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It’s All-Star Ballot Time!


Even though it seems as if the season just started, we’ve already passed the quarter pole and the annual All-Star game is less than 2 months away. We have enough info in to start making smart selections about which players are deserving of votes, and I filled out my first ballot. MLB allows you to vote up to 35 times. I think that’s a bit excessive.

Unlike past years, there are no retiring superstar players who are well past their prime but deserving of election for sentimental reasons. There are no Jeter’s, no Big Papi’s, no A-Rod’s. What there is, is a crop of excellent players that makes selecting the most deserving ones a difficult choice.

So, my apologies to Marcus Thames of the Brewers, whose return from Korea was marked by an explosion of home runs. Paul Goldscmitt of the Diamondbacks has had a terrific start to his year, but he plays a position (first base) dominated by all-star caliber players. Ditto For Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, whose resurgence has been jaw dropping. Nolan Arenado of the Rockies and Kris Bryant of the Cubs, don’t feel slighted – it’s just that Jake Lamb is producing a season for the ages.

Most of you will probably be surprised that I’m not naming anyone from last year’s World Champion’s on my ballot. It isn’t that they don’t have deserving players throughout their roster. It’s just that other players are having even more deserving campaigns.

My love of the Yankees is well known, but it isn’t because I’m a homer that I’ve selected three Bronx Bombers to my AL squad. It’s pretty hard to argue with selecting baseball’s latest human highlight reel (and MLB homer run leader) in Aaron Judge. Brett Gardner is leading all ML left fielders in OBP, OPS and leads the majors in runs scored. As for Starlin  Castro, his .335 batting average leads all AL second basemen, and his 7 homers and 27 RBI each only one behind the league leader, Robinson Cano of the Mariners.

There are a couple of other players who’s seasons deserve merit, but didn’t quite make the cut. Logan Morrison of Tampa Bay is having a stellar year and it was tough picking him or Yonder Alonso. Freddie Freeman was on pace to set all types of records before he got hurt. And there are so many great shortstops in the game now, selecting only two seems like a crime. This isn’t a knock on guys like Xander Bogarts, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Chris Owings, Corey Seager and Brandon Crawford (or my personal favorite, Didi Gregorius).

What my ballot does have is a ton of under 30 talent. In fact, the oldest player on my ballot is Joey Votto (33 years old). There is one rookie, three second-year players and three third-year players. Of the 17 players I chose, 8 would make their first all-star game appearance. That’s a lot of youth. And that’s a good thing for baseball.

So, here are my selections:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals. The model of being both durable and prolific, the 4 time All-Star leads AL catchers with an .871 OPS. His 11 homers leads his team.
1B: Yonder Alonso, Oakland A’s. Finally released from baseball purgatory in San Diego, the former can’t-miss prospect is finally showing his form, with 12 homers and a .991 OPS for a not-so-good team.
2B: Starlin Castro, New York Yankees. A former All-Star with the Cubs, the free swinger has stopped swinging so freely. That .335 average comes from leading the league in hits.
3B: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins. Joey Gallo has gotten the press for his prodigous blasts, but the younger Sano is belting them more often and in bigger spots. After a horrendous rookie campaign, it looks like the big guy has figured it out with a .319 average, 11 homers and 37 RBI.
SS: Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners. The Mariners traded for him hoping to improve their shortstop play. I don’t think they were expecting a .336 average and 26 runs scored. But they won’t complain.
LF: Brett Gardner, New York Yankees. Maybe he’s amped by the “Baby Bombers.” Whatever it is, after a terrible first two weeks, he’s now hitting .281 with  9 homers and 32 runs for the league’s highest scoring offense.
CF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. He’s the best player in the game, and all he’s doing this year is hitting .343 with 14 homers and 43 RBI. Oh, and an other-worldly 1.205 OPS.
RF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees. Everyone knew he was going to be good, but the rookie has been much more than that. Witness his .315 average and 15 homers. Opposing pitchers are tired of “being Judged.”
DH: Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays. His .345 average and 12 homers from the lead-off spot is pretty much all his team could ask for, even if opposing pitchers wish he’d leave them alone.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants. I know he was hurt for a while. But he still leads all NL catchers with a .362 average, 7 homers and an OPS of 1.008.
1B: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds.  His 12 homers, 38 RBI and 1.005 OPS made him the best of a terrific crop of NL first basemen.
2B: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals. Remember when the Mets said he was just a singles hitter? Turns out he’s just a hitter. His .327 average leads NL second sackers, and the 9 home runs and 33 RBI each lead all MLB second basemen.
3B: Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks. Maybe the best hitter you haven’t heard of, Lamb is proving an excellent rookie campaign was just an opening act. He’s slashing .298/11/36 so far this year.
SS: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds. Long known as a reliable defender, he’s turned it up a notch this year with the bat. Maybe two notches, what with a .348 average.
LF: Michael Conforto, New York Mets. Where would the Mets be without him? When the season began, nobody knew when he would play. But with a .320/13/34 slash, the real question is who dares sit him?
CF: Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies. Before you start yelling about Coors Field, recognize that Blackmon has more HR on the road (7) than at home (4). And a .322 average is nothing to sneeze at.
RF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. Harper might be tired of being told he’s the second best player in the game. He might be taking his wrath out on NL pitching. But there’s a lot of talent fueling that .349/13/37 slash.


