Sunday, December 15, 2013

Robert Levinson / Ex-FBI / Captive of the Iranians

I’ve been thinking about Robert Levinson.  He is the retired FBI Agent who disappeared in 2007 on the Iranian Island of Kish.

Levinson, who was operating as a private investigator, was initially described, by government officials and his family, as investigating cigarette smuggling.  He was to meet with a potential 'source' of information on Kish.

Kish Island is located approximately 12 miles from the Iranian mainland and falls within the territorial jurisdiction of Iran.  It is considered to be a rather attractive tourist destination.  And, is relatively free-wheeling compared to mainland Iran.  The island is a money maker for Iran – hence the relaxation of the strict standards that ordinarily apply to Iranian citizens and visitors to their country.  Make no mistake, however, it is part of Iran - a country that cares little for Americans, particularly those Americans connected with American intelligence agencies.

As we now know, or at least what has been reported as accurate, Levinson was working as a contractor for the CIA.  Apparently, Levinson had been recruited by certain CIA Analysts, and was collecting information on the CIA’s behalf.  What is concerning is that his actions were not appropriate under CIA guidelines, and were apparently hidden from higher-ups in the CIA bureaucracy.  I tend not to believe that, but that is the official story – at least for now.  Several CIA employees were fired or disciplined.  All the fired employees seemed to immediately land on their feet – obtaining other government positions outside the CIA.

Regarding Levinson, personally, he was from reports within the Bureau, very well liked, and an outstanding Agent.  He had a wife and seven children.  Post retirement, he was trying to make extra money as a PI to help his seven children through college.

The CIA was paying him very well on a contractual basis.  His last contract with the CIA was worth $120,000.  Interestingly, the CIA gave Levinson’s family a $2.5 million annuity to keep, early on, Levinson’s actual purpose in going to Kish a secret.  So, Levinson’s family will be taken care of financially.  This is, as we all understand, small comfort to the family.

Should Levinson have gone to Kish?  Well, in retrospect, we all know the answer to that.  In this day and age, all any foreign government needs to do is run a basic Google search on an individual’s name; and, bingo, they know Levinson was a retired Agent.  That would be enough to pick him up and find out what he was really doing in Iran.  Under questioning, he would quickly reveal his purpose.  FBI Agents are not trained to thwart intense interrogation techniques.  Furthermore, the more professional CIA operatives apparently did not know Levinson was even in the region – and, of course, he had no backup.  He probably was not even missed for several days.

On a personal note, it’s been many years since I was an Agent; but I would not accept an assignment or attempt to ‘vacation’ in any number of present-day countries; particularly Iran and North Korea.  To voluntarily go there, as far as I’m concerned would be fool-hardy, if not downright stupid.  I assume that the FBI advises their current Agents of that; just as I was advised not to have FBI credentials in my possession if an airplane on which I was traveling was ever hijacked to Cuba.  That was the advice given in the ‘70’s.  As a supervisor once told me, “eat your credentials if you have to.”

I want to be very clear here.  I have deep sympathy for Levinson’s family.  In a perfect world, the Iranians would now have all the information they need; and would return Levinson if and when the US had admitted their error – which the CIA has done – sort of.  My advice to the President is that he has to stop playing Mr. Nice Guy.  Someone in the CIA high-up needs to be fired.  Perhaps, it should be the Director.  The President’s position should be, ‘I don’t care if you didn’t know.  It’s your job to know.  I want your resignation.’

But, as we are all discovering, President Obama couldn’t really do that.  If he had such staunch principals, he would have to also resign.

And, so it goes.  Robert Levinson may not be alive.  Nonetheless, the FBI is offering $1 million for his return.  It’s been approximately three years since his family has heard anything.  They continue to keep his name before the public; but hope is dimming.  Of course, the CIA and our government continues to play footsie.  It’s their nature.

True Nelson

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Suicide Bombers' Motivation / The Myth of Martyrdom

I just finished a book that I’d like to recommend to my readers.  The book is The Myth of Martyrdom by Adam Lankford.  It is a thoroughly researched book on “suicide bombers, rampage shooters and other self-destructive killers.”  Lankford is a Criminal Justice professor at The University of Alabama.

What his research has documented would seem to be intuitive to the average American citizen.  However, Lankford has taken the time and made the effort to bring the evidence to the table – interesting.

Many have erroneously compared the courage or motivations of suicide bombers and mass killers with war heroes; that suicide bombers are the equivalent of the soldier that throws himself on a grenade to protect his comrades.  Far from it.  However, this is a fiction promoted by many liberal scholars, prominent apologists, as well as radical Islamists.

In fact, it is the radical handlers who use troubled individuals to do their unholy work.  Suicide bombers, according to Lankford’s research, demonstrate little courage in their actions, are almost always deeply depressed, isolated and have previously indicated suicidal tendencies.

In the Muslim faith, suicide is considered a ‘mortal sin’ – if that is the appropriate designation.  However, potential candidates who volunteer for bombing attacks are convinced by handlers that strapping explosives to their bodies and detonating the blast in some public place is a final-exit technicality, or loophole, that will allow them to escape a hellish afterlife.  The frosting on the cake is that they will be considered a martyr – at least in some circles.

As Lankford stated:  “Today, there are more than ninety million people around the world who believe that suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified.  Within the United States, more than 200,000 people share the exact same view.”

There must be tens of thousands of potential mass killers available for the proper grooming (manipulation).  A sobering thought, don't you think?

True Nelson

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dave’s Killer Bread Founder is back in the Slammer / Dave Dahl / Postscript

I visited ‘Dave’s Killer Bread’ bakery a couple of days back, and it appeared that it was business as usual.  I, too, bought some bread.

