In recent days my email has shown increased traffic in things of patriotic nature. We are moving toward the 4th of July holiday. It is a time for grateful reflection on what it means to be an American.
The introduction of video capabilities on the internet has caused me to regroup many things into the category of “time wasters”. If you wish for me to watch a video that is of interest, I will do so if it is less than three minutes. Send me something that takes ten minutes and I will thank you right after I delete it. smile
Taking psychological stock of how these small sensory packets on my screen impact my life I have noted that most seek a superficial grab for my emotions. Watching a video of paratroopers unfurling a large American flag across the sky is a superficial grab. Listening to a school choir sing out, “Mine eyes have seen the glory....” can bring that familiar tickle to my nose that happens when I suppress a tear flowing from my eye. But when I truly reflect on America and what she means to me the grab is not a superficial one and the lump in my throat also causes my jaw to hurt.
If the word “America” brings the complacency felt as when lying on a beach with the sand washing over your feet, shame on you. Should the word “America” evoke a visceral response of hate which makes your head pound as the blood rushes in, feel free to leave. My standard response still applies: Pack yourself into a FedEx crate with a bottle of water and a snack. I will ship you to whatever country appeals to you. Don’t come back.
But if you love America, really love being an American citizen, our nation has need of you. Our country has experienced recent floods and fires of devastation. These acts of nature both destroy and renew the face of the earth. Humans get to deal with the aftermath. As we move into this three day holiday weekend Americans will travel to visit relatives and many a picnic table will groan under the bounty of the family cook. In Texas we will fire up our grills to bar-b-cue our steaks and open our smokers to release the aroma of beef brisket made with a nice dry rub. This is beef country. You want pork? Head to Memphis! I am keeping my eyes open for the best deal on a trimmed brisket the size of Rhode Island. But in the back of my mind is the remembrance of Americans who have fallen on hard times in recent months.
Consider opening your wallet this week. Make a contribution to a local faith-based initiative or the Red Cross. My first choice is Texas Baptist Men. They provide energized and efficient disaster relief. They will make sure that many Americans receive the gift of a hot meal and an encouraging hug this week.
Monday, June 30, 2008
In recent days my email has shown increased traffic in things of patriotic nature. We are moving toward the 4th of July holiday. It is a time for grateful reflection on what it means to be an American.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
James McEachin will be at The Kennedy Center. It brightens my day to be kept abreast of his calender and it remains a distinct pleasure to cheer him on from the sidelines. He is a unique combination of talent and ability harnessed to a great personality. Each of these aspects will show themselves as a tour de force with his upcoming stage performance in July.
Should you be one of my readers in the D.C. area, it is time to mark your calenders for this event. The link is below. Also included are two additional links to acquaint you with Mr. McEachin.
His Artistic Work
Friday, June 27, 2008
In a 5-4 decision on Wednesday the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a Louisiana law which allowed the death penalty for child rapists. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision noting that, "The death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim's life was not taken." In falling back on our Constitution, which bans cruel and unusual punishment, the Court gave us a Balearic sling, in that their interpretation of the Constitution was accurate. But it was an accurate interpretation for adult-on-adult crime only. The court took the strong arm of our Constitution, but put a sling as the weapon in their hand when addressing the issue of child rapists.
The strength of the sling is accuracy and not distance. The court lacked moral backbone. They could have upheld Constitutional accuracy while still adding judicial distance to the decision by recognizing the special circumstances surrounding crime and penalty as it applies to children as victims. They neglected to arm prosecutors with the most potent weapon available to pursue and bring to justice those who would rape children. Because the issue before the court involved violent assault against children, society deserved a different type of decision. We needed a court willing to deliver a hollow point not a shot from a sling.
"....the victim's life was not taken." Justice Anthony Kennedy
But children who are violently raped do have their lives taken away in a very big sense. Should they survive without reconstructive surgery to their vagina, urethra or rectum their lives are still taken away in other form or fashion.
How should society respond to acts that are of exceedingly violent sexual nature against innocent children? The cruelty and unusual punishment inflicted upon them should have no place in our society. No legal safe harbor should be allowed to child rapists. Our highest court gave them harbor today. Because for some child rapists the only thing that will make them quit raping children is the only threat that works. Hollow Point. Death.
Our SCOTUS erred in the decision they made on Wednesday.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The family of Ava Worthington will have a steep legal battle ahead of them. The family of Neal Beagley, Ava’s cousin, will face no such battle as he was of legal age to refuse medical treatment at the time of his death. In sorting out the story it is necessary to consider the Isosceles triangle of poverty and lack of medical insurance with religious faith and folk medicine as co-existing angles in treating illness.
Poverty provides no comfort and few friends. As a nurse dealing with indigent and working-class-poor population groups I have seen the dynamic interplay of poverty and substituted practices for medical care that rely on faith and folk cures. These things cannot be negated and must be considered by compassionate Americans who may find themselves seated on juries where faith, folk medicine and technology clash. In examining these things our own bias can show. While it can be o.k. for Hollywood stars to embrace "Scientology" it is "not o.k." for the poor to engage folk medicine practices or faith-based cures. But like it or not a distinct fact remains. The greater the base of poverty, the more near the comfort of faith and also need for alternative treatment plans.
A wealthy lawyer who uses aromatherapy and yoga to calm a stressful day is lauded as progressive. The poor mother who accidently overdoses her fussy baby by dumping too much whiskey in the baby formula to calm a rousing case of colic is an instant weasel. The well-situated mother who takes a child to the pulmonary specialist to receive breathing treatments and a percussive chest treatment for a bad chest cold is the good parent. Yet the poor grandmother who shows up at the emergency room with a coughing young girl with second degree burns on her back from a “mustard plaster” is reported to CPS. I have seen and treated that child, and grandma merely grasped that she was curing the cold, not harming the child. Just as with the triangle, the broader the base of prolonged poverty, the higher the climb into the seat of the Almighty and the world of folk medicine for the cure.
Now do I believe in prayer? Yes, of course! But the difference in my life and that of the destitute is that I pray on the way to the emergency room when my child catapults off his bicycle and gets a lump the size of my fist on his forehead. I pray while he is in the CAT scan and the E.D. physician tells me that if he vomits one more time they will transport him to a Children’s Hospital. My insurance will help defray the cost of every trip, ambulance ride and medication that is pumped into his little body. But what if I were poor? Might I pray, put a bag of ice on his head, give him a couple Tylenol and hope for the best? Would I even know that to monitor this situation safely I need to sit at his bed and awaken him every 30 minutes to make sure he is not developing global amnesia? The latter scenario plays out every single day in homes across America: Sick kids, poor parents, few options.
We also bear the burden of advanced technology. Better technology places greater liability on parents for the medical care of their children. The more we learn, the greater the responsibility placed on the parent to seek higher and higher levels of treatment. But for families struggling to pay the rent and feed five children, a trip to the hospital can be an overwhelming experience. It is easier to get a curbside consult from three other mothers in the apartment complex and agree that a warm garlic clove wrapped in a piece of cotton and shoved into the ear canal is the best means of alleviating the pain of an ear infection. What about the mother who covers her children’s eyes with a towel and sprays their scalps with Raid roach killer to take out the lice infestation on their heads? She did this, because she couldn’t afford the ten dollar bottle of shampoo at the pharmacy, but she did have a can of dilute nerve spray under her sink. Yes, these things happen. I have seen them with my own eyes.
The saddest case of poverty and "cure" happened when I was a fairly new nurse. A young black male was brought into the emergency room in respiratory arrest. He was successfully rescusitated to then be confined to life in a vegetative state due to anoxic encephalopathy. Grandma had a stash of Duragesic patches for her cancer. Stout stuff. The little guy started complaining that his joints were hurting. Grandma just shared her patches and put them all over his little body. Narcotic overdose with respiratory depression gradually followed. No money to go to a doctor, and the patches worked for her. She figured that sharing her patches was the nicest thing to do for her grandson. Nice, indeed.
