Friday, December 16, 2016

How do we know that the DNC hack was directed by Russian President Putin?

 The US intelligence agencies have asked the American people to trust them, that they know that Russian Federation President Putin personally directed hackers to help Donald Trump defeat Secretary Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.  

    Well, intelligence agencies, I have the greatest respect for your capabilities and your people.   
    But I also know you made serious errors in recommending that the US invade Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein from creating Weapons of Mass Destruction, and we got into a war we really didn't need.  Now President Obama is pledging retalliation.  So pardon me for wanting to ask a few questions before we get into a squabble with the Number 2 superpower in the world, okay?
    First let's be clear.  The most important claim is that President Putin ordered Russian Intelligence Agencies to deliberately release emails that were damaging to Secretary Clinton.
     I know that everybody is hacking everybody. That is not the point.  We know that everyone is hacking everyone else.  Definitely the Russians want to hack out emails, and I'm also quite sure that we have out own hackers trying to get into various email systems around the world.  Everyone does it.  The Chinese, British, French, Germans, not to mention all the independent computer geniuses that hack just because they think it is fun, or the tabloid press that wants to sell news.  I had my credit card hacked last month.  But that doesn't prove that President Putin did it to influence an election.  Everybody hacks, so that is not any kind of great top secret discovery.  
     Certainly the real question should be how many people were hacking the DNC or government agencies.  It would be astonishing if it was only one group.  I would think that 10 different individuals or groups, with varying skill, try their hand at penetrating secure computer networks.  
     You say that the attack on DNC was so brilliantly conceived that (1) only a professional national intelligence agency could have done it, and that (2) permission of President Putin would have to have been required.  
     Now, the actual breech at DNC occurred from fake emails like the one below, designed to scare witless DNC officials into going onto a fake website and revealing their password to the hacker. Then the hacker tried the same password on other email sites, and sure enough some people were dumb enough to use the same password for multiple accounts. That's it?  This phishing email?  That's the thing that is so brilliant that only Russian Intelligence could create it?    

This "phishing attack" was apparently used to get gullible DNC officials to go to a fake gmail site and change their passwords. That' it? Is this really so sophisticated that only President Putin could have ordered it??

It's not relevant whether there were other agencies working on the same problem with more insidious cyber weapons. The point is that the one that succeeded--the one from which all the emails were downloaded to Mr. Julian Assange and Wikileaks to blab tg the world--was pathetically simple.
I don't think that the Russian SVR would sent all of its hard-earned treasures to Wikileaks.  They usually operate secretly, don't they?  They would like to keep mining the intelligence, rather than informing their victims of what they have so that they can take steps to close the leaks.   I would guess that if the DNC really is so susceptible to phishing attackes, they must have been hacked several times.  Who knows how many hackers around the world have a souvenir from  the Democrats, not to mention government agencies. Just because there is extensive hacking around the world, that does not prove that everyone is united and working for President Putin as their commander.  

The whole idea that Putin then sends his best stuff to Julian Assange to put on his Wikileaks website strikes me as very odd.  Why does he do that? Does Assange command such great power that Putin is actually an employee of Wikileaks?  
   If it was really the Russin intel services, why not just send a bunch of anonymous emails to the major news outlets?

In fact, I would guess that the SVR has an even larger stash of emails that they are not telling about, and probably several agencies around the world have stashes of stuff collected from Americans who use sloppy practices.   It's not that they try to collect information.  We knew that.  It's not that hacking is anything new or that it has never worked before.

The issue is that President Putin supposedly ordered his intelligence agencies to turn over its stash to Wikileaks, and that he was trying to change the outcome of the election to favor Donald Trump,  It is not not not important that lots of people are hacking each other with some degree of success and varying levels of sophisitication.  And there is NO reason to suspect that only one entity was hacking the DNC.
The "evidence" cited by the press is that a lot of intelligence professionals believe it.   But that's not evidence, it just means that it is plausible. A lot of people also believed that the President has no birth certificate, but that doesn't make it true.  I wouldn't be shy about confronting Russia, but I would want hard evidence before betting into a confrontation with Russia. Someone's gut feel is not enought.

Yes, President Putin doesn't like Secretary Clinton.  Well, imagine that.  But a  lot of people don't like her.  Proof that he hates her guts is not proof that he was attempting to manipulate the American election.

Yes, President-elect Trump is a witless dolt who insults the intelligence agencies.  That doesn't mean he's wrong in this case.

Yes the hackers concentrated on Secretary Clinton and the Democrats instead of 50-50 between the Democrats and Republicans.  But so did American tabloids and fake news outlets.  Rightly or wrongly, there was a huge market for false news about our former Secretary this year.  So that's not enough.

Yes the Republicans probably deserve to be the subject of conspiracy theories, after having made up so many whoppers about President Obama.  But that is not enough reason to want to pick a fight with Russia.

A hacker named Guccifer 2.0 claimed to have been the one to hack Secretary Clinton and that he sent the emails to Julian Assange to use against Secretary Clinton.

American intellience tells me not to believe that, that Guccifer 2.0 must be a cover for a huge intelligence agency, like the Russian SVR.  Okay, but can we say that there are no individual hackers out there who can create phishing attacks?  Nobody who would want to sell or give information to Wikileaks?  That only one agency at a time hacks the DNC?  Is that something they do to make it simpler for intel analysts?

Well, I've asked a lot of questions.  I hope they are the right ones.  And maybe the agencies have some great answers.  I hope so.  But I think if we are going to be led into a new cold war, I want to make very sure that he have not misunderstood a tense situation.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Breakfast at Tiffany's Returns to the Silver Screen

Hi, I'm Audrey Hepburn, and I dare you to not fall in love with me!

Breakfast at Tiffany's appeared on the big screen this Sunday November 27.  My Mom was a big fan of Audrey's, and I had never seen Audrey Hepburn on the big screen before. Somehow it is more special to see the movie stars in a larger-than-life setting as it was originally intended in 1961.  

I love this movie simply because of Audrey Hepburn.  She succeeds in winning my heart (and evidently much of America's) despite the relatively blah supporting cast and a script that lacked believability and authenticity.  

The movie is based on a novella by the great Truman Capote.  But based on the commentary offered by Turner Classic Movies as well as my own internet research, Capote was not happy with many aspects of the film.  For one, he wanted Marilyn Monroe to be Holly rather than Audrey Hepburn.  Actually, I totally agree with Truman that Audrey was completely miscast in this role!  Audrey could never
make herself believable as an American Southerner affecting an English accent.  No, we know darn well that Audrey Hepburn is English, English, English and there is no possibility that she could convince us of anything else.  Yet somehow it all worked amazingly well. 

Speaking of miscasting, according to the commentary, everyone later regretted having Mickey Rooney embarrass himself in a pathetic attempt to lampoon a Japanese landlord.  He was terrible, and apparently Truman was against it from the beginning, and director Blake Edwards and Rooney himself regretted the entire concept, rightly so. 

I hadn't seen the movie for many years and then it was on TV.   It was kind of fun to have the song "Moon River" rejuvenated and made fresh.  I had remembered it as a song for "old fogeys" and it was surprising to hear it as a new song. 

It was interesting to me that I had forgotten most of the squabbles that Holly and Paul Varjak (George Peppard) had. I mainly latched on to the positive, fun memories of parties and romance and forgot about most of the pain and humiliations that they faced.  It made me think of my own foibles over the years and times when I acted selfishly or  like a dope.  Truth to tell, I would rather forget about those as well.  But for many of us, that is part of being young too. 

Similarly, I had remembered the ending of the movie happening over what seemed like a very long time, but seeing it anew, it went by in a flash.  I couldn't believe the movie was over so quickly. 

Without Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's is simply a Hollywood cliche, the "boy meets girl"  movie. 

Ultimately, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a movie about falling in love, one of the most profound experiences that we can ever have in life.   Audrey Hepburn made us experience that feeling and that is why it is a classic film.

I don't see it as anything  like a perfect movie.  If anything, it is an amazingly imperfect movie which somehow, inexplicably triumphed and turned out to be a masterpiece despite all of the errors that were made. Perhaps that in itself is a metaphor for life.  

 How wonderful would it be to live in New York and be young and attractive and in love?  The magic of film allows us to experience it.   

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Saving ISIS--Senator McCain to the Rescue

  I am surprised and disappointed that Senator John McCain, among others, is seeking to breathe new life into former Secretary Hillary Clinton's initiative to save ISIS from military defeat in Syria. 

    I realize that Senator McCain would object vehemently to my using the term "ISIS" to describe the rebels in Syria.  Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans have sought to be "poliltically correct."  They ask us to NOT to say "Radical Islam" nor "Islamic Terrorists" nor ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), nor ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). In fact I heard somebody from the State Department chide the Trump Administration for not knowing the that there is no Islamic State presence in Syria. Instead, they should be referred to as "civilians."  So, Russia and the Syrian government are attacking "civilians" in Syria, not ISIS.

     Okay, so what DO we call the people with rocket launchers and guns who are shooting government forces. How about "The Assholes Formerly Known As Terrorists (TAFKAT)? Like the musician Prince, they are ultra-particular about what they are called, but we all know who is being spoken of.      

      Years ago, the Obama administration decided that it was in America's best interest that a Sunni government emerge to take the place of President Assad's Shiite regime in Syria.   This is not totally irrational since Sunnis are a majority in Syria.  President Obama famously proclaimed "Assad Must Go!" abandoning all pretenses of  neutrality.  But ISIS engaged in poor public relations by chopping off the heads of its hostages, making it impossible for the West to support them. 
     Hence the plan became to defeat ISIS with some third power, but not supporting Assad. The pretense is that there were viable Sunni groups that enjoyed popular support that could supplant the leadership of ISIS. 

    Senator McCain is incensed that President Elect Trump plans to work with Russia to whale on ISIS.  Instead, he longs for ISIS (actually TAFKAT)  to be saved so that they can present a unified alliance against Russia. This is actually an amplified version of the same idea presented by President Obama and former Secretary Clinton.

McCain has basically embraced the Clinton doctrine of supporting Sunni groups hoping for a buffer against Russian and the Syrian government.

    My challenge to my friends, is that if indeed there is a group worth of our support and worth directing our military to kill for, can you name one person that we are helping? Who is that just, pro-American leader that we are bringing forward as our ally?   If you can not name one person fitting that description, it seems to me that the US should have no business supporting any one of these groups or creating a pro-American government in Syria.  We should not indulge the Cold War fantasy and hope to oppose Russia with a pro-American Sunni Islamic fundamentalist government in Syria.  If we must face the unfortunate truth, none of the groups in Syria is our ally. I'm not sure that we have a vested interest in promoting either the Shiite or Sunni side in the Syrian Civil War. However, saving ISIS, or one of its re-named successors, is one of the dumbest ideas in modern history.  To date hundreds of thousands have died in Syria during the Obama Administration's term, and the thought of prolonging that by seeking to defeat the Syrian Government and picking a confrontation with Russia is the worst idea yet.  There is nobody in Syria worth expending one American life for.  

Dr. Strange is Entertaining and Original

  Dr. Strange was interesting, entertaining and original.   Like most Marvel movies, they were willing to take some chances and eschew trite formulas from the past.
    I knew Dr. Strange mainly from reading a reprint of the original story, but never got into it that much.  Magic characters from Harry Potter on down are kind of flawed because nobody really knows what their powers are.  Here's how it works.  The good guy uses his spell to stop a bad magician.

     "Oh yeah?  Well let's see how you handle my BAD GUY SPELL!  Aluminium Recyclum!  Bwahaha!"

     "Hoho!  Too bad for you that I have an even more powerful GOOD GUY SPELL!  Sanctimonium barfitosis!" 

     ...and so on.  After a point we need a commentator to come in and tell as whether the good magician has won or lost.  It is hard to create suspense because the spell powers are so poorly defined that we just can't get excited by any threat they may pose because there is always a potential antidote spell.   

      At any rate, the movie tells the story of Dr. Strange's strange journey from being an arrogant but talented surgeon, to losing his ability due to a horrific car wreck, and his search for meaning in mystery religions in Asia.   In the comics, Dr. Strange was actually a psychedelic hippie, even before the Beatles found Guru Maharishi Yogi.  At any rate, in this movie he is able to find self help gurus beyond compare at a mysterious temple in Tibet. 

    Dr. Strange loves parallel universes.   Suffice it to say that the rules for parallel universes are as complicated as Einstein's theory of Relativity and the NFL rule book.  So you really can't figure out how all this works, you just have to wait for one of the characters to explain in more simple terms what is going on. 

    I like that in Marvel movies the characters are not one sided.  It's hard to know whether they are evil or good, or indeed whether they are capable of knowing the difference or making a choice.  We can't even be totally sure that Dr Strange is a good guy. Maybe he's not. 

     Can evil magic be used for good?  Or is it always evil, and if so, why?  What makes it evil. These are things that Dr Strange has to ask, with his genius for scholarship and his affinity for magic.  His senior fellow sorcerers and teachers also struggle to achieve a balance between good and evil. On that level, the characters are very believable.  

Dr. Strange is an arrogant me-first, ugly American visiting  a temple.  Of course when he says something stupid, as hke usually does,  the senior people like the Ancient One, pictured above, are going to kick his ass till he learns. Sometimes he gets kicked totally out of the known universe. 

How does it end?  Well, my child, of course I can not tell you that.  You shall have to view the movie yourself, and make your own judgment.  May blessings be upon you. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Will the Republicans Oppose Trump? Probably.

     About six or seven years ago, I vividly remember being at a church picnic with several of my highly educated, professional friends.  They were in hysterics because: 

   a.   President Obama was going to create a fifth branch of the US military, with allegiance sworn only to him, and not the Constitution. 

   b.  President Obama was going to outlaw all guns, and the members of the fifth branch of the military would conduct a house to house search to find and confiscate all the guns in America. 

    The Village Elliot protested this could not possibly be true (it came from a distorted reading of a speech Obama gave praising the Peace Corps and comparing to to military service), but my friends simply dismissed me as a naive liberal.   Everyone was upset, and some of the wives were literally in tears, crying over the expected loss of their guns.  

    Now flash forward to 2016.  The conservatives have regained their sanity, and it is the liberals who are losing their minds.  Trump, you see, is going to become this supremely powerful leader and impose his will on all of us from Day 1 of his regime.  

     I don't want to impose an artificial limit on Presidential stupidity, but I doubt whether any of this can be true.  Please, let's not invent new conspiracy theories to replace the old ones.  The President can not pass legislation. He can only sign bills that the Congress gives up.  I doubt whether the Republicans can pass any meaningful bill within their own party, never mind overcoming Democratic resistance.  The Speaker of the House is Paul Ryan, who basically denounced Trump and refused to endorse him for President. I think he was hoping for a Hillary Clinton win frankly.  It is very doubtful whether a  thin majority in both Houses will allow Republicans to come together on much of anything.  I'll be surprised if they can pass a budget.  
     For 8 years, the Republicans have prided themselves on obstructing whatever the President wants to do.  Can they suddenly change, unite and start passing the Trump agenda (whatever that is)?  I doubt it.  I think that obstruction has become such a strong habit, they will not be able to break it. 

    As a whole, this generation of politicians has come to regard compromise as a weakness, and they have very poor skills at negotiating and compromise.   In the Senate with 51 Republicans, they need zero defections in order to be able to pass a bill.  Good luck with that.

   What Republican Congresspeople want more than anything is to keep their job, and not get blamed for the bad mistakes that President-elect Trump will surely make.   I see major voting blocks trying to paint Trump as a pawn of the Democrats, and opposing both of them, hoping that you, dear Voter, will buy off on their story and re-elect them.   A few Republicans are actually sane and may not support tax cuts for the super-rich and things like that.   So no, I think this Congress will continue to be remembered for gridlock and deadlock.  They will not be able to overturn legislation of the past Administration, even if it's bad and needs to be overturned.  

     I just doubt they have the stomach for presenting the President with a real bill.  On anything.  And I even wonder, even with a Republican majority in both Houses, will somebody like Ted Cruz  filibuster the budget bill again?  I think it's very possible.      


Monday, October 10, 2016

Clinton, Pence Recommend Militarily Engaging Russia in Syria

   Lost amid the brouhaha over sensationally foul tapes about Donald Trump's sexual exploits, was the confirmation in the second debate that Secretary Clinton, if elected, plans a military engagement with Russia in Syria. 
    The topic was introduced because Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence had earlier stated his opinion that the US should use military force against the Syrian government and Russian forces in Syria, on behalf of the city of Aleppo.   Aleppo is one of the last remaining strongholds of ISIS. 
    The affable former secretary made it clear that she believes that bombings in Aleppo (including the famous picture of a four year old boy in a hosptial, in shock after being bombed) are the fault of Russia, and the US would under a Clinton Administration send military aid (though not ground troops) against Russia and Syria. Hence we would fight an air war in Syria.  She said that she would consider arming the Kurds, who represent the third largest faction in Syria at about 4%.  
       The Clinton view seems to deny that there is a civil war between Sunni's (ISIS) and Shiites (Syrian government) and believes instead that there is some other military power in the region that is worthy of US support.   Nobody knows who this mysterious pro-American military power is, but we are going to arm them.   Moreover, we are going to have to risk fighting Russia in a limited (we hope) air war in Syria in order to support this power, whoever they are.  
     Trump disagreed with both Clinton and his own Vice Presidential candidate, saying that we should support the Syrian government and Russia in opposing ISIS instead of supporting radical revolutionaries.  
     Perhaps what Clinton really hopes to do is to wrest leadership of the Sunnis away from ISIS, foolishly believing that vast numbers of Islamic radicals are just waiting for the right American leader to emerge to guide them.  This is remarkably similar to the view espoused by Dick Cheney in recommending the Iraq offensive to President Bush.   
     It is very foreseeable that the US quagmire in the Middle East is going to get much worse, as our military resources are going to be drained by trying to intervene in Muslim controversies that have existed since the year 632 AD.    By deciding to engage the Russian military if they choose not to obey our recommended no fly zone, we risk destabilizing world markets and even risking World War III, all on behalf of people who hate us, with no one grateful for our bombing and destruction on their behalf.
     I hope that this is all simply tough talk, and that when and if Secretary Clinton becomes President Clinton, she may not be so enamored with sorting out political factions in Syria after all.  Still it is very scary talk, though it seems that very little attention is being paid to it.  I suppose that most of the media would rather discuss sex tapes because they are easier to understand.     

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Does John Kerry Want to Fight Russia in Syria?

Does John Kerry want to fight World War III against the Russians in Syria? If news reports are accurate, Kerry wants to help rebels in Aleppo (supposedly not allied with ISIS, but yeah, allied with ISIS) to defeat the Syrian government forces led by President Assad, and de facto allied with Russia. I can scarcely believe Kerry would be that dumb, and thankfully for the moment has been overruled by President Obama.
Nevertheless, the prevailing view is that there are pro-American democratic forces in Syria that deserve our support. I can not name a single person in Syria that fits our description and I doubt whether you can either. I think that rebels just pretend to like us so that we will give them fantastic weaponry and close air support. In reality none of these radicalized rebel groups is pro-democracy and none is our friend. Nevertheless, this view is in the minority, and our government is ready to kill in order to support these pro-American moderate forces, whoever they are. The main controversy between Democrat and Republican is how many to kill and how fast.
We can not be seriously contemplating engaging Russia in Syria, can we? Russia wants to destroy ISIS and we want to destroy ISIS whether rightly or wrongly. Nevertheless, we see Russia's fight against ISIS as a threat, and now that ISIS is on the brink of destruction, we want to oppose Russia and the Syrian government. This is a retarded strategy that fails to recognize that whoever we install in Syria will be just as bad as Assad. Moreover, the conflicts between Sunni and Shiite groups has been ongoing since the 7th Century. We are not putting an end to violence in the Middle East, we are perpetuating it.
I fear that in the incoming Clinton Administration, Kerry's views may prevail, and he and President Clinton may not back down. If so, the world is closer to World War III than it has ever been. And for what? I can't say which leader it is in Syria that we love so much, but love him we do, and we are willing to kill for him and risk destruction for him.

America has traditionally viewed Russia as its greatest threat, and the hope has been that we would become allied with Islamic rebels to oppose Russia (left).  Instead, I believe we should recognize that the US and Russia have a common enemy in radicalized Islam, and we ought to work together.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Elon Musk will Own Eight Planets

    This is so huge and pathetically simple that no one will believe it.  Most observers laugh at little SpaceX and its leader Elon Musk.   How can a little company like this out-do NASA and the national space programs of other high-tech countries? 

    Elon Musk and SpaceX are going to own eight planets.

Elon Musk can present a very simple business plan:  He can own 8 planets, and about 6 of them are way cooler than earth.  Now, who wants a piece of this?

    That's right.  Now that he has access to space, and is booking tourism for billionaire customers, the rest of story is clear.   He and his private investors will build bigger and faster space ships and they will colonize the rest of the solar system.  Planets like Jupiter and Saturn are way more interesting than earth (entire moons made out of rocket fuel, all free for the taking).   They will figure out how to live there, and then goodbye to the earth and its Clintons and Trumps and Bushes and other pathetic savages.  
     Once the investment community figures out this is real, they will throw so much money at Elon Musk and his rowdy group of billionaire friends that they will be unstoppable.  The value of eight planets (about six of which are probably better than earth) is such a huge number it is impossible to place a valuation on it.  100 trillion dollars is not out of the question. Accordingly,  if they want to, they could simply buy NASA (although truthfully the Russian Space Agency is a better bargain).  But they can make better technology by doing it their own way.  

    You may laugh, but my question is:  How can anyone stop him?  He's going to get the money, he has the know-how, and the incentive is out there.  It's going to happen.   

     I just hope SpaceX provides better government for the new civilizations compared to the old one (Earth).    

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Dream About my Mom

    I don't know what to make of dreams.  Sometimes I think they are highly significant and spiritual, other times I think they are just neurons firing quasi-randomly in the cerebral cortex during sleep.  Nevertheless dreams are often haunting and beautiful, though I usually don't remember dreams very well.  But  I had a memorable dream the other night about my Mom who recently passed away, and I felt compelled to record it.

   In my dream I was driving a car, probably a rental car like I might get on a trip.  My regular car is 12 years old and kind of beat up, but this was a new car, so perhaps I was on vacation.  I don't know, I didn't think about it, i just sort of accepted that this is where I was supposed to be. 

     My mother, who passed away a few months ago was sitting in the car also.  But instead of being over 90 years old, she was young, maybe like a young beautiful teenager, with a very different appearance. But somehow I knew she was really my Mom, made younger as if by magic.   I drove steadily uphill, a gradual upward slope, like in the Appalachian mountains or someplace.  The scenery was beautiful with lush green vegetation and tall trees.  After a while we arrived at a stopping point and got out of the car.  At this point I carried my mother still higher.  There was a giant marble staircase, and without question I carried her up the stairs.  She was not heavy at all, not a burden at all, as if magically made lighter. She was dressed in shiny, shimmering clothes, perhaps from her native Korea.
   Finally she spoke.  "Elliot, I was very pleased to be your helper for many many years, but I can no longer do that.   But I want you to know it was never me at all.  For all things come from God." 

    After that the dream ended gently and silently and dissolved into grey shadows of sleep.   

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Reason for the War in Syria

      One of the saddest aspects of American politics is that we obviously believe strongly that we must involve ourselves in Syrian wars.  Both the Democrats and Republicans advocate spending hundreds of billions of dollars there.  I cannot even identify which Syrian groups there are considered to be "good guys" that the US supports.  Can you? Do you even know the name of one person there who is so good that he/she  justifies billions of dollars worth or death and destruction to bring him/her to power?  To me it is our greatest national sin and shame that we have become mindlessly addicted to warfare.
     If you can not accept my challenge and name one person in Syria that we are bringing to power, we probably should stop killing men, women and children to accomplish it.  You should probably not be voting for either the Democrat or the Republican for the Presidential election.
     And by the way, the title for my article is a lie.  There is no valid reason for the War in Syria. 

uploaded from

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Has Hillary Clinton Opposed Military Intervention in the Middle East by the US at Any Time?.

     As far as I am aware, since 1992, there is no record that Hillary Clinton opposed a US military intervention in Muslim nations at any time.  In other words, every time that a military intervention went forward in support of one Muslim faction or another, Hillary Clinton supported it, either informally as First Lady, or with votes as a Senator, or creating policy as Secretary of State. Likely there were other proposed interventions that did not go forward; but if they did Clinton was always on the Hawk side, and never a Dove, at least as far as my limited research shows. 
      The military operations in question are listed below. I'm not saying that all of these operations were bad, although most of them were, in my personal opinion at least, and in particular I do not agree with invading Iraq to save the world from nonexistent nuclear weapons, nor invading Libya and Syria in order to improve the neighborhoods for the inhabitants.  I did not approve of bombing Serbians in the former Yugoslavia, despite the violation of human rights in that area.  In all, reliable estimates are that the US has invested over 6 trillion dollars on warfare involving Muslim countries, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and hundreds of thousands more refugees and permanent maimings. 
      Perhaps it should not be perplexing that people in the region don't actually adore Americans the way we think we should be adored, and perhaps our failure to balance the budget more often can be understood in the context of blowing 6 trillion dollars.  But that is actually a side issue.  
      Donald Trump is the candidate that appears to be the most physically scary and angry, and perhaps he comes across as the greatest Hawk against Muslim nations. 
     However, it is the more pleasant and affable former Secretary of State who has the most consistent record of advocating American intervention in Muslim conflicts, all for the noblest of reasons, no doubt.  
      Only third party candidates Governor Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Dr. Jill Stein (Green) favor curtailing our military operations in the Middle East.  
     Am I wrong?   If so, I respectfully request that my readers might provide a link to a source that shows which of these 19 or so Military Operations were opposed by Hillary Clinton.  
 Partial List of Military Operations in the Middle East and Europe since 1992

1. 1992–95 – Somalia: Operation Restore Hope.
2.  1993–95 – Bosnia: Operation Deny Flight.
3.  1995 – Bosnia: Operation Deliberate Force.
4.  1996 – Kuwait: Operation Desert Strike,  Air Strikes.
6.  1996 – Bosnia: Operation Joint Guard under the Dayton agreement.
7.  1998 – Iraq: Operation Desert Fox, bombing campaign.
8.  1998 – Afghanistan and Sudan: Operation Infinite Reach. cruise missile attack versus terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a chemical factory in Sudan.
9.  2001–2014 –Operation Enduring Freedom. Invasion of Afghanistan, "combat action in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters."
10.00  2003–2011 –Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 20, 2003, "to disarm Iraq in pursuit of peace, stability, and security both in the Gulf region and in the United States."
11.  2004–present: U.S  drone strikes in Northwest Pakistan
12.  2010–present –  U.S  drone strikes on al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab positions in Yemen.
13.  2010–11 – Operation New Dawn, replacing  "Operation Iraqi Freedom" .
15.  2011 –Operation Odyssey Dawn, United States and coalition bombings of Libyan forces.
15.  2011 – Operation Neptune Spear, killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
16.  2011 – Drone strikes on al-Shabab militants in Somalia
17.  2014–present – American intervention in Iraq: Hundreds of U.S. troops deployed to protect American assets in Iraq and to advise Iraqi and Kurdish fighters.  Airstrikes against Islamic State-aligned forces throughout northern Iraq.
18.  2014–present – American aircraft bomb Islamic State positions in Syria. Airstrikes on al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front and Khorasan positions.
19.  2014–present – Intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant: attacks on ISIL and al-Nusra Front positions in Iraq and Syria.



Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad is Awesome--One of DC's Best

I loved DC comics as a kid, and was thrilled when they made a movie out of Superman. Making a long story short, Christopher Reeve was a good Superman and a great Clark Kent, but the plots always sucked.  Ditto for Batman.  I've been waiting for years for DC to make a good movie.  Suicide Squad is the most original to date.

     Suicide Squad is about bad guys who are coerced into forming a team to fight an evil metahuman (please, not mutant, okay?) with astonishing evil powers.  I won't tell you who the nemesis is, because that might be a bit of a plot spoiler.  Let's just say that everyone in the movie is bad (even Batman who makes a cameo appearance), but some are really bad, and others are really really bad.  

    Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is sensational.  Very very demented, yet sexy, funny, scary and romantic all in the same package.  She kind of reminds of girls I went to school with at Berea High, who were very beautiful, smart and talented, but they just wanted to be naughty.   Well, Harley wants to be beyond naughty, and utterly capable of killing in order to amuse herself. Also great is Deadshot (Will Smith) an evil assassin who hates Batman.  I also hate the movie Batman, so it is easy for me to sympathize.  Deadshot is witty and clever, and gravitates to (almost) being a leader of the criminal team.  There are another half dozen members on the team with special talents combined with appalling criminal records.
Margot Robbie is an evil genius with incredible combat skills, sexappeal and comic timing.  I understand most guys who have a date with her wind up dead or in the Hospital, but if I'm offered a dinner invitation I will accept.  

Will Smith and Margot Robbie are the most memorable characters, and the Suicide Squad is the best movie team DC Comics has ever produced.  

The plot is a bit disjointed and I didn't follow all of the twists and turns.  For example at one point everyone ends up at a secret Government headquarters, and I had no idea how they got there or why.   I'll have to see the movie again to figure it out.  

Despite such flaws, the movie is great because it breaks old stale DC formulas that, frankly, have begun to stink.  It's fresh exciting, different and suspenseful because we don't know what is going to happen next.   

This is not a good movie to take your young boyscout or girlscout to see, but High School kids and above will love it. If you like superhero movies, and you want to see something different, this is one of the best movies.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sook Cha Lee Kennel Hall, 1925 to 2016

    Sook Cha Lee was born in 1925 in Seoul Korea, which at that time was ruled by the Japanese empire.    Back then, medical doctors were not accessible to ordinary people, so there was only a midwife and a fortune teller.  It's not funny, but Sue would joke about the humble story of her birth, and her family would laugh at this story.  Sue's mother was in labor three days, no doubt fearing for her very life,  and the fortune teller offered the following sage advice:  "If you wait one more day, the child will be truly great!"   When telling that story my mother would laugh.  "What kind of advice is that?  Are you kidding?  Even if it's true you can't ask a woman to stay in labor for another 24 hours!" 
    In any case, somehow Sue's mother persevered and Sue arrived to her very relieved parents.  Early on the parents realized that little Sue was linguistically talented.  At two years old she was able to go to the neighbors' house and relay messages from her mother.   
        Korean folk have a custom that at one year, the baby is presented with different items--for example, coins, a bowl of rice, and an ink brush-pen-- to determine their future.  If the baby chooses coins, then she will prosper financially.  If she chooses, rice she will be a glutton and get fat, so hopefully the baby doesn't choose that.  Baby Sue selected the brush pen, signifying she would become a scholar. Even though it is a silly superstition, she says she sort of believed it as a kid. 
      Sue's mother used to say, "If a word even touches my daughter's ear, she never forgets it!"   The family decided to send her to school a year early, because of her incessant questions and desire to learn things.  So she wound up going to school a year early in order to help feed her insatiable desire to learn. 
     In 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression, the family decided to move to Japan when Sue was 8 years old.  This was right at the time that Crown Prince Akihito was born. Sue remembered that all the streetcars were decorated with beautiful flowers as the entire city of Osaka, and indeed the entire country, celebrated.  It seemed like a grand time. The next year,the family moved to Tokyo.  Sue's education was in the Japanese language, which is very different from Korean.
       By this time little Sue had started reading all kinds of books about far off lands including Europe and America.  One book explained the custom of Christmas, which excited her very much.  So she told her father about it, and explained that she was going to hang up her sock by her bed on Christmas Eve.  That evening, her father would have to pretend to be Santa Claus and give her a present.  The next morning, Sue was delighted to find a little mandarin orange in her sock!   
     Sue's cousin George Myeong came to live with their family at about that time. Sue always considered George to be like a younger brother.  But by about 1940, family fortunes had taken a turn for the worse and Sue's father ultimately abandoned them. Sue's mother ran a boarding house in Tokyo.  But Sue was able to get a job in a print shop to help make ends meet, and she completed her high school studies at night school.  She finished number two in the province of Honshu based on the graduation examination. She was one of the few Koreans to be accepted by Ochanomizu College in Tokyo. This was an amazing achievement in its own right, and even resulted in a small stipend of a few dollars a month, which she gave to her mother.  It was a happy time.  But in December of that year, radio newscasts informed the people that the Japanese Empire had been attacked by demons from the United States and Great Britain.  Newscasters warned that although victory was certain due to the Godly leadership of Emperor Hirohito, it would be a time of great hardship. Indeed, food became scarce.    However, finishing school was very important, and for that reason the two elected to stay in Japan so that Sue could graduate in elementary education, which at that time was a two year program, and George could finish high school.  Sue and George had to live under a bridge for a time along with many others who endured great suffering during the war, but nevertheless, she did not quit, and she persevered to graduate in 1943 with a teacher's certificate, and George graduated from High School that same year.    
     One of the quirks of Asian society is that children are implicitly blamed when bad things happen, perhaps based on the notion that God punished children for wrongs committed in a previous existence.  Perhaps for that reason, Sue did not like to talk about being homeless.  Then too, a great number of people suffered terribly in World War 2, not just Sue and her cousin.  She said that she never worried about not having a proper place to live, as long as they could receive a daily food ration and attend school. 
      Sue appreciated the rigorous training from the Japanese system.  In addition to academics, the entire student body had to run 4 kilometers each morning in their school uniform and then on to class.  There were no special gym clothes, no showers, just they just ran in street clothes and then on to class. In addition to academics, each semester they had a field trip to work for a week, planting or harvesting crops in the fields, or working in a factory.  In this way, they learned something about the way that real people must live their lives.     
     In order to escape the bombing in Tokyo, Sue and George returned to Korea in 1944.  Sue taught elementary school for two years in a small town in the Korean countryside, and George went to live with relatives and eventually attended college.  
     The Japanese Emperor was thought to be a God, who would appear in public only once a year outside his palace. Everyone attending his speech had to get on their hands and knees and bow and not even look at the Emperor lest they should die.  Sue said, "I knew it wasn't true."
      In August 1945, Emperor Hirohito unbelievably spoke on the radio to announce the surrender of Japan.  He was obliged to finally admit that he was a human being rather than a God. 
The Japanese occupiers were immediately expelled from Korea, amid great rejoicing.  Sue was happy that Korea could be free of Japanese government oppression, but also saddened at the inhumanity with which the Japanese people were forcibly evacuated.  She remembers them being packed like cattle on trains and unceremoniously  shipped out.  
     After the war, Ewha Womans College was officially recognized as a National University for women in Seoul and Sue was selected as one of the students.  But in 1946, Sue was orphaned as her mother died of Typhus.  She never really got over that blow.  She would recount, "My mother was always there for me, supporting me in everything and encouraging me.  When she left suddenly, my whole world fell apart."  Ewha became the replacement for her mother. She graduated number one in her class in 1947, and thus earned degrees from both Japan and Korea.  Upon graduating she became a student teaching assistant and worked directly for Dr. Helen Kim, the Ewha President. 

Graduation at Ewha University, 1947.

     Years later, Sue's granddaughter Natasha once asked her what was the proper age to date.  Sue's answer was, "In Korea, the girls went to school on one side of the mountain, and the boys went to school on the other side of the mountain, and we never saw each other till after graduation and then only as arranged by the parents!"  Sue's son Elliot advised Natasha, "There are certain questions you should never ask a Korean grandma."  
     In any case, by 1948, the Methodist Church was interested to sponsor Korean women to study in America, and Sue was selected for this opportunity.  She would attend Baldwin Wallace College in Berea Ohio. Somehow, arrangements were made for several Korean women to a ride on a US Navy ship to San Francisco, and then by train to Ohio.  On a way they encountered a tropical storm, and everyone became very sick.   Sue said "at first we were afraid we might die.  Later, we became afraid we might not die."  But eventually things calmed down.  The Navy sailors were all very, very respectful to the young women, but communication was very difficult.  Sue recounts that the cook asked them if they wanted eggs "sunny side up." They couldn't understand this at all.  How can eggs be like the sun in the sky, they wondered?  That made no sense.  Well, better get used to it.  Lots of things in America made no sense to Koreans.  Sue liked to quote Rudyard Kipling:  "East is east and west is west, and the twain shall never meet!"
    Baldwin Wallace was a great culture shock.  Although Sue had learned to read and write in English, there had been no opportunity to speak with native speakers during the war.  So basically she arrived not being able to communicate. Learning spoken English proved to be much more difficult than speaking Japanese.  Moreover, she was also obliged to learn Old English to read the classic Beowulf, as well as French. Though she never achieved great proficiency in French, she would continue to practice with her friends in French Club in Berea, and would spend summers in France with her second husband Vernon Hall.

Sue and Bessie Rutemiller, Japanese American from Hawaii, 1950.

    Sue had never intended to stay in America, but the Korean War made going home impossible.  Accordingly, she studied at Western Reserve College in Cleveland, and obtained a Master's Degree in English.  Sue met Byron Kennel at a dance sponsored by the Cleveland Council of International Affairs.  One time Byron decided Sue needed to learn about American culture, and took her to a thing called Hillbilly Jamboree at the old Circle Theater in downtown Cleveland. The warmup act was a young kid who wiggled and shook a lot and poor Sue had no idea what all the commotion and yelling was about.  She was kind of mad at Byron for taking her to this uncivilized affair. It turns out this kid was named Elvis Presley, and that concert is marked by some historians as launching the rock n roll era, and is part of the reason the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland.
     Another time Arthur Bisguier, the United States Chess Champion, known as the Dean of American Chess, came to Cleveland and played simultaneous exhibition against all comers. Almost all of them were men, although Byron brought his smart Korean girlfriend along.  Perhaps Grandmaster Bisguier did not take her seriously at first, but after she took his queen he started to pay more attention.  In any case, the Champ prevailed against every one of the challengers--except for Sue.   

Lilly Rosenbaum, Sue and Byron Kennel, Linda Lee was the flower girl, daughter of Rev. Julius and Yolanda Lee.

      In 1956 Byron and Sue were married and children Elliot and Nancy came along, and Sue basically withdrew from academia for several years.  But in a few years, Cuyahoga Community College made it possible for Sue to return to academia. Could someone from Korea teach English in America?  Well, Sue did.  She was particularly skilled at explaining the mysteries of grammar and diagramming sentences. Virtually all students hate grammar and diagramming sentences.  But Sue would tell the students, "If I can do it, you can do it!" That logic apparently was persuasive.  Many students took it to heart, and really believed that they could learn it if Sue had learned it. And they did.   
 Tri-C friends  Veronon Hall at lower left.  

 Sue and her cousin; Nancy Lee and Stuart Anderson, 1980s. 

        Sue's simple advice was "Find out what you like to do, and do it for the rest of your life!"   By the same token, Cuyahoga Community College is known informally as Tri-C. Sue like to call it "Try and See."  Try college and see if there is something there you like.  When you stop to think about it, it is a mind blowing concept.   In Korea, going to college was about as difficult as making the Olympic team.  In America, the benefits of college were being extended to almost everyone with the capability and desire to learn.  Everyone can learn to see other points of view, and make friends with other people from other backgrounds. Everyone can think and even make decisions about who the leaders would be in America, rather than being ruled by an Emperor like in Japan.    
     In the mid 1970's, Sue really hit her stride, as she proposed that Cuyahoga Community College would be one of the first institutions of higher learning to teach a new subject, "English as a Second Language."   Prior to that time, foreign students were usually sent to remedial English classes.  But in reality learning a language as an adult is not the same as learning a first language as a child, and even very gifted scholars may struggle to catch up with a foreign language.  Sue also understood the homesickness and the culture shock that accompanies learning to live in a foreign country.   
      Foreign students presented special challenges because of their diverse backgrounds.  Early on, some of the students from paternalistic countries were uncomfortable being tutored by females and demanded male tutors instead.  Well, you can imagine that Sue was not very sympathetic with this blatant male chauvinism, culturally dependent or not.  "This is America.  Everyone gets a chance here," she responded simply, and that was it.   Perhaps that summed up her political philosophy.  One might suppose that this is overly simplistic, but Sue really believed it.  "This is America. Everyone gets a chance here."  With ESL, the students realized that they could earn that chance.     
    Needless to say this program became extremely successful.  It was then and is now the largest college credit ESL program in Ohio. For many students, Sue was not just a teacher, but the "American mom" to students from many diverse cultures. 
        Eventually she took a sabbatical and finally was able to return to her beloved Ewha University in Seoul, where she lectured Korean students for a semester in a variety of capacities.  She had been gone for more than 30 years, but they remembered who she was and welcomed her back.  At that time there were a series of political crises in Korea, and Sue acted as a  translator for CBS and BBC.
        Sue remarried  in 1983 to Vernon Hall, who was also an English professor, and he also wound up lecturing at Cuyahoga Community  College for a number of years.  Sue had met Vernon in Korea, and they were drawn together by their common love of English literature--and the Benny Hill show.  In reality Sue found it very difficult to understand English and American humor.  She summarized herself in this Yogi Berra-esque way, "Oh, I have no sense of humor. I'm just naturally funny."
       At about this time, Sue realized that there was an emerging need to study Japanese language at the college level.  This was especially true because Cuyahoga County is a major industrial manufacturing center, and many companies were interacting with their counterparts in Japan. Sue proposed that Tri-C offer a course in Japanese language.
      Japanese language instruction at Tri-C was immediately successful and Sue's courses were always filled, soon resulting in the hiring of other teachers to handle the demand.  
      Sue was never interested in making great sums of money, though avoiding poverty was very important.  What Sue liked most of all was to have great friends.  
    She had an amazing number of friends, staying in touch with her friends from Ewha, Her friends included Sung Hee Kang, who became a famous playwright, Sora Kim, a classical musician, Professor Young Kyoung Yoon, who taught music at Ewha and was also the niece of the Korean President.  Sue was not the only one that endured hardship to attend college.  One friend, Sookney Lee had to sneak across the border from North Korea and walked all the way to Ewha, and arrived at the college with her shoes soaked in blood.  Sookney eventually became the Dean at Ewha. 
      Sometimes her Ewha friends would come to visit and they would eat Korean food and reminisce about the old days and how poor they had been, and would laugh and laugh.  "I don't know why we laugh so much," Sue would say.  "It's certainly not funny to be poor. But now we remember how poor we were and we laugh our heads off!"
       Sue enjoyed many friendships at BW and Western Reserve with Margie Dwyer, Constance Weinstein and Nancy McArthur and many others.  She continued to participate in a book discussion group over 60 years, with Mr and Andy and Marilyn Sparks, Mel and Ruth Schochet and many others,  as well as Tri-C with Jo and Helmut Dehn, Ethel Laughlin, Dick Matthews, Jim Leonard, Cathy Honesty Pulliam, Shirley Campbell, Dana Synder, Oscar Crawford and many, many others.             
     She was also great friends with neighbors like Sue and Frank Nakamura, Jim and Nadja Johnson, Carl and Marge Norgren, Dick and Mary Ashbrook, Susan Depould and her son Jamie and his wife Anna, and many many others.  
     Sue eventually returned to the United Methodist Church of Berea, where she had first worshiped as a student in the 1940s.   Sue jokingly called herself a rice Christian. "I'm just here for the food," she would say.  Well, the Methodist Church is not a bad place for that.  She liked serving meals to students from Baldwin Wallace University, here at the church, and working with friends like Roy and Fran Seitz and many many others.  In particular she was very impressed with the influence that Roy, who years ago had been Elliot's baseball coach, had had in getting young men to try college and apply themselves.  Let's face it, youngsters, and especially the fellows tend to be mainly interested in sports, girls and parties, and it is only via a miracle of God that they become interested in college and Church and serving others. In that way, God uses baseball coaches as much as or more than academics.   
    Especially in the early days, she knew almost all of the Koreans and Japanese people that lived in Greater Cleveland.   Lee Cerny was one of the first to settle to Berea, followed by Hilson Cho and many others.  
      Sue continued to teach at Tri-C into her 80s as Professor Emeritus, and finally moved to a retirement community in Beavercreek Ohio.  Her last years were mainly happy ones spent near her son Elliot and daughter in law Daphne, and their two children, Natasha and Brandon.  She was able to travel to Washington every year, as recently as Christmas 2015 to visit her daughter Nancy and son in law Stuart Anderson. She made many friends at the retirement community as well, including Helen Schweller who came to visit her every day at the hospital after Sue suffered a stroke. 
    Sue would not want people to remember her with sadness. Sue loved to be surrounded by interesting people, sharing conversation and good times.