Friday, August 18, 2017

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Friday, August 11, 2017

The Trump-Kim War of Words


Watching the national and international news, where the war of words unfolding between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is like watching two bullies vie for dominance over the playground, I’m torn between laughing and crying. Laughing because these two child-men, with their over-sized egos and disregard for common courtesy, would under other circumstances be jokes, fodder for late-night comedy shows, and crying, because their playground in this case is nothing less than the world.



Since assuming leadership after the death of his father, Kim has been one of the more provocative leaders of North Korea, a country that has made a specialty of bad behavior and bellicosity since the end of the Korean War. Trump, on the other hand, a reality TV personality, with his own out-sized ego and lack of introspection, has, since his surprise win in the 2016 election, added bellicosity to the American political and diplomatic playbook.



The problem is that neither man understands the other. Kim lives in a hermetically-sealed environment where everything is filtered through the lens of the Western threat to the feudal country, and a cultural need to save face at all costs. Trump, on the other hand, lives in self-imposed ignorance, eschewing reading or reflection, and defaulting to his bullying style to get his way, a hallmark of the way he has traditionally conducted his business affairs. While I can’t say it with any assurance about Kim, my guess is, like Trump, he pays little attention to advice from underlings unless it fits his preconceived opinion, and like a child whose tantrums have elicited a response from beleaguered parents, believes that his way of doing things works.



Kim doesn’t understand how the U.S. system works, and like many foreigners, takes what our politicians say publicly at face value. Trump doesn’t have a clue about Korean culture or psychology—or anyone else’s for that matter. Kim threatens because threats have worked in the past. It has gotten food aid from the South and the international community, and he has been allowed to continue developing North Korea’s nuclear capability—a capability that I’m convinced he thinks the country needs in order to survive. Trump bullies because he is, not to sugar coat it, a bully. He bullied in business, he bullied in the campaign, and it has worked for him, so he continues to bully from the White House. He bullies everyone; his friends as well as his adversaries; so, he believes that the way to handle Kim is to just be a bigger bully. What else explains his statement that his ‘fire and fury’ statement was probably ‘not strong enough.’



The U.S. president doesn’t seem to have a clue about how international relations work, and he seems incapable of filtering his speech. Thus, instead of letting his ‘fire and fury’ statement stand for itself, and moving on to other things, he doubles down. His attitude seems to be, if Kim threatens, I’ll threaten ten times worse, unaware that he’s dealing with a man from a culture that believes in the saying, ‘better to burn down the house than to let one bed bug escape.’



Let’s be clear here; something that Mr. Trump seems incapable of; this is not just about North Korea and its nuclear blackmail. It’s about the existence of the Korean Peninsula. With thousands of long-range artillery pieces aimed south, Kim would be able to kill hundreds of thousands and do untold damage even if the U.S. launched a pre-emptive strike against his nuclear sites—provided we even know where they all are. And, of course, the Chinese have said that if the U.S. strikes first, they will support their North Korean ally. If North Korea strikes first, they will remain neutral. I don’t really believe that, but it’s nonetheless chilling that they would go so far as to say they would side with North Korea if we attack first. Kind of changes the dynamics a bit.



But, I don’t think Trump paid much attention to that. He’s like a lot of politicians who have no military experience or knowledge, but who are fascinated by all things military. He seems to believe that having the strongest military on the planet is all a country needs to impose its will on others. After a stalemate in the Korean War and a loss in Vietnam, many, even in the military, know better. That strong military needs to be backed up with strong diplomacy, which Trump seems to disdain, and strong alliances, which he seems determined to undermine.



Knowing the two personalities involved, I don’t see the war of words deescalating any time soon. One can only hope that wiser heads on both sides of the Pacific will eventually prevail, and both men will find something else to occupy their narrow minds and short attention spans.



In the meantime, those of us on the sidelines can only watch and wait.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Putin has more than one card up his sleeve


Is this the new face America presents to the world?


The need for a stronger American diplomatic service - American diplomacy at risk.

Speaking to the World
Affairs Council of
Greater Reading.

Following is the text of remarks made to the World Affairs Council of Greater Reading on June 14, 2017.

