Crawford-East, Crawford-West

The population of a Community called, 'Cindy' is real and growing rapidly. It's way more than just the One Lady who wandered into Crawford, Texas to shake the cobwebs out of a country's collective consciouness. The 'Village of Cindy' has surely drawn strength and inspiration from the gumption of one woman to stand up and say,

"Stop it. Bring them home. Talk to me Mr. President, Please."

And in the light of a D.C. day [or "Crawford-East" as it's likely called], a commander-in-chief whirls through Walter Reed Hospital, sometimes looking for those human-to-human moments and ones that he can draw upon in future sound-bites. Imagine how he [Bush] feels to be so often rejected by service personnel who are struggling with the impact of their injuries. The example of former Army soldier Terry Rodgers (see Wash. Post, 8.10.05; C1,8) comes to mind because of his eloquence for why he declined a visit with the president:

"I don't want anything to do with him. My belief is that his ego is getting people killed and mutilated for no reason -- just his ego and his reputation. If we really wanted to, we could pull out of Iraq. . .So I think he himself is responsible for quite a few American deaths."

I don't know Cindy Sheehan, but I'd bet she never knew she could be capable of articulating a nation's message in an otherwise slow-going news month (save for the large number of deaths in Iraq) and doing it so well by her simplicity.

What's important to note is that Cindy doesn't walk alone. We've all "got her back" figuratively and some quite literally. If Cindy is mistreated, a sizeable Community is mistreated. She is not alone and someone ought to get THAT clear in Crawford-East or Crawford-West and darn quick.

For a war-time president, as the president so often refers to himself, he should heed the wisdom of warrior leaders who excelled in campaigns far beyond him. There are lessons to be learned in all the history books. Ask your wife to select some for you. Among them is the principle of picking your trusted advisors very carefully and understand their motives for leading you this way or that. Because heaven knows who could have so misguided you into allowing Cindy, one of "WE, the People" to being dissed by the office of the president.

We, the People, began this campaign of war under certain premises that have not been borne out truthfully after all. The targeted country changed and our missions changed. Some days we describe ourselves as urban policemen and at others as election supervisors and engineers of city infrastructure. Wow -- just match some of those against what most of us thought we went to war for.

How does it feel, my fellow Americans, to know that your son and my neighbor's daughter were killed-in-action to help bring utility service for 3 months last year to greater Baghdad?

See, we're easily distracted with news of sudden supreme court nominations, hurricanes, and some lousy serial killer or child molestor who was let free without proper controls. So with all of this and high summer heat and gas prices approaching $3.50 gallon gas (remarkably without too many protests; how's that possible?), well. . . you just might think we're not able to FOCUS on Cindy's son, my neighbor's daughter, or the Terry Rodgers who are coming home broken up in multiple ways.

We, the people, "Began with the END in Mind," to quote some 1980's management literature. We're not too sure what End you have in store for US or if you can contrive one during the days left in the presidency you hold in Crawford East or Crawford West.

What every president comes to know and it's how all those history books shape the summary stories that are told is this:

when a president lets the People down, he/she has let us all down.


The Leaker: Rove -- the Oratorical Incontinent

It may be big, but even Texas isn't big enough for the narcissum of Karl Rove. Pack his bags, haul his arse back there and you will find that even Nacogdoches doesn't have office space for that egocentric wannabe 'strategist.' Come on, be fair -- he's been a political hack, a Tactician; he's not Plato already! He was a damn lucky fellow in the right place at the right time and got 'adopted' into the right family who tapped the skill set he had to use to their advantage, period.

Maybe Karl just believes what he reads, you know -- that he is Bush's brain and such as that. Who can begin to analyze the workings of a politico willy-wonkers like the Rove'r?

Well, let's spare Ken Starr and all of the other laying-in-the-weeds Independent Counsel types the worry about finding a D.C. apartment. Cut Karl Rove loose! Let him go, FREE HIM from the demands that he can't manage -- the responsibilities of Judicious, prudent citizenship at the Top Seat of U.S. government. He's not serving US well, nor the Chief who had trusted him. Putting top (clandestine) intelligence officials' lives at risk by referencing or intimating their names or strong clues to their identities to reporters and others outside Top Clearance need-to-know positions, well, it's so anti-American that it smacks of sounding treasonous to some ears. If he would feel at liberty to do THIS, what ELSE has Rove leaked?

