Author's note: The following was written before the dispicable actions of the Metromedia Restaurant Group became known. Those bums knew they were going under for months, and they still did not reserve enough cash to pay minimum wage bus boys and dish washers for their work. Instead, they have to stand at the end of the creditors' line behind GE and other wealthy organizations. If anyone deserves tar and feathers it is the business incompetents in Plano, Texas, who misran Steak and Ale and Bennigans.
A communist, according to an employer in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” is anyone “who wants 15 cents an hour when I’m paying 10.”
Don’t look now, but we are right back in those terrible old days. Did you know that 33 million American workers, more than one quarter of the workforce, earn less that $10.00 an hour? That the average worker approaching retirement has $54,000 in his 401 K plan? As Warren Buffet said, "American workers have been on a treadmill since the 1980s while the rich have been on a rocket ship."
Then there are the benefits. Walmart boasts that nearly all its employees have health insurance. A lot of them are kids who are still on their parents policies. Others are using their spouse’s. Fewer than 25% of Walmart employees use the company plan. Why? The average Walmart employee earns about $20,000 a year. The deductible on the health insurance is $4,000. Love those low Walmart prices.
New York Times labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse, has written a book, “The Big Squeeze,” about just how badly American labor is doing. The statistics I quote are from an interview Bob Edwards did with him on XM radio, Monday morning.
Greenhouse believes that fall of labor started when Ronald Reagan put the striking air traffic controller in their place, the street. His union busting triumph told American business that it could get tough with labor. Things have only gotten worse since. Not only have unions lost their power, but what labor laws there are can be flaunted with impunity. The National Labor Relations Board will take years to act.
The other contributor to the crummy deal workers are getting betrays a disgusting trend in the national psyche. One of the reasons, Americans weren’t in the streets to protest Abu Ghraib and torturing is because it is happening here. Consider workers of food assembly lines unable to leave the line for bathroom breaks for eight to 10 hours at a time. Consider the almost complete absence of workplace safety, as the Crandall Canyon coal mine disaster in Utah shows. Where were the federal and state mine inspectors when operators at the Sago mine began removing the roof supporting coal pillars?
What about Landis Plastics where four people lost fingers in a four month period? How about workers being locked into stores at night even though a hurricane is on its way?
The managerial bullies take advantage of the workers’ inability to fight back to give full reign to their disgusting character disorders. New immigrants (legal or not) who don’t speak English are easy targets for abuse as a recent raid of a meat packing plant in Iowa showed. Not only were adults risking life and limb for barely minimum wage, but children as young as 13 were on the floor, using the saws, etc.
It only gets worse. Walmart managers have erased workers’ time cards to keep payroll under prescribed limits. That is theft, but, hey, what is manager to do? Walmart boss, H. Lee Scott has told employees, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, to obey the law, then his people don’t provide the payroll to do the job.
We are not talking about bums here. Many of the abused workers are stars. Consider a Walmart security guy who was hit by an escaping thief’s car. He broke his knee cap, tore his rotator cuff, and really messed up his back. He was at work the next day, but the day after, said he really needed an operation. His knee and his back were killing him. Walmart told him that if he applied for workers’ comp, he would be demoted to door greeter which pays half as much as he made. Then, there was the guy would had been with Walmart of 15 years and was making, wait for it, a whopping $11/hour. He was put to unloading trucks at night so the manager could put a $6.00/ hour person in his place. Nobody lasts long unloading trucks at night.
This stuff makes me proud as hell to be an American.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Author's note: The following was written before the dispicable actions of the Metromedia Restaurant Group became known. Those bums knew they were going under for months, and they still did not reserve enough cash to pay minimum wage bus boys and dish washers for their work. Instead, they have to stand at the end of the creditors' line behind GE and other wealthy organizations. If anyone deserves tar and feathers it is the business incompetents in Plano, Texas, who misran Steak and Ale and Bennigans.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I have a history with Thomas Boone Pickens. More than 20 years ago, he told me his Mesa Royalty Trusts were a great investment. I bought some and lost more than 80% of my investment after I sold what stock I had in the third or fourth company to buy the producing properties.
This is important not because it colors my judgment of the man, but because I see the same old snake oil eyes when he hypes his energy plan on television. Of course, everything he says about our petroleum resource base is probably right. We certainly cannot drill our way out of $4.00 a gallon gasoline since it takes years for major discoveries, if there are any, to flow into the refineries. Timothy Egan, in a New York Times Op-Ed opines that, because is, was a geologist, he is a hedge fund chairman now, he “has some cred.” Not so fast. The truth is that Pickens never was a big league oil-finder. His biggest field, Beatrice, in the North Sea, was marginal by local standards. He was so poor at finding big fields that he had to go into the cattle business to finance his offshore forays. He lost a bundle on cattle too.
Why is he spending $56 million to hype his plan? Is he really exasperated with the man he worked so hard to put into the Oval office that he is ready to change a life time’s political belief? Who cares? What is really important is what is in the Pickens Energy Plan for us? You see, in a T. Boone Pickens deal there winners and losers, but Pickens is very seldom among the latter.
Here is an example. During the last presidential election, Pickens floated the Swift Boat Veterans with $3 million to torpedo John Kerry. To give that squalid exercise a thin veneer of veracity, he offered $1 million to anyone who could prove the Swift Boaters were lying. When presented with the evidence, he merely said “sucker” and kept the money. What he actually said was that the vets didn’t understand the precise terms of the offer. In my neighborhood, a guy could get hurt bad for welshing on a bet like that, but not T. Boone.
The Pickens Energy Plan is to replace automobile gasoline with compressed natural gas, and to replace the natural gas used to generate electricity with wind-generated electricity. In West Texas, he is building the world’s biggest wind farm, and has already crawled into the pockets of the people of Texas to the tune of $4.9 billion, the cost of building a transmission system to get his electricity to market.
It is a really great deal. The state sells bonds to build the line, then the people using the electricity, get to pay off the bonds and their interest, while T. Boone just sells the power. Now, if he could only get the state to pay for the turbines too.
So, regardless of all the facts that he brings to bear, and regardless of the sense his proposal makes, my advice is, don’t buy his plan.
Stealing his plan and freezing him out, now that would be, well, Pickensesque.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
It can come as no surprise to anyone who has endured the boneheadedness of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that the Department of Homeland Security is not staffed by rocket surgeons, as you know who might have said.
But readers of the
July 22nd New York Times got an idea of just how messed up DHS is.
Stephen Heifetz, identified as the deputy assistant secretary for policy development at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote an Op-Ed piece entitled “The Risk of Too Much Oversight.” According to Heifetz, the DHS has 200,000 employees who can’t do their jobs because 80 congressional committees and subcommittees oversee the department and its subcomponents. Well, too many cooks have been known to spoil a broth, but not in this case.
Heifetz describes the congressional oversight as a turf war, indicating that his boss, Secretary Chertoff, is incapable of defending his department. If he can’t do that, what chance has he got of defending the country? About as much as Brownie had in New Orleans.
Having all but said that his boss is not up to his job, Heifetz attempts to support his contention that there is too much oversight at the Department by citing, wait for it, the Department of Defense, which answers to four primary committees. This is the same Department of Defense that is under investigation for: intimidating auditors; trying to use Homeland Security money so their cheeses can ride in lordly splendor in SLICCs, opulently appointed Senior Leadership Comfort Capsules; could not find the money to provide combat troops with body or vehicle armor; then, there is the whole war non-plan thing. Yes indeedie, Stevie, that is surely the paradigm we want to follow.