As sad as it is for me to admit, during my more than 50 years of government service, I observed that most Americans tend to ignore the world beyond our shores unless a crisis draws their attention. Some even think, unfortunately, that building walls will ensure our security. The inescapable reality, though, is that events beyond our borders, whether we pay attention to them or not, have a profound effect on each of us.
We live in a time when we have to face a broad array of global challenges that impact every aspect of our lives; from the air we breathe to the clothes we wear. Issues such as transnational disease, conflict, movement of people, and international terrorism in areas around the globe affect our security and well-being.
National security requires strong defense, a robust economy, and the ability to effectively manage international relationships—or strong, professional diplomacy. Following current political news, it appears that the main efforts to ensure our national security revolve around substantial increase in our military capability. Now, I spent the first twenty years of my adult life in uniform, so I’m not against having a strong, capable military. But, any professional military person will tell you that trying to achieve true national security solely through military buildup, without growing the economy and having capable management of our international relations is like trying to sit on a three-legged stool with two of the legs missing.
We do need an effective defense, and that we need a strong economy goes without saying. But, both of these must also be underpinned by effective diplomacy if they are to achieve their aims.
It is unfortunate in world affairs that sometimes force of arms is necessary, but even when that is the case, diplomacy is also essential. It was diplomacy, for instance, that facilitated an alliance with France during our war for independence, making victory possible. Diplomacy created a system of long term prosperity after World War 2. And, it is diplomacy that will have to consolidate any military gains if true peace and stability is to be achieved in the world’s current conflicts, such as the seemingly perpetual state of war in the Middle East. Diplomacy is need before, during and after conflict.
Economic prosperity also requires diplomacy. Regardless of how we view it, globalization is here to stay. The American economy was built on foreign and domestic trade from its beginnings, and currently about one in five American jobs is related to international trade and about half of our exports go to developing countries. This does not happen in a vacuum. It is our diplomats who grease the wheels of international commerce, through negotiation of trade agreements, assistance in settling trade disputes, and helping American companies navigate foreign markets.
From the very beginnings of the Republic, America has called on the talents of its citizens to carry out diplomatic functions at home and abroad. In the early days, with such men as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Jay, men of education and ability well-known to the national leadership, this was effectively done. Consular affairs were handled by businessmen, also known by or with connections to the political leadership. As the demands of diplomacy grew along with the size and complexity of the government itself, a system of political spoils—to the political victor belonged the spoils of government positions—developed, and the quality of our diplomatic and consular services declined. The spoils system reached its height during the administration of Andrew Jackson. Until the passage of the Rogers Act in 1924, our diplomatic and consular affairs were in the hands-sometimes incompetent hands—of politically connected men of wealth. It should be noted that women and minorities were not included in this number except for a few African-American appointments after the Civil War, mostly to places like Liberia and Haiti.
The purpose of the original Foreign Service Act, and all subsequent iterations, including the most recent, the Act of 1980, was to create a career foreign service, characterized by excellence and professionalism, . . . to assist the President and secretary of state in conducting foreign affairs. In addition, the 1980 Foreign Service Act committed to creating a foreign service that was ‘representative of the American people . . . knowledgeable of the affairs, cultures, and languages of other countries, . . . and operated on the basis of merit principles.’
After passage of the Act of 1924, which combined the diplomatic and consular services, journeyman positions in our missions abroad were finally held by career personnel rather than politically connected amateurs, and some high level assignments, including ambassadorial positions, also went to career employees.
Now, though, nearly 100 years after the creation of the career foreign service, despite the outstanding efforts of career foreign and civil service personnel, America’s ability to lead globally is declining. The reasons for this decline are both political and institutional.
American diplomacy over the past few decades has turned back toward the spoils system of the nineteenth century. During the past forty years the number of political appointees in upper- and even mid-level positions in the Department of State has significantly increased. In 2014, for instance, the percentage of non-career political positions (including special envoys, special representatives, coordinators, senior and special advisors) was 64%. The percentage of active duty Foreign Service personnel, on the other hand, was 15%. In 1975, active Foreign Service personnel in Assistant Secretary positions and above was 60%, but by 2014, with an increase in the number of such positions, active duty Foreign Service personnel only occupied 30% of such positions. The number of senior civil service personnel in such positions remained at 3%.
While the Constitution gives the president the power to appoint whomever he wishes to ambassadorial positions, the Foreign Service Act of 1980 states that, ‘positions as chiefs of mission should normally be accorded to career members of the Service,’ and that ‘Contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor in the appointment of an individual as a chief of mission.’ We all know that this latter ‘condition’ has often been ignored by administrations from both political parties. Furthermore, Section 304 of the 1980 Act, relating to appointment of Chiefs of Missions states that, ‘an individual appointed or assigned to be a chief of mission should possess clearly demonstrated competence to perform the duties of a chief of mission, including, to the maximum extent practicable, a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country, and knowledge and understanding of the history, culture, economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country and its people. Instances when political appointees, especially so-called campaign finance bundlers, have been notoriously defective in such knowledge only serve to weaken American diplomacy in the eyes of the public and, more importantly, the foreign audiences these chiefs of mission are appointed to deal with.
Proliferation of political patronage, though, is not the only factor contributing to our diplomatic weakness. During political campaigns, foreign aid is often a target used by politicians to stir up their supporters, and calls for a reduction of American tax dollars ‘flowing to foreigners’ is all too common. This despite the fact that all foreign aid (which includes funding for foreign affairs agencies such as the State Department and USAID) is less than two percent of the federal budget. Even if it was eliminated entirely, particularly given the penchant some politicians have for increasing military budgets, it would have almost zero impact.
Take the current administration’s proposal to slash the State Department’s budget by more than 30%, while at the same time increasing the defense budget. Any savings from the decrease are more than wiped out by the defense increase, and there’s the added problem of the weakening of our diplomatic capability at a time when it’s needed most—as a number of senior military and intelligence officials have pointed out. Sadly, our State Department and the American Foreign Service Association, charged with the job of carrying out our diplomacy, and thus with protecting the resources needed to do it effectively, have been for the most part either quiet or acquiescent in this unwise move.
In addition to the impact politics has on our ability to exercise diplomatic leadership effectively, foreign affairs institutions, the State Department and the Foreign Service, must also shoulder some of the blame for the decline.
For a long time there has been within the State Department a significant effort to homogenize the Foreign Service and Civil Service, expressed in the QDDR as requirement to ‘break down institutional, cultural, and legal barriers between the Foreign Service and the Civil Service. This is troubling in that the legal barrier being referenced is the Foreign Service Act of 1980, and this is nothing less than a commitment to ‘break down’ the law. That it comes from some senior FSOs in addition to the State Department’s Civil Service and political leadership, is only more troubling.
Merging the Foreign Service and Civil Service not only weakens our diplomacy, but it can lead to irreparable harm to both services. Each service has a clear role to play in carrying out the country’s foreign policy, blurring the lines that distinguish them from each other, rather than taking action to enhance and empower each in their unique roles, only weakens both.
An area where State and the Foreign Service have both been woefully deficient is the failure to establish a career education system for American diplomats.
The U.S. Foreign Service stands nearly alone among professions in the United States in its lack of stringent pre-entry requirements, formal accreditation, and requirement for continuing education or re-certification. While more than half of entering Foreign Service personnel have post-graduate degrees, less than a third have those degrees in international relations, economics or development.
Entry training for new Foreign Service personnel is neither education nor training. Instead, it’s familiarization with the organization and administrative procedures, with little time devoted to the history or practice of diplomacy as a profession. Through the rank of FS-01, or the equivalent of an army colonel, training opportunities are limited – with most emphasis on language training (and even that is restricted depending on career field) and certain technical or tradecraft skills. Most chances for ‘education’ only come at the FS-01 or higher level, and the slots available are limited. Further, during my career, I was shocked to see FS-01’s, worried that long-term training would take them out of the EER/Promotion loop too long, turn down long term training opportunities such as the National Defense University or one of the service war colleges. I often, in fact, took flak from colleagues for my practice of requesting an FSI course at the end of every one of my overseas tours, and signing up for frequent short courses during my domestic assignments, instead of focusing on ensuring a good EER for my current job and lobbying for my onward assignment.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. While America’s diplomatic service is made up of some very intelligent, dedicated people, because of a number of cultural, political, and bureaucratic factors, we’re not getting the most from that service. We hire the best and brightest, walk them to the deep end of the pool, and toss them in with the injunction, ‘Swim!’  That many do is less a credit to the system than to their dogged determination.
That we’ve been successful since creation of the career Foreign Service in 1924 is, in my humble opinion, nothing short of a miracle. But, in today’s world we can no longer depend upon miracles or divine intervention. With the dangers lurking around every corner, we need to recognize that diplomacy, our front-line in the war on just about everything, is in grave danger.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Store - New Designs!