Later, I talked to a few people about how they felt about Dave’s scrap with the Washington County Sheriff’s deputies and most seemed rather blasé about the subject.  Oh, they considered it kind of serious, but no reason to stop buying his bread.  Most appeared to want to give Dave the benefit of the doubt.  One person said, ‘Well, if the CEO of Safeway had done the same thing, would you stop going to Safeway?’  My answer was, ‘No, I guess that wouldn’t stop me from going to Safeway – although, I don’t really go to Safeway that often; but that I get the point.’

But, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the comparison of Safeway to Dave’s Killer Bread was something of a stretch.  Dave Dahl is an iconic figure with a compelling story who is tied closely to his product.  The CEO of Safeway, whoever that might be, is not.

Then my thought process was, if the public was not adequately concerned enough about Dave’s conduct to boycott or stop buying his product, what would it take?

What we know about Dave’s manic, out-of-control behavior is minimal – as far as his mental state or the causative factors are concerned.  We do know that, in the process, he wrecked two Sheriff’s patrol vehicles and injured three deputies.  Furthermore, he led them on a helter-skelter chase that theoretically endangered others in the public.

So, my question is what would it take?  Most would offer that there is no good answer.  It depends.  Yes, I know; but what is the proper answer for the typical, honest, hard-working Joe.  When would he or she say Dave’s conduct is bad enough that I will no longer buy a product with which he is so closely identified?

What if, instead of the above scenario, there was some other scenario?  He ran down and injured a young boy riding his bike.  He wrecked the car of a wounded veteran?  He publicly burned the American Flag?  He used words that were abusive towards minorities or gays?  He spit on one of his employees?  He beat-up his wife (actually I don’t know if he has a wife)?

I guess everyone has their priorities, their hot-button.  I am of the opinion that cops and deputies have a pretty rough job; a job that most in the public would not care to do, even be afraid to do.  I am of the opinion that when you harm someone in law enforcement it is very serious; and the consequences should also be serious.

Will the ‘system’ treat it seriously?  I don’t think so.  Will we ever know what precipitated Dave ‘wild ride’?  No, I don’t think we’ll get the whole story?  Will this all blow over and will it be business as usual at Dave’s Bakery?  Yes, I think that may very well be the case.  Will Dave be involved in something similar down the road, reminiscent of his current brush with the law?  I hope not, but I am doubtful.

True Nelson

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dave's Killer Bread Founder is back in the Slammer / Dave Dahl / Part 2

It often seems, after publishing a blog post, I have some additional thoughts, even second thoughts, about what I said.

A couple of additional comments are in order:

First, I think Dave Dahl’s bail was way too low, if the reported circumstances are accurate.  Bail was originally set at $250,000; but, subsequently, reduced to $20,000.  The $20,000 figure is chump change to Dahl, who kicked in a mere $2000 (10%) with a bail bondsman picking up the rest. The theory behind bail is that the judge should set a sum that would insure, within reason, a subsequent appearance by the defendant in court.  It’s meant to hurt a little – give the defendant some serious consequences if he decides to skip.  As far as Dahl is concerned, $20,000 won’t cut it.  He probably did more than $20,000 dollars in damage to the patrol cars and the required medical treatment for our deputies.

Furthermore, Dahl endangered lives as he attempted to escape capture.  Additionally, he is an x-felon – a wealthy one at that.  I’m not sure, but he might still be on parole status.  The judge should have kept the bail high to emphasize the serious nature of his offense; and the judge should have made it clear to Dahl that he (Judge Eric Butterfield) considered the matter serious – which he did not.

Steve Houze, Dahl’s attorney, stated to the judge that Dahl’s behavior was “clearly a mental health issue.”  My question would be; precipitated by what?  I think most of us could make a pretty good guess.  Houze even said that Dahl’s condition was “extremely fragile.”  Does anyone honestly buy that?  This guy survived fifteen years in the penitentiary.  Come on Steve, you make the guy sound like he’s Miss Prim.  I bet the boys in the joint didn’t consider him ‘fragile.’  Attorneys have such a way with words, don’t they?

True Nelson

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dave's Killer Bread Founder is back in the Slammer / Dave Dahl

I guess that I wasn’t really surprised.  The recidivism for x-cons, like Dave, is extremely high.

For those who haven’t heard, but are nonetheless familiar with ‘Dave’s Killer Bread;’ Dave Dahl, x-con, and co-founder of the aforementioned bread is in the slammer once again, at least temporarily.  He posted $20,000 bond and was released Friday.

Thursday night, Dahl was involved in some sort of manic episode, slamming his Cadillac Escalade into two Washington County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles and injuring three deputies.  The deputies were pursuing Dahl due to his reported dangerous, out-of-control and erratic behavior.  No, Dave didn’t kill anyone – at least this time.

Dahl had used his personal story of x-con goes straight and makes good as a selling point for his various bread products.  Incidentally, it’s very good bread.  I eat it on a regular basis.

Dahl served fifteen years in prison for illegal drugs and associated criminal activity.  When last released from prison, he joined his family business, became very successful on his own, and seemed to epitomize the redemption story of bad to good.  A story that is extremely rare particularly involving success at his level.  The public bought it and supported him and his product.

Whether or not we are seeing the end of Dave or his bread remains to be seen.  Information has not been released as to whether or not his ‘episode’ was a mental breakdown or drug related.  If it’s the latter, that will not bode well for the continued success of his iconic bread.  Dave’s Killer Bread has outside investors that may not want to continue with Dave as their front man.  And, I can’t blame them for that.

