Friday, December 10, 2004
What is Conservatism?
I recently became aware of this article by Philip Agre. It is one of the most interesting and descriptive I have read on the nature of conservatism and what it seeks to accomplish.

It is a bit long, and requires some attention, but is well worth it. You will be rewarded with knowledge.

Also, please refer the link to his article to others.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Medical Ethics Failures at Abu Ghraib Prison
Dr. Steven Miles, Professor of Medicine and Ethics at the University of Minnesota, appeared on CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning (Wednesday, 8/25/04) to discuss the actions of medical personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

He has authored an article on the subject in which he documents the failure of medical personnel to report the abuses and injuries. Such behavior is at odds with the ethical standards of their profession. Even death certificates were falsified.

It had not occurred to me before that doctors and nurses responsible for the health of prisoners at the facility could not have avoided seeing the results of the mistreatment and would have provided care for injuries, such as suturing and dressing wounds.

It seems incredible that the low-level enlisted men and women accused of independently devising and carrying out such behavior would have been confident that they could conceal the evidence from their superiors. The idea that they could have makes no sense. They should be punished for what they did, but they should not make the trip alone. This affair may still be far from finished.

Dr. Miles' article:

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
The Cost of War
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.  This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.  Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. 

    ~Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

Tuesday, June 08, 2004
G-8 Conference Security
During past G-8 Summit Meetings, there has been no lack of effort to disrupt the proceedings by those in opposition to them.

For this round of meetings at Sea Island, Georgia, planning officials have borrowed from some older, rather effective technology to protect and sequester the participants. In the old days it would have been called a moat.

Look for far less trouble this time.
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Good News From Iraq
According to news service reports, Thomas Hamill, the former Mississippi dairy farmer who was kidnapped by Iraqui insurgents, has escaped his captors. Way to go, Tommy!

Hank, Jr. said it best: "A country boy will survive."

It won't be long before we'll see a made-for-TV movie out of this story. I hope he gets a good deal--he's earned every nickel of it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
More About Elaine Chao
Take a look at this interesting article by Laura Flanders that sheds a little more light on the background of Elaine Chao, who may be more the Secretary of Labor for China than for the United States. Her rags-to-riches story may be more riches than rags after all.

Ms. Chao has proved herself to be arrogant and disconnected from the working people of this country at a time of massive job migration to the Asian region, particularly to China.

She should be sent packing along with Mr. Bush this fall. Don't worry, they'll both be all right--the safety nets are in place as they have always been.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Why Do They Hate Us?
In his remarks this morning in the Senate, Mitch McConnell stated gravely, “These terrorists don’t hate us because of our policies; they hate us for who we are.”

And who are we? We are a country whose policies have caused a lot of people to hate us.

Saturday, March 20, 2004
Good News and Bad News
Howard Dean's organization is now operating from a new website, called Democracy for America. Check it out.

Also, I have a friend who, along with his wife, paid 2003 federal income taxes on a combined income of $43,800--all from wages. He tells me that their tax cut amounts to about $350.

That's the good news. The bad news is that his employer, a customer service organization, is moving its operations overseas at the end of April.

Saturday, February 28, 2004
Paying the Terrorists to Shoot at Us?
Excerpt from a Reuters report today:

The informant who helped lead the U.S. military to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's two sons has been paid most of a $30 million reward for the tip-off, the State Department said on Saturday.

"The informant who gave us information on the whereabouts of Uday and Qusay Hussein has been paid the bulk of the reward within the last couple of days, and has control over payment of the balance of the reward," said State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore. "The informant and his family have been relocated."

Hopefully, the new location doesn't end up being a cave somewhere in Afghanistan. It is a scary thought, brought to my attention late last year by a young friend of mine, that Saddam and his boys might be sacrificed as certain losers who were worth more dead than alive. The money could go a long way toward buying more weapons.

Again, as my young neighbor asked, could we be paying the terrorists to shoot at us?

Thursday, February 26, 2004
"Talk to your kids--they'll listen." This is just about all the advice the folks in charge seem to have for us these days regarding drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex.

The commercials they put on TV, with a few exceptions, present a simple and naïve approach, such as the one in which a mother stops her son on the way out the door to ask where he's going, who he's going with, and what they'll be doing. After giving her a satisfactory answer, she smiles contentedly and tells him to have a good time.

In another, a mother and teenage son are riding in a car when the subject of the son's new girlfriend's smoking comes up (revealed by an annoying little brother). The mother, suddenly concerned, asks about and is told that the girl tried it once but didn't like it. When she asks the son if he has ever smoked, he answers, "Mom, remember--we talked about that." She then has an "Oh, yes" moment, followed by a reassured smile, as they drive on.

One could think that's all it takes, and that other parents have problems because they just don't ask. In our experience, such advice has often come from people who didn't yet have children. It is normally far more difficult than that.

They are absolutely right in the sense that parents and children must have an ongoing relationship built as much as possible on respect, communication, and interested involvement. I commend the ad campaign for stressing that critically important need. However, most parents who have struggled through their childrens' teenage years know the more likely truth that children make a lot of mistakes through bad choices in spite of their parents' best efforts. When our family was younger, a well-seasoned older parent told me something I have found to be very true--that in spite of all of one's efforts, much of the fate of a child is out of our hands and is subject to just plain luck. It is a scary thought, but I believe it.

We had one of each--one who was so mature and responsible I sometimes think she could have raised herself, and the other who couldn't seem to make any choices that were beneficial to his own well-being. Worse yet, he seemed to have no difficulty finding friends who, as a group, reinforced their self-impairing behaviors. Often, we felt like we were throwing a rope to a drowning person who would promptly toss it back to us. Fortunately, both made it to adulthood intact. As is usually the case, they both seem to understand their parents better now that they have children of their own. In fact, having the responsibility of parenthood has brought the greatest single improvement to our son’s life.

Predictably, the well-behaved one is still due a substantial amount of attention that we will never be able to make up to her. During that preciously short span of years, the child who caused few problems unfortunately had to stand by while the other one's misfortunes were attended to. The same impact on other siblings often occurs when a child has a serious chronic physical illness.

I do believe that the ads fall short of the message that should be sent to parents when their teenagers have ample ammunition for trouble, but little judgment in how to avoid it. Urging abstinence alone will not suffice. Neither will just chatting it up about the issues. The kids certainly need to be talked to, but perhaps most importantly, they need to be listened to. Surprisingly, they often have more of the answers than we do, if we pay attention to the problems they are up against.

They should be educated about the resources available to them through their schools churches, community service organizations, and public health organizations. Failing to do so could deny them access to vital help they may need. By the time these life-changing issues are upon them, they can no longer be treated like children.

Peer pressure is probably the greatest single challenge they face, and it impacts almost every choice they have to make. They should be reassured that they don’t actually have to do what everybody else does—that they may discover the empowerment of leading, rather than being led. There is much more prestige in setting the trend instead of following it. Also, I think that it is important to stay in character as a parent, and hold to firm boundaries no matter how much they protest. Often they may be relieved to have an unyielding parent who is willing to take the blame as the bad guy.

So maybe the message should be “Listen to your kids—they’ll talk.” It might help more than we think.

That, and some plain old good luck.

Saturday, February 14, 2004
Another Sermon on the Mount
As is often the case for me, I somehow manage to get behind in my newspaper reading. I am envious of those who claim to run through several different papers while having morning coffee, since I can barely get through one before I must move on to my daily duties. If an article relates to human interest, technical matters, or other non time-sensitive topics, I will tear it out and toss it into a little tray on my desk for later reading.

This morning, I took the time to look through them and catch up. One was a story about the little three year-old girl who survived the auto accident that killed her mother. The child miraculously stayed alive on crackers and water for several days before the car was seen from the highway. Nighttime temperatures had gone as low as 28 degrees. Another dealt with healthy benefits of living the Amish lifestyle.

But one that I don't even remember saving caught my eye: "Muslim Cleric Condemns Terrorists As Affront to Faith", by Rawyah Rageh, of the Associated Press. It was published on February 1 in our local newspaper, tucked away in the upper left corner of page A6, next to the ads for car lots and department store sales.

The reporter described a sermon at Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia by the country's most respected Muslim cleric, in which he addressed an estimated 2 million of the faithful. The event marked the climax of the annual trek to Mecca, the Hajj.

It is often remarked that Muslims around the world, both clerics and rank-and-file followers, have not done enough to condemn violence and encourage peaceful resolution of social and political conflicts. I agree that this is an essential element in moving the cause of peaceful human existence forward during these turbulent times. I also believe that the terrorist attacks we have experienced worldwide are born of hopelessness and frustration, rather than an evil plot to take over the planet in the name of religion.

