August 3, 2014

“Your body will not absorb cholesterol if you take it from someone else’s plate.” – Dave Barry

Once upon a time, the only question about food was quantity; too much here, too little there. “Here” usually meant America or the free world and “there” was usually the undeveloped or Third World. The clear broth of hunger and poverty has now been muddied by political rhetoric; the “have nots” are now patronized by ambiguous phrases like “the developing world.” Individual victims of poverty are called underserved or less “fortunate,” as if luck or the whims of Gods were in play. If Fortuna plays any role in social improvement schemes, surely she helps those who help themselves.

All nations are developing in one way or another. The problem with the optimism of gerunds is that words like “developing” are meant to suggest a process, positive progress. The alternative, social recidivism is seldom discussed or even expected. The Muslim world and Africa are but two examples of cultures where progress defies aid, assistance, history, and the best intentions. Domestic minority communities have developed similar immunities. Nonetheless, hope and wishful thinking are still the perennial toppings for most international or domestic social buffets.

Alas, the welfare state drains the energy of poverty at the expense of motivation, achievement, and initiative. To mix a metaphor, the wolf at the door has been tamed by national, state, and municipal sugar teats. Yet, poverty is still the rapier of politics. No matter that “poor” in America means subsidized housing, bad food, an automobile, air conditioning, television, the internet, obesity, and a government check.

Cynical politicians are wont to save us from ourselves for a price.   Dependents make for a permanent voting bloc. Political parties give back just enough to pacify, insure loyalty, and stifle ambition.

Rhetoric plays a major role in poverty manipulations. A handout is now a “hand up.” A sorry meal in a feral school is an “investment.” The president’s wife has now commandeered the bully pulpit on poverty; especially, the subordinate issues of diet, nutrition, and exercise.

The idea that the First Lady gardens, goes to the market, or prepares food for her children is an insult to common sense.  Michelle Obama has access to the best take-out, health care, and life-style coaching in Washington, DC – at tax payer expense. Indeed, the First Lady’s posturing on weight control is disingenuous also.

This is not to suggest the president’s wife doesn’t have a little junk in her trunk too, but Michelle’s figure, like that of any American woman, is more a function of genetics, domestic culture, and social class than it is of eating habits. Thin says as much about class as diction.

The fat shaming that comes from the White House is weak gruel, not unlike the personal poverty posturing we hear from Bill and Hillary Clinton these days. Mrs Obama’s insensitivity about the zaftig demographic is of a piece with her ignorance about Gypsies when she or her husband refers to frauds as “gyps’. MS Magazine put it best when they took Michelle to task with an editorial about “Health and Hatred.”

American taxpayers subsidize an overweight demographic and then ultimately pay for the predictable health consequences of obesity. Free lunch and free health care are package deals sustained by social fictions. There are no incentives for restraint with means or ends. Individual intemperance is aggravated by pork barrels, self-serving rent seekers, and lobbyists countrywide.

America has the only obese poor on the planet. Michelle’s target audience isn’t poverty stricken so much as they are victims of affluence. The dependent demographic has access to all things necessary to be fat, dumb, unhealthy, and unhappy. Drugs, alcohol, and a junk diet often make for a critical mass of dysfunction. Government with no sense of restraint is not likely to cultivate that public virtue among the underclass.

The end game is political. A dependent political demographic is a permanent voting bloc.  Democracy always contains the potential to succumb to the lowest common denominators. Modern social democracy, especially, has all the earmarks of an elaborate vote buying scheme. Eric Hoffer put it best: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  The poor and uneducated may not have much, but they do have the vote — and the fate of the nation in their hands.

The end game is political. A dependent political demographic is a permanent voting bloc.  Democracy always contains the potential to succumb to the lowest common denominators. Modern social democracy, especially, has all the earmarks of an elaborate vote buying scheme. Eric Hoffer put it best: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  The poor and uneducated may not have much, but they do have the vote — and the fate of the nation in their hands.

Everyone seems to benefit except kids. Children in turn do what any intelligent waif does. Kids don’t eat food they don’t like.

Modern palates are educated by fast foods; salt, sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. The junk food industry knows what children like. With the assistance of clueless, lazy parents and venal politicians, the child marketing niche is a free fire zone. Eating in a government financed cafeteria is also an exercise in humiliation, an admission that parents cannot or will not prepare a healthy, edible meal.

More to the point, kids don’t eat government food because it’s awful; ill prepared and badly presented. Most school cafeteria food looks like road kill on a plate. If Michelle Obama wants to understand what’s wrong with the diet of poor children; she, and her daughters, need to try to eat 15 meals a week at a public school cafeteria. Indeed, every school principal, teacher, and education bureaucrat should be forced to eat at public school cafeterias too. If politicians and administrative deadwood ate at the government trough, then and only then, they would know what kids know.

The food stinks!

School cafeteria chow is not just awful. Much of what is served ends up in the trash. Eating is not just another political hustle; it’s a matter of taste and habit. Ignoring qualitative factors (setting, presentation, and taste) in the child diet equation is a little trying to hit a fastball with a jump rope.

The junk food industry may not know much about health food, but they do know everything about setting and taste. How many fast food restaurants are located in basements? And junk food moguls test what they sell too. If a grasshopper burrito doesn’t sell, it’s off the menu.  Only when government food programs worry as much about preparation and taste as they do about poverty propaganda will free lunch be a good “investment.”

Some university presidents make a million dollars or more as public servants. Principals, education apparatchiks, and tenured teachers routinely make six figure salaries with elaborate benefits. What is the average food service manager paid at any public school?

Better still, take a long look at the average school cafeteria worker; overweight, overworked, underpaid, tattooed, and truly scary in hairnets. Have you ever seen Wolfgang Puck, Rachael Ray, or Papa John preparing food in a hairnet?  What’s the point of keeping hair, or toenails for that matter, out of food that’s inedible anyway?

