Monday, November 29, 2010

A Classy Exit

By T. Lee Humphrey

Former President George W. Bush spent the last few weeks hitting the talk show circuit and giving interviews to all the major networks and cable stations promoting his book Executive Decisions. He’d given a few speeches since leaving office as well, including one in Calgary, Canada my hometown that I was fortunate to attend at his invitation as a reward for my work at the US Embassy in Kabul from 2005 to 2006. The speech happened in March 2009 and was billed as his first formal speech after leaving the White House in January. He didn’t speak at all about his thoughts on the President Obama or his policies and it would appear that regardless of the recent attempts of the likes of Oprah or O’Reilly or anybody else he’s still not willing to talk about the current policies of the Obama administration or even about the current administrations never ending attempts to blame him for all the countries ills after almost 2 yrs under Obama and 5 yrs of a Democratic Congress running the show. President Bush’s appearances got me to thinking about other past Presidents and what they’ve done after leaving office and more specifically how they’ve treated their successors.

I became aware of US politics at a fairly young age mainly because my mother was an avowed left winger on most social issues but a very strong conservative on justice and foreign affairs as well as being somewhat of a compassionate fiscal hawk so while she was never fully happy with either Canadian or US parties she did tend to be what has come to be known as a Blue Dog Democrat and she also understood the link between our countries and taught me that the policies and government of the US had a profound impact on Canada’s economy so I should pay attention which I’ve tried to do. Based on my introduction to politics I’ll start with Richard Nixon who was overwhelmingly re-elected in 1972 only to be impeached a couple of years later.

Richard Nixon to the best of my knowledge and research never spoke about Gerald Ford’s administration and only went on the record a few times after leaving office most famously in the Frost-Nixon Interviews when he attempted to resurrect his imagine and defend his actions as it related to the Watergate Affair after which he really was never heard of publically again.

Gerald Ford like Nixon went quietly into the night after the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976 as did Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush with only President’s Carter and Clinton going after sitting Presidents. It would appear that a trend is happening. We have two Democrats that remain in the yappy column and 5 former Republican Presidents remaining silent.

I wonder why that would be, it’s not like Republicans are any less shy about attacking the opposition but it would appear at first blush that Republican Presidents are more likely in the last 36 yrs or so to better respect the office holders that succeed them. I mean you can understand why Reagan didn’t have anything negative to say about his former Vice President but he sure could have made headlines in 1993-4 by slamming President Clinton and his attempts to bring in Hillarycare yet he didn’t, nor did Bush the elder.

Yet President Carter just couldn’t resist getting involved and speaking out against President GW Bush at every opportunity and to be completely fair he was even willing to take a few swipes at President Clinton for fun too. He continues to interject himself and is more than willing to give President Obama a headache or too by continuing to mess around in North Korea even though his incompetence set us on the current course after the North struck a deal with him in 1994 and he convinced President Clinton that the North would honor the agreement but as we now know they didn’t and his ignorance allowed them to construct a plutonium enrichment facility while President Clinton was trying to figure out the definition of the word “if” and wondering if the “blue dress” was really going to lead to the first President to be impeached over an affair with an intern. As recently as this past week, President Carter couldn’t help but point out that only he along with his Chinese friends could resolve the North Korean problem.

President Clinton actually fared well and really tempered his comments regarding President GW Bush until Senator Clinton decided that she wanted to become POTUS too and then he was all about slamming the Bush administration as frequently as he could get a hold of a microphone.

While I’m not willing to give President Clinton a complete pass I can see that he attempted to honor tradition and not comment on the administration that succeeded him until he needed to help his wife and any husband worth his salt will go to the matt for the woman who stuck with him after he got caught cheating publically for the umpteenth time so I can understand why he broke the code but President Carter is another story. I’ve written about him a few times and every time my conclusion is the same, not only was he the worst President in every category (foreign and domestic policy) in the last half of the 20th century he was most likely the second worst President in US history and to make matters worse he’s gone on after his Presidency to screw up the two major assignments he took on in Haiti and North Korea and therefore I think his never ending efforts to stick his nose into other administrations is an ongoing attempt to gain a respect he’ll never achieve with the American public.

Had President Carter stuck with Habitat for Humanity as his post Presidential effort I’m guessing that his time in office and all the terrible decisions we’re still suffering with like OPEC and Iran would have been forgotten and he would be remembered as the President with a good heart who helped people get a fresh start which is a very noble and wonderful thing but instead he continues to seek the limelight and point out the failings of every President that has come after him.

Is it a trend that Democratic Presidents don’t follow the code that says there’s only one President at a time and after your turn is up you need to hush up...well two is hardly a trend and President Clinton only seems to make comments in support of his wife so no I don’t think there’s a trend but I do think President Jimmy Carter should heed my advice when I wrote “Dear Jimmy” at the end of September and if not my advice that of General MacArthur when he suggested that old soldiers simply fade away. President Carter needs to fade away for the sake of President Obama and for America and I hope President Obama when his time comes in 2 or 6 yrs will follow President GW Bush’s classy exit and not President Carters.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Chinese Puppet Roars

By T. Lee Humphrey

At the end of Oct 2006 I published a piece on North Korea entitled “The North Korean Standoff” ( after they’d attempted to test a 3-stage rocket in July 2006 and failed and then attempted their first nuclear weapons test and again failed but signalled their move towards entering the nuclear weapons club and certainly confirmed that they’d manufactured enough weapons grade plutonium to move forward with a test program and eventually a production program.

The focus of the piece really was some background on North Korea and the attempts by both President’s Clinton and Bush to thwart the efforts of the North to move down this path. Both President’s tried carrots and sticks with Clinton offering up more carrots than sticks which resulted in the North promising not to develop weapons and doing so the minute ex-President Jimmy Carter left and Clinton was looking the other way. President Bush, once he realized that the US had been duped only really used sticks until it was obvious that the North had sufficient plutonium and were just a few years away from an operational delivery system. It was at this point that Bush agreed to the 6-party talks, which did nothing to deter the North from continuing to develop their weapons and delivery systems while also building a uranium producing plant too. The attempts to use UN sanctions to stop this effort and the 6-party talks have amounted to absolutely nothing.

In my earlier piece I suggested that in 2008-2009 the West would be at a tipping point and have to choose whether or not to pre-emptively attack North Korea or accept that they will have achieved the capability to deploy nuclear tipped missiles capable of striking our allies in the hemisphere. Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia will immediately become more vulnerable while Hawaii may also be in range.

Thankfully President Bush spent the money necessary to develop our anti-missile defense system and deployed it and even with President Obama’s tinkering to appease Russia would most probably be able to shoot down any missiles launched by the North as they most likely at this stage only have 6-8 warheads capable of fitting onto a 3-stage missile but each year that they are able to continue to develop missiles and warheads moves us to a stage whereby one or two may make it through any defensive screen to their targets. The North will continue to refine plutonium and now uranium and will continue to further develop its nuclear weapons and delivery system program regardless of the efforts by the west or the UN so this begs the question where are they getting the material support and money from? They have nothing of value to sell, they have no natural resources to speak of yet they’ve managed to build a high tech plant to refine uranium with some 2,000 centrifuges all the while maintaining a hardened plutonium refining plant and a missile production facility while maintaining a huge standing conventional army, airforce and navy.

I’m going to take a wild guess here and suggest that all that money China has been collecting in interest on US debt may be finding its way into the hands of their North Korean friends and allies not to mention large amount of equipment and resources. If you look at the North Korean conventional military forces they are using a combination of Russian and Chinese exactly did they pay for this equipment? No oil or minerals to speak of, a starving population and UN sanctions up the hoop yet North Korea is expanding its nuclear weapons capability and now lobbing hundreds of artillery shells at our friend, after getting away with sinking one of its naval vessels last spring and the best we can do is sternly warn the North that if they do it again we’ll act? Really, this is the best we’ve it again and we’ll do something about it, after all they’ve done in the past four years to thumb their collective noses at the West and the US with a wink and a nod from the Chinese not to mention the pain they’ve inflicted on several dozen South Korean military families and civilians. And let’s not get too excited about the dispatching of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington to participate in naval exercises because that’s exactly what was done after the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel in the spring...really dissuaded the North from acting again didn’t it.

While the Chinese massively rearm and develop an aircraft carrier fleet as well as an amphibious capability I’m thinking they are testing Americas resolve to really respond to a friend in need in advance of their goal of taking Taiwan back, by force if necessary. I last wrote about their efforts to do just that in Aug 2007 in a piece entitled “The Next Conflict” (

I can only hope I’m out to lunch with all this forecasted conspiracy talk but while my timelines might be off somewhat I’m starting to think my premise is correct, although I never put the two actions together until today. The Chinese will be the next great superpower but to do so they must ensure the US will not stand in their way and there’s no easier way to test the resolve in ones enemy without exposing yourself than to set up a similar situation and study Americas actions or inactions and then apply the lessons learned. The Chinese just happen to have a dying lunatic on speed dial to help them with their goals.

Is America and President Obama prepared to act? Is the President of South Korea prepared to suffer thousands of casualties to allow the regime in the North to be overthrown by force or is he content to be bled until America fully deserts him? Time will tell but I’m guessing no and hell no so the people of Taiwan should recognize that if the US isn’t willing to support South Korea they are most definitely on their own when the Chinese coming knocking.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You Can Touch My Junk Part Two

By T. Lee Humphrey
In You Can Touch My Junk part one I talked about the realities of the fully body scanner and tried to lower the language temperature by explaining that the MSM and anti-scanner crowd term naked picture didn’t really apply but to no avail. The MSM and more shockingly the right-wing of the MSM continues unabated in their attempt to portray these images as something that would be better suited to Playboy Magazine when in fact they are more akin to a faceless, featureless mannequin than anything else.

I should also point out that the reason I’m doing a part two is because of the response I received from You Can Touch My Junk, I obviously didn’t do a good enough job in explaining why it is I fully support these scanners and the practise of applying them universally as opposed to randomly or by using profiling. Those against the scanners are suggesting that we’re wasting our time by using them on Granny or the disabled or little children while pointing out the half a dozen or so cases where the TSA mishandled people (out of roughly 5 million people who’ve travelled during the same time) who refused to use the scanners or were selected for an enhanced pat down search while ignoring the benefits so let’s look at my personal experience with airport security and my opinion of why I believe the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

First my background in airport security, while I’ve worked on two airport projects as a security consultant (Ecuador and Russia) my experience primarily comes from travelling the world and I don’t mean the Western world I mean the developing world. I used a very cool Facebook application this morning to determine that I’ve been to 37% of the countries on the planet which was focused heavily in Africa, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Middle East. I’ve not travelled at all to the Far East or Australia. My African and Middle Eastern travel is all post 9-11 as is most of my travel to Latin America while the vast majority of my European travel was pre-9-11.

In April 2002 I travelled to Chad on behalf of a client, carrying with me a digital camera, GPS, Satellite Phone (laptop sized) and a laptop. It took me forever to get through security in Calgary, Canada my start point having to explain and turn on each item as well as demonstrate the functionality of each item. All these items were in my carry-on. My destination was Frankfurt where I changed planes and flew to Paris and then on to Chad. I never took the items out of my carry-on bag again. When I left Chad 100 days later I walked through a fake wooden metal detector and was then physically searched in a very cursory manner, however when the Air France plane landed their own security team got off the plane and carried out an additional multiple physical and wand search and inspection of carry-on luggage and you had to point out your checked luggage and hand it to a baggage handler under the supervision of an Air France security specialist (something I’d first done in Israel in 1986).

