PREAMBLE TO THE CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS
We the People of the United Nations determined:
4 Lofty Goals
And for these ends:
4 High Standards
To now Allow:
President Ahmadinejad to appoint Ali Reza Mo'ayeri as ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations European Headquarters on 21 January 2006.
O.K. I kind of made up the last part. But we are going to talk about Ali Reza Mo'ayeri today because the man has quite an impressive dossier. His career will be the backdrop to remind us that the United Nations of today is not the outstanding organization we can trust to make decisions in the global quest for peace. The charter signed on 26 June 1945 reads beautifully. Too bad so many of the delegates do not hold to its values.
Mr. Mo'ayeri can verbally stroke his audience just like any other diplomat when necessary. While attending the International Conference of Sanaa, sponsored by Yemen and the NGO "No Justice Without Peace" in January of 2004 he said the following: "....democracy and the human rights are two indissociable concepts....human dignity is at the very base of decision making on democracy and human rights." He also emphasized that human rights do not have to be fixed in the yoke of a Western reading. Now all of the previous sounds quite grand, but words provide mere veneer for the underlying tree of man.
He certainly gets around on the international stage and appears to play well. But whom he does not play well to, is some of his own home team. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran has released their own version of his credentials. They rather disdain the man. Their complaint is laid out in a press release from 22 January 2006. Here are a few highlights.
*Actively participating in the brutal suppression and arrest of university students in 1980 during the shutdown of universities due to the "cultural revolution".
*Involved in arrests and executions of dissidents.
*Gave coordination and support to diplomat-terrorists in France.
*Headed the Office for Liberation Movements for Supreme Leader Ali Khameini in 1992.
*Rumored he has had a part in government-sponsored assassination.
I also read articles in French and Italian from international news organizations which also raised the red flag on this man.
Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad continues to make a stench in the aftermath of his call for the destruction of Israel. On 23 December 2005 the Belgian Senate unanimously approved a resolution instructing the Belgian government to "....firmly condemn and vigorously protest the Iranian president's repeated calls for the destruction of Israel....and recall its ambassador to Tehran for consultations."
Maybe President Ahmadinejad should also consider recalling Ali Reza Mo'ayeri in light of the stated goals of the Charter of the United Nations. But if a housecleaning of the U.N. was truly undertaken, how many delegates would be left standing?
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
PREAMBLE TO THE CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Monday, January 30, 2006
"Daddy, promise me one thing."
"What is it, sweetheart?"
"Promise me that you will never, ever, ever, ever go to the airport again."
(The words of a pre-school girl to her military father on his return home.)
My last drill week-end, these words were recounted to me by Captain Rivera, an outstanding Naval Reservist and physician who had just returned after being mobilized as part of EMF Dallas for the last year. When asking him about the experience, his first words were not about himself. They were about his family. They were the haunting words, of his youngest daughter.
"I never knew how hard it would be on my family." His eyes welled with tears, as he recounted his daughter's words to him. My eyes, looked like a matched set of overflowing goblets by the time he was done speaking. I have somehow learned how to squeeze the tears back. Do they run down my nose instead? And what makes that funny little lump in my throat? So I stood looking at this man, now wearing the desert BDU (battle dress uniform) again. He returned in November. He is now reaffiliated. This time, as a battalion surgeon for a group of Marines. Surely, in a few months his daughter may have to make the trip to the airport again. And the measure of the man, will be the measure for the family also.
Last week the Associated Press released a story regarding a study done by RAND's National Defense Research Institute. It found that 72 percent of the troops surveyed made more while on war duty than they did in their civilian jobs in 2001. What concerned me, was the headline "Study: Most reservists earn more in combat"
The headline is a true reflection of the topic at hand. But if you only read the article, you will come away with only a statistic. You will not see the face behind the paycheck. You will not see, the sacrifice of our troops. The emotional price tag for both the activated Reservist and his family, is one which is not computed with the same calculator that is used to process pay.
I asked LCDR(sel) Winston C. Centeno to finish this blog with his own thoughts. He is an operating room nurse in the private sector and also is a returning member of my detachment. He served with EMF Dallas in the theater of operation in Kuwait.
"One of the biggest sacrifices by far for my family was the separation. While phone calls and e mail bridge the distance, there is no substitute for the hugs, tears and smiles. The separation left my wife void of not just a husband, but an exercise partner as well as friend to have coffee with; my daughter void of not just a tutor for homework, but a tennis coach as well; and my son void of not just a builder of Legos, but also someone to say nighttime prayers with. And as for me, it was all of that and more. I missed the look of joy in a child the day after the tooth fairy visits, and the quiet nervousness of another before getting braces, and the tennis tournaments, job promotions and school lunches. But despite these voids, I and many others have returned home, realizing evermore the value of our families, our gifts, our freedom and many other blessings we have taken for granted. It's not the increase in pay that makes the mobilization attractive for some; it's what a person becomes, having gone through the experience."
LCDR(sel) Winston C. Centeno, NC, USNR
We salute our troops today.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, NC, USNR
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Jill Carroll. Have you thought of her today? I have thought of her every single day since the news broke of her kidnapping. She was following her passion for journalism, in Baghdad. On her way to interview a Sunni politician she was close to her destination when it happened. In an operation that took less than twenty seconds she went from freedom to captivity. Her driver was not harmed but her interpreter was tapped twice in the head.
Since then, we have had the usual video. We know the drill. Captive civilian American kneeling in front for four or five masked men with semi-automatic weapons. We saw Margaret Hassan, that spunky little Irish woman married to a Muslim man and known for her big heart. Now, we have seen Jill Carroll....no sound as she speaks, but sad eyes, pleading. Margaret Hassan pleaded also. She got a bucket of water thrown on her face when she fainted. And what kind of men do not mind taping themselves killing a defenseless woman who is bound and blindfolded? I cried, when Margaret Hassan died. Am I incredibly angry at this point? You betcha.
We have heard the demands of her captors to release female Iraqi women who are detained in prison. The military released five the other day.
We have heard the "Twilight Zone" reporting of journalists who managed to scrape together a story saying American troops have also done a bit of kidnapping of women on their own. Could we please see the videos of our troops behind the bound women, weapons cocked, threatening to kill them if demands are not met? Read my lips. We detain. We do not kidnap women to blackmail the opponent. We do not use women as pawns of war.
So have you thought of Jill Carroll today? I am getting ready for church but I just had to stop and post this blog. And naturally, I will pray.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Next Tuesday, George W. Bush is bound to report the state of the Union’s economy is strong. Like so much of Mr. Bush’s pronouncements, this is based on smoke, mirrors and an aprés moi le dèluge mentality.
Mr. Bush will no doubt claim 11 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth, a stock market in the 11,000 range, low unemployment and low inflation.
He may, with some justification, since they are preliminary numbers which will undoubtedly be changed as more information becomes available, not mention that the fourth quarter of 2005 recorded the lowest quarterly growth in three years. If he does mention it, he would be justified in noting that there are periods of slow down in any expanding economy. He may even look forward and say that energy-induced inflation may climb this year.
But, what he won’t talk about since the State of the Union message is not a treatise on economics, is the state of the underpinnings of our economy. I am here to tell you there is rot in the floor joists, and the very foundation has begun to crumble.
The growth that we have experienced has been funded by debt. Today, the average American has a credit card balance of about $8,000. The average American household has an income of about $53,000. If there are two cardholders in the household, that means credit card debt which is 30% of income. Last year saw a record-breaking number of foreclosures on private homes and more than 1.8 million personal bankruptcy fillings. The problem is that wages have not kept up with our spending. Real wages have actually declined since 2000 and show no signs of picking up.
