Camraderie: The Strong Bond of Brotherhood in Work and Play
Finally our training here is over and the last few days of the week are spent doing odds and end things, such as briefings and getting ready to leave for our first destination, Kuwait. Halloween evening is two days before we leave and is our last night we can go out. One of the instructors used to own a Cajun restaurant before Katrina so tonight he cooks us pork chops, drumsticks, and jambalaya with his special seasoning. Of course we have beer and soft drinks. A group of were going into Columbia for dinner but not for a while as we had to wait for the van to return so the driver can take us. So we have to eat something and the food is too good to pass up. And the food is good and so are the few beers! Finally the driver came and we piled in and drove to a place on the main restaurant/bar area west of the U. of South Carolina called the “Flying Saucer” though I don’t know why. It’s primarily a drinking place that also serves food. The attraction is 200 varieties of beer, and primarily females dresses up in Irish kilts. This is a college town after all! As you drink your way through the beer list (limited to 3 tastes per night), when you reach a certain number a saucer with your name, number of beers sampled, and the date is mounted on the wall. Memphis also has one of these places. Several of us order dinner with another beer and then a second. This is the limit. So, a short while later one of the officers buys us a round of “Irish Car Bombs”. This is similar to a boilermaker apparently. In the old Navy we’d probably call it a “depth charge”. It consists of Guinness stout in a pub glass and Jameson Irish whiskey floated on top of Bailey’s in a shot glass. Then on cue, you drop the shot glass in and drink the whole concoction down before the Bailey’s curdles. It doesn’t help when the shot glass prematurely slips in and it wasn’t hard to drink down. This is certainly too much, but now someone buys us a round of tequila shooters! Time to switch to coke. Now this is Halloween and people are dressed up so I have my camera. I won’t go into details but a little tiff by some local students bent on starting something develops. Fortunately our group has several individuals who could play college linebacker to restrain both parties and with the help of the manager gets us apart as we are about to leave anyway. Finally our driver shows up and we head back to base. All in all a very interesting evening and fortunately I felt fine the next day.
CAPT Hiram Patterson
**Please note that it is impossible to sing our Navy Hymn, "Eternal Father Strong to Save" in three part harmony even WITHOUT alcohol on board. That is why Navy men prefer "Anchors Aweigh" as their favorite drinking song. smile LCDR Swofford
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Camraderie: The Strong Bond of Brotherhood in Work and Play
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The Army has come a long way since 1980 and the courses are all electronically controlled and scored. No more rigid plastic silhouette or paper targets except on some of the rifle ranges and familiarization ranges.
The pistol range had about 25 lanes. Each lane had a series of low berms at varying distances with pop-up targets that looked like 3-dimensional green smurfs. Each shooting position had a small sand-filled box that we initially shot from and a stand where the range officers placed pistol magazines with different number of rounds. Depending on how we were going to shoot, we used different magazine combinations. Some movements require reloading and we engaged either single or multiple targets. We shot standing still and we shot while advancing. The target would pop up and when hit would go back down; we only had a certain number of seconds to shoot or the target would disappear. The farthest shooting was 25 meters I passed on the first try and scored marksman.
We shot on different rifle ranges and first had to sight in our rifles. This we did on a range with a flat surface at a distance of 200 meters. We did this wearing our armor and using sandbags for support. We fired 5-shot groups at gridded paper bullseye targets and then walked up to mark where we shot. Instructors would go down the line, look at the target, and tell us how many clicks on the sights we needed to adjust. We went through a pre-qualification course of fire, again with armor. This time we would have pop-up targets at distances of 50 to 300 meters, and shoot slow fire prone, rapid kneeling and rapid standing with 40 rounds of ammunition. We had either single or multiple targets at random distance.
We then went to a different range. This range had firing lanes separated by pine trees on each side. The shooting positions were raised wood beam boxes filled with sand. I shot better the first time and qualified. Another officer from my company shot a perfect 40.
We shot on two different indoor electronic ranges using M-16 rifles rigged up to compressed air to give the effect of firing. The first range was simple. The second although virtual combat has your blood pressure spiking and your adrenaline surging.
Heavy Weapons Firing:
During the last week we got to do heavy weapons firing. One day we rotated through instructions on different weapons telling us how they operated and showing us how to load, cock, shoot, safe and clear jams on each. The next day we went to the range. There were two of each weapon and we formed a line behind each and shifted to the next weapon. We were going to shoot the MK-19 40mm grenade launcher, M-2 .50 caliber machine gune, the M-240B 7.62 mm machine gun and the M-249 SAW 5.56mm machine gun. We shot silhouette targets at different ranges and old armored personnel carriers and tanks in the far distance. The 249 was shot from the prone with a bipod and fired in quick rapid bursts. The 240 was shot from standing in armored vehicle mounting (requires climbing into); it fired slower, slightly heavier sounding bursts. Both are normally fed by 200 round belts and every fifth round is a tracer to help aim and adjust where you fire. The .50 caliber is the grandfather of machine guns, having been in service since before WW II. It is fired from a tripod sitting down and normally uses a 200 round linked ammunition belt. It has a distinctly heavy, slow rate of fire (slow meaning up to 450 rounds per minute of 1.3 ounces of steel).
CAPT Hiram Patterson
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Starting the journey:
I thought it might be time to write now. I left Dallas on October 4 and flew to Memphis to start my mobilization processing at my reserve center. I checked in on Friday morning and was done in an hour and a half after getting my official orders and filling out paperwork. I arrived in San Diego early Monday evening and waited at the USO for a ride to the Naval Station where I would start my transition to active duty status the following morning. I reported aboard the Navy Mobilization Processing Center (NMPS) at 7:15 Tuesday morning. I would be here until Saturday the 13th. Our time would be spent completing paperwork, listening to presentations as I did on my last tour to Iraq, and medical exams for fitness. I got my first Anthrax shot that burned for about a minute after getting it but nothing after except a tender arm. The day before we left we were issued our clothing and boots.
Second leg of the journey:
Saturday morning we drove to Naval Station, North Island to catch our plane. After a short wait we boarded our C-40 jet. I was the senior officer of the group so had my choice of seat up front. We boarded buses for McReady Training Center just outside Ft. Jackson which would be our home for the next three weeks. The entire group was not going to the same areas nor would they have the same tour lengths. The smaller group would be going to the Horn of Africa (Djbouti) following two months of additional training in Norfolk, Virginia. The rest of us would be going to Afghanistan (12 months) or Iraq. (6-12 months)
One of our first tasks was to get our equipment issue. We went through two different warehouses where we were measured for and issued a second pair of boots, wet and cold weather clothing, Kevlar helmet, body armor, gas mask, backpack and frame, canteens, mosquito netting (useless and bulky), knee and elbow pads, camelback, sleeping bag system plus three sea bags to carry everything. During our second week we got an isomat (roll up foam pad put on ground to keep moisture off our sleeping bag), and a $1,500 dollar backpack with our chemical warfare gear. Another day we were issued individual weapons.
Issue of Body Armor:
One thing about our body armor is that it is new and improved. The latter is debatable though as now we have 15 pounds of side armor in addition to the 25 we already have. The armor protects the side area from the armpit down to the waistline. And we have axillary and deltoid armor that we refer to as wings because it is a flap shaped piece of flexible Kevlar that fits down over our shoulders to above the elbows where it fastens with a Velcro strap. It probably adds another eight or nine pounds of weight.
We had various classes dispersed thoughout our training just like the ones I got last time pertaining to culture, radio communications, first aid, rules of engagement, code of conduct, rules of war, etc. Unlike the Marines on my last tour, the Army required us to actually qualify on our primary weapon. Although I only had to qualify on the pistol, I still had to shoot a rifle here.