Sure, (to be clear) send a prosecutor after him on criminal charges after he's out of there, but Get Him Out now!

There are compadres all around you, Karl, who provide reasonable models for how to handle this situation. Take Donald Rumsfeld for one. On at least two occasions he stated that he has offered up his willingness to Resign to the President, always mindful that he serves at HIS pleasure; so far the President has not taken him up on the offer. Hmmm. . .

Go ahead Karl, try it just Once.

Make our day. "Happy trails to you. . .giddyup little pony giddyup. . ."


Dell? Pell-mell to heckuva bad time

It's a bad time out there. You know, the so-called American 'hero' companies of 5-years ago suddenly take their profits and run and aren't fit to scrub out our recycle cans anymore.
We've got the United Airline CEO bleeding corporate pension funds while in terminal bankruptcy, taking multi-million dollar bonuses while trying to screw flight attendants and reservation agents who aren't looking the least bit stress-free and fit to fly the Untied Skies these days. There's just too much corporate bad boy (girl) business to scorn all in one post, but there's one that's really burning me up.

It should be easy enough to upgrade a computer, throw support toward the private sector and enhance your own personal productivity especially when you're a home run business. Well, that's what I thought when I was tempted by last Xmas' computer specials by Dell Computer. Heck, they practically made it essential that you financed it with them there were such sweet deals -- it seemed.

So you're going along, minding your own business when you start getting peculiar calls from India in the middle of the day inquiring how you're liking your new laptop. At first it seems kind of nice, like extending a piece of customer service -- a long extension, but apparently Dell finds it more attractive to support the Indian economy than the U.S. labor force. Truthfully, I didn't know that when I bought it or it WOULD have made a difference for me. But, what the heck, it was a good deal and I'm just one small sale and so what! Right?

Just wait, though, until there was a significant misunderstanding of the terms of the sale because of later add-ons (like printer cables!) that apparently messed up the original 1-year until payment was due with Dell Financial. OK, fine. But now the
telephone calls had become aggressive, bordering on what we call here in the U.S.A. as 'hostile.' Imagine then you're getting calls from 7:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night on the rate of one every 90 minutes, repeating your story and asking each to document it on their database so there won't be more calls. And then imagine the Indian voices shouting at you, becoming insulting in tone -- you will finally decide as I did that old Michael's company has now seen its better days because after 10 years of solid Dell business from my family, they won't ever get another nickel out of me again!

Trying to reason with one of these "Dell Financial Services"
callers from India is unnerving. They demand personal information -- all of which we're told and are smart enough not to reveal nowadays. Oh, how they'd like you to give them your debit card or something like that to start deducting away, oh yes sirree! And when you try to tell them that they must not call you again because your blood pressure is going through the roof, they insist they won't stop! You ask them if they know U.S. Consumer Protection Law; "No," they say, so you encourage them to become familiar with it because you know consider them Harrassing you on behalf of Dell and you will file complaints with the state Attorney General and better business bureaus. They hang up on your ear loudly.

I of course had mailed payment (with US priority mail) to good old Carol Stream, Illinois, Dell Financial's home address for payments, but decided to call them up and give Customer Service a piece of my mind. I mean, did they know they had a brigade of Indians out there verbally assaulting Americans over a few dollars in a manner that's inconsistent with American law?

Imagine my big surprise when the unsympathetic Customer Service agent informed me that these people were NOT Dell Financial Services employees AT ALL, but outside collection agency contractors in India! (He essentially absolved Dell from responsibility for their mis-behavior. How convenient that 'they' should be victims too, huh?)

I mean, for heaven's sake; if Dell needs a collection agency for my A+++ credit payment of what was then a few bucks then why not give the business to some Illinois company so they don't have to lay-off their workers? They would probably have a set of laws taped up over their desk and at least have a brief training on politeness and what not to do as well as how to get the money. However, I was REALLY ticked off that these callers had misrepresented themselves distinctly as Dell Financial employees when they're not (according to the Customer Service supervisor). I feel they routinely commit consumer Fraud by scripting these Foreign Workers this way (or looking the other way once they know that this is what they're up to)!

