Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shimon Peres is Gone, His Nukes Live On

When Will Trump Force Us All to Carry Our "Papers"? If You're Going to Deport 11 Million (or 30 Million) People, 300 Million Had Better Be Ready to Prove They are "Legal"

So, here's a simple statement of fact: If, as Trump suggests, we should have a vast new police force to deport 12 million people, how do the rest of us prove we're legal? The obvious answer is that, like in any police state, we'll have to be ready for cops who say "show me your papers." And that logic takes us very quickly to demands for a national ID card. As a half ironic column I wrote for Newsweek in 2010 suggests, I have learned to live with that sort of thing. But will Trump's core supporters accept such a system, obsessed as many of them are with the "slippery slope" of government interference in their lives? 

The 2010 column in excerpted below:


Why All Americans Should Carry ID Papers

All Americans—whether brown, white, or black—should be required to carry a passport showing they are red, white, and blue.

“As an American, I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport,” declared Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes, one of the sponsors of a resolution to boycott Arizona’s businesses because of its new immigration law. “If I come across an officer who’s having a bad day and feels that the picture on my ID is not me, I can be…deported, no questions asked,” the hyperbolic Reyes told the Los Angeles Times this week. “That is not American.’’

As it happens, when I was in Arizona for a conference last month I carried my passport everywhere I went. Not that I really expected to be asked for it: I was born in Tennessee and my Scots-Irish, English, German, and Danish forebears got me an exemption from such tribulations, even in Arizona, simply because they were all white. The fact is, I always carry my passport. After years living and working in Europe, the Middle East, and Central America, I’ve grown used to the idea that cops can ask me for my “papers” any time they choose.

In police states, this is a pretty ugly process—most often an attempt at intimidation, or extortion, or both. In democracies, it can be pretty ugly, too, and sometimes for the same reasons. But you get used to it, and if we’re serious about drawing lines against illegal immigration—which is all about defining who is a card-carrying American and who is not—a national ID is the obvious first step. Without it, we’re left guessing who “looks like” or “sounds like” a bona fide gringo.

So, to be fair, my modest proposal is that all Americans inside America, not just outside, should be required to have passports and to carry them at all times. Whenever any American is asked for an ID, he or she should have to produce one issued by the federal government. Those who fail to comply should be liable to detention until the cops who picked them up figure out if they’re really true red, white, and blue Americans, no matter whether they are black, brown, white or shades in between.

Of course, passports like the one I carry—the ones that are required if you want to fly into the United States—are expensive. Mine tend to wear out fast in my back pocket, and the last one I got cost a hundred bucks. So let’s be reasonable. At a minimum all Americans should be required to have one of the wallet-sized passport cards issued by the feds.  They cost $20 if you’ve had a regular passport before, $45 if you haven’t. Foreign citizens with United States Permanent Resident Cards, which have recently been redesigned and made more secure would only need to show those.
Anything less—the “biometric Social Security card” advocated by some Democrats on Capitol Hill, say, or the Real ID program to modify state drivers’ licenses as national IDs or the E-Verify program for businesses to check employees’ true nationalities—is really just a workaround that doesn’t work. These schemes also create whole new layers of bureaucracy and vast new burdens for law enforcement.

The Arizona legislation is a case in point. It fails to define “reasonable suspicion” for demanding proof of citizenship, then leaves the proof itself a little vague. In one recent case near Phoenix, a Hispanic truck driver whose license and registration were in order was taken to the offices of the immigration service in handcuffs while authorities called his wife at work and made her go home to find the birth certificate showing he was born in the U.S.A. And the new law won’t even take effect, officially, until July.

Do you carry your original birth certificate with you? Do you even know where it is? Do I really want to live in a United States where I have to carry my papers with me everywhere and all the time? No. But I don’t want any Americans of any race or with any accent to have to do so either. So if we’re going to do this at all—and maybe that is the price of rationalizing immigration policy—then let’s do it to all of us.

As things stand, if ever there were a license for corrupt local government officials and crazed citizens to intimidate a community, Arizona’s new laws fit the bill, as it were. Anyone discussing this much-discussed immigration law should take the time to read the text. It is xenophobic populism gone plum loco, as folks used to say in bad Westerns. ...