CAPT Hiram Patterson
Preventive Medicine Officer
MNC-I Surgeon's Office
Camp Victory, Iraq
Monday, January 28, 2008
Political assassinations can look messy on the surface. But many times the key figures are never identified, much less apprehended. Approximately two million visitors a year find their way to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas to view the perch from which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the 35th president of the United States and gravely injured a Texas governor. Decades later we are left when only one small truth: the Warren Commission concluded that Mr. Oswald fired at least three shots from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. Yep, that is about it. A post-mortem on President John F. Kennedy and a bullet to the chest of Governor Connally about sum it up. Although the report concluded that Mr. Oswald acted alone, a majority of Americans today still believe that the man was operating as an agent on assignment. Part of the continued success of the Sixth Floor Museum is the fascination of unsolved mystery.
Lawrence Foley was assassinated while serving as senior executive for USAID in Jordan. Intelligence services got lucky on that one. It didn’t take long for the indictment to be filed in the Jordanian National Security Court and several of the suspects were brought into custody. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was fingered for that plot. The training on Syrian soil sufficed. But planning and execution faltered when the men were told to move into Jordan and merely pick a suitable target. Planning has to include a successful exit strategy from the stage of play. It is like I tell people, “Anyone can rob a bank. Very few can make the getaway long enough to even spend the cash.”
The assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon in February 2005 served greater political purpose than merely snuffing the breath of life from his lungs. These things are never just about personal hatred. The target is an individual who represents credible blockade against the political goals of another individual or nation. U.N. resolution 1595 established the basis for a Lebanon-based independent investigation into the assassination. The original three month allowance for the investigation required extension. Detlev Mehlis, a man with his own beefy resume which showed a record of cracking some high profile terror cases finally submitted his report. The Mehlis report named 19 suspects but inconclusive results as to who was the mastermind.
In March of 2006, feeling the continued heat of international pressure the U.N. Commission released the Brammertz Progress Report to the U.N. Security Council. According to the New York Times it stated in part, “....the individuals who perpetrated this crime appear to be very ‘professional’ in their approach.... it must be assumed that at least some of those involved were likely experienced in this type of terrorist activity.” Ho Hum I could have written that never leaving my desk for a second cup of coffee. Undoubtedly Commissioner Serge Brammertz submitted a nice report. Yes, another nice report without naming the ringleader. So what does this tell us? Cold trail from the beginning. What a masterpiece in planning, training and execution. Fear the man who set that thing in motion.
A couple weeks ago a political cartoonist brought parody to the page of the news with a one frame cartoon which showed President Musharraf releasing the results of an enquiry into the death of former PM Benazir Bhutto. In the cartoon he states it was done by Miss Scarlet, in the kitchen, with the knife. C.I.A. director Michael Hayden and the U.K. team dispatched from Scotland Yard’s Counterterrorism Command point the finger toward Baitullah Mehsud, an extremist with ties to al-Qaedah. Personally, I am betting on Miss Scarlet.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The first blog of the week will be written by "moi". Later tonight it will post.
But then put on your flak jackets for Tuesday. Through the eyes of a Naval officer you will report to your staging area, acquire your gear, move through simulation exercises, engage weapons familiarization and move into Iraq for your second tour of duty in a different region of the country.
I will be allowing you a very private glimpse into a world which many never experience or understand. You will receive portions of my first contact report from the operational field environment by a fellow officer and wonderful friend. His words will not be altered. It is merely that you will not receive his full thoughts. This educational process for the blog readers will encompass most of the rest of the week. You should find it highly informative and also enjoyable.
In seeing commercials of our troops coming home, these "grateful nation" type advertisements meant to fire up patriotism can actually cause us to fall into a complacent posture. Do you truly realize the high impact process in place just to move a military person into Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world? The pace is rigorous and the lazy need not apply.
"Uncle Sam" peers out from vintage posters stating, "We want you!" Yes, our military still needs you. We want the best of you. We want officers and enlisted. But can you make the cut? Follow through starting on Tuesday. Is it time for you to consider taking the oath? Join the wall of defense!
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Readers keep sending things into my e mail regarding illegal immigration and the impact on America. I normally have about a three minute limit on anything that comes to me from YouTube. I just don't have the time. But for the mathematically challenged as myself this particular presentation of approximately ten minutes has a simple enough graph and analogy that everyone should "get it".
Click here for the link.
The presenter makes an interesting point in using the gumballs. Unless you are well-read or traveled it is hard to grasp that approximately 2/3 of the world dwells with levels of poverty which will never be experienced by the average American. Can we feed, clothe and care for these billions of people? Of course not. Should they get a free skate because they live in geographic proximity as opposed to an ocean's length away?
America gives much in USAID and also generous charitable funding to many nations through private and religious sectors. If America becomes increasingly poor over the next few decades, which is going to certainly occur because of unabated allowance for illegal immigration, what will be the outcome for the quality of life for our descendents? And a poor America, is less available to help the rest of the world.
Our forefathers' wisdom to guide our nation cannot be negated. America is a land of blessing. Many nations suffer for the simple fact that their own forefathers have governed in foolhardy manner and existing rampant corruption continues to trickle down into the national policy and economy of many of these nations.
Should the individual American feel guilty for seeking to reverse the tide of illegal immigration? Or should we bear the greater guilt of not securing for our own future generations the quality of life which we ourselves now enjoy? We are a bunch of squid. Where is our political backbone?
I don't feel guilty for seeking to preserve my children's future. It can be done legally and without violent means. The laws are there. Read my lips. The laws are not being enforced. Our "national housekeepers" inside the Beltway have neglected their duty to the citizen. Let's clean house in the next election. The house has been left dirty for too long.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Personally, I ignore the the media saturation afforded Britney Spears. An ill-bred woman who never made it emotionally past adolescence, my own prediction is that she will die by her own reckless hand at a younger age than did Anna Nicole Smith.
Following the story of Dr. Phil and his grandiose adventure to see Ms. Spears at the request of her mother, raises issues of professionalism in my own mind. He is a man who claims to be a fount of wisdom to resolve the conflicts and miseries of people who find their way to his television studio. In one hour he can set aright the life of an individual who has engaged decades of bad decisions and relationships. O.K. My personal bias shows at this point. I have never seen this man as extremely professional, but rather having a gift for showmanship.
But Dr. Phil should have known better than to shoot off his mouth about his trip to visit Ms. Spears, noting her destabilized mental condition within a residential treatment facility. In line with his previous training and education how did he manage to forget the basics of professionalism? He violated patient confidentiality and when given access to privileged information betrayed the trust of a family. The picture of a charming cobra comes to mind at this point.
In my nursing career I have worked everything from children's units, to adolescent psychiatric and also adult mental health, including substance abuse. The picture is never pleasant inside of locked units where some of the clientele are delivered under bench warrants by the local police department.
People who are in the grip of an acute psychiatric or emotional crisis require the highest levels of medical intervention. Their behavior can range from catatonic to paranoid schizophrenic, from severely depressed to highly volatile and explosively combative on arrival. Their mental anguish can actually cause physical symptoms which must also be immediately addressed. If you have seen the film, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" imagine a much worse clientele. They exist. They run down halls naked with arms reaching out of the walls to grab them. We tackle them, restrain them and pump their bodies full of Haldol, Ativan and other drugs to reset their temporarily out-of-order brains.
I have cared for the children of highly placed government officials and outstanding members of Texas society at one facility. The things I observed and shared with their children while under my care are things not voiced to the general public. In fact, their names are not voiced to other professionals who were not directly involved with stabilizing them enough to return them to family and the greater society. It is not your business. You don't need to know.
Medical professionals keep a lot of secrets. I know the intimate details of the lives of many who have come under my care as a nurse. Functioning as a confessional for sin, sounding board for anguish and guardian of the secrets of men is part of my job description. Too bad Dr. Phil blurred two realities: that of a true professional and that of a man who knows that each new day requires the production of another show to keep the cash register ringing.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
S'ils n'ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.
And in providing translation from French, to Persian, to English, this would say:
“If they are dying from the cold, let them wear warm clothing.” Well, not exactly. But that is exactly what President Ahmadinejad managed to blather when asked why he had not authorized the release of natural gas to remote villages in Iran where citizens are turning into human ice sculptures from the cold. Sustaining an unusually harsh winter climate the corpses are starting to pile up.
I distinctly remember my own mercifully short stint sleeping in a tent with ice puddles next to my cot at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin one dreary January when ordered to cold weather training. The operational name was “Badger Blue” and for the life of me I don’t know why it wasn’t really called “You’ll be lucky to make it home alive.” For the ice crystals on my eyelashes and for times spent standing in muster feeling the snot in my nose turn to icy slush I extend my compassion to the Iranian poor. Fearing my derriere would freeze right onto the port-o-john seat and maybe my comrades would just bury me in a snow drift the next day, bravely I plodded forward. Miserable cold. But we did get to warm up our semi-frozen limbs in the chow hall twice a day. Thank God for Army chow! But my guess is the poor Iranian citizens in the remote regions are burning twigs of firewood without their supply of gas.
Well thank goodness for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s rally behind the peasants and insertion of a bit of common sense into this situation! That is what the casual observer will say and then move on. But budgetary concerns that override the ability of government to provide a basic emergency allotment should make a person want to scratch a bit further when reading this news-of-the-day story. What is the bigger story?
Iran’s economy is wobbly at best. Although rich in oil, gas and mineral reserves the nation struggles with high unemployment and inflation rates. Hard foreign currency depends on oil and gas sales and they rob Peter to pay Paul to manage their international debt load. Desirous to quicken the national stride in building a stronger military industrial complex the domestic economic front has not been prudently strengthened . For a strong military complex to survive there must be strong regional economy to suckle the growing military baby. President Ahmadinejad seeks to join the round table of nuclear knights. To do so involves heavy financial investment into a nuclear program. The nation is already strapped with maintenance of aging conventional military equipment. Acquisition of new assets and technology requires heavy investment into either R&D or piecemeal attainment of component devices through the international black market weapons cartel.
There is an interesting parallelism which emerges when viewing nations such as Iran. As a nation’s population becomes increasingly poor and undereducated, government can warm their own hands knowing that any embers of revolution will be easily quenched by the military apparatus in place. But by not stimulating domestic growth, strengthening trade treaties with other nations, better managing international debt and educating the young the result becomes apparent within a generation. The supple breast which suckled the military of one generation becomes the withered breast which no longer offers up the milk. That thought, should bring an icy cold to Tehran.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Yes, Readers, I know. Haloscan has been a train wreck on my site the last two days. They are working to rectify the situation. Comments come and comments go. They are still retained within my administrative Haloscan site. So once it is fixed, things should reappear.
Just playing with it from "this end" some posts with no comments do retain the comments but require a "double click" into and out of the comments for others to appear if you want to rebuttal another reader.
Sorry for the inconvenience. Stuff like this, drives me crazy.
Posted by tammyswofford at 10:31 AM
Here we go again. When will the public tire of books and plays which distort the message of Jesus to sensationalize an artistic package? I went to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” years ago. The music was o.k. but the acting was mediocre. The set wasn't spectacular. We have books on the market suggesting that Jesus had an affair with a woman with a salacious past and fathered a child. The perfect Christian storm today is a play depicting Jesus as a weak-willed man seduced by his thieving partner and conducting gay marriages. This play, “Corpus Christi”, has caused quite a stir.
Naturally, we must stop and consider which group would most enjoy such a film. You are allowed one guess because it is too easy. “Corpus Christi” will open on February 7th as part of the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival in Sydney, Australia. They are playing to their audience. Simple enough.
I do appreciate leaders within the ranks of Christianity who take a stand on such things. It is our right to guard against the chipping away of our foundational convictions. The strength of our beliefs has carried us through storms of the centuries, many of them with more severe consequence for the Christian than dealing with the offense of a Savior spit upon by the crowd.
The true Corpus Christi suffered death on a cross while enduring the hurling insults from the surrounding crowd. They did not grasp the message. He prayed, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." A crowd spitting on His grave centuries later does not bother me. For the tomb is empty. We do not look for the living among the dead. We serve a Risen Lord. Let them spit.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Ricardo Ramirez Lopez:
He lives in Casa Grande, Arizona. He is a heavy equipment operator and pays his rent on time. He is a husband and father. He "benefits our economy" because he is an illegal immigrant who can be exploited to work for a lower wage than what would be offered to a legal citizen.
Ricardo Ramirez Lopez:
He is really Santana Atiz-Becevez. He lives in Chandler, Arizona. He has been sexually assaulting young ladies 12-15 years of age for eighteen months now and kept an entire community on edge. He has cost the taxpayers of Maricopa County thousands of dollars to ramp up a task force enlisting a dragnet which included a police tracking dog to capture this man. He now faces 25 federal counts for kidnapping, sexual assault and other heinous crimes against a peaceful population and the charges are still piling up. The state of California would like to see his DNA strand. He is a person of interest in several unsolved rapes in their state which fell in the same timeline as when he took up residence there. He has twice been deported for crimes committed in the U.S.A. and waltzed back in the third time. Apparently, an undereducated equipment operator has no problem getting here. That does make me wonder about our next 911. Will these men just come across our southern border next time? Hmmmm.
Ricardo Ramirez Lopez:
Supposedly he was loading up his vehicle to return to Mexico. I like to think that he could have been the Dallas Morning News "Texan of the Year". With Arizona and Oklahoma using their states rights and legal system to put the squeeze on illegal immigrants it seems to me that many of them will be relocating in our state which prefers to maintain a "Sunshine Policy" of peaceful co-existence.
Ricardo Ramirez Lopez:
He is the national threat that our federal government's elected officials would rather not address. So instead it comes down to you and me. Yes, little average citizens of individual states who want to raise a stink. Why should we be doing what the government should do for us? I don't want hard feelings against legal immigrants. But I do want enforcement against illegal migration across our borders. What about you? Illegal immigrants fall outside of the government umbrella. Off the radar. Comprende?
Individuals who acquire fraudulent documents, steal identities and move about in transient manner can be hard to track. If the government wants me I can be located within probably less than one minute. They have me in a computer data base which includes my marriage license, university degree, Texas R.N. license, drivers license, auto insurance card and a little note that states I did receive and pay for one traffic ticket in Arlington, Texas when I was a student. My address of residence has been the same for years. My place of employment is easy to find. My DNA is in their database and of course I don't mind. I have nothing to fear. I am a law-abiding citizen.
But what about Ricardo Ramirez Lopez? The debate ends here.
Here is the link.
Another link if you have the time.
Monday, January 21, 2008
President Bush has probably done as well as any of his predecessors who have made historic visits to the Middle East to work for peace....er.... herd cats.
You know one thing is always true about cats. You can put several of them under the same roof and they all do fairly well so long as one lounges on top of the couch, another sits at the window and another peeks out from under the bed. But put them all into a burlap bag and see how long they last.
Such is the nature of Middle East peace politics between Israel, the more stable Muslim nations and Iran with its proxy arrangements. Middle East peace documents end up being your average burlap bag because of the nature of cats. How long have we been bringing peace to the Middle East now? yawn Pass the chocolates.
Israel and Saudi Arabia are the lions. These two nations are the King of the Hill.
Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE are jaguars. They bring stability to the region and can stand in solitary, stable manner in their own right with their respective governments.
Egypt is a panther. Moving in the shadows and seeking greater play, Mubarak has enough on his hands on the domestic front. Twenty-six years in the seat of power and the man is getting tired. Although his name means "blessing" his internal security apparatus has been the curse of his opponents. Political hyenas are scenting for blood.
Iran is the tiger. Moving with stealth, she carries along with her the captivity-bred ocelots of Syria and Lebanon. She conceals herself well and walks on her toes.
Just as the bigger cats have their nitch within the natural ecosystem, each nation within the Middle East functions within their own nitch requiring certain natural and also hybrid resources of foreign aid and alliance for their political ecosystem to survive.
But cats are never consensual about much of anything. So if “Peace in the Middle East” is not an overarching attainable goal, what needs to change? Can we consider getting rid of the burlap bag? Let's rename the process and put new ideas on the table. Maybe signatories to a "Non-Predatory Pact" would suffice? But then again, cats will always revert to being cats.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta. More commonly known as Shams ad-Din. Born in 1304 A.D. in Tangiers, Morocco he is remembered for his historical travel book, Rihlah, translated into languages of both the east and west. A restless, adventuresome man, he set out from Makkah at the age of twenty-one and took off on foot, by camel or whatever beast of burden available and made the world his oyster. It is estimated that he traveled 75,000 miles over land and by sea, which was further than was traveled by Marco Polo, who dwelt closely within the same historical timeline.
His eyes beheld Iraq, Iran and Damascus. He then sailed to what is now modern day Somalia, then headed toward the regions under the rule of Muhammad Uzbeg Khan, whose far flung empire claimed its capital on the Volga river.
Traveling on through Turkey, visiting Kabul and moving on to India he managed to get an appointment as a judge in what is Delhi and wrote in great detail about the Indian culture while there.
He gave vivid accounts of the Maldive archipelago, Western Sudan and included a section on China. His writings are invaluable from an anthropological and sociological standpoint to understand how the civilizations of that time functioned. His body finally pooped out and he died at Fez in 1369 A.D.
It is interesting to consider the difficulties of such travel but beyond that, the commitment to disciplined observation of the sights and sounds of a different culture. When I was in Mongolia with a humanitarian medical team we set up the first week along the banks of a river. Some of the people traveled by camel and they had saddles (not sure what they should be called) which were box-like structures that looked very uncomfortable. I was exposed to dog blood smeared on second degree burns, rhinocerous horn ground up to powder for arthritis and heard tales of the benefits of chewing on a cow eye for jaundice. Yaks posed as stop signs along the only road and wild horses swam the rivers and camels were in the distance.
In Africa, I saw deep tracking fistula wounds stuffed full of a grass mixture and charcoal in babies ears to treat ear infections. I marveled at the thousands of termites which invaded our compound every night who then became the unwitting dinner entrée’s for the bullfrogs who showed up shortly after the rain at night. I ate baboon and peanut soup and lived to tell about it. The sights I saw still bring the warmth of fond memory to me.
The world is a fascinating place, but how many of us take the time to really consider the people of the world, their way of life and customs as we move across the globe today? A childlike curiosity must be retained. But to also see the world through scientific eyes? What a fabulous gift!
So for all of you cruise-loving Americans who live for the midnight chocolate buffet or the constant mind-numbing entertainment provided, a tip of the hat for Shams ad-Din and the hardy souls who walked their way across the world and sailed on wooden ships just for the sake of adventure.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Within the altered universe in which the staffers of the ACLU dwell we can now surmise one thing: sex is reduced to an activity of opportunity between strangers. As such, if men choose a public bathroom stall as their playground of choice, your eight year old son trying to use the urinal opposite the stall should just mind his own business. The "right to privacy" of homosexuals to engage freelancing sex in public restrooms with complete strangers supercedes the right of your son to retain his innocence. And did I also say "Thank you, Senator"?
Exactly how strong and bold is the gay rights community at this point? Apparently they are strong enough to withstand any backlash from a concerned parental demographic. I am a concerned mother of two sons. I remember the days of taking them with me into the women's restroom at the department store until they were in kindergarten. After that, this maternal sentinel required her sons to respond to at least one verbal check through the cracked restroom door to ascertain they were ok. until about age ten. It was at that point that I felt they had the emotional wiring in place to discuss things with them which some adults find uncomfortable. We discuss such things for our children's safety.
Let's not scuttle this discussion because it makes us shift in our seats. Men having sex in bathroom stalls makes me uncomfortable on several levels. It actually makes me nauseated to consider the children who have also been sexually assaulted in public restrooms. If you don't have a visceral response to child sexual assault I would like to know the reason why.
A case close to home involves a dear adult female friend who was forced to have oral sex with a man who entered the public bathroom stall of a "women's room". At a very young age my friend found out that life wasn't a fairy tale for all little girls. Sexual assault of children in public stalls is probably an under-reported crime. So should we be concerned for that which the ACLU proposes? You betcha.
You feel the compulsion to have sex with strangers? Have hang-ups about sexual intimacy that make you flip the coin and instead pick a very public place to "prove" you don't have inhibitions? Your risk and your reckless behavior. Your opportunity to go to jail. But it is not your right to do it where you choose if it is in the public domain. Rent a room and lock the door. A bathroom stall is not your free motel space or a psychotherapy couch.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Yes, Arabic names show family lineage so take a deep breath and spit this one out:
Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Abdallah Ibn Idrisi al-Qurtubi al-Hasani.
O.K. I am in a playful mood. But for purposes of blog reading it will just be Al-Idrisi.
He was born in 1099 A.D. in Ceuta, Spain and educated in Cordova. He moved within the elites at the Norman Court in Palmero. He later settled at the court of Roger II of Sicily. He was gifted in the field of botany and loved fauna and zoology with his distinct interest lying toward the study of medicinal plants. His major contribution in this field can be found in his book Kitab al-Jami-li-Sifat Ashtat al-Nabatat.
Under the sponsorship and favor of King Roger II he worked with silver and cast maps into tablets of silver. He also wrote an encyclopedic geographical work which he named after the king: Al-Kitab al-Rujari.
A diligent medieval cartographer he sought to divide the world into climate zones and his work “Garden of Joys” is preserved as 73 maps somewhat like an atlas. You may click on this link to see an example of his work.
Al-Idrisi studied and expanded the field of ethnopharmacology, was a cartographer and learned how to planish silver. I know how to give drugs that have been synthesized in a lab, cannot read the most basic of maps and have to look at a periodic table because I cannot remember the atomic weight of silver.
How smart are you? smile
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
An interesting thing is happening in America. While the right to written free speech flourishes in cyberspace there is a narrowing zone for allowable verbal free speech in America. The latest example is the churning commentary regarding what Kelly Tilghman said during a broadcast of the Mercedes-Benz Championship tournament.
We need to back off. Read my lips. We need to power down outrage which is an emotional response, and weigh things and put them in their proper place. I fear we are allowing a Draconian response to free speech in America. Instead of acting like Americans we increasingly look like a nation of mindless cockroaches running from the dilute nerve gas contained in ordinary bug killers. Surely our brains are more developed than a bug’s brain? Let's return to a reasoning state regarding free speech.
Here is the way to look at the whole picture. When any person speaks do you observe a trend? If day after day someone issues controversial statements, then, well, maybe they are truly controversial? What has been Ms. Tilghman’s history? Has she married the word “lynch” to the word “black” in the past? Or is this a hole in one?
What about a slip of the tongue? Should we engage character assassination based on one event? If that is the case please burn me at the stake now. My own tongue has slipped on occasion and I have immediately wondered how that little muscle in my mouth took off all on its own without my brain in gear. Older and wiser is my only claim.
But back to dilute nerve gas.... here is the statement made by Ms. Tilghman in speaking of a way to allow new professional golfers a chance at the game when stacked up against Tiger Woods: “Lynch him in a back alley.” This was said with a laugh and most likely in a somewhat unthinking state.
Here is VX gas. Did you know that one drop of VX on the skin can kill you?
“All blacks deserve to be lynched.”
In my mind for any statement to cross over into hateful or racist speech it has to meet strong criteria. First and foremost the statement has to be acidic enough to cause a weak-minded unstable individual to pull the trigger on someone else. Ms. Tilghman’s sentence does not fall in that category. There appears to be no hidden agenda. If there was malice only she knows the answer to that one and her heart needs to deal with it. Should she be punished professionally? Why?
This was not VX. This was dilute and it struck a nerve. Can we move along, Americans?
Let's follow the example set by Tiger Woods. The right to free speech has to embrace the right to not be offended. It appears Mr. Woods has it figured out.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
There is a lot one can say for Mike Huckabee. He is probably the kind of person one would like for a neighbor. He may even be the kind of person one would like for a governor. Unfortunately, he is the least qualified of a lackluster field to be president of the United States. We are suffering through the humiliation of eight years of know nothing policies. Now along comes Pastor Pie-in-the-Sky, the feel good candidate. Despite the best efforts of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, we are further away from Energy Independence than we were in 1973 when the Nixon Administration coined the phrase. Gov. Huckabee promises to achieve it by his second term in the White House. How is this miracle to be achieved?
“We have to explore, we have to conserve, and we have to pursue all avenues of alternative energy: nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, clean coal, biodiesel, and biomass.” Just like Nixon said it would 35 years ago. The Huckabee plan includes a George W. Bush laissez faire policy of letting the market provide the answers, which, so far, has only produced $100/barrel oil. Huckabee wants to remove the red tape that is putatively holding America back. Has anyone seen any red tape holding America back? I haven’t. I have heard a bunch of overpaid and underable industry executives whining about how government regulations are holding them back because they can’t make any money. They seem to be making enough to pay themselves millions, but they can’t make enough to do what they are paid to. Then, Gov. Huckabee wants to throw more money at the problem by subsidizing private industry to develop processes for which they will charge the taxpayers who provided the money for nothing. Just more corporate welfare on a grander scale.
Now comes the big problem. How is he going to pay for all this?
“When the Fair Tax becomes law, it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness.” Oh yes, the magic solution. He wants to replace the graduated income tax with a national sales tax, which, wait for it, will be lower than the graduated income tax. Why? Because people too poor to pay income tax will have to pay the sales tax. That and the huge savings to be realized when all those tax attorneys and accountants are forced to take jobs flipping burgers and doing yard work since there will be no need for their tax-related services. Maybe, the healthiest will become peddicabbies, and will replace automobiles with pedal-powered vehicles.
Where is Mammy Yokum when we really need her?
Monday, January 14, 2008
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27th. She was a human target to achieve a greater strategic goal: political instability against a nation which already hangs in precarious balance. It was a treacherous act. We may never know who had the most to gain from further destabilizing Pakistan, but the turmoil since that event has escalated. The international community also dwells within a state of unrest as the United States moves into the front runner position to keep Pakistan on target for the upcoming February 18th elections.
Polls taken from all four provinces were released on Saturday. Conducted on Dec 30,31 and again Jan. 6-8 they show that almost fifty percent of Pakistani citizens believe government agencies or politicians aligned with the government set up the Bhutto assassination. No surprise there but a solid 12 percent of the respondents believe that our government orchestrated the whole thing. (poll margin of error +/- five percent). Despondency on the ground toward a democratic voting process, lack of confidence in government and continued upheaval make it likely that even if the polls open on February 18th there will be no real round of applause for democracy on the 19th. Scripted responses, already prepared, will be given to the media. But idealism is always trumped by reality in the end. Democracy is not the immediate answer for this nation. Stability is required for democracy to take root. We are placing the cart before the horse on this one. What we have is Pakistan in a tailspin.
Pakistan is also riding side saddle with political vista to the power blocs. Unfortunately, blocs with the tentacles of the Taliban on board such as the MMA with Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, have been invested with influence over the years by the Musharraf government. And as our own government has invested billions into Pakistan it appears we need to just stamp the USAID package "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't". There is an immediate need for Pakistan's leadership to grasp the horn and the reins of government and take an unswerving gaze at the total view of a nation in crisis. But what leadership? Surely of all people, in understanding vignettes from their own jurisprudential history, Muslims should understand the disadvantages of riding side saddle. They placed the Jews in the side saddle long ago seeking to gain advantage over what they perceived as a threatening political bloc within their own demographic. But the side saddle political riding within Pakistan is destroying it.
More worrisome is the continued splintering and ongoing rift within the major political parties. There is a rehashing again of the various parties historical support for the 17th constitutional amendment which was meant to somewhat curtail presidential power. In actuality the passage of this amendment consolidated the power structure between the military and the president. Poor wording allowed for legal loophole. Passed in December of 2003, the amendment was touted as a means to separate out the offices of president and Chief of Army Staff. In 2004, people realized they had been duped. Hard feelings have prevailed ever since, but in today’s climate and fight there is even greater political bile.
Approximately 70 percent of the population of Pakistan lives within rural boundaries. The underlying lack of cooperation with centralized government is now accentuated by the killing of Mrs. Bhutto. The infighting among the power-hungry elite of the political parties within the provinces no longer allows for any solid alliances. There are too many pebbles in the national soil to allow a democratic process which is viable. The land will remain fallow. Such land remains both uninhabitable and unsustainable for securing a population, but more importantly, it allows a place of free range for the wild beasts of extremism.
Instability is also being fueled by continuous web-based propaganda that the United States is moving steadily forward with goals of annihilation of Islam as government and religion. The U.S. military in Afghanistan is heralded as the new Soviets. Non-monetary assistance from our government or any outside Western entity is being resisted within the Musharraf administration. Meantime, the sad devolution into chaos continues. Pakistan will be destroyed from internal factors and not external pressures. Instability, corruption, and influence peddling within Pakistan brings into sharp focus the well-worn adage: We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Next week will include the monthly Islamic distance learning. I am leaning toward placing Islamic scientists on the page this month, as opposed to a more structured instruction package on aspects of Islamic law and society.
Although I have written predictive analytics on geopolitical Islam outside the blog audience, in the future you will see a narrow scope of the same process offered from time to time here. Although formal predictive analytics uses statistics and data analysis, my own model for this started somewhat haphazardly approximately three years ago but now things are starting to build within a matrix of thought. It is my hope that you will benefit from what you read in understanding the world of the 21st century and the challenges which America will face. Geopolitical Islam will be a dominant force in the future. Cold War analysts with their classical educations geared to a world where Soviet domination presented the biggest diplomatic hurdle now find themselves lacking the foundational theory base for negotiation and interface with the new landscape emerging in the Middle East. This century will present its self as the most fascinating one for humanity yet, and I count myself lucky to have a seat in the bleachers.
In viewing the world of geopolitical Islam there are many thing which have varying weights, were they to be plugged into a mathematical formula. Reading primary source documents such as constitutions and penal codes of Muslim majority nations is a beginning point. Government of Muslim-majority nations must be grasped. Shari'ah and jurisprudence and how it plays out from courtroom to village square are factors of tremendous importance. Tribalism, geography and anthropology all play a part in seeing how 1.3 billion Muslims function within their family and greater societal structures. Underpinnings of history from centuries past must be probed and the strong oral tradition cannot be ignored. If you wonder if there is a hair of the Prophet Muhammad hidden away in Hyderabad, then you have sat under oral Islamic tradition, as I have done in the past.
Predictive analysis encounters unknown variables with things such as use of the internet for jihadist propaganda and indoctrination. The sites are proliferating and their formatting is improving along the way. Other unknown variables in the future will be things such as the cobbling of alliances and re-aligning of loyalties in the Middle East with the Sunni dominance in Iraq dismantled with the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent rise of Shi'a political dominance in the region.
So everyone have a nice weekend. Read something fun, enjoy what life has to offer.
Friday, January 11, 2008
An interesting story caught my attention last week. It encompasses women's health, ethics, exploitation and opportunity all rolled up in one. Here's the deal. Let me present the scenario and consider why this might not be a good idea.
You are a poor woman, most likely functionally illiterate, but of childbearing age. A clinic approaches you with an unbelievable offer. Become a surrogate mother for a couple from the West. Carry their baby, receiving the best of medical care. You may have delivered your own children in a small room with a dirt floor at the hands of the village midwife. With this pregnancy you will be closely monitored, well-fed and somewhat pampered. There will be no trips to the village river to pound out the laundry on the rocks, no transporting of heavy buckets of water or produce from the market on your shoulders. After the baby is delivered, you will receive monetary reimbursement in the range of 10-15 years of employment. With this money you can purchase your own little plot of land, a small house. A win-win situation? Think again. This opens the door for the law of unintended consequences. And when humans mess with things that need to be left alone, I shudder.
Although outsourced pregnancy is a nascent industry of the poor, we have to consider the repugnant aspects of such things:
*Are poor women breeding stock for the affluent infertile, or for that matter Western women who want to preserve their non-childbearing figures?
*Are wombs cargo ships meant to deliver a baby much like a shipment of freight?
*Who gives a damn about the psychological aspects of a woman with brown skin carrying and delivering a light-skinned baby and handing the neonate over for a cash settlement?
*What about the psychological effects on the baby in the womb?
I am proactive for women's health. That includes not only the physical but psychological aspects of health. When we opened the door to the womb with the advance of technology we entered a realm where human wisdom cannot match our scientific ability in some regards. This is one such case.
Kid yourself not on this one. The women chosen to carry surrogate seed will have gone through a battery of tests, prodding, poking and then the actual procedure to impregnate them with the donor fertilized egg. To me it seems that there is a stripping away of humanity in the process. "Poor woman" does not necesarily mean "ignorant woman". A poor woman may actually be very intelligent, but with lack of opportunity. What is the psychological trade-off for a bit of cash?
From the articles I have read, it appears the husbands of the women who rent out their wombs are happy with the arrangement. But are we willing to face the truth? There are husbands who force their wives into prostitution without a second thought. How long before one husband observes his neighbor with a new home and "keeping up with the Joneses" sets in? Undoubtedly as the outsourcing of pregnancy grows men will force their wives into childbearing for profit. The new prostitution. Does this bother anyone but me?
What happens if the poor woman in question becomes part of the statistical odds either dying in childbirth or from a post-partum complication such as pulmonary embolus? It is only a matter of time until one of these women will leave her biological children orphaned. Such statistics will be buried.
Do we understand the mechanics of post-partum depression a woman may suffer as she is also burdened with the knowledge that she gave up a baby that she formed an attachment with as it grew, moved and kicked around inside of her?
What about the converse scenario, the emotional health of the baby? If the surrogate detaches emotionally from the human growing within her womb do we really know the secondary psychological implications for the little human? Neonates recognize the voice of the biological mother at birth. There are too many unknowns in fetal development regarding pre-birth maternal attachment and the effects on the psyche of the baby.
But more than anything else I see exploitation at work. And it is usually the poor who receive the brunt of exploitation from the wealthy. Let me put it this way. I have looked at my skin and imagined it a beautiful dark brown with dark brown eyes. Do you see beauty, grace and worth in me? Or am I a just a convenient and cheap way to achieve your own desires?
*You will find multiple stories of surrogate motherhood and outsourced pregnancy as a growing industry in India with a quick engine search. I will leave it to you to pick the articles to read.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Jana Shearer’s ear was boiling away in a pot on the stove when Christopher McCuin answered the door after calling 911 to notify authorities that he was chef of a human stew.
Texas A&M student Tynesha Stewart was thrown on a grill and bar-b-cued after meeting death in violent manner for breaking up with a boyfriend.
Meredith Emerson was kept alive for three days by a baton-wielding assailant who has now given affidavit that he bludgeoned and then decapitated her. The family has gone into deep seclusion.
I support the death penalty because women don't get a fair fight when matched against a male assailant bent on aggression. Unless a loaded weapon is already in our hand, safety off and aimed at the target, fights to the death invariably bring death to the woman. So I support the death penalty. My own vulnerability allows me to make no other choice if seated on a jury where a woman has been killed by a man.
Jurors need to be able to look at the evidence presented in some of the more horrific crimes and say regarding the victim, “You have brought the fight to us now, Ma’am. We will take care of it for you. And we will take care of it for the sake of your family who now knows all of the gory details of how you met your end.”
Where are the men of America? Not the latte drinking, quiche-eating men who get their nails manicured and are queasy at the sight of their own blood. Where are the men in America, the kind who know how to knot a legal rope and hang a murderer on the tree of justice? Where are the men in America, the ones who can find death a commendable and just verdict without flinching?
We flinch these days. We flinch, when DNA exonerates someone who has been unfairly incarcerated and placed on death row. Make no mistake. I am thrilled as technology advances allow increasingly narrow statistical odds of these things happening. But journalists are not bringing balance of opinion. With each story of exoneration would it not be equitable to match the story with one where a murderer who confesses to the act, or was caught in the act received a death penalty? Can we separate out the gentlemen from the bastards?
I have taught my sons the rules of a fair fight. It is man to man, mano-a-mano and one-on-one. Black another man’s eyes, crack his skull or snap his arm if that is the only dumb way you can figure out how to power down your aggression. But don’t touch a woman with either rage or unsolicited lust. It is not a fair fight.
Dr. Rick Halperin heads up the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He regularly speaks at important symposiums and churns out letters to any editor who will give him space on the page. Lofty thoughts emerge from his noggin' assuring us that executions allow for society’s glorification of vengeance. Pass me a Kleenex, please. I feel the tears coming to my eyes on this one.... Naturally, ole Rick will not speak of the horrors of women’s ears boiling in pots, with human flesh sitting on a plate with a fork sticking out of it. No need to muddy the waters with the facts.
But the fact remains that my own frame is no match for a man who is equal my size and weight. Men are just the stronger of the species. They have unfair advantage against the woman if they choose aggression. The death penalty recognizes that women who are murdered by men fought in an unfair fight. So for every bludgeoned body, crushed trachea, for the woman's last breath which cried out for justice, keep the death penalty in place.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
There have been interesting bits of information and pictures coming into my e mail this week regarding a flashpoint of religious persecution taking place in the Khondhamal Hills of Orissa state, India. This activism is targeting adherents of the Christian faith who believe in one god, as opposed to the pantheon of gods embraced with Hinduism. Orissa state is well-known for the persecution of the Christian minority by the Hindu majority. It was in 1999 that Australian protestant missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were set ablaze as they slept in their vehicle after Mr. Staines taught a Bible study class. It was also in this same year that a Catholic priest, Father Arul Doss was also slain.
Things began to move violently on Christmas eve as local churches began to present their traditional Christmas pageants and programs. Having received a forwarded e mail from India and viewing pictures of burned and trashed churches I have much concern for these people. One man wrote that after fleeing to the jungle and later returning home he found the mob had also poured kerosene on the family grain and food stock and burned it. His family was left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
A man who contacted me from the Houston area has sent a substantial monetary gift to purchase cell phones for some of the village pastors so that an early alert warning network can be established. Even producing a thirty minute lead time in front of an advancing mob can allow for less perilous flight and safety of the young and elderly who fall behind when such things unravel in rapid manner. Remember how rapidly Rwanda unraveled and became hell on earth a little over a decade ago. Mobs become herds and lose their humanity.
The flight of over one thousand Christians, including priests, nuns and vocational workers into the jungles of Orissa is sad enough plight. But the stiff-arming of NGO’s, advocacy organizations and others to enter the region for fact-finding is also disheartening. As of last week, an estimated 400 homes and sixty churches have been torched by Hindu mobs. Several Christians have lost their lives.
It is the job of government to protect citizens from mob rule. Orissa state is rockin’. But the difficulty for Christians lies in our belief that the servant is to be like the Master. Jesus is the Shepherd of the flock and sheep do not fight. And in taking you to our leader, I make introduction to a man who taught us to turn the other cheek. So the responsibility to restore order must reside within the hands of the government of India.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
Monday, January 07, 2008
Diadochus used the term “the fires of apatheia” in his writings. Most of us envision a Tibetan monk with the standard issue orange sheet. Or we picture the Jesuit in his habit with rope secured about his waist. Apatheia means a somewhat dispassionate course in life which brings to mind the word “apathy”. A superficial glance toward individuals who embrace monasticism might give appearance of apathy and a distancing from the realities on the ground as the gaze looks toward heaven. But some whom have made this lifestyle choice to remove themselves from the normal ebb and flow of mankind provide us with the deepest reach of scholarly thought. Their writings explode onto the written page with amazing passion. My own journalistic style finds residence within the fires of apatheia.
The fires of apatheia are sorely missing within journalism today. A dispassionate look at the news of the day by moving through a scholarly process of analysis is a diminishing commodity. Sadly, I see sensationalism of newsworthy events not only within MSM, but increasingly within the blogging community as each of us seek our perch on the first 2-3 pages of a Google search on any given topic. But for myself, I seek a readership which has first walked the fires of apatheia. It is simple enough. It involves reflection before commenting on the blog. Most of you do a wonderful job and your passion then shines through!
It is good to be still. It is desirable that on occasion we divest our lives of ordinary passions and spend time reflecting on the human condition. My times of moving back from pressing issues of the day occurs when I take a walk in the neighborhood. After the sun has set, the squirrels have gone to bed and the crickets are chirping is the best time of day for me to think. I was born with overloaded emotional circuitry which I blame entirely on my Cherokee grandmother. So to be still, to know God, to put things in perspective, helps keep my feet on the ground where they belong after casting that gaze upward.
But I have also found another remarkable truth. From a place of solitude and pulling back from the demands of my ordinary day the embers of my own passion spark when my mind is in that quiet place of learning to listen. The bellows of thought always come to me in the quiet of night and not the cacophony of day with its marketplace of ideas. The best of thought springs not from the voices of men but from the whisper within our own hearts.
I look forward to this next year with the outstanding men and women who have graced the blog and my e mail with your own thoughts, hopes and dreams for America. May you receive a gift drawn from the fires of apatheia.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
In running a Humvee across the backside of the Dallas Morning News for the last couple of days I missed that nice little window of opportunity to share a reflection about the New Year and put a bit of philosophy on the page. That may be in the works for Monday unless something of earth shattering proportions happens on the geopolitical scene in the next 24 hours.
You will also see a patriotic blog next week and then because my brain needs the exercise, hopefully something will be worth the commentary coming from the international stage.
It is interesting watching from afar the movement of British intel into Pakistan, especially after having seen the movie "The Kingdom" on New Years eve whilst propped up with ample snacks and a blanket. The government of Pakistan requests assistance then suddenly gives the appearance of a stiff-armed response after the fact. No moving about willy-nilly, just a look at the evidence, it seems. But forensics and a trained eye for detail can go a long way. A good look at surrounding buildings might bring the clues on the ground into focus, for sure. Information sharing will help.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif will now mix it up a bit further. So while our national journalism pundits are yakking about the rise and fall of political fortunes in Iowa, I will leave it to them. Peaceful politics with few surprises will be the order of the day for America. It is kind of hard for me to get riled about who said "Merry Christmas" in their holiday political ad or came out on top in the Iowa caucus. It is too soon to speculate and we may yet see the dark horse on the horizon.
Posted by tammyswofford at 6:11 PM
Friday, January 04, 2008
America was birthed into existence with a quiet revolution which preceded the revolutionary fervor of artillery, bloodshed and men sent to war without rank, but with high ideals. Revolution was borne on the backs of quiet men. They farmed with beasts of burden hitched to plows, progeny harvested their crops and their wives baked the bread for dinner. These common men developed uncommon courage to secure the future of their children. This courage was one which recognized that a growing tax burden would eventually destroy a way of life. It recognized that government officials were no longer connected to nor concerned enough to uphold their stated oath to serve the greater needs of the citizen. So men left their homes with seeds of quiet revolution already planted within their hearts by the words of eloquent men of letters such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and William Penn.
America has a looming crisis today. Legally enforced immigration quota allows for a slow trickle of uneducated and unskilled poor to enter our nation giving them a shot at assimilation and opportunity for a better life. I support legal immigration.
For years now, lack of enforcement has allowed for a Niagara Falls policy which has allowed a deluge of poor and unskilled labor to come across our banks and our borders. The tax burden and strain on government services has put the legal citizen in direct competition for goods and services provided by American tax dollars. Pull out a picture of your grandparents for a moment. Think of their growing needs as Americans age and live longer. That anchor baby from an illegal mother at Parkland already has a cash register ringing for them with government tax dollars paying for their birth, etc. Now look at the picture of your grandparents again. Get angry enough to do something about it. Let's change our law that gives loophole.
It is the hard-working American middle class which are the new beasts of burden hitched to the political will of the rich, but also the demands of the illegal poor. And the demographic is now in place with our burgeoning population of illegal immigrants that we are seeing not only continuous direct competition for free services but also unrelenting direct opposition to legal citizen attempts at the local school, community, and state level to enforce existing law. Increasingly, our own American poor will lack opportunity in what will be a land of scarcity as the illegal immigrant population moves from a small and sustainable minority population to one making increasing demands on the American tax dollar.
So it is time for a quiet revolution. This revolution must not be directed at the immigrant as the primary target. We are Americans. Our traditions demand that we move within the public arena based on existing jursiprudence. But when laws are not enforced within the public domain, how easy it becomes for the hearts of men to also become lawless. It is time that we create a culture of uneasiness for unlawful Americans.
*Create a culture of uneasiness for the American who breaks the law:
After completing any business transaction in your community speak with the manager. Ask him if he employs illegal aliens or has confirmed that the documentation of all employees is legal and not fraudulently obtained. Do this politely. And let me remind you, do it after the transaction is completed. Speak in measured tone and don't deal from the deck with the eighteen year old clerk behind the counter. Talk with management.
*Create a culture of uneasiness for the American structure which sustains the lawbreaker:
This one is a bit tricky. Court rulings have allowed for perpetuation of some things beyond the original intent and spirit of the law. One of these is the legal ESL and bilingual programs. Within some states the administration of these programs is being curbed substantially and a streamlining effect is within place which conforms to law. California is one example. Texas is a damn mess. Bilingual education is a sacred cow that seeks not to be slaughtered.
You have to understand what is at stake in Texas. With any entitlement program to benefit the underserved, the program its self gives birth to a second class of entitlement: the individuals hired to administrate the program! A case in point will be if you choose to tackle your local school board to request that your local high school hold to a standard of English only to be spoken on campus, except for instructional use. The biggest power bloc to stand against you? It will be the secondarily entitled class of bilingual educators and translators who will lose thousands of dollars over a career span with loss of income! Our courts do mandate ESL and bilingual education. But programs can be limited, and not the sucking vortex of economic burden such as exists in Texas. We need to apply a few new rules, guys. But in the meantime I do have to ponder the following: My child is in a high school where 36 percent of the students speak minimal English, yet they still gallantly speak all day long in Spanish in their classrooms? Shouldn't they be trying out their English? Obviously, they will not graduate from high school. It is an impossibility. So why are we pandering to the apathetic? We need to change our public schools within the confines of law but also with the pressure of the parent who demands to know why their child is in a school in America where the primary spoken language on the campus is Spanish. Now get out a map and point to your state. Under whose sovereign domain does it lie? Pull up your school district language proficiency statistics. Burn a twenty dollar bill while you read it.
*Create a culture of uneasiness for elected officials who are passive about caring for your city, community and neighborhood.
Attend your city council meetings. Don't be a jackass. Thank the members for giving willingly of their time to serve. But address the very real issues of your city that have been impacted by illegal immigration. Look around you because they are there to be found. Look at other cities nationwide that have engaged this battle in the practical arena of code enforcement. Ask your city to enforce code on apartment rentals and single family dwellings sporting four families. Now pick up the phone and call your city and ask for a specific document in Spanish. Light up another twenty dollar bill.
We need a quiet revolution of the ordinary man. That is how it started for our nation centuries ago. But it starts in the conscience. It starts when men begin to feel uneasy about the state of things. And for Americans who are breaking the law and assisting in the explosive growth of illegal immigration with its concurrent tax burden, we need to remind the lawless that they are now surrounded by quiet revolution.
Link of good information.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Dallas Morning News sent out a torpedo into the public domain with their selection of the Illegal Immigrant as the "Texan of the Year". But those who proposed a bold political frontal attack may soon find themselves as the recipients of a grenade in their own laps. In this case, the grenade will be the diminishing corporate morale within the halls of the Belo building in downtown Dallas.
I learned this lesson well when seated in a debriefing for a two week cold weather exercise which was attended by many members of Fleet Hospital Dallas. Again and again, vignettes which reflected poor morale during the exercise surfaced as the discussion progressed. The senior officer for the debriefing gave a one sentence pronouncement which I have never forgotten: "Poor morale is a leadership problem."
My best guess is that the editorial staff of DMN is seated with a grenade in their laps. They just don't know it yet. But when it goes off, it will be too late. From the workers who cancelled subscriptions to the paper carriers who lost business, from the reporter covering the beat who wonders if anyone believes them anymore, to the clerk who sorts the mail, DMN will surely encounter a morale problem.
Personally, I cannot imagine being a reporter for DMN seeking a job within another regional market today. I would imagine listing Dallas Morning News as the organization where you cut your journalistic teeth might actually get you a polite but firm hand on the elbow directing you out the front door.
Beyond the grenade in the lap at DMN I would also like to be a fly on the wall as all of the worthy recipients for the TOY honor explain to their friends why they were tackled at the one yard line by an illegal immigrant. Can you imagine how those fine folks feel today? After diligently saying their bedtime prayers:
("Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray that the title of 'Texan of the Year' I might keep") these hopeful few find that instead of fielding congratulatory calls they have gotten a swift kick in the seat of the pants from DMN.
Oh yes, this was really the "April Fools" award. Yes, Sharon Keller, we posted your picture and your accomplishments. Your closest associates were pulling for you. April Fool!! You get the picture.
But back to the mood at the Belo building. It can't be that happy of a family these days. Let the editorial staff enjoy the grenade toss and hope for the best. Office games are not always fun in the end.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
The Dallas Morning News delivered a root canal for their “Texan of the Year” honor. Personally, I have not sustained this level of anger in a decade. When I called “customer care” this morning I asked the representative to please note that if the newspaper is thrown tomorrow, I will be requesting that the carrier pick it up and cart it off.
My closest friends will tell you that although I am passionate about issues I remain easy-going and forgiving with my friends. But this particular stunt by DMN surely has many area white collar professionals longing for a return to the days of competition, when the Times Herald provided the needed pressure on Dallas Morning News to keep the journalistic bar high. There is a distinct lack of a credible mix of editors in the boardroom, as shown by the reckless abandon in which the choice for “Texan of the Year” was secured. Where was the oversight and chain of command in thinking through this process a bit better? And if it was actually a calculated gamble, may they learn that gambling can bring substantial monetary loss. From the looks of their main blog, things are not looking good for DMN going into the New Year. Respect is a hard thing to regain in the end.
Straight out of the chute we are treated to this quote at the left side of the page, positioned under the top photo: “American prosperity is built in part on the backs of illegal-immigrant labor….”
There you have it folks. The cream-at-the-top truth: We can wink at the wetback, because a few people out there are getting rich in the process. You know, I could “build prosperity” on my back too, but my husband won’t let me do it because, well…. It is illegal. An Indecent Proposal could certainly help out my family’s bottom line, but what would it cost us in the end? Dallas Morning News has thrown out an indecent proposal. Let’s just overlook this looming national crisis like a crow fascinated with a copper penny as the hawk descends with talons outstretched. Big business sees dollars. I see employers breaking the law. I see criminals in CEO suits. What do you see?
My greater concern is that journalists with college degrees think it is o.k. for my fifteen year old son to open the newspaper and read that the Texan of the Year is/are illegal immigrants. I am working very hard to buffer the peer pressure in his high school to lie, cheat, and do whatever possible and by whatever means to get ahead. He has a hard time believing his parents at this age anyway. It is the age of an awareness of independence. Dallas Morning News has now given him additional leeway to sight up his internal moral scope with complete misalignment. Our son can now be free of federal laws too, in his quest for independence. Thank you, Dallas Morning News. You might as well have planted an IED in my yard with the Sunday paper.
"This essay cannot put a name or a face to an illegal immigrant, because that would subject him to possible deportation."
*Too bad we didn't put a name with a face before 9/11 when immigrants holding expired visas boarded our aircraft and killed American citizens. Three of them were here illegally, by the way. Just click on the link and shudder. Again, thank you DMN.
"To photograph the Texan of the Year project, staff photographer Courtney Perry used a digital version of the old-fashioned, primitive 'pin-hole camera,' which shoots through a tiny hole instead of a lens. The result is a dreamlike appearance of these photos. It was an intentional choice, given the complex and ambiguous subject matter and the desire to protect the identities of the people who are pictured here."
*But if legal citizen Tammy Swofford were caught shoplifting, be assured that DMN would snatch my photo right off the blog and print it up. There would be no "protection" of my identity. Thank you, DMN.
So talk back readers. We need to discuss this intelligently and passionately. This remains a free speech zone. What do you think about this choice beyond the obvious fifth grade grammatical error of giving this honor to millions instead of one person? Last time I checked “Texan” was a singular noun.
Link for DMN article. (Other links in the blog are underlined and a click away.)