I asked that U.S.-based Customer Service supervisor to write up an incident report of my complaint because I felt that Dell had really violated my trust as a loyal customer. As for the Indian collectors? Well, it's one thing that their technical workers are answering all of my questions when I call in; it's a bitter pill to swallow that we apparently can't find nor hire enough U.S. workers for Dell to hire (low enough pay?) to perform this job. But don't tell me that they can't get a collection company, an automated collection system or people working at home trying to rebuild their lives in post-hurricane Florida, for example, who couldn't use the helping hand of a job from a company like Dell.

But just like all companies have their moment in the sun and then seem to fall and burn to a crisp for one reason or another, at least we'll know that when Dell takes a last ride into the sunset it will because they steered their ponies that way. . .although in this case it will be 'that-a-way' -- to a land of the rising sun.


When Juice was Orange & Baseball Wasn't Played on Capitol Hill

We the people haven't seen the cost for last week's congressional hearings on baseball. It's Spring fever though and thoughts of pitching a few and not striking out appeal to the senses of a number of men 'suited up' in pin-stripes and horn-rims on Capitol Hill. Maybe there was a congresswoman in that bunch but she wasn't very visible. Nah, have to lay this blame on the fellows -- show them a baseball and they're liable to run and fetch.

Yes, Drugs are bad. Let's say it differently, perhaps a thousand different ways. Drugs kill. Drugs hurt innocent people. "Here's your brain on drugs [imagine the fried egg public service ad right now]. . ." Steroids and/or performance enhancing drugs and/or body enhancing drugs are wrong! Vary that message with other modifiers, threats, and risks of life & death and you will have covered it. No argument here.

Yet steroid use is a widespread societal problem, just like drug use is In General all across the country, not just in professional baseball! Sure, baseball is beginning to be on many fans' minds, but that should not be reason enough to parade the cause to Capitol Hill. Any day of the week However, take the nation's Drug Problems to Capitol Hill and let them stew on those with full C-Span coverage for hours.

It's up to parents, churches, communities and schools -- all of us together to help influence people of all ages -- including our aging Austrian-born term-style Governors -- that steroid use now OR 20 years ago is/was wrong, period. But when we push local control up to Capitol Hill to intervene then we are asking for something unreasonable.

We should expect the U.S. Congress to Lead the Way in our Nation's fight against a multi-billion dollar illegal drug industry. We don't just lose brilliant minds to drug abuse and overdose, we lose the innocent people they unintentionally take with them through car accidents, meth labs that blow up in unsuspecting neighborhoods, and horrific outcomes due to impaired judgment while in possession of handguns and all the rest. It's measurable, you see, not just an emotionally-charged subject. And it would not be singling out one employment sector such as Baseball Players as the root, visible cause of perpetuating the vice.

Yeah, when a war is approaching a two-year anniversary, look to inordinate time to be misused on topics in Congress that could be handled by industry, private sector groups, or at worse, congressional subcommittees. Eleven hours and counting on this topic driven by the "juiced" book over which Jose may get rich. Just how many times do we need to document use denials along with good charitable works by pro baseball players in front of tv cameras? Do it on your own time, Congress! Otherwise we're docking your pay by the hour from now on.

Shame on him and shame on us if we devote more hours to making a steroid user look good. But double shame on us [You, Congress] if we don't spend adequate time on the business of the Nation -- the whole Nation, not just those looking to steal home.


January 30 -- The Cost of a Single Vote

Not so long ago it was enough that our civic mindedness and political awareness were adequately framed around affairs of our own neighborhoods and our nation. But that was then; this is now.

Now (2005) we are consumed with elections in far away places. We have constructed a pseudo reality and broadcast the logical contention that elections outside our borders are tantamount in importance to our own. Are they? Do the good people of New Hampshire, Minnesota, Kansas, and Washington believe that their sons' and daughters' sacrifices to deliver an Iraqi election on January 30 was worth it, no matter the cost?

