Which Despotic Dictator are You?

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Psychological tests have inundated social media lately, giving people the opportunity to find out everything about themselves from which Lord of the Rings character they are to which weapon they most resemble. However, in all of this, no one has asked the genuinely important question–the one that matters more than all of the rest . . .

Which Despotic Dictator Are You?

Have you ever read the headlines and wondered which world-manipulating, power-hungry psychopath you most resemble? Then this test is for you! We here at Bayard & Holmes consulted our team of psycho/social experts (us) to develop a short quiz that will help you determine the answer to that most pressing of questions . . .

Canstock 2014 Despotic dictator

You see a pretty young woman on the beach. What do you do?

  1. Take your shirt off and hand her a picture of yourself practicing judo. When she doesn’t respond, you accuse her of being a warmonger and invade her country.
  2. Charge her with prostitution and feed her to dogs.
  3. Drool at her from your wheelchair while your assistant accuses her of being a white supremacist.
  4. Kidnap her, try her for indecent exposure, and have her publicly stoned to death.
  5. Send your aid over to arrange a liaison. After she rejects you, introduce legislation limiting the size of women’s breasts.
  6. Start a conversation with her about what a beautiful day it is and ask her if she would like to get a cup of coffee.

You hear an annoying barking dog. What do you do?

  1. Have photographers film you as you hunt down the poodle with an AK 47 and then have a photo taken of you posing in a Poodle trophy coat.
  2. Send your chef over to collect it for dinner.
  3. Turn your hearing aid off and go back to sleep while accusing the dog of being a white supremacist.
  4. Send your guard with an invitation for a romantic candlelight dinner for two. When the dog declines, you have it arrested and publicly stoned to death.
  5. Your own annoying voice drowns out the sound of the dog.
  6. You bring your dog inside.

You have an afternoon to get away from it all. What do you do?

  1. Quickly remove your shirt and arrange a photo shoot while grumbling about warmongering Ukrainians.
  2. Celebrate the 114 gold medals you personally received for your participation in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
  3. Keep napping. When awakened by bad dreams, scream about white supremacists.
  4. Smoke hash and drink some more black market American whiskey and fantasize about the woman you saw in the bikini.
  5. Write a speech about the legislation you are drafting to limit breast size.
  6. Read a Bayard & Holmes book.

You are going to watch any movie or TV show that you want. Which one is it?

  1. Star Wars. You put on your Darth Vader helmet and practice saying, “Ukraine, I am your father.”
  2. My Little Pony. You watch fifteen reruns and then declare rainbow colored ponies to be the new national animal.
  3. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to sleep through it anyway and dream about killing white supremacists.
  4. Lawrence of Arabia. For the 58th time. Somehow, you’re still shocked, surprised, and angered that Lawrence somehow escapes with his life at the end.
  5. Godzilla. When it’s over, you write a speech asking the U.N. to outlaw all Japanese monsters.
  6. You sit down with your family and watch your Disneyland vacation video.

What is your fantasy vacation?

  1. Winning the Kentucky Derby while riding shirtless on the back of a bear.
  2. Spending a week in South Korea.
  3. Taking a long nap anywhere but Zimbabwe.
  4. Enjoying two weeks in a brothel in Tel Aviv that caters to clientele with special needs.
  5. Staying a week in Windsor castle while the royal family is away and trying on all their clothes and tiaras.
  6. A family trip to Belize.

 If you scored . . .

5 – 7   You are Vladimir Putin.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin image by www.kremlin.ru

Russian President Vladimir Putin
image by http://www.kremlin.ru

You are unashamedly aggressive and love to be in the limelight. You are never as sensitive as you appear to be in photos. You can change your religion, your wife, or your politics in a heartbeat if it suits your ambitions. Put your shirt back on.

 

8 – 11  You are Kim Jong Un.

 

 

You are misunderstood. People accuse you of being paranoid, but it’s not actually paranoia because everyone really does wish you would drop dead. You have plenty of power, but no skill to achieve anything with it. Find a new barbor.

 

12 – 16   You are Robert Mugabe.

You have become a peaceful person in your old age, but that’s because you can’t stay awake long enough to sustain an argument. Please do Zimbabwe a favor and go back to sleep. Don’t wake up.

 

17 – 21  You are the Iranian Mullah of the Month.

You suffer from Reality Deficit Disorder. You think you are educated, but that is just the hash talking. Everyone who knows you wants to keep you happy, but only so you won’t torture them and their families. Put down your AK47 and step away from the chickens.

 

22 – 26  You are New York Mayor Bloomberg.

 

Image by Midtown Comics, altered by Nightscream, wikimedia commons, public domain

Image by Midtown Comics, altered by Nightscream,
wikimedia commons, public domain

 

You are the first percentile, but only in finances. Some of your ideas are impressive, but only when we compare them to the rhetoric of Hugo Chavez. You’ll get our soft drinks when you tear them from our cold, dead hands.

 

27 – 30  Give it up. You’re not cut out for this profession.

When Giants Dance — The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

When the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict recently flared up, Holmes and I discussed the possibility of a fresh article on the topic. We concluded, however, that there was nothing fresh to say. To verify this, I looked up an article that Holmes wrote in November, 2012, which was the last time the ancient hostilities peaked. This is that same article, word for word. It was true then. It is true now. Generally speaking, it has been true for decades. We hope for the day when it is no longer true.

