It is not that I expect any of them to be convicted. It is enough in these dour days that members of the Republican leadership are on various carpets.
First, President Bush’s approval ratings, already unstable, tipped over the edge thanks to his handling, or not handling, of Katrina, including the nomination of a completely unqualified Michael Brown to run FEMA. In a desperate effort to shore up his approval ratings, Mr. Bush has embarked on a plan of calling on Americans to drive less while he takes Air Force One and a battalion of SUVs from on photo op to the next. If he and his entourage are going to use shovels, fine, come on down. But, for anything else, he can use the phone and save the fuel.
Then, Bush’s Middle East campaign came a cropper when former First Nanny, Karen Hughes, was taken to task for presuming to tell Saudi women how they should live.
Meanwhile, on the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is facing investigations by the SEC stemming from his decision to bail out of HCA Inc., a hospital company started by his father and brother and subsequently sold. The problem is that Frist ordered the trustees of his “blind” trust to sell all the HCA shares it had just a week before the company posted disappointing earnings and the stock took a 9% hit.
Frist, who has been in the Senate since 1994, says he decided to divest to avoid the appearance of impropriety when voting on health issues. The Senator has voted on a number of such measures, many of which have benefited HCA, without concerning himself with questions of propriety. On the other hand, he is considering a run for the White House. Frist has already cut himself off from the most conservative portion of his base with his support for stem cell research. The HCA sale might have been a further effort to widen his appeal. The fact that he avoided losing several million dollars may be a lucky break. Regardless of the senator’s intent, the result is apt to be the loss of the voters he was attempting to court. But Frist really didn’t have much of a shot at the presidency anyway.
Then, the good folk in Austin decided to indict Republican Majority Leader, Tom Delay. The Travis County, Texas, grand jury returned only one count against Delay, but that was enough to make him give up his post, but not his seat in the House.
Texas has some of the most lenient campaign finance laws in the country. It takes a lot of work to be indicted for criminal conspiracy in a campaign fundraising scheme. But, somehow, the well-oiled Delay machine seems to have slipped up. They were probably distracted by the Jack Abramoff situation. The Abramoff investigation reached into the White House with the arrest of David Safavian stemming from his tenure as chief of staff of the General Services Administration.
If all this weren’t bad enough, we still have the results of the Valery Plame investigation to look forward to. It is widely thought that Karl Rove will not escape unscathed. No wonder the President has been looking tired recently.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
It is not that I expect any of them to be convicted. It is enough in these dour days that members of the Republican leadership are on various carpets.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Since most Americans agree that we have a wonderful country, why do so many of us not want to pay for it? The reason may be that the current tax system is un-American in that America is founded on the belief that an informed electorate will make the best decisions.
The tax code has metastasized into a system no one understands. In fact, given the same set of circumstances, major accounting firms come up with different answers. Things have gotten so bad that the IRS says the answers its information people give are just best guesses. Following their advice does not mean you are doing things correctly.
Each year, the IRS sends us eight billion pages of paper and we spend 5.4 billion hours trying to figure out how to fill out the forms that paper explains. It costs us, the private taxpayer, $200 billion a year to fill out those forms. Corporate taxpayers spend considerably more, but end up paying considerably less.
Everybody knows the system is broken. And almost everybody has a plan to fix it. The only people without a plan for fixing the current system are the people making a fortune reading its runes.
To be fixed the new system must be “fair,” whatever that may mean, and it must be so simple anyone with an eighth grade education can do it correctly in less than an hour. After that, things start getting complicated.
The first bump in the road to taxpayer Nirvana is should we tax what we make (income) or what we spend (consumption)? One argument against taxing income is that it is actually a tax on savings, since it is assumed that if people don’t have to pay taxes, they will save the money. The last tax cuts came about because it was assumed that if people didn’t pay taxes, they would spend. Another is that a flat tax on income is regressive because it hurts the poor more than the rich.
An argument against taxing consumption is that it turns business into federal tax collectors. The more telling argument is that a tax on consumption is regressive because it affects the poor more than the rich. The arguments pro are that either is simple, will cost less to administer and is fairer than the current system.
From there, we get into a perfect mare’s nest of questions about what the rate should be and what sort of allowances there should be to make things “fair,” etc.
But this is where we came in. The original federal income tax was exceptionally simple. Then, Congress decided to make it fair, and has been trying ever since. We had better understand that no matter what system we come up with, it will be changed in the fullness of time to something that is grossly cumbersome and completely unfathomable. It is the nature of our form of government.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. It just means that our children or grandchildren should be prepared to do it again. The only question is should we tax income or consumption, and what allowances should we make?
Tom in Dallas
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Last week presented us with two stories key to our understanding of what being an American means since they deal with the supposed bulwark of our form of government, a free press.
The more widely reported of which was that the newspaper industry is following the airlines into a wholesale bloodletting in which thousands will lose their jobs.
The second story was not as widely reported for reasons that will become immediately apparent. The under- reported story is the release of Project Censored’s list of the 25 most under-reported stories of 2005. Apparently, newspapers missing stories is no story.
Major newspaper chains like the New York Times and Knight Ridder are shedding staff because they are losing readers. Circulation at 814 of the nation’s largest dailies declined 1.9% over the six months ended March 31.
Since newspaper circulation has been declining for the past 20 years this could be considered a non-story. Yet it was more widely reported than the under-reported stories.
While battalions of consultants and armies of focus groups have been brought in to stop the slide in circulation, all the redesigns and "zippy" prose have not slowed the decline.
Clearly, the problem isn’t with how the paper looks, or how it reads. The problem is what is being written about. Papers just aren’t covering the news. Hence the under-reported stories.
Publishers and other apologists will say the problem is the shrinking news hole. There just isn’t the space to cover all the important news. They can’t throw out the unnews because that is the only part of the paper people read.
This sad state of affairs is made even sadder when the decline in newspaper influence is considered. Papers get very little respect from their readers, who don’t trust them, and the people they report about, who know why the readers shouldn’t trust the papers. Uncovering misfeasance or malfeasance, which papers still do from time to time, causes little public outcry, engenders few investigations, and rarely leads to jail time for the guilty. On top of that, the misbehaving official tends to keep his job.
Somebody better figure out something in a hurry, or we will all discover which Thomas Jefferson was correct: The one that said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter," or the one that said, "I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely happier for it."
Since the pros don’t have a clue, what should we look for in our newspapers?
Tom in Dallas email@example.com
Monday, September 26, 2005
Last Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that a 14-year-old girl was expelled from the Ontario(Calif) Christian School because her parents are gay. Apparently the school has a policy of allowing not more than one parent to engage in practices which are “immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style, such as cohabitation without marriage or in a homosexual relationship.” The other parent, presumably, can do whatever he or she wants. A half open marriage seems to be as far as the school is prepared to go.
