Sunday, September 13, 2015

The AP reported on 13 September that, "The company that managed Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email server says it has no knowledge that the server was "wiped," which could mean that more than 30,000 emails Clinton says she deleted from the device could be recovered, according to a report in The Washington Post."

But wait a second, how is that possible as on August 13, Melanie Batley (Newsmax) reported, "Barbara Wells, an attorney for Denver-based computer services firm Platte River Networks, which took control of Clinton's server after their private email network was updated in 2013, told The Washington Post that federal agents picked up the server from a data center in New Jersey on Wednesday.   But Wells told the paper that the server "was blank" and did not contain any useful information."  So is this "semantics" between the words "blank" and "wiped" or is there something else at play?  

Keep in mind that Ms. Batley's report wasn't alone as AP's Stephen Braun reported on 19 August that, "Hillary Rodham Clinton's personal lawyer has told a Senate committee that emails and all other data stored on her computer server were erased before the device was turned over to federal authorities. In a letter sent last week to Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, attorney David Kendall said the server was transferred to the FBI on Aug. 12 by Platte River Networks, a Denver firm hired by Clinton to oversee the device. The Senate committee made Kendall's letter public on Wednesday. In exchanges with reporters earlier this week, Clinton said she was not aware if the data on her server was erased. Confirmation that the server was wiped clean came amid mounting confusion over how sensitive some of the Clinton emails were and how much of their contents should have been released. Clinton aides said at least two emails that might have triggered the federal inquiry were not marked secret at the time."   
This confusion could be simple to explain.  The reality is that we would need to know which "server" was taken by the FBI as according to Platte River Technologies lawyer Barbra Wells (13 August), the server from the Clinton Chappaqua home was removed from the by Platte River and taken to a data center in New Jersey. But it would seem that, "The information had been migrated over to a different server for purposes of transition," Wells told the Post. "To my knowledge, the data on the old server is not available now on any servers or devices in Platte River Network's control."  

Doesn't this raise another question regarding "who" had custody and control over the Chappaqua server after it was moved to New Jersey and the data was migrated to another server?  Again, according to Mrs. Wells on August 12, "The old server was removed from the Clinton home by Platte River and stored in a third party data center, which are set up to provide security from threats of hacking and natural disaster, Wells said."  Wait, wouldn't that imply the "old server" remained in use for someone as there would be no need to have it protected against "hacking" unless it was somehow connected to the internet and powered on, right?  

Mrs. Wells is quoted as making similar statements to Chris Strohm and Del Quinton Wilbert  (Bloomberg) on August 13,  "Barbara Wells, an attorney for Platte River Networks, a Denver-based company that has managed Clinton's private e-mail since 2013, said in a phone interview Thursday that the server turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation “is blank and does not contain any useful data.” But Wells added that the data on Clinton's server was migrated to another server that still exists. She ended the interview when questioned further, declining to say whether the data still exists on that other server and who has possession of it.  Subsequent calls and e-mails to Wells and the Clinton campaign went unanswered. Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush declined in an e-mail to comment on whether it is aware of the other server and is trying to access it.  “The data on the old server is not now available on any server or device that is under Platte River’s control,” Wells said during the interview." 

So which "server" is the AP talking about?  The one that was removed from the Clinton Home and sent to New Jersey by Platte River or the one that the information was, according to Platte River, "migrated to" and just where is or where was that server located?  

Back in August some news reports stated the server used by the Clinton's via Platte River was in a closet outside of a bathroom in Denver but this was disputed by Andy Boian who was brought on to become the public relations manager for Platte River in August according to the Washington Post.  Mr. Boian is quoted as telling the Denver Post on August 19th, "There never was, at any time, data belonging to the Clintons stored in Denver. Ever," said Dovetail Solutions CEO Andy Boian, who added that Clinton's server was always in a New Jersey data center. "We do not store data in any bathrooms."
Confusing, isn't it.  Maybe the server was wiped, maybe not.  Maybe the information was migrated, maybe not.  Maybe the FBI has the "original server", maybe not.  Maybe we will learn what really was going on, no . . . definitely not.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Let's Talk About SOS Clinton's Emails, Please.