~ Piper Bayard

Israeli white phosphorous attack on UN school unaltered image by HRW, wikimedia commons

Israeli white phosphorous attack on UN school
unaltered image by HRW, wikimedia commons

When Giants Dance

By Jay Holmes

Today, news watchers in the West are seeing reports about the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Some are wondering if this week’s events in Israel and Gaza are the start World War Three.

My best guess is that this conflict will not escalate to that point, but if you happen to live in Gaza, it might feel like World War Three this week. If you happen to live in southern Israel, where the rockets fall every week, it might feel like that all the time.

Before throwing one more opinion into what will certainly not be the bloodiest war, but likely the most mediated war, let’s take a moment to consider the children on both sides of the border. These children have no control over the relations between Gaza and Israel, but the one constant tragedy in Gaza and southern Israel is that the children always suffer.

Of course, when I use the term “mediated” I am referring to the fact that the world’s “media” will deliver fantastic volumes of information about the current phase of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It is sad how little of that information will be accurate or fairly presented. However, all of that information will likely generate revenue for the media industry.

To attempt to understand the current events in Gaza, we can help ourselves by considering a few of the less obvious facts.

We in the West think of Hamas as being in control of Gaza. Hamas likes to think that, as well, but it is not altogether accurate. Hamas appears to be one more run-of-the-mill Islamic terror group marching happily in step with all the other Islamic terror groups. But terrorists wreak havoc. This leaves them unskilled at performing anything like government. As a result, Hamas cannot control what goes on in Gaza.

Hamas is not even able to march happily in step with itself, which seriously impairs its ability to influence other Islamic terrorists in the area. The chaotic conditions in Gaza allowed competing terror groups to vacation there, and some of those vacationers decided to stay. Those groups do not obey Hamas. They obey whoever provides them with cash, weapons, hash, hookers, etc. Usually Syria and Iran would be that somebody, but Saudi Arabia and Gulf states are sometimes soft touches for cute young terror groups.

We in the West are not supposed to believe such dastardly things about our Saudi “friends.” However, the New American Reality Dictionary defines “friends” as, “Anyone who ships oil to the US.”

Many Americans find that disgusting. Many of those same Americans drive gasoline-consuming cars every day while they are finding that disgusting. Yes. Even my own car runs on gasoline, not on peaceful thoughts or good will.

Regardless of where the cash and weapons come from, we know where many of them end up—on Israeli roof tops. The current Israeli leader is Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis call him something else. I call him Beny Buddy. He calls me nothing at all. He never even calls me. I am not his friend. I’m not sure Beny does the friendship thing much. Living in that region might do that to a man.

In any event, his name hardly matters since this conflict predates him. Netanyahu and Likud, his political party, cannot remain in power if hundreds of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza continue to land in Israel every month. From the Israeli perspective, the motives for the looming Israeli operations in Gaza are simple. The Israeli people don’t like rockets and bombs falling on their heads, and the current Israeli leadership does not like losing elections. Also, with Iran increasing the potency and quality of its missiles, the Israeli intelligence services might be feeling less patient than usual about the Gaza launch base.

The Hamas motives are a little trickier to define.

It takes a bit of guesswork, and that is because they are still guessing about it themselves. As long as Gaza remains in a state of chaos without any worthwhile government, and as long as start up terror groups are cutting their teeth in “Palestine,” anything can happen. And now it has.

While the Israelis love driving American tanks, they don’t always love American methods. Israel is not living on a giant Chinese credit card like the Pentagon is. If Israel calls up reservists, which it has, and it moves armor toward Gaza, it is NOT because Israelis think it is fun to waste fuel they cannot produce and can barely afford. Those tanks will end up in Gaza.

Hamas fully realizes this, and they are currently doing their best impersonation of innocent victims. They are not great actors, but they play for an easy audience—the Western media and Islamic-financed propaganda outlets. Hamas wants to generate “international outrage” as quickly as it can in order to give Israel as little time as possible to drive around Gaza blowing up rocket supplies with those cool tanks.

The Israeli lobbyists and propaganda outlets will seek the opposite. But Israelis are currently out of fad with a majority of Western voters, so they will be looking rather frustrated if you see them prowling the halls of the capitol or sitting in for some attack journalism by CNN interviewers.

I can just imagine a call from Iran to Hamas . . . “Okay. We’re sending more rockets. Rockets are supposed to blow up on those Jews, NOT in Gaza. Rockets don’t grow on trees, you know. If you can’t learn to take care of the rockets we give you, maybe we need to give them to someone else.”

One can find absurd humor in all of this as long as one does not live in or have relatives living in the region. Then the humor begins to pale. The children of Israel and Gaza have little to laugh at this week. They won’t have much next week, either.

Why Putin Has His Way with Europe

By Jay Holmes

This past February, Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin ordered his intelligence and military services to invade Crimea in the Eastern Ukraine. Western governments loudly condemned Russia’s aggression, but practical responses have been limited to minor economic sanctions and visa restrictions against major Russian supporters of Putin.

In predictable fashion, Putin responded with symbolic bans on U.S. involvement in Russian energy development. Neither Western responses nor Putin’s counter-measures count for much in the short term. However, in the long term, Russia wants the oil and gas fracking technology that U.S. companies dominate. To get that, Putin is betting that the West will forget about Russian aggression in Ukraine as quickly as it forgot about the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

 

Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008 Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008
Wikimedia Commons, public domain

 

Thus far, there are striking similarities between the Georgian and Ukrainian invasions.

