Heads bowed in prayer.
Body laid to rest.
Voice silenced, echoes strong.
Clothes in closet untouched.
Fall, in step with time.
The Living remain.
Our capability to remember fallen Americans and to honor their memory is extended as a humble gift, to the families who grieve today. May their generations remain strong.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Friday, May 27, 2005
Democracy stands on two strong legs. Those legs, are the right to bear arms and the right to freedom of speech. Both are weapons. One is grasped in the hand and shoots from the shoulder, the hip or in a prone position. The other, shoots straight from the mouth and aims directly for the heart. That positioning, is determined by the intellect and philosophy of man. I have felt the cold steel of several physical weapons in my hand. It is part of my military training. But I have also felt the cold steel of the weapon that is full loaded, cocked and triggered off of a tongue. It is just as powerful! Both can be dangerous when not handled properly.
I believe that we have a right to bear arms. But even stronger, my belief in freedom of speech. Yet I also believe that both weapons require the responsibility of the individual who wields its power. So today, the Tammy Swofford primer on responsible free speech and rules of engagement for this blog.
I believe in the right of the individual to agree or disagree on any given topic. Where resolution is not obtained, the parties fall in the category of "agreeing to disagree". As such, I will not always seek to have the last word. But neither does having the last word give moral superiority in any given arena. It may merely indicate that the opposing view has chosen to back off from the fight.
I believe in the right of an individual to call a spade a spade. But in so doing, the freedom of expression must not digress to vulgar speech or coarse comments. Those that are mature, are able to engage the battle with limited and effective use of adjectives to make their point. Use of analogy and humor, quips and quotations is great. Many of my comments tend to fly under the radar. They are subtle and catch by surprise. Others of you, use adjectives with every other noun. That is your right to do, if that is your style of writing. But let's keep vulgarity off the page. It serves no useful purpose.
I believe the right to freedom of speech allows for a maneuverability of the players that both affords frontal assault and flanking actions. Each side, determines their next move with the opponent. As such, one can see both actions in play on the blog comments. I also support the right of the individual to seek the decimation of the opponent and the taking of no prisoners. But conversely, support the occasional waving of the truce flag. There is not much flag waving for a truce on my blog, as the players are too strong. We tend to go for the kill with the vultures circling overhead. The smell of blood is in the air at times and I support it all. But I also support the quote on diplomacy, which is my absolute favorite! "Diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they think they will enjoy the trip". Sometimes the trip is more enjoyable and lends to better instruction with kind words.
I oppose hate crime legislation. I will work to derail all such attempts to thwart free thought. It removes the firing pin from the weapon of free speech. We must remain free to express opinion. But that opinion, should not seek to incite others to commit violent acts on our behalf. That opinion, must seek to influence through legal channels of authority. That opinion, must be willing to face criticism, scrutiny and the backlash of the words of others. But our freedom, should not remove that same right from another with whom we do not agree. Case in point: I oppose gay marriage and gay adoptions but you may choose to support it. We should both remain free to work for legislation that solidifies our distinct system of belief. But do not accuse me of hate. I will not accuse you! It is about democracy and the right of a free citizenry to determine their course and the course of the nation.
I believe in free speech! I will not have it any other way. As I said in an earlier post, the door is open. Enter, all who dare. This blog, a free speech zone.
This is an "early edition". My real job requires starting "call" in the PACU in one hour, and working tomorrow. I may have miles to go before I sleep!
As always, I remain grateful to all who read the blog, digest its contents and take the time to punch back. Thank you!
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Editorial note: The following is the opposing view written by "Tom in Dallas", another frequent critic of the blog. This is presented exactly as submitted. I do not edit the commentaries submitted by readers. His opinion, follows.
There can be no doubt that Judge Priscilla R. Owen deserves to be on the Texas Supreme Court. The voters put her there twice. But Texas is, as the lawyers say, sui generis, a case unto itself. For those of you not conversant with the way we do things south of the Red River, Texas elects its Supreme Court judges. As we all know, running for office is expensive. Therefore judicial candidates have to raise money. In Texas, they can raise money from people with matters before the court. Thus, Judge Owen corralled $8,600 from Enron two years before she was able to cut Enron's school tax liability by $15 million. Nothing wrong with that. Over the years Enron had given Supreme Court judges $134,058, which may explain why the Court found for Enron in five of six cases. In most other states, that would be considered conflict of interest. Some might call it bribery.