Over the years I’ve had my junk checked more times than not, when I’ve been getting on planes in the developing world as they have no other method of insuring that you’re not attempting to hid something in a place you’re hoping nobody would check. I currently reside in the Baghdad International Airport Free Zone and to get into the Free Zone from the rest of the country you have to pass through three inspections with the last one being a touch your junk inspection. I live there and move in and out of the zone up to twice daily yet each time, a very happy go lucky kid does his job and searches me fully even though he knows my face and I ask about his family each time. Why, because it’s the rules that everybody could potentially be a threat. The kid doesn’t know if I’ve had a change of heart and want to explode in the airport or if I’ve been threatened to bring something in or if my family is under threat or I’ve been paid, he does presumable know that he’s seen the enemy rapidly evolve and be willing to use anybody and every method they can think of to win.

In some countries you take your laptop out, in some you don’t, in some it’s belt off, watch off, jewellery off, shoes off etc, in some it isn’t. In some you’re screened coming into the airport, some you’re screened coming in and leaving. I won’t suggest that North America has the tougher standards or that Europe is easier or that even the developing world is the easiest but I will say that a common standard that ensures no weapons or explosives are getting on the plane is a good standard to achieve and boy would I be a happy travelling camper if it was the same in every airport.

Granny won’t attack us, no...but she might be forced or tricked into carrying something for somebody else, an elderly couple aged 64 and 65 were stopped before they could become suicide bombers a couple of years back. Disabled people shouldn’t be subjected to this treatment, right because disabled people can’t be our enemy or can’t be coerced like able bodied people. We’ve seen at least six mentally handicapped people successfully used as suicide bombers in Baghdad through trickery by al Qaeda. Nuns don’t need to be searched...I agree presuming we know they are actually nuns and not women dressed as nuns, do they get identifying tattoos or cards or something?

Listening to Mr. Hannity again today on his Fox News program you’d think this is the greatest invasion of civil liberties since the Social Security Card and the great data base that was to be collected and used against us and to track us. Maybe the pictures could be downloaded said a guest and since the TSA operator only makes $15 per hour they could make some extra cash my selling them to TMZ if celebrities come through...the ignorance that’s allowed on TV is overwhelming, I was sure Hannity had moved to MSNBC listening to this unchallenged drivel and nonsense so devoid of facts it had to be MSNBC but no it was my beloved Fair and Balanced Fox News...I expected better.

Our enemies recognized that we locked down metal detection, so they moved to liquids, we countered by limiting quantities, then they moved to liquids hidden on the body and we not only countered but we actually for the first time since 9-11 have gotten ahead of them, the fully body scanning machine that our scientists have created can identify any foreign object in any part of the body regardless of the material used. This means that plastic can be seen in cavities of the body that may be used to pack explosives (liquid or solid) so for once we’re forcing them away from the cabin of the passenger plane...although we still need to confirm that all checked luggage is receiving the same level of scrutiny to truly make passenger airline travel safe again. We also need to recognize that any flight emanating out of a location that doesn’t have this level of screening is vulnerable and those of us known to our enemies collectively as infidels remain a priority for execution. The underwear bomber began his journey in Amsterdam on a direct flight to the US. The level of screening for direct flights to North America must match the level of screening in North America and then be expanded out to include all of Europe or we’ll simply see more Europeans suffering instead of Americans but suffering is suffering.

Canada has purchased full body scanners and tested them and was getting ready to roll them out to match our American cousins but I highly doubt we’ll be seeing them anytime soon as the minority Conservative government will surely be gun shy after the greeting US so called US Conservatives have given this import device and that just provides our collective enemies with a great opportunity to fly to Canada and then into the US a nightmare scenario for all Canadians.

We also have to stop dismissing failed attempts and making light of them with cute names that imply they weren’t serious, like the underwear bomber. We pretend he wasn’t a serious threat and ignore the fact that the exact same bomb set up went off in Saudi Arabia a few weeks prior when a man walked into the office of a Saudi prince who is responsible for counter-terrorism operations and was able to detonate himself in the outer office killing several people after going through the traditional metal detector and a cursory pat down. Just because a device fails doesn’t mean it will every time and we finally have a quick, simple and easy method of detecting all foreign objects in or on the human body and we’re wailing and gnashing our teeth suggesting that the government is getting its jollies by taking naked photographs of people or joyfully groping them because they can.