What makes this a strange tale is that, apparently, only one biological parent was so engaged. The child’s biological mother, Tina Clark, has been in a same-sex relationship with the same woman for 22 years. The couple is raising two other daughters, ages 9 and 19. No one has suggested that the girl's father is living an other than exemplary life.
If the school accepts Tina Clark and her significant other as the girl’s parents, isn’t it accepting the ability of a gay couple to raise children, i.e. to be parents? If so, then one of the major arguments against gay marriage (a child needs parents of each gender) has come acropper.
The girl who was thrown out of school, Shay Clark, may be a bit of a handful, at least by the standards of the Ontario Christian School. Her home life was revealed after the girl had been called on the carpet for “talking to the crowd during a football game.” If the girl was annoying the fans by trying to testify to them during important portions of the game, I heartily agree that she should be disciplined. Maybe even thrown out of school. That may be why the parents have decided not to fight their daughter’s expulsion.
Now that the domestic cat is out of the bag, thanks to the inability of school superintendent, Leonard Stob to read , write, or perhaps, understand what he has read or written, it would be best if the girl left.
But that does not answer why in the world would Tina Clark put her child in such a school in the first place? Why, for that matter, would any parent put a child into such a narrow and confining school? Shay Clark certainly has no say over who her parents are, or what one of them chooses to do with her life. Punishing Shay, if punishment it be, will not change her mother.
Neither the Associated Press or the Los Angeles Times answered the most important question: Does the Ontario Christian School receive a penny of public money? If so, is such arrant nonsense the best use of our hard earned taxes?
Tom in Dallas
Reminder: Remember to type the funny-looking letters into the space provided when you post
Friday, September 23, 2005
While Sister Swofford skives off to do heaven only knows what, I thought that I would use my time as surrogate big mouth to pontificate on varied and weighty matters. Of course, that assumes Ms. Rita does not knock out our power here in Dallas. If that happens, talk among yourselves until either Tammy or I, or somebody else she has dragooned into service, steps in.
As I understand the purpose of a weblog, it is twofold. First, it keeps the mainstream media as honest as possible, as in the celebrated Bush National Guard forgeries which cost Dan Rather his sinecure. The second purpose, and to my way of thinking, the more important, is to be a town hall, or coffee house, meeting at which issues of interest are widely discussed. What a blog most definitely is not, is a bullhorn for someone nobody has heard of to spout his version of revealed wisdom. That is what the AM dial is for.
What I would like to do for as long as people are interested, is to try to figure out what it means to be an American, what do we mean when we say, "I am an American?" I would like us to play with these questions by examining our national actions, reactions and institutions. Other than having been an American for more than 60 years, I have no special knowledge of the subject and look forward to hearing from other people.
If that seems too boring for active participation, perhaps other topics could be suggested. If none are forthcoming, I will take the bullhorn and hold forth on whatever subject of the moment excites my interest. Forewarned is forearmed.
And when you post, remember to retype the funny letters in the space provided. This is an attempt to stymy computer-generated spam.
Tom in Dallas
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Continue to get e mails regarding things not posting in comments. You must type in the word verification for your comment to post. This feature prevents computer-generated spam from coming into the blog. Otherwise, your comment will be lost. Continue to stir it up on the blog today. This is a free speech zone. Let the pendulum swing both ways.
Posted by tammyswofford at 11:55 AM
Surely there are enough decent Americans out there to make an outcry to the Heinz Foundation over the politicization of grief which is being perpetrated with their "Crescent of Embrace" memorial for the survivors of the victims of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001! This thing has a stench and unless your nose is totally clogged, the smell should register somewhat like what one finds in a clogged toilet at the local park.
Decent Americans should keep this whole thing from coming to fruition! This is not about remembering the victims of Flight 93! This is about a calloused and rogue disregard for the suffering of many. Surely, out of all the designs, both geometric and otherwise, the decision to award monies for a crescent design was a deliberate and intentional political move.
My cousin lost her brother in an unexpected way. Weeks later, she could not bring herself to open a packet of pictures of him which were sent by another relative. Even touching the envelope, was too much a reminder of her pain. This small vignette points out a very important lesson. Grief is a difficult journey when a loved one dies and it must be handled gently, walked through with a softness by those that bring comfort. Hearts are torn and do not easily mend.
Confrontation is not the best model for grief resolution. And to bring a not-so-subtle confrontation with the symbol of a crescent is unbelievable to me. It was Muslim hands that killed those people on Flight 93, and Islam is represented by the symbol of a crescent. While the murderers' actions do not reflect the beliefs of all, the symbol of the crescent does indeed cause one to think of the Muslim community, just as a cross symbolizes the Christian community.
Why would the Heinz foundation insist that the victims look on the one who pierced them? Why would they bring a psychological message that would say forgive this murder, this very cruel act? Let's hope they do not award money for the design of a memorial for the family of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas. It will indoubtedly look like a chain. Or maybe a burnt cross with a sheet draped over it? Do you see the absolute emotional derangement involved in the decision for the "Crescent of Embrace"? Do you see the outright confrontational posturing toward those that have lived through this personal hell? The Heinz Foundation people deserve a big slap to the side of the head. Let's give them one. And tell them, Tammy Swofford sent ya! Please send your comments to the Heinz Foundation. Be respectful, but be forceful. I personally do not wish for this design to come to pass, even one maple tree planted, as the design requires. There are those who claim to love this idea. I am not one of them. The brutality of what happened to American citizens on 9/11 is still etched pretty strongly for me. And it does not look like wind chimes and trees, shaped like a crescent. It looks like childrens shoes retrieved from a field, burned and charred bodies and a Pentagon with a gaping hole. Do you remember?
Editors note: The Heinz Foundation gave a grant of $500,000 dollars toward this project. There were also private donations.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
The United States Senate, you know, the folks that gave us Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff, are about to give us John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Since there is really no record on which to base a decision as to Judge Roberts’s fitness for the office, perhaps it would be useful to ask, “What should we look for in a Supreme Court Justice?”
Should the President’s nominee be approved because he is the President’s nominee? Or, do we have some say in the matter? Does the Senate have the right to say, “No, thank-you, Mr. President, this nominee just won’t do?”
Assuming, since the nominee’s appointment is for the rest of his life, that we, through our elected representatives in the Senate, do have the right to accept or reject the President’s nominee, on what basis should we?
Should we look for someone who is guaranteed to “vote our way” on one or two key issues?
Should we ask if all people, will be treated equally by the nominee?
Should we place legal scholarship above experience, or do think experience more important than “book learning?”
