The Dormant Period is Over – the World is Watching

Ever since the word “tomahawks” began trending on Twitter, there’s been a lot of attention focused on world leaders and their responses to the way those tomahawks were used last week by the Trump Administration in a strike against Syria. No one wants to be an alarmist, but these days have much uncertainty attached to them. We’re seeing “potential ways” that the Trump Administration is considering in how we might handle the growing number of nations that are proactively situating themselves in regions of the world that could spell trouble for our people. Many of these problems have laid dormant for years. Now, though, President Trump’s decision to take out what is now being described as a fifth of Syria’s air force is coming with more than a few serious, though not wholly unexpected, repercussions.

You have to wonder while we’re busy keeping up with a giraffe’s gestation period and comparing the number of golf outings of current and past presidents, what are countries like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Syria doing? You can believe one thing – these countries and their people do not care about April the giraffe.

NASDAQ took a hit today when it was announced China had sent 150k troops to the border between North and South Korea. Kim Jong-un may not be able to improve his country’s weapons, but China has his back. And the reason for China deploying “humanitarian aid” to the border? It doesn’t trust the unpredictable Trump Administration and its potential for further acts against Syria and Russia. So much for that “tremendous” new friendship between Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping.

Here’s why that’s worrisome – in 2015, I wrote that China had conducted its final testing on what had been described as the “most dangerous nuclear weapon developed to date”. Since then, we’ve seen just how powerful this weapon is and the certainty in its ability to strike the U.S. in 30 minutes. And speaking of U.S. strikes…

It’s no secret that Russia and China have conducted naval drills in the East Sea for years – but we also know that both the east and west U.S. coasts have been visited by both countries and their respective militaries. Russia was spotted as recently as a month ago near Georgia’s coast and China’s naval ships entered U.S. waters near Alaska at least once.

When these two countries aren’t skirting the U.S. coastlines, they’re partnering with one another in mutually profitable ways. Think oil prices are hokey now? We’ve seen nothing in terms of how powerful the $400 billion gas deal between Russia and China can affect global oil prices – and if they’re partnering against the U.S., it’s an entirely new set of rules. Saudi will be the least of our oil worries – even with its perfected fracking efforts.

All of this taken on its own may not seem foreboding, but when you consider the current global climate and the uncertainty factors that come with a very young Trump Administration, there’s merit for sleepless nights that many haven’t experienced since the election.

A growing number of people are coming around and are no longer convinced that Russia had anything to do with hacking the presidential election. What isn’t in question is Russia’s access to our national grids. It’s had that access for years (I’ve been writing about it since early 2015). This is the kind of access that can wipe out our “complex industrial operations like oil and gas pipelines, power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, wind turbines and even some nuclear plants.” This is just one more reason President Trump’s hell-bent mentality of kicking the oil pipelines into high gear the minute he took office might not have been the best way to spend that minute. While this government link changes from time to time, it does provide the information associated with the malware. For a data sheet with more specifics regarding Russian manipulation, a copy can be found on the Cyberx Labs site.

But what about Iran? Its Fateh 313 series might be touted as a short range ballistic missile, but its accuracy is considered “pinpoint”. It replied quickly after the tomahawks were fired last week, stating it was prepared to use “lethal force”, alongside Russia, if the U.S. acts again.

Let’s not forget: In December 2015, as a Russian ship left an Iranian port with all of Iran’s enriched uranium “to hold”, Secretary of State John Kerry called it one of the most important and “significant steps Iran has taken toward fulfilling its commitment.” This was the political version of “hold my beer”, which is what “friends” say to one another all the time.

And this brings us to Syria. What does al Assad have to say about the U.S. strikes? There’s no statement I could find. And why would he? He has China and Iran and North Korea and Russia doing his bidding for him.

Do these facts and concerns have any more importance than April the giraffe’s looming addition to her family? The fact that anyone is wondering is alarming.

RIP, Gas and Oil Industry

It’s been a brutal year for the energy sector, specifically those who make their money in the gas and oil industries. With a couple of weeks left in this year, it could get much worse. In fact, it likely will.

The Paris Climate Agreement will no doubt be one of the most earth-shattering events, if not the most earth-shattering event, in our lifetime. No pun intended. It’s not for the reasons most think though. It’s about so much more than a hashtag and world governments tweeting how they’ve saved the earth. In fact, it has very little to do with those grand gestures, much as they are, but rather, it comes down to what’s going on already, the timing and the folks most affected by the agreement.  In fact, for most of us, it won’t mean much of a difference at all. Seriously, I can’t think of a single way that the climate (in the context it’s used today) affects everyday life. Besides, even if I could, there are many who’d argue my way of thinking was wrong. That’s what it is for most of us. Few even bother because everyone is just so sure of what they believe. You can’t change the mind of one who insists the earth is warming no more than you can change the mind of someone who thinks it’s ridiculous silliness. Count me among the latter.

But…ask someone whose bank account is affected. Now that’s an interesting debate!

Just to get an idea of what lies ahead, here are some of the quotes from the past hour or so since the agreement was announced:

Bill McKibben, Co-founder 350.org:

“Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon…Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry.”

May Boeve, Executive Director 350.org:

“This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.

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Believe me when I say it – there’s not a single oil executive who’s not ready to come unglued.

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I’ve said all year that the fourth quarter was going to be brutal. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that much. Even if the oil industry wasn’t limping along, there was one dynamic that many denied, but was as obvious as a pimple on a 16 year old homecoming queen’s nose: Obama was hellbent on ensuring climate change comes full circle while he’s still in office. And why not? He’s annihilated everything else he’s touched. It makes sense that he’d bet his Nobel Peace Prize on forcing climate change. He’s even taking complete credit for it:

Today, the American people can be proud — because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership.

You can read his statement in its entirety here.

So where does that leave gas and oil? Well, considering the losses in recent weeks, especially after the recent OPEC meeting, things are looking as dark as the oil out of the ground. But let’s start with the MLPs. Specifically, let’s start with the MLP that is no longer an MLP. Kinder Morgan was the master limited partnership darling. Up until hours before the giant announced it was cutting its dividends by a whopping 75%, there were folks still singing its praises, certain the moon would fall from the sky before the dividends would be cut. Y’all watch out for that falling moon.

It’s now obvious that the MLPs are indeed exposed to the same threats as any other company in the sector. The threats just appear differently. It’s because everything is so intertwined. But a -42% YTD? That’s worrisome.

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Then, we had the humongous and inexplicable 2 million units of Energy Transfer Equity, valued at more than $34 million, that was bought by the four head honchoes this week. The company’s CEO, Kelcy Warren, bought the vast majority – $32 million. It helped nothing. We’re talking double digit losses in a single day:

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This article from Brian over at Valuentum Securities hits on Friday. There are more than a few unhappy folks. Someone’s lying. If nothing else, download the 10Q and run your own math. If you have money in ETE, you have an obligation to know what’s going on with it.

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Also last week, we learned there’s a good chance (so we’ve been told) that despite what was said weeks ago – export bans were in place for the long haul – there’s now a possibility that those bans might be lifted. Wonderful news, right? Except for the fact that the Paris Climate Deal pretty much makes it moot.

Well, at least we still have big oil, right? Maybe not. They’re all cutting their 2016 budgets – layoffs and CAPEX. The cuts are big. Chevron especially is taking a hard hit.

Think shale’s the answer? Nah. Not even close. We’re not the only ones fracking. It’s still expensive, despite the advances and while all of this drilling’s been done, with plenty of oil waiting to be pulled from Mother Earth, the race is on to see what happens first: the companies go bankrupt (several have already filed) or the need for the oil materializes. We have a huge glut with barges filling up by the hour.

It’s doubtful the Saudis planned it this way, but the reality is if companies begin fracking again, and considering they’ve found faster ways of accomplishing it, it’s going to run the supply right back up, which starts the cycle again: too much supply, not enough demand.

And finally – let’s not forget the politics. Obama now has to return to the good ol’ United States of America and face the politicians who rely on the oil and gas industries to pad their pockets with dirty money.

Let’s be clear: it’s a slow dance and we are most certainly not leading it.

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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!

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.

 

Lies and Excuses: Duggars and Defenders: Part II

This is Part II of what was initially supposed to be a single post. As I researched and began documenting different things for what I thought would be a blog post on the Duggar scandal, I realized how big it had become. Part I can be found here.

As people began taking sides, it was mind-numbing to consider how many were actually siding with Josh Duggar and his parents. They did this under the guise of Christianity and at the cost of the victims. The victims, from their own interview, haven’t recognized the deeper truths. Maybe they never will. In a way, maybe it’s better. Mostly, many of their decisions, beliefs and problems will be rooted in the molestation and they are woefully unprepared. They just don’t know it yet. It’s who came to the defense of Josh Duggar and his parents that resulted in the collective incredulous gasp. Let’s just say the word “hypocrite” has taken on new meaning.

There are people raising ten different kinds of hell about the sins of Kaitlyn Jenner in one breath and in the next, insisting what happened in this family is typical familial dynamics. I’ve heard everything from, “They were all kids,” to “My God, it’s not like he raped them”. This is the kind of ignorance that keeps molestation in the cold, dark corner of human nature. This is exactly why victims are afraid to speak out and it’s exactly why the real numbers of molestation cases can never be accurate.

The Politics

Of course, it was just a matter of time before Sarah Palin piped in. This woman…I swear, she used to have a solid mindset. She was tough, she made sense and she had no concept of biting her tongue. Her approach to this scandal? To release a ridiculous rant against some Hollywood twit through her daughter’s blog. It’s just…bizarre. From her Facebook post verbatim:

HEY LENA, WHY NOT LAUGH OFF EVERYONE’S SEXUAL “EXPERIMENTS” AS YOU HAUGHTILY ENJOY REWARDS FOR YOUR OWN PERVERSION? YOU PEDOPHILE, YOU

Is she saying what Josh Duggar did was little more than “sexual experiments”? She continues:

Radical liberals in media who have total control over public narratives are disgusting hypocrites, so says my daughter.

It’s the classic “overlook the problem and then turn the tables” mentality.

Then:

I’m not defending the Duggar boy’s obvious wrongdoing over a decade ago. The main victim in any story like this isn’t the perpetrator, it’s the innocent ones so harmfully affected.

The Duggar boy’s obvious wrongdoing. Let’s be blunt, shall we? How about the “Duggar boy’s felonious acts”?  Oh, and it was over a decade ago, so what? No harm, no foul? And by the way, he is not the victim – “main” or otherwise in this story.

Next, she targets the law enforcement:

The shocking, unethical leak of a private, legally protected counseling document by a politically motivated law enforcement official. Media – time to go after her or him for illegalities and for destroying the public’s trust in law enforcement.

And she calls on the media to do the right thing. Really? The media? This is the most distrusted segment in American culture today. Oh, that’s right…she DOES know how twisted the media is, but hey, whatever works, right? Her next line:

The media’s hell-bent mission to go after the entire Duggar family for one member’s wrongdoing, while giving a total pass to perverted actions of someone like Lena Dunham – or any other leftwinger celeb caught doing awful things. Remember reports of the pedophile billionaire our former democrat president has been friends with and hung out with on the pedophile’s “orgy island” full of underage girls?

By the way, as for the “shocking” and “unethical” leak of private, legally protected documents, no one broke the law. (Don’t forget – Josh Duggar wasn’t concerned about legally protecting his victims: he sued the state in 2007). Both Springdale and Washington Counties in Arkansas were presented with a FOI notice. The information was not sealed, so they had to release it. And why wasn’t it sealed? The parents did not report it until AFTER the statute of limitations run out and after it was too late for their son to be held accountable. Also, Josh Duggar, by then, was an adult, so he had no right to expect the same privacy as minors. If she’s that pissed about this becoming public, she should take it up with Jim and Michelle Duggar.

And, like mother, like daughter, Bristol sums it up in a way that’s more pleasant to her senses:

Josh Duggar touched a sleeping girls breast – a terrible thing to go.

Howard Kurtz wasted no time, either. After the first part of the interview aired last week, he and Kelly had a nice little chat that began with Kelly asking him, “Why must it go to the ‘red-blue place all the time?”

He replied, “Because we live in such a polarized media culture that that becomes more important than anything else.”

Of course. Except the ones who jumped on the Duggar bandwagon were conservative politicians, Fox News pundits – and even one who was, at one time, both. Mike Huckabee left Fox News to throw his hat into the presidential wannabe ring. He should have stayed right where he was.

Ultimately, whatever happens has probably already happened. This was big news a few days ago; today, not so much. We’ve moved on to other matters, including new police brutality videos, the G7 summit and whatever else it is the media thinks we should know. For many, myself included, it’s time to rethink what it is I know about the political repercussions over the controversial issues. I’m fine with that. I can do that. I’m just beginning to wonder how to choose, yet again, between the worse of many evils.

Lies and Excuses: Duggars and Defenders: Part I

As I researched and began documenting different things for what I thought would be a blog post on the Duggar scandal, I realized how big it had become. Because of that, I’m breaking it down into two parts. I’ll publish Part II on Monday. It focuses on the media backlash and the insanity of both Conservatives and the media. Part I, below, focuses on the recent Duggar interviews.

Many of us watched the Megyn Kelly interview with the Duggar family over the past several days. For those of us who’d hoped they’d be asked the tough questions by Kelly, who’s known for holding interviewees’ feet to the fire, those viewers were both disappointed and disgusted. Not surprisingly, the majority of viewers, many in the media and of course, the Twitter court (myself included), promptly called “foul”.  As is the case with sexual assault, molestation and/or rape – there’s always a “Paul Harvey”…the rest of the story.

As the parents of this man continue to sing his praises and insist he’s the victim, there are a few things that Kelly and the family’s other supporters have conveniently overlooked. Actually, what’s been overlooked or dismissed just might be the worst part of this entire episode.

From the sleeping arrangements that just don’t add up to the mind-boggling defenses of Josh Duggar from Kelly, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (who definitely blew any shot he had to hell and back with his support of Josh Duggar) and now, Sarah Palin, many are shocked and are wondering if maybe the entire conservative movement is worth the cost others will pay. What makes this worse is that at my core, I’m as Republican and conservative as they come; and now I’m rethinking everything I thought I knew.

Sleeping Arrangements

In 2002, the Duggar family had 13 children: 5 girls, 8 boys. They lived in a 2000 sq. ft. home with three bedrooms. The parents had one bedroom. (Remember, they didn’t move into their 7,000 sq. ft. home until January 2006). Michelle Duggar stated during the interview that the five daughters shared two bedrooms, which left the parents with the other bedroom. (The transcript is here).

KELLY: The girls all slept together?

M. DUGGAR: Hm-mm.

J.B. DUGGAR: Yes. The girls had two bedrooms at the time.

KELLY: How many girls are we talking about?

J.B. DUGGAR: We had five girls at the time.

This left the 8 boys. Maybe the living room turned into a sleepover room at bedtime? As kids, most of us would have loved the idea of “camping out” in the living room. Jim Bob said that after his son came to him in March 2002, he and his wife:

And so we went, and the first thing was to protect the girls.

DUGGAR: Well, we definitely put safeguards in our home.

Let’s jump ahead to July, 2002 – four months after the first disclosure:

So, we had safeguards that protected them from that. But there was another incident where — two different incidents where the girls were, like, laying on the couch, and it was — he had touched, like, over the couch and actually touched their breast while they were asleep.

According to the interview with one of the family victims, the separation of boys and girls did not occur until after Josh returned from Little Rock, where he went to be “counseled” in the spring/summer of 2003. People who are pointing to the layout of the family home are forgetting that new home was not their family home in 2002 and 2003. Three bedrooms between 15 people is challenging and why anyone is surprised by the fact that many of the kids slept on sofas clearly has never had a teenager who loves sleepovers.

The shocking part is that the girls were not as “protected” as Jim Bob said and the “safeguards” mentioned by Michelle were, well, non-existent.

I’ll Sue

Next, everyone even remotely associated with this case insists Josh became humble and sought forgiveness, which quickly was given. He wanted to move forward and his parents felt it was part of the past. The case that was opened by Arkansas police went away (whether it’s because of statutes expiring or other reasons). Ah, but then it was reopened. Josh Duggar actually had the audacity to sue the Department of Human Services for investigating him. Whatever happened with that case couldn’t have been good for the family. Most Arkansas DHS investigators say it was likely that instead of winning a ridiculous lawsuit, it brought more pressure onto the family, up to and including his being labeled an “in home offender”. If that’s true, DHS then really became involved because they’re obligated to conduct investigations at different intervals, something that Duggar’s lawsuit did not intend.

The fact that the Duggars are mum (and the fact that Kelly didn’t ask about it) suggests there is no happy ending from that avenue over poor, victimized Josh.

Long Term Repercussions of the REAL Victims

Here’s the greater problem, though. Fox News quickly paraded a number of experts who dismissed the potential for bigger problems down the road when it comes to these young women. They are indeed following their parents’ lead, which is admirable and frankly, something most kids don’t feel the need to do today. The parents have divided loyalties – again, it makes sense. No parent wants to be in the position that they’re in. I think, though, they are so deeply interwoven with their religious beliefs, they’re missing huge red flags. While they’re busy shoring up their religion, they’re not thinking about the faith of these young women and how they will likely struggle with that faith. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), childhood sexual abuse survivors face a number of potential problems that will plague them throughout life.

  • There often exists a lack of trust that sometimes doesn’t become obvious until years later. For some, the inability to trust is put into place in the moment of the assault and never goes away.
  • They’re twice as likely to be raped as an adult.
  • They suffer from flashbacks – the scent of a cereal, for example that they equate with the assault. It might have been what the victim had for breakfast the next morning. It stays with children and anytime the scent of it hits them, they’re right back in that moment.
  • Eating disorders are common.
  • Depression and low self-esteem is common as well.
  • A sense that they don’t have control over their lives.

For Megyn Kelly and Fox News to provide a gracious, kind and quite comfortable platform for these parents is irresponsible. By doing so, this tells the victims that anything negative they’re feeling is not justified. Hell, if the supporters are these types of globally recognized names and images, what do the victims know, right?

Soon, though, there were other voices that quickly barreled into the conversation and in ways that are ridiculous and self-serving. Enter Sarah Palin.

I’ll post the remainder of this piece on Monday. Disagree with anything I’ve written? Let me know – leave a comment or drop me a line at donna@donna-mcgill.com.

The One Thing it Always Comes Back to

capture-20150329-204841Weeks ago, people were dismissing the possibility of the real reason behind the complicated nuclear talks with Iran. No one quite believed it was as much about oil as it was nukes. But let’s be honest – the U.S. can annihilate Iran in a Heaven’s heartbeat – no nukes required. We have the best military in the world – the best. The truth is, this entire Iran nuclear nonsense has been going on far longer than many realize. In fact, this little gem from the National Security Archive is like a page ripped from today:

U.S.-Iran Nuclear Negotiations in 1970s Featured Shah’s Nationalism and U.S. Weapons Worries

You can see the actual DoD unclassified document here.

It’s from the mid-1970s, declassified in 2009. No, seriously, I promise – the mid-70s. Don’t feel bad if you get bored reading it because it’s so similar to what we’re seeing today, with a few distinctions. Some of the language is verbatim. Note too that there are links to more than this one document on the NSA page, all having to do with Iran’s need/desire/demand for nuclear weapons. More importantly, it’s indicative of just how long this nice little waltz has been going on, especially between the U.S. and Iran.

Keep in mind, too, it goes even further back, but the Carter Administration is especially notable for a particularly dark time in American and Iranian relations, which is why I focused on this time period.

So, then, if this isn’t a new song and dance, why the strong focus right now? Remember, we can drop kick Iran in two seconds. It comes back to oil. It always comes back to oil.

The big oil companies have been storing the surplus of oil in huge barges, keeping it safe, ready to sell it at higher prices once the market rebounds. This is one reason why we didn’t hear much complaining from the big players early on, when the price of oil began its freefall. I don’t think anyone believed it would continue for as long as it did. The U.S. has placed sanctions on what seems like the entire world, so it’s not like these oil conglomerates were worried about Iranian oil (or anyone else for that matter). They, along with the Obama Administration, thought they could wait out the OPEC stubbornness. And then Iran popped up.

Turns out, Iran has its own surplus stored in its own barges. They’ve been hoarding their oil ever since we put sanctions on them a few years ago, just waiting for the golden opportunity to say, “Hey, U,S., lift those sanctions and buy our oil.” The U.S. is dealing with job losses in energy – with more to follow and Obama has, frankly, alienated nearly every ally we have, not to mention his remarkable failure as this nation’s leader. Iran knows it may not get other countries on its side, but having our allies turn their backs on us? That works out beautifully, even if it was unintentional. Here are a few of those Obama failures:

Chechen leader threatens to send weapons to Mexico if U.S. arms Ukraine Fox News

Obama to ‘reassess’ Israel relationship CNN

Barack Obama, the Iranian Candidate Washington Times

Obama-Netanyahu Rift Threatens US-Israel Bond Defense News

Yemen crisis threatens Obama Iran nuclear talks, further clouds Middle East policy Washington Times

So, we have PM Netanyahu wondering why Obama declassified his country’s documents, we have James Jeffrey, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and was a top national security aide in the George W. Bush White House, exclaiming “We’re in a goddamn free fall here,” in reference to the U.S. and the collective Middle East and we have the rest of our allies, including the UK, Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands joining China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the past two days alone. In fact, the media in the UK says it like this: US isolated as Australia and Russia join China’s development bank.

Did I leave any allies out?

Meanwhile, we have the Republicans who are so angry and worried about the oil crisis that comes if Obama lifts Iran’s oil sanctions, they’re not even considering the big picture and we have Obama who’s in his own world that makes sense only to him. Remember, 47 Republican leaders sent Iran that nice little love letter a few weeks ago.

And, then, of course – there’s Russia.

But speaking of the oil – because again, it always comes back to the oil – here’s what Miswin Mahesh, an analyst at Barclays in London told Bloomberg a few hours ago:

“The first wave to look out for when these sanctions are removed is that stored oil coming back into the market”

He’s referring to the Iranian oil, of course.

And when all of the dust settles, when all of the feelings have been hurt, the promises have been broken and the truths come out, where do you think that leaves Americans? What do you think that does for an already-rickety economy? How will the Obama Administration explain, first, that it’s been doctoring the unemployment numbers, and second, how will it explain to the thousands more in the collective energy sector, why they no longer have jobs in an industry that should have been a sure thing? Because even after then, the truth remains: This is not about Iran’s nuclear dream; it’s about oil.