The case of Ava Worthington will have to be sorted out by the jury. I don’t know the financial status of the family. They probably don't live on Rodeo Boulevard. But whether the family is criminally negligent needs to be balanced out with a complete picture that includes how family finances, faith and folk medicine have formed the pyramid structure in which the family exists and possibly, survives.
Until now, the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant has been deemed the most corrupt in U.S. history.
However, Grant’s Justice Department was never called upon to investigate itself on two separate charges (awarding grants based on personal relationships, and the politicization of the electoral process). Nobody from the Grant administration was fired for shop-lifting. The Grant Administration never felt compelled to invoke Executive Privilege to avoid having to explain why 19 states should not get the clean air they want. Then, of course, there is the Valerie Plame thing, the Iraq War, the no-bid contracts, the State Department cover-up of a shady arms deal in which the U.S. paid Albania for faulty ammunition from China which we gave to the Afghan defense forces. Do you suppose that is why the Taliban is in resurgence?
The Grant Administration, and the Congress of the time, may have been full of crooks, but Grant is generally conceded not to have profited by their thefts.
Reconstruction after the Civil War opened the flood gates to scalawags and carpetbaggers who gorged themselves in state and local governments throughout the South. In New York, William Marcy Tweed showed the world how to bilk a city out of millions.
Credit Mobilier was cooked up by Representative Oakes Ames of Massachusetts and Thomas C. Durant. In 1867 they formed a dummy company and bilked the Union Pacific Railroad, of which they were prominent stockholders, and the federal government out $20 million. When the lid was about to come off, they bribed enough Congressmen to scotch inquiry. The cover-up held until 1872 when it became apparent that Vice President Schuyler Colfax had been bribed. No charges were filed.
The Indian Ring was a particularly egregious scandal. Grant’s Secretary of War, William W. Belknap, took bribes from companies licensed to trade on Indian reservations. Belknap was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate, described by Mark Twain as the finest legislative body money can buy.
In the Whiskey Ring Treasury personnel decided that distillers should not have to pay for the late war, and sold tax stamps at cut-rate prices and kept the proceeds. Grant’s private secretary, Orville E. Babcock, was among the hundreds of involved officials, but Grant, in what is generally seen as misplaced loyalty, protected him from prosecution.
Black Friday was not an administration scandal. When Grant figured out what was happening, he pricked the bubble. In 1869, Jim Fiske and Jay Gould decided to corner gold. They brought Grant’s brother-in-law into the deal to keep Grant quiet. When Grant caught on, he ordered the Treasury to sell $4 million in gold. Gold’s price dropped and thousands of people were wiped out. Fiske and Gould avoided ruin by welching on their obligations.
We have managed to surpass the putrid record of the Grant Administration, not because Mr. Bush is a crook, but because we, the electorate, have not told Congress what the rules are. This November, the whole House and one-third of the Senate are up for election. I am looking for two things in the candidates on my ballot before I will even consider voting for them: they must be prepared to put country ahead of party, and constituents before contributors. Unless those two criteria are met, we will continue to be represented by party hacks, the greedy and the power-hungry.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
What is happening in Plainfield, New Jersey is beginning to happen in towns and cities across America. The federal government and court system have only themselves to blame. We live in a nation where we are required to move lawfully and with due process. But the fault line of double standard for illegal immigration has now placed citizens into positions seeking all available legal tools to reshape a national landscape which has been decimated by an unrestrained flood of illegal immigrants.
Federal anarchy breeds the potential for a trickle down of anarchy on the streets. The situation in Plainfield shows one of frustrated legal citizens seeking solutions with issues bringing tensions to a boiling point in their city. How long until these tensions begin to boil in other towns? And in a sad comedy of errors in which the media easily brands the citizen as the bad boy, the blame needs to be placed squarely where it belongs. Our government, has allowed this mess.
Dictionary definition of anarchy is:
*a state of society without government or law
*political and social disorder due to the absence of governmental control.
Our nation has experienced years of lack of enforcement of legal immigration quotas. Bad governmental policy and absence of immigration control has been supported by a cadre of paralyzed Congressional veterans pampered by big business. Towns like Farmers Branch TX. have sought to place rental bans to keep illegal immigrants from moving into their apartments. These bans brought about by citizen initiatives moving through legal petitions and then majority votes at the polls are struck down. Judges proclaim with self-righteous indignation that it is the job of federal government to recognize the legal status of an immigrant. But what if the federal government has been on holiday and the job is neglected?
Many Americans are now in a “Remember the Alamo” posture. But the 21st century Alamo is our own little town, our own little school or our own little hospital which is swamped with the burden of uneducated and illiterate illegal poor.
Sub-standard apartments built as single family occupancy units are kept afloat by 2:1and 3:1 family ratios. Many towns now sport teeming villages of illegal peasants as apartment dwellers. Our middle class neighborhoods with single family dwellings now have six cars parked on the drive and two on the street at night as day-laborers all crowd into one home. Each is contributing a small monthly amount to keep a roof over their head. The nuclear family next door sees their property value plummeting with each new additional vehicle in the driveway. Our public school systems are in a state of collapse. Our healthcare systems are strained under the burden.
As we are scandalized with the rumors flying that 17 or 18 girls in one high school formed a pact to have a baby at the same time there has been a bigger stink brewing for years. The loophole for the fast track from anchor baby to legal citizen must be closed. The tide of illegal immigration must not only be stopped, but reversed. Does any of this make you want to roll up your sleeves and begin to tackle this problem in legal manner at a grassroots level? I sure don't want any human being beat, intimidated or treated in friendless manner in America. But governmental neglect is to blame for much of the reaction on the street today. And it sure as hell makes me want to join the legal fray to pressure our federal government to move from neglect to due process. Who are you going to vote for in the next election? Have you checked their voting record on this one issue?
Link to article from Fort Worth Star Telegram
Monday, June 23, 2008
The not unsurprising news that American oil companies have been given no bid contracts to work in Iraq, bring to mind an earlier and far better orchestrated oil grab.
There can be no doubt that Dwight D. Eisenhower managed the Iranian oil grab much more efficiently and a thousand times cheaper than George W. Bush has managed the Iraqi oil grab.
Bush took six years, the loss of tens of thousands of lives, and up to $2 trillion to get a few one and two year contracts. Ike took three months, spent a couple of million dollars and got 26 years of Iranian oil production.
In the 1950s, Iran was experimenting with democracy and elected a solid nationalist as prime minister in 1951. The nationalist, Mohammad Mosaddeq, felt that British Petroleum was raping the country by not giving it half the profits from its Iranian oil production.
In 1951, the Majlis, Iranian Parliament, voted to nationalize BP’s holdings. The British, BP was partially owned by the British government, embargoed the sale of Iranian crude in an attempt to starve Iran into submission. Mosaddeq resigned when the Majlis refused to confirm what he considered his prime ministerial powers.
He was called back in 1953 at which point the British told Ike that Mosaddeq was a Communist who wished to throw all western oil companies completely out of the Middle East. It wasn’t true, of course, but you had to say Communist to get Ike’s attention. Ike, who liked to play bridge with a couple of Fort Worth oilmen, became convinced of the grave and imminent danger and dispatched a couple of CIA agents to Tehran to fix things.
The CIA spread a couple of million dollars around, fomented a “popular” uprising, and Mosaddeq became history. A terrified Shah was dragged back to Tehran where he promptly replaced Anglo-Persian Oil (the BP operation) with Iranian Oil Participants which included BP, Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, Chevron, Shell, Arco, Sohio, Getty CFP (a French oil company). Other American companies also got exploration and production rights in the country. They included Amoco, Superior, Sun, Cities Service, Kerr-McGee, Skelly, Murphy, Sun, Unocal and Conoco.
Very few people died from the coup. It cost chicken feed in terms of dollars. American companies had a major role in Iran for 26 years. The only real cost was the undying enmity of the Iranian people towards the USA which makes us completely without influence there. Do you think it could happen again?
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Tom Gordon will move back into play on Monday with his usual hard-hitting style. Think Kermit Roosevelt,II. That should give you the needed nudge toward region and history. smile
Tainted tomato crops and finding the source still play out like an unsolved mystery. While the reason for salmonella-laden tomatoes seems a sanitation and handling issue, this scenario serves to remind us that a full-scale attack on our national food supply with a validated agri-terror event could bring panic. Lack of implementation of COOL is worrisome, in my mind. How nice it would have been if the first few people sickened could have merely stated, yes, the tomato they purchased and consumed came from Mexico or Florida. A quick narrowing of the field by gastro-impaired historians would certainly help expedite the case.
Blackfoot will also return to the blog this week. So look forward to a great week with diversified opinion in the free speech zone.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:46 AM
Friday, June 20, 2008
Birds of a feather flock together. Better yet, one unqualified candidate applauds another unqualified candidate. The pandering of Gov. Mike Huckabee to the “historic moment” of Barack Obama's run for the presidency could well produce a historic disaster. Mickabee lost his bid to be the Republican nominee for the presidency. Good. Hopefully, Mr. Obama will end his journey in the loss column too. In my mind he makes a better candidate for "American Idol" than "American President" but then again, I am opinionated.
Consider the following. If a historic moment for Americans is defined by a vote which unnaturally tips the scales with weight of skin color or charisma then it is like voting for an appendix to be the president. Your appendix is a smallish underestimated piece of flesh which is virtually ignored until it flares up. When its presence is known the surgeon just whacks it out and you move on with your life. But yes, let’s vote for the appendix for president! Governor Huckabee doesn’t care about the whole man, why should you?
Huckabee ran a sloppy campaign with his own appendix laid out on the pathology table of politics. His appendix was religion. Holy Cow! I can see my Christian clan spewing coffee all over the screen and uttering small allowable Christian curses against a blasphemous post. But consider the reality of what brings health to the voting process. Religion bows to the thunder of facts in politics. And should religion provide a verifiable fact it should and can be a lightning bolt across the political sky within the right hands. But debating intelligent design doesn't impress me. Debate domestic policy and the worldwide gunslinging showdowns of the future. Debate collapsed educational systems and how to fix the mess. But the earth will continue to spin with or without your belief in God. And since God isn't running for president, I still want to vote for the most experienced of His creation, don't you? smile
There is another “political bow” which must be considered. Emotion must always bow to the elder brother of reason to make the right political choices. Many people have fallen in love with Barack Obama. Practically swooning, some of his fans.
Certainly, I can understand. I fall in love easily. I love people. But emotion bows to reason when it comes to men. I am married. Reason must prevail. Otherwise I will run away with a sailor, gypsy, thief or a liar at a moment’s notice. Roses, romance and a three day Caribbean cruise fade away in the mind when I look at reality staring me in the face at 4 p.m. My pantry looks bare and dinner needs to be on the table in two hours. In looking at the politics of ideas and Obama’s proposals for our nation I see the same bare pantry at the end of the day. There is no overwhelming impulse to run away with Barack Obama in spite of his gift of nice teeth and gold-dipped adjectives.
Any man who proposes increased government spending to stimulate the economy is a socialist seeking to harm the healthy private sector. And how much debt does our government retain even as I write this? Lemme see, increased government spending to stimulate the economy…… fingers tapping… fingers now drumming… “where” does the government get its own dollars to spend? The free market works best with minimal intrusion. An economic model that gradually makes more Americans a subsidized part of the bureaucratic infrastructure scares me. I want less government instead of more. Remember that we are a republic, carefully crafted long before Marx came along with his silly, unworkable ideas.
Many voters are completely taken with Barack Obama. The man appears affectionate, charismatic and the kind of guy who would share his hot dog with you at the ball park. But just as Governor Huckabee was outed because of his political appendix we should also consider the political appendix of Barack Obama, his color and charisma. Remove that appendix, and re-examine the man and his policy ideals.
Link from WSJ
Thursday, June 19, 2008
What word comes to mind when you think of Quantico and the Naval Academy? Does the word “leadership” come to mind? Maybe fidelity? What about loyalty? O.K. Let’s move over to the Middle East and their Q and N potent combo, Qom and Najaf. What comes to mind with these two institutions? If leadership, fidelity and loyalty do not also come to mind, then your Model T analysis needs a bit of acceleration. So let me move you forward with a final look at the Ayatollah structure by writing briefly of the career path to receive this full bird Colonel rank. Although these men are not ranked in a military manner they have received a jurisprudential ranking which places them in a command structure which is recognized by Shi’a worldwide. They are at the top of their game and “retirement” knocks on the door with death.
Seminarians accepted into the Qom or Najaf training centers embark on a rigorous training program of basic studies (sat’h) and advanced studies. (kharij) These are the “think tanks” of Shi’a thought, much like our Western counterparts. As the student moves through the educational process he hopes to be recognized with the title “Hojjat ul Islam”. This title is exclusive to the Shi’a school of thought and comes from classic Arabic to translate “discussion” or “arguing a case”. At this point the seminarian is skilled enough to argue a case of Islamic jurisprudence. Essentially, he has passed the Shi'a bar exam.
The Shi’a “ulema” or scholar argues his case based on four allowable sources for decision-making: the Qur’an, Sunnah (words and actions, practices of Prophet Muhammad), Ijma (collective thought or consensus – this would somewhat be like precedence) or Aql, which is use of intellect or common sense.
Now to attain the title of Ayatollah is rare enough, but the designation as a Grand Ayatollah places a man at the zenith of power. While Ayatollah means “sign of God” the Grand Ayatollah is considered Ayatollah Ozma, or “Great sign of God”. This man will have written extensively and his jurist opinions scrutinized extensively prior to receiving this designation. He will have written a book giving opinions for the daily lives of Muslims and it is termed “Resalah”. These serve as resources for the seminarians. I have read some of the opinions of Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani from Najaf and they contain a strength in message which I recognize in spite of my own personal disagreement. Some of his decisions make perfect sense, others I find deplorable. It makes perfect sense to allow for a kidney transplant but forbid an eye transplant, for instance. The things with which I disagree, are my little secrets to keep. smile
There are approximately twenty living Ayatollah. They are part of an exclusive club. The Shi’a invented “the men in black” long before we produced the movie.
The man with the power.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
He burst onto the world stage to dominate America's television audience in November of 1979. He was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. We did not know who he was, but for Shi'a he was "the sign of god". "Ayat" means sign, and it is the smaller thought expressed within each Surah of the Qur'an.
Pegged a revolutionary by Western media this man moved forward from the shadows of history onto the stage of the present in Tehran after our embassy staff were taken as prisoners. This event was not merely a revolt against the Shah of Iran, but it was a resurgence of Shi'a political thought regarding what was considered the natural order of things. As a Shi'a jurist of high standing whose life must be imitated and orders obeyed in the absence of the 12th hidden infallible imam, Ayatollah Khomeini retained a position of guardianship over the Shi'a community (wali) and was indeed considered the proof of God. The heady feelings of putting a thumb in the eye of the "Great Satan" were nothing compared to the national re-identification process underway with Ayatollah Khomeini leading the parade.
The Shi'a find their tap root in the fourth Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib. The "Twelvers" believe there is a transcendent authority structure in place nourished initially by their fourth Caliph. They trace the Shi'a journey alongside their various imam, traveling through different dynasties such as the Ommayad and Abbasid, to the present, where they also survived under the rule of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Today there is a palpable hope among the Shi'a that the Sunni dominance across the Middle East will falter and it will be a century for Shi'a strength. That strength, flows through the arm of the Ayatollah community.
If you are a Shi'a practicing Ja'aferiya Fiqh, more commonly known as being a "Twelver", you embrace imamate and the historical recounting of the disappearance of the 12th imam. All of the prior imam were fascinating in their own right, but this one just simply disappeared. Now while Elijah was swept from sight with the witness of Elisha, the location of the 12th imam is quite the secret. Imamate belief allows that in the absence of the 12th imam, and until his return, an Ayatollah functions as the direct representation and voice of the hidden imam. He is answerable and accountable to none other than the 12th imam. This jurist, outranks the king. He outranks the president, parliamentary structure, or any other scaffolding put into place for the practical administration of government. This doctrine of Waliyat-al-Faqih places the Ayatollah in firm control of certain decisions relevant to Shi'a sense of community and identity.
The title "Supreme Leader" is fitting for the current and best known Ayatollah on the scene, Khamenei. He moved in a stunning manner from a mere Hojjut-ul-Islam to Ayatollah or "sign from God", not without a bit of scuffling from a few other Ayatollah who were not quite accepting of his appointment. In the old Popeye cartoons, our American sailor always proclaimed, "I y'am what I y'am". Undoubtedly, the Ayatollah is equally comfortable in his own skin. Walking into a room he knows who he is, what he represents and the immense power at his disposal. He did not get to this pinnacle overnight and decades of training were involved in the process. He is positioned where he is because a coterie of his peers deferred to his apparent talents after years of scrutiny of his actions and jurisprudential fortitude. Just as the Qur'an is considered infallible, so too, the man who attains to the title of Ayatollah.
The Ayatollah command structure retains a strength which cannot be discounted when considering public sentiment on the street or flashpoints of activity in Iraq and also Iran. A self-appointed "dimestore cleric" may issue a "fatwa" to a ready-made crowd waiting to torch a Western embassy after a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb sticking out of his head. He may create a temporary miserable mess of things but such fatwa is not the real deal. If indeed a legally recognized Ayatollah chooses to issue a fatwa, then his word is taken under consideration immediately. The cleric offers up an enchilada and the Ayatollah the enchilada platter of jurisprudence. Those under his chain of command are now in an obligatory status regarding his ruling.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
As with all family fights the best of them commence with the death of a strong patriarch. It is recorded that Prophet Muhammad died on the 12th of Rabi', Al-Awwal, in the eleventh year of Al-Hijrah. His illness was a rather short few days of high fever and pain followed with high drama. Somewhat in a tailspin over these events the sense of shock had to be counterbalanced with the immediacy of choosing a new leader for the nascent Islamic state. Abu Bakr paid his respects to the deceased Rasool. Umar chose to make a public stand declaring that Muhammad had gone the way of Moses. He would return in forty days and all would be well. It was a time of uncertainty and the battle lines were quickly drawn.
Although it is An-Nasr (The Help) which was revealed near the end of Muhammad's life it is in Qur'an 42:13 that Allah warned against sects. Somewhat reminiscent of the story of King Solomon and the two women who fought over the baby, the Muslim community reeled at the time of Muhammad's death; and they did not quite know to whom the baby belonged. Rather than defining the moment succinctly, the "baby" was split down the middle. To this day each camp (Sunni v. Shi'a) bolsters their particular position with endless writings. The Sunni support a leadership grid via an electoral process and long for the glorious Caliphate. The Shi'a cling to a process of divine appointment and disdain their Sunni brethren; Cain and Abel reinvented, with each bringing their offering to God.
The fight for control of the state played out even as the patriarch's body was being prepared for burial. Men gathered under a portico were comprised of two competing sides. These were the "mujahirs" or followers of Muhammad who had made the trek from Makkah to Madinah. The other group were "al ansar", the "helpers", local folk from Madinah who had supported Muhammad and his entourage as they moved into the region to make Madinah the base of Islamic operations. In the end, the chiefs from both sides hammered out an acceptable deal and Abu Bakr was declared the first Caliph.
The process of choosing leadership changed with the next three Caliphs. Abu Bakr simply elected Umar on his deathbed. Umar chose a small group of men (some books state six men)to decide amongst themselves, and Uthman came up the winner. But it was Ali ibn Abu Talib who became the 4th Caliph when chosen by a majority vote of the community taken in the Prophet's mosque. He was Ahl-al-Bayt or a "people of the house" of Muhammad. Claiming fame both as Muhammad's cousin and later as his son-in-law, he and his descendents are considered the rightful successors and guardians of the Shi'a community with Caliph Ali being the first infallible imam.
The allegiance to an Ayatollah today is not merely the loyalty to a man. It is a loyalty to mission. The tether of this allegiance goes all the way back to the seventh century. And while we allow our brains to decompose for a few weeks of mind-numbing "Survivor", the real survivors come to us in the form of the Ayatollah and his down line. So as we move next into the geographic spaces of Iran and Iraq we will look at the Shi'a perspective of Ja'aferiya Fiqh (the Twelvers) and how it impacts the region. Please understand that we are not dealing with a political form and chain of command structure which is parallel to the one in place, but superceding, when considering the loyalty of the Shi'a. The imam is infallible. Constitutions, penal codes and parliamentary bodies can exhibit flaws because humans are flawed. But an Ayatollah? His word is law.
Monday, June 16, 2008
My mentorship in Islam was heavily intellectually steeped with both a complete reading of the Qur'an and overview of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. Book-ended to this study is my own continued research into usool al-fiqh, other sources of Islamic law such as ijmaa' and qiyaas. Many of the books by Islamic authors who grace my shelves are strict constructionists of Sunni thought. These are scholars who invoke the name of Allah over the arrow for the hunt, the dog of the chase, and finally, the slaughter. They maintain abiding habits for prayer, family life and business practice. They do not celebrate their children's birthdays and disdain their passports, albeit sporting one. They worry about how to pray five times a day when incapacitated by illness and brood over thoughts of Hell. They live in a world you do not understand. Their world is very real to them.
But the Shi'a power grid which was not adequately considered prior to entering Iraq. The deficits within the writings of some of the Western analyst community shows up subtly, as noncapture of the essence of Eastern political thought. This is especially true when considering chain of command structures, their evolution and practical application in the daily lives of the Ummah.
The Baath party government structure in Iraq sprang from the guardianship of the thoughts of two men, Michel Aflaq and Salah-al-Bitar. This political model formed the basis for the government of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni from Tikrit. The Sunni maintained a minority demographic subjugation of a majority Shi'a population with an iron fist. History cannot change the facts. Shi'ites were slapped around by the Baath party members. Our successful military push to Baghdad and toppling of the government of Saddam Hussein took two weeks. The Shi'a celebrated in the streets and the Sunni quietly watched. But the law of unintended consequences plagues us today. The change in political landscape brought Shi'a political gain which Iran quickly turned to their own advantage as a bordering nation with a Shi'a majority. A Shi'a Renaissance is now underway.
Missed within this pivotal timeline of entry into Iraq was lack of recognition of the Shi'a command structure in place moving through Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani of Najaf and the other Ayatollahs of the region both within and outside Iraq's sovereign borders. There was an elephant in the room. We did not see it.
As in all things, once policy is engaged and a course of action chosen it remains for our administration to examine the fruits of their labor, debrief and adjust or realign future decisions. We are at a critical moment in time. Our next president will inherit a heavy burden of responsibility to determine "what next" for Iraq, Afghanistan, and the management of our global military assets.
In moving to the Shi'a side of the house only recently, I will do my best to educate you. My gratitude continues to be extended to each Islamic scholar who has provided cultural learning. "Baby steps" yet my perspective has greater intellectual capture today than a year ago. I will attempt to deal with our own Western myopia on the level of my own knowlege. The Islamic world beyond our borders has been in existence for centuries. In the next few decades the potential for a dramatic and possibly unpleasant interface between East and West is a distinct reality. Military strength must combine with turbo diplomacy. But turbo diplomacy is exhibited by a bridled strength and passion carried on the shoulders of men and women who have grasped the basic elements of thought in the countries with which America wishes to interface. Bluntly stated, we owe it to both friend and foe to give them the respect of a fair intellectual fight at the negotiation table. While finding that "the other guy" has read Shakespeare, Rousseau, and Churchill, some of "our guys" haven't made it past Islam 101. Intellectual laziness all around.
The Shi'a have a firm tradition that the jurist rules over the king. We worked very hard to see a new Constitution set in place in Iraq. But within the Shi'a community the influence of an Ayatollah is something that moves forward not by mere pen, but oral tradition and precedence. The constitution, penal code and daily workings of the letter of the law within the parliamentary body pale by comparison to the spirit of the law felt in the bone marrow of a Shi'a when considering the guidance and allegiance to the Ayatollah they follow. The validity of belief is found in Al-Ahzab 6 with these words, "The Prophet has greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves...." So Divine authority flows from Allah, through Prophet Muhammad, and on to the Imam, who is considered divinely appointed. Allah, Prophet Muhammad and the Imam are the Wali (or guardian) of the Shi'a.
The very word "Ayatollah" creates a visceral response in Americans. Remembering the heady days of the Iranian revolution with our hostages paraded about the streets of Tehran still makes me want to spit on the floor. But then I remember that if I spit, I have to clean it up. So as we move forward this week in discussing the Ayatollah structure remember that as we engage Islamic Distance Learning that I move freely giving rank and title without a hang-up. So if you want to "spit" a bit, the spitting post will be Haloscan. smile
Sunday, June 15, 2008
As we will be moving into the world of the Ayatollah starting Monday please take a few minutes to prepare yourself for the week. Click on the link below.
Sayyid Ali Khamenei
James Oppenheim also returns to his site after a well-deserved rest. We engage in the exchange of ideas with my skull filled with saline compared to what resides within his skull. Smart people outpace the "beautiful people" in the long run. Islamic Small Wars is of particular interest to my friend. You will find excellent commentary, enjoyable reading selections and outstanding photography on his site.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
If Turkey successfully assists in brokering the return of the Golan Heights to Syria it will be a historic moment. Is Israel willing to deal the Golan Heights from the top of the deck in exchange for the exchange of a full house from the bottom of the deck?
What would be the benefits? In exchange for a diplomatic deal of this nature Israel could gain a measure of regional security. The full house would include Syria's recognition of Israel's right to exist, decreased flow of hardware to Hezbollah in Lebanon, a public distancing from Nasrallah and Meshaal, a symbolic move by Syria out from under the overcoat of Iran, and a secondary stabilization to Lebanon.
But the three barks from the three-headed Cerberus remain to be dealt with if the deal is to be struck:
*Distrust: Neither side fully trusts the other. Holding the pen in the one hand, the dagger in the other is the way things are done in the Middle East.
*Iran's involvement within the shadows pitted against the conglomerate strength of the American Jewish Lobby.
*Conciliatory countermeasures offered by Hamas and Hezbollah to keep their stake in the game.
The flip side to regional security is the psychological sense of some within the Jewish community that just as brick by brick the wall went up in the Warsaw Ghetto, giving up the Golan Heights just cements into place one more brick of doom for the future existence of the State of Israel.
The flip side for the Iranian government is the fear that this deal will usher in the curtain call for their nuclear aspirations. What are my feelings? Heck, I don't know.
We live within a very interesting historical timeline.
Friday, June 13, 2008
No matter who wins in November, the American taxpayer is going to have to foot the bill, and what a bill it will be. George W. Bush financed his tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with borrowed money. On top of that, the American people are, themselves deeply in debt, as is American industry. Despite its record profits, ExxonMobil borrowed money to buy its own stock.
Since 2005 Americans have consistently spent more than they made. On average, 15% of the average U.S. family’s income goes to credit card companies. The poorer the family, the bigger the credit card bite, up to 40% of income.
If that isn’t bad enough, our biggest industry is the financial sector which is in deep trouble. And, I am afraid, nobody is likely to bail our banks out. You see, our banks went all over the world selling these super duper can’t fail debt securities which were absolutely guaranteed to pay stupendous returns. Those debt instruments were derivatives of the sub-prime mortgages. Banks around the world bought those securities and they are now taking monumental charges because, like the junk bond binge of the 1980s, some things are too good to be true. Bankers in France, Britain, Germany, etc, who bought that junk are not likely to want to help. The banks have had to go to Sovereign Wealth Funds (government-owned investment companies) and give up a considerable amount of equity to get the cash they needed to bail themselves out of their troubles.
Junk bond king Michael Milken’s rational was if you had a large enough pool of substandard debt, you would make money because only a small fraction would default. It didn’t work for him, why in the world would Citi Group, Morgan Stanley, and others think it would work for them? The sub-prime crowd went Milken one better. They leveraged their shaky investments to unbelievable levels, up to 35 borrowed dollars for every $36 purchase. Assume the $36 investment returns $3.60, 10%. But the return on the company’s dollar is 360% minus interest charges. Leverage, and the more the better, makes sense, until the mortgage payers of the underlying securities default. Then the return is $0.00 but the interest costs are still there. Previous profits have all been paid out in bonuses, so the investment bank or the hedge fund is hurting. That means there is less money to finance business loans, or equity offerings. New businesses don’t start and established ones cannot finance improvements.
Add to that, the bubble in the Federal Reserve System’s holdings for foreign governments, $1.63 trillion. Since 1971 the Federal Reserve has acted as a money manager for foreign governments with more dollars than they know what to do with. They send them to the fed and the fed buys government securities with them and does not charge for the service. A rise in that number could mean foreign governments cannot find enough worthwhile investments in the U.S. In other words, there is a very good chance that a recession is on the horizon.
The Keynsian solution to a recession is deficit government spending, but John Maynard Keynes also said government debt should be reduced in good times. George W. Bush decided not to do that and now, debt service is the third largest item in the federal budget, almost $500 billion in fiscal 2007. One has to wonder how much more we can afford to borrow.
Welcome to the White House, Mr. President. At least you will have a roof over your head.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1,2
Our home was nestled within Oaxaca Valley surrounded by the beautiful mountains of the Sierra Madre. As with most homes in the region the flat roof functioned as an open-to-the-sky third floor. It supported our laundry facilities consisting of a cement rub board, rinse sink and clothes line. My father also maintained a collection of exotic orchids which he had gathered from less traveled paths into the mountains. As day scampered across the mountains and shadowy visitor called night returned, once again, the roof was the perfect place to view creation. During the rainy season the clouds would boil up over the mountains late in the afternoon bringing their deluge of watery hope to the land parched from the dry season. Then as the clouds moved off and darkness of night descended across the valley the mountains changed from drab brown to a purple hue. It was almost as if some mystical creature was changing the palette of the landscape in the distance. The sky would sport its diamonds more beautiful than any dug from the earth by the hand of weary man. The damp moisture released fragrance of the night jasmine and gardenia into the air; aromatherapy which is not bottled and sold but freely given to the poor by nature's parfumerie. Even as a little girl my heart cried out for an Eternal God when impacted with the vastness of His creation.
In watching from afar our presidential candidates I am supportive of both messages. Senator McCain brings a message of strength in leadership. Moving over to Barack Obama’s campaign site we see a message for change:
“I am asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington. I’m asking you to believe in yours.”
Our nation needs continued strong leadership. Washington needs change. For elected representatives to remain in play in a relevant manner they need to return to service as a trust, not a means to enrich themselves and secure the careers of their children. Demonstrating to the citizens of America their ability to govern well without personal compromise and corruption is an absolute need. We cannot continue on this current path. Nations rise and fall based on leadership wisdom or folly. The latter seems more apparent than the former in some cases. For the first time in my life I harbor fear in my heart for the future of America. The campaign slogans, the overly confident manner, the boisterous enthusiasm is not the salve which is needed for our nation. As a child on the roof of my house I captured the essence of what formed my identity. I needed God.
In the quietness of my intellect the heart of a small girl still cries out. More than leadership, more than change, we need blessing. While one candidate stands on his record of experience, the other conveys his message of hope and change. Can either of them quietly express what all creatures humbly acknowledge? But for His divine providence, His Blessing, we would cease to exist. My heart cries out.
Please listen to the link below. It is the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and their song gives me great comfort. The accompanying graphics are distracting. So just minimize your screen and listen to the words. smile
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The 21st Century global chessboard has more levels, but is markedly smaller. The earth itself is the same size, but we inhabitants are closer. Do you remember those disaster movies of the 70's with Ernest Borgnine and George Kennedy? Just when you thought everything was fine, a floor collapsed or the ocean water flooded the formal dining hall. On September 11 a section of our chessboard was moved out from under us. We watched live as the North Tower of the World Trade Center burned after terrorists flew American 11 into it. We couldn't have imagined that we would witness United 175 crashing into the South Tower. We were shocked to see the buildings fall and were glued to the TV for days. We prayed for complete strangers and waited to see what would happen next. We donated money and blood. We volunteered time. We saluted our first responders and hugged our families tighter. Even road rage incidents decreased.
Bush 43 got flak for continuing to read "The Pet Goat". His advisors told him to not react, but anybody who saw the look on the man's face that morning knows the concern he showed wasn't for the snacks to be served afterwards. In this game of checkers, Al Qaeda had gotten a triple jump, and was just shy of a fourth. Clinton had been faced with attacks from Al Qaeda and brushed them off, like dandruff off his shoulder. If he had only brushed off "that woman" in the same way, he might have had more time to deal with this growing threat. His inaction against Al Qaeda led Bin Laden to believe he could reach king status on our side of the board. Thank God we had a Republican President, who let our enemies know we weren't backing down this time. Bush is still watching the checkerboard, and is simultaneously playing a game of chess against states who mean to do us harm, potentially in our homeland.
As we honor our agreements to limit the number of atomic weapons and to not build more, North Korea has joined the nuclear game. Russia, China, DPRK, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. have been involved in talks since 2003 to get DPRK to cease its program. To no avail. They tested an atomic bomb in October 2006. They agreed to declare their full nuclear operations by the end of 2007, in trade for the removal of U.S. sanctions. But as recently as this May, they were still firing test missiles. There are also growing concerns about Iran's plans to build nuclear weapons. They are enriching uranium, which they say will be used solely for electricity. They remain under UN sanctions for past infractions and refuse to allow thorough inspections by the IAEA. Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map". Israel, in turn, has threatened to attack Iran's reactor, as they did Iraq's in 1981. Last year Israel destroyed a reactor in Syria, which was built with help from DPRK.
After September 11 Bush kept the queen on her square, but commissioned a new piece: the queen's little sister, a combination of rook and peacekeeping bishop. In December 2001 Bush gave the required 6 months' notice of withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty. In 2002 the Missile Defense Agency was formed. We now have ballistic missile interceptors at Vandenberg AFB and Fort Greely. Yes, there's something under Alaska's ground that might be more valuable to your family than crude oil. The U.S. is planning to build a radar base in the Czech Republic and a 10-missile long-range interceptor site in Poland, both class of '99 NATO members. The missile defense system is just that, for defense of the U.S. and our allies. The closer this system is to the threat, the larger the window of opportunity for a successful counterattack. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved $712 million, plus money for the two construction sites. This proposition has Russia and China holding hands and singing "Kumbaya". Medvedev and Hu signed a joint statement condemning the plan. As long as they're not pointing any long-range missiles at us, they don't have anything to be concerned about. Right? We are going to do everything we can to keep the chessboard from moving out from under our feet again.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
When FDR died, Truman walked onto a political chessboard of which he had not been briefed. Like a kid joyriding in daddy's Corvette, he didn't realize the acceleration rate of the newly coronated queen, the atomic bomb. In two swift moves, the queen obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to a Japanese surrender. This made the Soviet Union realize they truly were more than "100 years behind the West". Stalin was known for his 5-year plans. Lo and behold, within the next 4 years the Soviets had developed an atomic queen of their own. Sure, Truman and Stalin smiled for the cameras in public, but each was studying the landscape and plotting his next move. The Cold War stalemate had begun.
The next few years saw advances and withdrawals of military might, but neither side pushed the button. NATO and the Warsaw Pact were set up. The Soviets and China backed North Korea's invasion across the 38th Parallel, bringing America into The Forgotten War, which turned out to be far more intense and nearly as bloody as Vietnam. Truman considered, but didn't dispatch the queen. Then came the building of the Berlin Wall, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. While the U.S. talked about a space program, the Russians put some metal in orbit. The U.S.S.R. was all over the board. They and China again teamed up to provide support, this time to North Vietnam. We again entered a war to stop the spread of Communism. Nixon reached for the queen, but decided against using her. In 1972 SALT I expired, and we agreed to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
The latter half of the 70's belonged to Ford and Carter. Not until Reagan did the chessboard get dusted off for another match with Russia. From a position of "peace through strength" Reagan negotiated the INF Treaty with Gorbachev. We remember when the Berlin Wall came down and the Warsaw Pact crumbled. Bush 41 continued Reagan's downsizing with Start I and II. Bush 43 signed the Moscow Treaty (SORT) in 2002. There has been alot of movement on the board by the U.S. and by Russia. Each side continues to attempt to keep the other in check. Signed papers, exaggerated handshakes, and forced smiles are meant to give comfort to the citizens of the world. Will all sides continue to honor these treaties? In the past 60 years, the United Kingdom, China, France, India, Pakistan and Israel have developed nuclear arms. We know that North Korea has tested nukes, and we suspect that Iran is not far behind them. In all, there are over 40,000 known warheads in the world. Do we really need more? Will everybody play by the rules, or will their queen be able to jump over other pieces on the board to take out a king?
During WWII, we learned more about modern diplomacy and the value of keeping strong ties with our allies. However, the groundwork we lay with a friendly country today can be moved from under us tomorrow, like a section of a 3D chessboard. France seems to forget what we did for them during the War. Alternately, a not so friendly country can turn out to be a great partner in the future. For example, we fought hard against England for our freedom, and now they are one of our strongest allies. I like Reagan's approach. We should seek peace for America, but it would not be wise for us to think it is possible if we neglect our military personnel and machinery, bases and forts, and embassies. Lest anyone forget, we also still have the queen. Tomorrow we'll talk about her little sister.
Link for Readership
Monday, June 09, 2008
After the Attack Heard Around the World, we woke up to the reality of foreign enemies waging war on our soil. Not since Pearl Harbor, nearly 60 years earlier, had we felt the polarizing apprehension of when and how the next attack would come. In 2001 there were subsequent bomb threats, anthrax threats, and threats which remain against our landmarks and infrastructure. Don't kid yourself: Al Qaeda continues to keep America and Americans in its sights. But if we're playing checkers with Al Qaeda, the relationships that we have with recognized countries around the world is an ongoing game of chess.
Chess is thought to have been invented in India around 600 AD, and gained popularity throughout the Muslim Middle East. The piece that is now the queen was then a male aide to the king. When the game made its way to Europe, the Christian-Catholic countries, who revered the Virgin Mary, gave the piece a sex change. Still, the lady could only move one space at a time, a slow and methodical attack. Women in southern Europe could hold titles and own land without a husband, and with the coronation and imposing rule of Queen Isabella, it was inevitable that the lady would become a queen and gain more power than any other piece on the board.
Before the mid-20th century development of nuclear weapons, the real-life chess board was mostly level. Each side knew the other's tactical capabilities, and the battlefield was easily mapped out. Think of this in terms of the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and WWI. We set up our forts (rooks) for protection and positioned our generals (bishops) to determine the quickest route to peace. Our first line of defense were our foot soldiers (pawns), who headed off enemy attacks. The skirmishes were often face-to-face combat. "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." Our mounted regiments, and later jeeps and tanks, (knights all) could more quickly reach targets on the battlefield. We have always used our best strength (queen) in the name of justice. Back then, it came in the form of cannon fire, naval warships, and the Curtiss Jenny, to ensure the protection our country (king).
Today's battlefield has evolved into a version of Star Trek's 3-D Federation Chess, where parts of the actual board may be moved during the game. There are many levels on which we interact and coexist with other powerful states, and our priorities evolve with the ever-changing political landscape. We have set up rooks in the form of foreign bases. We have sent out peacekeeping bishops in the form of embassies. Our troops on the ground are still pawns, but have the added strength of the knights of old, our ground transport. It would not be wise for the enemy to underestimate them. A pawn has the power to help put an enemy king, like Saddam Hussein, into checkmate. Our sea and air support are the new knights. Navy vessels can shock and awe the enemy, and our aircraft flies over the landscape to neutralize enemies on the ground. And the queen? Ah, the queen. She still stands for strength in the name of justice, and that strength still protects our king. No, not King George II, but Uncle Sam. We will talk about the queen's 21st Century American evolution tomorrow.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Opening up to Yahoo News on Friday I was greeted by this headline: "Michelle and Barack Obama bring the 'fist bump' into the spotlight." Naturally, all thoughtful Americans want to elect a new president who can do the "fist bump". I am more concerned if a presidential candidate knows how to perform the domestic policy "River Dance", the federal face off with state rights "Square Dance" or an improvement on the foreign policy "Waltz". Sadly missing in pop culture journalism today are any real signs of intelligent life. Tell me again, do some of these cretins get their degrees at paper mills?
So next week expect journalism on the page which will make your heart give a little jump for joy. Blackfoot has arisen to the challenge of a geopolitical assignment. A three day venture into blogland will examine strategic positioning. Not sure who else qualifies as an excellent journalist from the American Indian community, but Blackfoot ROCKS!
The next week your minds belong to me. I am moving into geopolitical Islam again. What I will put on the page for several days will be "news" to most of you. By the time I am done, your thinking should move to a different level when considering our shrinking globe. Naturally, you will be given a homework assignment at the end of the week to gear your move into political forms which are unrecognizable to most Americans.
So you will see the Blackfoot and Tammy team on the page for sure starting Monday. Tom Gordon is happily ignoring me, albeit we did have coffee last week. Dr. Jeff Cunningham is probably at home cleaning his weapons arsenal. smile
Last month my nurse manager passed each of us a heartfelt letter from our CEO. As the letter was handed out she said, “Our hospital wants you to be aware of the propaganda which is coming into your mailbox from those wishing to bring a nurses union to Texas.” Not missing a beat, I respectfully submitted that as an adult with a four year university degree I am quite capable of researching the facts for myself. Our CEO also managed a bit of propaganda, stating that we would be held “hostage” to these unions should they strike. That word alone is a strong verbal description which evokes desired emotional response. Nurses are emotional creatures. We chose our profession over other science-based degrees such as genetics or biology because we wanted a career where science could interface effectively with human need. And behind those hands which serve are some quite remarkable brains.
In Texas our earning is comparable to that of school teachers. We do not get a week at Thanksgiving, two at Christmas or a week for Spring Break for psychological restoration. We do not have six weeks in the summer to refuel our souls with a trip to the beach or a dash to Europe. Several years ago I read a study which showed that my earning power at the tenth year anniversary of my entry into nursing was essentially the same as when I had entered nursing. Kind of depressing.
Having never lived in a state which allows a nursing union I cannot speak to the merits or disadvantages of such a system. Yet increasingly, acute care nursing within hospital settings is a disadvantageous work environment for most men and women who choose bedside nursing. The extrinsic pressure being applied by California nursing union leadership moving into Texas hospitals with their surveys and mailed correspondence to Texas nurses means only one thing: hospital administrators would do well to heed the flags. Our workplace needs are not being met within our hospital communities. When the quiet voice of concern is not heard the greater cacophony orchestrated by a union can begin to sound appealing.
There are distinct traits which make us nurses. We are formidable individuals in scrubs and tennis shoes. Moving into our careers we then form a sub-set of identity within our areas of specialty. My own sub-set has resided primarily within critical care environments. Whether working in neuro or cardiac ICU, interventional radiology or PACU my skill level has increased over the years. But I am getting tired. Many hospitals staff with skeletal staffing patterns. The catch phrase is "meeting the numbers". When one nurse calls in sick, the unit falls into crisis. Fifteen minute break twice in an eight hour day? A myth. Financial allocation for continuing education? Another myth. Receiving a coffee cup for Nurses Day? A fact.
There are two undeniable issues facing us: aging Americans and fat Americans. Be grateful if you are aging. It is a gift. Be ashamed if you are 28 years old, weight 300 pounds and I am pushing you on a heavy bed to your room on the floor. Our hospitals are increasingly the recipients of clients who have the co-morbidities of aging and obesity. The healthy folks don’t come to us for their knee scopes or nasal surgeries. They give their bodies to the surgical gods at free-standing Day Surgery Centers. We are left caring for those with complicated surgical outcomes because, well golly gee, they went into surgery with all of those pre-existing medical conditions. Our jobs can work hell with our family obligations. If you are my client and decide to have a "come to Jesus moment" fifteen minutes before my shift ends, I will not be leaving in fifteen minutes. I will stay around until you are stabilized. The other day my eight hour day ended up twelve. My unstable client needed my care until an ICU bed was available. We do not leave a desk with a stack of papers awaiting the next day. We leave a living, breathing and valuable person in the care of a recipient caregiver. That cannot always be accomplished safely and effectively if you, the client, are having a medical crisis and there are not enough nurses staffed for these things.
So who is going to care for you when we are all gone? Nurses are leaving nursing. There are many R.N.'s in the community who no longer pursue nursing. New nurses will be in short supply. Do I support a nursing union? I haven’t researched it enough yet. But extrinsic pressure from the threat of a union will be felt the greatest within hospital communities who do not listen to the quiet and reasonable voices of their nurses begging for change.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Last year a radar ping on the medical screen passed somewhat unnoticed in much of the world. Two cases of XDR drug-resistant tuberculosis were found among Myanmar migrant workers who had crossed over into Thailand seeking work. By the time the results were confirmed the workers were nowhere to be found. That news did not splash across the pages of our Western print media. Yet when just one American managed to move covertly back into the U.S. after having been notified that he required immediate quarantine for drug-resistant tuberculosis it churned up a good week of media interest and public outrage. Our CDC does a pretty good job of keeping the American public healthy. A large part of their job involves using scientific human and animal trackers to follow footprints of epidemiology across the globe. So whether observing the migratory pattern of potentially virus-ridden birds in flight through Siberia or Mongolia, the poultry population in Hong Kong or pigs in Paris (not speaking of the French…) they perform an admirable task.
Myanmar currently has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis of any nation in the world with a documented 97,000 new cases per year. In many third world countries tuberculosis is not aggressively treated because it is heavily carried within the local population making it difficult to eradicate. These things are medically manageable because these poorest of the poor rarely move beyond a few mile radius of their homes within a complete lifetime cycle. They have never boarded a flight, possibly only ridden in a taxi once or twice, and owning a motorcycle is beyond their reach. They might travel on an old bicycle if they are lucky. When I was in Ghana, it was interesting to see the taxi business there which supported the locals. The taxicab driver would patiently wait until six or seven people going to the same destination were lined up for the trip. No such thing as one person per taxi in some of the rural areas we visited. So the bacterial pool of the poor is contained within the village perimeter and a few miles beyond.
With any humanitarian disaster we can expect a forward movement of disease across borders with the sound of weary feet creating new migratory routes seeking food and shelter. So as political solutions have failed to bring disaster relief to Myanmar and our Navy ships with unloaded stocks of medical and food supplies now leave the Myanmar coastline how many villagers will venture for the first time beyond their traditional perimeters? How many Myanmar refugees with XDR have made passage to new locales?
Dr. Kevin de Cock, a tuberculosis expert with the World Health Organization warned that the South African XDR-TB epidemic had reached the landlocked mountainous kingdom of Lesotho. The kill rate from the disease was at 85 percent. This news was given about the same time that news of XDR surfaced in Thailand. Tuberculosis thrives among the poor who live in close quarters with poor sanitation. If you go to Thailand or Lesotho for your next exotic vacation and venture into a market stall to buy a trinket the respiratory droplet from the person hacking behind the counter may contain tuberculosis. When is the last time you requested your physician test you for TB? I just completed a mandatory check at my hospital.
The secondary effects of the Myanmar governmental stiff arm against foreign humanitarian assistance will be seen in new geographic pockets of XDR as refugees unable to maintain life and limb within their previous village ecosystems seek out sustenance outside traditional borders.
The CDC moved quickly to quarantine Andrew Speaker when he returned to the U.S. from his honeymoon abroad carrying his passport stamped with his travels and a confirmed medical history of XDR TB. The one sad twist to this story remains. His new father-in-law was a microbiologist for the CDC with a specialty in...... you remember it, tuberculosis.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
You can go home now, Hillary. It is time for Americans to see the real Barack Obama minus the campaign distractions which have effectively swaddled from public view the private convictions of this man with a big smile and disarming charm.
Yes, it is time for the thin man to take what has been a skeletal presentation of his vision for the presidency and put some flesh on the bones. As the voting public we also need to grow up now and ask grown-up type questions. Personally, I don't care that Mr. Obama is racially mixed. Tell me his father was a Klingon and it won't shake me. But I would like to know if Mr. Obama believes that American tax dollars should benefit American citizens first. I think "race in America" is overblown. Many of the stories surrounding Mr. Obama are media attempts to keep Americans from looking deeper into the reflective pool of what is really causing America's economic and influential decline. It won't matter in five years if I am white and you are black if we are both fighting over the same pot of beans to feed our children. We DO have a looming global famine on the horizon, in case you have been napping with a Twinkie in your hand.
Mr. Obama can wish me a Merry Christmas or choose not to do so. Does he support our continuance as a nation with a strong nuclear deterrance program? Can he stand down the Chinese across the Strait of Taiwan if needed and can he tell Russia to take a leap? If a critical time comes when a nuclear arsenal is absolutely needed can he give the order without flinching? We had a prior president who ended a long and bloody war by giving such order. You don't have to like it, you can hate me for mentioning it, but the facts remain unchanged regarding the events of the final days of World War II. The nuclear package brought the injured parties to the negotiation table. End of discussion, unless of course you are the dope who thinks our nation can be defended by hippies playing ukeleles.
Our presidential hopeful can have a trained dove land on his shoulder during a campaign stop, as did Fidel Castro. But can he explain how his administration will work for peaceful resolution of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Can he accomplish it in a manner which convinces some of us that he has studied beyond History 101 at the university level? Believe it or not, events from one hundred years ago still have a tremendous bearing on the daily ebb and flow of conflict in the Middle East. Unless we engage a more congruent foreign policy which has both a coherent body of understanding regarding Islamic political theory and a concerted diplomatic effort things will not change anytime soon.
What is Mr. Obama going to do to reverse the trend of illegal immigration? Or will he abdicate his authority in this area? Our elected representatives have put expediency above principle for too long. It is time we demand a government that functions based on well-established principles of governance for our sovereign borders. These principles, based on economic good, have been scorned by those who suffer little impact from their neglectful inaction. The socioeconomic impact of illegal immigrants is catapulted onto the backs of the middle class.
There is so little we really know about Barack Obama. And just like a parent's stomach lurches the first time that smiling kid shows up at the door to take a daughter on her first date, our stomachs should lurch a bit.
But what makes my stomach flip a bit more is to consider a much worse scenario for centrist Republicans such as myself. Should Obama run on a ticket with Clinton is there the possibility that two ideologically weak candidates could become the political "super strain" to beat McCain? smile
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Talk about a warped quest for equal rights! American women fought for the right to vote, the right to enter the workforce, and considerations for competitive pay and promotion opportunities alongside their male counterparts. To be an American woman is a desired and sought after status for many women of the world residing in other nations. It seems that in the bizarre world of anti-Western jihad a few Islamic women are stirring up a ruckus for the right to blow themselves to smithereens.
One of the issues which I have presented when talking of these things with Islamic scholars is how ideology based on a false premise will eventually disrupt the natural order of things within the smallest of societal units, the family. So while the unnatural and ideologically displaced institution ofsuicide bombing initially began with male participation we are now seeing it move into the traditional family chain of command structure to include women. As talk precedes action, this chatter for Muslim women to join the ranks of suicide bombers should chill to the bone.
The slow trickle down effect of Al-Qaedah, Hezbollah and Hamas where every citizen is a sacrificial soldier is impacting family life in the Middle East. A brushstroke of the subtle effects of the paintbrush of jihad across the canvas of the Middle East can be seen by viewing the poster on this site for a Teacher’s Day celebration in Lebanon. (Scroll half-way down this site.) Shouldn’t these children be learning how to read and write? And when the Hamas Political Bureau Chief claimed recently that the spirit of martyrdom has been embraced by Palestinian youth, does he mean those having attained to an age of maturity based on Islamic belief, or are we talking twelve year old boys?
References to Jihad in the Qur’an during the Makki period provided the unfolding of Jihad as the internal struggle of man within himself. Jihad of the pen and the tongue are commended. During the Madani period comes the coupling of Jihad with the word Qitaal or “fight”. Referenced 26 times, the fight in the Way of Allah is not gender specific for women to engage the physical fight. Women fall in the category of being allowed to “spend in the Way of Allah”, providing financial support but not engaging active physical hostilities.
One of the famous stories within the annals of early Islamic warfare is that of “Hamza’s liver”. A woman of the Quraish tribe entered the battlefield after the Battle of Uhud to cannibalize the liver of Prophet Muhammad's uncle, Hamza. This woman, Hind, sought revenge for deaths in her family brought about by Hamza. This particular story has always been a hot topic in various Islamic chat rooms. Did she eat the liver raw or did she boil the liver? Completely missing within these discourses is the subject of women within the battlespace.
Jihad can mean to go forth, hence physical battle lines, as it is expressed in Qur’an 9:41. But there seems to be a lack of sorting it out within the Ummah as to whether this “fard” (obligation) is one of collective obligation (fard al-kifaya) to possibly include women, or one of individual obligation (fard ul-ayn) with exclusivity for the men of the community to move into protective or defensive function.
If the Islamic community continues to embrace an overarching mandate of Jihad extending to women and children, encased in a 21st century vision which believes suicide bombing to be a legitimized function of the Islamic Ummah, we ain’t seen nothing yet.