As Conservatives we should be standing up for these machines and these measures because the one thing I thought we believed in above all others was the duty of the government to protect us from our enemies, not to impose health care or tax hikes or never ending levels of debt but surely to protect us, sparing no expense in doing so. We should also be supporting President Obama for putting politics and ginned up public outrage aside and listening to his experts in the area. Far too often we’ve rightly accused this President of not understanding national security or not having the junk to make the tough calls when it comes to the war on terror yet he’s made the right call and supported his experts and we’re now railing against him.

Seriously folks, put aside the nonsense about naked pictures and the mirage that Israeli type profiling can do the same thing (15,000 passengers a day compared to a million plus) and take a breath. We are safer because of these machines and the dedication of the TSA to enforce these standards and I for one will happily let them take my mannequin like picture or if necessary touch my junk if it means my junk gets safely from point A to point B.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

You Can Touch My Junk

I guess I’m not one to follow an ideology but I’m shocked with the reaction of my conservative friends to the new level of airport screening and the so-called outrages over the intrusiveness of the alternate to the new full body scanner commonly known as the enhanced pat down and the absolute exaggerated rhetoric surrounding the scanner itself but I think before I can put the current situation into perspective a brief re-cap of how we got here might be appropriate for context.

The hijackers on 9-11 used box cutters to take over four planes. These box cutters were easily moved through security disguised as key chains and hidden in carry-on luggage. They were successful in flying planes into buildings because they also counted on passengers and crew following the established hijacking procedures that came out of the wave of worldwide aircraft hijackings in the 1970’s. On 12 September all that changed and the travelling public understood that things were going change and we accepted it, no more nail clippers, no more penknives or Swiss Army knives and no more metal utensils for a few years.

Richard Reid, known as the shoe bomber helped change airport security yet again. After packing the soles of his shoes with explosives he failed to properly ignite the explosives and was captured but this failed attempt insured that we got to take our shoes off and have them run through the x-ray scanning machines. We as the travelling public understood this new threat and accepted it.

Things again changed when an attempt to use liquid explosives was uncovered. For days we couldn’t have carry-on luggage and then it was limited and we learned to pack our liquids and hand lotions in plastic bags and limit it to 3 x 100 mg items. It was a pain and there were grumblings about in convenience especially for those overnight business folks used to not checking bags, now they were stuck or had to buy toiletry items when they arrived but even though 9-11 was five years behind us we got on with it.

Things really seemed to settle down for a few years and most of us had adapted to the system. Strip off your watch, jewellery, belt and shoes, empty your pockets of everything, jackets off, laptop’s out and in a standalone container and you should make it though without a beep and spend the next 10 minutes redressing but there were rumblings and anger building as the public demanded a faster system that didn’t involve taking all those items off so the TSA and other countries agencies turned to tech firms. Over the past few years a product was developed, tested and trialled that would allow you to keep all those metal objects on but would also allow the screen to see any items metal, wood or plastic that weren’t human. This meant that in less than 2 minutes you were through without having to take items off and put them back on and it would ensure a happier safer flying public.

When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, known as the underwear bomber came along the critics said the new full body scan x-ray machine might not have prevented this failed attack and they were right in the sense that he didn’t start his travel in a place where the machines were deployed or that an unskilled operator might have confused the rig with a colostomy bag but there is no doubt that the plastic bag holding the liquid explosives and the tubing that allowed for the liquid detonator (the mix of the two liquids would cause the explosion) sewn into his underwear would have shown up clearly and hopefully would have been sufficiently out of place to order an enhanced inspection and questioning.

So that’s where we are, the enemy is evolving and we are responding, they started with box cutters and ended up with liquid explosives hidden in a man’s crotch area, we developed a full body scanning x-ray technology that will expose any physical equipment required to transport the explosive material and an enhanced pat down method for those refusing the x-ray so why the fury?

I suppose part of it, is some of the terms being thrown about in the media, first is that the x-ray machine produces naked pictures of people, on Fox New channels’ Hannity, a few nights back he had a guest on his panel who was a female singer, he suggested that if the screener recognized her he could then post her naked image on line for profit a la Erin Andrews the ESPN reporter who was videotaped naked in her hotel room. I couldn’t believe a journalist of any sort could put forward so many falsehoods in one statement but there it was and nobody was there to correct him. For the record, the screener observing the image is in a separate room and doesn’t actually see the human being x-rayed. The image is not a naked photo as you’d see in playboy but is like a naked mannequin you’d see in a department store there are no facial features, no hair no eyes etc. If a screener did capture the image which they can do if they see something out of sorts it takes a manager to save it or print it and it must be turned over to law enforcement should it get to the level of prosecution. I suppose you could upload a mannequin like photo of a star but if it’s Paris Hilton I’d suggest that you’ll see more of her in the gossip pages.

The second issue is the pat down, John Tyner got quickly famous when he recorded a conversation he had with a TSA screener when he uttered the phrase “don’t touch my junk” or I’ll have you charged for security assault. Man where to start. First flying isn’t a right, second you don’t have to be patted down if you go through the x-ray machine and third, well just watch the opening scenes in the movie The Sting with Robert Redford when his character pulls off a con by telling a man to put his money down his pants in his crotch, because no cop or tough guy will search you there. The day the underwear bomber used that tried and true smuggling method was the day the TSA had to officially start using corrections officer pat down methods to ensure our collective safety.

Many woman wear padded bras, if our enemies replace the padding with liquid explosives we’re vulnerable, if objects are placed into stomach, anal or vaginal cavities they need to be found and the full body scanning x-ray machine will show them, if the enemy convinces a woman to get implants filled with liquid explosives they will still need to ignite them which means a tube which can be seen on the x-ray machine. I know some of this sounds like nonsense or farfetched Hollywoodish stuff but trust me when I say, the enemy is willing to try anything once and twice if it works and don’t for a second think that because an attempt failed because an explosive didn’t properly detonate, they see this as an opportunity to improve their techniques and prove their delivery methodology. They are continuing to evolve and we must also.

I’ve also heard many suggest that Israel’s model of profiling is the better solution, great yes it works when the enemy is obvious but when you only have 100 or so flights per day operating in your entire country it’s pretty easy to profile and take over an hour per flight to screen passengers. Simple math has Israel moving about 150 people per flight or 15,000 per day. One US major airline is running about 2400 flight per day with about 150 people on average per flight or 360,000. During Thanksgiving weekend millions will fly. Think about it folks, we got to the new fully body scanning x-ray machine and enhanced pat downs by demanding that we speed up the process.

Finally I head the head of the pilot’s alliance on talk radio the other day saying his union members didn’t want to go through the new machine because he was concerned about the extra radiation exposure, which is a legitimate concern and needs to be fully address by the manufacturer of these devices with oversight from the FDA. It’s clear the general travelling public is safe but those that will be using the machines daily or even more frequently and the vulnerable like say pregnant women need to be reassured but he tried to say that aircrew should be exempt from all screening and instead rely on biometric identification and this is where he lost me. Again you may say it’s farfetched and too Hollywood but if I wanted to smuggle something on board and knew that I couldn’t do it personally anymore I’d turn to those who get onto the aircraft without being searched and coerce them in any way necessary from bribes to kidnapping their loved ones and threatening their lives so aircrew, baggage handlers, maintenance and cleaning staff also need to be screened each and every time they come in contact with an aircraft. The TSA and airport staffs are just as vulnerable to these threats and also need to be check with multiple people overseeing each decision.

Call me paranoid but even after reading the Tom Clancy novel where a Japanese pilot flies a 747 into the Capitol Building during the State for the Union address leaving our hero Jack Ryan to become the new President I never thought 19 guys with box cutters could change the world as I knew it. We need to think like the enemy and use every and all means to ensure the travelling public gets from point A to point B safely and as efficiently as possible and if that means I get to look like a pot bellied mannequin or a profession TSA screener runs his hand up my leg and touches my junk so be it.

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