Do we want someone that claims to take the law and the Constitution literally, or do we want someone who thinks they can only be understood in conjunction with other material, such as congressional debate, committee reports, or common practice at the time the law was enacted?
When determining what the law is, do we want someone who uses dictionaries written when the law was enacted to determine the meaning then, or do we want someone who will use the current meaning of the words in the law?
Do we want a justice to try to determine what the law makers meant to say, or one who, whether it is silly or not, restricts himself to what the words actually say?
Should we consider factors external to the nominee such as the balance of the Court?
Is it important that the nominee answers all questions fully, or should he be allowed to waffle or not answer at all?
Are there any other factors that should be considered?
Tom in Dallas
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Always read with a filter. Have you been filtering the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge John Roberts in regards to right to life issues? If you are tracking this anomaly then surely you have picked up on the anti-child bias by the Inquisition of the Few. While hammering the Supreme Court nominee with questions regarding his views on abortion, there has been a cavernous silence in asking his views on adoption.
Scroll back to the Sunday New York Times front page article on abortion and one sees extreme bias in the article. Turning to continue the article on page 29 one sees a picture of a sonogram done of a "fetus with a neural tube defect, anacephaly, in which large portions of the brain, skull and scalp are missing". Naturally, this is the fetus that was showcased in this article seeking to soften the emotional blow of abortion. But may I not insult your intelligence! I assume you know the statistical odds of the average woman seeking an abortion who will find she is carrying an anacephalic baby. If not, look it up. You will be surprised.
But of psychological interest is how finance plays a role in abortion. If you don't want the baby, you can abort it for as little as six hundred dollars on the low range, up to a couple thousand on the high end. But if you want to adopt that baby? Ah, it is a different story. The minimum going rate is $20,000 dollars these days for an adoption on American soil.
So here are some questions I wish the Senate committee would ask Judge Roberts:
*Would you support the right of states to set up programs to provide room and board to unwed mothers seeking to release their babies to adoptive parents?
*Would you support a change in the federal income tax code that would allow for all costs of adoption to be nontaxable in the fiscal year when the adoption is legally settled in a court of law?
*Would you support an individual State right to institute monetary subsidy programs for the physical well-being of women in the third trimester of pregnancy who are actively pursuing to relinquish their rights to the child after birth and allow the child to be adopted?
*Would you support newly enacted laws that would extend the same post-maternity employee benefits to both the biological and the adoptive mother so that she may have time to bond with her new baby?
These are some of the questions which will never be asked, because there is a distinct anti-adoption and pro-abortion bias in these proceedings. So think about the question posed again. Are you reading, listening, filtering what is happening in our culture?
That price tag of $650.00 for an abortion is way under market value. Surely extending government support to decrease abortion and increase adoption is something which we all need to consider and promote in the political arena. The babies of today are the promise of tomorrow in America.
Tammy Swofford, R.N. BSN
Monday, September 19, 2005
Editorial note: Should you have the time the blogs archived for December 19 and 26 of 2004 and January 24 of 2005 give background for today's commentary.
Who are you willing to kill for geopolitical power? Don't be shy. It has been done throughout history. The Roman people suffered under leadership that pretty well perfected the job description for Murder, Inc. in their days of glory. After Caesar Augustus defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, he declared himself master of all things, which has a nice little ring to it. Gaius Caligula was a self-aggrandizing and psychotic man. Of course we all know about Nero, who murdered his mother Agrippina, his brother, wife and various and sundry other family members not to mention a host of other victims. Then of course, we have the Roman emperor Domitian who awakened one morning to declare his new official status as Dominus et Deus. He beheaded enemies with a vengeance and left a trail of blood and tears in his path.
There are modern day counterparts such as Pol Pot and Iddi Amin. We should spit on their graves. But still alive and well and terrorizing the general population is a man who shall also be remembered irreverently by many people. His name is Usama bin Ladin
His bloodlust and quest for geopolitical power has caused him to cross a line that should only be spoken of in whispers among his own and certainly not in front of small Muslim children. The man now engages in fratricide. Lining up suicide bombers to kill Muslim men, women and children should be enough for someone to yank the prayer rug out from under his knees and declare him a disgrace to the Islamic religion and culture. But where is the Muslim outrage for the fratricide which he engages with increasing levels of effectiveness and violence? His foot soldier killed 114 day laborers in Iraq just the other day. According to recent reports, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is managing quite a successful recruiting campaign in Iraq among the local population. In plain English that translates into a troubling question. How many widows and orphans will that leave with no bread on their tables after the next attack? And how does that speak for a religion which claims no compulsion in religion, yet the compulsion of the one brings death and destruction to the children of Muhammed?
So who are you willing to kill to create a new world order? Do not count the blood in drops as one counts the tears of the grieving. Count the blood in the gallons. Count the blood in barrels and keep counting. The blood will continue to flow. Killing is so easy if you just don't think about counting each drop. But I count it by the drops. Muslim drops of blood by the willing hand of one of their own. Think about it.
"All Muslims are like a foundation, each strengthening the other; in such a way they do support
each other." (Abu Musa; Bukhari and Muslim)
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Those of you who are faithful blog readers know exactly what this particular blog title entails. I am about to come out with both barrels blazing and the guilty had better engage in evasive maneuvers quickly! We are going to talk about the absent father today. That would be, the absent father who is just a sperm donor.
Boy, have I been simmering on this one. It all started when His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Marquis of Baux, put his royal foot into his mouth and proclaimed that he was set up and tricked into paternity. And this unintended fatherhood, with a woman with whom he shared a five year liason.
Tricked, huh? Lemme see. He was tricked every single time he stepped into that bedroom. Tricked into undressing. Tricked into engaging in what is a well-understood procreative act. And unless he was shooting blanks and had taken care of that little issue with a doctor, surely he knew that babies make their way into the world by the tens of thousands every single day. Maybe he was comatose? And while he is "coming to terms" with the fact that he has a two year old son named Alexandre, whom he has only seen once, his opportunity to be a real father is passing him by. Hand me the waste basket because I can taste the bile in the back of my throat. This man is forty-seven years old.
Latest statistics show that 1/3 of American babies make it into this world in an illegitimate state. But you know what? I do not think there is such a thing as bastard children. They do not deserve the title. Children are meant to bless our homes. But there are some bastard parents out there and Prince Albert II kind of fits the criteria. Setting the mother and child up in a villa sounds a bit heartwarming. But I would rather see a son raised on a riverbank in a tent with a father who loves him than in a villa with a man who seems to have no paternal instincts.
