Atilla the Hen

January 23, 2016

“If I hadn’t started painting, I would have raised chickens.” – Grandma Moses

It all began as a bit of an experiment. Three neighbors discussing the virtues of fresh eggs. My wife eats eggs like a ferret. We all like breakfast and baked goods too. So why not get a modest flock of chickens, thought we all. So the women made plans and the men built a coop; a natty cedar affair with a fenced run, a ramp, a roost, windows, doors, and two nesting boxes.

We started with Silky chicks and then traded them in for six Rhode Island Rock Barreds. The Silkies turned out to be hostile, homely, and oblivious to predators due to a surfeit of head feathers. In fact, the Silky breed looks like a double ended rear end.

In contrast, the Yankee hens are a stately study of chaste pin stripped productivity and, unlike their Silky sisters, they are agnostic about humans – coupled with lethal hostility towards most other critters, including cats, rats, and the neighborhood pit bull.

When the gal pals came of age they served notice on predators large and small. An impudent brown rat tried to raid their duplex and the girls made short work of him. Had we left the prostrate rodent where he fell, I’m fairly certain the sorority would have eaten him too.

Chickens love meat.

If you give them a ham and cheese sandwich, they will fight over the ham, share the cheese, and leave a pile of scat on the bread. Ironically, store bought chicken feed, like dog food, is mostly carbohydrates. Small wonder then that chickens prefer pill bugs, beetles, worms, and the occasional pizza.

Yes, pizza! The morning after a teen soiree on our street we found an unmolested boxed pepperoni pizza pie on our lawn under the butternut tree. We donated the soggy pizza to the hens and the tube steak topping started a feathered food riot.

Hens that eat protein will give protein – omelets, custard, quiche, hollandaise, and cholesterol too. Chicks also eat each other if they get too cranky. Surely, the first real bullies were hens, not tweens and teens.

In all hen parties, there’s usually a bird that ruffles too many feathers for whatever reason. So it was with our Hillary, the runt of her litter. Our petite one is so named because she is more than a bit shifty, ambiguously unpopular, and annoying in ways that only other hens appreciate; in short, a victim by default midst cool gals with attitudes.

Alas, unlike lady lips, chicken lips are lethal weapons. The big hens started with Hillary’s comb and then pecked her bald. “Pecking order,” in the bird world, is no metaphor. Nor is hair pulling. When we saw blood, we had to separate the runt from the rest.

Hillary now roosts with immunities in a big blue recycling bin, safe from abuse. Hens are a little like politicians. Some require special treatment, a kind of aviary affirmative action, if they are to thrive. Martyrs, nonetheless, are still very marketable in their own way.

By day, she is free range, to the everlasting consternation of her sisters. If you let one, or some, of the hens out of the run, and keep some in; the outhouse birds will stay close to the coop. Free-range is a sometime thing for the entire flock. Absent the bonds of sisterhood, a gaggle of hens might play in traffic, become street walkers, or flock back to Rhode Island.

At night, the chickens are confined to quarters, as it is after dark that all girls in violation of curfew become witless or clueless. The fox, the coyote, and the owl dine after nine.

Indeed, at dusk when the birds must be tucked in, it’s a race with the sun. If we are too late, the hens take to the trees. Once aloft, they have to be lifted down with a lacrosse stick which presents its own problems. Having found a good weave, a hen’s talons are reluctant to part with it.

It’s a safe bet that no Chicken is born Jewish either, fond as they are of meat and dairy at the same table. However, they often become converts after being disrobed by feather pluckers. A Christian might begin her days with a cold bath, a kosher chicken ends hers with a healthy salt water soak.  Before the pot, six Yankee hens can be models of Smithsonian productivity, four to six eggs a day, up to 2200 eggs a year.

Without celibacy, chicks might rule the world. On occasion, rainy days it seems, we get twins, seven eggs from six birds; something to cluck about indeed.

Alas, most chickens are virgins without vows, a deficit which may explain demeanor, eye rolling, and mood swings. Roosters are only necessary if you need fertilized eggs, more chickens, or lack an alarm clock. The few dudes in the chicken world make too much noise, get up too early, and only earn their keep in bed – where they seldom snuggle.

Hens make good neighbors, roosters not so much. Indeed, calling a hen house a coop is not necessarily the best moniker. Chicken cloister is more accurate; no boys and perpetual ambient noise.  The muttering of hens and the murmurs of Matins are cell mates.

