Alaska is a land of extremes. Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in North America at 71 degrees N Latitude, experiences mammoth changes in daylight hours. During the spring and autumnal equinoxes, when the sun is above the equator, our entire planet receives the same amount of daylight hours, with considerably less heat near the poles. In the summer, when the sun is above the Tropic of Cancer, Alaska earns its name "Land of the Midnight Sun". The sun stays visible in the sky above Barrow for nearly 3 months, night and day. Some residents tape aluminum foil over their windows, to shut out the light and make it easier to sleep.
In the winter, when the sun hangs above the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun does not rise above Barrow's horizon for over 2 months. As a result, some residents get SAD. One treatment for SAD is full-spectrum light therapy. There is a phenomenon known as civil twilight, where the sun is just out of sight, but still allows some precious light to illuminate the arctic desert. You can read a book by this ambient light. However, our bodies need direct sunlight to create Vitamin D, which is important for bone health.
Now, let us take a walk down the hall from our Science 101 classroom to our U.S. Government laboratory ... Our forefathers wisely set up a system of checks and balances; but in order for us to check that our government systems are balanced, those agencies have to provide some level of transparency. We, the everyday citizens, must be allowed free access to the process by which decisions are being made by lawmakers on our behalf. There are, and I believe there should be, some exceptions to this rule; for instance, when dealing with matters of Homeland Security. Each elected official, each Mayor, Governor, member of Congress, President, and their cabinets have the power to decide what information they want to to expose to the sunshine, and which facts they want to keep in the shadows. California has its Brown Act. Another sunny state which is trying to proactively thwart the darkness is Florida.
Some people don't want to know what the government is doing. They don't read newspapers or online news. They don't watch their local or national TV news broadcasts. They think C-SPAN is a channel featuring dolphins and whales. They've never stepped foot in a city assembly meeting or a school board meeting. These people have aluminum foil taped over their windows.
There are some states living in civil twilight. There is just enough ambient information to keep the majority of citizens content. "We the People" means ... well, it means "We, the People." We are an important part of the process. We are involved, whether we exercise our voices and votes or not. We pay the taxes that fund the projects. If you feel that your government is keeping you in the dark, turn on the light box in your home and see if you can get more of a full spectrum of information. Alaska has a TV channel that broadcasts political meetings and events. We have a state website with detailed information about issues, including our new online checkbook.
Make sure you're getting your full dose of Vitamin Democracy. Your involvement in the process helps to build a strong frame. Become involved in the issues that matter to you. The easiest way to do this is to write a letter, but many times you can appear in person and speak at a meeting. Sunshine Laws and the Freedom of Information Act specify that all people must have access to their governments. Educate yourself on ballot issues and propositions. Pay attention to what your elected officials are doing. We've heard the term "Senator for Life", but that is only true if the people continue to vote that person into office. Remember that our government officials work for us. "We the People" are the backbone of the nation.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Alaska is a land of extremes. Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in North America at 71 degrees N Latitude, experiences mammoth changes in daylight hours. During the spring and autumnal equinoxes, when the sun is above the equator, our entire planet receives the same amount of daylight hours, with considerably less heat near the poles. In the summer, when the sun is above the Tropic of Cancer, Alaska earns its name "Land of the Midnight Sun". The sun stays visible in the sky above Barrow for nearly 3 months, night and day. Some residents tape aluminum foil over their windows, to shut out the light and make it easier to sleep.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
So what does a blogger do when receiving a demand letter to take down a blog?
Dr. Jeff Cunningham and I each received a certified letter from Anderson and Duke, P.C. signed by attorney Lisa Duke in May 2008.
"Dear Ms. Swofford and Mr. Cunningham:
I have been retained by Mr. --- in order to pursue legal action regarding the website tammyswofford.blogspot.com and the posting of April 7, 2008 regarding my client. By this correspondence you are hereby notified that if you do not immediately remove the posting and related comments from said website immediately upon receipt of this notice, Mr. --- will file suit for injunctive relief, damages, and attorney's fees.
Your prompt attention to this matter is expected and appreciated."
Jeff's original post, CSI Texas, will be offered again for the Monday blog minus the name of the necrophilic porn producer, his city of residence and the link to his website. The identifying markers will be gone. Also missing, will be the many passionate responses to Jeff's writing, several of them referencing the porn producer and his site by name. CSI Texas received a tremendous amount of traffic for several weeks and the comments were some of the toughest and most well-thought out that we have ever seen on this page. The blog "Gilliam Gibbons" is the only one to receive more comments. (49, to be exact!)
May 2008 was a tough month for the blog team as we debated what to do with the original blog and demand letter. Other factors, which are not publicly known to the readership, weighed in the decision, ultimately my own, to take the blog down. The blog will now run again. Although comments are disabled for Jeff's blog, so that we can hide and retain the original comments, feel free to post comments directed to Jeff, on the Tuesday blog. My blog on the necrophilic porn industry will reappear on that day.
Just this week (Wednesday blog by -Blackfoot) offered another interesting day for the team as we pondered that a man from "The Army of God" justified bombings that target abortion clinics and then felt it necessary to lead us all in a Sinner's Prayer. Again, not all that happens behind the scenes with the Swofford Team is for the public view, but when men such as Rev. Spitz decide to exercise their freedom of speech, at least one of us, will respond. So it has been an interesting year for the team and we hope that as we learn and grow, you will join us daily.
Blackfoot will offer up "the best of the blog" on Wednesday, a piece by Tom Gordon will run on Thursday and Bob Miller will finish out the week with one of his blogs.
So as we move into a week where we both showcase our different journalistic styles and also take a well-deserved rest, we hope the readership will enjoy what is on the page.
From the Team:
-Blackfoot, Bob, Jeff, Tammy, and Tom
Friday, December 26, 2008
Man ... can go up against gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope that ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along the Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way.
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
It is time again for another round of New Year’s resolutions, greatest and worst lists, and capsulated memories. In the days following each Christmas humanity expends a great deal of energy soul searching, lamenting and promising. In just a matter of hours millions of people will forget telling a loved one they don’t get together often enough. Before the calendar rolls up another digit most of us will have leapt back into production mode and forsaken the lessons of our holiday in favor of battling an unbeatable foe.
Though time is a constant, we have a number of idioms which help us manage it. Some of us are “pressed for time”, while others “play for” it. I can get caught looking for a “sign of the times” or make my move “in the nick” of it. I can get something done “at the drop of a hat”, or “never in a million years”. From the moment we gasp for our first breath, humans start learning to manipulate and affect the world around us. But time is something we cannot control. We are powerless against its brutally consistent performance and execution. Naturally when such a one-sided relationship exists it is inevitable that we will fantasize about a state in which that control is lifted.
In “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt plays a man born old who gets younger throughout his life. Escaping from the normal trappings of time and aging, the story illustrates our powerlessness against the passage of time by reversing the norm. I plan to see this film, and anticipate a poignant message or two coming out of it. Books and movies provide us with excellent escape vehicles for such heaviness. Science fiction insists that the viewer suspend reality to absorb the characters and plot lines, but simultaneously asks that we remain engaged enough to catch what is underneath the surface.
There is no shortage of fantasy. Whether the vehicle used to advance these “man against nature” conflicts is time travel or defiance of generally accepted natural law, characters always find themselves to be powerless in some fashion. In each case, time and nature exact an often cruel set of rules. In “12 Monkeys”, Bruce Willis could only travel BACK in time, and he was closely monitored. Making changes could drastically alter the future, but there was always the underlying fear or realization that in the end history would repeat. In “Forever Young”, a young Mel Gibson opts to become a cryogenic experiment when his girlfriend goes into a coma. As much or more a love story than fantasy, the laws of nature don’t stay hidden for long. So why blather on about time-oriented fiction?
We look to our new year wishing for things and for outcomes. Most would like for some (if not many) of the previous year to have been different. We hope and pray that our families and friends will overcome difficulties. We plan to do things differently. But we must differentiate between the facts and fictions of our new resolve.
What has God or nature taught you this last year about your expectations? Did you by chance have some big plan or direction that took a turn, exposing a need for flexibility? Perhaps, as it was for me, you found yourself flying on auto-pilot hoping things would turn out better than your lack of planning might dictate. In any case, as you approach 2009, I encourage you to consider both the soundness of your plans and the trump card held by nature and/or providence. Kick back over the weekend and watch a good time-oriented fantasy as you ponder your '09 moves. Having a healthy respect for our own limitations can do wonders for the future.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
It's great that you, and we, get to keep Robert Gates as Defense Secretary. For now. Obama said he wants to take troops out of Iraq and put them in Afghanistan. Of course, if the Afghanistan surge [link: armytimes.com] doesn't work, Gates will be blamed and replaced with an Army private from Chicago.
You received a gift card from General Casey, promising the end of Stop Loss, that can be cashed maybe as early as October 2010. It might not come to you as a reward for your service, as much as a result of a budget decision, but your families won't care about the reason.
There was more money spent for military families this year, an increase from $1.4 billion in '07 to $1.7 billion in '08. I would gladly gift-wrap more tax dollars for your needs. You are the backbone of our nation. I am from a military family, so I sincerely thank you and your families for your sacrifices. May God bless you.
Happy New Year! American Troops in Iraq were approved for a couple of beers apiece for the Super Bowl. [link: stars&stripes.com] I'm hoping for a Cowboys vs. Steelers rematch. How about you? Cheers!
Merry Christmas to the United States Navy Sailor!
Back in 1944, LCDR Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. was the skipper of the Albert H. Moore, DE 422. That must have been one helluva squared away crew! Imagine serving under the president's son! LCDR Roosevelt helped decorate the Christmas trees in each mess aboard his ship that year. His mother, Eleanor had sent along the ornaments.
For each of you, may this be a fine Navy Day! Chow will not be quite as good as what your mom would put on the table, but it is my hope that the sense of camraderie and purpose will carry each of you through the day as you think of your families who await your return.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
I have read somewhere that a society is judged by the heroes it honors.
From Audie Murphy and Gregory Peck to Tom Beringer and Jack Nicholson...you'd have to conclude current movies aren't helping us tell you how much we appreciate you. Some entertainers help out: Gary Sinise, Trace Adkins, Robin Williams for example.
But I would hope each of you, regardless of station or proximity to your families, consider how little children line up with veterans at the airports to say thanks on weekends. I pray that, despite ridiculous political divisions and the ugliness of our electoral process, Americans feel driven to demonstrate their appreciation to INDIVIDUALS in uniform. Thank them when you see them. Open the door. Give up your place in line.
I watched the final game played in Texas Stadium on Saturday night. That the Dallas Cowboys got drummed by Baltimore was immaterial. The national anthem was trumpeted by a single uniformed man. I haven't been that choked up for years.
From the bottom of our hearts, my family thanks you. Merry Christmas to you all!
To our men and women around the world, no matter your station, our family wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Without your work and sacrifice, our country would not be as safe as it is today and we would be unable to enjoy the freedom that we hold so very dearly. As a result, I am able to sit in the comfort of my home and thank you for your service. Merry Christmas to all our troops!
Jeff Cunningham, D.C.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Oregon State Trooper Bill Hakim and Woodburn Police Captain Tom Tennant responded to a bomb threat call and were killed on December 12, when an IED they were handling exploded. Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell was critically injured. He lost a leg and has severe injuries to his other leg. A bank employee was hit by shrapnel, some of which was imbedded in her leg bone. She was treated and released. While this case is still under investigation, the early news reports indicate plenty of evidence that Joshua Turnidge and his father Bruce Turnidge were responsible.
The Probable Cause Statements cite many facts which, if proven, will be substantial evidence against the suspects:
[link: Ch. 8, Portland OR] Joshua Abraham Turnidge
[link: Ch. 8, Portland OR] Bruce Turnidge
A strange twist in this case is that Bill Hakim and Josh Turnidge both served in the Navy. Trooper Hakim was a Navy veteran who was a diver and underwater explosives technician. Hakim served 20 years in the Navy before retiring and joining the Oregon State Police in 1997. He then became a civilian bomb technician. From the comments from his colleagues at his funeral, he was a good officer and bomb technician. He was fluent in 4 languages (including English), was a soccer coach, was starting to build his retirement home, and was restoring a Ford Mustang with his 16-year-old son. In addition, he left behind his wife and an 18-year-old daughter.
May he rest in peace.
The Turnidge family has a good reputation in that region. Joshua's great-grandfather was a farmer whose name was synonymous with peppermint farming. The family and friends, who have commented to the media, are shocked that Bruce and Joshua did this. Get ready for this: The neighbors said the word "reclusive". Both father and son wore "anti-suicide smocks" for their arraignments. They have each been charged with:
aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, manufacture of a destructive device, conspiracy to manufacture an explosive device, conspiracy to possess an explosive device.
Did I mention that Oregon has the death penalty?
Whoever ends up dying, when an explosive weapon is built and placed in a public area, the bomb builder knows there is the potential for an innocent civilian to be harmed. Remember Eric Rudolph? He placed a device in Atlanta during the Olympics in 1996, then bombed an abortion clinic, which killed an off-duty cop/security guard and blinded a nurse. He is still serving time. Ted Kaczynski is also in prison. Timothy McVeigh was put to death.
There was a $35,000 reward offered by the ATF&E for the Oregon case. It seems like the Turnidges might have left a breadcrumb trail, but if anyone helped to identify them, they deserve a big thanks. If that was my bank, and if my child/grandchild/friend looked in the trash and saw a "neat box to keep letters/GI Joes/knitting needles in..."
The families who have lost loved ones this month probably have gifts for them that will remain unwrapped. Some will be trying to figure out whether they should keep Daddy or Mommy's gifts, or give them to charity, or open them. Tonight, before you are nestled snug in your beds, say a prayer for the families of Bill Hakim and Bill Tennant, and for all of our military families who lost family members this year. First Responders and our Military members work to keep us safe every day. Tonight will be a long night for them, and all their days are long. We send up prayers for the fallen and their families.
To fully understand Islam the journey must begin at the Year of the Elephant and move forward through the centuries. The jurisprudential schools must be examined. I am currently reading the thoughts of the Shafi’ite school. Interesting stuff.
But to understand what is happening on the ground today, reading also moves back to the early decades of the 20th century and then moves forward. The fall of the Ottoman Sultanate, the Balfour Treaty, Ataturk and the secularization of Turkey, the rise of Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon, the writings of Syed Qutb and the writings of al-Mawdudi, the coup against Mossadeq.... the list goes on as to considerations which must be made in understanding how Islam is on the march today. After considering modern historical context, applications must move again, to the Year of the Elephant and the life of a man: Muhammad.
It was Hassan al-Banna and Syed Qutb who gave the clarion call out of Egypt with an emancipation proclamation for the Muslims coming out from under the shadow of a century of British Colonialism. Hassan al-Banna met his end in a fire of bullets; Syed Qutb, with rope around his neck. But while in prison, Qutb penned what are considered his most ideologically sound works, much admired today in certain scholary quarters.
Al-Mawdudi greatly influenced the Indian subcontinent with his writings and the founding of Jamaat-e-Islami. The organizational strength is seen within various college campus in Pakistan and top talent is still funneled into organizations such as Al-Qaedah.
Today there are bilateral movements, populist movements, on the ground. On the one hand, the impoverished among the Muslim are still seeking “emancipation”. Whether it is emancipation from the West, or what are considered “puppet regimes” such as those of Hosni Mubarak or Islam Karimov, the poor are manipulated and stirred to rise up and seek a freedom and prosperity which has eluded their generations. The ideas within this movement tend to be more poorly formulated yet sufficiently passionate to bring flashpoints of instability within their geographic regions.
Among the educated class, the movement is one for self-determination. This group seeks to function within the actual corridors of influence to bring change within existing frameworks of government. This movement is more highly focused on issues such as the liberation of Palestine, which remains a lightning rod for political thought. This crowd still throttles the names of Haganah, Irgun and Stern and it remains a critical strategy among this group for Palestinians to gain complete autonomy and self-determination in government. For some, the destruction of Israel is also viewed as a necessary component.
A tributary to both of these streams of thought is beginning to form and although still small and more within the ranks of thought, not action, it is one of developing actual resistance movements to achieve political goals. Reading current century theorists and writers gives a glimpse of the nascent state of this particular movement.
The current century will require a reinvigorated foreign policy and new theoretical models which acknowledge that the past does step on the heels of the present. Sit back and watch. The whole thing could become quite interesting.
Monday, December 22, 2008
“Why is he righteous?” As part of ongoing dialogue with a man who considered Osama bin Laden a freedom fighter we had reached a level of trust where I could ask such a question. The following was recounted: When bin Laden was in Jeddah he had paid a visit to a former sister-in-law at her apartment. He was looking for his brother. When the woman answered the door he lowered his gaze and would not look in her eyes because she was not veiled. It is the adaab of Osama bin Laden, the word of the Qura’n, played out in varying degrees within the Muslim community. “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty....” Al-Nur 30
“Did Osama bin Laden gaze on our women leaping to their deaths on 9/11; what about them?”
*"They are in hell. They committed suicide...."
“How are they in hell? They jumped because flames were at their backs.”
*"They are in hell."
For those who support Osama bin Laden, the means of goal achievement is justified. Between the West and the East and those who give allegiance to this man, the view is very different:
Terrorist or Freedom Fighter?
Criminal or Advocate?
Osama bin Laden had more than one mentor. The signatories to the Jihad against Jews and Crusaders gives a glimpse of some of his trusted advisors. There is a name missing. It is that of Muhammad Qutb.
Ibn Abbas, a companion of the Prophet reported God’s Messenger as saying, "The one who receives the severest punishment on the Day of Resurrection will be the one who kills a prophet, or is killed by a prophet, or kills one of his parents, or who makes representations of things, and a learned man who derives no benefit from his learning." (Mishkat al-masahib 21.5.1-3)
Although Muhammad was considered “the seal of the prophets” or the final prophet, for approximately ten percent of Muslims today, the radicalized voice of Osama bin Laden represents their own. He is seen as having a prophetic voice. If he is righteous, if his actions are justified, then undoubtedly the American deaths on 9/11were the actions committed by a righteous man and with God’s approval. There has been muted attempt to discredit a man and his organization in some quarters. A hardcore group of believers who have shown themselves absolutely willing and capable of killing themselves and sending a passle of infidels to hell in the process, still remain.
We sent members of the bin Laden family packing after 9/11. One of them, headed up WAMY. (Abdullah bin Laden). Several of the 9/11 hijackers lived a short distance from the WAMY office in Falls Church, Virginia.
Osama bin Laden was a smart kind of guy. Best I can tell, middle management talent was settled into America in the 1980's. The plan was hatched in the 1990's. And September 11, 2001, the plan was executed.
The organization remains. Whether Osama bin Laden is alive or dead at this point is secondary to understanding the representative picture of his action against us on 9/11. Distilled political thought birthed with the writings of early 20th century Muslim scholars is gaining traction today within two bilateral movements on the ground. These movements are based on distinct sentiments which are being fueled by the interaction made available by internet capabilities.
Geopolitical Islam will present the most potent political punch of the 21st century. To consider globalization as the panacea, a new world order where individuals can be reduced to and managed as units of labor is a mistaken hope. Much more is at stake.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
From the notes of C. G. Campbell:
Page 74, Line 22, ‘Maqdad took his course from the wind,’
"Skilled desert guides can often recognize a wind as being from a certain quarter by its force, humidity, and temperature. The phrase here implies that the sun was clouded over and Maqdad was finding his way by the wind, which indicated he had considerable skill. The only people who can use the wind are those who can detect quickly any change in its direction. I remember once asking some Arabs the way to a well, and they told me, 'Keep the wind on your left cheek.' I had to use methods with which I was more familiar.”
“Tales from the Arab Tribes, as related to C.G. Campbell, Copyright 1949 Charles Grimshaw Campbell, Made and printed in Great Britain
We lacked skilled desert guides going into Iraq. Sure, we possessed the firepower and military capability to move from Kuwait to Baghdad in two weeks. But just as the inept guide will be required to slit his own camel’s belly when unable to locate the oasis or the well, there has been more than a little camel-slitting and hair-splitting among the analyst community which relied on left-hemispheric skills to place a “post-victory” plan on the table for Iraq. Two weeks, and the party was over.
The left hemisphere of the brain is involved with language. Undoubtedly what was laid out at the beginning and in bold language across Pentagon tables by the “lefties” had a nice ring to it. High-level wordcraft appeals to most of us. But it is the right hemisphere of the brain which is activated for pattern recognition and processing of simultaneous information. The sociometrics on the ground, the directional changes in the political wind which would occur when we entered Iraq, eluded our desert guides. I activated the right side of my brain about 2004 as I began to intensify my study of geopolitical Islam. I saw it as the necessary “next step”. My cerebral cortex has been happier since that time. Things make more sense. Analysis of the Middle East using language skills, pattern recognition and processing of simultaneous bits of information does not come from clicking on computer software programs. It does come from steady and continuous research and reading. It involves dialogue with key Muslims. It also requires that the analyst allow a new brain mapping process within their own psyche. This process recognizes that solutions to issues in the Middle East require a melding of current diplomatic practices with a new level of expertise. And just as the skilled Arab guide was capable of quickly noting the directional change of the wind, we need to develop the same skill in the field of predictive analyses.
We need a new class of desert guides, men and women who will devote their talents, energy and passion to seeking solutions that work. These solutions lie within a framework of reasoning little understood by those who have not sought a deliberate interface with the dynamics of Muslim thought.
Entering Iraq, the necessary understanding of tribal ties, or what is at times known as “uterine ties” was not fully grasped. Minus panoramic intellectual vista, the knowledge of Hadith and Qur’anic text which provides guidance for communal rules of engagement was lacking. Although the sectarian divisions exist, on grander scale there is conceptual framework in place for the brotherhood of the believers.
*Do not spy on one another. (at-Tirmidhi, on the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn Umar)
*Avoid suspicion and spy not on one another.... (Al-Hujurat 12)
*”He who raises his arm against us ceases to be one of us, i.e ceases to belong to the Muslim community. (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn Umar and Abu Harayrah)
There is a Quran/Sunnah tradition of the interdependence of the community which has produced things such as the ISI in Pakistan helping “us” and at the same time releasing military hardware and intelligence to the Taliban; or the phenomenon of the Arab two way street where the one handled by our side, also engages information sharing with those we seek. Information-sharing is the “Nasdaq” of the Middle East. The networks are not always traditional and are capable of functioning without satellite. smile
The manner in which we did not test the wind, instead entering Iraq with diplomatic means which were familiar to us but not workable for the regional conflict we engaged show the distinct need for a new generation of analysts within the Pentagon and the major think tanks. My guess is it will be at least another decade before we see a recognizable shift in foreign policy based on the recommendations of these sage desert guides.
Tomorrow, let's take a look at Osama bin Ladin and his organization.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I believe in the Gap Theory. Really, I do. It niftily brings us to the point where we are today in the Middle East. Golf clap please.
The “gap” is right there between the old ears. The deficits of our heavy intellectual investment into an analyst community using only the left hemisphere of their brain must be examined with a gritty and gut-wrenching debriefing process. The flawed strategy of Neocons and their various think tanks has not served our nation well on the international stage. Lofty thoughts that do not translate into quantifiable results are just that: lofty thoughts. I am quite practical at this point in my life. It matters little to me if your ideas have a "Wow factor" at first glance. I retain respect for the man or woman who is able to produce a workable plan. Churchill cast a big shadow in his day. The man was an absolute Rotweiller of thought, plan, action and results. The negligible shadow cast by "yapping chihuahua" think tanks is beginning to irritate me at this point. Again, pontificate, regurgitate and masticate the Western point of view. What works in the West does not translate into negotiable currency in the East. We can and must do better with cultural intelligence.
When looking at assumptions which were made regarding our entrance into Iraq and our descent into the world where the “law of unintended consequences” rules supreme, honesty is the best policy. A few within the freelance analyst community have engaged direct examination of areas of intellectual folly. I just happen to be one of them. A foreign policy based on left-sided brain analysis still plagues us. I am not totally convinced that we have turned the corner in pursuit of the right side of our brain. Hence, we are left with true gaps in our theoretical model for effective diplomatic interface in the Middle East. Let’s talk about these issues for three days. I will take a hard look at how left hemisphere brain analysis has been inadequate for our 21st century political model. The ideas will be compressed. Those already utilizing right hemisphere brain analysis will be able to engage the necessary thought capture.
Starting tomorrow you will see "Swofford Unleashed" on the page. This style is reserved for topics which are dear to my heart. Here is the line up:
Swofford Unleashed: Testing the Wind
Swofford Unleashed: Osama bin Ladin and Al-Qaedah
Swofford Unleashed: Bilateral Movement on the Ground
Friday, December 19, 2008
"Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”
“What were you doing on 9/11?”
“What were you thinking about Florida when you saw THIS Guy?”
Humor me. Did you ever worry that one day the world might view us the same way we saw these folks? If you doubt me, consider the news coming out of the Midwestern states of Illinois, Ohio, and Minnesota. These three are working hard to unseat Florida as America's preeminent electoral entertainer.
In Ohio, Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley has resigned after using state computers to violate the privacy of “Joe the Plumber”. She also used her official Blackberry device to send fundraising requests for now president-elect Barack Obama. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner found herself entangled with ACORN ballot controversy and mismanagement well before the election. Reports of campaign workers and college students being registered in both home and campus districts came and went with a sigh. Considering how important everyone knew Ohio would be in the ’08 election, and recalling Brunner’s experience as a judge, why were there so many problems?
In Minnesota, former Saturday Night Live goober and current sleazebag Al Franken is poised to take Republican Norm Coleman’s senate seat in standard Democrat post-election fashion. An election day lead of over 700 votes is now only 2 after multiple “findings” of ballots turned up with shockingly Franken-friendly results. The gains made by Franken in a mandatory recount make Florida and other election debacles appear almost legitimate when you consider the percentage variances and factoring-in even that Obama was an overwhelming pick for president in that state. Why are such anomalies “accepted” as part of “the game”?
Illinois should just take the slogan from Texas and be done with it. It is truly “A whole other country”, but in a far different way. A troubled Governor, caught on tape blatantly committing "pay for play" and selling a U.S. Senate seat, remains defiantly in office as the prosecutor pursues and the democrat legislature sweats the fallout. Though Jesus just LEFT Chicago, Barack Obama right-hand man and Clintonian mole Rahm Emanuel remains a distraction for the messiah as it turns out he did talk Senate replacement details directly with the Governor. The drama that surrounds if, when, and how to deal with corrupt leaders in Illinois is far too tangled and comical to even detail here. They seem more worried about avoiding an election than punishing wrongdoing. Oh by the way, why was ACORN allowed a free hand in voter registration fraud? Have we forgotten?
The answer to each of the above questions is that a compelling interest values partisan success above the credibility of accurate outcomes. Whether by design or neglect, the trend is eroding our trust in the process if not in our leaders and ourselves. Unless states and the Federal government return to a respect for the clear and temporal separation of voter registration from the casting of ballots, our elections will become as meaningless as our name.
There was a day when Americans could confidently proclaim that we were an example of freedom and democracy. Ronald Reagan rightly referred to us as “a shining city on a hill”. Today we risk becoming little more than a laughing stock. There are those benefitting from winning scams and schemes who either don’t see or don’t mind the damage. Recall how the election of 2000 brought the nation to a standstill. Why were we so paralyzed? We have no answer for a political stalemate. It is the integrity of our system that defines us, and it is the demise of that integrity that empowers our detractors.
Who are they? I'll give you a hint...
They're both foreign and domestic.
Flashback 2001: Too Easy to Steal
Thursday, December 18, 2008
“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his father has acquired too much, in order to spare to others who (or whose fathers) have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, “to guarantee to everyone a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” Thomas Jefferson
BREAKING NEWS HEADLINE:
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives just concluded what is considered an epic bipartisan special session to modernize the American tax code. Speaking on the steps of the Capitol with the full membership of the Houses of Congress behind him, the Senate Majority Leader issued the following statement:
“I believe I speak for all Americans today. Our nation has been at the precipice of disaster for the last two sessions, because frankly, we have run out of things to tax. In seeking to be fair, it has been concluded that Americans will also be taxed based on the air they breathe.
To simplify the process of taxation, ambient diagnostic chambers will be installed in all public building entrances. Approximately four times a year the government will calculate your hourly respiratory rate based on a one minute test. From these calculations, your additional (yearly) tax burden will be determined.”
Although our elected representatives have been quietly molding public opinion for this anticipated announcement, a few unfortunate recent events have marred the political landscape. Most remarkable was the statement leaked to the press, spoken by the Speaker of the House last week: “Do Americans think we can run this damn country for free? We own ‘em. We own ‘em all.”
Problematic will be taxation of the approximate two percent of the American citizens who now identify themselves as “survivalists”. Living within agrarian regions where all physical needs are met by communal resources, the government remains at a loss on how to gain revenue capture. This demographic has become increasingly anti-government. A special committee has been formed to address this nasty little issue.
For his part, the President of the United States has stated that this latest move by our representatives cannot be cast in negative light as either Constitutional deconstructionism or alienation of our individual rights; rather it is a preservation of the fine and continued tradition of taxation for the common good.
Former President Barack Obama also delivered a few historical vignettes from his own administration, reminding the public of the resounding success of his "Americans for Hope" campaign which returned millions of unemployed Americans to the job market with newly created government jobs. He stated, "The judicious yet generous use of American tax dollars expanded government services and regulations, birthed new departments, and created a whole new menu of job options for uneducated Americans deserving of a high middle-class dream. We should be proud of these achievements."
At the conclusion of remarks, "God Bless America" rang out from the steps of our Capitol, the Ceremonial Guard gave a 21 gun salute, and the day ended on a somber note.
Reporting from the Capitol: Tammy Swofford
Taxing our asses to death.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If I was writing a fictional crime novel about the Caylee Anthony case, it would be in the style of "The Lovely Bones". An innocent toddler is killed and watches from The Great Beyond, as people search for her. She watches her murderous mother be arrested, then released, then arrested again. She knows her mother killed her, but she does not want to see her put to an early death. After all, Mommy's only 22. When prosecutors announce they will not seek the death penalty for Casey Anthony, the little girl decides to come out of hiding. Six days later, she whispers to a utility worker, who is relieving himself just feet away from her remains, "Pick up that trash bag."
As we are shopping for our children and grandchildren for Christmas, Caylee's grandparents can look forward to choosing a coffin or an urn for theirs. For themselves, they have asked for the gift of immunity. Now that there is physical evidence that will surely connect the crime scene with George and Cindy Anthony's home, and now that the death penalty is off the table (a tactic to get information, I'm sure, but I think it's a shame), it seems these bereaved people might finally, and hopefully fully, cooperate with authorities. According to Casey's childhood friend, Kiomarie Cruz, the wooded area near the elementary school was a place the two girls would often go. Apparently it is still a popular area for young people in the area. Police are collecting and processing beer bottles and other trash, along with scattered bones. I don't expect for it to take too long to know the DNA results.
Casey Anthony does not strike me as being a highly intelligent person. I can believe the theory that she might have drugged her daughter with chloroform to put her to sleep and accidentally killed her. Maybe she saw it on an episode of "CSI". It calls to mind the Ritalin craze, when "hyper" kids are drugged in great numbers to help them "focus". I can also believe that Casey might have used chloroform to spare her daughter the pain of having her neck broken.
Susan Smith drowned her two sons. We don't know what happened to Madeleine McCann, but, like Caylee Anthony's, some bodies don't want to stay buried. I hope there is some resolution in the McCann case.
Casey's brother Lee and their parents have given fingerprint and DNA samples. I'm sure the boyfriend, Tony Lazzaro, and the babysitter Casey accused of taking Caylee, Zenaida Gonzalez, will be tested, as well as any other of Casey's friends. Plastic and duct tape can hold evidence for a long time. If there were any accomplices, may their involvement be brought to light, uncovered in the same way as the tiny skull was.
Our prayers are with John and Revé Walsh and their family, during this difficult time. The kidnapping and murder of their son Adam Walsh was solved and the case was closed on Tuesday. God bless you, Walsh family.
America's Most Wanted: Walsh Family Statement
Link from May, 2008:
"America's Most Valuable Program"
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
There are people who believe that it is the love that counts, but not the gift. That is hogwash. Guys, listen up: if you want to feel safe from Super Glue around your private parts while your hand is in place, you better get an appropriate gift. On occasion, you know what gift the gal wants to receive. When she asks you for something make sure you get it for her. Seldom do women ask for something. They leave it all up to you. Here are a dozen must-avoid gifts for Christmas.
1. A 1957 Fender Stratocaster with a 1965 Fender Princeton Reverb Amplifier along with a 5 year’s supply of guitar lessons from the best instructor in the state. She will figure this one out pretty quickly.
2. A fiddle. Take it from a guy who knows.... women love violin/fiddles. They are loud, they make awful sounds and they make geese slam into your windows. And the women NEVER quit practicing these things. Take a fool’s advice and try to get her into NASCAR racing.
3. Season passes to NASCAR racing. I know, I know. I just said above that you need to try to get her into this, but let’s be honest. You do not have a chance in hell of getting her to sit through a day of racing right next to a drunk that keeps yelling “Git up under Gordon and ram him into the wall! He’s Gay!”
4. Tickets for 2 to the Cherry Pit. No explanation needed to those who live in the Dallas Metroplex.
5. A romantic night out on the town to see the latest “Scream” movie. Women have a weird sense of drama. They just don’t catch how cool it is to see hot chicks with huge knockers screaming in agonizing pain.
6. A pair of souvenir seats from the old Dallas Sportatorium. Face facts: women do not understand the culture of pro wrestling. When you see one bloated fat guy hit the other in the head with a chair about 10 times, it really looks like it hurts. As a former wrestler myself, I can tell you that it DOES hurt. And the blood is real and that is what is so cool about the business. But women just don’t like it when the fat guys start talking about killing other fat guys. Pass on this one.
7. A thong that is her actual size. You will look really stupid and perhaps dead when you have to put a note in the box that says, “Sorry honey, they didn’t have your size so I just got the XXL and maybe it will stretch.” Not good at all. That thong is so big you could pull a jeep from a ditch with it. Avoid the headache of having a rolling pin implanted in your skull.
8. A gift certificate for breast implants. She will know what you are up to and you will not survive this one. Please see #4 above and avoid a nasty scene.
9. A gift certificate for breast reduction surgery. Whoooo boy, you are really asking for trouble here. You can use the old line about “I am worried about your low back hurting you” but what she hears is, “you are a fat, hormonal, water-retaining sea cow.” No matter how sincere you are, DON’T DO IT.
10. A gift certificate for high intensity, head to toe liposuction. Now, that is just dumb, but someone is going to do it. Why not just offer her a gastric lap band surgery and get it over with?
11.Gastric lap band surgery. I felt the need to put this in here just in case there was anyone stupid enough to listen to what I said in #10.
12. …and a Partridge Family Greatest Hits CD.
Merry Christmas to everyone from the Cunningham’s to the you’s.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Corruption is a feral cat. It is an apex predator, can cause damage to the local ecosystem, and is difficult to track. In ideal situations, feral cats are trapped and neutered. Last week, a feral cat in Illinois was finally caught. Neutering to follow....
Ethics and compliance appear to be unfamiliar concepts to a number of our elected officials. Pillage and plunder are the order of the day for men such as Governor Blagojevich. And although I am cognizant that law and penalty requires due process, should it take years before the political thugs and criminals receive a prison jumpsuit?
Many successful international corporations have courses on compliance for their employees. Siemens is an organization which immediately comes to mind, when considering a business which strives for a high corporate standard of behavior. Now while government compliance is easily understood, I am plain spoken: Just do the right thing for the good of your constituents and never take a bribe. That is ethical compliance which engenders public trust. In recent months the polls have shown the general public to trust our elected representatives on the level that we would trust a snake to babysit the hen's eggs. We need a mongoose or two cut loose in the government garden at this point. Maybe that mongoose is you?
It is time for Americans to demand a new order of business. The corruption must be curbed. Is anyone else irritated with stepping in the droppings of these feral cats? Should our newly elected local and state representatives attend a mandatory two week course on government ethics and compliance prior to assuming their new duties? Can they be taught how to firmly shut the door to the first attempt at corruption thus setting the standard for their staff? Can they be instructed how to access appropriate chain of command structures to immediately report suspected fraud and abuse within the system? Or is the cronyism, corruption and Capitol Hill lobbyist bloc such a powerful force that newly elected officials have little chance of surviving a term without compromise? If a domesticated cat happens to join a clowder of feral cats, how long before it also begins to exhibit the behavior of an apex predator? I fear we have a few political clowders in Washington. They mingle within smaller clowders otherwise known as "committees", "political parties" and "fact-finding missions".
If "Company A" sends you to a conference in Paris and "Company B" merely requests an hour of your time to present a concern, which company is likely to receive the favorable nod? There have been noticeable instances of fraudulent actions taken by some of our elected officials, specifically with regard to ethics violations in allowing family members as travel companions on some of these "fact finding missions".
A mere reading of signatories to pork barrel spending bills, tracking appropriations which benefit member/family business or real estate interests, etc. will identify additional members of the feral population who claim to serve us. When is the last time you researched the performance of an elected representative and what he/she was sponsoring? Personally, I don't give a damn that Pete Sessions streaked in college. I pounded the pavement door to door and worked in the Dallas HQ when he was running against Martin Frost. But I do care about his voting record today and what it says about his desire to serve the people in his district. Are you keeping up with these things or are you unconcerned about our political feral clowders?
You see, corruption is a feral cat. The animals roam. They will move from doorstep to doorstep and mark areas where the food supply is good. Although wild, they manage to group together and they hide their young. How many additional feral cats are within the chain of command of the Governor of Illinois? Feral colonies develop an affinity for each other but they pull back from interaction with humans. And it appears that for some, integrity in government for the sake of the constituents, is a wildly unfamiliar concept. Can we get rid of them instead of continuing to feed them?
Feral Cat Exhibit #1
Feral Cat Exhibit #2
Sunday, December 14, 2008
"Verily the proverb says that between true and false lie four fingers, for if you place your right hand on your head, then the distance between your ear and your eye is measured by four fingers, and that which you hear with your ear may be false, that which you see with your eyes is the truth, nor is there any doubt about it."
Mahmud the Merchant
Tales from the Arab Tribes, as related to C.G. Campbell,first published in 1949, Made and printed in Great Britain
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Walter Williams is pithy and spares no words as to why Americans should continue to shoulder the sandbags against the flood of cash from our collective wallets to support the infamous bailout. Maybe a realistic cost of living adjustment is needed for auto workers? GM workers earn more than double what I earn as an R.N. with a four year college degree. Amazing!
Here is the link.
Dr. Jeff Cunningham will return at some point in time next week with a rather irreverent blog especially for the men. It will warn you of the Twelve Bad Gifts of Christmas. But remember! This is the man who wrote a blog against necrophilic porn with such tremendous firepower that he and I were slapped with a demand letter from a necrophilic porn producer to take down the blog or face a lawsuit. As a woman, I also had a bit of an unsavory email exchange with a man who does not mind making films where he is the "star of the show" raping and mutilating women using a carte blanche menu of special requests from his paying clientele.
Blackfoot and Bob will return. Tom Gordon has most likely taken permanent flight, but his name will continue to grace the masthead for a season in recognition of the tremendous political thought he contributed to the site.
Not sure where my own thoughts will move this next week. Possibly corruption or terrorism?
We shall see!
Friday, December 12, 2008
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
-George Santayana-Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, page 284"
“In terms of my toughness, look, first of all, I come from Chicago,[…] and you know, politics in Chicago, as it was once said, is not tiddlywinks. It's not beanbag. You know, it's a tough town.”
-Barack Hussein Obama, (to Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball Campus Tour”)
Just as Shakespeare’s Polonius learned that brevity is the soul of wit, today’s 24-hour chattering class should take note and recall the works of one Thomas Nast. Nast DREW for Harper’s Weekly in the mid-to-late 1800’s. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Thomas Nast commanded the english language quite well. Unfortunately for chest-thumping democrats, art imitates life and it has little concern over chronology.
Whether it’s Rahm Emanuel ducking questions or Barack Obama “umming” through another press conference about the disgraced Chicago machine’s threat to a pre-born Obama presidency, it takes but a short trip back to the days of the Tammany Political Machine in New York to find an obscure hero. And this hero had only the talent of an artist and a wicked pen.
A man truly deserving of praise from Abraham Lincoln, Nast was considered “our best recruiting sergeant”, by the 16th president. Thomas Nast was so successful swaying opinion with creativity and conviction that he was offered half a million dollars (no small sum in the 1800’s) as a bribe to drop his cartoon critiques of the Tammany Political Machine. What is even more phenomenal is that Nast refused and stayed the course in his campaign against the influential and powerful organization that turned "immigrant support" into a corrupt and powerful American political force.
Where is such a principled journalistic force today? I dare say it does not exist. The cartoon above depicts a tiger, representing the Tammany Hall political machine, having mauled and destroyed democracy. What I find to be illustrative if not instructive, is that the stories of “pay for play” politics and patronage in 21st century Chicago prove we haven’t learned much. The hangover is just beginning.
We’re off to a great start in the most transparent presidency, aren’t we? I would encourage readers to look into the historical aspects of the Tammany and Tweed Machines. Ask yourself if this could really be the “Dawn of a new age of American leadership”, or is it just a return to the shake-down tactics of old?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My paternal grandparents were homeless for a season during the Great Depression. They lived in a camp for transients in Oklahoma. Bonnie and Clyde were seen moving freely and at will. They were allowed to roam among the poor who resided within that particular Dust Bowl camp. My grandmother recounted to me how Bonnie and Clyde were initially treated like folk heroes. They were the modern Robin Hood and banks were spat upon in the aftermath of the financial collapse.
Last week I finished a lovely book by Joseph Mitchell, “Joe Gould’s Secret”. Divided into two parts, the first sets the stage for the second. I read “Professor Sea Gull” in somewhat distanced and remote manner. But shortly after starting the second section, “Joe Gould’s Secret”, I found the book hard to lay down. A stark picture of homelessness emerged from the shadows by skilled hand of the author. Joe Gould was a Harvard graduate from a well-established east coast family. Alcoholism, but not schizophrenia, was his companion. Yet even in a homeless condition he had important things to say, magnificent thoughts to convey. His finger was on the pulse of the neighborhood if for no other reason than the fact he roamed the streets and got the curbside view of the microcosm of community in existence.
At least a couple days a week I am an early morning mall walker. In recents months I have noticed a strange new addition to the recognizable pedestrian crowd. There is no doubt in my mind: homeless people are part of the landscape. Some are dozing on benches along the main corridors while others are walking along with the undeniably desperate and fatigued look of those who just came in off the street to savor a few minutes of normalcy. Their plight touches me. My understanding that I can never help them all causes me to quicken my pace and somewhat subconsciously block them from my view.
We are going to see an increase of homelessness in America as our nation struggles with repercussions from both corporate and individual greed, mismanagement and the fraudulent practices which have overtaken not only our banking industry, but so many other markets. My morning cup of coffee included the WSJ. Money and Investing had a great article above the fold, on AIG and their losses on bad bets. Think ten billion dollars. The outsourcing of jobs and concurrent replacement of low-skilled American wage earners with an illegal immigrant workforce still willing to work for even less will continue to take its toll, because the Bush administration didn't give much of a damn, and the status quo will prevail. Too many factors which show disregard for the American citizen and the basic need of a man to support his family have brought us to this point. It did not happen in a day. Looking further to the individual American, the lust to live beyond our means has created demons of personal debt which are now unmanageable for many families.
Instant crisis is seen in the aftermath of powerful acts of nature. But the crisis our nation faces is one created by human hand. It is time to pay the Devil and we will pay him in spades and for years to come. Read my lips: our next President cannot wave a wand and fix this mess. His party also shoulders a good share of the blame for the crisis.
While the media hopes the majority of the tax-burdened middle class will feel warm and fuzzy knowing top CEO’s across our nation are suddenly a bit shame-faced about receiving their annual multi-million dollar bonus packages, nary a tear of relief should be shed. There is little regard for the peasants outside the moat. Without generous CEO compensation, the children of our corporate elite will still attend the best schools, continue to stable their horses and plan summer trips to the Mediterranean. The players will merely adjust their lifestyles to one without an anticipated income cushion that would keep them afloat if they lived to be one hundred. But back in the Heartland, places like Kansas, hundreds of thousands of Americans will join the ranks of the homeless during the Obama administration. That “hope” will be like a candle in the wind, Sir.
Are you prepared to see someone like Joe Gould in your neighborhood? And when they come, what will be your response?
Joe Gould's Secret: Movie Adaptation
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Remember that old childhood ditty "Dry Bones"? (The thigh bone's connected to the hip bone...) The skeleton of corrupt 21st century Illinois politics is being excavated from the dark back rooms and assembled in federal courtrooms. The latest bone was put in place by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI and SAIC Robert Grant, when Governor Milorad "Rod" Blagojevich was arrested at his home before dawn on Tuesday. Although the allegations against Blago were news to me (I live in Alaska and there is only one governor), it seems this has been a long time coming:
-Getting a boost up into politics by his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, Blago later shut down a landfill operated by a Mell relative. Mell accused him of trading state board and commissions appointments for campaign contributions. He later retracted his statement.
-John Aramanda, who served in Obama's DC office in 2005, is the son of Joseph Aramanda, an Obama campaign contributor. Joseph is “Individual D” in (Blago's close friend) Tony Rezko's indictment, and allegedly received $250,000 in state pension money, in exchange for donating to Blago's campaign.
-Last year, Amrish and Anita Mahajan raised more than $500,000 in campaign money, hoping for political favors in a case pending with state regulators.
-Last November, lobbyist John Wyma bought a house through Patricia Blagojevich, earning her $30K in commission. The original homeowner, Mark Wight, was rewarded a $10 million state roads deal.
-This year, Ali Ata admitted to buying his job with the IL Finance Authority for a $127K campaign donation.
The Chicago Tribune reported that at least 75% of $25,000 donors gained something in return: jobs, contracts or favorable regulatory rulings. Similarly, they report that 75% of Patricia's $700K home-based business earnings came from state contractors and others with political ties. There is no doubt that Blagojevich could/can be bought. I hope some of those jobs went to Social Services, because involving his wife in his dirty works may potentially leave their daughters without both their parents for a few years.
Left wing news agencies are defending Barack Obama's non-statement on the case, but Republican party members are getting a bit impatient with Teflon Barry's ability to disconnect himself from his supporters whenever they become inconvenient to him. RNC Chairman Mike Duncan stated: "Americans expect strong leadership, but President-elect Barack Obama's comments on the matter are insufficient at best. Given the President-elect's history of supporting and advising Governor Blagojevich, he has a responsibility to speak out and fully address the issue." You see, when Blago ran for governor in 2002, one of his top advisors was Barack Obama. Another top advisor, Rahm Emanuel, this week recanted his statement from earlier this year that he and Obama "met weekly" with Blago during his campaign. Although there were rumblings of Blago "selling jobs" in his first term, Obama still endorsed Blago's run in 2006.
Two weeks ago David Axelrod said of the Senate replacement: "I know he [Obama] has talked to the governor, and there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for alot of them." Tuesday Obama said he had no contact with the governor or his office. Personally, I trust that Axelrod would remember if there were conversations between his current boss and his former boss. Axelrod is currently Obama's top political advisor, and was Blago's campaign manager during his run for Congress in 1996.
As when Tony Rezko was indicted, Obama stated that he was "saddened" by Blago's indictment. I'm guessing his sadness might come with a fair share of fear. Can his voice be heard on the hours of tape the FBI has collected from wiretaps in Blago's office, conference room, and home? Had he been approached by Blago regarding a cabinet position (HHS) or an ambassadorship (maybe Cameron Munter's position?) in exchange for naming Valerie Jarrett as the new junior senator? On a side note, Jarrett has since pulled her name from consideration. Maybe Blago has some old dirt that would taint Obama's image. Short of physical evidence, what kind of testimony could Blago give that would be a threat to Obama? It makes you wonder. If Rezko hadn't gotten caught, would he have been bartering or blackmailing for a lucrative position on Obama's team, as well? Maybe if these guys keep their mouths shut, they'll warrant a presidential pardon. Hey, Hillary played the game and look where it got her.
I did not vote for Obama. However, I do defend him to those who want to unfairly tear him down before he even takes the oath. I am cautiously optimist with the emphasis on caution. I have resigned myself to the fact that he will be my President in a little over a month. As this case is brought out into the light, we will hear many more names of "bones" that can be connected to the crime syndicate that seems to rule Chicago politics. I sincerely hope those names do not include the Head of State bone.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Things were at a loggerhead between the British, India’s congressional body and the political block of the Muslim League in August of 1946 regarding establishment of a new Muslim-majority nation. In a move calculated to bring a populist swell of support to the negotiation table Muhammad Ali Jinnah announced 16 August 1946 as “Direct Action Day” for Indians of the Muslim Deen. The plan worked, albeit with cost of blood. On 3 June 1947 Lord Mountbatten delivered the news: London had plans on the table for the partition of India. Although the announcement was anticipated, the response caught the world off guard. Hindu’s and Sikh’s began to rapidly vacate what would be the new Pakistan. Massive numbers of Muslims moving by train, beast of burden or on foot began to move along these corridors to the eastern and western horns of the land partitioned for their new homeland. Rioting, slaughtering and general chaos accompanied both sides. It was a time of tremendous struggle and unrest. The mujahir (immigrants) entered into the jihad spoken of in Qur’an 2:218.
“Lo! Those who believe, and those who emigrate (to escape persecution) and strive (jahadu) in the way of Allah, these have hope of Allah’s mercy.”
Jahadu was full throttle and by the millions. It took an additional decade before the Islamic Republic of Pakistan made official appearance. The adoption of a constitution in 1956 put Pakistan on the world map. Ideas were plentiful and poverty plagued the majority. But those within the camp had psychologically pitched their tents. There was much hope and passion for the future. A distinct new Muslim nation was born.
General Zia-ul-Haq was appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1976. Working diligently, he quickly and efficiently consolidated his power over the next few months and mounted a successful military coup d’etat. He remained president of Pakistan for eleven years until his death in a jet crash. There are many articles available detailing the administrative rule of General Zia. The majority cast him in unfavorable light. The tombs of the bodies of the thousands killed in extra-judicial manner remain but the ghost of General Zia still haunts the landscape.
His legacy as an absolutist ruler extended down to the elementary classrooms. He sought “the other jihad”. It is the one which plagues the region today. With his guidance, the hope and future of Pakistan, its children, were raped of intellect. The teachers were the rapists and the curriculum was the penetration tool. Math, arts, and sciences were not emphasized. An inculcated hatred and distrust of the West which sought to unleash an unhealthy and perpetual national paranoia was unleashed in the classroom. These facts are well-substantiated in research literature. As noted by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, and this is paraphrased as I remember it: Baby tigers behave differently than adult tigers. The tigers are adults now and some of them are hungry. Possibly unable to grasp the multi-faceted challenges within their own government and what plagues the infrastructure of the nation, the eye of the tiger looks to the past. Pakistan is suffering under the strain of a generation which was indoctrinated as opposed to educated. Schools across the nation perpetuated this indoctrinational process for many years.
Children must be taught the skills which move them into the marketplace. But in the marketplace of ideas, children must be taught virtue and concepts which lend first to healthy self-assessment as opposed to external assignment of guilt to enemies abroad. To take the malleable conscience of a child and teach hate and suspicion as opposed to concepts which function as psychological stability anchors for personality is ethically wrong, no matter what the belief system. These echoes from the past are reverberating across the nation. And for the poor who were not taught to the level of a simple algebra equation, but pushed to grasp in what direction the finger of blame pointed, General Zia's finger cast their gaze to the West. Yes! Forces external to the nation have created the current crisis. Burn another effigy! Torch the American flag! Do it again, and again and again! But what will become of Pakistan?
*Editors comment: I despise historical revision. To lie about the past destroys the lessons for the future. Our government, on smaller scale, instituted the same type of curriculum into textbooks of public schools in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. Yet the enemy we sought for Afghan children to identify was the Soviet soldier. We have since analyzed the error of that path.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Dr. Rice had an elegant look with her dark suit and pearls as she arrived in New Delhi seeking to de-escalate the tensions with Pakistan over the recent attacks in Mumbai. Her public statements generally move from measured cadence to a bit of unnecessary scolding tone, depending on the stage. Seeking Pakistan’s largesse to hand LeT chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and a cadre of other men into the waiting arms of India’s intelligence service, the president of Pakistan has stated he will do no such thing. If taken into custody, they will be tried within the confines of the Pakistani court system with use of a penal code which for the most part resembles the old British colonial model. Things are incredibly tense on either side. But Pakistan lit their own fuse and by their own hand, a long time ago.
Painting a picture of the current state of affairs in Pakistan requires a broader brush coming off the palette than the news du jour. To be blunt, Pakistan is in a slow state of economic collapse and the national social net began to collapse with the entrance of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq to the political stage in decades past.
The chaos which is visible in the Swat Valley and along the vast one thousand mile border shared with Afghanistan is merely reflective of the subtle signs of social upheaval which are occurring within the more populated and urban centers of Pakistan. We observed it in small measure when in 2007 the control of Lal Masjid was taken away from a few radicals. These religious leaders had been stirring up their members to commit criminal acts against the surrounding neighborhood business’ unsupportive of their views. Some Muslims felt it was a sanctum sanctorum type strike and chat rooms and forums worked the issue over from every possible angle. I joined the fray to discuss it too. The political pendulum swung wildly for President Musharraf at that time.
But we can “thank” deceased General Zia for some of the current turmoil and state of the national psyche. Feted at the White House during the Reagan years, he received the full display of protocol for a dignitary reception. Our leaders do entertain the various head of state; it is part of their job description. But at that particular stage of the game, the collective “we” were clueless as to the immense damage General Zia was inflicting on the social fabric of his nation.
The British partition of India brought together a vast diaspora of Muslims to the western and eastern horns of a newly established Pakistan. Men such as M. Ali Jinnah and Sir Iqbal provided ideological vitality into the pool of thought of “how” a new Muslim nation should be established and hence, function. Muhammad Asad, a noted scholar, had a hand in submitting a first draft of a new constitutional document. All-India Muslim League members fought and bickered among themselves in the heady days of national conception. But from emancipation to self-actualization as a nation can be difficult task.
A fairly new nation establishing a collective identity can ill-afford to radicalize the young. That is exactly what General Zia set about to accomplish in seeking a war-footing and enemy identifying public school curriculum. A bastardization of the educational standard, acceptable to ideologues instead of educators, was birthed. The children taught under a polarizing indoctrination program are all grown up now. Some of them remember their indoctrination merely as an echo from the past. But the educational experiment has pre-conditoned to certain responses. Let’s discuss this a bit more tomorrow. Because what is happening in Somalia is a microscopic view of what may potentially explode across the landscape of Pakistan in the next decade. Welcome to Pakmalia.
Dr. Rice in New Delhi
Read section 3b
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
The Mumbai attack last week shook me badly. It is difficult for me to grasp a world where irrationality makes sense. Having worked in psychiatric nursing, I have cared for men running down halls to escape “arms reaching from the walls to grab them”. I have chased down and clothed women who stripped naked and walked by men with a seeming unawareness they were completely nude. We have medications for such delusions and to modify chemical imbalances in the brain.
But how does a sane person train for months to target and kill civilians not at war? How do they sleep at night? I have developed dark circles under my own eyes this week. Sleep has merely shadowed my nights.
The day it was confirmed Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah were among the deceased, that night, I awakened with clarity of thought. “She was pregnant and her child was also killed.” Following the story later, Mrs. Holztberg was indeed (approximately six months) pregnant when she died. At the funeral ceremony in Israel, her grieving father made the announcement.
What awakened me from sleep? Did I hear her last cry? Or somehow did my own womb feel the last movement of her child dying in watery grave? I don’t know how these things occur such as a thought which is then found to be true, premonitions or hunches. I have little understanding of extra-sensory perception, yet I know it exists. There is much we still do not understand about our own brains and the possible interconnectivity of our universe. Most of us have these flashes of illumination on occasion. Mine usually come at night.
But there is no need for a flash of illumination to look at what happened in Mumbai and determine that hatred harbors no mercy, and evil is birthed without tear ducts but given hearty laugh.
How did you sleep this week?
Friday, December 05, 2008
The government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
This holiday season the only item in mass demand is your tax dollar. While November retail sales signal that you are being stingy this holiday season, your government is picking up the slack.
In the same week that “Big Auto” executives delivered their make-up book report to our perpetual substitute teachers in congress, we learned that corporate insurance giant and new government welfare recipient AIG plans to use the $85 billion government bailout to “retain” executives with bonuses. Unlike congress, which lectures automakers on having a plan to “restructure” their companies shackled in the restraints of government regulation and unionized labor costs, I understand that compensation is an important tool for recruiting and keeping talent. But just as private jets are not fashionable these days for trips to the trough, the word “bonus” should ruffle a feather or two of your average taxpayer. When news gets out that evil white collar dudes are taking YOUR tax money instead of being kicked to the curb, it just doesn’t do a lot for the problem-solving reputation of the Federal legislative branch. Forget that the companies in question were, and are, friends of the party you just put in the White House.
I listened to Ms. Swafford’s favorite radio show host (Rush Limbaugh) yesterday for just enough time to hear some very valid criticism of this whole bailout process. While fielding frustrations from a Michigan caller warning that democrats will do to the nation what Governor Granholm has to his state, Limbaugh used Senator Richard Shelby’s criticism of the auto executive’s plan to take issue and point out that most elected officials haven’t a clue what a business plan looks like. How true! For those people who want government to take control of everything they think is wrong, we should remind them of their least-favorite candidates in the opposite party and ask them if they want “someone like that” running the nation’s big businesses.
Limbaugh quoted Shelby saying "I looked at their plan, and I don't see anything in there about making a profit. I just see a bunch of facts." The quote alone is shockingly illustrative, though Limbaugh goes on to illustrate further how elected officials have THE LEAST possible qualifications to judge business decisions. Yet here we are watching the collective idiocy of Washington take over the private sector.
The problem, you see, is that the “big government” people require that it be run by “the right people”. You can’t guarantee that. More to the point, history and current events validate for us that you can’t prevent “the wrong people” from getting there and hanging around for far too long. It’s precisely why our founders tried to design a system for citizen governance. Come, serve and go home. Now that we have successfully separated ourselves from that ridiculously confining document called “The Constitution”, America can move forward and become that perfect nation the president elect wants.
Remember for just a moment how evil “big tobacco” and Microsoft were during the Clinton administration? Big business is bad, to socialists, only as long as it exists as independent and autonomous. The modern American socialist will one day wake up with a vampirical self-loathing. Business and its achievers are the blood of a thriving economy. Anti-capitalists may mean well, but they must feed. They don’t want to kill it, but they do want to feed off of it.
The greed and mismanagement prevalent in large private corporations is yet another significant factor and should not be overlooked. That is a morality-oriented discussion for another time, but it warrants mentioning when chiding government over this debacle. But there is a teaching opportunity here. Conservatives should strongly make the point that punishing wrongdoing is better for the rule of law AND freedom than trying to prevent it.
They say that crisis is the friend of the state. At least we know now that Rahm Emanuel can never successfully deny that. The real crisis of terroristic threat never once received the proper respect of the left. Why do you think? Yet a financial crisis, developed largely from the efforts of bailout-recipient companies, finds those people now in Federal executive branch positions. Using a financial lending crisis, the left will now set out to fulfill the totality of a collectivist agenda. They demand that we put aside our good judgement…and accept that we already have handed over our wallets.
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."
Thursday, December 04, 2008
It is always a delight to awaken to a headline causing me to spit my first sip of coffee out all over the keyboard. This was on Yahoo News. Let it sink in a bit.
Poll: California Gay Marriage Ban backed by less educated, religious.
Well, howdy doody! Welcome to eugenics at the polls. Possibly we should begin measuring heads, checking for low-set ears and dull eyes before allowing any American to vote! Do you see the headline bias? Are you aware that headlines perform as the hinge of thought for the journalist with the agenda? Personally, I am surprised that the poll did not also seek to confirm gun ownership! "Less educated, religious gun-owners" would have had more snap, crackle and pop.
Americans are equal in the polling booth. We each have one vote. We cast it based on our beliefs and convictions as to what is best for America. And I will be damned if I have seen one article which has been kind toward the voters of California regarding their vote to keep marriage as a fenced asset for heterosexuals. Here is the Swofford challenge today. Send me one article which has been favorable toward California voters and this particular issue/outcome.
And remember, the media prefers to ride in on a dark horse.
(Please note that the title for the article has changed since this morning. The title shown is the one that headed the article at the time I published the blog.)
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
With President-elect Obama's highly vaunted "new dawn of American leadership" my personal enthusiasm for a vibrant 21st century foreign policy model is dampened by administrative concerns. The devil is always in the details. And the difference between a hero and a fool is measured by outcome. I am a results oriented kind of gal.
Have you read the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2005? Senator Obama was the co-sponsor. As with most things governmentally written about Darfur, it is presented with passive voice. What about the one billion dollars per year increase which Senator Obama seeks to infuse into the Sub-Sahara region for public health, specifically PEPFAR? A lofty goal if properly administrated. But governmental corruption is the banditry of choice for the gift of our U.S. dollars into poverty-stricken regions. Give a dollar, flush two, is how most of it works. Senator Obama has recently taken the usual swat at Mugabe, the African whipping post of the moment. The nation is currently in the throes of a cholera epidemic. With inflation in numbers hard for me to count and a crumbling infrastructure, the sad tale of corrupt rule is there for all to see. Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe certainly deserves a slap as does Hugo Chavez who also seeks to be President-for-life. Until the last expelled breath from their alveolar sacs neither will voluntarily step down. But in less time than it takes to say "Sarah Palin" the orator with the golden throat offers up the new dawn. There is that part of me that thinks Senator Obama would be a classier act if he would set the team in place, but allow our seated President the remainder of his term before crowding the stage. What do you think?
I am also concerned regarding an enthusiastic approach which seems to be swatting at anything and everything. Senator Obama is all over the page. Ask him, he has an opinion! I trust men to greater degree when they occasionally look a person square in the eye and are able to admit, "I don't know the answer to that particular question." But Senator Obama pulls the rabbit out of the hat every single time. I see a man lacking experience but with plenty of zeal. But zeal can be the domain of the inexperienced. Wisdom resides with grey heads. I fear our nation may end up with an ambisinistrous foreign policy which is neither cogent nor coherent.
Last but not least, it is absolute lunacy to seek an army of volunteers to spread out across the globe in Peace Corps manner in the 21st century. The last thing the eyes of some of these volunteers will see is their detached arm hanging from a tree before dying from massive bleeding in a grenade attack against them. Mark my words. We will send some of them to their deaths. Are we willing to provide them life insurance comparable to the SGLI for the military?
I support an upgraded foreign policy model which moves highly-selective pods of professionals transnationally and quickly to interface with existing NGO's and established organizations in nations with whom we partner. I suport increased USAID with active consultation and demand for accountability with American tax dollars. I support teams which move between Washington into areas with arcs of instability in fluid manner. Take a cadre of experts in for 2-3 weeks, bring them home, before they are recognized political targets. I do not support the unleashing of tens of thousands of young Americans with high hopes and completely lacking in cultural intelligence to try to bring "a new dawn" in areas where darkness is rising and risk unmanageable.
Senator Obama has made a wise choice to retain Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But with the celebration of the dawning of a new age and beyond the adoring media crowd, a dangerous and difficult world awaits. I can't quite yet join the parade.
The resume of our President-elect
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
*Editorial Note: This is the final of four parts written by Chief Jeffrey Snell, USN, to educate readership on military funeral honors. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with this man for lunch a couple weeks ago. He is the "real deal". The Navy depends on the Chief community for their expertise, talent and leadership capabilities.
Chief Snell, I extend my deepest gratitude for your service to our nation.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”-- Mahatma Gandhi
Resources you may need to consult in the future for Veteran Funeral Honors:
Your Humble Servant-
Chief Jeffrey Snell
Past President, US Navy Ceremonial Guard Alumni Association
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”
2 Timothy 4:7
Monday, December 01, 2008
It was tactically brilliant. The September 11, 2001 attack brought the most powerful nation on the face of the earth into days of mourning and grief and prepared our nation for war.
There is "war" as a broad category. It should remain as the least desirable choice on a menu of options for resolving conflicts in the affairs of men. War seeks out a combatant demographic, nation pitted against nation. Alliances are formed and treaties are observed or discarded. Uniforms and allegiances are recognized. Officer and enlisted are distinguishable by insignia. It is a distinct class: warrior against warrior.
There is a line of demarcation which exists for the preservation of mankind. The black arts of war reside in a separate class, practiced in narrow scope by intelligence agencies. It involves assassination of high value targets and "black-ops" type endeavors with are meticulously planned strikes. They move quickly and the footprint is rarely identified. These particular "arts" were never meant to cross over for random strikes against nameless entities, powerless civilians. It is reserved for men of high rank involved in high stakes poker. These few players understand how their position(s) and rank place them at greater risk than the average population. They acknowlege risks with unswerving gaze. They mentally number their days in minutes and days rather than weeks and months, like the rest of the population at large.
Osama bin Laden removed the line of demarcation for Muslims when he planned an attack against multiple targets within our nation. With no remorse, he used our citizens as human components of guided missiles.... our own commecial aircraft, commandeered and piloted by the insane. The gates of hell were cracked open on that day. The bellows of Al-Hutamah were heard within the earthly flames and columns of fire. (Al-Mulk 7) And while men shouted "Allahu Akbar!", Hell responded, "Is there more?" (Qaaf 30) There have been more, since the gates were cracked. The United Kingdom suffered under the black arts of war on 7/7. Last week, the city of Mumbai fell under the same curse.
Al-Qaedah crossed the line with a shock and awe display of the black arts of war. This was unequal to Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attacked our Navy Fleet. We declared war against them and took them to their knees at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives. But Al-Qaedah attacked non-uniformed citizens not at war. Nineteen highly trained assassins brought brutality against the peaceful. The souls of men, blood crying out from the ground, became the new political currency for Muslim splinter groups and factions.
Mumbai experienced improvement by reduction. A force of ten highly trained men brought the black arts of war against a vibrant city teeming with life. It took sixty hours of combat to regain control of the areas under seige. In the aftermath the city is left with images of bloody footprints and pools of blood on a railway station platform. Bodies are being removed much like those of slaughtered goats. One picture shows a mother lamenting the loss of her two children. For the poor, children are their only earthly treasure. A small community center became the temporary tomb for dead Jews found wrapped in their prayer shawls.
The Qur'an speaks of the black arts, an occultish science taught to the children of men. While not specifically referencing the black arts of war, a general principle and guiding wisdom can be harvested from the text. There is punishment for those who cross a line of demarcation, teaching that which should not be brought into the general domain of man. Oral tradition passes along the punishment meted out against the angels Harut and Marut for their part in the corruption of the inhabitants of earth. If they have escaped their bindings, surely they must reside along the mountains and ravines of the Afghan-Pak border. High in the crags of the rocks they share the bread of the corrupt, and last week their hands were dipped in blood again. This time it is the blood of the innocent in Mumbai. Corrupters of men. Merchants of Death.