If Dave had a mental breakdown, I wish him well; and hope he gets the proper medical help.  If Dave was flying on drugs and endangering the lives of others, the company has a real problem.  The whole product theme and the product itself has just been thrown in the dumpster.

Dave Dahl has a very good lawyer, Stephen Houze.  The other defense attorneys in the Portland area must be getting very envious.  Steve seems to get all the high-rollers that get in trouble.

Will I continue to buy the bread?  Yes, I suppose.  However, Dave’s image and story are due for retirement.  Don’t you think?

What about you readers?  Any thoughts?

True Nelson

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"The US Government has a Problem with Dead People" (Postscript and Apology)

Someone close to me, after reading the preceding blog post, felt I appeared a little cold-hearted.  I don’t really consider myself as that; but, perhaps, my writing sometimes gives that impression.

“The questionable comment was as follows:  “Such a system would instantly include all the tax freeloaders like those ‘working under the table,’ drug dealers and others involved in criminal activities, as well as the reported 50% of American citizens who currently do not pay any income taxes.”  (Part of sentence underlined for emphasis.)

Now, I do understand that many Americans live near the poverty level through no fault of their own.  Life sometimes can be very unfair – as we all know.  To those who honestly struggle to get by day to day, I am truly sorry.  I should not have included those good people in the same sentence with ‘drug dealers’ and those ‘working under the table.’

However, my post was not intended to describe an all-inclusive, fair tax system.  My post was designed to highlight the reasons for the existing fraud and the obvious incentives for fraud in the present tax system.  Even the act of exempting 50% of the population from paying federal income tax has created another incentive – the incentive to keep reported income and any possible documentable income below a certain amount.  Are all of the 50% of Americans who do not pay federal income tax cheating?  No, of course not.  Are some of them, even many of them cheating?  Yes.

True Nelson

Monday, November 11, 2013

"The US Government has a Problem with Dead People" (Part 2)

There is an accepted premise in security circles, particularly attributable to the workplace but may be applicable here, that 10% of people are inherently dishonest and will steal from you regardless of security measures in place, 10% of people are inherently honest and will not steal from you under any circumstances, but the remaining 80% are prepared to go along with the trend or follow the herd.  In other words, most people will start to feel that theft is acceptable under some circumstances if those in management or supervisory positions appear to not particularly care one way or another.  Although this concept may seem like some sort of farcical generality, it is actually based on scientific research.  And, I think it is applicable to many of the programs that are currently administered by the federal government.

Every new administration talks the good talk about waste, fraud and misappropriation, but they never seem to do anything about it.  The only possible explanation is that, other than rhetorically speaking, they really don’t care that much about trying to solve the problem.  Why?  Perhaps any real corrective measures would be construed as politically insensitive, lead to adverse publicity and ultimately cost votes.  That said, I do think that the priorities of the typical politician are mostly about promoting themselves.  If one had a personality that did not fit within those egocentric parameters, it is doubtful that said individual would ever enter politics in the first place – and, if they did, they probably wouldn’t last long.  So, the waste, fraud and misappropriation continues.

I would be willing to bet that most people have hedged, misrepresented, or lied on their federal and state tax return.  Some even talk freely about how they have earned money under the table and didn’t report it or have paid someone in cash knowing that the money would never be reported as income by the recipient.  Some accept social services while misrepresenting their actual income.  Others, those that can afford it, hire attorneys and accountants to search for arcane loop holes in the tax code; loop holes that are not quite illegal, but certainly circumvent the code’s purported intent for fairness.

Does the government care?  It doesn’t seem to.  Do you feel like something of a sucker if you try to play by the rules?  Well, no need to; go ahead and join the herd.  You shouldn’t have to feel like a sucker.  Our tax system is so complicated, convoluted and polluted that there is no reason to even bother attempting to fully comply.  The income tax system doesn’t work and the federal government knows it.  And, for the most part, the public accepts it and its many opportunities to cheat.

Oh, right, what about my suggestions for the Social Security Administration:

The Social Security Administration has a database for deceased persons already in place, but they claim it is not entirely accurate.  Fix it.  We do not live in a Third World country – at least not so far.  People do not generally pass-on anonymously.  If one does, he or she should be checked through the SSA database.  How about getting a thumb print from everyone who signs-up for Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare?  No thumb print, no federal money.  Or, could it be said that thumb prints discriminate against minorities and the poor – an invasion of privacy?  No, not really – but it will / does discriminate against those intent on cheating the system.

How about those receiving federal payments being required to certify annually that they are still entitled to benefits, and that the residence and banking information is accurate.  If the SSA can’t contact the recipient through normal channels, stop sending money to a bank account – or require the bank to contact the recipient.  Compliance with the law shouldn’t be that difficult.  If recipients have the where-with-all to sign up for public benefits, they should certainly have the where-with-all to comply with certain requirements for continued payments.

How about prosecuting those that commit fraud?  I suppose it goes without saying that enforcement would require a good-faith effort to investigate potential fraud?  But, as we know, the relevant federal agencies always cite lack of resources for investigative efforts while they squander hundreds of millions of the taxpayers’ dollars.  Although the Fahrenthold article states the amount of theft from the government in dollars, he fails to note how many prosecutions resulted.  I would be willing to bet that the number of arrests and convictions is very small.  If the SSA, can’t handle the investigations (odd, don’t you think, considering the thousands of employees within their organization), how about turning it over to a private contractor to prepare preliminary investigations of wrong-doing?  Let the contractor be paid based on projected savings and recoveries.

I could go on, but I will jump to the bottom line.  Our governments, state and federal, have almost unlimited resources.  Self-serving politicians buy votes by doling out money to various voting blocks.  When the tax dollars run short, politicians simply ask for or demand more tax revenue citing potential, largely fabricated, dire circumstances.  Honest citizens, hardworking citizens get ‘hosed’ in the process.  It is as simple as that.

In my opinion to minimize fraud, in addition to the above:

Greatly reduce or eliminate the current corporate tax, with all the associated, phony tax exemptions now used by corporations.  Corporations do not pay taxes.  People pay taxes.  If a corporation pays a tax, it must pass it on to the consumer, or go out of business.  The public should understand that corporate taxes are a hidden tax on the uninformed consumer.

Discontinue income tax reporting for those earning less than $1 million per year.  Go to a national ‘value added tax,’ which is a consumer tax similar to a sales tax.  If you buy something you pay a tax.  If you want to save your money for retirement, your kids’ education, etc., you don’t pay any taxes on those dollars.  You can just stash your money or invest it.  Necessities, like food, would be exempt from taxation.  Such a system would instantly include all the tax freeloaders like those ‘working under the table,’ drug dealers and others involved in criminal activities, as well as the reported 50% of American citizens who currently do not pay any income taxes.

I know this is overly simplistic; but my point is we need a fair, transparent tax system with easy compliance and required enforcement - but does, nonetheless, make it difficult to cheat.

Let’s all join the 10% of inherently honest people.

True Nelson

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"The US Government has a Problem with Dead People"

I liked David Fahrenthold’s (Washington Post) opening sentences to his recent article.  “The US Government has a problem with dead people.  For one thing, it pays them way too much.”

That has to be one of the classic understatements that I’ve heard recently.  He goes on to state that:

  • The Social Security Administration, in the past few years, paid $133 million to beneficiaries no longer among the living.
  • The federal employee retirement system paid more than $400 million to former retirees who were dead.
  • And, a federal aid program paid approximately $4 million in federal money to pay heating and air-conditioning bills for more than 11,000 dead people.


Apparently, our federal government is incapable of determining who died and when.  Personally, I don’t buy it.  I think that, in their efforts to dole out money, where the money goes and whether the money is appropriately allocated is really a rather low priority.  After all, the government is printing money night and day to ‘stimulate the economy’; and they must disseminate it somehow.

Some of you might say, True, you know nothing about politics and national economics or the Social Security Administration – just put a sock in it.

You might be correct, but I do know something about fraud, embezzlement and theft, and the motivations there of.  And, I do know something about the facilitation of fraud, embezzlement and theft.  And, I do know that if the above statistics are accurate, the federal agencies indicated are either grossly incompetent or a committed facilitator of fraud and theft.

Furthermore, isn’t it ironic that the federal government is in the process of assuming control of our healthcare when they apparently can’t seem to handle the social services that they already control?  Fraudulent healthcare claims will be infinitely more complex than simply verifying that someone passed-away.

Why, you may ask, would said federal agencies facilitate theft?  Well, let me ask you this.  The Social Security Administration has approximately 65,000 employees with multiple offices in every state.  Doesn’t it seem logical that they could dedicate say 50 or 100 employees, even 200 employees, to establish a database of people who have died – if the SSA decided that they actually wanted to do that?  Presumably, the SSA already has a database of all those who are receiving federal benefits.  Can’t they figure any way to periodically check to see if recipients of social services are still alive; in this day and age with all the technology available?  Can’t they cross-check data with other agencies like the IRS; and, if not, why not?  What about state records?  Certainly the states keep track of bodies left here and there?  The states even make an effort to identify them?  At least I thought they did.

What about getting some help from the NSA?  (Question meant as sarcasm - for those who thought I might be serious.)

Well, I have some simple suggestions for the SSA and other federal agencies.  But no doubt it will fall on deaf ears.

To be continued…

True Nelson

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

FBI Agents Required to Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

This probably isn’t a big deal, but it caused me pause.

New FBI Agents are required, as part of their training, to visit the Martin Luther King Memorial.

A couple of years back the New Agents were required to visit the Holocaust Museum.  I can sort of understand the Holocaust Museum.  The young academics entering federal law enforcement, lacking what one might consider a rounded education or worldly experience, may very well find it helpful to know that the world actually does contain unspeakable evil.

Now I agree that Martin Luther King accomplished much regarding necessary changes in past social injustice.  I would even be prepared to acknowledge that Martin Luther King was a great and influential man.  And, of course, his credited influence and leadership are emphasized in practically every city where streets and schools are named after him; and a National holiday has been designated to honor him.  Moreover, the next time I am in DC I plan to visit his Memorial, among others; including the Vietnam Memorial.

However, if the FBI feels that some sort of first-hand history experience is necessary to their recruits, what about the Lincoln Memorial or what about Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was assassinated; both of which I visited on the weekend and on my own time when I was in New Agents’ Training.  Isn’t it just possible that Lincoln did as much, or more, for African Americans then did King?

Why does it seem like our government agencies stumble all over themselves trying to be the most politically correct, and the most demonstrably sensitive towards our minority citizens?  When will the time arrive when ‘all men are created equal’ (under law) as was promised American citizens?  When will the persistent, often latent, quotas and racially tinged preferences be no more?

Yes, Reverend King, most Americans agree.  We are ready to take that next step.

