Wednesday, December 30, 2015

End of Year Message to Friends of The Cold War Museum

Dear Friend of The Cold War Museum:

Preserving the history of the Cold War to enable future generations to better understand this pivotal era in world history is both a personal and professional passion for me. As the year 2015 comes to a close, I’d like to bring you up to date on what we’re currently doing, and ask for your support as we continue the work of transforming The Cold War Museum into a center of excellence for display and preservation of Cold War artifacts and study of the Cold War.

The Museum is important to many people, people like a former U-2 pilot who was planning to make a presentation this past fall, and was disappointed when events beyond our control caused us to have to cancel. His commitment to The Museum, though, was unwavering; he agreed to come back another time. Now, that’s dedication.

We’re currently located at Vint Hill Farm Station next to the Vint Hill Craft Winery. Our goal for the coming year is to raise enough money to enable a move into a larger and more appropriate structure in Vint Hill. An interim project is finding a location to store those artifacts not on display. Much of our effort in the coming months will be devoted to that end. In that, we, as always, rely upon your support.

None of this will be possible without the continued support of people like you; people who want to see this important period of our history properly displayed. It is your membership, donations and passion that makes this possible. If you’re considering making a year-end donation, or a special holiday gift, we are a nonprofit501(c)(3) organization, and your gifts are normally fully tax deductible.

I encourage those who are not members to join.  If you’re already a member, thank you, and please please watch for our renewal mailing in January. In addition, please consider giving a gift of membership to someone important in your life.

For more information on membership, donations or about The Museum, visit our website, or contact our Executive Director Jason Hall at

We look forward to serving you in 2016 and beyond, and wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.

Charles A. Ray
Ambassador (retired)
Chairman of the Board
The Cold War Museum
P.O. Box 861526
Vint Hill, VA 20187

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Is Our Educational System Contributing to Our Lack of Economic Competitiveness?

I was recently talking to my daughter about her frustration with the nursery school in which she’d enrolled her oldest daughter, now four. Samantha is not only a precocious four-year-old, but mentally she’s as advanced as a second grader. She can write her full name, read most first grade books by herself, and do most of the sums first graders do. Like me, though, she doesn’t like crowds, and when she’s around large groups of children around her age who start to engage in rowdy play, she tends to stand on the fringe and watch them ruefully. Truth be told, she’s probably more comfortable with adults than most kids. Which is not to say that she does not associate with children her age; she does; just in small groups, and on her own terms.
The problem my daughter was facing was, despite Samantha’s obvious academic excellence and maturity the nursery school teacher decided she was ‘socializing’ effectively like the other kids. At first, this same teacher said Samantha lacked physical coordination, but I put paid to that with photos of her climbing a 12-foot climbing rock unaided, and walking a cargo ladder like a pro. She has all the physical coordination she needs; she’s just not into the wild behavior that apparently this teacher’s education guide tells her is appropriate for children that age.
After that conversation I got to thinking about the American education system, and how it has changed since I was in grade school back in the 1950s—and, not necessarily for the better. Studies have shown that despite increasing numbers of students graduating from high school, fewer are prepared to succeed in college or successfully enter the work force. In December, the Department of Education reported that U.S.  high school graduation rates hit a record high in 2013-2014, reaching 82%, the highest ever recorded. Despite this, a recent study of graduating 12th graders found that fewer than 40% were ready for college level work. Business leaders across the country fear that not enough students are prepared for higher-skilled jobs—something I noted to my dismay during my last ten years in the Foreign Service when I encountered college-educated individuals who were smart enough to pass the highly competitive Foreign Service Exam, but were unable to write effective reports or conduct briefings. Among the skills lacking are collaboration and communication, things that our schools, teaching to standardized tests, do not teach. All this adds up to a lack of American competitiveness in the world of academia and work.
Considering this, I’ve taken it a step further, and come up with a theory that will totally bum my granddaughter’s nursery school teacher out; our school system from nursery school to 12th grade is preparing our kids to fail at college and at work. I’m not faulting this poor teacher. She’s probably following the guidelines provided to her by the system, and doing what she was taught to do in school (and, I’m assuming here that she has at least a Bachelor’s degree in education). But, in following this standardized procedure, what she’s doing is creating a group of four and five-year-old drones who follow instructions, follow the crowd, and do little thinking for themselves. Those who try to think for themselves are ostracized as ‘unsocialized,’ and efforts are made to force them to conform. This follows them all the way through the system until they come out the other end with a high school diploma that has, unfortunately, prepared them to be an assembly line worker in a factory of the type that hardly exists in this country anymore.
News flash to all you educators out there: American industry is no longer the smokestack, assembly line variety. We’re a knowledge management, financial management society, and the lack of preparation provided by our education system means that many of our companies have to hire foreign talent to fill critical positions. My youngest son works for an IT firm in Herndon, Virginia, and he tells me that the majority of his fellow engineers are from India, China, and Russia American industry, according to Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, American companies are change-resistant and conservative, and wedded to using extrinsic motivations to get workers to produce more, rather than using intrinsic motivation as a primary way, based on what behavioral scientists have learned since the mid-20th century. Educational institutions, despite being where this research was conducted, are as conservative and resistant to change as industry. We’re still using standards to educate (train) our kids that was only barely appropriate to prepare them to work on an assembly line where they did the same task for their entire career, but are entirely inadequate for an economy where innovation and self-motivation are the keys to success.