Alas, chastity is not necessarily voluntary – or a virtue. “No boys” does not equate to no joys. Some girls prefer girls if the night and the light is right. A neighbor kid put a GoPro camera in with the hens overnight; for social research purposes only mind you. Turns out the ladies do snuggle when the lights go out; more than a bit of a surprise when you see how they treat each other in daylight, in public, or at a pizza party.

There’s something to be said about hen hygiene too. When confined, and not squabbling over roosting boxes, the girls all sleep in a neat row, facing the same direction. Even the best of girlfriends know not to turn their backs in close quarters. Every morning there’s a bonus, a very tidy row of shovel-ready guano under the roosting pole, not unlike wedding cake gargoyles.

Indeed, the ladies seldom soil their nesting boxes, leaving only tasteful beige colored eggs in the ovulation bays.

Chickens are an endless source of amusement or jokes for the neighborhood kids too. My favorite so far in 2016 is about aviary ambition. Question: “What do you call a chicken that has gotten to the top of the pecking order?” Answer: “Attila the Hen.”


The author is a sometime chicken wrangler who usually writes about the politics of national security.








See Something Say Something (about Benghazi)

January 23, 2016

Clandestine Intelligence agents meet with the press for one of three reasons: to betray, to leak in support of policy, or spin the narrative when policy fails. Hard to know what was in play the other day when the former CIA Benghazi station chief, cover name “Bob,” met with two Washington Post reporters, Adam Goldman and Greg Miller. When an administration yarn needs to be spun on the front page, there’s no better venue than the Washington Post.

For the record, the stated purpose of CIA meeting with the Post was to deny the Hollywood version of the Libya fiasco, a 15 February release called 13 Hours, the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Michael Bay, director. It is possible also, in fairness, to imagine that John Brennan’s CIA is slipstreaming with the Post and Mrs. Bill Clinton as she approaches her own trial by fire in the 2016 presidential primaries.

The Bay film was based on a book written by four GRS contract soldiers who served under euphemist Bob at the CIA Annex in Benghazi. The former special ops warriors said that CIA choked, Bob ordered a “stand down,” when Ambassador Chris Steven’s residence came under fire. CIA denied this to Post reporters. With Clintonian hair splitting, the agency may be correct,

There were not one, but two stand-down orders, maybe three. The first delayed the GRS team from rescuing the ambassador. A second probably came from a national authority, yet to be disclosed, that prevented American air or ground reinforcements from reaching the CIA Annex when it subsequently came under fire after the residence was abandoned.

When the US ambassador and three other dead were recovered, the body bags were extracted from Tripoli on a Libyan aircraft, not a USAF asset. The third stand down was more about humiliation than failure of national leadership.

No rescue for the ambassador, no reinforcements for the besieged CIA Annex, and no dignified removal of the dead and wounded. Brave men and women thrice betrayed by an administration that released the Taliban high command from Guantanamo in exchange for an American slacker now on trial for treason.  The Bowe Bergdahl deal with the Taliban was rationalized by the White House as a statement of American values (sic), “no man left behind”. Team Obama left more than its credibility in Libya.

Who, what, where, when, and why are the traditional elements of both exposition and fiction. Cinema is often a little of both. A filmed version of history is of necessity a distillation if not condensation. Bay’s Benghazi flic, 13 Hours,                       is all of these things and less. The “what, where, and when” are both good and dramatic, the “who and why” are a little limp. We still do not know what Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, James Clapper, or Martin Dempsey were doing while an embassy residence and a CIA “black” facility in Libya were being sacked by Sunni jihadists. Surely the White House, the State Department, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Defense were monitoring the Benghazi blitz in real time. The command and control principals are not featured or mentioned in Bay’s epic; a curious omission for a film based on “real events.”

The “why” of Benghazi, that large CIA presence at the “Annex,” gets short shrift too. There is one scene where agents purchase some shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles from nefarious characters, but the gun running operation probably had a much broader charter that had little to do with keeping lethal weapons out of the wrong hands. The CIA Annex was very likely moving all manner of Gadhafi era weapons to Iraq and Syria to other Sunni jihadists. Once Muamar Gadhafi had been lynched in Libya, Bashar Assad in Syria was next on the regime change shit list.

