Saturday, April 27, 2013

Whose Side Are They On?

Is our federal government schizophrenic (rhetorical question)?

The surviving Boston Marathon bomber was giving information freely to FBI and anti-terrorism investigators about his and his brother's actions concerning the attack on the Boston Marathon and potential future attacks, one of which, apparently, was to travel to New York City with the rest of their explosive devices (at least one of which was another pressure-cooker bomb) and detonate them at Times Square.

I say he was giving information freely. That was until the arrival of a Magistrate Judge and an official from the U.S. Attorney's Office (unannounced) to Mirandize the SOB.

Let me get this straight.  The U.S. Attorney's Office is a sub-section of the Justice Department, which is headed by Attorney General Eric Holder.  The same Justice Department that invoked the "public safety exception" to Miranda to facilitate information gathering and the intelligence debriefing of the suspect.  Yet, after only 16 hours (there is no official time limit on the exception, but many had expected it to be as long as 30 days) this judge shows up, with an administration official in tow, and effectively shuts down the interrogation at the hospital, bringing the investigation to a temporary halt and infuriating the FBI agents in charge.  Predictably, Tsarnaev has quit cooperating and has refused to answer any further questions.

I'll admit to being a little torn on the question of Miranda for this particular individual.  On the one hand, he is a legalized American citizen.  As such he is legally entitled to the same Constitutional protections afforded to natural-born citizens.  Ironically, he took his Oath of Citizenship on Sept. 11th.  On the other, a terrorist bombing is rightly considered an Act of War, which in my mind should disqualify any consideration of Constitutional protections for the perpetrators.

The drama doesn't end with this particular judge (we'll come back to her in a moment).  It's been revealed that the Tsarnaev brothers, along with their parents, were on welfare for several years.  In effect, the taxpayers, themselves funded the terrorism perpetrated on them.  Any attempt to get information concerning the extent and amount of public assistance has been stonewalled by Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick, citing their "right to privacy".  Your right to privacy can be violated for cause, government employees' and officials' pay is open to public view, the pay of Senators and Congressmen is available online, but the privacy of a terrorist receiving public welfare benefits (and most likely tuition for the college courses he was failing) is, apparently, sacrosanct.  What is the Governor hiding?  He refused to divulge information to Boston papers, but the fact that the Tsarnaevs were receiving welfare payments was given to the New York Times?  There are rumors that Gov. Patrick is considering a run for President in 2016 and wants to keep in the good graces of the Times in order to gain their endorsement.

So, why all this high level activity to shield a terrorist from scrutiny?  Is he one of "my people" that AG Holder once is reported to have said he would not prosecute (this was in reference to the voter intimidation case in Philadelphia in 2010)?  If so, why did his office invoke the exception to Miranda in the first place?  Is it because they didn't anticipate the younger Tsarnaev's being so cooperative with his interrogators and were nervous about what he might say?  Maybe Obama and Holder were concerned with how the prosecution of a Muslim terrorist, sans full Constitutional rights, would be perceived in the Middle East?  Any way you look at it, it smacks of political correctness and bias towards Muslims and Islamic extremists.  Which brings us back to the judge who took it upon herself to bring everything to a screeching halt.

District Court Judge Marianne Bowler is her name.  She arrived at the hospital room to preside over Tsarnaev's hearing and to read him his rights.  Two officials with knowledge of the FBI briefing on Capitol Hill said the FBI was against stopping the investigators’ questioning and was stunned that the judge, Justice Department prosecutors and public defenders showed up, feeling valuable intelligence may have been sacrificed as a result.

Judge Bowler has some interesting tidbits in her background linking her with the Muslim Brotherhood and other pro-Muslim organizations.  She describes herself as "a dedicated international traveler".  To what is she so "dedicated"?  She has, apparently in her capacity as a member of the International Judicial Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, visited several Muslim countries, where she spoke in front of dignitaries and officials, being the first female granted such status to speak in the country of Kuwait, also speaking to audiences in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.  Her speaking engagement in Egypt was "post Morsi", meaning that she had to receive the permission of the Muslim Brotherhood in order to appear.  Other than a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, these make up the extent of her official overseas visits.  All in Muslim countries.  Has she, like John Brennan, been greatly influenced by her exposure to Muslim culture?

All of this high level interference with the investigation, along with the insistence that it be prosecuted according to civil criminal statute, as opposed to military tribunal with Tsarnaev being treated as an "enemy combatant" seems to me to be carefully calculated to make the prosecution of the case as difficult and lengthy as possible.  The question is, Why?  Why would American government officials go out of their way to shelter a terrorist?  Whose side are they on?


From,  Remember the Arab national that was initially apprehended running away from the scene immediately after the blast by an alert bystander?  Whatever happened to him?  According to Glenn Beck, he has gone from “person of interest, to witness, to victim, to nobody.”  How and why was this individual so quickly dismissed, when the suspect was known to security officials as a risk and was on the DHS terrorist watch list and no-fly list?   The FBI has reportedly said that they believe there is yet a 3rd suspect at large, yet there's almost no mention of this in the mainstream media or from the administration.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"We Got Him!"

With those three words a block party broke out all over the greater Boston area last night.

Well, my original plan was to regale you with further (hopefully) humorous details of my continuing misadventures with Murphy.  The events in Boston changed all that.

On Monday the Boston Marathon, an American--even worldwide--tradition of more than a century, was forever changed by two brothers engaged in Jihad.  Whether their actions were simply their own, or if they had received training and/or support from larger terrorist organizations is yet to be fully determined.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his younger brother Dzhokhar plotted and carried out the only successful terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11/01, killing 3 and injuring nearly 200 runners and bystanders near the finish line of the Boston Marathon using IEDs made out of pressure cookers, a technique common to Islamic terrorists in Europe and throughout the Middle East.

The immediate aftermath resulted in dozens of square blocks being taped off and locked down as a crime scene.  Later in the week authorities released surveillance photos of the two suspects and asked citizens to come forward with any information.  After the photos were released, it appears that the brothers reacted to the pressure of possibly being identified and attempted to flee the area, carjacking an individual and robbing him of several hundred dollars before, inexplicably, letting him go.  The victim said that they were bragging about being the "Boston Bombers".

The two also allegedly murdered a young MIT police officer who was responding to a disturbance on campus.  The 26 year old officer leaves behind a young wife and child.

The stolen SUV was identified and the police engaged in a rolling firefight during a 5 mile chase during which they exchanged dozens of gunshots and the two fugitives lobbed homemade grenades and pipe bombs at the officers.  When they were brought to bay, so to speak, they engaged in a shootout with police during which the older brother, Tamerlan, charged the police carrying another one of the pressure cooker bombs.  Thankfully, he was taken down and killed by the officers before he could deliver the bomb and the bomb also failed to explode, giving investigators invaluable evidence to compare with the remnants of the two bombs set off at the race.

After seeing his brother go down, and wounded himself, Dzhokhar left his brother lying in the street and attempted to escape.  The police responded by locking down the entire neighborhood and much of the greater Boston area, shutting down all mass transit, telling people to stay in their homes and off the street, telling businesses to remain closed until further notice and conducting a house-to-house search that resulted in the eventual discovery and apprehension of the second terrorist, thanks in large part to a civilian who called in to report suspicious activity in their back yard.  They found him wounded and hiding in a boat.  After confirming his presence with a remote controlled robot, police used a "flash/bang grenade" lobbed into the stern of the boat to stun him and then took him into custody.  He is currently in the hospital undergoing surgery and is in critical condition.

The immediate threat is, hopefully, over.  Authorities will need to wait until the suspect recovers before they can begin to interrogate him about potential associates.  Three individuals have been picked up and questioned in connection with the activities of the two brothers, but have not been named as suspects or arrested.

There is no way to know the number of lives saved by the swift resolution of this attack.  A search of the brother's apartment revealed an "arsenal" of weapons and IEDs.  It's obvious that at least one additional attack was planned.

Reaction from the family was a contrast of two extremes, with an uncle stating they brought disgrace to the family and to the Chechen ethnicity as a whole, and that he thought they were "losers" and were motivated by resentment and hatred for others who had come to America and were able to integrate themselves in the society and succeed, something they didn't/couldn't do, while their father, in a statement from Russia, said they were "angels" and that they were obviously framed and that the police were "cowards" who shot his son rather than attempt to take him under arrest.

It's not clear where/when exactly the brothers became radicalized into Islam and Jihad.  School mates said that they weren't especially religious, although the older brother in particular had shown an increased interest in his religion over the last couple of years and his social media accounts showed disturbing images, including uploads of pro-terrorist videos and anti-American screeds.

I wonder when we're going to get apologies from our own radical elements on the left?  The ones who said that they hoped the bombers would be "white American males" and perhaps "elements of radical Tea Party Patriot extremist groups" and "right-wing extremists"?  It turns out, as it usually does, that the perpetrators of mass violence such as the Boston bombing were young, radicalized Islamist males.  It wasn't some right-wing nutcase with a beef against the government, it was young Muslim males who had made the decision to engage in Jihad against the "infidels" of the West.

If we don't all of us, left and right, get on the same page in regards to the battle against terrorism and terrorist groups and their plots and get rid of all of the political correctness nonsense that declares that we can't call a spade a spade, can't identify terrorism and terrorists for what they are; that we have to refer to terrorist activities by euphemisms such as "workplace violence" and "man-caused disasters", and that we can't take the steps necessary to protect ourselves out of a fear of being labeled "intolerant bigots" and "profiling", the post-9/11 environment in America won't simply be the "new normal" but will only be the beginning of a dark age of violence usually associated with societies in Iraq, Syria, Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East, where such sudden deathly violence has become an accepted way of life and personal liberty and freedom no longer exists.


Late news reports have revealed that the FBI, acting on an advisory from a foreign government (assumed to be either Russian Intelligence or Israel) that the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was a potential threat had questioned him back in 2011 then released him after determining there was no terrorist threat or involvement in terrorist activity, or any association with known terrorist groups.  Was this a failure to "connect the dots"?  Or was it the result of this administration's desire to avoid antagonizing Muslims and Islamists?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Karma's Nasty Little Brother (Humor)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about "Karma".  This week I've been dealing with her bratty little brother, "Murphy".  You all know this little miscreant, he's the inspiration for the well-known "Murphy's Law" that states whatever can go wrong will go wrong.  We truck drivers firmly believe that Murphy is our ever-constant companion during our travels across the country, given the sometimes unbelievably odd mishaps we encounter.

I think it's time to put the little bastard on Ritalin.

I spent a very enjoyable last week on vacation at my friend's place in Florida.  We had a great time fishing Okeechobee, traveling to the Hard Rock for a fun evening, and otherwise just hanging out and relaxing.  All to soon, however, it was time to get back to work.  I left the truck terminal in Lakeland to pick up my next load in Tampa.  I was loaded and underway to Pennsylvania by early afternoon.

Just after getting underway I noticed that my truck was running hotter than normal.  I was concerned at first, but once I got on the highway and got rolling it cooled back down.  I figured it was due to the warmer than normal temperatures and the extreme weight (78,000#) of the load.  I was about 15 minutes outside of Orlando when there was a loud explosion.  I had just blown a tire on the trailer.  Upon pulling to the side of the highway I discovered that I not only had a flat tire, but the cap had blown off and wrapped itself around the axle, preventing me from limping to a truckstop for repairs.

I called my employer to report the incident and they said help was on the way.  5 hours later, I had a new tire and was on my way.  However, my ability to work is limited by hours of service regulations to a window of no more than 14 hours in a day and the delay caused by the flat tire meant that I wouldn't be able to deliver as early as I had planned.  Murphy strikes.

I got back under way and managed to reach Savannah, Ga. by the end of the day.  The truck was still running hot, but the temperature remained manageable and I continued to keep an eye on it.

In the morning, I added a gallon of coolant before I began my trip to help protect against overheating.  The day was largely uneventful until late.  As I got out of the low country and began to encounter heavier traffic and elevation changes the engine temperature started to spike near to dangerous levels.  I was concerned that I was approaching the gridlock of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Md. and would be at risk of overheating to the point that the engine might fail.  I again contacted my supervisor and arranged to stop at a truckstop in Richmond, Va. for inspection and repair.  He also decided to have my scheduled oil change done at the same time, hoping to avoid the need to shut down later.

The truckstop diagnosed the possible cause of the excessive heat as being a dirty and clogged air filter and replaced it (the original was quite dirty).  They thought that the engine heat was a reaction to it's being starved for air, and the fact that engine temperature was lower when traveling at highway speed was due to the engine being "force fed" air.  There was some problem during the repair process at the truckstop.  Mainly that I wasn't actually due for the ordered oil change, which caused delays as the shop tried to resolve the issue with headquarters, which took enough time that I was unable to drive any further for that day, which meant that I would be even later making my delivery.  Murphy strikes again.

Trying to make up some time, I started the next day at 4:00 am.  I didn't get more than 2 miles up the road before the engine was again running hotter than normal (so much for the dirty air cleaner theory).  Again, as I got up to 60-65mph the temperature dropped back into the normal zone.  I continued to monitor the situation, concerned that I was going to get into the Washington morning rush hour traffic congestion. 

About 30 miles south of the beltway I was obliged to cross one of the many mandatory scale checkpoints that dot our highways.  It was a "weigh-in-motion" scale, meaning that I didn't have to come to a complete stop, but could continue moving at a slower speed as monitors checked my weight.  As I got back up to speed, the engine temperature suddenly skyrocketed close to the shut down level.  I was forced to park at the rest area and let the engine cool for a couple hours before I could add fresh coolant and try to get through D.C. when traffic had lessened.  Another delay (thanks, Murphy).

When I finally got going the truck temperature again jumped up as before, dropping back and leveling off when I got up to speed.  There were no other places for me to stop.  I had no choice but to cross my fingers and hope.  If I broke down, I'd simply have to call for a wrecker.

In the end, I managed to get through to Pennsylvania without blowing up, although the engine endured tortuous temperatures between 210 and 230 degrees.  When I got closer to my destination things really got interesting.  Pennsylvania is known for it's mountainous terrain.  Combined with the heating/cooling problem and the excessive weight, my engine finally had had enough.  My temperature spiked to over 240 degrees twice, triggering the automatic engine shut down.  Each time, I was forced to sit on the side of the highway for over an hour until it cooled enough for me to remove the radiator cap and add coolant.  I didn't have any leaks, the extreme temperatures were heating the coolant over the boiling point and forcing it out the overflow.  Other than these two shut down incidents, I was forced to stop and idle on the side of the highway several times to let the engine cool down from 230 to 200 or so, at which point I could drive another 1/4 to 1/2 mile until I got to spots where I could run down hill and let the air cool the engine.

In the end, I made my delivery before the cut-off at the end of the day (Hah! Take that, Murphy!)  My supervisor arranged for me to have my truck repaired at our facility in Allentown, Pa.  That's where I discovered that Murphy can be truly relentless, if he wants to be.

Upon checking in at the terminal on Wednesday, I was told that they would need to order the necessary part(s).  (For those interested, it was a failure of the clutch fan.)  I went ahead and got myself a motel room.  I was hot & sweaty (I had run the heat on full blast with the windows down to help take some of the strain off the coolant system) and in desperate need of a shower.  The shop said they expected to get the part(s) in by Friday.

Friday came, I checked out of the motel and returned to the shop to check on the status of my truck.  I was told that the part would arrive that afternoon, but that I had been pushed back on the work order list because they needed to get unassigned trucks inspected and checked out for students that had qualified to go solo. (Hi, Murph.)  I would have to return to the motel for another night.

Saturday came (today).  I called the shop before I checked out of the motel.  They told me that they had (surprise!) ordered the wrong part(!) and would have to take the part off of a wrecked truck on the lot and replace it on my truck.  Problem is (Murphy's having way too much fun, now), they only have 2 technicians working each shift on weekends.  This means that it will likely be sometime late this afternoon or evening before they even start to work on my truck.  Of course, this is the word I'm getting from the techs working 1st shift.  They go home at 3:00 pm.  Their estimate doesn't obligate the guys working 2nd (or 3rd?) shift.  It's entirely possible that something may come up, or they may simply decide they don't have time to take the part off.  Of course, it'll be dark by 7-8:00.  I can't really see them working in the dirt parking lot by flashlight.  In that case (You're really starting to get expensive here, Murphy) it'll be back to the motel.

I wish this type of week was a rare occurrence in my line of work.  Unfortunately, it's not.  Murphy is always riding in the passenger seat, looking for the best (worst) time to get involved.  To make matters worse, he seldom has his big sister's sense of fairness (I'm sure all you who have little brothers can sympathize).

So now, as I write this, I'm sitting in the drivers "lounge" awaiting news of my fate.  No sign of Murphy, maybe he's gone off to hassle someone else for awhile.  If not, maybe I'll decide to forego the Ritalin and try electro-shock therapy on the little shit, instead.

Keep smiling!  It can always get worse.  Trust me.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tempests in Teapots

Everyone seemed to have their panties in a wad this past week.  You've got the new dictator-for-life in North Korea, Kim Jong Un (he's not a little pot-bellied dictator yet, but give him time to "grow into it").  He's become increasingly irrational and belligerent, openly threatening to wage nuclear war against the U.S. and it's allies in the region.  It's not clear whether his backward little kingdom really has the capability to reach the continental U.S. (hell, Denis Rodman probably knows more about North Korea than U.S. Intelligence), but his ability to threaten South Korea and Japan IS clear.  Seoul is only about 50km south of the DMZ and would be obliterated in any first strike, even in a conventional war.

No one, not even the "experts" are sure what is driving his actions.  It could be as simple as a psychological need to show strength to his "enemies".  Or others could be using his naivete' to advance an agenda of "unification".  With the North in control, of course.  We don't know if he really believes the absurdity of NK being able to win any nuclear exchange with the US military or if his military leaders, who have been sucking the place dry of resources and money for decades, are blowing smoke up his ass to keep their positions and power.

What we DO know is that the US is obligated by treaty to come to the defense of South Korea in the event of any incursion by the North.  Obama can't even attempt to delay in responding.  And he can't go about it half-assed, either.  North Korea would be destroyed by the combined might of the South Korean military and their US ally. Which of course brings up the 800 pound gorilla: China.  They have not been able to reign in their neighbor, in spite of being their main ally in the region.  If the North attacks either the South or the US, we would be forced to respond and our military activity would bring in the Chinese.  The Chinese military and government simply could not allow US military action in the region to pass without significant response.  It appears that we need to rely on the Chinese to persuade Un to stand down in order to prevent his ignorance--and his faith in his military's ability for conquest--from igniting World War III.


On the domestic front, you've got the recent commentary by Fox News's Bill O'Reilly concerning the debate over gay marriage.  He has been accused of denigrating people with a religious objection by referring to them as "bible thumpers". He has also been accused by some of defending gay marriage on his television show.

Mr. O'Reilly has spent much of the last week addressing this controversy, pointing out that he never actually referred to Christians as bible thumpers.  What he did say was that the opponents of legalizing gay marriage are losing the secular debate simply because their opponents refuse to give the biblical basis of their arguments the same merit and consideration as the Christians grant their opponents' secular arguments.  You can not win any debate, or even have a serious discussion, if one side refuses to acknowledge the other side's argument.  Thus, the comment by Bill O'Reilly that the religious right needs to craft a secular counter to the left's secular arguments promoting gay marriage if they are to have any hope of swaying courts and legislatures, much less public opinion.  As Mr. O'Reilly said, they can not simply "thump the Bible" and expect anything to change.

Bill O'Reilly has been challenged by the Rev. Bill Keller, the creator of the religious website Live Prayer.  As reported on World Net Daily Rev. Keller has pledged a "put up or shut up" $10,000 challenge to a 6 minute debate, with he and Mr. O'Reilly each getting 3 minutes to make their case.  Rev. Keller wants Mr. O'Reilly to match his $10,000 for a total of $20,000 that will go to the winner's charity of choice.  He states that Mr. O'Reilly can take the first 3 minutes to make his arguments "for gay marriage" and then he will use his 3 minutes to refute those arguments using only the Bible.  They will then let Bill O'Reilly's viewers on The Factor vote on which side wins the debate.

Intriguing as such a scene would likely be, the Rev. Keller is proceeding from a false assumption.  Namely, that Mr. O'Reilly has ever argued for gay marriage or so-called "marriage equality".  What he has said is that he supports civil unions for same-sex couples that grant the same secular and civil legal protections that are currently afforded to married couples.  He has consistently opposed redefining marriage, realizing that that would lead to the elimination marriage as an institution. 

There are other "marriage rights" groups waiting in the wings to demand recognition of their own particular aberration and Mr. O'Reilly knows that once the definition of marriage has been opened up to include same sex couples it will be impossible to thenceforth deny the same to those who see no problem with one woman and two (or more) men or one man and a harem of women. Or even "consensual" relationships between adults and minors (many states already restrict marriage by age, with 18 being the norm, but some states allow marriage as young as 15, with parent's permission.  Do you really want a blanket federal law that some perv's interest in your teen daughter is just as legitimate as the love between you and your wife?  Don't even get me started on NAMBLA). Once redefined in one way, where do you stop?  And how do you justify stopping at one point and not another?  Either the Rev. Keller is misinformed on this point, or perhaps he is trying to use Mr. O'Reilly's massive audience to gain exposure for his fledging organization and to raise his own personal profile.  In which case he should rightly be denied the platform he seeks.

Mr. O'Reilly is certainly not afraid of taking on someone with a differing point of view, that's what his program is all about.  He has had debates with a wide range of people, including people with whom he has no sympathy whatsoever.  He always gives them time to expound, but doesn't let them hijack his program to promote their personal agendas at his expense.  He may indeed decide to accept the Rev.'s "challenge" debate.  The Rev. will soon find that he will be expected to stay strictly on point in the debate and to give direct answers to the points of Mr. O'Reilly's argument that in a debate with secularist's you need to use secular arguments.  In other words, you need to "beat them at their own game."

If it happens, it should be a very interesting conversation.  I look forward to it.