True Nelson

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bill Ayers: American Dissident or Domestic Terrorist

It doesn’t surprise me that Bill Ayers, former Weatherman and domestic terrorist, is trying to polish, or should I say distort, his legacy.  It will be a life-long pursuit, doomed to failure.  His recent book is Public Enemy:  Confessions of an American Dissident.  He got the “public enemy” right.  I don’t plan to read the book.  Reportedly, it is more of the same tripe served up in his previous writings about his escapades in the Weather Underground Organization (WUO).  Born to a rich family, his failure to be successfully prosecuted for numerous terrorist acts was certainly aided by family wealth and political influence; as well, I must admit, missteps by the FBI and Federal prosecutors.

Some will say, this was a long time ago.  For some people that may very well be true; but, for me, well, I still remember and don’t plan to forget anytime soon.  To my mind, modern day terrorism has refocused the heinous acts of the WUO, as well as its many similarities with, for example, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s actions at the Boston Marathon.  After all, there isn’t much difference between a pipe bomb and a pressure cooker bomb.  What’s that you say?  ‘Bill and his associates didn’t actually kill anyone.’  First off, that’s not true.  Secondly, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

For some of my personal experiences with and impressions of the WUO, I refer you to the following previous post.

Of course, Ayers and his ilk continue to harken-back to the Vietnam War, and the alleged ‘criminal’ nature, at least in their minds, of that military operation.  There was considerable justification for the military incursion in Vietnam, but I should save that for another time.  Besides, our country called and many of us went.  Whereas, Ayers and his other little rat buddies scurried around in the dark of night planting bombs without any thought or care about who might be killed or injured.

When the public talks about the cowardly acts of some of our modern day terrorists, don’t forget Bill and his lovely wife Bernardine Dohrn.  As they might say over coffee with friends, ‘been there, done that.’

This is snarky I know; but Ayers’ photo, with the ear-rings and the haircut, it appears that he is finally getting in touch with his feminine side.  Something the FBI always suspected.  What a wus.

For those that were too young during the Days of Rage and its aftermath, or for those who have simply forgotten, I’ve attached a FBI document that will give you a feel for the kind of people Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn et al were (and still are).  The FBI Summary Report has been highly redacted, but you will quickly get the idea.

Just spend a moment.  Think about it.  Let’s not forget.

True Nelson

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I love to read, but usually I prefer nonfiction.  I’ve made efforts to write fiction with very limited success.  I have had a couple of short stories published.  I found that writing fiction is intense, laborious and with few tangible rewards.  I am not sure I’m cut out for the solitude and the required rigor.  More importantly, most, if not all of fiction, seems contrived – which it is – more obvious when you’ve spent time in the trenches trying to do it.  It’s kind of fun to let your imagination run wild.  There is a certain cathartic effect.  However, fiction writing requires discipline in the extreme – particularly if you are attempting to write a novel.  I’m more the day-dreamer type.

That said, I have recently finished reading a fiction book that was recommended to me; and really enjoyed it.  The book is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  I’m not sure this book would appeal to everyone.  After all, it's a story that was, for the most part, told by a dog.  It is not a children’s book.  Does that surprise you?  It is, nonetheless, a book that most readers would enjoy; and particularly those readers who have or love dogs.  Warning.  Some tears will be shed in this one.  At least, that is what happened to me.

The author lives in Seattle and there are a lot of references to the Northwest.

Give the book a try.  I don’t think that you will be disappointed.

True Nelson

Friday, September 27, 2013

Aaron Alexis / Washington Navy Yard Shooting / and Gun Control (Part 2)

I do understand the frustration the public feels at the Country’s inability to stop these mass shootings.  I’ve given it a lot of thought.  I don’t have a good answer.  Nobody seems to have a good answer.  Perhaps, the most viable single answer is swift and severe punishment for the perpetrators of this violence.  Although, I realize that potential punishment will have little or no impact on the likes of someone like Aaron Alexis.

However, am I the only one who feels that the criminal trials and the associated publicity for mass killers Nidal Malik Hasan (Fort Hood Massacre) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Boston Bombing) are more about theater and stacks of money for a few (attorneys, media moguls), rather than about justice?  In the meantime Hasan has had the opportunity to star in his own extended theatrical production.  And, Tsarnaev has developed his own fan base, including having his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone.

You might even say that Alexis had more than his allocated fifteen minutes of fame – going out in a blaze of ‘glory’ so to speak, sort of like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  It’s disgusting; but the public eats it up.  Maybe, we should have the executions of Hasan and Tsarnaev broadcast on national television.  I’m sure it would be one of the highest rated programs in history.  On the other hand, the resulting legal appeals will probably go on for many years, maybe decades, before any execution.  By then, the public will probably have moved on to other interests.

Let’s discuss guns for a moment.  In the early stages of the Navy Yard shooting, it was reported that an unknown shooter, armed with an AR-15 was roaming the halls and shooting people.  As it turned out, Alexis had a Remington Model 870 pump shotgun – with sawed-off barrel.  For those who do not know, shotguns are normally plugged to hold only three shells (with plug removed the 870 will hold five); which means that he (Alexis) would have reloaded many times while killing 12 and wounding several others.  Circumstantially, he also acquired a Beretta semi-automatic pistol which he took from a security officer.  In this incident, the size of the magazine of his initial weapon (the shotgun) played no role in the killings.

Regarding the first reports that the shooter had an AR-15, I would like to ask journalists if they could name the make and model of one weapon other than the AR-15 or AK-47.  In fact, I would like to ask the President the same question.  I’d be willing to bet that they would draw a blank.

On a personal note, I would not want an AR-15 or an AK-47 if someone wanted to give it to me – nor would I want a sawed-off shotgun, which incidentally is illegal.  I would not want a high capacity magazine for a gun.  If said items were banned, said law would impact me not at all.  Do I think such a law or laws would curtail mass shootings or killings?  No, I don’t believe it would.  As I’ve said before, there are thousands of gun control laws at the federal, state and local levels.  Strong enforcement – not so much.