Food in public cafeterias is not just bad; the windowless, basement settings – and the employees – would mute the appetite of vampires. Urban school cafeterias are like municipal post offices, employers of last resort.

The tax dollars that might be saved from waste alone by local school districts could hire the best executive chefs, cooks, and attractive kitchen staffs. A school lunch in could be equal of any Sunday brunch out.

If academic outcomes are a measure of effectiveness, pricey education bureaucrats are a poor investment. A competent chef, cook, or school food service manager is another, indeed an a priori, matter. The proof is in the eating. The effects of good cooking, like good parenting, are measurable.

Parents seem unwilling or unable to prepare food for children. Why not invest in better dining rooms, better kitchens, and only the best food service professionals for schools?  Call it affirmative action eating. We are all, after all, what we eat. Lip service from the Oval Office on hunger and poverty is no substitute for a sunny room and the flavor and taste of a good spinach pie.


The author keeps a garden and cooks nearly every day. He believes that good ingredients and a tasty lunch are national security issues.

Key Words; cooking, school lunch, junk food, hunger, poverty, and public schools.






August 1, 2014

Character is the decisive factor in individuals and nations alike.” – Theodore Roosevelt

So now we have John Walsh. Another flag officer who steps on his crank and then pretends he was ill at the time. Maybe it’s a David Patraeus thing, a kind of self-love, a lust for advancement and the values lost in the heat of that pursuit. Just as the former CIA director gave sexual harassment a boost with Paula Broadwell; the former Montana Adjutant General, now Senator, Walsh is giving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a bad name, throwing true combat fatigue victims under the bus in the process. PTSD is already the dubious ‘medical’ default setting for any soldier or veteran who behaves badly.

Modern abuse of a combat vitae dates to John Kerry and Vietnam. Kerry parlayed three months in a combat zone to a chest full of medals and service ribbons which he promptly threw on the White House lawn in a fit of feigned political pique.

Playing both sides of the street, war hero/anti-war hero, Kerry used his Navy service as a stepping stone in Massachusetts’ politics. It worked, it still works for Kerry. Lieutenant Kerry, and allies like Jane Fonda, made allegations about American atrocities that were unsupported by evidence. The Secretary of State is still reviled by many veterans for good reasons. Kerry was no Audie Murphy.

Walsh is a disturbing echo of the Kerry military ethos of the 1970s.

Alas, the real problem here isn’t personal integrity so much as national security institutions at risk. Kerry and Walsh raise questions about the standards in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the erosion of national military values like “duty, honor, and country.”

With Kerry, where was the US Navy brass when he collected all those decorations, including three purple hearts for trivial injuries? Kerry never lost a day of duty for his “wounds.” Even by Vietnam standards, Kerry’s fruit salad orgy still amazes contemporaries.

Upon coming home, Kerry morphed into a very different, and very politicized naval officer; often half in and half out of uniform, often wearing/not wearing military decorations at anti-war protest rallies. Where was the admiralty then and subsequently when his Swift Boat shipmates challenged Kerry’s Vietnam resume during that pyrrhic presidential bid?

Now we have General Walsh in another political campaign. Put aside the banal stupidity of plagiarism in an era where any high school sophomore can screen a paper for fraud. Put aside also, for the moment, the question of why a US Army colonel can’t write an original 14 page (sic) “thesis.” Put aside also the questions of how this guy got to be a state adjutant, a lieutenant governor, and an appointed US senator.

Instead, ask how did this fellow ever got a military commission, let alone a flag officer slot? He was promoted from colonel to general after cheating at the Army War College (AWC)! Speaking of the AWC, how is an institution credentialed to grant graduate degrees not able to screen for resume hustlers and plagiarists? And how is a fourteen-page cribbed essay a “thesis” in any post-graduate program? On the academic credibility scale, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, now joins the ranks of degree factories.

The Air Force has not escaped the depression in military values. Ninety-two missile launch officers were implicated in a recent cheating scandal associated with procedural competence. Subsequent inquiries suggest that cheating on proficiency tests has been part of the “culture” at all three ICBM bases for years. The USAF men and women with their fingers on the nuclear button can’t be trusted? Good grief, what’s next?

So here we are once again, with the Walsh fiasco, left to wonder about the integrity of Department of Defense leadership and institutions. And predictably, all of the usual suspects are out on soapboxes defending the indefensible. Excuses suggest that Walsh is a stress victim or he was just distracted, or just guilty of trivial neglect. Even the Clinton defense has been deployed again; Walsh’s behavior is likened to small or private matters, not something that could taint his public professional judgment.

Senator John Walsh’s defenders are probably correct in their calculations. Character flaws like cheating or plagiarism do not matter. After all, one of two major American political parties is behind Walsh “100 percent.” Keep in mind that Walsh didn’t fudge the truth as a junior officer, he cheated as a colonel. Cheating doesn’t matter in the officer corps because apparently character doesn’t matter either.  Among politicians, character seldom matters; and now flag officers have lowered that bar too.  Prudens Futuri  indeed!








July 17, 2014

Sometimes a picture is worth a million words. Take Michelle Obama’s recent head shot, a pouty face over a sign that reads, “Bring back our girls!” Michelle is pleading with Boko Haram to return several hundred Nigerian girls abducted earlier this year. This is what passes for foreign policy these days, a silly photo from the White House.

It was the Obama administration that couldn’t bring itself to designate Boko Haram a terror group, until recently. Apparently, religious genocide, forced conversions, and sex slavery did not breach the “terror” threshold at Foggy Bottom or the Oval Office until 2013.

Had Boko Haram been on the terror watch list, maybe the National Security Agency (NSA) would have been watching sex slave trafficking in Africa instead of monitoring domestic sex surfing on laptops in America. Clearly, the praetorian peep show at Fort Meade has a better payoff when “metadata” is used to trash some political naïf like the hapless David Patraeus.

The most populous terror groups in the Middle East and South Asia, al Ikhwan  (Muslim Brotherhood) and the notorious Taliban, still do not make State’s official terror list in the Obama era either. The Brotherhood is a designated terror organization in Cairo but not in Washington DC. Take comfort in knowing that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in Peru are still on the official list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

And just when you thought the Obama crew couldn’t be more tone deaf or manipulative, along comes Susan Rice again to rationalize another group of domestic apologists, this time the Bergdahls, a family of Idaho Taliban fans. Bergdahl’s home town, Hailey, was planning a “hero’s” welcome for a favorite son turned rabbit. The US Army cultivated the “hero” canard by promoting the errant private to sergeant while in self-imposed “captivity” for five years. Calling Bergdahl a prisoner of war (POW) or sergeant, as Rice does, dishonors all real combat Non-Commissioned Officers and legitimate POWs, living and dead.

Bowe Bergdahl applied for the French Foreign Legion and was rejected. He served in the Coast Guard for 26 days before he was discharged for psychological reasons. How or why the US Army takes a recruit that didn’t pass muster in a sister service is another Bowe cypher.

Adding insult to irony, America’s most feckless national security advisor again took to the airways to spin the truth about all things Islamic and Bergdahl.  You might recall that in the wake of the Benghazi atrocity, Ms. Rice was the public face of excuse-making for the Islamist murder of a gay American ambassador and three colleagues in Libya.

We mention Chris Steven’s sexual orientation because, in the sick world of Islamism, it might well have been the proximate cause of execution. Midst the moral miasma of Foggy Bottom, American diplomats become hysterical over any real or imagined homophobia in Russia, and at the same time ignore the lethal variety of that same bigotry in the Muslim world at large.

Now Susan Rice, with media collaborators, would have us believe that a marginal soldier, at a minimum an AWOL or possibly a deserter, served with “honor and distinction” in Afghanistan. In fact, his platoon mates, his parents, and even Rolling Stone have testified that Bowe Bergdahl was unhappy with the war against Islamists and voluntarily left his post to seek refuge with the Taliban.

The fact that Bergdahl might have been restrained on occasion by his hosts is moot. After all, he fled to the Taliban where young girls are stoned to death for immodesty and outsiders might be buggered or beheaded with the same unhappy logic (see the Sewing Circles of Kandahar, by Christina Lamb).

If the Coast Guard and the US Army couldn’t trust Private Bowe, why would anyone expect semi-literate Muslim fascists like the Taliban to trusthim?

Barack Obama misused the “no man left behind” ethic by staging a White House photo opportunity with Private Bergdahl’s parents; a charade where papa Bergdahl was festooned in a full length ‘Islamic solidarity’ beard, another photo worth a million words. Bergdahl’s dad, a pensioned former mailman, also graced the occasion with several Koranic incantations. Hard to pass up an “in your face” moment in the Rose Garden.

Smell a rat yet? Seems the Pentagon and the Oval Office are trying to cook the national security books again for a couple of reasons.

The first would be to set a precedent to empty Guantanamo and fulfill a long standing Obama campaign pledge. For Obama, the next couple of years are about legacy, not national safety. The bearded Taliban miscreants swapped for Bergdahl get a luxury villa in Qatar for a few months and should be back in the religious genocide business for a spring 1915 offensive.

A second motive would be to prejudice any US Army officer in any pre-trail investigation or every officer on any potential Bergdahl court martial board. A pair of political lawyers in the White House should know all there is to know about cooking a jury.

The brass at the Pentagon has already has already flunked the partiality test by trying to gag Bergdahl’s platoon, a bevy of hostile eye witnesses. If Private Bergdahl served with “distinction,” why muzzle or malign his mates?

When Bergdahl gets a pass, Obama spin gets a win – again.

Future narratives could follow several story lines. The Army could feign justice with “non-judicial” punishment (reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay), a slap on the wrist, and a Pentagon pouty face. If Bergdahl goes to trail, unlikely just before a congressional election, the administration will probably argue that he has suffered enough and a presidential pardon would do the trick.

The only version of Bergdahl’s expedition and behavior amongst the Taliban may be the story he chooses to tell. Surely a book deal is already in the works. Under any scenario, like Lieutenant John Kerry in Massachusetts, Private Bowe Berghdahl is probably bulletproof and still golden for Idaho.

So maybe administration trash talkers are correct about the “swift boat” analogy. When John Kerry threw in with Jane Fonda, embargoed his military records, and tossed his Vietnam decorations on the White House lawn; he wasn’t running from an unjust war in the Mekong Delta so much as he might have been running to the US Senate. Like Bergdahl, Kerry got to work both sides of the public sympathy street; war hero and anti-war hero.

In truth, Bergdahl is more a mirror image of his ransom, the Guantanamo five. The Taliban psychopaths get to return to the heart of Islam as victims, heroes, and jihadi. Bowe gets to play the same role in America, a celebrated troubled soul victimized by a bad war and callous critics. If Bergdahl is a Muslim convert, he has the potential to do more damage with a Muslim/American 5th Column than he might ever have done as a soul lost to the South Asian skedaddle.

How does Senator Bowe Bergdahl sound? Idaho and the Bergdahl clan seem as well suited as Kerry and ketchup.

Beneath all the Obama/Rice compassion posturing lies a tortured past and a Malthusian future. Recall that candidate Obama ran on a plank that labeled Afghanistan a “war of necessity.” Indeed, a claim that al Qaeda and the Taliban must be defeated so that Afghanistan wouldn’t become a haven for terrorists.

With a good part of Taliban leadership now in Qatar, the Arabian Peninsula is (or always has been) a destination resort for terrorists and their enablers – and that affluent sty includes Saudi Arabia.  For the next two years Guantanamo will apparently serve as terror’s travel agent.

Meanwhile in South Asia, Mullah Omar is celebrating victory somewhere. When Kabul again falls to his Taliban, we will know how the end began. When and if Karachi and Pakistan’s cache of nuclear weapons falls to Islamic fascism too, we will also know how Armageddon begins. America just swapped the negligible legacy of a very weak president for a very troubled future.








Veterans in the Crosshairs

June 7, 2014

“The best minds are not in government.” – Ronald Reagan

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) hurled brickbats from Chicago for decades. Never mind that the Windy City, if not Illinois, are two of the most corrupt polities in North America. Social inequalities and Capitalism were Terkel’s favored targets.

His most effective analytical tool was the interview where he artfully allowed victims to bare their souls – and sometimes self-destruct.  Terkel’s social criticism was often spot on – brutal and humorous, simultaneously. Unfortunately, he gave more thought to criticism than solutions. Diagnosis and remedy, like good will and achievement, are worlds apart.

With Studs you got blunt and often amusing analysis undone by flaccid, if not shopworn, urban bromides. For Terkel, bigger government at any level was better.

Alas, corrupt government is host to many ironies, but three are paramount: success is a liability, failure is an asset, and as long as the intentions are pure in the public mind, better funding follows failure, not success. Once established, bigger civic programs have few measures of effectives. The end game is there is no end.

The logic is pragmatic. No politician makes a career by defunding or eliminating failed programs. Think of effectiveness as you might Fitzgerald’s receding green light, a flash on the horizon not a destination.

Failure has a permanent constituency: passive taxpayers, venal politicians, and rent seekers who are smart enough to manipulate the first two. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, when it comes to public management and/or results; good intentions are more than enough.

The Veterans Administration (VA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) illustrate these phenomena.

The Veterans Administration, like a deer in the headlights, is again in the headlines – this time for fatal wait times. Seems the VA, like some criminal enterprise, is cooking the books; one set of books for incentive pay and bonuses and another set for the real world where former soldiers may be wasting in waiting rooms or dying on waiting lists. Medical apparatchiks are apparently reporting care statistics and/or mortality rates that do not comport with patient experience.  “Do no harm” seems to have been an early casualty at the VA.

The VA is the largest single payer, state sponsored, health care system in the country. Think of the VA as a prototype of the ACA. The VA has been around since 1930, a cabinet department since the end of the Gulf Wars. You might also stop wondering why, in the run-up to ACA, veteran’s care wasn’t held up as a role model, an exemplar for the federal health mecca to come.

The culture of deception evident at the VA is a federal, not a Phoenix problem. Indeed, when terms like “public servant” are deployed to defend apparatchiks, only half that phrase is likely to be true. In addition to six figure salaries, VA administrators are awarded bonuses or incentive pay to do a lousy job.

Fraudulent bookkeeping is necessary because true merit is lacking. Like T-Ball; everyone gets a good report card and everyone gets a dollar trophy.  Deadbeats flourish where there are no meaningful measures of effectiveness especially at the federal level where most real work is done by contractors and camp followers anyway.  Phony statistics thus become a stand-in for employee achievement. Reform at the VA is unimaginable without fundamental Civil Service reform.

Frankly, neither political party thinks much about places like the VA unless there’s a scandal. Republicans don’t complain, or respond to complaints, because it might offend public unions. And Democrats don’t want to publicize any incompetence that might screw the single payer pooch, nee total socialization.

With both, the political nomenclatura, evenformer military mandarins, will never subject themselves to the same indignities as the proletariat. Rest assured that John McCain, Harry Reid, Colin Powell, and Eric Shinseki, like Congress and staff, will never have to wait in line for three months for a colonoscopy or a prostate biopsy.

You could do worse than think of the Affordable Care Act as a kind of doubling down on Veteran’s health care; another federal bailout for failure, if you will. The VA and the ACA are not exactly comparable at the moment, but you don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see the specter of single-payer and an even bigger federal role in medicine on the horizon.

You might also wonder what a soldier like Eric Shinseki is doing in the health care or social services business. Shinseki is the longest serving VA secretary. He owns the fraud problem. Clearly, the retired general knows as much about medical good practice as David Petraeus did about good Intelligence. Giving an infantry officer control of a health care system is a little like giving a proctologist command of an amphibious landing.

To be fair, we should note that minor cabinet sinecures like the VA are usually more about politics; in Shinseki’s case, a reward for very public pushback against the Bush/Rumsfeld Iraq strategy.

And let’s not let organized veterans off the hook here. Most groups like the American Legion, the Veteran of Foreign Wars, and the Disabled American Veterans are social clubs where silly hats, parades, honor guards, convention bacchanals, and ‘selfies’ with celebrities take precedence over effective advocacy. Most organized veterans willingly pose with any nitwit running for office before succumbing to promissory dementia. Truth is few politicians give a damn. Veterans are clearly not an effective, visible, or loud voting bloc.


Given the half-life of Media interest in all things military, least of all veterans care, the net effects from the latest VA ‘scandal’ are fairly predictable.

Barack and Michelle Obama will make all the appropriate noises of indignation. Mrs. Obama might even pose with a sign, and a pouty face, as she did when Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 school girls for forced conversion to Islam and the sex slave trade.

Congress will do what it always does; throw more money at the VA, another failed federal institution. The answer is always more funding – never mind that more is never enough. Few federal bureaucrats will get fired! Unionized apparatchiks, like unionized teachers might be moved, but seldom removed.

Any congressional ‘reform’ will probably do more to protect civil servants, contactors, and rent seekers than it will improve the lives of aged or injured former soldiers. Unlike veterans, camp followers have real power inside the Beltway.

General Shinseki probably tarnished what was heretofore a distinguished military career by not falling on his sword earlier. Alas, he was at the VA long enough to get the lay of the land. Generals who dabble in politics are vulnerable and dispensable anyway. Shinseki, like Patraeus, will be just another sorry footnote to the Obama era.