Lest you think that Judge Owen is a greedy person, please understand that is not so. She is one of the few justices on the Texas Supreme Court who shares the wealth. She allows her clerks, the young lawyers who do the research she needs in forming her opinion, to accept signing bonuses from companies with cases before her. No word on whether they also provide the research. Under those circumstances, it would be cruel to send Judge Owen into a world she little understands.
The rest of the country is no where near as anti-women, anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-civil rights, and anti-consumer as Texas. And Judge Owen is more anti than most of the Great State. In her 11 years on the Supreme Court, Judge Owen has been in the minority a disturbing number of times. Yet, she has never voted against the majority to uphold a jury verdict for an injured plaintiff. In Miles v. Ford, she went above and beyond to save Ford Motor Corp millions in damages. First, she took sixteen months to decide the case and then made her decision on a point not on the table in the appeal, thus denying the plaintiffs the chance to address the issue. That is not the only time she attempted to change generally accepted judicial principle to help a friend. In Montgomery Independent School District v Davis Judge Owen's dissenting opinion held that the law was wrong and should be changed so that the school district could successfully defend a wrongful dismissal case against a teacher.
In Fitzgerald v Advanced Spine Fixation Sys, Judge Owen held that the maker of a product that injures people has no obligation to the people who sold that product in good faith. Under the Owen doctrine, if you buy a car that blows up, you can only sue the dealer, not the manufacturer. Fortunately, Judge Owen could not convince the other judges to sign on to her curious interpretation.
In FM Properties Operating Co. v City of Austin, Owen said that a property owner had every right to pollute his neighbors land since the pollution originated on the property-owners land. To hold otherwise, Owen wrote, would deal a severe blow to property rights. Again, Judge Owen was a lone voice on the court.
In City of Dallas v Dallas Morning News, Judge Owen ruled that the public had no right to know how the City of Garland conducted public business.
These are a few of the many cases in which Judge Owen was at odds with her fellow jurists on the Texas Supreme Court. Consider how lonely she would be on the Fifth Circuit. Keep her in Texas where she belongs.
Tom in Dallas....on the blog today.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The following is by Mike Carter, journalist from Irving, Texas. He is a frequent critic of the blog. Abraham Lincoln said that one's critics make for good friends. Here are his thoughts on the Priscilla Owen nomination.
Her professional biography is simply stunning. After earning her BA cum laude from Baylor University, she graduated in the top of her class from Baylor Law School in 1977, receiving her juris doctor cum laude. She practiced commercial law for seventeen years as a partner in the Houston law firm Andrews and Kurth, then in 1994 was elected to the Texas Supreme Court. Endorsed by every major newspaper in Texas, she was reelected in 2000. She is a member of the American Law Insititute, the American Judicature Society, and the American Bar Association, as well as being a Fellow of the American and Houston Bar Foundations. She has now been nominated by President Bush to the federal circuit court of appeals and was given a well qualified rating by the American Bar Association. Normally such a background can guarantee one's appointment to the post, but Democrats have deemed Judge Owen so radical that they want to deny her a vote.
In an attempt to block her they have filibustered, a move without precedent in the more than two hundred year history of the Senate. Article 1, Section 4, subsection 2 of the Constitution gives Congress the right to establish its own rules. The filibuster falls under Rule 22. Congress is the legislative body and can decide how it wishes to regulate itself when it gathers to pass legislation. Thus a legislative filibuster, though not prescribed by the Constitution, is appropriate under Article 1.
Article 2, Section 2, subsection 2 describes the Senate's advise and consent role. This article does not provide that the Senate shall make the rules governing the procedure. It simply says they shall advise the president and consent to his choices, implying an up or down vote. A filibuster is inappropriate here since it circumvents the Senate's constitutionally mandated responsibility.
