Khodynka Field. It is a place where history is felt within the bones of the people. At this location an estimated 1,000 poor Russian peasants were killed and 9,000 injured in a stampede which both suffocated and crushed its victims. It was intended to be a happy event, part of the festivities surrounding the coronation of Nicholas Romanov, the last Tsar of Russia.
It was customary for a new Tsar to distribute food and souvenirs to his subjects. Enamel mugs stamped with the Romanov double-headed eagle were prepared and stalls were set up at distribution points on Khodynka Field. The crowd swelled to more than half a million. Rumors began to fly that the gifts of food and wares were in short supply and the human psychology of the herd took over. In the stampede which followed on the heels of panic, Khodynka became a killing field. Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra visited many of the injured in the hospital. But then they made a poor choice which was never forgotten by the citizens.
That evening, Nicholas and Alexandra attended an inauguration ball at the French embassy. One hundred thousand roses from the south of France and tapestries and silver plate from Versailles awaited the arriving guests. The Tsar and his young wife led the first quadrille. Inside these walls, the scent of roses and succulent meats prevailed. Outside the walls, a peasant class observed the widening distance between the Romanov dynasty and their need. Tsar Nicholas lost something in that moment which he found impossible to recapture. The confidence of his people toward his character was forever tarnished.
Confident, historic and bold! These are the therapeutic adjectives used to describe the bail out plan for the new Romanovs. While there is nothing new under the sun, the abject reality of a social strata of wealthy and powerful Romanovs has hit us full in the face with the economic collapse of our financial markets. The 21st century Romanovs are not far removed from the philosophy of the Tsars, or for that matter the Grand Dukes, Barons or Kings and Queens of dynastic rule of centuries gone by. They still exist. Amassing enormous wealth and power while being careful to adjust the markets properly so that the poor are not too poor, and the middle class content with their lot can be a difficult job. We should feel sorry for them. But today Khodynka Field has caught up with them.
I have neither wisdom nor confidence for the situation at hand. But there should be be no enamel mug with double-headed eagle offered in celebration. The House vote against the bail out is a good start. But the dramatics of voting "yes" with fingers across the nares in display of repulsion must still be noted as a "yes" vote. Just stand up like a man (or woman) and in a clear voice and with conviction cast your vote. We are watching.
Rather than a bail out I support a joint proclamation, signed by every single seated member of Congress. Let us not delude ourselves in light of the facts. America and her leadership should observe a National Day of Mourning.
*And who is your favorite "Romanov" within the financial market or inside the Beltway?
Link to short sell list
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Khodynka Field. It is a place where history is felt within the bones of the people. At this location an estimated 1,000 poor Russian peasants were killed and 9,000 injured in a stampede which both suffocated and crushed its victims. It was intended to be a happy event, part of the festivities surrounding the coronation of Nicholas Romanov, the last Tsar of Russia.
Monday, September 29, 2008
“What Senator Obama doesn’t seem to understand that if without precondition you sit down across…from someone who called Israel a stinking corpse….and wants to wipe it off the map, you legitimize those comments. This is dangerous. It isn’t just naïve; it’s dangerous.” Sen. John McCain, University of Mississippi, presidential debate
*Obama and Biden are willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe. They will do the careful preparation necessary…. Obama/Biden campaign website
Many people are photo-shopping their way to the elections with the comic relief that is provided by placing Senator Obama in a wig and glasses as a Sarah Palin look-alike. But we should be casting our collective gaze to the international horizon.
Twenty-five years of shoe-polishing over at the Pentagon and Department of State has taken its toll on our international stature in Middle East affairs. The personal low point for me came when Karen Hughes flew to Jeddah and made her big splash telling women that democracy would allow them to drive cars. I wish she would have just taken Martha Stewart along and taught them to bake an American cake. It appears she read the Islam for Dummies brief on the flight over. What a waste of tax dollars. But her trip was also a reflecting pool of our stagnant foreign policy model which relied on Soviet-era analysts, when we desperately needed analysts with expertise on the Orientalist stage.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also tried her hand at international diplomacy when flying to Syria in violation of the Logan Act. She is someone who doesn’t know the difference between a siwaak and a bivouac, so I cannot credit her for accomplishing much more than Rick Warren on his “Kumbaya” tour of Damascus. He should have pondered the Hama massacre instead of posting and then pulling his ridiculous "we are the world" video. That junket also bombed. I support strong diplomacy. But not by the Karen, Nancy and Rick crowd. I support it being carried out by people who know about the history of the Middle East and how things are accomplished on the street. I support diplomacy recognizing the internal political fault lines within many of these nations which understands how misapplication of extrinsic pressure by novices can cause a hell of a stir. I support cultural intelligence. Anything less, is undeserving of their time too.
But back to our presidential contenders and their foreign policy vision; both are right and both are wrong in some respects. Yet I have to wonder if there is a cogent and balanced strategy.
You do not sit down without precondition. That seems to have been the original plan for Senator Obama. It is imperative to engage foreign policy with an understanding which extends beyond initial handshakes and preparatory remarks. And while the Obama team supports meeting with leaders of nations, friend and foe, it is important there be a cognizant process in place to deploy the alpha diplomatic team with the foe. Do we have such teams trained and in place? Treating a strident foe across the negotiation table as a friend is akin to allowing a child to play on top of a viper's nest. The foe must be treated with respect. Part of that respect comes with a skillful understanding of cultural issues and religio-political aspects of the opposing view. We have failed in that regard. But the deal with the foe also makes it abundantly clear that now is not the time for deployment of diplomatic cloaking devices on either side, but straight talk which does not flinch. The bead is on your forehead, buddy.
Senator Obama supports a diplomacy model which aggressively pursues the furthest reaches of hopelessness.
“To make diplomacy a priority, Obama will stop shuttering consulates and start opening them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world- particularly in Africa.”
I disagree. Maintaining consulate facilities in completely destabilized regions in which we have neither economic nor prevailing strategic interest is not worth our collective asses. Provide a cyber consulate with a page of information and downloads necessary to allow any local national a leg up in their quest to interact with our government. But the “hopeless corners of the world” should not be our primary emphasis. We cannot operate in an interventionalist mode on global scale, nor should we attempt to do so.
Non-negotiation is harmful policy. I think both sides understand how our foreign policy complacency since Tehran of 1979 has harmed us. But neither is it good policy to accept all offers to approach the negotiation table unless it is in our best interest. Surely we can do better in the future. Some of our diplomatic blundering about the globe must be curtailed so that a reinvigorated foreign policy will emerge which is both streamlined and ideologically robust. America needs a few good men.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The truck bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 brought tremendous carnage which included children in the death count. The terrorist bombings of the American embassy buildings at Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998 were the wake-up call to our nation.
Gone are the more genteel days when embassy facilities graced upscale neighborhoods where residential and stately homes coexisted within feet of an embassy. It is a thing of the past to see fur-clad and jeweled women strolling the sidewalk in front of an embassy after a cocktail party. Diplomats now make gut-wrenching choices as to whether it is prudent to allow their wives and children to travel with them. And in a day where reconfiguration of both space and staffing patterns is necessary, diplomatic duty is no longer the desirable option for some career State Department employees. Reduction in staff causes increased work loads for those serving the needs of our nation within the diplomati posts scattered across the globe.
Diplomatic staff now travel in convoy and it is “duck and cover” in many nations, when exiting the vehicle. When I was with the Navy in Africa our travel was in convoy with armed troops forward and aft of Fleet assets (us!). The American embassy had the look of an ugly utilitarian fortress from the street. The rules were tight. As the Navy Seals say, "I would tell you but then I would have to kill you." smile
With the blast at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad the awareness is slowly seeping into our collective psyche. We are entering a very dangerous century for U.S. interests abroad. So what is our government doing to upgrade physical features and reconfiguration of space to provide maximum protection for embassy employees? Many things are being taken into consideration, options which were not budgetary concerns twenty years ago. But it is a vast undertaking with each embassy receiving consideration based on the unique country demographic and possible threat condition level under which staff must function.
Easily noted are the barricades placed in front of government structures to keep things from occurring such as happened in Islamabad; albeit a lapse in security protocol appears to have allowed the fiasco at the Marriott to unfold. If you have seen the movie, “The Kingdom”, the blast hole from the ambulance comes to mind as a comparison to the pictures coming out of Islamabad. So think "upgrades" when examining such events in the news.
The current plan is to bring upgrades to diplomatic posts which are not slated for NEC’s (new embassy compounds) in the near future. But it will be 2014 before all 114 of these posts see project completion.
The work that Air Force R&D teams and others have done to provide improved blast resistant walls and windows will pay off in the long run. Force-resistant/blast resistant installation projects are currently underway at many of our embassies. Beyond the logistics of initial installation are the studies to determine the rapidity with which these features can be replaced if they do suffer structural blast damage. There is a need to narrow the window of vulnerability from damage to replacement. A serious undertaking is in progress to provide secure and attack resistant facilities for our embassy personnel.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Well, we can now safely say voters are paying attention. The next thing I wonder is if “the folks” are taking time to consider the depth of our struggle, and if they realize how complicit we are by both participating in a credit-first economy and enabling a free-spending government. It reminded me of a commentary I was (thankfully) allowed to post after the 2006 mid-term elections. This blog ran nearly two years ago, but it seems appropriate to revisit the topic. Please fight through references to Britney (she’s popular again, yeah!) , Kerry and hit-man Putin to get an idea how, even just two years ago, we had already been in hot water for decades.
..To your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess.- Deuteronomy 23:20
"And what you give in interest [riba in Arabic] that it may increase on (other) people's wealth, increases not with Allah (God)...(Koran 30:39)."
As I observed the news this week I became overwhelmed with disgust. Britney's panty-less trip to Vegas made multiple news cycles. An Australian woman and the Cannes film festival are both interested in human-horse relations. Arts and Entertainment Network wants me to wonder at each commercial break "What would happen if gays went on strike?". Vladimir Putin apparently found new radiation uses for a post-glasnost Russia, and Charlie Rangel reminded us that even an offensive John Kerry still is incapable of an independent thought. This is your post election nation everybody. Let's all start shopping!
If you're having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit, rejoice and spend. This year, the American economic machine sputters into the holiday selling season. Traditionally anti-Christian Target stores reversed course from last year and will actually ALLOW The Salvation Army to ring bells. Hallelujah. Wal-mart reported Thursday that November would see a decline in sales, the company's first since 1996. The CEO of Exxon Mobile is warning the new congressional majority not to eliminate tax incentives for the oil industry.
Dear God whatever you do, don't let someone give "Big Oil" a reason to crank gas up over $3.00 again. I tried hard to take a pro-business position as I read the article, and realized I have been brainwashed into thinking of "tax breaks" as unfair. Still, as a consumer I wonder just how much of MY MONEY does everyone else need? Is it ever really MINE in the first place? Forgetting for a moment on which side of the political debate table you sit, just who ISN'T stalking us for what little money we have or look forward to?
I am not an economist, but I'm also not the first person to complain that a prosperous United States of America cannot sustain growth and progress as a debtor nation. Those of us who wail at the spending and waste of our government might do well to check our own money trails. Women received just under 291,000 breast augmentations in 2005, at approximately $5,000 a pop. That's $2,500 per boob, and almost $1.5 billion. Don't be shocked yet. It's number three on the list of top 5 cosmetic procedures. How much of that chunk of change was cash? What part of Joe Six-pack's premiums gave Suzy a "Double D"? Uncompensated care at hospitals? No problem. Run a bond issue.
What's my point? I'm afraid we've drifted so far from a morally-grounded democratic republic that we may forever be chasing symptoms of problems rather than addressing their root causes. Like cattle we are being herded into a managed economy and a socialist future, though simultaneously we spend like democrats because credit cards and co-pays make it seem like we too have command of "Other People's Money".
Business and Government feud, but then so do Republicans and Democrats. Have you seen a third force succeed in either "fight"? Of course not, and that is by design. How are taxation and insurance different? How are they similar? Who pays both? Family is the building block of our nation, yet of all competing institutions it is the only one in decline. We are slaves and increasingly so by choice. Capitalism without mores has a short lifespan. We kicked ours to the curb several decades ago, but we're too busy swiping and typing our PIN# to care.
Check the writings of the founders. The way we live today would frighten them. It should. The Koran (I'm no scholar, just interested in our modern marvel of runaway credit) warned against banking practices 1,400 years ago that we now use widely. I'm not advocating adopting it as a guide, but group those principles with similar admonitions of the early Jews and Christians you will see that principled restraint is not owned by one faith. Without respect for faith-based principles we are left to the whims of a prideful species whose universe centers on the individual.
Is there a road back? As economic powers and other managed- economy juggernauts rise in our world how long will it be before a nation that has ceased to produce and barter within its own borders fall to ruin? It seems there is no man, group, or movement in power that is willing to forego the ill-gotten gains of forced tribute.
Why? Because the show must go on, and the economy is but a performance for the emperor and his court.
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.- Proverbs 22:7
The Koran and Interest: http://members.aol.com/silence004/interest.htm
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Colin Powell. Ted Kennedy. Patrick Leahy. Orrin Hatch. Daniel Inouye. These are names on the list of potential witnesses for the corruption trial of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, which begins today (Sept. 25). The 84-year-old Republican was indicted in July on seven felony counts of filing false financial disclosures. It seems Stevens may have been the highest ranking member of the "Corrupt Bastards Club", a group of politicians who received cash and favors from Bill Allen, then CEO of the oil services company VECO Corporation. Stevens's trail of received gifts goes back as far as 1999. In the summer of 2000, his Girdwood home was renovated, doubling its size. Although Stevens paid a local construction company for some of the work, VECO was not reimbursed for the design, materials and labor it supplied, totaling more than $200,000.
This profitable relationship continued through 2006, at which time "things of value" exceeded a quarter of a million dollars, including gifts of furniture and tools, a Viking grill, a $29K sculpture, and a lucrative swap for Allen's new Land Rover. The two men co-owned a racehorse. (There is some unrelated fuzzy math regarding Stevens's Florida condo, as well.) As you can imagine, this was a two-way street, a "you scratch my back" partnership. There are allegations that Allen had a direct line to Stevens's D.C. office, and would often call him and ask for governmental favors, including support for pushing through an AK natural gas pipeline, approval of federal grants, and assistance for projects in Pakistan and Russia.
When the whip came down, Bill Allen pleaded guilty to extortion, bribery, and conspiracy to impede the IRS. Part of the bargain was that his son Mark Allen, a VECO director, and other family members would not face criminal charges. He has since cooperated and testified in other corruption trials, those of state officials who were the recipients of his generosity. And while protecting his own family, he and VECO VP Rick Smith have testified to bribing Ted's son Ben Stevens, former state senator and lobbyist. According to federal prosecutors, Ben's payoffs were somewhere in the neighborhood of $243,000. Ben is still under investigation, so that will be a topic for another day. In total, there are 10 politicians who have been named in connection with corruption charges involving Allen. We all know that the oil business is oily. Any product that is in such high demand is likely to garner a few under the table rewards. I can accept the fact that politicians sometimes get perks, but they shouldn't be extremely extravagant and they should be disclosed in full.
Bill Allen is expected to be the prosecution's "star witness" in Ted Stevens's upcoming trial, a trial which Stevens had hoped would be moved to an Alaskan venue. His reasoning was that he is up for re-election this year (against a qualified opponent, Democrat Mark Begich). While Stevens has permission to be absent for part of his trial, when taking care of Senate business, he will not be able to attend meetings and debates in Alaska in the political race of his life. Stevens is hoping to celebrate his 40th year in the Senate this December. Don't get me wrong; Ted Stevens has done a hell of a lot for our state -- check his campaign website for 44 pages of "accomplishments". However, I believe when a public servant is found to have dirty hands, maybe it's time that his tenure is over. There is doubt in my mind about what else he might have been involved in. The Stevens investigation marks the first time that FBI and IRS agents have raided a sitting senator's home. That's a heavy undertaking. Stevens is the 11th senator to be indicted, out of 1,187. The last was Kay Bailey Hutchinson in 1993.
The jury of "peers" that were chosen on Monday and Tuesday were not Stevens's cronies, not his supporters, and some admitted to not even knowing who he is. Of the 12 jurors and 4 alternates, 11 are women and 12 are African-Americans. (Blacks make up less than 4% of our population. Shocking, isn't it, Sean Combs?) The jury pool was taken from a mostly Democrat area. Now, all of this shouldn't matter. If justice prevails, it won't. I hope that both sides stick to the facts and present their cases in a professional manner. There is a chance that Stevens will testify on his own behalf. I'm not sure that is the best choice for his defense. While he warrants respect from the Senate, as the most senior member, I think his chances of channeling "The Hulk" are too great. Stuttering Stevens has a bad temper when challenged. He holds grudges. I think he might be oily enough to successfully demand a mistrial. Win or lose, I wish him a happy retirement in his renovated Girdwood home. I might even send a fruit basket.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Since the Mother of all bailouts is still has not yet drawn its first breath, now seems the perfect time to discuss it. After all, the Great Panjandrums of Finance are telling us “This is a terrible mess. We are the only ones who know enough to fix it. No, we are not going to tell you how, when or why we are going to fix, but trust us (as if you had a choice), everything will work out fine.”
We probably shouldn’t ask, “Fine for whom?” The answer would only upset us, and there is nothing we could do about it even if we knew.
All that is pure poppycock. We got into the financial situation we are in for two very simple reasons. First, someone appointed and other people confirmed, regulators who don’t believe in regulation. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, and even Adam Smith didn’t believe that markets would regulate themselves without someone keeping an eye on them, regulators from Greenspan to Cox did not, and do not, believe in regulation.
The other thing that went wrong was that bankers found themselves replaced by alchemists who thought they could use advanced mathematics to convert garbage into gold.
Finance became a game in which one group attempted to create the worst deals the world has every seen—liar loans in which nobody cared if the borrower had any hope in the world of being able to repay the loan. This is because historical data showed that only a small fraction of home owners ever defaulted on their mortgages. This was the same thinking that led Michael Milken to his disaster. Early on in his career, Milken discovered that very few corporate bonds were defaulted. Therefore, in an incredibly leap to lunacy, Milken decided that the quality of the deal did not matter and we had the junk bond bubble. The mortgage originators and a second group used those mortgages in a game of hot potato.
Was there ever a system in which nothing was left to chance? Every detail was carefully wrought to guarantee complete failure. People get paid as a percentage of the amounts of money they obligate from investors. The more mortgages they make, the more they get paid. Since no one expected the housing boom to go on for ever, no one cared if the mortgage origination firm stayed in business. The “investors” didn’t care about the quality of the loans since they were not in the business for the long term either. All they wanted to do was get as many mortgages as they could, package them in bundles and sell the bundles on up the line. The investment banks who bought these loans, broke them apart and created a variety of other products. By this time, nobody had the slightest idea of just how likely it was that the homeowner would be able to pay his mortgage in a regular manner. Didn’t matter, because, the investment bank had hedged those instruments with credit default swaps, which are basically a bet that the mortgages will be paid. AIG took a lot of those bets thinking that they were still in the insurance business, which they weren’t. All these papers were sold on and on and on, until nobody knows who is counterparty to what. What makes all this so bad is that the investment banks borrowed money to buy the bundles of mortgages, and the hedge funds borrowed money to pay for the products the mortgages became (things like collateralized debt obligations, structured investment vehicles, credit default swaps, etc, etc., etc.) Somehow they were allowed to borrow 35 times what they had under the theory that what they bought with that borrowed money was worth what they paid for it.
Other organizations allowed themselves to believe that through the magic of modern mathematics these investments were both very safe and very high yield bought them. They included money market mutual funds, municipal governments, sovereign investment funds, well heeled individuals, etc.
Then, when the underlying assumption that very few people defaulted on their home loans fell apart, the whole structure began to crumble.
But, there is another shoe to drop. The brilliant minds that gave us the housing bubble have also securitized credit card debt, which is the same process, only using credit card debt instead of mortgages. This could be even more fun since credit card debt is unsecured. There are no underlying assets to seize if payments aren’t made. But, don’t worry, somebody will bail out the companies that caused all the trouble.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Little Ms. Nadra shoots the finger at Granbury, Texas
Jerry Falwell Delivers a Psychological Tap
Monday, September 22, 2008
While God does not muster the armies or lead into battle, He does move among the ranks. Military leadership recognition that a strengthened faith can produce higher morale and optimism for the hardships of war has allowed for the evolution of outstanding Chaplaincy Corps within the branches of service.
I always detested the rather indecisive and emasculated depiction of the chaplain, "Father Mulcahy", in the television series “Mash”. So to debunk the myth, let’s travel back to World War II and see how Navy Chaplains entered and endured the heat of the battle without being allowed to carry a sidearm but merely armored with their own indomitable faith.
The Japanese struck Pearl Harbor at 0755 on the morning of 7 December 1941. In a barrage that lasted until 0945, two Navy chaplains lost their lives. As wave after wave of aircraft moved in from the northern sky, a bomb dropped directly into one of the stacks of the Arizona brought instant death to many sailors with the ensuing explosion and fireball. Chaplain Tom Kirkpatrick was one of the crew members killed. Chaplain A. H. Schmitt was on the Oklahoma when it was struck on the port side. This was his first tour of duty at sea with the Navy and he was taken down to watery death. Prior to going down with his ship, he assisted several sailors to the topside from within the compartment where he and other men then became trapped by rising water levels.
Within three months two additional Navy Chaplains faced death on March 1, 1942. Chaplain John McGarrity and Chaplain George Rentz gave their lives for our nation but it was Chaplain Rentz who received the Navy Cross for his heroism. The Asiatic Fleet had fought the enemy in the Battle of the Java Sea and was attempting to escape through the Sunda Strait when they had to engage a running battle with the enemy. The HMS Perth was quickly sunk, followed by the Houston, to which Chaplain Rentz was attached. Finding his way to a pontoon he boarded and discover it was carrying approximately double the allotted number. He also saw men in the water struggling to survive with battle wounds or without life jackets. Slipping back into the water he offered his life jacket to a young sailor, proclaiming he had lived his life and wanted the young man to experience all that life had yet to offer him. He was 59 years old. He swam away and later disappeared under the waves. Chaplain McGarrity was attached to the Langley when it took on torpedo damage and also sank. He was seen for a brief time in the water offering comfort to the dying. He was never noted among the survivors from the battle.
Of the five Navy Chaplains taken prisoner by the Japanese, three did not survive captivity. Chaplains David Quinn, Francis McManus and Herbert Trump died while P.O.W's . The remaining two, Davis and Brewster managed to survive. Chaplain James Davis was taken prisoner on Guam. The island fell without much of a fight and what the Japanese inflicted large-scale on the civilian population of the island makes my stomach turn to this day. Chaplain Earl Ray Brewster was taken prisoner in Manila. Accounts of his work among the men shows a man of unusual strength and character. While the book, “We Band of Angels” tells of the plight of Navy nurses in captivity right down to the tale of the eating of the guinea pig in the lab, what the Chaplains dealt with while in captivity was much more tragic. Chaplain Brewster was moved from Manila to Cabanatuan where a full quarter of the prison population died within a four month period. The ranks were decimated from 8,000 down to 2,000 from deaths by malnutrition, malaria, beri-beri, etc. Chaplain Brewster would visit the dying in “Zero Ward” and then move to the morgue where he would perform anywhere from 10-40 burials a day. The corpses were then taken to an area where they were likely as not, devoured by packs of wild dogs. His eyes saw many sights which show the breadth of inhumanity which can shadow war. But it was his unswerving faith and lack of bitterness which calmed the men falling under his care.
The Catholic Chaplains did find unusual means of providing “wine” for the Mass. In one camp, raisins and prunes from the Red Cross were fermented to make the wine. Not a vintage wine, of course, but perhaps a good table wine? smile Another ingenious Chaplain mixed the grape jelly with water in his canteen and dispensed it to his men.
Saturday night my spouse and I attended the Army Presidential Flight Detachment Reunion Dinner. Chaplain Mike Hogg, USN was present and certainly exemplifies what the Chaplain Corps has to offer: professionalism and devotion to duty.
Navy chaplains are non-combatants who are not allowed to holster a weapon. Yet they are expected to serve alongside the men engaging the battle. But the ranks seek to protect them just as they would protect the Navy corpsman, or “Doc”. The Chaplaincy Corps retains strong traditions from the early days of the United States Navy. These officers are available and attempt to bring both comfort and answers to the questions of men which are drawn from the furnace of war.
CDR George S. Rentz
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The cemetery lies on the side of a gentle slope. It presents a quiet aspect in the yellow sunlight, with smooth unbroken green lawn spreading restfully before one’s gaze. There are no memorial stones; only circular markers flush with the turf, each bearing an identifying number.
In the coffins underneath rest the men who once answered muster aboard proud ships, the U. S. S. Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Utah. At the head of the cemetery, from the tall flagpole, our country’s ensign rides the breeze that blows across the hills. It is continual guardian of their memory; it is constant reminder of their sacrifice.
. . . . .
Visualize, then, this quiet sanctuary. At the time of a burial the flag flies at half mast; its fitful shadow is a sable banner of mourning across the green. Along two sides of a hollow square are drawn the straight lines of sailors who compose the military guard of honor.
They represent, as it were, the shipmates of the unknown dead. More than that, they are the symbol of all America gathered at the grave of an American youth who died for us all. The firing squad is on the third side of the square. On the fourth side stand three chaplains, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. America does not know which faith her unknown son professed. America does not presume to say that any one faith shall speak for him. The departed sailor might be any American, and the right of freedom of worship which was his in life is scrupulously safeguarded for him in death.
The Protestant chaplain reads his service of committal, reciting the words familiar to his faith. He concludes and after a moment, the Catholic chaplain intones the Latin and the English of the service of his church. Then the Jewish chaplain (this happens to be I) conducts the service according to Jewish tradition. The words of the Kaddish sound the solemn conclusion.
Protestant chaplain and Catholic chaplain and Jewish chaplain step aside. The order rings out crisply; and the hills fling back the echoes of the volleys of the firing squad. The bugler steps forward, gravely salutes and the sadly beautiful notes of Taps float heavenward.
America has buried one of her unidentified sons, buried him after the American way, respecting his integrity, acknowledging even in death his right to be what he wanted to be. In a distant hillside cemetery, this service of fellowship and faith takes place. Death binds us all in a closely knit brotherhood. The God of the universe hears the prayers of us all.
Chaplain Jacob Rudin
Saturday, September 20, 2008
There have been occasional rants against the Air Force Chaplaincy Corps claiming excessive attempts to "proselyte" cadets at the Air Force Academy. A few years ago I remember reading a biased article in a major newspaper claiming that the Corps was too enthusiastic about their job. It does seem an illogical argument. We would never hire a mechanic and then accuse him in derogatory manner when he repairs or adjusts something under the hood of our vehicle. So why the accusation against a Chaplain for performing the job for which he received an appointment for his specific task in the military?
Tomorrow you will read of a funeral service for a sailor at Pearl Harbor. This will put a scaffolding into place to read the Monday blog on the Navy Chaplaincy service with a look back at World War II.
Later in the week, let me surprise you with a blog which flips the coin and reminds you of the right you do not retain, no matter what your religious stripe. You will see the title "Swofford Unleashed". If you have read for several years now you will recognize the title as one reserved for "special topics".
Let's also take a look at U.S. embassies, in light of the attack on the embassy in Yemen. Not sure what the remainder of the team has up their sleeves, but I always look forward to the health that is brought to the page when others bring their thoughts to bear.
See you tomorrow!
Friday, September 19, 2008
The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
“We have moved past the sterile debate between those who say government is the enemy and those who say government is the answer,”..."My fellow Americans, we have found a third way.”
Bill Clinton (State of the Union Address, 1998)
If you thought George H.W. Bush’ “New World Order” sounded creepy, wait until you read about “The Third Way”.
Look at our financial landscape. Consider the headlines of the day. You see bailouts of lenders and businesses that were prodded, encouraged and cajoled into risky practices. Ask yourself if the labyrinth of tax incentives, credits, penalties, loopholes and statutes designed to control and influence societal behavior matches the United States of America you want. Why is our tax code so complex? Why can't we simplify it? The answer is because you will not behave as you are expected if “they” do. From the tax code to government activity and corporate development, we are being herded to follow and support the combined wishes and goals of a centrally-managed, globally-homogenous economic model.
What you are seeing (and paying) are the invoices coming due to the taxpayer for more than a decade of collusion.
The Third Way movement is global. It is the progressive’s answer to Reagan and Thatcher’s successes. The movement runs the halls of the United Nations and is embraced by the countries and "big names" of the world: Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and more. Third Way describes itself, like Clinton, in ambiguous and non-threatening terms, yet it stands to create havoc on present lives and our future prosperity.
In 1980 left wing professor Bertram Gross told of a “kinder and gentler” tyranny, which he would later regret having supported, in his book Friendly Fascism. He predicted that the citizenry would not have much difficulty accepting the new order. Though they would have fewer rights, there would be many more sources of pleasure, entertainment and certainly more toys. Any detractors would be dealt with through social pressures, blacklisting and discrediting. There would be no need to jail or kill them. The rare violent necessity would be discreet. “One can look forward to improved capabilities … for the use of … induced heart failure … induced suicide … and `accidental’ automobile fatalities,” wrote Gross. (Do any of those unfortunate ends bring back memories?)
How is it that mankind ignores the warnings offered to us throughout history? Are we doomed to repeat it? Why did we not smell the stench of socialism masquerading as the harmless “Third Way Economics”? Bill and Hillary may have popularized it, as early as 1992, as leaders in the Democratic Leadership Council but you didn’t hear or read them explaining it in detail. Perhaps they knew they needed time to turn the heat up on the pot gradually.
There can be no excuse for turning our heads if we knew, and we did. History warned us.
Adolf Hitler once proclaimed “National Socialist Germany has created a new economic doctrine, which views … the economy as the servant of the people.” Hitler ran the economy from government hands, though he left ownership with private industry. Goals were set nationally and economic policy was centralized.
In the first chapter of Japan: The System that Soured, by Richard Katz, the author asks the question “What happened to the Japanese Juggernaut?” We were certain that at some point we would either be incinerated by the Russians and/or owned by the Japanese. At one point they were the second largest economy in the world. Who today knows, or cares, that the entire system was built on a private ownership/ government management model?
Mark Thornton chronicled the Japanese Bubble Economy at LewRockwell.com in May of 2004. He points out that Japan’s “bubble” and ours are separated basically by a decade. Embedded within the lesson itself should be that government control inherently promotes inefficiency. Why were we not paying attention?
From the very infancy of this nation, an experiment unrivaled in the history of mankind, the battle has been waged. From the founding documents’ debates to the most recent drop of a Congressional gavel, government has sought to overcome the shackles placed upon it by our founders. Hidden somewhere beneath sex scandal headlines and the search for a legacy, a global movement cheered its new American champion.
The Democratic Leadership Council, beginning with Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, proudly advanced and promoted, for the American future, a modern evolution of progressive governance. It is the new embodiment of socialist activism. Threatened by the success of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and fearing the dustbin of history, the world’s statists did what only a dying evil can do: they reinvented themselves, and socialism, as "the dynamic center". Republicans, after 1994, seemed more than happy to slide on in.
We knew with conviction, once, that our government MUST be limited in scope.
Incrementally, government has grown and it has learned. And it has partners.
You can't be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.
I believe totally in a Capitalist System, I only wish that someone would try it.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Thursday, September 18, 2008
How did they manage to create such a cluster? The Lehman Brothers are supposed to be financial experts. They have sixty billion dollars in soured real estate deals on the deck. Granted, after Bear Stearns collapsed earlier this year, it was only a matter of time until other financial giants took a hit. A Tulip by any other name....
These subversive talent operatives are in a class all by themselves. Did you note the pictures of some of the underlings leaving the Lehman building on Monday with cardboard boxes of personal items swept up off their desks in the wake of the bankruptcy announcement? We can only hope that the CEO, CFO, highly over-rated "Ivy Legionites" and their spawn are also boxing up their family photos and desktop gadgets. These financial devils need to be cast into the pigs and run off the cliff just like in Jesus' day. Amen.
We can wishfully speculate that homes are sold on Martha's Vineyard, winter retreats in Vail are put on the market and the yacht is placed on eBay. Sadly, it won't happen for many of them. They will keep their luxurious lifestyles while people in Ohio and the Rust Belt make their kids wear pinchy-toe shoes to school because they can't afford a new pair.
The subversion of corporate talent is the new American plague. Enron made us shudder but it obviously did not cause enough fear for the irresponsible risk seekers. Arrogant! These guys are just damn arrogant! The phrase "financially amoral" also comes to mind. They knew exactly what they were doing and while it would be nice to just proclaim them criminally insane, such is not the case.
Some would clamor for a government bail out. Personally, I want these people to suffer the full legal ramifications which are deserved. If nothing else we need to spit on their graves when they die. Their financial mojo is going to hurt many Americans in a significant manner over the next few years.
A bail out is a shell game which will merely prolong a recession. And whose money do you propose using to bail the Lehman Brothers? Don't look at me. Medically, this whole thing would be like debulking a tumor. Let's just irradiate the thing and be done with it. The "tumor" is the parasitic financial strategies which have allowed this mess.
The regulation we are lacking is the basic regulatory response which is uniquely gifted within the human species. It is called "conscience". Surely there was a mild prick of conscience on this road to perdition? But then again, my guess is the greed would have allowed a few to continue to Ponzi along for a few more months. May the full weight of calamity overtake their individual lives for the crap that we must now scrape off our collective shoe.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Sarah Palin has caught all kinds of flak about being a pro-gun politician as well as a hunter. I don’t hunt. Its too early to get up and too cold, so I don’t do it. Also, I don’t like deer meat and I refuse to kill anything I won’t eat. However, the right to do so is ingrained in our Constitution. Argue all you want, but the fourth amendment is powerful.
The Supreme Court has now ruled, in the case of Washington, DC, that the framers of the Constitution were not limiting the right to bear arms to the military, but rather extending the right to the people. If you read The Federalist Papers, nothing was done without great debate and we have no reason to believe this was an accident. The vagueness of the fourth amendment of the bill of rights was likely a negotiated statement. Regardless, the dynamics of our society have now changed. It doesn't matter what a politician wants, you have a right to bear arms.
In Texas, that right has been extended to when you are in a car. As of last year you may carry a gun in your automobile without the police tossing you in the hoosegow for illegal weaponry. The new law clarified a long standing law regarding traveling with a gun. You do not need a Concealed Handgun License in order to carry a gun in your car. Of course, outside your car you still need it. Other states are more restrictive in this issue, including Washington, DC (not really a state, but it fits here), which said that you could not own a gun at all. New York does not like the idea of anyone carrying a gun anywhere, but apparently allows owners to keep one in their home.
There is a difference between a hunter and a self-defense weapon, even though I suppose that I could go on about how a rifle will kill just as dead. Handguns are an emotional issue for some. Their only purpose, according to the liberals, is to kill someone. In my house, their only purpose is to kill someone who is trying to do harm to my wife or daughter. I believe in the right of self defense and expect to be able to defend myself with something other than a rolling pin if some hood decides to enter my home uninvited. Certainly, responsible gun ownership is mandatory. You need to keep it clean so that it will work if you need it. And you don’t kill someone that didn’t need killing. In Texas, the definition of that is “shoot to stop”. We aren’t allowed to shoot to kill. However, if it is still wiggling, you may not have stopped it completely. It is next to impossible to get a conviction against someone you shot who entered your home illegally.
As far as the right to carry a concealed weapon, hurray! Texas passed the CHL law in the 90’s after the Luby’s incident, where George Hennard drove through the wall of a Luby’s and killed numerous people before shooting himself. A colleague of mine, Dr. Susanna Hupp, was at that café with her parents and watched them both die. She became so enraged that she could not carry her gun that she ran for and won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. She led the charge for CHL and was successful. In Texas, with appropriate training, you can now carry a firearm if it is concealed. Police generally like this law. They know when you hand them the CHL that you have been vetted. Little known fact: In Texas, the standards are higher for the CHL than for a police officer. You cannot get a CHL with a class B misdemeanor but you CAN be a police officer with the same offense. It is in the best interest of the citizenry to be well armed. The bad guys have guns and it is only right that the good guys are afforded the same opportunity.
Dr. Suzanna Hupp
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
President Hugo Chavez will certainly not be the last to offer up a goodbye kiss to President George W. Bush. What Mr. Chavez did last week is a classic display of a weakened political arm on the domestic front which seeks to flex an atrophic muscle on the international front. In giving the American Ambassador 72 hours to vacate his post and return to Washington none of this is news. Stating his solidarity with the Bolivian president against an American tyrant, not much is believable when it comes from the mouthy and witless Chavez. His intelligence service must not be that great, because Ambassador Patrick Duddy just happened to already be in the U.S. when Chavez made his big announcement. The political pulse had already been felt by our State Department.
Bolivia had expelled their American Ambassador a couple days prior to the announcement by Chavez. Poverty-stricken Honduras now raises a palsied hand to the “solidarity” by delaying the credentialing of their incoming U.S. Ambassador. Daniel Ortega is a bit older and wiser with his second non-sequential and surprising presidency in Nicaragua. This leader is remaining neutral and is not as stridently Marxist as during his first term. Most likely he hopes to receive a bit of future economic thoughtfulness from our U.S. Congress for being a holdout against anti-American sentiment in the region.
Chavez must be an avid viewer of Pat Robertson, who called for his assassination in August of 2005. Depending on the day of the week, a coup against Chavez, or for that matter, his assassination, is always on the horizon. Santa Maria, Madre de Dios! Vaguely defined forces within his national borders seem to always be aligned with U.S. intelligence.
He displayed the usual paranoia attending the inauguration of Guatemala’s new president Alvaro Colom in January. He was unwilling to submit a flight manifest for arrival in Guatemala claiming an American plot in motion to kill him. He would do well to read former President Gerald Ford’s executive order 11905, issued in 1976. It reads, “No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” Did I mention that I consider President Ford to have been a very decent sort of guy?
President Chavez does not vary much from the strategic board and his latest attempt at grandstanding is straight from the playbook. In February of 2006 he expelled Navy attache’ John Correa with an accusation of.... spying. My guess is he will ban Google map next. While President Chavez has worked hard in recent years to establish greater economic and military ties with North Korea and Iran, this latest event will merely be one of several “goodbye kisses” for President Bush as he winds down eight years as our Commander in Chief. The gamble for the opponent is less risky when one president is vacating and another entering the Oval Office.
The one goodbye kiss we hope not to see is an orchestrated multi-platform terror attack on our nation. Should it happen I predict smaller scale, but seeking out coastal assets and soft targets within high density urban areas.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Palin arrived in Fairbanks on Wednesday evening and held a rally at the Carlson Sports Center. The following day, September 11, she addressed a crowd on Fort Wainwright. Her eldest son Track was then deployed with his Stryker Brigade, likely to Diyala, Iraq. This was his first anniversary of enlistment. Other military families may have gone home to recover from the emotional stress of sending a loved one into harm's way. Instead of going into seclusion with her family, which would have been understandable, Palin sat down afterwards with Charlie Gibson for her first interview. (As an aside, I'm just wondering: Could you or your friends, Tom Gordon excluded, have answered the "Bush Doctrine" question? I admit to employing an online search engine.) Palin and family flew into Anchorage that evening. The Governor had the next day to reunite with her family and friends. In an interview, her father Chuck said he had no idea until the news broke nationally that his daughter was chosen by McCain. I'm guessing there were bear hugs and tears, all around. When running for office, there is no such thing as a "day off". Framed by the magnificent view of Lake Lucille, and Coast Guard RHIBs, Palin was again put under Gibson's microscope. I'm sure Palin and her family were thankful to sleep a couple of nights in their own beds.
On Saturday, I drove to downtown Anchorage's new Den'aina (this region's Native peoples) Civic Center, for Palin's hometown rally. I was in line near a family whose older son has served in Iraq, and whose younger son is hoping to follow in his footsteps. There was talk about Gibson's harsh treatment of Palin, and concern about what it would mean to both soldier sons, if Obama is elected. When the doors opened, we were screened through metal detectors by the USFPS Police. Campaign materials were on sale in the lobby. I found a place to stand, then realized I was behind a guy with a huge "pit bull" sign, which he was not shy about raising, so I moved. I found a spot behind a Sourdough (long-time Alaskan) couple, he wore a drilling company jacket and Red Dog Mine suspenders, and she wore an impressively-embroidered jacket with an outdoor Alaska scene. The Wasilla High School band played the same songs you've heard at your kid's games. The Palin family came in, shook hands with the crowd, and Chuck signed autographs. Willow held Trig, Piper played pat-a-cake with her cousin. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell introduced Palin. If you access her speech online, you might miss a couple of inside jokes. Palin knew her audience, and spoke to us as an extraordinary neighbor. When signing autographs afterward, she and husband Todd spoke personally to friends in the audience, including the couple in front of me. The Palins are the down-to-earth people you see portrayed. That's genuine.
As you might have noticed in the Gibson interview, the leaves are changing color in our fair state. The times are also a-changing. With the focus on reform and transparent government during Palin's term, there is less enthusiasm for the good ole boys' way of running our state. One by one, the Corrupt Bastards Club have been seeing their days in court. Thank you, FBI. Although there are hold-outs who don't want to see our state lose its seniority in the Senate and House, I think most people are ready for a change.
*Senator Ted Stevens, under indictment, won the primary, but will face a tough competitor in Anchorage's current mayor, Mark Begich. I hate to say I'm voting for a Democrat, but there's no way I'd vote for Stevens. I've met Begich, and believe him to be a good choice.
*House Rep. Don Young ran against Lt. Gov. Parnell in the primary. They're still tallying the votes. The winner will face Ethan Berkowitz, a former State House Rep. If I can't vote for Parnell ... well, I think you can guess which box I'll check.
Let's say Palin and Parnell both move to D.C. That leaves our Governor and Lieutenant Governor positions open. Hmmm... Who did I see at the rally on Saturday? Former Lt. Governor, under Frank Murkowski, Loren Leman. And who was there, applauding along with all of us and chanting "Sarah! Sarah!"? State Republican Party Chairman, Randy Ruedrich, the past Oil & Gas Commissioner who was the subject of Palin's ethics complaints. Ruedrich submitted his "Welcome Home" rally poster for Governor Palin to sign with her well-worn Sharpie. As I said, the times are a-changing. I hope for the better.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
As we quickly move toward the November elections I am picking up on a trend by what is coming into my email. It appears there are quite a few blogs which need to be placed in a category of "Latrine Cleaners". These are the bloggers who are short on fact, long on opinion and fat with bias. But they do love scraping loose every little smidgeon of unsubstantiated factoid crap from their limited tank of ideas. Somehow, this is making its way to my mailbox. Please feel free to cease and desist. smile
No, I don't care whether Obama puts lipstick on an unnamed pig which is really Palin or if McCain is "computer illiterate". I kind of doubt that is the case. It matters not if two dozen YouTube hit my mail a day with things which look like they were filmed in a political Twilight Zone. The other day I received just one too many "testimonials" from various citizens in Wasilla who want Americans to know about Sarah's beautiful soul. Pass the Alka-Seltzer.....
In coming weeks I will be tightening up the blog team with guidance regarding my expectations for each member. I think we do a pretty good job already, but a few tweaks should make the team stronger. We will continue to express our personalities in our blogs and the comments section and that is where we hope that you will join us from day to day. But as for the daily blog, do not expect to see Latrine Cleaners at this site. We will bring you news, views and synopsis. Other sites can provide you a daily dose of journalistic e coli. It is our hope that you will benefit from what you read and we never want to waste your time.
On the home front, I have been in contact with a man from Pakistan. He states that in recent months he has seen signs of starvation in the villages. Stating that he does not quite know how to verbalize what he sees, the emotional distress is apparent. My interface with him was due to my love for women's health issues.
On Wednesday I mailed a check for distribution to seven Muslim widows with children. The money will find its way to a village where food is cooked over cow dung and the scenery is distinctly agrarian. This is Ramadan season. Maybe the children will receive a nice piece of fruit pressed into the palm of their hand, or locate the surprising inclusion of meat in the communal food bowl of rice. At the current rate of exchange with the dollar, each woman will soon receive approximately 1,000 rupees to spend in discretionary manner. I want the widows receiving the gift to know that a woman in America loves them.
Yesterday I purchased groceries for an American family. Our son has a classmate who lives in a single family dwelling with a single mother, two siblings, grandfather, and a couple of other "down on their luck" strays. They can no longer afford the rent and are moving to an apartment. This teenage boy told our son, "We don't have hardly anything to eat, but please don't tell anyone". When I delivered the groceries the family was embarrassed. I asked them to receive it as a gift from someone who has been on the receiving end of kindness in my own life. Love is such a nice ribbon to place around a physical gift.
As of now, until the end of next week my email will be open to the blog team and "the rest of you" get to read the auto-reply over and over again. smile I need to move into some intensive research. Blackfoot will take the helm Monday. You will see me back on the blog starting Tuesday. Thank you for reading this week.
Friday, September 12, 2008
"The focus of my work as a domestic mediator is meeting the needs of the children that I work with…and not the wants of their parents. And I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it?"
- “ponytailed social worker” Denton Walthall: to candidates Clinton, Bush and Perot
"To you who strive in a spirit of brotherhood for the betterment of our Nation, to you who gird yourselves for this great new fight in the never-ending warfare for the good of humankind, I say in closing.…We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord!"
- Teddy Roosevelt: To the Progressive Party Convention, 1912.
In the coming days the McCain/Palin ticket will show us whether the momentum gained by a seemingly brilliant nomination is warranted.
In his acceptance speech, and in his nomination of Sarah Palin, John McCain has displayed a humility that belies the brash McCain of old. Perhaps it is merely the desire to win, and then perhaps it is the wisdom of years and the wounds of having attempted to railroad the public on immigration. Indeed, John McCain struck a humble tone in the wake of his battle to enact “comprehensive” immigration reform that many simply refer to as amnesty.
To further illustrate the “new” John McCain consider again his admonition, to 38 million viewers, that Republicans were elected to “change” Washington and instead were “changed by” Washington. He is, of course, correct. Whatever the reason, the McCain/Palin team stands to win BIG should they embrace the “basics” of conservatism.
In “The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power”, Gene Healy takes on both political parties for allowing the executive branch of the Federal Government to become much more than it was ever intended. It would seem to me that the “maverick” of the Senate, teamed with a reform-minded Governor could do a lot to erase the concerns of the public by building a coalition of legislators who also seek a return to Constitutionally-supported roles. We have a guide. Now, given the percentage of liberals recently polled who disagree that justices should consider the Constitution in rulings, I accept that this is a tall challenge.
I recently saw Chuck Norris on Hannity and Colmes, promoting his new book “Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America". Though he and the [liberal] host became entangled in an embarrassingly confused discussion of national debt, Mr. Norris sparked my interest enough to get me to pull up “The Northwest Ordinance”. In addition to setting out the framework for a territorial system, the ordinance banned slavery beyond the Ohio River. Mr. Norris accurately and honestly blamed both parties for the state of the economy and the government’s uncontrollable spending.
So why the focus on Norris and Healy? Because in each case the authors champion a cause greater than self interest, which has been a visible catch-phrase in the campaign of John McCain. I have seen conflicting personas when evaluating Mr. McCain, though with the Palin pick he either has learned a great deal or wishes to be the next Murkowski.
There can be no going back. Voters are extremely smart, despite democratic reports otherwise. There is a perceived dichotomy with McCain personally. He is either the reformed reformer and Reagan foot soldier he claims to be, or he is a bull-moose progressive using Palin to get elected.
For his sake, I hope it is the former.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
What is a WalMart Republican? The term was coined by political statistician Charlie Cook, publisher of the Cook Report, to describe generally lower income voters who shop at WalMart and vote Republican. Given WalMart’s richly deserved reputation for employee abuse, why would these people ever shop at WalMart? Their willingness, nay, eagerness to support people who wish them harm is what makes them Republicans.
George W. Bush cheerfully saw 5.4 million good paying American manufacturing jobs move overseas on his watch. He also presided over the largest influx of illegal workers in history, which is why, in 2006, median income in non-elderly households was $2,375 lower than it was six years earlier, adjusted for inflation. Yet, the WalMart Republicans support the candidate whose programs can only produce more of the same.
To give you an idea of how WalMart treats its employees, I will cite several examples from Steven Greenhouse’s “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker.”
Mike Mitchell worked security for a WalMart store in Texas. He was good at his job, catching 180 shoplifters in two years. One day, in pursuit of a hot check artist, he was hit by her fleeing car. He suffered a broken kneecap, a badly torn shoulder, and two herniated disks, but was back at work the next day. Later, when he told his supervisor that he needed surgery for his knee, he was fired, apparently to keep workers’ comp costs down.
The Sams Club in Panama City, FL, locked the night stockers in overnight. They were told they would be fired if they used the fire doors to get out. If a worker was taken sick or hurt, the store managers refused to get out of their Barca Loungers at home and drive to the store to open up. People might be puking blood at the store, but the managers stayed glued to American Idol, or whatever a WalMart manager does on his time off.
When serious child labor law violations were discovered at dozens of WalMart stores, officials of the Bush administration’s Labor Department wasted no time. They signed a secret agreement with WalMart under which the government agree to give the Bentonville Leviathan at least 15 days’ notice before federal inspectors appeared at a WalMart Store. That’s right, the Bush administration agreed to give the crooks 15 days’ notice before trying to bust them.
When WalMart broke into California, it forced Albertson’s Safeway and Ralph’s, the three largest grocery stores in the state to cut wages and benefits after a four month strike. The stores argued they could not compete if they had to pay cashiers an average of $17.90 an hour while WalMart was only paying $8.50.
It is this WalMart effect that explains why 20% of families in America with children under 6 live below the poverty level. Some 33 million people, almost 25% of the workforce, earn less than $10 an hour. Some 50 million people in this country live in “near poor” households, an annual income between $20,000 and $40,000. Three quarters of low-wage workers do not receive paid sick days.
At the same time (2001-2006) corporate profits have increased by 13% per year, and we all know what corporate executive salaries have been climbing to the stratosphere. For instance, the appropriately named and disgraced Daniel H Mudd is walking away from the mess he created at Fannie Mae with $9.3 million in severance pay, retirement benefits and deferred compensation. Richard F. Syron leaves Freddie Mac with an additional $14.1 million, while the American taxpayer is staring at the possibility of a $100 billion bill for cleaning up their messes, possibly more. Outrageous as those parachutes are, they are peanuts compared with the fifty-two million Franklin D. Raines took home when he left the shambles of Fannie Mae in 2004. Raines did have to give back several million dollars when it became known that Fannie Mae had inflated (i.e., lied about) its earnings to raise executive bonuses.
It is the WalMart effect and the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush that explains why, although the economy has grown between 2000 and 2006, millions of working Americans have sunk below the poverty level.
So, what is a WalMart Republican? Someone who is willing to take a bite out of his own hide when he is hungry.
New Swofford website
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Commander in Chief: George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the United States of America on January 20, 2001. We went to the polls at the end of the 20th century not realizing we were casting a vote for a president who early in the new century would comfort us after an attack on sovereign soil and then send our men and women to war on two fronts. We didn't see it coming. It is distinctly possible that the majority of Americans today remain ill-quipped to grasp the gravity of America's position in this new century.
My mother was a child during WW II. Her father, a minister, never went to war. But she remembers the civilian sacrifices of that era “for the boys”. During my childhood, mother’s voice would sweetly sing, “... Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow...” I remember being comforted with the concepts of safety and opportunity as her soprano voice reached my young ears.
But this is not the century in which my parents came of age. It belongs my children, and to their generations. My parents are aging and no matter what transpires their safety and well-being will reside in the hands of six loving children. They have earned the leisure of their declining years.
The 21st century continues to hold both safety and opportunity for Americans if we choose our leadership in a thoughtful manner. This place of blessing which we call America also places its requirements on each of us today. We are required to uphold the Constitution and to seek out the means to strengthen the fabric of our nation, woven with the sweat and tears of our forefathers, their diligence and endurance. The 21st century now makes its own demands upon us. We don't get a free skate.
The tumultuous decades to follow will test the character of mankind, the survivability of our respective nations and cultures and surpass human capability and responsiveness with the scope of need. It is a century in which America needs a few good men. But the greater quest will be for wisdom.
Wisdom resides on different temporal plane. It is apolitical yet analytical, intelligence coupled with discernment, predictive and progressive in each era, with justice kissing mercy, law and grace holding hands. And dare I speak further? Wisdom does not reside in the bosom of fools. Yet it can be grasped in small measure by those who acknowledge the Creator. The One who created latitude, longitude and axis; who set the orbits of light in the sky; and commanded the forces of nature to stand in rank, is called by another name. He is Counselor.
As we approach the upcoming election cycle we must move beyond the chorus of stupidity offered by pundits and the blog of the moment. Some of the MSM carnival hawkers are as senseless as the “products” they are seeking to sell, whether Governor Palin’s rimless glasses or the Barack-Michelle “fist bump”. This century will be one of increased international tensions, regional destabilization, sudden flashpoints of anarchy with subsequent economic malaise in markets, and conflicts over water supply. Even now, our nation resides within a cocoon of peace and prosperity compared with much of the world. But the possible wake-up call of tomorrow for our interplay in greater manner on the world stage unsettles my thoughts. Should we administer a continuous beating raining down on the head of our own Commander in Chief? I am sickened these days. The press has behaved like a pack of hyenas for months and we do not hold them to account. Americans should know better. But then, our own ignorance will betray us in the end.
God Bless our Commander in Chief.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Late on the night of the 20th the Presidential train bore us back to Washington, which we reached about eight o'clock the next morning. We were heavily escorted to the White House and I was again accorded the very large air-conditioned room, in which I dwelt in comfort at about thirty degrees below the temperature of most of the rest of the building. I glanced at the newspapers, read telegrams for an hour, had my breakfast, looked up Harry across the passage, and then went to see the President in his study. General Ismay came with me. Presently a telegram was put into the President's hands. He passed it to me without a word. It said, "Tobruk has surrendered, with twenty-five thousand men taken prisoners." This was so surprising that I could not believe it. I therefore asked Ismay to enquire in London by telephone. In a few minutes he brought the following message, which had just arrived from Admiral Harwood at Alexandria:
Tobruk has fallen, and situation deteriorated so much that there is a possibility of heavy air attack on Alexandria in near future, and in view of approaching full moon period I am sending all Eastern Fleet units south of Canal to await events. I hope to get H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth out of dock towards end of this week.
This was one of the heaviest blows I can recall during the war. Not only were its military effects grievous, but it had affected the reputation of the British armies. At Singapore 85,000 men had surrendered to inferior numbers of Japanese. Now in Tobruk a garrison of 25,000 (actually 33,000) seasoned soldiers had laid down their arms to perhaps one-half of their number. If this was typical of the morale of the Desert Army, no measure could be put upon the disasters which impended in Northeast Africa. I did not attempt to hide from the President the shock I had received. It was a bitter moment. Defeat is one thing: disgrace is another.
The Second World War: The Hinge of Fate by Winston S. Churchill, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston, The Riverside Press Cambridge, copyright 1950
pp. 382, 383
Monday, September 08, 2008
In November (2007) the USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group was denied a scheduled port of call in Hong Kong by the Chinese government. In May (2008), the government of Myanmar denied the USS Essex and accompanying ships to release tons of humanitarian cargo to the cyclone ravaged population. Earlier this month the USS Mount Whitney did manage to pull into the Black Sea port of Poti with humanitarian aid for Georgia, but it was not without being slapped around a bit by a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The challenges and changes we are noting early in the 21st century spring from a transitional period of approximately two decades of “relative calm”. Most Americans can scrape the memory bank of the years 1979-1999 to immediately note two things of importance on our national radar: the hostage crisis in Tehran and our entrance to the Saudi Peninsula with boots on the ground for Gulf I. (This event, stirred the soul of Osama bin Laden. We just didn't know it yet.) For many, these decades are a kaleidoscope of colorful shards from our domestic American experience. Good governance, a strong military and leadership with the dust but not the cake of corruption, have kept us in good stead.
Communism was “defeated”. We had been through WW I and WW II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. Our diplomatic hostages taken with a quick scaling of the American Embassy wall came home after 444 days as "Guests of the Ayatollah". Gulf I with our quick entrance and exit into the theater of operation had all of us waving our flags and singing, “Proud to be an American”. Life was grand! Well...not exactly.
Western Europe has experienced domestic challenges and Eastern Europe is redefining its self. A traditional Sunni power grid in the Middle East is being threatened by the rising Iranian Shi’a influence. Pakistan, after seeding their public school curriculum with jihadist, anti-West dogma under the guidance of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, realizes that the clever little foxes they indoctrinated into assuming an eternal war-footing now want to raid the government henhouse. Death is inevitable. General Zia had his appointment with death in a flying casket, a C-130, that crashed within four minutes of take-off. We lost our American Ambassador and one of our military attaché with Pakistan losing a dozen of their top military line officers at the same time. But death doesn’t take ideology in its grasp. Pakistan is unstable and the latest election is no reason to breathe a sigh of relief.
China is juggernauting into the 21st century with uranium depleted munitions which I am sure they will be happy to use at the right time. We hold our breath when tiny Taiwan whips up a nationalistic fervor knowing well that the U.S will put the Fleet into the strait as soon as tensions rise. Always good to be the small dog with the Doberman behind ya' while you bark at China. "Bravery" at its best.
Central and South America are distinctly anti-American in political posture and "you know who" in Venezuela leads the pack. We are nicely buffered with Canada to our north. Mexico to our south is somewhat of a parasitic friendship which continuously seeks the escape hatch of illegal immigration to our shores as opposed to revitalized national policy and stamping out corruption as a better means of providing for their own impoverished citizens.
Africa? What an absolute cluster in some places. The misery of the Sudan spills over into Chad. Cote d’Ivoire has a seven percent HIV/AIDS rate among adults and the orphan crisis is despicable. Somalia is an eternal ghetto and Rwanda is just now beginning to recover from the machete massacre.
This is not your Daddy’s century. Global concerns are greater in my mind than domestic concerns right now. Our president has taken a prolonged beating for some of his policies and decisions regarding our theaters of operation. But to gain perspective, the next blog will feature something written by a familiar hand, which all will recognize. Let’s move back to World War II and reflect on the nature of conflict through the eyes of a great British statesman. But do keep your seat belt buckled. We are in for a helluva ride.
U.S. Navy Fleet
Guests of the Ayatollah
Proud to be an American
Sunday, September 07, 2008
People’s Republic of China: Population 1.3 billion with an estimated 313 million fit for military service.
Tug of War: The Korean Peninsula, Africa, the Strait of Taiwan.
Islamic Republic of Iran: Population 69 million (2004 estimate) with an estimated 12.5 million fit for military service.
Tug of War: Shi’a dominance in the region, proxy relationships with Syria and Lebanon, influence with the majority Shi’a demographic in Iraq, the Strait of Hormuz. The rope of influence extends to Venezuela and the Caspian region. Can you say "Shahab 4"?
Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Population 172 million with an estimated 32 million fit for military service.
Tug of War: Kashmir, managing their decentralized provinces and the Pak-Afghan Border. Think Dr. A. Q. Khan.
Israel: Population 7 million with an estimated 1.5 million fit for military service.
Tug of War: The whole region. The political pendulum swings wildly among neighbors and the arsenal remains at the ready. Dolphin class submarines from Germany come to mind. Think Mordechai Vanunu. Think superiority in tactical stealth maneuvers.
Russia: Population 140 million with an estimated 21.5 million fit for military service.
Tug of War: The Northern Caucasus, the wealth of the Caspian. Think development of chimera biological weapons. They tried it once and do not recoil from poisoning their enemies. Think Georgi Markov.
United States of America: Population 303 million with an estimated 59.4 million fit for military service.
Tug of War: What do you think? Let’s talk about this Monday.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:12 AM
Saturday, September 06, 2008
One thing about good friends is how time is not a consideration when picking up the phone to make a call. The welcome mat is always out. My day (Friday) started on a bright note with a call from James McEachin at 6:40 a.m. Yes, I watched four hours of coverage and never saw his presentation. Did I miss it?
James was five minutes from walking onto the stage when the bad news was delivered to approximately four individuals that their participation was cut. Gustav not only hit our coastline but it eroded the RNC schedule with the Monday night cancellation of events. This Korean War vet would have represented the men of his conflict well at the RNC.
But James was kind enough to send me a copy of his remarks and you may read them on this link.
As for you my dear friend, I am just grateful that your wounded and unconscious body was fished out of a river allowing you to live to represent the spirit of the millions of veterans across the United States today. God Bless You.
Link to McEachin presentation.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Our second son had psychological warfare down to an exacting science by kindergarten. All of us remember the major battles to keep ourselves at the top of the diagram as “the power with which to be reckoned”. We need to win these battles because quite frankly, our children can be little bastards from whom society at large needs protection. So it can be something like a casual, “Hey, would you please make your bed?" that can activate the demonic willfulness of our progeny and place us in a pitched ten minute battle for parental dominance.
I do not remember what caused the battle to unfold when I dispatched Andrew to the front yard with an imperative command to sit on the grass until he was willing to perform a simple task. Glancing out the kitchen window I would look for signs of a sad countenance. No way. He was the cock-of-the-walk seated on a sea of green twiddling away the grassy waves between his thumb and forefinger. After thirty minutes I tired of my sentinel duties to make sure that a stranger in an old Chevy would not stop long enough to abduct him. Barely sticking my head out the door I yelled, “If you don’t come in pretty soon and obey me I am going to call the police to pick you up.” I waited happily for this threat to sink in and a few minutes later the doorbell rang. There he was, all bright and happy. “You can call the police now to pick me up. I am ready.” Yanking his brainless fifty pounds through the door I paddled his rear and ended it all. He sounded like a cat being shaved with a pair of barber clippers, but I sure felt better afterwards.
Normal parents use an array of tactics short of murder to maintain a happy home and protective chain of command structure for their children. What works for the first child always bombs with the second. I figure it is just God’s sense of humor. But when I was a child the neighbor usually had the right to also punish misbehavior and send you home for the second phase of punishment. But today senseless people will pick up a cell phone and end life as you knew it, with one little damaging call.
Such is the case for a Fort Worth Star Telegram columnist who dared to leave his eleven year old child at a McDonalds to walk home. Although he later returned it was too late. A concerned citizen had called 911; probable cause arrest warrants were filed for child abandonment with intent to return and child abandonment/endangering a child. Dave Lieber turned himself in, posted his bond, and hired a lawyer. The district attorney declined to file charges.
I was not there. Mr. Lieber may have displayed quite the temper himself. But how do you know all of the facts when viewing the small screen of public interaction? You don’t. Just butt out.
This brings up an interesting point. Can an eleven year old child be “abandoned”? They obviously know the name of their parent, home address and probably have a cell phone on hand. Even if they don’t have a phone, is home two miles away? This kid was not shoved off an aircraft onto Devil’s Island but left at Ronald McDonald’s house. Do we need to learn to butt out of other people’s lives, especially if the appearance is one of a parent who has possibly engaged a pitched battle with an adolescent? Was Mr. Lieber wisely removing himself from the scene to keep from physically injuring his child? Any honest parent will tell you that at least once, if only once, burying their child alive has seemed like a reasonable course of action in the heat of battle.
Spanking my five year old raised the truce flag from my child but I would have never beat him or harmed him. A few well-placed whacks on the rear is not child abuse. There is a difference! Alternate means are also used to get the flag up in the air. I have probably used them all. Please think twice before you involve the police in a publicly witnessed event between a guardian and a minor. You do not have all the facts. Parents who really pour out the abuse on their kids do it in private. They are mighty careful, in public.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
James justed called me en route to the convention. Stage being changed up a bit, and he is on his way to the rehearsal. He is not sure yet who is introducing John McCain as it is still a bit under the radar.
He will be moving onto the stage at approximately 5:15 p.m. "Minnesota time" and follow a jazz ensemble. His time has been cut down to four minutes. But having seen James in action, four minutes gives a better delivery than most of us can manage in fifteen minutes! So be sure and watch this great American stand up and deliver, on behalf of our troops.
Mr. McEachin states C-Span offers the best uninterrupted coverage.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
The sudden rise of Sarah Palin into the national spotlight has given political cartoonists a new "national treasure" for lampoons, lambasts and what they do best, which is to make us laugh. But MSM political commentary has been some of the worst I have observed in years. Last night's convention coverage was a distinct disappointment. I would have much preferred that the combined networks would have allowed us to watch this historic convention to unfold in entirety and then present their views after the event. Instead, a hyperventilating group of pundits who a week ago did not have Ms. Palin on the radar now claimed their usual expertise. God forbid allowing the clapping to cease and the public at large a few minutes to reflect on what was spoken from the platform. Nope. Opinion was served up by the ladle and not the serving spoon. Anyone else feel a little bit nauseated?
Peggy Noonan pulled the trigger on herself today showing once again that there is no such thing as unbiased reporting. MSM view themselves as draped in unbiased truth, but the breasts of journalistic nourishment looked as bare as those of the Spirit of Justice statue this past week.
As rational Americans positioning ourselves to hear the words tonight of a woman who stands a good chance to be the most vital asset of a new Commander in Chief, what questions deserve to be answered in broad manner tonight? Who is this woman, Sarah Palin? Beyond the ebullience of seeing a fresh political face, what things will make her candidacy one to support? Here are the things which I have considered in weighing the unknowns:
*Recognition is the beginning point for resolution.
Can Governor Palin bring succinct recognition regarding the problems facing Americans? Will she recognize the need for domestic economic stimulus, invigorated foreign policy, the need for a revamped Department of State which is more tactically effective on the chess board? Will she acknowlege lack of robust federal enforcement of existing immigration law? Will she note an aging America with a declining professional work force demographic? I don't want "solutions" tonight. I do expect "recognition".
*Macro-planning precedes micro-administrative detail.
Can Governor Palin paint with a broad brush her vision and plan for the America of the future? How far will she cast her gaze? Should she only speak of where she wishes for America to be in the next four years but not the next fifty years, I am not sure that I want her. Plans put in motion for the betterment of Americans must stand the test of time and of the generations. Show us a hub of thought on which the spokes can be added in months to come.
*Recognition of Limitations of Federal Government.
Can Governor Palin speak in solid terms which show the need for process improvement within bureaucratic structures while also acknowleging that limitations on unrestrained federal growth are necessary? Will she support a concurrent strengthening of states rights? Let America return to healthy government which is more responsive and accountable to the local community and region.
I wish Governor Palin the best tonight as she presents to Americans, her vision for America.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:35 PM
Having finally gotten around to reading James Mann’s analysis of the Bush War Cabinet, I really wish I had gotten to it sooner. In the early part of his 2004 analysis, Mann had me thinking that I should re-evaluate Donald Rumsfeld. By the end, Rumsfeld is revealed, both as having an impossible job and as a loyal trooper who declined to put the blame for “the Army that you have,” as opposed to the Army that you would want, on a White House more interested in tax cuts than it was in honoring its promise to transform the armed forces to meet modern challenges.
Paul Wolfowitz emerges as a brilliant analyst who was asking questions about the Middle East when no one was interested in it. He was also incredibly prescient, when, speaking at West Point in early June, 2001, he said we had to “replace a poverty of expectations and an anticipation of the unfamiliar and the unlikely.” Unfortunately, he failed to suit his actions to his words, and we failed to heed a surprising number of warnings and missed a number of signals that 9/11 was on its way.
As Mann points out, soon after the Wolfowitz speech, Kenneth Williams, from the FBI’s Phoenix field office, noticed that eight men of Middle Eastern descent and all under investigation for possible terrorist ties, were enrolled in pilot-training at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott. Williams told the Hoover Building and the New York field office about his discovery, but the Bureau didn’t have the resources to check out other flight schools and failed to tell the CIA and the National Security Council about it. On August 16, the FBI detained Zacarias Moussaoui, who was interested in learning to steer commercial jets, but didn’t care to learn how to land them. In May, 2001, Coffer Black, head of the CIA’s anti-terrorism center said a major attack was coming. George Tenet, in his book, said that during the spring and summer of 2001, 34 al Qaeda messages talking about “zero hour” or “something spectacular” were intercepted. The CIA thought they referred to an overseas operation like the USS Cole, or the embassies. On May 8, Bush named Cheney to head a task force on domestic terrorism. By 9/11, that task force had not “gotten off the ground.” Clearly Cheney had other priorities.
The most striking thing about the Bush war cabinet is just how isolated he was. Bush didn’t have a long-standing relationship with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz or Armitage. He met Condoleezza Rice when he was thinking about running for president, two years before he announced. On the other hand, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz and Armitage had known each other since the Ford administration. Condi Rice joined the circle, at an entry level, during the Reagan administration.
According to Mann, Rice’s chief talent lay in being able to convince everyone, no matter on which side of an issue he may be, that she was in complete agreement with that position. While that skill is invaluable for personal advancement (she was always on the winning side), the quality of any advice, say national security advice, that she gave would be of limited use, or worse.
In the final analysis, despite all their analytical power, despite their bureaucratic skills, the Vulcans are neocons who did not understood that you cannot cut military spending and have an all powerful military, and even if you do have an all-powerful military, you have to understand how the world works. History does not, as Armitage told the head of Pakistani intelligence, “start today.”
The Vulcan’s major talent was for self-deception. Cheney in 9/11 was no more of a Churchill, as his sycophantic chief of staff, Scooter Libby, described him, than the United States is capable of pursuing a unilateralist foreign policy.