For designs that are just a bit edgier than those in my UhurubyRay store on Zazzle, check me out at Designs_by_Ray on Zazzle. Not a lot there now, but I'll be adding new designs on a daily basis. You can't beat these deals, and if you want to make a statement (political, fashion, or whatever) check it out.

Go to:  https://www.zazzle.com/designs_by_ray

Here's an example of what I'll have available:


Comey Attack Ads Inspire Stephen To Create His Own

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ready for a Fight!


With former FBI Director, James Comey, set to testify publicly before Congress on June 8, Donald Trump is gearing up for a no-hold's barred fight. I predict that as Comey testifies, the Donald will tweet. Should prove to be interesting.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Unintended Audiences


When I served as the American ambassador to Zimbabwe (2009-2012) I had a conversation with a southern African politician that intrigued me. He said that when African politicians spoke publicly, it was a good idea to know who they were really addressing, because they only spoke to their intended audience, and anyone else who happened to overhear should shut their ears.



Watching and reading the news lately about the shenanigans of the 45th President of the United States, this conversation came to mind. Just at the time Donald Trump’s considering petitioning the Supreme Court to reinstate his ban on visas to people from five predominantly Muslim countries, he’s been busy on Twitter and giving interviews that expose the true reason behind that ban—just such conduct that caused two federal judges to put a hold on his original attempt, on the grounds that his public utterances gave a different interpretation to the motives behind his executive orders—motives that were at odds with what the DOJ attorneys were telling the courts.



Again, he demonstrates his tone-deafness, or his inability to understand that words and actions have consequences.

