hankrules2011

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Family Jewels (Central Intelligence Agency)

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 8, 2022

"Family Jewels." First 6 pages. "Approved For Release June 2007" [2nd Frame]. The CIA's official admission to illegal activities over a 25-year period.

“Family Jewels.” 1st 6 pages. “Approved For Release June 2007” [2nd Frame]. The CIA’s official admission to illegal activities over a 25-year period.

This. The infamous series of reports officially admitting to & describing secret illegal activities conducted by the CIA between 1959 and 1973. Most of these were declassified & released in 2007 due to FIFAs filed by the National Security Archive. These are copies of the original photocopied “secret” level memos & reports compiled at the behest of former CIA director Schlesinger as a result of enormous Watergate backlash (& initially “broken” as a NY Times front page feature in 1974) & this heavily redacted 700-page “book” was delivered to William Colby when he replaced Schlesinger. It is preceded by a short summary literally stating that the “Central Intelligence Agency violated its charter for 25 years until revelations of illegal wiretapping, domestic surveillance, assassination plots, and human experimentation led to official investigations and reforms in the 1970s.” This was delivered to Congress members many years before being declassified.

The contents are controversial for many reasons & many are obvious. The CIA officially admitted to 18 “issues,” some of which were fairly well known yet officially unconfirmed in some sectors (well above the rumor level). (I forget the reason, but these 18 issues were then reduced to only 8 in the attachments to the memo introducing this book–these documents.) Some then-suspected & later publicly infamous examples included the Nosenko defection, Project MOCKINGBIRD, assassination plots/attempts against Castro (shock!) and possibly as well as African & South American leaders, and moving on, illegal domestic surveillance of specific targets & more. Among traditional “conspiracy theories” addressed, these documents validate the numerous accusations of the Mafia’s direct involvement with/in CIA attempts to assassinate Castro — rumors long denied. Such admissions led to later further “embarrassing” revelations about the COINTELPRO program, the Church Committee, lesser known programs, various black ops activities (allegedly influencing American culture as seen in films like Apocalypse Now) & an untold number of potential human rights violations — particularly in South America — that included everything from (potentially lethal) torture (the infamous “Psychological Operations In Guerrilla Warfare,” modified several known times [yet rumored by some to have been modified several more times] provides a formal example of various strategies that, IMO, mirror Ho’s numerous effective tactics such as emphasizing the importance of the political component along with the military while engaging in unconventional warfare. Some of the changes made in revisions included replacing the term “removing” selected targets to instead “neutralize” them, how to frame the narrative to the local peasants after shooting a specific individual, & while discussing the illegality of certain actions, providing helpful suggestions such as “… professional criminals will be hired to carry out specific selective ‘jobs” — a section deleted in later versions of the manual, as well as selecting a person (presumably unknowing) to possibly die during a demonstration & thus create a martyr & “a situation which should be taken advantage of immediately against the regime so as to create greater conflicts.” [This section was also modified in later versions of this manual, which was written specifically for “freedom commandos” in a very well known country which was literally identified on the first page of the Preface itself.] to psyops to working with liaisons from friendly agencies to finding reliable interpreters & much more.

The memo refers to only 8 issues (and one would think a couple seem benign, which naturally is shocking…) yet within the 700+ pages, one finds documented mention of other known and unknown spurious and/or illicit programs such as Operation Phoenix. (The claims made by Director Colby in a Memo to Lloyd Shearer, Editor of Parade Magazine on January 10, 1972 would seem to literally contradict the reality of what has become known about that program in South Vietnam. The director states emphatically that the CIA “does not and has not used political assassination as a weapon.” Which can be interpreted in many ways and I’m confident the director consulted with lawyers about that wording to ensure what was literally said in that statement would hold up as accurate in court. My personal theory. However, one might surmise from mountains of plausible evidence over a much larger period of time than was studied for this report — and note the director does not put a timeframe around that assertion, so he must be 100% accurate throughout the entirety of the CIA’s existence, technically. Which seems to be quite doubtful to me, but I have no personal knowledge, so again, merely a theory. The second of three sections involves plausible denial as the director attempts to shift responsibility for “running” Operation Phoenix from the CIA to the Government of Vietnam. In this, that’s almost certainly an accurate statement, but many would argue only technically and not functionally in any feasible way. It’s common for many military advisors (and associated advisors) of many nations, including the US, to set programs up for training purposes to get local/sovereign governments, militaries, agencies, contractors, rebels, etc., to do the work themselves for this very reason — to be able to legally deny responsibility for any potentially illegal activity that could result in negativities, whether human rights abuse charges or an outright act of war (the US was not supposed to be allowed to enter Cambodia, for instance, as well as  Laos — at least until 1965 in Laos. Officially. “Officially.” But just because the US couldn’t legally go certain places didn’t mean locals trained by the US couldn’t, etc. Yet then there’s the little thorny issue that “official” sometimes doesn’t translate to “literal,” for whatever that tidbit’s worth. You can look it up. Last, Colby’s 3rd point is a strong assertion that Operation Phoenix was not a “program of assassination,” and admitted VC members died but typically resisting police arrest and relatively few at that. Well, this is not universally agreed upon, but there has been enough evidence, eye witness accounts from both CIA and US military involved, not to say Vietnamese as well, that it’s hard to put a completely accurate number to things, but first — yes, I would agree with Director Colby’s statement that “Operation Phoenix is not a program of assassination.” Director Colby is exhibiting skills he no doubt learned while attending Columbia Law School, and which most law school students regardless of the institution learn — everything depends on the words you use and the way they are arranged. It’s how you “frame the narrative.” Yes, I went to law school as well and I spent 12 years working in the legal field. I’m not the sharpest person out there, and not nearly as much as Mr. Colby was, but I can usually argue any topic I want or am faced with using the most bizarre, unlikely, fantastical arguments or assertions and yet make my case over and over because of how I frame my words, how I present my case. You don’t gain admission to a postgraduate level leading scientific “academy” that REQUIRES either an MD or PhD in one very narrow medical/scientific field, as well as some 20 years of experience — part clinical, part research — when you have earned degrees, including a terminal degree, and when you have over 30 years of professional experience — but NONE that have anything to do with that specific scientific field unless you can do your due diligence, build a case and frame your argument in a convincing enough fashion to be basically the lone person ever admitted without any required credentials. Because I DO/DID meet the standards in terms of multiple degrees, including a terminal degree, and while my 30 years of work experience weren’t all in that one narrow specialty, I can make a case I’ve often made which is basically simply because I lacked the official job TITLE of “X” didn’t/doesn’t mean I didn’t do that job. In point of fact, there were times when I did little BUT that job for any number of roles and companies while often wearing many hats, without the specific title (and often the salary to go with it). Moreover, I was able to show over 100 medical/scientific postgrad-level books I’ve read and researched over the years to the point where I have literally taught small lessons and classes to scientists and surgeons in that field, and I HAVE worked in other medical/science fields and published at the peer review level, and much more, and I provided evidence over a period of weeks, provided a detailed personal research proposal, which I literally had been working on just on my own — cause I’m weird like that — and it worked! And that’s worked dozens of times and I’ve never lied and it’s always been legitimate. One other example. How do you gain admission to a narrow, highly focused professional organization with tight high-level admission criteria when you lack any degree in that one field and the org requires multiple degrees in it, as well as the required 20+ years of verifiable work experience at a very senior level — again, verifiable — when you never had that job title, nor those official responsibilities? Same method. I have more degrees than they require, but in other fields of study. I never had that job title, but I did in related fields and have been a professional member of a major professional organization of that related high-tech field for decades, and I was able to prove that while not having that title, I nonetheless fulfilled such a role in nearly every company for which I worked for over two decades. Case closed.

Yes, I went on too long, but to prove a point. Director Colby is accurate in stating “Operation Phoenix” is not a program of assassination.” But look at the words used, the word choice. This wasn’t under questioning where one has to think on their feet. This was a letter sent to an editor in which Mr. Colby, and even colleagues — such as agency lawyers — would have had ample time to prepare to a legal, technically accurate way of responding to each of these issues while skirting admission to what may otherwise amount to the same. Because while it was not a “program of assassination,” there is little doubt that it WAS a program of A) intelligence gathering (typically under incredibly inhumane torture methods that left few survivors — but they weren’t “assassinated” and B) an official VC “Neutralization” program in which South Vietnamese PRUs went to villages in search of individuals on lists given to them daily labeling certain persons as VC they needed to find and “neutralize.” And am I making this up or writing in a subjectively critical fashion. No, I don’t believe so. Not only have I studied this program using articles, books, documents, etc., written and published by former CIA and US military professionals involved with the program, but I’ve read explicit accounts of aspects of it as reported by various South Vietnamese witnesses and survivors. And indeed, even straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak as one of the program’s major proponents who was so very publicly and who was one of the US provincial leaders (and yes, it wasn’t “run” by the CIA, but it WAS created and funded by the CIA, if not administered as well, which is merely splitting hairs with Colby’s choice of words in “run by”) — Col. Andrew R. Finlayson (Ret.), USMC who joined the program in a leadership role in the summer of 1969 under the umbrella of the CIA. He wrote an infamous piece called “ A Retrospective on Counterinsurgency Operations: The Tay Ninh Provincial Reconnaissance Unit and Its Role in the Phoenix Program, 1969-70″ that was published in a journal called Studies in Intelligence Vol. 51 No. 2, 2007. It’s not a household name journal because it has a very niche audience. But guess who reads Studies in Intelligence? You’re right — me! As I write, I’m looking at the cover of an issue titled “CIA and the Wars in Southeast Asia 1947-75” from the August 2016 issue. Fascinating. And beside it I have Col. Finlayson’s own article in its entirety, which I had already read and just read again. And despite claims of NON-government attribution in the journal as the material is “created by individuals other than US government employees,” the publisher of this journal is the Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington D.C. 20505. 🙂 Get that? I guess the only way the CIA can back that assertion up is by having Retired individuals “create” the material published in the journal because otherwise it’s nothing BUT US government and CIA-focused! That’s awesome. I like playing word games like that. The point is though that the colonel talks a good game and is a good PR manager for the program — for HIS territory, but can’t speak on behalf of the others. But it was very effective in his territory. I’d wager many would say it was extremely effective in its goals by any standard, so he has little to brag about. When your goals are detain (or shoot on sight), torture and torture to death in many cases, and “neutralize” “suspected” VC adversaries — and the word “neutralize” can take on so many meanings — you can afford to claim you’re not assassinating people and you can afford to even possibly claim those killed were largely “resisting police arrest” and then basically end your argument by saying that besides, the CIA’s “abuses” couldn’t possibly compare to “the Viet Cong’s conscious campaign of terrorism…” Beautiful. Lawyer-speak. Of course your opponent is much more vile than you, so you can admit to being vile — just not as bad as the other guy. You can say no assassinations, but admit to people getting “killed in the course of military operations” or “resisting police arrest” when you know — but the civilians don’t — that those two phrases merely mean having PRU squads headed by US CIA and military leaders go from village to village with a list of people to obtain and “neutralize,” resulting in a large majority being gunned down in the villages before ever making it back to get interrogated. Moreover, as has always been the case in such warfare,  but as Americans only started learning then and didn’t really “get it” until decades later in the desert, various forms of unconventional warfare can complicate things because when you have to capture and detain specifically named persons in areas where there are no street addresses or phone numbers and worse, NO Uniforms so one can tell the difference between combatant and civilian, well as most people know by now, when you can’t tell ‘m apart, you just start shooting. (You never know who’s going to be the suicide bomber…) And with even the operators in this classified program getting daily body kill count quotas like the regular army units, there was pressure and temptation to just start producing bodies and label them whatever the adverserial label was for that day — Viet Cong, VCI, whatever. So the colonel is right in arguing Phoenix’s effectiveness. Between Tet and Phoenix, the VC were basically wiped out. But Colby plays a nice legal trick on the editor by his choice of words and his intentionally downplaying Methods of death (indiscriminate murder but not assassination could be one way of looking at it) so that they would be viewed as both understandable (in a war zone, not a prison) and even desirable (resisting arrest? They probably deserved it, especially since they were commie terrorists) and the icing on the cake was Colby’s assurances that there really weren’t that many “abuses” and besides the VC were SoMuchWorse!

Just for the record, since it’s impossible to know how many deaths to attribute to Operation Phoenix, that doesn’t mean that haven’t been many attempts to do so on behalf of many different groups and the generally agreed upon minimal is about 25,000 killed and the Facts And Details site refers to Wikipedia in stating that between 1965 and 1972, “Phoenix operatives had ‘neutralized’ 81,740 suspected NLF operatives, informants and supporters, of whom 26,369 were killed.” I happen to know that Wiki got that info from MACV itself, ie., the US military/government. So as with all of the body count numbers there, how reliable are those? Col. Finlayson tries to justify the program’s effectiveness AND the raw deal it’d gotten in the press as a human rights criminal program by stating “only 14% of the VCI (their prey) killed under Phoenix were killed by PRUs” … while most of “the rest died in skirmished and raids involving South Vietnamese soldiers and police and the US military.”

Wow. I don’t know about you, but wow. If that’s not a prime example of “changing the narrative,” I don’t know what is. PRUs were “Provincial Reconnaissance Units” designed solely for the Phoenix program, described by Finlayson himself as “the most controversial element of Phoenix.” Paramilitary forces known as “Counter-Terror Teams.” Over 4,000 of them operated throughout South Vietnam and were originally under the individual command of US military officers until the end of 1969 when they were handed back to the CIA. The 18-men teams were heavily armed in addition to having state of the art med kits, radios, motorcycles and 4×4 Toyota trucks. The colonel’s original assessment was that they “lacked fire discipline,” which he doesn’t adequently define leaving readers to guess if that implies they were basically cowboys who started shooting at first sight until they ran out of ammo, thus accounting for a good portion of the 14% the colonel claims the PRUs were responsible for killing. Recall, the US government itself claimed over 81,000 people died under Phoenix, so if the PRUs “only” killed 14%, that would come close to 12,000 people. And that’s a number to be proud of, according to the colonel, since others did “most” of the rest of the killing. In other words, those other 70,000 dead people weren’t his fault so lay off him. Yes, it’s that damn simple. And yes, Colby did what any good lawyer would do and misrepresented facts by framing them in vague terms with zero specifics and comparing the assurance of a small (undefined) number of “abuses” and killed to the horror that the enemy doled out, allowing the American public to feel some relief from any war guilt they may have been feeling. And since this letter was written in 1972, a shitload of Americans were feeling shitty about a whole lot of things. So it was good to not feel shitty about one of those things, right?

Okay, I apologize for getting way off track, but I sometimes enjoy getting carried away. Retirement does that to you. You feel the need to babble incessantly at times, a fault my wife kindly reminds me I’m guilty of at times.

So going back to the original top of Family Jewels, I started to try and attach it as a “family member,” so to speak, of one of the infamous “CIA torture manuals,” in this case the “Psychological Operations In Guerrilla Warfare” manual, which I’ve had and studied for years. And I have the other torture manuals. But I have to be candid in stating I know those much better than Family Jewels for many reasons, but one is simply that I rarely have the time these days to read a 700-page tome with everything else I do so I’ve read bits and pieces of it and I’ve read a lot About most of it, which is where I got the info to spit out something about the CIA finding 18 “issues,” though only 8 are outlined in the memo. One issue that often is associated with all of these documents and manuals is training. Specifically the training the CIA does (and the military and now also private contractors, formerly referred to as mercenaries) for tens of thousands of international militaries and police units. And unfortunately with a number of those trained later being accused of human rights violations. Some have called it a “Culture.”

One aspect of this culture that seems to have been there from the beginning through the present is the military & police training of a rumored number of students numbering in the hundreds of thousands, largely through the School of Americas (SOA), now renamed, which trained military & police leaders from hundreds of countries since its creation in 1946 with a special emphasis on Latin American students & with a focus on counterinsurgency used to allegedly fight communism during the Cold War but since the dismantling of the Cold War, a new focus on illegal drug lords & gangs, who were allegedly rebranded “terrorists” after 9/11, but which resulted in autocratic countries led by so-called dictators, most accused by various organizations of being guilty of US-backed atrocities & human rights violations as it was alleged that many labeled whomever they wished (political opponents, unruly peasants, etc.) as “terrorists” to eliminate via infamous, feared “death squads.” Examples of such who were alleged graduates of SOA, newly American trained, include Argentine General Viola, Panama’s Manuel Noriega, Guatemalan Colonel Alpirez (allegedly killed US citizens, among others), Honduran General Discua, Salvadoran Colonel Monterrosa, Guatemalan Colonel Osorio (convicted of murdering anthropologist Myrna Mack) & virtually all of the officers working for the most notorious of them all, Chilean General Pinochet, such a brazen “terrorist” that in 1976, two Chilean diplomats were assassinated on the streets of Washington, DC itself, stunning both the world & the US federal government. The fact that the Letelier political assassination was carried out by Chilean secret police in the US (through the South American Operation Condor project) has led some to question whether the CIA would have been aware of such activities, though I’m unaware of anything considered definitive on the part of anyone.

My point in belaboring that last mentioned aspect of the Family Jewels documents is that a major “issue” the CIA possibly found itself “guilty” of during a 25-year period could conceivably be representative of the agency’s entire history of its training international professionals, possibly through the present. That is purely speculative, but cannot be ruled out.

Ultimately while both scholars & critics (as well as victims) have been happy to have so much documented information released, a number of people have asserted that it’s difficult to believe that over a 25-year period, “only” 18 “issues” (let alone 8!) were found & self-reported by the CIA when skeptics assert there surely must be much more than “only” that many. I personally have no knowledge or theories regarding that as I am merely a student of history & remain absorbed in reading, research & analysis with documented histories of any number of subjects, as my weakness is that I’m interested in too much & thus spread myself too thin.

I could go on endlessly, but I’ve already devoted too much time & energy to this post. But both for anyone interested as well as to publicly emphasize that ALL of documents & information described & discussed herein is “open source,” declassified & identified as such, readily available to any interested parties at multiple sources & one only needs a search engine & several minutes to find, access & obtain this & additional documents at will. As I stated, I am a student of history & take such seriously. As a result, I view it as necessary, essential & intellectually honest to (re)learn the standard fare we all receive but to be honest & objective enough to find & learn about the warts & possible ugliness regarding not only world history but nationalistic history & thus to eventually gloss over the perennially regurgitated & THINK, because we aren’t used to doing that & it’s actually often discouraged in some areas. Thus I’ve pondered things my entire life & found myself wondering how Hawaii became a US state, because no one ever learns about that, or why did Puerto Rico become a US territory before 1900 yet while many residents have pressed for official statehood status, it hasn’t happened & yet Alaska & Hawaii flew by them many years later. Why? History indicates the participants in World War I were so exhausted & everything had become so futile that it was rumored that they were in the process of brokering a peace when US President Wilson entered the fray at the last minute (to some), resulting in an alleged unnecessary extension of the war with an alleged million additional deaths & if remotely true, why? For that matter, we don’t learn about additional Wilson-led adventures following the war, ones that might surprise some people were they too read of this history. And moving beyond the US, we rarely learn much of anything other than Western European history. That is fascinating but there’s more to the history of the world than just that. What about good Mr. Rhodes? Why the India/Pakistan partition when Britain released its former colony? Why do we not learn about the one tiny, backwards third world country to effectively defeat three of the greatest powers in the world, all within roughly a 3-4 decade period & initially lacking weapons, financing, infrastructure, technology, etc.? Why have we forgotten Gary F Powers? And on and on. There are so many questions and so many mysteries and so much fascinating information to be gleaned from history that I could have devoted my entire life to learning and only have gotten a fraction of the way there by this point. And now I’m going to cut it off early because despite being able to write more, I’ve been up all night doing this and it’s now morning and it’s time to start the coffee. I hope this post was informative and interesting for some and oddly, I didn’t come up with this idea on my own. I was pinning a document on a Pinterest board when a popup appeared urging me to write something, and without my realizing what that would lead to, I did. And I’ll know better next time, but it was fun and gonna go now. Have a good day.

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Some Quotes of Mine

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 19, 2021

Excerpt from the Pittsburgh Quarterly (1993)

Excerpt from Street Poems (1991)

Excerpt from Shadows Before The Maiming (1999)

Excerpt from The Napalmed Soul (1999)

Excerpt from Shadows Before The Maiming (1999)

Excerpt from Cells (2004)

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Polite Society

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 20, 2021

An interesting first blog post from aginggenxer. I tend to agree with most of this & often think if people would just STFU & we could magically go back to much of the late 1960s, the ’70s & part of the ’80s when it was not only not cool to bring up politics & religion in most places but certainly with strangers & certainly not to flame the hell outta them pre-Internet — cause people weren’t that big of an asshole yet, or at least in person — well, yeah maybe this is idealistically naïve but it’s hard for me not to think things would HAVE to better to whatever degree. The last place I lived was very one-party to an extreme degree & for some reason everyone there assumed everyone else — you, me — shared the same political/spiritual beliefs so you’d be standing next to a total stranger & they’d start spewing venom, hate, BS, unwanted religious garbage, etc., expecting you to join them in their hate fests, but if you ever got a word in to tell them no offense, but I disagree with nearly everything you say, the look of shock, betrayal & hatred was borderline shocking, & if in a crowd for something like a community celebration & these morons started spreading the word about troublemakers like US around, it was then wise to start edging toward wherever you left the car. Cause no one had your back when tens of thousands of gun packing people want your scalp for daring to be their neighbor who doesn’t agree with their personal beliefs! They never stop to think, what if the tables were turned? More proof that they’re morons. But the point is, I think agingggenxer makes a good point because like them, when I was younger, you knew enough not to bring those things up & most employers usually had a written policy that those were not workplace topics that would be acceptable. After working with a ton of otherwise likeable people over much of this century & hearing everything from rude jokes to wanting to exterminate fellow citizens who did not see their way — WTH did THAT become acceptable??? — I’ve spent much time coming to hate both major political parties & wishing I were in Finland or Denmark or freaking anywhere but here! Anyway, I thought this was worth sharing. Comments are welcome. Cheers!

aginggenxer

When I was a girl, my father always told me that it was considered impolite to talk about religion and politics. My parents were always secretive about their political leanings. We didn’t practice any religion in my home and we also didn’t talk about anyone else’s religion. I had friends who went to church weekly and that was cool; that’s what their family did. They never talked to us about it unless my brother or I asked.

As I observe our country, now divided in the worst possible way, I long for the days when strangers didn’t ask you about your most deeply held beliefs. We have a new neighbor. A few weeks ago, my husband and this new neighbor met for the first time. This neighbor asked my husband about his religious beliefs and tried to get him to talk about his political beliefs. I see no reason for…

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Amazon: 25 Years Of Loyalty Down The Drain

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 18, 2020

For the moment, I only have the time to copy and paste a very short post I published on LinkedIn today, but I hope to return to this topic later with a lot more to say, including specifics, details, statistics, and commentary. All I know is I have been more loyal to Amazon as one of its earlier customers for the past 25 years than nearly any other company, but after a number of events over the past few months, they are now permanently on my SHIT LIST from hell, I feel betrayed and I want them — and everyone else — to know about it. Apparently they’ve gotten so big, they don’t and won’t give a shit, but I still have a right to speak my mind, so I will…

From my LinkedIn post today: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6646086971418566656/.

 

After 25 years as a loyal customer, Amazon has made it to my shit list & it’s sad. I’m so ticked. Lately, when I have the gall to order things & give them $, they’re screwing me by declining legit orders, terminating my password & ALL recent orders – for no good reason. It’s INSANE! Today, I spent 3 hours finding items, ordered dozens for $$ & they shut me down for the 2nd time in 3 days. They no longer like it when I order 100 items or $1000, though they liked it for 24 years. (Also shut me down for 2 Kindle books!) There’s no $ problem, I’m NEVER close to credit limits, not late on payments, but now twice in 3 days, the 5th in 6 weeks-I can’t reset my password, have to CALL IN (prehistoric). The 3 times I’ve done so, I average 2 hours & 4 reps per call due to alleged “unauthorized party access.” I’ve said if true, my banks would be calling within minutes: they don’t. No one else has this problem with me. ALSO, there isn’t a black market for $4 Kindle books; they’d get gift cards to sell instead. I’ve spent $2.5 MILLION+ personally & $4 MILLION+ professionally with them & this is what I get? They’re stupidly throwing away a $7+ Million customer?? I’m going elsewhere. Others want my $$….

 

[To be continued…]

I can’t believe @JeffBezos would endorse or approve of this. If so, his principles have taken a big hit & he’s joined the legion of other Internet greats who had awesome ideas, built something wonderful, grew a great customer base (with myself as one of them), only to abandon a number of customers by apparently thinking he’s too big or good for them now or they don’t matter anymore. I really have no idea what else it would be because idiocy of this magnitude would have to come from the top. I really have had so much respect for him for over two and a half decades. This is massively disillusioning. There’s a reason that moron in the White House got voted in with his transparent crappy statements about “making America great again,” because while neither he nor his followers are the ones who can or will do that, he’s actually right in the sense that most Americans no longer have the work ethic, principles, common sense, business sense, intelligence, dedication to service or quality we did as a nation for so very long. There’s a reason the US has dropped in nearly every field and category that exists. I thought Bezos was one of the few left who still had some of those qualities. Apparently I was mistaken. Pity…

 

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We Just Bought A New House and We’re Moving!

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 24, 2019

We have been house hunting all year in another primary region of the country for several different reasons, and I initially thought it would and should turn out to be quick and easy, but it’s been the most hellish house buying/moving experience of my life! Because of things like my poor health and my wife’s busy schedule, we simply couldn’t work out the logistics of a long trip, so we’ve been doing this remotely, which I’ve never done before. It’s really way too long of a story to tell, but we looked in a 3 state area for the whole year, and it has been the worst and toughest year of our lives! But we finally closed on a house a couple of weeks ago, and we’ll be moving to Pennsylvania in two weeks. I’d love to tell the story, but it would take too long and I don’t have the time or energy. So this will be another photo blog, with picks of the house we’re going to be moving into. It’s not what we started out looking for, it’s not ideal, we would probably prefer a number of things it lacks, but for here and now, it was the right place in the right location at the right price, and it’s actually a nice little house, I think, although I do cringe at the idea of downsizing. Heh. We’ll be living in a TINY community in the middle of the state, north of Baltimore, in between Pittsburgh and Philly, so there are many reasons why that’s an ideal location for us, which I won’t go very deeply into, but basically my health is so bad that numerous specialists have given up on my health even being MANAGED, let alone treated here in Chattanooga, the state itself, and even the entire region and I’ve been repeatedly advised to move to one of the following places: Mayo Clinic (Minnesota), Cleveland Clinic or Johns Hopkins (Baltimore). And since Gretchen is from Maryland and her family all live there and since she worked in Baltimore, and it and DC nearby, and they have a much better job market than here, and she’s also excited about seeing old friends and more, it just makes sense. (Frankly, it’s time for us to leave the South.) Additionally, this will be about a one hour commute for her to Baltimore, or if she could find a closer job, we’re 20 minutes from Gettysburg, 10 minutes from Hanover, 30 minutes from York, 45 minutes from Harrisburg, an hour and a half from DC, an hour and a half from Philly, and it’s more to Pittsburgh, but in the event Johns Hopkins can’t handle all of my issues, both Pittsburgh and Philly have top hospitals in some my areas (neurology, neuroscience) that could serve as backups or supplements. So as much as I would like to describe how insanely nuts this year has been, what we’ve had to go through to make this work, and how grueling this has been for us, I simply don’t have the time or energy to describe it and write more than I am here, so I’m going to go ahead and mainly post some pics of the new house we’ll be moving into in early December.

First, a few basics: It is a small, older two-story colonial (built in 1930) that we think is fairly attractive. It’s got three bedrooms and one bathroom, a nice covered front porch, small but nice back deck, small level yard, lovely real original hardwood floors with a pleasant and good sized living room, dining room and kitchen. Upstairs, the master bedroom is uniquely shaped, but not a bad size and has a door leading out to a back upper story covered balcony. The other bedrooms are somewhat small, but they fit the house and we knew we’d have to downsize. There’s a very large unfinished basement that will provide excellent storage and if we ever get the funds to partially or fully finish it, the listed “living space” square footage will shoot up tremendously because the literal square footage is actually over 900 more square feet than the listed livable square footage. We didn’t have many requirements and were forced to lower our expectations because Maryland (our original intended location) is such an expensive state to live in, and we wouldn’t have had many options, and yet even in podunk PA, in the neighboring county, the property taxes were just insane! We’ve been spoiled in Chattanooga, because the taxes are the lowest we’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen monster ones in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Phoenix and Malibu, but all the time we were looking at regular sized, regular priced (cheap even) houses in that county, I kept asking the realtors WHY a 1800 square foot house with three bedrooms and one bathroom that runs about $220K-$250K would have property taxes of $6000, $8000, even $11000 and $13000 a year?!? There? Manhattan? Sure! Newport Beach? Sure! Santa Barbara? Of course. But what the hell is in the sticks that is such a big draw that people are dying to move there and pay those kind of property taxes for a generic rural area??? That’s nuts! I offended some people by asking that question about some place no one has ever heard of, that has no draw at all to merit robbing people like that – why?!? In any event, this house’s taxes are much more than we’re used to, but less than the examples I gave and for that area, about average. Even though we didn’t have many requirements, most of the houses in that area are very old. I knew that because I spent a decade living in that state as a young boy and I can recall all of the many houses from the 1830s and 1790s, etc. So almost none of these houses have any AC at all — and I get massively hot. Also, I prefer gas heat, and most had electric. We also prefer city water and sewer, and of course, most were on wells and septic tanks. BUT, this house has gas heat, central AC and is on public water and sewer, so YAY, that makes a big difference to us. There’s so much more, but I have very poor health and am tied up in trying to make arrangements with movers, auto transport services, utility companies, and all the details that go with this, so I’m just going to move on to the pics. The only other thing I’ll mention is that the house is located in Adams County, PA, where the county seat is historic Gettysburg. Our town is the fourth largest (of 18) “borough” in the county with a massive population of all of 3,000 people, making it the second smallest place I will ever have lived. It’s called McSherrystown (Borough) and it’s old and cute. And here’s something we really like! No crime. Like none. During  this century, no murders, rapes, assaults, one arson every other year, two robberies, and fewer than 75 thefts total for the whole damn century! The “city” has a police force of FOUR! Hell, that’s how many cops got killed on my block in LA every night when I lived in 18th Street Gang Territory, as well as when I was in North Long Beach (and dozens of other places there and elsewhere). Since we’ve been crime victims multiple times, this matters greatly to us. You may not be impressed with this house and it won’t be the nicest and will be the smallest I’ve ever lived in, but we do like it, think it’s attractive and it has some really nice features, and since every place has its pros and cons, we’re happy to have found this after 11 hard months of work trying to get a house and we’re especially happy to have gotten it for so much less than most others anywhere around there and others we were considering.

 

1. Our new house, front from street.

 

 

2. An angled street view of the front of our new house.

 

 

3. A different angled street view of the front of our new house.

 

 

4. The foyer. Needs a touch up here and there, but otherwise nice and in good condition with access to all of the important parts of the house.

 

 

5. The well lit, open living room with a lovely opening to the large formal dining room next to it. Original hardwood. Lots of windows. Good size. This is especially important to me as I have serious mobility issues due to my health, and so I spend the majority of my time on the ground floor, and so obviously the living room.

 

 

 

 

6. Another vantage point of the living room.

 

 

7. From the living room looking into the foyer.

 

8. Spacious cheery formal dining room!

 

 

9. Dining room, looking into the kitchen and the living room.

 

 

10. Spacious kitchen. This honestly isn’t our favorite, but we looked at so many houses throughout three states that we saw every kind, size, style imaginable and while this lacks the cupboard and counter space we would really prefer, it’s MUCH better and massively larger than the one in the house we had signed an agreement to purchase the previous month, only to have the inspector find so many “invisible” problems that the likely repair bills would likely have been in the six figures alone — and so we walked. That house seemed very nice, was quite large, but had the tiniest, most useless kitchen we’d ever seen, so we’ll take this present one any day over the former. Hey, can’t get everything you want, right? It’ll be good.

 

 

10. Kitchen facing entrances to other rooms.

 

 

11. One of the bedrooms.

 

 

12. A (small) second bedroom.

 

 

13. The master bedroom. Oddly narrow and long, but still pretty nice, we think.

 

 

14. Another view of the master bedroom.

 

 

15. The back deck with small, level back yard and a decent shed in the background. I’m not much of a “deck” person, but I’m actually pretty happy about this one, because our current one — which we’ve had to have ripped up, torn down and rebuilt twice in five years at great expense — is SO incredibly high off the ground, and the stairs so steep and vertically challenging with small, narrow steps, that it’s completely unusable for me, while this should be, so maybe I’ll actually become a “deck” person…

 

 

15. The back of the house. The cool thing about this photo is the funky thing I didn’t show in previous pictures. If you look up toward the top floor, you’ll see that the master bedroom has a door that opens on to a fairly decent, comfortable covered balcony, which is a little unusual, but we think it’s pretty cool.

 

I won’t bore you with any more house photos. It’s just that I literally have no one to show, and even though it’s probable that no one will even see it here online, at least I’m getting to attempt to show some photos of our new house, so it would be nice to know if anyone saw this post. As I said, it’s been a demanding, exhausting, draining, frustrating, infuriating, tiring, impossible, expensive as hell year culminating in finally finding a house we could buy, but now the end of it all is finally getting near and we’ll (hopefully) finally be able to sit down, take a breath and relax in a couple of months. Unreal year. For so many more reasons not mentioned here.

Well, enough of that. I’m going to post a few final pics I got off the Net of a few parts of town so you can see how tiny and quaint it is. I won’t label each of them like I did for the house, but the one of the church is of the town’s Catholic church, and the biggest one around, while the one of the diner shows the only restaurant they have, and the hilarious one of their police car is of the only one in town for the four police officers to share while not having to do a darn thing about the near total lack of crime. LOL! Thanks for indulging me, if anyone did. We’ll be moving in a couple of weeks. Catch ya on the other side…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cal State Long Beach: 13th Best School In America!!!

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 7, 2019

I have been meaning to brag on an alma mater of mine for a week. Now I’m finally doing so. Money Magazine just published “The 25 Best Colleges in America” (via 19,000 Data Points). (https://bit.ly/2Zi6mlP) Some schools are definitely surprises and the schools you would expect to find in the Top 10, let alone Top 25, really aren’t there, or not as high as many would think, including their administrations and alumni! Out of 750 schools, the top school was UC Irvine! That is very surprising, because it’s not a bad school, but as part of the UC (University of California) system, it’s one of … 10? … great universities making the very best public academic system in the world. And as most people know, UC Berkeley is typically the top ranked one, followed immediately by UCLA. I’d say the next two most “elite” would be UC San Diego and UC San Francisco. At that point, there’s sort of a mishmash of the rest, including UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Riverside. There may be another now, but that’s basically the system. So Irvine is a great school, hard to get into, excellent programs, but they don’t nearly have the reputation as the usual top two. So to find it ranked Number One in America INCLUDING both public AND private is frankly quite stunning. Kudos to them though. That’s awesome.

 

The 25 Best Colleges in America

 

However, the one I’m most excited about and most proud of is that my second alma mater, where I got my first graduate degree — California State University Long Beach (CSULB)is actually ranked #13 in the damn country — over Harvard, Cal Tech, Yale, Duke and other “elite” schools! You have no idea how big this is, because while CSULB has been ranked very high for years by Princeton Review, US News, etc., CSU schools have often been snubbed by “elite” UC schools. So it’s great to see TWO CSU schools make the list! With #13 Long Beach, CSU Fullerton is #22! Congrats! I loved my time at Long Beach State! It was great. I experienced many opportunities, worked and played hard, taught, researched, published and finished as top graduate at California’s largest university. I have always thought the education I received there was far superior to where I received my undergrad degree, the University of Tennessee. But try telling a UT admin, faculty member, student or alumnus that, and be prepared for a beat down. That’s the point — they don’t know any better.

 

#13 California State University Long Beach, my alma mater, is mentioned by name with #14 Harvard. Exclusive club… LOL!

 

Besides California, only one state had multiple schools: Massachusetts with three. All of the other states had one or none at all. Meanwhile, six of the top 12 schools are UC schools, dashing notions that some “elite” private schools are better. (Not naming schools, but you all know which ones…) So California (where my heart remains), has 10 (TEN!) universities in the top 25! (The six UC schools, two CSU schools, Stanford and Cal Tech.) Wonder where the best schools are now? I guess you don’t have to anymore. They’re sure not on the East Coast!!!

And if I can stretch some things here while still being honest, I actually did pretty good. While my second degree is from #13 CSULB, I also spent four years at #4 UCLA pursuing a different degree I wasn’t able to complete as I had to relocate for work. I also did post-grad work at #8 Michigan and briefly studied at #6  Stanford. FOUR Top 13 schools! AND, to stretch things even further, I presented and published several academic papers at conferences at #22 Cal State Fullerton, and I went to #1 UC Irvine to do extensive graduate level research at their research library. That’s six Top 25 schools I was/am affiliated with. Awesome.

And interestingly, the vaunted Ivy League is poorly represented, with only one school in the Top 10 (#3 Princeton) and only two more schools on the list, both behind Cal State Long Beach (#14 Harvard and #17 Yale)!!! Most others on the list would include schools you’d expect, but I was very surprised by #2 and #25, and slightly less by #24. In any event, I’m proud as hell of my graduate alma mater, Long Beach State University (California State University Long Beach). Number 13 in America, over Harvard, Yale, Vandy, Duke, etc. Way to go Beach!!!

(Incidentally, among the other schools I studied at or attended, none of them were mentioned including two schools I received degrees from: the University of Tennessee and Queens University of Charlotte…)

 

America’s Top 25 Colleges & Universities

 

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