We have 320 million people residing in the United States.  We have over 7 billion people on this planet.  There are lots of ‘nuts’ out there.  If you want to encourage one to come forward on some future rampage, what would be a good way to do it?  How about a picture of one of his predecessors on the cover of Rolling Stone?

True Nelson

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Aaron Alexis / Washington Navy Yard Shooting / and Gun Control

Here we go again.  It’s another horrendous shooting by a mentally unstable individual.  And, the gun control advocates awake and demand stricter laws.  This will solve or mitigate the shootings they say.

There seem to be two camps and rarely do you find someone in the middle.  Or, if they profess to be in the middle, they are quickly ‘outed’ and are off on a rant.  I suppose that I could be one of them.  But, it’s hard to sit still and bite your lip when the subject comes up; a subject in which almost everyone considers themselves an expert.

I am a current NRA member, as I have previously stated in my blog; and, admittedly, I am sometimes disappointed with said organization.  The NRA seems often incapable of using common sense.  That said, their uncompromising position generally appeals to their base, and contributes heartily to their fund raising efforts.  Nonetheless, if called upon to choose sides, I think that I would stand with the NRA.  Why?

In my opinion there are two defined sides to this gun control issue.  The NRA, when you cut through all of the rhetoric, is basically saying that we have plenty of gun control laws.  And, that we just need to enforce the ones we have.  I tend to agree with that position.  Additionally, the NRA says mental health issues far exceed gun control issues.  Furthermore, what about the incredibly violent video games that are brainwashing our children?  And, what about the violent movies that our children love to watch?  And, while we are at it, what about the breakdown in the family unit, with countless children being raised in variously fragmented and dysfunctional homes?

OK, you say; but most of those other issues are more difficult, if not impossible, to solve.  OK, I say that limiting the magazine capacity and access to assorted military-type semi-automatic guns will accomplish practically nothing.  You say, what about additional background checks on gun purchasers?  Actually, I don’t have a problem with that, but I haven’t seen the details of what has been proposed.  If I want to give a gun to my son, grandson, nephew or niece, does he or she have to have a background check?  If I want to give or sell a gun to my neighbor or friend, does he have to have a background check?  What about ‘gun shows’ you ask?  I have gone a time or two.  Most of people looked pretty normal to me.  I’ve never noticed any Hell’s Angels or Crips perusing the displays.  However, on this particular subject, I am prepared to give some ground.  If you are selling guns for profit to people you don’t know (as occurs at gun shows), then I think those sellers and buyers should have to go through the same process as is required for a retail gun seller.  That makes sense to me.  Moreover, the states should make the laws, not the Federal government.

Listen folks, don’t believe the hogwash put out by politicians.  When violence occurs, like what Aaron Alexis unleashed on the Washington Navy Yard, our politicians pick out the easy target; and with shaking geriatric hands fire off a round hoping that in some way they will not miss the broadside of the barn.  And, if they do, they hope no one will notice.  It’s the oldest story in politics; more laws, less enforcement.  Let’s placate the masses, they submit.  These political platitudes are picked up by thirty-something journalists, and insulated city folk, as timely, appropriate and unquestionably erudite.  As one of my FBI instructors used to say, “balls.”

To be continued…

True Nelson

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Milwaukie, Oregon: A Notorious Speed Trap

Yesterday, I returned to the scene – 47 mph in a 30 mph zone.  Why?  Don’t offenders always return to the scene of the crime?

Two days ago, I received a kind of formal looking letter from the Milwaukie, Oregon Police Department.  And, no, they were not asking for my assistance on a case.
The letter began:  “In an effort to improve traffic safety and community livability, the Milwaukie Police Department has implemented an automated speed enforcement program called photo radar to monitor vehicle speeds on streets and roadways within the city.”  They enclosed a grainy picture.  Yes, it was me.  I had a very serious look on my face, and both hands were on the steering-wheel.  In my defense, it looked like I was extremely intent on my driving.

The offense took place on McLoughlin Blvd., which was originally the old Highway 99E, two and three lanes each way.  So, it wasn’t like I was ripping through a residential area.  The fine was $160.  Wow!  The posted speed limit, going South on McLoughlin drops from 45 to 30 when you enter Milwaukie.  However, the highway in Milwaukie is not distinctively different from the highway north of or south of that city’s jurisdiction.  In other words, you’re driving along, minding your own business, and bingo you failed to note the 30 mph sign.  The Milwaukie Police photo surveillance van is waiting for you.

I’m kind of old fashioned about these issues.  This whole process is so impersonal, more focused on collecting revenue than enforcing safety.  The citation was not actually issued until five days after the alleged violation happened, and then the citation was a couple of days in the mail.  I suppose there were so many citations that it takes a while for the automated system to work.  In the ‘old days,’ the officer personally issued a ticket after listening patiently to a usually pathetic excuse from the driver.  At least there was some interaction with law enforcement, and everything was handled in a timely manner.  The officer usually commented that ‘you should have a nice day, and to please drive carefully.’  You felt reprimanded, but in a nice way.  At least I think so – depends on whether or not he had a smirk on his face when he said it.

I did sign a ‘no contest’ on the aforementioned citation and sent in my check.  How does one contest a traffic violation several days past, when he can’t remember what he had for breakfast that morning?  Surprisingly, I did have an agenda the day of the offense, and an appointment.  The time of the appointment and the appointment’s location would have made it practically impossible for me to be at the point cited in the ticket at the stated time.  However, the citation is carefully worded, indicating the time is ‘approximate.’  However, there is no indication that my speed at the time was approximate.  Apparently, time is a somewhat insignificant variable; but the radar is very precise about the exact speed.  OK.  I’m glad that photo radar has now achieved perfection, even though it is continuing to struggle with keeping time.