Stop Using the Clinton Defense


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If there’s one thing the latest political kerfluffle has revealed, it is the lengths which some Trumpkins will go to defend the indefensible.

I’m not talking about the morons who either don’t care about, or don’t understand, the national security implications of divulging allied deep-cover intelligence operations to the Russians. I’m not referring to the people who think a President trying to derail investigations into his associates is just peachy. Those people will never be happy living in anything less than a dictatorship, and there is no hope for them.

The people I am directing these comments to are the ones who know the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is engaging in (at best) immoral and irregular activities or (at worst) about to plunge the nation into a crisis that will make the Watergate era look like the days of wine and roses. Instead of admitting their guy has character flaws that are manifesting themselves daily, they attempt to justify it with statements like:

“When is Hillary getting locked up?”

“What about the tarmac?”

“Seth Rich! Seth Rich!”

Yes, there is a Trump Derangement Syndrome on the left. That is indisputable, unless you suffer from it (in which case, I know a good psychiatrist). But it also shows there is still a Clinton Derangement Syndrome running rampant through the right. Just like those with TDS can’t self-identify their problem, the same seems to be the case with CDS on the right.

If you are one of those people, I have a news flash for you: SHE LOST.

The result of that loss is a fate far worse than jail for someone who’s entire way of life was built on running a political machine. The machine was taken away. The money, the swag, the hobnobbing, the ability to influence others – all gone. The Clinton’s find themselves in political purgatory, which is a fitting place for them.

Now, here’s the thing: trying to excuse Donald Trump’s excesses by complaining about the Clinton’s only does one thing, in the end. It says to rational people that you think what the Clinton’s did would be just fine, if only they had put an elephant on their family crest instead of a donkey. You undercut your own arguments by suggesting that what was fine for one was terrible for the other.

Here’s your reality check. If the Clinton’s actions (attempting to influence investigations into political corruption, stealing public funds, etc, etc) are reprehensible, what makes those same actions by the Trump’s any less reprehensible? There is an old adage: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

You would be well served to remember that.

 


Lying Liars and the Liars Who Enable Them


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Need I say more?


Random Thoughts


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One of the things I love most about woodworking is it gives you plenty of time to ruminate. Since we moved to Pennsylvania in March, I was able to set up a new wood shop and have spent plenty of time there. Ruminating.

-Why did anyone here give a damn about the French election? I mean, I can understand caring if you have a house in Marseilles, but otherwise? The only things the French have given the world is champagne, overpriced cuisine and Napoleon.

-What did people with pre-existing conditions do before Obamacare? I mean, I thought being a Crohn’s patient might make me somewhat knowledgeable about the topic, but apparently I must have been dead and not realized it.