Government solutions are never as real as problems.  Studs Terkel, as usual, is half right again. Hope might hang in there, but esperanza never outlasts funding. Money and institutional self-interest eats hope and good intentions for lunch.  Federal crime not only pays; indeed, there are incentives and bonuses for fraud!


G. Murphy Donovan, a combat veteran, served in USAF Intelligence for 25 years. He has never seen the inside of a VA waiting room or an American Legion hall.










Edward Snowden; Digital Don Quixote

June 5, 2014

“Just because information is stolen, that doesn’t make it more useful.” – Mike Hayden


The National Security Agency (NSA) is the child of Pearl Harbor, the worst warning disaster, until recently, in American history.  The World Trade Center was the first homeland test of NSA. The Fort Meade complex and General Mike Hayden, USAF, failed that test.

Hayden discovered the terror threat on daytime television, as Saudi/Arab/Muslim terrorists crashed into Manhattan, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. After the worst strategic failure in American history, Hayden was promoted to the inner circle at the White House. Funding at NSA exploded exponentially. Catastrophe is opportunity.

Thus does operational failure become a fiscal stimulus! Withal; religious wars still rage, bombs still explode in too many public places, girls are kidnapped by the hundreds, and airliners disappear without a trace. Nonetheless, Maryland and Utah and a few other states wallow midst the biggest Communications Intelligence (COMINT) funding windfall in American history.

After the Arab attack, Hayden was summoned to the White House and asked what NSA might need to prevent another surprise attack. Apparently, NSA replied: “everything,” including universal surveillance of all the social media and the telecom monopolies (AT&T and Verizon). Initially, the gnomes at NSA engineered a program that incorporated privacy safeguards. Those safeguards were discarded, but not without a cat fight at the Puzzle Palace and the Justice Department.

Recalcitrant senior NSA technicians were read out of “the program,” some became leakers, but all were neutralized with retirement and several years of retaliatory FBI intimidation.  Raise a problem in the IC and apparently you become the problem.

Edward Snowden would later school himself on the post-9/11 NSA whistleblowers. Snowden recognized that commercial data miners and government snoops were after the same personal data; playing fast and loose with privacy, albeit for different reasons.

The Justice Department wasn’t as easy to intimidate or roll at first. Nonetheless, the Oval Office circumvented the Attorney General by writing a new TOP SECRET CODEWORD presidential directive for NSA operations. Apparently, the major social networks, with one exception, and telecom monopolies collaborated with NSA without a public murmur.

Think of NSA as a stovepipe, a conduit to very special audiences like the White House. Other Intelligence agencies create their own limited access programs too, smaller pipes within the IC stovepipes. Most traffic is vertical not horizontal, the left hand of the IC often does not know what the right is doing – by design. When an agency like Justice refuses to play ball, as was the case with warrantless wiretapping, NSA pulls program access from critics, as they did with post- 9/11 internal dissenters.

Apparently, the purpose of most classification in the IC is to cover somebody’s ass, not to protect “sources and methods.” A ‘world of mirrors’ is the way James Angleton characterized the Intelligence universe, now a digital jungle where friend and enemy wear the same saccharine smiles.

Glen Greenwald now calls the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “one-way mirrors.” They know all about us and we know little of them. Manipulation, not integrity, is the high card in a United States of Secrets.

Mike Hayden, while at NSA, ran Intelligence collection in a moral vacuum shadowed by legal twilight. And Mike Morell, while at CIA, altered Intelligence analyses (see Benghazi talking points) like the political flavor of the day. With the new FBI director, the IC consensus on the literal end of privacy is a done deal.

Recall that under George Bush, when James B. Comey was the deputy at Justice, he offered to resign over warrantless surveillance. Now as top cop at the FBI under a Democrat, Comey seems to have leased his integrity to the politics of the moment.

We are assured by all parties that individual privacy rights are protected by the mysterious FISCR court. If we believe recent revelations On Frontline and in Nowhere to Hide, the IC’s “secret court” will indict a bad burrito and issue a warrant for the predictable results.  A “secret” (sic) court, for secret warrants, where only the government’s secret argument is heard is a little like installing one of Greenwald’s mirrors in a public toilet.

Say what you will about rogues like Edward Snowden, the high-school dropout who blew the whistle on the NSA/social Media/ telecom surveillance peep show. Snowden exhibits more skill, judgment, and ethical grit than Hayden, Morell, and Comey or the oligarchs. NSA and the greedy internet elite created the problem that the Snowden revelations might have to solve.

Indeed, Snowden, with an ‘all access’ ticket seems to know more about  NSA surveillance  than Jim Clapper,  Barack Obama, or Congress. Withal, one thing is clear; clueless sycophants like Mike Hayden, make skeptical apostates like Snowden possible.

Truth is, NSA, like the rest of the ironically named ‘Defense’ Department, invests most assets in offense, indiscriminate collection for example; an indigestible glut it seems. This Hoover tactic may explain why a malcontent like Snowden can steal the family jewels with a few discrete keystrokes. If NSA strategic defense failed before 9/11 and then internal defenses failed to prevent the Snowden heist, why believe Hayden’s assurances about the future? Three catastrophic surprises will not be a charm.

Key Judgments

Governments that can give you everything, say universal health care, can take anything; to wit, civil rights or personal privacy. The ACA was a party line vote. Nobody got to vote on the NSA expansion and surely not the PRISM computer and universal federal/commercial snooping.

The great irony of collection excess is that there is no evidence that more data, more processing, or more funding has improved Intelligence analysis. The same people who redefine phone calls, Tweets, photographs, and emails as “metadata” can’t name our strategic enemies. State Department sissies refuse to designate Boko Haram as a Muslim terrorist group. IC estimates gag on words like “terrorist.” Terms like Islam, Muslim, Islamist, or religious fascism have been stricken from the strategic vocabulary by fiat.