If the American education system is to contribute to productivity in the 21st century, it’s time to change. And, that change has to start at the bottom.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Top TV Shows of 2015 | Listly List

Top TV Shows of 2015 | Listly List

A Simple Way to Avoid Email Scams

P.T. Barnum said, 'there's one born every minute.' That famous old circus entrepreneur was referring to those gullible among us who seem to fall for every get-rich-quick scheme or miracle cure that comes along.

What Barnum might also have said--or certainly implied by his original statement is, that for every sucker, there is also born someone who will try to take advantage.

One of the places where you'll find a scam a minute is your email inbox.  You've seen them; the email from a Nigerian prince or weeping widow telling  you that if you'll only provide your bank account information, you'll be a rich man when they transfer some ridiculous amount of money into said account. Another really silly scam is the one where someone hijacks someone else's email account and then sends a frantic email to all their contacts saying the hijackee is stranded in some country and needs money to get out. You'd think no one would fall for such obviously hokey stuff, but many do.  Don't you be one of them.

Some other email scams are not so obviously phoney--on the surface at least. Sometimes, scam artists phishing for personal information, will use familiar names, or subject lines that seem to make sense, in an effort to get you to open their emails and hopefully click on the links included--which then gives them the opportunity to stick a virus into your computer and hijack your information. When you see an email from a familiar name, or the subject line is one that you might normally receive, it's tempting to treat it as routine business. My advice is, if you're not 100% certain, don't open it. Use the preview pane utility available with most email services. If you do open it, don't EVER, and I mean NEVER, click on any link in it--and, that goes for links from people you know. They could very well be sending a malicious piece of malware without even knowing they're doing so.

But, here's the real insidious thing about familiar looking emails: they're not always from the people whose name appears in your email list. Black hat hackers have the ability to put whatever they want in that part of the email that appears on open lists, masking the metadata (all that junk with strange symbols that tells you where and who the email really came from). How do you guard against this? Here's something I routinely do. When I get an email from someone familiar, but from whom I've not heard in a long time, before I open the email, I hover the cursor over the FROM name in the email list, and PRESTO! I see the email address. If the address in the popup is unfamiliar, I immediately delete the email.

Here's an example of what I mean. In my inbox today was an email from James Entwhistle with the subject line: Office of the Us Ambassador.  The name was familiar, but take a closer look at the subject line. U.S or US is not normally written Us by educated people--certainly not people in my particular crowd (long-time U.S. Government employees). So, right away, I'm a bit suspicious. The next thing I do is hover the cursor over James Entwhistle, and what I see in the popup box is Now, that might be a valid email address, and if it is, I apologize to Mr. Entwhistle, but it certainly looks bogus to me. So, that email goes in the trash, and I'll never know what it contained. But, it it was bogus, that hacker didn't get into my computer that time.  I might be a bit paranoid, but I do the hovering cursor thing with a lot of my emails, even when they're from people I know well and communicate with often.  I've been hacked before, so I've become extra cautious.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that little bit of information, and I hope it was useful. If you're aware of any new Internet scams, or ways to protect yourself, please share them in the comments.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

What the U.S. Congress Doesn't Seem to Understand About U.S. Visa Law
American diplomats
serve in dangerous places
around the world--they don't
need to be attacked at home

In the wake of the tragic shootings in San Bernardino, CA, the U.S. Congress has called for renewed scrutiny of U.S. visa procedures. While this might seem sensible on the surface, there is another dimension to this issue that I address in an article on, from the perspective of having been a U.S. consular officer for many years of my 30+ year Foreign Service career.

Go to, read it, and tell me what you think in the comments below. Feel free to share this with your friends and contacts. The more people know about how things really work, the less likely they're to be confused by the political rhetoric that is just that--empty rhetoric.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Black Communities and the Police: the Source of Our Discontent