-Why do people who insist that we need to go to a government run, single-payer medical system in the US always use the VA as a point of reference? If anything, the VA is excellent at demonstrating how terrible the government is at running a healthcare system. After all, if they can’t root out the corruption and incompetence, or come up with some sort of accountability for a system that serves only 2% of the population, imagine what happens when that’s expanded to “serve” all 350 million of us.

-I keep seeing these rosy BLS employment stats, which then get slashed in the next quarter. Just like the Obamanauts did, the Trumpers are celebrating them as “proof” that the economy is wonderful. In the meantime, real growth remains negative, interest rates are climbing and both the government and private debt bubbles are liable to pop at any minute. Fun times ahead!

-Can the Yankees keep this up? I know it’s only May 8, but 20-9 is a lot better than 9-20. Right now, they’re on pace to win 112 games. And let’s face it, this is a fun team to watch. They keep finding ways to win the kinds of wacky, crazy games they lost over the past decade. Down 10 runs? Score 11 in 3 innings. Down to your last strike? Hit a 3 run homer to win the game. Blow a 3 run lead to the world champs in their yard? Will your way to win an 18 inning classic.

-This obsession the Democrats have with Russians, racists and socialism is going to keep them out of power for a long time. The incredible part is they don’t seem to realize it. But while they may not be dumb enough to verbalize it the way Hillary did, they still seem to think most of the country is populated by “deplorables,” and woe to the Dem pol who dares voice something else. Just look what happened to poor Tim Ryan when he vainly tried to get them back to normalcy.

-In the meantime, my greatest fear about Trump (that his oversized ego couldn’t let the little slights go without acting as if it was the worst thing since fake mayonnaise) is being born out daily. Just this morning, my phone exploded with Trump tweets that are absolutely irrelevant to the job he was elected to do. He is supposed to be President of the United States, not Reality Star in Chief.

-Why is the world acting like North Korea is the second coming of Nazi Germany? The idiots can’t even shoot a missile at the sea, for pete’s sake. If that’s a military threat to us, then our military is in much worse shape than we ever thought.

-Why do dandelions ALWAYS seem to find my lawn? I’m not talking one or two. I’m talking enough to make it look like the grass is actually the weed.

More to come later, I’m sure. Until then, keep on laughing! The world will think you’re absolutely nuts, and who knows? Maybe we all are!


Trumpian Ignorance


The Donald has “issued an ultimatum” to the Congress. I’ve heard or read this line about a half dozen times in the past 30 minutes. This is not only ridiculous, but demonstrates the president’s incredible lack of understanding about the separation of powers and co-equal branches of government.

The President heads up the Executive, which is tasked with implementing and enforcing the laws passed by the Congress. It is the Congress which is tasked with legislative and fiscal responsibility. The President can ask Congress to enact laws. He cannot demand them.

Trump’s ignorance of the Constitutional process is woeful. Does he really presume to tell Congress what to do? The bill he wants passed has been widely panned as the only way to actually make the health care system worse. If it fails later today (as seems likely) and Congress produces a straight repeal bill in June, will he hold to his threat and veto it? To do so would be political suicide. Of course he would sign it.

The reality here is Trump is learning a lesson he should have learned in his pricey boarding school: the President is at the Congress’ mercy on legislative matters. He cannot set deadlines, he cannot set the legislative calendar and he cannot dictate terms. Regardless of how much he bloviates, how many tantrums he throws or how often he tweets, every President runs the risk of becoming impotent if he offends Congress.

Donald Trump runs the risk of becoming a neutered, one-term, inconsequential​President if he continues to antagonize his governmental equals. He loves to compare himself to Andrew Jackson. But in reality, his presidency is looking more like another Democrat voted into office to”shake things up.” Another President who ignored political norms, made enemies of his own party, relied more on sycophants and family than people who understand how government functions. 

Yes, at this point, the Trump Administration is looking more like the Carter admin than the Reagan years. 


The Phone Call


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It’s late one evening. Behind the bar at Andy’s Cafe in Cincinnati, a spray tanned older gentleman laughs quietly with his guests when the phone rings.

“Andy’s, where the beer is cold and the music is hot,” he answers.

“Hey, John! It’s Paul – Paul Ryan, remember me? Well, I’m sure glad I caught you. I need some advice.”

“Well, you know I left that life behind, Paul. Breaking up bar fights is easier on a 67 year old body than those squabbles on Capitol Hill.”

“I know, I know. But look, I’m in a real pickle here. Was kind of hoping to bounce some ideas off you and see what you think.”

“Are you recording this? Is this some sort of practical joke? You know, like when y’all ran that celebrity real estate developer for President. Man, that was a doozy!”

“No, no, this is serious. And yeah, glad you liked that one. But there’s something you may not have heard about, yet.”

“Really? Shoot.”

“That guy is now the President of the United States. And I don’t mean the United States of Benetton. And he’s part of the reason I need your help.”

“You mean, you idiots ran the only man in America who uses more spray tan than me and lies more than Nancy? Wasn’t that script for ‘Trading Places 2’ rejected by Hollywood?”

You can hear the pause before Ryan responds, “Maybe it was. But he and that gawd-awful combover are  in charge now.”

“Oh, you are truly and greatly screwed. Like Big Green Weenie screwed. No, better yet…”

“John, this is serious. Everyone thinks he’s a Russian spy or something, and DC is so busy not tripping over one another over they haven’t noticed the Chinese star-and-sickle tattoo he got the other day.”

“Right, serious. Speakering of which, you haven’t introduced that tooth repair kit I invented yet, have you? Give me a couple a days Head Start.”

“How droll.”

“I know, hahahahahahaha! ”

“So, do you have any advice for me?”

“Retire. Buy a bar in Wisconsin. You can get royally drunk and nobody gives a shit.”

“No, look, this is serious. Do you know what he asked me to do this morning? He asked me to draw up legislation selling Alaska back to the Russians!”

“Well, he is a real estate developer. I imagine he got a good price.”

“Mitch is beside himself over this. Jeb Hensarling wants to know if he can get something similar from Spain for California. This whole thing is going off the rails.”

“You guys are  the ones who nominated him. If I remember right, you had a chance to turn him away at the convention. You gotta deal with him now.” The old bartender belches loudly. “Damn, that was a GOOD one! Did you hear that, Paulie boy? Rattled the doors with that one, I did!”

Ryan sighs, loudly. “That’s history. What do I do now?”

“I told you. Retire. Buy a bar. Get drunk.”

“You can’t be serious!”

“Sure I am. I did and look at me now. I’m hanging out with my friends, only using spray tan once or twice a week and I’ve only cried once in the last year. Best move I ever made was coming back to this bar.”

“Thanks, John. You’ve been a real help.”

“Glad I could be, Paul. And next time you’re in Cincinnati, the beer is on me.”


A Message to the Trumpers


I am writing this on a Tuesday, before the sun peeks it’s head over the horizon. I am giving myself time before I actually publish, because the topic I’m about to cover is one that angers me beyond almost anything else imaginable. Before I write something so intemperate it results in my home being firebombed, I’m giving myself time to cool off between writing and publishing. Because friends, I’m about to hold a mirror up to you – and some of you aren’t going to like what you see. You’re going to be angry with me for pointing out your hypocrisy, angry enough to fight. That’s fine. As long as you also realize the reason you’re angry with me is because I’ve been bold enough to force you to recognize your own stupidity, I can live with the epithets and bruised feelings.

See, today I want to discuss not only President Trump’s obvious disdain for the nation he was elected to lead. That is bad enough. What makes it worse – what has me ready to start tearing people’s heads off their necks – are the apologists giving him cover on this. They all claim to be patriotic Americans, yet every single one of them is ready to denigrate their country in defense of party and President. Trump’s megalomania has the potential to be problematic. It is the enablers, the apologists and mindless partisans who make that potential reality.