What doesn’t happen – is now an achievement!

Trying to understand terror and all those Muslim wars, without Islamism, is a little like ignoring pork at a sausage seminar. Within the Intelligence Community, Muslim sensitivities seem to trump common sense and national security.

If warning or candid analysis is the strategic dividend, then the Intelligence investment should be downgraded to junk bond status. Like advertising, the purpose of the end product, analysis, now seems to be influence or social sensitivity, not information or warning. Orwell’s pig lives!

Democratic socialists didn’t win the Cold War; they merely cloned Animal Farm. In the arithmetic of communes, compound failure equals excess. Cultural wars are illustrative, where nation or alliance building is now code for false flags, coups, regime changes, or ‘democratic’ imperialism.

Despotism has three requirements: control, compliance, and secrecy. The ethos of social and political absolutism is alive and well in the West, where failure is never pretty. But it still pays pretty well.

Money and institutional self-interest eats hope and good intentions for lunch.  The intersection of government voyeurs and a so-called “open” Internet is the kind of unnatural act that can only be explained by a critical mass of official and commercial trolls. Crime pays indeed – and well too!


The author is the former chief of the USAF Intelligence Research Division, NSA Friendship Annex, Fort Meade, Maryland

This essay was previously published by the American Thinker and the Iconoclast.




Wrong Wars and Wrong Enemies

April 30, 2014

Freedom of the Press is at once a virtue and a vice. The virtue is underwritten by the belief that candor and an informed electorate make for honest government. Press freedom becomes a vice when journalists choose to be government surrogates; enablers of half-truths, evasions, or lies. There may be no better example of this dark side of the First Amendment than the ongoing CBS/CIA collaboration to spin the Benghazi fiasco. You might recall that, with Dan Rather on point, CBS was the network in 2004 that sought to discredit George Bush with fake records. Seems the Rather spin chair is now occupied by Charlie Rose, double-dipper extraordinaire for two networks; CPB and CBS.

If you want to understand how cozy American journalism and national intelligence has become, you might audit Washington’s newest odd couple: Charlie Rose of CBS and Michael Morell late of the CIA. Both seem to be “front running” for Hillary Clinton so that she is not damaged by fiasco Benghazi in 2016.

Michael Morell was a former deputy and sometimes acting director of CIA. He was also the Svengali of the infamous Benghazi talking points. Before his 2 April testimony before Congress, and the Rose interview  the next day, Morell was the invisible man in the cover-up. In fact, he was the go-to guy at CIA during the brief David Patraeus tenure and aftermath. Recall that the Petraeus sex soap opera overlapped the Benghazi charade and Obama’s 2012 campaign finale.

Morell was “retired” last June after the White House finally admitted that the former CIA deputy director had unilaterally altered the now infamous Susan Rice talking points just before the November election. Truth often makes a tardy appearance when it “doesn’t matter,” to steal Hillary Clinton’s sentiments on the subject.

Morell joined Charlie Rose at CBS News in January. Morell also collects a sinecure from Beacon Global Strategies, a revolving-door consultancy staffed largely by former Democrat Party appointees. Beacon Global is a likely bull pen for a Hillary campaign and/or regime staffers.

Those who insist that American Media outlets are politically neutral might also contrast the Sunday chat show coverage of Susan Rice’s Benghazi spin on 16 September 2012 with the Michael Morell’s tortured Benghazi confessions during the first week of April 2014. Rice appeared on most network Sunday shows prior to the election. Yet, not a single Sunday talk show, including FOX, mentioned the recent Morell confession before Congress and the subsequent Charlie Rose soft ball interview a day later.  Administration spin gets wall-to-wall coverage before the election; but, when mendacity or “mistakes” are examined after the fact, somehow political journalism is AWOL.

The original September 2012 Benghazi talking points were drafted by a CIA HQ analyst at Langley at the request of congressional Intelligence Committees because members needed some cover with constituents over the neglect and malpractice in Libya.

The neglect involved CIA and State Department failure to respond to field requests for improved security. The incompetence centered on the failure to respond to US agents in peril at two facilities in Benghazi as three sequential Islamist attacks were underway. Indeed, General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon claimed he didn’t send military help to Benghazi because Hillary didn’t ask. The lying played out when previous security requests and even the word “Islamist” was stricken from the after-action draft that was supposed to chronicle the FUBAR fiasco.

Morell now admits that he altered, without consulting field agents or HQ analysts, as much as fifty percent of those now infamous Susan Rice talking points. Morell also admits that General Petraeus, upon seeing the bowdlerized report, concluded that it was useless.

Morell dispatched the talking points to national security principals anyway and Rice took them to the Sunday morning airways. Withal, Morell insists that the White House didn’t have anything to do with “substantive revisions.” We are supposed to believe that Rice led the Sunday damage control charge without Mrs. Clinton or Mister Obama approving the strategy or tactics of what was clearly a very sensitive political defense.

Throughout the Benghazi flail, Clinton and Obama behaved like cat house piano players, ignoring tarts and bouncing bedsprings alike. If adult supervision was absent that controversial September weekend, what specifically were the President and Secretary of State doing during the Benghazi circle jerk? We still don’t know.

Morel would also have you believe that anyone in the tedious and untimely Intelligence review and coordination chain can delete evidence or alter conclusions. It took the 16 agencies of the Intelligence Community a week and four lives to just admit that the tragedy was an attack and not a “demonstration.” Indeed, CIA Director David Patraeus, presiding over eleven versions of the talking points, concluded that the final memo was flawed, if not deceptive. Yet, it was disseminated anyway to a national audience. So much for candor and professionalism in James Clapper’s world.

This is not to absolve Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland, or Hillary Clinton at Foggy Bottom. Clearly these women were push-back principals, the trio who in concert p***y whipped Morell, chastened him to extract any mention of previous warnings or obvious security negligence. Ultimately, defending the White House and State Department on the eve of an election came at the cost of what little was left of public trust in the American national security establishment.