The increasing number of incidents in which police kill civilians, especially young black men, whether justified or not, has raised in my mind the precarious state of relations that exists between the police forces and black communities in our country.
While it’s tempting to blame these incidents on institutional racism and individual bigotry—which, by the way, do play a significant role—even a brief study of policing in the United States yields a far more disturbing answer.
As with many other governmental institutions, law enforcement in the new United States was based upon the English model, thus the presence of sheriffs as chief local law in many places. Initially in the colonies, maintenance of order was the responsibility of Justices of the Peace, but as towns grew, so did the need to maintain law and order. Until 1833 this was done by watches, or groups of community volunteers, who responded to or warned of danger. As more people crowded into towns that grew into great cities, anti-social behavior and criminal activity also grew. In 1833, Philadelphia, PA organized the first 24-hour per day, independent police force. New York City followed in 1844 with two forces, one with day duty, and a night watch. By 1880, most of America’s major cities had an independent police force.
These early forces were led by men appointed by the politicians in power, and answered to them—and to the moneyed mercantile interests behind the politicians. Their mandate was to maintain public order and respond to disorder; of course, what this meant depended upon who defined ‘disorder.’ What they were not organized to do was protect the people of the communities. Instead, there job was to stem labor unrest and maintain order in the immigrant, working class, and free black communities so that the mercantile interests would be able to make profit without hindrance. This was, you must remember, a time of great labor unrest brought on by exploitation by bosses and terrible working conditions in mines and factories. In the south, the direction of the police was even more ominous. In the antebellum south, slave patrols were organized to 1) catch runaway slaves, 2) suppress potential slave revolts, and 3) intimidate the slave work force to keep it docile and working. After the Civil War, police forces in the south were used to keep free blacks ‘in their place,’ and enforce Jim Crow laws.
Since 1855, the Supreme Court, for instance, has ruled that the police have no duty to protect individuals, that they only have a duty to enforce the law in general. In some jurisdictions, police are also entitled to protect private (read commercial) rights.
As you might imagine, the early police forces were hotbeds of corruption, and were noted for their harsh and often violent treatment of members of the community—not just the black community either. White immigrant workers were often the target of harsh police crackdowns. The police forces were housed in barracks on the outskirts of cities, for instance, to keep them from mingling with and becoming sympathetic to the populations, which they were there to control, not protect.
In response to police brutality there have been many moves to reform America’s police institutions. What has often been the result of these reform moves, though, is further separation of the police from communities—especially minority communities.
Distrust and fear of the police has only deepened since the 1950s when militarization of the police began. The introduction of uniforms, military ranks, chains of command, and deadlier weapons, only serves to further alienate police forces from the communities they claim to ‘serve.’ Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with the Department of Defense providing combat arms and equipment to local cops, it has gotten even worse. No one can forget the image of cops in Ferguson, MO, riding armored vehicles and armed and armored like combat troops in Afghanistan, facing off against unarmed demonstrators.
Regarding the police and minority communities, looking at the demographics of America’s local police organizations gives further cause for worry. The following statistics are a couple of years old, but the situation hasn’t changed significantly, so they tell a chilling story:

            Approximate number of police officers in the US – more than 800,000 (in 2008) for nearly 400 officers per 100,000 population.
            Average salary - $60K/Yr (New Jersey - $89K, Mississippi - $33K)

            Police officers killed per year (2008) – Between 70 and 80
            People killed by police per year (2008) – 600

            Public confidence in police – 54% (less than the military, but more than Congress)

            Key demographics of our police officers?
            Race:  White – 80%  Black – 16%   Hispanic – 13%   Asian – 2%
Education: High School – 20%  Some College – 44%  College grads – 36%

When all this is taken into account, the conclusion is that it would be a miracle if relations between police organizations and the black community were amicable. The fact is, if you analyze the history of policing in the United States, it is a wonder that the police are welcome in any working class community.

The question before us, then, is what can be done about it? I’ll be the first to confess that I do not know. Efforts at community policing are a step in the right direction. But, they must be reinforced with evidence that the police truly are sworn to serve and protect and not subjugate and punish—not there to ensure that the workers are kept in their place so that the mercantile interests (the 1%) can have a stable, orderly work force and tax-supported protection of their interests, enabling them to get ever richer. The militarization of our streets must end. And then, the process of healing can begin.

I am not naïve. I know there are lots of violent criminals out there. I know that there are far too many guns on the streets, in closets, gun cabinets, and under beds. I know that the job of a police officer is dangerous, and often thankless and under-compensated. I know that there are decent, dedicated police officers out there who put their lives on the line daily on behalf of the rest of us. What we need to do, though, is root out the rotten apples, so the good cops can do their jobs.

I don’t know how long this would take. I do know it won’t be overnight. It’s been in the making for over 200 years—since the first police force was organized—so, it might take that long, or longer, to fix the problem. So what? It needs to happen, and it’s not a problem that can be solved by one side. It will take both—the police and the community—working together.

What say we get started today?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Learning to Shave

I just turned 70 this year and I'm learning to shave. Now, stop that rolling (your eyes or on the floor) because I'm not joking--I am just now learning how to shave.

When I was a wee lad, I vaguely remember my stepfather shaving with a straight razor. It was quite a ritual. He'd hone the long, shiny blade on a leather belt called a strop. Then, he'd wet a little brush in hot water and work up a thick lather in this little cup thingy. After covering the lower part of his face with foamy lather, he'd do all kinds of contortions to scrape the stubble off his jaws. By the time I was old enough to shave, he and every other man I knew had switched to safety razors, so over time the images of that old straight razor, and the morning shaving ritual, faded.