Taking the first steps in cleaning one's own house requires faith that such an action will please God. After all, isn't that what we are all supposed to be doing during our time here on earth? Unfortunately, there are few of us who can get beyond the idea of protecting our lands and possessions, resources of commerce, material wealth and political power in order to focus on the rewards of eternal communion with God. In the end, all that we try to preserve in this life is inconsequential, so we should not be afraid to risk sacrifice.

It is encouraging to know that some of those who should really be leading the faithful are speaking out. We need much more of this, and it should be met with a willingness to listen and to reciprocate.

Read the article using this link.

Friday, January 30, 2004
Editorial License at the Washington Times
Wesley Pruden might benefit from taking a refresher course in accurate reporting. If it were left to me, I’d just rap his knuckles with a ruler and stand him in the corner for awhile.

The Washington Times published an article today by Mr. Pruden, its Editor in Chief, in which he selectively quoted John Kerry’s 1971 Senate committee testimony on Vietnam atrocities. Kerry’s words, from today’s article:

"They ... raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power," he told a Senate committee in 1971 when he was just home from the war, and "cut off limbs, [blew] up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."

As we know, the purposeful excision (or insertion) of only a few words can significantly transform a message. This is one of the most blatant examples of editorial artwork I have seen in quite some time. Herewith, text from the relevant section of Kerry’s testimony:

“I would like to talk on behalf of all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia. These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit - the emotions in the room and the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.”

“They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”

Mr. Pruden then appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal. He was unrepentant, even when a viewer called in to point out the discrepancy.

Perhaps the Times was hurting for space today and really had to cut back the length of the article. If that were the case, then I would have suggested they include the relatively few words that were deleted, and correct the phrase “blew up bodies”. Ditching the remarks in the article speculating on the Senator's rumored botox treatments would have provided more than enough room.

John Kerry is entitled to his opinions, both then and now, whether we agree with him or not, and the public is entitled to more professionalism from a major newspaper.

Read the Pruden article, then read Kerry’s words. You decide.

Sunday, January 18, 2004
"And when the towers did come down, they brought with them 400,000 tons of structural steel, 208 passenger elevators, 46,600 windows, 220 acres' worth of reinforced concrete flooring, 6 acres of marble, 49,000 tons of air conditioning equipment, 12,000 miles of electrical cable, 23,000 fluorescent light bulbs, 198 miles of heating ducts, 300 computer mainframes, and the accumulated materials of...American capitalism compacted astounding three-dimensional Jackson Pollack-like dystopia of ash-covered wreckage that smoldered and burned literally for months."
---Richard Bernstein in Out of the Blue (Time Books, page 234)

Monday, January 12, 2004
George Soros Speaks for Himself
George Soros, the wealthy investor, has been criticized for his financial support of, and other "liberal" causes. Now, there's something we really should do something about--billionaires getting involved in politics.

Here is an article recently published in the Atlantic which says a lot about where he is coming from.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Why Outsourcing of Jobs Is Really Good For Us
According to this article , we've all been worrying way too much about American jobs being shipped overseas. Even InstaPundit has concerns about this issue.

It seems that there is particularly good news for American workers. Freed from the drudgery of routine tasks, they could then step on up to higher-level jobs that better utilize their skills and open up new opportunities. You know--like the former 25-year lathe operator who now sits hunched over a computer at the local career center learning to be a word processor.

According to the author, if we can get more foreign professionals back to the United States, they will spend more money at American business places, which will further boost the economy, thus benefiting displaced American workers.

Will there be fries with that?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003
" First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, December 25, 2003
At Christmas
On this beautiful Christmas day, let us all nurture hope for the safety of our sons and daughters as they serve their country.

Let us also hope that our leaders will selflessly guide them with honor, integrity, and compassion. For their dedication and sacrifice, our soldiers deserve no less.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Will the Real State-Run Media Please Step Forward?
Bill O'Reilly on his Fox News program this evening alluded once again to the idea that National Public Radio and Public Television are state-run.

We must ask ourselves, however, that if they are influenced by our current government, wouldn't their messages be different?

There is little question about whose side Fox is on. In addition, I have never known of Rupert Murdoch resorting to a telethon or bake sale to stay in business.

You decide.

Friday, December 19, 2003
Huffy Pedals It’s Way to the Global Marketplace
Most of us would probably not consider $11 an hour to be an excessively high wage for factory workers who assemble bicycles. In fact, for most jobs in America that involve skill and dexterity, an ability to work for long periods of time at repetitive tasks, and an alertness to problems in processes and material quality, we would not consider that amount to be an unreasonably high wage.

That is what Senator Byron Dorgan says was the average hourly wage for factory workers who assembled Huffy bicycles at a plant in Ohio. According to him, they are now assembled overseas at a labor cost of between 25 and 41 cents per hour. I agree with the Senator that those jobs are probably gone for good.

If American workers were willing to accept low enough wages to compete with such overseas labor rates, they probably could earn somewhat more than the foreign rates, since manufacturers would save on the costs of shipping the bicycles to the United States (of course,for those that are sold here). Such a rate would still probably end up well below current minimum wage.

The next time you go shopping for a new Huffy bicycle, take note of the fact that they are as expensive as they were before, and perhaps more. There is no real break for the consumer, either, from the savings enabled by rock-bottom wages. We might conclude that all of that extra profit is a welcome sight for Huffy officials and stockholders, although they insist that they are struggling to survive financially.

Oh yes—don’t bother looking for the familiar United States flag decal that always adorned the front of the Huffy bike frame. It is now a stylized globe.

Read Senator Dorgan’s speech on the Senate floor.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
A Letter to the Editor
While reading the comments to a post by South Knox Bubba, I came across a reference to a letter to the editor in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

I haven't decided yet who I think is most worthy of the Democratic nomination, so this is not my endorsement of Howard Dean. However, I do think that in her letter the writer nails the issue with elegant simplicity. Here is the text:

Lots of benefits to Dean presidency
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) may be correct when he states that if Howard Dean were president, Saddam Hussein would still be in power.

However, he fails to mention some other important probabilities: If Dean were president, hundreds of brave U.S. troops would still be alive and thousands would still be healthy; Saddam would not be developing weapons of mass destruction because U.N. inspectors would be monitoring him; America would be billions of dollars wealthier, and our country would not be approaching a $1 trillion deficit; we would have maintained our moral authority and prestige in the world; tax cuts would have been targeted toward people who really need them; millions of Americans would still be working and their overtime pay would not be in jeopardy; since all our resources would have been targeted toward capturing Osama bin Laden, we would most likely have him in custody by now.

I don't know about everyone else, but I for one would give up Saddam for all of that.


Monday, December 15, 2003
Arabs Decry Saddam's Immigration Policy
I came across this article today in Al Hayat. The writer sheds some light on how Saddam's capture is viewed by many in the Arab world. It is interesting to note that, in their view, his greatest transgression has been that of opening the door to Western interference in their social and political affairs.

Whether or not I agree with opinions I read in the foreign press, I make an effort to understand how they see things. I encourage others to do so as well.

By way of contrast, I recently saw a promo for Fox News which advised the viewer to (1)pick up the TV remote, (2)tune the TV to Fox News, (3)turn the remote over and remove the batteries, and (4)step away from the remote.

It's cute and harmless to any broadly thinking person. The advice would be just as poor if it were any other network.

Friday, December 12, 2003
The Era of the $10,000 a Year Executive?
If the Bush administration has its way, many skilled American workers will discover that they are “professionals” for the first time in their careers. The effort to modify overtime law, spearheaded by Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, is the most ambitious plan yet to squeeze more out of American workers. I suppose you could technically call it a tax cut if you earn less money to pay taxes on.

They say that their intent is to provide more clarification about who should or should not be designated as a professional or management employee and, therefore, exempt from overtime pay. Under the proposed rules, a worker would only have to satisfy very minimal requirements to be classified as professional or managerial. I can see it now—John Doe, Vice-President of Grocery Bagging.

Clarification? From an administration that seems able to understand far more complex concepts such as pre-emptive war and nation-building—not to mention really abstract stuff like a jobless economic recovery?

Hearings were held this week in Washington by the Democratic Policy Committee, headed by Senator Byron Dorgan, on the proposed changes to the Federal Rules for Overtime Pay. Among those testifying were a nurse and a police officer who routinely work long hours of overtime, and would, under the new rules, earn only straight-time wages for their extra work. This would affect many firefighters, too. Could our respect for these groups be back to where it was on September 10, 2001?

Also, a civilian technician who testified works for the Navy testing equipment aboard ships during sea trials. He would also be denied overtime, even though he is required to work long hours each day, away from home for days or weeks at a time. He also works part-time for Home Depot, whose policy, he says, strictly limits overtime—they use part-time help to deal with that issue. Under the new rules, in his opinion, the company would dismiss many part-time workers and schedule its full-time workers for longer hours at straight-time pay.

Granted that these witnesses were well-chosen, but it is hard for me to believe that the opposing side could find witnesses who would testify in favor of longer hours for themselves at straight-time pay.

