Friday, September 12, 2014

Will there be Life After Obama?

On September 10, 2014, the president of the United States wasted twenty-one hundred perfectly good words to tell the world that he is not going to do anything new about the Islamic terrorist group, ISIL.  This same president who was perfectly willing to tell the Taliban to lay low until 2015, was unable to say specifically what he is going to do to prevent these Muslim miscreants from establishing a Sharia state from Iran to the Mediterranean.  We will make air strikes, he says.  Well, we are already making air strikes.  We will get somebody else to do the dirty work on the ground.  We are already browbeating the Iraqis and the Kurds to do the dirty work.  We will give them support and training.  Really?  Like what?  How much and when?

Could ever a speech have been less thinly veiled political hogwash?  The gist of the plan is to do nothing to alarm the electorate before Tuesday, November 4.  This twinkle toes commander-in-chief sees votes in the Senate as more urgent than annihilating an ascendant army of rabid jihadists, who may very well succeed in their goal before the 2016 elections, which is the soonest we can hope—and only hope—for a viable leader.

In deconstructing what he said and did not say, permit me to start with the phrase: “...drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year.”  Our combat mission will certainly not end on December 31, 2014.  Obama is simply pulling the plug and thus negating the unfinished work of twelve years of painful warfare.  A BBC correspondent recently interviewed a band Taliban fighters who candidly admitted that they were interested in joining ISIL.  Who is going to prevent them?  The Afghans can’t even count their ballots.  No one has pacified Afghanistan since Alexander the Great.  The British couldn’t do it, the Russians couldn’t do, and now, we are going to simply say, after more than three-thousand deaths and close to twenty-thousand wounded, that it is just too hard.

Consider Obama’s observation: “...small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.”  This is especially true when they have U.S. tanks and machineguns that they wrested from an impotent Iraqi army.  Reportedly ISIL took Mosul, Iraq's second city, with one-hundred and fifty men.  Then we were told,  “At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa...”  Although this may have seemed to be the ‘Duh! Moment,’ it gives no weight to Muslim depredations in South Asia and the Philippines.  I guess the fact that Indonesia is the most populous Muslim state should be overlooked because of Obama’s fond memories of boyhood there.

By far the most enlightening thing that he said was: “Now let’s make two things clear:”  What he proceeded to make clear is that he takes us for fools.  The two clarifications he made are: “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’” and, “ISIL is certainly not a state.”  So does he think they might be Jews on holiday?  That our president is a Muslim apologist is a national embarrassment, but it is not half as demeaning to our country as him standing in front of the world making such a ridiculous statement.  If they are indeed not a state and no one recognizes them, how does Obama account for the territory they control, the taxes they collect and the nine-thousand barrels of oil that the BBC claims they export every day?  Those who are buying that oil recognize them as something.  Obama’s justification for denying the Islamic heart of ISIL, “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.” not only indicates that Barry Soetoro did not pay attention when he attended Islamic school in Indonesia, but the second half of the sentence even denigrates the value of the life of a Muslim.  Is he saying that we shouldn’t worry about ISIL because they mainly kill Muslims?  Perhaps we should give arms to ISIL.

“And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”  Again the President of the United States showed his ignorance.  ISIL—formerly ISIS, the ‘IL’ indicates growing designs on the Levant—has a clearly stated goal of establishing a caliphate in the territories of Iraq and Syria.  Still he wouldn’t stop.  “...these terrorists are unique in their brutality.  They execute captured prisoners.  They kill children.  They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage.”  Barack, this is what the Koran tells Muslims to do.  You really were asleep back at the madrasa, weren’t you?  Furthermore, if you believe atrocities are unique to ISIL, try to remember who beheaded Daniel Pearl, and who dragged the defiled body of Ambassador Stevens through the streets of Benghazi, and who beheaded eight Afghan police officers last spring.  Evidently ISIL really gets around.

“...these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.”  Gee, do you really think so?  Not only is it their mandate, they have financial motivation.  “Jihad is one of the meritorious acts in the eye of Islam and it is the best source of earnings.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, Sunni holy book).  “Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem.” (Koran, Surah 9:5)  As for the tepid ‘could try to return,’ I’d like to remind everyone that the United States can’t keep little kids from crossing the border, and these homegrown jihadi jackasses have U.S. passports.

The great Bush basher missed an opportunity when he said, “...we cannot do for the Iraqis what they must do for themselves...”  If I recall correctly, we put Iraq into its present condition and it was Obama’s arch fiend, George Bush who instigated it.  Then blithely skipping alone the revisionist trail he claims, “...we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”  This will no doubt will occur the same way we destroyed the Taliban and al-Qaida.  Let us not forget that al-Qaida, which is very much alive, spawned ISIL.

I was particularly moved by: "This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”  That is unless you happen to be Edward Snowden or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed to beheading Daniel Pearl and is still comfortably ensconced at Guantanamo Bay awaiting prosecution which is not likely to come on Obama’s watch.

Our beloved president herein indulged in much self-congratulation.  ”I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq...”  Well, it was two-hundred and seventy-five.  In fact, the last five-hundred words had little to do with ISIL and were heavily slathered with self-love.  “I will chair a meeting of the UN...”; “My administration has also secured bipartisan support...”; “I have the authority...”; “I welcome congressional support...”; “I outlined earlier this year...”; “I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different...”  Why didn’t he make this speech at the Reflecting Pool so he could have made his exit by walking across it?

Backtracking slightly, we also had to endure this: “This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for the own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.”  A few sentences later he said, “Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world.”  I hope Ukraine got a copy of this.

Let us hope that the Kurds and the Iraqis weren’t listening when he said, “This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.”  It would have been more succinct to say, “We’ll throw you to the wolves while we buzz around at thirty-thousand feet.”  Using the word ‘successful’ in the same sentence with Yemen and Somalia simply defies belief.

In the subsequent “How great I am” section he tells us, “...America is better positioned to seize the future than any other country on Earth.”  Well, maybe, but we certainly aren’t seizing much of anything.  Who do we pay to carry astronauts to the Space Station?  Then, “Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades.”  It is?  Even if it might be, that doesn’t mean we will ever achieve it.  God forbid we should drill a hole or build a pipeline.

I choked when he had the gall to say, “It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny.”  So, Poroshenko old man, how is the rally working for you?  Right after that we had to listen to: “It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons.”  Unfortunately it was Putin who floated the idea, the program is woefully behind schedule and that little word ‘declared’ wafts the scent of chlorine across the Syrian sky.

By far the most depressing sentence in the fourteen minute, thirty second stammer session was, “And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.”  When he says ‘around the world’ does he mean Dearborn?  And what’s that ‘opportunity?’  EBT cards?  This is referring to Obama’s personal pro-Islamic agenda, not anything the American people are clamoring to do.

There is no doubt in my mind that ISIL will thrive and entrench themselves until at least 2016, at which time, if we know what is good for us, we could conceivably elect a real president. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Final Victory

Wade Brogan, Jr., hard-bitten San Francisco detective, suspects that dementia is the source of his failing father’s fanciful tales about his career in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps during the development of the atom bomb.  Then a Russian derelict, well-padded with years, is found dead in a Tenderloin flophouse.  His room is stacked with shoeboxes full of yellowed documents, many of which bear the fading red stamp, “Top Secret.”  The shroud of skepticism drops from his father’s ramblings about his mother having been a Soviet spy.  Over an evening of beers he shares with his fellow cops the story of how the Japanese and the Russians nearly vaporized the City by the Bay but for the frantic scrambling of Wade Brogan, Sr.

It is a little known fact that the Manhattan Project assembled four nuclear weapons before the end of the Second World War.  One, of course, was tested at Trinity Site, New Mexico, and one each were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as we all know.  The last was held in secrecy for use in the event that Japan did not unconditionally surrender.  Phillip Bosshardt postulates how close to catastrophe we might have come if the Russians and the Japanese had cooperated on information gleaned from the sieve-like security surrounding America’s mad dash to perfect an atom bomb.  This epic length saga tells a chilling tale that rings true at each convolution of plot.  The historical backdrop is expertly woven, the characters fully developed and the pace nearly perfect.  All fans of historical fiction and alternative history are going to love Final Victory. 

251,570 Words (A long one!) 

Price $4.99

I didn't find it at Amazon.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The White Prisoner

Galabin Boevski was too small and not well enough connected for acceptance on the football team at Plaven’s sport school so he opted to try weightlifting.  It was a propitious decision.  He proceeded to set records, earn prizes, wealth and win medals—including Olympic Gold.  Officials both rightly and wrongly accused him of doping, coaches and authorities stabbed him in the back, and when he made the foolish mistake of buying new luggage in São Paulo, he was busted with nine kilos of coke surreptitiously sewn into the lining of the suitcase.  Hefting the bulk of a weightlifter then kept him alive for two years in a Brazilian prison.

The world of Bulgarian weightlifting is certainly an esoteric topic and not one I had given much thought, but sports writer, Ognian Georgiev’s journalistic style lends this story—which is based on fact—a kind of urgency that keeps the pages turning.  Boevski’s rise from obscurity, his financial and professional insecurity; physical setbacks, and ultimately, legal struggles, present a compelling story that could unfold anywhere in any sport.  This book has the earmarks of the Louis Zamperini story, Unbroken.  Whether you are a sports enthusiast or not, this is a great read.  
Price $3.99
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Dalliance Back into the Mainstream

When art dealer, Julian Isherwood, is duped into discovering the tortured body of a spy turned dirty art dealer, Gabriel Allon is strong-armed into investigating by the director of the Italian Art Squad.  Once again Gabriel has to suspend the restoration of a famous alter piece, and abandon his pregnant wife in Venice, to go into the field.  The investigation segues into a quest for a Caravaggio that has been missing for decades and the trail leads to the civil war raging on Israel’s northern border with a chance to deprive the Syrian president of his looted assets.