Granted, the mother may feel like she has the goose that laid the golden egg every single time she looks at her son. After all, Prince Albert is sitting atop a 2 billion dollar fortune and it appears little Alexandre is the only biological heir. From this point her career path is undoubtedly one of litigation, publicity and whatever other means to assure that not only does Alexandre inherit a fortune but that she will have a nice little chunk of change for herself. Reportedly, the relationship with the mother has been difficult. She is probably not a candidate for sainthood with her free-wheeling ways. Yet Prince Albert claims his only concern is for the "well-being of the kid". Well-being of the kid? This "kid", is his son, made in his image.
Children need active and loving fathers. Really they do! My own father had just the knack for the job. One of my favorite pictures shows me perched on my Dad's knee with braids and a little dress. That picture depicts what children need. They need a father that holds them when they are young, guides them and keeps their wings clipped in adolescence and then releases them to free fly into adulthood. In other words, they need a physically and psychologically engaged father in their lives. Hopefully, from the neonate state into adulthood! My father did that for me. Prince Albert II should give it a try. It could prove to be the most fulfilling endeavor of his life.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
In some parts of the world, justice is administered by witch doctors that arrest and convict malefactors by smell alone. It works for them and I have no problem with that.
We, on the other hand, have devoted quite a bit of time, thought, effort and treasure in the creation of a system of justice based on the, at the time, revolutionary principle that one is innocent until found guilty in open court. Because our system permits judicial review and because evidence can be re-examined as better techniques, such as DNA analysis are developed, verdicts are sometimes overturned. The openness of our system may lead to mistakes, but it also provides a way of correcting those mistakes, something that cannot happen in a witch doctor system.
Yet, in times of crisis, our carefully crafted legal system is the first thing panicky congressmen throw overboard, and sheepishly retrieve when the panic is over. During the Cold War Congress gave us the Emergency Detention Act of 1950. It said the Attorney General could detain anyone “reasonably thought likely to engage in espionage or sabotage.” If it hadn’t been repealed in 1971, Nixon might have used it against his “enemies.” John Ashcroft could have used it to incarcerate calico cats and partially nude statues. In the Ashcroft demonology, calico cats are instruments of Satan.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force is another ill-considered attempt to provide for our security. This resolution is counter to the Non-Detention Act (18 U.S.C sect 4001(a)), which bars imprisonment or detention of a citizen, “except pursuant to an Act of Congress.” What all this means is the government can grab anyone, hold him incommunicado forever because somebody has decided that this person represents a threat to the country.
History, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1800s through United States v Reynolds (1953) shows that such acts are invariably used for political payback (the Sedition Act of 1918 and the infamous Palmer Raids), or to hide gross government mismanagement (Reynolds). In the later case, national security was invoked to hide the fact that a military plane crashed killing the crew and three civilian engineers because the plane was incompetently maintained and the flight crew was improperly trained.
Against this mountain of historical fact, the recent United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision in the Padilla case is mind-boggling. The court found that an American citizen, arrested at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago on May 8, 2002, can be held forever because someone in the government thinks the man represents a threat to the country.
Jose Padilla is a Chicago gangbanger who should probably be in jail forever, but he deserves a trial. He deserves to confront his accusers in open court. That is what the Due Process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments say. But, according to the Fourth Circuit, that is no longer the law of the land. Now, the law of the land is that the President can hold anybody forever merely by saying that person is an “enemy combatant.” He doesn’t have to prove that is so. He can smell it. It couldn't be that a psychologically challenged Chicago gangbanger is all the administration has to show for its four year war on terror. Thank-you Congress for the Patriot Act.
Tom in Dallas
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I have trolled the waters since Katrina unleashed her fury on Louisiana and Mississippi keeping up with the various activities of both public sector and private charitable organizations in meeting the needs of the evacuees from the storm. I received this press release from the Baptist men. I now believe President Bush should strongly consider putting the Baptist men in charge of FEMA.
As of 3:00 p.m. September 9th these are the statistics:
15,757 Volunteer Days
5,000+ Volunteers currently responding
1,320,644 Meals served
1,491 Jobs completed
7,967 Showers Provided
1,452 Laundry Loads
631 Messages sent
239 Units on site
33 States responded
56 Feeding Units
32 Shower Units
18 Recover Units
15 Chainsaw Units
HATS OFF TO THE BAPTIST MEN!
Monday, September 12, 2005
Hosni Mubarak has now glided into his fifth consecutive six year term as president of the Republic of Egypt. With only a twenty-three percent voter turnout, he received 88.6 percent of the vote in the nation's first multi-candidate election with Ayman Nour of the al-Ghad party taking second and Noman Gomaa, leader of the oldest and largest Egyptian opposition party garnering the third place berth. In an election with a slate of ten candidates and tremendous voter apathy there is one big reason why President Hosni Mubarak has been able to pull off another stint as leader of the pack. That reason, lies in the constitution of Egypt and application of its amendments.
I spent some time reading the constitution of Egypt, the one amended and ratified on May 22, 1980 and related documents yesterday. The constitutional proclamation starts out with broad ideals such as peace, union, development of national life and freedom for the humanity of the Egyptian man. But then we get down to the actual articles of the document, and therein lies the problem.
Article 75: The president of the Republic should be an Egyptian born to Egyptian parents... His age must not be less than 40 Gregorian years.
Article 77: The term of the presidency shall be six Gregorian years.... The President of the Republic may be re-elected for other successive terms.
The president is also empowered to appoint the vice president, the Prime Minister, Cabinet and the twenty-six provincial governors. He is allowed discretionary power to both appoint and boot out his Cabinet ministers and the governors at will.
Throw in the application of the Emergency Law in 1981 to undermine the independent judiciary, continued application to nullify the constitutional requirement for proper administration of arrest warrants, and heavy-handed control in non-security cases through the State Security Investigations Sector (SSIS) and Central Security Force (CSF) and restrictions in other areas and the picture becomes clearer.
Although the Constitution seems to allow freedom of assembly and association, they are tightly controlled through the Ministry of the Interior, which must approve such activities. In a changing legal landscape, as of 2002, the power to dissolve NGO's was transferred from the courts to the Minister of Insurance and Social Affairs, making it a bit more difficult for NGO's to receive official government approval and registration.
Strong investiture of presidential powers, lack of an amendment for executive term limit, with concurrent and continuing restrictions on true Constitutional government, human rights abuses and curbs on rights of free speech and free press exist today in Egypt. Don't have the answer. I just see the problem.
Editorial Trivia : Remember September 11, 2001?
And the draft of the current Egyptian Constitution? September 11, 1971.
Second signature on the World Islamic Front Statement (Jihad against Jews and Crusaders) released on February 23, 1998 by Osama bin Ladin?
That would be by the second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, amir of the Jihad Group, Egypt.
Fourth signature on the same document?
Shaykh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e- Pakistan.
Date of death of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, first head of state of Pakistan?
September 11, 1948.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Naval surge capabilities have come to the aid of the Gulf Coast region in response to the devastation of Katrina. Just to give you civilians a look at what mainstream media will not solidly report, here is a quick synopsis of operational support.
Ships: Fifteen naval vessels are on station, including the USS Harry S. Truman (aircraft carrier) , two amphibious assault ships (USS Iwo Jima and USS Bataan), dock landing ships, one amphibious transport dock, one HSV-2 Swift (high speed vessel) , one rescue and salvage (USS Grapple) and yesterday, the USNS Comfort, one of our large floating naval hospitals should have arrived on station.
Sixty-three aricraft support the relief effort from six operational locations.
USS Bataan and Whidbey Island are in the vicinity of Biloxi conducting disaster relief. The Grapple is clearing obstructions to the channel in vicinity of the approach to Pascagoula, Ms.
As of midnight, September 6, the Navy has evacuated 5,022 civilians, medevac'd 155 and recued 1,488.
464,818 pounds of food and water have been delivered to locations throughout the Gulf Coast area.
USS Tortuga is building pierside animal pens for displaced pets. Imagine that!
The Navy is providing fly-away medical teams. We are also providing a warehouse team to coordinate provisions for the relief effort. A shelter team is providing medical and dental care and meals.
And let us not leave out the Seabee units, with whom I have proudly shared many field operational experiences. They are the best of the best! They have been involved in recovery missions, set up of a 500 person tent camp, building a laundry facility, fuel distribution point and doing the grunt work of clearing Highway 90 from the Mississippi/Louisiana border to Lake Pontchartrain.
This is the United States Navy. At work, on behalf of the taxpayers. Those that wear this uniform, a good return, on your investment.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, NC, USNR
Friday, September 09, 2005
We sent the National Guard, the Regular Army and Marine Corps into New Orleans to stop the looting. Who is going to stop the looting in Washington? The pork barrel commandos and their handmaidens/masters the lobbyists, are already burning up their computers churning out bills to plunder this mother lode, all in the name of helping the poor and displaced along the Gulf Coast. If two cents on every federal dollar actually gets to the people who need it, that would be a major miracle.
Remember, we are talking about a Congress that knows it has a money disposal hole called Iraq to try to fill and still decided that its campaign contributors needed $24 billion before the next election cycle. Senators and representatives alike manned the serving line and slung out 6,371 “earmarked” (that means protected) projects including a $223 million “bridge to nowhere for no one” in Alaska and a $200 million plus Prairie Parkway in Illinois for Speaker Hastert’s friends, and a lot of projects that did nothing to protect New Orleans in Louisiana.
Egregious as these expenditures are, they are nothing compared to the Dick Cheney-Donald Rumsfeld free lunch program, otherwise known as the missile defense system. It has gobbled up more than $130 billion and still shows no signs of working. I guess that is what Secretary Rumsfeld meant when he told a soldier in Iraq who complained about having to scrounge in garbage dumps for metal to use as armor for his Humvee, “you have to go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.”
We are fighting a three front war: against terrorism, in Iraq, and against, hunger, disease, poverty and displacement along the Gulf Coast, and all our leadership can think of is how to cash in for their friends. How about it if every “economic stimulus” or “job creation” package created comes with enough givebacks of earmarked projects to pay for it? Or, better yet, let’s use the money that would have gone into the pork barrel to restore the cuts that were made to social services so the people who know what they are doing have the wherewithal to actually help the people who need it.
Tom in Dallas
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Crisis will often show the cracks in a marriage, but most of us acknowledge that it can also do the opposite. Crisis can showcase the strengths of the union. This diverse response in how a marriage will thrive or take a dive in times of crisis can also be observed in democracy, because it is somewhat like the marital state. Just as a marriage must have equilibrium to survive, the democratic union is also a unique balance between the will of the people and the authority of the government. The strongest of marriages will take an occasional hit. It comes with the territory. And our democracy, has weathered a few hits of its own, the most recent being the very real storm, Katrina.
Democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people. We have seen this principle at work since the floodgates of disaster inundated New Orleans and the surrounding countryside. People in every strata of our society have worked to bring aid to the citizenry of a city virtually destroyed by the wrath of a storm. Government agencies, charitable organizations, local churches, businesses and individuals have pulled together in a response that is uniquely American. Some working in tandem, others flying solo, we have show once again that we take care of our own in America. The state of Texas has shown herself to be exemplary in this regard. We have sheltered tens of thousands of Americans who have fled the ravages of Katrina with the clothes on their backs. Private donations and tons of goods are pouring into our relief organizations. Everywhere I look the local church parking lots suddenly have the ambience of a local mini-mart with the selection of items being dropped off to help the homeless. Need a toothbrush? They have one. Diapers for the baby? They will throw in the baby powder too. This is democracy at work in America.
Democracy is also about freedom of speech. We have seen (or better put, ENDURED) plenty of it in the last few days. We all know that in times of crisis the President and his administration become the lightning rod for the criticism of the public. And as usual, it is the extreme political right and extreme political left that become the most vocal players on the stage of opinion. Crisis allows an advantageous platform in which polarized sectors air their grievances. Sectarian division quickly floats to the top as rapidly as the flotsam in New Orleans. But luckily, there remains in America the malleable middle. And it is this malleable middle, who understand the give and take of democracy, the bending nature of the process and as such, they will provide the strong foundation for our nation to continue its course. Nothing shakes these folks. All of the regurgitated garbage which mainstream media has tried to spoonfeed middle America in the last week is merely being spit back out. We happen to like democracy and we think it works better than any other form of government!
Democracy allows for the fertile exchange of new ideas. In a post-Katrina environment there are already calls for an official commission. All who believe in democracy welcome such discourse. We will find what went wrong and what can be done better. But we will also learn what was done right from the start! Problems will be targeted and new priorities will be identified. Assets may be shifted and management teams realigned or fired. And it is in the soil of free thought that American citizens will continue to debrief, reorganize and move on. Because we allow such free exchange without fear of the critical process our nation is great. This is healthy!
So what is the state of the union in America? In my assessment, it is good. The cracks may have been exposed. But I remain confident that the foundation remains strong. God Bless America!
Tom will be writing the Friday blog. We have had a child in the hospital.
Thank you Tom, for giving me more time with my child.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
We have received two complaints from readers who have attempted to post comments, hit the login and never see the comment show up later on.
Tracking this back, the problem seems to lie in our addition of a spam blocking feature, which requires one more step to post.
