Sunday, September 13, 2020

Reminiscing is EZ; International Travel, not so much.

A question posted to Quora asked: “Have you, as a U.S. citizen, ever been denied entry to another country?”  Well, pull up a chair, children. I've a tale to tell:

Oh, yes! In 1990 I was living in Okinawa, Japan, working for the U.S. Military as a health-and-safety specialist. We provided consultative services to all U.S. organizations (military, State Department, Health and Human Services, etc.) located anywhere on the western edge of the Pacific Rim area from Alaska to New Zealand. We received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia for some assistance. I was tagged to make the trip. At this time the only passport that I had was a 'red' U.S. official passport — I had used that for all official travel for two years with no problem — it is what the U.S. Government, as my employer, had issued me. What I didn’t know was that Indonesia, at that time, did NOT recognize the U.S. official passport. All entry by U.S. citizens into Indonesia had to be with the standard 'blue' passport, with, at the least, an airline-issued visa. As I said, I didn’t know. But the good folks from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta knew. They also knew that I would be traveling with my red passport and didn’t bother to tell me about this little ‘detail.’ My transit from Naha was on Northwest Airlines, and *they* didn’t object to my routing and travel documents, either.

Photo by Wendy on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

On my arrival at the customs and immigration desk in Jakarta, the immigration official, dressed in olive drab green military fatigues, took my passport, eyed it, then me, then it, then me…and loudly blew a big chromed whistle hanging from his neck. Looking up I saw two military uniformed men with semi-automatic-looking rifles hanging from their shoulders approaching rather rapidly. The man at the desk handed my passport to one of the military men and told me, “Go with them!” Well, what could I do? With one of the military men on either side of me, we proceeded to walk down the sloping floor of a long hallway away from the arrival area. This was distressing. This was pre- TSA and I’d never been treated like this. Even the facility seemed to echo doom and gloom with sickly yellow sulfur gas-discharge lamps overhead, dark and unpleasant colors on the concrete walls, and a black non-skid rubberized flooring surface. Visions of a dismal, damp concrete-and-steel cell swam through my mind. Ahead I could see large automated glass doors and beyond that a crowded arrival plaza.

As we approached the doors they slid open and, I swear, Agent K and Agent J from Men in Black, suits, ties, sunglasses and all, exited a big black Chevy Suburban and swept quickly into the building. Of course, it couldn't have been Agent K and Agent J. This was seven years before Men in Black was available for viewing. They approached the two Indonesian military men (the guys with the rifles) and began a rapid conversation in Indonesian, I assume. The conversation got a bit heated, with the sunglasses guys doing quite a bit of gesturing and head nodding. Finally, the taller of the sunglasses guys put an arm around the shoulder of one of the Indonesian military men and led him a few paces to the side—their conversation continued in a muted mumble for a few moments. Then the mood lightened and head-nodding seemed the new norm for the four of them. The taller of the sunglasses guys (Agent K?), now with my red passport in his hand, turned to me and said, in English, “Come with us”. Out the glass doors and into the back seat of the black Suburban we went.

As we drove away Agent J says, “Relax. We’re from the U.S. Embassy and we're taking you there.”

“My luggage…?” I asked.

“Taken care of.” Said Agent K.

So it was. I was taken to the embassy compound and introduced to the people I’d be working with for the next few days. They told me I was in the custody of the U.S. Embassy staff rather than in an Indonesian jail as a courtesy to the U.S. extended due to goodwill by President Suharto. The embassy official made it very clear that I was not, under any circumstances, to leave the embassy compound. Well, not too tough. I was escorted to a deluxe room near the embassy restaurant and club, poolside. There I found that all the creature comforts of a tropical resort were available for me in my off-duty time. Off duty staff, spouses, and family were relaxing around the pool outside my door. Some were being served exotic cocktails by white-coated wait staff. My luggage and professional equipment were already in my room. Not a bad way to spend a workweek.

When my work was done with the embassy’s medical staff, I got a ride in the black Suburban back to the airport where I was escorted by the two sunglassed agents into the custody, again, of armed uniformed guards. The guards took me to the outgoing customs/immigration desk where the officer there stamped my passport with the date and, in bright red, the words, “DEPORTED—REENTRY DENIED; DIUNDANG—DITENTUKAN.” I caught my Northwest Airlines flight back to Okinawa and found I’d been upgraded to international business class. I had not requested an upgrade.

So, this is how I got deported from Indonesia. It still irks me that the embassy staff there allowed me to walk into the situation unaware. In 1990, the internet was in its infancy, and it wasn’t so easy to research State Department advisories and travel information on the various countries. I had depended on the travel staff in Okinawa, the airline, and my U.S. Embassy hosts to let me know what I needed to know. In the end, they took good care of me, but I’ve got to admit to being a bit frightened as I was led away from the immigration clerk’s desk. Thanks, men in black, for keeping my week in Indonesia safe! 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Self-Knowledge? Not EZ!

I have found that I rarely know what I believe or what my opinion is on any given matter until I try to write about it.

Then, having written about it, I find that I need to amplify, clarify, or modify the thoughts expressed in my writing. 

Clarity of thought! Who has it?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Memes are not EZ.



A recent Facebook-posted meme gave me pause. It posed the question: Why does BLM have to answer for looters, but the NRA doesn't have to answer for school shooters. 

My first impression was that the root intent of that meme, rather than to call out any organization's failures, is to further drive a stake into the heart of our society's ailing and fragile unity. Further thought yielded the following: 

I am not an NRA member. I do not, in any way, support or defend the current 'leadership' of the NRA as I believe they are a corrupt and self-serving group of individuals who have cheated their membership and seriously need to be brought before the bar of justice. I also recognize that the NRA has morphed over the years into a very powerful lobbying entity. A separate issue to me, as I believe paid lobbying should be outlawed along with private money in federal politics in general. That's a long story--if interested, you could see my blog at for my opinion on money in politics.


The NRA was founded in 1871 by a lawyer and an NYT reporter. It was, in their words, to be an organization that promoted marksmanship, personal responsibility, and safety. The NRA firearm training is currently used to train over 1 million people a year to be safe, ethical, responsible shooters, and instructors. The current membership of the NRA consists of 40% women and 40% minorities with an average member age of 42. I am unable to find a single instance where an accredited NRA member (let alone an NRA leader) publicly called for violence or mass shootings or perpetrated such actions. There is nothing I can find in NRA literature that supports violence or unlawful behavior against persons or property.

So far as I can ascertain, there has NEVER been a mass-shooting done by an NRA member. National statistics show that legal gun owners are MUCH less likely to commit a felony than people who are either not gun-owners at all or hold guns unlawfully. In at least two cases near my former home in San Antonio, NRA members have been the 'good guys with guns' who stopped mass shootings from being much worse. First, in Austin at UTA in 1966 when Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother then calmly went and shot and killed 14 other innocents from the Bell Tower. That rampage was put to an end when an armed civilian and--NRA member--led two Austin police officers to the top of the tower where they could stop Whitman's rampage. More recently, in 2017, NRA-certified firearms instructor Stephen Williford interrupted, shot, and chased the man who killed 26 members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Has the NRA, as an organization, honorably fulfilled their duty to speak out against violence? Not in my opinion. They could and should do more.

On the other hand, instances of BLM supporters (and those called leaders within the decentralized organization) calling for violence and murder are legion. It has become so common since founding of the movement in 2012-2013 that it's hard to catalog them all. I find it interesting and amazing that BLM has received hundreds of millions of dollars of support (well over $200 million of it well-documented from oil heiress Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Thousand Currents [Susan Rosenberg's organization--you may recall that she is a convicted felon for bombing civilian buildings in the Northeast and D.C.], and the Ford Foundation) and has banking accounts but no official 'leaders.' Somebody has to sign a signature card for those bank accounts, and apparently, a great deal of the legal and financial work of BLM falls under the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. Somebody runs that organization, I'd wager.

As far back as early 2017, Yusra Khogali, a self-proclaimed BLM leader, called for the violent murder of all white people--lacking that, she supports genetically eliminating whites.

Patrice Cullors defines herself publicly as a 'trained Marxist' and says that her cofounders, Alicia Garza (winner of the Humanitarian Award for the Commission on Hispanic Affairs in my home state of Idaho) and Opel Tometi are also. She and her cohorts have the right to their beliefs and to speak on them. Two points: (1) I hope she understands that it is our liberal Constitution as interpreted through our courts after much sacrifice and hard work by those working for universal equal rights (a work that isn't completed yet) that guarantees her those rights*, and (2) I wonder who trained her? We do know that she is a protege of Eric Mann of the Weather Underground, an organization famous for espousing and committing violence. Ms. Cullors praises the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and the Brown Beret organizations, all with checkered histories of violence.

Having said this, I think you can see why I find it somewhat misinformed or disingenuous to compare BLM and NRA. It would have been much more correct, in my opinion, to compare BLM and the awful Proud Boys organization.

I wish to note that I support some, but not all, of the BLM movement's goals. In some cases my support has caveats. In particular, I support:

  • Ending mass incarceration for non-violent offenses
  • Reforming police structures and strategy and using enforcement funding in ways that support communities and mental health
  • Changes in policing culture to reduce/eliminate excessive use of force
  • Holding police officers and their leadership responsible for the unlawful treatment of citizens
  • Investment in public education (while ensuring the funds go to classrooms, teachers, and students and not just to administration and unions)
  • Decriminalizing sex work (without decriminalizing non-consensual sex trafficking)
  • Abolishing cash bail
  • Eliminating redlining in housing and business finances
  • Recognizing that no lives matter if black lives do not

While I support what I define as worthy goals, I will not speak in support of nor materially support any organization that promotes violence or mutely allows others to promote violence in their name. I have recently canceled my subscription to the Ford Foundation specifically because of the BLMs failure to condemn violence. I also do not support the NRA financially. 

* Added 9/6/2020: I believe the 'Founding Fathers' gave us a very valuable document in the Constitution as a starting point--they knew times would change and that much of it as accepted then was a compromise--thus they provided a process for improving and modifying the Constitution as needed over time. Perhaps the most precious part of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is a product of that process for modification.