As a result, my poison pen could not resist the following piece of art.


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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump's Troubles

This should actually need no caption.

White House Bridge Games

Given the Donald's oversized and fragile ego, the language of bridge bidding might have to be changed in the White House.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Ascendancy of Incompetence


With intellectuals and experts currently under siege from some rather high places, and a coterie of national leaders who appear to disdain contemplative thinking and even reading, it’s easy to think that the disease of anti-intellectualism is beginning to infect the world; but especially the United States. While it’s certainly true that there is a strain of anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism (in this case, elite in a positive sense) prevalent in many parts of the western world, it would be wrong to think that this is something new.



The Trump Administration didn’t invent this phenomenon, but it has regrettably taken full advantage of it, showing a negative attitude toward science, art and humanity in general, and a general tendency to value entertainment, a casual attitude toward truth and facts, and a glorious self-righteousness. Negative attitudes toward intellectualism, however, are a deeply-ingrained, long-held fact of American life that predates the founding of the country.



In the 17th century, the Puritan, John Cotton, wrote, ‘The more learned and witty you bee, the more fit to act for Satan you will bee.’ Despite the fact that Puritans established America’s first institutions of higher education, among many, especially the rural and working classes, there was a general disdain for secular education. According to the economist, Thomas Sowell, the early colonial people of America were wary of the educated upper classes who had been their persecutors in Europe. There were intellectuals among the early settlers, but very few, as few had the skills to survive in the harsh environment of the American frontier. The early whites who came to America were first mostly indentured servants, and later, peasant and workers fleeing economic, religious, or political deprivation in caste-bound Europe.



By the 19th century, when most of the country was rural or worked at hard labor in the few urban settlements, bookish education was seen by many as unimportant and unprofitable. Nor was there much high regard for so-called experts. Woodrow Wilson, when he was governor of New Jersey in 1912, said, “What I fear is a government of experts.’ The common interpretation of the freedom and equality enshrined in the Constitution (for white males property owners, but not for women, blacks, Native Americans, or certain undesirable non-northern Europeans) was a core belief that everyone was equal, regardless of their lack of knowledge.



The author, Isaac Asimov, summed it up succinctly. “There is a culture of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”



At the risk of offending some of my religious friends (and, I do have a few), religion has played a role in embedding this disdain for knowledge in the American psyche. In the late 19th century, the evangelical preacher, Dwight Moody, said, “I do not read any book, unless it will help me understand the book. I would rather have zeal without knowledge; and there is a good deal of knowledge without zeal.” His successor, the fiery preacher Billy Sunday, said, “If I had a million dollars, I’d give $999,999 to the church and $1 to education. When the word of God says one thing and scholarship says another, scholarship can go to hell!”



This philosophy is seen in the parsimonious funding of public education in this country. Our public school teachers are among the poorest compensated of professionals, in comparison to other developed nations, and that seems to be rearing its ugly head again with the current administration’s attitude toward public education. It’s also seen in the fact that most of our colleges focus not on educating students, but training them to get jobs.



What this attitude has led to, for anyone willing to think about it, is truly frightening. We like to think of ourselves as a great nation, the most powerful on the planet. True, as far as the ability to project military power and destruction, but what about building things? A World Economic Forum report in 2010 ranked the USD 52 out of 139 nations in the quality of college math and science education. Half of our graduate students in the sciences are foreigners who go home after getting their degrees. A 2012 Gallup poll indicated that 40 percent of Americans under 44 have not read a book at all since leaving school, and 42 percent of Americans thought God created us in our present form 10,000 years ago. This same poll found that just over half of the people surveyed read anything for pleasure. A 2008 University of Texas study showed that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth at the same time.



As if these statistics are not frightening enough, a Gallup poll some years ago found that 74 percent of Republicans in the Senate and 53 percent in the House deny the validity of climate change, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.



With some religious and political figures mired in such a swamp of ignorance, and the lack of a credible counterweight in the education system, it’s no wonder that we’re in the state we’re in. We live in a time when social media and communications technology, products of the intellect of some pretty smart people, have become the engines that have helped accelerate the decline of intellect across the land. People no longer have to think. They can just ‘google’ it, and with the judicious use of the proper search terms, they don’t have to subject their un-inquiring minds to any ‘facts’ with they disagree.



I am not ashamed to identify myself as an intellectual, as someone who is not content to merely ‘do’ things, but also to ‘understand’ how and why things are done. I’ve endured being called a nerd and geek for most of my life, and will wear those labels proudly to my final resting place. But, being a thinking person, I can’t help but despair. Experts are being ignored and pushed to the far margins of the policy making process in favor of ‘politically and ideologically reliable’ incompetents, who act often without thinking through the consequences of their actions. Thankfully, the checks and balances built into the system by the Founding Fathers are still in place to stem some of the more egregious errors. But, like the dripping water that eventually erodes the rock away to create a chasm, if we don’t divert the stream of ignorance that is now more a torrent than a drip, even those foundations are in danger of being washed away.