How much should we pay for a single vote abroad? How many U.S. lives should be laid down to defend the voting opportunity of a single voter in Iraq? I am plagued by these questions because they are mired in the guts of the Push for meeting January 30th elections. The insistence that there is no possibility of postponement is ludicrous. (Perhaps those in the Beltway who shout the loudest for Jan. 30th should be required to send their first-born to Mosul. 'Walk the talk,' say I.]

Sports metaphors continue to appear in this war by news commentators who compared the Fallujah campaign to a memorable years-ago Packer's offense. Sports are ruled largely by those who dictate that games must be played or forfeited; rarely are exceptions made. So you see the dangerous conditions continue in rain, ice, snow, and mud in which men endanger their lives and their families' welfare by performing as gladiators did centuries ago because the 'rules' dictate.

There is no logic to it. Those who place human life at a higher priority than any sports event would gladly say, "It's unsafe; reschedule it, period." The machismo of war and military engagement tend to implode eventually. "Bring it on!" you say? Finally, even a Commander-in-Chief understands that his words were damaging and he has come to regret the power of his own 'loose' language.

As the enemy insurgents pluck off the mayors, the governors, the voters, the security guards, and it goes without saying, our U.S. and coalition troops, we are still hurdling pell-mell towards January 30 as though that is the end goal, the prize. But is the 'prize' merely, in some minds, the demonstration that elections are held on that day? Touchdown!

Back in December, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi suggested that the elections could be spread over a period of several days or weeks improving the likelihood that more Iraqis could vote safely. Joining him in spirit from another microphone elsewhere was Russia's president Vladmir Putin. Even one of the U.S. closest allies, Canada, held an international forum on preparing for the Iraqi election and how to observe its safeguards and rightful principles. Take note: the emergence of Canada in the world's perusal of the sanctity of the election has all the potential of raising hackles between an already-fractured friendship with Canada. Just imagine the possible scenario of U.S. displeasure with Canadian election monitors' disapproval with election proceedings. The risks are great, eh?, when your closest allies also stand close to being disenfranchised over a Tactic towards birthing a republic in the blood-soaked 'Garden of Eden.' Let's call it what it is: the DATE of an election is not the Outcome nor the Results 10-20 years later. It is a 24-hour encapsulated time period arbitrarily selected. January 30th was and is a Tactic of the migration from war (which is far from ending) to 'non-dictatorship' [for lack of certainty, since we can't forecast what Iraq's government will be] while fully occupied by foreign troops. This is hardly conducive to a 'free' election by anybody's definition.

And as the problems associated with elections in Iraq multiply exponentially, the worldwide challenges of counting Iraqi-expatriate vote grows similarly. Right here in the old U.S.A., the bastion of voting pride, honor, and responsibility we have had our own recent history scratching our heads over how to count 'every vote,' now haven't we? So it should hardly come as a surprise that in the U.S., the FIVE voting centers (only New Carrollton, Maryland; Chicago; Detroit; Los Angeles; and Nashville) create hardships for Iraqi expatriates in, say, Dallas, who want to vote, but can't get to their nearest voting place -- Nashville -- in time. Note: no absentee voting is allowed. Would we stand for this in the U.S.? Why do we impose rules that are untenable to us upon other countries and their foreign nationals living abroad here in the U.S. which are unfair and undemocratic, some say. In the time it has taken to finish the final sentences of this post, an AP news reporter filed a column that a suicide bomber's attack killed 3 Iraqi national election candidates. The days and hours are measurable standing between what we know and what lies beyond -- January 30. Whether we delay their election or whether we push onward, continuing to pay the hefty price for something-yet-to-be-defined a world away seems out of the control of the hands of mere mortals, certainly of mere voters in this country. We the people never bargained on the cost of a single vote in Iraq, did we?


Bangor, Maine

DISCLAIMER: The following is not a travelogue, nor is it paid for by Bangor's Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Bureau. It is blogservation about a place in U.S. history that is becoming more prominent in contemporary times for reasons perhaps unwanted by the community in question. This Blog does not question the rationale of Bangor's selection for prominence in contemporary history; it simply strives to recognize some of the remarkable things about an American place that might otherwise go unnoticed.