Prior to posting by clicking on "login and publish" please go to the box that says "word verification" and type in the letters you see in the box. This keeps computer generated spam from entering the comment section. If you do not add this final step, the comment will disappear.
Thank you for your patience.
Posted by tammyswofford at 11:54 AM
It is wonderful that despite everything, America still has so many friends. The outpouring of support from around the world has been marvelous. Not only were firemen from Vancouver Canada in Chalmette, La., before federal relief workers managed to get there, but some of the poorest countries in the world are sending money to help Americans who have lost everything.
Afghanis who make about $800/year have promised to send $100,000. Bangladeshis who make about $2,000 a year are sending $1 million to us. And Sri Lanka, which was hit by a disastrous tsunami less than a year ago, has promised $25,000.
That’s a good thing. Without their help, our richest citizens could lose their tax cuts, and we wouldn’t want that to happen. Nor would we want our biggest businesses to give up their refunds on taxes they do not pay. Why should they when kindly impoverished people from around the world are willing to shoulder the burden that our wealthiest people and businesses are unwilling to bear?
It is truly instructive that Mr. Bush’s first official act of disaster relief was to ask daddy and Mr. Clinton to pass the hat to protect the tax cuts.
But, don’t worry, we are, as Mr. Bush has assured us, “Doing the best we can.” The best we can, that is, as long as the world’s poor, including those in the U.S, are willing to pay for it.
It seems to me that at times like this, we are all supposed to sacrifice something more than the money it takes to fill up the family Hummer. We are not supposed to leave it up to the thousands of dedicated souls who take time off work, often without pay, who are bringing food, clothing and hope to people in shelters from Biloxi to Beloit, Wis., from the Astrodome to West Virginia.
No, this is the painless presidency of George W. Bush. We are fighting a painless war in Iraq (unless you happen to know somebody who is over there, dead, or wounded). Now, we are going to have a painless recovery from Katrina. Painless that is for anyone wealthy enough to weather the coming economic shock as high energy prices and higher unemployment work their way through the economy.
Tom in Dallas
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
As defining moments go, July the 7th will go down as perhaps the ultimate in the history of the one million plus British Muslim community. The four terrorists, all British born, may have set off with their twisted ambition of wreaking havoc on their fellow citizens for whatever perceived injustices their poisoned minds had been led to believe, but all they had succeeded in doing was to bring to the fore the simmering tensions that had existed within the community for many years.
Perhaps I should replace "simmering tensions" with "ideological warfare" if that is not too strong a phrase. British Muslims are a microcosm of the Islamic world. They have their roots from Algeria in North Africa to Malaysia in the Far East. The majority come from the Indian sub-continent, although in recent years there has been a substantial influx of Somali, Iraqi, Afghan and many other Middle Eastern migrants. Britain's liberal asylum laws and her time honoured traditions of tolerance, freedom of speech and the freedom to practice and propagate your beliefs without the fear of persecution has meant that the country is the favored destination for many of these people, my own family included, who have found refuge here and settled to become law abiding British citizens whilst at the same time retaining their Islamic identities.
As communities have settled, most have tended to stay close to each other in terms of ethnic origin and a perfect example of this is to be found in the many Yorkshire towns where entire neighborhoods consist of Pakistani Muslim immigrants. The July 7th bombers came from one such town called Beeston. A small West Yorkshire town, where nothing much ever happened, and of whom few outside of West Yorkshire had even heard of pre 7/7, Beeston's name will now go down in history as the home of three of the four terrorists. Take a walk down Tempest Road, a main thoroughfare running through the town and you are sure to bump into dozens of people who had personally known the terrorists. The overwhelming majority of residents in the streets that crisscross Tempest Road are of Pakistani origin. The roots of the "ideological battle" that I have referred to lie essentially in the "segregation" of different communities in the heart of Middle England.
With this segregation came the problems of isolation and almost complete social separation. Whilst first generation immigrants were happy simply to have escaped the hardships of their native countries and had kept themselves busy with building lives in their adopted countries as well as maintaining strong links with their countries of origin, the younger generation are faced with totally different dilemmas. Most have been born and brought up in Britain, large numbers have gone through colleges and universities and their links with their parents' countries of origin are limited to the occasional visit to the ancestral village. Yet they feel anything but British. The segregation, if anything, has become yet more deeply rooted and young Muslims feel more, rather than less alienated from British society as compared to their parents and grandparents.
The problems have been further exacerbated by a lack of quality leadership among British Muslims. First generation immigrants have tended to employ mosque Imams from their ancestral towns and villages. Many of these Imams have a poor command of English and are unable to relate to problems faced by Muslim youth. A whole host of self-appointed community leaders have sprung up, but the majority of these lack credibility and like the mosque Imams have very little affinity with their young.
Into this breach, have walked organizations such as "Hizb-ul-Tahrir" and "Al-Muhajiroon". Both these groups are run by young, very well-educated Muslims who have been influenced by events in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Both proclaim to be the true standard bearers of the present and next generation of Muslims. Both groups have their origins in the Middle East where they are banned in most countries. The Hizb-ul-Tahrir's stated ambition is to bring about an Islamic Caliphate through political means whilst the "Al-Muhajiroon", led by a Syrian scholar Mohammad Omar Bakri openly advocates and praises violence. Bakri, who once referred to the 9/11 terrorists as the "magnificent 19" and the atrocity as a "towering achievement" has recently been banned from returning back to Britain following a visit to his family in Lebanon. Ideologically, there is little difference between the two. Both groups propagate and preach the uncompromising and militant Salafist version of Islam and both blame terrorists atrocities on the perceived anti-Muslim policies of the West. Over the years both these organizations have attracted a small but very vocal and well organized network of young men. Throw into this equation extremist mullahs such as Abu Hamza al-Masri (currently in prison awaiting extradition to the U.S. on charges of promoting terrorism), Abu Qatada, referred to as Bin Laden's ambassador in Europe and a whole host of other extremists from the Middle East, who have fled their countries of origin and sought political asylum in the UK and you have a lethal coctail. Most of these extremists have openly and consistently abused the freedom of speech that is such a cornerstone of British society by not just propagating their messages of hate but by actively encouraging young British Muslims to participate in a so-called "Jihad". As a result, a large number of young British Muslims are believed to have trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. (Estimates vary from several hundred to over three thousand.) Many of these men are believed to have participated in wars in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Bosnia and Chechnya. Most are now back in Britain.
