Blog Archives

Key failure of Afghan war plays out in “Great Escape”

dalton-fury-21Somebody in George W. Bush’s inner circle of advisers had to have been aware of Afghanistan’s reputation before he sent American troops over the border in 2001. The landlocked central Asian nation is known as the “Graveyard of Empires,” having turned back armies led by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, as well as British invaders and Soviet forces. That history colors Al Qaeda’s Great Escape in a prologue that includes a few eloquent passages from Winston Churchill’s coverage of the nineteenth century “Malakand Expedition” for the Daily Telegraph. His commentary haunts everything that follows, as does Philip Smucker’s occasionally dark thoughts about front-line journalism, an experience he equated with returning from an “abyss populated by bloody babies and headless rebels.” Continue reading

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September 6, 2017 · 10:35 pm

Torch-lit march ignited stress-test of American society

170812-charlottesville-car-crash-graphic-ew-413p_e44f0fc9685f46fbb60af1f6a2963c17-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000There was something surreal about watching footage of “Unite the Right” demonstrators marching across the University of Virginia campus chanting “white lives matter” and “you will not replace us.” Reports of “scuffles” with counterprotesters were in the news by Saturday. Nobody could have known just what a storm they were unleashing, one that would rattle the White House and cause aftershocks that reached Southern California’s Hollywood Forever cemetery. Another demonstration followed on Saturday to protest the planned removal of a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It was disrupted by police just after Noon when a group organized by local activists was met by counterprotesters; the two sides regrouped and faced off again later in the day as police reportedly stood by, unable or unwilling to keep the two factions apart. The crowd of rivals is the one a twenty-year-old drove his Dodge coupe into before fleeing the scene. Continue reading

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August 22, 2017 · 9:59 pm

American Symphony plays on, despite off-key Notes

144579-fullThere was a sense of Trump fatigue when news of another march appeared on the front page of the local newspaper, then spread online to outlets like DailyNews.com, Breitbart.com, KTLA News, and YouTube. These protests have been occurring fairly regularly since inauguration day, sometimes branded as a “Women’s March” or a “March for Science.” Another group called for impeachment and they, like the group at Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, were confronted by pro-Trump demonstrators who cloak themselves in the flag and chant “USA! USA!” A pair of clever posts by a fellow blogger started the gears turning, now the sight of a folder without any timely yet incomplete drafts in it has motivated me to grapple with my own feelings about American civics, government, and politics. There’s also the little matter of what “great” means in a country governed by a former reality TV star promising to bring back what may have never gone away. Continue reading

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August 13, 2017 · 11:28 pm

Hackers still prowling, no Firewall in sight

russiaThere were no clocks on CNN counting down to Jeh Jonson’s appearance in front of the House Intelligence Committee in June. The former Homeland Security (DHS) chief’s testimony did not draw curious and committed spectators to pubs and coffeehouses serving spiked java or “Im-PEACH-mints” so they could watch a heavyweight showdown like the one between a sitting president and the FBI director he fired. Johnson met those low expectations while contributing little to the discussion about alleged collusion and obstruction aimed at the Trump campaign and a rookie president. He was on Capitol Hill to talk about another president who is under fire for ordering an “influence campaign” to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and defuse a related assertion. In the process Johnson reintroduced another aspect of this alleged attempt to assist the former Celebrity Apprentice host that has been relegated to the undercard of public interest by cloak-and-dagger intrigue. Continue reading

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July 20, 2017 · 8:27 pm

When Clouds cross the sky, don’t ask El Sol why: part 2

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Chapter Two: The group huddled, but before anyone could cast their vote an Arco sign appeared in the distance. A purple square fronted the neighboring store, one with orange letters that spelled out Rainbow Donuts. They had arrived, but were going the wrong way and already passed the first available left turn lane. It was quiet that night, but there was enough traffic on the road to prevent a quick U-turn: a Subaru passed by, then a Kia and a pair of black-and-white cruisers with their lights on and sirens off.

Gwen pursed her lips. “That’s weird.”

A moment passed before the Nissan circled around to make its way toward Seaside Estates and those warm beds within. When the car’s headlights found its gates they shone on a pair of modest, turquoise pillars and a sliding gold-flecked gate; the push-button box mounted on the median was their way in. Mark pressed the big, square button under its speaker. The reply was unexpectedly blunt.

“Who’s there?”

“Hi, yeah, I have a reservation for Edith Tilton,” Mark replied. “We’re friends of hers…she’s not here, but she called ahead, talked to Adam about this.”

The box squawked, “Just a minute,” then went silent. Continue reading

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July 5, 2017 · 11:37 pm

Clippers cruising into a Summer of change

doc-paul-griffin-20140512_5b7ea360820540349a9632e3065cc677By the time staffers at Staples Center started removing the Clippers’ logo from its hardwood floor and pulling down banners writers and pundits like Bill Plaschke and Jim Rome made it clear what management should do: break up a struggling team. The former San Diego franchise has been maddeningly inconsistent — they’ve lost five straight playoff series while giving up a one, or two, game lead and seen their star forward go home injured twice. But the Clippers also won 50 games in each of the past five seasons. They can handle challenges, like a seven game series against the Spurs in 2015, won on a last-second shot in a San Antonio by Chris Paul. The Clippers’ first round loss to the Jazz did more than remind fans and reporters of their weaknesses, it’s inviting speculation about how many players will leave Los Angeles via free agency and what management will do next. Continue reading

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June 25, 2017 · 1:11 am

What does victory in the War on Terror look like?

5th-ariana-grande-concert-bombin-1024x576The ringing tones that echoed from Manchester last month were all too familiar: another concert bombed, another group of innocents killed by an aspiring martyr, another round of prayers, condemnations, and public mourning. It was like something out of a nightmare, and that was before survivors and observers learned how this guided missile eluded security by attacking as concertgoers were leaving the arena. His timing couldn’t have been better — the Manchester bomber struck while his ideological brethren were making headlines in the Philippines and Egypt. The army that wears no uniform and does not represent a nation seems to be on the march all over the world, but something else echoed from the blast that doesn’t involve TNT or homemade shrapnel. Continue reading

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June 14, 2017 · 10:54 pm