The 110' tall Thomas Hill Standpipe is said to be one of the noticeable landmarks about the 'Queen City' -- apparently shouldn't be missed. I doubt, though, that Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) got to check that out when he last visited Bangor, Maine.

With more than average curiosity why international flights bound for U.S. airports with alleged or potential terrorists on board are diverted to Bangor, Maine [BGR in airport code], I finally decided I had to understand more about this historic lumber-jack community and how it got the 'honor' of this selection. Beyond geography and history, would Bangor become a part of American pop culture -- a verb, if not a song? You know:

"To-Bangor: to be displaced or diverted to an alternative site far removed from the original destination in the interest of national security."

When did any of you non-Bangorites stop and give BGR a second thought? The airport according to its proud website specifications has the widest runway on the east coast. And if ever needed it is an alternate landing facility for the Space Shuttle. Yet in all of my years of travel, how have I missed Bangor, Maine? Why has this been kept from me?

I think that if we all knew more about Bangor, we would be on our way to understanding more of the rich, bizarre, and creative minds behind characters that appear in novels like those of Stephen King. Yeah, he lives in Bangor too.

I didn't even know about their annual Folk Festival. It seems like such a tourist attraction compared to the old Penobscot River and the Paul Bunyan statue. Old Bunyan. . .well, logging and the paper mills were part of the heritage of this area and still are. Even Congressman Michaud worked at the paper mills and still carries a union card like his ancestors did.

The history of a place is largely lost on passengers who only land and change planes like at BGR. Gosh, so much is out there that they are missing. I bet even 'Cat' wished deep down that he could have had a chance to glance at the stream that gave Thoreau such prosaic reflection. [TIC*] * tongue-in-cheeck

But perhaps one of the most remarkable legacies of Bangor resides right at the airport itself, where this little story started, but not with the passengers whose names appear on the 'No-Fly' lists. No, the truly extraordinary story of a community like Bangor comes to a head around the energy of a volunteer group at the airport called, the "Maine Troop Greeters."

If there ever was a competition among volunteer organizations around the country who could only be recognized for their good works by non-vested, long-distance observers, I'd have to say that the Maine Troop Greeters deserve some sort of High Praise & Recognition Award. At a minimum communities across the country should model their own airports' programs around the initiative of what this group of unsung heroes has accomplished at BGR.

The Maine Troop Greeters began their efforts back in 1991 during the Gulf War. Using veterans (including WWII, Korea & Vietnam) and civilians, they decided that troops and their families (if they were there too) should be shown appreciation, support and comfort by personal, heartfelt greetings when they arrived at Bangor. To that end they have provided the human connection no matter the time of day or night, coffee and snacks, and the all-important cellular phones for communications with loved ones. Newspapers, display cases, maps, reading areas, and relaxation space are all dutifully attended and made 'homey' in the confines of a small, international airport.

For some of the troops, it was their last point before departing the U.S. mainland for an uncertain future abroad, possibly in harm's way. For the reverse traffic, it is often the first stop upon entering U.S. soil and the return to a welcoming nation. Whichever direction they're going, it's the spirit of what's happening by the good works of the generous Maine Troop Greeters that make lasting positive memories. http://www.mainetroopgreeters.com

This all leads me to believe that it's too bad that the 'No-Fly' people are taken to such a nice place as Bangor even if BGR is well-equipped to deal with possible terrorists by their staff and particularistic geographic resources.

I'd like nothing better than the good works of the Maine Troop Greeters be replicated by other airports which have high volume of military traffic and which similarly don't have USO facilities to fill the need. I've been in such airports where nothing exists. I've seen how dismal the long waiting periods can be for troops who are so eager to get home, who are tired, and hungry, and just need a little space out of the normal fray of the airport havoc.

And I think because of all of this, I am more motivated than ever to visit Maine, you know as a real tourist too. It's a long haul for me, living in the West, but I'd kind of like to see the old Standpipe, the Paul Bunyan statue, check out Thoreau's stream, and maybe even catch a day at the Folk Festival in August.