It seems that the proposal, although, previously voted down by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, has been resuscitated and slipped back into the Omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government in business. Apparently the hope was that no one would read the fine print. This bill could pay off big-time for business owners and could help to accelerate the race to the bottom for cheap labor. Eventually, they might even be able to bring the jobs back from overseas.

No one should be surprised that Ms. Chao is pushing for the changes. She is the consummate good soldier for the administration, along with her husband, Senator Mitch McConnel (R-KY). Both of them have ties to China that are long-standing and solid. Take a look at this unusually critical article by Michelle Malkin, who is not known for being hard on Republicans and their cohorts. Perhaps the Democrats aren’t the only ones who have fed at the trough.

Could this effort to reign in the labor costs of skilled workers (who may get less sympathy from the public because of fairly good wages) be the camel’s nose under the tent? Once they are in the bag, it should not be difficult to get the rest of the camel inside by moving on to lower wage workers and those covered by union contracts when their agreements are renegotiated? I often worry that, through such tactics, American workers are gradually being downgraded to the status of their poorly paid foreign counterparts.

Whose Secretary of Labor is she, anyway?

Thursday, December 11, 2003
Neoconservative Defined
Recently I came across a Washington Post article from earlier this year by Dan Morgan which I believe contains an excellent definition for the political term, "Neoconservative".

Concise and complete, it reads: "...members of an amorphous political group that has its origins in the defection of left-wing Democrats to the GOP during the Cold War. Neoconservatives tend to favor the use of U.S. power to spread American political values, pre-empt hostile nations' ability to threaten the United States with weapons of mass destruction, and rebuild nations in America's image."

It is no accident that the most prominent, outspoken, and visible members of this group tend to be in their fifties, although there is a large following in the generation coming along behind them. They, like I, grew up during the years of international tension and national anxiety surrounding the ongoing contest of brinkmanship between the United States and the Soviet Union. I never really appreciated how fearful a time it was until it was over and I could look back upon it.

Essentially, for us, the ideas of God and country, motherhood and apple pie, the American dream of working hard and being rewarded by success-- all were woven into our view of the world. We were right, they were wrong, and the only way to save humanity, both socially, politically, and spiritually, was to resist, put down, and ultimately supplant everything that did not represent the American way. Today we are reaping the harvest of seeds that were sown during that era and the levers of power are finally in their hands.

Some of us, however, have managed to move beyond the literal dogma and seek to accept and understand the diversity and multicultural character of today's world, beginning with our own society. We appreciate the need to cooperate with other nations and peoples in every way possible to advance the well-being of everyone, while realistically preserving a capacity for self-defense.

The article also quotes Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute: "You cannot be for a system of limited government at home and for maintaining military garrisons all over the world." When a nation sets its course toward empire, it will of necessity need to grow the size and capacity of resources to manage it. Consequently, we are now seeing the polar opposite of what traditional conservativism stood for in its insistence on limited government.

Something to think about.

Monday, December 08, 2003
It’s Enough to Make a Preacher Cuss
Senator John Kerry shook things up a bit this week with a comment he made in his interview with Rolling Stone magazine. For those unaware of his iniquity, he used a semantically efficient, unsavory word to describe his assessment of Mr. Bush’s bungling of our foreign and domestic affairs. Read the interview for context and perspective.

This has raised eyebrows all around. The White House has demanded an apology. The folks over at state-run TV have had a field day. And, on Sunday morning, I came across a television preacher who was lashing Senator Kerry with a verbal cat-o-nine-tails, as many of our religious leaders are inclined to do these days in their practice of pulpit politics. Some of them would have us think that Jesus is a card-carrying Republican.

While it was unwise of Mr. Kerry to slip the little epithet into his response to a question, he still has a long way to go on the transgression scale (as far as we know) compared with what so many of our esteemed conservatives have shown that they will tolerate in their own public figures. Be sure that the little slip will have a long life in the campaign that lies ahead. No doubt it will surface in the general election as an example of Democratic degeneracy.

I sympathize with the Senator’s frustration, and I might have been less restrained than he was—but then I am not running for office.

At any rate, in the months and years ahead, we all will have to live with the special-interest, short-sighted governance perpetrated by this administration, including its efforts to dismantle social programs that won't be appreciated until they are gone, and its greedily imcompetent adventurism in the Middle East.

Senator Kerry was right-- we just need a cleaner word for it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Cheap Help Wanted (No Terrorists, Please)
Asa Hutchinson, Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, of the Department of Homeland Security, was a guest on CSPAN this morning. He discussed the measures that have been put in place to protect us from those who would enter our country to do us harm. Two main topics emerged during the conversation with the host and the call-in participants. One was the idea of increased administrative control of foreign visitors to determine their origins, their whereabouts, and their activities while here. After completing even more paperwork, such individuals could possibly blend into the population, never to be seen again. As we have seen with the World Trade Center attack, it only takes a few people to pull off such an incident.

The other topic was the use of biometric measurements to verifiy that the visitors are who they say they are. One doesn’t need a lot of imagination to see where this could go.

By the end of the program segment I felt that our defense against external terrorist threats has hardly been improved and that, at best, we are throwing handfuls of money at shadows on the wall. I did feel, as I often do when this subject is brought up, that in the end the only ones seriously impacted by the procedures and controls are the American citizens themselves. It is scary. We could be only one more attack away from having to account for our identities and movements in order to make the sieve small enough to catch the bad guys.

So far, since the New York attack, the terrorists have targeted facilities and individuals outside the U.S. That fact seems to reassure many of us that the War on Terror is rolling along just fine, in spite of some serious bumps along the road. It appears that our efforts are effective in not only containing them to, but attracting them to foreign soil. The more we deceive ourselves, the more control we cede to those who would harm us, thus setting us up for later disappointment.

Most of our citizens who have an opinion fall into two polarized groups: one that praises such efforts as harsh, but necessary , and the other that sees them as a waste of resources—a smoke-and-mirror show. There aren’t many people in the middle. The first group contends that the policies are clearly effective, since there have been no terrorist attacks in the United States since they were put in place, and that we are effectively fighting terrorists on the other side of the world. The second group generally holds that the absence of attacks indicates that the terrorists are rationing their resources and that they have accomplished a goal to set us against ourselves. Those who take this view believe that the problems have arisen out of misguided, arrogant, and selfish foreign policy, and that an effective solution can only come from diplomatic rather than military means. I agree.

To some extent the terrorists have succeeded in putting us at each others’ throats. For the first time in my life, there is a loud call for blind allegiance to the administration in power, where dissent is equated with disloyalty and some individuals or groups presume to have a greater entitlement to opinion than others. It wasn't this bad during the Cold War.

I never imagined I would see such rampant fear threading its way through our society. There exists an underlying cowardice in many of us that talks tough and sheds other peoples’ blood, yet will give up much of our freedom in order to stroll through the local mall with a perception of reassurance.

At one point, Mr. Hutchinson was asked about the huge influx of illegal aliens from Mexico. Interestingly, he and the callers who were sympathetic to his view don’t seem to be terribly alarmed by the problem, even though it could be an ideal route into the U.S. for those intent on mayhem. It is disturbing that, for all their bravado and fear mongering, many of our political and business leaders are willing to go lightly on this matter, favoring concessions that seem to be at odds with security-centered immigration policy.

It is not surprising that those who propose easing up on restrictions and control are most often those who profit from cheap migrant labor, and who, for some reason, cannot seem to attract American workers for the wages they pay. Adding a dimension of morality, they go on to praise the hard work and sacrifice of the illegals and remind us of how much they have contributed to the prosperity of our country. In the spirit of the American dream, they are escaping from substandard and repressive living conditions to seek a better life for themselves and their families north of the border.

Since we do not routinely see Canadians risking a perilous smim across the border seeking a better life in Michigan, it seems that our efforts might be better directed to helping Mexico improve the quality of life for its citizens. It would go a long way toward improving our own security interests.

If the Mexican government is not responsive, then maybe it we should consider invasion, regime change, and liberation. Then the rebuilding could begin.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Phrase of the Day
New definition: Forest Thinning Program (reduces fuel for uncontrolled forest fires)
Old definition: Logging

Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Don’t Burn Your AARP Card Yet
I don’t recall being consulted by the AARP on the recent change in federal health policy for our senior citizens. It could be because I’m not a member—at least not yet. When I heard about its backing for the Republican plan to replace Medicare, my first thought was to throw away the application form that has lain on my desk for several days. For many millions of AARP members who feel betrayed by the organization, it is probably a good idea not to set fire to their membership cards and opt out of the club, but to think about it for awhile.