Not satisfied with revealing a total ignorance of the rudiments of rhetoric (don’t use the weakest possible argument), Heifetz goes on to prove that the Department of Homeland Security not only has no idea of what it is doing, but is trying its best to guarantee a failure to protect us against future attack.
He starts out by saying that 911 was “a classic ‘low-probability, high-consequence’ event,” meaning it never occurred to the National Security Advisor that such a thing could happen, as she says, “who could have foreseen?” The FBI for one. The CIA for another. According to Heifetz, if anyone of his 200,000 employees had thought of such a thing, they would have ruled it unlikely “in the light of security and logistical obstacles.” Apparently, there weren’t any, but DHS still thinks there are.
Heifetz is such a boob that when he says something is impossible, he keeps on trying to do it. He says, “not surprisingly, when people started to focus on bad things that might happen to us, they identified an seemingly infinite catalogue of worrisome possibilities” (don’t you love the preschoolish “bad things,” coupled with the blasé “worrisome possibilities?” We are talking about wholesale murder. Perhaps heinous and terrifying would serve better). So, there is an infinite number of ways we can be attacked. What does the DHS do, why it prioritizes them, but it has yet to compare those risks to another infinite series of risks. Not only can’t it be done, it is a terrible mistake to even try. We were hit with something that wasn’t on the list in 2001, since the list is infinite, if we are hit again, it is going to be with something that is not on the list again.
It makes a lot more sense to look for anomalies, like student pilots that don’t want to learn how to land. But wait a minute, we did that. We just ignored it because it wasn’t on the list. We would all be a lot safer without the list.
Heifetz says that in 2007, department officials testified at 231 congressional hearings and provided 2,600 briefings to legislators and their staffs. He claims that with less oversight, some of the staff could spend time devising agency policy. I thank heaven they didn’t.
Monday, July 28, 2008
O.K., I will grant that the Europeans, Al Maliki, and a lot of other people like Barak Obama because he is not who? George W. Bush.
Is that really such a bad thing?
I, for one, am tired of living in a Homeland and want desperately to live in my country again.
I have no idea what an Obama administration would be like. The only thing I do know is that Richard Cheney would not be the vice president.
Is that such a bad thing?
Apparently, Obama plans to stop fooling around in Iraq, but wants to get serious in Afghanistan. Not sure that is a really good idea. Remember what happened when the Russians got serious in Afghanistan. I can’t help but worry that Putin has a Charlie Wilson of his own. In fact, remember what has happened when anybody from Alexander the Great to us got serious in Afghanistan.
You see, the whole idea of War on Terrorism is wrong. Terrorism is not a country. Terrorism is practiced by terrorists, who are individuals engaged in criminal activity. What is needed is not a military, but a police and intelligence response. During the 1970s, Europe was besieged by terrorists. The Black September Organization kidnapped and killed Jewish athletes at the Munich Olympics. The Bader Meinhoff gang also cut a swath of bombings, robberies, and shootings in Germany. There were others in Italy as well, and, of course, the IRA in Britain.
The British attempted a military solution in Ireland with very little luck, despite tactics rather similar to those we are using in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strange to tell, those tactics had no better luck in Northern Ireland than we are having with them, the poppycock about the Surge notwithstanding. The surge didn’t start working until we started bribing the factions. We could have done that without the troops. On the other hand, the Italians and the Germans treated terrorism as a police matter and not only cleaned up the terrorists, but have not been afflicted since.
Since our CIA is so far removed from the OSS that it has flubbed every operation it has undertaken since the installation of the Shah, and we all know how well that worked out, I am not sure our intelligence apparatae are up to the occasion. Just where is Osama bin Laden anyway?
I think Obama knows the paltry quality of the resources he has to work with, which is why he mounted his charm campaign. We need help. I suppose asking for help is better than failing alone, but that is not the current Republican position.
It is encouraging to remember all the promises the current occupant made, no nation-building, etc. The only one he kept was to cut taxes. Now that we are $7 trillion in debt, and are sending 1% of our national wealth a year to people who are not necessarily our friends, it is a shame he missed a perfect record.
Some people worry that Obama is a neophyte, and I do too. My concern stems from what happened the last time we elected a young, charismatic, senator. He tripped a landmine called the Bay of Pigs left by his predecessor. I am certain that Dick Cheney is in his undisclosed location cooking up far more devastating bombs for Obama.
The good news is that Obama seems capable of learning from mistakes, his own and other people’s.
What a refreshing change.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
In the interests of fair warning, Tammy is going to Washington to hobnob with the brass hats at the Pentagon. She will be gone for a week. It takes a long time to massage those monumental egos. Those many of her readers who can’t stand me can spend the week absorbing the received wisdom of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh so you will be on the same page when Tammy returns.
I plan to write for my own amusement.
Give Ann a big kiss for me.
Friday, July 25, 2008
When the grasp of international issues is minimal and the individual foreign policy planks of thought are weak, put on a great stage production!
Super model Barack Obama has certainly set up an admirable traveling itinerary with expensive stage props. But just as stage props are inanimate objects we must not forget that the man with the gleaming teeth has a Pinocchio-level boyish understanding of foreign policy. Most recently, his wooden scripted response after Iran launched a couple of test missiles appalled me. Seated on the couch and leaning forward in anticipation, I awaited the words “Shahab” to pass his lips. Nope. Possibly his advisers hadn’t a clue what the Iranian’s had most likely launched. Jane’s Defence Weekly, my dears. Basic stuff which has been discussed months ago; old news if you are widely-read.
Senator Barack Obama makes the quick stop to Afghanistan and announces that we will engage the war on terror “with vigor”. It was nice to tell us that our troops are performing “brilliantly”, but can either candidate use the word “weary” when speaking of our troops? Two days in Afghanistan, does not a weary candidate or his family make, but a third military deployment in five years brings quite a bit of stress into a family structure.
Moving on to Israel, I suppose we now have a ready solution to Middle East tensions. Things that have been historically simmering since the Treaty of Balfour will receive the magic wand of an Obama-Idea. I can hardly wait. Ideas always impress me.
Having been denied the stage at the Brandenburg Gate, we now have Obama the statesman giving his speech at Siegesaule. It is still a nice little political coup for his travel agent, er…. political adviser. The crowd was huge, the speech full of symbolism in speaking of the Berlin Airlift. But if you sift through the speech, it was a lot of fluff with very little substance. And cars in Boston melting the polar ice cap and causing drought in Kenya? Yep, it is our fault again. All of Africa, is our fault. Gimme a break. (And make Al Gore ride a bike. He is going to die from co-morbidities of obesity long before the ozone layer disappears.)
"The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin". Hmmm. And chickens lay eggs, and corn and topless dancers have tassels. Still not impressed, Senator. And if you think our Marines are there to function as farmers to eradicate the poppy crop, please clarify that little comment. Marines harvest the souls of men. That is their job. The poppy crop issue belongs to someone else. But I didn't detect one solid and viable foreign policy plank in your "we are the world" speech.
Bottom line, guys. If you have to make “the tour” to determine your policy, I am afraid of you! The stage has looked very nice the last few days. The Europeans love the man. But they are not the ones who will have to suffer under his inexperience. We will! After the curtain drops, with what are we left? I still don’t get the scent of a viable foreign policy. And poetic speech, cannot face down the dragon.
America needs a leader who is already prepared. That leader is Senator John McCain.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
*Filed under: It ain’t terrorism if you do it to yourselves....
“The United States has urged President Hafez Assad of Syria to close the Damascus office of what it says is a terrorist organization led by Abu Nidal. Reagan administration officials said Monday this act by Assad would demonstrate that his avowed opposition to terrorism was genuine.” Bernard Gwertzman, New York Times News Service, May 20, 1986
*Remember, Assad is the same president who a mere four years earlier cut loose military tanks on the city of Hama, with civilian deaths estimated in the tens of thousands.
*Now we just use Google Map to spy on everyone!
“The secret space shuttle mission scheduled for this month will carry an intelligence-gathering satellite that will cover 80 percent of the Soviet Union, an industry magazine reported yesterday.” Fort Worth Star Telegram, Nov. 5, 1988
*Filed under: Relatives politicians like to keep in the closet:
This is from an undated National Enquirer, a rather funny interview with Billy Carter.
"I've heard that Jimmy worries about my drinking, but he's never uttered a word of disapproval to me or tried in any way to make me change my lifestyle. Neither has my wife, Sybil. Jimmy's staff has, though. They told me to cut down on my drinking and be more careful about what I say to the press. I tell them all to go to hell."
Billy revealed that during the campaign he was grounded from traveling with Jimmy after getting drunk at the end of the Wisconsin primary and staggering into a party thrown by Jimmy's opposition, Rep. Morris Udall. "But I maintain I won a lot of votes for Jimmy, " he said. "There are 1,800 bars in Wisconsin and I must have hit every one. Have you heard of another campaign where the candidate's brother gets drunk with the ol' boys in the bar?"
*Now if we could just get McCain and Obama into a good bar fight, this election cycle would be less boring.....
Filed under: Valerie Plame was always just "small potatoes" in the end.
"President Carter was described Friday by his press secretary "as angry as I've ever seen him" after Ronald Reagan's charge that a super secret defense program was disclosed to the public for political gain.....Four retired high-ranking military men, all Reagan campaign advisers, labeled the programs disclosure 'a flagrant break of security.' One of the men, Adm. William Moorer, echoed the charge that the Soviets have been given lead time to develop countermeasures.
Washington (AP)- September 6, 1980
*Thanks to the blog reader who contributed some of the news clippings! smile
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Filed Under: For those who love to imagine that President Bush is so horrible that he is the only seated president ever targeted by media:
“ Kennedy refuses to cut his unlimited debt proposals and excess spending…..Unless Kennedy reverses himself in the matters that now destroy international confidence, most world observers insist the New Frontier is carrying us smack toward a devaluation of the dollar.”
Henry J. Taylor, The Fort Worth Press, “Our Gold is Down and Out”, Sept. 10, 1962
Filed under: Afghanistan, the breakfast of champions.
Moscow- Afghanistan's Soviet-backed leader has said he is prepared to make concessions to opposition leaders and consider the positions of President Reagan and NATO. Associated Press, June 1987
*Meanwhile, Presidential wannabe Obama moves from "hope" to "vigor" while Afghanistan still plays all comers like a fiddle.
In my file under the category: “Damn the Yankees!”
“Ann Richards is the woman who asked America to elect Michael Dukakis president of the United States” Peter Forman, Massachussets House minority leader as quoted in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, April 24, 1991
*All of this ugliness because Governor Ann Richards claimed that Texas had the first Thanksgiving in April 1598 when 500 colonists from Mexico landed at a spot north of the Rio Grande.
Adding further to the ankle biting in the article was Governor William F. Weld’s press secretary who stated, “You can only have Thanksgiving where the leaves turn colors and pumpkins grow. You can’t have Thanksgiving in the middle of the desert.” (Gov. Weld is a descendent of the Mayflower bunch)
*Filed under "Organizations the F.B.I. should watch"....because it will only be a matter of time until we catch those stinkin’ Boy Scouts doing something subversive against the nation!
“Mr. President: Earlier today the Senator from Arkansas (Mr. Fulbright) delivered a most disturbing speech on the floor…… The Senator from Arkansas described Young Americans for Freedom, this country’s largest and most responsible conservative youth group, as ‘extremists’ and a ‘vigilante group’.... There are 39 members of this Congress who should be so classified because we serve as members of the National Advisory Board of Young Americans for Freedom.”
Senator Strom Thurmond, Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the 89th Congress, First Session, Washington, Monday, July 26, 1965
*And finally.... we (Republicans) also believe in his offspring, the Democrats!
"Republicans and conservative Christians are the most likely Americans to believe in the devil, according to a Gallup poll." Fort Worth Star Telegram, March 1, 2003
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Several recent articles, when put together, show that our military needs a top to bottom shake-up. The brass seem more interested in their own comfort than they are in the safety of our troops in Iraq. And finally, on the home front, entirely too many Americans are willing to let others fight the war.
I am with Charlie Rangel on this point. We have to bring back the draft. The nation is already far more polarized than it has been in decades. History has shown, consider the Roman use of mercenaries, that when the citizens fail to serve in the military, those that do fight, take over.
Nobody likes the draft. In fact, most conscripts truly hate it, but there is absolutely no way the Army could cover up the electrocution of troops because HBR hired incompetent electricians if there were a draft. Parents across the country would know about it, and, more importantly, they would know what to do about it. They would blister their Congressmen and Senators until brass hatted heads rolled. I suspect that the Abu Ghraib and Bagram atrocities might have happened, but they would not have been as swept under the rug, i.e. more general and field grade officers would have been relieved, and possibly stood courts martial.
I find the idea unimaginable that general officers and their civilian masters cannot function properly unless cosseted like Chinese emperors as they are flown about in Senior Leadership Comfort Capsules (SLICC). If they are such fragile flowers, they obviously need to be in some hot house somewhere.
I cannot help but wonder if the military of my youth still exists. I remember the colonel leading the regiment on a 50 miler. About half way out, the colonel discovered that one of his company commanders had filled his pack with empty milk cartons rather that the regulation gear. He damned near ripped the captain’s bars from his collar and ordered him back to base in a jeep. By the time we got back to Swamp Lagoon, that captain was gone.
I would be happier about the wider acceptance of gays in the military, if it weren’t another way to avoid sharing the burden.
Finally, if all young men and women gave two years to the country, they might have a greater interest in our country.
Monday, July 21, 2008
During cold weather training at Fort McCoy, I was privileged to practice nursing skills using a state of the art, high tech human simulator. The instructor was capable of manipulating the command algorithm to cause the “human” to do many things to foul up my attempt at endotracheal intubation of the model using a laryngoscope with a Miller #2 straight blade. The model “vomited” right after I placed the blade in the mouth and I had to suction the oral pharynx to show my ability to clear the airway. Harder yet, was intubation when the model’s tongue was allowed to physically swell as I attempted visualization of the vocal cords with a MAC #3 curved blade. This day of practice was in the “fun” category because I was not in the freezing cold. The mannequin is worth 0.25 million dollars. We know that real people have immeasurably greater worth to the ones who love them. Who can place the value on a life? So as such, Navy field corpsman are also taught to use a rapid "blind intubation" technique for the victim as needed.
For the military it remains a high goal to provide the best field medicine available should a soldier become injured in the line of duty. Battlefield medicine requires nerves of steel and the highest levels of expertise to achieve the “save” levels we have today. Some of that medical skill is born on the back of the lowly pig.
PETA can raise a stink over the Army shooting pigs so that field medics can practice their surgical and suture skills. The media can cover only the convenient and sensationalized portion of the story. But half-assed journalism which does not venture beyond the cell phone complaint or press release to present the story is to be avoided. So while MSM presents this link:
The more relevant link is this one. Page 109 in the publication covers ethical treatment of research animals.
Ethical Shooting of Pigs
The Army is following chain of command under well-established guidelines for research. And while our hot labs may prefer primates for biological research on things such as the Marburg virus, or a feared viral chimera, such as the Soviets were attempting to develop prior to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. the lowly pig gets top billing for research projects in approximately fifty nations. For over two decades now pigs have steadily replaced dogs and primates in biomedical research lab setting.
There are reasons that we are fortunate to possess the pig. They are great for cardiology research. They sport hearts of comparable size to that of humans and what is a familiar coronary blood supply for the research team. Their digestive system is similar to ours and as omnivores they are well-equipped to handle nutritional studies or studies on gastric ulcerations. And like it or not, they are used to train in surgical techniques and emergency medical procedures.
Remember to always read with a filter.There are two sides to each story, the side you are given and the side that the journalist does not want you to explore on your own. Unless both sides are presented the story is incomplete. Blogs usually present an incomplete picture no matter how well the thought is expressed due to a need for brevity. (That is where the moderation via comments comes into play.) But again, hats off to the pig! I am thankful that this farm population is available to better mankind. And pass the bacon, please!
Tom will cover the Tuesday blog. Wednesday and Thursday we will move through news events of the past to remind each of us that we retain responsibility for our opinions and what we read. These blogs will be fun and informative.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
With an approval rating below that of most mother-in-laws, Congress needs an old-fashioned spanking. Having endured a decade of elected officials babysitting the lobby community and special interests instead of maintaining oversight of the dire needs of their constituents, this miserable state of affairs has allowed our Congressmen an approval rating of fourteen percent. Saddam Hussein had a better approval rating among the Sunni on the day he was hanged on the gallows.
Naturally, our “immature best” do the usual fingerpointing and whining instead of each and every single member stepping up to the plate and saying, “It was me. I know it was me.” The public knows the truth. Our flag lapel wearing loyalists have collected a paycheck without doing the job for which they were elected.
Toe-tapping in bathrooms and enjoying a Spitzer at the Mayflower are minor issues which should be addressed by members of Congress.(and the conference of state governors) They are minor, compared to the things which move our bottom line across America even lower.
Illegal immigration: reverse this trend! Our healthcare community will soon be able to release dollars and better care to our elderly instead of to anchor babies and their sixteen year old mothers.
Public schools: Support changes in bilingual education delivery systems so that American children are not sentenced to a twelve year prison sentence in a substandard educational setting where English is both mocked and disregarded as the national language on our educational campus.
Support American labor: I don’t want an outsourced pair of jeans from Bangladesh made by a seamstress who is paid twenty cents an hour by an American company. I want my neighbor to keep his job, pay his mortgage and feed his family. Make it a costly decision, for American companies to choose a foreign national over an American citizen who needs a paycheck.
It is time for new blood in the political process. I am to the point I would rather vote for naïve inexperience than entrenched incompetence. And as Sean Connery’s Malone said to Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness in the movie, “The Untouchables”:
“WHAT ARE YOU PREPARED TO DO?”
Saturday, July 19, 2008
This request came through my local chapter of MOAA (Military Officers Association of America) and is a short lead opportunity for local readers of the blog.
BOY SCOUT ANNOUNCES SERVICE PROJECT TO BENEFIT IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERANS
Life Scout Michael Weaver of Boy Scout Troop 262 will be holding a consumables drive on July 19th and 20th to support the Fisher House at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio , TX . These drives will be held at the Flower Mound Kroger on the corner of FM2499 and FM1171, the Highland Village Kroger on FM407. A follow up donations drive on the 26th will be held at the Kroger located at 1101 Flower Mound Road .
The Fisher House at Brooke Army Medical Center houses and supports the most seriously wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts while they receive treatment for their injuries. They also house the family members and help provide for their needs during this difficult time all at no cost.
Funds are provided for care and maintenance of the house itself, but not for the everyday consumable items necessary for day to day operations of the house. There is a long list of items, including all purpose cleaner, trash bags, high efficiency laundry detergent, and Ziploc Bags.
Weaver will be organizing scouts outside of the Kroger Markets to pass out a wishlist of items to be purchased within the stores, as well as to collect the purchased items as those wishing to donate leave the store. Also, pre-stocked bags of needed items will be available for purchase within the store.
All donations are welcome and will help Weaver complete his Eagle Scout Project, the last stage in achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.
Weaver encourages the community to help support his project as it benefits an organization that goes beyond the support given to the wounded and their families by the Departments of Defense or Veteran Affairs. It meets a humanitarian need for those who have sacrificed so much for their country.
All Purpose Cleaner (409, Kroger Brand, etc.)
Glass Cleaner (Windex)
Laundry Detergent (High Efficiency)
Zip Lock Baggies
Trash Bags (4 gallon and 13 gallon)
Dishwasher Detergent (Electrosol)
Any other items donated will be greatly appreciated as well
In advance, thanks to any of you who choose to participate.
The organization PETA makes my facial nerve twitch when they manage to grab an occasional headline. These are the individuals who disdain fur but will also support abortion. The "save a fox, kill a baby" crowd do not impress me. The U.S. military is their latest target. Maybe this story deserves coverage next week. A little journalistic sanity is needed to counter their rant.
This past week we also noted the soft underbelly of moral rot when Hezbollah paraded Samir Qantar about in a military uniform after he was released from prison. Fee Sabeelillaah
I am moving through a couple of envelopes of news clippings tomorrow to see what needs to be retained in the stack. It is always good to archive a few stories of interest from years gone by to guard against historical reconstructionism. Some journalists have sociopathic tendencies and are just charming liars, such as when The Washington Post snagged the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for their choke-back-the-tears story of an eight year old heroin addict. Did we ever locate that poor child? Anyway, I may throw some old headlines on the page, as I did a few months ago.
President Musharraf is not exactly a popular guy these days.
Speaking of babies! Photos of healthy little twins born to sought after film stars are worth millions of dollars. But what are babies in Bangladesh, Gaza or Burkina Faso worth to you? What if maternal malnutrition places an underweight neonate at a dry breast? If you have some spare change, donate it to an infant nutrition center in a third world country. The mothers will thank you.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Functional illiteracy. It is not necessary to even pull up the appalling statistics. The breadth of the problem can be viewed by opening up your pantry or freezer and doing a visual reconnaissance of the packages. It can be assessed walking the aisle of your local grocer.
Check out the Kraft Classic Macaroni and Cheese. It appears that chimps at the zoo can now make this children's favorite with little assistance. Minimal reading is needed for packaged food items. Many products have comparable visual graphics for the most basic of things, such as boiling water and adding pasta. We see "timers" that show minutes to boil the water, cup measurements of liquids, teaspoon measurements of solids and pictures of eggs on cake mix boxes. Frozen items show a picture of a microwave or stove top. One of my local grocers has added graphics along with the basic numbering system of aisles. They now sport what looks like radiology view boxes, well lit, with pictures of items on the aisle. Are there Americans who can no longer recognize a numerical designation for a grocery aisle?
Many restaurants have now moved to include a full picture of entree selections. This is not only about sensory stimulation but a means to deal with functional illiteracy and covering the embarrasment of the patron.
Recently I stood behind an adult male at MacDonalds. He ordered "A ninety-nine cent cheeseburger and a ninety-nine cent french fry." He turned to me and informed me that he was hungry and it was all he could afford. The problem was apparent. I kindly instructed him that the double cheeseburger was also available for the same amount, tossed a dollar and a dime on the counter and asked the young man to give him a double cheeseburger too. I wanted to demonstrate for him that his dollar could buy more. He seemed genuinely grateful, also surprised. These scenes play out across America if you are alert when shopping, out in public.
By age nine our youngest son had read over two dozen hardcover children's classics. His mind was filled with stories of Ichabod Crane, the Invisible Man, Sherlock Holmes and Treasure Island. It was comforting to see him propped up in bed at night with a book. It has taken discipline across the years to select news articles for him to read and patiently allow him to attempt formulated opinion on things such as poverty, social inequality, religion and freedom of the press. His language skills will soon surpass my own. But all of this has taken a concerted parental effort. How does a child survive whose own parents are functionally illiterate and do not learn to speak, read and write in the English language? They do survive. But their life experience has to be considerably diminished across the board!
People with functional illiteracy will never let you know they cannot read or write. They live within the grey zone of literacy at third to fifth grade reading levels and have learned to mask the insufficiency of their language acquisition. They will never enjoy Rousseau, Descartes or Franklin. They do like YouTube.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Blogger Tom Gordon speculated on the nature of a capricious God last week as readers contended with the subject of Intelligent Design in the comments section. Here is his comment:
I am fascinated by the contention that God (the very definition of perfection) "can make a mistake from time to time." If God were not Perfect, could He be God? This is what makes the Book of Job so troublesome. How did God get drawn into such a silly wager? Surely, the All Knowing would have known the deepest recesses of Job's heart of hearts.
Tom Gordon | 07.10.08 - 1:38 pm | #
O.K. Tom, let's move into the book of Job and take a peek at the storyline....
As with all things, asking the wrong questions can lead to the wrong conclusions. While the preface of the story of Job is set within the Court of Heaven, it is not the wager between God and Satan which is thematic to the story, rather how the vulnerability of grief can bring a man to the ashes of his faith. The book of Job gives a stark and compelling picture of human suffering, Tom. I have always retained much sympathy for Job and also found solace from the tale during times of difficulty in my own life. This man Job, has been my literary companion through many a crisis.
The story is one of incredible loss, grief and renewal. The account of Job’s initial response to crisis is in Job 1:20-21 The full force of his calamity is yet to be felt and the emotional response is muted. His crisis is still a bit surreal. How many times do we act in same manner? I have certainly walked this path with different crash-and-burn scenarios in my own life.
Our mate has died but it just feels like maybe they are on vacation. They have not yet been absent long enough. We continue to work, cook dinner and take out the trash. Three months later, the bed is the loneliest piece of furniture in the house and we are sleeping on the couch. A child dies when the parent leaves briefly to purchase a gallon of milk. Why did such a terrible event happen to a loving parent? A sibling survives cancer to suffer a stroke. Why do they take a double hit? A woman suffers the indignity of rape and the need to be tested for sexually transmitted disease. The scenarios are endless when it comes to what grieves us. And all of us, have to deal with crap we don't deserve at some point in our lives. And for those of us who cling to our faith, it can bring us to the ash heap of our existence when what we believe about God is evaluated and either saved or discarded. Been there and done that. Several times, Tom.
We all have an initial cushioning response after tragedy which keeps us moving for awhile. The pets must be fed and the bills paid. But soon enough the anger wells up as the grief overtakes us. The dam breaks and everyone downstream of the anger can be caught up in the torrent of our words. Job moves from worship to cursing, as the full impact of tragedy overtakes him. (Job 3:20) The man unleashes his tongue and intellect against the Almighty. Been there and done that too. smile
The poetic beauty and literary elegance in the slow forward movement of a man through the abyss of his emotions is startling to read on the page. Grief is always about robbery. We have been robbed of something, a job, our status or title. Or we have been robbed of someone we love, a family member or dear friend. People who have been robbed send up quite a noisy squawk. After the proverbial "wrestling with God" the grief-stricken find themselves with just a small pile of ashes left in their hand. It is what is left of their faith, a few little embers and a nice pile of ash. But the story of Job does not end by showing us again the man who scraped his sores with a piece of pot and told the world to go to hell. The book of Job shows that grief does not have to be forever. And there are lessons to learn along the less-traveled paths of grief.
We come to realize that grief is a journey and the individual sets the pace of the trip. Things can be overwhelming and the restoration of emotional health takes time. We need to allow people the time to heal and be renewed in their hope.
In the end, Job walked through his grief and was able to proclaim:
“At least there is hope for a tree. If it is cut down it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” Job 14:7-9
Job came to the realization that although he had lost everything of value his life could be good again. He just needed the scent of water. That cool drink of water comes from the loyal support of friends, as the grieving person walks through the ashes of their faith to come out on the other side. And, Tom? Thank you for being there for me. smile
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
O.K., I can see how failures by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could send us over the edge of recession into a full-blown depression that could be worse than any the world has ever experienced because we are much more urban now. We are going to have to bail them out.
But…Before we do, I want to see the executives, the board members and the regulators who made this happen either in jail or on food stamps. I am sick and tired of the old boy network putting me on the hook because they weren’t as smart as they thought they were. We still haven’t paid off the $100 billion we taxpayers were stuck with by the savings and loan fiasco, another case of regulatory bungling coupled with criminal incompetence for which nobody but the taxpayer has paid.
I am a Liberal. That means I believe government has a duty to take care of those who, for one reason or another, can’t take care of themselves. Daniel H. Mudd and Co. certainly don’t fall into that category, yet. Mudd is the president and Chief Executive of Fannie Mae. I would not be sorry to see him and his partner in incompetence, Richard F. Syron the CEO of Freddie Mac, reduced to picking up cans beside the road. They have flung down and danced upon every principal of prudent management there ever was. The funds for any bailout out must come from them, and their directors, first.
I sincerely hope fraud can be proved since officer and board insurance doesn’t cover criminal acts.
Then there is Henry Paulson, the Secretary of the Treasury, who, when trying to claim everything was hunky dory, evoked the image of Donald Rumsfeld. Paulson told Congress: “I have grown up in a world where you don’t always have the tools you’d like to have.” You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want to have, is how Rumsfeld defended his incompetence.
What makes me nervous about the Paulson proposal is the disarray of his department. His Wall Street advisor, Robert Steel, left Treasury abruptly to take over Wachcovia Bank. The precipitous departure has to raise questions which have not yet been answered.
In the meantime, Senator Mitch McConnell, the pride of Kentucky, and Representative, Jeb Hensarling, of East Texas, a region not known for forward thinking, are attempting to sabotage the bailout. Apparently, the mossback wing of the Republican Party doesn’t like the fact that Fannie and Freddie have gotten so big. It is a little late for that now. Why didn’t they speak up before?
For a recent history of Fannie and Freddie's highjinx, see The Wall Street Journal.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
It is that time again! So buckle up your seat belt and place a crash helmet on your head. The next two days will be in Swofford Unleashed format.
The first blog, "Smoking Pot in the State Department" will give a brief overview of the current political situation with Zimbabwe with a rapid-fire writing style. We will glance at an event in Somalia. You will be given a link to a State Department press release on the Sudan, which will receive a Swofford upgrade on the second blog, "Visceral Diplomacy".
Legitimate government is steward of one overarching principle, which anchors the remainder of the foundational principles of government. That principle, is truth.
This decade requires a new category of diplomacy because of our shrinking globe, technological advances and non-state players on the international stage. It is time for visceral diplomacy. Here is my definition:
Visceral diplomacy releases broad-based truthful facts to the public which opens the door to forceful and discreet negotiations of the particulars of the facts behind closed doors. These broad-based truths are particularly necessary to the public when international relations include incentive financial packages from host to recipient governments.
Here is your reading assignment. Type in the word Diplomacy at this site under the encyclopedia tab. You will find an overview of theoretical models.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Up and reading a few blog sites before work. James Oppenheim is covering Somalia. The music from this site, reminds me that sanity exists beyond certain national borders. For members of the healthcare profession, this site, provides a laugh. I was highly insulted (yeah, right!) by another reader on this site and have been a fan since then. The insult, had to do with a petri dish..... Anyway, I have been accused of being "her". Yes, we all remember the movie!
I am smiling this morning. Plans are finalized for a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the opening night of "Above the Call, Beyond the Duty" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to cheer on my friend, James McEachin. I will enjoy the festivities surrounding the event.
Have a great weekend, and feel free to post links to blogs which you read on a regular basis. I have mentioned just a couple of things in "My Favorites".
Friday, July 11, 2008
We, as a nation, have sunk just about as low as we can go. Not only have we turned our backs on everything in which we used to believe — presumption of innocence, public jury trials, privacy rights, accountability, equality, the Fourth Amendment, voters rights, all in the name of fighting terrorism. Horse feathers!
People in this country have been using terrorism as an excuse to retain power since 1798 when the Federalists, being hard-pressed by the emerging Republicans, passed the Sedition Act which made it a crime to criticize the president, John Adams. The good news is that the people didn’t like the Act and voted for Jefferson, the Republican, in 1800.
In 2006, the voters expressed their distaste for what was happening, voted out the Republicans, and…nothing changed. Apparently, it doesn’t make any difference who is in power, they all get their marching orders from the same lobbyists, the same people who write the laws that the lawmakers refuse to debate, probably because they haven’t bothered to read them. Hey, as long as the check clears, who cares?
As a result of the past seven years, the United States is rapidly approaching pariah status in the world. Our best friends in the Middle East, the Saudis, have been cutting back crude oil sales to us since we invaded Iraq against their advice. Turkey, which used to be a staunch ally, has developed a very independent streak. Kuwait, an emirate we liberated from Iraq, is considering dropping the dollar in favor of the euro for oil sales. We are not well thought of in the non-Muslim world either. Our approval rates in France and Germany are in the 30% range. In South America, Argentina is moving toward Hugo Chavez’s opinion of us.
The Russians think we are ripe for knocking out of the top spot. And, they are right. Our finances are a shambles, our military is so over stretched that we are sending mental incompetents into combat. That’s right; we are sending people who should not be in the Army into combat because we don’t have anybody else. We have become a nation of Richard B. Cheney’s, people who claim to support the war, but who would do everything in their power to avoid actually fighting for what they say they believe.
The reasons we are held in such low esteem are twofold, moral and monetary. On moral grounds, we are despised for invading Iraq, for torturing prisoners and for our special rendition programs. Monetarily, we are blamed for spreading infected financial instruments (CDO, CMO, SIV), which have caused serious banking problems in Britain, France, Germany and even Switzerland. The Greenspan/Bernanke Federal Reserve Board is also held in disrepute by most of the world’s central bankers. They believe in popping bubbles as soon as they occur. Greenspan and Bernanke both tried to let the bubbles get as big as they could in the hope of being able to let the air out gradually. However, since a bubble is not a balloon, that approach was doomed to failure, and it did.
So, here we are, so deeply in debt that we are borrowing to pay the interest on the debt we already have, our dollar losing value compared with the euro, the pound, and the yen, oil exporters talking about repudiating the 1974 agreement to price oil in dollars, our armed forces scraping the bottom of the barrel to put troops in the field. If ever a country needed friends, it is us, and we have damned few and getting fewer.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Governor Bobby Jindal put his signature to the Louisiana Science Education Act, widely supported by the constituents of his state. The editorial melee against this man has been of unbelievable scale. A New York Times editorial called this law an assault on Darwin. And in taking on this fight as one between two dogma, religion v. secularism, even the New York Times shows their distinct bias toward seeking a protected status of their own belief system. Sorry, guys. Free speech belongs to all of us in America. It also belongs within our science classes. Our students deserve to receive both Darwinism and Intelligent Design models and sort it out for themselves.
Whether personally believing in Darwinism or Intelligent Design there remains a larger looming issue. Imaginative thought which seeks out the impossible is the wellspring of all scientific endeavor. To present the quest to find God as the ultimate scientific study has more benefit than harm when seeking academic freedom for our future scientists to seek out new hypothesis. Whether seeking cure for disease or the elusive Methusaleh gene, to open up the realm of impossibility to the finite human mind is to unleash creationary force on a temporal plane.
There exists no recognized body of knowledge, indisputable evidence that a creationary God is not in existence. Just as there are things yet to be discovered, we must leave the door open to discovery for our science students. We know of some things today which were in existence one hundred years ago on an imaginative plane, but as yet unverified by the science community. There remains, an unverified god. The fact that our finite minds have not located him yet, does not preclude existence.
Should god exist he resides beyond our human capabilities and reasoning at this stage of our scientific evolution. But as with all scientific endeavor, discovery is preceded by certain events. It is preceded by revelatory knowledge. This is preceded by a sentient being. As a Christian I believe a sentient being created our universe. Now this sentient being has given us revelation and god-like qualities to form hypothesis and do research. He does not possess I.Q. as it is a measurement. God is wisdom. He is immeasurably beyond the grasp of the finite time capsule of our historical timeline and the limited cognizant capsule which is our brain. God is the unknown mathematical quotient. He is the gene combination we seek to unlock. He is the ultimate scientist.
Truth stands alone. It requires no judge (you), neither a jury (your peers) to confirm its existence. But if Wisdom created all that we see from nothing, as vast majority of humanity believes, we should allow students to explore the outer limits of human thought, which would include Intelligent Design.
Just as we allow academic freedom in our research labs we must allow academic freedom in the classroom. We must allow our children to imagine and contemplate the existence of God. We do not raise our voices in protest as they imagine the thundering of Zeus or Apollo and the feats of mythological Greek gods. We must allow them to explore and imagine the existence of a singular Creationary god too, one who spoke, and the world exploded into existence, piece by evolutionary piece. We must open up the world of impossibilities for our science students, whether it be the search for the furthest reaches of unknown galaxies or to unlock the secrets of a virus. But God, will undoubtedly be the final scientific discovery.
Governor Bobby Jindal link
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Bracing myself for the assault on my wallet, I stepped up to the Barnes and Noble coffee bar. “One tall coffee, please.” My order has been consistent for years. The young man shows that flicker of recognition, because after all, he sees me every week. As he verbally moves into my purse I envision him turning into a lizard, tongue lazily flicking toward an unsuspecting insect. I answer the usual questions:
*Do you want to save ten percent? *Do you want the next size coffee for 20 cents more? *Would you like a coffee cake? He looks furtively down the counter at the woman I view as the Nazi prison matron of the coffee business. The party line must be adhered to at all times. But in a new feat of marketing skill he also pulls out a calculator and estimates my coffee tab for a year and shows me the accrued amount of savings with a card. It doesn’t work. I know my cup of coffee is worth twice the daily wage of a working man in Ghana, West Africa. I don’t care. I earn enough to afford this small perk. Sighing, I lean across the counter and whisper back, “Hey, I know you have a good sense of humor. If I just hand you twenty-five dollars can I get my coffee without the sales pitch?” Hitler's buddy at the other end of the counter does not look amused.
A few weeks ago the poor coffee counter jock got his due. Sipping my strong cup of coffee, the cozy feeling of extended family was suddenly shattered by a man at the counter who had endured the drill one too many times “Can I just get my Goddamn cup of coffee?” I wanted to stand up, click my heels and move into a rousing cheer. I was positioned to remove my blouse and pull my skirt up to my xyphoid process to look like a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader when a friend walked by and ruined my fun. Instead, I just smiled and examined my new hero across the top of my magazine. He sported a World War II ball cap with the name of a ship emblazoned across it. Obviously, he was in no mood to take crap from an American when he had probably not taken any crap from the Japanese during the war.
I have unsubscribed to Townhall. The articles were fun to read. But I became maddened by unsolicited ads to buy products coming into my email address. Rare is the occasion that Dallas Morning News religion blog gets a glance. It is tiresome to close a pop-up ad and close down peripheral vision to read the site and avoid the ad campaign. Going online today I was assaulted with insurance quotes, coupons for Olive Garden, etc. on the right side of the blog page.
I am suffering consumer fatigue. When shopping, my mind is clear as to what I want to buy and the price I am willing to pay. I do not want to be inundated with calls to supersize my French fries along with my butt, go to an online survey to save ten percent on my next purchase or buy slimming tea sold by an entrepeneur in China. You will never see an ad on my site. Haloscan claims I can get rid of the ad showing on comments for a small donation. I have tried to make that donation three times and the page will not accept my transaction. At least now, it is just one company hawking their wares. Do look at their page. But my commitment to you will remain the same. No Google toolbar, no survey or coupon. You will just find a daily blog served up with a smile. The coffee, is up to you.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:36 AM
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Good news for all Trekkie fans. The future is now! Things displayed as imaginative technology in the television series “Star Trek” are increasingly within our grasp in the 21st century. That undefined and invisible force field which kept people in prisons without bars? Think millimeter wave technology and active denial systems. The Air Force has done a tremendous amount of research and I have been privileged to attend a briefing describing their work. I covered this technology from a safety standpoint in the July 2005 Marine Corps Gazette. Very fascinating stuff! (Force Protection in the Non-Lethal World).
What about the hand-held scanner waved across the injured on the Starship Enterprise to diagnose disease? The equipment for sonography has advanced to the point that the small developed face of a baby in the womb can now be seen long before the star of the show makes entrance to terra firma. You thought that little girl was going to be "Britney" but you now see she looks more like your mother, "Elizabeth". This stuff is just grand!
Microchip technology to track pets and luggage is old news. But this technology is now under consideration in the U.K. as a means to relieve overcrowding in prisons. Ankle bracelets already track parolees. But as scientists and engineers, other disciplines bring technological advance our solutions will come in smaller packages with more efficient delivery systems.
I am fairly pragmatic regarding technology. Any advance in technology can be a gift to humanity. It is neither “good” nor “evil” in and of its self. The concerns lie in application. While millimeter wave technology has valid battle space applications we do not want to see it move into mainstream America as a means to thwart our right to free assembly or public protest. If I decide to protest outside of the governor's mansion I don't want to feel that little sting of surprise.
Some parents will not give it a second thought to microchip their progeny as a safeguard should they move into a missing status and need to be located. But should an adult be allowed such latitude with a minor? I have my concerns. What about microchips for prison populations? Greater concerns. How do you feel about it? Does it abridge the right of the citizen?
The sonography equipment which allows a mother to view the face of her offspring in the womb is the same equipment which might be used by an abortion clinic to determine gestation prior to surgical death of the client lacking informed consent. I know a doctor who determined the gestation of a fetus at six months in his office using sonography. He refused to do the abortion. The abortion was accomplished at another facility down the street which modified their sonography measurements. Good technology. Unethical application.
So as we continue to see an explosion of knowledge and practical application of the sciences it remains for each of us to be aware of what is out there. And should the government be using facial template technology at the sports arena I hope they capture my best side! smile
Monday, July 07, 2008
6 April 1917: The United States entered the war against Germany.
Two million men are sent abroad in a fifteen month period. The majority travel on British vessels with 46 percent on American transport ships and secured American cruise liners.
Greater than 30,000 Marines head to France.
11 Nov. 1918: End of hostilities
November 1918: A U.S. Battleship Squadron is present with the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow.
Year of 1919: Vast demobilization activities
2 July 1921: Joint resolution of Congress officially terminates the war with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The overriding concern of this war was submarine warfare on the high seas. What will be the overriding concern during the political dead zone of international politics between the November presidential election and January inauguration of a new President of the United States?
ISRAEL v. IRAN: The Bombing Strike
Speculation lies in the realm of unverifiable facts. Will Israel take advantage of the window of an American political dead zone to execute a swift bombing run across Iranian airspace? Will it be a proxy bombing with the support of interested parties? The international community will know shortly after the Iranians, should it happen; because while the Middle East is the master of disguise, Israel has mastered the element of surprise.
Short on public facts, the independent analyst community is left with entertaining scenarios based on essential features and relationships between the involved parties, taking the constituent parts and seeking a composite whole. Much is at stake. With Iranian government aspirations for nuclear capabilities, the “pay now” or “pay later” curse comes into full swing.
On the one hand we see Israel trying to clear the table diplomatically with Syria and Lebanon to bring about a more stabilized regional state of affairs. The prisoner swap with Lebanon for Samir Qantar, sentenced to a jail term for about one-half the lifetime of Methusaleh, is tricky. Nasrallah would like the Qantar trophy on his diplomatic shelf. The Israeli government appears willing to take on the scathing public opinion of their citizens.
Negotiations to possibly withdraw from the Golan Heights give Syrians reason to cheer. Not quite sure Israel will pull that one off. There is a small little piece of real estate between Shebaa and Majdal Shams. The sentimental and strategic value is worth more than the Trump Towers in political currency to Israel, Syria or Lebanon, depending on with whom you are speaking.
Iran fears this diplomatic corridor opening between Israel, Syria and Lebanon is a prelude to a “thumbs up” signal for an aircraft strike across their horizon to take out nuclear industrial sites. For their part, they are being a bit conciliatory. Ali Velayati, the Foreign Advisor to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is softening his tone. The nail-biting rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad to blot Israel off the map is being given a political manicure. The kinder, gentler Iran is being presented at the U.N. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs is making dove-like cooing sounds to the diplomatic community. Behind the scenes, Israel and the U.S., in Little Red Riding Hood fashion, are continue to say, “But Grandmother! What big teeth you have!” Nuclear teeth. Yes, nuclear teeth are big teeth for whoever possesses them.
On our end, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, USN, knows exactly what the stakes if an Iranian-Syrian-Lebanese front is opened up in the aftermath of a bombing raid. Western Europe, knows they will be spitting out the backwash on their end. Things can move from “buy a bicycle” for a man on the street to plans for a worst-case scenario by operational military planners.
World War I took two million of our men abroad. It is impossible to tell for sure what will happen in a post-strike season against Iran. That is exactly what the Iranian government is gambling on with the sweat across their brow. Sweating on our end too. Just as we cannot anticipate all of the unknowns, neither can the other side. The law of unintended consequences plays hell with the best-laid plans. It is not the first roll of dice that will count in this high stakes gamble. Pay now. Pay later. But Israel’s distinct strategic capabilities are the Ace of Spade in the deck. The rest of the worries, belong to the planners around each table.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
What is the primary fear for the political dead zone between the November election and the January presidential inauguration? Let's take a look at how our political dead zone may play out on the international stage.
Continue to enjoy our national holiday weekend!
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:08 AM
Friday, July 04, 2008
*Robert Mugabe is the president of Zimbabwe and not of the United States.
*U.S. Marines eat field stripped MRE’s with a plastic spoon in 130 degree heat. Their willing personal deconstruction to bottom rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in defense of our nation allow us to sleep better at night.
*Laura Bush does not have nude photos floating around on the internet to make her husband blush. She does have a Masters degree in library sciences.
*The Chinese may have denied Navy ships their port of call in Hong Kong for Thanksgiving, but our sailors had a turkey dinner with the trimmings as they headed back out to sea. God Bless our Navy cooks!
*We are not governed by the SPDC of Myanmar.
*We don’t have two million citizens in IDP camps because of civil unrest.
*Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (U.N.) won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Can he just go home now and leave the rest of us alone?
*Former President Jimmy Carter will soon be too old to travel abroad to stir up trouble.
*I can now finally justify buying Scott McClellan’s book. Alibris has it for $16.37. Or I can order it used from Amazon for $12.69. “What Happened” to that original price?
*FLDS women are now marketing a clothing line. All ladies need that one sexy little piece of underwear to keep their man from straying.
*America makes me smile because we have free speech. What makes you smile when you think of our nation?
Thursday, July 03, 2008
In examining the tenuous arguments for holding detainees without right to legal counsel or trial; the loosening of boundaries for newly allowed interrogation techniques; or outsourcing prisoners to nations with documented history of prison population abuse of their own citizens, our own national history calls us to give account. Beyond the shadow of fear which cast its pall across our nation after 9/11 a strength of reason must prevail if America is to retain moral authority alongside military might.
We are the greatest nation on the face of the earth. The ingenuity, creativity and fortitude of our forefathers have brought blessing to this land. We have endured and survived prior threats and we will survive this one.
It was during World War I that our government first showed concerted effort to formulate a theory-based framework for treatment of POW’s within our custody. America became the standard and the bar was raised. Other nations were the beneficiaries of the model we set in place. We not only offered better treatment for our prisoners because of a desire for reciprocity for our own military men but the depth of our response went much deeper. We were Americans. To the unjust we would show ourselves just. Aggression and oppression would be assaulted with sufficient punishing force. But once subjugated under our hand, prisoners would find restraint in actions against them, bound by our laws.
Do not misunderstand my words. There does not seem to be a systematic pattern of abuse or denial of rights for the composite whole of our detainee population. But as happens in some conflicts, our national pendulum of justice has wobbled. It is time to move forward unafraid to examine the policies which have not served us well. We must look with unswerving gaze to weigh the consequences of decreased respect for America on the international front.
An American patriot is not the one who consistently agrees with all policies set forth by an administration during time of war. Government is not allowed the privilege of a carte blanche menu of options in time of war in the name of security. They are allowed to aggressively secure the peace and diminish the threat within the existing legal framework. We must hold our government accountable to the same standards of conduct in time of war as in time of peace. That standard, is our Constitution and our American traditions.
I covered flanking issues of detainees in blogs on "Waterboarding" and "Keeping with the Highest Traditions". Lt.Col. Abraham unsheaths his pen in very eloquent manner with a high level of critical thought to discuss habeus corpus and what it means to be an American in the link to his article below.
Please consider his thoughts and feel free to post in the free speech zone of Haloscan. smile
Lt.Col Stephen Abraham, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
All the Brouhaha after Charlie Black’s Fortune magazine interview missed the point.
Black, at the time, an advisor to John McCain’s presidential campaign, opined that a terrorist attack on the United States before the election would help John McCain to become president, just as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto helped him win in New Hampshire.
On defense, McCain is joined at the hip with the Bush Administration. It is impossible to see how a catastrophic failure of the Bush Administration on defense would help Bush Lite. If everything that McCain supported for the past seven years failed to protect the country, how is that a good thing for the McCain campaign?
The answer, of course, is that the McCain campaign has surrounded itself with an ever bigger bunch of losers than the Bush administration, if such a thing is possible.
First, McCain is still using the Rove playbook which says a bomb in an American city equals a GOP landslide. The problem is that only works if the GOP is out of office when the disaster strikes. If it happens on a Republican watch, it would be impossible to argue that the Republicans knew what they were doing.
After 9/11 the best Condoleezza Rice could come up with was, “who could have foreseen…” The answer, of course, was, the CIA which had prepared a briefing which the administration failed to act upon. Even the FBI had an inkling that pilots who didn’t want to learn how to land the planes they were flying deserved a closer look.
Then there is McCain’s foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, one of the godfather’s of the Iraqi invasion. Thanks to his efforts, Osama bin Laden now has parts of both Afghanistan and Pakistan from which to plan another attack.
Then for comic relief, we have James Woolsey, co-president, with Black, of the Ahmad Chalabi fan club, who has tried to tie Saddam Hussein to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 first World Trade Center bombing.
And, there is Rudy Giuliani, the man that put access to his bit on the side ahead of the security of his city. As a result, the city’s emergency command center was, wait for it, in the World Trade Center.
Giuliani may bloviate all he wants about 9/11, but the simple truth is that New York’s emergency planning was a joke. Not only was the planning virtually nonexistent, but the only benefit Giuliani could see to emergency response was a place to canoodle with his soon to be next wife.
And last, but certainly not least is Phil Gramm, the financial genius largely responsible for the sorry state of the U.S. economy. Gramm and his wife, Wendy, have so discombobulated the financial system that nobody is sure who should be watching what. Wendy, as Commodities Future Trading Commissioner, decreed that derivatives should not be regulated. Phil, as chair of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed through the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act. Thanks to that, banks can behave like stock-brokers, stock-brokers can behave like banks and insurance companies can do as much of both as they like. For this service to the financial community, he was awarded a vice-chairmanship of the United Bank of Switzerland, which managed to lose $9 billion on derivatives trading. He was also a registered lobbyist for the bank while advising McCain on financial matters. Some might think that is a conflict of interest, but there really was no conflict. Gramm was looking out for the bank all the way.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Samir Qantar is a former PLO operative and remains in many quarters, a Lebanese folk hero. He is also a convenient political pawn for Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are the other (presumed deceased) political pawns in what will soon be the anticipated negotiated prisoner exchange between Hezbollah and the Israeli government. I am not quite sure where to direct my own personal anger at this point.
Samir Qantar crushed the skull of a small girl after killing her father in her presence. Her mother has since moved on to remarry and have other children. Qantar committed his crime at age 17 and has been in custody for many years. For all practical purposes his operational threat to the state of Israel is probably miniscule now. His value, is for psychological sentiment and to bolster Hezbollah. The Goldwasser and Regev families want resolution to their misery. Every family with a child in the military demands of their government a concerted effort to see a family member either released from POW status or their remains returned for proper burial. This swap could clear the swamp, so to speak, on many levels. Unfortunately, the swamp creatures still remain. Such is the nature of international politics.
I support engaged parties seeking political objectives with vigorous negotiations and whatever means available to degrade conflict levels. But when political objective is blind to moral clarity, neither side wins. Believing in higher universal standards by which all men are judged my eyes always sweep upward as opposed to downward evaluating such issues. All of us move toward the day when we stand stripped and bare but for that which remains to be judged: acts which violated conscience. Time is a degradable product. Our first breath of life is also our first breath toward death. In the end, we will all enter the highest court. But in the meantime, feet that tread the dust of the earth seek solutions to earthly problems. I don't always like the results. I hate this deal.
My preference is that Samir Qantar remain in custodial care, no matter where he lands in the next few days. Ideally, my hope is that Sheikh Nasrallah will place Qantar under house arrest in Lebanon after his release. It is the status deserved; one of continued confined boundaries. If there be celebrations on the streets of Lebanon when he is released, may each man and woman then return to hug their own child close to their breast. As they look into their child's eyes may each one then reflect: Is the life of a Jewish child worth less than the life of their own?
The words of a mother