Then, inflation entered the picture. That's right inflation, that dreaded word describing a situation where prices get on a roller coaster that doesn't seem to have a downslope. Here's what I'm talking about. Three years ago I bought a couple year's supply of refills for my razor. The 10-blade packs cost me about $6.00 each at the Naval Exchange (as a military retiree I'm authorized to shop at the base stores) in Bethesda; just about $2.00 less than the outside. For the past year, the few times I watch TV, I'd been noticing the increasing ads for a razor blade club, alluding to the price of blades. It wasn't until a few weeks ago, when I went to replenish my blade supply, that I understood the reason for those ads. That 10-blade pack that cost me $6.00 three years ago is now $15.00 to $25.00, and that's in the military exchange store. I'm afraid to even look at the price tag in CVS. My goodness! What on earth could have caused such a steep rise in the price of something like razor blades? No, I'm serious; that's not a rhetorical question. I'd really like to know.

While you're looking for an answer, let me get to the point of this story. I decided then and there that I'd go retro. First, I've been growing a beard for the past year, a goatee, as part of my campaign to rebrand myself. I'm no longer a buttoned-down government employee, but am a bohemian artist-writer. Secondly, to further reinforce the bohemian image, I decided to go completely retro and start shaving with a straight razor.

It took a while, but I found one; through, I found one made by a Chinese company. It cost around ten bucks, and looks like I remember my stepfather's looking, except for the decorations on the handle. That sucker's sharp though. Then, of course, I had to buy a strop, a brush, and a shaving mug. Amazon had them all, along with some really neat smelling hypoallergenic soap.

Next came the really, really hard part: learning how to use a straight razor to shave neatly without butchering your face. If you think it's easy, think again. The razor has to be held at precisely the right angle to the surface of your skin--which, by the way is not flat, so watch those curves and dimples. It has to be applied at just the right pressure as well. Too light (or at the wrong angle), and your face is left with patches of fuzz, making you look like a dog with the mange. Too heavy on the pressure, and--well, imagine the little nicks you once got with a safety razor--then multiply that by a whole bunch. This is, after all, nine inches of sharp steel we're talking about. It doesn't nick, it slashes, it gashes; it'll flay you like the drumstick off a Christmas turkey.

So, that first time, I wasn't too neat, because I could just see myself lying on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood. But, I persevered, and finally, this morning, managed to get cheeks devoid of those little dark patches of fuzz, and are fairly smooth. I even managed to get my Adam's apple and trim around my goatee, and if I do say so myself, did a pretty good job. My wife complimented me, and believe me, she's about as free with compliments as Scrooge is with his coin.

I imagine I'm not alone in this. I know there are a lot of guys out there looking for an alternative to mortgaging their houses to buy razor blades. Just saying, maybe going back in time is the answer. What do you think? I'd be interested in hearing from any readers who've taken the same path.

Get my latest book, Looking at Life Through My Lens, a collection of my photography, at your favorite book retail site. Kindle version Paperback

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Free 7-Day Nonfiction Writing Challenge

Writing Week: A FREE 7-Day Nonfiction Writing ChallengeGo to  for a 7-day free course that will help you write and promote your next non-fiction book.

You can also attend a free webinar by writing coach Shelley Hitz. Go to
this link, Promote Shelley's next live webinar for information on the next session.

Good Public Diplomacy Starts at Home

A post from the USC Center on Public Diplomacy blog, that addresses the issue of domestic events and their impact on America's ability to advance its foreign policy interests abroad.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Women's Rights are Still a BFD!

Sasheer Zamata Says Women's Rights Are Still a BFD!Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata says women's rights are still a BFD. We're proud to call her our newest ACLU Ambassador!
Posted by ACLU Nationwide on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Meet Me at The AFSA Book Market - November 19. 2015

I will be selling and discussing some of my books, and will also have custom bookmarks for sale. All books sold
will be autographed. Hope to see anyone in the DC area there!

In the United States the political debate over climate change (for some, global warming) ebbs and flows. In a legislature that has become as polarized as opposite ends of a bar magnet (they repel each other), and that is obsessed with opposing a sitting president and the 2016 presidential election, it’s futile to expect any rational debate on this or any other subject. In fact, it’s probably futile to expect rational debate after the 2016 election.
Does that mean that we the people should ignore the subject? As one of the ‘people’, my answer to that question is NO! If we can’t expect anything useful from our politicians, it’s left to us to do something on our own. If the horse won’t pull the cart, then we should get out and push.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll state up front—I’m not a scientist. I’m a writer. I was a soldier for 20 years, and a diplomat for 30 years after that, so I’m not qualified to argue for or against the subject on scientific grounds. I am, however, capable of reading and understanding the arguments presented by others, and coming to my own conclusions, I’m able to distinguish logical arguments from fallacious ones—of separating fact from b.s..

What do we know about Climate Change?