Why are the Democrats employing such an unprecedented maneuver against Judge Owen? The Democrats claim they are defending Constitutional principles, but this is not about principles, this is instead about the Democrats faltering hold on power. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out in a editorial on Monday, May 16, the courts are the last bastion of liberal power. To be deprived of the judiciary would cap the loss of political domination the left has endured since the election of Reagan.
Make no mistake about it. Judge Owen is highly qualified and will be confirmed if a vote is allowed. But a vote as prescribed by Article 2 is the last thing the Democrats want. Makes one wonder, if they filibuster judges today under Article 2, will they filibuster treaties tomorrow?
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Everyone will remember Abu Ghraib for a long time. The photographic images of the pornographic filth which our military perpetrated on a prison population were appalling to me as a Naval officer. These pictures showed the unique power of imagery to directly correlate with an evoked potential. That evoked potential, emotional human response. Pictures have the unique ability to hit at the seat of the emotions far more swiftly than any written word. More devastating are the consequences and more dangerous can be the effects in our digitalized world. An image can flash around the globe now in mere seconds of time.
So one day shortly after the Abu Ghraib story broke I opened my e mail to find a nifty little package of photographs showing our military involved in raping Iraqi women. I receive stuff all the time, since I am a journalist. I looked at probably the first four to five photos. The most compelling, showed an Iraqi woman kneeling in the sand with buttocks bared in a sexual position that would suggest an act of sodomy was her intended fate by the "soldiers" in the picture. Need I go further? Looking at the uniforms of the "U.S. soldiers" I was able to detect that the uniforms were neither worn nor adorned properly. Immediately, I attached the photos to an email to an editor at the Dallas Morning News and asked him to do me a BIG FAVOR and view all of the remaining photos and track it back for me. I had seen enough to form an opinion. About four a.m. the next morning, I received a terse reply on my e mail. The pictures were from a web-site in Tunisia to "Free Saddam Hussein". Merely porn shots generated from a studio, to discredit our American forces. The images, merely part of a disinformation campaign by those who opposed us.
So imagine my great surprise when approximately two weeks later the Boston Globe picked up some of these pictures and presented them as the real thing. Later, being caught with their pants down and forced to admit their careless research, they paid the dues of their folly.
Image is everything. Let's suppose you see the picture of an attractive woman in a suit with a briefcase. What word comes to mind? Success? But what if you see the same woman seated on a bed in her nightgown? Seduction? Both pictures, the same woman. But the setting, changed the emotional response.
So now we have a picture of Saddam Hussein in his underwear. Is it posed? Was it taken by his lawyer for disinformation? Was it filched by one of our military hoping for a few extra dollars to spend? I do not know the answer. None of us know the truth yet. But what we do know is that this picture will generate newspaper sales for Rupert Murdoch, et al.
Is there anyone else out there who is angered by this whole scenario? Has reporting what is essentially a "non-news item" with an accompanying photograph become the norm for print journalism? Do we not all pretty much wear undergarments? So what is the "news" here? Is it shocking that an ex-dictator wears underwear? Now if the picture showed him in "Santa" underwear it might warrant one of our lesser tabloid publications. But are these organizations run by clowns escaped from the carnival, or what?
Last week showed us the power of the media when Newsweek happily reported an unsubstantiated Qur'an flushing incident. In a stable and prosperous nation such as our own, this sort of news has minimal impact. We are too busy enjoying our lives to involve ourselves in a miniature insurrectionist revolt. But there are many countries that have unstable economic structures, high unemployment rates, high levels of religious fervor coupled with anti-American sentiment and people who are underserved by their own governments. These people are highly vulnerable to the power of image. These people, easily whipped into a frenzy by their overlords who are masters of manipulation. Blood flowed last week, where nary a drop should have been shed. Maybe some of our print media needs to consider writing in blood.
Let it rip. I want to hear from you.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Newsweek has been awarded my first annual "Nattering Nabobs" award. This award is given because of their obtuse and negative reporting style which caused worldwide anti-American sentiment and cost of lives. All this, while having their heads residing where the sun don't shine.
Lest you do not recognize the words "nattering" or "nabobs", in complete format it reads "Nattering nabobs of negativism". This phrase was coined by William Safire, a speechwriter for Spiro T. Agnew. Vice president Agnew used the term in a 1970 speech as a derogatory reference to media anchors, op-ed writers and the press corps in general.
Now I do not know for sure if the whole purpose of the Newsweek article was a left-leaning, Bush-a-thon bash, but the editors were clueless when it comes to religious and cultural considerations of what they floated out into print, without any real confirmation that what they were yakking up was valid. As a result, blood flowed. And it flowed to the tune of more than a dozen civilian deaths.
Islam teaches that it is blasphemy to speak against the Qur'an or the Prophet Muhammad. This is and has been their belief for centuries. This is not anything new. And for those who study, one finds that this belief extends to codified law in some of our Muslim majority nations.
Pakistan will serve as the example today. Pakistan introduced a blasphemy law in 1986, which is contained in sections B and C of article 295 of the penal code. Section B addresses offenses against the Qur'an, punishable with life imprisonment. Section C punishes with death penalty or life imprisonment "anyone who insults the.....Prophet Muhammad in word, writing or deed or visible representation, including direct or indirect insinuations." Since the passage of the law over 600 people have been charged with blasphemy. The breakdown is: 50% Muslim, 37%Ahmadis, 13 % Christian and 1 % Hindu. You may read this report in entirety on www.zenit.org, the lens of the world from the Vatican.
Proper handling of the Qur'an is mandated and customs vary slightly when one considers cultural variations. The Ummah (Muslim community) in S.E. Asia places the Qur'an on the highest shelf in the house, as a sign of honor. Some Muslim kiss the book. All believe it must be handled with clean hands.
Lest we think these things strange, one must remember that some of these beliefs are similar to the honor a Jew extends when reading the Torah. Or the honor a Christian extends by standing when in a public place to read the Bible. Whether one agrees or not is not the issue. The issue is that what Newsweek printed was extremely inflammatory in the Muslim mind, was crafted usefully to stir up anti-American sentiment, and showed once again that many Americans still reside in a small little American box. Unaware of the world beyond our borders, media plows ahead without a lick of sense, as we say here in Texas.
So to you, Newsweek, I bequeath the "Nattering Nabobs" award of journalism.
Monday, May 16, 2005
America has been taking a beating abroad for a report by Newsweek stating that desecration of the Qur'an at Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay) has taken place. Already, Newsweek has to admit that the report is not fully substantiated and like a child that strikes a match and burns down a house, is now saying "Sorry.... tee hee.... Gee, how could we have known that we would put soldiers lives in danger with this one?" May I throw out my response to Newsweek? Sorry! It will be a cold day in hell before I pick up another copy of your miserable publication.
Do any of you remember 12 October 2000? What about the names: Seaman Recruit Lakiba Nicole Palmer and Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lekeima Monique Francis? These are the two female sailors who were murdered on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen as the ship was in port for refueling. Fifteen male sailors also lost their lives. This, the act of Islamic terrorists. Do you pause to remember? Do you remember all of the apologies that we received, the condolences from the Arab world? Right!
So now, when I see that the Arab League demands an apology, I rather feel like yawning. And when I see a group of Pakistani men burning MY FLAG, I am on a slow burn. When I hear that rioting in Afghanistan brings unrest, it makes me fearful. I am fearful for my shipmates that are currently mobilized with EMF Dallas over in Kuwait. Will they be safe?
Should we be flushing pages of the Qur'an down toilets? Of course not. But I am just a little tired of the one-sided rage on these things. What about you? When you respond to this post, I do not wish any comments that engage in Islam-bashing. But instead, let's not allow ourselves to be cast into the mold as the "ever-guilty deserving to die American" of which many in the world media would like to portray us.
Tell me what is good about America. Be concise and be strong. This blog is for you! This blog today, for Americans! The flag may be burned, but what burns in my heart, is hotter, more passionate, for this great land that I love. Burn my flag, you set off a spark in my heart. Spit on me, but don't spit on my land. Threaten me, but do not threaten my children. Make me a target. I wear the uniform. But don't burn my flag, spit on my land or threaten my children. I love America. Do you remember? And what do you love? Let me know.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC