The Expat Diet

Both the Travel Channel and the Food Channel have a lot to answer for.

They have raised traveler’s expectations about all the wonderful food and drink to be found in the far corners of the earth.
Take it from me, a former resident of both Mexico and Thailand, that the culinary glitter wears off after just a few days as a strange eater in a strange land.
It’s true the local beer is always cheap. But it’s also always lukewarm. You have to pour it over ice. And that ruins it for some people.
Street food in countries like Thailand and Mexico is fun to sample. But do yourself a favor the next time you’re tempted to eat from a cart on a busy soi (street) in Bangkok — observe how dishes, bowls and utensils are washed. They ARE washed, no doubt about that — the interesting part is to see how one small tub of water makes do for both washing and rinsing, and is never changed during the long, hot day and into the sultry evening.
One last thought . . . Third World countries may be big into freshness and organic, but that means they typically use night soil.
If you’ve ever sampled a piece of tripe that was not quite cleaned enough, you know what I mean . . .


The food overseas is amazing; it’s spicy, exotic and raw.

The food overseas is inviting — it may take you all day to gnaw.

An expat who isn’t too choosy can feast on all sorts of strange buns.

But if he ain’t careful he’ll wind up with such a bad case of the runs.

The food overseas never costs much — that is if you eat like the folk

who live in that country. Believe me, a Big Mac is just a sad joke.

I will not eat bugs or weird fungi, not even if locals insist.

3 things that an expat should not do are eat crap, complain, or be kissed.


NSA Approved


Allison Croghan, at Fox 13 News.
Allison Croghan, at Fox 13 News.


On a whim I sent away for a self-inking stamp that prints: “N.S.A. Approved.”

That was about 2 years ago.  Since then I have stamped about one-hundred one dollar bills, right over George Washington’s portrait, and mailed them out to various people – most of whom I don’t know.

I’ve sent stamped dollar bills to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney, Brad Pitt, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Jordana Green, Calvin Trillin, Stephen King, various ministers, pastors and priests, the Mayor and City Council of Provo, Robert Kirby and Paul Rolly at the Salt Lake Tribune, members of the Supreme Court, Orrin Hatch and other members of Congress, and the Head of the National Security Administration Keith B. Alexander; and have only ever heard back from one of them – that was from the Norwegian Ambassador in Washington, Kare R. Aas. He thanked me for my “thoughtful item”. I got the feeling he didn’t know what to do with it, or what it meant.

This week I decided to carry on with this eccentric project by sending stamped dollar bills to most of the news staff at Fox 13 News in Salt Lake City. The list, which is completely arbitrary, includes:

  • Zach Whitney
  • Ben Winslow
  • Damon Yauney
  • Allison Croghan
  • Big Budah
  • Kerri Cronk
  • Annie Cutler
  • Matt McDonald
  • Bailey McMurdie
  • Hope Woodside

Things I’m wondering are:

  • Do they open their own mail?
  • If someone else opens their mail, will they even get the dollar?
  • How will they respond when I send this blog to them as a News Tip?
  • How deep does insanity run in my family?
  • How long does it take for a letter to go from Provo to Salt Lake?
  • Will the USPS deliver all ten letters at the same time?

Why am I doing this? Pure mischief. Unabashed self-promotion. Curiosity. And maybe I’m making a political statement.

Stay tuned for further developments . . .

President Obama’s Secret ISIS Letter.


Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  released the following statement on reports that President Obama sent a secret letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urging him to join the fight against ISIS:

“It is outrageous that, while the cries of moderate Syrian forces for greater U.S. assistance fall on deaf ears in the White House, President Obama is apparently urging Ayatollah Khamenei to join the fight against ISIS. This is the same Iranian regime that has been complicit in the rise of ISIS by pushing a violent sectarian agenda throughout the Middle East — backing radical Shia militias and politicians in Iraq, doing everything in its power to aid the killing machine of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, arming Hamas terrorists with advanced rockets in Gaza, and orchestrating Hezbollah’s dispatch of thousands of fighters from Lebanon into Syria.

“The Administration needs to understand that this Iranian regime cares more about trying to weaken America and push us out of the Middle East than cooperating with us. Until we recognize that reality, and formulate a regional strategy to counter the Iranian regime’s malign influence, we will continue to harm U.S. national security interests, as well as our relationships with our closest regional allies and partners, in pursuit of the illusory goal of rapprochement with the current Iranian leadership. The consequences of this ill-conceived bargain would destroy the Syrians’ last best chance to live in freedom from the brutal Assad regime.”



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NFL Drags Feet on Random Drug Testing of Players.