In 2008, Georgia, like the Ukraine of 2014, was expanding its economic and cultural ties with the West while reducing its trade with Russia. That year, Putin quickly seized Georgian territories where there was a significant Russian speaking population. Then he moved more military assets to the Georgian frontier than Russia needed for the intended operations. The propaganda campaign projected an image of Putin’s wild popularity across all segments of Russian society and total approval of his aggression in Georgia. Georgia seemed to be on the brink of complete absorption by Russia.

The West enacted economic sanctions and demanded that Russia withdraw. Putin then announced that his army was withdrawing from Georgia, but, in fact, his army enforced an annexation of Georgian territory. Once it appeared that the crisis was de-escalated, the West quickly rescinded the economic sanctions. Putin got what he wanted and suffered nothing for forcibly annexing part of Georgia.

In Ukraine, we see Putin once again employing this same basic strategy that worked so well in 2008. The Ukrainian people made it clear that they did not want closer economic and political alliances with Russia in exchange for promised Russian financial aid. Protests mounted, and the Russian backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia. Russia responded by sending special forces to invade and seize Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

In response, the West enacted mild sanctions against Russia.

Putin deployed more Russian military assets to the Ukrainian border areas than were needed to take the Crimea and then he asked for and received permission from the Russian parliament to invade all of Ukraine. The propaganda campaign in the Russian media created an image of a nation of one mind and soul ready to invade and annex more Ukraine territory, or even the entire country.

 

Canstock 2014 Bear Market

image from Canstock

 

Underneath Russia’s bravado, we saw the Russian stock market take a major nose dive.

This forced Putin to use ten billion dollars in Russia’s reserves to prop up the Russian currency and avert a credit crisis. Because Putin was certain that the sanctions were temporary, he likely predicted the economic impact of Ukraine invasion and calculated it as a bargain price for the purchase of Crimea.

As the situation in Ukraine appeared to be escalating beyond the Crimea, the U.S., Poland, and Romania asked their European allies to agree to increased sanctions. Most of the E.U. opposed the increased sanctions, so nothing meaningful happened. It became apparent to Ukrainians that many of their European neighbors were not willing to lose profitable business agreements with Russia in order to support them.

About thirty-three percent of Europe’s fossil fuel imports are from Russia. If we add in the ISIS crisis in Iraq, the energy picture has to concern European governments. Even those nations that do not directly import gas or oil from Russia would see steep price increases if Russian fuel imports stopped. That reality undoubtedly figures enormously into Europe’s unwillingness to support Ukraine by enacting meaningful economic sanctions against Russia. Conversely, with fracking operations now in place and growing in the U.S., the U.S. is becoming a significant gas exporter, it is easier for the U.S. to risk economic boycotts against Russia.

One of the most visible and controversial touchstones of the economic conflict of interest for the Western world regarding Russia’s Ukrainian invasion is a pending ship building contract between France’s STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire and the Russian Navy.

In 2011, the Russian Navy contracted and partially funded the building of four high-tech amphibious warfare ships. With the Russian annexation of Georgian territory fresh in their minds, France’s Western allies voiced opposition to the deal because most Western governments did not want to improve Russia’s ability to invade their neighbors. One ship is near completion, and the second is partially constructed. The first ship is due for delivery in October of this year.

 

Shipyard at Saint-Nazaire Unaltered image by Pouick44, wikimedia commons

Shipyard at Saint-Nazaire
Unaltered image by Pouick44, wikimedia commons

 

In addition to four powerful amphibious warfare ships, Russia will gain significant upgrades in electronic warfare systems from the French equipment installed on those ships. France benefits in that the one billion, six hundred million Euro payment from Russia fuels approximately a thousand French jobs. With France’s continuing high unemployment rates, the Paris government is reluctant to abandon the work and refund Russia its deposit.

The U.S., Poland, the U.K., and Ukraine appropriately and frankly criticized France’s ship deal with Russia. Predictably, Putin responded by saying that he looks forward to placing large orders for more naval ships from France once these ships are delivered.

On June 30, 2014, four hundred Russian sailors arrived in Saint-Nazaire for training on the shipboard systems. If and when the Russian sailors are given full access to the newer military systems and technologies, France will have allowed major warfare technologies to transfer to Putin’s navy at a time when Eastern Europeans are frantically trying to improve their security against Russian aggression.

The U.S. has suggested one easy way out for France. Rather than lose the financial value of the contracts with Russia, it could lease the two ships already under construction to NATO to be employed by NATO’s Standing Force, possibly in the Black Sea.

Thus far, Europe has been ambivalent to that idea. If Europe can cooperate amongst itself and with the U.S. enough to prevent the transfer of the French naval warfare technology to Russia, it would be a major achievement for European cooperation and security, but it would not address the deeper underlying problems.

Europe is facing major economic problems and has been relying heavily on large doses of political P.R. driven denial.

Take the U.K. as a simple case. The U.K. is the largest producer of oil and the second-largest producer of natural gas in the European Union. Production from U.K. oil fields peaked around the late 1990s and has declined steadily since then. Domestic production of natural gas is also steadily declining. Although once a net exporter of natural gas, the U.K. now imports more natural gas from Norway each year. Norway is limited in how much and how fast it can increase its gas exports to the U.K. The U.K. is also importing oil from Russia. Soon, the U.K. will have to drastically cut its natural gas consumption or find more import sources. This likely means sharp price increases for gas consumers in the U.K.