The Dogs That Didn’t Bark

What was the purpose of those two clandestine compounds in Benghazi? What did Libyan Islamists know that the American national security community pretended not to know? Alas, those facilities in Libya were probably attacked because they were shipping Muammar Gaddafi era surplus arms to the anti-Assad Islamist “opposition” in Syria.  If the Libyan office of al Qaeda knew what the NY Times knew, then it’s safe to assume that even janitors at CIA were aware of the motives, opportunity, and inspiration gun running provided to Benghazi jihadists.

And today, much of Allah’s wet work in Libya and the rest of North Africa is yet to be done. After all, the African jihad needs weapons too.

So let’s reconstruct. With one voice, CIA and Morell tried to deny the role of Libyan Islamists in the killing of American agents. With another scheme, CIA was/is providing Libyan arms to Muslin jihadists in Syria. The boondoggle in Benghazi illustrates both the incoherence and the incompetence of foreign policy in the Obama era. Similar schizophrenic policy prevails at the Justice Department. The real enemy for the Obama national security team seems to be sunshine.

In short, Americans are kept in the dark by mushrooms like Morell at home while gasoline is thrown on narco-traffic, gun running, and global jihad abroad. You can’t make this stuff up!

Clearly, Michael Morell and CBS deserve each other. Morell cinched his place on the Washington walk of shame when he admitted to Rose that he dismissed key eye witness accounts from the field, even a video, from Benghazi in favor of spin from swivel-chair warriors, the ass-kissers that cluster inside the Beltway.

Two Heroines

However, there are some dim flickers of journalistic integrity midst the Obama era smog. The Media haze obscuring anything remotely critical of team Obama is penetrated at times, mostly by heroines.

Sharyl Attkisson is the former CBS reporter who did the investigative work on “Fast and Furious,” that gun running scheme in Mexico sponsored by the Holder Justice Department. Attkisson also provided refreshing candor on the Libyan fiasco. Alas, Sharyl resigned under pressure from White House and CBS flacks. She may have taken the last vestiges of CBS objectivity and integrity with her.

Nonetheless, Ms. Attkisson still provides the best dissection of  Morell’s tap dance on Capitol Hill. She knows ‘sources and methods’ bat guano when she sees it. Atkinson is now writing a book about Obama era adventures which, insh’allah, should appear before the next American election.

On another beat, Carlotta Gall has specialized in Muslim wars for a decade or more. Her latest book, The Wrong Enemy, breaks ranks with usual administration drivel about Islamist terror as a criminal enterprise with local motives. Ms. Gall calls a Muslim war a war – from Chechnya to Afghanistan. Finally, a serious mainstream journalist recognizes the global Islamist menace and the role that protected Muslim sponsors, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, play in war from South Asia to the Mediterranean.

The sopranos are hard to hear in Washington midst the bull frog chorus, but distaff dissonance might eventually change the national night music. When a ‘journalist with giblets’ award makes its debut, Attkisson and Gall should be at the top of the queue. Truth does not care whose feelings get hurt.

Recent crises reflect just how much partisan politics has corrupted national Intelligence and journalism. With the American Left, too well represented among government shills and Press partisans, truth puts sacred cows at risk; the Obama past and the Hilary future in particular. The thought that President Obama’s legacy is failure or that Hilary Clinton could be denied the presidency, again, seems to be a mainstream Media nightmare.






Humanitarian Imperialism

March 30, 2014

 “The best minds are not in government.” –  Ronald Reagan

Hard to believe that it has been a quarter of a century since Ronald Reagan began to dismantle the ideological wall that divided Europe. Harder still to believe that American politicians, Right and Left, are trying to resuscitate the Cold War – or something hotter.  Recent events in the Ukraine seem to be giving the citizens of Europe and America hot flashes of deja-vu.

At the tactical level, US policy has devolved to “regime change.” At the strategic level, US policy is simply incoherent, if not nihilistic; swapping corrupt oligarchs for neo-fascists or religious zealots.  The logic for supporting recent coups have little to do with common sense – or democracy. And with Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, and now the Ukraine, language needs to be coined to avoid words like coup.

By any other name, a coup is still a coup. And using a post-facto ‘election’ to legitimize a coup is a little like putting a new hat on a dead cat. The Kerry/Obama team is giving subtlety and sovereignty bad names.

When Vladimir Putin, tongue in cheek, says there are no Russian troops in the Ukraine, he mocks John Kerry and Victoria Nuland who orchestrate dissidents in Maidan square, in some cases neo-fascists who did not get their way on the bail-out treaty with the EU.

The auction for the Ukraine is now closed. The price doubled overnight, from 16 to 35 billion dollars and counting. Politicians break it, now the taxpayer gets to pay for it. Kerry is now offering to buy the next Ukrainian election too.

Speaking of elections, Europe and America might need referendums at home on  future bailouts, foreign and domestic.  The EU and US look like the “two broke girls” of Capitalism.  Angela Merkel might be the only European politician with any jingle left in her jeans these days.

When Putin says he protects Crimean Russians, again with a sneer, he mocks Samantha Power’s, now Barak Obama’s,  humanitarian interventions. The fast track to imperialism is paved with words like “humanitarian.”

When Russia sponsors a referendum in the Crimea, the Kremlin pre-empts, indeed ridicules, the EU sponsored presidential election to be orchestrated by Kiev in May 2014.

When demagogues like Hillary Clinton compare Russian behavior to Nazi Germany, she mocks Allied history and the sacrifice of 5 million Russians in WWII. Russian blood chits, we might add, that made the Allied victory over Nazis possible in 1945.