The powerful retirees’ representative has been helpful over the years in promoting the interests of its members in ways that they, of course, would never have been able to do on their own. But this week its leadership stunned everyone with its sudden and swift campaign supporting the Republican-sponsored bill that will dismantle Medicare. Advertisements suddenly appeared on TV explaining that this legislation, although not perfect, was a good thing for all seniors and that if action was not taken now, it could be “lost forever”. The scare tactic didn’t matter anyway, since the millions of AARP members themselves had little or nothing to do with the decision. It was simply a way of telling seniors where they were being taken politically. Democrats in Congress were caught by surprise as well.

The AARP has for years derived much of its operating revenue from insurance-related activities. According to an article in USA Today, Friday, November 21, 2003 (page 11A), by Jim Drinkard and William Welch, over the last four years the organization has received about $608 million from insurance income, which accounts for about 30% of its total revenue. Membership dues account for another 30%. They get about 10% annually from federal grants (I’m sure they don’t want to mess that up), and the remaining 36% from advertising (12%) and investments (24%).

It is easy to see where the organization’s self-interest lies, but it is troubling to see it behave in such a blind-sided, surreptitious way. There should have been more concern for due process and less contempt for its own constituents. Perhaps its leaders saw the end coming and opted to jump on the bandwagon at the last minute, hoping to position themselves for positive influence later. That seems to be what they would have us believe.

At any rate, they will still be the largest organized voice for seniors’ interests both now and in the years ahead. And, once Medicare “withers on the vine” (as Newt Gingrich envisioned its fate), with market forces in charge of goods and services the elderly cannot do without, it will be even more important to have an entity in place that at least has the potential for shaping policy.

So, for now, put those Bic lighters away and brace yourselves.

Sunday, November 23, 2003
The London Sunday Mirror: Fair, Balanced, and Unafraid
After reading this story in the London Sunday Mirror, it becomes much clearer to me why the Queen wasn't all smiles during Mr. Bush's recent visit.

Thursday, November 20, 2003
Thank God Pat Buchanan Wasn't Running in Smyrna
Here's an interesting little article about a small-town election gone wrong. It points up some of the concern about the foibles of electronic voting. Perhaps the folks in Smyrna could use some help from the U.S. Supreme Court to settle this thorny matter.

Freedom hangs in the balance.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?
This morning, President Bush delivered a variant of his now familiar speech #39 in London before a hand-picked crowd at Whtehall. He did not address the British Parliament because of concerns that he would be poorly received, as he was on his recent appearance before the Australian Parliament.

Neither did he address the British citizenry, because large crowds of protestors have assembled all over the UK, and are very visible and very vocal. Major precautions have been taken to insulate him from them, so he will probably never see or hear first hand the dissent that he proclaims is so important to democracy.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is said to be on thin ice politically because of his support of the Bush administration’s ill-advised and ill-timed foray into Iraq. Mr. Bush’s appearance in England at a time when public sentiment is turning against Mr. Blair is probably the result of poor judgment and self-delusion on the part of both men. It is the equivalent of sticking a thumb in the eye of the growing number of Brits who are demanding a change of leadership.

Perhaps it is arrogant of the administration to think that just showing up is enough to bolster the Prime Minister’s position. This is fundamentally a private affair, with the crowds outside encouraged to go along with the program. And why shouldn’t they expect it to work in Britain? It has worked brilliantly in the United States.

With stakes like this, it seems that if Mr. Blair’s fortunes do take an unfortunate turn, then he should at least be rewarded for his efforts through a position with the Carlyle group; his predecessor, John Major, is already there.

I think that if I were Mr. Blair at this time, I would have asked Mr. Bush to please stay home, or at least go and give the pep talk to the citizens of Baghdad.

Monday, November 17, 2003
Rush Limbaugh’s Audience On Trial—Day Number One
Rush Limbaugh is finally back on the air after completing the initial phase of his treatment for addiction to pain medications. There is a lot at stake for him, not the least of which is a line of ambitious successors to his throne who are lean and hungry. His audience is said to have been the largest ever for his show. No doubt the number was swelled by those who are not regular listeners but who were curious about what he would say and how he would be received.

I did not have the opportunity to hear the program, but I understand that it went well for him, with many warm welcome-backs and expressions of sympathy. Reports indicate that his listeners appear to be just as dedicated and just as much in accord with his political views as ever. His personal recovery will depend entirely on his own efforts, but for his continued success as the prime spokesman for the political right, he is entirely at the mercy of their good will.

That, of course, has been true all along—no ratings, no show—,but the onus is now on his listeners to decide just how much deviance from the ideal they are willing to tolerate. Many of them have had to swallow hard and accept the flaw of William Bennett’s penchant for high-stakes gambling at the same time he was almost single-handedly championing virtue in our society. Today, Mr. Bennett seems to be just as prominent and influential as before, and, to be truthful, there never was much of an outcry anyway when the news of his gambling problem came out. We knew he was in the clear when Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell defended his pursuit of a perfectly legal recreational activity. Similar tolerance has been shown by the conservative public toward several other of their own public figures, for example, Newt Gingrich and Robert Livingston. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s past episodes of naughty behavior passed the test with flying colors. The citizens of California were urged to let bygones be bygones and to focus on the effective governance he could bring to the state.

For some time now, the so-called liberal leftists have been willing to allow considerable leeway for the personal failings of those they think are good leaders, and have often taken a lot of criticism for that. Their position from the start has been that effective leadership and personal imperfection can exist in the same person, within reasonable limits. They have tended to set the bar fairly high before punishing such a leader, while the conservatives have insisted on a very low threshold. Up to now, it has been tough to live up to the right-wing version of morality.

Every instance of a problem like Rush’s reveals more of the so-called conservatives’ true judgement on problems of character and how it impacts the public good. Who knows, could they eventually make their own best case for putting up with Bill Clinton’s unsavory personal behavior?

Friday, November 14, 2003
Belated Thoughts On Veteran's Day
I was unable to post any comment this past Tuesday regarding Veteran's Day. So, better late than never, I offer my appreciation for the service of so many of my own extended family and friends over the years, and of those many thousands who we will never know, but to whom we owe so much.

I especially thank my brother. In the summer of 1967, we were both at the top of the draft list in our home county in Kentucky. In order to have some control over our fates, we went ahead and volunteered for enlistment in the Army. The short version is that I was rejected because of a birth defect and he went on to serve two tours in Vietnam. Even with shrapnel wounds, he served out his time. I have always considered his second tour to be mine, and over the years have sought ways to try to even up the debt to our country. I will never catch up.

The military service lottery system was started the following year. For those whose numbers came up, I think this little comic strip says all that needs to be said.

Thursday, November 13, 2003
Rush Is On His Way Back
It was announced today that Rush Limbaugh has completed the first phase of his rehabilitation and will soon return to hosting his radio program. I offer my sincerest wishes to Rush in his recovery, since I have seen first hand the effects of addiction in my own family.

Upon hearing the news, Laura Ingraham was said to be inconsolable and is now resting at a secure, undisclosed location.

Sunday, November 09, 2003
Phrase of the Day
"Jobless Recovery" --
An economic term that has come into popular use in the U.S. It refers to profitability gains for American companies that are brought about through the low production costs of foreign workers doing what used to be American workers' jobs.

Just a Few Thoughts for Today
As I write this, I’m sitting here watching Tony Snow on state-run television. It seems that “time is running out for the Iraqui governing council”. The coalition authorities (aka Paul Bremer & Co.) in Baghdad are growing increasingly impatient with them for their ineffectiveness and complaining, and may have to crack down, making any changes that may be needed. Doesn’t this reflect poorly on our choices and on the guidance we are providing? I still have grave concerns about this affair going south in a hurry, with formal martial law being imposed, curfews enforced, and every house, business, and person in Iraq being searched repeatedly. It could quickly turn into a greased pig. Remember? The Iraquis love us because we represent freedom, and Al Quaida hates us because we represent freedom.

Another reason I’m told that “they” hate us is that we are prosperous and they are not. Reality check: "“they” sit on top of the most extensive oil deposits in a world that has a glazed-eyed addiction for the stuff. We should have no problem coming up with the cash to buy it from them since, I am told each day by the talking heads on CNBC, that the economy is booming. In addition, for $87 billion we could have bought TV sets, microwave ovens, PlayStations, and SUV’s for everybody in Iraq and still have our soldiers alive and working at their regular jobs at Walmart, the phone company, the bank…… . Ask yourself how you would choose between $87 billion dollars and the life of one American soldier. Maybe it's just me, but that's how some of these crazy liberals are about money. We'll waste it on just about anything.

As a result of a sizable car bomb, 11 people are presumed dead and 122 injured in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia yesterday evening. An American spokesman declared “that this act shows how desperate the terrorists are to negatively influence security”. I’ll have to chew on that pretzel for awhile.