Article 8, Section G of the immigration law opens the way for local anti-immigration—and anti-Latino—zealots to sue the cops if they aren’t zealous enough pursuing supposedly suspicious people. This comes on top of existing Arizona legislation that encourages one of the most infamous police-state tactics of all: denunciation by anonymous letter, or, in modern practice, an anonymous phone call or e-mail. Do you have some Latinos in your neighborhood you don’t like? Call the cops and, without giving your name or real motives, whisper that there seem be a lot of people going in and out of a house or a shop at odd hours and you think most of them are speaking Spanish. If the police don’t follow up on that tip and, at a minimum, knock on your neighbors’ door, you can start building your case to sue the cops.

You see what’s going on here. This isn’t really about trying to protect national borders or help national authorities do that job, it’s about building a hodgepodge system of local vigilantism based on fear and prejudice, then trying to force the federal government to be complicit. We’ve seen this kind of thing again and again in U.S. history. Back in the 1850s the Know-Nothings organized around their hatred of Irish and other Catholic immigrants and briefly became a force in national politics. As Frank Rich pointed out in a recent New York Times column,  of the 35 members of the Arizona House who voted for the immigration bill, 31 voted for another law that would have barred any presidential candidate from appearing on the Arizona ballot in the next elections if he couldn’t provide a birth certificate that satisfied the Arizonans’ standards. So, ban Obama. But register guns with the federal government? Forget it. Too much paperwork. Too much invasion of privacy.

It’s this kind of self-contradicting conservatism, bordering on lunatic libertarianism, that leads to the crazy situation where people suspected of terrorist connections can be put on a no-fly list but not on a no-buy list for guns, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted in recent testimony on the Hill.

Well, enough of that. If we want to protect the nation from illegal immigration, and for that matter from terrorists, then it is the nation, precisely, that should be in charge, and part of the job should be issuing a uniform document to all citizens. Right now about 23 percent of Americans have some form of passport. Let’s make that 100 percent. And if you want to buy a gun, your passport number should be recorded in the purchase agreement and your record of travels and associations checked before you carry it out of the shop, whether your name is Faisal, Fernando, or Fred.

Are these revolutionary ideas? No. But raising these issues creates such political firestorms, such wildly distorted rhetoric and abuse in the United States these days that, well, I’m glad I’ve got my passport.

NOTE: In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down some portions of Arizona SB1070, but others remained in place. And the mindset behind it is now at the core of the Trump campaign.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My latest - The Socialite Spy Who Played So Dumb She Outsmarted the Nazis

Dear Friends, This Sunday I hope you find this latest installment in our Cloak & Dagger series as fascinating to read as I found it to write. What a life this woman led! All the best, Chris


Socialite as Spy story, which is really about how underestimated women were in her day, WWII, with the twist that that's what saved her life

Socialite Beat the Nazis By Playing Dumb

Big game hunter, legendary French Riviera partier, and a quintessential WASP—Gertrude Sanford was... MORE

Christopher Dickey
Author - "Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South"
World News Editor - The Daily Beast
Contributor - NBC/MSNBC News
Twitter and Instagram @csdickey

Friday, September 09, 2016

From 2006 - Flying Blind — Airline security needs to be based on common sense, not policies that will turn citizens into inmates of their own countries

Flying Blind

Airline security needs to be based on common sense, not policies that will turn citizens into inmates of their own countries

By Christopher Dickey
Updated: 10:44 a.m. ET Aug 29, 2006

Aug. 29, 2006 - Flying used to be about freedom. No matter where you intended to land, there was something magical about escaping to the heavens. Now, as we know, flying is more like going to prison, if not, indeed, to hell.

As it happens, I once spent a week interviewing inmates and staff at what was then the main “super-max” federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. It was the successor to Alcatraz, and the predecessor of the facility that opened in Florence, Colorado, in 1994. “Security” was its aim, its ethos, its excuse for everything. Life in Marion had so many grim limitations and restrictions that the worst of the worst criminals convicted in federal courts—spies, drug lords, racist murderers, gang leaders—actually would try to behave themselves in hopes they might someday get out of its peculiar purgatory, even though the greatest escape they could achieve was transfer to another federal pen.

The operative principle for prison security was that anything one inmate managed to make into a weapon would be taken away from everyone. Saran Wrap was a case in point. Sandwiches had come in it. But one of the inmates discovered a way to burn an aspirin tablet, generating enough heat to melt the wrap, harden it, and make a dagger, so no more cellophane on the sandwiches. Ditto bed springs. They could be cut, twisted and sharpened into weapons, so the beds were concrete slabs.

The cardboard backing on every legal pad at Marion was torn off because one prisoner managed to fashion it into a crude bomb filled with match heads, using bits of metal zipper as shrapnel. The most benign objects were, in the imagination of the inmates and the guards, potential deadly weapons. One by one, they were taken away until each convict’s life was made as barren as it could possibly be made.

"Big Brother is always watching," the warden at Marion told me. The basic goal was to keep prisoners safe from each other and alive: “pure security,” he called it. "Every day that goes by and no inmate or staff member is seriously hurt, we've accomplished our mission."

Doubtless those responsible for airline safety have a similarly fatalist, minimalist view, and not without cause. It’s been five years since September 11, 2001, when 19 men using box cutters on commercial flights changed the world forever. No one would ever want to see that again. But the draconian security measures taken after an alleged airline terror plot was revealed in Britain earlier this month have exposed the reductio ad absurdum of current thinking about what makes us safe, or not.

The last few days have seen a stunning series of exaggerated reactions to minor incidents. On Friday alone, half a dozen little security breaches or anonymous threats suddenly escalated into significant aircraft diversions or delays around the United States. Earlier last week, a United Airlines flight from London to Washington D.C. landed in Boston—accompanied by fighter jets—when a 59-year-old American woman named Catherine Mayo acted like a nut. She reportedly urinated outside the plane’s galley and allegedly mumbled something about Al Qaeda.

(Afterwards, it turned out Mayo has spent a lot of time traveling in Pakistan, ostensibly as a journalist. She wrote an article in 2003 for the English-language Daily Times there that blamed American psychiatrists for what she called the “manic depression” of the United States after 9/11. “This is a woman with very serious mental health issues,” Mayo’s public defender told the court in Boston during her initial hearing on Friday.)

And then there was Northwest Flight 042. When a dozen young Indian businessmen returning from a wedding boarded it in Amsterdam for the last leg of their flight home to Mumbai last week, they were in a decidedly rambunctious mood. (Although all were Muslim, it’s not clear how observant or abstemious they were.) They were trading seats, playing with their cell phones, allegedly refusing to turn them off, and some reportedly taunted the cabin crew by tossing the phones to each other.

American sky marshals on board got involved. About 10 minutes out from Amsterdam, the pilot wheeled around, escorted back to the ground by fighter jets (which seems to be standard operating procedure). The alleged troublemakers were hauled off, but Dutch officials then cleared them to fly home the next day.

The Indian press quickly declared the real “crime” of the businessmen was the color of their skin. "If brown equals terrorist, doesn't white equal racist?" suggested an editorial in the Hindustan Times. And knee-jerk prejudice might have played a role, but the essence of the problem lies in the fact that so much has come to seem sinister that overwhelmed security staff and paranoid passengers see threats everywhere they look: in a beard or a prayer, a cell phone or a soft drink.

By coincidence, a NEWSWEEK reporter was on the previous leg of Northwest Flight 042, which went from Minneapolis to Amsterdam that same day. Barbie Nadeau was returning home to Rome from vacation in the States with her husband and two little boys, ages 6 and 4. In Minnesota, the security obsession was less with skin tones and Motorolas than with run-of-the-mill liquids. Parents of little kids were watched especially closely, it seemed, because the screeners suspected they might be smuggling boxes of juice on board.

As Nadeau points out in an e-mail, her family’s two carry-on bags had enough electronics in them to wire a missile: “a laptop, a portable DVD player, a sound-blaster adapter and headphones, two cell phones, four MP3 players with headphones, a BlackBerry, a brick of AA batteries and two hand-held video games.” The security woman paid them no attention. “She dug around the electronics, searching for juice. About three other moms nearby were going through the same harassment…”

Nadeau concedes that the screeners and airline staff were just doing their job, “but it struck me that the security was so focused on finding and confiscating any liquid item, they were actually not focusing on any other potentially suspicious things anyone might be carrying. Case in point: nail clippers. I didn't realize they were in my bag, but they got by in Minneapolis, only to be confiscated in Amsterdam.”

Ah, yes, nail clippers. I have searched in vain for the example of nail clippers being used to hijack an airplane—on the face of it a pretty ludicrous proposition—but I guess someone could imagine they might be. Just as Saran Wrap can become a dagger. Or the cardboard back of a legal pad can be made into a bomb with zipper shrapnel.

We are walking in our socks through security checks, you realize, not because anybody ever succeeded in blowing up a plane with explosive shoes, but because one man tried and failed. Moms are surreptitiously smuggling juice boxes for their kids because the alleged plotters in Britain reportedly wanted to mix up explosives on board planes using different liquid components. But recent reporting on that case suggests they may not have known what they were doing, or how to do it.

Should we be concerned and careful? Yes. And we shouldn’t think there are easy answers. The much-vaunted Israeli model for airline security works at one single airport, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion, and with one small airline overseas, El Al, using highly educated screeners, many of whom are performing their national military service. Can the U.S. use the same psychological profiling techniques at hundreds of airports with screeners paid a little over the minimum wage and, perhaps, a high school diploma? Doubtful. Is better physical screening the answer? Bernard E. Harcourt, a professor at the University of Chicago who has written extensively on these issues suggested in an International Herald Tribune op-ed last week that the best approach would be “to eliminate most carry-ons and emulate high-security prisons…”

In fact, security systems will continue evolving, as will terrorist efforts to get around them. But the policies that develop in that process have to be based on a cool, common sense assessment of the real threats, not sensationalism and cover-your-ass bureaucracy. The failed dreams of would-be terrorists cannot be the measure of the threat against us. To achieve “pure security,” in the end, Americans would have to become inmates of their own country.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Death on the Serpent River: How, Why and Where Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon Disappeared

Links to Jeremy Kryt's enthralling series for The Daily Beast on the lost girls of Panama. It's based on new evidence and interviews with internationally recognized forensic experts, including Dr. Kathy Reichs, along with additional reporting in the Netherlands by Nadette De Visser.

Part 1:

Death on the Serpent River: How the Lost Girls of Panama Disappeared

Part 2:
The Last Man to See the Lost Girls of Panama Alive

Part 3:
The Lost Girls of Panama: The Camera, the Jungle, and the Bones

... When reviewed chronologically, by time stamp, the “night pictures” turn out to reveal a strange but definite pattern ...

Friday, August 05, 2016

Underlining "Pederasty" in the "Terminal Essay" of R. F. Burton's "The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night"

After the atrocity at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando a few weeks ago, as questions of homophobia and Islam dominated the headlines, I pulled off the shelf my copy of the excellent three-volume Heritage Press edition of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainment Made and Annotated By Richard F. Burton. It's the annotations, even more than the tales, that have fascinated readers for, now, more than 130 years.
Burton was, of course, one of the most famous explorers, libertines and spies of the 19th century, a larger than life character limned in many biographies and sagas, including Fawn Brodie's The Devil Drives, Alan Moorehead's The White Nile, and the Bob Rafelson movie, "Mountains of the Moon," in which he was played by Patrick Bergin opposite Iain Glen (now best known as Ser Jorah in "Game of Thrones"), who depicted Burton's upper-crust companion and nemesis John Hanning Speke.

A more devoted and unabashed Orientalist than Burton would be hard to find, with all the attendant evils so well documented by the late Edward Saïd. But as even Saïd conceded on occasion, there were things to be learned from such people.

Burton's "Terminal Essay" about sex and gender in The East, including and especially the Muslim world, remains one of the most unabashed and provocative essays ever written on the subject.

As I cracked open Volume 3, I discovered the part of the essay dealing with pederasty was marked with an old 10,000 rial note from Iran, which I must have left there during a visit to the Islamic Republic in the 1990s. I am sure the Ayatollah would not approve.

Burton begins with a brief passage about his supposedly secret report on the boy brothels of Karachi when he was serving with the occupying army there. Some no doubt were frequented by British officers, and the report got him fired. 

He then goes on to his more scholarly research, delineating what he calls "The Sotadic Zone," a pretty vast, largely tropical portion of the world's topography where the vice of pederasty (men and boys or "youths") is "held at worst to be a mere peccadillo." And he devotes several pages to its history, embracing many cultures and religions. 

Burton notes, for instance, "Socrates declared that 'a most valiant army might be composed of boys and their lovers; for that of all men they would be most ashamed to desert one another.'"

Yes, he writes, "pederasty is forbidden by the Koran." 

Even today in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, and in ISIS-land, among other places, homosexuality is punishable by death, often in truly cruel and too-usual ways. The so-called Islamic State, as we know, throws gays from the tops of buildings. In July 2016 a 19-year-old boy was hanged in Iran for anal "rape," but as Amnesty International pointed out, the legal vagaries of Iranian law law are such that the "passive" partner has to claim he was raped or face the death penalty himself.

Burton demonstrates just how commonplace homosexuality, and especially pederasty, is in the history of some of those same countries that now make it a capital crime, including Afghanistan, Persia and Mali. 

Citing the passages in the Quran that are used to condemn homosexuality, Burton retells the story of Sodom and Gomorrah with a more than cynical eye. For those who haven't reread the holy texts recently, the original story of the Old Testament is retold in the Quran with a few bits of color added. Essentially, three angels visit the prophet Lot in the guise of beautiful young men. A crowd of not-so-attractive Sodomites gathers outside lusting after them. Things get ugly and the angels destroy the "cities of the plain," which Burton rightly suggests were more likely peasant villages.

"These circumstantial unfacts" — wonderful phrase! — "are repeated at full length ... rather as an instance of Allah's power than as a warning against pederasty, which Mohammed seems to have regarded with philosophic indifference."

Burton then takes us on a devilish tour of the Sotadic Middle East, noting in passing that "the great and glorious Saladin was a habitual pederast."

He concludes by telling us, not without some admiration, it would seem, "the Arab enjoys the startling and lively contrast of extreme virtue and horrible vice placed in juxtaposition."

One might have said the same of many men in Victorian England, as Burton well knew. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kick Back on This #Summer #Sunday With Great Reads on @TheDailyBeast


07.31.16 7:00 AM ET

Trump Versus Hitler: What We Can Learn From Weimar Germany

The US is not facing a Weimar Moment’ as the Germans did when they first elected Hitler, but the comparisons between the Fuhrer and Trump warrant thought.


07.30.16 6:15 AM ET

The Last Man To See The Lost Girls of Panama Alive

The mysterious deaths of two young tourists in Panama puzzled examiners and shocked nations on both sides of the Atlantic; now secretly leaked documents could reveal what happened.


07.30.16 6:13 AM ET

The Epic Honey Trap: A Classic Case Shows Just How Far Moscow Will Go

The French ambassador looked like an easy target, but 100 operatives were called on to get him laid, and get him recruited.


07.30.16 6:03 AM ET

When ‘Taking Our Country Back’ Led to a Massacre

In the aftermath of the Civil War, devotees of the Lost Cause wanted to take back America, and proceeded to slaughter African Americans.


07.30.16 6:01 AM ET

Is This Famous Samurai Sword Missing In America?

Considered one of the best swords to have ever been crafted, the Honjo Masamune has lived a storied life over the past seven centuries—but its whereabouts today are a mystery.


07.29.16 9:45 PM ET

Muslim War Hero Sacrificed Himself for All Americans, Including Donald Trump

The Republican says he “sacrificed greatly” to run for president. Whatever that means, it’s nothing compared to what Capt. Humayun Khan did.


07.30.16 6:01 AM ET

He Nailed His Scrotum to Red Square and Set the FSB On Fire

Among those who protest the increasingly authoritarian rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin, few are more creative, outrageous or brave than Petr Pavlensky.


07.29.16 7:03 AM ET

ISIS Wants a Global Civil War

From the murder of a French priest to the slaughter of 80 Shia Muslims in Kabul, ISIS has one goal: to get states and the far-right to single out Sunni Muslims and create a spate of religious civil wars across the world.


07.26.16 5:43 PM ET

ISIS Jihadists, Mass Shooters: What’s Happening to the World?

Every day, there’s a fresh atrocity, from jihadists attacking a church in France to gun rampages in the U.S.—and there are patterns to the madness.