Four days ago, I had a polite conversation about the U.K.’s energy needs with a respected economist from London. He assured me that, “We can get most of the gas that we need from Norway, and recent discoveries show that in the future we can get all the gas we need from fracking.” He was unconcerned about the U.K.’s current energy dilemma.

 

Unaltered image by Battenbrook wikimedia commons

Unaltered image by Battenbrook
wikimedia commons

 

Fracking comes with serious environmental concerns.

France and Romania have already outlawed the practice. In light of these concerns, how much fracking will occur in the U.K., and how fast can it can it become a reality? Not fast enough to avoid increased prices at the pump and increased vulnerability to Russian aggression.

The U.K. is just one example of how European nations must juggle conflicting priorities in dealing with both Russian aggression against Europe and the usual turmoil in the Middle East. The U.K.’s powerful E.U. partner Germany, following initial indignation, has been somewhat muted in condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Germany is the one Western European nation that is not on the fast track to bankruptcy, and it cannot afford to ignore its major trade agreements with Russia.

We could go on, but why depress our European readers?

The fact is that North America and Europe must find the political courage to openly face the economic and energy questions that so greatly affect the future of Western civilization. A public that is unaware of energy issues cannot effectively demand that European and North American governments formulate policies that their citizens are willing to accept. Those policies shape how Europe can respond to Russian aggression. As long as the E.U., the U.S., and Canada limit their cooperation to lip service, Eastern Europe will remain at risk of further Russian invasions and energy blackmail.

Success Lessons from Parker the Drama Dog

By Piper Bayard

Meet Parker.

 

MyPhotos Parker Standing

 

 

We got Parker from the Humane Society when I had a feeling there was a dog waiting there that would be a perfect fit for our family. Parker had been taken back twice because he doesn’t play well with others. He almost completely ignored us during our initial visit, and he was about twenty pounds overweight. Perfect, right? Yes. We saw it that way, too.

Once we got him home, we also discovered he was terrified of everything from the vacuum sweeper to the guinea pig to the staircase. But after three days and two pounds of ham to coax him up the stairs, he relaxed into a self-contained, happy pup that blended well with the family. And the best part? He didn’t seem to shed much at all.

Then came the bait and switch. We got back from Vancouver Island to find Parker had started to shed while we were away. In fact, it seemed to be his new mission in life.

In a heartbeat, I had dog brush in hand and was calling our little fluff factory to the back door. But he would have none of it. Every time I stroked him gently with the dog brush, he yelped and snapped. I couldn’t even pluck away the loose tufts of hair without him acting like I was ripping off appendages.

So I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. Traumatize the dog, or allow him to coat us and all of our belongings in his tresses?

DD and I decided to take Parker for a walk and contemplate the situation. While I glared at the dog and DD laughed about the matter, she started flipping the rope leash up and down along his hind end, coaxing off chunks of fluff and leaving his tuchus looking like a topographical map of the Rocky Mountains. Parker was so distracted by all of the sights and smells around him that he didn’t notice.

That made me bold. Every time he stopped to sniff some marvelous delight, I ran forward and started grabbing out handfuls of hair. By the time we finished the walk, it looked like we’d shaved a bear on the path, and Parker didn’t notice or object once. Clearly, when it came to helping him shed, Parker was a drama queen.

 

MyPhotos Parker's fluff

 

 

The next day, I took the brush with me on our walk and encouraged Parker to sniff every rock, plant, or animal trace we crossed as I left a trail of dog hair tumbleweeds to mystify joggers through the day.

I decided to push it and took him out on the porch at home and continued my work. Without a walk to distract him, he began yelping and snapping again, but this time, I knew I wasn’t hurting him so I gave him a firm ‘no’ and ignored his fussing. He soon settled down.

 

MyPhotos Parker sitting by fluff

 

Now, Parker still hates brushing, but he tolerates it, and I don’t have to feel like a tribble every time I lie down on the couch. And the best part? After I took charge and told him to knock off the drama, he trusts me more than ever, and the new problem is not tripping as he  walks on my heels all day.

 

Success lessons? Some fears are nothing but bad habits, and discipline will save the day when indulgence fails.

What does your pet teach you about success?

All the best to all of you for knowing when to take charge.

The Pool Walker’s Creed

By Piper Bayard

Long ago, Holmes and I discussed the fact that we’re no good to each other dead. As we age, we have to work a little harder at that not getting dead thing than we used to. So we agreed that our bare minimum fitness requirements demand that we walk at least one mile every day. For Holmes, that translates into a 12-mile vertical hike. For me, that translates into . . . walking at least one mile a day.

I don’t talk much about my health issues. Hell, they bore me. I can’t imagine that they would interest you. But as it’s relevant, I will share that I have moderate arthritis in my hip and back. “Moderate” means enough to hurt all the time, but not enough to take any permanent surgical measures. It also means that I am genuinely in the “move it or lose it” stage of life, and sometimes, walking my mile is an agony. As a result, I have become that which I used to dread. A pool walker.

 

Pool Walker. Not me. She would kick my butt.

Pool Walker. Not me. She would kick my butt.

 

The gyms I go to always seem to have those windows in the workout room that look out over the pool. I can’t pretend to know what everyone thinks when they’re climbing their mountains on their stair steppers and ellipticals, but I was once guilty of gazing out at that pool and thinking, “I’m working hard to put off the day when I, too, will be a heavy-set blue hair who can do no more than walk around the lazy river.” Ah, the vanity of ignorant youth!