Folks, this is a long post as I would like to share my perspective on this. You can believe me or not but I held at TS-SBI and have been in a US Army SCIF (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility) at Ft. Bragg, Ft. Richardson, Ft. Wainwright, Ft. Hood and Clark AFP (PI). I believe this episode is but the tip of the iceberg regarding our government employees (elected, appointed and service employees) and how they conduct business.  While much has been made about Mrs. Clinton’s behavior, which I believe is justified, there is a bigger picture that is being missed, in my opinion.  Consider all of the news about “emails” and “instant messages” over the years by our government employees (think; IRS, EPA, HHS, GSA).  Consider that these folks are sharing and doing work on unsecured computers and networks.  Such actions place information at risk and in the hands of the right person, say an intelligence analyst, can provide a wealth of data.   I have thought about this and have done some research on all of this and have reached a conclusion that either our government is willfully lackadaisical and unable to understand the risk of this behavior or they are outright deceptive.   Because this all starts with the issues of SOS Clinton and her private server I will start there and here is my opinion based on what we know from the news along with my education and experience is this:    
(1) Somebody (I believe) violated policy and or the law by transferring classified information to a non State Department, non secure device (the thumb drives). (Note:  Once any classified data was transferred, opened, accessed on a device that device is subsequently classified and it is no longer the property of the individual as the data is owned by the US Government).  Mrs. Clinton’s attorney has said they followed the State Dept. advice on how to handle the thumb drive; who gave them this advice and what specifically was is and why are no media sources asking that? 
(2) Somebody (I believe) violated polity and or the law by allowing individuals without a security clearance and a need to know (you can have a clearance but if you have no need to know the information it is a security breach) see and or handle said data. The attorneys for Sec. Clinton have said they "reviewed" all of the information. Even if the attorneys are credentialed (have a clearance) they have no need to know this information and therefore that, in and of itself, is a breach. (Note:  Once any classified data was transferred, opened, accessed on a device that device is subsequently classified and it is no longer the property of the individual as the data is owned by the US Government).  Mrs. Clinton’s attorney has said he and others in his office had a clearance to work on the Benghazi hearings as they represented Mrs. Clinton.  Who at the State Dept. was aware they were reviewing other data and who gave them the custodial right to such data? 
(3) Somebody (I believe) violated policy and or the law by having classified data transferred, sent, routed through or replied from a non-US government server. Sec. Clinton's server was (a) in her home and (b) monitored / transferred to the possession of Platte River Technology (Denver) that is not a government contractor.
(4) Regardless if there was or wasn't classified data on the server or thumb drive(s) there was a breach of standard operating procedures (SOP) as all information not directly slated to be released immediately by the US Government is marked; For Official Use Only / UCI.  Such markings allow the government to review the information should a FOIA request be made and as it is marked FOUO a review can allow parts of this data to be blacked out under provisions of parts two through nine of the FOIA laws. Again, the attorneys had no official business with the US Dept. of State they were and are private attorneys in the employment of SOS Clinton. There client is not the State Dept. but a private citizen and the information did not belong to SOS Clinton but to the United States Government. 
(5) We know the data from the Clinton server was migrated to another server according to Platte River Technologies. Again, this is a transfer of FOUO (and higher) data by non-credentialed individuals. Further, even if Platte River were all credentialed and government contract employees if they had no need to see this data it is a violation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). 
(6) We know that of the emails reviewed twenty-five percent have been found to contain information that is classified.. It is illegal to copy and paste data from a classified document and resend to a non-governmental server. In truth is next to impossible to go outside of a secured network (but not entirely impossible either).  Further even if the information was not classified at the time it was sent the information was FOUO and should not have been sent to a private non-governmental server. 
(7) It has been reported that SOS Clinton provided more than 55,000 pages of emails from her server to the State Department and that some 31,000 emails were deleted as they were deemed “personal” by the Clinton team.  Just what is “55,000 pages of emails?”  Is there a reason we can have a specific number of “personal” emails but those turned over and work related are based on “pages”?  How many emails are there that are work related?  This may seem like “nit picking” but the truth is that if the Clinton team can give us a specific number for one why not the other?  Further when the Clinton team states that the 31,000 “personal” emails are “personal” just how are we supposed to know that?  Fact is if the information was done during work time and on a work related device those emails would belong to the employer, just like they do with every other employee. 
I could go on but will leave it at that. I will ad that something to consider is that by using a private server Sec. Clinton exposed an entire treasure trove of communications to outside hackers and governments. Learning who the Sec. communicated with, how often and the thought process involved in her decision making would have been very valuable to foreign governments. Additionally, learning the up and down of who is receiving what and from whom would also be greatly valuable; that is what I did as a signal analyst for the US Army - I understand the dissection of information.  Simply consider that in some of the released emails we know that Sidney Blumenthal shared not only strategy with SOS Clinton (yes, she called it “unsolicited” except she continued to return his emails and ask if he was “available” by phone).  Mr. Blumenthal took credit in his emails for  “sharing information” with reporters and according to his own email to SOS Clinton he claimed to have a role in a New Yorker piece by Sean Wilentz critical of the Tea Party as Mr. Blumenthal wrote to Mrs. Clinton, “Did this with Sean” as he shared the article (per Business Insider).  Knowing that as an intelligence person would tell you (a) who to feed information to, (b) what person within the Clinton circle is trying to gain influence / prestige which would allow you to “prop them up” and would (c) give you the particulars necessary to gain access to Mr. Blumenthal’s email and find out the who, what, when, where, how and why of his communications.  It’s odd that the media isn’t outraged over Mr. Blumenthal’s admission that he was, in essence, “pimping them” with an agenda (understand, I believe all political parties and political creatures do this but in this case we have his own written words that not only confirm it but indicate those media sources and reporters so willing to be used to forward an agenda). 
Don't get caught up in the argument that "she never sent or received emails that were classified at the time they were sent or received" as it's an academic argument. The fact is SOS Clinton held a private, non-governmental server in her home and she, by her own admission, conducted day to day State Dept. business through that server. Such behavior would not have been tolerated by Sec. Rumsfield, Sec. Rice or Sec. Powell and it ought not to be tolerated by SOS Clinton. This behavior is outside the standards of FIP's (Federal Information Processing) and one must assume that as the head of the State Dept. Mrs. Clinton was aware of this. Mrs. Clinton is asking the voters to elect her to the office of the POTUS of America and in the highest non-elected position she has held her first inclination was to "hide" and "control" the flow of data that came to her, that is enough (IMO) to remove her from consideration.  The trouble with SOS Clinton’s claim is that the IG Report, which reviewed a sampling of 40 of Mrs. Clinton’s emails found two that they believed were classified at the time they were sent.  Although Mrs. Clinton disagrees with the IG finding it was reported on 7 Sept that the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency reviewed the two emails and have determined that both were “top secret” when Mrs. Clinton received them on her personal email account.  Former Gov. and Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) regarding the if something was or wasn’t classified, “you’re the Secretary of State, you decide what the security clearance is going to be, you make a determination is this classified, it’s not nobody marked this classified so it’s not classified”. 
Another way to look at this argument (“SOS Clinton didn’t knowingly receive classified information”) is a simple parable.  Say a friend of yours sends you a package.  You have no clue what is in the package and had no idea they were sending it.  When it arrives at your door so too does the police because inside that package are prescription medication.  Now you don’t have a script for those meds and your friend is not a pharmacist with the credentials to send you the medication.  Because of this you are in possession of the package illegally.  Your “golden ticket” to get out of this is to (a) report it immediately and (b) work with the authorities to apprehend the person responsible for sending you the package.  SOS Clinton should have known that she received classified information (if she opened her email and let’s assume she did; unless that becomes the next defense) yet she took no steps (that we are aware of) to (a) report the classified data and (b) we have heard of no person who was suspended or terminated for sending Mrs. Clinton the classified data that we now know was present in her email. 
Consider that Gen. Patreus was summarily destroyed for sharing with Paula Broadwell data that was classified during the course of his affair. This was, IMO, the proper thing to do as he willingly broke all protocol. Putting aside the fact that having an affair while in the military is a UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) punishable offense for a second, remember that Ms. Broadwell was also LTC Broadwell and was not only a US Military Officer but a consultant for the FBI on counter-terrorism. She had a TS security clearance but had no need to know the information shared with her by Gen. Patreus and that is the key issue to the intelligence community. Mrs. Clinton's receiving of classified data and then transferring said data to thumb drives, migrating the data to another server along with having outside attorneys review the data and the data being under the control (for however long) of Platte River Technology goes far beyond a Gen. sharing information with his Commissioned Officer mistress who also had a security clearance. 
One defense strategy is to bring up the Bush Email Scandal. OK, fine. Truth is the Bush administration was wrong in 2007 when they were caught.  However, what folks are leaving out of that is (a) Democrats (who controlled in the House and Senate) investigated this and found no classified information or if they did it was not in the House report.
 (b) AG Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign in part because of his involvement.
(c) The House investigation found that DOE employees (non-political) were using off the books email addresses to communicate and ensure that those communications were out of the reach of Congress and citizens via FOIA.
Further the House Investigation (again, conducted by Democrats) found that this process also was happening in the General Service Administration and caused the investigation into the GSA to be slow (we all remember Jeffery Neely of the “hot tub” photo fame who was sentenced to three months in prison just this past July along with three months house arrest for his behavior).
(d) The House investigation found that at least 88 White House staff members were using email connected to the email server which was housed at the RNC and stated that such behavior was not just inappropriate but it was a clear attempt to thwart FOIA request and possibly the Presidential Records Act as it kept these records outside of the custody of US Government professionals. 
Honestly, think about the fact that this was 2007 and remember this was two years before Citizens United was argued before the SCOTUS and three years before a verdict was rendered. This process (off book emails and instant messaging) was being used by not just the WH but by the GSA, DOE and as we now know the IRS to subvert open disclosure (I bring up Citizens United v. FEC because the IRS has said it was because of “Citizens United” that they "slowed" things down in reviewing non-profit request).  We also now know that the IRS was using IM and that Ms. Leaner was using the off the books email address “Toby Miles” (named after her dog) to conduct official business.  This process was not only deceptive but designed to keep information hidden from FOIA request – why else engage in this unless you want the information kept from review? 
But Mrs. Learner isn’t alone as on December 13, 2012 the IG notified the EPA that they would be conducting an audit into the use of a private email account “Richard Windsor” (also named for the family dog) by EPA Director Lisa Jackson.  Director Jackson resigned from her position on December 27, 2012 and the American public was given the “nothing to see here folks” routine.  Except we know that “Richard Windsor” (a fictitious email account used by Mrs. Jackson)  received an “ethics award” as a “top student” by the EPA after disclosures came out in June 2013 (six months after Mrs. Jackson resigned).  Yet, that isn’t the end of political folks caught with their keyboards hidden from public view.  In June 2013 the AP reported that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was also using a “private” email address (kgs2@hhs(dot)gov) to conduct official business.  The difference here is that while using her initials Sec. Sebelius was actually hiding her communications away from FOIA request as her actual, listed email address was not kgs2@hhs(dot)gov.  It was nothing but an effort to subvert disclosure and it worked!  Again, the public was told; “nothing to see here folks, move along”.  The fact is that this behavior was and I suspect is rampant within the government and it is done not just to divert public and media review but to skirt the law.  SOS Clinton’s behavior, while going much further than others, is truly no different. 
But back to the State Dept., the fact is that on June 28, 2011 (DTG:  282223Z Jun 11 which translates to: 28 June 2011 at 10:23 pm) the State Dept. issued a memo from the “SECSTATE WASHDC” to “ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POST COLLECTIVE” with the subject “Securing Personal E-mail Accounts”.  In this memo it states in part 3 subsection d:  “Avoid conducting official Department business from your personal e-mail account”.  What is more “personal” than an off the books account on a server you own and administer?  Part 3 subsection e states, “Do not reveal your personal e-mail address in your work “out of office” message”. Why is this recommended; simple because as was expressed earlier with the known emails from Mr. Blumenthal it gives hackers and intelligence people a wealth of knowledge and a “way in”.  Funny, the State Department acknowledges this in June of 2011.  Finally part 3 subsection f states, “Do not auto-forward Department email to personal e-mail accounts, which is prohibited by Department policy (12 FAM 544.3)”.  This would mean that unless SOS Clinton was communicating directly with the POTUS and other cabinet members via her HRC e-mail address that she must have been forwarding her email from a state(dot)gov address to the HRC account, right?  Now we know that this was not the case so then it means that the POTUS and other cabinet members (assuming they communicated with the SOS via email) along with anyone employed by the State Department that sent SOS Clinton an email were willingly doing so in direct conflict with the memo of 28 June 2011 issued by the State Dept. under SOS Clinton’s name.  This isn’t ambiguous nor is it a nuance.  (The 28 June 2011 memo can be Googled and found at crocodoc). 
John Podesta is quoted as saying, “We need to defend her, and we are doing that”.  But just how can a reasonable defense of SOS Clinton be made once one considers she is (a)  an attorney (she can read laws), (b) worked on the Watergate Investigation, (c) was a US Senator and (d) was the SOS State yet still engaged in such reckless behavior?  SOS Clinton was in the US Senate in 2007 when the Bush Administration was rightfully “pimp-slapped” by the US Congress for engaging in a similar set up.  She knew from 2007 forward this was inappropriate, her colleagues in Congress said so and AG Gonzales resigned because of it.  What made her think she was “different”? 