But mostly -- I want to fly into BGR and talk with those Greeters and observe a 'day in the life' of those devoted volunteers. They inspire me.

You too?


Time for the S.O.P.

Imagine the headlines tomorrow:

"The White House is talking to the senior leadership of each party as candidates' names are vetted for the last remaining cabinet post. The White House Press Corps released a draft of the qualifications still under revision. However, the President is eager to settle on a short list of three candidates within the next two weeks. The new Secretary will have full support, in transition, in the offices of the Department of State, until the department headquarters are ready."

With that we could be proposing candidates and studying them intensely to see what, if anything, they bring to the table. You see, corporate success will not of its own be of great help. Advanced degrees in higher education may be useful but may not be essential. Experience in world travel and foreign languages may be very helpful. Mental acuity, psychological profile, and testimony from 30 years of neighbors may be essential.

The last cabinet post that must be filled by this administration is the most important.

She or he will be the architect of a great future, one that has not been crafted before. She or he must be thoughtful, open, nimble, tolerant, courageous, humble, bold, kind, eager, and above all have 'fire in the belly' for the work at hand.

The work?

For the new Secretary of Peace the work will be awesome and the rewards will be beyond measure.

Just imagine it.

A Special Hell

"U.N. workers systematically rape and sexually exploit women and children in war-torn countries they are sent to protect. . ."

It's a hard time to find a bright spot in the newspaper lately. Natural disasters, also known as 'Acts of God,' are topping our collective imagination as a species in 2005. Somehow, some way, I think we will mourn, yet work our way through those nightmares. It's the 'Acts of Men,' though, that I'm worried about.

When the people ('peackekeepers' they are titled) who are empowered with responsibility to protect, defend, and provide care and food to victims of savage crises turn their power into tools of brutality, bestiality, control, and oppression then we have new assailants, new warriors, among us. Yet, by structural design, that is what the United Nations has provided throughout the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, over the last 35 years. How could this happen?

The mechanism for recruiting U.N.'peacekeepers from member nations carries with it the expectation that the member nation will carry, in turn, the responsibility for disciplining or punishing those in derelict of duty or in violation of human rights violations. In the recent case of the rapes of 120 women and girls in the Congo, the U.N. gave the member countries (Pakistan, Uruguay, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Nepal & France) and the Congo the names of the violators and asked that they take immediate action against their own people. But that hasn't happened.

U.N. enforcement apparently doesn't have teeth as sharp as those of the jackals of the crimes. And abuses pile up from peackeeping missions around the world for decades that extend beyond rape and into pedophilia and child trafickking/slave trade.

Is the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations troubled by all of this? "Rules and regulations should be tightened," he said. [Jean-Marie Guehenno]

And so that's the mighty United Nations, at least as it protects and defends 50% of the world -- the half born female. After Bosnia and the U.N. tribunal on sex enslavement camps in the 1990's [decimation devices of 'ethnic cleansing'] we learned that survivors would speak out and could hold their assailants accountable before the world community for some of the worst crimes known to humanity.

With or without the United Nations, it seems to me that those survivors of Congolese atrocities at the hands of U.N. peacekeepers should be upheld for holding 'court' in the way of the Old West.

Find the right perpetrators, make the accusations clear, be looking for trees with stout branches and truss the rope in suitable fashion to accomodate the greatest discomfort for the slowest possible, yet assured death as the African sun beats mercilessly.

Let it be for the offenders a place that transcends all language barriers and is known as A Special Hell. Let the message carry widely throughout the world that women and men are intolerant of waiting for justice for the crime of rape as a weapon of war as well as weapon of 'peacekeeping.'


The Human Decency Doctrine For Wartime Reporting

When did the Language of War become so insensitive and pop-'culturized'?

You hear it with everyone from Wolf Blitzer to Peter Jennings. It used to be that the use of 'trendy' Language in the context of war topics was left to, well, Bloggers and bloggerheads. But now, with mainstream media crossing the gap to pick up the nasty habit too, there's an atrocious banter going on around some horrific moments of Our lives -- that's right -- Yours & Mine.