Courtesy NASA Image Exchange
After reading hundreds of pages of argument, pro and con, here’s what I’ve gleaned on the issue.
-         During the past century or so, the average global temperature has risen 1.5oF.
-         Projections (estimates) for the next century range from 0.5 to 8.6oF.
-         Global temperatures result from a blanket of gasses surrounding the earth that keep heat from escaping.
Even those who deny global warming can’t refute the above—they’re facts that are available publicly. I’m sure, though, that there are some who would like to try. Regardless of that, I’m convinced that global warming (a component of climate change) is a fact.
We also know what causes it. Certain gasses, Greenhouse Gasses (GHG), such as carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Methane (CH4), and Fluorinated Gasses serve to block heat from escaping the atmosphere, raising the temperature of the earth, just as a blanket warms us in bed. We even know where these elements come from.
Photo courtesy US DOE, Renewable
Energy Lab
-         Carbon dioxide comes from burning fossil fuel for energy, industrial and agricultural activities, and deforestation (the lack of trees to absorb the CO2)
-         Nitrous oxide results from agricultural and manufacturing activity and from burning solid waste.
-         Methane comes from the production and transportation of coal, natural gas, and oil, from livestock and from solid waste landfills.
-         Fluorinated gases are synthetic gasses that come from industrial processes.
Of these gasses, the biggest villain (though it’s not the sole cause of global warming) is CO2, which accounts for over 80% of the GHG.
While some will argue the point, the negative effects of higher global temperatures are, to me at least, pretty obvious. I’ve mentioned the problem of deforestation. Plants absorb CO2. When trees are cut for timber, agriculture, or other construction, more of the CO2 we produce through other operations remains in the air. Warmer temperatures also created weather imbalances. Higher snow melts which result in floods. More moisture in the air, leading to heavy rain or snow storms. The ocean is warmer leading to more acidic conditions, affecting marine life and marine habitats, stronger hurricanes and other tropical storms. Warmer temperatures have caused polar ice cap melts resulting in higher sea levels. In the 20th century, for instance, sea levels have risen 7 inches, leading to coastal erosion and stronger storm surges, increasing the damage from storms. Hurricane Katrina in 2006 was a pretty compelling example of this.

What does all this mean?

