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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 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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More Stuff

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2013

I know, I know, I haven’t actually blogged here in a long time. It’s been mostly book reviews. But that’s what you people like, right? So anyway, this week was the 14 week anniversary of my dad’s death. And I finished up a grief support group I had been in for eight weeks. I’m not sure how helpful it was. Some of the people were there who had loved ones die years ago. I honestly think I’m handling this much better than many of them. And mine was the most recent. Of course, I miss Dad a lot. But I’m moving forward. It’s the only way to go. Meanwhile, Mom’s going crazy on the weekends, which is when she and Dad used to do things together. She’s very lonely. She’s considering moving back to Knoxville, where she has hundreds of friends and where her home church is. We had all talked about moving together, but Gretchen and I like the house that we’re in and we’re not that keen on moving, so Mom might go on her own. Which would make me worry and feel guilty. *sigh*

Our cat, Toby, has been having some problems. I took him to the vet three weeks ago. He has kidney damage. He’s overweight at 21 pounds and drinks water incessantly. Of course, he is a Maine Coon, and they like water, but still, it’s amazing to see how much he drinks. He actually gets in the shower with us, gets in the sink to drink from the faucet, drinks from my wife’s bath water. It’s crazy! We’ve put him on some kidney food the vet prescribed. This is actually the third one. The first two, neither cat would eat. They went on two three day hunger strikes before I caved and fed them their old food. The vet said don’t let them starve — if they don’t eat the “right” stuff, feed them their old stuff. Fortunately, this third type of food they are eating. I don’t know how this will help Toby, but we want him around for awhile. He’s only six.

My Steelers have won two in a row and play the Browns tomorrow. I really think we’ll win that one. My Vols play Vandy tonight and it’s a must win game. If we win this and beat Kentucky next week, we should get to a bowl game. If we lose, the season’s pretty much over. And Vandy’s no longer a pushover. They’re pretty good. So, I don’t have high hopes. Still, go Vols! Meanwhile, my Penguins have won three straight and are now 15-8 and leading their division. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring, which is cool. I hope he wins another MVP this year. He deserves it. Of course, he has to stay healthy, but hopefully he will.

I was having trouble with my car seat. It wouldn’t move forward. Instead, it turned to the right, thus twisting my body right and making it impossible for me to see. Therefore, I had to put my seat all the way back at its lowest position and couldn’t see over the steering wheel. In any case, it was dangerous, so I took the car into the garage. I also asked them to check a window and to replace my two windshield wiper fluid jugs, both of which had cracked (for an astronomical price). Turns out they wanted to charge me a fortune just to take my seat out and apart because it was so complicated. It’s a Nissan dealer, but I have a BMW (which I’ll never buy again). They told me it was either a motor or a track issue and the part to replace it from the BMW dealer would be about $1,000 and all the work together would come to almost $2,000! I was astounded. Still, I had to have it done, so I said go ahead. I’d just have to put it on my credit card. So I was elated to get a call from them a couple of days ago telling me they could fix the front to back tracking and the recline, but not one other thing, but if I was okay with that, they wouldn’t need this extra part and it would save me a grand. Naturally, I jumped at that! When I picked it up yesterday, it was considerably less than I expected it to be, so I was overjoyed. Still, I’m never buying another BMW as long as I live.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been reading the usual sci fi. I’ve been reading biographies. They’ve been pretty interesting. I’m in a zone.

This poet I met in Atlanta a few weeks ago — Cliff Brooks — and I have exchanged some books we’ve written. I got an email from him yesterday saying he really thought the books I sent him were awesome and wouldn’t mind featuring me on his radio show. That’s pretty cool. I was once interviewed on Air America for 30 minutes, but that was years ago. Still, it was a national show and that was neat. Who knows?

Gretchen and I live in a nice middle class neighborhood, but there’s a shocking amount of crime here, and that’s disturbing. You may recall that our house was broken into in August and some things were stolen. They kicked in our front door, which was wooden. We subsequently got a metal door. And an alarm service, which makes us feel a lot safer. It’s possible we may have a handgun for emergencies, but we really wouldn’t have much need for it, other than target practice. I found out a couple days ago, I’m going to be getting my old .22 rifle (with scope) I used when I was young pretty soon. It was a great rifle and it’ll be fun getting out on a range again with that. And it can be used as home security too. Can never be too safe. We also each have pepper spray. We carry that with us all the time. The crime really is worrisome. And the cops don’t seem to care very much. They care about the rich areas of town, but the rest of us can go suck it, right? *sigh*

Ending on a positive note, there’s a large likelihood I may be selected to serve on our church’s vestry in a few weeks. If so, it would certainly be an honor and a responsibility I wouldn’t take lightly. I might even attend church more frequently. LOL! Gretchen’s in the new bell choir they just started. She’s also in the flower guild, and I serve as the church’s webmaster. We’re fairly active there.

I guess that’s all for now. 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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Senate rejects expanded gun background checks – CNN.com

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 17, 2013

Senate rejects expanded gun background checks – CNN.com.

It’s ever so nice to know we have the NRA looking out for our rights to get slaughtered in cold blood by assault weapons. The next time there’s a massacre, and there will be one, I’m writing every NRA official and congressman I can think of to personally assign blame for the blood of the victims. The NRA is vile and so are the politicians that support them.

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Gun loophole makes no sense

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 23, 2013

Mark Kelly: Gun loophole makes no sense – CNN.com.

Read this article written by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband. It’s pretty good and it’s good common sense.

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Annabel Park: Replying to My Pro-Gun Friends and the NRA

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 5, 2013

Annabel Park: Replying to My Pro-Gun Friends and the NRA.

This is an excellent, excellent, excellent article in response to gun control and the idiocy of the NRA.

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The Ultimate Guide To The Gun Safety Debate | ThinkProgress

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 1, 2013

The Ultimate Guide To The Gun Safety Debate | ThinkProgress.

This is really a worthwhile article to read if you’re interested in gun control from a progressive perspective….

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10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down | Mother Jones

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 31, 2013

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down | Mother Jones.

I think this is an excellent (short) article that everyone should read.

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12 Rational Responses to Irrational Arguments About Guns | Alternet

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 25, 2013

12 Rational Responses to Irrational Arguments About Guns | Alternet.

This is truly excellent if you’re in favor of certain forms of gun control….

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