Michael Bay may have whiffed on the “who” and “why,” but he hit it out of the park with CIA trade craft, or lack of it. 13 Hours takes deadly aim at the agency practice of buying local Arab or sectarian tribes and then believing that the perfidious will stay bought. Ambassador Stevens was lost because Sunni Arab “allies” cannot be trusted, especially those who must be paid by Americans to defend their own country. CIA paying for “protection” in the Arab world is a little like some John wearing only a smile for protection after he buys a hooker.

The US State Department is apparently tone deaf on both national and personal security. Sending an openly gay ambassador to yet another failed Muslim state has to be some version of assisted suicide. Sexual orientations are no secret these days at Foggy Bottom; however, that culture plays no part in Bay’s film. Posting a gay man to Libya makes about as much sense as sending a petite blond reporter, Lara Logan for example, to cover an Arab Spring riot in Egypt – reckless endangerment  in both cases.

Chris Stevens, as portrayed in 13 Hours, is a weak sister too; at once naïve, another Foggy Bottom naif, a cowering victim, not a guy in charge of anything. We don’t really know how Ambassador Stevens died. Dead or alive, he was dragged out of the ambassador’s residence and through the streets of Benghazi before being recovered by Americans. The Steven’s autopsy is still a state secret, another CYA caveat designed to protect jihadist and Arab reputation – or keep Americans in the dark.

A gay diplomat in an Arab or Muslim country is not a role model; he’s a magnet, if not a target. Blatant homosexuality in most of the Ummah is a crime, indeed often a capital offense. Sending a gay representative to a Muslim country is an insult to Islam and common sense, a slur likely to be repaid with body bags. Well should we wonder why an American cabinet secretary and her staff could not know how Islamists treat homosexuals. It’s as if putting gay employees in harm’s way has become a closet strategy to poke the Prophet in the eye!

The summary execution of Chris Stevens, a career foreign service officer, is not as instructive about Arab and Muslim culture as it is about the kind of arrogance that thrives at Foggy Bottom, the US State Department. In the main, Americans deployed overseas live in a bubble. Ambassadors, for the most part political hacks, often do not speak the language and/or have little experience with diplomacy, culture, or foreign policy.

The same might be said of pampered embassy staffs that often rely on local or imported contractors. Embassy and consulate employees often live in gated, secured, isolated communities where contact with locals is discouraged, limited, or impossible. American embassies, even in free world countries, have special pay allowances, servants, pools, gyms, commissaries, liquor stores, chauffer services, and other perks that replicate or surpass the amenities of a Washington, DC posting. The ugly American is not just a metaphor; it is the reality of most American ambassadors and now an established culture in the Foreign Service.

We might add that the title “ambassador” today is another word for political baksheesh. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump take a candor bow here. If a government post can be bought, so can the appointee. The State Department is one of those American institutions where most of the principals are naive amateurs by design. Chris Stevens discovered the truth about his fey colleagues the hard way.

CIA, NSA, and DIA are embedded in the same bewildered bubbles where State Department vacuity flourishes. The cluelessness of Benghazi “Bob,” is of a piece with the legendary George Cave at the US embassy in Teheran in the 1970s. It’s not just that these guys couldn’t or wouldn’t see what was coming. When “it” got there, they didn’t recognize the threat, suffered indignities gladly – or were more concerned with covering their asses than they were worried about saving the day.

The theocratic coup in Iran was a landmark victory for the Shia jihad and theocracy, just as 9/11 was a benchmark triumph for the Saudi/Sunni jihad. Benghazi is just the Libyan feather in the Islamist keffiyeh. Thanks to regime change folly and blowback, Libya may now fall to ISIS just as Persia fell to the Ayatollahs.

The venality of CIA’s Benghazi station chief is an eerie echo of Barbara Bodine’s arrogance after the USS Cole disaster in Yemen, another jihad triumph. In both cases, US apparatchiks on station didn’t play well with real men carrying real guns. Both Ambassador Bodine, and now agent Benghazi Bob, were more concerned with Muslim sensitivities than they are with American lives. In both cases, Washington deferred to fear, flaccid diplomats, and timid Intel pukes, not real warriors. Foreign policy is not a team sport anymore.

The message to Americans abroad today; for citizen, soldier, and diplomat alike is clear now. Washington does not have your back. You are expendable.