There’s no part of the globe that’s totally protected from the negative impact of climate change, but certain communities and nations are more vulnerable than others. Coastal communities, low-income communities, and lesser developed countries; the elderly, infants, or people with infirmities; all are less able to withstand or recover from some of the disasters caused by global warming. The poor wards of New Orleans, some of which still have not been rebuilt, are an example right here in the U.S., the world’s richest country.
But, rich countries and communities are affected. The movement of people from devastated areas, the costs of rebuilding, lost productivity, all potentially impact everyone. Worse, the effect on future generations can’t be accurately predicted. And, therein lie the ethical and moral dilemmas.
For an individual, becoming actively involved in the climate change issue would seem to be no easy thing to do. And, by involved, I mean actually becoming knowledgeable, not just swallowing the line that seems most palatable, or that is in line with your politics.
A person can, though, become educated, in the first instance, by removing the word ‘conspiracy’ from his or her vocabulary. A conspiracy is a secret agreement by two or more people to do something unlawful or harmful, or the act of plotting with others to do something harmful. While much about climate change is complex and difficult to comprehend without careful study, it’s all out there if you have the patience and will to look for it.
One such theory, for instance; that the big energy companies are conspiring to debunk the belief in climate change; is quite popular with many on the pro side of the debate. Unfortunately, if so many people know so much about it, it fails the first test of a conspiracy—it’s no longer secret. What seems more logical to me is that the companies, focusing as many companies do on profit and loss, are playing both side of the issue.
Take Exxon Mobil, for instance. In 1977, Exxon Mobil scientists conducted research that showed a definite correlation between fossil fuel combustion and global warming. Actions to mitigate this effect, though, were deemed extremely expensive, so Exxon also spent money trying to debunk its own scientists’ findings. Of late, the company has been making pro-environment noises, while at the same time it’s been a longtime member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that has called climate change a scam. Exxon has contributed millions to ALEC, and until a CEO change in 2006, supported a large number of climate change denier groups.
In 2010, one of British Petroleum’s (BP) rigs in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank, causing an oil spill of some 3.19 million barrels. It will take years to assess the total extent of the damage from this disaster, but within days, dead marine life was seen in the water and on the beaches, stranding of dolphins increased, and the number of dead seabirds is estimated to be in the thousands. Some shrimp fisheries had to be closed for a year. The extent of damage, in the Gulf and to the coastal ecosystems will take years to fully assess. In 2015 the U.S. Justice Department announced a final settlement against BP of $20.8 billion for the disaster, the largest oil spill in American history. The ultimate total cost of this disaster, however, has been estimated to be in the neighborhood of $54 billion. That it took five years to reach a settlement, despite the fact that BP paid about $1 billion immediately, has left many environmentalists less than satisfied.
Depending upon which side of the climate change conspiracy issue you occupy, you’ll see these cases differently, focusing on those facts that support your already held beliefs. Trying to look at both sides can be confusing. But, the only logical way to assess a situation is to look at both sides.
The big energy companies like Exxon and BP are based on fossil fuels, a resource that is nonrenewable—one day it will no longer exist. Since they’re in the energy business to stay, and are not being run by stupid people, one must assume they know this. From that it’s logical to assume they would be positioning themselves for the day when they have to find a new source of energy. But, in order to do that, they must survive. Immediate transition to an alternate source, assuming such a reliable source was immediately available, would be an expensive undertaking. It’s logical, therefore (to me at least) that they would try to make as much as possible, for as long as possible from the existing source until they can profitably develop and exploit an alternative. It doesn’t surprise me, then, to see them use stonewalling, lobbying, or other delaying tactics that allow them to remain profitable while they make the necessary adjustments. I’m not saying this approvingly, just stating what seems an obvious conclusion to me.
Energy companies—many big corporations in fact—lobby legislators to stonewall unfavorable regulatory laws, or spin them in their favor, for the same reason. The fact is, many of these regulations are ineffective, or only marginally effective, and are always costly, which in their view threatens their economic survival.
Corporate allies in this are legislators who, concerned with getting elected or staying in office, respond to campaign contributions from deep pockets, and media outlets that present the issue in ways that often only further confuse an already complex issue.
Claiming to be objective, and presenting both side of the argument, the media often presents debates between climate scientists, who express their degree of uncertainty honestly as they argue that climate change is real, and anti-global warming activists who often have no scientific credentials and rely on emotional arguments. Faced with a scientist with charts and diagrams, who gives percentages and talks about degrees of certainty, and an activist who talks about job loss, and lack of certainty, it’s no wonder most people are confused. How would react to the following scenarios?
-         In 100 years the average global temperature will rise another 0.5 to 8.6oF, causing a rise in the sea levels. With such a wide temperature range, the sea level rise can only be roughly estimated.
-         During the winter of 2014-2015 the northeast U.S. experienced a polar vortex, dumping unprecedented amounts of snow. In March 2015, Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma walked onto the floor of the Senate with a snowball in his hand, claiming that this proved that there was no such thing as global warming.
If you’re a non-scientist, you’d likely be more moved by the second scenario. I believe in global warming, but by the time I was shoveling more than three feet of snow from my driveway for the fourth time, the last time in late March, I had to admit to being concerned. Instead of immediately changing my belief, though, I did a little reading. What I learned was that warmer temperatures cause moisture to be retained in the air. At certain temperatures, this water is released as rain or snow—in large amounts. Warmer average temperatures also affect winds which causes shifts in the polar vortex, normally contained over the poles. The large precipitations—deluges or blizzards, are of relatively short duration, but heavy in volume, and in the case of rain causes severe flooding. The warmer average winters we’ve experienced for the past few years also increase snow melt which leads to floods. Strangely, after such heavy unseasonal rains or snows, in some areas severe droughts follow. Damage following damage.
If these unusual weather patterns continue, the resilience and recovery capability of certain areas and communities could be stressed to the breaking point.

What are our moral and ethical obligations?

New Orleans and the Gulf Coast survived Hurricane Katrina—just barely—only to be hit a few years later with a huge oil spill. The area is still rebuilding from the impact of both. Hurricane Sandy, unofficially known as ‘Superstorm Sandy’, was the most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It devastated areas of the East Coast farther north than ever before, causing damage even in New York City, and damaging monuments on the National Mall in Washington, DC. In September 2015, there was fear that Hurricane Joaquin would follow Sandy’s path, but it veered out to sea before making landfall. Will there be another—or, a better question might be, when will the next one strike? For our sake, and that of future generations, can we afford to ignore the possibility?
Photo courtesy U.S. Navy
Can we afford to ignore the long-term effects of storms and other natural and manmade disasters to our coastal communities, the destruction of vital ecosystems if the effects of global warming, which scientists believe contribute to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, if we get more superstorms in the next year, the next 10 years, the next 100 years? What is our responsibility to future generations, to the poor, to the non-human species with whom we share the planet? What is our responsibility to the earth itself—the only home we have at the moment?
A lot of questions; questions we should be asking ourselves. Questions that as far as I’ve been able to determine in my reading, have not been a significant part of the debate on the issue, but that should be.
At the risk of being repetitious, the one thing we can do is educate ourselves. We can learn as much as possible about climate change, or if you prefer, global warming. We can study both sides of the issue, and then subject each side’s arguments to a logical analysis. How much evidence is presented to support each argument? Does the argument appeal to logic, or is it based on emotion? Then, and only then, should we decide what we believe to be true, keeping in mind that the future can never be definitely known until it’s the present. If, in the absence of some action on our part, that potential future is likely to be disaster, we would be foolish to wait—or to take the view that since we’ll all be dead in 100 years, it doesn’t matter. To our descendants a hundred years from now, it will matter.