Instead of the slogan, ‘Make America Great Again,’ we should perhaps try to ‘Keep America Great.’

Friday, April 28, 2017

Anti-Immigration Sentiment: What Trump and Sessions Need to Know


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana



During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump hit immigration issues hard, much to the delight of his Rust Belt supporters. Since his inauguration, he and his attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, have endeavored—not too successfully—to fulfill his campaign promises. In their efforts to appeal to the nativism and economic angst of denizens of America’s Rust Belt, they have repeatedly stressed the three main points of his campaign:



-          A ban on granting entry to the U.S. of people from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

-          Building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to stop the flow of people from south of the border.

-          Punishing U.S. cities who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement; the so-called Sanctuary Cities.



So far, the administration’s efforts have met with a resounding lack of success. Federal judges shut down two attempts to impose a Muslim ban, and a federal judge in San Francisco has temporarily halted DOJs attempt to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities. Noise continues to be made about building the wall, but Mexico has been adamant in its refusal to pay, and it’s unlikely that the congress will come up with the massive amount that would be needed to build the bloody monstrosity.



If Trump and Sessions were more aware of history, in particularly, America’s fixation on anti-immigration, they might have taken a saner approach to this whole issue.



The history of opposition to immigrants in America is older than the nation itself. Before independence, for example, Benjamin Franklin railed against the increase in the number of Germans arriving in the colonies, fearing that they would not assimilate, and would overwhelm the ‘English’ community.



Starting in the late 1790s there was vociferous opposition to political refugees from France and people from Ireland fleeing the potato famine, mainly on the basis of their Catholic faith, which led to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which sought to stem that flow, and Catholics in America were banned from holding public office.



In the 20th century, anti-immigrant sentiment took on a racial tone in response to the number of Asians arriving in America and competing with native born for jobs, particularly in the western states. The federal government, wanting to avoid alienating Asian countries with whom we had diplomatic relations, held out against this sentiment for a long time, but finally caved to domestic pressure, leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1902, which stopped all immigration from China, and the Gentleman’s Agreement with Japan in 1907, which limited immigration from that country. The Chinese Exclusion Act was not repealed until 1943, as a gesture of goodwill to our Chinese ally in World War II, but the full limitations of the act weren’t abolished until 1965.



Despite being thought of as a nation of immigrants, American nativists began pushing for exclusion of people not from northern Europe in the late 1800s, and labor unions opposed many immigrants on economic, moral, cultural, and racial reasons. Publicly, the unions stated that this influx of ‘undesirables’ would flood the labor market and lower wages.



The sentiment against Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, which saw an upsurge in the 1990s, and a giant uptick with the rise of the Tea Party movement after 2014, is not a recent phenomenon. Anti-Mexican movements began in the early 1920s, often involving the mass deportation of Mexicans.



These past anti-immigration activities and sentiments have created foreign relations problems for the U.S., often at critical times when we’ve needed the cooperation of other countries.



More recent anti-immigration sentiment, though, has had more direct consequences. In Georgia, for example, when the state legislature passed a draconian anti-immigration law in 2011, thousands of agricultural workers fled the state for more hospitable locations, resulting in an over $300 million loss in the state’s melon crop, and a potential total economic loss of $1 billion. There have been similar losses in other states that have dipped their oars in the immigration enforcement waters.



Another important aspect of the new administration’s push for local and state governments to participate in enforcement of immigration laws (civil rather than criminal, which they have a responsibility to do) is that these police forces are ill-equipped for such work. In addition to a lack of training in the complex civil laws relating to immigration, they lack the manpower to take on immigration enforcement and still protect their communities. Further, when local police begin to involve themselves in identifying, detaining and deporting foreigners, it complicates their ability to gain the trust of the very communities they need in order to perform their principal mission.



One can’t help but wonder if the president and attorney-general have given any thought to the complexity of what they’re insisting that states and cities do. Or, do they even care?



The nation’s reputation, at home and abroad, has suffered because of past actions that were counter to our professed credo. Are they setting us up for another round of the same?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

At the Circus

Brief video clips of my visit to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus at Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore, MD on April 22, 2017.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