With the spread of radicalism has come increased polarization. Polarization not just between Muslims and non-Muslims, but within Muslims themselves. On the one hand is the mainly older generation of Muslim migrants who want to cling on to its roots but equally does not wish to enter into a confrontation with the "host society". On the other hand, is a hard core of rabidly militant young men. Caught in between are large swathes of British Muslims, constantly searching for a middle ground. Wishing to integrate further without having to lose their identity they have constantly looked for effective leadership and have been left wanting. Organizations such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the UK Islamic Mission have worked hard to cover the middle ground but they are constantly opposed by rival organizations such as the Muslim Association of Britain that has taken a much more uncompromising view on issues such as the war in Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most significant outcome of the July 7th tragedy has been the dramatic and sudden realisation for British Muslims that keeping quiet or turning a blind eye to what was going on in their midst is no longer an option. Then when Al-Jazeera Television network recently broadcast a video from Mohammad Siddique Khan, believed to be the lead bomber and mastermind of the atrocity, the condemnations that followed were quite revealing. These were not just the usual messages of condemnation from community leaders. A whole host of very ordinary people, friends, relatives and neighbors who had previously been reluctant to speak out, came forward in large numbers and expressed their disgust and outrage at Khan's message of hate.
Immediately after July 7th, I spent some time in Beeston as well as Dewsbury, another small Yorkshire town where Khan has set up home with his wife just a few months before the terrorist outrage. I met a group of young women in Dewsbury who were extremely concerned with what was going on in their town. They felt like the town had been radicalised by the influence of men like Mohammad Siddique Khan who wanted to impose their uncompromising version of Islam on them. The women said that they were always being told to cover themselves in public, not to listen to music or go to the cinema or speak to men who were not related to them. The women were also concerned that their children were being taught the Qur'an by rote without anyone explaining the proper meaning of the holy book to the kids. They felt that the extremists were taking advantage of this by teaching their own interpretation of Islam to their kids who had no means of challenging them because of their own lack of knowledge. It all sounded rather bleak and depressing, except of course it wasn't. Just a few days before, these women would not have dared to talk to a journalist for fear of upsetting people in their own community. July 7th had made these women realize that it was time to stand up and be counted. They were mothers who did not wish to to bring up another terrorist. Not only were they willing to speak up, they were more than happy to be named and quoted. They knew full well that only by going public will they be able to put pressure on their community to initially confront and eventually defeat the evil in their midst.
What is happening in Dewsbury, and in many other towns and cities across Britain where there are large Muslim communities has aptly been described by a young British Muslim scholar from the University of Bradford in Yorkshire as the "end of the beginning". British Muslims have a unique opportunity to grasp the mettle and eradicate the poison that has been seeping into its veins. There is now a genuine desire and willingness to do so. The lack of leadership that I mentioned earlier is still a problem but there are signs that they may not be such a big issue in the future. Young Muslim leaders are coming forward and last year Britain elected its first British born Muslim Member of Parliament. (from Dewsbury, as it happens) The trend is likely to continue and if anything, 7/7 has given it the impetus that it may have lacked thus far.
Most importantly, there is now an open debate amongst British Muslims, a sure sign that they have woken up to the fact that in a free society such as Britain, issues cannot forever be swept under the carpet. The problems facing British Muslims are immense and the threat from the extremists has not gone away, far from it. The "end of the beginning" may seem like a long winded process, but it is now in motion and gaining momentum all the time. Ultimately, it will be the Muslims themselves who defeat the evil that has used their faith to inflict so much violence upon the world, and I can see that happening, right now, right here in my own country, Great Britain.
Monday, September 05, 2005
The editorial team is proud to introduce Anwar Rizvi. He is a British Muslim who will be on the page tomorrow with an article, "British Muslims: The Conflict Within". As the length is approximately double the normal commentary, it will be posted in two parts with both of them occupying the Tuesday slot. This will allow for ease of reading, but also for what is a natural transition of thought in his writing.
Anwar Rizvi began to read the blog after he found my comments on another site. He contacted me, and in the course of his writing things naturally took a turn to the topic of 7/7 and the London bombings.
Mr. Rizvi took up my unusual challenge. He was asked to step into the ring of fire posed by the following question, "Where is the Muslim leadership that will rise up and discourse regarding suicide bombings, alienation of the Muslim in the West and bring discussion in such a way that neither evades or justifies?" It is the smell of smoke on the garment that can separate the men from the boys. Mr. Rizvi, has accepted the challenge and stepped into the ring with the submission of an excellent article. And the smoke, smells good to us.
Anwar Rizvi is 46 years old, married and the father of three children. He is a British Muslim having lived in Britain for nearly thirty years now, based in London. He has been published in the Sunday Times, the Herald and Weekly Independent (Pakistan). He has also written articles for www.opendemocracy.net
You may read an interview he conducted with Abdul-Aziz al Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, on that site.
Mr. Rizvi is Trustee of a small UK registered charity called the Seerat Foundation (UK) whose stated aim is to provide financial assistance to needy Shi'a Muslims across the world, particularly those who have been victims of extremist violence. This organization regularly provides financial help for over ten families in Pakistan and Afghanistan whose family members have been killed by extremists. Following the first Gulf War, this organization concentrated its work to assist the Shi'a of southern Iraq, but that work has now stopped. Seerat Foundation (UK) promotes interfaith dialogue, both within different Islamic sects as well as between Muslims and non-Muslims.
It is our hope that you will take the time to not only read, but also think a bit about what Mr. Rizvi puts on the page tomorrow. This is the time for solutions. There are times to draw a line in the sand. And there are times to stand shoulder to shoulder. Tomorrow's blog, is about the latter.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Katie Couric sprung into action on the Today Show in her interview with FEMA head Michael Brown Friday morning. I now have a fantasy. Get a front row seat and join the fertile ground of my imagination. Here we go!
Katie Couric has just gotten a call at two a.m. Her National Guard unit is being mobilized in support of relief operations for victims of Hurricane Katrina. She has twenty-four hours to report on orders for a minimun of a thirty day deployment. Thirty -six hours after the first call she is on a bus headed toward New Orleans. On arrival, she fills her canteen with water, field strips an MRE and places it in the cargo pocket of her BDU. Eighteen hours later, she has passed out hundreds and hundres of MRE's and double that amount in bottles of water. Her feet ache as she has now worn her boots for over a day and a half. Her shoulders are tense. She has gone two days on less than four hours of sleep. At the forefront of her mind is the picture of the two bloated corpses she passed on a bridge. She tries to forget the taste of vomit that arose in the back of her throat. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembers that she has children.
Suddenly, she finds the microphone of a major news affiliate shoved in front of her face. "What do you think of the government response to all of this," a voice barks at her. Without thinking, she responds "Horrible, just horrible". Parking herself in the shadow of a deuce and a half truck, she weeps. O.K. It will never happen, but you get the picture.
It has distressed me on a professional level how our most elite of news organizations have covered this unfolding disaster. I do not mind that the grieving express the depths of their emotion. I cry with them. But what has bothered me, is the undercurrent of a rapacious lack of gratitude toward our government in the coverage of this national tragedy. Ms. Couric took it to the limit yesterday in her hardened interview style with Michael Brown. She did not even bother to give him the respect due his office. I turned it off before the interview was over, because it sickened me to see her attitude. It is the same arrogant attitude which I have seen portrayed again and again. Those not involved in the actual solution to the problem, carrying the stress on their own frames, give an unforgiving account of the good which has been done. Their ungrateful posturing is a disgrace.
So for what should you be grateful? Let me name just a few things.
While you slept, 1.5 million MRE (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) were being loaded onto pallets to be delivered to the hungry.
While you slept, millions of bottles of water were being trucked down the road to New Orleans.
While you slept, National Guard units were being activated. These members, arranged childcare, worked out coverage for their absences with employers and packed their bags and moved out with solidarity and fidelity.
While you slept, doctors and nurses in the United States Navy were moving into position to ramp up a large floating hospital and render medical care. In their absence from Naval hospitals, the reserve component medical teams are moving in to take their places.
While you slept, many things happened, of which you will never be aware. Military vehicles were fueled, helicopters were moving into play and fixed wing aircraft were playing their part.
Tom may address some of the inadequacies of response in his blog next week. That is his prerogative, if he so chooses. He will do a good job. We all recognize the shortcomings. Our own government will address them in after-action debriefings. But can we stop for just a moment and recognize our own shortcomings? Let us not be ungrateful. There is much which has been done right!
LCDR Tammy Swofford, NC, USNR
Friday, September 02, 2005
Natural disasters the proportion of Katrine define our humanity. It has been painful to view the unbelievable scenes playing out in the aftermath of this fury. Nature is for the most part benevolent. But when she occasionally shows herself as a cruel mistress we are left to sift through the debris of disaster and the blame is always stirred up in two different pots.
I went to several search engines and typed in "Katrina+God's judgment". Sure enough, the usual brainless curbside pundits posting their thoughts, so I did not waste my valuable time. Also coming as no surprise, the emerging news headlines pointing the finger of reproach at government. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal gave what I consider the most balanced headline so far. It stated "Overwhelmed". Underneath were the words, "As U.S. Mobilizes Aid, Katrina Exposes Flaws in Preparation". It was nice to see a moderate view which addressed the issues at hand without accusing the government of gross negligence.
Somewhat overshadowed by our own tragedy was the unfolding story of the hundreds of Muslim pilgrims in Iraq who died when a rumor circulated of a suicide bomber on a bridge. Men, women and children leapt to their deaths and others were crushed in the melee of panic. One commentator blamed the government for lack of crowd control. Has he ever bothered to look at the crowds during the pilgrimmage of Hajj? Crowds are just clusters of people. But when a herd mentality enters the crowd, one sees a stampede. There is no predictable indicator for such event. Yelling "suicide bomber" would work for most of us.
When things overwhelm our ability to cope, the fist of accusation always rises upward and it is God and government who take the worst hit. May I gently offer a suggestion? This is not the moment in time to focus on the wrath of God or the failings of government. This is the time to work to extend practical help to those that remain. We must help the living to bury their dead. The remaining destitute must be moved to places where they can obtain adequate shelter and basic necessities. (Think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs on this one!) Clean water must be made available for hydration. Children must be enrolled in new schools. The E.P.A. must intervene to address the impact of mosquitoes, rotting flesh, snakes and infestation by vermin. New Orleans is no longer a city. It is a microbic stew.
The military is preparing to ship 1.5 million MRE's. (meals ready to eat) Rescue teams are streaming into the city. But even now there are reports of growing anarchy. Desperate people, do desperate things. And the unbelievable scenes that play on our screens make for a sad commentary of human behavior when chaos erupts.
The time for others to assess the nature of God and government in how Katrina has played havoc in the lives of thousands will come. I am short on wisdom to respond. But I do know that we each have our part. We must extend mercy and grace.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Sad news from Texas spilled over into the national spotlight on Tuesday. A man in Sash, Texas, killed four adults, shot up a couple of buildings and then turned a gun on himself after a lengthy standoff with law enforcement officers responding from several nearby communities. The town of Sash, Tx. has a population of approximately 32,000. It is most likely a typical little town reminiscent of many similar Texas towns that dot the prairie land of our state. It has the local cafe and churches, main street shopping and a high school football team which is the hub of activity on Friday night. But what it also had was a mentally ill resident who should have been locked up and medicated.
The signs were there. Neighbors Grady and Dorothy Pior were afraid of the man. Mr. Pior mowed the lawn with a pistol strapped to his hip and his wife slept with a gun under the pillow. "Fred finally snapped," Mrs. Pior told her husband. (Dallas Morning News, 30 August) The neighbor, A.P. "Fred" Crenshaw had exhibited erratic behavior for some time. Why was this ticking time bomb talked about rather than dealt with by the appropriate authorities? What is reportable behavior? Maybe this community did not know what to report. So today, let me educate you a bit. I have had enough psychiatric nursing under my belt to give you just a few of the warning signs. If you have a neighbor or family member exhibiting any of the behavioral patterns mentioned below, please seek help.
Speaks of committing suicide and has a plan. Believe me, they may do it.
Speaks of killing others and has access to a weapon. Believe me, they may act.
Receives messages by other than the normal channels. Do they get messages from
the dog's eyes or from the television set? Think mental illness.
Are people spying on them? Do wires in the carpet convey messages to the FBI
or to aliens up in space vehicle? If someone laughs, are they always laughing at
them? If you whisper, are you always talking about them? Think paranoid schizophrenia.
Have they covered all the windows in the house so no one can look in? Do they
dress inappropriately for the weather and have too many "No Trespassing"
signs on the fence? These can be subtle signs of mental illness.
Do they talk constantly of conspiracies and speak in an irrational manner? Think mental illness.
Do they check under the hood of the car for bombs? There was a woman in Dallas who exhibited such behavior. When the police came to her home, she had barricaded herself in the bathroom, killed her children and then killed herself.
I have worked with clients who see hands coming out of the walls to grab them. That is scary. But I have also worked with clients who were capable of holding a normal conversation, but could strangle the nurse the next minute, and then eat a sandwich with the body next to them. When one looks into the eyes of these, one does not see the danger, but one senses it. The hair stands up on the nape of the neck and the palms go sweaty. These are the ones who are probably already under lock and key. Be grateful.
But if you have a neighbor or family member behaving in such a way as to put you in fear of physical danger, please do not ignore your inner early warning device. Make a call to your nearest county mental health facility and seek out the appropriate intervention. It could save a life. The life could be your own.