The name of the game in the Crimea is not the Ukraine in any case. Maidan Square and the Crimea are merely board pieces, according to Vicky Nuland at the State Department; moveable parts in another Great Game – Europe versus Russia redux. Back to the future, indeed!

The pillars of Obama foreign policies are now explicit; Russophobia on one hand and Islamophilia on the other. Indeed, a renewed Cold War with Russia, sponsored by a lame duck, allows Media shills to change the subject. With the Ukraine in the headlines, the domestic health care debacle and those failed Muslim wars fade to background noise.


Yes, Russophobia! The pragmatic gains of the Reagan era have been set aside for an irrational fear of all things Russian. Never mind that the difference between Putin’s Russia and Gorbachev’s Soviet Union is like the difference between caviar and carp.

America and the EU have nothing in common with Arabia and greater Islam save oil, debt, and indigestible immigrants. Yet, Americans have much in common with Russia: history, religion, art, literature, sports, dance, dogs, music, science, space travel, adult beverages, recreational sex, and almost all things cultural, including Nureyev in tights and Sharapova in shorts.

Russia, the EU, and America also share a common enemy, that insidious fifth column: domestic and global Islamism.

The Cold War, until a few weeks ago, was over. The Warsaw Pact has been dead now for some two decades. Projections about a new Russian empire are fantasies. It is NATO and the EU that aspire to expand to the Russian border. Putin is no eagle scout, but he’s no chump either.  Unlike European and American demagogues, Putin knows the difference between defense and offense.


Russians are not killing Americans. Putin is not a BFF, but Russia is not the enemy either. The West cannot say the same for Arabs and Muslims. Islamism is the sanguinary enemy whose name we dare not speak.

Pandering Americans, Europeans, and now the Chinese, are complicit in the spread of Islamic political terror. Non-Muslims are killed with such regularity, world-wide, that the civilized world has come to accept each new atrocity as a fair price for assuaging the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Indeed, European social democrats and the American Left now seem to believe that even Israel itself might be a small price for submission.

Russia has no illusions about militant Muslims. Indeed, you could argue that Putin has literally rebuilt the Russian Orthodox Church as an ideological barrier against the spread of toxic Islam in Russia. Would that Europe or America support Judaism and the rest of Christianity with such unapologetic aplomb.

The objective threat to the West and Asia comes from religious fascism.  Cultural arrogance does not allow the West to admit that political Islam and freedom, irredentist Islam and democracy, are mutually exclusive ideas. And sadly, a misguided sense of humanitarian imperialism rationalizes interventions in the Ummah, expeditions that usually fail. The West cannot save Islam from itself. Nonetheless, westerners seem willing to sacrifice a host of Enlightenment values and young lives on the altar of good intentions.

Manufactured crises, like the Ukraine, are studies in weak or incompetent leadership. Alas, the Obama/Kerry cocker spaniel is no match for the Putin/ Lavrov Rottweiler. NATO leaders have not been the equal of ayatollahs and imams since 1979 either. Jimmy Carter’s ghost still haunts the American Left. Putin should send a case of vodka as a thank-you to Foggy Bottom for providing the Kremlin an excuse to return Sevastopol to Rodina.

John Kerry is the daffiest US administration duck, scion of the Jane Fonda wing of the American Left. Who sends an anti-war “activist” to a Mid-East fracas or East European brawl? Nobody wins a real street fight with their mouth – or frequent flyer miles.

And the American Right is not blameless; excusing terror, regime change folly, the recent litany of imperial failures. In the 2012 US election campaign, there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between candidates, Right and Left, on US foreign or military policy. Indeed, Mitt Romney and most Republicans couldn’t say “me too” fast enough. And neo-conservative sycophants are led by foreign policy loose cannons like John McCain who believes Moscow might be “sanctioned” into submission.  As if sanctions were working with true pariahs like North Korea or Iran!

McCain seems to be the captain of a latter day light-headed brigade; oblivious to what Russians already have; legitimate border concerns, a compliant Crimea, a comparatively robust economy, and a space bus for American astronauts – and a choke-hold on all of Ukrainian and a third of European energy supplies. Demonizing Putin here only strengthens his hand there. The Russian president enjoys genuine popular support like no politician in the West.

The Outlook

The Cold War is making a comeback; this time without deterrence. The nuclear threshold is lowered when conventional capabilities are reduced to a level of assured impotence. Secretary of Defense, Charles Hagel, has unveiled a plan to abandon tactical missions like A-10 close-air-support in favor of unproven and costly technology like the F-35 problem child. Wishful thinking is a poor substitute for facts, performance, or experience. Cyber warfare (see STUXNET) and global drone strikes blur the lines between limited and general war.

Such contractions are not lost on Islamist tacticians or strategists. For the Pentagon, all recent combat is tactical where Islamist motives are defined as local (see almost any RAND Corporation report on the subject).  Ironically, those tactical resources for future fights are on the chopping block. As with speculations about Russia, American myopia fails to accommodate the Islamist world view. For too many Muslims, the struggle, indeed the jidad bis saif, has been global since 632 AD.

With a future US Army under 500,000 troops, America should have just enough soldiers to get into a fight, but not enough to win. And with a small all-volunteer force, every trooper should have enough rotations in the Ummah to get maimed or be killed – in vain.  A small Army in isolated cantons, like air travel, is another target rich environment for terrorists.

Let’s end with a question. How long will it take for the Oval Office, the Intelligence Community, or a complicit Media to acknowledge that the latest airliner “mystery” over the Indian Ocean might be an act of terror, probably another atrocity in the name of jihad, the prophet, or Islam?

The future is Malthusian. The nuclear threshold has been lowered, small war humiliations are more likely, and Islamic terror will continue to be ignored or excused. Politicians care little about how many lives it takes to lose. Yet, the glyphs of the Barak Hussein Obama era are not just appeasement, retreat, and defeat.  The real handwriting on the wall is unilateral disarmament in the world of tactical and strategic ideas.







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