Washington, D.C. ­– With the NFL season set to kick off  soon, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today sent a letter to National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith expressing disappointment with the league’s failure to implement random testing for use of human growth hormone (hGH), despite their commitment to do so three years ago.

“With the new National Football League (NFL) season set to kick off tomorrow night, I write to express profound disappointment that random testing for human growth hormone (hGH) has still not been implemented in the NFL despite all sides committing to it more than three years ago in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement,” writes Senator McCain. “This inexplicable failure should be embarrassing to both owners and players, as it erodes fans’ confidence in the integrity of a great American sport, and sends a dangerous message to young athletes that there are no consequences for hGH use by the NFL players they admire and seek to emulate. Adding to the urgency of this situation is a new national study published in July by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids finding that experimentation with hGH among American teenagers has doubled in the last year. … This study should serve as a wake-up call to the entire NFL community, that it must fulfill its responsibilities to set the standard for clean competition and serve as a positive, healthy example to young athletes across the country and the world.”



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The Horror Hidden on our Southern Border: The Continuing Tragedy of Illegal Child Immigrants.


Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske demanding the reversal of its restrictions on Members of Congress and media from obtaining information about the conditions under which tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are being held at federal facilities in Arizona and other border states, and the circumstances of how they arrived in the United States.

“It is clearly in the public’s interest to know, and Congress’ responsibility to ascertain, exactly how this Administration is addressing the humanitarian crisis that is happening in Arizona and other southern border states,” writes Senator McCain. “The American people have a right to know the conditions under which unaccompanied minors at those facilities in their respective states are being detained and how they arrived in the United States. And, it is my responsibility as an elected representative from Arizona – and the responsibility of the elected officials of every state affected by this unprecedented crisis – to get the truth about how the Administration is addressing it.”

Senators McCain and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) last month demanded that the CBP permit media access to the Nogales Processing Center to document conditions.

Surprise! Air Force Squanders $1 Billion of Taxpayer Money and No One Goes to Jail.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), have released a bipartisan report on the Air Force’s Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) program that squandered over $1 billion in taxpayer funds on ECSS over eight years.

“The Air Force’s billion dollar ECSS failure is the most egregious example of mismanagement at the Department of Defense in recent memory,” said Senator McCain. “The Air Force did not have a clear idea of what it wanted ECSS to accomplish, and the lack of strong leadership, coupled with the Air Force’s cultural resistance to change, only exacerbated the program’s problems. Moving forward, we must apply the lessons learned from this debacle so that the Department of Defense’s current and future efforts to modernize those large business information technology systems that are vital to its strategy to becoming auditable and improving how it ‘does business’ do not face the same disastrous fate as ECSS.”

“The Air Force has acknowledged the poor decisions and unsound management practices that led to the waste of taxpayer money in the ECSS program,” said Senator Levin. “We must do all we can to make sure that these mistakes are not repeated in future programs.”

A summary of the report is below.

ECSS Report Summary 

–          The Air Force squandered over $1 billion in taxpayer funds on ECSS from 2004 to 2012 with no capability to show for it.

–          The DOD’s strong cultural resistance to change hinders the effective implementation of business process reengineering (BPR), which is vital to ensuring that enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can be effectively integrated into relevant business units within the Department to achieve desired efficiencies.

–          The Air Force admitted that it did not understand what it needed to do to implement ECSS, which directly contradicts Congressional mandates. To help alleviate this issue, Senator McCain offered (and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed) in the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill an amendment that would require an understanding of the existing legacy systems before the DOD can procure any large new business system.

–          In the eight years ECSS was active, the Air Force transitioned six program managers (PMs) and five program executive officers (PEOs) leaving no one accountable for ECSS’s failure. To help alleviate this issue, an amendment was offered (and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed) in the FY15 NDAA markup to improve program management accountability by aligning their tenure with key decision points throughout the defense acquisition system.

ECSS Report Recommendations

–          Improve ERP systems outcomes by initiating BPR assessments earlier in the acquisition process.

–          Improve oversight to ensure DOD has a sufficient understanding of the existing business processes to be changed.

–          Ensure sound budget decision making by integrating the Investment Review Boards (IRB) at the beginning of the budget process.

–          Reduce duplicative reporting requirements by utilizing a single governance structure for the acquisition of ERP systems.

–          Improve accountability of personnel by aligning the tenure of program executives with key acquisition decision points.

–          Better resource verifications of self-reporting BPR certification from program offices.



Iran Fiddles, While Washington Burns.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has released the following statement on Iran’s involvement in Iraq:

“It would be the height of folly to believe that the Iranian regime can be our partner in managing the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. This is the same Iranian regime that has trained and armed the most dangerous Shia militant groups, that has consistently urged Prime Minister Maliki to pursue a narrow sectarian agenda at the expense of national reconciliation, that supplies the rockets that have been fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that has sponsored acts of terrorism throughout the Middle East and the world, and that continues to use Iraq’s territory and airspace to send weapons and fighters to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

“The reality is, U.S. and Iranian interests and goals do not align in Iraq, and greater Iranian intervention would only make the situation dramatically worse. It would inflame sectarian tensions, strengthen the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), drive more Sunnis into ISIS’s ranks, empower the most radical Shia militants, deepen the Iraqi government’s dependence on Iran, alienate U.S. allies and partners in the region, and set back the prospects of national reconciliation.

“For all of these reasons, and more, the United States should be seeking to minimize greater Iranian involvement in Iraq right now, not encouraging it. That means rapid, decisive U.S. action to degrade ISIS and halt their offensive in Iraq. And it means dramatically increasing U.S. military assistance and support to moderate opposition forces in Syria that are fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime. The longer we wait to act, the more our Iraqi partners grow dependent on the Iranian regime. That is neither in our interest nor consistent with the values for which we stand.”

Congress Wants US Troops to Stay in Iraq.


Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) issued the following statement on the Al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seizing control of the Iraqi city of Mosul:

“Our worst fears about Iraq are being realized today. The black flags of Al-Qaeda are flying over Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, just as they do over Fallujah. Al-Qaeda affiliated militants are now pressing their offensive into other parts of western Iraq and possibly beyond. This growing threat to our national security interests is the cost of President Obama’s decision to withdraw all of our troops from Iraq in 2011, against the advice of our commanders and regardless of conditions on the ground.

“Unfortunately, the President is now making the same disastrous mistake in Afghanistan, increasing the risk that Al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies will return there just as they are in Iraq. It is not too late for the president to reverse this catastrophic decision and instead make any withdrawal of U.S. forces after this year contingent on conditions on the ground. At the same time, we call on the president to explain to Congress and the American people how he plans to address the growing threat to our homeland and our national security interests posed by the rapidly expanding Al-Qaeda safe haven in Iraq and Syria.”

Do Foreign Criminals Find Safe Haven in the United States?


Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) this week sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson seeking information on recent media reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encountered and released 68,000 illegal aliens with criminal convictions in 2013.

The letter is attached and below.

April 3, 2014


 The Honorable Jeh Johnson

Secretary of Homeland Security

U. S. Department of Homeland Security

Nebraska Avenue Complex

3801 Nebraska Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C.   20528


Dear Secretary Johnson:

According to recent media reports, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) encountered and released 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions in 2013. We were surprised to learn this information, particularly in light of two letters we sent to your department on the issue of criminal detainee releases in connection with sequestration.

Last year, we wrote to Secretary Napolitano requesting information on the release of illegal aliens with criminal records detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).  Through that request, we learned that many of the 622 detainees released from ICE custody in February 2013 had significant criminal records.  ICE provided information about the criminal records, without names, of 32 detainees with multiple felony convictions (Level One offenders), 24 of whom were subsequently redetained, and at least 80 detainees with criminal backgrounds amounting to level two offenses.  Earlier this month, we wrote additionally to seek information on last year’s detainee release and inquire whether ICE or DHS has taken any actions to ensure accountability for what occurred. We have yet to receive a response to this bipartisan request.

It appears that those 622 released detainees represent a mere tip of the iceberg, in comparison to the figures cited in recent media reports. In 2013, ICE reportedly encountered and released 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions. ICE documents apparently indicated that in Phoenix, Arizona, 42 percent of criminal aliens encountered – most of whom had been incarcerated after being arrested by local authorities – were released in 2013.

The Congressional Research Service (“CRS”) issued a report in July 2012 that found that between 2008 and 2011 over 26,000 illegal aliens with criminal records were released instead of deported and that these former detainees went on to commit nearly 58,000 crimes soon after their release. These additional crimes were found to include 59 murders, 21 attempted murders, more than 4,000 major felonies and 1,000 other violent crimes.

Due to the importance of these findings, please provide answers to the following questions:

1.         Media reports indicate that the number of aliens with a criminal conviction encountered and released by ICE added up to nearly 68,000.  That figure was reportedly based on ICE’s Weekly Departures and Detention Report from October 2013.  Can you confirm whether this number is accurate?  Please provide a copy of each Weekly Departures and Detention Report for the year 2013. 

2.         Regarding the reported 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions who ICE encountered and released:

a.         Please provide a breakdown on the nature of ICE’s encounter with the aliens in question. 

b.         How many “encounters” resulted from an arrest by local or federal law enforcement? 

c.         How many were detained by ICE?

3.         How many of the 68,000 aliens with criminal records who were released were level one offenders?  Please provide a breakdown of level one offenses that these aliens committed.

4.         What criteria are you using when determining whether to release illegal detainees with criminal records?

5.         Do you draw any distinction between criminal offenses when deciding whom to release?

6.         Who makes the decision to release an illegal detainee who has been found to have a criminal record?

7.         Do you agree or disagree with the findings from the CRS report from July 2012? If you agree, how will you remedy the deficiencies identified? If not, which part do you disagree with? Please be specific.

8.         Please explain why the number of criminal alien encounters and releases jumped from 26,000 over a three-year period, 2008-2011, to 68,000 over a one-year period in 2013.

9.         Given the materiality of these revelations to the issues raised in the two prior letters, why did your department not previously disclose to the Subcommittee any information about those releases?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  If you have any questions or concerns, please have your staff contact Jack Thorlin (Senator McCain) at 202/224-XXXX or Dan Goshorn (Senator Levin) at 202/224-XXXX.




John McCain                                                              

Ranking Minority Member                                        

Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations              


Carl Levin


Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations






Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today released the following statement on the crisis in Ukraine:

“The crisis in Ukraine calls for a far more significant response from the United States. Today’s Executive Order could be an important part of that response, but sanctioning only seven Russian officials is wholly inadequate at this stage.

“Russia has invaded, and appears ready to dismember, a sovereign country. It has massed military forces on Ukraine’s border, and it is actively raising tensions and provoking instability across eastern Ukraine. In the absence of a stronger U.S. and Western response to this aggression, we run the risk of signaling to Putin that he can be even more expansive in furthering his old imperial ambitions, not only in Ukraine, but also in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries, and parts of Central Asia.

“Most urgently, we must expand our efforts to support Ukraine’s government and people. The United States and NATO should rush plane-loads of food and other humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian soldiers and civilians in eastern Ukraine. We should also work through the OSCE to approve and deploy a large civilian monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine that could help set the record straight about alleged threats to ethnic Russians and reveal Putin’s effort to inflame the situation as a pretext for further aggression. Most importantly, the presence of these civilians on the ground might cause Putin to think twice about expanding his war into eastern Ukraine.

“Similarly, the Administration should rush the modest military assistance to the Ukrainian government that its leaders have requested. Ukraine needs a long-term assistance program to rebuild and reform its military, and the United States should play a leading role in that effort. But Ukraine has urgent needs to defend itself now. All of the Ukrainian officials that I and seven of my Senate colleagues met last weekend in Kyiv reiterated their government’s request for some small arms and ammunition, as well as significant non-lethal assistance, such as protective equipment, spare parts, fuel, and sharing of intelligence. No one, including Ukraine’s leaders, deny that Ukraine is militarily out-matched by Russia. But when victims of aggression beseech us for better means to defend themselves from further aggression, free peoples should provide that assistance. That is the right and decent thing to do.

“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has also shaken many of our NATO allies, especially those with ethnic Russian populations of their own that fear they may be Putin’s next
target. NATO’s modest increase of force presence and military exercises in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries has been a good first step. But now is the time to enhance this security cooperation dramatically. NATO should also take all necessary steps to expand the alliance to include countries such as Georgia and Montenegro as soon as possible.

“At the same time, the United States must lead the West in imposing greater costs on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine. We should expand our campaign of targeted sanctions far beyond those seven persons designated today and cut off the most corrupt Russian government officials, companies, and financial institutions from western economies. This United States should use the Magnitsky Act to sanction additional Russian officials for their gross violations of human rights. Finally, Russia’s leaders should face a more assertive effort to isolate them internationally, including by repeated votes in the U.N. Security Council and a G-7 boycott of the G-8 Summit in Sochi.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed legislation last week on a strong bipartisan basis that would contribute to all of these efforts to support Ukraine and impose greater costs on Russia. In particular, this legislation includes vital financial support and other assistance that can help Ukraine prepare for elections on May 25. It is essential for that vote to occur as scheduled. The full Senate should take up and pass this legislation with no further delay so that it can be reconciled with House legislation and sent to the President to become law.

“The United States and our allies and partners must remain committed to supporting the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which includes Crimea. How we respond to Putin’s flagrant aggression in Ukraine is being watched far beyond Europe. From Asia and the Middle East to here in our own hemisphere, America’s friends and adversaries are paying close attention to this crisis. They are watching to see whether President Obama’s actions match his rhetoric, and they will respond accordingly.

“The crisis in Ukraine is about more than Ukraine. It is also about the credibility of America’s global leadership and whether the future will be defined by the values of the West, or by dictators and aggressors who think they can bully the free world into submission. We must recognize that reality and be equal to it.”