Today's abuse is pretty hard to miss. With a devastating attack on a U.S. military base near Mosul, killing and wounding untold numbers of U.S. and coalition troops, contractors, and civilians, the news was promptly discussed as a "Lucky Strike" on Mosul.

Macabre to you too? I mean, whose side are they/we on?

Why, oh why, was it not called a "Massacre at Mosul?"

OK, we get it that from the Insurgents' perspective, any successful and unanticipated assault on troops like ours who were eating their meals, could feel like a 'high five' moment. But please oh please, do NOT report it as "High Five for the Insurgent Team" because folks, this is NOT football or basketball! [A Sunday morning news program included one jughead who was so enthusiastic in his play-by-play discussion of the unfolding of the campaign leading up to the January elections, that he used every football metaphor I've ever heard. Even the all-male panel was somewhat speechless for a second or two.]

The 'Lucky Strike' remark was bad enough but then the wolf-hound went on to question a retired General about the soft-sided facility where the troops were eating, if they weren't out there like so many, "sitting ducks."

Listen up, more than 20+ families are going to get some pretty awful news this week and having a metaphor like 'sitting ducks' anywhere in the archives is just plain boorish. Nobody needs to hear it or think it because better judgment should prevail by the professionals who are reporting news. If there is a news item or an investigation into the armoring of camps, then fine, relate that topic to their vulnerability. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?

For those of us who haven't been to A.N.Y. School of Journalism but have a Fair Amout of Common Sense and can educate those poor fools who couldn't be trained about what we know, here are our basic principles -- let's call it --

The Human Decency Doctrine for Wartime Reporting

1. No use of cliches, metaphors or pop culture references (songs, movies, games) in the coverage of military assaults, kidnappings, beheadings, prisoners-of-war, heroic acts, lost limbs, etc.

2. When in doubt about showing pictures of human remains or humans in shock in response to the remains of their comrades, err on the side of not showing. If it's newsworthy, 72 hours later, ask permission of the commanding officer, the troop shown, and the next of kin, if they have been notified and with a military chaplain present. [Note: you won't get past the first checkpoint.]

3. Do not use Toll-free number or Internet polls to ask Americans what should happen to Sadden Hussein or Chemical Ali. This is not the 'Bachelorette' and we don't want you to use the characters of war and us to become part of Your Sweeps Week.

4. If you have gone to the time and trouble to track down an Expert to talk to Viewers and their perspective is valuable, let him/her speak. Shut up already! Tell your sponsors that you may be going over the normal time for advertising breaks because Real Life just doesn't fit neatly around 30 or 60 second segments for cellular telephone service or department stores.

5. Cover (photograph and text with date) every casket that returns to the states. Every life matters. Show some respect. Show them coming home.

Do you have others to add?
Write and we'll send a new & improved list to the AP, the network owners, major network sponsors, and the FCC.

Let's stake our claim on this piece of the Airwaves. They were intended for You and Me.
Together, we can make a difference.


The Appointee -- Tuesdays at Ten

After another season of the Donald's, The Apprentice, it occurs to me that the White House could learn a lot about vetting their appointments to all sorts of positions including the cabinet, supreme court, and lesser crowns like ambassadorships. They could simply create a 'reality' tv show and let the country help weed out the candidates.

The recent embarrassment over NY's Bernard Kerik to Homeland Security isn't the travesty that the press is making it out to be. It would have been worse, sure, if he had already started the job. So, ok, enthusiasm ran high already, and in the 2nd term things got a tad sloppy with new people playing it a little loose on background checks. I don't think that 'bad' day [the day Kerik's sordid past hit the fan] begins to compare with the 'best' day in Baghdad, so why are we giving it so much newsprint? I don't think President Bush or Rudy G. should keep beating themselves up over it. Let it go already!

We can learn something from this, though.

We learned from the Clinton administration that nearly nobody is qualified to be Attorney General of the U.S. Save for missing a law degree, I used to think I could volunteer -- I never 'smoked' you know what (let alone had the inhalation issue to contend with), didn't have that nasty nanny-gate problem, but then, ooops, nevermind. . . forgot about dear Vera, the short-term house cleaner a life-time ago. She didn't want to report her income to the government and I didn't want to twist her arm about it so I didn't pay the 'employer's' part of the social security either. There I go, disqualifying myself from Attorney General. That was just one of Kerik's transgressions.