“We had the choice—to fight the war over there or over here”. We have heard that often lately. Now, I assume that at the time the immediate concern was with the Iraqui military. But how would they have gotten here? By taxicabs? I suppose they could have struck us with their Al Samoud missiles, but they would have had to hitchhike rides on fishing trawlers to get within the required 125 miles of the coast. Nothing, repeat: nothing would have prevented working cooperatively with the United Nations to effect weapons inspections over a longer time frame while we had Saddam and his military contained in a strategic box. We now know that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Poor Laura
Laura Ingraham appeared this evening with Bill O'Reilly on state-run television. As usual, she ranted and railed about the "elites", as is her custom. Problem is, I'm having trouble figuring out who these elites are.

An excerpt from her biography: "Laura served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and subsequently worked as a white-collar criminal defense attorney at Skadden, Arps, et al. in Washington. She is a graduate of University of Virginia School of Law and Dartmouth College."

She has accomplished a lot, considering her humble academic origins.

Are Republicans Finally On Their Own?
The Bush administration in particular and Republicans in general may have finally turned the corner. It appears they now own the economy lock, stock, and barrel, as the saying goes. They have owned the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan from the start. By now, even among their own leadership, the “but Bill Clinton…” excuses don’t seem to have much tread left. A too-simple example might be: If you owned a business, how much time would you give the new manager to get things back on track (assuming they were off-track to begin with)?

They must be privately worried while presenting a bold public face. For a party that prides itself on not governing by polls, remember again that the big poll is coming next November. I know how it must feel. A couple of times over the years I have personally been only one more excuse away from being out of a job for not performing up to par.

I, like everyone else, can’t predict where we will be in the Middle East by election day next November, but my fear is that it will not resemble the idealized dream of those who stampeded us into the fray. I continue to have the nagging concern that this may have been the outcome that Al Qaeda had hoped for, and that we may have risen to the bait. The longer the daily casualties occur, the more likely that your community will be touched and someone you know will die. For me, there is no amount of money or oil that is worth the lives of my daughter and my two sons—or anyone else’s, for that matter.

We are told that the economy is going great, but you couldn’t tell that from where I sit. If a reduction in corporate taxes creates jobs, then where are the jobs? Most of the new jobs in our community are in call centers and in telemarketing, with attendant low wages, poor benefits, and high turnover. It doesn’t help that we are now seeing obscenely exorbitant compensation for executives. Don't rely on rosy financial news from the TV talking heads, just ask those around you if they feel secure right now.

Corporate financial numbers seem to be improving, but are are the gains actually coming from profitable foreign operations with rock-bottom labor and production costs, coupled with further savings through layoffs in the U.S.? In the end, profitability can come from only two sources--either make money or cut costs. It doesn't speak well for management skill if cost-cutting is all one can do; it takes talent to make money. Even in retail,where it looks like consumers are increasing spending, much of that is through the use of credit card debt. Sears, for example, sold off its credit card business because they gave cards to large numbers of high-risk customers who could not or would not pay for merchandise. For Sears, the bill came due.

One of my own relatives is now working for little more than minimum wage after 25 years with a company that recently shut down one of its midwest manufacturing operations and moved it overseas. Such tactics are usually rationalized as necessary for competition with foreign goods. The question is, if American workers are all ultimately unemployed and broke, then who will buy the stuff anyway? InstaPundit has written before on outsourcing as an election issue and is on the right track.

How do you console someone who has lost his well-paid job with the good news that several thousand new ones have been created nationwide—mostly in the service sector, of course? It is ludicrous to think that such workers should leave home and family to chase substandard jobs several states away. I regard such an expectation in itself an attack on the institution of the family, coming from those who purport to have a lock on family values. Additionally, it is almost cruelly cynical to constantly promote the idea of retraining for new jobs when most of the new jobs don’t even exist. Sometimes the only winners are the companies that provide the training. Picture in your mind a 55 year-old journeyman machinist training to do word processing.

Often, when companies move jobs overseas, they know they are doing something that, although helping the bottom line, is in essence wrong. Otherwise, why do they try so hard to hide the fact that your customer service call is coming from India, for example, by a carefully selected and trained operator named “Tom” or “Judy” who speaks perfect midwestern English? I have a question I ask whether they call me or I call them. I simply ask what time it is. Most of the time, the response is that they are not allowed to give out that information. Try it sometime.

It has been said that Americans don’t plan, they react. If that is true, then we probably just haven’t had enough yet (the only way we seem to learn). The best thing about America, though, is that we can always change what we don’t like after enough voters have run out of patience—as long as we don’t lose the right to vote. And there are some who believe we can’t even be entrusted with that.

Monday, November 03, 2003
Linda Tripp Wins Privacy Lawsuit Against Clinton Administration
Linda Tripp Gets $595,000 from U.S. in Privacy Suit

Wouldn't it be nice if she would share some of that money with Monica Lewinsky?

Saturday, November 01, 2003
Are We Paying the Terrorists to Shoot at Us?
This afternoon I was talking to one of my neighbors, a 17 year-old high school student, when he asked me if it was possible that any of the millions of dollars paid out in rewards to Iraquis could have found its way to the terrorists and insurgents? As I recall, we paid over 15 million dollars each for Uday and Qusay, and have another 25 million dollars on the board for Saddam (preferably dead, I assume—a lot of nasty problems would be avoided that way, like a public trial).

I’ll admit that I hadn’t given it a moment’s thought up till now.

Out of the mouths of babes…..

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
CIA Leak May Violate Patriot Act
Talk about unintended consequences.....

Which Came First, the Chicken Hawk or the Egghead?
This week Paul Wolfowitz, one of the Bush administration’s most vocal and fervent proponents of preemptive war, probably came as close to combat action as he ever will. In fact, he now has, figuratively, more stripes on his sleeves than almost all of the administration’s top decision makers. For most of them, their closest brush with injury has been that of slipping in the shower.

He was in residence at the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad when a half-dozen or so rockets struck the building, causing substantial damage and several casualties, including the death of an American Colonel—the highest ranking fatality so far. Dr. Wolfowitz was not injured and will be able to continue applying his intellectual skills to the weighty problems of U.S. foreign policy.

His resume, like those of his colleagues, is stunningly impressive. As Deputy Secretary of Defense, he is living proof that one need not have military experience at all in order to play a major role in the forceful occupation of a country and the overthrow of its government. But few of our top past national leaders have had extensive military experience; most have served in a limited capacity for a short period of time. Abraham Lincoln, for example, who prosecuted the most disruptive and perilous war in our history, only served for a few months in a state milita.

However, we pay a price when the conduct of our national policy is in the hands of those who are so distant from street-level reality. They often can’t see the trees for the forest, and more likely see only treetops, with little or no awareness of the roots. With regard to our involvement in Iraq, they proclaim that we are in for the long haul no matter what the price; but somehow, to me, they are uninspired and dispassionate when addressing individual losses. In fact, I believe that some of the self-annointed outside of the administration feel secure enough to be coldly unapologetic about the losses. They seem to dismiss them as unfortunately necessary with only the slightest brush of regret. William Kristol, of the Weekly Standard, immediately comes to my mind.

The experts who have spent years intellectualizing and mulling over the dream of transforming the Middle East into a political and commercial paradise have helped plunge us into a horrible conflict that has no end in sight, and one from which we cannot easily detach ourselves. For them, the dream is too close now to let it slip away--and they will not let it. This is at last the performance of the big show that, until now, has been stuck in endless rehearsal. There is no plan for failure, no plan to leave. That is why I sometimes feel sympathy for those who naively say we should hurry up, finish the job, and then get out. Somehow, we are told, we are making America safe by what we are doing, but it is hard to make the connection.

They are now being criticized for not having provided an appropriate exit strategy. But who needs an exit strategy anyway when an exit wasn’t part of the plan in the first place?

Monday, October 27, 2003
Is it Just Me, Or is it Stupid in Here?
This evening, Bill O’Reilly proudly reported on his Fox News program, The O’Reilly Factor, the results of an internet poll of his audience. The respondents were asked to state whether their movie viewing choices are affected by the political views of the actors in the movies.

Ninety percent of them (remember--O’Reilly Factor viewers) reported that the actors’ political stands did influence them in their choices. We are reminded that it is not a scientific survey.

You could have fooled me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Back From the Northern Territories
I have just returned from a short visit to New England, which I probably should remind some in these parts is not located in “Old Europe”. Following the usual chores and rituals attendant to getting back from a trip, I spent a little time catching up on email.

I tossed out those that continue to offer me male enhancement. I canned one from a lonely Russian woman who is looking for an American husband. She says that the men in Russia lie to their wives, drink too much, and beat them. So why is she looking in east Tennessee?

Then there is the one from a government official in Nigeria who who is offering me a two-million dollar fee to park twenty million dollars in my U.S. bank account in order to protect the money from confiscation by corrupt officials there. He only needs to know my account number to make the transfer. I understand that the average loss for those who fall for the scam is about $5,000.

I finally got to the good ones. There were several from friends here and abroad, as well as a few from people who have read my blog page offering both encouragement and criticism.