Then came injuries and age, and I found out first hand that deterioration comes to us all. We can only hope that we live in such a way that character and wisdom balance us when we lose the ability to Salsa all night in high heels.

Fancying myself to be someone who always does what she must, I swallowed my pride, put on my mom-style swimsuit, and went to a pool walker class. What I found was that it stretched muscles I never knew I had. It left me sore in a good way, and nothing genuinely hurt the way it had for so long.  I also found that those heavy set blue hairs kicked my butt. They have to have some serious balance and poise to do all of their calisthenics against the current. Shame on me for ever thinking pool walking was somehow a lesser fate.

I hate swimming. I hate swimming pools. I hate what swimming pools do to my skin and my hair. . . . No one sets out in life to be a pool walker. No one. We are all there because it is what we have to do to stay active, alive, and useful to ourselves, our families, and our communities.

So for myself, my family, and my writing partner, I take the Pool Walker’s Creed:

I will never quit. I will brave every child-ridden kiddie pool, every rude teen queen in a bikini, and every derisive glance from the young studs who are trying to impress the teen queens in bikinis. I will forge every toppling current in every lazy river if that is what it takes to avoid unnecessary pill-popping, surgeries, and deterioration, so that I will stay as strong as possible for my family, my friends, my partner, and myself. Because the only thing worse than working out, is not being able to.

What have you done to survive that you never thought you would do?

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Candidate “None of These” Takes Nevada Primary

By Piper Bayard

I 100% applaud the people of Nevada. The first step to creating better government is to stop accepting the crap that the two self-serving parties keep trying to shove down our throats. Nevada, you rock!

canstockphoto9735189

 

Nevada Democrats Chose “None of These Candidates” in Primary

 

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Starting with something quite serious today. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi is being held in Mexico on weapons charges. On March 31, 2014, he was attempting to meet his friends in San Ysidro for dinner, and he missed the exit, landing him at the Mexican border. This is not uncommon. With no chance to turn around, the first thing he told the border officials was that he wasn’t trying to enter Mexico, and that he was just trying to turn around and get back to San Ysidro. He was completely up front about the three legal firearms in his possession. These facts are not disputed. He was arrested and tossed into prison in Tijuana. He has recently been relocated to a prison in Tecate.

 

U.S.M.C. Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi

U.S.M.C. Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi

 

Sgt. Tahmooressi served two deployments in Afghanistan, was honorably discharged, and was being treated in San Diego for PTSD. Unfortunately, as of June 19, in spite of numerous petitions and a media outcry, our administration has exhibited virtually no interest in bringing back our Marine.

For more information, see Why is a US Marine in a Mexican Jail? The Case of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi and US Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi Stuck in Mexican Jail on Gun Charges.

I’m not big on petitions, but I did sign this one. Demand Release of U.S.M.C. Sgt. Tahmooressi Suffering with PTSD from Mexico Imprisonment. We can also help on social media by using the hashtag #bringbackourmarine to keep it trending and raise awareness that this travesty has occurred.

And on lighter notes . . .

Myndi Shafer clues us in on the Summer Book Crush — over 80 Book Boyfriend Flings by over 30 authors for just $0.99. Summer Book Crush

 

Summer Book Crush

 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from our editor, NYT Bestseller Ellie Ann, it’s that perfectionism doesn’t pay. Kassandra Lamb helps folks deal this this career-stunting problem. Hi, I’m Kass, and I’m a Recovering Perfectionist

5 Things I Learned as an Anonymous TSA Blogger by Jason Edward Harrington.

Susan Spann reminds us of the power of simple kindnesses. The Postman Always Waves Twice

DD, Michael Rooker, and Piper Denver Comic Con June 2014

DD, Michael Rooker, and Piper
Denver Comic Con June 2014

 

Note of Interest: I had a cool weekend at the Denver Comic Con. DD and I got to hang out with Human Echoes podcaster Tony Southcotte and NYT Bestseller Ellie Ann, as well as friends and fellow authors Juliette Terzieff and Jinxie Gervasio. Also had a nice surprise in the form of dinner with Michael Rooker. He’s not just Merle Dixon, zombie killer from The Walking Dead, but also a Southern gentleman and a lovely man with whom to spend an evening. Be sure to catch his upcoming movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, in which he plays bad guy Yondu.

Travel to Japan with Mihael Herrera. Travel Day — Visit to Mt. Takao

Shaggy from Scooby Doo

We lost a radio icon this week. Casey Kasem, the voice of Shaggy on “Scooby-Doo” and the DJ who gave my generation America’s Top 40 Countdown each week has passed on to that Great Sound Booth in the Sky. Jenny Hansen of More Cowbell called my attention to this fitting tribute, In Honor of Casey Kasem, Counting Down Baseball’s Best Songs.

And for Game of Thrones fans, George R.R. Martin is now on Twitter at @GRRMspeaking.

We fans have a message for you, George . . .

Campaign Style Poll of the Week

All the best to all of you for a week of satisfying choices.

ISIS — The Vultures Come Home to Roost

By Jay Holmes

This week, world governments and the attendant media gaggles are focused on the ISIS militia that has captured much of northern and western Iraq. From popular news reports, we might get the impression that ISIS’s expanding influence is a shocking and sudden surprise event. It isn’t.

 

Iraqi insurgents image by US Dept. of Homeland Security

Iraqi insurgents
image by US Dept. of Homeland Security, public domain

 

In spite of the usual “the CIA has failed us” blather from the major media drones, ISIS has, for the last decade, been well known by the US government and anyone else caring to pay attention to the PR department of the ISIS gang. When we read news reports that claim that the US government was, until this week, left in the dark concerning ISIS, we are reading analysis that is either from a fantastically uninformed source or from someone who simply invents fake news to suit their boss’s political agendas. ISIS has been well known under a variety of names to even the most feeble Western intelligence organizations since at least May of 2004, when the group web-published video of their execution of US contractor Nick Berg.

Even if the CIA wanted to hide the existence of ISIS, it could not have done so, as ISIS has never tried to be particularly secretive. On the contrary, they have always done their best to garner as much media attention as possible, and they have always been clear about their objectives.

So who is this group that seems to be surprising so many oblivious “reporters”?

In the broadest terms, there are three main intransigent political groups in Iraq—the Shia, the Sunnis, and the Kurds. The Shia Arab group is in power and is ruling with the same lack of skill that we would expect from any other Iraqi political coalition. The Shia block and their grossly incompetent and very corrupt Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have made little effort to protect the interests of the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq or the large Sunni minority scattered around Iraq.

 

Nouri Al-Maliki image by US government, public domain

Nouri Al-Maliki
image by US government, public domain

 

In turn, radical members of the Sunni minority formed ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In their early days, they called themselves Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Qaeda has since decided that ISIS is “too barbaric and too radical” for Al-Qaeda standards. Translation—ISIS has so much funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar that we can’t control them.

The Kurds don’t back ISIS, nor do they care for Maliki and the Shias. The Kurds are Sunnis, but they are Kurds first. If they end up with their own country as a result of this conflict, they will be thrilled. Much of the online chatter of an independent Kurdish state originates with Kurdish sources. However, if the US fails to back up the Iraqi government sufficiently to save them from themselves, the Kurds could finally end up with their own country. (See Turkey–America’s Special Frenemy and  Turkey–Giving America the Bird.)

Why would certain Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Qataris back such a radical group so close to home?

Their main reason is that they pose as Sunni Islamists while living as hedonists, whereas the Iranian leadership poses as Shia Islamists while living as hedonists. Iran has, for decades, been exercising power throughout the area via their surrogate Hezbollah militia/terrorist group in Lebanon and their obedient servants, the Syrian mafia Assad family. The Shia-governed Iraqis are their pals.

The uprising in Syria was started by moderate Syrians in a desperate hope to find freedom. Iran quickly moved to help keep their obedient Assad servants in power. In response, Iran’s Shia Hezbollah militia went on a campaign to consolidate their power in Lebanon and Syria. Sunni radicals of various stripes banded together under the ISIS brand to oppose Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon. As a result, most of the Syrian moderates were swept aside or murdered.

As more cash has flowed into ISIS pockets during the Syrian Civil War, the group’s influence has grown. In the meantime, Maliki’s government in Iraq has grown closer to Iran, while being propped up by US taxpayers.

Does your head hurt yet? It certainly should.

So why does the West care about one more war in the Land of Infinite Wars?

The collapse of the Iraqi Army is a frustrating embarrassment to the US government. Under the “you break it, you own it” doctrine first stated by US Army General Colin Powell,* both the Obama and Bush administrations have invested heavily in trying to finance and train something that might look vaguely like a functioning government in Iraq. In exchange for our $50,000,000,000 post-war reconstruction extravaganza, which has been managed by a 5,000-strong diplomatic corps, we ended up with something even more chaotic and violent than our worst inner-city ghettos. We ended up with Iraq. So did the poor Iraqis that live there. We Americans are a sentimental bunch, and many of us hate to think that all that reconstruction money we sent to Iraq was a complete waste.

 

General Colin Powell image by Charles Haynes, wikimedia commons

General Colin Powell
image by Charles Haynes,
wikimedia commons

 

On the dark humor front, we are now being treated to the specter of the Iranian Mullahs offering to cooperate with the US—and anyone else that would like to show up—in bailing out Maliki’s government. Iran does not want ISIS to succeed in gaining control in Iraq. ISIS does not want Iran and the Shia Iraqis to succeed in Iraq, and the Kurds would like them both to go to hell as soon as possible.

What can or should America do?

For the present, the president is considering air strikes to back up the sham Iraqi Army. A US carrier has been ordered to approach Iraq. This will be the first time in history that the Shia radical thugs in charge in Iran will find themselves cheering the sight of a US Navy carrier.

The strategy over the last few months has been to send better weapons, including anti-armor missiles, humvees, and infantry support weapons, to the Iraqi Army. This strategy has backfired badly, as ISIS has captured large stockpiles of US weapons. I suppose that if each of our 5,000 diplomats in Iraq threw a rock at the advancing ISIS forces, that storm of rocks could slow them down. Perhaps ISIS would mistake the flying rocks as a sign from Allah and accept it as a command to stay out of the Shia dominated regions of Iraq. ISIS has had easy going in areas where they have a Sunni majority to back them up, but they will face discernable opposition in Shia areas.

What will the impacts be?

My best guesses are as follows. Neither Iran nor the US will quietly accept a radical Sunni regime in Iraq. If ISIS becomes too powerful, even their Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Qatari backers will grow uncomfortable with their presence and will withhold funding. ISIS will never be able to achieve their dream of consolidating power over all of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. They may be able to keep a hold over Sunni dominated areas of Iraq, but they will face a constant struggle to occupy what they have thus far captured.

On the economic front, oil companies will do what they have been doing for a hundred years. They will raise the price of oil beyond any real escalated costs of obtaining crude.

On the political front at home, loyal Republicans will pretend that Iraq was once a great place to live, and they will blame the current disaster on Obama. Loyal Democrats will pretend that Iraq was once a great place to live, and they will blame the current disaster on George Bush. Loyal Americans will likely notice that both administrations demanded far too little of the Iraqi government that we financed and propped up, while thousands of our military members died or suffered serious wounds.

And for the children of Iraq? It’s another sunny day in the Land Between Two Rivers.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*I know that General Powell was the US Secretary of State in addition to being a general. But as events have often proven during the last half century, any third rate political bum can be a Secretary of State. It takes a bit more than that to be a US Army general, so I prefer to think of General Powell in terms of his higher status.

FIRELANDS 5-Star Dystopian Thriller — On Sale at Kindle for $0.99

 

Firelands Cover

 

Eighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who dies in the ritual fires that atone society.

Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble. A gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.

Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?

Field on Fire Canstock

Praise for FIRELANDS

“Piper Bayard’s FIRELANDS is a harrowing and cautionary tale of a world in strife, of men and women struggling to survive amidst the fiery apocalyptic ruins of modern society.  Thrilling, moving, and ultimately hopeful, here is a novel to be savored long after you turn the last page.”

James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of Bloodline

“With great characters and an amazing world that both mystifies and terrifies, FIRELANDS deserves to be mentioned with the other great dystopian novels of the past three years.”

Jeff Ayers, Author Magazine

“With echoes of Under the Banner of Heaven and The Hunger Games,  FIRELANDS is a sprawling adventure ranging across a world racked by post-apocalyptic want, denial, and prophetic dictum. Equal parts heroic quest and morality play, it races forward on a current of deftly woven characters and breakneck action, never failing to deliver what every reader wants–a helluva good story.”

Ryne Douglas Pearson, screenwriter of Knowing and best selling author of Simple Simon and Confessions

 

“Piper Bayard explodes on the scene in FIRELANDS. Creative. Imaginative. Chilling and reassuring.  A captivating tale well told.”

Vicki Hinze, USA Today Best Selling Author of Mindreader

 

“FIRELANDS envisions a terrifying and prescient future of a United States lost to the worst extremes.  Piper Bayard’s wonderfully relevant and beautifully realized fantasy tale would make George R.R. Martin proud as it combines the best of Children of Men with Stephen King’s seminal The Stand . . . the result is a major debut that is not to be missed.”

Jon Land, bestselling author of Strong at the Break and Betrayal

 

The Troubling Case of Bowe Bergdahl

By Jay Holmes

Since his release from Taliban captivity on May 13, 2014, in exchange for five senior Taliban leaders, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been in the spotlight of the U.S. media. The Obama administration and much of the American media hailed the initial reports of his release as a victory and an obvious cause for celebration. However, within hours, questions began to emerge concerning the wisdom of exchanging five senior Taliban leaders for a U.S. Army soldier who had, according to his army comrades, apparently deserted his post in premeditated fashion.

 

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl image by U.S. Army

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
image by U.S. Army

 

Bergdahl has now become something of a transient touchstone of American politics. Members of both Houses of Congress have pointed out that President Obama violated federal law when he authorized the release of Guantanamo prisoners without giving Congress the required thirty day notice. The law is quite clear on this point. The law was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 and was signed by President Obama. We know that the President did in fact read the law before signing it because he complained about the restriction that the law placed on him at the time of the signing.

Whether anyone in the Department of Justice or Congress will do anything about that clear violation of law is doubtful. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has attempted to explain away the violation by saying that the President had complained about the law when he signed it, and that the circumstances were urgent.

I fear I must take responsibility for this particular instance of President Obama’s misbehavior. He was simply copying an old ploy that I invented when I was in third grade. When the nuns would assign me homework, I would complain about it and not do it. The following day, I would explain that urgencies—baseball practice, family events, reading time with better books, etc.—had prevented me from doing the homework. I stopped using that ploy when I got to high school. If I had known way back in third grade that future presidents and press secretaries would unleash such a powerful weapon against the American people, I never would have created this devastating device. I offer my sincere apologies.

The public’s response to the Bergdahl case has ranged from “Shoot the bastard!” to “He’s a hero, though I can’t explain why.” Much of this mixed reaction has little to do with legalities or illegalities. The basic controversy stems from the fact that five very dangerous Taliban leaders were released from Camp Cheerful in Guantanamo, Cuba, to obtain the release of a member of the U.S. Army who apparently deserted his post. The public’s anger concerning Bergdahl is based on statements made by Bergdahl’s platoon mates and a 2010 Pentagon investigation that concluded that there was “incontrovertible evidence” that Bergdahl walked away from his unit. Bergdahl has not been convicted of desertion or of any other violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he might or might not ever face a court martial.

 

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban. image from Voice of Jihad Website

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban.
image from Voice of Jihad Website

 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey now explains that, “The questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover any U.S. service member in enemy captivity,” and that, “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.” I trust and respect General Dempsey, and I accept his position as rational. Precisely how much the U.S. was willing to give the Taliban in exchange for Bergdahl is another matter.

On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl vanished from his army post in Afghanistan. In statements that he made to his battalion mates and emails that he sent to his family prior to leaving his post, he made it clear that he was angry with the United States of America, and that he was ashamed of being American. So what would make any sane member of the U.S. Army turn into an American-hating deserter? The question might not quite apply in this case. He may have not been all that sane to start with.