All of Daniel Silva’s tales involve intricate, twisted plots, but The Heist may well be the most convoluted to date.  The impetus of the story changes directions so many times it leaves the reader with vertigo and throughout is woven the subplot of Gabriel Allon’s pending ascension to the directorship of the Israeli Intelligence Service.  As always The Heist is filled with Allon’s dry wit and his tortured past.  I promise that if you weren’t a follower of Gabriel Allon, after you read The Heist, you will return to read the previous thirteen installments in the series.

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I'm afraid you won't find this one at Smashwords.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Declaration: Tales From a Revolution-South Carolina

Katie Harris, near modern day Charleston, is helping her grandmother clear her house in preparation for moving into a nursing home.  Starting in the attic Katie finds an ancient trunk bearing the name ‘Elizabeth Harris.’  Inside she finds letters and documents dating to the Revolutionary period.  An historian from the university arrives to authenticate them and uncovers an even more earth-shattering and plan changing discovery.  Nearly two-hundred and fifty years earlier Justin Harris ekes a living on his tobacco farm on the same piece of land that Katie’s Gram occupies today, however, his dreams of peace and prosperity are haunted by the growing rebellion.  Risking all by joining the Whigs’ cause, Justin earns a commendation for his heroism in defense of Charles Town, but it comes with hefty price.

This homey tale continues relating the stories of two generations of the Harris family separated by more than two centuries.  Being a fan of both history and genealogy, this book had much appeal for me.  I am also greatly enamored of Charleston and the Low Country in general, so all aspects of The Declaration were calling me.  However, I must offer a constructive criticism: the dialogue is unconvincing.  The characters never speak to one another without referring to each other by name.  If a husband and wife are talking, how frequently do they call each other by their proper names?  I was particularly bothered by the conversation of the slave, Terrance, who spoke like he had been educated at Eton and referred to Justin as “Mister Harris” instead of “Massa.”  Ignoring the overly formal speech and the political correctness, Lar D.H. Hedbor’s Declaration is worthy of attention. 

Price $4.99
52,140 words

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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Half-Hanged Man

Thomas Page was not finished being hanged when a would-be campaigner bought his indenture and saved his life with the condition that he join his band of mercenaries on the Continent.  Page not only excelled at pillaging, he became the leader of a company of plunderers—known as the Wolves—who made their living sacking castles and towns from Navarre to Burgundy.  Enter the Raven, a black haired Spanish courtesan with a grudge toward King Pedro of Castile. Page and the Raven are lethal pair but are compelled to stay one-step ahead of Hugh Calveley who is determined to avenge Page’s killing of his cowardly cousin, William Calveley, the misguided general who saved Page from the gallows.

The Half-Hanged Man is a fine story told in the format of eyewitnesses relating their tales to a well-known chronicler.  There are three parts and points of view that come together in a jarring climax.  The context is the fourteenth century Europe and David Pilling’s knowledge of contemporary terms and trappings is impressive.  He transports the reader to the time and place with his excellent prose and use of language from the late 1300’s.  All fans of history will enjoy The Half-Hanged Man.

I've only found this book at Amazon, but the good news is it's free.
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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Legend of Henry Berry Lowery

Henry Berry Lowrie was a very wily blue-eyed Indian.  In the final days of the Civil War when all of the South sat on the brink of starvation, Henry Berry and his Lumbee Indian friends and relatives waged a war of plundering the rich and sharing with the needy of Robeson County, North Carolina.  The Lumbee knew the swamps around the Lumber River better than anyone else, having taken refuge there from the depredations of white encroachers since colonial times.  At the war’s end when the outrages of Reconstruction were heaped upon the genteel white community they became indignant at the effrontery of the Lowrie gang and offered irresistible bounties for their capture.  Henry Berry was nothing if not an upright man—his thieving and revenge killings aside—and because he lived boldly and openly, captured he was, and escape he did.  Then he and his gang members were captured by treachery, and craftily escaped.  Enter on the scene, two vengeful widows, victims of Henry Berry’s murderous side and downtrodden by the insults of Reconstruction, then the blood money reaches a staggering sum.  Armies of bounty hunters swarm the swamp and most are never seen again.

Astoundingly, this story is true.  Warren Reichel’s research and descriptive skills combine to make the kind of a tale that one wants to stay with to the end.  This is the kind of lovable rogue saga that everyone treasures, but unlike Robin Hood, this man was real.  The determination to preserve the community, protect friends and family, extract justice and to enjoy life in the face of adversity is as inspiring as entertaining.  The author has told his story brilliantly and delivers the astonishing climax with aplomb.  This is exactly the kind of book I love to read, and although I had not known of Henry Berry Lowrie, I am familiar with the Lumbee culture and the region, and in fact, I claim a Lumbee ancestor, so this was a double delight for me.  I think everyone will enjoy it, too.

So far it is only available via Amazon in paperback for $17.99.

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