The past two weeks I have spent a bit of time dealing with a distasteful issue related to the blog. (See CSI Texas, April 07, 2008)These events and the emails between myself and a necrophilic porn producer have brought me to a distinct awareness. Texas needs a reconstituted political effort to criminalize such sites in our state. A handful of other states have already placed statutes on the books. It is time for decent Texans to again consider our values.
In the past I have talked with three men who have entered the world of necrophilic porn and hardcore porn in professional manner in the course of their job discriptions, or to provide expert witness to such matters. When asked why they have done this, all three reflected on the value of women. They spoke of their family. They also spoke of respect for other humans.
Because necrophilic porn is predatory sexual fantasy the Monday blog will contain some explicit references which will be verbally graphic. These are presented for education, not shock value. Please read and consider my words. Having been raised in a "see no evil" home, one where I was cherished and loved, it has been difficult for me to view such things. Should that you would also find it difficult to read my words on the Monday blog. My tears will be the inkwell in which the quill is dipped.
Blackfoot is diligently at work with a geopolitical blog assignment. As always, the different team members bring their own strengths to the table.
Hopefully, Tom will have the opportunity to bring commentary next week.
Everyone have a wonderful weekend!
Saturday, May 31, 2008
The past two weeks I have spent a bit of time dealing with a distasteful issue related to the blog. (See CSI Texas, April 07, 2008)These events and the emails between myself and a necrophilic porn producer have brought me to a distinct awareness. Texas needs a reconstituted political effort to criminalize such sites in our state. A handful of other states have already placed statutes on the books. It is time for decent Texans to again consider our values.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Warren Buffet has been functioning as a sentinel. He has publicly forecast America’s economic climate for several months. Whether speaking to Tom Brokaw, or after working with Mars Inc. on a takeover deal of the Wrigley chewing gum maker, the man speaks in terms which most Americans can understand. German magazine, Der Spiegel, just published an interview with Mr. Buffet and again he reiterates, “It will be deeper and last longer than many think”, when speaking of recession.
I appreciate his candor. This is a man whom Forbes gives an estimated worth of 62 billion dollars. He probably invested the profits from his neighborhood lemonade stand when he was six. I hate balancing my own checkbook. Take my brain out and use it for a doorstop if there is any expectation that I can understand finances beyond a simple supply and demand curve.
Stating multiple times this recession will be graver than expected he acknowledges the pinch felt from the food and fuel twins. These are the “toddlers” of economics which give early recognition of economic downturn to the unenlightened masses. Mr. Buffet notes Americans may feel a bit under siege. Seeing no respite from the housing market, stating that jewelry retailers did not have as merry a Christmas, his plain-spoken manner somewhat mirrors the private life of a man who has lived in the same house for half a century.
Media searching for the story of the day turn their eyes to look at what is a small and possibly growing segment of our society, the survivalists. We can honor families who choose to adapt to a physically hard life prior to actual necessity due to reality. But for most of us reality sings another song of freedom. We like to purchase our meat on a foam tray. We don’t want to slaughter the pig and I sure don't want to ground the pig snout to make the family hot dogs. We like toilets that flush and disdain using an outhouse with its resident spider and snake. Having used many a port-o-john courtesy of the United States Navy, I gradually learned to expand my lung capacity to hold my breath through a sixty second pit stop. The only facility that didn’t render me nearly senseless was at Fort McCoy. The winter conditions caused things to be practically flash frozen on contact with the environment. That included our derriere’s if seated too long in those cleverly mislabeled gas chambers.
Frankly, I think the soft suburban pulp of flesh will survive just fine. We won’t be jumping survival compound fence lines to steal away hoarded food supplies whilst the pioneering Americans blast away at us from machine gun nests in the attic. We will be driving less. The dollar menu of Mickey D’s and Burger King will continue to be appealing. We will remodel instead of upgrade.
Our standard of living far surpasses that of our great grandparents. My own paternal grandparents lived in a shotgun house with one bedroom. My Cherokee grandmother lived in that small house into her ninth decade. These grandparents were decent people who survived the Dust Bowl in the same transient camp where Bonnie and Clyde occasionally hid when the heat was too hot. In moving through the years of depression followed by World War II my grandparents passed on the truth of survival: If you have your family and a few close friends tough times can be endured. Survival skills are not just about chopping the wood and hauling the water. They include tenacity, diligence and a good sense of humor. It is good psychological stock which makes for a great survivalist. But, let it be known that I am hoarding chocolate.
*And if you could, what would you hoard? smile
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has published a book which will generate a tremendous amount of editorial commentary. Book reviews are time-consuming for me. Much care is given to carefully read the thoughts of the author. Each word is read, footnote examined, etc. It requires extraordinary diligence. My most difficult book review was “Guests of the Ayatollah” by Mark Bowden. As my review came from an uncorrected proof with a note to reviewers that, “substantial changes may be made before the book is printed” I sweated that one. Print publications put things to bed three months in advance of hitting the newsstand, so at times review on an uncorrected proof is necessary. ( “Lessons from Tehran”, Marine Corps Gazette, Aug. 2006)
Having not read “What Happened”, it is impossible for me to comment on the contents of this first and possibly only literary attempt by Scott McClellan. First person accounts are the easiest of all endeavors. The memory bank and personal notes are the research library. But it appears President Bush will sustain quite a hit from this former staff member turned White House Whistleblower. Already, grog-ridden ships of pirates masquerading as blogs are publishing little snippets from the book. But in reading one site, didn't the shelf life for Valerie Plame's story disappear a few months ago? Why is this still news? Of course we know Mr. McClellan also writes of our entrance into Iraq.
The question has been asked of me many times, “What do you think of the war?” Entering any dialogue on this topic I put the first plank of the platform in place to assure that the recipient of my thoughts understands my posture. The day I took the oath is the day I determined that defense of our nation was a just cause. Nothing changes that posture. People need to be reminded of our oath whether or not we then choose to support or negate support for the entrance into Iraq. More importantly, as those who wear the uniform we need to be reminded of the oath as a means of restraining our own words. With greater rank comes greater responsibility. Our oath is the bridle for our untamed tongue. But yes, when we are asked such things, as military men and women we owe it to people to stand ready in articulate and intelligent manner to defend our particular position.
When asked what I think of “the war” it is also countered by a question of my own. “What do you think of the war?” It is good to seek the position of the other person prior to verbal engagement. Just as a sniper can't function without his spotter, this question is the "spotter" to help you identify the bulls-eye of thought coming from the other person.
My answer is always the same when asked about entrance into Iraq. Ask me in ten years! Yes, ask me again at the ten year anniversary of our entrance into Iraq. It is too soon for me to intelligently address the question. It will be the job of future historians to judge the presidency of Mr. Bush, the planners at the Pentagon, and the diplomatic interface with the Middle East. For me, it is just too soon.
Do I believe that war is an inherently evil state of affairs? Does war only begin where diplomacy ends? Of course not! Throughout recorded history, war has secured water and food sources, safety, peace and sovereign borders for governing nations. War has been borne on the shoulders of those who prefer peace to violence but see the immediacy of need to deal with a threat. War is engaged by men and women who have bound themselves with an oath of allegiance to their nation and the desire to provide watch over their collective communities.
But in assessing the overarching issues for our nation as troops in Iraq and Afghanistan enter the fifth year anniversary of conflict it is very important that what appear as microscopic threats also be examined. Because in looking at the bigger picture we can miss the smaller aggregate which is just as important. Just this week the New York Times offered up this article.
Having studied contemporary jihad geopolitics extensively I find most Americans fall in the category of “you don’t know, what you don’t know” when I begin to speak to them and cull their brain banks for retained data. The average conversation lasts less than a minute and blank stares don’t make for spirited dialogue. But, you say, what about the government and current administration? Do they retain greater accountability for actionable vs flawed intelligence? Yes. And maybe Mr. McClellan’s book will be a worthy reading.
Will President Bush deserve in totality the criticism heaped upon him by Mr. McClellan? Personally, I don’t know the answer to that question. Time will tell if this book receives critical acclaim or is merely a critical book. Ask me in five more years what I think about Iraq!
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:46 AM
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
What are the legal rights of American citizens with regard to religion? Beyond that, what are the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in the practice of religion? Soulforce is an organization representing this segment of society.
From looking at their website, it appears Soulforce gives us a world of stage productions without an audience. They bring the "stage" uninvited, but worshippers, want to lay their burdens down. Yet the activism of Soulforce causes me to pause and reflect on the interface of a local church with a small organized political front attempting to move the fence posts of the faith.
Soulforce has managed to garner media attention by seeking out mega churches and riding on the coattails of big names who have neither sought their guidance nor require their counsel on matters of faith. They do have a bit of creative genius at work with their plan. They have decidedly tailored their mission to be the "big fish in the small pond" of mega churches. It somewhat reminds me of the miserable bloggers who crow about the email received from some hot shot to then find out.... er, yes ma’am, it was just an auto-reply!
Let me see... Hmmm. There is a photo of a Soulforce staffer shaking Joel Osteen’s hand. The site does practice integrity in reporting. I will give them that kudo. They state that his important handshake came at a time when Mr. Osteen normally greets visitors. I can pull that one off myself with a quick trip to Houston. Stand in line, get the handshake. It is kind of like standing in line for the hotdog at the Rangers stadium, if you know what I mean. You and fifty other people get that hotdog with a squirt of mustard and a smile.
Soulforce members have also skidaddled along to visit the church of Bishop T.D. Jakes who reigns over his vast empire, “The Potter’s House”. Naturally, their press release did not include any direct quotes from Bishop Jakes or his staff after a trek to visit with the faithful. Sounds like they were somewhat lost in the shuffle.
Soulforce places the profile of two well-known public figures on their masthead. It can be a bit tricky aligning with the deceased for support. Just as they no longer cast their shadows upon the earth, the shadow-casting of this type is seen in clarity.
The website has a mission statement:
“Freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.”
But hey, whoa, wait a minute! What about the freedom of the church to govern according to their own by-laws and regulations? Don’t become squeamish and all PC on me now. Should the local community church or a local entity residing under a national church umbrella retain the right to pasture the flock under their care according to the tenets of their faith? In some cases we speak of traditions which have been in place for over two hundred years.
Here are the unalienable rights of Americans. These are also the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (did I leave any person out?) Americans:
*You have the right to attend the church of your choice.
*You have the right to worship in a place where you feel comfortable.
*You have the right to seek out a Shepherd and receive counsel from someone who understands your spiritual needs.
In looking at websites and goals of organizations such as Soulforce it is also good to reflect on what makes us strong.
*Americans who value liberty and freedom should not join any organization because of a political agenda against the existing structure.
*Americans who value liberty and freedom should not join any organization seeking to intimidate the leadership structure.
*Americans who value liberty and freedom should fall under the governance and by-laws of organizations they choose to join.
The beauty of the church is that it is a place of pasture. We may fight our political battles during the week and fight with our spouse and the kids on the way to church. (Quit laughing because you have done it too!) But the moment we step over the threshold of a church we come together as people who need pasture, clear waters and a place to restore our souls. The church was never meant to be a battlefield.
In allowing other organizations to retain the strength of their beliefs the safeguarding of our own individual beliefs is the secondary gain. This is good for all Americans. So this coming week attend the church of your choice. And do cheer for the home team!
*The members of Soulforce will find pasture at this church.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
(Disclosure—I have owned shares in Exxon and Mobil since the 1980s)
Knee-jerk Conservatives and Libertarians settle down and hear me out. We have to institute a windfall profit tax on the oil companies as much for their good as ours. If we don’t, we will be up the creek when oil prices continue to climb, and the oil companies will be no more. Trust me. I lived through the last oil boom. I know how things work.
There is in economics the concept of absorptive capacity, a fancy term for the problem of having too much money. Basically, what it means is that if you are earning more money than you can spend wisely, you will spend it foolishly. If you spend enough of it foolishly, you will go out of business when the good times stop rolling.
Let’s go back to the go-go 1970s. Exxon and Mobil were making money hand over fist. They were making it so fast they could not generate worthwhile oil and gas projects on which to spend it. As a result, Exxon bought Reliance Electric, a company with the patent on a multi-frequency electric motor. Exxon also created Exxon Office Systems to take on IBM and Wang in the word processing and fax business. Mobil bought Montgomery Ward. Both companies lost millions. Other companies bought fancy corporate jets and swanky hunting lodges. Those companies are no longer with us.
We are beginning to see the same practices. Last year, ExxonMobil spent $31.8 billion buying back its own stock. That is twice as much as it spent on its main business, finding and producing oil and gas. Of course, buying back its own stock had one advantage that exploration did not. It boosted ExxonMobil’s stock price, which helped executive stock options.
It also branded J. Steven Simon a perjurer who lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said: “Our profitability in absolute terms is large, but it must be viewed in the context of the massive scale of our industry, and our dependence on high earnings in the current up cycle to sustain the huge investments required over the longer term.” Sounds like it came straight out of the Kellogg School’s MBA program. Unfortunately, it is nonsense. Simon said that over the past 25 years, the company invested about $14.2 billion a year on new energy projects. But he failed to mention that over the last five years, the company spent an average of $17.2 billion buying back its own stock. And, the company has been in liquidation for the last several years. That means that it has been producing more oil and gas than it has found. Why would anyone pay high stock prices for a company whose value is declining?
Is Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) too polite to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee? On May 21, he didn’t turn a hair while senior executives from ExxonMobil, Conoco Phillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and BP PLC lied to him. Not only lied, but treated him and the rest of the Senators on the Committee as if they were mental defectives.
For instance, when asked for an oil price forecast, ExxonMobil senior vice president, J. Steven Simon said he nor anybody else could do that. Unbelievable! ExxonMobil and every other oil company in the world does that hundreds of times a day, every day of the year. If they don’t do that at ExxonMobil, I am using my stock to vote against the board of directors at the annual meeting on May 28.
Think about it. ExxonMobil spent $15.7 billion on exploration last year. It did that because it expects to make several times that amount when the fields discovered through that $15.7 billion expenditure come on stream. In order to know whether or not to develop those fields, a process that takes years, ExxonMobil will have to have some idea of what the price of oil will be when the oil is ready for sale. If they have no idea of what the price of oil will be, they would not know if the project would make a profit.
For a less biased review of windfall profit taxes see:
Link number one
Link number two
Sunday, May 25, 2008
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR,NC
Friday, May 23, 2008
*An appreciated response from Haloscan staff regarding comment difficulties. Here is the copy and paste of their communication.
"We apologize for the state of the service. On Wednesday our colo provider had a power outage where we lost power to everything. Since then we have been in the process of bringing the service back online. The power outage caused drive and other misc failures which we're also in the process to replacing/restoring. We're working very hard to bring service back to 100%."
*To each of you who has patiently notified me in the email that your comments have not shown, I appreciate your kind remarks. Please continue to attempt to comment, possibly considering shorter comments should your effort be temporarily unrewarded due to the haloscan crash and burn.
For those who have not yet viewed "Memorial Day" by James McEachin, it was an early release on the April 16th blog. The file is large and take a few minutes to download. Worth the wait! smile
I will offer my own tribute for Memorial Day titled "The Chisel". I write with both heart and experience on these things.
Tuesday, Tom Gordon comes back into the blog with the usual hard-hitting analysis which brings in the east coast readership.
Best to all and God Bless America!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
More than one complaint fielded regarding Haloscan. A reader from Germany found no comments for the blog of yesterday. They have disappeared. Several problems in the last 24 hours.
Please continue to contact me via email if you submit a comment which does not post properly, etc.
Haloscan is working to correct the problem.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:58 AM
One of my favorite TV shows hit a major milestone. “America’s Most Wanted” announced that they have directly helped in the capture 1,000 fugitives. They do not take full credit for the captures, of course. Every episode is a love letter to the men and women “in blue” who are out there on the streets every day, keeping us safe. AMW is quick to applaud the law enforcement departments and individuals who do the legwork: taking and making phone calls, writing reports, providing surveillance, and making the arrests. Last week was Police Memorial Week, a time for cops to honor their fallen and for everyone to recognize that their job does not solely consist of handing out traffic tickets. When it comes down to it, the men and women in law enforcement are our first line of defense. God bless them.
AMW also deservedly credits its audience. It is a show which urges its viewers to call in with tips, and rewards them with results that are guaranteed to last longer than Clay Aiken’s career. The reason the show has been on for twenty years is that it is effective. It would be interesting to know the conviction rate and average sentence time of these cases, but the court system is another subject altogether. Since last week’s show, there have been seven additional captures. The most recent is Wayne Nelson Corliss, who is charged with posting photos on the internet of himself having sex with young boys, most under the age of ten. Removing monsters like this from circulation not only prevents them from committing future offenses against children, but keeps them from posting images for other pedophiles to view. Sex offenders are dogs that return to feed off of each other’s vomit.
I know that captures like #1007 must shoot an extra shot of adrenaline into AMW host John Walsh’s veins. It was in 1981 when his own six-year-old son Adam was abducted from a department store and murdered. The horror of what happened could have destroyed him. Instead his outrage led him to advocacy. In addition to AMW, Walsh is on a personal mission to prevent what happened to his family from happening to other families. He founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 1984. Tom Gordon can add this non-profit charity to his list; over 90 cents of every dollar raised, goes to the program. (“It’s Fleece the Suckers Season”, Dec. 14, 2007) Walsh meets with presidents, testifies before Congress, and gives speeches around the nation. He is a co-counder of the Baby Einstein Series “The Safe Side”. Does this man ever sleep?
I don’t have to hear Walsh’s gruff and determined voice to know he might answer: “How can I sleep when there are more than 2,000 children reported missing every single day?” Remember when missing children’s faces first started showing up on milk cartons? We didn’t really expect to find them but we kept an eye out for them anyway. The amazing stories of Elizabeth Smart, Shasta Groene and Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby just prove that some of these abducted kids are still out there in our neighborhoods. Through online tools, and largely due to the efforts of John Walsh, we can find photos of people who are missing from our own areas. We can also access the addresses and photos of registered sex offenders. You’d be surprised at how many might live within your zip code. Be aware of who your neighbors are and educate your children. Thank you Mr. Walsh, for blazing the trail.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Our Navy nurses in uniform took to the seas boarding our hospital ships and living in GPL's (general purpose large- tents) in Gulf I. These women moved out of national universities where they served as nursing instructors, from positions in community clinics and hospitals, or status as "soccer mom" with the life in the suburbs with their military orders in hand. Living out of the hulls of a hospital ship (converted tankers) or alongside 500 bed tent hospitals in support of Fleet operations, they are to be commended for their devotion to duty. When the drive to liberate Kuwait was accomplished they then came home in fairly short order.
This conflict is different. Approximately 180,000 women have served in our two theaters of operation: Iraq and Afghanistan. Many more will serve in the coming months to maintain the troop strength set by Pentagon planners.
More women within the troop configuration also places tremendous adaptive processes at work within the Department of Veterans Affairs to meet the unique needs of women's health. This is a new problem for us in the 21st century. Our women want to serve. They serve honorably alongside the men. But they are returning to a health system which has historically been geared toward men's health issues by nature of the traditional combatant. Men don't need mammograms and Pap smears.... women do! But another area of concern is the effect of the combat zone on women's health.
The branches of service are moving forward in aggressive manner to research PTSD and set in place programs that interface cognitive therapy with pharmacological support in standardized continuums of care. The Marine Corps Gazette has presented a couple of articles in recent months on the advances and modifications being made to existing programs to better serve our returning veterans. (This magazine is available as either an on-line or print subscription.)
Behavioral scientists, researchers and clinicians are moving forward studying the long term effects of war on women in uniform. Lack of rigid battle lines no longer keep the female soldier or sailor at the periphery of the battle space. The VA has 12,000 female veterans enrolled in a longitudinal study to examine the perceptions and aftermath of war within the psyche of the gender which has chosen to both rock the cradle and cradle the rifle. My own oath of office was taken when I still had a child in diapers.
Military women are outstanding in so many ways. They deserve to return home to a VA system with an updated look; one that supports women's health. That day is coming. But as with many things, change can take a bit of time. The system is beginning to adapt. Improvements will continue to be made. The VA system will look much different a decade from now.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Hell, I would be bipolar too as a forgotten son of a tenth wife. Throw in Ayman al-Zawahiri, the amir who uses his white turban-black turban dual wardrobe as a mood-o-meter and the co-joined twins can’t be beat. Not quite sure how Adam Gadahn managed to endear himself to al-Qaedah. With a Jewish father, are his video releases the ultimate in Jewish self-hatred? In his former life he was merely Adam Pearlman, misfit in search of a cause.
Personally, these are the type of people who need to be taken off the street. House of Saud stripped Osama bin Ladin of his citizenship and packed his entire family off on an aircraft with nary a wave goodbye years ago. One of his relatives, found a paycheck assuming an important position within WAMY, an Islamic entity residing on our peaceful shores. This organization is owned by parent organization, Al-Ikhwan, or the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood retains a controlling interest as the majority stockholder in many of the mosques in the U.S. Do your homework.
After 9/11 we sent Abdullah bin Ladin and other members of the bin Ladin clan to the nation of their choice, offering up “The Hawaiian Good Luck Sign” as they made their exit. Good for ole Uncle Sam! We have plenty of American Muslims who love their lives here and would never consider taking flight lessons on their free week-ends. But, there are still OBL junkies meandering about the landscape. Kid thyself not.
CAIR scurried about and produced “Not in the Name of Islam”, a petition drive signed by thousands of Muslims as a sign of “paper solidarity” against OBL after 9/11. Sadly, the document yielded the name of a man who called Osama bin Ladin a “freedom fighter” publicly after the fact. There was a fly in the ointment.
The support for this man, his organization and acceptance of his tactics remains intact in small manner in the U.S. When young adults are picked up with training videos and plans to access a military base with a pizza delivery boy serving up more than a pepperoni n’ cheese, we have to consider that a threat is still in existence and another possible attack in the planning. The romanticized view of Osama bin Ladin as a warrior due a worthy opponent sprang from his days in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. But that mystique should have dimmed from view for Muslims the day he chose to attack America sending both aircraft and citizens spiraling to their deaths. Didn’t play fair and needed his toys taken away.
Lately, the threat seems neutralized from the days where the blaze of glory moved from Kenya, Tanzania, and the U.S.S. Cole, finally, to penetration of our airspace. In what seems a sputtering selection from the Al-Sahab “video of the month” club, today the top trio seems somewhat relegated to the excitement one feels watching the weather channel for San Diego. But less ye be lulled to passivity, children, it is needful to remind you that just as I am typing this to influence you, somewhere at another desk, sits an OBL ideologue hacking away at the minds of the vulnerable. I would serve up a couple links to prove the point, but last week when I sent a link to a friend in Maryland he stated that a bug crawled across the page and down his screen requiring a cleanup.
So the man (OBL) still needs to be coughed up and spit out like a hairball. And if the learned Islamists, the ones with whom I have visited over the years don’t feel a scratch in their throats when speaking this man’s name, they should.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The fury of nature, with powers unharnessed by man, still reside within the domain of God. He retains the signatory power and executive privilege for acts of nature such as the cyclone in Myanmar, the earthquakes in China, and the one in Pakistan.
Somewhat serving as instant population control, these things remind us to cease our work and reflect on what is our small stature within the vastness of the universe. While we tremble to reflect how quickly man's breath is taken, it is nature itself which brings us comfort after sorrow. The longitudinal and latitudinal marriage of the earth causes the seasons to continue to march in step after events such as the one in Myanmar. Nightfall drops it's curtain of darkness and daybreak continues to spring from it's crib of light. The earth gradually replenishes its face by suckling from the earth the microorganisms at its disposal. Life springs from the soil again.
In the aftermath of events such as the cyclone which hit Myanmar the finger of God which spans the universe is seen as that of a cartographer; surveying again, mapping out the topography of the earth. But the finger of God also receives an interface from the hand of man with these occurrences. Many nations now stand ready to sustain the population which has withstood the withering storm in Myanmar.
Yet those residing within the bundle of the living will slowly be plucked from the land by the secondary wave of summons for death: starvation and disease. It need not be the outcome. The military junta which rules Myanmar is fully aware the elderly and young will face the daunting challenge for survival. Do these leaders presume to employ Darwinism in a post-catastrophic environment? Is it the equitable rate of exchange for the delicate maintenance of the power structure within their grasp? To lose the elderly and the too-many-mouths of the young, is to retain the labor force. The young and the old are always the expendable products of wolfish leaders. International humanitarian intervention into this historically cloistered piece of real estate will be difficult to attain.
Issues of national sovereignty clash with ideals of universal goodness in these situations. This current state of affairs resembles a cluster of other poor, third world nations where intervention with a bowl of rice is met with a dagger-behind-the-back type of response by the governing structure.
So what will be the portion of those residing within the areas of Myanmar hardest hit by the recent cyclone?
*Hepatitis A: In Western nations we manage these things fairly well. A food and water borne virus through a fecal transmission route, it also resides within the bivalve shellfish population. Vaccinations are readily available.
*Cholera: Those in full grip of cholera require life-saving measures which include massive amounts of intravenous fluid to stay one step ahead of dehydration. Vibrio cholerae is the unpleasant houseguest of brackish coastal waters. For the citizens of Myanmar who end up with this disease, death will come in hours not days. Once the massive vomiting and diarrhea take hold, shock syndrome and death are quick to follow.
Starvation: One third of the children in the world go to bed at night wishing for a few more bites of food. There is no “fourth meal” option at the local Taco Bell or even a family pantry from which to snatch a midnight snack. Dinner ends when the last grain of rice or millet is consumed. It is realistic to consider that thousands in Myanmar will succumb to starvation in the weeks ahead. Will others resort to cannibalism as a means of survival? Try sleeping well at night considering such plight.
Just as God has signatory power and executive privilege over the vastness of His universe He also retains another weapon within the arsenal of His unfathomable wisdom:
“....the mighty are removed without human hand....Without enquiry He shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place.” Job 34:20,24
Reasonable men will do what they can; the impossible, we leave to God.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
We will start the week with what is the top international news story: Myanmar. It will be a somewhat philosophical take on what continues to be an unfolding disaster. As of yet, I have not given funds toward disaster relief. Check it out yourself. Everyone has their hand out. But is a refund given to the donor if Myanmar never opens the door to outside assistance? We do have a friend, a USMC helicopter pilot, awaiting the signal to ferry supplies into Myanmar. The U.N. is dispatching their top envoy. Personally, I haven't much personal hope for an international interface into this situation.
Is everyone following Senator Barack Obama and his "magic wand" foreign policy? You know what I mean. "I will do thus and such" whilst forgetting to do the necessary history homework assignment. Some of his statements on geopolitical events make me cringe with the simplistic approach to things. His lack of historical backdrop to events absolutely scares me. I shudder to consider the make-up of his Cabinet should he attain to the highest office in the land. We do have a wooden Pinocchio foreign policy in place in certain areas. A breath of life from the Fairy Godmother would be in order. Not quite sure any of the current candidates are the best choices for the job. Nevertheless, civic duty will require casting a vote.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Forget “Dancing with the Stars”. Turn aside from “American Idol”. We need some real American heroes. Did any of you watch the PBS series “Carrier”? Mel Gibson was one of the executive producers. If you wish to direct your children to admirable men and women, look no further than onto the decks of our Naval Fleet, floating arsenals supporting communities larger than many small towns in America. Or for that matter, consider the iron-on-iron experience of our sailors under the sea, protecting our sea lanes of commerce. Moving through the straits, they stand their watch as sentinels of the deep. In watching “Carrier” it serves well to also glance back in history to ensure that the sailors who served in the early days of our nation receive a just remembrance.
It was in October of 1775 that a Continental Navy was established with an authorization from Congress to build two swift sailing vessels, one with fourteen guns and the second, with ten. A three-member governing committee was appointed to conduct naval affairs. Within about a year a pay grade was established for officers, albeit the chief qualification appeared to be that the man be physically healthy and robust in appearance. The pay grade was between $20.00-$30.00 dollars a month, depending on the billet. By 1781 our Continental Navy had two new frigates, The Alliance and The Deane, each armed with 32 guns.
The Congressional Act of 1789 established the War Department and the Secretary of War retained jurisdiction and command of our ships. Algerian piracy against our sailing ships caused Congress to pass “An Act to Provide a Naval Armament” in 1794. We were sustaining insupportable losses and atrocities were being committed against our merchant seamen. This same year we signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain.
Blame the French! Yes, blame the French for the evolution to the Navy of the 21st century! Somewhat in a pissed off mood, the French believed the Jay Treaty was a violation of the France-American Treaty of 1778. Being confident little banny roosters they took to the seas to whip our tails. Prior, keels of three of our frigates had been constructed in 1794 and then construction halted. But in 1797 when the public learned that the French had seized 32 of our shipping vessels in a nine month time span, the hammers began to pound madly again to put frigates out to sea in defense of our nation. The Constitution and The Constellation were launched for their maiden voyages in October of 1797. In April of 1798 Congress established the Navy Department. Would that some of these early sailors could return to see our movement forward from sloops and frigates to the battle groups afloat across the world today!
Have you read the tale of the serpent’s teeth by Publius Ovidius Naso? It is from his epic poem “The Metamorphoses”. Cadmus, son of King Agenor is dispatched to search for his lost sister. One day he sends his comrades in search of springs of clean water. Entering a cavern they encounter the serpent of Mars, who slays the Phoenician warriors. Cadmus mounts a counterattack proclaiming that he shall avenge their deaths or share it. After killing the serpent he is advised by Pallas to sow the serpent’s teeth into the ground, receiving promise that from these serpent's teeth will his people spring up. After performing this task the sod begins to move. Spears begin to push up from the ground, then the helmets, shoulders and breasts, completely armed with their weaponry. A crop of warriors arises from the earth like fields of corn in rank.
As Navy sailors, the serpents teeth have not been sown into the earth. We come from the sea in defense of our nation. Our bones reside along the bottom of sea passages where fierce battles have been fought. The cannonade of the Battle of Santiago in the Spanish-American War is stilled, but the bones of our sailors lie at the bottom of the harbor. The graveyard of bones from the Battle of Midway cry out to the next generation of sailors. Built upon the American sailor’s bones, the bones of men lost in sea battles of years gone by, our strong traditions have been birthed on the waves of the high seas. Warrior stock still serves within our Fleet today. Cadmus, would surely be proud.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
*Please note that I am a "sand squid". I have never been on a Navy ship! smile
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Put your wallet on the ground, hands on the hood of the car and spread your legs! Thank God for law enforcement and safety on our streets! Wait a minute! We are talking about our wallet today, as law-abiding and taxpaying citizens; "our collective wallets" when viewing settlements such as the one obtained in Valenzuela v. O'Connell.
Let's examine once again how the cost of failure for the individual within our public school system is being passed along to the taxpayer. Remember when speaking of the individual, it is not inclusive of a legal citizen of America. In reading the paragraph in the previous blog, note the words "English learners" and "English proficiency". Illegal immigration, the education of illegal immigrants' children continues to hit our wallets hard and fast.
Here is the deal. California requires an exit exam to receive a high school diploma. The settlement of Valenzuela v. O’Connell allowed Assembly Bill 347 as a means to keep intact, CAHSEE, or the California High School Exit Exam. Students in California who do not pass the exit exam are now allowed an additional two years of intensive instruction and assistance to vault the hurdle of CAHSEE. Naturally, no expense will be incurred by the student. California taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for twenty year old, and possibly twenty-one year old students attempting to gain a high school diploma. What the hell is happening to America? Now in supporting a libertarian view of self-ownership that is able to interface with an understanding of a democracy which allows for a capitalist inequality, I certainly understand the people on the other side of the fence. But I have also noted that it is least uncomfortable, to spend the money which others have earned.
Beyond my confirmed belief that forming a pact with the Devil is what produces most successful lawyers, it is also my evolving belief that America as a land of opportunity has become a convoluted truth within the hands of the obtuse. California’s taxpayers will come under a greater yoke of monetary burden because of Assembly Bill 347.
If a student does not pass the high school exit exam should their lack of success put fingers into your wallet? Or should the parent bear the cost and responsibility to seek tutoring for their child? This particular settlement and subsequent bill is as logical as Senator Clinton’s quickly discarded suggestion that Americans should provide financial seedstock for each newborn in America to become the homeowner of the future. The middle-class taxpayer now gives so much, that the inheritance we would wish to leave our own progeny is quickly diminishing. The Bible states that a wise man leaves an inheritance for his childrens' children. How is that possible when individual wisdom and hard work is flanked by governmental policy disregard toward the preservation of our own household finances?
What needs to shoot through our spinal columns like a lightning bolt is that we are not talking about a one-time economic stimulus package to implement AB 347. It will be a perpetual and eternally slow hemorrhaging of taxpayer resources. A rigorous court challenge to block implementation of AB 347 is the right of the citizen in California.
Texans should particularly remain alert this coming election cycle. "Qui nescit orare, discate navigare". Loosely translated this means, "Whoever would learn to pray, let him become a navigator." While this speaks of the sea, we need a political sea change for America to remain a place of blessing and prosperity for our children. May we kneel and pray, as we diligently choose our candidates, politically navigating within our individual states to bring the changes needed to strengthen our economy.
It is time to take America back! One candidate and one wallet at a time!
Here is a "quick read" of implementation in California schools. Click on this link. View the PowerPoint presentation.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
In 2006 a lawsuit was brought against Jack O’Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State of California Department of Education and the California Board of Education by plaintiff Liliana Valenzuela and her parents. The terms of the settlement agreement reach deeply into the pockets of the citizens of California when the financial impact is considered over decades.
The lawsuit essentially claimed that denying students a high school diploma, based on inability to pass the California high school exit exam (CAHSEE) violated constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
Interestingly, this brings the issue of our failed bilingual and ESL public school programs right back to the center of the ring.
One of the provisions of the settlement reads as follows:
•Provide English learners who have not passed the CAHSEE by the end of grade 12 with the opportunity to receive intensive instruction and services to improve English proficiency as needed to pass both parts of the CAHSEE, for up to two consecutive academic years after completion of grade 12 or until the pupil has passed both parts of the high school exit examination, whichever comes first.
We need to talk about this again, and again, and again.
Who is the Commander in Chief of Iran? Think it is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Try again. Chain of command is very different in Iran when it comes to the power structure. The Chief Commander of the Pasdaran (or IRGC) is Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari. He was preceded in this post by Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi.
But who is this Commander in Chief of Iran? Who is the one who will control access to the nuclear trigger in the future should the aspirations of Iran be realized? It is the one cloaked in garments, Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Syyed Ali Khameini. He has sole constitutional authority to declare war and retains ultimate command of not only the Pasdaran but also the Basij.
Although the presidency is defined as the highest state authority in the land, it is the Supreme Leader who is invested with ultimate power. If you vaguely remember the power structure which was in place under the Shah, it cannot be reconstituted at this point. The current government structure and Constitution is based on Waliyat al-Faqih, which is the political doctrine critically defining the chain of command as viewed through Imami Shi’a jurisprudence.
The Supreme Leader holds the ultimate power. His chain of command is iron-clad and moves in manner Western mind cannot fathom. So let’s move into his itinerary a bit and look at his recent activities. Because although President Ahmadinejad is the man the media views at the podium, there is one greater than he, who controls the microphone.
This month, the man with whom to be reckoned scooted around Fars province for a few days. He viewed nanotechnology exhibits from Shiraz University. Interesting stuff. Findings for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization were also out for view, so the nation progresses forward, in such regard. The latest in logistics and defense was displayed. Wish I would have known. The Ayatollah and I could have enjoyed a corny dog and a glass of lemonade together. Weapons systems are things which I don’t understand, but certainly respect.
Standard operating procedure during these trips appears to be for the usual monument to the martyr display to be set up to remind the faithful of the high days of revolution. The Supreme Leader speaks in front of the monument and a lot of flag waving and fanfare always accompanies such things.
As part of a joint staff military shindig this month, also in Fars province, a separate speech was given for the benefit of the Basij. This volunteer force permeates society and culture in peacetime and is offered up as the Shaheed of future conflict. While we agonize over a return to the draft, the Ayatollah already has his draftees lined up.
Chain of command. That is where the games are played.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Hillary is running for class president. Barack is running for class president. What to do, what to do? Well, it would be easy to say that Hillary has no class, but that would be mean-spirited. And it is NOT true. She does have class, the problem is that it is all low.
Barack, on the other hand, is new on the block and is proving popular with the people who want to hear what he says, and he says what they want to hear. Never mind that Barack has absolutely no idea of that which he speaks. He just tells it like it is, or rather like people want it to be.
So, here is the problem. Barack is black. Part of the class is black. As a result, half the class wants Barack as president. This is not considered racist since they are all black. Now, another part wants Hillary as president because she is a woman. This is not considered sexist because they are women. Now, if there was a white male running for class president, he would be considered a sexist racist. Of course, he didn’t do anything to be considered a sexist racist, but that is the way we have to look at this thing because of the fact that he is not black or female.
The teacher of the class has a quandary. Who should the teacher, Dr. Dean support? Should Dr. Dean throw his support behind the black student and be considered a sexist or should he throw his support behind the female and be considered a racist? Remember, there is no in-between. Teacher Dean has another problem: if he supports one of the candidates for class president, the others in the class have threatened to text message all of their friends and walk out of school. They have made it clear that “it’s my candidate, or this class is over”. What to do? What to do?
Well, teacher Dean has an idea! Let us be DIVERSIFIED! We will have a class vice-president! Whoever wins the class president will pick the other candidate as the class VP! Uh oh. Huge problem. Neither candidate wants to be class VP. Both want to be in charge of the entire thing. So, we do the obvious. We go to the class’ Hispanic students and ask if one is willing to be VP of the class to make everyone happy. This makes Hillary mad. This makes Barack mad. The Hispanic students are mad that the candidates for president are mad, and start text messaging each other. The Hispanic students protest in downtown with Mexican flags waving. The black students walk out in protest, yelling racism and the female students go to the principals office and demand the resignation of teacher Dean.
All of this is a mess. The class is in disarray and the teacher is pulling his hair out trying to make all of the students happy. In the process, after everyone has left the building, the only student left in the room is John. He is the only one with a vote since everyone else is boycotting. John votes for himself and becomes the class president. The students are forced back into the classroom because they have no place else to go and suddenly realize that John has been elected president in their absence.
Hillary is livid, throwing her new china on the floor and breaking it. Barack calls his pastor who immediately DAMNS teacher Dean. All of the students then point to President John and say “Selected, not elected!” John is president because he followed the rules of the class, but for some reason he is to blame for the fact that the others left the class.
Do you know the funny thing about this messed up 3rd grade class? All they had to do to beat John was to agree to stay and support someone else. But you KNOW how self-centered 3rd graders are. They just think the world revolves around them. Now they are stuck with a class president that is not the same color, sex or ethnic persuasion as they. And somehow, John is a sexist, racist and elitist. The moral of the story: you can’t please a 3rd grader. They all act like Democrats.
Monday, May 12, 2008
In the 2000 presidential election cycle Al Gore contributed something to his Democratic party which they probably now wish could be sent back. His gorish behavior which encompassed a recount of ballots, the hanging chad fiasco (along the drama lines of the O.J. Simpson glove that didn't fit) and Supreme Court challenge, had the makings of a political folk hero along the lines of William Tell. Because what looked like a new model for political tenacity under Mr. Gore now plays like “The Taming of the Shrew” under the deft political hand of Senator Clinton. Will this woman just remove her fingers from the ledge or can her party just pry her fingers off and send her into the political free fall she deserves? Senator Obama has the look of one who is crouched and ready to pounce for the nomination win. We need one of these two stepping into the ring to square off with Senator McCain. The sooner, the better. I am ready for a good fight between the parties!
Not quite sure who at campaign HQ will take the rap for this unpromising and unremarkable dynamic duo offered up as consideration for the Democrats. Searching for super heroes it appears the steering committee looked no further than DC comics for inspiration. Who imagined they would come up with “Catwoman” and Batman’s boy wonder sidekick, “Robin” as their top tier talent?
Senator Clinton has a credibility gap bigger than the gap between two Arkansas front teeth. Whether pondering Whitewater, F.B.I files that disappeared momentarily into the Bermuda Triangle of her mind or war wounds sustained in Bosnia, the word "trustworthy" does not come to mind. Her MySpace site did allow that she could cook up a mean skillet of soft scrambled eggs. In her husband’s first presidential campaign we learned that she is not the traditional mother who bakes a batch of cookies for Chelsea. So she is credible in her assessment of kitchen skills, but not for the White House Oval Office desk.
Senator Obama, on the other hand is an empty suit. Yes, he has the fat wallet of his donors. But allowing this man to direct our nation’s foreign affairs and domestic policy would be as disastrous as lowering our national driving age to twelve. He is just not mature enough for the stage. His election would also place into office a man whose policies are very liberal and to the left of his more moderate socialist brethren. The taxpayer can ill afford bigger government and hare-brained hope. His election would make me declare myself a Michael Moore groupie and blather about moving to Canada. *But do ask me again in four years.....
But my pick of the litter would be Obama over Clinton if I were one of their stripe. Senator Clinton is just too driven. Eight years in the White House was not enough for her. Assuming her position as a senator is still not enough. Are her reasons for the quest to the White House about her love for our country or is it about personal power? Her actions have been too gorish for me. It is time for her to pack her bags.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
gorish: (adj) unmannered deployment of political flanking maneuvers to prolong a personal declaration of a recognized electoral defeat.
Catch you later tonight with the blog! smile
Posted by tammyswofford at 10:15 AM
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Events can bring new words into our vocabulary. Consider "Balkanization" as an example. What is happening between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama merits adding a new word to our vocabulary. I will introduce the word, and provide a dictionary definition in one of the blogs for the coming week. Get ready to either pounce or defend!
I will be writing a Memorial Day blog today, placed in the drafts folder, awaiting our national day of remembrance. For those who have not yet viewed the film short by James McEachin, which was an early release to this blog, you can locate it with a Google search. I have viewed it several times since posting it. smile
Much to consider for the coming week. Not yet sure where our travels will take us across the globe, but get ready to stamp your journalistic passports again.
Posted by tammyswofford at 8:40 AM
Friday, May 09, 2008
Where are the fathers? I am not speaking of men who carefully groom their daughters for financial success. Where are the fathers who nurture their daughters for emotional success? Where are the fathers who protect their daughters from harm?
In the marketplace of selling young nubile bodies, fathers such as Mr. Cyrus allow their daughters to present a palatable picture of unclad adolescence. These fathers choose to ignore what is a much uglier picture abroad. There is an exploding worlwide sex trade of young girls. The criminal elements engaged in human trafficking would love to get their hands on any young woman fitting the profile of cutsie little Miley. But in America, she is safe from the hazard of being trafficked. Good ole Dad can rest his head easily on his pillow at night. His daughter is free from harm.
But is she really free from harm? Could she be our next Lindsay Lohan? When the imprint of sexual identity supercedes the emotional development needed for full womanhood, the fast-track to the bedroom can lead to a short-changed life in other areas. Draped in her satin sheet and looking vampish, this child star is photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Ms. Cyrus looks like a teenage girl who is being taught too soon how to market her physical real estate. Maybe this doesn't offend you. But the the message is clear in my mind. Little girls can't grow up fast enough to satiate the desire of some men.
Flipping through the new book by Helen Mirren I glanced at her photos. I noted a mix of artsy and provocative, a reflection of her career. One photograph was of Ms. Mirren's breast, somewhat gliding atop a milk bath. The woman has earned her place on the stage. The human body, both as art and function, does not offend me. But my guess is that quite a few men would rather spend an unforgettable evening with Ms. Mirren at a wine and cheese reception as opposed to a forgettable night with Ms. Cyrus shedding her satin sheet. Seeing women placed solidly into society sporting intellect behind a carefully balanced wine glass as opposed to hanging from a meat hook, is the progression that is made from frat house to mature adulthood for most men. "Animal House" is but a short stage for most guys.
But what about the small percentage of adult men attracted to the nubile young bodies offered up in the human trafficking tragedy? They prefer their sexual partners to be very young. And in the world of trafficking they also prefer them blindfolded and bound.
Click on this link for further information.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Yet another violent video game has hit the ground running, stealing and shooting. Last week people stood in line to get their copies of "Grand Theft Auto IV". This is a series where sex, drugs and rock and roll ride shotgun, with graphic violence at the wheel. Aside from the shoot 'em up aspect of the game, the main character can restore health by hiring prostitutes, dressed in their Saturday best. That's a far cry from Pac Man chomping down those mysterious power pellets, don't you think? The straight male character can get online, pretending to be a gay man in order to arrange a rendezvous with a gay man. Knowing these types of games, it probably doesn't end well for the latter character. This scenario has, at the very least, the potential to reinforce the stereotyping of gay people.
MADD is mad about a fun little side game where you get stinking drunk and climb behind the wheel. I am not a proponent of censorship, not even for this kind of outright garbage. We live in a society where, if they'll buy it, you can legally sell it. That is, anything short of street drugs or child pornography, and I'm sure a few other things like puppy mills, etc. You can still gamble your children's college funds away or "rent time" with women in the sex industry in some places in the nation. If you have an Rx, you can get medical marijuana. These are not the most pious ways to spend your hard-earned cash, but until there are enforceable laws against them, they are legitimate for-profit businesses. So be it.
Games like these should not be outlawed, but Tipper Gore and her crew were on the right track back in the 1980s. Parental Advisory ratings are a step in the right direction in all forms of media. Honestly, how would unsuspecting parents otherwise know which products are appropriate for their 12-year-olds to buy with their allowances? There's not enough time or money to personally preview every title on the market. There are some great websites out there, like parentstv.org and parentpreviews.com to help, but that's no guarantee that something that is offensive to you wouldn't slip through.
Responsible parents do their best. I went to see the movie "Iron Man" and was a little surprised when a family with two children under the age of 10 walked in and sat a couple of rows behind me. It's "only" PG-13, right? Yes, but this violent movie squeezed under the R-rated limbo stick by cutting back on the sex and language. Be aware, my next sentence contains a spoiler: There is a scene where an Afghani villain shoots Iron Man in the back of the head, only to have the bullet ricochet back and kill him. I heard one of the cherubs giggling like he was watching Barney. Maybe a peep of a nipple would have been less harmful. Should we reconsider what material should be illegal for children under 18 to view? The Internet is out of control, so there are no easy answers there; and I truly understand that we don't want the government saying what we can and can't view in the privacy of our own homes.
Games like "GTA4" should only be sold to adults. We don't approve of adults buying beer for kids or soliciting kids for sex. Would it be too severe to fine adults who share adult-rated multimedia with children? Criminal charges might be a bit severe, but in some cases maybe they should serve community service. I'd recommend the local women's shelter or rape crisis center. We should think of violent games as we do any other addictive drug, and not just as mindless entertainment. We're letting these multi-million dollar companies turn our kids into death junkies who need another fix.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
This month Texas jurors sentenced a “good church-going woman” to five years in prison and a $10,000 dollar fine for stealing a mentally impaired man’s life savings. We may be the “Bible Belt”, but not all of our juries are boxed-sets of 12 compatible idiots. Plus, one of the Ten Commandments just happens to be, “Thou shalt not steal”.
Scamming the elderly or the disabled out of their life savings can be like shooting fish in a barrel. The criminal folks engaging this behavior are not necessarily that smart. They are societal vultures. Circling relentlessly around either mentally or physically weak prey they patiently await the proper moment to make their descent into the savings and bank accounts of their victims.
A friend named John received a call from his mother’s bank last year. A man was attempting to cash a check for five thousand dollars. Although the amount was available, a red flag of suspicion was raised. John called his mother to find that a “repairman” was busy changing light bulbs while his accomplice was “buying roofing supplies”. Naturally, on his arrival to his mother’s home, both men were gone. Although the bank had denied the transaction at the local branch, in the heat of the moment a hold had not been placed on the account. Within minutes, the check was cashed at a free standing check cashing facility, such as used by transients. Such is the ability of these con artists to work quickly.
Jesus was asked by his disciples, “Who is my neighbor?” May I suggest the neighbor for whom we should provide the most oversight and care is the elderly person living alone next to us or the mentally challenged who have been mainstreamed into our places of employment.
The man who was scammed of his life savings in this article had stocked shelves for thirty years to provide for his retirement years. He worked a hard and lonely job and made a contribution to society with his taxes. Now 58 years old, his sister reports that he doesn’t quite grasp what has happened. But the jury grasped it pretty quickly and threw Cynthia Sue Hardee in the slammer.
This whole thing makes me sad. At our hospital we bid farewell to Eric recently. Similar to Johnny Byrant, he gave his best years to our campus and faithfully discharged his duty to transport trash and linen carts throughout the hospital. Now in his fifties, he lives at a facility with cabins, rolling hills and a small canning operation to earn a little money during his retirement years. His Daddy wanted to provide for him one last time. He took him to his new home.
I think if Ms. Hardee had dealt so wickedly with our beloved Eric, there would have been two of us in jail. My crime would be aggravated assault. But open your eyes to be aware of the vulnerable links in our society. For the vultures may be circling in the form of the unknown repairman entering and leaving your elderly neighbors home, or the co-worker who has suddenly taken unusual interest in your Down Syndrome employee. If you have a sense of uneasiness, consider what next step needs to be taken to assure that a societal vulture is not at work.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
The political Hydra started with five heads: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. These were the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Today, the Security Council retains fifteen members. The General Assembly elects ten additional member nations for two-year terms. Throw in another 177 member states and the picture looks even worse. Do your homework. Not a lot of love to go around for the United States of America in the majority of this crowd.
There are distinct chains of command in the U.N. and the organization functions under the constraints of its charter. But the inadequacy of this organization to turn on a dime and make an operational decision required in minutes, instead of days or weeks showed the palsied hand of the U.N. in the spring of 1994. Inability to react quickly as Rwanda spiraled into chaos was followed with scholarly writing and discourse after the fact. There is plenty to read, albeit as “in memoriam” material because nothing changes the facts. The lowest estimate of lives lost in Rwanda in a 100 day window is 800,000 souls.
It was during this time (May 1994) that President Clinton issued a controversial directive. It serves us well to review his actions. Because what he did with his executive decision making power, the formulation of PDD-25, encroached on our Constitution. It allowed for our troops to be placed under the control of a foreign commander, under U.N. authority (presidential decision directive 25). Although this particular PDD was preceded by a review process, it provided an opportune moment for the Clinton administration to wash its hands of Rwanda and the ongoing crisis in the greater reading of the text, which sought to curb U.S. involvement in peacekeeping missions. Yet years later, a dilemma remains. There are individuals who firmly believe that PDD-25 cannot hold up under Constitutional scrutiny because of one primary issue: potential operational control of American troops under a foreign chain of command.
Article II, Section 2, (Clause 1) of our Constitution states that the ultimate control of our military forces is vested in the President. Our Commander in Chief is allowed to direct the day to day operations of our military forces and may direct their movement to deploy outside of the United States in times of peace. But PDD-25 granted operational control of American ground forces to be given to U.N. commanders in certain case-by-case multi-force configurations. This document created a potential sub-set command structure imprinted over our own military chain of command.
Article 43 of the U.N. Charter first dangled the possibility of an erosion on the powers of our president in his role as Commander in Chief. There was much national debate about this issue. Congress moved proactively with an amendment to UNPA (the United Nations Participation Act)in 1949, to uphold presidential powers as a fenced asset, after the U.N. Charter was ratified. To comply in entirety with the letter of the law of Article 43 is to consider ceding presidential powers to the United Nations to command our military. And to enter full compliance with the multi-lateral provisions of PDD-25 would be precarious for our troops. We should never relinquish operational control of our troops to the U.N. We must support the plenary powers of our President to command troops on the ground as set forth in the Constitution of the United States. To do otherwise violates the intent of our founding fathers to maintain the position of Commander-in-Chief as one of unilateral strength. The power to declare war remains with Congress. The power for command and control of our troops resides with our President. These things serve our national interest well.
Because of the composition and corrupted politics within the U.N. this governing body for “peace and stability” has more problems than King Solomon had wives. The wisdom does not reside within the General Assembly for Americans to consider subjugating the sovereignty of the United States of America to the authority structure of the United Nations. We must retain the right and authority to act unilaterally and on the global stage, when seen fit to protect our interests or the interest of any ally, upon request.
So how does this tie into Rwanda and the lessons learned column?
*A hydra chain of command structure such as seen in the U.N. cannot provide the rapid response needed for national flashpoints of violence such as seen in Rwanda.
*Sole proprietary control for any stabilizing force only under the auspices of the U.N. is a bad idea.
*The U.N. political make-up presents a current environment where seeking of solutions is married to political corruption. This has become a proverbial oil and water organization.
The chaos which engulfed Rwanda was a purposefully disordered state of affairs which moved from an organizational plan. The chaos was neither incidental nor possibly unavoidable. The United States of America remains one of a small handful of nations with operational platforms which can respond rapidly to these types of events. We must retain the right to move militarily with a rapid response team upon request of a governing authority. We must retain a right to move within the confines allowed by the jurisdiction and treaties in place between our nation and the requesting party. Operational control to stop a rampaging massacre should remain within our command structure should we choose to engage the landscape. And then, we should retain the right to call our troops home without getting flak from the U.N., which seeks every available chance to slap that hand that feeds them. Rwanda, should never be a repeat performance. And did I mention that the Navy has a new command in Africa? smile
Remarks of LtGen Clark regarding PDD 25: see page 321 of document
Monday, May 05, 2008
The most precarious time for any poverty-stricken nation is when elections are underway. The danger of national instability is exponentially increased when the power grid is about to change. Such was the case in Rwanda. The nation was still struggling to implement the Arusha Accords when both the president of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in a political assassination. This event allowed for a rapidly unfolding pre-existing plan to exterminate the minority Tutsi population to move forward. The death of the president of Rwanda was all that was needed to light the fuse of the powder keg. The date was April 6, 1994.
The U.N. had been advised in January that the level of political foment on the ground was at a volatility index which could be potentially unmanageable. The Hutu-controlled government radio was running a constant propaganda program against the Tutsi, referring to them as “snakes” and “cockroaches” which needed to be exterminated. The population was restless. HumInt substantiated that weapons caches were in place. In particular, the youth were being cultivated and readied for the genocide to come. These things generally produce one more worthless piece of paper from the U.N. which no one cares to read except the authors and signatories; many of whom both secretly and openly hate each other, feigning a united front for world peace. In this case, the news was simply ignored.
The United Nations of Inertia lack of response, combined with President Clinton’s newly formulated “See No Evil” foreign policy after the political backwash from Somalia hit our shores, were certainly to blame. The African community in surrounding nations holds part of the blame. There is still tribe-on-tribe slaughter within Africa today. So in the world of small communal wars, it is hard to imagine the ability of some of these nations to rise to the challenge of their own issues, much less issues of the continent. But yet, the stronger African nations in place also lacked responsiveness and cohesiveness.
Nearly one million people lost their lives in Rwanda. Little humans who did not yet know the right from the left hand lost their lives. The only manner in which to atone for such nasty and senseless bloodshed it to have a plan in place which does not involve a month of spitting on the podium for the benefit of the press corps by the U.N. assembly of political cadavers. Is that plan in place yet?
Each U.N. dignitary (I use that particular word lightly) wasting their saliva to look peace-loving knew bloody well that sharpened machetes in the hands of a restless and out of control civilian population was creating a humanitarian disaster. It was only when the refugees began streaming across the borders and we saw pictures of bloated corpses floating in Lake Victoria that the rest of us began to give a damn. But why should we have noticed? The Clinton administration averted their gaze, refusing to recognize genocide. Who was to know? The U.N. assembly functioned with the political adeptness of thalidomide babies missing their fingers and toes. And within the compressed timeline in which the Rwandan massacre occurred the crucial window of opportunity to avert such disaster was long past before action was taken.
Let’s continue to talk about this a bit more. Because in a rapidly devolving situation on the ground such as that seen in Rwanda, we don’t need one more useless U.N. resolution. And we damn sure can’t afford a repeat genocide of the magnitude of the one in Rwanda. It is far more practical and financially prudent to avert disaster than to clean up after a debacle such as was presented to the world when the U.N. refused to act.
From all recent historical "successes" it appears the U.N. assembly has developed into a mutant DNA strain whose “body” would have never been brought to life, had its human creators known what offspring would be politically bred into its future political generations. Tomorrow, get ready to discuss the United Nations.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
The Situation on the Ground:
October 1993: Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye of Burundi is assassinated when a military coup fueled by a Tutsi-dominated military is attempted.
April 6, 1994: Burundi’s new president, Cyprien Ntaryamira and Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana are assassinated when a missile takes down their aircraft as they return from Tanzania to the Kigali airport. The meeting was part of the ongoing process to bring power-sharing between the dominant Hutu political party in Rwanda with the minority Tutsi community. (The Arusha Accords of 1993) Strongman and Hutu national Habyarimana had held the reins of power for over twenty years.
April 7, 1994: The plan in place for a genocide against the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutu families is set in motion. The female Prime Minister who assumed legal authority of the government of Rwanda is assassinated.
April 21, 1994: The Red Cross estimates that the genocide is now numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
May 15, 1994: An estimated 500,000 thousand Rwandans are dead along the roadsides, their bodies nestled in the hills or floating on the rivers. Bloated corpses have made their way into Lake Victoria.
July 1994: Tutsi rebels flowing into the nation from neighboring countries manage to pull off a violent counter assault which staunches the flow of blood. One-tenth of the population of Rwanda is now dead.