Among the blogger sites I checked in on, SKBubba in particular caught my attention on two items. One had to do with the lawsuit against, among others, the publishers of the brutally graphic video game series “Grand Theft Auto”. He has some good points on the matter. Such games do very little to cultivate a true sense of achievement for kids who play them, since they can’t ever win with closure. There is always yet another level of play that goes where? To another level. It’s the same as they said of pinball machines when I was a kid—the only thing you gain from winning is to keep on playing (OK, sometimes you did win a little money or a pack of cigarettes).

I’m not inclined to accept too quickly the idea that kids play these games and somehow get stripped of their sense of right and wrong. If it were that easy to influence them, then perhaps we should try to develop games called “Cut the Grass”, and “Take Out the Garbage”. I personally believe that a lot of kids simply don’t have the sense of accountability they should have, since they have not experienced real consequences for their inappropriate or destructive behavior.

Bubba’s second issue of interest to me had to do with the dropout problem in Florida’s schools. It is, of course, a problem in every state. I have written on this subject before (9/27/03), so I won’t rehash it here. The point is that, every time, vouchers are dragged out as a viable solution to these problems when, in fact, they are practically useless as an improvement tool. No well-run business would ever resort to such tactics of abandonment in order to improve its operational quality.

This is a topic of special interest to me that I hope to take up more in future writings.

Thursday, October 16, 2003
Playing for Time With Thiry-Nine
Today President Bush gave another televised speech—this one in California in an appearance with Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. The topic was the War on Terror (I suppose by now it is appropriate to capitalize it).

As I listened to his remarks, I realized that, until he mentioned this morning’s United Nations resolution concerning a timetable for Iraqui self-governance, I could not honestly have said if the speech was live or a replay of one previously delivered. For me, it is becoming hard to tell.

The familiar phrases describing our military victory, our post-conflict progress, our resolve to defeat terrorism, and our willingness to sacrifice is uncomfortably beginning to sound less like inspired, reassuring oration and more like boilerplate text. In addition, most of the appearances are before gatherings of military personnel, defense contractor workers, or the faithful of his party.

He continues to assure us that we are on the hunt, we’ve got them on the run, and we will not fail. He continues to proclaim the glory of lives lost, with no mention of the bravery it will take for the survivors who must make their way through life with missing limbs, blindness, paralysis, and disfigurement. He continues to associate Islamic terrorism with Saddam Hussein while still offering no tangible evidence.

Occasionally, but not very often, I have a twinge of sympathy for Mr. Bush. After all, he did ask for the job (incidentally, if Al Gore had walked across Tennessee with a plaid shirt on his back and a forty-five on his hip, we would be discussing his troubles now).

The President and I, and, for that matter, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, are contemporaries who took different paths in life, although for some of us the path was wider, not as rocky, and had better accomodations along the way . We grew up in the South during a time of its own conflicts. Many churches supported missionaries to save the souls of blacks in Africa, yet their American counterparts were often discouraged from attending the same white churches. American patriotic values were defined in terms of the Cold War, and most of us believed in the simple idea that the world would be transformed by emulating our way of life.

No doubt we believed that all of our opponents in the world would succumb to superior military and political interventions. But now we find ourselves up against a perversion of a religious ideology that, for its militant followers, is not of this world and is difficult to deal with in customary ways. They are politically and geographically amorphous, and are not constrained by international boundaries. For them, there are no rules of war.

So, with each passing day, President Bush is probably becoming more aware of the consequences of confidence without capability, and of acting on bad advice. Until he figures out what to do that is best for all of us--and I truly hope he does-- I suppose he’ll have to pull that same old speech number 39 down from the shelf and move on to the next engagement.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Many thanks to South Knox Bubba for the kind words and inclusion in the RTB.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Say It Isn't So, Rush
On the street they say payback’s a bitch. In the light of his recent troubles with addiction to and alleged illegal trafficking in pain medication, Rush Limbaugh probably couldn’t agree more.

All of us, out of Christian charity (or Muslim, or whatever), should have compassion for one of us who has trouble with drugs, especially the thousands of our citizens who are sitting in jail right now for the same transgressions with which Mr. Limbaugh is accused. It remains to be seen how his situation will be handled, especially in consideration of recent efforts by our law enforcement leadership to put even more drug abusers in jail. With that plan, those who benefit the most are the contractors who get to build and run prisons, although we are expected to believe that society is the real winner.

His supporters are really in a bind trying to trowel over this mess. The regulars on the talking-head show circuit continue to trot out the “but Clinton (fill in the blank)” excuses, when in reality they have the cart before the horse. This is what it is like when you have to drink from the bitter well that you yourself have poisoned.

For me, this is only one example of why the whole neo-conservative crowd is still not yet ready to provide effective leadership for our American society, let alone the one-party rule that they so desperately covet. They consistently preach doctrine and make policy that ignores the consequences that may be found just around the next bend in the road, then follow up with rosy reports of progress that conflict with facts.

In looking after their own, they also have shown a tendency to abandon their wounded far earlier than most Democrats and so-called liberals have tended to do. Ask Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, and Trent Lott what it’s like to lie beside the road watching the party wagon disappear into the sunset. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, got far more loyalty from his supporters than he ever deserved.

Don’t worry, Rush. There are plenty of your comrades on the self-righteous right who are ready to step in and help out while you’re away. After listening to them, it seems that Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham top the list of those willing to pick up and carry the torch. I’d put my money on Ingraham—she is relatively new, and hungry, and has all but patented sarcasm, which always goes over big.

So, keep treading water, Rush, but don’t bleed into it.

Friday, October 10, 2003
Krauthammer Explains Saddam's Real WMD Plans
Weapons of Mass Destruction, take two..or three..or, what the heck--plug in a number.

In true Neo-Con style, Charles Krauthammer continues to nibble around the edges of this issue looking for a soft spot to sink his teeth into. I continue to wonder if he and his cohorts actually believe that Saddam Hussein really was a madman poised on the edge of taking over the world, or are just working backward trying to bolster an already-made decision to transform the Middle East into a true democratic (with a little "d") Garden of Eden.

Briefly, he suggests that Saddam focused on maintaining the infrastructure to produce WMD's, but shied away from actually storing the end products, which is why they have not or may not be found. The idea was to keep the infrastructure in place so that just-in-time production could be employed. Evidently no precursor materials have been discovered yet, either. Are we to assume that he would wait to be invaded before placing an order for materials with, say, some French or German chemical company? I have this picture in my mind now of a UPS or FedEx truck racing toward Baghdad, weaving in and out, around and through a long column of Coalition tanks, to get there before they do.

Realistically, there are many suspected sites to be checked out and who knows how many others not yet known about. No reasonable person would refute the importance of a substantive find; in fact, it would go a long way to make us all feel better about what has taken place.

For my part, I can't believe that Saddam would entertain such a hare-brained idea, although I've seen some almost as bad from some very highly compensated American business managers.

David Kay is now heading up the search effort. Remember him? He's the one who locked horns with Scott Ritter, the inspector who was roundly criticized for going to Iraq and cozying up to the regime. Ritter made the sweeping and hard-to-believe statement that there were no WMD's. There is probably no one in the world that is more motivated to uncover something than Kay.

Meanwhile, if Saddam had any such weapons, he may have dispersed them throughout the region as soon as the invasion began and he realized that he would not be needing them anymore. He had to understand that his regime had no chance of survival against the overwhelming force of the Coalition.

CLICK HERE to read Mr. Krauthammer's article.

Thursday, October 09, 2003
For Yasser Arafat, Is the End of the Road Near?
“Kill the chief! The others will lose the will to fight and will run away.”

When I was a kid, I heard that in a lot of the action films our parents took us to see at the local drive-in theater. The line coming from John Wayne’s or Clark Gable’s character didn’t give much credit to the hundreds of rank-and-file Indians or African natives who were bent on finishing off the unwelcome intruders. Usually someone would put a slug through the chief who, unlike modern military leaders, was riding right out in front. Sure enough, that would be the end of the battle and the rest of them would disperse.

History has proved to us that such a scenario might work for the movies, but doesn't necessarily characterize real life—General Custer would probably agree.

Today all of the news outlets are reporting a rumor that Yasser Arafat is terminally ill with stomach cancer. It is a credible possibility, considering reports from his staff that he has been suffering lately from a bout of stomach flu, or something similar.

If true, this will be good news to the many people who want to have him dead anyway they can get it. Some in the Israeli government have openly and unashamedly talked about assasinating him. The idea of preemptively knocking off undesirable heads of state or factional leaders has come to be much more acceptable than it once was, as long as a plausible reason can be made palatable to the public. These days that is not terribly difficult to accomplish. Statesmanship the Godfather way.

One must wonder what some world leaders and pundits are thinking when they opine that if only Arafat somehow disappears, then the Palestinians will beat a path to the conference table, ready to get serious about peace in the region. It could, in fact, signal a release of the genie from the bottle. The same could be true of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden when they are finally found and dispatched, if they haven’t been already. As long as they are unaccounted for, they might as well be alive and in charge.

Once these men are gone, there could be a rush to fill the voids by a younger leadership that is more committed, less patient, and far less discriminating. The old leaders did not get old by blowing themselves up, as these younger men and women have shown that they are more than willing to do. They may sweep past those who are generally believed to be next in line. No one can predict what will happen.

Hopefully all of those with a vested interest in the outcome of this high-stakes chess game have spent some nights pacing the floor instead of being warmly tucked in, sleeping the sleep of the righteous.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Another Expert Weighs in on Outsourcing
Lester Thurow, Professor of Economics in the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal this morning to discuss globalization of trade and the world economy, as well as his new book, “Fortune Favors the Bold”.

He is a well-respected economist who is unmistakably a capitalist and, on first inspection, appears to be right-leaning, but broad in his perspective (like those old-style conservatives that I have referred to in a previous writing). He is critical of not only the Bush administration, but his predecessors as well. His main concern with the current administration is the inconsistency and “ad hoc” nature of its economic policies.

If I understand him correctly, he feels that our current leadership lacks a clear plan to manage the proliferation of outsourcing. In his words, American businesses are constantly scanning the globe in search of the lowest possible production costs, particularly labor, with savings not necessarily passed on to the consumer. They likewise scan for the most lucrative markets for their goods and services. I call it “being blinded by the light” when there is a headlong rush for profits without sound strategic thinking. I had some comments on this subject in our 9/30 posting.

Dr. Thurow warns that the problem is now moving upward to the highly-paid professional jobs in our economy—that jobs in the low six-figure range are now realistically threatened. Up to now it has involved the loss of lower wage jobs of workers who are short on political clout and voice. He cited a news organization, who he did not name, that has moved 4,000 jobs out of New York City and into Asia. He also said that numerous “back-office” functions such as billing, collections, and accounting have been moved overseas by hospitals and medical insurance providers. Remember when it was only manufacturing jobs?

Western nations may not be in the driver’s seat for long, due to the emergence of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is similar to the European Union.

At one point in the CSPAN program I did get irritated with Dr. Thurow. A caller from a southern state complained that he was in danger of losing his tomato farm because of foreign competition. The response was that perhaps he should think about doing something else that is more competitive. What? Like making computer chips? Or making pharmaceuticals? Fact is, there is almost nothing that is insulated from foreign competition except perhaps retail. But much of that is even foreign-owned.

I may have misunderstood him on that point, and probably did, since I am not an economist and speak only a few words of Economese. On balance, I found him to be interesting and intriguing, and I intend to learn more about his ideas. I would encourage others to do so as well.

CLICK HERE for information about Dr. Thurow.
CLICK HERE for the CSPAN website to view/listen to the program.

Monday, October 06, 2003
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, was a guest on this morning’s CSPAN program, Washington Journal. The discussion, of course, centered on his effort to keep the 5,280 pound monument containing the Ten Commandments (dubbed Roy’s Rock) on public display in the State Supreme Court rotunda. Pending resolution of the matter, the monument is secured in a closet elsewhere in the building and Judge Moore is on a vacation, courtesy of the state of Alabama.

He appears to be an intelligent, honorable, and well-intentioned man who is as knowledgeable in Christian doctrine as he is in the secular law. Early in the program, he declared that the issue is simple and straightforward—whether the state may acknowledge God. However, later in the CSPAN program, he cited the fact that the State Legislature, among other bodies, routinely invokes the blessings of God prior to their proceedings (so do other federal bodies as well). This seems to undermine his contention that display of the monument is necessary for the state to acknowledge God.

In addition, he remarked that there is plenty of statuary to be found in and around state buildings that depict Greek and Roman gods. That is a non-issue, since they have everything to do with art and culture, and little to do with religion. I doubt that you or I know of anyone on his deathbed calling out to Zeus or Athena for help, although it is possible. In the end it is pretty clear who most of us look to for consolation.

After some thought, I fail to see a problem in restoring the monument to the rotunda. If it represents a statement of commitment to moral law, then most of us could use a dose of it. You must admit that the Commandments are pretty good guidelines, and fairly general ones at that—something for everybody. Except for “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, which obviously causes problems for the atheists and some polytheists, the other admonitions, such as not to steal, covet, or kill are ones we all can agree are good for society as well as the soul (for those who believe they have one). Even the atheists--and I have known quite a few--are very concerned about law and order. Besides, shouldn't a transgressor have had better exposure to these scriptures long before ending up in court, where, by then, it's a bit late for instruction? By the way, can we rely on the testimony of critically important witnesses to grave crimes who have sworn to tell the truth “so help me God”, if they happen to be atheists who do not believe in the existence of God?

One has to wonder, though, that if the Chief Justice were a Muslim, for example, or perhaps a Buddhist, could he or she order another, different monument to be placed? It is inconceivable that such a Justice would even try. This controversy is simple in that it involves a choice to place or not to place. Think of the uproar that would result from the idea of choice between symbols of two or more different faiths. In the end, every judge comes into the courtroom with a set of morals and values that could influence rulings, but they must be constrained within the neutrality of the law and focus only on the matter at hand.

It is often pointed out by Judge Moore’s supporters that our country was founded on Christian principles by God-fearing men of almost saintly judgment and vision. They will always be regarded (and certainly by me) as truly great pioneers, but they could not foresee what our society is like today any more than we can envision it two centuries from now. Fact is, they were real people with both virtues and flaws who had had enough of colonialism and of being bled dry economically by England. Individually or collectively, they violated most of the Ten Commandments in the violence and turmoil that set this country on its course.

Some were active in church, some were ministers, some were atheists or deists. Some of them stole money or committed murder in the name of the revolution. By the time our country was established, one could not vote unless he was a white male landowner, and some Protestant groups were taxed. In addition, many of our founders owned multitudes of human beings who were enslaved and condemned to a lifetime of uncompensated forced labor and deprivation. We have what we do today only by improving and expanding on what they started.

Considering slavery alone, I refuse to accept the argument that they did not see it as inhumane, unfair, or immoral, or that everyone just accepted it as the way things were, since it ultimately proved to be the greatest single cause for our country’s only civil war—truly the worst military conflict in our history. It is also ludicrous to say that they did not regard slaves as human. No one today would dispute whether slave descendents today are human, so if it is true now, it was true then, and the slave owners were sadly mistaken if they believed otherwise. Besides, the story of the Israelites’ cruel enslavement in Egypt is portrayed clearly and unmistakably in the Bible that was read often by them, as we do today. There are also other accounts in the Bible of societies being overrun and enslaved. God could not condone slavery of any kind. I, for one cannot find any evidence of God's approval for slavery. It is sin.

One other point that is frequently offered is that the powers that be have seen fit to place the phrase “In God We Trust” on our money. Although many commendable things may be accomplished with money, that may be the last place worthy of bearing those words. Very likely, at this moment, somewhere, money is changing hands to buy drugs, secure political influence, to fix a contract, or to arrange the murder of someone.

Every day that the saga of Roy’s Rock has dragged on, there have been crowds outside the building yelling and screaming at each other, fervently praying, lying prostrate on the ground, weeping, and waving signs in the air. They are pro and con, with no middle ground. To the atheists and civil libertarians, and other cons: don’t worry—the idea of a tainted courtroom should help secure a defendant’s appeal. To the supporters of Judge Moore, and other pros: don’t worry about the forces of sin destroying our government, our society, our courts. Don’t worry about the State of Alabama needing to intervene. Remember, you have already told me repeatedly and with conviction, “Nothing can go wrong—God is in control.”

Perhaps the controversy itself is the controversy.

To learn more about Judge Moore's efforts CLICK HERE. Remember to keep an open mind--this issue is not as simple as it may appear to be.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Outsourcing has become the love object of American business, an affair that has been going on for quite a few years now. And why not? Why should we do it ourselves if we can get somebody else to do it cheaper?

Fair enough, but there are tradeoffs, the greatest being a loss of control, which can be strategically risky. It is one thing to contract out the office janitorial services to a deserving local business, but yet another to send the entire financial services (or engineering, or whatever) to a foreign country.

The decision to farm out work can be a good one when it is based on a sound understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the business. But when it is done mainly to maximize profits, it can be detrimental to all of the stakeholders involved.

Not too many years ago, I returned to the University of Tennessee to update my management skills (at the time I worked for a Fortune 100 government contractor in the area). I recall a couple of courses in Global Management and in Strategy and Policy in which the subject of foreign (as well as domestic) outsourcing was extensively discussed. While many of the students were very enthusiastic about this practice, there were many of us who felt that it was overused and not necessarily strategically safe.

At that time, the current business fad was the “new economy” exemplified by the “dotcom revolution” (we know how that turned out). So-called “brick and mortar” enterprises were downplayed and marginalized, while the wonders of the Information Age were promoted. We had already lost a great deal of manufacturing capability to foreign suppliers, mainly because profits had been steadily extracted instead of being reinvested in infrastructure improvements (but that’s another story). Now, the emphasis was on cost-cutting to improve profits. The search was on for cheaper places to operate.

Even though a good deal of our heavy industry was given up in favor of overseas production, we still retained a lot of infrastructure. You can’t just jack up a steel mill or automobile plant and haul it off to Asia. However, an entire information operation can be moved with the flip of a few switches. In fact, I have noticed even in our community, a lot of call center and telemarketing operations don't even bother to put up a durable sign-- it's usually a large banner that is tied to the building or taped to the window.

A couple of the old professors tended to agree with us that outsourcing could pose long-term hazards for a company that fails to use it carefully (yes, Virginia, there are some old business professors who have lived in the real world).

They cautioned that we could literally have the plug pulled on us because of geopolitical events, military actions, infrastructure failures, and others. We could also, conversely, find ourselves much too dependent on the foreign operations after having abandoned, alienated, and disinvested in the training and development of many of our current and potential domestic employees.

There is another word of caution as well. A common justification for outsourcing work, either foreign or domestic, is that the project only requires a certain number of workers for a limited period of time. They are let go at the end of the project with minimal impact on regular employees. However, it should be kept in mind that your contract employee today will be your competitor’s contract employee tomorrow-- after having learned a great deal about the inner workings of your business.

Use this tool wisely.

For an interesting article on the subject, CLICK HERE.

The article is a bit lengthy, but informative—especially the part that says: “Indeed, even the Republican Party has turned to outsourcing recently. The Indian magazine Business Standard recently reported that the GOP has hired HCL eServe to set up call centers in two Indian cities to make fundraising calls into the United States.”

Don't be surprised if the Democrats aren't doing the same. I won't.
Monday, September 29, 2003
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) appeared briefly on CNN today to discuss the idea of anti-missle defense technology for commercial airliners. He stated that there have been at least 35 known attempts by terrorists to shoot them down since 1978, and that there are an estimated 500,000 of the shoulder-fired rockets dispersed througout the world right now.

According to him, the cost per plane would amount to about one million dollars and, in his opinion, should provide a justifiable margin of safety. He said that the Israelis routinely equip their airliners with such devices. His view is naïve at best.

Fitting the planes with the anti-missile systems would certainly be a boost to companies who manufacture and install them, and the airlines would, of course, pass the cost along to their customers. The problem is that their effectiveness could only be marginal.

Many of the shoulder-fired missles in existence rely on heat-seeking infrared guidance systems that home in on the heat of the jet engines. They do not emit a signal that can be detected to give a warning of an imminent strike. Generally, metallic chaff or some other false target is released so that the missile's sensors will be confused and send it chasing after the new target and away from the plane.

In addition, the altitude of the plane at the time the missile is fired is critical. The greater the distance to the target, the more time there is available for the system to react, if it can detect an incoming missile. An automated system would, of course, be preferable and much faster to respond than would a system that warns the crew to take action against the threat. Clearly, planes that are taking off and landing are at highest risk, since the distance is short and the transit time for a missile is mere seconds. The mall parking lot at the end of the runway could be a killing ground.

Airline travelers must understand that the risk of flying have been compounded many times over. The last thing we need now is a false sense of security.

Oh, for the good old days when we only worried about the engine running out of gas.

Sunday, September 28, 2003
It's a beautiful fall afternoon here in east Tennessee. Right now, at this time and place, it is hard to think anything but good and pleasant thoughts. I, along with, I'm sure, many others feel bittersweet about it.

Sometime this week, perhaps even today, somewhere in America, an unfamiliar car will pull up into the driveway of a home where a real-life American family lives. A pair of soldiers will get out and make their way up the walkway toward the front porch. They've made this walk before, and it never gets any easier.

Inside, a mother, a wife, a daughter, will draw back the curtain and, in the space of a heartbeat, will see and know that someone so special in their lives has made "the ultimate sacrifice" for our country and for freedom in our world. Subsequently, the acknowledgement will be made on the evening news, almost as a footnote by now, before moving on to the sports and weather.

Only time and recorded history will say whether their losses have been for a good cause, and if our leaders have served their honor well.

For today, however, step outside, take in a deep breath of the cool, clean air, look at the natural beauty around you, and know that they will never see a day like this again.

If we support what is truly right, and correct what is morally wrong, then perhaps their children will enjoy many such days.
Saturday, September 27, 2003
One of this morning’s guests on CSPAN’s Washington Journal was Casey Lartigue of the Cato Institute; the subject under discussion was school vouchers.

If the concept is so good, then why isn’t the case to support it more solid and logical? It should make sense to all of us. Instead, Mr. Lartigue, as do many other supporters, offered the same scripted package of lame arguments. Further, he transparently avoided every substantive question posed to him by the call-in audience.

The questions asked of him are also, by now, almost as scripted: What if parents can’t afford the difference between the voucher amount and the tuition at the desired private school? Would the private schools have to accept special-needs students, or those with discipline problems? Will new private schools open up to accommodate the influx of students? Will the students, as with the systems in Cleveland and Minneapolis be chosen by lottery, requiring that a student be both needy and lucky? Would the same support be given to home-schooled children?

I was surprised to learn that the tests used to evaluate the problematic public schools are not required of the private schools. Without such comparison, how can it be known if improvement has occurred?

If a particular public school is determined to be a failed school, it must be a failed school for every student who attends it. How, then, could it be a failure only for those students whose parents can’t afford to, or choose not to send them elsewhere? Therefore, it is fair to ask what would happen to those who are left behind. Is there a plan to come back for them later, and rescue them from a school that is by then in even deeper trouble because financial support has been taken out for vouchers—in essence, getting the last one out moments before the walls cave in?

Imagine, if you will, a school that has been academically condemned. The parents all stream in, gather up their children, get together, and build a new private school across the street. They set up a governing board and hire highly qualified administrators and teachers (non-union, of course), and pay them attractive salaries, since they are competing with other similar new schools for the best teachers. Then they begin educating the children.

It would be extremely important to assume that this new school has wide diversity of culture, religion, affluence, and social and political values. After all, we wouldn’t want it any other way, would we? It should reflect American life.

To me, that seems to be a long and tortuous way around the problem. How could that be easier and more effective than working to improve the system at hand?

In the end, the lack of clear argument on the subject raises concerns that there may be other, less open agendas, such as ridding the schools of the poor and minorities, subsidizing private education for the rich, ultimately abandoning nonsectarian teaching for religiously themed study (in its extreme, think about the Taliban and the Madrassa schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan), as well as an assault on teacher unions.

As for the teacher unions, they shouldn’t get off lightly. They, more than anyone are to blame for keeping teachers in the classrooms who don’t belong there. They need to do their part and enforce the highest standards, therefore justifying their demands for good salaries and working conditions.

Friday, September 26, 2003
Oops! Here's an update on the national do-not-call list ball game.

Another federal judge, this one in Denver, has now set Congress back. Presumably it’s all about the free speech rights of the telemarketers. There seems to be a problem in that charitable organizations would be able to continue calling while those promoting goods and services would not.

For me, the charitables get off on the wrong foot when they interrupt my dinner, or when I switch over in the middle of an important call and find them there.

I might be more convinced by the free speech angle if they would consider letting us call the telemarketers at their homes, as Jerry Seinfeld once suggested.

So far, it’s Judges 2, Congress 1—and the game has hardly gotten under way.

Congress took a decisive step yesterday to get the national do-not-call list back on track. Its implementation on October 1 would have been delayed by a judge’s ruling that the Federal Trade Commission did not have the legal authority to establish the list. One could only guess who the plaintiffs were in this court action. Besides, did it actually take this long for the parties involved to conclude that the FTC was out of bounds? It sure looks like an eleventh-hour effort to me.

The telemarketing industry has fought this every step of the way, claiming that it denies them free speech and will put thousands of their employees out of work. Its spokesmen have delivered a consistent message that the 50 million people (say it slowly: fif-ty mill-ion) who opted for the list just don’t understand the benefits that telemarketing has to offer. Some of them have been unbelievably arrogant, insisting that they have a right to commit what amounts to electronic trespassing. Have you ever known anyone who wanted to get on their lists, and anxiously awaited their calls at dinnertime?

Their employees who do the grunt work deserve plenty of sympathy. After all, they work at jobs that are probably at or near the top of the list of those to get away from as soon as possible. Turnover is extremely high. I’m guessing that the majority of people who take these jobs are out of options, but not out of hope that something better will turn up

In this comic opera, Congress gets to play the good guy, but don’t start applauding yet—the fat lady hasn’t sung.

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