A glance at Bergdahl’s background raises questions about whether he was ever fit to enter the U.S. Army in the first place. Prior to joining, Bergdahl had traveled to France and had attempted to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. To their credit, the Legion rejected his application. Somehow, the U.S. Army failed to detect the same issues, or it ignored whatever had concerned the French Foreign Legion.

Once Bergdahl arrived in Afghanistan, he began learning to speak Pashto. According to his battalion mates, he became more anti-social and spent more time with Afghans than with his platoon mates.  Bergdahl’s father is certain that he became socially isolated from his comrades while in Afghanistan. The very fact that Bergdahl was willing to wander off alone into the wilds of Afghanistan calls into question his ability to make rational decisions.

It’s a large Army and a volunteer Army. The pool of enlistment applicants is by no means infinite. If the Army were to exclude every youngster that seemed a little odd or that had previously acted immaturely, it would be a very small Army. I can forgive the U.S. military for its imperfect recruiting methods. Many of our nation’s military heroes did not always act like saints. The U.S. military will not find perfect screening tools for candidates. Such tools do not yet exist.

My personal judgments concerning Bergdahl’s conduct are not important. The opinions of his battalion mates should not be quite so easily dismissed. Thus far, it is clear that the majority of men that served in combat with Bergdahl are certain that he is a deserter. The Army is stating that this case will be fully investigated. But the president has the power to order this or any other investigation to be abandoned, or to deliver whatever conclusions he desires to have delivered. Both President Johnson and President Nixon directly intervened in major courts martial cases during the Viet Nam War for political reasons. President Clinton intervened during the Iraq No-Fly Zone operations. I don’t doubt that President Obama will do the same.

On the other side of the coin, the five criminals that were released had previously dedicated themselves to the anti-Western, anti-reason, Stone Age agenda of the Taliban. I expect that they will continue to do so.

 

Taliban Five, a.k.a. Taliban Dream Team Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mohammad Fazl, Khalrullah Khalrkhwa, Mohammed Nabi

Taliban Five, a.k.a. Taliban Dream Team
Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mohammad Fazl, Khalrullah Khalrkhwa, Mohammed Nabi

 

The Pentagon cannot resolve the underlying issues of the Bergdahl controversy. They are political in nature. The propaganda efforts put forth by the spin-demons in D.C. have been amusing but not terribly effective. Democratic Party stalwart and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein has contradicted the White House’s assertion that they were forced to act quickly because Bergdahl was in imminent danger. It looks like a major political disaster in the making, but my best guess is that it will all soon fizzle. In all likelihood, the public relations fallout will not greatly influence political events in the U.S. A great number of both the president’s detractors and supporters are dogmatic in their politics, and neither this nor any other event will easily influence their loyalties. The president and other politicians understand this and act accordingly.

On the bright side, there is a glimmer of hope in this and in every other political disaster in the U.S.There are significant indications that young voters are less likely to settle for a constant diet of dogma to satisfy their political wishes. In spite of our best efforts to fail, we may have succeeded in raising a generation of Americans that are somewhat less politically gullible than previous generations have been. Call me a wild optimist, but it seems to me that the defective political products that have sold so well in the American political market place might not sell so well in the near future. The buyers are becoming more leery. Let’s hope that that trend will continue.

In the meantime, the Bergdahl case won’t have much influence on our policies or operations in Afghanistan. The Haqqani terrorist branch of the Taliban have their five extra zealots back, and they will continue to grow and to exert whatever influence they can in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although it’s infuriating to see terrorists set free, it won’t matter much in practical terms. The White House does not wish to burn much more of its shrinking political resources in Afghanistan. We are leaving regardless of what changes might occur there. Whether or not the Afghani tribal leaders will be willing and able to allow government to occur in our absence remains to be seen.

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Bride Ties Baby to Wedding Dress

By Piper Bayard

Meme Bride ties baby to wedding dress

Woman Ties Baby to Wedding Dress,

Drags Her Down Aisle

As a mother who sat her kids in a roasting pan and pulled them around the living room, I can’t honestly think this was anything but a good time for a baby. She appears to be secure and not getting any rug burns. But one question does come to mind . . . Was she the something “new” or the something “borrowed”?

Big thanks to historical mystery author K.B. Owen for pointing me to this gem.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Peace Day and the Fallen Project. A group in Normandy remembers D-Day with a beautiful tribute. They draw 9,000 figures in the sand on the beach to represent the 9,000 that died during the Allied Invasion of Nazi-Occupied France.

Via Professional Organizer Judith Houlding of Space Editing, What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades. It’s long been my contention that we no longer need Code Talkers. At this point, we can convey messages in the ancient style of cursive writing, and even the NSA won’t be able to figure them out.

A courageous post and fantastic comments discussion from Jamie Gold. The Danger of Political Correctness for Diverse Books

Canstock 2014 Ginger child

And speaking of diversity . . .  Ginger Problems that Normal People Don’t Understand.

Via Angela Ackerman, co-author of the outstanding Emotion Thesaurus Series, 22 Pictures Where I Have Absolutely No Idea What’s Going On.

None of us does it alone. Elizabeth Fais asks, Who’s Your Yoda?

Via the awesome photographer Penelope Beveridge, Water Photography Competition Winning Images are Revealed.

As the temperatures rise, I think most of us can relate to this playful horse.

Campaign Style Poll of the Week

All the best to all of you for a week of creative play with children.