Coincidentally, there was a relevant article in the Oregonian yesterday:  ‘Well-Known Lawyer Takes Ticket to Court.’  Prominent Defense Attorney, Mark Cogan had his ticket thrown out.  He was cited at the exact same location where I was, but months back, for going 45 mph.  He went to trial and ultimately won.  On what basis might you ask?  Well, the prosecutor never asked the police officer in charge of the photo radar what the speed limit was when the violation occurred.  In other words, the prosecutor did not put forth the proper foundation for the violation.  He did not say that Cogan was driving 45 mph in a 30 mph zone.  A bit of a technicality I admit, but that is what attorneys do.  It doesn’t even sound like Mr. Cogan represented himself.  He apparently had another attorney handle it.  Obviously, Mr. Cogan has some philosophical differences with the photo radar system, because he spent far more money defending himself than the price of the ticket.

Well, under the circumstances, I could not afford to hire an attorney.  So, I considered representing myself.  I had some relevant points to make, including:  Why does it take almost a week from the time of the infraction to actually issue and mail the ticket?  When was the last time the photo radar system was calibrated?  What about the time indicated on the ticket?  But, I decided against that idea.  Thinking, perhaps, the magistrate would consider me something of a ‘smart-ass,’ wasting his or her time, and double my fine.

I will just conclude with a quote from the Oregonian article referred to above:  “That stretch of highway is a notorious speed trap.”  So, I guess we might say that Good-ole-boy, Alabama, population 250, has nothing over our very own Milwaukie.  Drivers, don’t say that we didn’t warn you.

True Nelson

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

True Nelson Visit's France (Conclusion)

In my Part 2 of this series, I stated that I was not “overly impressed” with my visit to France.  Upon reflection, that sounds a little disdainful; and I really didn’t mean it in that way.  I enjoyed my trip.  It was very interesting.  There is an undefinable something associated with France and Paris and it was fun to have the experience – if only for a moment.

That said, and for those who will never make it to France, there are sights closer by that I would recommend – sites that really impressed me:  Denali on a sunny day, the Grand Canyon, the Red Woods of Northern California, and Oregon’s Crater Lake.

What impressed me the most in France:  I would have to say that it was the Eiffel Tower.  Unless you stand at the base of this structure, you really have no accurate concept as to how massive it is.  It’s a must see.  It was engineered by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair.  Interestingly, the residents of Paris initially hated the Tower, considered it an eye-sore and circulated petitions to have it torn down.  The city fathers were compelled to agree.  However, they could never find the funds for its demolition.  Now Parisians love the Tower.  And, it is the biggest tourist attraction in France.

What would I have avoided if I’d known better:  Some might find this opinion incredible, but I would have skipped the visit to the Palace of Versailles.  It was visually stunning and spectacular, but was also a study in unbelievable royal self-indulgence and decadence.  The visit was sullied by the massive crowds – the worst experience being the interior of the Palace.  Pushing and sweating, as well as tedious lectures was the order of the day.  My thought was ‘let’s just get this over with.’

My impression of French Wine:  Admittedly, I am not much of a wine drinker.  French wine does have cachet, but I think that Oregon wine is just as good.

And, what was the most unusual insect:  At a vineyard we visited, this little creature started a debate.  ‘It’s a hummingbird.’  ‘No, it’s some sort of bee.’  ‘No, I’m certain it’s a small hummingbird.’  Well, as it turned out, it was a Hummingbird Hawk Moth.  You might enjoy watching the following:

True Nelson

Sunday, September 1, 2013

True Nelson Visits France (Part 4)

I didn’t actually experience a crime while visiting France, but I do have some comments.

Regarding guns, undoubtedly a hot item in the U.S., French citizens (for the most part) do not own guns.  We were informed that some people living in very rural areas have guns, as well as some who are involved in various shooting competitions.

Nonetheless, private gun ownership is considered rare.  However, and it’s a big ‘however,’ I witnessed something that I considered practically unthinkable by American standards.  At the major tourist attractions, public transportation venues, and other places where large numbers of people gather, you will customarily see French military personnel carrying automatic weapons.

I would have liked to talk to one of these military guys; but my prying questions would have probably landed me in a French jail.

Questions:  What kind of security issue do you plan to resolve with military grade automatic weapons?  What are your orders?  Do you always operate in pairs?  What if someone takes your weapon away from you?  Do you have bullets for your guns or is your presence simply for show?

Sorry folks, but this is what goes through the mind of a security consultant.  All I see here is the possibility of chaos, many casualties, and lots of liability.  I try to imagine what type of incident these military types were directed to prevent, and how they would do that with wall to wall tourists.  I’m sure the French military has given this a considerable amount of thought – at least I hope so.  My guess is that these soldiers were more for show.  And, I would opine that they do not, in fact, have any ammunition on their person.

New subject:  Our various tour guides constantly reminded us of the many ‘pick-pockets’ that operate in the various French cities.  As described, these guys and gals are very professional, and can relieve you of valuables without the typical American tourist noticing anything.  During the two weeks we spent in France, I bet we were warned of the pick-pocket plague more than a dozen times.

New subject:  You rarely see beggars in France.  That is in contrast to Portland, Oregon where they are on almost every corner.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  It might be the culture.  It might be that they have better ways of treating and caring for the mentally ill, less drug problems, more enforcement (tourism is a major contributor to the French economy and they want your experience there to be a good one), and / or better social services which makes begging unnecessary.  Personally, I think it is just a cultural characteristic of French people.  Five or ten years from now, the French may decide to copy the American system, wherein begging on street corners is considered a form of employment and no disgrace to the individual or to society.

