Sharing an Email

Since she sent it to about a bazillion people, I hope Elizabeth Warren won’t mind my sharing it with you:


Over the past four years, millions of people have fled their homes in Syria, running for their lives. In recent months, the steady stream of refugees has been a flood that has swept across Europe.

Every day, refugees set out on a journey hundreds of miles, from Syria to the Turkish coast. When they arrive, human smugglers charge them $1000 a head for a place on a shoddy, overloaded, plastic raft that is given a big push and floated out to sea, hopefully toward one of the Greek islands.

Last month, I visited the Greek island of Lesvos to see the Syrian refugee crisis up close. Lesvos is only a few miles away from the Turkish coast, but the risks of crossing are immense. This is a really rocky, complicated shoreline – in and out, in and out. The overcrowded, paper-thin smuggler rafts are tremendously unsafe, especially in choppy waters or when a storm picks up.

Parents try their hardest to protect their children. They really do. Little ones are outfitted with blow up pool floaties as a substitute for life jackets, in the hope that if the rafts go down, a $1.99 pool toy will be enough to save the life of a small child.

And the rafts do go down. According to some estimates, more than 500 people have died crossing the sea from Turkey to Greece so far this year. But despite the clear risks, thousands make the trip every day.

I met with the mayor of Lesvos, who described how his tiny island of 80,000 people has struggled to cope with those refugees who wash ashore – more than 100,000 people in October alone. Refugees pile into the reception centers, overflowing the facilities, sleeping in parks, or at the side of the road. Recently, the mayor told a local radio program that the island had run out of room to bury the dead.

On my visit, I met a young girl – younger than my own granddaughters – sent out on this perilous journey alone. I asked her how old she was, and she shyly held up seven fingers.

I wondered what could possibly possess parents to hand a seven-year-old girl and a wad of cash to human smugglers. What could possibly possess them to send a beloved child across the treacherous seas with nothing more than a pool floatie. What could make them send a child knowing that crime rings of sex slavery and organ harvesting prey on these children.

Send a little girl out alone. With only the wildest, vaguest, most wishful hope that she might make it through alive and find something – anything – better for her on the other side.

This week, we all know why parents would send a child on that journey. Last week’s massacres in Paris and Beirut made it clear. The terrorists of ISIS – enemies of Islam and of all modern civilization, butchers who rape, torture and execute women and children, who blow themselves up in a lunatic effort to kill as many people as possible – these terrorists have spent years torturing the people of Syria. Day after day, month after month, year after year, mothers, fathers, children and grandparents are slaughtered.

In the wake of the murders in Paris and Beirut last week, people in America, in Europe, and throughout the world, are fearful. Millions of Syrians are fearful as well – terrified by the reality of their daily lives, terrified that their last avenue of escape from the horrors of ISIS will be closed, terrified that the world will turn its back on them and on their children.

Some politicians have already moved in that direction, proposing to close our country to people fleeing the massacre in Syria. That is not who we are. We are a country of immigrants and refugees, a country made strong by our diversity, a country founded by those crossing the sea fleeing religious persecution and seeking religious freedom.

We are not a nation that delivers children back into the hands of ISIS murderers because some politician dislikes their religion. And we are not a nation that backs down out of fear.

Our first responsibility is to protect this country. We must embrace that fundamental obligation. But we do not make ourselves safer by ignoring our common humanity and turning away from our moral obligation.

ISIS has shown itself to the world. We cannot – and we will not – abandon the people of France to this butchery. We cannot – and we will not – abandon the people of Lebanon to this butchery. And we cannot – and we must not – abandon the people of Syria to this butchery.

Thank you for being a part of this,


That’s pretty much all I’ve got today. Oh yeah, except that closing the French border to refugees would not have stopped what happened in Paris since all 8 attackers had EU passports. That’s much like the fact that the 9/11 hijackers were in the US legally, with passports under their own names. But hey, REAL ID is making you safer from people who don’t have all their documents together, right?

Taking it in the Back Door

Serious people are using the events of Paris to whine about how The Authorities don’t have enough authority to suspend your right to have a completely private conversation on your cell phone. Their excuse is that Bad Guys might be having conversations about doing Bad Things — a concept that should stink to high heaven of Pre-Crime. The Authorities want to make it impossible for your phone to be completely secure, in the name of catching Bad Guys, never mind that history shows it doesn’t work that way.

I have said this before but let me say it again: A back door that Good Guys can use is a back door Bad Guys can use. It’s a back door that can be used to empty your bank account, steal your identity, stalk you, obtain information useful for blackmail and/or extortion, or otherwise make your life miserable.

Oh, and a couple of last words: Secretary Kerry says there were 12 “problematic” people out of 785,000 Syrian refugees, and that sounds like good odds to me (I wonder how many criminals you’d find if you investigated 785,000 random Americans); and I too will stop using variants of ISIS in favor of the more accurate Daesh, for they do indeed sow discord; and some of my online friends have pointed out that the White House didn’t turn into the Bleu, Blanche, et Rouge house? Please note CONGRESS in the picture above and stop making up things to be upset about.

In Closing: it concerns me that the IRS is baffled; I wonder who looks at that information; “great“; scientific weasel words; perfect except for the errors; manufactured outrage.

Fear-mongering at its finest.

The TSA really doesn’t like that Apple and Google both have products they can’t just hack remotely. As in, they are trying desperately to make them stop it. Poor babies may actually have to get search warrants. Oh, and here’s a nice article on some of the NSA’s computing issues and an item on how this mess got started.

In Closing: our rising police state; bankers gone wild; be afraid!!!; don’t you have anything better to do?; and adorable kittens.

“Don’t Worry Little Lady, I Won’t Let the Democrats Kill Your Cat!”

A couple years ago, I mentioned the Sea Stone wait I mean Hotel Baja California Restaurant. Guess what? It closed.

The rather expensive building sat vacant for a while before displaying a new banner: “Coming Soon! Boca Park Animal Hospital.” Another expensive build ensued. I found this rather curious. Repurposing serially failed restaurant space with a veterinary clinic? Who had deep enough pockets for this to be a good idea? The other day we found out.

His name is John Ensign.

Remember Nevada Senator John Ensign? He’s the one that was having an affair with his administrative aide’s wife and then had to cover it up by seeing to his future employment? The one whose replies to emails told me not to worry because he wouldn’t vote with the Democrats (scroll down)? Well, before he went to the Senate, he was a veterinarian who owned the West Flamingo Animal Hospital. It’s the kind of place that will try to talk you into hundreds of dollars of tests to determine that the reason your elderly cat has lost a quarter of her body weight in the last 2 months is that she’s elderly (in the interest of disclosure, they did send me a card upon that cat’s passing). He was forced to sell, but I understand from multiple sources that they were happy to have him back after he was forced to resign his Senate seat.

Now, Sen. Dr. Ensign is not a man without money. His step/adoptive father is a gaming executive, and Dr. Ensign has done well with his own ventures — to say nothing of his Congressional pension. So it’s no problem for him to put lots of money into a swank new animal hospital “with luxury suites for pets and treadmills for hefty canines,” and a “four or five star resort” feel.

He sounds very happy about this new business, and I do wish him well. Nevertheless, I think I’ll stick with the nice vet lady on the corner who squealed with joy when she saw my kittens.

In Closing: Your latest dose of NSA, government spying, Ed Snowden, and encryption links (make no mistake, this means anything sent over the internet for any reason must be assumed to be insecure); a nice healthy set of links about the Syria situation; unemployment is only going down because the labor participation rate is going down (that is, fewer people working) and by the way most of the new jobs are low wage; I love this minifigure; how exactly is it cost effective to ship chicken to China for processing and then ship it back again??; it pays to shop around; the gluten free fad; unpaid internship; and one man’s forest.


Today is all Syria and nothing but Syria.

Obama managed to surprise his own advisors on Syria. What’s the rush? Why did John Kerry have to stick his neck out and fluff up the “evidence” with decade old pictures? The phone is ringing, Secretary. It’s Colin Powell asking if you’ve lost your mind.

And Ok. So we have “evidence” — if it can be trusted — saying that chemical weapons were used, and saying where they were used. Nobody has offered anybody to the actual attack or orders to make the actual attack. The “proof” boils down to “The body was found in a locked room that the defendant had a key to open.” Unless there’s a whole lot more “classified” info, it’s barely enough to get a search warrant on a crime drama. Do you think that the Bad Guys in that part of the world are above framing another party with circumstantial evidence?

Here’s a little history lesson for you on the War on Terror and Syria in particular. In case you’re having a hard time keeping track of the players, here’s a chart of who stands where. The Guardian is willing to go so far as to say “it’s about the oil, stupid.”

In an environment where we are arguing about the upcoming debt ceiling problem and some Republicans are threatening to let the nation default on it’s bonds unless Social Security is gutted, it’s worth noting that the Pentagon can’t afford to go to war in Syria and will need a supplemental spending bill to make it happen. But Republicans never met a war they didn’t like (unless a Democrat thinks it’s a good idea); so much for “this nation must learn to live within it’s means.

There’s also a lot of people who point out that we cannot be the Policeman for the World.

The media is on board — a nice war makes it obvious what to cover. For a change, support and opposition is not following party lines in Congress. It’s a good thing they aren’t back until the 9th. It will take that long to force encourage enough Congressmen and Senators to support the new war. Getting the military to support “becoming Al Qaeda’s air force” is another battle altogether.

The Pope is calling for peace in Syria. As the first Pope I’ve respected during my lifetime, I think he’s on to something there.

And you know who else thinks going to war in Syria is a bad idea? Sarah Palin, whose Facebook page says “So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I’m the idiot?” When Sarah Palin is the voice of reason, you’ve got a big problem.

America Knows Best

Sorry for the little hiatus. Finals are coming Real Soon Now and my writing has been monopolized by a paper on Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells. Fascinating stuff. For a minimally sciencey version, check out this biography.

Depending what day it is, the world news front is likely to say something about Iran, North Korea, and/or Syria. Iran is developing nuclear technology, and probably weapons. North Korea is more open about their weapon development. The US is warning Russia that they had better not send Syria better missiles, particularly since Syria is accused of using chemical weapons.

Now make no mistake. I don’t think anybody really wants Iran or North Korea having nukes. I don’t think most people think a better armed Syria is a good thing. But here’s the thing: who gave us the right to enforce our opinion?

Who is the United States to tell another sovereign nation what weaponry it can or cannot have? Under what authority? What if some other country decided that the United States shouldn’t have nukes? Or aircraft carriers? Or [insert fancy piece of military technology here]?

I know a lot of people in the West don’t think much of Al Jazeera as a news source, but they are right to point out that the American bargaining position regarding Iran — and truly, all 3 nations — is a lot like trying to negotiate with Republicans: the only possible option is “do it our way or else.” Or, if you prefer to be more patronizing if not outright racist, “everything would run so much better if you brown people would do it our way like civilized people!”

Maybe, just maybe, international issues could be resolved more smoothly if we treated other sovereign nations like big boys and girls rather than little children who need our guidance.

In Closing: soda; I suspected as much; Jesus is coming, look busy; the Borgias are coming, look busy; um yeah, you can’t do that; student loan debt is officially bad for the economy; consumer spending is up and late mortgages are down (good news!); eVerify; Too Big To Fail must be Too Big To Exist; side effect; don’t forget that Federal law always trumps state law; and riiiiight, exactly where I want to go on Mother’s Day. Not.