Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
The United States has officially been introduced to Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin. She was a secret I had hoped would stay in the Great Land just a little longer, but I am thrilled to share her with with the rest of the country, our territories, and the world. You all know I'm a little biased, as I am a Palin supporter, but that aside, I believe John McCain made a solid choice for a running mate. Sarah has a humble background, is about as blue collar as you can get, and has a public record of honesty and integrity. The current investigation involving Palin will be blown out of proportion by her opponents. I don't know all of the details, but I'm sure John McCain does. I deeply trust that Sarah maintains a level of ethics that is hardly seen in politics today. McCain's ethics are strong, as well. They'll be a highly competent team. McCain's personality will be balanced by Palin's down-to-earth character and "everyday folks" appeal. That is not to say she is common. As Kay Bailey Hutchinson is quoted as saying, the choice of Sarah is "bold and exciting". That's our Sarah. If you're fortunate, she will be your Sarah next January.
Sarah is a military mother, whose Army Infantry son is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq next month. She is the Commander of the Alaska National Guard, and visited Alaska's troops in Kuwait within her first year as governor; unlike Obama, who scurried to the Middle East last month in a desperate attempt to show he knows and cares what is happening over there. McCain is a war hero, who has extensive foreign policy experience. He has charted many miles to the areas of the world where we have conflict. He has been to Iraq at least 9 times since the war began. McCain is a military father, with two sons in the service. Jimmy McCain returned from a tour in Iraq in February. Between John and Sarah, you can't possibly believe they want this war to go on any longer than necessary. McCain supported the troop surge, to hopefully effect good results and to lessen American and Iraqi casualties. By all reports, it has worked.
Sarah is raising three bright, beautiful and well-mannered daughters. Before today, I hadn't seen Bristol or Willow in the media for a while. They have grown to be very poised young women. Sarah acknowledged Ferraro and Clinton in her acceptance speech, undercutting any talking heads for now about stepping on Hillary's shoulders. Sarah knows she has this opportunity, because of all the women who came before her. She is no shrinking violet, and can stand on her own against anyone you put in front of her. Just you wait until Tuesday evening, when she debates Joe Biden. She does not back down from challenges, as proven by her time on the Oil and Gas Commission, by her composure during the gubernatorial campaign and debates, against some strong opponents, and by the good job she has done for our state since taking office. My only advice to her would be to not be too huggy and kissy with McCain, as Obama and Jill Biden have been. Kissing on the lips is a little too familiar. Get a room, already. What do Joe and Michelle think about it? We can't help but realize that Sarah is an attractive woman. We know she is an effective leader. We don't want to see her and McCain being too cozy on the campaign trail.
Sarah's youngest is an infant son with Down Syndrome. Sarah values life. She believes we are all here for a reason, and that we all have value. She is pro-Life, but upholds the laws of the land, even if she doesn't agree with them. As mentioned in "My Guv", she is careful to uphold our state constitution. She has appointed government positions to Democrats, which further proves she sees value in every person. (That remark was for Tom Gordon.) John McCain has been a strong advocate for human rights. He is against torture and waterboarding, and is not afraid to go against the grain to stand up for what he believes in. Does that make him a "maverick"? I guess sometimes it does. There are downfalls to the two-party system. When the line in the sand that runs down the political aisle can be blurred in the name of doing what's right, give me a nonconformist any day. As Senate President, Vice President Sarah Palin will be fair in weighing the facts that each side presents. She will be a warm and receptive presence that will hopefully bring more unity between the parties.
Sarah's husband Todd's support has made it possible for her to fulfill her duties as governor, and will continue to do so when she is vice president. While I'm sure the couple has their moments when they disagree, as we all do, they work very well together. Their effectiveness as parents is reflected in their children. Just look at how little Piper shadows her mother, and how gracefully Sarah accomplishes keeping the focus on the issue, while acknowledging her daughter's needs. We have all witnessed the good works our First Ladies and Second Ladies have done for us. Todd will be a great Second Gentleman. He is a hard-working man who has earned Alaskans' respect on many fronts. He is part Alaskan Native, and has great pride in and respect for our state. He is a commercial fisherman, an oil-worker, a United Steelworker's Union member, a hunter, and a snowmachine champion. He is a real salt-of-the-earth American citizen.
Sarah Palin is a great candidate to compliment John McCain. She fits in with women and men, Republicans and Democrats. She is an avid outdoorsman. She has worked as a commercial fisherman. She is a lifetime member of the NRA. Her father was a school teacher, her mother a secretary at the school. Education is very important to her. She has worked to clean up Alaska's fiscal messes, left by the prior administrations, and continues to work toward bringing more money into the state. She recently helped to pass an Energy Relief Bill, giving each Alaskan a lump sum to help us get through this period of high energy costs. She has common interests with soldiers, special needs families, women's issues, team sports enthusiasts, and, yes, even beauty queens. These are not merely campaign talking points. This is the way Sarah lives her life. As soon as they're printed, I'm going to request the largest yard sign they make for McCain/Palin. We're proud of you, Sarah!
Bloomberg News inadvertent early release of an obit for Apple's CEO Steve Jobs certainly caught most of us off guard. Even Wall Street was temporarily shaken, until of course, Steve Jobs checked himself for a pulse and determined it was all a big mix-up. But it must have been nice for him to read the rough draft of what will hit the news media when death comes knocking. None of this is new. The early crafting of obits, or for that matter writing of books to be released when someone of note passes into the next dimension is standard operating procedure. I figured it out at a young age when within a week of Elvis' death the local bookstore sported a pyramid of new books on Elvis, Pricilla and Graceland, the Memphis mansion.
So to make sure that nothing ugly is written about me it is necessary to post my own obituary in advance of the first needle stick of embalming fluid, my expensive rings being yanked off my fingers by relatives at the viewing and children fighting over my amassed wealth. Only the truth, of course. wink
The woman was a legend. (In her own eyes)
Accomplished guitarist. (I can play Simon and Garfunkle tunes)
Classical pianist. (Moonlight Sonata and Amazing Grace)
Mother of the Year. (My children might as well have been raised by wolves.)
Gourmet Cook. (I make a killer Tater Tot Casserole)
Voracious Reader. (Mad Magazine, People and National Enquirer)
Gifted Writer. (My mother reads the blog. Tom and Bob are my cousins.)
Flashy dancer. (I can do the "Macarena" and the "Hokey Pokey")
Wealthy philanthropist. (I will die with my earthly belongings in a backpack.)
It is so easy to write a nice obit. Granted, mine will not be 17 pages long. Do feel free to post your own tongue-in-cheek obit in the comments. And make sure my husband buries me in a bright red dress. That is the truth. smile
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Fort Worth Star Telegram ran this little below-the-fold lead on the front page of the Wednesday edition:
“The TV ad shows kids eating hot dogs, with a boy saying he has colon cancer. But he doesn’t have cancer, and the ad by a vegetarian group grossly overstates the possible link between high consumption of processed meats and cancer.”
Naturally, none of the children has colon cancer. We are fairly adept at sorting out that actors are paid to appear in commercials, just as musicians make a little cash providing the jingles. But we are not always quick enough to make the leap to the next level. In the article that follows on page 3A, the commercial is discredited as being sensationalistic. Your child can eat a hot dog every day and probably awaken to each new morning free of colon cancer. But the article, neglects an important piece to the puzzle. Environmental carcinogens are one thing. Understanding the role of genetics, another.
What can be a causative factor in childhood colon cancer? Do you need to be guilt-ridden firing up the backyard grill to provide a cheap dinner option of hot dogs for the neighborhood teens lurking near the smell? Of course not! But the causative factor might be.... “you”.
Familial Adenomatous Polyposis. Yep. If your genome map shows FAP, you have greater worry that your child will develop colon cancer than if you toss them a foot long Coney Island.
Personally, the worst kind of media manipulation is that which plays on fears for our children. We will rush into a burning house to save our child. We will push them aside to face a gun-cocking neighborhood criminal while telling them to run as fast as they can. Gosh! And to think that we are killing our children with a hot dog! Vegetarians with an agenda are ready to take you on. They have sponsored this ad.
You can view it here.
Scroll to the bottom of the page.
So go buy a pack of hot dogs this weekend and fire up the grill. And if you invite me, load mine with chili, mustard, cheese, onions and relish. Ice down a Dr. Pepper for me. We will enjoy an American tradition. smile
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Forget the war on terror.
Forget Roe v. Wade.
Forget same sex marriage.
There is only one thing we need to know about any candidate in any position on any ballot in the country this November.
HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY FOR IT?
Nothing else matters. We are so deeply in debt that Nixon’s Commerce Secretary, Peter G. Peterson, is spending $1 billion to tell us about it. I have not yet seen the I.O.USA, Peterson-sponsored documentary on the national debt, but Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson of Public Agenda Online have written an excellent primer called, “Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour of the Federal Deficit Crisis.”
Here are some of the facts:
1. For 31 of the last 35 years the country has spent more than it took in. That is why we are more than $9 trillion in debt. Currently we are outspending revenues by $30 billion/month.
2. Social Security and Medicare expenses are going to increase substantially. We have known this since the boomers were gleams in their parents’ eyes, but we did worse than nothing about it. As Peterson said in 2005, “The Social Security Trust Fund is a financial oxymoron. It should not be trusted and it is unfunded.”
How is that? We all work and, even if we don’t pay income tax, we pay into the Social Security fund. Yes, but Congress has been raiding the cookie jar and replacing our hard earned taxes with IOUs. Soon, the Social Security Administration will have to start cashing in those IOUs, which means the federal government will have to stop taking money out, and will have to start putting lots of money in. That money can only come from two places; our pockets or the government printing presses. That is right, we are either going to have to pay more, or watch any money we may have saved lose value. Think of Zimbabwe’s inflation rate.
3. A significant portion of our debt is held by foreign countries. At the end of 2007, Japan held $612.3 billion of our bonds and China held $420.7 billion. Because we are going to need for them to keep buying our bonds, our ability to influence world events is being limited by our creditors. Debt service costs now account for 8.5% of the federal government. If interest rates rise appreciably as they must, if people decline to buy our bonds, debt service costs would rise, meaning that some other part of the budget would have to be cut, or that taxes would have to increase.
4. The problem is not restricted to Uncle Sam. Last year, the national personal saving rate dropped to a negative 1%. For ever dollar we earned, we spent $1.01. That doesn’t sound like much, but as Wilkins Micawber advised young David Copperfield: “My other piece of advice, Copperfield,” said Mr. Micawber, “you know, annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen (pounds) nineteen(shillings) six (pennies), result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, -and, in short, you are forever floored. As I am!"
Well, Mr. Candidate, how are we going to pay for all the wonderful things you are promising?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
With the National Assembly accepting the resignation of President Musharraf the view is one of political hacky sack. A disgraced president wishes for the pleasant sight of the gardens from the windows of his newly constructed retirement home in Islamabad. At this point, anything probably sounds better than the view from inside the “crossbar hotel”. The United States is not biting. Nope. Not a whisper of hope for asylum on our peaceful shores. We learned our lesson after taking in a political hacky sack who bounced from Egypt to Morocco, the Bahamas and Mexico, before landing here. Two week later, we had a hell of a mess on our hands. The deposed Shah of Iran was then unceremoniously dumped in Panama until he could make his way back to Egypt.
But there are additional hacky sacks being kicked into the air. The PPP has nominated Mr. Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, as their candidate of choice for the upcoming September presidential election. His opponents, still fondly remember him as "Mr. Ten Percent". You can figure it out. JUI chief Fazul-ur-Rehman is raising his own little stink. Although his power base has fluctuated somewhat in the last few years he still is able to bring sway in the political process. The coalition of the willing, the Fab Four, is loosing its bonds of political solidarity for the upcoming race. Add Nawaz Sharif running his own little media parade claiming this is a great day for “democracy” and things could become even more fun! Personally, the man is just irritating at this point.
When it involves politics, "Go Ugly" takes on a whole new meaning. While we have our basic two-party conventions on the horizon here in the United States, Pakistan has many more political tosses in the air. And the party hacks herd the people to the polls en masse on election day.Forget the purple finger. I do love hacky sack!
Political drama is further accentuated with the traditional atmosphere of distrust between the politicians and the military. The powerful land class also comes into play during this time of national tension. But the institutional strength of the military which provides a populist appeal for the average Pakistani on the street enters heavily into the equation in this turn of events. The man in uniform is respected as the sentinel against government corruption, which is rampant in Pakistan. Conversely, the military institution cast themselves as the guardian of public trust. So while political fingers reaching into the pot to grasp the dollars of international aid to finance personal wealth portfolios is tolerated, the biggest offenders are damn sure they keep a glance cast over their shoulder to see how the military chiefs are eyeing their acquisitions. There is “greedy” and then there is “too greedy”. The latter, is not tolerated for long. Again, from pinnacle to prison is a short ride down the street in Pakistan. The paddy wagon engine is undoubtedly idling in the alley for a few in the current shake-up. Pakistan has a tradition of trussing up the downline of corrupt leadership in moments such as this one. They enjoy defining the moment.
Pakistan just celebrated the 61st anniversary of statehood on August 14th. Over 62 years ago a massive migratory diaspora of approximately 14 million Muslims shouldered their loads to move to what were to be eastern and western horns of Pakistan, even as plans were still being laid for the British partition of India. Approximately one million of those traveling never laid eyes on their future homeland. Former president Pervez Musharraf was part of that migratory stream as a small child. The families moved along, seeking a consolidated Muslim state. In his resignation speech, the president spoke of his love for the land. Pakistan has a rich history, much passion, and a strong standing army at its disposal. May the political hacky sack of today produce a new president and cabinet, ready to lead and face the challenges of a Muslim-majority nation.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Surrogate mothers opened up a new and controversial means of providing couples with children. But technology, is the new child-rearing surrogacy. The days of a benign "Mary Poppins" governess watching over the brood are gone. Technology provides the new role models for your kids. And without vigilence, it strips the well-meaning but possibly clueless parent of what remains the biggest challenge in life: raising a human crop bearing the noble name of ancestry.
My parents remember an ad campaign run by a local television station in the 1960's. The news would always open with the broadcaster saying, "It is 10 o'clock. Where are your children?" It was a stark reminder for parents hosting neighborhood kids to send the herds home to be tucked into bed for school the next day. But in the 21st century the new ten o'clock is anytime your children are in unsupervised status. If your child has access to technology in away status, they have fallen under the new surrogacy.
Oh sure, cell phones are great. I love my own. But my phone is not being used to download porn. It is a growing industry. Acquiring a portable DVD player is on my list. I can see it all now: propped up in bed with three pillows and a nice mug of hot chocolate while viewing the latest movie. Santa Claus will get a nice letter from me in October. But my child? Might he be propped up in his room watching some XX film made in Bulgaria with trafficked women? Did it come home in his backpack after being passed on from one of the guys in the locker room?
What about the burgeoning and lucrative industry of violent and seductive video games? Let's rape our children of their innocence at younger and younger ages, desensitizing them to every degrading, disgusting and criminal behavior. What is the mission statement of organizations that bring us Grand Theft Auto and their spawn? The pimping twins of Rockstar North and Take Two Interactive don't mind introducing your boys to a few prostitutes along the way. While the Duke University frat guys got their day in court and cleared their names, I still have to wonder how they acquired such "tastes" and the accompanying boldness to engage such collective stupidity. Maybe learned behavior? Interactively engaging a prostitute in a game makes calling the dial-a-whore line manned by a sultry voice in the Netherlands easy now. You have accomplished the feat with virtual reality many times. You awaken one morning a bit lonely and voila! What an idea! Too bad about the real venereal disease....
Technology is neither good nor bad. Only applications scare me. But when technology puts vice and violence within the grasp of our kids within the confines of our own homes, what plans need to be put into action so that our parenting and ability to guide our children to healthy adulthood is not relinquished to amoral individuals? Because if you hear the teens in the bedroom talking about "hot coffee" it isn't what you put in your cup.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
If our vote in November were only for the winner of the Dr. Seuss award, the decision would be easy. But we need to elect a new Commander in Chief. Now while the beer n' brat crowd in Berlin loved Barack Obama after being first stirred to a frenzy by a DJ and a popular band, the rest of us need to run for our lives.
I am not quite sure who the puppetmeisters are pulling the strings from the curtains behind the stage, but there has been a meteoric rise of what is a mediocre thinker. The Democratic party chose to field a candidate who looked good for the opening act but whose appeal is souring for many, as the stage is cleared of all but his one opponent, John McCain. Hillary, was a distraction for too long. And now the longer glance at Mr. Obama with his lack of critical grasp of the geopolitical stage makes me want to reach for a Xanax. Read my lips. We will get all we deserve and miserably more if this man becomes the next president of the United States.
Follow his speeches. Study his words. Consider what he said when asked how to deal with evil during the recent Saddleback forum hosted by Rick Warren.
“The one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, but you know a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil,” Obama added. “Just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”
Number one, the man is heavily into moral equivilency. Let me make it simple for ya'. People who always play the "we are just as bad as them" card haven't formed their own strong convictions, tested within the furnace of adversity. It is one thing to face the adoring crowd in Germany and quite the other to face down a nuclear armed Pakistan which just sent their president scurrying for cover. The world stage becomes smaller and more dangerous with 21st century technological advance and the ease of weapons procurement through black market acquisition.
Anyone else concerned about confronting evil with humility? Now while a question soliciting an answer on how to deal with "evil" can be a bit broad, I prefer the McCain "hunt the threat down" approach as opposed to "humility". Some things deserve very little humility and evil deserves none. If evil is an envelope which when opened contains letters of instruction for mayhem, destruction and decimation of mankind, then bow your knee and pray. While you do, a wise Commander in Chief will be requesting men in rank with strong backbone to pick up their gear to move out on a moments notice. Millions of American Veterans know exactly what that means.
This century will require a leader with prudence and wisdom. It will also require a leader who does not hesitate or blink if the call comes at three a.m.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
“This is what the king who will reign over you will do: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties.... and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots....” Counsel of Samuel to the tribes of Israel when they asked for a king: I Samuel chapter 8
Moving from treaties to travails can happen in a moment of time. A sentinel event will usually light a fuse for the keg of war, but it is a series of events over weeks and months which gradually build sufficient pressure for these things to explode in either a regional or international manner.
World War I was unique on many levels. Although poisoned wells and catapulted corpses into besieged fortress’ count for down and dirty warfare during the Middle Ages, the Germans raised the stakes in WW I by being the first to release tanks of chlorine gas to sicken the population, later dabbling with mustard gas just for the hell of it. This put the nations into a rapid R&D mode for both the best gas mask and the best new chemical weapons on the market. To add misery to the human condition Mother Nature stirred up her own death march with the pandemic flu which brought death in hours, not days, into the holds of some of our transport ships of infantrymen heading to the European front. They didn’t face death at the end of a bayonet, as they had imagined. They faced the more frightening death of an invisible opponent.
The years between WWI and WWII cannot realistically be viewed as years of peace, but a season of uneasy truce and preparation for the next world war. We did our best. Really, we did! But peace was an illusion. November of 1921 the United States hosted a Naval Disarmament Conference. The U.S. agreed to scrap approximately 846,000 tons of Naval vessels, including 15 ships in commission and an additional fifteen either being built, or projected to be built. We kept our tonnage below treaty specifications for many years. During the Depression a portion of our Fleet assets actually remained harbored in port due to lack of funds for maneuvers.
In 1931 Japan stirred it up and staked their claim to Manchuria. Hitler waxed his moustache and gathered his staff to rearm and reignite a nationalistic Germany. Italy, not to be outdone, marched into Ethiopia. On September 1, 1939 Nazi troops crossed over into Poland. With a sense of foreboding, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a national state of emergency on September 8th. The pacifist movement afoot in the U.S. kept us from entering the world stage until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The rest...is history.
How are things shaping up this decade? Are we cocooned within an interlude phase with a rapidly closing window of peace? Think about it. Your sons and your daughters may be required. Teach them, the value of an oath.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:30 AM
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
“And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. But when the flocks were feeble, he did put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.” Genesis 30:41-43
The New King James Bible
The nations. They stream from the loins of strong men. We recognize their names. From our well-known patriarchs the family branches have spread to clans, tribes and ultimately nations. The pyramids of Egypt and tombs along the Nile hold their secrets. Etchings on cavern walls show migratory patterns of mankind. Archeological digs of Mexico give us the treasures of the Mayan culture while the monasteries of Tibet hold the secrets of their generations. Remnants of etchings on shields in Africa and tattoo’s burnt into flesh of warriors tell her story. Vast and towering temples in the jungles of Cambodia and Tikal in the Peten jungle remind us that time remains on a continuum with mankind a mere speck in the universe when casting a glance at centuries past.
But when did deceit enter into the human equation? Surely long before Jacob, whose name meant “The Deceiver” prior to being changed to the Biblical name of Israel. In reading the book of Genesis (The Table of Nations) the account of the origins of man moving from family unit to community and tribal dwellings allow for interesting socio-anthropological reading. The account of the manipulation of livestock in the story of the quest for dominance between two men is replete with political parable.
The nations. There are a few who go mano-a-mano, as did Jacob and Laban. But in the grand scheme of it all things seldom vary. A few powerful nations stake their claim to political dominance. They maintain balance of power by managing the “flocks of smaller nations” for political leverage. There are both benefits and deficits for the weaker of the flock, depending on guardianship.
Pull up a Google map and identify the powerful nations today. It is easy to do. Now, identify the flocking nations and their guardianship. With whom do they share treaty or alliance? Unfortunately, shifting political fortunes are causing diplomatic headaches all around. Consider the small nations south of our own border residing along the Caribbean shelf. If they are aligned with Venezuela, our cobblestone diplomacy is only made more difficult as President Chavez skips off to Tehran for a visit. He has established a tether of support from across the globe. What about the vast thousand mile border Afghanistan shares with Muslim Central Asian republics which are still floundering internally after many years? They remain vulnerable on several levels. Diverse ethnic populations struggle to define cohesive national identity, international economic investment is sparse and educational opportunities limited. Think about the African continent. Central Africa’s coastal belt region is famous for mining and plantations. But both off-shore and inland crude oil production has steadily risen since the early 1990’s. Cameroon, Congo and Gabon are the top net oil-exporting countries in Africa. Do you imagine that China has “forgiven” debt in Africa out of the goodness of their collective Communist hearts? The nations competing for fossil fuels are not the “feeble of the flock” but the “strong of the herd”. China’s juggernauting economy and increased need for fossil fuels caused her to leap-frog ahead of Japan for net import in the 1990’s, hence falling in line behind the United States.
Just last week we observed stark display of how these things work, the management of the “smaller flocks”. Our Olympic-mania was temporarily shuttled with the news on the ground in Georgia. Suddenly, the flag-waving crowds of an independent Georgia seeking membership in NATO became the militarily-subjugated flock of the Russians. Alliance with the United States and thoughts of a distinct national autonomy temporarily evaporated as Russian tanks traversed the border and bombing raids rained from the sky. Although not physically present, Dr. Condoleeza Rice has the look of psychological shell-shock. Who could have possibly known that the friendly soul of Vladimir, the president, could so quickly become the big Putin of a Prime Minister? (*File under: Golly Gee! Some things never change....) While Russia will begin a "pullback" from the region there is little doubt that they will remain: in the column of consolidated gains.
Tomorrow let’s move from tribes to treaties.
Monday, August 18, 2008
On July 31, the Washington Post ran a remarkable opinion piece by Henry A. Kissinger, entitled New Premises for Iraq.
What makes this essay remarkable is its support for the people who ran him out of the Ford Administration and who were responsible for the repudiation of everything he tried to do as National Security advisor and Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford. It is also remarkable for its ham-handed attempt to rewrite a history of the Vietnam War that is all too well known.
During the Ford administration, Cheney and Rumsfeld lost no opportunity to scuttle détente and belittle its author until Kissinger left the administration. Surely he must bear them some enmity.
However, Kissinger is also the father, albeit without benefit of clergy, of the invasion of Iraq. During the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s he put forward a plan to invade Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Iraq and to take control of their oil fields. The idea was shelved everywhere but in Richard Cheney’s fevered little mind.
Kissinger, in an “I’m not that kind of girl and besides the grass is wet,” type of argument suggests that now that things seem to be going well in Iraq, we should stay to insure that they do. And, besides, we cannot let ourselves be seen to have been forced out of Iraq because that would destabilize the whole area.
Kissinger argues that things are going very well, but we don’t know if that is really true or if the parties concerned are waiting to see what the next administration does. How things are going is actually immaterial since, if we do leave, the Arabs and the Persians will say we were whipped and represent no threat to anybody. This has been argued by others and could be called common knowledge.
But Kissinger goes further. Having said we can’t pull out, he now says we can create a strategic reserve in this country of some of the forces currently in Iraq, “with some moving to other threatened areas and other returning to the United States." This position presupposes that stop losses will be in place forever and that the well-publicized problems the Army is having finding people to sign up don’t exist.
Kissinger wrote before al Malawi went public with his demand for a timetable for pulling out foreign troops, so we can ignore Kissinger’s contention that such a timetable “is the surest way to undermine the hopeful prospects.”
Finally, Kissinger writes, “Thirty years ago, Congress cut off aid to Vietnam and Cambodia, two years after troops were withdrawn and local forces were still desperate to resist.” As I remember it, the funds were cut off because we had become North Vietnam’s leading supplier of slightly used military hardware. The “desperate to resist troops” had to be chained to their weapons to keep them from running away and leaving them to the enemy.
The only similarity between Vietnam and Iraq is the disgraceful way we put ourselves into them: Through assassination and lies in Vietnam and just plain lies in Iraq. There may be a lesson there.
Friday, August 15, 2008
In the past we have "stamped our passports" for far flung locales in search of meaningful geopolitical commentary. Next week, it is time to enter a time machine instead!
Tom Gordon received a desperation phone call about noon today. I had worked "call back" from early yesterday evening until 3 a.m. this morning in the PACU, returning to work at eight a.m. to begin another day. Sunday, begins a 24 hour stretch of call. Occasionally such days do end up with 18 hours of continuous work. He has graciously agreed to cover the Monday slot to allow me a bit of a breather. From what he has just sent into the drafts folder, historical parallelism between Vietnam and Iraq appears to be the topic of choice. When Mr. Gordon writes in the manner you will see on Monday it can be difficult for me. But I learned long ago that the patriotic landscape is not denuded by conflicting points of view, or political coin flips. Rather, society is healthy when free speech allows us to examine issues at hand and engage comparative analysis. Our personal comfort zones, are stretched to capacity on this site. For that, we should all be proud. smile
Beginning Tuesday, let me bring to bear my thoughts on the geopolitical scene in a manner which was most likely not covered in your university Political Science 101 course offering. To understand the nature of the dealings of the nations amongst themselves a beginning point must be made by examining the dealings of one man with another. Governments are made up of people. The historical Jacob and Laban will show an aspect of "the art of the deal" providing the backdrop for our discussion.(Genesis 30:25-43) The goal is to cause you to begin to think in a new way. Yes, writing always has an agenda. We are honest about such things here. Keep following Russia and Georgia....
So get ready to enter the time machine next week as we consider geopolitical thought. smile
My father always told me I was pretty. But more than that, he emphasized that I was smart. He would speak to me regarding issues of the day while peering over the top of his newspaper. Mulling over my answers and volleying back his own thoughts he helped my development of critical thinking skills. The constancy of his presence and guidance in my early childhood cannot be overestimated. Dad’s gift to his eldest daughter was to instill confidence in a young lady who had average looks, but the desire to succeed. Too bad society as a whole does not see the world of little girls through the eyes of my father.
We place the burden of physical beauty upon our daughters at younger and younger ages. Lest we think this is merely a Western foible, the mini-fiasco with the lip-syncing little girl at the opening ceremony of the Olympics reminds us that beauty trumps talent when it comes to women, in the eyes of some people.
It seems a bit unfair, the societal burden to be beautiful. Men are not equally encumbered. A man can have a receding hairline, paunchy belly and bad teeth and fair well in the public corridor if he has enough talent and a fat wallet. Women don’t mind being an “arm ornament” for that kind of a guy. But plain-looking women? Prayers of desperation to the Saint of the Lonely Heart prevail.
But then again, men sometimes get what they deserve when taking on the beautiful brainless trophy with the porcelain-veneered teeth, $150 dollar haircut, and perky breasts spilling out of a Victoria’s secret underwire bra. I met one of these fabulous creations at a cocktail party several months ago. She was a vision of loveliness down to her perfect pedicure. Unfortunately, it seemed there was not an original thought in her head. Her two "cabinet doors" revealed a "cupboard" that was bare as that of Old Mother Hubbard. Looking out at me with two dull little eyes I felt pity for her. Her marketability would decline with age. After speaking with this couple for less than five minutes my embarrassment for the husband was so acute that I moved on to the next person. His business card was impressive but they were a mismatched set.
Beauty is a nice veneer for women. But education and the development of innate talents should be the parental focus for our young daughters. We defraud them of their greatest potential if we merely cultivate a beautiful look apart from educated personality.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Bush presidents, 41 and 43, have always shown Olympian disdain for the Law and those who work in it.
Michael B. Mukasey is a good boy who does what he is told and that is all that is required of the nation’s number one law enforcement officer. He has apparently been told to make the transgressions of the previous Attorney General go away. A tall order; one that has reduced Judge Mukasey’s legal arguments to a childish comment that “two wrongs do not make a right.” According to Mukasey, it would be wrong to fire the attorneys and immigration judges who were hired based on a political litmus test rather than legal ability because “they had done nothing wrong.” Wrong. They had been hired to do wrong. It is wrong to hire people who are supposed to enforce the law because of the way they will enforce it. It is like having a judge who believes anybody who comes before him is guilty.
In Mukasey’s case, “Not every wrong or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.” Apparently, the civil service laws aren’t laws to the man who is supposed to enforce them.
With the possible exception of nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, no one doubts that Mukasey’s predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, was the worse Attorney General since John Mitchell who went to jail for perjury after the Watergate break in. John Ashcroft was probably the best of the Bush attorney’s general. Yes, he had absolutely no use for the Bill of Rights. Nobody in the administration does. He also had a fear of calico cats and breast fetish that caused him to have the statues of justice draped. He stood up to Gonzales on torture, something nobody else in government did. That put him in a precarious position since he was 100% behind the PATRIOT Act, and the administration was using that act to help justify torture.
When Thurgood Marshall stepped down in 1991, George H.W. Bush dealt him a gratuitous insult by appointing Clarence Thomas to succeed him. Marshall had shown some serious legal chops by the time he was appointed to the Supreme Court, as the “right man at the right time,” as Lyndon Johnson said of his appointment. Thomas’s legal accomplishments were at best negligible when he was appointed. He has not distinguished himself since. The Supreme Court sometimes brings out unlooked for greatness in the Justices. Not in this case.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
How hard can it be? An application comes across the desk of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a new bus service, Iguala Busmex, operating out of Houston, Texas. You are the clerk. (Albeit you probably have a fancier title, since you work for a bureaucracy.) Just type in the address on the application and cross reference it with your software. Or just as easily, type it into a search engine. Gee! Isn’t it the exact same address for Angel Tours, also based in Houston? Now, type in the name of the applicant and owner. Wow! Isn’t that the same name of the man who owned Angel Tours? What a damn coincidence! Who would have thought of it? Pick up the phone. Call the man. Tell him that if you locate even one of his unsafe vehicles on the road, a Texas State Trooper will visit him with a pair of handcuffs.
Angel de la Torres, a.ka. Angel de la Muerte, found it very easy to take a company that was ordered out of service for safety violations on June 23rd, reapply for his new bus service on June 26th,, and to continue on with business as usual. America.... land of opportunity! Call it a recapped right front tire on the bus that caused an initial toe-tagging count of fifteen deaths in the plunge to the ground below when the bus bucked right off the interstate after the tire blew. That is what NTSB spokeswoman Debbie Hersman stated was the cause, at a hastily assembled news conference. But that nice little individual and rather sterile fact ignores root cause analysis, folks.
I am plain spoken and prefer the simple truth. Institutional negligence is to blame for the many deaths of the Vietnamese religious pilgrims who boarded Iguala Busmex for what ended up being a road trip to the morgue. The bus operator was in violation of both federal and state law. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, critics reported that federal and state officials lack the necessary authority to shut down business' that fail inspections. Why is that? If so, it seems about as logical as investing in a toothless, arthritic hound dog to guard your home. What kind of “watch dog” do we have here? Oversight and authority count for nothing if enforcement doesn’t keep these traveling caravans of death off the road. The issue is enforcement. Iguala Busmex was on the road illegally. Enforcement failed. It seems that the levied fine of $3,460 could have paid for a few tanks of gas and a couple of visits for visual confirmation that Mr. Torres was not being a sneaky little boy.
Years ago Greyhound had a nice slogan. It was “Leave the driving to us.” I once took their bus from the hill country of Fredricksburg back to Dallas. It was stress free and actually enjoyable. Somehow I trust Greyhound. But shouldn’t we also be able to trust that any bus service on the road is functioning in safe manner?
What needs to be done to improve the efficiency and enforcement capabilities of agencies entrusted with public safety on the roads? If they require more financial assistance, let’s release the funds to them. Do they require more field agents on the ground to keep the bus barns locked until all violations are rectified? But if this is just a cluster because of a series of negligent actions, someone needs to catch a bit of hell. The death toll now stands at 17 and 18 passengers remain hospitalized, some with critical injuries.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Today a reader sent me a blog commentary on the crisis in Georgia which ludicrously opined that Senator McCain started a war between Russia and Georgia while Senator Obama is in Hawaii. Ah yes, a war of opportunity to ease McCain into the presidency does seem logical. It is also logical to believe in the Tooth Fairy.
If you think that our American presidential election cycle is the center of the universe, get over that notion right now. McCain v. Obama has very little to do with the current state of affairs in the region of the Caucasus.
Remember the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) signed in 1990? Me neither. But I educated myself for about an hour today, on the CFE and other other treaties and MOA (memorandum of agreement) which govern the region in question. This treaty, signed in Paris in November 1990, was meant to bring stability and balance to military forces in a European theater stretching from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains. It was comprised of signatories mainly from NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The treaty received an upgrade with the Adaptation Agreement and subsequent Istanbul Commitments, of which Russia was a signatory. (1999) One of the pledges made by the Russian government was to remove the vestiges of military equipment and troops from Georgia. Right-o.
Much has changed since the collapse of the Soviets with their role as the primary counterbalance to the Western Allies. Even to this day none of the international players of greater stature wish to remove their fingers from the redistributed post-Soviet political pie. The vulnerable nation-states of the former Soviet empire and all of the Caspian sea littorals remain up for grabs, in my mind. We all love nations that possess fossil fuels, overland access to fossil fuels, or even lowly military bases in which we can stash our missiles and first strike assets. The decline of Soviet power opened the door for political opportunism on all sides. Yes, we all have a continued interest in the region. Throw in the newest emerging world power, Iran, and things get even more exciting when examining the continuing courtship between Russia, China and Iran in a consolidated push again the traditional alliances in the West.
Most recently, we signed a bilateral treaty with the nation of Georgia at Bethesda in July of 2006 regarding geo-spatial intelligence and cooperation, following that with an MOA in August of the same year for scientific and technological cooperation.
The fly in the ointment for the aspirations of any of the players in the region are the breakaway provinces, which are the political grandchildren of the breakaway nations of the former Soviet Republic. It worked once, so why not try it again? The success of Kosovo to receive international recognition as a breakaway province merely fired the aspirations of other separatist movements such as those in Chechnya and South Ossetia. For his part, Russia's foreign minister Lavrov, voiced his concerns to Dr. Condoleeza Rice earlier this year that recognition of Kosovo would embolden South Ossetia. And in the domino effect of international intervention gone south, is it possible that Russia saw a small window of opportunity open up for a viable military front into Georgia with their quick dash across the border? Diplomatic talk of "restoring stability" turns the page to give a nice little military show of muscle a few months down the road. That is the nature of these things. Russia is showing their muscle today. And Obama doing the hula in Hawaii has nothing to do with the situation at all, unless of course you do believe in the Tooth Fairy.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Brett Favre did the Green Bay Packers one good turn with his reinstatement and subsequent drama. He showed America the strength of organizational leadership when dealing with an adult in diapers. It may take a couple of months, but my guess is the New York Jets will eventually regret the trade for Wisconsin’s favored son.
A morale problem is a leadership problem. After his tearful "retirement speech" Mr. Favre quickly returned, this time, as a legend in his own eyes. He created a morale problem for the Green Bay Packers, their starting QB, the football team and fans. His more-than-slightly ostentatious attempt to return to center stage was thrown out to the public with an ambitious verbal football that didn’t quite come off looking as he expected. Instead, he somewhat inadvertently shoved the football up his own arse with his public grandstanding to the media and complaints against management. Public bad mouthing of the organization which in the past has paid millions of dollars for your talent doesn’t impress most of us.
Astute leadership deals with morale issues or any employee misconduct on two levels: immediate and ultimate responsibility. The one who has created the stink requires immediate attention. But the ultimate responsibility resides within the chain of command to rectify any wrong and bring the organization back to a state of healthy equilibrium. This line of thinking values the whole as being greater than the sum of its parts. In sports this is especially true. A star athlete’s greatest contribution to the team goes far beyond his talent. His ability to bring cohesiveness to the team can make or break their season. So the Green Bay Packers did the best thing. They voted for a sporting, but less than amicable divorce. The custody of Green Bay's "Little Pigskin" no longer resides in the hands of Brett Favre. Thank God. Aaron Rodgers needs a break.
In writing on the issue of divorce, columnist Ann Landers used to punt the question, “Are you better off with him or without him?” The Green Bay Packers looked at Brett and decided the organization would be healthier kicking him to another team.
Link to Michael Silver, Yahoo! Sports
Friday, August 08, 2008
Marital fidelity. It remains a vow which is most difficult to keep. We stand close to the person we love and tell them that there will be none other, betwixt thee and me, ‘til death do us part. Dozens of guests stand as our witnesses. Rings are exchanged. We’ve only just begun… to live. White lace and promises, a kiss for luck and we’re on our way. The soft rock group “The Carpenters” sang of such love. It is the love at the starting gate, but not always there for the finish line. Not all can keep their mate as the friend for life, the complete focus of sexual desire. It is a tall bill of orders. So when marital infidelity happens, what makes us think we deserve a front row seat into the private lives of the involved parties?
The gift of an incurious nature is what is needed for such things. Speaking with a girlfriend the other day I asked about a man we both knew who had been caught in an affair. “Was the lady involved also married?” No, came the response, she was single and moved back out of state to be near her family after the affair came to light. I didn’t need to know anything else. I have learned to be incurious about such things. No need to know about a blue dress, a gift of poetry, or the particulars of the event.
Media feeds on the curious nature of those who gain some measure of satisfaction examining the woes of their fellow man. It was comforting to hear Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer speak on CBS News tonight. There is no doubt that Senator John Edwards trusts this man. What he shared regarding his conversation with Mr. Edwards and his wife showed a level of journalistic integrity in the manner he delivered the news. The man is distinctly kind and I appreciated his posture as opposed to the journalistic corps of hyenas which trounced all over Mr. Clinton when he faced his own moment of public exposure.
It is much harder these days to keep the news of an affair confined to the family unit and to those who need to deal with the particulars of the situation. How hard we have made it for wives to hold their heads high and their husbands to retain community standing with the increasingly common disclosure of such things as technology allows us greater opportunity to catch these moments in time on things as small as our cell phones.
Ponder for a minute, your own indiscretion, if it has occurred. Then imagine how your stomach will knot up if tomorrow night you flip on the television to see your own family difficulty there for all Americans to see. Consider how you will feel walking into your place of employment, your house of worship, your child’s school. Senator Edwards and his wife will face wagging tongues across the nation.
The Edwards family needs to be extended the gift of an incurious nature. And should you have a stone in your hand, let it go. The family structure is battered enough without your best toss.
My prayers, are extended to the Edwards during this very difficult time.
Apparently, George W. Bush has given up his pipe dream of amassing millions by giving speeches when he is out of office. It seems he has opted for stand up comedy instead.
The only question is why, oh why, does he want to make America an international laughingstock?
“In Asia Speech, Bush to Critique China on Human Rights" was a headline in Wednesday’s Washington Post.
That’s right, President Water Board, the wholesale hypocrite, told the Chinese not to detain political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists from Bangkok on Aug 6. It is quite all right to detain people for absolutely no reason at all, since that is what he has done for years. Think Jose Padilla, who was held for years without having charges filed. Think extraordinary rendition. Think unwarranted wire taps. Think torture memos. Think tens of thousands dead as collateral damage in our ill-conceived and indefensible attack on Iraq.
And this is the person who has the right to criticize anybody including Tamerlane and Torquemada of human rights violations?
George W. Bush stands the best chance of any U.S. president of being unable to travel to any civilized nation for fear of being arrested and sent to the Court of International Justice at The Hague.
"We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly and labor rights,” Bush said, apparently forgetting that his administration has forbidden civil servants to speak to Congress, which also denies access to those servants of the public to the press. We aren’t talking executive privilege entirely, although the administration has tried to use that tired chestnut as well. We are talking about Congress’s right to know what the rest of the government is doing, how the public’s money is being spent and how its laws are being enforced, or not, as is more frequently the case.
The idea of President Bush speaking out on somebody’s treatment of worker safety is particularly risible coming as it does on the heels of the report on the Crandall Canyon mining disaster which says the Bush administration is as much to blame for those nine deaths as the owner-operator.
"And we press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs but to all the Chinese people to express theirs." Why does he want the Chinese to be freer than he wants us to be? Anybody with the temerity to ask why we wanted to attack Iraq, which didn't have anything to do with 9/11 was branded as a traitor by the Bush administration.
The lights of the chanceries of the world will burn bright tonight. Nobody will have the strength to turn them off. They will be laughing too hard. At us.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
The bulk of anti-nuke protesters are nearing retirement. A movement which included pocketed civil disobedience, sit-ins and blockades still shows embers of passion like that exhibited by members of Sortir du Nuclear in 2006. Dashing out of the woods near Normandy, they placed straw dummies on a train track to delay the delivery of reprocessed nuclear waste traveling by rail back to Germany. These protesters are moved to action by fear of an apocalyptic event triggered by a mere push of a button.
A feminine sensibility girded the women of the anti-nuke protest movement of the 1960's and 70’s. But it is a now a feminine insensibility which must now be considered as part of the emerging threat to civilian lives in the 21st century. Nuclear power allows us to pull up the sheaves of human wheat en masse in a mere nanosecond. But dynamite or plastic explosives let us kill in slow and meticulous manner, one person at a time. And women, a few Muslim women, are slowly embracing the role as the new Assassins. Yes, it remains an anomaly. Let me repeat. It is an anomaly. But it is not beyond what I predicted to the Islamic scholarly community several years ago. It is happening. It is happening now, within Islam.
There is a metaphorical Hadith which says "Paradise lies under the feet of a mother." But what is a child to do when Mom straps on a suicide belt to blow up civilians in a misguided attempt to bring justice to her world? The Arabic root "adl" speaks of an individual justice which refrains from unworthy acts. I have yet to see the worth of suicide bombings, even within the asymmetrical warfare theater of operation. Blood on the hands of men against men, is one thing. But when the blood of innocents is taken by the hand of a mother....? Islam, heal thyself.
The Financial Times ran an article on July 29th, 2005 regarding a fatwa condemning terrorism issued by the Fiqh Council of North America. This was publicly declared on the heels of the 7/7 bombings in London, which were accomplished by a group of Muslim males carrying backpacks onto the London tube and bus system. More than fifty people were killed in the combined blasts. This fatwa was meant to be propagated through area mosques. Hopefully the hearers of the message took the words to heart. But what about mosques which continue to function as zealot factories to foment hatred and a willy-nilly call to jihad?
How in the hell do women lose their feminine sensibility to consider blowing apart their own wombs? I am still a bit emotionally attached to my own little incubator of human life. Sheer selfishness, makes me want to keep my uterus as long as possible.
I am not afraid when a nun crosses my path in public. I don’t worry about a pack of dynamite shoved up under her breasts with a few bolts thrown in to increase the blast damage. I don’t want to be either ill at ease, or make any Muslim woman feel unwelcome in my own presence in America. But if you look like this, non-assimilated while living in the West, France will deny you citizenship.
Just go burn your bra, ladies. My mother's generation did it. Little damage was done with the peaceful protest of feminine concern. But when ladies knowingly strap on a suicide vest, what does that teach their children?
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Does anyone else have a creeping sense of unease that technological advances have spawned a new class of progeny? Forget the newest worry that cell phone use at too young of an age will give your little darlin' a brain tumor. I prefer to worry that your XX or XY has devolved into a new class of biological zombie. I am speaking of cell phone use and text messaging.
Call me the meanest mother on the planet but my teenager does not have a cell phone. I hand him mine as he leaves the house for any event. The threat offered up is to cut off his snack supply should he use the phone for anything but a verified emergency such as inadvertent evisceration of his bowel or a complete amputation of an extremity while he is at Six Flags over Texas. He is big as an ox, so the food threat usually makes him weak in the knees and forces compliance.
Use of technology absent parental grooming has allowed for a "Night of the Living Dead" phenomenon which is hard to miss. Subtle things such as lack of eye contact, dismissive behavior and disinterest in acknowleging the arrival and presence of an adult on the scene are beginning to take their toll on me. As a child it impressed me when reading of Chinese culture and how children would present a bowl of rice, or a sweet to an adult with both hands as a sign of respect. Too bad we have allowed our children to be so ill-mannered they are no longer required to recognize a guest in the home with a handshake or at least a few minutes of conversation. Instead I observe children slinking through living spaces looking like little more than undifferentiated stem cells, text messaging the kid who lives two doors down the street. Shouldn't they be talking across the fence like we did as kids?
But we have only ourselves to blame for ill-manned and impolite behavior. I always request those sharing my time in public to turn their cell phones off. I did check my phone for a voice mail from my teenager while sharing coffee with a friend last week, but that is a rare occurence. If you cannot spare an hour of interrupted conversation, you are obviously entirely too important to waste any time on me.
Seated on the return flight from Reagan National I spent fifteen minutes listening to the most boring man spit into his phone while speaking with his wife. He was seated across the aisle and I was close to creating a terrorist event on the flight by leaping across my two seated companions to cram the phone straight down his trachea. Mercifully, the announcement to turn off electronic devices derailed my impulsive plan. I made a mental note to order a double Scotch as soon as the aricraft was in flight so that I could snore loudly all the way home just to annoy "him". Monkey see, monkey do. Our kids get some of their bad habits from us!
Do me a favor. Be a parent. Teach your kid some manners. And be an adult. Turn your cell phone off in the public corridors adhering to the fine social art of public discretion and courtesy. And yes, look at me and give me eye contact as we pass. I will smile at you.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Seated a few feet from the young man at a fast food restaurant within the National Naval Medical Center complex in Bethesda I felt the food stall in my esophagus. Somehow, the next bite had no flavor. Again, its attempted passage down my throat felt like a piece of cardboard. The man was so young, his petite wife seated next to him. Her belly was swollen in undeniable manner that speaks of newly forming life. The young man shifted to smile at her. As he turned the prosthetic device supported by his above the knee amputation shifted with him. I know how long it takes for amputations to heal, prosthetic devices to be fashioned for the specific limb shape, the long sessions of physical therapy to learn to walk again. Looking at his young wife I knew the truth. This pregnancy was a post-deployment, not pre-deployment conception.
Love… of a woman for a man.
The hotel arranged a cab to take me to The Kennedy Center to attend “Above the Call, Beyond the Duty”. My driver was from the Sudan. We talked for the full thirty minutes. It is always good to see America through the eyes of an immigrant. He loves America and sees it outside his cab window twelve hours a day. A book on the seat was from an on-line correspondence course. He wants to attend college and then return to his village in the Sudan to help his people.
Dreams… I hope they become his future reality.
James McEachin. What can I say about this man? He is a pretty special person yet his gift is to make others comfortable in his presence. At the champagne reception after his stage performance there was not what I call a "Queen Elizabeth weenie wave" to the adoring masses. James moved right into the crowd and made all of us feel like we were the stars with the spotlight.
Talent....the world is lucky to have James.
Coffee with this man was a distinct pleasure. I am sure Jim got a mental picture of a brain floating in a jar of formaldehyde seated across from him at La Madeleine’s. It is a clever strategy to surround myself with men more intelligent and women less beautiful. wink
Intellect… thank God for smart men.
Seated on a large rock I joined other music lovers for the Bethesda Summer Concert Series. The David Bach Consort was playing smooth jazz with beautiful instrumentals that seemed to float lightly through the plaza. There was a group of mentally challenged adults seated in wheelchairs and along benches with their caregivers. The music soon swept into their souls and two of the women surprised the crowd by moving forward to dance spontaneously to the sound. One of the adults started to clap in a stilted manner. A shy man, dressed like a Wall Street Banker, pulled self-consciously at his tie. I thought, "His father must love him." Another shook a large ball to the music. Suddenly, one of the men from that special group tossed his ball cap to the ground and joined the women. Seeking to secure his dance partner he was completely ignored. The two women continued to swirl about with an occasional laugh of delight. He was beginning to look increasingly frustrated. This was the man who never made it to the prom. Kicking off my sandals I moved onto the stage of humanity and asked him to dance. He nodded without a word. Taking him by the hands we swayed to the gentle sound coming from the saxophone. The musicians did not seem to mind. It did not irritate them that their most avid fans were adult members of a half-way house for the mentally challenged.
Beautiful…these musicians were beautiful.
I experienced love, dreams, talent, intellect and beauty on my trip to D.C.
America! I love her! What do you love about our nation? Feel free to post a comment.
Monday, August 04, 2008
The invention of the lowly printing press functioned as a can-opener into the world of public thought. An area which was previously under the guardianship of the scholarly few became increasingly available to the common man, albeit initially on a limited scale. The domain of thought moved forward with a gradual rise to prominence of daily print news organizations. But as editorial boards strengthened their pens in the 20th century there were increasing attempts to manipulate free thought. Large editorial boards liked to view free speech as a fenced asset whose ownership and control ultimately belonged to their organizations. That finger in the dyke was maintained for many years and the status quo comfort zone of traditional journalism was maintained. The dam broke with the advent of the internet and global communications. A flood of ideas now manifests in a deluge of words moving through millions of blogs and billions of daily exchanged email transactions. We are telling each other what we think and doing it on a grand scale.
Because of the extemporaneous nature of blogs the onus is on the reader to apply an additional filter, one of intellectual advisement, when reading any site. I strongly ask that you carefully weigh, test and validate anything you read on this blog. How do you know that truth is not laid out on the stretcher from a train wreck of derailed thought? Responsibility demands minimal research to ascertain if my blog is worth your time. One study showed that the average blog reader spends approximately 90 seconds on a site. May I suggest that if you are a daily reader an investment of an additional 3-5 minutes validating the blog commentary is a good thing to do?
This backdrop now brings us to free speech and ego. Having written a blog for several years I have noticed a curious trend. All will agree free speech is valuable. But the stock value of free speech in the marketplace of ideas immediately decreases when “the other guy” exercises the right to express his view. In fact, the stock can take a dive.
Why does oppositional thinking frighten us? Should we be intimidated when another blog reader disagrees with us? Or is the beauty in the oppositional view the gift wrap for the surprise opening of truth? I patiently listen to friends with diversity of opinion for that "Aha" moment. These moments are enjoyed by the diligent believers in free speech.
Can we embrace free speech beyond mere process to view destination? People who only read that with which they agree become native and no longer leave the reservation. Remaining within the confines of the reservation community, whether the Republican Indian tribe or their warring brothers the Democrat Indian tribe, few scalps are taken.
This is a site where I expect each member to take a few scalps and display them on their belt. To do that we must leave the reservation. My dirty little secret is that I enjoy reading “Mother Jones” as much as “The Economist”. I enjoy the screeches from the right wing think tanks and the squawks from thinkers on the left. Reading is an adventure. And the broader the reading base, the easier it is to sharpen the intellectual axe. But you can only get a scalp if you leave the reservation. This is war, you know!
We will continue to have fun in the comments section. We will continue to raise the bar, as opposed to some sites which dance the limbo with degrading vulgarization of the English language.
Keep the passion of your convictions! I hate blogs where people post like semi-resuscitated corpses. Let’s keep the wit directed toward the opponent at a level where the comeback brings a tingle to the palate and not bile to the back of the throat. Let's not draw back from high drama, the irony of our own human condition and the ability to laugh. And yes, let’s challenge each other with logic, facts and comparative analysis. And for the opinion with which we disagree, may the internal application of grace for our fellow traveler prevail. We are seeking destination. And of course, to keep it fun, a few scalps. smile
Saturday, August 02, 2008
It is with a grateful heart I return to the plains of Texas from our nation’s capitol. My visit was rewarding on so many levels. I will share a few vignettes next week. We need to frequently reflect on what makes America beautiful. It is Americans, of course! What is witnessed on YouTube, visualized on CNN or Fox, read from MSM is the frame but not the vibrant picture of America. It is the daily interface of our lives with other Americans which shows the beauty cast across the landscape by this One Nation Under God. I am proud to be an American!
Free speech and free will remain the gifts extended from our generations. Leaving for a week and having Mr. Gordon cover the blog allows me to test the strength of belief in free speech among the readership. Tom is occasionally allowed to strap on the helmet as the test pilot seeking the boundaries of the free speech zone with what he puts on the page. Yet those who complain the most against Mr. Gordon when he posts for a prolonged time remain the core readership. I appreciate your rugged endurance for the liberal pool of thought from which Tom draws his pen.
Free speech still scares us. The reader who tracked me down at the hotel thinking it a bad time to have the “liberal left” posting whilst I was possibly handing out my cards amongst the "powerful" made me smile. Returning to read the comments on Thursday put another smile on my face to see the street battle in my absence. With classic emasculating comments such as “You go girl!” coming from Bob, an excellent writer and critical thinker, we are becoming more comfortable in our own skin. I laughed out loud when one reader sent me a cartoon slamming Tom. Actually, it was quite applicable. He also placed caustic wit into play when speaking of creating a marketing disaster where the “product” of Tammy Swofford is destroyed by placing the “Tom Gordon” product on the shelf side-by-side. So here is the comment of the week:
"You have created the blog and energized it with your personality and beliefs. Letting Tom write it is much like a Cadillac dealer who posts ads for Mini Coopers."
Mr. Gordon takes it in stride during the rare week where he graces the masthead with sole editorial responsibility by tag-teaming with a quote from Gary Groth:
"They say a man is measured by the quality of his enemies. If that is
true, I am pathetically small beer."
Use of Winstonian wit to eviscerate "the enemy" brings classic literary warfare to the page.
So while weathering marketing disasters, verbal castrations, Mini Coopers and cartoons, this ship of pirates will continue along. But just to be sure.... The Monday blog will remind us of the joys and responsibilities of free speech.
Friday, August 01, 2008
What I don’t understand about the Department of Justice is how Conservative America, those dedicated commie hunters, failed to realize what the Bush Administration was doing when installing political commissars in the Justice Department.
The same right wing that has been fighting Communism everywhere from Moscow to Hollywood, failed to see that the Bush Administration is doing exactly what the hated enemy did.
It is beginning to look like they won. We are adopting their methods. They are making money hand over fist from their oil and gas, much as we used to before we used all ours’ up.
Back in the 1950s Nikita Khrushchev said the Soviet Union would not only bury the United States, but would do it with the shovels the U.S. made.
Under Putin, Russia has grown from strength to strength. At the same time, China is staking claim to raw resources at a tremendous rate. Oil in Sudan, copper and cobalt from the Congo, serious inroads into South America.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Congress and the President are bound and determined to make the government so poor that it can’t afford anything but a military, such as it is. The idea is that a weak government is good for business. Never mind that business requires a government strong enough to protect business interests in other countries from expropriation, or embargos. Business also requires an infrastructure to get products to market. Now, fully one quarter of the nation’s highway bridges are in the same category as the bridge at St Paul before it fell into the Mississippi. We don’t have the money to fix them.
Thanks to an incredible sweetheart deal, it is up to Uncle Sam to maintain the nation’s railroad track while the private side reaps the benefits. The freight haulers, are not willing to put money into track, even though, eventually, those tracks will fall into such disrepair that they are unusable.
Then, there is the military, which takes, all told, about 40% of the federal budget. During the cold war, the paradigm was that we were to be capable of fighting a two front war against real enemies. Now, we can’t fight guerrillas in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. What the hell did we do with all that money?
How did we get into such a lousy situation? Vietnam had quite a bit to do with it as did other Cold War spending, all justified by solemn avowals by the CIA that the Soviets were way ahead of us in weapons development. We now know that Soviet missiles “sucked instead of blew” as John le Carre had George Smiley say in one of his books. How, you ask, could the CIA be so wrong about the Soviet Union for so long? Either they aren’t very good at their job, or there is a benefit to being wrong. I think it is both. They aren’t very good at their jobs because there is a benefit to being wrong. The old military-industrial complex is too much of a golden egg for politicians for anyone who depends of congressional appropriations to jeopardize.
Then, there was the Reagan theory. Reagan and some of his cabinet, Secretary Watt springs immediately to mind, decided that since the end times were coming, there was no point in maintaining anything. But the funny thing is, that belief didn’t stop old Cap the Ladle Weinberger from pouring money into the Pentagon. Apparently, Reagan was preparing to fight Gog and Magog.
George H.W. Bush, the man who “cut taxes before he raised them,” subscribed to the belief that the best way to achieve small government was to starve it. He continued debt’s rise.
Bill Clinton figured that paying down the debt was more important than infrastructural improvements. The comic opera Gingrich Congress where congressional towel boys are deemed essential personnel, but forest wardens, customs inspectors, etc are not, made sure money was not wasted of frivolous infrastructure improvements.
George W. Bush does not have a political philosophy, which implies deep and careful thought. He has a political doctrine. That doctrine is that regulation is bad for business and government is not supposed to use tax money to pay its bills when it can borrow. The problem with the first part is that every law ever enacted was preceded by an activity the law would call a crime. Deregulation can only restore the criminal behavior, as we are seeing in the financial realm.
Alan Greenspan is the final architect of disaster. Greenspan claims to have actually been worried that we would pay down too much debt because the federal government has no mechanism for saving money. Therefore, he told Congress to go ahead and cut taxes. Later professing to have been shocked, shocked, to discover that Congress would go too far. Who could have known? As a result, money that could have been spent improving the infrastructure, went to Bear Stearns and UBS who promptly lost it in the real estate bust.
And that’s the way it is on August 1, 2008.