That is my call to action. Learn analyze, and decide for yourself.

Regardless of where you currently stand on the issue of climate change, share your thoughts on this article by commenting below. Share it with your network and encourage them to do the same. Raise your voice and let it be heard. Put this debate where it belongs, with us, the people. #raiseyourvoice  #BAD15

Saturday, October 10, 2015

#Raiseyourvoice: Blog Action Day, October 16, 2015

This year, Blog Action Day's theme is #Raise Your Voice. Bloggers from around the world will publish posts to speak out on behalf of journalists, bloggers, writers, photographers, artists, social justice activists, and other heroes who are under attack for publishing their ideas online or in their communities.

Join this movement on October 16; add your voice to those whose voices are in danger of being silenced. Come back here on October 16 and see what I have to say; share and comment and help spread the word.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cold War Museum to Host Russian Expert Lecture on Reagan-Gorbachev Negotiations


EVENT: The public and media are invited to attend a lecture at the Cold War Museum, 7172 Lineweaver Road in Vint Hill, VA, on Sunday, Sept. 13 at  7 p.m. by a noted expert on the historic and unprecedented  nuclear arms reduction treaty negotiated by President Ronald Reagan and the head of the then-Soviet Union Gorbachev in 1987. That agreement, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons from the nuclear forces of the two nations.  The event is a fundraiser for the museum, so a donation of $20/person is requested.

SPEAKER: Justin Lifflander is an American citizen who has lived in Russia for the past 28 years. He was employed by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the late 1980s, working as an inspector at the treaty-compliance monitoring facility established at a Russian missile production factory. He later married a Soviet woman who, under the terms of the treaty, accompanied the U.S. observers when they conducted their inspections.

He then worked as an executive at Hewlett-Packer Russia for nearly 20 years, and was an editor at The Moscow Times from 2010 to 2014. He holds American and Russian citizenship and lives in Moscow with his wife.

Note to Media: Mr. Lifflander will be available for media interviews following his presentation. If you are interested but cannot attend, it may be possible to arrange a telephone interview. Please contact Jason Hall, Executive Director, at 703-283-4124.
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The Cold War Museum® is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to education, preservation, and research on the global, ideological, and political confrontations between East and West from the end of World War II to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Location and Directions:  The Museum is located at Vint Hill, the former Top Secret signals intelligence base just outside Gainesville, VA, in one of the original Vint Hill Farm Station buildings used during the Cold War by the US Army, the National Security Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency to intercept and interpret coded messages. Our Street Address is 7172 Lineweaver Road, Vint Hill, VA 20187 (next to the Vint Hill Craft Winery). 

Our collections are particularly strong on signals intelligence, image intelligence, aerial surveillance, civil defense, Berlin, the East German secret police (STASI), the Cuban Missile Crisis, and events such as the Pueblo and Liberty incidents. The Museum shares a campus with The Inn at Vint Hill, Vintage Hill (an antiques/crafts shop), the Vint Hill Craft Winery, the Covert Café, and Old Bust Head Brewing Company.

For more information about the museum and the Cold War, visit our website:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

DIPLO DENIZEN: More on Censorship: "They Pull Me Back In!"

DIPLO DENIZEN: More on Censorship: "They Pull Me Back In!": Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in! ~ Michael Corleone, The Godfather III I love The Godfather series. I live my li...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Check out my profile and connect with me on Empire Avenue.

Check out my profile and connect with me on Empire Avenue. Grow your Social Audience. Run and complete Missions to grow your audience and discover new content and people. Earn Rewards for being social and redeem for Gift Cards, Music, Movies and more!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Greed, Corruption, and the Culture of Violence Killed Cecil the Lion

The senseless, brutal, and illegal killing of Cecil, a beloved lion who inhabited Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe has had the Internet abuzz for several days. The black-maned lion was a favorite of visitors to the park, and was radio-collared by a British university for study and monitoring. Then, one day, a rich American big game hunter, who had paid $55K for the privilege, a safari tour operator, and a local guide committed what has to be described as a heinous act. It is reliably reported that the latter two lured Cecil from the park and that the hunter shot Cecil with a bow and arrow. He only wounded him, though, and they had to track the poor animal for 40 hours where he was shot with a rifle. That, by the way, is a common practice of hunters. They don’t like to leave a wounded animal to suffer. But, it didn’t stop there. Despite the fact that they had to have noticed the tracking collar, they beheaded and skinned Cecil and left his corpse to rot.

When word of this deed got out—including a photo of the hunter and the tour operator kneeling next to Cecil’s corpse—there was outrage. From Zimbabweans, and from people around the world, but especially here in the United States. As of now, the two Zimbabweans are in the justice system, and Zimbabwean authorities have requested that the American be extradited back to Zimbabwe to face trial.

