Thursday, November 27, 2014

RIP: John T. Downey, former prisoner of the Red Chinese

Washington Post

"HARTFORD, Conn. — John T. Downey, a former CIA agent who survived more than 20 years in Chinese prisons during the Cold War before becoming a Connecticut judge, died Monday. He was 84.
Downey was diagnosed with cancer a month ago and died at a hospice facility in Branford, according to his son, Jack Downey, of Philadelphia.
The elder Downey had graduated from Yale University and joined the Central Intelligence Agency a year before his plane was shot down during a botched cloak-and-dagger flight into China in November 1952. He spent the next 20 years, three months and 14 days in Chinese prisons. He was released in March 1973 shortly after President Richard Nixon publicly acknowledged Downey’s CIA connection.
After returning to the United States, he graduated from Harvard Law School and was appointed to the Connecticut bench in 1987.
Downey and Fecteau [his fellow intelligence officer] were hauled off to prison, interrogated and isolated in separate cells. Each spent long stretches in solitary confinement.
After their release, Fecteau said they would visit occasionally during Downey’s time in law school and split a pint of ice cream, because neither of them drank. He said he admired his friend’s mental strength during their time in captivity. 
He never weakened. He never felt sorry for himself,” Fecteau, 87, said Monday. “What happened happened and he lived with it as best he could, and I liked that.”"

Great story. Hey, Washington Post! He was a United States Intelligence Officer, not a "CIA agent." The guy he was going to pick up was an "agent" [i.e., a foreign national working clandestinely for the U.S.]. I will settle for "CIA officer." Decades of imprisonment in China, by the way, is what happened to Paul Christopher in the excellent spy novels by Charles McCarry. Christopher also handled it with aplomb.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Miss Honduras, a victim of the lost Drug War

"A Honduran beauty queen has been found murdered just days before she was due to compete in the Miss World pageant in London, police said on Wednesday.
The bodies of Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofia, 23, were found buried near a river in the mountainous region of Santa Barbara in western Honduras, said Leandro Osorio, head of the criminal investigation unit.

Alvarado, a student who aspired to become a career diplomat, had been due to take part in the Miss World events that start on Thursday and culminate in the final in London on Dec. 14.

She and her sister had been missing since Thursday, when they were seen leaving a party in a car without a license plate in Santa Barbara, a coffee-growing region where drug gangs are active.

"I can confirm that the Alvarado sisters were found ... We also have the murder weapon and the vehicle in which they were transported to the site where they were buried," Osorio told local television.

Interior Minister Arturo Corrales told Honduran media that Plutarco Ruiz, the boyfriend of the beauty queen's sister, was responsible for the crime. Police arrested Ruiz and another man on Tuesday, confiscating two pistols and their pick-up truck.

Honduras is the world's most violent country with a murder rate above 90 people per 100,000.

Drug cartels use Honduras as a staging post for U.S.-bound cocaine from South America, aggravating violence in the impoverished Central American nation that has helped spark a surge in illegal immigration to the United States."

So, society is the United States is so dysfunctional that large numbers of us feel the need to use illegal drugs [about 2 million Americans used cocaine within the past month]. Miss Honduras pays the price for our sickness. And when people in Honduras want to live and work somewhere other than a cocaine transit station (all deliveries going one way only -- el Norte), we say that they should go back to where they came from. 

It's about time that "casual" drug users in the U.S. appreciated that scenes like the one below are caused by the demand they create. Acknowledging that the lost Drug War and Immigration reform are tied together is essential, but even better would be addressing whatever it is that is so rotten at the core of American society that so many of its free citizens choose to use drugs.

"Forensic workers stand next to 11 of 16 slain bodies dumped in an abandoned lot in the border city of Tijuana September 29, 2008. Police found 16 bodies dumped in the seedy Mexican border city of Tijuana on Monday in what the state attorney general’s office said could be a revenge attack for the arrest of a local drug gang hit man. "REUTERS/Stringer

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Israeli drone pilot speaks about combat stress

The aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, 2014

Telegraph (UK)
""We do make mistakes," [Major Yair, an Israeli drone pilot] replied. "But it's nature. People make mistakes. We learn from those mistakes. You'll see no smiling face after an incident where kids were killed. None of us wants to be in a position where he does these mistakes. We learn and try to avoid this as much as we can."
After three Gaza wars, Major Yair has made some "wrong calls" himself. Can he sleep after going home at the end of a shift?
"You learn to live with it," he said. "It's not easy. I've made mistakes that, for many years, will come back at me. But it's something that people have to do. It's not easy. We do not shove it back somewhere in our minds and try to avoid talking about it. We talk about it, we support each other."
The strain on drone operators is such that they often receive psychological counselling."