The film 13 Hours gets it exactly right with “Bob,” the CIA apparatchik in Benghazi. Bob is timid by his own admission, he can’t make a timely decision in a crisis, and when things go south, he looks for someone to blame. In the Washington Post piece, CIA has Bob saying that he was waiting for help from Arab “locals.” Hard to believe that CIA has yet to admit that the locals in Benghazi were the problem all along. Muamar Gadhafi used to claim that so-called freedom fighters in Libya were jihadists. Now we know that he was correct. The Benghazi fiasco is just one symptom of chronic national security stupidity about small wars, Islam, jihad, and terror in the Obama era.

The very fact the CIA and State must rely on contractors gets to the heart of bureaucratic darkness. Every contractor attached to every embassy or CIA station abroad must ask the same question every day: “If we contractors are paid to do the heavy lifting, what are all these government slugs getting paid for?”

Withal, those CIA/State “contractors” at Benghazi, all former warriors, were patronized if not abandoned by their government handlers. Now those heroes have come home and returned the contempt in kind – in a book and on film. Two thumbs way up.

Where there is no justice, getting even will have to do. See something, say something, indeed!


  1. Murphy Donovan, erstwhile military Intelligence officer, writes about the politics of national security. Colonel Donovan is a Vietnam veteran and was an Intelligence director under James Clapper when Clapper ran USAF Intelligence.


Key Words: Washington Post, CIA, GRS, US State Department, Foreign Service, Benghazi, Chris Stevens, Adam Goldman, Greg Miller, Michael Bay, John Brennan, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bodine, 13 Hours, national security, Islamism, and foreign Policy.



Trump in No-Man’s Land

January 23, 2016

A single fatal shibboleth stalks political elites on the Right. This is the confused notion that Republicans must mimic the Democrat Left to be successful in presidential races. When you take a hard look a recent political memes, what you see is the inexorable drift back to a neo-Marxist model: special pleaders, onerous taxes, intemperate spending, deficit, debt, and bigger, yet incompetent and unaccountable government at all levels. Social democracy seems to be crumbling in slow motion.

Need we mention Flint, Michigan or Baltimore, Maryland as exemplars? Baltimore merely sets itself afire; Flint literally poisons constituents. First, the city goes broke and then the same dingbats who rode profligacy to ground now maim their citizens with lead laden water in the name of economy. Flint, like most urban centers in America, is a broken liberal monopoly, a polity that will shop until it literally drops – or squanders taxes until you drop. A dependent activist majority on the left now defines the agenda for an ever shrinking passive, yet barely productive, minority. Democracy, as a virtue, may be reaching its sell-by date.

Not that performance is any better inside the Beltway. Washington has invested in wasteful serial wars abroad that no one at DOD or the US State Department has any intention of winning. Here; debt, deficit, and the dead don’t matter. When it comes to lives that matter, the only difference between Michigan and Iraq or Afghanistan is that you are likely to get maimed or killed quicker in those remote Muslim wars than you will in Michigan or Maryland. Pointless sacrifices in either case. Indeed, if you included foreigners in the body count, poor policy choices have killed more folks in the past decade than all Islamic terror groups combined. That’s a number that you will never see above the fold.

Dying for democracy or freedom is one thing. Dying for elected incompetence, or political cowards and their ephemeral legacies, is something else. The dark side of democracy is the inclination to vote for the worst among us. The most offensive part of the wasted treasure and lives, abroad especially, is the companion banality. To wit: the enemy is not named, war is not declared, Islam is appeased, and those serial failures in the Ummah have no names or expiration dates.

The horns of modern conflict dilemma are two; no foreseeable end to small wars and no humane solution to the predictable refugee problem – no solutions short of open borders and cultural fratricide. After a decade of dithering, the great national security questions are now “when” not what or if.

Indeed, it’s a toss-up for which comes first, fiscal collapse or unilateral cultural surrender?

Now comes another American presidential election in 2016, dominated again, for the most part, by politically correct conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle. Donald Trump is now a no man’s land of candor between two pandering major American political factions. With the decisive women’s vote in play, the Republicans are now “feministing” along with Democrats. Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina is the now the femme face du jour for establishment Republicans. Haley is celebrated, right and left, as a rising political star.

She made the PC honor role by lowering a flag symbolic of Southern history and select racial scabs that just will not heal. No healing because state houses and the White House keep scratching racial sensitivities until they bleed. If all tainted American icons must fall, why not the Jefferson Memorial, Monticello, Mount Vernon, and every town and city in America named after George Washington?