Putting the justified outrage and the legal issues aside for a moment, I’d like to address the issues that underlay this senseless act. While I understand those who feel that this outpouring of sympathy for a lion, when so many humans in Zimbabwe continue to suffer privation and abuse, is misplaced, I think they miss the point. The causes of this act relate directly to the troubles all Zimbabweans face.

These causes are greed, corruption, and a culture of violence. The tour operator and the guide were, I believe, motivated by simple greed. After all, $55K, or whatever portion of it they received, is a powerful motivator. That, along with the culture of corruption that I witnessed during the three years that I served as the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe lead to people doing terrible things sometimes. I still remember with disgust the local official who threatened to take over the remaining game parks in the country and who encouraged the locals to barbecue all the animals. Until such unbridled greed and uncontrolled corruption is brought under control, incidents such as this will continue to take place.

When greed and corruption are combined with a culture of violence, and here I hold many of my fellow Americans as being as guilty as many Zimbabweans, you have a potent witch’s brew that inevitably leads to disaster. In the U.S., our obsession with guns leads to frequent acts of violence that kills not animals but people. This is something we have to deal with—but, as yet, we seem to lack the political will. Zimbabweans need to do the same.

Cecil was not the first victim of this insidious concoction. Who can forget the Facebook photo of the woman kneeling next to the corpse of a giraffe she’d shot during a safari? She, like the killer of Cecil, had no doubt paid a large sum for the privilege of killing this otherwise harmless creature. And, while we're at it, don't forget the other animals that fall prey to trophy hunters and poachers.

Until we all—governments and people on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world—commit to serious efforts to curb corruption, reduce the lure of greed, and address the issues of weapons and violence, we will continue to see such outrageous acts. We need to do this, not just for lions and giraffes and other innocent animals, but for all the people who suffer and die because of greed, corruption and violence.

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To Serve and Protect?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Reality of Racism

The following article by a student in one of my Osher Lifelong Learning Institute courses last year at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Benjamin D. Gordon, a retired pediatrician, is reprinted with his permission. It is originally dated December 7, 2013.

I started in the practice of Pediatrics in 1955. In those days, I made house calls as my father and uncle and cousin had done before me. As others have found, sometimes we learn things from the simple directness of children.

On a house call one evening, I’d finished seeing the sick child and was crossing the living room on the way out. A four-year-old sibling was on the floor playing with his toy cars. Looking up, he saw me and said, “Hi, Dr. Gordon. These are my cars. The red ones are better than the blue ones.”

I smiled at the immature remark and thought, ‘He will learn you don’t tell the value of a car by the color on the outside.’ But, the next thought was a startled, ‘some people do that with people.’ The worst red-neck bigot would think you an idiot if you told him that about a car. He knows you judge a car by the efficiency of its electronic system, the effectiveness of its brakes, the smoothness of the ride provided by the shock absorbers, the absence of leaks in a rainstorm, the quiet of the motor, the quality of the tires, the comfort of the upholstery, etc. You judge a person by their trustworthiness, their honor and honesty, their efforts at justice and fairness, and their competence at what they do.

But the child was appropriate. We all learn the simplest thing first, i.e., how to characterize and distinguish things by physical characteristics: size, shape, weight and color, because honor, trust, justice and morality require further maturation of the brain. Judging a person on the basis of skin color, eye shape or any other physical quality is functioning at the level of a 4-year-old child.

There are other reasons for prejudice, of course, based on the fundamental factors of fear (the basis for most irrational behavior) and doubt about self-worth.

In the latter case, a person will search for an unchangeable difference—skin color, religion, ethnic or geographic origin—and give to that difference a meaning it does NOT have, namely “that difference means ‘I’m better! I’m worth more.’” This is why the prejudice (judging before we know) is clung to so fiercely. It is supporting a weak ego. This, also, extends to the wealthy elite, many of whom use that wealth and social power to reassure themselves of their worth. Members of that group who really are worthwhile have found ways to care about others. They don’t need the specious reasons to blame those in need for their own problems. The carpenter, plumber, electrician and mechanic who knows his field and how to do a good job has no problem. He knows what he’s worth as a human being. He’s able to give value and help to others. I’ve alwsys taught the teenagers, a time when we all struggled with this, that the secret of being significant is always how much you can help, never how much you can hurt. Those who create fear in others, thinking that makes them ‘significant’ are really creating those who, at the first opportunity, will pay them back.

I am white. One of my roommates (during) my last semester at college was black. The poem from my collection The Nohnlove was dedicated to him.

(for J.G.)

The judging of one before
His meeting
Is such an obvious idiocy
It gives the mind a pause
In wonder.

The zygote of this seed
Originates with two –
As any other
First, not to doubt a father’s teaching,
Then, to get him—live or dead—
To give approval:

“See. See. See.
I do the same. The same as you.
I hate the same. I love the same.”

The key’s an antithetic one
The Blindness leads to Sight.
A learned achromotopsia

Must lead us out of fright.

Dr. Benjamin D. Gordon's collection of poems can be found at: