hankrules2011

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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

A Review of Warrior: Frank Sturgis

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 3, 2015

Warrior: Frank Sturgis---The CIA's #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro but Was Ambushed by WatergateWarrior: Frank Sturgis—The CIA’s #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro but Was Ambushed by Watergate by Jim Hunt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is about a legend in the subject’s own mind. And perhaps the co-authors’. And perhaps even a few others. But he’s really not all that. This book is poorly researched, is largely hearsay, is mostly guided by the nephew of the subject, who lived with him for awhile and is one of the co-authors, and seems spurious at best.

Sturgis joined the Marines in WWII and fought in the Pacific, winning several decorations. He was later stationed in Europe after the war. This is where he began spying for the Zionist movement for Israel, pre-Mossad, something which would have been illegal and would have resulted in dishonorable discharge at best and perhaps even loss of his citizenship. After leaving the Marines, he joined the Navy and the Army, although in what capacity, I’m not sure. The book states he served in all four armed services, but he did not serve in the Air Force, one of a number of factual mistakes made by the authors.

Following his military career, Sturgis, who’s real name was Fiorini and who changed his name to suit his circumstances some 33 alleged times opened up several bars, but grew restless, so he became a mercenary and started becoming involved in several South and Central American country’s military efforts, both in terms of training and arms supplying. At some point, he became interested in Cuba and was put off by the dictator there and intrigued by the new rebel, Castro, who promised reform and democracy. So Sturgis went off to offer his help to Castro. He trained his rebels, supplied arms and ammunition, an airplane and boats, and helped Castro and Che take over Cuba. A famous picture of Sturgis holding a rifle and identified as a captain in Castro’s army standing on a mass grave appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper, which later got him into trouble. When he returns to America, he was stripped of his citizenship, and held for trial. His Florida senator got him off. He returned to Cuba, retained his status in the army, was given control of the air force, and was then made the gambling czar. In this capacity, he met all the mob bosses, many of whom he pissed off, most of whom he forced back to the US. Still, he seemed to be on good terms with them. During this time, he was approached, apparently, by a CIA agent who asked him to spy on Castro and supply them with any information about communism or anything else that could be indicting. Since Sturgis was extremely anti-communist, he agreed. And he was becoming nervous. It seemed Castro was backtracking on his promise for democracy and was filling his cabinet with communists. Che played a big role in this. Sturgis thought it might be time for him to head back to Miami. But first he contemplated assassinating Castro. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d done such a thing, apparently. He was, after all according to the book, the CIA’s “#1 Assassin-Spy,” and someone Castro later called the CIA’s “most dangerous agent.” He apparently had at least four opportunities. On page 80 in the book, it states “Throughout his anti-Castro career, Frank participated in more than 150 air operations and 60 boat incursions. As Frank put it, these missions were done both ‘with the green light and without the green light’.” So one of my biggest questions about the book is, at some point, Sturgis is asked why he didn’t pull the trigger and he replied that he never got the green light. So if he hated Castro that much, why suddenly wait for the green light when everything else he does is done without any authority? That makes utterly no sense at all. It sounds like a bad cop out and I don’t buy it.

In 1959, Frank leaves Cuba for Miami, where he sets up an anti-Castro operation, where he sends in teams of people, including himself, to disrupt, antagonize, breed anti-Castro resentment, etc. It barely ever works. He does this for the rest of his life.

Much later, he is hired to commit the Watergate burglary, where he is caught and goes to prison. He allegedly does this as a CIA operative, along with other CIA operatives, most of whom are Cubans who the CIA are just dying to hire to join the CIA fresh off the boat (sarcasm intended) when Sturgis remains an independent contractor his whole career and is never an actual employee of the Agency.

One thing that’s interesting about the book is the Kennedy assassination conspiracy. Apparently there are those who believe Frank was involved and indeed was the “only one who could pull off killing Kennedy.” Um, right. Yep. Apparently, because of his Cuban connections, his mob connections, and his right wing CIA connections, all of whom wanted Kennedy dead, he was the one to pull it all together and pictures show him as one of the tramps on the grassy knoll. The two co-authors offer their own interpretations, one of which places him in Dallas on hand and ready to pull the trigger, and the other of which states that he had to have been in Miami through an eyewitness account, but that he could have overseen everything and indeed, probably did. If this is true, it’s likely the only successful thing he ever did, as he failed at unseating Castro and he failed at Watergate. Now, he did help assassinate a couple of small time banana republic dictators, apparently, so I guess that’s something, but for a man who considered himself a true patriot, he sure did a lot of unpatriotic things, including hating Kennedy for life after the Bay of Pigs incident, which he apparently trained the men for, and including virtually everything else he did.

Enough. It’s hard enough to believe that much of this is true. If it is, Sturgis was an interesting failure. He’s dead, so we’ll never truly know. His nephew thinks he knows, but he doesn’t — it’s conjecture. The tale is fascinating, but largely unbelievable and thus not recommended.

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A Review of Mao: The People’s Emperor

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 27, 2015

Mao, the People's EmperorMao, the People’s Emperor by Dick Wilson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a hard book to rate. On one hand, it provides a lot of information and is somewhat detailed. On the other, it leaves out huge chunks of information which is simply unforgivable.

I wanted to read about Mao to learn more about him — I knew next to nothing — and I did. I learned of his modest upbringing, his hardships, his love of country, his love of the peasants, his introduction to Marx, his awakening to socialism and communism and the way to save his country — and every country. I learned of his split with the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek, the backstabbing, dictatorial asshole American naturally supported to rule China and whom Mao eventually drove to Taiwan. I learned about Mao’s raising of a peasant army, about the Long March, about his battles against Japan during WWII, his continued battles with the nationalists after the war, and about his victorious march into Peking after defeating them. I read of his rise to power and of how power corrupts, in this case, his cronies. Mao apparently wanted the Chinese to continue to revolt to bring about true communism, but his cronies on the Politburo grew a little too comfortable. I read of the numerous attempts to get Mao thrown out of office, which surprised me, and of how he survived each, coming back stronger each time. I read of his Cultural Revolution, which was taking place when I was born and was something I barely remember. I read of when Nixon went to visit him, the first time an American president had done such a thing. And I read of his death in the mid-70s.

All of this was interesting, but so much was left out. For instance, you would think the Korean War would be pretty big, wouldn’t you? It was big for the US, the two Koreas, and China, but it only merits a few sentences in this huge book. WTH? What’s up with that? Surely the author could have written something about that! Also, during the Hundred Flowers phase of the ’50s, Mao was said to have said that “the imperialist claims that twenty million people had been killed as counter-revolutionaries were quite false. The true number was ‘not much greater than 700,000.'” Um, excuse me? Where the hell did that come from? At least 700,000 people died and perhaps as many as 20 million and the author never even hints that executions are taking place, that people are being murdered, that there are death squads, that anything AT ALL is happening???!!! Doesn’t Mr. Wilson owe it to his reader to let them know that this is happening? It’s shocking that he left this information out of the book. It’s insulting to the Chinese and to the reader. If I were a relative of one of the deceased, I’d be outraged. I just couldn’t believe it when I read that passage. And that’s not an isolated example! This occurs elsewhere. Mass massacres, with no advance warning. No sense of injustice. Mao’s just a rustic good old boy, a somewhat naive genius who barely understand Marxism, but is well loved by the peasants. What the hell??? And so on. And then there’s the Vietnam War. How much do you think that’s mentioned in this book? Not at all. I can’t believe it. Not at all. The author is an idiot, or he thinks his reader is, I’m not sure.

I would give the book one star, but I’m giving it two because a lot of research did go into it and the author did tackle a moderately complex character with a minimum attempt at explaining him. He tried, but only just. I expected so much more. If anyone can recommend a better Mao bio to me, I’d appreciate it. Definitely not recommended.

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Reflections

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 14, 2014

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually written anything here, besides book reviews. Sorry. A lot has been going on. My mom moved from Chattanooga to Knoxville and we’ve been back and forth between the two cities a lot lately. In fact, we’ve seen my mom four of the past five weekends, which is more than we saw her when she lived here in Chattanooga.  It’s been very tiring.

A few weeks ago, we went to my high school class’s 30th reunion in Knoxville. It was pretty good, but a little odd too. So strange to see how people have changed, including me. We got a few good pics, had fun catching up with some people, and had a good time. It was nice to introduce my wife to my old classmates.

This month marks the five month anniversary of our cat Toby’s death. We miss him horribly and I wish he could have lived long enough to move to our new house with us. I’d love to see him running around here. Strangely, our other cat, Henry, has been doing some Toby-like things lately, like he’s channeling Toby. Very odd.

This month also marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death last year. He died mowing my yard and it was — and still is — a huge shock. There are so many things I wish I could have and would have told him and so many things I would like to tell him now. We really miss him. We’ve stopped at his gravestone in Knoxville a few times.

Meanwhile, I love my mother, but … she’s been driving me crazy ever since Dad died. She’s got a LOT of anxiety about a lot of things, which is somewhat understandable, but she calls me all the time. Like 6-18 times a day! She’s gotten better over the past few weeks, but the damage has been done. Now when she calls, I just sigh and pick up the phone. It’s hard. She’s changed a lot. She’s not the mom I grew up knowing and loving. She’s become extremely ADD and OCD, and that makes things difficult. And she refuses to acknowledge such things. I also got her to get Life Alert because she’s elderly and living alone. But she refuses to wear the necklace! She says she doesn’t like it and it’s “psychological.” But why is she paying $70 a month for a service she doesn’t use??? And last weekend, she fell down our stairs. She’s very lucky she didn’t get hurt. What would happen if she fell at her new place? She would not have us to help her. That’s what Life Alert is for! I don’t understand why she doesn’t get it, why she’s being so damn stubborn.

Anyway, this month also marks the six month anniversary of getting my new car. I still love my Camry. It’s so much better than my money pit BMW was. I’ve put 4,000 miles on it, mostly driving back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville, and that annoys me some. I don’t like to put miles on my cars. Still, it’s a great ride and I got a great deal on it and I’m very happy with it.

When health permits, my wife and I like to go to the shooting range. We have a .22 rifle we both like to shoot and my wife is quite good with it. We also have other guns we enjoy shooting, among them a Ruger 9 mm, a Glock 23, a Beretta PX4 Storm, a Ruger .22, a S&W Bodyguard, a SCCY 9 mm, and a Taurus revolver. Among others. I’m pretty good with the Ruger 9 mm, but need to work on the others. I think I’m going to really like the SCCY. It’s new and I think it’s going to be pretty good. I got a good deal on it on gunbroker.com.

I did something to my arm recently and have been having to go to physical therapy for it. It really hurts. It’s probably just tendinitis, but it’s bad. Meanwhile, my wife has a severe case of poison ivy. It’s all over and it’s tormenting her. I feel really bad for her. We need to find the plants she touched and get rid of them, but neither of us are that good at identifying poison ivy.

Oh, also, this month is our six month anniversary of moving into our new house! We love it here. It’s so much quieter and safer than our old place. We still haven’t gotten most of the pictures up, but we’re otherwise unpacked and we really like it. However, we can’t sell our old house. No one will buy it. No one is buying ANY house in our old neighborhood. We’ve lowered the price three times and have had two open houses, but nothing. We actually did get an offer a couple of months ago, but it fell through when their credit was damaged and they lost their loan. That sucked. It’s a nice house, but not in a very good area, so the property values suck and crime is bad. I wish we could sell it though. I’m sure there have to be people out there who would like it. It’s got character! It’s got a HUGE den and a HUGE kitchen and hardwood floors and a fireplace. Three beds, two baths, 2100 square feet, one level home. The yard isn’t that great though, and I think that’s probably hurting it. Oh well. Maybe one of these days….

As you know, I’ve really been enjoying reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books lately. They’re really enjoyable and he’s so witty. A lot of fun. I still like reading Philip K Dick too though. I haven’t read much nonfiction lately though, and I was doing a lot of that over the past couple of years. Maybe I got burned out on it, I don’t know. We have a great, huge used bookstore here where you can pick up six or seven books for $10. It’s great.

Election season is coming up and the two Republican candidates for Congress here are really going at it. The incumbent is an asshole Tea Party-type who is the angriest, most hateful person I’ve ever seen. We saw them debate on TV. The other guy is really young, but it seems he wants to work with everyone on issues, so I really hope he wins. Of course, I’m a Democrat, but here in Chattanooga, no Democrat ever has a chance at winning anything, so it’s really tough. I hate living in a Red state. I often wish I was back in L.A. My wife often wishes she was back in Maryland. Oh well.

I guess that’s it for now. We’re trying to get well. I’m trying to deal with my mother. Things go on. It’s a month of reflections. Thanks for joining me. Cheers!

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A Review of Hazardous Duty

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 6, 2014

Hazardous DutyHazardous Duty by David H. Hackworth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book written by a military hero who sees a lot wrong with the military industrial complex, politics, and the military itself, calls it like he sees it, and offers solutions to the problems he points out. It should be required reading for just about anyone.

I’ve been reading Hackworth since the 1990s when he was writing for Soldier of Fortune magazine. He’s dead now, which is a shame, but he served in post-World War II Europe, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In this book, he comes back as a war correspondent accompanying our military to the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Somalia, Korea and Haiti. What he discovers along the way is horrifying.

I could write a LOT about this book and quote a lot from the book, but I don’t have the time or energy for that. Suffice it to say that this book was published in 1996 while Clinton was in office, so much of the time Hackworth, a conservative, reams Clinton. I’m a Clinton lover, so I didn’t enjoy that, but at least Hackworth was bipartisan, because he rips Reagan and Bush 1 too. He interviews the grunts, as well as numerous officers, to get at the truth that today’s generals and admirals are political pansies, looking out for their own advancement, not giving a damn about the troops. He takes issue with our spending billions on super duper weapons we’ll never use or are terrible to begin with while not issuing armor to our fighting vehicles, body armor to our troops, meals, logistical nightmares, etc. It’s very demoralizing and he consistently demonstrates how NOT ready our military is for action. Here’s one quote:

“Our modern generals put first priority on their headquarters. In days of old, General Ulysses Grant would hit the field with six or seven aides and they traveled light and slept on the ground. The rest of his men were fighters. Today, inflation of military brass and headquarters staff is so bad is should embarrass us. At the end of Word War II we had a military force of 13 million. Today we have a total of 1.5 million active soldiers and sailors. But we have more generals now than we had during World War II. We also have more bureaucrats so that all those generals won’t be lonely. In 1945, with 13 million under arms engaged in a multitheater, multinational alliance, the War Department had about eight undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and special assistants. Now with about those 1.5 million in uniform, we have somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty undersecretaries, deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries, and special assistants. All draw six-figure paychecks and have aides, offices, and all the other trappings of Pentagon royalty.”

Wow. That’s just a tiny portion of what this book holds in it. In addition to going to the theaters of military action already mentioned, he also goes to South Korea to assess our combat readiness and finds it sadly lacking too. He thinks we should just get out. After all, what are our 6,000 fighting men and women out of 34,000 troops stationed in South Korea going to do when a million North Koreans come pouring over the border? Additionally, South Korea has an army of five million with better weapons that we do. It’s nuts. We have to have parts FedExed to us because the military can’t handle the logistics. Amazing.

Later, he writes, “The essence of leadership is integrity, loyalty, caring for your people, doing the honorable thing. Over and over since Vietnam, I have seen political expediency killing these values. When slickness and cheap compromise run the show, people who refuse to cave in and play the game get zapped. And when that happens, the ultimate loser is our country.”

Hackworth also has things to say about our government’s priorities, writing that we spend over 300 billion a year on defense, but only 10 billion on education. Point taken.

Towards the end of the book, Hackworth offers a series of suggestions to serve as solutions for curing what’s wrong with the military. After showing how inter-service animosity has hurt the country and cost our country countless millions, he begins by suggesting that the Army and the Marines be merged, while the Air Force be entirely eliminated. He would put the Navy in charge of all strategic missiles, and get the missiles moved from land to subs asap. He would form a new agency to take control over all of the cargo demands of the forces, and reconfigure the Pentagon, eliminating the separate service chiefs and civilian secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force in favor of a combined Defense Force headquarters run by one civilian Secretary of Defense. He would eliminate the current evaluation reports that encourage unwarranted promotions, merge the National Guard and the Reserves into one organization to cut waste and more. He would also merge the duplicate, non-war-fighting functions of the services — intelligence, medical, legal, R & D, logistics, training, etc. — so that we have one and not four separate entities. He would do a whole lot more to get the military back to where it once was, and these suggestions should be read and considered by all military officers and thinkers.

In addition to stats, criticisms, and suggestions, this book also has a lot of exciting stories of harrowing experiences that Hackworth endures to get the real picture. This is a great book to read and I think many people would like it if they give it a chance. Highly recommended.

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A Review of Fiasco

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 3, 2013

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in IraqFiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gosh, there’s so much to say about this book, I hardly know where to begin! I turned over so many pages to go back and see citations or quotes that I can’t possibly list a fourth of them here.

Ricks did a great job of presenting the build-up to the Iraq war and through the first three years. Since this book was published in 2006, it feels very unfinished and I would appreciate a 2013 second edition, but oh well. Ricks seems to lay first blame at some Iraq hating, war hawks in Bush’s administration, notably Paul Wolfowitz, to take advantage of 9/11 to go after Iraq by suggesting its association with terrorists. (There was none.) We first heard about WMDs, which was the ploy used in the decision to preemptively invade Iraq. (There were none.) Cheney backed Bush into a corner during a speech in Nashville in August, 2002 I believe, in which he said there was “no doubt” that Iraq had WMDs and that “We must take the battle to the enemy.”

Let me back up to something interesting first. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush and Cheney said that they thought that “Bill Clinton had used the military too much in his foreign policy.” Of Gore, Bush said “He believes in nation building…. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.” OK — first, what a damn lying hypocrite!!! Second, what a damn lying scumbag. I guess it should come as no surprise, then, that a pre-presedential politician who goes on to steal an election goes on to lie to the world in order to preemptively invade a sovereign country. Amazing.

Other evil dudes in this book are Rumsfeld, the most arrogant, opinionated, self righteous prick of the 21st century; Paul Bremer, the ambassador who was always at war with the military and who was a bumbling fool, Iraqi exile Chalabi, who may have been working with the insurgents even as we tried to make him president, and military officers Sanchez, Franks, and Meyers. All incompetents who blew things to hell and back.

There are many narratives throughout the book of military men and women fighting hard to win an unacknowledged, unwinnable war — soldiers both brave and cowardly, such as the ones who blew our integrity at Abu Grahib and the others who blew away prisoners who posed no threat whatsoever, and who received 45 day jail terms slaps on the wrists. Mind blowing.

There’s a lot of politics in the book too, as well as musings of the highest military officials around. There was a lot of criticism and disagreement, but since soldiers are taught to follow orders and since orders were being given by stupid Bush-loving civilians with no concept of what was going on over there, disasters naturally occurred. Petraeus, however, is portrayed almost worshipfully, which I don’t think is good. Face it, there were just too many problems between the Department of Defense and the CAP (Coalition Provisional Authority), the ones giving the orders in most cases.

Another problem with this war was we had intentionally forgotten the lessons of Vietnam about fighting insurgencies. We attacked with major divisions and battalions, didn’t mingle with the people and learn about them and their customs, thus trying to win them over, didn’t provide essentials such as water and electricity, set up large isolated base camps from which to operate and so much more — all of which go against counter-insurgency tactics. Special Forces tried to warn them and some conventional units had some success, notably the 101st, but it was basically a war where we turned friendlies into enemies with our blasting into houses at 2 AM, roughing people up, taking the men away to prison, taking other family members “hostage,” turning houses into rubble, and generating ill will to the US. Where Bush and the others thought we would be viewed as liberators, we quickly became occupiers and it really hurt us.

I had so much more I wanted to say about this book, but I won’t. I had a small surgical procedure yesterday and the anesthesia still hasn’t worn off, so I’m kind of tired. The book claims that by 2006, over 200 billion had been used in the war. That figure is way off. Earlier this year, I finished a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War, which admittedly is more recent, but which gives hard evidence to the fact that we have yet again been lied to as to the actual costs involved with this war. By the end of this book, the politicians remain in denial, the military is disenfranchised and demoralized, and the Iraqi insurgency is here to stay. Again, I’d like to see a more recent book detailing what’s happened since. I don’t know why I’m not giving it five stars. It might have been worth it. I think I’m actually downgrading it a bit because it was just TOO packed with information. It was almost too much to digest, hard to remember all the names, places, people, events. Still, it’s recommended. Just be prepared to become even more disillusioned with the Bush administration, if you’re not already.

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Random

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 1, 2013

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a non-book review here, so I thought I’d write down a few thoughts. My father has been dead three months now. That’s still very hard to believe. His gravestone was just put in, so Gretchen and I will be going to Knoxville to view it soon. Last weekend, we went down to Atlanta to visit my old friend Dee, another friend Paul (and his wife), and a new friend, all at a sit down dinner that Dee worked her butt off to prepare and she did a great job. We had a good time, but we chose to drive back to Chattanooga that night instead of spending the night, and it was a grueling drive back. There were no lights on the freeway and no reflectors in the pavement, so it was really hard to see.

Meanwhile, my Steelers suck, my Vols aren’t doing that great, and my Farragut Admirals are having a rough year. At least the Penguins are off to a decent start. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring. That’s good.

Gretchen and I signed up for Obamacare. Even though it’s getting a bad rap, we’re tentatively excited about it. Gretchen doesn’t have insurance, and my family’s been paying $715 a month for my COBRA, which is about to run out. With this new policy, we’ll have a $1,000 deductible (shared), no co-pays, both of us covered for a total of $485 a month. All but one of my meds are covered, I think. It’s been a hassle getting signed up, yes, but hopefully this will work out well.

I started a new blog. It’s called Scott’s Book Reviews and it’s just going to be my book reviews, not all of which I post here. It can be found on Blogger. I hope to add all of my old book reviews and then add to it over time as I continue to read and review books. It’ll also include books I review that don’t appear on Goodreads. Frankly, I don’t know why I started it, as it does seem a little redundant I’ll admit, but I wanted to get them all under one roof, so to speak.

I keep seeing politicians saying things that sound stupid, particularly Ted Cruz. I’m sick of both parties, frankly, and wish we could just start over again. Actually, many years ago when I was a young kid, I lived in Canada with my parents. If we had the money — and could endure the cold — we’d probably move to Canada to get the hell out of this crazy ass country. The right wing nut jobs are dragging this country down, IMO, and the religious right is right there with them. Which makes me so glad for my church. I joined the Episcopal church last month, after attending one here with Gretchen for the past year and a half. It’s pretty much exactly what we’re looking for in a church, especially with no evangelicals, so that’s nice. No praise music, good sermons, saying the peace. It’s all good.

On a different note, Apple is driving me nuts! I downloaded iOS 7.0.3 for my iPhone and it hosed it completely! When I went to install the backup, since I had to restore to factory settings, virtually nothing came through. It took me the better part of a day to get my phone working again. Very frustrating. Gretchen had the same thing happen to her  with iOS 7. Meanwhile, my iMac’s cordless keyboard keeps cutting out and it’s driving me insane! I can’t type two sentences without having to stop and get it working again. I’m hoping new batteries will take care of it. If not, I may have to get a corded keyboard, assuming I can find one that works with Apple products.

Well, I have a brutal headache, so I’m going to cut this short now. Sorry about that. But I’ve just been rambling anyway, so who cares, right? Cheers!

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Things

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 4, 2013

Just a few things. I’m sorry I haven’t updated in awhile. Not too much has been going on for me personally, and I’m in the middle of three very large books, so I haven’t been able to write a book review for awhile. However, I’m nearly done with one (finally!), so hopefully a book review will be coming.

This past Tuesday was the nine week anniversary of Dad’s death. I’m still in a state of shock, I guess. I just still can’t believe he is gone. He was fit. He was healthy. He was mowing my yard while I was at a meeting when he collapsed and died. I was there to witness it. I tried to save him, but failed. I feel sick about it. My therapist wants me to go to a grief support group. It started this week, so I’ve missed one meeting. I don’t know. I think I’m doing pretty well, considering, but I may give them a call today to find out more about it.

My wife has a bad knee, meanwhile. We think she hurt it playing racquetball with me about a month ago. It’s been increasingly bad and she can barely walk. We took her to the doctor a couple of days ago and he thinks it’s a tear in her tendon. She’s going to have to get x-rays. I don’t know what comes next. She actually doesn’t have insurance and is dying to get signed up for Obamacare, which seems promising to us, but she hasn’t been able to access the site at all, so that’s been frustrating.

I’m currently upgrading my iPhone to iOS7. I have mixed feelings about this because Gretchen did this on the first day of its release and it completely wiped her phone. She had to start from the factory settings and start all over, getting new apps and everything. It was a complete disaster. That said, she tried again a couple of days later and it worked and she seems happy with it, so I’m giving it a try — with misgivings. I can’t afford to have my phone wiped. My whole life is on there — my diaries, my many contacts, my medical records, all sorts of stuff. I’m also annoyed that I had to delete dozens of albums and hundreds of pictures to free up 3 GB of space for the download. That seems more like Microsoft bloatware to me…. Well, here’s hoping….

I’ve discovered I’m lactose intolerant. That really sucks! I’d been having gastric problems for over two months. They flared up almost immediately upon my finishing lunch and continued for the remainder of the day. I went on two antibiotics twice, but that didn’t really help very much. Finally, I caved and went to a gastro specialist. I had a theory that I posited to the doctor, and she recommended I do what I’m doing. I really think it was the yogurt I ate every day with lunch and the milk I was drinking and the tapioca pudding I’d have. I didn’t have problems until I consumed those, and then did afterwards. She told me to go off all dairy related products for a week and see what happens. I did, and everything went away and I cleared up in one day. I went a week and then had some ice cream one night, and they returned. So I’m lactose intolerant. How in the hell did that happen??? Now I’ve having to find lactose-alternative products. The yogurt is really high in carbs. The milk is pretty decent. You can find some good ice cream. The cheese really sucks. And on it goes. I guess this is a new lifestyle I’m going to have to get used to.

In sports, I’m not sure about my teams. The Steelers are the worst they’ve been in 45 years with an 0-4 record and they really, really suck. The Pirates, however, had a winning season and made the post-season for the first time in 21 years, which is really something to cheer about. However, last night St. Louis kicked their butts badly, so I don’t know how well we’ll do. My Penguins have goalie problems. Don’t know how we’ll do this year. My UT Vols are 3-2, with the two losses to ranked teams — Oregon and Florida. However, we have ranked Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama coming up, so it looks like we’ll be 3-5 by the end of the month. That blows. I really like the new coach and want him to succeed, but it looks like we’re going to have some growing pains.

Lately, I’ve been having to pay bills. That’s good and bad. It’s good to pay them, but it hurts to pay so much. I had to have $750 in car repairs too. I’m never buying a BMW again as long as I live.

I’m over this government shutdown. I attribute it ALL to the damn Republicans, who are holding the country hostage in their stupid attempt to repeal Obamacare — a LAW that was passed by Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court, and for whom Obama was elected for a second term while running against people who wanted to repeal it. Listen to the people, Congressmen! Damn Republicans. And they accuse the Dems. What gall! They’re truly despicable people. I will never vote for a Republican again as long as I live, and I was brought up a conservative Republican. That says a lot. They’re truly disgusting humans. What a waste. I hope they cave soon, so we can return to life as we know it.

Huh. It looks like my iPhone has updated while I’ve been writing this. It seems to have been successful. I’ve only opened a few apps, and things look like they’re still there. Oh, four of my apps are missing. *sigh* This new version looks very, very different from previous versions. It’s going to take me awhile to get used to. One thing — everything seems slower. The apps are taking longer to open. Oh well. I just checked out my space, though, and I’ve got more free space than when I started. I guess I can re-load some of my music on here. That’s good.

I guess that’s all for now. Book reviews coming soon. Cheers!

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A Senator’s Response re Toomey-Manchin

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 7, 2013

After the Toomey-Manchin amendment was voted down by our elected government officials even though polls showed that it had the support of over 90% of the US population, I emailed Tennessee’s US senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (both Republicans), to express my disdain for their vote. I tried to send messages shaming them into admitting they were in the pockets of the NRA. I finally heard back from one: Bob Corker. Here is his message in its entirety. The staffer who wrote this was quite good. Notice the excuses framed as looking out for rights of rural people, etc., et al. It’s truly disgusting.

___________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Holstad,

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office to share your views about gun control legislation. Your input is important to me, and I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts.

The right to own firearms for self-defense, and for other familiar purposes with my family and friends, is important to me as a Tennessean and as an American.  It has been a tremendous honor to be given the opportunity by Tennesseans to weigh in on their behalf during such a critical time in our history as the Supreme Court has since provided great advances in securing the Second Amendment as a fundamental tenet of American liberty.

That said, what happened last month in the Senate cannot be satisfying to anyone. We spent the balance of a week debating the Toomey-Manchin amendment that, if enacted, would have had no effect on preventing the tragedies in Connecticut, in Colorado, in Arizona, or in many of the other recent mass killings, and would not have addressed the more critical issues involved in preventing that type of violence in the future.

When it comes to the many challenges facing parents, law enforcement, and our judicial system dealing with violent mentally ill people in our society, the inability to respond before violence occurs is a frustration widely known by communities across our country.  The vast majority of Americans are rightly concerned that, without action, their community will suffer the consequences of this volatile status quo and be home to the next mass killing.

On mental health, there are three legs to the stool that need to be propped up.  The first is ensuring that we are identifying those in our community that are dealing with mental illness and getting them to appropriate resources.  Next, we need to confront the legal impediments and ambiguities that exist at the state and federal level to ensure that those that pose a danger to themselves or others can be dealt with in a way that ensures due process, but that also ensures necessary treatment is provided while clearly establishing when an individual becomes a prohibited gun owner.  Finally, we need to work with states to ensure that the records of prohibited purchasers are reliably and efficiently added to the background check database.

A related problem is that only a very small fraction of all prohibited individuals attempting to illegally purchase firearms in Tennessee are actually prosecuted. I supported the Grassley amendment to help correct this gap in enforcement by providing additional resources for law enforcement and beefing up penalties for prohibited purchasers and those who facilitate illegal firearms transfers.

I think most Tennesseans believe, like I do, that we also should be improving background checks in a way that allows fast and accurate checks to be easily performed by law-abiding citizens, and that prevents criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms, while at the same time ensuring that Second Amendment rights are not infringed upon.

However, the Toomey-Manchin amendment went too far in infringing Second Amendment rights and I opposed it for two main reasons. First, the amendment did not provide certainty about which firearms transfers required a background check and which didn’t. By failing to clearly state which transfers would become illegal, Americans would not have the notice they need to be able to avoid running afoul of federal criminal law and would likely face selective prosecutions. None of us should want to put law enforcement in a position where they can pick and choose what actions are criminal.

Second, the amendment required that firearm transfers between two private individuals be conducted through a licensed firearms dealer.  I believe asking Americans to find and travel to a willing gun dealer and to pay an unknown, but potentially not insignificant, fee would lead to negative outcomes. It would substantially burden the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right, which would in turn discourage transfers from occurring within the background check system, resulting largely in over-criminalizing law abiding people. Particularly in rural areas, it was impossible to predict how far individuals may have to travel to find a dealer willing to perform this type of transfer, let alone how much they might be charged for the service.

These issues are complex and implicate our most fundamental constitutional rights of personal liberty and self-defense.  Unfortunately, a single amendment became the litmus test for determining who wanted to prevent the type of violence that has shocked our conscience, and last month’s debate was cut short before real solutions that respected the Second Amendment could be considered.  We owe it to all those who value our responsibilities toward the mentally ill, the safety of our communities, and the Second Amendment to get this right.

Thank you again for your letter. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me.

Sincerely,

Bob Corker
United States Senator

___________________________________________________________________

So that’s it. What do you think? Imagine, infringing on the rights of rural people to sell their guns in an effort to save lives. Wouldn’t want to do that, would we? Cause those rural people REALLY need to sell each other their guns. What a crock! And I’m so sick of blaming the mentally ill. I’d love to know how many gun homicides are committed by the so-called mentally ill each year versus “normal” people. Anyone got any stats? Considering there are over 30,000 violent gun deaths each year in the US, far and away more than any other country, I’d love to know how many are committed by the mentally ill. I doubt it’s many. Sure, they get the high profile mass slaughters, and it’s accurate to assign blame, but are the gang members in Chicago and L.A. mentally ill or just messed up individuals who need to be locked up? I’m sick of seeing the mentally ill blamed. That’s an NRA cop out, an easy excuse for them. They’re the truly bad people to blame, or at least their leadership is. And they claim to be patriots. It’s disgusting. WHAT’S SO DAMN HARMFUL ABOUT UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS???

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Austerity Kills!

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 22, 2013

Austerity Kills: Crippling Economic Policies Causing Global Health Crisis | Alternet.

The Republicans are wrong. Austerity is NOT the answer!

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50 Reasons You Despised George W. Bush’s Presidency: A Reminder on the Day of His Presidential Library Dedication

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 25, 2013

50 Reasons You Despised George W. Bush’s Presidency: A Reminder on the Day of His Presidential Library Dedication | Alternet.

This is a truly excellent list and it’s spot on. Read and remember!

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