Wonder how much "talking about it" American drone pilots do? The "it," to be clear, is the inadvertent killing of children.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Yet another mentally ill citizen "invited" to the White House

That's where he parked? Yeah, he's mentally ill.

"A man was arrested [on Wednesday, November 19, 2014] near the White House by Secret Service after a .30-30 rifle and ammunition was found in his car.
R.J. Renae Kapheim, a 41-year-old from Davenport, Iowa, approached a Secret Service checkpoint at 15th and E Street just before 1 p.m. and said that someone in Iowa told him to drive to the White House.
He then took Secret Service agents to his car where they found the .30-30 rifle, ammunition and a 6-inch knife in the trunk of his 2013 Volkswagen Passat.
Kapheim arrested on a charge of having an unregistered firearm, which is illegal in D.C."

Here's the fellow's LinkedIn profile:

I'm guessing the diagnosis as Bipolar Disorder I, Most Recent Episode Manic.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Napolean -- Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow, 1812

'What is the world, O soldiers?

       It is I:

I, this incessant snow,
This northern sky;

Soldiers, this solitude
Through which we go

       Is I.'            

"One month after Napoleon Bonaparte's massive invading force entered a burning and deserted Moscow, the starving French army is forced to begin a hasty retreat out of Russia.
Following the rejection of his Continental System by Czar Alexander I, French Emperor Napoleon I invaded Russia with his Grande Armée on June 24, 1812. The enormous army, featuring more than 500,000 soldiers and staff, was the largest European military force ever assembled to that date.
During the opening months of the invasion, Napoleon was forced to contend with a bitter Russian army in perpetual retreat. Refusing to engage Napoleon's superior army in a full-scale confrontation, the Russians under General Mikhail Kutuzov burned everything behind them as they retreated deeper and deeper into Russia. On September 7, the indecisive Battle of Borodino was fought, in which both sides suffered terrible losses. On September 14, Napoleon arrived in Moscow intending to find supplies but instead found almost the entire population evacuated, and the Russian army retreated again. Early the next morning, fires broke across the city set by Russian patriots, and the Grande Grande Armée's winter quarters were destroyed. After waiting a month for a surrender that never came, Napoleon, faced with the onset of the Russian winter, was forced to order his starving army out of Moscow.
During the disastrous retreat, Napoleon's army suffered continual harassment from a suddenly aggressive and merciless Russian army. Stalked by hunger and the deadly lances of the Cossacks, the decimated army reached the Berezina River late in November but found its route blocked by the Russians. On November 26, Napoleon forced a way across at Studienka, and when the bulk of his army passed the river three days later, he was forced to burn his makeshift bridges behind him, stranding some 10,000 stragglers on the other side. From there, the retreat became a rout, and on December 8 Napoleon left what remained of his army to return to Paris with a few cohorts. Six days later, the Grande Armée finally escaped Russia, having suffered a loss of more than 400,000 men during the disastrous invasion."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Get a Kick Out of You -- Frank Sinatra and Sextet (Live in Paris, 1962)

I get no kick from champagne,
Mere alcohol,
Doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me, why should it be true,
That I get a kick out of you.
Some get a kick from cocaine,
I'm sure that if,
I took even one sniff,
It would bore me terrifically, too,
Yet I get a kick out of you.
I get a kick every time I see you,
Standing there before me,
I get a kick though it's clear to see,
You obviously don't adore me.
Some get a kick in a plane,
Flying too high,
With some gal in the sky,
Is my idea of nothing to do,
But I get a kick out of you.
I get a kick...out of you

Friday, November 21, 2014

Myron May -- FSU Shooter with paranoid schizophrenia?

Yup, that's a Facebook post by someone with paranoid schizophrenia all right...
No, it's paranoid schizophrenia.

"Brandishing a semi-automatic handgun and carrying extra ammunition in his pockets, a Florida State University graduate opened fire early on Thursday at the school's main library, wounding two students and an employee as hundreds were studying for exams.
The shooter, identified by authorities as Myron May, 31, was fatally shot by police near the entrance to Florida State's Strozier Library, the latest in a string of shootings on U.S. campuses. One victim was critically wounded.
Authorities said they found journals and videos produced by May in which he expressed fears that government agencies were targeting him.
"Mr. May was in a state of crisis," Michael DeLeo, the police chief in Tallahassee, told a news conference.
A 2005 Florida State graduate, May received his law degree from Texas Tech University in 2009 and had moved back to Florida about three weeks ago, DeLeo said.
He recently quit his job and broke up with his girlfriend, according to police reports in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he was living. He told authorities he was hearing voices and thought he was being watched."

Died of untreated schizophrenia.
Here's another opportunity for people to blow smoke about improving access to mental health care in the United States. After they get done blowing smoke about school safety and gun control, of course. My bold prediction is...nothing will change.