Archive for the 'Memorials' Category

Sep 11 2016

The only 9-11 post you need to read today.

And I did not write it.

But I wish I had. Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station did, and its worth the couple of minutes it will take to read it in it's entirety.


15 years ago today 19 shitheads attacked America.

They killed 3000 of us.

And then … America got its revenge for 9-11.

Yes we did. Many times over. We killed them. We killed them all. We killed their families. We killed their wives and their kids and all their neighbors. We killed whole nations that weren't even involved just to make goddamned sure. We bombed their cities into rubble. We burned down their countries.

They killed 3000 of us, we killed 300,000 of them or more.

8000 of us came home in body bags, but we got our revenge. Yes we did.

We're still here. They aren't.

We win. USA! USA! USA!


You goddamned right. We. Win.




Read the rest of the post here.

UPDATE! From Jim Wright:

Facebook removed my 911 post because it didn't meet community standards.

Make of that what you will

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE! Facebook may not like the post, but others did.

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Mar 22 2016

We are all Israelis now…….

When I got to work this morning and heard the news about Brussels, I just cringed because I knew that on top of an unspeakable tragedy, the traditional merry-go-round of the  American blame game will begin yet again.

First things first. A terrible thing happened in Belgium today. It IS terrible, horrifying, the terrorists succeeded in murdering more than 30 innocent people and injuring hundreds more. Our prayers, our sympathy and our good will should be going out to all the Belgians today.

What the United States and Europe especially does not need now is this:

Predictably, here in America, the usual suspects, of course, of course, wasted no time in blaming the president. This is what they do. Fix blame, by reflex, and leap to wild suppositions without waiting for evidence, and then offer the usual solutions. Genocide. Torture. Bloody murder.

Nor does it need this:


"You'll note Cruz doesn't explain HOW exactly police will spot radicalization in progress from their cars as they cruise the neighborhood."

( Oh, and while we are on the subject of Cruz, when interviewed on Fox , Cruz, ever the cynical politician, made a point to extend sympathies to "Mormon missionaries" in Belgium. Not a word about the Belgian people as a whole or the non-Mormon victims of the attack. I'm sure the Utah caucuses had nothing to do with it.)

Now it should be clear, as an American who lives in Europe and travels all over the continent and the world, I am very concerned about this trend of attacks, in Paris, in Instanbul and now Brussels. I do have concerns about how effective the police in some of these countries and the actions they are taking to prevent attacks before they haappen.

But I will not allow myself to sink to the same level as a worthless piece of shit like Matt Walsh when he says that we have to put aside all our notions of equality and rule of law, and decency, just because we are afraid..

And what is worse, is that the armchair evangelist really doesn't offer a practical solution other than to do what? Kill 1.9 Billion Muslims? Deny then rights under the law and separation of church and state-and in effect lower ourselves to the same level of the terrorists. Really? What does that accomplish?

Ask the Israelis if that is possible.

Israel has been dealing with attacks like this for over 60 years. They have a "strong" leader. They definitely have a strong military and a strong intelligence service. And yet just two weeks ago they had a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

It doesn't stop just because we bomb a lot of people. If anything it spreads the disease. The war in Iraq proved that.

We are all Israelis now.

We in the West are now in common with Israel because we have an enemy that hates us. And in part, and only in part,  was provoked through our own actions and inaction. But is also very much dedicated to a philosophy that is evil and repulsive.

We are all Israelis now.

Because we have an enemy we will always be able to hurt militarily in far greater numbers than they can hurt us, but that we can't seem to exterminate entirely.

We all Israelis now.

Because we crave security and the ability to live our lives in peace. And because we do , we will turn on faith to anyone we believe can bring us that security. As did Israelis, when they chose to re-elect Bibi to the Prime Minister's chair. In America, we have a population that is willing to turn to either a demagogue or a zealot with a messianic complex.

We are all Israelis now. 

Because we will trade away rights for security. Because there is this:

There has been both a bitter and judgmental tone to Israeli media commentary on the attacks. The bitterness stems from the sting of jealousy that each terror attack in Europe unleashes a flood of shock and sympathy around the world, while similar violence in the Middle East and Africa, from stabbings to bombings, are considered so common they often barely register beyond the region.
The judgment comes from a sense that Europe, unlike the United States, and certainly unlike Israel, has not yet fully grasped that the threat of ISIS and other extremists will not go away soon, and that long-term changes need to be made to tighten security in so-called “soft-targets,” like theaters and restaurants, and to improve security cooperation across Europe. 


We are all Israelis now.

Because we will have to make changes that impact our lives. 

Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport has been invoked in several of the European analysis of what went wrong in Brussels. The explosions occurred at the check-in area – a “soft target” where, in most western countries, travelers enter unimpeded.  Not so in Israel. As any vehicle approaches the airport, several kilometers away from the terminal, they must go through a checkpoint that requires every car to stop, while an armed guard peers into the car and exchanges a few words with drivers and passengers to get a quick read on who is entering. Anyone who appears suspicious is pulled over for more extensive questioning. Then, while approaching the terminal on foot, anyone who enters comes under the scrutiny of security guards at the entrance to the terminal. Full security screenings take place before check-in – one waits in a security line before the check-in counter in addition to the standard X-rays of carry-on baggage. 
It is just one example of the grand sacrificial trade that Israelis are willing to make daily – trading total privacy for increased safety. Israelis submit to inspection everywhere and anywhere – from shopping malls to restaurants to soccer stadiums, obediently opening car trunks, handbags and briefcases when asked, because they know it’s worth the slight inconvenience and mini-invasion. It is the behavior of a population that has felt too much loss and pain to object. 



We are all Israelis now.

Because we will have to deal with the threat, but we will not allow it to defeat us.  But as we go on, the way will never be clear cut and it will not be black or white-just grey:

"The key point in the moral struggle against terrorism, is to make clear that terror – the murder of innocent people – has no justification anywhere. Not in Instanbul, not in the Ivory Coast, and not in Jerusalem.

"Whoever does not condemn terrorism, supports terrorism."

Accent on the "innocent."

This, then, is the lesson:

Whoever does not acknowledge the killing of innocent people by his own side – whoever blames the other side for the killings we ourselves have committed – supports the killing of innocent people.
So there you have it. There you have us.

One side is too self-congratulatively radical, too giddily middle-school wonderfully progressive for words, too reflexively condescending and exclusionist about it, to ever fix anything here.

The other side is too self-congratulatively hardline and egoist and messianic and militarist and oh-poor-little-me and We-Own-Zionism and We-Own-The-Truth and Everybody-Hates-Us and That-Proves-We're-Right about it, to ever fix anything here.

They are not going to solve one goddamned thing. Or save one life. But they'll feel so good about themselves while they're at it."


We are all Israelis now.


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Mar 10 2016

Pat Conroy

Published by under Memorials,The Citadel

As the previous post indirectly reported, Pat Conroy passed away on March 4, 2016. He was 70 years old.

If one is a graduate of a certain prestigious military college on the banks of the Ashley River in Charleston, S.C. , Pat Conroy is a figure you know and revere. He graduated in 1967, an English major, and moved on to the rather scary and worthwhile adventure that is life out side of Lesene Gate. He taught English in Beaufort after graduation, then moved on to accept a job as a teacher on Dafuskie Island, S.C.

Conroy was an interesting character as a cadet. He rebelled against the Citadel's harsh military system, which in the 1960's became particularly harsh-in part as a reaction to the emotional chaos that was going outside the campus in the 1960's. Despite that,  one could always tell he developed the same affection for the place that most of the rest of us have, recognizing it, for better or for worse, as one of the key defining experiences of our lives. I know my time at the Citadel was for me, and only my time in Japan rivals it for shaping my perspective on life. Read into that, what you will. 

Conroy has said his stories were heavily influenced by his military brat upbringing, and in particular, difficulties experienced with his own father, a US Marine Corps pilot, who was physically and emotionally abusive toward his children, and the pain of a youth growing up in such a harsh environment is evident in Conroy's novels, particularly The Great Santini. While living in OrlandoFlorida, Conroy's 5th grade basketball team defeated a team of 6th graders, making the sport his prime outlet for bottled-up emotions for more than a dozen years. Conroy also cites his family's frequent military-related moves and growing up immersed in military culture as significant influences in his life (in both positive and negative ways).


Conroy's first book was The Boo.  It was written when Conroy was newly graduated from The Citadel, self published in 1970. It is a collection of letters, short stories, and anecdotes about Lt. Colonel Thomas "The Boo" Courvoisie. As Assistant  Commandant of Cadets at the Citadel, Courvoisie was a friend and father figure to many of the college's cadets. It really is an insiders kind of book-if you have not worn the uniform or wear the ring, a lot of its meaning will be lost upon you. I wrote about The Boo earlier on this blog in posts here and here.

The book was not a great commercial success until many, many years later. But his later books were: The Great Santini, The Water is Wide, The Lords of Discipline, My Losing Season, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, South of Broad, My Reading Life, and The Death of Santini. Oh,  he also published a cookbook too. Several of the books were made into movies.

Conroy could use words like an artist uses a paintbrush, skillfully, to paint rich pictures in words that could fill up your mind. I like to think that it was the professors of the Citadel English department that gave him that gift, but I suspect that is only partially true. His reading before, after and during his Citadel experiences probably fixed within him a rich appreciation of the beauty of the written word. What I also suspect is that the Citadel did instill him a quick and sarcastic wit. It does in all of us who wear the ring-its part of how you make it through the experience.

And Charleston and the South Carolina low country was inevitably his backdrop for a good story.

It was my father who called the city the Mansion on the River. He was talking about Charleston, South Carolina, and he was a native son, peacock proud of a town so pretty it makes your eyes ache with pleasure just to walk down its spellbinding, narrow streets. Charleston was my father's ministry, his hobbyhorse, his quiet obsession, and the great love of his life. His bloodstream lit up my own with a passion for the city that I've never lost nor ever will. I'm Charleston-born, and bred. The city's two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, have flooded and shaped all the days of my life on this storied peninsula.— From the novel South of Broad.

Words just seemed to flow in Conroy's books. They were not written for the intellectually impaired of today who want work memos to be "short and bulletized", they were written in flowing prose that was meant to immerse you in the picture he was trying to paint. Conroy was good at painting those pictures.

…I have a need to bear witness to what I saw there.  I want to tell you how it was.  I want precision.  I want a murderous, stunning truthfulness.  I want to find my own singular voice for the first time.  I want you to understand why I hate the school with all my power and passion.  Then I want you to forgive me for loving the school.  Some of the boys of the Institute and the men who are her sons will hate me for the rest of their lives.  But that will be all right.  You see, I wear the ring. — From the novel The Lords of Discipline


Much of what is now being written about Pat Conroy is indeed laudatory and giving him the high praise he deserves. However, it is also interesting for me to see that many of the younger graduates are not privy to the struggle that went on between Pat Conroy and his beloved alma mater for many years. As a graduate of the 1970's, I saw much of it played out in headlines and later in e-mails and letters.  I firmly believe that Conroy wrote the Lords of Discipline to somehow try to work out the conflicts that the 4th class system of the 60's had, the camaraderie it built- contrasted with the emotional violence that underpinned it.

The struggle with the college came to a head in 1995, when Shannon Faulkner, using falsehoods, lies and deceptions, applied for admission and was accepted, omitting her gender from the application. ( Which was in part the college's fault, there was no Male/ Female block on the form. Why would there be? Women were not to be a part of the Corps and why would they apply to a place they could a not and should not attend? (Yes I wrote and italicized that last part. Screw you feminists)).

Conroy later, after Faulkner had failed miserably after only one week, paid her way through Converse College. He thought it was the right thing to do-suffice it to say that I did not think so at the time, and still do not think so now. But that takes nothing away from his skills as a writer nor my admiration for his ability to tell a story. It also takes away none of my admiration for the fact that he survived to graduate during a tough time in the college's history. It is a disservice to the record, however, to not point out that his love-hate relationship with the college was a long one, only healed in the first decade of the 21st century.

In 2001, Pat Conroy gave the commencement address at The Citadel.  He gave a great speech and at the end he said this:

In closing, class of 2001, I cannot thank ya’ll enough for doing this for me. I did not exactly pencil this speech into my schedule of coming attractions, and you do me the highest honor by bringing me fully into my Citadel family. And I was trying to think of something I can do because a graduation speaker needs to speak of time—time passing. Usually, I tell graduation classes I want them to think of me on their 40th birthday, but I got something else I want to do for ya’ll because I’m so moved at what you’ve done for me. I would like to invite each one of you in the class of 2001 to my funeral, and I mean that. I will not be having a good day that day. . . but I have told my wife and my heirs that I wanted the class of 2001 to have an honored place whenever my funeral takes place. And I hope as many of you will come as you possibly can because I want you to know how swift time is, and there is nothing as swift—and you know this—from the day you walked into Lesesne Gate until this day—a heartbeat, an eye blink. This is the way life is. It is the only great surprise in life.

So I’m going to tell you how to get to my funeral. You walk up. . . You find the usher waiting outside, and here’s your ticket. . . You put up your Citadel ring. Let them check for the 2001, and each one of you, I want you to say this before you enter the church at which I’m going to be buried. You tell them, "I wear the ring."


A lot of the members of the Class of 2001 and a lot of members of other classes, as well, showed up for Pat Conroy's funeral. And mind you, this is a class that still has a lot of members serving around the globe-some in combat zones.

May God grant Pat Conroy rest and peace. And may his memory to us be a blessing.

One final postscript that I would like to pass along. It is fashionable these days to berate people who do not study the "hard sciences" as it were. The so called STEM disciplines as they call it. It seems to me, and always has, that this emphasis is very misplaced. Science and Engineering are all noble pursuits and very necessary,  as was pointed out in the movie Dead Poet's Society. But imagine the tragedy it would have been, had Conroy been shoved by an emotionally unforgiving and short sighted viewpoint into some other major besides English.

The beauty of a liberal arts military college is that it instills a "system" of studying that imparts a great set of skills, regardless of what you study. I believe Pat Conroy benefited from it, as did I. 

After all, we both wear the ring.



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Feb 13 2016

As if things were not screwed up enough.

God decided to play a cruel joke on American politics by holding a recall election of His own. The winner was Justice Antonin Scalia.

The loser will be the rest of the United States, that is left behind to watch the Constitutional farce that will be the nomination of his successor. More on that in a bit.

If you search the archives of this blog, you will find that there was a time when I actually defended Antonin Scalia. It was in this post here. For the record, I have not changed my mind, The Citadel should still be all male and Justice Scalia performed a service by eloquently pointing out why the arguments of the plaintiffs were flawed from both a legal and educational standpoint.

But the larger picture, as I have recognized some 8 years later, is that , by and large, the majority of the American people no longer care about the validity of mine and Justice Scalia's viewpoint. The court made that obvious in VMI, when only one justice voted no. Sadly, it did not recognize that in cases that were far more important to the national polity.

Consider his key role in Heller, Citizens United, and Bush vs Gore. Not to mention voting to gut the Voting Rights act. 

And then there is this:

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged "actual innocence" is constitutionally cognizable.

That, is among many of his dissents-a head slapper. How can anyone argue that way-even from a strictly legal standpoint?

Antonin Scalia was a brilliant legal mind and definitely worthy enough to be a Supreme Court Justice. Unfortunately, his brilliance was so often squandered on ideas that were just flat out bad. Charles Pierce sums it up well:

I believe the United States would be a better country if none of these remarks ever were made.

So now we will have the national mourning, and the lying-in-state, and the state funeral, all of which Antonin Scalia deserves. Giving 30 years of your life to public service at the highest level is something worthy of respect, even if it was largely in service of a political philosophy that derides public service at almost every other level of government. And his death on Saturday certainly is a seismic event in our politics. It raises the stakes in the upcoming election to almost unimaginable levels. How do we know this? Because Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the United States Senate, already has thrown the Constitution out the window for purely political purposes.

That a sitting Senator, much less the Majority Leader of the Senate, could make such a bold statement, in direct opposition to the requirements of the Constitution is really astounding. It is really a sad commentary of  the damage our tea sniffing fellow citizens, aided by the lazy 50% who can't even be bothered to exercise their civic rights to vote; the damage that having really lousy legislators causes.

McConnell and by extension the two children, Cruz and Rubio who echoed it, don't have a leg to stand on.

Of course, this is all my bollocks. In 2012, the "American people" decided that Barack Obama should appoint justices to the Supreme Court to fill any vacancies that occurred between January of 2013 and January of 2017. Period. Just because Mitch McConnell is a complete chickenshit in the face of his caucus doesn't obviate that fact. The 36 percent of eligible voters who showed up for the 2014 midterms, the lowest percentage in 72 years, don't get to cancel out the expressed wishes of the majority of the 57.5 percent of eligible voters who turned out to re-elect the president in 2012. And before this meme really picks up steam, 17 justices have been confirmed during election years, including Roger Taney, which sucks, in 1836, Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist, who were appointed in 1972, and Anthony Kennedy, who was appointed in 1988.

(And it should not be necessary to point out that any argument made by this Congress on the basis of political tradition or legislative politesse inevitably will cause Irony to shoot itself in the head.)


If you weren't thinking about voting before, you have a really good reason to now. I know I will vote the hell out of this election and I will be supporting someone who does not endorse the legacy of cruelty and selfishness that the current GOP has wrapped its loving arms around.

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Jan 29 2016

The legends leaving us.

Published by under Memorials

The month of January has been a sad one for folks like me, who treasure the music of the 60's and 70's and had some of my best times in life with the great artist's creations in the background as a sound track. 

David Bowie, Glenn Fry. Dale Griffin, and now Paul Kantner.

Bowie and Kantner leaving are real sad notes. I have great memories of both my teen years and my first years of real freedom in Japan listening to those guys.

I was a Jefferson Airplane fan because my sisters were Jefferson Airplane fans. And as they morphed into Jefferson Starship, I remained an active fan. The band in the 70's was awesome. I even loved them when they went on divergent paths in the 80's and 90's. "In June 1984, Paul Kantner, the last remaining founding member of Jefferson Airplane, left Jefferson Starship, and then took legal action over the Jefferson Starship name against his former bandmates. Kantner settled out of court and signed an agreement that neither party would use the names "Jefferson" or "Airplane" unless all members of Jefferson Airplane, Inc. (Bill Thompson, Paul Kantner, Grace SlickJorma KaukonenJack Casady) agreed. " Thus Mickey Thomas formed "Starship" and later went on to do "the worst song ever made. ( Which I love by the way).

Fortunately, Kantner reestablished Jefferson Starship in 1992, and so allowed me to enjoy them immensely my first wonderful year in Japan.

I played the CD for Deep Space / Virgin Sky till it was worn out. My favorite song on the album is this one:



I loved their music and the sense of rebellion that was the back story in its lyrics.

?God grant them all rest and peace.

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Jul 17 2015

When is a crime just a crime?

Its been a month since I have posted. I have been busy. No excuse to be sure-but its the truth.

During that time a lot has happened, much of it comment worthy-and if you are big reader like I am, you have probably read a lot of the commentary on it already. So I will try not to repeat it.

What I do want to take a couple of moments to comment on is the Chattanooga shooting yesterday. As soon as I heard that the shooter had a Muslim name, I said to myself, "Oh boy, here we go."

And true to form, the Town Hall Harlot proved me right.


Of course, the fact that the shooter was a naturalized American citizen is immaterial to this conclusion.  Now mind you this is just a month after a mass shooting in Charleston S.C. occurred. That we are told is not "terrorism", but this is. Can't they both be equally despicable?

Apparently,  in the eyes of some, not.

I think its important in this time of national tragedy to not be a Malkin or a paranoid American, but to step back and look at some actual facts.

Because, whether you want to admit it or not-the events of Charleston and the events of Chattanooga are more alike than they are different. When boiled down to it's base facts, as we know them so far: An American had a grudge. So he obtained a firearm and attempted to rectify his grudge by using that firearm on his fellow citizens. The grudge may have been fueled by irrational ideas from abroad-but it does not erase the fact that the killer was an American citizen who decided that killing fellow American citizens was the way to go.

Americans are killing each other again. That is the fundamental—if politically less useful—lesson of what happened in Tennessee yesterday. An American citizen got his gun and he went to a strip mall and he killed four of his fellow citizens, killed them as dead as Michael Brown or Eric Garner, as dead as the people who were killed by Dylann Roof, who's awaiting trial, or as dead as the people who were killed by James Holmes, who was convicted of killing them just yesterday. By all the criteria of which we boast of our exceptionalism to the world, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was as much of an American as the four people he allegedly murdered. His motivation doesn't matter. He was a citizen. His victims were citizens. Americans killing other Americans. It's an old story being rehearsed again with unfortunate frequency.


It troubles me that so many people are trying to tie in unrelated issues to this tragedy. Do we need to enforce our borders? Of course we do. Do we need to restrict immigration quotas from Islamic nations? Much as it pains me to say it, perhaps we might-but before we do so, we need to have a bigger conversation about American ideals and the laws of unintended consequences. Because the same people who are advocating this course of action, are descended from possible nations where their ancestors were considered terrorists just the same as Mr. Abdulazeez was. Is America a beacon of liberty or not?

That said, Islam has some real problems right now, problems that collectively it refuses to deal with. I'm not blind to that. Nonetheless, I am having a hard time making the distinction between how denying immigration rights now to qualified immigrants, would have stopped an immigrant family from spawning a criminal some 20 years ago. Someone is going to have to explain to me how that works.

I'm willing to bet you a quart of your favorite Scotch that :

1) The weapon(s) used yesterday were obtained legally, at anyone of America's 129,817 gun dealers.

2) Mr Abdulazeez may or may not be linked to some overseas terrorist group. I, at this point do not know. But I also would like someone to tell me how that would have stopped him from legally obtaining a gun to commit his heinous deeds. Evidently his family had already been investigated and cleared.

Eventually we’ll learn more about Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, but one thing is certain: The Marines who were killed yesterday were equally as much as victims of the American culture of violence as the victims in Charleston.

Lets not forget too that:

  So far in 2015 , 27000 times an American chose that same course of action. They all had problems they had decided they could not solve. They all had grudges. They all had something that made them angry enough. And, as a result, almost 7,000 of our fellow citizens are as dead as the people in Tennessee. This is not an explanation that satisfies any particular agenda but, unquestionably, we are a very fearful nation with an unacknowledged history of violence that also has armed itself very heavily. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, an American citizen, chose a very American course of action.  He had a problem he couldn't solve so he reached for the most American of solutions. He reached for a gun and he killed some of his fellow citizens.?

We will be told over and over again, "this is different, we are at war."  I beg to disagree. Whatever wars we are fighting beyond our borders, here at home-this was a crime. Every bit as much a crime as a contract hit ordered by a mob family in Ukraine, China or Sicily.  You have to fight it the same as any other crime. Its tragic that the nation lots four of its finest, but its losing fine citizens everyday. We need to remember that.  When you boil it down to brass tacks, this yet another case of an American with a grudge, who obtained a weapon inside the US and took out his rage with it. If this is terrorism, than most gun violence is terrorism.

And I call it a crime, not an act of war. Terrorism is a violent tool used for political reasons to bring pressure on governments by creating fear in the populace. In the same way, I have never thought it helpful to refer to a "war" on terror, any more than to a war on drugs. For one thing that legitimizes the terrorists as warriors; for another thing terrorism is a technique, not a state. Moreover terrorism will continue in some form whatever the outcome, if there is one, of such a "war". For me what happened was a crime and needs to be thought of as such. What made it different from earlier attacks was its scale and audacity, not its nature.

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Apr 21 2015

Israel’s memorial day

Today is Yom Hazikaron (Yom Hazikaron l'Chalalei Ma'arachot Yisrael ul'Nifgaei Peulot Ha'eivah-  literally, "Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism"). This is Israel's Memorial Day.

Yom Hazikaron is the national remembrance day observed in Israel for those who fell since 1860, when Jews were first allowed to live in Palestine outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls. National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top leadership and military personnel. The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 20:00 (8:00 pm), given that in the Hebrew calendar system, a day begins at sunset. The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.  Many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time. The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall,  and the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff.

A two-minute siren is sounded at 11:00 the following morning, which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis visit the resting places of loved ones throughout the day. The day officially draws to a close between 19:00 and 20:00 (7–8 p.m.) with the official ceremony of Israel's Independence Day at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff.

One of the government-owned television stations screens the names of all the fallen in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about three seconds each. 

It is that last bit I would like you to think about. As of April 14 2015, Israel had lost some 23,320 of its servicemen and women, 116 of them in the last year alone – 67 of those soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge. Some 35 wounded veterans passed away this year as a result of their injuries, and were thus also recognized as fallen soldiers. To put that number in perspective, it is the equivalent of almost 1 million lost Americans.

I just point it out because I will be traveling to Israel in a few weeks-and I always try to keep that in the back of my mind when I am working there. It is all tragic. It is all the backdrop with which they live, every day. It helps me understand their perspective a lot better.


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Mar 25 2015

The benign dictator

Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March. He was 91. For those who don't know ( and you really should know this) he was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and was the founder of much of what we consider modern Singapore. As he himself said, Singapore is his legacy. That applies for both good and not so good.

Now truth in advertising, I love to be in Singapore. Its where I want to live, (as well as Japan) and I have been there 18 times. I love the place. When Lee Kuan Yew became the prime minister of Singapore in 1959, he assumed control of an ethnically divided, impoverished territory lacking in natural resources. In his 31 years in office—followed by another 21 in advisory roles—Lee transformed his country into one of the world’s most prosperous societies, a major business and transportation hub boasting a per capita GDP of $55,000.  I was often grateful for the quality of life he masterminded there.

But that quality of life came with a price and a dark side-and any eulogy of the man has to take that into account:

He will be remembered as the father of his country, a political street fighter who cut his teeth in the struggle against colonialism. Some will recall an unapologetic taskmaster — a leader more respected than loved — whose pragmatism lifted a Southeast Asian backwater into a sleek metropolis and global business hub. Others will recall the politically incorrect pundit who became an outspoken champion of “Asian values” and a sharp critic of American-style democracy. Each is correct, and captures part of the man. But to these remembrances one more should be added: Lee was the most successful dictator of the 20th century. (emphasis added-SS)

It’s a verdict that will please almost no one. For his admirers, he is a singular historic figure, not an autocratic strongman like those who eventually lorded over other former colonial outposts. He may not have been a Jeffersonian democrat, they say, but he was no dictator. On the other end of the spectrum, dissidents and democrats will take umbrage at the notion of an illiberal, authoritarian leader being remembered fondly at all. Still, Lee was one of the most universally celebrated statesmen of the last 50 years. American presidents, British prime ministers, apparatchiks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and European officials all lined up to heap praise on the leader of this authoritarian duchy…………..

…..When Lee retired from office in 1990, Singapore had some of the world’s busiest shipyards, cleanest streets, top schools, lowest taxes, best healthcare, and most efficient public services. The so-called “little red dot” had become one of the world’s most livable cities, a magnet for skilled foreign workers and the multinational corporations who hire them.

But the miracle wasn’t without its price. Lee kept his political project on a tight leash, dampening free speech, muzzling his critics, and squashing political opposition before it could take root. The ruling People’s Action Party is rightly considered synonymous with the government because it has won every election since 1959. Singapore didn’t have a single opposition leader in office until 1981, and until 2011 there have never been more than four opposition members serving in the parliament at one time. On one hand, Lee’s political machine was unquestionably effective at delivering results for Singapore. In most years, it’d be hard for any political party anywhere to compete against PAP’s record of accomplishment. That said, when it came to ensuring their political future, Lee and his cohort were incredibly gifted at putting their finger on the scale.


As I said, I really do like the place, even with all its faults, and people who are less enlightened then I am, tend to think I overlook them. Its not true and never has been. If you go back through my posts since 2005 you will see I have been pretty even handed in my reporting. I admit, I do like a place where I can go out for a piece of pizza or a piece of ass with the same general ease, and in my mind that was always one of Singapore's pluses.  But there was much, much more to the city than just my hunger. And Singapore is a great place to eat. ( as well as do other things….   cheeky ). Its services and general atmosphere are unmatched anywhere, especially the United States. Singaporeans solved problems efficiently and in ways the world could and did learn from -specifically with respect to health care and housing. The United States, being exceptional and all, did not seem to take the lesson on board. I still bridle angrily at people who say that Singapore's solutions cannot be applied to the United States. Its completely wrong , they could be, and would work.

That said, there were troubling aspects to the place too and still are. Just ask this guy.

My driver, a middle-aged Chinese guy, recognizes me. For most of my working life I was forced into exile overseas. Despite graduating from Cambridge in 1983 with a first-class honors degree in economics, no one in my home country would employ me. But in 2008 I decided to return home anyway and last year I stood as candidate for the Opposition in the general elections. My driver is sneaking surreptitious glances at me in the mirror. Finally he says:“JBJ. Very good man!”

I tell him he’s right and he goes on:

“But in the end very poor. Selling his book on the street corner. I buy a copy. Very sad, lah!” Then after some thought, “That’s what happens when you go against the gahmen (government).”

He is referring to my father, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam. When I was a boy growing up in Singapore my father had been one of the highest-earning lawyers. He was also the first Opposition politician to get a seat in parliament, breaking a 16-year monopoly by the PAP. He was subjected to multiple defamation suits and perverse judgments which forced him out of parliament and out of his law practice and eventually bankrupted him.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam then goes on to ask the question of Mr. Lee that we all should ask, could not the government have found a way to have prosperity, progress and innovation without sacrificing central control and whilst not repressing freedom?  I personally think the answer is yes, especially because there are examples that prove me right, but Mr. Lee would not have agreed with that answer at all. Perhaps at the start he needed a tight grip-for the Communists where a real and persistent threat. But later-not so much:

During his last decades in public life, the Singaporean regime became increasingly critical of the American-led notion that human rights—including democracy—had worldwide applicability. In an interview published in the Atlantic in 2013, Lee argued that “Americans believe their ideas are universal—the supremacy of the individual and free, unfettered expression. But they’re not—and never were.”?

There is one other aspect of the society he crafted that I, for one, find particularly troubling and its not unique to Singapore, the Middle East and other parts of Asia have it too-namely the fact that a part of Singapore's success rests on the backs of an underclass of foreign workers, that will never enjoy the benefits of the prosperity that has been brought there."Singapore cannot compete with cheap labor overseas so it brings the cheap labor to Singapore, with no minimum wage there is no bottom to how cheap this labor can be. Not surprisingly this exploitation has fueled an explosion in GDP but not in real wages, which have stagnated or fallen." Specifically for me, and since this is women's history month, the exploitation of so many people troubles folks a good deal.  The fact that American feminists pay ZERO attention to the plight of these women, is just grounds to shout at them repeatedly.

Singapore is a mixed bag to be sure-but its a better bag than most places, ( light years ahead of Shopping Mall USA) and a lot of that was do to the vision of Lee Kuan Yew. “People want economic development first and foremost,” he said in an interview printed in his 1998 book, The Man and His Ideas. “The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools."

That they got. At what price they paid-that is what will be the discussion in the years to come.

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Feb 27 2015

I have been and shall always be, your fan.

Published by under Memorials

And yes I stole that line from Wonkette.

Leonard Nimoy died today. For a true Star Trek fan like me-its kind of like the end of the world. Yes you knew this day was coming, but you did not want to think about it, and now that it is finally here, you just can't seem to believe it.

I am a fan of the entire Star Trek enterprise (how is that for a play on words?), but I was really enraptured with the Original Series, DS-9 and Enterprise. Next Generation was Ok. Voyager was a bridge too far, and the less said about Star Trek 5-the movie-the better. I still have not forgiven JJ Abrams for ripping the Star Trek canon to shreds, just so he could make his rather shallow, and scientifically ridiculous Star Trek re-boots, but I did like Zachary Quinto as Spock. ( I still have to come to terms with the whole "nailing Ohura" thing, but hey, things change right?)

While he is best known for his role as Spock, the truth was, Leonard Nimoy wanted to be a lot of other things. And the amazing popularity of the original series made that somewhat impossible. In the New York Times they have a wonderful tribute to the man pointing out that there was much more to the man than just the logical alien. 

The actor who won a permanent place on the altar of pop culture for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” was almost as famous for wanting to be remembered for other things.

And that is, of course, highly illogical.

It’s hard to think of another star who was so closely and affectionately identified with a single role. Even George Reeves, the first television Superman, was also one of the Tarleton twins in “Gone With the Wind.”

It’s even harder to think of a television character that so fully embodied and defined a personality type. Just as Scrooge became synonymous with miser, and Peter Pan became a syndrome, Spock was dispassion personified.

He could not escape the role-and I think ( but do not know) that as the years passed he came to terms with it and resolved to have fun with it. I have no real proof of that save for some examples of his other work. This commercial he did a couple of years ago when the second JJ Abrams movie came out with Zachary Quinto, is a good example. He appears to be having a lot of fun making fun of himself and the whole genre. I never get tired of watching it.



I love that he was still doing fun stuff like this at a point in life when many people would be sitting around doing nothing.  ? And actually if you go back to the Times article he had quite a solid body of work to lay claim to besides Star Trek. For example did you know, that Leonard Nimoy directed "Three Men and a Baby". He also was in a mini-series about Golda Meir, with Ingrid Bergman in it, no less. He had lots of poetry to his credit and an award winning photo exhibition in 2010. He got typecast as Spock-but he turned it around and made something wonderful of it.

May God grant him rest and peace. And of course, may he live long and prosper in the heavens.

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Jan 21 2015

American Sniper

A FB friend posted a link to the following blog post: entitled "Why I almost walked out of American Sniper". No it's not a quote from Michael Moore-its a quote from a supporter of the country and the military. I can agree with her logic, up to a point :

You need to see this movie because you live in a bubble.

Stated plainly, we complain about dumb things most of the time. We live in comfort and freedom, and for the most part, we’re blessed beyond measure. We complain about bad hair days and people who get on our nerves and when we run out of coffee or get cut off in traffic and the fact that we hate Mondays. And yet we have the opportunity to live in peace. Meanwhile, all over the globe, children are born into war zones and suffer unimaginable torment at the hands of Evil.

This is why I almost left during the movie. As a Social Studies teacher and a student of the world, I’m well aware of the atrocities committed throughout the world historically and in present day. But I’ve only read about them. I’ve only heard about them. I’ve never had to witness them with my own eyes. Sure, American Sniper is a movie and it’s a dramatization of events, but it’s realistic. It’s horrible. And it truly shows how Evil is alive and working in our world.

Not only was I sobbing at various points throughout this movie, I found myself praying, “Come, Jesus. Come.” I almost couldn’t take it– this realistic depiction of evil. I don’t want to believe that people are capable of doing such horrible things to each other, but they are. Oh, they are.

The bubble around me popped. You can’t watch a movie like this, see the horrible things that man is willing to do to another man (or woman or child), not just in the name of a god or of an organization, but in the name of hatred, and go back to your cushy life and pretend the horror doesn’t exist.

Our soldiers face this evil every day on the battlefield and they persevere. They press on. They fight it and try to protect freedom because that’s one of our basic rights as humans. And they make split-second decisions that we pray we never, ever have to make. This is why we are grateful– because they have to make the decisions and carry out the actions we never, ever want to have to face.


It is right there at the end where her logic breaks down. Evil? Really? Then why are we not dispatching legions of American Snipers to the remaining six continents?  Evil things are happening there every day but we do not stage armed interventions by equally brave men. And why don't we you ask?

Because we don't have the resources to solve every problem on the planet.

And because most of the time-its not in our national interest.

Evil exists all over this world. As we were fighting in Iraq, un-counted 1000's were dying in other wars in Africa of the twin evils of neglect and lack of resources to fight problems such as disease, bad infrastructure and starvation. Yet not once did the President rise to the podium in front of Congress and challenge us to go fight them. Chris Kyle and those like him were never sent out to help them. Nor should they have been.

And on those two points I must disagree with Jennifer Hale. Chris Kyle went through a lot. Of course his service should be honored as should that of every other soldier who served in this despicable and unnecessary conflicts throughout the first decade and a half of the 21 st century. If anything it proves James Fallow's point regarding "The tragedy of the American Military", namely that, "the American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win."

If we don't follow the statement through the logical question, namely "Why was Chris Kyle there in the first place and why did the nation so callously send him into a war the country had no business plunging into?" then we really are not honoring his sacrifices or worse yet learning real lessons from them. Cue Fallows again:

Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”

"Either war is finished or we are"  says Herman Wouk.  I fully agree with the sentiment. But I question whether the majority of Americans do. I think not. They will see the movie in a "yellow ribbon" kind of way- "the people at the [movie theater will] feel good about what they’ve done to show their support for the troops. " But they will never think the problem all the way through. They will never rise in righteous anger that Chris Kyle had to be sent there in the first place, endure the things he had to endure-and have it all matter for nothing. That's right nothing. Iraq is still a basket case, no better than when we found it. Because in the end , Chris Kyle was failed by his leadership, he was failed by his country and he was failed by the people of his country who never asked the probing questions that might have prevented the entire ordeal in the first place. As Kipling wrote after his son's death in the disaster that was the First World War, "If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied."

We do the veterans no good service if we choose not learn from the effort-and solemnly resolve not to repeat the  mistakes that placed them in such a harsh place to begin with. Without those questions, its not worth the time or the effort to contemplate the rest. We have to think it though to the end.

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