Are we having terror yet? Naturalizing the Cultural and Culturalizing the Natural

by ann summers


“They have weapons. F*ck them. We have champagne!”

(Charlie Hebdo’s response to recent Paris attacks)

                           #Daesh bullshit…


Terrorism is natural in the sense that it engages fight and flight, but in the French case the other behavioral mnemonics of feeding and fornicating are perhaps always more important.

In this case, and stereotypes aside, French resilience in the face of recent attacks by Daesh has been strong despite the usual contradictions none the least of which is to control environmentalists’ protest under the state of emergency during the subsequent Climate conference.

The slickness of Daesh’s print publications like Dabiq, cannot in fact have much effect except on those who accept the convention of such media. Our best defenses against such events is to mobilize against it in a way that does not accept its premises. Recognizing and resisting its asymmetry is one method of defeating it. Another is unfortunately the increased military enlistment in France as a result of the attacks.

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Word Cloud Resized


Conspicuous consumption is a term introduced by the Norwegian-American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class. The term refers to consumers who buy expensive items to display wealth and income rather than to cover their real needs.

Pecuniary Emulation is defined by Veblen as the tendency of lower class individuals to conspicuously consume or imitate the spending habits of members of the upper class in order to appear to be a member of the upper class.

‘Tis the Season.

Shopping Mall Mobbed - large

Black Friday,
The Shopping Poem

by John F. McCullagh

The people crowd the entrances
at Malls all over town.
To seize the choicest bargain deals, 
They’d gladly knock you down.
The retailers all hold their breath
as shopping gets in gear.
Will Santa fill his sleigh as hoped? 
– or lay off more Reindeer? 
There are plastic toys from China
colored with suspicious paint.
Whip out your last credit card
(when you see the bills, you’ll faint.) 
“The children must have Christmas! “
No request will be denied.
Never mind your youngest child
has just turned thirty five.
Don’t forget a gift for you
Don’t you deserve the best? 
Shopping is such good therapy
for the financially depressed 

Even in the midst of all the frantic shopping and decorating, there are the ever-present headlines reminding us that Peace on Earth is only a dream. So very little has changed since Denise Levertov wrote these words over 20 years ago:

In California During The Gulf War

Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among
trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts,
the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought,

certain airy white blossoms punctually
reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink–
a delicate abundance. They seemed

like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed
festival day, unaware of the year’s events, not perceiving
the sackcloth others were wearing.

To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well
with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue,
daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons.

Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches
more lightly than birds alert for flight,
lifted the sunken heart

even against its will.
But not
as symbols of hope: they were flimsy
as our resistance to the crimes committed

–again, again–in our name; and yes, they return,
year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy
over against the dark glare

of evil days. They are, and their presence
is quietness ineffable–and the bombings are, were,
no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany

simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms
were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed
the war had ended, it had not ended. 

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Posted in Holidays, Poetry, Society, United States, Word Cloud | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

When It’s Your Turn To Cook The Bird

By Jim Foreman, Guest Blogger

Jim Foreman

Jim Foreman, cowboy, pilot, storyteller

Jim Foreman tells me he wrote this twenty years ago for a women’s magazine. It has been republished, somewhere, every year since then. I suggested to him that it would be a shame to break the chain this year, so here is one of his most read pieces, ever.

It’s the story of when it is your turn to cook the turkey.

Chuck Stanley


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Posted in Edible Flowers, Holidays, Humor, Literature | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Steve King (R-IA) and his Fighting boy named City of Light

By ann summers

This week, and after several years of due diligence, the Fighting Sioux sports teams of the University of North Dakota became the Fighting Hawks and retained the iconographic features of its prior logo in the new avian one.

Similarly Steve King (R-IA) in the spirit of the conservative summits in his primary caucus state, projected the xenophobic fight against the forces of evil onto those seeking refuge in the USA’s heartland.

We’ll purge everybody that we can identify that might even be in question and we’ll start all over with a new security system

Not Joseph Stalin, but that Iron man of the Iowa Caucuses, Steve King, who believes that the USA is not fecked enough and that the White House is a feck-free zone.

“We’ve got a feckless president that can’t — we can’t win a war without a commander-in-chief, we have a commander-in-chief that won’t let us fight it, so we’re vulnerable here in America and we’re vulnerable because he has established a feckless administration that does not do their due diligence,” King said.

King was asked if he thought ISIS terrorists would slip into the United States through the refugee resettlement program, in the context of a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report finding 73 TSA workers were on government terrorist watch lists.

“And when something like this pops up, if I’m running a shop like that we’re gonna do all hands on deck and we’re gonna fix that problem,” continued King. “We’ll purge everybody that we can identify that might even be in question and we’ll start all over with a new security system. But he’s got a different idea about what merits should be like.”

America’s high value target will apparently be the Missouri River’s own City of Light, Sioux City. All hands on the shop-deck!

Posted in 2016 Election, 9-11, Barack Obama, European Union, France, Fundamentalism, History, Immigrants, Syria, Uncategorized, United States, War, War on "Terror" | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Word Cloud: GRATEFUL

Word Cloud Resized



For many Americans, it’s feasting on turkey and all the fixings with family and friends, watching football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, and then nodding off with a mild case of indigestion.

This must be the most famous poem about the holiday, first published in 1844, because it became THE Thanksgiving song:

Thanksgiving Day aka
The New-England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day

by Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
To grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting-hound!
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
And straight through the barn-yard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow,—
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood—
Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

Over the river and through the woods

But it’s not all good cheer and pumpkin pie.

“It is also November. The noons are more laconic and the sundowns sterner, and the Gibraltar lights make the village foreign. November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”

Emily Dickinson

in a letter to Mrs. J. G. Holland
(Elizabeth Chapin Holland), November, 1864

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France, Terrorists and the War That is not a war.

by Chuck Stanley

Other than those affected directly, I am probably handling this less well than most here.

Especially affecting me is the death of 23 y/o Nohemi Gonzalez.

It has been only five short months since I watched my own youngest daughter draw her last breath. Brandi said, “No one should die alone,” but Nohemi died alone halfway around the world from her parents and loved ones.

She and dozens more, died at the hands of criminals. It is as simple, and as complicated, as that.

Drawing back from my role as a father and a citizen, let me put on my expert hat for a moment. I have worked with law enforcement for four decades. We are also a military family, so I understand both worlds. However, speaking as an interrogator and frequent consultant on cases of violence, this spate of attacks is NOT WAR!

I wish national and military leaders, as well as media, would stop using that word. More military in the traditional sense is not the answer. All these attacks should be handled as criminal investigations. Having said that, I am not averse to highly surgical drone strikes. I have killed enough poisonous snakes over my lifetime to know the best way to kill a snake is to cut off its head.

Nor am I averse to using the military for its intelligence and surveillance capabilities. But….we sure as hell don’t need more big bombers and massive warships that one of them, all by itself, has more destructive capability than the entire Axis military of WW2.

We need better gumshoe criminal investigators, skilled interrogators, and more HUMIT (trade term for ‘human intelligence’). The latest Intel out of France indicates at least some of the attackers were using PlayStation 4 for their communications. If one thinks about it, that’s a perfect medium for circumventing the usual NSA and CIA data vacuuming systems, such as Prism.

Consider this. Many of the games one can play online are about war and military operations. Code of Honor, Call of Duty Black Ops, Medal of Honor Warfighter, and countless others involve gathering weapons and targeting “the enemy.” Such communications are hiding in plain sight, encryption or no encryption.

If the NSA scoops up all these communications, talk of weaponry and targeting is part of the games. Additionally, the simple ruses used by the Navajo Code Talkers not only used their native Navajo language, they used metaphors. That was in case the Japanese did figure out the language. When they captured and tortured a native Navajo speaker on Bataan, even he could not decipher what they were talking about. Submarines were fish. Airplanes were various kinds of birds, tanks were tortoises, and so forth.

That Navajo POW was forced to listen to the jumbled words of talker transmissions. After he was liberated, he told one of the code talkers, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”

The only way to solve that particular problem is infiltration of the criminal cells. Befriend the actors so as to learn their intentions. Cracking encoded and disguised transmissions are not likely to work, or if they do, will probably not work very well in situations where the lone wolf operator is at work, and speed is of the essence.

When suspects are captured, skilled interrogation is essential. That means using soundHanns-Joachim Gottlob Scharff
techniques such as the types of interrogation developed by Obergefreiter Hanns Sharff of the Luftwaffe (left photo), and US Marine Major Sherwood F. Moran Major Sherwood Moran interrogating a Japanese prisoner in the Pacific Theater, WWII

Major Sherwood Moran interrogating a Japanese prisoner in the Pacific Theater, WWII
during WW2. (right photo)

The sociopathic techniques of Dick Cheney and his enablers are not interrogations. They are punishment, designed to satiate the sadistic needs and wishes of the captors instead of gathering intelligence.

I was once “interviewing” someone who had been reticent to talk. An expert with decades of experience stood by watching. Later, she simply shook her head, saying, “You got more information in six minutes than I have gotten in six weeks.”

It’s not hard. All you need to do is listen and use good communication skills. Incidentally, that has been a lifelong interest of mine. I did my doctoral dissertation on the subject of communication skills and how easily a poor communicator can go off into the weeds, causing more harm than good.

If this were a “war” in the truest sense of the word, the criminals would have been lobbing mortar shells into that stadium and theater instead of blowing themselves up. Come to think of it, in a real war, military targets are selected. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a true warlike military attack. The Blitzkrieg was a military attack.  The invasion of Poland was a military attack. Even Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was a military attack.

Shooting people in a theater or restaurant is not a military attack. It is not war. It is an act of raw, psychopathic, criminality and should be treated as such.

As for our response, area bombing is a waste of perfectly good explosives and counterproductive to boot. Highly accurate surgical strikes by drones, helicopters or A-10 Warthogs are probably more useful than high level strikes by a B-52 or B-2.  Or even strikes by fast movers like Tornadoes, F-16s, and Mirage jets.

The civilized world does not have a war with Islam or Muslim believers. The fight is with a cabal of criminals who have a cult following. They are not the least interested in negotiation or peaceful coexistence. They consider it an honor to die for their cause, so threats of death or annihilation are empty threats. Their goal is to convert the entire world to Islam. Not ordinary Islam, but their own particular extreme brand. Part of that is to recruit gullible and alienated young people to their cause.

My very bright and perceptive granddaughter observed they are attracting the exact same sort of young person who would have been a follower of Jim Jones, Charles Manson, fringe religious cults, or other movements that give them a sense of identity and worth in otherwise aimless and disaffected lives.

It’s no surprise to me that every one of the young perpetrators of the Paris bombings and shootings have reported histories of petty crime.

It seems clear that they are trying to drive a psychological wedge between the average Muslim and the rest of the world. To some extent it is working. One of the best psychiatrists in our area was a rather moderate Muslim who had generally liberal views. However, after his home was firebombed and shot into, he said he had enough and was taking a job in Saudi Arabia. He told me he had a wife and kids to think about, and living here wasn’t tolerable, thanks to mouth-breathing knuckledraggers who no doubt flew giant Rebel flags from their pickup trucks.

The cost to our community is that the mental health center no longer has a single psychiatrist to whom I am willing to refer any of my clients. Formerly I referred all my clients with mental health issues, even the most fundamentalist Christian ones, to Dr. Ali al Garatli. They all loved him. Thanks a hell of a lot to the criminal elements of al Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL.

Back to the war issue. I repeat; this is not a war. It is a criminal investigation, requiring criminal investigation expertise and proper adjudication when the criminals are caught. If they prefer death to capture, I am not above accommodating them. If there are to be “boots on the ground,” I agree with Col. Jack Jacobs this evening when he said we don’t need to go in with a division, or multiple divisions.

Boots in these cases means special operations groups, made of small highly trained elite squads. We have Delta Force and the Seal teams. The Brits have the SAS, and Russians have Spetsnaz. If there were a ever a reason for common cause, where Obama, Putin, Cameron, and other national leaders could find common ground to meld forces, intelligence and cooperation, this is it. And make no mistake, those special forces groups can do things even science fiction writers would have trouble believing.

To do otherwise makes about as much sense as bombing Bogota in order to eliminate the drug cartels there.

So to those who say we are “at war,” my response is to tell them shut the hell up until you begin to have a clue as to what you are talking about.

Posted in France, Terrorists, War | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments


By ann summers

Expect airstrikes in Syria and some serious covert work to resolve the crisis even though in each case, AfPak, Iran/Iraq/Syria, and even Yemen, regional alliances would best serve the causes of peace. This is not the way most people would like be called Parisians.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Democracy, European Union, Foreign Policy, France, History, Iraq, Islam, Media, Memorial, Political Science, Syria, War | Tagged , | 3 Comments