Are you one of those mindless partisans? Ask yourself this: if Barack Obama had, during an interview with Anderson Cooper during the Super Bowl pregame festivities, compared the United States to the government of Fidel Castro, how would have you reacted? Sounds silly, right? After all, we know how you would have reacted. During his Great Apology Tour to begin his presidency, President Obama made dozens of inflammatory statements apologizing for United States leadership, for defeating communism, for leading in the Global War on Terror and for other perceived sins. He was roundly criticized for those statements, and rightly so.

I’m not going out on a limb here when I say you were part of that chorus of condemnation. I know you were. I spoke with many of you on the subject. Your Facebook and Twitter timelines from the Spring and Summer of 2009 are filled with statements of derision for the egregious positions taken by the President. And you know what? We were justified in our contempt for a President who willingly, eagerly even, held his nation up to international ridicule.

Yet on Sunday, Donald Trump took Barack Obama’s anti-american rhetoric and ratcheted it up to 11. Never before has a president told the world that the United States murders political dissidents, assassinates reporters, invades foreign countries and threatens global peace in order to enrich a few privileged members of the government. Never mind that the veracity of such a statement wouldn’t stand 5 minutes of examination. The very idea that a President would ascribe such a motive to our governance is as noxious to our national soul as chlorine gas would be to your lungs.

But rather than being roundly and strongly condemned for saying it, there was muted concern by some Republicans. There was no reaction at all, other than some faint applause, from many of you Trump train passengers.

Personally, the President’s statement left me incredulous and stunned. But YOUR reactions have made me so upset I actually feel physically ill.

*********

It is now early in the afternoon on Tuesday. I needed to take a break. My blood pressure was rising and my vision narrowing, and my infamous temper was beginning to boil over.

Around lunchtime, the Trump administration decided that anyone critical of them was trafficking in “fake news.” They even took the unusual step of not only releasing a press statement to that effect, but sending a White House spokesman on a TV tour to press home their point. Well, so be it. Sorry, President Trump, but I think this is important enough to intrude upon your dream world. This is one time trying to bend reality to your will won’t work.

Over the past two days, I have found myself in a few heated arguments regarding the president’s embrace of soviet tactics. One person is so convinced of the certitude of Trump’s position they now refuse to talk to me. The other was trying to convince me that the half-hearted reprobations being offered by various Republicans on the Sunday talk shows demonstrated sufficient outrage. I think some feelings got hurt there. too.

Those condemnations were anything but. The statements made by people like Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the like were right to note that the United States does not conduct national or international politics in the same vein as Vladimir Putin. But what each of those mealy-mouthed politicians, those sorry excuses for men, the morally challenged of US politics failed to do is what was required of them. Not a one actually said anything along the lines of, “The President is clearly wrong in his assertion.” None of them could muster the courage to link the President to his outrageousness. From a purely political POV, I understand. None of them are willing to chance losing the Trumper vote. It does absolutely nothing for my esteem of their character (they have none), but I understand.

Indeed, in the 60 hours or so since news of the President’s adoptive tone of soviet style tactics broke, I have only heard two elected Republicans take Trump to task. One is Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. The other is Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. That’s it. Two men with the basic courage to stand up for what is right and to castigate wrong. Folks, we aren’t doing JFK proud here.

Now, as I was saying, I may not be thrilled with the limp-wristed elected officials of the GOP but I understand their stances. It takes real leadership to risk losing your office in defense of the nation’s moral character these days. That it does brings me back to the real problem – the average Trumper reading this right now.

*********

It’s now late in the afternoon. I was interrupted by an internet outage, which I guess can get filed under “stuff happens.” But you know what I can’t put in that “stuff happens” file? Presidents throwing the country under the bus.

There’s a lot of things this President has done, and I’m certain will do, that can get filed there. His inept speaking style certainly qualifies (even if he does have the biggest words). The botched messaging behind, and terrible rollout of, the visa moratorium does, too. Likewise the really poor Cabinet appointment process. But those are the kinds of things that can be chalked up to political inexperience, bad timing and concerted (and often over-the-top) political resistance.