And the problem is not restricted to the nephews and nieces. Uncle Sam has run up what the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says is an unsustainable current account deficit. The current account is the net balance of a country’s international payments arising from exports and imports together with unilateral transfers such as aid and migrant remittances. The account goes into deficit when we import more than we export. Currently, we are importing $900 billion/ year more than we are exporting. An extremely conservative economist friend tells me not to worry as long as other countries are prepared to put there money in our bonds, stocks, real estate, etc. Since Conservatives were responsible for the Great Depression, I tend to discount my friend’s view, not because he is wrong, but because he hasn’t looked far enough ahead.
If the United States were the only country in debt, there would be less cause for concern. But it isn’t. Europe too has piled on debt to alarming levels. That means the number of countries available to bail us out is much smaller and the number of countries in potential need of bailing out is much larger. There is going to be stiff competition, which means that interest rates are going to have to increase. The dollar has already lost 23% against the Euro. Since we are now borrowing money to pay the interest on the money we borrowed before, a rise in interest rates must be accompanied by either more borrowing, or higher taxes.
Friday, January 27, 2006
President Bush’s contention that democracies don’t make war is about to have a serious test in the Middle East. Militant Islam is winning elections across the region.
Hamas has taken control of the Palestinian assembly. Hizbullah is now the leading representative of Lebanon’s Shiite population. The Muslim Brotherhood won 88 out of the 150 seats it contested in a clearly unrigged Egyptian election. In Iraq’s January 21 election, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance won almost 80% of the seats set aside for the Shiite community and the Islamic Iraq Party won 80% of the seats set aside for the Sunnis. And, last summer, Islamist candidates won most of the seats in Saudi Arabia’s first, albeit, very limited municipal elections.
All this is very worrying to the Bush Administration’s senior policy makers. However, it would be a mistake to look at these elections as evidence of a unified Islamist tide sweeping through the Middle East. The reasons for Islamist advances in each country are unique to that country and far different than the reasons in other countries.
As far as the Palestinian election is concerned, the Hamas win probably has more to do with its ability to deliver services than with its avowed intent wipe Israel off the map. As Dilip Hiro said in “the Rise of Islam,” Israel’s 38-year occupation has devastated the lives and the economy of the region and spawned a political arena unique in the Arab world. “Its salient features include: powerful tensions between local and long-exiled leaders; high political consciousness; a lack of distance between followers and leaders of a sort not found in long-established states and regimes; and a turning to religion for solace.” Fatah leaders spent many years abroad, while the Hamas leadership is almost completely home-grown. Fatah has lost ground because it is seen as corrupt and inept. Hamas has a history of providing free social services to the needy and does not have a reputation for corruption and cronyism. It is quite possible that the Palestinians were voting their welfare rather than their ideology. Hamas should be bright enough to figure that out. If they can add political control and economic growth to their ability to provide services, Israel should be able to breathe easier.
As to Iraq, Hiro contends that when an ethnic, racial or social group is persecuted, it turns to religion for solace. Iraqi Shias have had the short end of the stick since Iraq became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1638. The Ottomans were followed by Sunni King Faisal who was followed by the largely Sunni Baath Party. When the Baathists were crushed, the Shiite religious network emerged as the most cohesive and efficient organization in the country. Although the Baathists were secular, the Sunni rank and file were not, which is why, in July 2004, a poll conducted by the International Republican Institute found that 70% of Iraqis thought Sharia should be the sole basis for Iraqi law.
If Hiro’s analysis is accurate, it would seem that the best way to combat militant Islam would be to do everything possible to foster economic growth and well-being. That would mean that the United States and the rest of the developed world will have to hold its nose and continue to support the Palestinian government. The good news is that if Hamas is really less corrupt, it will cost considerably less to do considerably more good.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
The next time some ill-informed person claims that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, don’t bother to ask who is allowed to vote in Israel. Instead, tell that person to look at Kuwait whose parliament has stepped in and averted a crisis.
A little background. The oil-rich city-state Kuwait, the name means “fortress built near water,” is one of the most stable monarchies in history. It has been ruled by members of the Al-Sabah since 1751. On January 15, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah died after a 28-year rule. As is usual, he was succeeded by the crown prince, Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, 76. The problem was that the crown prince was almost as incapacitated with illness as Sheikh Jaber.
On Tuesday, Kuwait’s 65-member parliament deposed Sheikh Saad and the cabinet nominated the prime minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah as the new emir. Sheikh Sabah had been de facto ruler for the last four years because the emir and the crown prince had been so ill.
What this represented was a triumph of constitutional rule and democracy over autocracy. ``What happened today is positive, and goes beyond resolving a crisis. Everybody felt the importance of the constitution and parliament, including the ruling family,'' former member of parliament, Abdulla al-Naibari, told Reuters. “Today, Kuwait has rid itself of tribal and social constraints,” added analyst Mohammed al-Jassem. “The constitution alone now governs the politics of Kuwait.”
What makes this truly momentous is that Kuwait has had a tradition of alternating the emirship between the two main branches of the al-Sabah, al-Jaber and al-Selem. Sheikh Sabah and his half brother, the late emir, Sheikh Jaber, were of the al-Jaber branch which holds a number of key ministries. Sheikh Saad is from the al-Salem which holds only one cabinet post, that of foreign minister.
Things could have gone wrong. As early as last October, there were hints of palace rivalries which could have thrown the country into disarray. Sheikh Salem al-Ali al-Sabah, head of the National Guard and leader of al-Selem branch, had initially tried to prevent Sheikh Sabah’s accession.
Had Kuwait been thrown into a crisis, it could only have exacerbated the recent rise in oil prices and would probably have insured higher prices in the future since a proposed $8.5 billion Project Kuwait, a production expansion project, would have been put on hold. The proposal was to return access to Kuwait’s northern oil fields to BP and ExxonMobil. While it is not certain that that will happen, the fact that the oil ministry will remain in al-Jaber hands argues for a continuation of past policy.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Justice Antonin Scalia is generally held to be the smartest person on the Supreme Court. He may be a whiz at the law, but he seems completely oblivious to what is going on around him. Why would a smart man call attention to a cozy situation at the Supreme Court when Congress is in the middle of a huge ethics scandal?
ABC News reported that Scalia was not at the swearing in of Chief Justice John Roberts because he was playing tennis at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., as the all expenses paid guest of the Federalist Society. The Justice had to work for his keep. The trip was billed as a legal seminar, and a “rare opportunity to spend time, both socially and intellectually” with the Justice.
Justices attend seminars all the time. In fact, all lawyers are required to take a certain amount of continuing legal education to stay in the bar. But in this case, the hosts had not only a decided political and judicial agenda, but included a law firm which had employed convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
This is not the first time Justice Scalia accepted a questionable junket. He also went duck hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney at a Halliburton camp. Scalia said that he and the Vice President did not occupy the same blind, so everything was above board. Since talking is frowned upon in the blind, there would be no point in the Vice President sharing one with the Justice.
Halliburton hunts are masterpieces of organization designed to afford Halliburton people the best shot at winning over their guests, be they customers, legislators, or justices of the Supreme Court. There is the early breakfast, the morning hunt, and then a chance to sit around and talk before lunch, during lunch, and after lunch, unless a nap is needed before the afternoon hunt. When the sun goes down, there are drinks and socializing before, during and after dinner. The whole reason Halliburton and other companies have these outings is to sell their products and services, or to make their case to influential people. Why else would a public company spend its shareholders’ money if not for some benefit?
Now, as far as is known, Justice Scalia is not planning to any drill oil or gas wells, and should have little or no need for cementing services. Neither, as far as is known, is he planning to invade anyone, so he is an unlikely market for any of Halliburton’s other services. But he does sit in judgment on issues of great importance to Mr. Cheney, such as should the Vice President tell the world who advised him on the energy program that became the energy bill (Cheney vs. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia). Judge Scalia decided “No.”
There is no reason to suppose that Scalia was influenced by his days on the Louisiana bayous, or by his fans at the Federalist Society. But, with Congress in the midst of a corruption scandal which threatens to take away its junkets and gifts, a wise man might have decided to give the Federalists and their truly posh hotel (tennis and fly fishing included) a miss.
There is a curious ethical situation in what judges may and may not accept. Lower court federal judges cannot accept gifts, but there are no rules for Supreme Court Justices. According to the ABC story, five of the nine Supremes have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in country club memberships. Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted, among other things, an $800 leather jacket from NASCAR, a $1,200 set of tires, a vacation trip by private jet and a Bible worth $19,000.
Don’t make any mistake about it. Justices are being lobbied just as hard as Congress. One can’t help wonder how long it will be before Congress seeks to divert the spotlight. The Court’s country club memberships, gifts and junkets seem a tempting diversion.
Posted by tammyswofford at 1:38 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Conventional wisdom says the United States will have brought a significant number of troops back from Iraq by November for the very good reason that we cannot keep them there. Even if the president is convinced that bringing democracy to Iraq is his personal mission, there will have to be troop reductions. Enlistments have dropped so badly that the Army has doubled the signing bonuses it is paying for both regular Army and the Reserve volunteers. It has quadrupled the re-enlistment bonuses it will pay for certain military occupations.
The question is, how to reduce the number of American troops while preventing whole scale civil war from erupting. The United States seems to be considering two possibilities. One, as outlined by Seymour M. Hersh in a recent New Yorker is to replace ground troops with bombing missions. The other, championed by John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, says we should look to the British experience in Kenya, Malaya, Oman and Cyprus. Both these ideas have serious problems.
Air strikes are seen as one way of improving the combat capability of even the least effective Iraqi units. This is apparently an option being supported by Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Currently, Iraqi troops are only committed when they are sure to succeed.
Replacing U.S. ground troops with air power would dramatically reduce the number of American casualties, but very well could increase the number of Iraqi casualties dramatically. To overcome that problem, the decision to bomb must be controlled. The Air Force is very nervous about turning that decision over to the Iraqis. As things now stand, there is no guarantee that Shiite units will not call in strikes against Sunni civilians, or that a unit commander would not call in a strike to revenge some wrong done his family, or for monetary gain.
What is happening now, and the air war is far more extensive than news reports indicate, is that targets are “painted,” identified by someone on the ground who shines a laser on the target. The pilot sends his laser-guided bombs to the target without asking what the target is. He just trusts his American spotter.
The other approach, the one advocated by Prof. Arquilla, has its share of problems. Arquila's suggestion involves adapting the tactics of British General Sir Frank Kitson to Iraq. Kitson fought the Mau-Mau in Kenya with “gangs” of pseudo Mau-Mau. Kitson enlisted some 20,000 friendly Kikuyu tribesmen and formed them into small gangs which pretended to be Mau Mau terrorists. These gangs operated in remote parts of Kenya where they befriended true Mau Mau gangs, led them into ambushes or directed bombing missions against their camps.
Kitson’s work is said to be the best way to disengage from an insurgency. However, according to Caroline Elkins, who wrote the Esquire article linked above, Kitson’s tactics only worked when the British had police-state powers in the country. In Kenya, Kitson ended civilian support of the Mau Mau by systematic torture, heavy civilian casualties and by detaining more than one million Africans thought to be sympathetic to the Mau Mau. This seems to be the course we have been following. At least it explains Abu Gharaib and the high number of civilian casualties we have inflicted. Unfortunately, the insurgency went from 150 attacks a week to more than 700 a week in the last year. Maybe someone ought to think of something else.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:35 AM
Monday, January 23, 2006
One thing we are probably not going to hear about in the president’s State of the Union message to Congress, is what a marvelous thing the president did in getting Medicare’s prescription drug program through Congress.
The first indication that this was not a good bill was the news that the federal government was not going to be able to use its huge bargaining power to get drugs at reduced rates. Wal-Mart can do that. CVS can do that. The Veterans’ Administration can do that, but Medicare, the organization with the most leverage, and the poorest clients, cannot do that, by act of Congress.
O.K., Washington is a city of trade-offs and compromises, what did Medicare get in exchange? Absolutely nothing, unless you count almost incomprehensible forms, rules and regulations a benefit.
But that is nothing compared with the complete hash the government made of what should have been an automatic process of converting Medicaid patients to Medicare patients. Thanks to either government ineptitude or crooked private companies, tens of thousands of patients were unable to get essential medicines under the prescription drug program.
Most problems involved what should have been an automatic switch over of more than six million poor people from state Medicaid programs to the federal government’s Medicare prescription drug program. Under the new program, those people were supposed to be randomly assigned to a private drug program with the option of changing programs if they didn’t like to the one they got.
In that change over, people fell out of the system and their names never made it onto the federal roles. Others, who were eligible for the lowest co-pay were either denied coverage outright, or were told they would have to pay hundreds of dollars in deductibles.
While no one knows how many people have been affected, California reported that 20% of its one million eligible Medicaid patients were affected. So far, 20 states have stepped in with prescription drug coverage until the feds get their act together.
Health and Human Services Secretary, Michael Leavitt, tried to claim that 24 million elderly people now have prescription drug coverage without mentioning that 20 million of them already had it either through their retirement plants or through Medicaid.
For most of us, this would be perhaps an interesting story about other people since we are not eligible for either Medicare or Medicaid. However, it is also one more example of just how bad the federal government is at handling problems. First Katrina, now Prescription Drugs, and, just last week, Osama bin Laden surfaced to say we can expect another attack. If that isn’t a chilling prospect, I don’t know what is. After its performance during Katrina, are you really comfortable with the administration’s ability to look after you in the event of another attack?
Posted by tammyswofford at 3:31 PM
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Last Wednesday, a reader caught me alleging facts not in evidence when I said that Ronald Reagan played politics with the Iranian hostages to win the election. It is a fascinating story with a current nexus that makes it timely. Bob makes the valid point that there is no proof that Mr. Reagan, his vice president, George H. W. Bush, and future CIA director, William Casey, negotiated with the Iranians to delay the release of the 52 Americans held for 444 days in the American Embassy in Teheran. There is no proof because there was no trial.
After the Shah fell, 500 or so Iranian “students” took over the American Embassy on November 4, 1979. President Carter embargoed purchases of Iranian crude and froze about $80 billion in Iranian assets in the U.S. while seeking a negotiated settlement. The death of the Shah and Iraq’s invasion of Iran made it possible for Algeria to broker negotiations. The Carter position was that the Iranians would be better off dealing with them than with Reagan who was on the record as being anti-Iran. The hostage release would have been put down to Carter’s negotiations but for Iran-Contra.
Oliver North’s harebrained scheme to sell Iran weapons to raise money for our horror show in Central America, forced Congress to look into the Reagan administration’s relations with Iran.
Despite the face that the Reagan administration started shipping weapons to Iran as soon as it took office, Lee Hamilton, the same Lee Hamilton George W. Bush picked to look into how we were caught unprepared by 9/11, refused to look into the arms for hostages allegations because he thought such an investigation would tear the country apart. That was the same argument advanced by another good and decent former House member, Gerald Ford, to support his pardon of Richard Nixon. Both President Ford and Representative Hamilton can be faulted for having too little faith in the American people and our system of government. Mr. Hamilton seems to be making a career of it, having twice failed to look into all charges.
After the Iran-Contra hearings, evidence began to emerge which said Reagan had played an illegal role in the negotiations. Israeli, Iranian and French sources said that Mr. Bush and Mr. Casey met with Iranian representatives in Madrid in July, 1980. Bob Woodward and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reported that Reagan campaign officials met with Iranians at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Paris on October 2.
Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese 3d, tried to stop investigations by claiming Congress had no authority to investigate whether Reagan campaign aides had sought to delay the release of American hostages in Iran in 1980. He also said the charges were politically motivated fraud.
Since we were denied hearings, it all boils down to who do you believe. Since there is evidence that Mr. Bush lied when he said he was “out of the loop” on Iran-Contra, I think the evidence favors the Woodward-Pincus account.
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:54 PM
Friday, January 20, 2006
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Jr. receives a lot of attention in the annals of naval warfare. At the pinnacle of his career, he commanded approximately 2 million men and women, 5,000 ships and 20,000 aircraft in the Pacific theater of operations. What is somewhat buried, not discussed much, is how this great man entered his twilight years in a suicide pact with his wife and overdosed on sleeping pills. His wife was 89 years and he was 86, at the time of their deaths.
In 1994 Oregon became the first state to allow legalized assisted suicide when voters approved the ballot measure enacting the Oregon Death With Dignity Act (ODWDA)
which exempts state-licensed physicians from either civil or criminal liability when dispensing or prescribing a lethal dose of drugs for a terminally ill patient. The law requires the agreement of two physicians that a patient is likely to die within six months and also that the patient be well-informed and acting voluntarily in requesting such assistance. The measure survived an attempt at a ballot repeal in 1997, and now it has survived the scrutiny of (then) Attorney General John Ashscroft, with the case being decided on January 17, 2006 in favor of the ODWDA, with Justice Kennedy delivering the opinion of the court in Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General et. al, Petitioners v. Oregon et al.
Although the SCOTUS decision to uphold Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law is about states rights and the decision rightfully slaps at John Ashcroft for having made an interpretive rule that altered the balance between state and federal government, I have more than a few concerns regarding the whole arena of physician-assisted suicides. Although our European neighbors, and especially the Netherlands are ahead of us in the race to allow what I call "death by human intervention" America appears to be moving up fast on their heels. The SCOTUS decision will surely spur other states to pass similar legislation.
Of course with a projection of ten percent of Europeans who will be over the age of eighty by the year 2050, it is never too soon to have a workable plan in place to lighten the load on the younger generation a bit faster. Physician-assisted suicide is such a nice way to skew the demographics a bit in the favor of the younger set. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of those who "benefit" from this legislation will be the geriatric population, because it will not be the strong who seek out this measure, but the elderly, the weak and the infirm, who will be pressured to make these choices in the twilight of their lives. But do we need to give way to reflection and think for a bit as to what might be wrong, beyond just plain moral considerations, when it comes to assisting people to commit suicide?
Personally, putting a physician in the picture of assisted suicide gives the whole event a nice little comforting sentiment. I mean, try out these other professions instead:
*Pool guy assisted-suicide: He can just drown ya!
Gardener assisted-suicide: This guy can just bury you alive and plant a rose bush on top of you in your memory.
Child about to inherit the whole estate assisted-suicide: Don't think this one won't happen. There will always be that one child that will convince "mama" that she will be better off in heaven.... and the child with the key to the family vault.
You see, there are just a few little details which we are remiss to discuss, folks!
What if the person is suicidal because they are depressed? There is medication available to treat depression.
What if the elderly parent is being pushed to end their life because the children do not want to provide or supervise care? What laws will protect these people in their declining years?
What about barriers to adequate pain management for medical conditions which may accompany old age, such as osteoporosis, etc? Do some people enter a stage of hopelessness because of clinical mismanagement?
But I guess my bottom line is that I have great fear of the legal door we have cracked open in allowing a medical doctor prescriptive authority to end a life. For a person to end their own life, is sad enough. For a person to end their life with the aid of a family member rather scares me. But for a person's life to end, with the benediction given by the doctor, gives me nightmares.
Medical doctors and nurses should not be involved in actively taking life. And if we are going this route, I propose drive-thru type facilities where a person can be dropped off, knocked off, cremated and ashes picked up by the family in a couple of hours. But please, let's work to keep the Hemlock Society at bay in Texas. Let's keep this evil out of our own state. Because there is good news in this Supreme Court decision with Oregon. It tells us one important thing! Our own state can retain the right to decide on this issue without federal intervention. Our State of Texas can go ahead and proactively introduce and pass legislation that will forbid the same activity that the citizens of Oregon allow! smile Isn't America grand?
Physician-assisted suicide will produce a societal nightmare in the end. For you see, the line once moved, will not remain static. Trust me. We have seen the same thing with abortion.
Tammy Swofford, R.N. BSN
Editorial comment: Years ago, in a hospital ICU I was offered the task of titrating Morphine Sulfate into the intravenous fluid of an elderly lady in poor medical condition, to cease her respirations. I refused. What I did instead, was to provide adequate comfort and care. A few days later, she died.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:16 AM
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Aside from its well-documented inability to detect enemy agents in its own ranks plus significant lapses such as the Iranian revolution and India's nuclear program, the Central Intelligence Agency seems to be far more trouble than it is worth. The recent missile attack in Pakistan is just the latest in a series of blunders going back to to the agency's very founding during the Truman administration.
The CIA itself says that the 9/11 attack was blowback from its 1953 overthrow of the lawfully elected government of Iran. In 1951, the Iranian people elected Mohammad Mossadeq prime minister, and, as was the case in Guatemala at the same time, the government of Iran decided that its natural resources belonged to it. Mossadeq nationalized his country’s oil and told Anglo-Persian Oil (BP) to leave the country. Churchill couldn’t have that and asked his wartime colleague, Dwight D. Eisenhower for help. Eisenhower turned to Allen W. Dulles, the head of the CIA who allocated $1 million to bring Mossadeq down. After the subsequent CIA orchestrated military coup toppled Mossadeq, the CIA dragged a frightened and unwilling Shah back to Tehran to set up a U.S. puppet state. The Shah’s rule ended in 1979 with a popular revolt and the humiliation of the United States as the Embassy was overrun and our diplomatic mission was held hostage until Ronald Reagan was through playing politics with them.
Now, Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power and extending the nuclear crescent from Pakistan through India to the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf. The United States, thanks to the CIA, has no standing with Iran. In fact, thanks to our unbrideled support of Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran, there is a great deal of bad feeling, not improved by Mr. Bush's Axis of Evil statement.
This means that the U.S. cannot jawbone Iran into allowing inspectors to make sure its nuclear program is purely peaceful, and will have to rely on the UN. Given the rapidly increasing demand for oil in China and India, (currently almost four million barrels a day and the fright the Russians gave Europe when Putin briefly stopped that flow of Russian gas, it is unlikely that the United Nations will agree to any meaningful sanctions against Iran even though Iran is exporting only about 2.6 million barrels of oil a day.
At the same time, the Arab world has to be more than a little nervous about another non-Arab member of the nuclear club, especially, a member which favors wiping Israel off the map. If Iran develops nuclear weapons, the Middle East will have two hostile nuclear powers within missile range of each other. Not a particularly comfortable situation for the neighboring countries.
The CIA has spent it existance as a presidential plaything. Something to turn to when the president doesn't want the people to know what he is up to. When you let expediency trump principle, trouble is sure to follow, and the CIA is an instrument of expediency which looks to the executive for principle.
Caution, Self-Congratulations Here
A brief toot on the trumpet after we got into la messe du jour. Shortly after the news that the National Security Agency was spying on American citizens without warrants broke, I posted on this blog suggesting that the NSA approach was useless. Guess what. The FBI thinks so too. According to the Jan. 17 issue of the New York Times, after 9/11 the NSA flooded the FBI with telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names tying up hundreds of agents checking out thousands of leads a month, all of which lead to dead ends or innocent Americans.
Of course, that is not what President Bush and Vice President Cheney have said. They claim the unwarranted eavesdropping is a “vital tool” which has saved “thousands of lives,” respectively.
Mining involves sifting through tons of rock for grams or ore and data mining is no different than any low grade operation. The point the FBI is making is that they haven’t learned anything they hadn’t found out from other, legal, sources.
The Bush administration claims that NSA eavesdropping uncovered a plot to set off fertilizer bombs, the type of bomb used by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, in London in 2004 and to send the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River by using a blow torch. Counterterrorism officials on both sides of the Atlantic say not so. Both plans had been discovered through interrogation of prisoners and other means.
Posted by tammyswofford at 8:23 AM
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Clarence Ray Allen turned 76 years yesterday. Today, he dies for the crimes of murder of which he was convicted. His first murder conviction was for the death of Mary Sue Kitts, who he tried to poison with cyanide capsules. When that didn't work, he hired a man to just strangle her and be done with it. The murder was in 1974 and his conviction in 1977.
Not being one to lie low, and hoping to somehow influence the appeal process in his favor, he hooked up with a man named Billy Ray Hamilton while in prison and ordered a hit on witnesses to his first crime. Mr. Hamilton took a shotgun at close range to the heads and chests of four people. Three died and one was saved by raising his elbow to shield his face. For that little vendetta, the charges were three counts of first degree murder with special circumstances and one count of murder.
After being convicted of three counts of first degree murder Mr. Allen was received into the California death row at San Quentin State Prison on Dec. 2, 1982. He has now had over twenty-three years of breathing air which should have been choked out of his own lungs years ago. He has consumed over 25,000 meals, paid for by the taxpayers of California. Probably had his teeth cleaned a few times, three hundred or so free haircuts, his prostate checked, nail fungus treated.... you get the picture.
Now, in looking at websites and posts dedicated to keeping this bastard alive just a bit longer, it gets pretty weird. One website, says that since he is a Choctaw Indian, he should be allowed to die a natural death "when the Great Spirit comes to take him". I guess they did not bother to read the Treaty made with the Choctaw Nation on January 3, 1786. Here is a portion of Article 5:
"If any Indian or Indians, or persons, residing among them, or who shall take refuge in their nation, shall commit a robbery or murder or other capital crime on any citizen of the United States of America, or person under their protection, the tribe to which such offender may belong, or the nation, shall be bound to deliver him or them up to be punished according to the ordinances of the United States...."
Reading Indian Pioneer Papers, by J.C. Moncrief, he recounts how Choctaw Indians would be tied to trees and whipped for robbery. For murder, they were allowed a few days to put their affairs in order, and then their punishment by the tribe was to be shot to death. No decades long lag in meting out punishment for these guys.
The next deranged claim, is that it is cruel and unusual that the death chamber is not wheelchair accessible. Wow! I would have never thought of it! Mr. Allen, who is in a wheelchair, has a fifteen foot walk to the death gurney. Hey, can we just shove him off the Grand Canyon instead?
Why do people attach any value to this man? Here is a mass murderer who has lived over three decades longer than the first victim and 25 years longer than his final three victims. If only the Governor will give me a call. I will push the wheelchair.
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:45 AM
Monday, January 16, 2006
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: .... a time to mourn. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4
Families in the village of Damadola, Pakistan are mourning their dead today. Thirteen bodies have been laid in the ground, including 3 children and five women. According to a Dallas Morning News front page article dated Jan. 16, a coordinated attack by C.I.A and Pakistani forces utilized an unmanned drone to deliver a missile attack in seeking a specific target. That target was al-Zawahiri, second in command to Osama bin Ladin. The mission was not successful.
Senator John McCain, clearly showing his back up against the wall on this one stated, "We apologize, but I can't tell you that we wouldn't do the same thing again... We have to do what we think is necessary to take out al-Qaeda, particularly the top operatives. This guy has been more visible than Osama bin Ladin lately."
Singing two-part harmony, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. chimes in, "It's a regrettable situation, but what else are we supposed to do? It's like the wild, wild West out there. The Pakistani border is a real problem."
Meanwhile, our Embassy personnel are hunkered down behind barricades to their diplomatic missions with paramilitary forces guarding access. I would not advise this be the day the female staffers take off to buy trinkets in the local open air bazaar. One U.S. backed aid organization had its offices ransacked and torched already. The passions of nationalistic pride are stoked quite easily at rallies and in the local tea shop after incidents of this nature. Put the shoe on your own foot. How would you feel if the scenario were played out in your town?
Now, I cannot second guess the military on this mission. But just as a decent human, I think our Senatorial spokespersons need a bit of coaching on how to bring proper and official condolences.
Proper condolences use less words than more, words chosen carefully, that express the right emotional response which will bring comfort to those that mourn. A good response? "We are sorry for the loss of civilian lives, especially the lives of your children". Wrong response, "Gee, all in all, the scoreboard doesn't look bad enough that we might not consider the same thing again."
This blog is not about second-guessing the mission. I was not there. But, when things "Go South" we need to do a better job in how we show the American face. These responses by McCain and Bayh somewhat showed our haunches instead.
The thirteen killed are little poor villagers and I will never know their names. But their families, will never forget them. So what can I do for my part as an American? I can pray for those that mourn. And if I meet a Pakistani today what will I say? I am sorry for your loss.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:57 AM
Saturday, January 14, 2006
On Thursday, New York Times columnist David Brooks tried to explain how the Democratic Party has come to be in its confused and demoralized state. Of course, since he had only a few hundred words in which to do it, he got it wrong, right from the start.
Brooks claims if Sam Alito had been born a little earlier, he would probably have been a Democrat. Maybe, maybe not. What is certain is that had Judge Alito been born earlier, he wouldn’t have gotten into Princeton, and we probably would never have heard of him.
Brooks, who graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983, says that by the late 1960s, cultural politics replaced New Deal politics, and liberal Democrats did their best to repel Northern white ethnic voters. “Big-city liberals launched crusades against police brutality, portraying working-class cops as thuggish storm troopers for the establishment."
As someone who was there at the time, the police brutality issue was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and Meridian, Mississippi when the Bull Conners turned fire hoses and dogs on people lawfully exercising their right to peaceful assembly and petition in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Also, it wasn’t a party issue. The South was solidly Democratic as were the freedom riders who came from the North to register black voters in the south. And it really wasn’t a North-South issue either. As Malcolm X pointed out in the early 1960s, and Dapper O’Neil, the Boston anti-integration politician amply demonstrated, the North was more racist than the South.
This was not cultural politics replacing New Deal politics, but the final triumph of the Rooseveltian coalition of the disaffected and the disenfranchised. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voters Rights Act, he knew he was sending the Solid South into wide open Republican arms. What I am not sure Lyndon realized was that he was also sowing the seeds for a replay of the New York Draft Riots
During the Civil War, Irish immigrants flocked to the Union colors in droves. It was their ticket to the American dream. Then Lincoln freed the slaves and the Irish saw their tenuous grasp on survival threatened by blacks who would come north and take their jobs. The result was rioting so wide spread that regiments from Gettysburg had to be rushed to New York to save the city from both the Irish attacks on blacks and the anti-Catholic backlash riots that ensued.
With the Voters Rights Act and Great Society legislation, northern immigrants and others on the lower rungs of society’s ladder saw their situation challenged by a potential new wave and took steps to protect themselves. They had already benefitted, and like Sam Alito at Princeton, they wanted nothing more than to pull the ladder up after them, lest they get knocked off.
The Democratic Party has accomplished what it set out to do. Whether it survives or dies depends on whether it can find a new mission. If not, some other party will rise out of the ashes and our dynamic system will have new debates.
At the same time, I think it is worthwhile watching the developing fault lines in the Republican Party. It stands every chance of breaking into at least two parties, that of the Religious Right and the traditional Republican Party.
Posted by tammyswofford at 2:10 PM
Thursday, January 12, 2006
You have to wonder why the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court at all. What purpose can be served by asking questions of someone who, by his own admission, tells potential employers exactly what he thinks they want to hear?
Well, I guess they more or less had to. Since the Senate was denied hearings on that other kiss up, kick down candidate for public office, John Bolton, they really couldn’t deny Judge Alito his rubber stamp session. So, Sen. John “Pay to Play” Cornyn and his colleagues on the committee will allow Judge Alito to paper over his record as a toady to business and to law enforcement, no matter how heavy-handed and invasive his past decisions have been.
The man thinks 10-year-old girls should be strip-searched and that everybody has a right to as many automatic weapons as he can pay for. What more does anyone need to know? Why not allow strangers of uncertain character to paw very young girls? I am sure fathers are lining up across the country to make sure their daughters don’t miss out on that outrage.
The Alito judicial philosophy is hieratical and business is at the top of the heap. Individuals are at the bottom. Thus cops can molest little girls, but nobody, not even the cops who opposed open access to fire power, will be allowed to thwart business’s desire to get rich selling weapons of mass destruction to the general public.
When Alito was in the Solicitor General’s office, he helped brief Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education and he came up with the idea that Hank Aaron would never have been a home run king if they moved the fences in whenever he came to bat, to explain why affirmative action was bad. It was a stupid example since, once Mr. Aaron got to the Bigs, no one would move fences. And it ignored the premise of affirmative action, that even a ball player as talented as Mr. Aaron could have quite easily spent his entire career in the Negro League where, not matter what he did, news of it would never get out. Condemned, not by lack of talent, but by Jim Crow.
On Wednesday, Judge Alito seemed to say that the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to outlaw executions of people under 18 was wrong because it relied, in part on the trend around he world against the death penalty. Alita said he thought “the Framers would be stunned by the idea that the Bill of Rights is to be interpreted by taking a poll of the countries of the world." Does the good judge think the seeds for the Bill of Rights were found in the judicial writings of the Six Nations of the Iroquois or the Five Civilized Tribes? He must have been asleep the day his law school professor at Yale told his class that American law is descended from English Common Law. Justice Antonin Scalia, another “if it ain’t in the Constitution, it ain’t the law” kind of guy, frequently cites William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England.”
The Alito nomination is clearly a case of the wrong person for the wrong job. If Mr. Bush really wanted to take advantage of Mr.Alito’s obvious talents, he would have put him in the Office of Legal Council again. The last time he was there, Alito defended the Reagan Administration against charges emerging from Iran Contra, and his client, the president, managed to evade charges. Judge Alito is a splendid advocate, either for the defense or the prosecution. He would mount the best defense possible of Mr. Bush and the Cabinet. But he should not be on the highest court in the land as his judicial bias on the lower court show.
Pay to Play When John Cornyn and William Pryor were attorneys general of Texas and Alabama, respectively, they helped form the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) to raise money to elect more Republican attorneys general. If you wanted face time with the AG, you had to pony up a substantial contribution to RAGA. The problem is that people and companies that paid seldom found themselves being sued by the AG’s office. Cornyn became a US Senator and Pryor appointed a federal judge by, wait for it...George W. Bush in the recess.
Posted by tammyswofford at 3:44 PM
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
There is no doubt about it. I am easily confused. Just what are we learning from our data mining eavesdropping exercise? The National Security Agency’s big ears are apparently listening to everything that goes out over the airwaves in an effort to determine some sort of pattern that would indicate terrorist activity.
Our counter terrorism forces can’t get warrants for listening in on specific communications because they don’t know the names of the people communicating. Apparently, as easy going as the FISA Court is, it requires that a warrant has the name of the person suspected of malfeasance.
Of course, without a name, it might be difficult to gather corroborating evidence that the person on the phone or the Internet is, in fact, a terrorist, and not, for instance, an eight year old boy using text messaging slang to express his natural fascination with loud noises and destruction.
We are spending billions and billions of dollars each year to listen to everybody in the world. What do we do with the information we gather? Can we do anything with it? Do we have enough people to evaluate what we have captured? Apparantly not, according to a Stephen F. Hayes article in the Jan. 16 issue of The Weekly Standard, “Saddam’s Terror Training Camps.” In three years, our intelligence services have managed to translate 50,000 captured Iraqi documents, or 45 per day. We are not talking great tomes, but everything from handwritten notes to more substantial works. We have something like 2 million more documents to go. Now, the NSA must have millions times as much information. The good news is that, while one’s most intimate conversations may have been recorded by the voracious data miners of the NSA, it is extremely unlikely that a human being will actually hear that conversation.
If we are to believe the President, what happens is a digitized version of your deathless protestations of undying love are subjected to a bunch of software which parses the zeros and ones in an attempt to discover a pattern that matches a pattern of a supposed terrorist message. This all sounds reassuring, but what is the pattern of a terrorist plot? From decades of wiretap evidence from mobsters we know that people concerned about being listened in on, tend to speak in code. Jimmy Beslin, in “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” a comic novel based on a true mobster incident, described how the mob used articles of clothing as code for the tools of their trade. What sounded like a boring laundry list became far more interesting when one of the mobsters, having been informed that he was to pick up some shirts, asked if there were any bullets for those shirts.
Are we to believe the programers at NSA are cleaver enough to come up with an algorithm to catch such a gaff? Or, is it more likely that the people of interest will be able to change their codes faster than we can change our algorithms?
In short, we are spending billions and billions of dollars on what could be the biggest boondoggle since the Emperor’s New Clothes. Our president says he has the power to forget all about the Fourth Amendment. Surely, we have the right to make sure that such a sacrifice is worthwhile. “Trust us, it works,” just won’t do. We cannot surrender our hard won constitutional freedom from search and seizure without due process to an unproved automated eavesdropping system. The false sense of security engendered would be an open invitation to another attack. Let’s replace the magic with good, and legal, police work.
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:24 PM
Monday, January 09, 2006
Brokeback Mountain is the film portrayal of the lives of two homosexual men (Ennis Del Mar, portrayed by Heath Ledger and Jack Twist, by Jake Gyllenhaal). The story begins with the men as teenage ranchers herding sheep in 1963 Wyoming. Driven by the bitter night cold to share a tent they decide to follow the old Indian adage, "One woman is better than two blankets on a cold night". Except that in this case, you will view two gays engaging in vigorous anal intercourse. Suddenly and without reason.
The next morning the incident is treated almost as if it never happened, the men finish the job and part ways. Both men marry their pre-sodomy sweethearts and have children. Fast track to four years later. Jack suddenly pops up into the movie again and Ennis rushes to embrace and kiss him. Sadly, Ennis wife Alma, manages to witness the whole thing a few yards away through a screen door.
Thus invigorated to pursue each other, over the next twenty years they take "fishing trips" to engage in adulterous homosexual behavior abandoning the warmth of the bed of their respective women. Jack is happy to abandon his wife, but Ennis has a bit of a hang-up. In a vignette replayed from his childhood, his father shows him the battered and castrated body of a gay rancher to impress his young mind. He is a bit reticent, not about the behavior, but about being found out. His wife Alma takes care of it for him and divorces him. Jack keeps the shell of his marriage as his wife distances herself from him. Duh! Go figure. In the end, Jack succumbs to a rather suspicious "accident" and poor Ennis is left living in substandard housing, hanging onto Jack's old shirt and the remnants of what looks like a shattered life. (Not to mention all the lives he shattered along the way.)
Now I hate to sound mean, but it sounds like the empathy Hollywood wants us to feel is a bit misplaced. Don't you think that these men took the deck of life and dealt the hand poorly? If you come to the end of your own days and it looks like a big fat "ZERO" as to the attendance number at your own funeral, who is to blame? We need to stop and think about homosexuality and what it brings to the table of life. Instead of allowing gays to cry "Foul" every single time this issue is discussed we need to not let them to wave the yellow flag at us. Who are these people to sideline every opinion but their own? Who designated them the official referee in the game of life? So here are some of my thoughts as to how the choice of homosexuality can effect men.
Gender Fragmentation: Yep, Hollywood can use the mantra "Gender is just a concept" all they want. It is rather like saying the sun is just a concept and does not exist. Gender does exist with the chromosomal combo of conception. And as many neonates look genderless initially just peek into the diaper to confirm your suspicion. It you see a public water works, ya have a boy. So spare me the deception on that one.
Abandonment: Naturally, the film does not address the issue of the abandonment of the wives and children in this film. What?! Is this not an important issue? I mean can we just discuss for a moment how Alma must have felt and her own suffering? You know, if my husband boot scoots off to the bed of another woman at least I can size up the competition. Prettier, more fun-loving, nicer than "moi"? I can work with that if I want. But I cannot compete with a man. So where is the sympathy for the women that bore children to Ennis and Jack? And where is the sympathy for the welfare of the young when they figure out that Daddy is running off with another man? If there is no pre-existing marriage, what about abandonment of parental values? And conversely, the abandonment the gay may feel when his own family ostracizes him? Why are we afraid to talk about these things?
Loneliness: This is a big one in my book. Have you noticed that there is almost a palpable loneliness in this crowd? Sure, they are the life of the party. But laughter can be pseudo-happiness. Deep and abiding joy is harder to fake. The loneliness of this lifestyle can almost be touched at times. I have had long discussions with gay men regarding their partners, sexual desire, home life, you name it. The ache, is there.
Progeny: Oops! Dare I say it? There can be a procreation problem with this lifestyle. Barrenness is guaranteed 100 percent. No need to delve further as we are all adults here. But we now see the huge push for gays to adopt children.
So in looking at the emotions which ripple across the homosexual landscape of society I have to ask a blunt question: Is there a better way for the sons of men to live? Should this be promoted as a healthy lifestyle or discouraged as a poor choice? Can we talk honestly to our young men in strong terms regarding the life long repurcussions where cost will ultimately and grossly outweigh "benefit"? In the end, we pretty much make our own misery. That goes for heterosexuals too. But overall I have seen that homosexuality is not a happy song. It is a haunting melody.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:19 AM
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Today I attended a breakfast hoping to learn how to make this a better blog! A talk was given by a well-known Hollywood script writer. Being lucky enough to be seated at the head table, I peppered her with questions regarding blogs, why people read what they do and the influence of the internet on pop culture. In discussing current movies with her I mentioned the film "Brokeback Mountain" which depicts the lives of two homosexual men. Hollywood is absolutely enthralled with this story of two gay cowboys. The speaker said, "Hollywood will make up some additional awards to give this film." Her statement, struck me. I have thought about how propaganda plays such a big part in the film industry of today. What movie critics call "ground breaking documentaries" or films which "break down barriers" are spoken of with different phrases by people like me.
Having already garnered a total of seven Golden Globe nominations, the adulation of the Hollywood crowd, being a shoe-in for the Oscars, this film, deserves our debate.
Can we talk about homosexuality without it degenerating into merely a religious issue? Can we talk about our own feelings without being labeled as homo-hating neanderthals? In other words, can we just have an honest discussion? That is what I hope to provide for the Monday blog. This is my America. It is "their" America too. But my feelings will come into play for this topic, and my thoughts will be there for you to view.
I do not hate homosexuals. But if you are concerned that what I post for the Monday blog may disturb you, this blog is not the one for you. I have never been afraid to disturb the complacent, rattle the pacifist, confront the fool or be confronted in like manner, myself. But if you plan on reading and intend to post a comment on Monday please read as many reviews for "Brokeback Mountain" as possible. The movie "Brokeback Mountain" will be the stage for my thoughts. Although I have not seen the movie there is enough of a grasp of the reviews to pull this thing off! And if you have gone to the film, your comments will be especially appreciated.
Posted by tammyswofford at 8:02 PM
Thursday, January 05, 2006
The Friday blog was in the draft folder and ready to post. But now the gears will change and the promised blog on immigrants will be bumped. Something caught my eye on Yahoo News a moment ago and my passion is strong. Watch out!
Blog will be up in about an hour.
Posted by tammyswofford at 8:11 PM
Since we really have no idea what we are fighting for in Iraq,–first it was to strike a blow against al Qaida, but there was no Iraqi-al Qaida nexus; then it was to forestall Iraq using weapons of mass destruction, but there were none; then it was because Saddam Hussein was a bad person who should not be allowed to rule a country, but should have swallowed Stalin, Iddi Amin, Franco, the Shah, Jonas Savimbi (Angola), Musharef, and now Putin, so that really doesn’t wash; then it was to bring democracy to the Middle East, but the Egyptian Parliament is celebrating its 140th anniversary, and the West, including the United States, has squashed democratic experiments throughout the region, and we have begun recruiting Hussein’s secret police to help in the war against insurgents–I thought I would figure out why the Iraqis are fighting us.
According to Nir Rosen, writing in the December 2005 Atlantic, the insurgency is driven by two words, muqawama (resistance to being occupied) and intiqaam (revenge for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and insults to millions more). The reason there are hundreds of attacks a day against our troops and our collaborators is because we are not only in Iraq, but we are killing Iraqis, subjecting others to the indignities of searches, having weapons pointed at them as they are stuck in traffic, having electricity for two hours, followed by five hours without, and watching as foreigners do work Iraqis could do. In short, we are behaving like occupiers and nobody likes to be occupied.
Mr. Bush’s statement that “we will stand down when the Iraqis stand up” is ludicrous. Both the Kurds and the Shi’ites have larger and better equipped militias than the Iraqi government has. Why duplicate what is already there? In addition, recruiting, training and arming an Iraqi military is really providing the militias and the Sunni insurgents with trained troops.
The argument that we are there to prevent a civil war is nonsense since the civil war has already begun and we really can’t stop it, not because we don’t have enough troops or firepower, but because the Iraqis don’t want to stop it.
It is also wrongheaded to stay in Iraq to make sure Abu Musab al-Zarqawi doesn’t take over. Zarqawi is tolerated in Iraq because he is useful. Once the Americans leave, his usefulness will end and he will no longer be able to function.
Rosen believes that an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion, but he doesn’t seem to have reckoned on the Turks. It is very likely that Turkey would oppose that since it would make the Turkish Kurds even more unruly than they are now. However, if the Iraqi Kurds are willing to share oil and gas from the Kirkuk oil fields with Turkey, a unified Kurdistan is a slight possibility.
What isn’t possible is Iran taking over the Shia portion of Iraq, which includes the southern oil fields. The difference between religion and territory is one reason al Qaida’s caliphate will not be established in the way Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, fears it will. Iraq, or the Shia portion of what is now Iraq, will have to reach an agreement with Iran over the Shatt al-Arab, but that is as far as Iranian territorial aspirations will reach.
A much more intriguing question arises when one considers that the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which contains the largest oilfield in the world, is populated by Shi’ite Arabs. If there is to be an amalgamation, it is more likely to be between Saudi and Iraqi Shi’ites. Now, that would really put the cat among the pigeons.
We are in Iraq. If we have to stay, we better figure out a way to do some good for the Iraqi people to try to change some minds about us. If we go, we had better give the whole Middle East a great deal of thought, because nothing will be as it was before the invasion.
As a final thought, what are we going to do if Saddam Hussein is found not guilty? There is an increasing body of Iraqis who think they were doing much better with Hussein than without him.
Posted by tammyswofford at 11:39 AM
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Not since the Abscom Follies of the 1970s and 1980s has official Washington looked forward to a musical performance with such a combination of titillation and terror. While most attention is focused on the Thieves’ Opera’s two featured voices, Jack R. Abramoff, and Michael Scanlon, the real show is in the chorus. The concert impresarios have yet to announce the 12 voices that will sing counterpoint to the fugue of crooks sung by Abramoff and Scanlon, but they will be drawn from congressional members, their spear carriers, and assorted lobbyists.
For the past month, lawmakers have been falling over one another in attempts to give campaign contributions back to Abramoff and his clients. Unfortunately, while they can give back the money, they are still on the hook for the meals, golf trips and other favors they accepted.
While the three principals are tuning up, let’s review the program. Contrary to expectations, the star of this concert will not be Abramoff, despite the almost superhuman effort it took to get him to sign on before he was called away to a previous engagement in Florida. Abramoff is here just to tune his instrument and to rehearse with Scanlon, before he heads south for his cabaret performance with Adam Kidan
In Miami, Kidan and Abramoff will perform a duet for swindlers in which each admitted fraudster attempts to show that the other is more guilty of, one, financial fraud in the case of the ill-fated gambling ship caper, and two, capital murder of Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis. Three men have been arrested for the Boulis murder. Two are Kidan associates and the third is said to have learned his trade at Gotti Tech.
In 2000 Abramoff and Kidan extorted SunCruz, a fleet of gambling ships,from Boulis with help from Rep. Bob Ney, (R-OH) for $147.5 million, which they did not have. Abramoff and Kidan then faked a wire transfer to convince the banks that they had the $23 million they had promised to put into the deal. By 2004 Abramoff had run SunCruz aground and the lenders began looking for their money. Abramoff is expected to plead guilty to criminal fraud charges in Miami. The bankers are still suing to recover $40 million which they say they were conned into advancing Abramoff and company.
In addition to Ney, and his chief of staff, Neil Volz, who have been told that bribery charges probably will be prepared, likely members of the chorus are: J. Steven Griles, the deputy inrerior secretary who may have discussed a job with the lobbyists while in a position to help that lobbyist’s clients; staffers working for Tom DeLay (R-TX), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), Rep John T. Doolittle (R-CA). Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in prosecutorial sights as well. DeLay has allowed Abramoff and his clients to pay for three overseas trips and has received $70,000 from Abramoff and his clients. As far as is known, DeLay has not tried to return the money.
David H. Safavian, who has already been indicted of five counts of lying to federal investigators, may well figure in the show.
The big question is, will there be a final act? Stopping at the congressional staffers will be difficult since some of them they will attempt to roll on their bosses. But, some very important toes could be in danger of being stepped on, and, given the track record of some of the administration’s Justice Department appointees, a thorough, without fear or favoritism investigation is an open question.
Opera lovers are cautioned to pay special attention to the libretto. Given Abramoff’s record, it is quite possible that there is a bit of “The Producers” in the bankruptcies of SunCruz and Abramoff’s two Washington restaurants.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:02 PM
Monday, January 02, 2006
The history of the human race can be called the continuous river of pain. Tyrannies, genocides, wars, colonization and many natural disasters characterize the past.
In the presentation of a political misery, Solzhenitsyn is the most gifted witness. Everything else is pale in comparison to his talent. Not Shakespeare. Not Tolstoy. Not Thomas Mann. Sozhenitsyn is the expert of the human misery. The Stalin prisons, the gulags, they became his home. The arrests were so insane. "Arresting me, it must be an error" told most victims to their Checkists, or NKDV, or GPU, or SMERCH mercenaries. And they went into the human disposals. Died. Disappeared. Suffered.
The miseries were created by insane nuts, who grabbed the power, and used it in a barbaric way, like the Roman Emperors, Ottoman Sultans, Soviet Stalins, Nazis, Hutus, Sudanese tyrants, Khmer Rouge, Milosevic, Saddam, false Islamic prophets....
The new Anarchy we are living now is not Jihad. It is the anarchy which the Russian and European desperados practiced. The origin of the current Jihad is perhaps the Cold War. We need an honest look at the manipulation by insiders and outsiders in the Middle East. The Russians manipulated, managed and directed the anti-West and anti-Israel forces. The West closely allied itself with rulers of the oil-providing countries.
The Israelis fought for a country against a broad resistance, and Israel managed to gain control over the Palestinians. The inept Likud has ruled in an almost uninterrupted manner since 1977. The Palestinian factions lead an immoral terror campaign against the people on the Israeli street. It has hurt the individual Israeli's but the terror has not stopped the fast economical and military development of Israel.
The new victims of the hostility, the millions of Palestinians are locked into an ocean of misery. Israel and the world remains indifferent to their suffering. The Arab nations have not offered a positive help to them. Peace was denied to all the Middle East.
The region will remain uncalm, until an honest admission is heard from the past culprits who are (partially) still alive, or a clear documentation is released from the archives describing the criminal activities of the Cold War. We can only hope that the people will adopt an accord on peaceful coexistence.
Reagan made the Cold War conflict so simple. His influence still blocks a clear view of the past. Many will not admit his errors. We have heard Oliver North. Not a pretty picture.
Times were not easy. Good solutions have not been found. The voices of moderation are still in the minority. I know the Russians are probably worse, but it is clear that the leading U.S. politicians are also narrow-minded individuals, who have difficulties to plan the right steps.
We need intelligent, enlightened people to do a better job. We should not remain passive. Thanks to the bloggers we can now hear the voice of many ordinary people. It is a loud orchestra, but music to my ears. We can see the pain of the past. All of us should give support to the oppressed human beings in the global arena. They and also we, need real freedom, not just shackles with a new name.
Orange County, New York
Posted by tammyswofford at 10:47 AM
Engineer-Businessman-Medical Equipment Distributor
Enlightment, History, Philosophy Buff
Friend of Geza Vermes
Language fluency: Hungarian, German, English and Hebrew
Full of fun memories of years spent in Eastern Europe, Western Europe and U.S.A.
Resides in Orange County, New York
Posted by tammyswofford at 2:05 AM