Did Obama Admin Just Sell Out the Military?

No one doubts the seriousness of the Iran nuclear deal; the problem is, few believe the U.S. has found a way to lead the rest of the world in accomplishing it. No one, with the exception of Secretary of the State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the rest of the Obama Administration, believes the solution presented is the solution that prevails.

Last week, we saw an interesting – and uncomfortable – debate unfold when Kerry, Ernest Moniz, the energy secretary, and Jack Lew, the treasury secretary appeared before the Senate. If you didn’t see it, you should – it’s fascinating to watch these folks go nine rounds, all the while knowing it serves no purpose in the long run. We heard Kerry’s vehement disgust over the 47 senators who wrote to Iran’s leaders before the nuclear deal was signed. He insisted that act could have jeopardized world security (and in all fairness, that stunt by the Republicans, whose pockets are lined by the big oil companies, was done for very selfish reasons. Read about it here.) We also heard Senator Bob Corker (R TN), Senator Jim Risch (R ID) use words like “bamboozled” and “fleeced”: as in “You were bamboozled with this deal and now you’ve fleeced the American people”. Oh, and a delightful scolding from Barbara Boxer towards both Corker and Risch for using the words “bamboozled” and “fleeced”.

But let’s not forget this little well-hidden nugget:

Kerry claimed the U.S. has “the capacity’ to ‘knock out ISIL’ on its own, but we’re not going to get suckered into that.”

Yes. He really said that. And then skipped to the next topic.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Ash Carter was sent to the Middle East to soothe those frantic fears many of our allies (and even our enemies) have these days. Here’s what’s so disturbing, though: the way the media reported these visits and the quotes it used vary significantly. They’re subtle, but take a look –

Carter is trying to respond to regional concerns about Iran by proposing intensified military cooperation with its longtime allies. With the Saudis, there will be talk of training special forces, cyber security, anti-missile defence and other issues. July 23, 2015 (Read the article here)

and

In an effort to calm these worries, Carter proposes to intensify military cooperation with Washington’s traditional allies in the Middle East. July 22, 2015 (Read the article here)

and

Carter told reporters en route to Tel Aviv.But the point of the nuclear deal is to get the result of no Iranian nuclear weapon without carrying out a military strike.” July 19, 2015 (Read the article here)

The first quote comes from a Pakistani media site, Dunya. The second is Al Arabiya, a Middle Eastern media site. The third quote is from The Washington Post.

It’s amazing how small tweaks in a sentence can change the meaning in its entirety. Any other time, it would matter none and would seem petty, but Google the first two quotes. Not a single American media site comes up; no CNN, MSNBC, USAToday, Fox News. Not one.  The third quote, when Googled, returns The Washington Post and a number of other American based media. Depending on who Carter is speaking with, the U.S. is either wheeling and dealing with propositions to increase our military and other efforts as sort of a reminder to Iran or the U.S. is moving mountains to ensure no military action.

Kerry was quick to remind his adversaries on Capitol Hill that everyone supported this deal. Ash Carter spent the week reassuring the media of the same thing. Only problem is, he was the only one commenting after these meetings.

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VOA

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NY Times

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Times of Israel

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If there is any question at all about the possibility of sincerity from Iran, this should clear it all up:

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Finally, this is off topic, but I come across it while I was researching this post. It’s going to be a huge problem as things begin heating up with the Cuba brouhaha. With embargoes lifted, there’s a new focus and those in the oil industry are definitely paying attention. Back in the 60s, part of the embargo with Cuba included sanctions for any country that sold to Cuba anything made with more than 10% of American supplies/materials. Now, though, allbets are off. Cuba is gearing up to begin drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in what many are saying includes a wealth of oil. Actually, there are four areas that Cuba is focusing on. America could, for all intents and purposes, furnish the wells that will drill the oil. In case you’ve not been following the massacre in the energy sector, oil closed below $48 a barrel on Friday.  Another country entering into the oil market? Not good.

Last year, the Obama Administration insisted that wouldn’t be a possibility, at least not in the short term. Now, though, Cuba is planning on being up and running by the end of 2015 or the first of 2016. If the U.S. bails and refuses to play a role, Cuba could create a massive environmental mess right off the coast of Florida. That was always the fear anyway when it bought materials and supplies from other countries. The U.S. has, by far, some of the safest extraction methods (though far from perfect) in the world. This is not, and never has been, a real priority for Cuba.

Here We Go – #JadeHelm Insanity

For months, we’ve been hearing about the world coming to an end, courtesy of our very own military. Jade Helm training exercises have begun in several states, including Texas and yes, even right here in Mississippi. There have been more than a few times – no, actually, there have been 9,129 times – I’ve rolled my eyes at some of the ridiculous theories behind this “ultra secret” effort – despite the many public hearings the collective military has offered. And let’s not forget the pictures and videos these goobers are using as their proof. People act as though these are all signs of war – by our own country against our own country! Now, though, things have reached an entirely new level.

My fellow Americans – we’ve nothing to worry about. No, really…the Counter Jade Helm Company has arrived. This group of folks is taking a stand, or rather, a place. They’re taking a place right behind all of the various tankers and other vehicles. They’re following them. My God. They are actually following them. They say they’re simply being vigilant. Great.

Here’s why this bothers me to my core:

Every time one of these crackpots opens his mouth, he’s basically disrespecting the best military in the world. That could include one of his own family members. Every single time he tweets that he’s in “hot pursuit”, he’s saying, “I don’t trust our military”. It’s a kick in the teeth for every man and woman who ever stepped up to the plate to do what most of us could never succeed in accomplishing. It’s a kick in the teeth to my best friend, who by the way, is also moving his wife and son back to Mississippi, even as he’s preparing for these exercises. He’s not worried about his fellow troops. It’s called common sense.

Worse (and this is what’s really infuriating) it’s a kick in the teeth to my dad, who fought in Vietnam and then returned home, fell in love with and married a woman who happened to have a bit of baggage. I am that baggage.

And for all of those who say it’s all on Obama and he’s the one directing these “exercises”, let me tell you a quick story:

My dad and I have this ongoing joke between us. I walk into their house and all bets are off – we instantly turn into these crazy people talking politics. I tease him about our current president and how I know he’s really a Democrat. That usually turns the attention to my mom and I say, “Bet you didn’t know you married a Democrat.” And without fail…EVERY SINGLE TIME….Daddy says, “I got something for Barack and Michelle” (that’s what he calls them) and he reaches into his pocket. On cue and like clockwork, Mom follows suit and reaches into her purse. I swear, I fall for it every time. I know exactly what’s about to happen, but yet, I’m waiting. Both of them pull their hands out and with their middle fingers, and only their middle fingers, showing. Better than a George Burns and Gracie Allen skit, those two. They just laugh and laugh and if you’re in the same room, you laugh and laugh too.

Even Einstein sees the humor.

Even Einstein seems the humor.

My point is: don’t underestimate any member of our military. I have great confidence that it would take far more than the word from a president even our military does not trust to cause our brothers, best friends, fathers, sisters and mothers to turn against their own. No one – and I mean no one – could possibly love this country more than those who are willing to die for it.

So do us all a favor – direct your attention to those things that really do matter and that truly are a threat to this country. I promise you – if all hell breaks loose in this country during these Jade Helm exercises, my happy ass is running towards them, not away from them. They’re the ones who are going to protect us – even the jackasses who are trying to catch them doing something wrong.

Greece: Superpowers (and Others) Observing from a Distance

As the Greek “no-win game plan” plays out on the world stage, many are wondering why both the United States and Russia are, for the most part, watching quietly from the sidelines. The argument could be made (and has) that Greece is miniscule in both size and its ability to wreak havoc on a global level. That’s terribly shortsighted and frankly, when has the U.S. ever stood by and simply watched from a distance? For that matter, when has Russia?

With so many events playing out simultaneously, attention gets focused and refocused. It’s easy to feel as though nothing is ever resolved as we constantly turn our attention to the latest breaking news.

The question is: who will really benefit, no matter the outcome? Who knows – but there are a few facts that could be playing a big role in how these decisions are made.

Russia

We know that Russia is looking for better solutions now that the U.S. has tried to sanction it off the map. You’d think Putin would be working magic to take advantage of the weakness Greece now is showing – and you’d be right.

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Greece and Russia have teamed up for the latest pipeline project going through Turkey. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why Greece didn’t simply bail on the negotiations and leave the Eurozone for Russia’s open arms. Putin’s already said he’s willing to write a check, and let’s face it, Greece gets no respect from its European partners. Proof of that is found in the almost-sad way it’s being treated in these negotiations.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ is now facing a reality that includes his own people feeling as though he sold them out. Even his wife threatened to leave him if he caved. Less than one week later – he caved.

Why would he risk losing everything for a deal that serves no good purpose for his country? The truth is, Germany, France and the others have a lot at stake, too, yet they’re playing hardball on a deal that is pretty much a list of “granted wishes” by Greece. So why is Tsipras being treated like a red-headed stepchild when he’s caved to all of their demands? Maybe this will help:

Greece has the power to veto any Russian sanctions the EU wishes to dole out.

Maybe Tsipras loses more than his country’s faith and his marriage if he doesn’t try to remain where he is, even if it does mean a worse deal in the short term.

Germany

Angela Merkel has her hands full. She and her country’s leaders want Greece ejected. But why? They say Greece is lazy and untrustworthy, but is that really enough for Germany to take such a tough stance?  Russia and Germany have always had a love/hate relationship. Just last month, Germany accused Russia of stockpiling nukes near Russia’s borders. The fact that any one partner can veto anything the EU proposes is probably a bit uncomfortable for Germany, especially considering this slow dance with Russia and knowing Greece and Russia are partners in oil.

Former (as of last week) Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote on Friday:

Based on months of negotiation, my conviction is that the German finance minister wants Greece to be pushed out of the single currency to put the fear of God into the French and have them accept his model of a disciplinarian eurozone.

It’s walking a fine line laid out by Putin, but it also knows that a partner with the power to veto sanctions against Russia is not something any of the countries wish to tackle.

Makes sense. France has the same veto power as Greece. And speaking of France:

France

This is a country with leaders who’ve been busy. President Hollande took the position of bucking Germany and Angela Merkel in order to take Greece’s side. French leaders have spent a significant amount of time in the past 24 hours “oohing and ahhhing” over the latest proposal set forth by Tsipras and encouraging other countries – and most certainly Germany – to follow. France as a cheerleader – who’d have thought?

Adding to this: France is pressuring the United States to close a deal with Iran. French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said just today, “Now that everything is on the table, the moment has come to decide.”

I don’t reckon that serenade with James Taylor earlier this year had the effect Kerry was hoping for.

Maybe France is still angry at the U.S. for forcing it to cancel its contract with Russia regarding its Mistral program this past November. It was a big contract for France, but it did not bode well with us and a few other countries.

Russia, surprisingly enough, negotiated with the country and ended up with a deal that simply allowed for a refund to Russia. That’s generous, considering the massive contractual dynamics that France annihilated and the realization that Russia could have made things extraordinarily hard for France. But maybe there were a few promises made that could place Russia in a strategic position in the very near future, especially if Grexit comes full circle.

Iran

Iran doesn’t have a dog in the hunt with Greece/Europe battle, but it does play a role in the very near future, especially if Greece leaves EU.

Iran is vehement in its efforts of convincing those involved in the nuclear talks to lift the UN arms embargo and end the long-standing ban against the missile program. In fact, those are likely the two biggest challenges at this point. Naturally, Russia is in agreement with Iran, which further complicates matters, especially considering the two countries have enjoyed a mutually beneficial nuke program for many years. And let’s not forget, Obama is fine and dandy with Russia holding Iran’s nuke materials as part of the deal. That’s like handing me a freezer full of shrimp and telling me not to cook it. That shrimp is going to get cooked!

But there’s another reason Russia and Iran are acting more like BFFs. In BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), U.S. sanctions play no role at all. This could mean that Iran, if the new agreement falls through (or even if they don’t), can still bypass any sanctions and keep its product in the market. Iran has already stated on more than a few occasions over the past few years that it wants to join BRICS. While Greece couldn’t become a full member at this time, it can benefit from the many advantages BRICS provides.

“Iran supports the BRICS group and is prepared for membership and presence in BRICS’ fund.”

– Iran’s Deputy Economy Minister Behrouz Alishiri

And then there’s this little gem from two years ago: BRICS leaders released a statement after one of its summits:

“We are concerned about threats of military action as well as unilateral sanctions, and hope that all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme will be resolved through discussions and diplomatic means. We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations.”

Russia has at least 33 nuclear reactors and India has nearly as many while Brazil and South Africa have two or three nuclear reactors each.

Yet, Iran is the country that leaders say is the threat on the nuclear front. And God forbid Greece embarrass the EU and make a beeline for the other side that includes nuke supporters.

Finland

Finland is another country that stated it would not vote in favor of Greece’s stay in the EU. This is a small country and while it is part of the EU, really, what could taking a stand against Greece cost the country? Why remain stone silent and at the 11th hour, find your voice? Maybe Russia knows the answer.

For 40 years, the Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe has hosted a meeting with leaders from many countries, including Russia. This year, however, Russia was uninvited. Russia counted on Finland to take its side by not supporting a travel ban that prevented many of Russia’s delegates to attend. Finland chose not to.

Russia’s response? Nikolai Kovalev made it clear the damage to the relations between Finland and Russia was permanent.

Susanna Turunen, YLE editor, was a bit more definitive in her statements:

“Russia sees the situation differently and is now considering counter measures that could involve further trade sanctions specifically targeting Finland…failure is the inevitable outcome of denying entry of the Russian delegation.”

Unfortunately, Finland is the one country that is 100 percent dependent on Russia for its energy.

Maybe Finland is hedging its bets if Greece is ejected. It could be the one country Russia relies on to veto sanctions in the EU. France certainly can’t do it without massive repercussions.

By the way, the countries in the EU have their energy needs met by Russia. In fact, more than half of its energy comes from Russia. It’s like a game of chess for Putin.

Russian expert and economist Edward Lucas sums it up:

If you rely on Russia for your oil reserves, or for a big proportion of your sales, you turn yourself willy-nilly into a hostage. The demands may not be conspicuous. They may not come immediately. But just as water flows downhill, so the power of the Kremlin finds the weakest spot and exploits it.

United States
So now we know why Russia is, for the most part, taken a passive position. But what about the U.S? What is Obama doing?

Well, he’s freeing federal prisoners right after an NAACP luncheon focused on the disproportionate number of men and women of color who are incarcerated.

Oh, and he’s also “integrating races into wealthy communities”. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

He’s creating new national monuments.

Basically, it looks as though “the leader of the free world is indulging in a week of summer vacation” but wrapping it up delightfully as a strategic move in case a deal is struck with Iran.

6 Things that Prove “All Hell’s Done Broke Loose”

In one of the most powerful scenes in American film history, Spencer Tracy’s character’s Matt Drayton unleashed one of those rare and poignant and perfect speeches that forever change the way you see things in the real world. If you’ve never seen “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, you should. Trust me – it’s so much more than a film about race relations. Not only that, but it was Spencer Tracy’s last film.  His epic speech to his family and the family of his daughter’s fiancé begins with a quote from his housekeeper, Tillie (played beautifully by Isabel Sanford), when asked how the day was. She said, “All hell’s done broke loose.”

And has it! Today’s been one of those days when you ask yourself if you’re not in some vintage episode of Twilight Zone. Here are six examples that prove that sentiment. More importantly, they’re proof that we should pay attention to what’s next.

Greece’s Irrelevancy

Oh, that silly Obama. This afternoon, the White House said the Greek debt crisis is “no major or direct threat to the economy because exposure to Greece’s economy is small”. He makes me laugh and here’s why:

The Dow closed 350 points down today (albeit it’s probably just a fluke out of panic).

If Greece exits the Eurozone, there’s a very real possibility that it will take other countries with it.

It could also affect our job market because of our relationships with other countries. We have healthy exporting agreements in place and if those are threatened, it could start a domino effect beginning with job losses.

Puerto Rico

I admit, I’ve always been a bit confused about what Puerto Rico is to the United States. Is it or isn’t it a part of our country? It’s a Commonwealth and the U.S. Congress is its government. Those who call Puerto Rico home are our fellow Americans; in fact, the count is close to 5 million Americans. And the country’s broke…as in “Greece broke”.

Remember back in March when Vice President Biden launched a campaign to help Central America to the tune of $1 billion? (You can read my post here)? He said, “The president and I are determined to address conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and help these countries on their path to economic prosperity.”

Generous, right? Obviously, if the U.S. is willing to help those countries, then surely we’d help our own fellow Americans. You’d be wrong.

Today, Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary, told the media that no one in the government is planning on bailing out Puerto Rico.

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An hour later, we hear that the White House is continuing to insist that Puerto Rico’s government must “resolve its own issues”. Well, that solves everything, right? Except for the fact that they forgot who its government is. It’s us. We’re its government.

Belarus Who?

While all eyes are focused on Greece, there’s a small country that’s managed to stay under the radar for quite some time. This past December, Belarus went into full panic mode, even if much of the world was clueless. When the Russian ruble began spiraling down, it brought with it the Belarussian ruble. The country’s government made across capture-20150630-120559the board changes that included blocking online retailers, news sites, banks and any other website, in or out of the country, that could be a threat to the government. It was known as December Insanity.

Fast forward to today.

Both Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Belarus State Security Chairman Valery Vakulchik, reiterated to its citizens that there are no threats or concerns to worry about, just as they invited the KGB for a sit down.  Instead, the invitation was extended “not only because the political situation is complicated or because we are on the eve of a presidential election campaign,” but because of the “activity of our non-friends on western borders has increased too much”. And who’s on the western borders? “The presence of NATO armed forces on the western borders keeps growing while the crime rate on the southern borders is rising.”

Like Greece, it warned its people against panic, which was met with a run on banks in order to secure their savings.

Why is this important? Try this:

Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Sergei Storchak, announced his country is considering giving Belarus a loan to refinance its foreign debt. Yes, Russia. The same Russia that’s offering to bail out Greece and the same Russia that just partnered with Greece for that new Turkey pipeline. And by the way – they don’t need Europe or the US. They have their own banks. Remember when everyone said last year that BRICS wouldn’t be a competitor for our systems? They said BRICS needed “smaller” countries that wouldn’t betray the big daddies in the world? Greece is rather small. Just small enough, I’d say. And with the dollar rising, again, the potential for job losses in the U.S. along with the fact that Obama’s hell bent on distancing us from our allies, maybe BRICS is something we should pay attention to. What’s next? Puerto Rico?

ISIS

Did you know 10 Americans have been arrested for involvement with ISIS this month? All ten arrests happened right here in the U.S. That’s like…one American every three days in the month of June who were arrested on American soil for terroristic reasons.

Overtime Pay

So O & Co. is expected to announce sometime on Tuesday that he’s going to make overtime available for millions of Americans. That’s interesting because we already have laws that govern overtime pay for Americans. Could this have something to do with the number of illegal immigrants in this country? We’ll see. If that’s true, here’s a suggestion to Puerto Rico: jump from the Caribbean to Mexico. Go north and sooner or later, you’ll hit a border. Just tell the guys that you’re coming into this country with no documentation. They’ll hook you up (because they have to) and send you right where you need to go.

Donald Trump

We’ve complained forever about politicians who will walk two miles to tell a lie but won’t take two steps for the truth. Who would’ve thought Donald Trump would deliver that truth? You have to admit there’s something behind the ego, which is a surprise to most everyone. Considering I’m always bitching about lying politicians, I am totally loving this “in your face” approach.

“If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court. They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be.”

So, there it is. Six stand alone events – any number of them can coincide with the other and change everything. Imagine Donald Trump being elected because of his inability to bite his tongue when it comes to Obama announcing new rules on overtime. Imagine that – American business owners being told what to do. Last time I saw that, it was on an episode of Law & Order; except it was the mob forcing a small business owner to bend to his will.

I looked high and low for a clip of Tillie’s famous “All hell’s done broke loose” line. Couldn’t find it – but here’s the beautiful scene with Sidney Poitier and his father, played by Roy Glenn. Do yourself a favor: see the film!

This Crazy Week: Choose Carefully What Matters

I’d decided earlier this week to steer clear of some of the events that were really heating up on many political, legal and societal fronts. I’m still taking heat from a few of my previous posts, which is OK, but trust me – I stand by everything I say and write. The beauty of that is I live in a country that allows me to do that.

I had a couple of emails this morning, including one from a client, asking me when I intended to write about the evils of same sex marriage. It’s difficult to give the one sentence statement I want to give.

For me, it’s simple: live and let live. I don’t give a rat’s ass who’s cracking whom, who’s marrying whom or who’s getting a divorce. If you know me, you already know I’ve had two failed marriages. I’m hardly the one to take a stand either way on the beauties of marriage. But, there are a few things I can take a stand on because they do affect me.

Facebook is loaded with twisted scripture from the Bible, accusations that same sex marriage was allowed because Christians did not stand up and demand it not pass and promises that the world’s coming to an end any second now. I don’t know who’s going to burn in hell for their choices made in this life, but we’re all going to have to answer for all of our sins. I’ve said it before: I’ll do me, and you do you. I know I won’t have to answer for passing judgment and spreading hate regarding someone else’s sexual identification. If I believe that everything happens for a reason and what’s meant to be will be (and I do believe this), and that everything passes in God’s time, then how can anyone claim to know God’s reasons?

My point is: we’re divided enough in this nation. What’s dividing us are opinions. Nothing more. I’ve got a newsflash for you – we don’t get a say, not really, with the decisions being made on our behalf in this country. If our opinions mattered, we’d have a unified Congress. We hear the politicians griping about the illegal actions of this Administration, yet the most they do is threaten their political enemies…on social media, no less. How many times have we heard different politicians demanding impeachment procedures against someone outside their party? Daily, right? Yet nothing is ever done. They’re griping and listening to their constituents, yet they are also the ones who can make it happen. But what do we hear as their response? Crickets. We hear crickets.

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Rusty Weiss, Political Insider

We are divided in ways we shouldn’t. Why are we turning on each other when the ones making the wrong decisions are behind closed doors and on tables piled with cash? When did we decide it’s better to do war on Twitter and Facebook with each other than look to the root of the real problem? It’s not us against us; it should be us united and demanding answers. Instead, we show our fear with ridiculous posts on social media. Ask any psychologist: anger is often nothing more than fear. Once we realize that, things become clearer.

mississippiSo, back to my point: I won’t be posting on the evils or benefits of same sex marriage. I do not care. What I do care about, however, is the possibility of being told I can’t fly my state’s flag in Mississippi. I do care about being forced to buy insurance I cannot afford and I do care that there are actually people out there who want me to surrender my guns. I do care about Russia and Greece partnering on the Turkish pipeline (that’s happened, but we’ve not felt the repercussions of that yet. Oh, and by the way, pay attention to BRICS angle in the coming weeks and months). I do care about overhearing an oil man in a conference say, “Hell, a terrorist attack might not be so damn bad. At least it’ll drive oil prices up.” And I do care about the fact that we’ve already seen a shooting of a co-worker from an employee who’d just been laid off from a job in the oil sector in Houston. I care because it’s just beginning and it will affect me and you and anyone else in this nation. Who you get in bed with each night matters none to me. The last time I cared about someone getting in bed with someone else, I realized my then-husband was cheating. So no, I don’t care.

It’s all about priorities.

Flags, the Media and Southern Ghosts

Finally, an elected leader is speaking with a bit of clarity, determination and with no hesitation. Mississippi Governor Bryant has spoken and said the Confederate flag remains, even if every other elected official has cowered to the ridiculous calls for removal of our state’s flag. Before you fall into the typical “She’s a racist” response, at least give me the courtesy to explain a few things.

For years, Mississippi has been the go-to state for everything that’s wrong in this country. We’ve ranked low on surveys that paint a dark picture of “the worst of…” and we rank high on other surveys that many say should make uscapture-20150625-165605 all ashamed. The reality is, when you hear a Mississippian say, “leave us alone”, you can be sure it’s a collective suggestion based on an inability of any outsider to actually “get it” when it comes to why we do the things we do. Our declaration of, “You’re wrong” is always met with, “…but the media says…”

When Hurricane Katrina hit several years ago, people were astounded when Governor Haley Barbour stepped up to the plate, like a true leader, and did what had to be done. You see, he knew that to fall to the will of the federal government would have meant turning his state into the government’s whore. While the media bellyached about the injustices just west of us in Louisiana, Mississippians were quietly rebuilding. We prayed quietly and hoped quietly – and when it was all said and done, we rejoiced quietly. We knew first, it was the only way to get it right and second, it was just as well because it’s all we know anyway. We rely on faith, family and neighbors. And we’re good with that.

After Governor Barbour left office, Governor Bryant stepped up to the plate. He too has shown an amazing determination to not be a follower. He’s said no to Medicaid expansion, despite the pressure to fall in line. And just today, he’s said no to the media’s demand and others whose demands are far too shortsighted when it comes to the Confederate flag.

By the way – he and Barbour are the only two current/former governors who have had the courage to dismiss this ridiculous call for the flag’s removal.

For most of us, the Confederate flag does not raise images of a segregated south. That’s because most of us weren’t raised with the stories that the rest of the nation uses to beat us over the head. We know the dark tales, but those stories about the KKK, burning crosses and brutality against our fellow Mississippians are told with shame by our elders. Nothing prideful at all in those stories. We know the fear, we know the grief and we know the anger that brews in our hearts every time one of those stories are retold.

Just so we’re clear – and really, I’m not trying to antagonize anyone – but what exactly is it we should apologize for? Would an apology for the evils committed years before we were even born help? If so, then why have the decades since, filled with apologies, not appeased those who feel slighted? How long must anyone apologize for those brutalities committed by people we did not know?

I used to think of the United States as a powerful, unified force to be reckoned with. The world admired us and those who didn’t admire us, at least they feared us. When it became clear our own president was doing anything but ensuring we stand together, I thought to myself, “Well, we in the south stand together.” After I’ve seen so many do the politically correct thing for the sake of doing, well, the politically correct thing, I realize we’re in trouble. As long as we allow the past to dictate our present day and our future, we’re all screwed.

As I said, the Confederate flag means an entirely different thing to most of us. There’s not a single time spent on the river, drinking beer and eating crawfish that we don’t have the Confederate flag flying somewhere. It might be from the bed of a truck or it might be flying from a pole someone planted in the sand. For most of us in the south, it’s about living good and doing it while we’re young. It’s indicative of country music, sunburns, cookouts and falling in love with those we love, whether we’re riding horses or are on the sandbar. Under the sun. Under the moonlight. Some of the best times in my life have included that flag, even though it hadn’t occurred to me until recently. So all of those demanding change because it’s indicative of ties that bind too tightly, just know that for the rest of us, it’s about freedom and all that comes with a southern, even redneck, state of being.  And by the way – when y’all call us rednecks, you should know we’re flattered. That’s a compliment down here in Mississippi.

Really, how much longer is anyone going to fall in line behind a media’s ulterior motives? Aren’t y’all tired of it?

And if you’re interested, here’s part of a chapter that I opted not to include in a recent writing project. There’s not a writer I know who doesn’t have a hard drive filled with chapters of “Eh, maybe in another story”. This is one of those stories that I didn’t include, but it feels quite appropriate now. You should also know that I spoke with my mother about this today (it’s true, written from the perspective of fictional characters). She too remembers the American flag flying. The Confederate flag was not flying. As you’ll see, I should know. I was there.

And with that, Leslie kicks it off, “Hey – do you remember being forced into the floorboard in the back seat of the car when we lived on the coast? We couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time. “

After thinking for a minute, Pen realizes she hadn’t thought about that for years. At the time, the two sisters, huddled in the floorboards of that old Granada, were convinced they were being punished for some unknown crime committed moments before being ordered to “get down”.

“Yeah. Why are you bringing that up now?” Pen asked her older sister.

“Stay with me here. Do you remember me confronting Granny one night after one of those trips?”

Even as Leslie is asking the question, Pen is shaking her head, almost afraid to hear what’s about to be told to her, but knowing it’s coming anyway.

“I’m assuming that’s a rhetorical question,” Pen mumbles, to which Leslie rolls her eyes and says, “Yeah, whatever. Hush. This is serious.”

Leslie pauses, and then begins.

“OK, so one night, I asked Granny what we had did wrong to cause Mom to punish us. When she told me we hadn’t done anything wrong, I actually threw a fit and demanded to know why we weren’t allowed to go trick or treating.” Pen was growing more confused with each word her sister was rapidly unloading.

“Wait, what? How would Granny know?”

“Because she was usually with us us…remember? It was us, Mom and Granny most nights.” Leslie pauses, hoping her sister’s memory would return minus any further clarifications.

Still with a blank look, Pen says, “I don’t know, Leslie.”

And with a roll of her eyes, Leslie returns to her story, figuring Pen would catch up.

“Just listen. One night, I caught a glimpse of a big fire and a bunch of people dressed in costumes. It looked like a party. The way I saw it, we were either being punished for misbehaving or Mom was trying to make sure we didn’t find out it was Halloween because she didn’t want to do the whole trick or treating thing.”

Pen is staring at her sister tell a story that she was a part of, but feeling more of an outsider. She was on the outside, looking in. Why hadn’t Leslie told her that their mother was avoiding Halloween, she wondered? Before she can say anything and further distract them from the story, Leslie quickly pushes her hair, complete with pink icing, behind her ear and continues. 

“Granny got a kick out of it, which only made it worse for me. I was then convinced that not only was Mom plotting against our opportunity for candy loot, but Granny was in on the deal too.”

Standing up, Leslie moves toward the oven to pull the cakes out.  

“So, anyway, do you have any idea what that was?”

“No. What was it?”

“It was a KKK meeting!”

“Oh my God! Are you serious? How does…I mean, why…” she trails off, uncertain of what to ask.

“Well, remember, it was the late 60s, early 70s and there was still a lot of hatred, especially in that little Podunk town. It just so happened that Mom and Granny’s Bingo nights were sometimes held on the same nights those meetings took place. And because there was only one way in, we had to drive past them. Mom didn’t want us to see that.”

“Oh my God. How did we not know that?”

“Well, for starters, we were kids. And probably, too, I guess Mom didn’t want us to see what hate looks like when we were just beginning to live our lives. She probably was afraid of gunshots, too and felt like she could protect our little psyches and our physical bodies by insisting we get down into the floorboard.”

“Our little psyches,” Pen interrupted. “You’re such a nerd.”

“Yes, brat…our little psyches.”

The two sisters turned their attention to the cake layers, neither speaking but each lost in their own thoughts as they tried to understand the mindset of people, some of whom were likely their neighbors, ones who attended the same church they had attended for years and maybe even ones who opened the doors to their homes for them, smiling and excited to fill their bags with Tootsie Rolls and Chiclets and candy cigarettes when it really was Halloween. 

Something startles Pen, who’s suddenly realized everything makes sense, even when it doesn’t, “Wait. Remember that sign above that laundry mat? The one across from the grocery store that was wiped out one of the hurricanes?”

Knowing what she’s about to ask, Leslie answers, “Yeah. That ‘whites only’ sign had nothing to do with separating laundry.” Leslie had asked all those years ago what the sign meant, only to hear their mother mumble to herself, “And I was so happy when she began reading…”

“That sign meant no one but white people,” Pen said, more as a declaration than a question. “My God, Mom must have felt like she always had to be a step ahead. It was all around us, wasn’t it? I mean, she…I…God, Leslie! How did we not know all of this? I mean, how did we…,” she trails off, unsure of what to ask. Suddenly, the memories come flooding back and the look on her face tells Leslie that neither will ever look at their childhood in the same light again.

A couple minutes later, Pen says softly, without looking up from her task of icing the cake, “Was it as bad as they say it was?”

Leslie knows what she’s asking and while she doesn’t have proof of her answer, she knows it to be true. “Yeah, I guess it was. I figure Mom wouldn’t go to those kinds of lengths to protect us if it wasn’t. I mean, passing those meetings, held right out in the public with no fear of the police kind of tells the tale, right?”

“Yeah. I guess. How do you know there was no fear of the police?” Pen asks, even though she senses it’s probably another one of those questions she should not have asked.

Taking a deep breath and never looking up from the cake, which has become a very interesting one based on the fact both are determined to keep their eyes trained on it instead of each other during this conversation, Leslie says, “Because that’s why I thought it was Halloween. The ones dressed in white, I thought were supposed to be ghost costumes. And when I saw the cops, I thought they were costumes too,” she says quietly. She doesn’t finish her thought. She knew she didn’t have to.

In an even quieter voice, and dropping her spatula into the now-empty bowl of icing, Pen says, “Yeah. Ghosts.”

For a split second, when Leslie looks up, she sees that same little tomboy sister who was mischievous and mean and sweet and hopeful. In that split second, she realized that must have been what their mother and grandmother had felt every moment of every day; an unbridled determination to shield them from all that was wrong and evil and to give them both a chance of finding faith in people, minus the jaded images from a segregated south.

One last thing: when the old man who “hosted” these events finally died, he took with him much of that hate. I never remember another event like this. Ever.

 

The Deeper and Far More Disturbing Truths about Guns and Mass Shootings

I’ve managed to steer clear of social media and the ongoing debates about flags and guns this week. As my mom always says, “Don’t let your bulldog mouth overload your jaybird ass”. Yeah…she really says that. And she also knows that she raised my sister and me to make sure anything we do say is loud and clear – whether it’s right or wrong. So, right or wrong (but definitely right), here goes…

There will never be a time when this country is rid of every non-law enforcement gun. Ever. It’ll never happen – and that’s the way it should be. Aside from the Constitutional arguments many are making, the truth is you can’t unring a bell. These ideas for stronger background checks and ensuring guns don’t land in the wrong hands are absurd. Sure, there are many who will gladly hand over every firearm they own to the government – and then there are those who will dare to stand and say to that same government, “Over my dead body.”

Despite the common denominator in so many of these shooters’ lives, people still focus on the guns they used to devastate other lives. When are we going to wake up and acknowledge the real root of the problem? I think the gun capture-20150624-193346argument is safer than the truth, but really, how much longer are we going to keep the focus on anything but the real problem?

You can’t put kids on psychotropic drugs, knowing the potential for far worse problems – including murder and suicide – and then demand the rest of the country to fall in line behind some ridiculous “remove all guns” campaign.

There was a time when these problems did not exist. It was before, of course, the introduction of dangerous and powerful chemicals for our children as a way of “fixing” them.

Let’s lay everything aside for just a minute and consider these facts:

In the US, the use of Ritalin and other stimulants commonly prescribed for ADHD increased in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. By 1990, Ritalin sales in the United States increased 500 percent. Use of Ritalin and the other commonly prescribed psychotropic have increased every year since.

After the Charleston shooting last week, Obama wasted no time using it as further justification in his anti-gun nonsense.

Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. … We as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.

He’s right; this type of mass violence isn’t occurring as often in other countries. Maybe this is why:

The United Nations reports that the US produces and consumes as much as 85 percent of the world’s production of Ritalin.

Don’t get hung up on the “it’s just Ritalin” (Methylphenidate) argument – the problems trace right back to the collective go-to antipsychotic drugs prescribed to our kids today, including Adderall, Concerta, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Risperdal, Seroquel, Abilify, Klonopin (yes, there are Klonopin prescriptions being written for kids), Xanax, Ativan. By the way, we have more than one million kids younger than 5 who are taking these drugs, the same ones that include:

The fact is, most juvenile shooters are white males. There are tons of statistics and studies that support this. Now consider this:

Minority children were less likely than white children to receive an ADHD diagnosis. With time-invariant and -varying confounding factors statistically controlled the odds of ADHD diagnosis for African Americans, Hispanics, and children of other races/ethnicities were 69%, 50% and 46% lower, respectively, than for whites. (Source).

And here’s a truth for you:

Gun ownership in the U.S is actually down. So now what? At some point, we, as Americans, will have to rethink the evil common denominators in these types of mass shootings. How much longer can we continue down this path, with little, if any, justification for laying the blame squarely on the gun debate?

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How did we go from a nation that treated gun ownership as one of those rights to be treasured to one that has seen people blame firearms for all of the problems of today’s troubled young people? How is it we had a total of two shootings between 1950 and 1959 by two people younger than 21 to the more than 15 so far this year alone? Some days, there are actually two shootings occurring simultaneously by people younger than 21 in this country:

On May 12, 2015, an 18 year old student shot himself in his school’s breezeway in Tempe, AZ. At the same time, in Jacksonville, a 16 year old kid was shooting bullets into a school bus. He hit two students.

That whole 2nd Amendment argument simply doesn’t measure up, especially considering fewer Americans own guns today. The only – THE ONLY – consistency is the number of kids who are taking prescriptions for depression, attention deficit and other mental illnesses is growing right along with the number of shootings in this country. If these shootings are primarily committed by young, white males and at the same time, it’s also young, white males who are being prescribed these drugs in higher numbers, why is the media insisting on ignoring that? Where are the ethical doctors who are willing to stand up and say, “Oh, hey…y’all might want to consider…”

That’s it. The gun argument does not support the numbers. It just doesn’t.