To be continued…  What impressed me the most?  What would I have avoided if I’d known better?  What was my impression of French wine?  And, I know you all will want to know the answer to this – but, what was the most unusual insect?

True Nelson

Friday, August 30, 2013

True Nelson Visits France (Part 3)

The architecture in France is amazing.  There are structures, castles and cathedrals that you won’t see in the United States – and will never see in the United States – too labor intensive – too ornate – and the extravagance to build them far exceeds any logical, present-day function.  France is a very old country by U.S. standards.  And, you should understand, that much of what awes visitors was constructed hundreds of years ago by virtual slave labor.

It seems that all of these architectural wonders, dating back centuries, were at the direction of either aristocratic families or the Catholic Church.  Most of the French are Catholic.  In that era, the self-indulgence of the aristocracy and church leadership was boundless, dare I say profane.  The French currently take great pride in their castles, churches, and palaces; and they are remarkable.  But the human toll to construct these buildings would be, for modern citizens, considered an atrocity.  I don’t remember that any of the tour guides pointed this out.  I suppose it’s a ‘given.’  As they might say, ‘that was then and this is now.’  However, when I walked into one of these magnificent churches, religious awe was not my reaction.

We toured many villages, walled cities, fortified castles and churches.  After a while, or in retrospect, they all kind of blend together.  I suppose it’s the feeling of France, more than anything, which is ultimately absorbed by the American visitor.  Regarding the people (the residents), it’s pretty hard to tell the French from anyone else.  They, for the most part, dress much as we do.  Of course, regarding interacting with them, there is sometimes a language barrier.  However, many of the French, if not most, speak some English.  As was pointed out to us, the French have a reason to learn English and an opportunity to practice it.  Americans, on the other hand, generally do not have a necessity to learn a foreign language.  That’s kind of sad and a bit embarrassing.  I took Latin in high-school – and was a consistent ‘C’ student.  Actually, I think the teacher gave me a ‘C’.  Even then Latin teachers were trying to hang on to a job.  Are there Latin teachers anymore?  Does anyone know?

Our tour director, Melanie, gave us a French lesson; and tried to get us to use a few basic phrases.  My impression of the French language is that it appears that it would be harder to learn than Latin.  In French, what we might consider an obvious pronunciation of a word is usually not even close.  The French spelling seems to have little to do with the phonics we all learned in school.  Cest la vie (say la vee).

Regarding Melanie, she was an exceptional young woman, spoke several languages, and she was intelligent, organized, dedicated, and always available to help.  And, quite cute also.  But, I digress.

That the French are unfriendly to Americans is, in my experience, a myth – didn’t see it, didn’t experience it.  However, maybe Melanie kept us plodding Americans out of trouble.  Oh, there were a few annoyed French motorists when some in our group seemed oblivious to the street crossing signals, or when the Americans assumed a narrow passageway in a village was a sidewalk and not an actual street to be shared with speeding mini-cars and motorcycles.

Next, in keeping with my blog’s theme, I will be discussing guns, crime, and crime prevention in France.

True Nelson

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

True Nelson Visits France (Part 2)

I am a reluctant tourist.  Oh, I have been lots of places:  every state in the U.S., most of the Canadian provinces, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam; and, the UK, Mexico and now France.  However, almost all of that travel was either paid for by the U.S. government or a large cooperation.

I’ve traveled 'first class,' 'second class' and 'no class.'  I have stayed at fancy hotels, some much less than fancy, as well as hootches, and stood under a cold water spigot in Vietnam to wash off several days of sweat.  I’ve seen extreme poverty and incredible wealth.  I’ve ridden in Lear Jets and C-130s, C-124s, and on an Air America C-47 in Vietnam; also various helicopters, armored personnel carriers, etc.  No, I haven’t seen everything, but one does grow tired.

Don’t get me wrong.  France was interesting.  And, I met some very nice people.  But, I am not sure that I was overly impressed.

A little background; this trip to France was almost two weeks and most of the time we were on a river cruise, approximately 45 passengers, surprisingly nice accommodations; and, if asked, I would highly recommend it.  It was, nonetheless, rather expensive – not something everyone would find worth the investment.  Some of the fellow passengers were seasoned travelers, and discussed their various travel excursions with pride.  One interesting lady told of a travel experience - being bitten by, what she perceived to be, a tarantula and the initial medical attention being administered by a witch doctor.  Fortunately, she survived and discussed the incident in good humor.  I believe this occurred in the Amazon.  An area of the world that I have no interest in visiting.  I don’t like spiders.

I remember a time in Thailand, sound asleep, but my brain instantly awakened as I felt something crawling up my arm.  I slapped it off my arm, jumped out of my bunk, and turned on the light.  It was a large centipede (fairly poisonous in that area of the world).

Our first destination was Nice, France.  For those who do not immediately recognize the city, this is considered the French Riviera – of which we have all heard.  The beaches were packed with French citizens on vacation, as well as numerous tourists from all over the world.  Upon my return home, a person asked me what I thought of Nice.  ‘Well,’ I said, ‘the beaches were sprinkled with topless women sunbathers.’ ‘That was kind of interesting.’  I know.  It sounds like I am an immature clod, what with all the more meaningful sites and experiences all around me.  But, it was however the first thing that came to mind.  Perhaps, I am not a reluctant tourist.  Maybe, I am a hopeless tourist.

To be continued…

True Nelson