But in admitting that he respect’s Vladdy Putin’s management style, President Trump created what would for anyone else be an unforced error. Except in Trump’s case, this isn’t an error. Even if he hadn’t spent the campaign praising Putin, watching how incensed he became at Bill O’Reilly’s rightly calling the dictator a “killer” gave away his true feelings. In fact, when you watch that segment (the pertinent part begins at the 2:10 mark) and watch Trump’s facial expression and body language, it’s the same you see right before a bar fight breaks out.

Why?

Why, indeed, would the President of the United States of America then launch into a diatribe about how the United States is no better, drawing a moral equivalence between soldiers killed on a battlefield and the summary execution, torture, and murder of political opponents?  How can he possibly countenance a man who had some 13,000 Syrian dissidents hung in Aleppo and think the US government commits equally heinous acts???

Had the President said something along the lines of, “Look, we all know Putin is a dictator who used terrible means to get power and does horrible things to stay in power. But I think we might work together to rid the world of islamic terror, kind of like we worked with Joe Stalin to eradicate Nazism” I doubt anyone could take him to task. It’s factual and it’s an opinion of a possible policy approach that does have some upside.

Instead, we have the President defending the world’s worst dictator since the fall of the Soviet Union by saying the United States uses soviet political tactics. Oy gevalt!

It demonstrates one of two things. The less onerous, and sadly less likely, is that President Trump is terribly misinformed about the character of Putin. Given his defiant refusal to accept even the most basic intel, it is a possibility. But far more likely is that Trump does respect Putin and his methods. It fits a pattern that Trump has exhibited for as long as he’s harbored political ambitions (remember, in 1990 he praised Deng Xiaoping for the way the Chinese Communist party put down the pro-democracy movement, exemplified by having tanks run down students in Tiananmen Square). In short, Trump loves him some dictators.

That our President equates strength with authoritarianism shouldn’t surprise anyone. He has given wink and nod deference to the Constitution, while showing he has no idea what comes after, “We the People”. That, in itself, is not troubling. He is not our first President to prefer trying to run the country as an autocrat. Some of our best (Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR) and some of our worst (Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter) presidents pushed the limits of the executive authority given them by the Constitution. What ultimately kept those autocratic tendencies in check was that when they overstepped, even their most die-hard supporters rose up to say, “Wait a minute, Mr. President!”.

Once the election was over, I accepted the decision and said I would support the President when I thought he was right, and would come down on him like a brick wall when he was wrong. He has done some good things already, and I’ve offered my praise and support for those things. I think most of his cabinet choices are excellent (with the exception of the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs nominee). I applaud the idea of implementing an visa moratorium on nations without a functioning government but highly functioning terrorism training camps. I applaud the decision to move forward with the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.

I cannot and will not accept that our president is on television, in the lead-up to the most watched event on the planet, telling the world that the United States government sanctions the murder, torture and persecution of it’s political opposition. That is more than a bridge too far. It may even be treasonous. Let’s face it – that clip is likely to wind up in an ISIS or Al Qaeda video at some point. I can just hear Anwar al-Awlaki narrating in the background, “See? Even the American President believes the United States is the Great Satan!”.

Those of you who are sitting on the sidelines, holding neither this president nor the members of his party accountable for such vile sentiments, are even worse. You demonstrated by this election that the real power in this nation still rests with you. During the election, many of you promised that if a President Trump overstepped his bounds you would hit him, hard, despite your unwavering support for his campaign.

I’m still waiting. Much as I worried then, you’ve drunk too deeply of the orange Kool-Aid and left your objectivity behind. Rather than challenging Trump on a patently dangerous and unamerican statement, you’ve opted to ignore it. Or even worse, to actually defend the indefensible. You have, in short, abdicated your citizenship in favor of not being uncomfortable. Because let’s face it, having to admit that you might have something in common with the avowed Trump haters would be uncomfortable, wouldn’t it?

But you know what it would need? It would need you to grow a pair, to have a little moral courage, to believe in something other than a spray tanned narcissist. So far, ALL of you are lacking in the cajones department. Even though you know I’m right, I’m not willing to bet more than 10% of you actually come to your senses. But I am willing to bet most of the remaining 90% will find it easy – fun, even – to adopt the President’s authoritarian attitude.

Because you would rather not be Americans anymore . You would rather be Trumpers.

And that, my friends, is the saddest thing of all.


Combat Vets Are Not Insane


Yesterday, Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, an Iraq combat veteran since discharged from the Alaska National Guard, opened fire in Ft. Lauderdale’s airport, killing 5 and wounding 6 more. He boarded an Air Canada flight in Anchorage and flew to Ft. Lauderdale. Upon arrival, he took his lone bag into the restroom, unpacked and loaded a 9mm pistol (along with two spare magazines) and then went into the baggage claim area of Terminal 2. It was there he went on his murderous rampage. Once he was out of ammunition, he assumed the position and waited for the police to arrest him.

Those are the facts. What we do not know is Santiago-Ruiz’s motivation, but two explanations seem likely. One, he joined a terrorist group and carried out an attack. According to news reports, he visited the Anchorage FBI office in November and said he was hearing voices that were telling him to join ISIS. The other probability is that Santiago-Ruiz is suffering from a form of schizophrenia, suffered a psychotic break, and the voices in his head told him to carry out this attack.

Based on the evidence so far, the second scenario seems the more likely – and that worries me greatly. For much of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, the public perception of combat veterans was that they were all ticking time bombs. Movies like Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Rambo: First Blood were all Hollywood blockbusters and terrific viewing. Unfortunately, they all showed combat veterans as being psychopathic murderers when the reality couldn’t be further from that portrayal.

Already, news outlets and social media are reverting to that image of the combat vet when discussing Santiago-Ruiz’s actions. Yes, his aunt said he “changed” after his combat tour. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Everyone I know who has been in combat is changed by the experience. Odds are, that Santiago-Ruiz suffers from PTSD. It’s a relatively common occurrence among combat veterans, and for good reason. Any experience where you spend months on end in life-and-death situations, where not only your life but the lives of your closest friends depend on your actions and reactions, is going to rewire your brain.

However, PTSD is not related to homicidal rage, nor does it even begin to closely resemble the type of psychotic break required to shoot up an airport. Indeed, the type of break exhibited by Santiago-Ruiz generally isn’t induced by combat, unless there’s a traumatic brain injury involved (from what we know thus far, it doesn’t seem he suffered one).

So far, these basic truths haven’t stopped the media from reverting to the tired “psycho vet” meme as an explanation for Santiago-Ruiz’s actions. That’s lazy journalism at it’s worst, and it’s too bad this is the route the media has chosen to exploit. I urge you to ignore any outlet that tries to push this narrative. Remember, combat veterans make up less than 2% of our population. They answered the call the rest of the nation ignored and put their lives on the line to defend the United States; a test of public service most would fail. To ostracize them over fake story lines generated for cheap ratings, is to cheapen their service and lessen our nation. Shame on those who would advance such stories, and shame on those gullible enough to believe them.


Hacking, Hacked


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On Friday, the Washington Post essentially recirculated a months old story about the DNC email leak and possible involvement of the Russian government. However, in the best interests of turning mole hills into mountains, they changed two aspects of the story. First, they claimed the Central Intelligence Agency is certain of the Russian government’s involvement. Second, they claimed the Russian government’s agenda was to deny Hillary Clinton the Presidency. In the ensuing days, the Democrats and neocon wing of the GOP have leapt in with both feet in beating the war drums against Moscow.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Russia is not a historic ally of the USA and Vladimir Putin is not a friend. We also know the DNC was hacked and thousands of their internal emails embarrassingly released in the weeks leading up to the election. We also know the organization that leaked the emails was not the SVR or FSB (the Russian clandestine services) but Wikileaks.

Here’s some other things we know.

  • The news outlet that released this scoop, the Washington Post, actively campaigned against Donald Trump throughout the presidential campaign. Since the campaign ended, it has actively sought to undermine the coming Trump administration before it even takes office. This includes attacks on the election itself, including attacks on the Constitution and feeding the false narrative that “fake news” led to Mrs. Clinton’s defeat. Interestingly enough, the paper has also claimed that most “fake news” is generated in Russia.
  • The FBI earlier released their own report regarding the DNC hack, concluding that while it was “probable” that the Russian government had a role, it did not find that role as consequential. It also noted a failed hack attempt at the RNC.
  • The CIA does not “leak” investigations through “unnamed sources.” First, the CIA cannot investigate anything on US soil. Doing so breaks US law. Second, anyone at CIA (other than political operatives with White House cover) wouldn’t dare leak anything. Doing so guarantees a life of turning big rocks into little rocks at Ft. Leavenworth.
  • Ordinarily, a story of this magnitude (cyber warfare directed against the US by our greatest enemy of the 20th century) would have had dozens of follow-on pieces from rival news organizations, all working to scoop the competition. Yet, so far, everyone from CNN to MSNBC to ABC to the New York Times has only quoted the original report.
  • Finally, the story appeared mere hours after President Obama (you know, that totally non-partisan paramour of righteousness) called for the US intelligence services to deliver a full report on Russian hacking activities during the election.

For the sake of argument, I’ll go  ahead and assume that the Washington Post didn’t publish a fabricated story. I’ll say they actually did have someone at CIA break their oath to leak this particular story. I’ll go ahead and pretend the likelihood that the CIA conducted the fastest investigation in history is just that. I’ll further pretend that the probability of story not originating in the Post’s press room but the White House Press Office is practically zero.

That still doesn’t leave us with much of anything. Why? Well, because the CIA report cited in the  Post’s story is all supposition. According to the anonymous source, the CIA “thinks” the Russian government worked through various international cut-outs and behind the curtain of the “dark web.” It “believes” the RNC was successfully hacked but the Russian government didn’t release any of the information they gathered (remember: the FBI said conclusively that the RNC was not hacked). Finally, the CIA “infers” that the motive behind this nefarious activity was that the Russian government wanted to ensure Donald Trump’s election. There is no proof, no smoking gun, no documentary evidence.

And yet, after all that, the brilliance of the Russian plan came down to this: the Russian intelligence services would have had to convince Putin that by showing us how the DNC systematically worked to deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination, Americans would become so disgusted with those machinations we would vote for Trump.

If you’ve ever played chess with a Russian, you know how convoluted and implausible that is. What I wouldn’t doubt is the Russians planting the seeds of that kind of story, letting the American left trip over them and come up with the exact scenario now being presented. Why? Because the American left is nothing if not predictable, and undoubtedly still mad as hell about having their mail server hacked. Oh, that and Putin loves playing the American left for fools. He’s been doing it for well over 15 years now.

It’s either that, or a contrived news story originating in the Obama White House, with their obedient lackeys at the Washington Post doing the grunt work of publishing the latest bit of fake news to come out of the mainstream media. I’m not sure which. But either way, Putin wins. Kind of a last little “screw you, America” from our friends on the left before their God-Man leaves the Oval Office.

 


Hate Didn’t Elect Donald Trump; People Did


Exactly this —>”It’s easy to point to these small, impoverished towns and name racism, the second amendment or plain stupidity as the only reasons why these people would ever vote for a man like Donald Trump. I find this to be highly intellectually dishonest, though. To write this off as simple racism is to ignore the very real and very heartbreaking struggles small town America faces.”

Tori's Thought Bubble

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Over the summer, my little sister had a soccer tournament at Bloomsburg University, located in central Pennsylvania. The drive there was about three hours and many of the towns we drove through shocked me. The conditions of these towns were terrible. Houses were falling apart. Bars and restaurants were boarded up. Scrap metal was thrown across front lawns. White, plastic lawn chairs were out on the drooping front porches. There were no malls. No outlets. Most of these small towns did not have a Walmart, only a dollar store and a few run down thrift stores. In almost every town, there was an abandoned factory.

My father, who was driving the car, turned to me and pointed out a Trump sign stuck in a front yard, surrounded by weeds and dead grass. “This is Trump country, Tori,” He said. “These people are desperate, trapped for life in these small towns…

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