If we are to take down all the monuments to all heroes who have fallen out of favor with millennials, then we might clear the public squares across America, starting with the capital. Indeed, Marion Barry could replace Thomas Jefferson at the Tidal Basin. Jefferson’s soaring rhetoric could be replaced with rap, rant, or doggerel such as: “The bitch set me up.”

Withal, veiled history is still history. The past cannot be altered by fiat, felled statues — or flags.

Gov. Haley was invited up from Dixie to respond to the President’s State of the Union address. Faced with a target rich field on a national stage, you might think that Nikki would go after Obama or Clinton. No, Haley didn’t make headlines for any critique of Democrats. She is now above the fold for friendly fire, a lame attack on Donald Trump. Clearly, Nikki is channeling the RNC.

Specifically, Haley accused Trump of being “angry,” as if anger would be a handicap in 2016. Trump volleyed with effect, accepting the angry label as the legitimate mantel for the mood of apostates in both parties.

The Haley cheap shot is a symptom of all that Trump rants about: clueless political elites, especially the Republican establishment.  Ironically, Republicans are slip streaming Democrat operatives; playing the same shame game and trying to “tango foxtrot” the front runners. Nomenklatura of both parties are conspiring to veto the people’s choice, a foolish gambit especially for the righteous Right. Blue collar, evangelical, and conservative stay-at-home votes made Mitt Romney a footnote in the last election.

If Trump picks up his marbles and goes back to making money in 2016, he will take a legion of unhappy voters with him — and Clinton III becomes a sure thing. Nikki Haley may have her own agenda too, a preference for any woman, even Hillary, rather than Trump. Playing the race and vagina cards in the primaries is usually a tactic of the left. Republican elites, by moving left too, are perilously close to alienating the angry, ethical, God fearing, hardworking, productive, and taxpaying demographics. Political apathy, like civic enthusiasm, is a created culture.

If conservative thinkers worthy of the name had any good instincts, they would allow the primaries to play out, winner take all. Let democracy work the way it is supposed to. Trust the wisdom of crowds. Who needs another anointed, politically correct shape shifter?

At the moment, unfortunately, the usual media pundits and the RNC have taken their eyes off the ball. Instead of illuminating Clinton sleaze, Republicans are directing most brickbats at their own front runner. Mrs. William Clinton’s most significant qualification for high office is her husband’s coat tails. Indeed, Hillary may be the worst possible role model for women, wives, and girls in America.

If Trump gets the Republican nod, consider all the talent he has to choose from for vice president, cabinet posts, and department heads. The Republican bench is deep: a woman CEO, an accomplished black surgeon, two Hispanic pit bulls, and several portly, yet experienced, white governors. Politics and governing are team sports.

Hilary’s bench is two shades of pasty white far left pandering, including a profligate socialist and, yes, a former mayor of smoke stained Baltimore, Maryland.

Donald Trump, warts and all, makes a better candidate than he does a defector. Republicans need to recalibrate their gun sights on the Obama/Clinton camps. Imagine, if it helps, Bernie Sanders as US Secretary of the Treasury.


This essay appeared in American Thinker.




Realism about Realists

January 12, 2016


Not bad, I could agree with all these FP assessments save Israel. There’s no deal to be made with the Palestinians. Fatah and Hamas are extensions of a much larger Muslim problem. Creating another radical Sunni Arab state is not going to do anything for Israel, the Ummah, or the rest of us. Israel’s mistake was not taking a larger part of the traditional Jewish homeland to begin with – including the Temple Mount.

If you want an example of realists today, outside of America, Netanyahu and Putin are the most prominent examples. Aside from real politic deficit, there’s still an invisible elephant in the American mix; zero tolerance for dissent. Kennan couldn’t get a job on State’s PPS today. Indeed, Frank Fukuyama may have been the last original voice at State, as Mike Flynn was the last independent thinker at DOD. Look what happened to him.

The meme on both the Intelligence and policy sides of the national security megaplex is now a political monoculture. You either go along or get gone. Politics has always been an emotional, vice rational discipline. Yet, political venality, both Left and Right, is as bad today as I have ever seen it. A realist today is just another apostate; and as such, like the infidel, an enemy not an ally.