Another defense is that, “SOS Powell used a non-State Dept. email” and that is true.  First and foremost his behavior was, IMO, wrong and as we all learned as a child two wrongs don’t make a right.  But let’s not forget that SOS Powell did not possess a private server which he maintained and there have been no accusations that he sent or received any classified data.  Finally, when his emails were requested SOS Powell worked with the State Dept. to recover these records and did not hire private attorneys to help review his emails prior to turning them over to the State Dept..  No question that I believe SOS Powell was wrong for using a private email address but with that said his actions were also before the Bush email sandal of 2007 which exposed how using an off the books email address was inappropriate.  More so, Gen. Powell stated on “Meet the Press” (6 Sept) that, “I had a secure State Department machine for secure material and I had a laptop that I could use for email.  I would email relatives, friends, but I would also email the department but it was mostly housekeeping stuff, what’s the status of this papers, what’s going on here”. 
Many have also made the defense that, “what SOS Clinton did was legal and permissible and didn’t break any policy”.  That is clearly debatable but I would side with what Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (who incidentally was appointed by Pres. William Jefferson Clinton) said on 08/20/15, “We wouldn’t be here today if this employee had followed government policy”.  Judge Sullivan in supporting his belief that the policy was not followed referred to the State Dept. responsibility to comply with the Federal Records Act of 1950.  It has now been reported (9 Sept) that to meet the backlog of sifting through the emails of SOS Clinton the State Dept. has assigned 50 additional staff temporarily to work to help  sort through the emails.  Even SOS Kerry has responded by appointing Ambassador Janice Jacobs to serve as the State Dept. “transparency coordinator” to help the agency respond to FOIA request.  Just what are the added administrative costs due to Mrs. Clinton’s behavior?  But the lawsuits by the media are not over and they are now not only seeking the FOIA information but are now asking the questions of the State Dept. that I believe need to be asked.  Journalist Dave Brown has filed a case against the State Dept (9 Sept) requesting all of the information related to the thumb drive that the attorneys for Mrs. Clinton held.  Specifically, his attorney Kel McClanahan is quoted as saying, "If one of us tried to do this, we’d have our clearance yanked that very day and have a search warrant served on us and something different happened here," attorney Kel McClanahan. "Not only agree did [State] allow him to maintain these records, but it's unclear if they even pushed back. ... We decided somebody needs to get to the bottom of what exactly happened here. What is it: favoritism or did David Kendall somehow satisfy some requirement that others of us never even knew to aim for?"  It should also be remembered that Former head of Information Security Oversight Office under Pres. Clinton and Pres. Bush (J. Willliam Leonard) is quoted as saying; “If a foreign minister just told the SOS something in confidence, by US rules that is classified at the moment it’s in the US channels and US possession” he added that for the State Dept. to say otherwise was “blowing smoke”. Reuters is reporting (08/21/15) that there were several email chains between SOS Clinton and Ms. Abedin that were marked “Foreign Government Information” which is a marking used by the State Dept. and is considered “classified”.  In fact those emails have been largely redacted and while that doesn’t imply the information was classified it clearly shows the data was not to be shared with the general public.  More importantly as there is an ongoing investigation just exactly how can those defending Mrs. Clinton “know” with such “certainty” that she did nothing wrong?  Think about that – Mrs. Clinton and her supporters are “sure” she has done nothing inappropriate.  To believe that means one must ignore the IG Report along with the confirmation that at least two of the emails found by the IG were classified “top secret” when they were sent.  Fact of the matter is that former Gov. and Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) said, “What the Secretary did was an end run around FOIA”. 

Just imagine all the things about this that simply don’t make sense and defy simple employee / employer logic and then think about the fact that the State Dept. admitted in court filing regarding the FOIA case involving SOS Clintons aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills that the Blackberry devices given to them by the State Dept. simply can’t be reviewed because the devices were either “destroyed or sold off”.  Understand that State Dept. Executive Secretary Joseph MacManus said that the State Dept’s “standard procedure upon return of such devices is to perform a factory reset (which will remove all data) and then to reissue the device to another employee, to destroy it or to excess it”.  Mr. MacManus also said, “Because the devices issued to Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin would have been outdated models, in accordance with standard operating procedures those devices would have been destroyed or excessed”.  Now think about the fact that the State Dept. seems to have a policy on how to treat a Blackberry but they had no policy regarding using non-State Department email.  It simply doesn’t make sense. 
Imagine also that on 3 September it’s reported that former Hillary ’08 IT Staffer, Bryan Pagliano who would later be hired by the State Dept. to manage the private Clinton email server has notified Congress that he will “plead the fifth” if forced to appear before the House Committee on 10 September when he has been scheduled to testify.  No question that everyone has the right to “plead the fifth” but what would the purpose be for Mr. Pagliano to take the fifth if the work he did was completely in compliance with the law as we have been consistently told by the Clinton folks?  Ironically while Mr. Pagliano’s attorneys have notified the House of his intention to plead the fifth the Clinton Campaign has told the media they would like everyone to cooperate even though Mrs. Clinton is quoted as saying the  House investigation is just “partisan games”.   So why would Mr. Pagliano seemingly refuse to cooperate with a congressional subpoena?  Does he feel that the server he set-up as a Hillary ’08 staffer and maintained once he was hired by the State Department was not completely kosher or is he simply ignoring the House Committee because he too thinks this is just “partisan games”?  Then there is the fact that the Washington Post has reported that Mr. Pagliano was paid directly by the Clinton’s to maintain the server which, according to the Washington Post, was being used by Pres. Clinton, SOS Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.  When asked in August if Mr. Pagliano had been privately paid to maintain the Clinton server the State Department responded they, “found no evidence that he ever informed the department that he had outside income”.  Another State Dept. official stated that she was unable to add any clarity to Mr. Pagliano’s pay due to “ongoing reviews and investigations”.  Seriously just what was going on at Foggy Bottom? 
The Clinton Campaign continues to play the “we don’t really know what that means” card as Mrs. Clinton’s press secretary, Brian Fallon told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on 3 September that, “I don’t know what “wiped” means” when asked if the server handed over to the FBI had been “wiped”.  Mr. Fallon later said that, “literally, the emails were deleted off the server, that’s true”.  It’s almost sad how folks not only expect but seem to demand that the American voter not pay attention but that they (the voter) must be ignorant.  How this is a joking issue to anyone is confusing to be honest. 
In her testimony before the House Panel on 3 September, Clinton advisor Cheryl Mills stated that none of SOS Clinton’s work related email’s were intentionally destroyed or hidden and that maybe true.  The problem here is that neither Mrs. Mills nor Mrs. Clinton was the custodian of such information as it was, by Mrs. Mills admission, work related and therefore that information belonged to the State Department.  Mrs. Mills then offered a caveat of sorts and said that was unaware if anyone else had intentionally destroyed or tried to hide material that was deemed work related.  So in the end we know that Mrs. Mills is willing to say under oath that she wasn’t involved with any attempt to hide or destroy records but that she can’t say if anyone else did.  It’s the nuance of answers that is so confusing as after the emails were found from Sidney Bluemnthal to Mrs. Clinton it was discovered that several of those messages from Mr. Blumenthal were not among the thousands of pages of emails that Mrs. Clinton turned over to the State Department. 
It’s also clear that the IT Help Desk was unaware of the Clinton Server and the email address that SOS Clinton was using.  Christopher Butzgy a Help desk analyst at the State Department sent SOS Clinton an email in February 2010 inquiring about the “permanent fatal errors” in her email address.  Mrs. Clinton deferred this issue to her aide Huma Abedin who responded by email to Mrs. Clinton that someone had sent Mrs. Clinton an email but that it had “bounced back” (unable to be delivered) and the State Dept. Help Desk had, as Ms. Abedin put it, “they had no idea it was YOU, just some random address so they emailed”.  How is it possible that Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email and server was such unknown knowledge to the IT professionals at the State Department that they sent her an email to find out who it was yet the story is that this was “no big thing” and that everything was completely above board? 
Clinton Aide, Huma Abedin is scheduled to testify before the House Committee sometime before the testimony of SOS Clinton on 22 October.  No question her testimony will be important as she (a) knew the State Dept. IT Help Desk was unaware of SOS Clinton’s email address and set-up and (b) she was Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff.  Yet there are already questions about how Mrs. Abedin conducts business, legitimate questions.  Consider that on 10 Sept it was reported that Mrs. Abedin was overpaid while she was a “consultant” to the State Dept.  An IG investigation found that she was paid for time she never worked including during a trip she took overseas when she was pregnant and eight hours on the day she was in labor giving birth to her son.  Mrs. Abedin’s response to the IG in Oct ’14 about this was, “My husband handles all of the finances”.  So are we to believe that her husband, then NY House Rep. Anthony Weiner was actually filling out and submitting her hours to the State Dept.?  The State Dept IG report makes it clear that after a two year investigation she failed to correctly submit necessary paperwork on multiple occasions, resulting in overpayments because her leaves of absence were never documented.  For me, I know that of all the paperwork I have ever done the one I always know is correct is the one that will ensure I am paid.  Yet even though Mrs. Abiden agrees there were overpayments as does the IG and FBI the Dept. of Justice is not seeking any charges but rather asking that she reimburse the State Dept. 10,674.00.  Her “forgetfulness” in this case raises serious questions on her validity as a witness.  Can or will she tell the complete truth?  Imagine in one instance of overpayment Mrs. Abedin received a lump sum payment of 33,000.00 when she left the State Dept. yet her replies is to say that “He (Anthony Weiner) never told her about it and she only discovered it when contacted by investigators two years later”.  If Mrs. Abedin doesn’t keep track of her own family finances and doesn’t notice an increase of 33,000.00 just exactly how can she be expected to recall or correctly know the day to day workings of the SOS’s email?   
SOS Clintons campaign has tried to make this a partisan issue by attacking House Member Trey Gowdy but what the campaign is asking everyone to do is forget that (1) it was the IG report found problems with SOS Clintons email and requested a DOJ Investigation and (2) the State Dept. is in Federal Court over an FOIA request stemming from SOS Clintons actions.  This isn’t an R v. D issue and Mrs. Clinton can’t honestly trot out the old, “vast right wing conspiracy” argument that she has made time and time again going back to when her husband had what Clinton Staffer Betsy Wright called “Bimbo Eruptions”.  If Mrs. Clinton thinks this argument is a “winner” she is counting on what Jonathan Gruber called, “the stupidity of the American Voter” and its time voters looked at this and told Mrs. Clinton, “that dog don’t hunt”. 
State Dept. Spokesperson Mark Toner has stated that the proportion of emails now classified is twenty-five percent.  This is neither a mistake nor is it insignificant.  This show that there was an ongoing cavalier attitude regarding the handling of data by SOS Clinton and her Staff.  To think otherwise means that the voter must accept that our elected and appointed officials handle information correctly only seventy-five percent of the time and is that truly the standard we are striving for. 
On 8 Sept, SOS Clinton finds herself saying that she is “sorry” and it was a “mistake” and that she “takes responsibility for it”.  But let’s be fair, has she really or does she now intend to?  SOS Clinton knew that the Bush administration was roundly (and rightfully) smacked for using a private server in 2007 yet she still chose to use one.  SOS Clinton knew her department had told State Department Staff in 2011 not to use personal email but she continued to do so.  SOS Clinton further knew that all of her communications were subject to FOIA request and that by keeping them on a server not controlled by the State Dept. that any FOIA request would be stopped dead in it’s tracks as you can’t provide what you don’t have and the State Dept. had none of her emails.  Yet, again, SOS Clinton decide to just go ahead and keep things as private and personal; funny once you consider that Mrs. Clinton as a young lawyer worked on the House Investigation Team as they crafted the report on Watergate. 
Someone made an enormous error in judgment and I believe violated either the law and or many security policies and protocols. The fact that Mrs. Clinton has made joking, flippant remarks in Iowa about joining "snapchat" and "loving it" because the "messages just disappear" and receive cheers from supporters is sad and a horrible commentary on just how ignorant and uniformed Americans have become. SOS Clinton joking about "wiping it clean, you mean with a cloth"? There is nothing funny about this situation and the fact that SOS Clinton thinks it's acceptable to become a stand-up comedian is sickening. 

Bob Woodward thinks this is reminiscent of Pres. Nixon yet the truth is this is much, much worse.  Some folks (Mrs. Clinton and others) have said this is nothing but "partisan" or a "vast right wing" issue nothing could be further from the truth. Sen. Claire McCaskill called this whole thing about SOS Clintons server a “witch hunt”.  Really.  Folks the "leaks" are coming from the Obama DOJ - these are his people "sharing" information off the record, why? What is it about Mrs. Clinton that someone in her own Party wants to see her taken down and whom do they want to benefit from this? 
Folks use Google and look up anything that I have written and see if I am wrong, you won't, but please feel free to do so. Then Google 18 US Code 798 and ask yourself: (a) Did SOS Clinton open any email that was classified (even if she was unaware of its classification) on a non-governmental server? (b) Did SOS Clinton allow any data that was classified to be transferred to thumb drives (again, regardless if she knew the data was classified) and was that data provided to or shared with individuals who had no need to know that information? (c) Did SOS Clinton allow or request data to be migrated from one server to another by individuals (Platte River Technologies) that had no need to know this data and was the storage of such data was on non-governmental devices? (d) Was SOS Clinton granted the authority to delete, destroy, wipe-clean data owned by the US Government (Dept. of State) regardless of the level of classification and if so who gave her such authority? (Point, even if the information was not classified it was not her property and by deleting the data she ordered and allowed a violation of eRecords standards). 

Mrs. Clinton is quoted as saying; "If I had not asked for my emails all to be made public, none of this would have been in the public arena". This simply isn't true. The only reason this issue is being discussed is because the AP and others sued the State Department for the emails to be released and that case continues in Federal Court to this day.

Having said all of that I expect Sec. Clinton will be given a "pass" in some convoluted manner by the DOJ and by late 2015 we will learn that all was "well" with the choices she and her staff made. It will be a grand whitewash and there will be nothing to see. I'd bet my left nugget on that.

The issue, I think, isn't just SOS Clinton's use of a private server but rather the cavalier manner that employees (elected, appointed and hired) of the United States Government have been treating communication and the public's right to know how our government is functioning.  This isn't about political party, in my opinion, or about ideology but it's about right and wrong.  I honestly doubt anything will happen with any of this as it seems if we have learned nothing from the HHS, EPA and IRS email "issues" we ought to have learned that in our government if you delay long enough it goes away.  That's a horrible standard but one that I think has been established and I'd bet my right nugget on that one.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

An open letter to Elise Foley (Immigration and Politics Reporter – The Huffington Post) on Immigration

An open letter to Elise Foley (Immigration and Politics Reporter – The Huffington Post): 

I read with great interest the article written by Ms. Foley at the Huffington Post on 21 August 2015 titled, “Immigration Activist Renew Focus On Local Battles After National Disappointments” and subtitled, “We’re ready to fight”.   My interest comes first as a compassionate person with over 17 years working in the non-profit world and secondly as the father of five.  I am a veteran of the U.S. Army, the first of my siblings to attend and graduate from college and have always found myself drawn to the ideal of treating everyone with respect, responsibility, trust and help.  Sometimes holding such wishful ideals has opened me to criticisms of being naïve and at times I have been manipulated by those I worked to help.  Through it all I have maintained the thought that trying to assist the larger population that deserves respect off-sets those who willingly manipulate and abuse the good will of those wishing to be of assistance.  Of course through the years I have changed many of my thoughts and feelings on a variety of social issues but my core still demands that all citizens are treated with respect, responsibility, trust and help. 

After reading your column Ms. Foley, I took some time to reflect on what was written and wondered if you shared the same values for everyone.  I believe, like Pres. Obama, that words have meanings and that it truly matters how they are written and or spoken and as I read your column I was struck at just how the meaning and intent of words were not treated with the respect and responsibility I would hope they deserve.  Early in the column the presentation was made that, And after activists helped convince more than 300 jurisdictions in recent years to limit cooperation between police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an outcry against those so-called "sanctuary cities" threatens to halt that progress.  Trouble is that there is no “so-called” to the term “sanctuary cities”.   The Center for Immigration Studies website ( list maps of cities, counties and states that they title “sanctuary” and as you know, they are not alone in using this term.  Your column cited the tragic murder of Ms. Stienle in San Francisco as part of the backlash against such policies and the fact is that the City of San Francisco ordinance is titled “Sanctuary Ordnance” at the City and County of San Francisco’s webpage.  There really is no “so-called” but rather an honest, overt passage of ordinances by municipalities to label their city as a “sanctuary” so it’s confusing that you don’t acknowledge what they clearly do.

The column discussed how, advocates with United We Dream and Immigrant Legal Resource Center are circulating a toolkit to groups around the country that support immigrant rights with advice for how to fight collaboration between ICE and local police, which they say is putting their communities at risk.
Their plan came after a phone call in June, when activists lamented that they were still losing community members to deportation.   I find it startling that two groups, one made up largely of legal professionals, could openly promote a “toolkit” with the intention of helping local municipality’s subvert the application of laws within the United States.  Consider that what is being promoted is requesting that local communities disengage from open and honest conversations with our Federal Law Enforcement Agencies in an effort to subvert the enforcement of our existing laws.  I am sensitive to the idea of civil disobedience and acknowledge that some laws seem very unjust however it is confusing that credentialed officers of the court would willingly engage in promoting the open defiance of the very laws they were sworn to uphold.   Further I find the use of the term “fight” as an odd, shall we say, micro-aggression, instead of showing respect and responsibility for the laws of the United States we now have folks who not only advocate the open defiance of them but demand a “fight” against those who have a Constitutional duty to enforce and uphold such laws.  Sure I know that some will say a minority group and those advocating for such a group can’t be guilty of a “micro-aggression” but when the term “fight” is used and it is coupled with an open demand that local communities cease from assisting our federal officials just how is that not an aggressive behavior?  In reality when your column proudly stated, Activists helped take down the Secure Communities program, the implication is clear that there exist and aggressive demand to dismantle or ignore the laws of the United States and to “take down” those things which are found objectionable by a minority group.  Again I do understand and have great reverence for social disobedience but to a great number of Americans such open defiance appears to be nothing short of a hostility to the laws and law enforcement agencies of our society and I question if those advocating such policies truly understand how disrespectful, unhelpful, irresponsible and untrustworthy what they are advocating comes across to a great number of Americans.  Maybe it is naive but I believe the majority of Americans wish to do nothing but live peacefully under the law and wish to have all of our community follow the grand societal contract of shared values so eloquently written about by Alexis de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America” and we are finding that shared commonality and values in grave conflict with the aggressive demands of those who advocate open defiance against not only our laws but those commissioned with upholding them.  I found it odd that your column stated, A number of jurisdictions decided to stop respecting ICE hold requests in recent years based on concerns that working with ICE could damage relationships with the immigrant community.  Stating this admits that relationships are damaged by action yet the jurisdictions you cite seem to have no concern with the damage failing to uphold the law has on the great many of Americans who in our hearts still strive for the shared values of respect, responsibility, trust and help. 

In your column it was communicated that the murder of Ms. Kathryn Stienle in San Francisco became a time of reflection for many.  I believe that your writing again reflected a dismissive tone as you asserted, So-called sanctuary cities became a flashpoint after the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco last month, allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times.  Again, there is no “so-called” with regards to sanctuary cities, particularly with regards to San Francisco and the idea that Mr. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez is somehow “allegedly” responsible for Ms. Stienles death ignores not only the witnesses, including the victim’s father, but also ignores Mr. Lopez-Sanchez own admission that he killed Ms. Stienle.  I respect the idea under our system of justice that those charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt however in this instance referring to Mr. Lopez-Sanchez as being “allegedly” responsible is fascinatingly dismissive.  While I am more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in believing that you would extend the idea of “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” I can’t do the same for the editorial staff of your employer, the Huffington Post.  A simple “Google” search showed countless articles where police officers involved in shootings were not given the same presumption of innocent and while I believe that is perfectly acceptable because it reflects the accuracy of the story, softening the language in the case of the murder of Ms. Stienle and calling the perpetrator of that crime as being “allegedly” the shooter seems odd to say the least.  As I wrote earlier, I believe that words matter and it struck me that in your article you willfully skirted the responsibility you have as a writer to help the reader with regard to Ms. Stienles murder.  While I believe you correctly mentioned that her death was a moment of reflection for those advocating changes to immigration law and you mentioned the what (murder of Ms. Stienle), where (San Francisco), and how (gunshot) you intentionally or inadvertently left out the “whom” with regards to the actual witnessed, arrested, charged and by his own words admitted perpetrator:  Mr. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez.   Even more troubling to me is that while the murder of Ms. Stienle is seen as an impediment for those advocating changes to immigration laws by Mr. Lopez-Sanchezs own admission to San Francisco television station (ABC 7) he knew San Francisco to be not a “so-called” sanctuary city but a real place of sanctuary where he would not be pursued by immigration officials.  Full disclosure, I don’t believe, should be subjected to a selective telling of the facts and inadvertently or not, that is what I have taken away from your column. 

The reporting that the House of Representatives have voted to block federal law enforcement grants to communities that provide sanctuary for those deemed illegal aliens (which, offensive or not is the actual term under the law) was left hanging open without telling that in truth such actions by Congress is relatively typical.  I am old enough to remember when our Congress voted to withhold funding to states that failed to pass a fifty-five mile an hour speed limit and the use of such “carrots” (withholding or providing more support) was a big part of the Affordable Care Act. 

I am open to discussing and hearing any and all voices regarding the desire to change, amend or completely rid ourselves of some of the current immigration laws.  Yet, I honestly struggle when I read columns such as the one you wrote for the Huffington Post that I believe not only softens the language intentionally but willfully leaves out a complete telling of the truth. 

Americans, I believe, are compassionate people and without question we have an amazing history of welcoming others and of accepting different cultures, religions and beliefs.  We are not perfect but we have desperately worked to move in a humane and accepting direction.  No westernized nation has elected, appointed and promoted such a diverse ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and religious leadership as has America.  Imagine that just this past January when our current Congress was sworn in they were the most diverse group of representative ever elected in the history of the United States of America all while our sitting President remains the first African-American President ever elected.  Understand this is not to imply that we can’t and shouldn’t continue to strive for greater inclusiveness but it ought to serve as a reminder of just how much progress America has truly made. 

For many folks, myself included, I see the progress that America has made as a great source of pride along with a tremendous recognition of just how marvelous our nation is.  But then as I seek to do nothing more than fulfill the ideals of a collective society based on the values of “Democracy in America” and to ingrain those values in my children I am confronted by open aggression not just to my beliefs but the institutions of justice in the United States of America when I am confronted with individuals who advocate not just changing our laws but to request local elected leaders defy those laws by giving adherence and acceptance to a “toolkit” intended to ensure cooperation from our local law enforcement is thwarted all under the guise of “compassion” while no respect or responsibility seems to be shown for the actual system of law and government we have in the United States.  Understand that I don’t make such statements lightly but I feel that I am compelled to believe such when I hear activist quoted as saying, "We're ready to fight, we've been ready to fight,"  Carolina Canizales, an organizer with the youth-led advocacy group United We Dream said. "We're no longer going to be defined by a court decision. We're no longer going to be defined by a policy."  Honesty demands that such statements are called exactly what they are; aggressive (“we’re ready to fight, we’ve been ready to fight”), dismissive (“we’re no longer going to be defined by a court decision”) and demanding ("we’re no longer going to be defined by a policy”) and unquestionably such things fail in showing any level of respect, responsibility, trust and help for the Citizens of the United States, the rule of law we all live under and the government we elect to represent us.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

I wonder what Robert Johnson saw?

Right, wrong or indifferent, I bet that he gained illumination.

While "crossroads" is a great song my favoriate by Robert Johnson still remains:  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Questions to Myself.

Life has become much like the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day”.  Things bleed into one another from one to the next.  It becomes a routine, déjà vu almost.  One task to the next has become like the ticking of a clock.  Wake the boys, make breakfast, greet Laura when she arrives home, talk with Laura for a few minutes before she goes to bed and then it’s a cavalcade of task.  I look at the daily “job boards”, pick-up the house, do laundry, make lunch for the boys, make dinner and lunch for Laura if she must work that day and if the weather is nice enough take the boys outside to play.  The afternoon and night is the same, routine, déjà vu. 

The monotony of it all has given me a chance to contemplate many things once the boys go to sleep.  I think about; politics, social problems in America, sports, movies and most recently wondering just why I have so many “friends” on Facebook or "connections" on LinkedIn.  I have thought about that for the last couple of weeks and have come to the conclusion that I don’t have a clue.  I enjoy reading some of the updates, seeking the photos and I get a laugh from the videos that some post.  I guess being honest I also enjoy seeing the new things in former co-workers lives on LinkedIn but it’s when I close the laptop for the day that I realize just how much I truthfully question if I care anymore and  wonder just why do I have so many “friends” and “connections”. 

Social media can be a good thing but it can also be an amazing falsehood that serves only to make one feel better or more important than they actually are.  I think about my Mother and Father when I was growing up and somehow feel like they were more “grounded” then much of my generation, maybe even including me, as they seemed to grasp just what was and wasn't important.  We share our meals, our child’s daily lives, what conferences or training's we have completed, what new motivational speaker or sayings we like but do we or rather I, actually have ourselves rooted in what is truly important?  I have no clue.  Some days I think I do but other days, yeah, not so much.   

I know that I am guilty of posting the same things as others on Facebook (kid’s photos, stupid videos and so on) and oftentimes after doing it I wonder to myself “why”.  I have learned to justify it by saying that I tagged the kids Grandparents or Aunts in the post so that they can be informed with what is happening with the kids but really, I could do the same thing with an email even if it would take a couple of extra steps.  LinkedIn has become a little like a CD player for me, it’s around I just don’t use it.  As I started to sit down and write this I checked my last “update” and smiled when I realized that it was more than a month ago.   There was a time when I would check it every single day and make sure that I “congratulated” folks with a work anniversary, new job or title and of course birthday but now, not so much.  I sent out an email through LinkedIn to a little more than one-hundred of my “connections” back in January 2013 and again in November 2014 as I continued to search for employment and to be honest I received a grand total of seven replies and all but one was the “I wish I could help” condolence.  I think about that and I wonder, “what’s the point?” 

It’s hard to be honest.  Actually it’s (without being offensive) fucking soul crushing.  The day to day monotony that never changes in appearance and rarely changes in activity or function.  I have now been unemployed for the majority of time since October 2012.  Thirty months.  21,914.5 hours.  Damn. 

I think about it and I no longer have a clue as to what I should do, honestly, I don’t.  I think about my past and know that there was a time that I was employed not only full time but a time when I held two full time jobs at once.  I worked hard.  After spending four years on active duty in the Military I was able to graduate from college in exactly four years and one month from the date of my discharge.  Hell, by the time I was thirty-five I had been hired to be the Executive Director of a Non-Profit.   Now today at the age of 47 I can’t get a call back for even the most menial of jobs.  Damn. 

All of the “changes” have in many ways worn me down.  My credit score was once over 800 and I owned two homes.  Today, whew, I don’t even want to know.  Back in 2004 I cashed out a retirement plan to purchase a home and then with everything ended up losing that home.  I figured I was young and to be honest at the time felt like I had just taken what would be the last job I ever held because in truth, I loved it that much.   Then after a few surprises get dropped it forces change.  I found I no longer had a “social work” license in Michigan.  Not because I did anything wrong but because the fee to renew the license was never sent in and as my degree is in “Corrections and Juvenile Services” I am not actually “grandfathered in” for the new licensing requirements in Michigan so after 15 years working in that field you get closed out.  Then you find the surprise of a court order that demands back taxes from the City of Toledo.  The downside is that since you never knew you were supposed to go to court you have a default judgment against you.  Thankfully I was able to cash out another retirement plan and settle with them but in the end that’s just a short term gain long term loss to be honest.  It’s all frustrating. 

The good things are all thanks to Laura.  She is and has been amazing.  The truth is that I know I don’t deserve her and oftentimes feel like I am a drain on her.  She likes to tell me that I am getting the chance to be with the boys and to take care of them and I know that’s true but it's not what I want to be doing as a man.  I don’t have anything against a guy that wants to stay at home and raise his kids if that’s his choice.  For me it’s not a choice but something that has been forced upon me.  It makes me feel daily that I don’t contribute to the home and that I don’t do anything to truly be a father. 

Father, that’s another thing that annoys me.  Honestly, I am so tired of hearing from family and some friends on Facebook about how I am a “good Dad”.  I don’t feel like it and honestly hearing it doesn't change my thoughts and feelings.  I try to be respectful to people and I listen to them but in the end what my “mind” is telling me is that I am not really a good Dad.  While I am with Ethan and Ian daily and I see Jacob, Hannah and Knoah every other weekend, I contribute minimally to them through child support because of my job situation and when I am with them I feel guilty that I can do little for them or with them.  It’s debilitating to be honest.

Some days I will look at what people share and want to scream.  Look, I know that work can suck and that co-workers can be a pain in the ass but guess what - if that's really the worse problem you have things are going pretty damn good, ya know.

The thing is that I am not looking for sympathy or understanding or even for folks to relate to what I am going through.  We have all been in this position at one point or another I know that.  It's just that the question I have to ponder is if I really need to have just one more reminder of the unending repetition that is Monday - Sunday.  It's basically rinse, wash, repeat.  

So I wonder what the point of social media is for me.  I used to enjoy posting on a local bulletin board about politics, sports and so on but a little more than a year ago I left that board because one of the regular posters thought it was “cool” to accuse another poster of being a suspect in the killing of a child.  My reason for leaving the board was that if the moderators were not going to address behavior like that then did I really want to associate with a board that allowed such reckless accusations. (I should point out that the person being accused was not anonymous).  I am now thinking that with all things considered, social media is no longer for me.  I don’t see the point, to be honest.  Sure it has given me a chance to be happy for others and to enjoy seeing folks children as they get bigger but it’s also made me question the “value” of such connections for me.  Maybe right now it’s just me and I won’t discount that at all.  I know that I am in a rut, I get it, I accept it.  I don’t want to sound like I have embraced my “groundhog days” but I don’t see an alternative.  I was ran down recently on social media by Jacob, Hannah and Knoah’s Mother about the size of my contribution and as bad as I feel the reality is that my only defense is that I have applied for more than 2,180 jobs since Oct '12 and have went to interviews from as close to Dundee to as far away as Virginia in the hope of gaining a job!  Hell, in truth I have never been one to ask for help but as I said earlier I have sent out more than 200 emails requesting assistance and still here I am.  Groundhog Day.  It’s tiring.  It’s taxing.  It’s frustrating.  It’s angering.  It’s my life and I just don’t know if I want to share it on social media any longer.  Maybe someday things will be different but for now, I have a lot to think about and I certainly have the time to do so.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

For the last time . . . .

Over the last few years things for me professionally have be very difficult.  There are tons of reasons why and sometimes I feel like I am fighting a horrible losing battle to "fix" things.  It's hard when I think about just a few years ago I was in a very good position financially and professionally.  As a man it's sometimes debilitating when you're alone and think about how you are unable to do the things you want for your children.  You sometimes feel worthless and oftentimes begin to question yourself.  Being depressed about it is a daily occurrence  and fighting off those feelings to ensure you don't bring down those around is a task that consumes you hour by hour and minute by minute.  You feel minimized, You feel small.  You feel like a failure.  

But sometimes you are reminded of the good that you have and that you must count your blessings.  I have the greatest woman in the world in Laura.  She is sincere, loving, beautiful, supportive, helpful, insightful, happy, playful, talented and most of all the owner of my heart.  

I also know that I have five of the most wonderful children on this earth.  They are amazingly smart, funny, helpful, respectful and loving.  It's difficult to be a "stay at home Dad".  You feel "less" even though you are with your children daily.  To find the balance is hard.  

Last week I took the physical test for a job that I greatly want and will hopefully find out soon if I have been selected.  I want this position as much as I have ever wanted any job.  Being honest I know that it's not the "dream job" that I would love to have but I know that job will never occur for me again.  Yet I know that I need this position as it is stable and has wonderful pay and benefits.   I also know that if I am awarded the position I will miss out on seeing Ethan and Ian daily and that will be a loss.  

Laura shared this poem with me and I have been reading it over and over.  It has impacted me more than anything has in a long time and reminded me to keep in mind that while I am struggling professionally, I am a father and I love my children more than I love air itself.  
"The Last Time"  
From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before, 
When you have freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.

You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.
But don’t forget …
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed
your baby for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.
One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.
The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times.
And even then, it will take you a while to realize.
So while you are living in these times, remember there are only so many of them and when they are gone, you will year for just one more day of them.  For one last time.  
-Author Unknown-
You can also find this poem at My Kids Time (blog).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Can we be honest? Please.

One-hundred and fifty years ago the United States was not so "United".  Eleven states decided that the didn't want the Federal Government to impose laws upon them that would change the way of life they had grown accustomed to and so they made the decision to secede from the Union between 1860-61.  The movement quickly gained momentum after the November 1860 election of  Pres. Abraham Lincoln and within three months seven states had voted to secede.

South Carolina was so quick to move that both Senators resigned before the close of 1860 (before the newly elected Pres. Lincoln had taken office) and on 20 December 1860 the South Carolina State Legislature voted 169-0 to leave the Union, almost 90 days before Pres. Lincoln would assumed office on 4 March 1961.  Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas would all vote to leave the Union before 1 February 1961 or 31 days before Pres. Lincoln was sworn in.  On February 4, 1861 these states met in Montgomery (AL) and created a government they named "Confederate States of America" (CSA) and elected Jefferson Davis as President of the CSA.

Sen. John J. Crittenden (KY), before Pres. Lincoln took office, proposed the 36 - 30 degree line all the way to the Pacific and making all territories north of that line "free states" and all south would receive Federal Protection and slavery would be allowed.  Ever single Republican in office refused to support this measure.  Pres. James Buchanan, who was still in office, felt the succession was illegal but did nothing and chose to allow the situation to marinate until Pres. Lincoln would be sworn in.

While many have made the argument that the desire to leave the Union was based on "states rights", an "overreach" by the Federal Government or even "taxation / tariffs" the reality is that nearly every state that voted to leave the Union included language in their Declaration of Causes similar to South Carolina which stated; "The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor."   It was Jefferson Davis who said on the floor of the Mississippi Legislature in 1858 that, "It seems now to be probable that the Abolitionist and their allies will have control of the next House of Representatives, and it may well be inferred from their past course that they will attempt legislature both injuries and offensive to the south".  It's difficult for us to understand today but the reality is that slavery was an enormous engine of prosperity in an agricultural economy and any disruption would come at great cost to the slave holders.  If one looks at the 1860 US Census the fact is that there were 3,950,528 slaves in the United States and they accounted for 13% of the entire population.  To imagine simply allowing nearly four million workers "freedom" must have been a terrifying prospect for a community build on slavery.

Those are the facts.  It was understood that Pres. Lincoln and the Republican Party in office wanted to end slavery.  The congregation of folks that met in Jackson (MI) 1854 were specific with their intentions to end the humanitarian crisis that was slavery in America.  The southern politicians understood this and knew when Pres. Lincoln was elected that this ideal would be forwarded so too did the voters who elected Pres. Lincoln.  Pres. Lincoln took a firm position after the 1860 election that expanding slavery into new territory would not be permitted.

I am the forty-seven year old son of parents who were both born and raised in Kentucky.  Much of my family has a connection to the "south".  I have no clue if any of my family supported the Union or the Confederacy as my family history has not been well kept.  I know in doing my own research over the years that part of my family was considered by the US Government (1850 US Census Records) to be "non-white European", whatever the hell that means.  I know that I spent a good deal of my young adult life while in the Military and College in the South (N.C., S.C., GA and KY).

I love history and am proud of the fact that while America willingly engaged in slavery we also threw every bit of our dirty laundry into the streets and fought to end slavery.  We did so at the cost of more than 625,000 lives a figure that is higher than the American death toll in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War and the War's in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Slavery was and is wrong.  The southern states that made the decision to illegally succeed did so for one reason and only one reason - economics.  They did not want the Federal Government to change the use of slavery as it was the underpinning of the southern economy.

Today, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, when I see the Confederate Flag in a museum it reminds me of the most abhorrent time in American history and I am fine with that reminder in that context.  When I see folks using the Confederate Flag outside that context and then claiming it is somehow because they are "Southern by the Grace of God" or that "it's my heritage" all I can do is shake my head.  No person alive with any common sense can deny that the formation of the CSA was an effort to keep slavery not just alive but assured so that the agricultural economy of the south could be maintained.  As such the Confederate Flag represents the goal of allowing one class of human to own and control another.  There is nothing about that consistent with "God's Grace".

Some people do wear, wave or invoke the flag because they think it's about being a "rebel".  I can't and won't fault them for such ignorance.  It's the folks that are willfully oblivious to the very bigoted foundation of the flag and wish to evoke some grand "it's about heritage" argument that I find most confusing.  The last Civil War Veteran (Albert Woolson a drummer for the Grand Army of the Republic) died in 1954 some 61 years ago.  I doubt highly that most folks ever met Mr. Woolson or any other Civil War Veteran, The last American allegedly held as a slave (I say allegedly only because some have disputed), Sylvester Magee who died in 1971 (see note below).  There exist no argument that folks utilizing the Confederate Flag today are doing so only out of "history or heritage".  It wasn't until 1956 that Georgia changed their state flag and incorporated the Confederate Flag.  Mississippi adopted the Confederate Flag as part of their state flag in 1894.  Without question adopting this "symbol" wasn't about remembering or protecting history but about standing against civil rights.

Truth is the Confederate Flag is a symbol of bigotry.  It is a symbol of eleven states that chose to leave the Union because they did not want slavery to be changed as it would impact their economy.  As such those states willfully determined that it was more beneficial to keep other humans in slavery instead of granting them freedom.  That is the legacy of the Confederate Flag - period.  If someone is willing to embrace that honestly, OK, they have that right. However don't hide behind some grand ruse that it's only about "heritage" or about some grand "states rights".  It wasn't then and it isn't today.

Note:  Having read a ton about Mr. Magee, personally, I doubt that he was born in 1841.  It's difficult to believe that he lived to be 130 for me.  But there are many that accept the history as he shared it and I see no point in trying to argue against it without concrete proof.