We need the art of leadership, not the art of the deal

In today’s climate of moral ambiguity, ethical lapses, and political uncertainty, having competent leaders at all level of government is more essential than ever.
What, though, makes a leader? Too many people believe that the mere possession of power or a fancy title makes a person a leader. Power and a title make a person a boss, or in the case of nations, a leader—but, leadership is an entirely different kettle of fish.
True leadership is not about giving orders or receiving obedience from followers. One can be a leader without a title, and with no more power than the ability to motivate people to achieve more than they believe themselves capable of achieving.
A leader, first and foremost, is someone who cares about those who follow. A true leader is more a guide and mentor than a director. The best leaders, in fact, seldom give orders; they create visions and communicate those visions to others in such a compelling way, they’re followed out of curiosity. Great leaders are great communicators. They are able to paint a vision of a positive future, and translate that vision into terms that others can understand and believe in.
Leaders are honest. They don’t tell people what they ‘want’ to hear, but what they ‘need’ to hear. They have integrity. A good leader does not have to describe correct behavior and conduct—he or she models it in every action. A good leader has the courage to take unpopular actions for the good of others, rather than pander to special interests, put personal interests first, or take the easy way out.
A leader, in order to be effective, must put the good of the many ahead of the benefit of the privileged few.
The world is a complex and dangerous place. Groups without effective leadership are little better than mobs, surging from crisis to crisis, energy dissipated in unfocused groping for coherence. Leadership is essential to move the mass in a positive direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a social club or a nation, without effective, enlightened leadership, progress is accidental, often in the wrong direction, and many opportunities are missed.
Good leaders focus on doing the right things, rather than appeasing special interests. This is not to say that things shouldn’t be done right, but before expending energy on a task, a good leader asks if it should be done at all. One can argue that the Holocaust was an efficiently run program attempting to annihilate an entire race of people, but it’s inarguable that it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing to do.

We have lots of bosses and rulers, people who are expert at ‘making deals,’ but, if we’re ever to have true peace, security, and prosperity, what we need is better leadership.

Friday, March 24, 2017

General Michael Hayden, former director of NSA and CIA, speaks at Cold War Museum

On March 19th, General Michael Hayden, the former Director of both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), gave the third address in CWM’s Presentation Series, CIA and NSA: A View from the Top.  Many of General Hayden’s comments were connected to his recent New York Times-bestselling book Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.  


A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic sellout audience of 132 followed the talk with interesting questions, which was to be expected, as many were retired CIA officers.  General Hayden was very gracious throughout, including in fulfilling many requests for photos with him, and later signing copies of his book which he donated to the Museum.  He also took the time to come briefly to the Museum, despite a need to get home to deal with a family concern, and said that he would visit again for fuller tour.


Old Bust Head brewery, next door to the Museum, hosted this fundraising event for CWM on their production floor and provided great cooperation with us for it, including providing a $7 ticket for credit towards their excellent draft beer as part of the event ticket.  We expect to continue working with both the Vint Hill Winery and the brewery to host coming Presentation Series events.


The next of those, on May 21st and which will also be at the brewery, is Eyewitness as the Wall Falls: A Fateful Week in Berlin.  Col. Jim Gray (USAF Ret.) will give us a gripping day-by-day oral and visual account of his week in Berlin while the Wall slowly became more and more permeable as he crossed the border repeatedly over that time.  He will also take us into the thinking of people on both sides as much as possible, at a time when no one knew how this would turn out, and whether this would provoke a violent response from the Soviets.  For further information, please see CWM’s posting on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/eyewitness-as-the-wall-falls-a-fateful-week-in-berlin-tickets-32595553177.  (If you are interested, you may want to purchase tickets soon, as all three of the previous presentations sold out weeks in advance of the event.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

pattimari: PnPAuthor Magazine

pattimari: PnPAuthor Magazine: PnPAuthor Magazine ________________________________________________________________ Cover Page                              April i...

Friday, March 3, 2017

What will replace the 'deconstructed' administrative state?

At last month’s CPAC, Trump White House strategist, Steve Bannon, vowed to ‘deconstruct’ the administrative state. While Bannon didn’t go into detail as to what such ‘deconstruction’ would consist of, administration actions in the first two months do give some clues. The first White House budget proposal, along with a hefty increase in defense spending, has drastic cuts in the budgets of civilian agencies, including a more than 30 percent cut in the State Department and foreign aid budget. In addition, appointees to head civilian agencies are both being sidelined and ignored, or are individuals who have a track record of opposing the agencies they’ve been designated to lead.
Looking at what’s going on one could easily reach the conclusion that what Bannon actually meant to say was ‘destroy.’
While die-hard Trump supporters are probably cheering as he sticks his finger in the eye of the bloated, unresponsive Washington bureaucracy, one also has to wonder if anyone is giving any consideration to what this all means.
Let’s start by conceding that government is often inefficient; many agencies are probably overstaffed; and services are not always delivered where and when they’re needed. But, is the answer to that the abolition of the agency that’s supposed to deliver those services?
Over the last decade there’s been a marked trend to militarize American foreign policy. If we strip the already modestly funded civilian foreign affairs establishment (foreign aid in its entirety accounts for less than two percent of the budget), do we plan to give that mission over to the defense establishment? Will the military be called in to patrol our national parks, or will we turn that job over to the energy and timber industries that will be given uncontrolled access? Who will assume responsibility for air traffic control, water and air quality monitoring, food and drug safety standards? These are not jobs that will do themselves, and leaving it to the industries isn’t such a good idea—don’t forget; it was shortcomings in these industries that led to the need for government monitoring in the first place.

Does government need improvement? You bet it does, but when the bath water is dirty, let’s change it, not toss the baby out in the process.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Abnormal is the new normal

The mainstream media, dubbed an ‘enemy of the people’ by Donald Trump, struggles to come to grips with an Administration that promotes falsehoods as ‘alternative facts,’ there is a plea from some conservative quarters to give the new administration a break. It’s difficult to do in the face of some of the things that have flowed from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
When State Department Foreign Service employees signed a Dissent Channel message disagreeing with Trump’s Muslim visa ban and proposing alternatives that would better achieve his oft-stated security goals, and the message was leaked, Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, rather than decrying the leak of an internal document, basically said the employees should ‘get with the program or get out.’ On the other hand, when documents were leaked showing that Trump’s national security advisor, retired general Michael Flynn, lied when he said he’d not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador and was forced to resign, Trump maintained that Flynn had done nothing wrong and the leak should be investigated.
When the media exposes another ‘alternate fact’ coming from him or one of his minions, they’re labeled ‘fake’ and ‘enemies of the people.’ When he decided to replace Spicer at a press conference, he spent most of the time ranting at the ‘fake’ press for its unflattering coverage of him and his administration.
Oh, and before I forget, much to the discomfort of many senior GOP elected officials, Trump continues to float the lie that the only reason he lost the popular vote by some 3 million votes is because there were 3 million illegal votes cast. The only support he’s received in this blatant falsehood, again, is from his minions. And now, rather than focusing on getting his administration’s act together and governing, he seems to be going back on the campaign trail, which appears to be his comfort zone.
I could go on and on, but it’s just too depressing. Some of my friends and former colleagues (a very few, I might add) tell me that I’m being too hard on the man, and that he’ll come to his senses soon and things will be normal again. I wish I could believe them, but my 50+ years of dealing with people in cultures all over the world, from kings to cannibals, have led me to conclude that absent a truly cataclysmic event, people seldom change their basic nature.  Nearly two months into the Trump Administration and I have yet to see signs of change.
I am forced, sadly, to conclude that waiting for things to return to normal is like pushing a rope up a hill. It appears that abnormal is the new normal.

Global Journalist: Zimbabwe after Mugabe

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Start your spring off with free e-Books

Beginning on March 1, and for each week following, I'm offering one of my Kindle books free to readers. This means some great reading with savings of up to $6.95, so don't miss it. The first book available is Buffalo Soldier: The Piano, a great western, which will be free for Kindles and Kindle apps March 1 to 5. If you click on the image below between March 1 and 5, you can get it free, and while you're at Amazon, check out some of my other books, or take a look at my store in the sidebar of this blog.. Check out my publisher page on Facebook for other freebies in March as well as the rest of the year.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, Ia Drang battle commander, dies at 94

Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, Ia Drang battle commander, dies at 94: Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, the commander at the Battle of Ia Drang in 1965 that led him to co-author the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” died Friday at his home in Auburn, Ala. He was 94.

Is the GOP response to the Flynn fiasco a double standard or what?

Retired General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, has officially resigned from his post after finally admitting that he’d lied about his pre-inauguration conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US. While this is frankly the only honorable (and I hate having to use that word for Flynn) course of action, there is still a bit of stench associated with this debacle that hasn’t been cleared.
First, there’s presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway’s statement that the president still had ‘faith’ in Flynn just a day or two before his resignation. She obviously neglected to clear her talking points on that one. Then, there’s Trump himself saying that he was ‘unaware’ of Flynn’s situation, despite DOJ having alerted the previous administration of the problem, and presumably the Trump team as well. Then, there’s this little kick in the pants.
The Devin Nunes (R-CA) chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced that he would not open an investigation into Flynn, citing executive privilege, but would investigate who leaked the story that led to his resignation, and why his conversation with the Russian ambassador was recorded.
I find this interesting, considering all of the congressional inquiries into former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server, and how that might have compromised national security. I’m not even going to call this a double standard—it’s so far beyond that, it’s mind boggling. My willingness to give the new Administration and the GOP-controlled congress the benefit of the doubt is being severely tested.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

US Court of Appeals gives Trump a taste of the real world

 When former acting-Attorney General Sally Yates, a 27-year DOJ veteran, refused to defend Donald Trump’s travel ban, she was fired and replaced by Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, pending Senate confirmation of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as AG. Boente promised to defend the ban, which had been ordered temporarily suspended by a federal judge in Washington. Under Boente, the DOJ immediately filed a request to restore the ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
On Sunday, February 5, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco denied the request for an emergency of the original suspension order pending a full consideration of the motion. The court requested the AGs of Washington and Minnesota to respond right away, and the DOJ to respond by Monday, February 6.
In response to the original order by US Justice James Roberts, an appointee from the Bush Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended ‘any and all actions to implement the ban.’

The Trump Administration, one of the least-prepared White House teams in modern history, will now get a look at how real government works. It’s not like a reality TV show where you can shoot a retake or change the script if you don’t like the way things are going. In the real world, the judicial branch is independent from the executive, and for the most part, justices take their responsibility to uphold the law and Constitution seriously, regardless of their politics. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Third record-breaking hot year in a row. Still think climate change's not real?

 In February 2015, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, hefted a snowball on the Senate floor to underscore his denial that climate change was nothing more than a hoax. Inhofe’s circus act was part of a rambling speech trying to rebut, among other things, scientific evidence that 2014 was the warmest year on record due to climate change. Inhofe, who along with his grandchildren built an igloo near the Capitol during a record snowstorm in 2010, is noted for claiming that global warming was ‘the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.’
At the time of Inhofe’s stunt, and despite Washington’s cold weather, January 2015 had been one of the warmest January’s on record.
Now, here we are in mid-January 2017. If Inhofe wants to pull his snowball stunt this month, he’s out of luck. At 5:30 pm on January 19, 2017, the thermometer at my house in suburban Maryland, just outside DC reads 48 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ve even had a couple of days when it was near 60, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record since such we began keeping records in 1880. In fact, this marks the third year in a row of the hottest temperatures on record, and NOAA’s findings have been supported by NASA, the World Meteorological Organization, the British meteorological office, and other monitoring groups.
Now, don’t break out the sunblock just yet. Even though the U.S. northeast is warming faster than other regions of the country, it hasn’t yet reached the point where you can sun bathe year round. But, scientists see a clear warming trend since the late 20th century, and have determined that most of it’s due to heat-trapping gasses from the burning of fossil fuels. The average amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean, for instance, reached a record low in 2016.
Only the blind or the incredibly stupid could fail to see that the climate has changed. I recall in 1968, the first time I went to Southeast Asia, you could almost set your watch by the Monsoon rains. When I returned to the region in 2002, you could no longer predict when, or if, it would rain during Monsoon season.
What worries me, and should worry everyone, is that too many of the people in positions to do something about climate change before it’s too late, are too political, too greedy, or too stupid to take the necessary actions to forestall it. They’d rather say it’s a hoax created by the Chinese, or that it’s just a hoax, and the presence of the occasional snowfall proves their view. One has to wonder what they’ll say when we all wake up one day and discover that we should have done something the day before.

Somehow, ‘oops’ just won’t be enough. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My America - it's already great, so don't demean it



After the terrible rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign, and with the possibility of some really exclusionary and divisive words and actions over the next four years, I think it appropriate that all Americans stop and remember that this country is, in fact, a country of immigrants--that, the Founding Fathers were immigrants or sons of immigrants--and that it is this diversity that makes us great. We don't need to make America great again, we have to ensure that it remains the great nation that it was intended to be.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

After watching this, your brain will not be the same | Lara Boyd | TEDxV...

Same car, different driver - same terrible route!

As an American, I'm conditioned to wish things will turn out for the best after an election, even when my preferred candidate doesn't win. Having watched last year's campaign, and now, watching the Trump Administration try to put saddles on bucking broncos, all the while making some really disturbing noises, I have to wonder. Do I wish this bunch well? I do want my country to prosper--I want everyone in my country to have peace and prosperity, not just a select few. But, I don't want that prosperity to be gained by short-sighted, short-term strategies that will come back in a not-so-distant future to bite us in the butt.

For several years now, I've watched certain Republicans (let's be blunt, mainly, but not solely, the Tea Party activists) pushing the GOP in the direction of exclusiveness, us vs. them, destruction, creating an America that would no longer be welcoming to people like me, an America that seems hellbent on giving the rest of the world the finger and pulling back into its shell of racial, religious, sanctimonious isolation.

Now the Republican ship (car, bus, train, some form of transportation - oh, hell, let's say car because of my illustration) has a new captain/driver. Just when I thought they'd found the worst possible leadership, they went and outdid themselves. Now, they have a . . . not sure what's the appropriate label here . . . wild driver?? at the wheel. Now, they're not just weaving back and forth all over the road, they're ignoring the road entirely.

The problem if they crash and burn is, we're in the path of that careening vehicle, and could very well become collateral damage.

Here's my graphic view of the current situation:


Friday, January 6, 2017

The Temptations - Ball of Confusion

Trump voters after the election

Trump wants to use taxes to build his wall (he'll make Mexico pay later), and he's stocked his cabinet with mega-millionaires who owe more to Wall Street than to Main Street. The poor schmucks who fell for his promises to make things great for them will, if the weeks leading up to his inauguration are any indication, have a long, long wait.

When It Comes to Trump’s Foreign Policy, Loyalty Takes Precedence over Experience

When It Comes to Trump’s Foreign Policy, Loyalty Takes Precedence over Experience

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - A farewell address from President Obama's anger translator