The Response of the International Community:
April 7, 1994: President Clinton issues a statement that he is “shocked and deeply saddened”, calling on Rwandan security forces to cease murdering Rwandan officials.
April 28, 1994: Clinton administration spokeswoman Christine Shelley skirts the issue when asked if Rwanda is undergoing an ethnic cleansing. She states that “genocide” has a precise legal meaning.
May 2, 1994: Kofi Annan declares the U.N. to be a bit helpless to intervene.
May 3, 1994: “We are now dealing with a situation way beyond anything that anybody expected.” Madeleine Albright
*The weapon of choice used to kill the Tutsi population was a sharpened machete.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Wednesday evening was spent at the Frontiers of Flight Museum for an event hosted by the Catholic community of Dallas. The speaker was Immaculee Ilibagiza, a native of Rwanda. Her book: "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.
Over one thousand of us came to hear the witness of her faith. Immaculee's survival, while locked into a small bathroom for three months with several other terrified women is a fascinating story. It expresses how individual faith goes through a distillation process that reduces it to one basic truth in times of duress. In her case, the one truth with which she emerged from her time of self-imposed captivity is the message of forgiveness. She lost her parents, two of her siblings, grandparents, and cousins. There was much to forgive. Her presence and speech, gave me hope.
But you know me. The hinges of political analysis began to turn as soon as she said that within two hours of the death of the Rwandan president, gunfire was heard on the streets. The Catholic community had prayed for the death of a wicked man. And when he died, 800,000 Rwandan's followed him to the grave in violent manner. Let's examine that event on the next blog.
Weather cool and crisp in Dallas which means only one thing. I am planning to move out and be a general menace to the greater public. If you catch me eating or shopping, join me! smile
Friday, May 02, 2008
According to George W. Bush, all our problems are the fault of Congress. High gasoline prices are Congress’s fault because they have blocked drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve. At least that is the insight of President Bush.
I suppose the fact that U.S. refineries are running at only 82% of capacity and Valero Energy’s gasoline making units are running at 73% of capacity have nothing to do with it.
A charitable person might be inclined to forgive President Bush for offering the same solution that was offered during the 1970s oil shortage. We bit that time and fast-tracked development of the North Slope. At the time, some people suggested that it might be a good idea to take money away from the oil companies and put it into research into non-petroleum energy sources. The industry promised to do that itself. Instead, Mobil bought Montgomery Wards and Exxon tried to get into the electric motor and office equipment businesses. Smaller companies invested in corporate jets and swanky hunting lodges.
And here we are, right back where we were in 1975 and all the Decider can decide is to try the solution that has put us here.
Developing ANWR would be a mistake on every level. First, what do we do when it is all burned up? Second, if ANWR is real, wouldn’t it be sensible to keep it as a military reserve? Solar, wind, nuclear and fuel cells won’t keep the Air Force flying, or power all the gasoline powered tanks we have. Third, Even if ANWR is as big as Saudi Arabia, and no one has suggested that it is, we would still have to buy 20% of our oil from countries that don’t like us very much. And, finally, what about global warming? Isn’t it about time that we slowed the amount of greenhouse gases we are putting into the atmosphere?
What can we do? Make a big effort to make fuel cells commercial. Buses have been in trial in Europe for several years. GM and Honda are road testing fuel cell cars in a number of U.S. cities and Toyota is expected to do so shortly. Ballard Power Systems is testing residential fuel cells in Japan. Thyssen has been working on fuel cells for more than 20 years and has delivered its third fuel cell powered submarine. The company and German universities are working on ways to create biofuel powered fuel cells.
But such programs would take a leader and we are flat out of them.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Men and women surprised to find pangs of remorse for an extra-marital affair used to do the decent thing. They would tell the whole thing to a best friend and move on with a bit of dignity. Some would take the skeleton of the tale to the local parish priest where confidences are not broken and forgiveness is extended. Today, the confessional has been replaced by Oprah Winfrey's couch. There is surely nary a better place to divulge such sensitivities than to this self-assured woman with the doe eyes and ever changing weight and hair style. In seeking to push ratings further into the stratosphere Ms. Winfrey does not mind allowing a bit of salacious sexual arousal within her audience of mostly women. And Ms. Walters, hard as nails as she is, sees the bottom line. Book sales go up anytime women begin to talk freely about their conquests. Not quite sure who disappoints me more at this point, Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey.
Tuesday, Ms. Walters will speak of her affair (decades ago) with former Senator Edward Brooke, who happens to be an African American. Just goes to verify that what my own Mama quoted to me is certainly correct: Three can keep a secret, if two are dead. But in this case, Mr. Brooke is still alive, married and probably hates the day Ms. Walters came across his path. An opportunist from the beginning, at age 78 ole Barbara is showing that she remains unmatched in keeping the spotlight on herself.
Being the "guardian of the secret" for a few women in the past I can tell you that I would slit out my own tongue before putting any friend on public display in such manner. It is not worth any amount of money, to travel down that path.
We live in a brave new world. It is a world where women now "save the dress" a la Lewinsky. They parlay their thousand dollar romps with a New York governor into a few hundred thousand dollars by quickly offering a rather mindless downloaded pop rock tune on the internet.
We should never be surprised regarding the bandwidth of human emotion which causes attraction of the species. There is nothing new under the sun. But this bit of news divulged by Ms. Walters in advance of the show somewhat caught me off guard. Although never a big fan, she seemed a bit of a class act. But when someone as famous as Ms. Walters chooses to divulge her affair from years ago it seems to me that any sense of vulnerability or femininity exchanged between Oprah, Barbara and the "sisterhood" should be cast aside to consider whether Ms. Walters is engaging an emotionally predatory act against Mr. Brooke.
I was shocked to learn that America’s number 1 preacher of the Free Market gospel spent a lot of time manipulating the nation’s financial markets. Thanks to Executive Order 12631, Alan Greenspan became one of four people charged with manipulating financial markets. The other three are the Secretary of the Treasury and the chairmen for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Together, with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the position Greenspan held at the time, these people form the Working Group on Financial Markets, aka the Plunge Protection Team. While there have been no admissions of manipulations, market watchers can point to at least four instances in which they believe the Dow was manipulated.
The Reagan Administration, free marketeers all, got the stuffing scared out of them on October 19, 1987 when the Dow dropped 508 points, or 22.6% of its value. Obviously, the free market could not be allowed to act, well, freely. On March 18, 1988 Reagan issued the executive order that gave the administration the power to manipulate markets.
That sounds reasonable enough. Nobody wants the panic induced selling of October 19 again. But, the markets themselves installed SEC-approved circuit-breakers to give investors timeouts to calm down. The circuit-breakers work this way. If the Dow drops a specified percentage, trading on the New York Stock Exchange is halted for 30minutes. If it drops another specified percentage, trading is halted for an hour. When the Dow stood at 7,000, a drop of 350 points would have triggered the half hour halt.
On October 20, 1987, the sell-off continued and it looked as if a number of major Wall Street firms were insolvent since they had borrowed against securities which had lost a lot of their value so the debt exceeded the value of the collateral. This is exactly what has happened to many home owners. The only difference is that the federal government very forcefully argued the banks who had loaned the money to the Wall Street firms out of calling those loans. No such jaw-boning effort has been undertaken for the home owners.
The reason for this is that if Wall Street companies are allowed to fail, the world economy will stop. No such catastrophe would occur if home owners end up in the street.
The problem with this argument is that it is disingenuous. In his book, Greenspan says that he told the Japanese exactly how they should work their way out of the real estate collapse that engendered a 10 year recession in Japan. Greenspan’s solution was that the banks had to recognize their losses. Banks would fail, but that is the price that had to be paid.
Now that our real estate bubble has burst, guess what? We are doing exactly what the Japanese did. We are cutting interest rates and pouring money into insolvent banks. Cutting interest rates is, as John Maynard Keynes said, like pushing on a string. Nothing productive, as in goods, will be produced by the lower rates because we make next to nothing and can’t sell what we do make. The only people taking advantage of the lower rates are the derivative creators and the hedge funds that are using the borrowed money to buy the derivatives.
Alan Greenspan deserves a great deal of credit for our looming financial crisis. It was his brilliant idea that the good times could keep on rolling if people took the equity out of their homes and went shopping with it. It is odd that the master of details, as Greenspan likes to describe himself, should have missed the fact that the borrowed money went overseas because that is where the electronics, automobiles and gasoline purchased with home equity loans are made. What a plan.