German official who stamped it, took my West German marks and gave me the equivalent in East German marks (NOTE: in 1989, a US dollar was worth 4 West German marks and 23 East German marks). In that instance one realizes the hypocrisy of socialism as the Deutsche Demokratic Republik  (DDR) made profit off outrageous mark conversions; one for one.  But I digress.

My status was precarious because at that time I was still a non-US citizen but a US Military dependent. It was not a good idea to carry my US Military ID Card or SOFA stamp (Status of Forces Agreement) that identified me with the US Military for fear of being accused of espionage.  Meanwhile, my husband in USAF uniform walked through and carried my documentations.  Because everybody watched everybody else, we did not link up for several blocks.  We had to repeat the process coming back into West Berlin; going through the East German control room again and show what I had bought for 15 East German marks.  The short walk from that room to Checkpoint Charlie always seemed to take forever.  Always aware that I might be stopped for one reason or other. 

Peter Fechter

Walking along side “the wall” at the Brandenburg Gate was both exhilarating and chilling. Graffiti, some political, some obscene, but always defiant, adorned an otherwise grey cement wall that separated a city and a people.  High viewing platforms were placed at intervals on the West side of the wall where we could observe “the other side”, and often taunt the East German guards watching through their binoculars. But the Berlin Wall was not just a symbol of division it was also a place where heroes gave their all.  140 individuals were murdered in cold blood attempting freedom.  One of them shot in the back and left to bleed to death.  His name was Peter Fechter. 

East Germany

The 30th anniversary of the fall of communism and socialism in Europe brings back memories that confound me in today’s euphoric socialist rhetoric.  It is not only regretful, but incredulous that 70-year old pseudo socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others of their ilk embrace their misguided socialist mantra.  They more than anyone else should remember the pain socialism caused in Europe, Cuba, and South America.  Maybe we should add dementia to stupid. Unfortunately, mainstream media which in the past few years has morphed into a Castro-like bullhorn for socialist agenda also seemed to have conveniently forgotten history.  Socialism born out of disingenuous narrative of equality divided a country and a continent into “haves” and “have not”.  Romanticizing socialism is an affront to those who gave their lives running from it.  People like Peter Fechter.  I would love to remind Messer’s Sanders and Warren that the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in not out.

Early 1989, standing in line at the only department store in Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, I foolishly asked the grumpy socialist comrade cashier if a child’s item came in any other color or size.  I could only find one size and one color.  In a dismissive chilling voice that would crack a pretzel, I was waved aside with a curt “nein”. I attempted to break the ice between comrade and capitalist by asking when she expects other sizes or colors to arrive.  One would have thought that I asked if she would be growing a third eye because between the unsympathetic grunt and the cold stare I was informed that availability was already on the shelves.  The socialist chill was temporarily warmed up by an elderly lady who sympathetically explained that availability is by chance.  Get whatever while it’s on the shelf.  In true capitalist fashion I foolishly asked; “Suppose they don’t fit?” A shrug of the shoulder in defeat told me all I needed to know.  Isn’t Socialism just precious?

Our Garrison Chaplain was born in Communist Poland and his sense of humor was equally born out of the absurdity he had to endure as a child in a communist country.  He recalls walking down the street and watching people standing in line.  When asked what they were standing in line for, most of them were clueless, but resigned to the fact that it was obviously something they did not have the day before,  is available now, so worth standing in line for today. He also recalls his mother sending him to the baker who only sold one kind of bread.  “Is this today’s fresh bread?” “No, this is yesterday’s, today’s fresh bread will be here tomorrow!” Comical as it may sound, socialism is humor wrapped in false good intentions propagated by politicians who would never have to stand in line or want for anything in their lives.  They only want equality and distribution for me and you and not them.   

The current millennial misguided love affair and romance with socialism is not only disturbing it is frightening.  Communism and socialism promises equality but takes away freedom.  Those who boast of idyllic distribution of wealth for everyone will eventually get tired of mundane and want more.  There was zero unemployment in the Soviet Union.  But there was also zero incentive to produce any significant work either.  When a doctor earned the same as a street sweeper why bother?

Trabi

To own a private vehicle in East Germany, one had to place an order in often 15 years in advance and delivery depended on proximity to Berlin or how loyal a party member you were. An East German Trabi cost approximately 8,000 marks, often a year’s salary. Poorly made from recycled materials they rotted within a few years.  A Trabi’s 23 HP two-stroke engine spewed black smoke and became the brunt of most jokes in both the east and the west.  But socialist mayhem did not stop at substandard cars, it crossed lateral lines into daily living we take for granted.  The joke goes: a comrade goes to order a Trabi.  He is told that it would take 13 years, and was given a delivery date.  Comrade asks if it would be delivered in the morning or the afternoon.  He was asked why that was important.  Comrade answers: “I have an appointment with the plumber in the afternoon.”

After the wall came down, the first thing that was thrown in the trash was the Trabi.  East German guards took off and sold uniforms on the spot to tourists eager to buy a piece of history.  We still own plenty of “Wall” remnants we chiseled with the rest of the thousands that flocked in the hope of taking home a fragment of an “era”. We also managed to acquire several Soviet and East German “medals” that DDR soldiers were eager to part with for a few precious West German marks and a taste of freedom.  I have since visited Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate in the past few years.  The first time I took the trip to Berlin since 1989 was in 2015.  I was totally disoriented because the silent and deserted streets I had walked on so many years prior were now bustling with people and brand names like Gucci, Armani, and others of their ilk.  But I was also disappointed that many young people I spoke with were clueless of their surroundings. 

We have been in Germany for 34+ years.  But the one singular event that shaped us and Germany was the end of Communism and Unification.  Unfortunately, Unification did not bring the two Germanys together as it was supposed to. The former East German states are still lagging behind in employment and economic growth. With the influx of over a million immigrants in the past few years, resentment toward the Berlin government has risen.  The far right AfD (Alternativ fur Deutschland) has rapidly risen in power in the former East German states, giving the party seats in the Bundestag and a voice that smacks of Fuhrer like racism and anti-Semitism. Germany has experienced a large rise in anti-Semitism, with most incidents reported in Berlin. 

The euphoria of a united Germany died many years ago.  An initial 3% Unification tax was implemented to allegedly augment the reconstruction of depilated East German infrastructure and economy.  The plan was big on aspirations and good intentions but short on reality.   The Unification tax has since morphed into a 7% social tax which to most Germans it has become meaningless.  In the meantime, former East German states still lag in employment, infrastructure, and contentment.  Watching Merkel’s government giving away free handouts to over a million immigrants gave rise to entities like the AfD who claim that Merkel cares more about foreign immigrants than Germans. 

30 years ago, in our military housing living room in Bremerhaven, we stood in awe and excitement as we watched the wall slowly crumble and thousands of Germans ripping it apart from opposite sides.  We smiled, we cried, and we had hope.  We realized that we were watching history unfold before our very eyes.  We feel privileged to have been part of the force that protected Germany and stood by it throughout the Cold War. That realization is no truer than now, as we live 30 kilometers from the Czech border where Russian tanks would have come through to the West. We are also glad that our presence lends some reality and historic significance to this anniversary.  We thank Germany and our wonderful German friends and neighbors who have become our home and our family respectively.  Wir wunchen Deutschland in den nachsten 30 jahren alles gute.

Abandoning the Kurds is a blemish on America

Kurds fleeing attacks in Syria.

I am having difficulty deciphering between campaign promises and stupid.  President Trump crossed that fine line last week when in a sudden turn of action decided to withdraw our troops from Syria.  This decision is beyond stupid, it is arrogantly criminal.  The Kurds who we were supporting, supported us, the United States, willingly.  From the early days of the War on Terror the Kurds stood side by side our soldiers fighting our enemies.  They quietly helped in Iraq against the Taliban and pro-Hussein factions, and later died to rid the region of ISIS.  Our soldiers were not only willing to fight with these warriors, but happy to have them on our side.  That has all changed.

President Trump addressing the media

In a fit of something, President Trump in his too familiar unapologetic decision-making announced that he would order our troops to withdraw immediately from Syria, leaving the Kurds hanging out to dry.  But the “stupid” does not end there.  Knowing full well Turkey’s intentions to obliterate the Kurds, our President on behalf of us, betrayed those who fought and died for our cause.  Premeditated disloyalty and integrity.  If this does not bring bile to our throats, then our country and our integrity as a people is doomed.  The great negotiator blew this one right out of his ass.  Against all advice from respectable military strategists and minds like former General Mattis, our President decided that he knew better and did it anyway.  Allegedly, the decision was made after one phone call with the other sweetheart, Turkish President, Erdogan.  Where is a whistleblower when you need one? 

Akin to the same mistake that former President Obama did when he withdrew American troops from Iraq, President Trump left a vacuum that will eventually be filled by similar, if not the same ISIS killers.  Conservatives and Republicans eviscerated President Obama  as incompetent, reckless, and inexperienced.  I agreed on all terms.  Well, we have come a full circle because moving our troops out (who by the way were not engaged in direct combat but on peace keeping and joint patrol missions),  will achieve the same result with similar dire consequences in deaths, refugees, and destruction.

Col. Peter Mansoor (Ret)

On Fox Business with Neil Cavuto, my good friend Col. Peter Mansoor (Ret), former executive officer to General Petraeus, and former Brigade Commander of the Ready First Combat Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Armor Division; was asked his opinion on the sudden withdrawal of American troops and its impact in the region.  Col. Mansoor has firsthand experience in the region having led the Brigade to Iraq in 2003, and later assisted in the successful “surge” with General Petraeus. Author of several books on military campaigns in Iraq, Colonel Mansoor listed a number of concerns and probabilities that seem obvious to an intelligent military strategist and veteran commander, but oblivious to our president.

Russian troops in Manbij Syria with Syrian

Kurds held ISIS detention facilities which they now obviously cannot maintain. The release of ISIS fighters is imminent.  The void left by the US compelled the Kurds to find another ally or protector.   Putin and Assad, the Laurel and Hardy of the region willingly obliged, giving Russia more control of the region. That leaves Turkey to deal with.

Erdogan of Turkey

Turkey’s membership in NATO is imperative to the stabilization of the region.  With the US pull out, Turkey’s attack on the Kurds, and the Kurds’ relationship with Russia and Syria complicates a NATO/Russian/European relationship.  In fighting the Kurds, Turkey would inadvertently be fighting Russian and Syrian troops; embroiling NATO in a conflict it is not equipped to handle and most certainly unwilling to participate in.  As thousands of refugees are already seeking shelter, their numbers are apt to increase as the fighting continues, complicating the current dire immigration situation in the EU, the destination of choice. No comfort to Europe which in the past ten years has absorbed its share of refugees and asylum seekers.  As Col. Mansoor succinctly pointed out to Neil Cavuto; this was a move by an impulsive President who is known to “shoot from the hip”.  He ignores the advice of those who know better and stands by his own self-declared conviction of a great alternative.

US troops in Syria

In the meantime, his “smart” move has taken our own troops by surprise.  In the wake of an order that scrambled them on short notice, they have silently questioned the wisdom of the move and their president’s motives. Those recently interviewed anonymously said that the decision by their Commander in Chief has left them feeling disloyal to Kurdish comrades they had grown to like and respect.  David Ignatius of the Washington Post Writers Group (Stars and Stripes, October 16, 2019) opined on the unsettling sentiment running high within the military and intelligence community that had supported the Kurds in Syria. One CIA operative described the sudden withdrawal as walking away from “people who shed blood for us”. Other soldiers feel anguish and shame in abandoning our only ally who stood fast and firm against ISIS.  Throughout all this, the Kurds held their head up high and remained respectful and loyal to America. 

The message that this sudden withdrawal gives to current and future “allies” is that it is foolish to put your trust in America.  A painful distrust that will set us back years in building relationships we so sorely need in the Middle East.  Even Israel’s Netanyahu raised an eyebrow or two keeping his dismay and disappointment low key.  Israel already has a problem with Iran backed Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.  It does not need Assad troops and Russian fighters on its doorstep.

Many Americans fail to understand that the US Military depends on local assistance when fighting campaigns. For the past 18 years, many Iraqis and Afghans have paid heavily for assisting America in the War on Terror .  I personally heard stories from soldiers returning from Iraqi deployments about local “interpreters” who did more than just translate.  They risked their lives and their families’ lives to help flush out insurgents, and inform on enemy activity that kept American soldiers safe.  In return, many asked for asylum as protection for themselves and their families.  A few managed to relocate to the US, but many were left behind at the mercy of those they had informed on.  A few soldiers I knew paid large sums of money to get these Iraqis and Afghans out of their countries; mostly out of gratitude for saving their lives and because our government was dragging its feet in keeping its promises.  Like the Kurds, they were willing to risk their lives for our cause but became dispensable when we moved out.  This is not my America and it should not be yours either.

To add insult to injury, and to justify his move, President Trump disparaged the Kurds as “no angels”.  A childish retort. He also threatened Turkey with sanctions.  A feeble attempt at pretending to stand up to Turkey. It takes years for sanctions to impact an economy and even then all we can do is freeze bank assets. Turkey is not really an economic partner with the US.  What is more serious is the presence of US military assets in Turkey; primarily Incirlik AFB, home to tactical nuclear weapons.  The military is already thinking of moving the weapons out.  According to the Stars and Stripes (October 16, 2019), Defense Secretary Esper warned that Turkey was “spinning out of the Western orbit”.  Meaning, leaving nukes vulnerable to a crazy government is not such a good idea.

Our president needs a crash course in Middle East history.  It was our withdrawal from Iraq and other regions that created the perfect breeding ground for ISIS, Hezbollah, and Al-Qaida factions respectively. Throughout the early and mid-2,000’s the Kurds helped our troops in North Iraq against the Taliban and their friends. Then as our troops left Iraq, they remained to fight ISIS.  Now our government under the torrid political misconception of safety to American soldiers and US interests,  reciprocated by abandoning them.  The American soldiers pulling out of Syria are sickened by the blatant betrayal of the Kurds by our government.  According to David Ignatius, 11,000 Kurds have died helping the US defeat ISIS.  24,000 others were wounded.  To set them aside like yesterday’s lunch is below appalling, it is immoral. There is only one way to say this: Mr. President you did not only lose my respect, you lost my vote.

Conflict in Syria Escalates. Neil Cavuto. FoxBusiness.com https://www.msn.com/en-ca/money/news/were-going-to-see-a-regeneration-of-isis-former-executive-officer-to-general-petraeus/vi-AAILxgE

Ignatius. D. October 16, 2019. For GIs, betraying the Kurds is sickening. Stars and Stripes.

Vandiver, J. October 16, 2019. Report: US mulls removing nuclear weapons from Incirlik. Stars and Stripes.

The Vaping argument is going up in smoke

The government is up in arms about the “rise” in vaping associated deaths.  According to Michael Siegel of the Los Angeles Time, there have been  530 cases of “vaping-associated” respiratory illnesses, 11 of which are fatalities.  Must add that Michael Siegel is a physician and professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health.   Dr. Siegel is also a tobacco researcher and long time anti-tobacco advocate.  His column in the Los Angeles Times reveals the propagated ignorance of the US government by jumping on the panic band wagon without giving due process to reality.

The cry for a ban against flavored vaping e-cigarettes has reached banshee pitch without giving much thought to common sense. E-flavored cigarettes allegedly contain THC, a psychoactive compound that is found in marijuana.  Yet, states are legalizing marijuana and not the opposite.  The government and advocates against e-cigarettes do not seem  compelled to stop the legalization of marijuana, as more states vote to legalize “dope”, the hypocrisy does not accept me and should not escape you either.  Only a few years ago marijuana was public enemy number one.   My take on this argument is that we seem to pick and choose what we need to save our youth from.  They spend hours in a zombie-like state playing violent video games and the outcry is very limited.  The market economy takes care of that. Nobody seems to be getting any soul searching diaherria when kids drink flavored booze or smoke menthol cigarettes. 

There are deadlier health issues than e-cigarettes. According to the CDC, approximately 480,000 Americans die of cigarette related illnesses, and 50,000 die of alcohol poisoning every year.  Those turning to e-cigarettes, including my son, do it to quit cigarette smoking and tobacco use in general.  11 fatalities in a population of 326 million is a non-mention. More people die of obesity than vaping.  But the angst continues.

Like anything else, vaping among the youth is a fad that will probably run its course until the next best thing enters their lives. The government’s uber response to vaping is ridiculous seeing that kids always seem to find creative ways to get high or get sick. Point in fact; a few years ago some  kids overdosed on cough syrup.  Others inhaled cleaning products, while others discovered cough drops as the drug of choice.  Rubattsin, Raid aerosol, or Listerine Cough Drops have not been banned. But our local commissaries put them behind locked glass shelving.  Public health problems persist because we live in a free society where we have the unmitigated freedom to act dumb and often die from it.  But, we seem to pick and choose what we consider dangerous and to whom.

The anti-tobacco activists who become instant Stasi agents as soon as one lights up in public, seem to ignore other substance users. They don’t mind alcoholics throwing up outside bars and pubs on a Saturday night.  They don’t mind “dope” users either. All substances happen to be the poison of choice for our youth.  So what’s with the e-cigarette protection?  More kids are sent to hospital on Spring Break from alcohol poisoning than from any other substance to include cigarettes. The disproportionate response to e-cigarettes in comparison to other substances falls short of making any sense.   

Dr Siegel adds another dimension to the e-cigarette panic.  There is still no evidence that the 530 illnesses were directly related to e-cigarettes.  The smokers could have had other issues which vaporing  might have exasperated. But he threw in the social political element that always prompts a government panic. When the problem becomes a “white” issue than politicians pop their heads up in dismay. It is not an outrageous opinion or observation. Minorities, especially those of color living in poor urban areas are overwhelmingly prone to poor health and substance abuse issues, so we seem to take it fore granted and almost insidiously expect it. We do not send government agents into these areas and ban both substances.  Hell, in an act of pseudo kindness, we provide free needles to drug addicts.  The racial and economic disparity between users seems to be an important factor in raising public alarms.  When crack eventually appeared  in affluent white neighborhoods in the 1980’s, the federal government passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.

Similarly, we are currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic.  The problem is not new.  Opioid has been around since the 1970’s but we only heard the Trump administration declare it a crisis in 2017.  In the 70’s opioid addiction was mostly in poor black neighborhoods.  Now it is prevalent among whites which elevated it to a “problem”.   I do not see any heart wrenching appeal from either the far left tolerant “racist” name calling happy Democrats, or the upstanding moral majority Republicans.  Where is the cry of “racism”? Where are the righteous bible thumping evangelists?  It seems that a health issue is recognized as an epidemic only if it creeps into affluent neighborhoods.  Then we recognize it as a national problem.  We must do something.  Good families are being torn apart. What we are saying is that we accept drug and alcohol addiction and death in poor urban neighborhoods, so why bother?  We do not seem to care about the 100 gun-related deaths a day either.  We are immune to the heartache and misery in poor urban neighborhoods.  I only hear silence in the liberal “racial disparity” social justice police department. 

E-cigarettes are a reasonable and good alternative to cigarette smokers serious in quitting nicotine addiction.  The 530 cases of vaping-associated respiratory problems are minimal compared to the approximate half million people who actually die of cigarette smoking related illnesses.  I am not minimizing the plight of the 530 (.0000017% of our population) who came down with vaping lung illnesses, but perspective must be maintained.   When compared to the three quarters of a million cigarette and alcohol related deaths a year, 11 vaping fatalities is a good thing. 

Prohibition is never wise.  The US should have learned that lesson a long time ago.  Prohibiting substances raises to the surface the criminal element that preys and extorts addicts and the vulnerable. The very people we are trying to protect like our youth.  The government should use its treasure and resources wisely. The FDA should look beyond the  implications of flavored e-cigarettes.  If they are serious about substance abuse among the youth, they need to go after other substances equally if not more  dangerous like flavored alcoholic drinks and menthol cigarettes.  Banning e-cigarettes will remove a relatively safe viable transitional product for those serious about quitting smoking.  One does not need to be a genius to compare 11 deaths to half a million. As Dr. Siegel so aptly put it; “…government…ought to consider how their efforts to protect one group may come at the expense of others.” Any other flavored vices the government would like to go after? Chewing gum comes to mind.

Siegel, M. September 30, 2019.  Vaping is not the only youth problem. Los Angeles Times. Stars & Stripes.

Climate Change and the wisdom of Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer

Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Krauthammer never beat around the bush on any issue whether political or personal.  This was a man who in his early twenties had a crippling accident, and while on his back in his hospital bed, managed not only to finish his medical degree, but graduate from Harvard Cum Laude.  A combination of scientist, political analyst, author, and philanthropist; I valued and still value his opinion.  In the latest combination of Charles’ columns for The Washington Post, (The Point of it All), one column in particular caught my eye.  Written in November of 2014, he unabashedly called it The Climate Pact Swindle.  I thought it appropriate as we face a global climate change mass hysteria.

As Charles unceremoniously declared, we do not know enough about our homeostatic mechanisms to make any definite generalization about the climate, however, pumping crap into the air is never good.  This sentiment did not give a pass to the “scientists” that in his own words are “arrogant” and “ignorant” in their claim that climate science has forever been “settled”. His skepticism comes from his own scientific background as a doctor in psychiatry and based on the fact that science is neither stationary nor absolute.  We only need to remember past claims of scientific absolutes that banished eggs, red meat, and butter to the back burner of the “food pyramid”.  Can anyone say KETO diet? Like any flavor of the month and our obsession with scientific “truth”, every  generation goes overboard with pessimistic fear of Armageddon.  Climate change has risen to the ranks of apoplectic disasters. 

In 2014, Charles succinctly pointed out that the Obama-Xi climate agreement was not only limpid in substance but a fraud at the expense of the US and other western nations.  China and India are the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions on the entire planet.  Both pollute without mercy. While the US and Europe have decreased CO2 emissions considerably, China continues to mine coal and other pollutants that include lithium; a toxic mineral used in batteries.  Even if every coal mine in the US would close down, global CO2 emissions would not be reduced significantly as long as China and India are allowed to continue on their present environmental course. 

Chinese in pollution

Chinese cities live in haze of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury compounds, and other deadly pollutants.  The O-X agreement gave China a pass until 2030.  That is when China is expected to meet its promised goal of producing 20% of its energy from alternative energy. How generous.  In the meantime, liberal pinheads in Congress pound the gavel against the US and propose “a green deal”.  CO2 has atmospheric effects but does not poison the air; while China’s pollutants are toxic poisons that kill.  But that conveniently escapes the congressional pinheads.

Greta Thunberg

The climate change movement continues with a vengeance.  The current caped crusader is a 15-year old kid from Sweden, Greta Thunberg.  She is out to save the world.  Well, good for her.  Better saving the planet than sniffing glue, but her teenage bopping movement is rather disconcerting.  Greta Thunberg has not lived long enough to either be pessimistic or outraged at the rest of us.  Leave that to the idiot politicians.  It is admirable that the youth are taking interest, it is not admirable that they skip school, especially in the US where kids lag 46th behind other nations.  Maybe if they channeled their energy to real science they might learn first hand about our planet and what makes it “tick”. They would not need to follow the doomsday masses into truancy. They need to take to the books before they take to the streets.  I wonder how many of them have studied atmospheric homeostatic planetary mechanisms and the many variables of CO2’s effect on planetary life.

Coal Mining in China
Lithium mines in China

Are we responsible for the well being of our planet? We sure are.  Did we fuck it up?  Yes we did.  There are some waterways in the world which have been thrashed beyond repair.  Third world countries have polluted their natural resources so badly that drinking water has become a commodity. The current over development of the Amazon forests is criminal.  Which brings me back to Greta and her ardent young followers? An oxy moron because intermittent with their zealous climate activism is their addiction to technology. Probably unawares to them that technology is partially responsible for mining major toxic particulates like lithium found in most cell phone, computer, and android batteries.  Such mining often done through cheap almost slave labor and exploitation of the poorest.  Not an integral part of the green deal now is it?

Germany is now seriously thinking of raising fuel prices and taxes again.  The natives are not amused.  The idea is to discourage driving.  Really? As one impatient and angry German asked; is Merkel going to be taking him to work? Some cities and counties have already prohibited diesel vehicles from entering their domain.  Farmers and trucking drivers are up in arms.  Diesel is cheaper than gasoline and if they have to revert to gasoline then they are economically crippled.  They would have to raise prices and be driven out of business in favor of cheaper produce from overseas.  The distribution chain relying mostly on trucks, would also impact the consumer market and eventually the economy.

The climate enthusiasts in Germany  don’t seem to mind other countries having high CO2 emissions in lieu of cheaper imports.  Hypocrisy at its best.  As far as diesel being given a bad rap; new diesel engines are equipped with particle filters and catalytic converters. They are reasonably on par with gasoline engines in CO2 emissions. Research and tests have shown that in the cold (and Germany is cold),  gasoline cars can actually emit more CO2 crap then their diesel counterparts.  Also, in recent studies, measuring emissions from air born particulate solids and carbonaceous particulate matter, diesel did not fare better or worse than petroleum.  So why the angst? Merkel bending down to the environmentalists to preserve an already shaky coalition. Little to do with the well being of the planet and a lot to do with politics.

In 1993, Charles Krauthammer gave an address to the McGill Class of 1993 in Montreal, Canada.  His speech was entitled Three Pieces of Sage Advice.  The first piece is relevant to the current climate change breast beating anguish.  He reminded the students of past national hysteria that often gripped nations with little cause for a “bull horn” alarm.  We went from Cold War apocalyptic Nuclear freeze movements  to environmental movements  without giving much thought to the fact that nuclear weapons are not only still prolific but still dangerous.  Iran comes to mind.  Nobody is running through the streets asking Iran to disarm.  Hell, the European Union can’t go back to Iran fast enough and do business as usual.  When activism finds itself in a vacuum something else must fill the dooming void.  An addiction to global fear.

In his speech, Charles told Class of ’93 that there still exist nuclear and environmental concerns; but there is a difference between a problem and manic panic.  Charles was trying to instill in his audience a sense of balance and intellectual non-conformity to mass hysteria.  No one can predict the future based on human articulation and understanding of the science du jour. To even submit that we have solved the science of climate is beyond arrogant. Charles, like many of us question the sincerity of the climate apocalypticists who think that unless we quit eating beef, go back to riding horses (unless they also belch and fart and produce CO2), and get rid of all modern amenities, we are doomed.  But they only pass sentence on us. China on the other hand gets a 16-year reprieve and a hallway pass. Charles’ final thoughts: When confronted with a movement of dread and amplified doom: keep your heads.