But just imagine -- if we had 100,000 candidates for the cabinet secretary of Homeland Security [The Apprentice gets 1 million applications; I'm assuming not nearly as many people would want this job as working for the Trumpster], and taking all sorts of prequalifications into account,we narrowed the search to 20.

Then, what if we planned a 20-week television program based on weeding out the undesirable candidates each week, pitting them against each other one by one, while we, the audience, learn more and more about them, their character, grace-under-fire pressure, and you know, whether they floss -- important stuff.

I think we'd have a hit all right. And we'd probably be no worse for the wear. We might even have a darn good Appointee for the position of whatever post we were trying to fill -- just name it -- the process works for any of them in the federal government.

Sure, we would still have the CIA and FBI clearances, newspaper leaks, old lovers' tapes discovered [a la Clinton], and quirks like practicing surgery on 'rescued' cats [see Sen. Frist online articles] but we would have a better chance of airing our dirty laundry in advance.

See, it's not that we couldn't wear dirty socks a 2nd day, but sometimes, well, you know. . .you just want to sniff them to be real sure.


Help the Troops & Their Families!

No matter your politics, there are U.S. troops around the world who are feeling the pangs of prolonged separation from their families and friends, many of whom are located in harm's way. Their conditions of daily living and survival at 'work' are not great; we all wish it could be better. Separating the causes and the finger-pointing for a moment, let us remember that there is something that we can all do. You pick what that something is and just DO IT!

FORGET THAT IT MAY NOT (PROBABLY WON'T) REACH THEM BY DECEMBER 25. They're still going to be there the day after, the week after that, and the month after that.
The need goes on. This is NOT just a Holiday appeal, Got it?

Whether it's a church activity sending sweatsuits to injured soldiers (there are too many to
list -- check with yours) or a centralized program to help those wounded with a variety of soft clothes and toiletries (see: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/), if you want to support specific goods going to troops, there are programs for you.

Http://www.anysoldier.com provides a wide array of options for you to choose from all the way from care packages to program support. It's admirable how this program began; be sure to check it out. Even the hardest of hearts can't help but be moved by some of the needs identified by representatives of individual units that can be selected all the way from Branch of Service to Male or Female to nurses or soldiers. You can read their list of needs and then take a look at your own grocery cart each week and suddenly you just know you CAN make room to help these courageous troops whose return home remains uncertain -- some turkey jerky, baby wash/wipes for basic hygiene, or batteries -- the needs are not beyond your ability to help. Pick one; in your mind 'adopt a battalion' or a unit and do the best you can.

Another great grassroot effort that has evolved into an amazing organization can be found at http://soldiersangels.org/heroes/index.php You can read about their work and select from a wide array of ways to help out including returning troops and families who try to reach wounded sons and daughters to support them during treatment and recovery.

The Red Cross working with the Red Crescent Society has tried to administer aid to civilians in Iraq. Most aid agencies are, for the present, in too much danger of being killed or kidnapped to provide direct support of civilians. However, there is hope that there will be a time again when they can resume their aid. Contact your local branch of the Red Cross (see your telephone White Pages) and ask how you can best help, typically through a financial contribution.

If you live within 200 miles of a military base you will likely find outreach programs in the community that you can join and support. Sometimes these are administered through VFW, American Legion Posts, or other community groups. If you are interested in particularly helping young, struggling families of deployed troops then this may be the best route for you to offer assistance. Sometimes the gift of telephone calling cards, grocery store gift cards, and help with school uniforms for children can provide amazing relief to the parent left behind trying to stretch a check until next pay period.

Again, don't confuse your personal ideology with politics or government and what's at stake in supporting the human beings from our country who are in positions of extraordinary risk and discomfort. You CAN help a fellow citizen, a fellow human being, without risking whatever opinions you have because that is what being a caring human being is all about. Have the courage to try it today, if you haven't already made the commitment to do so.

Then, keep on giving, even if it hurts, because it hurts them a whole lot more.


Any Town, U.S.A.

Across the country, scores of World War II servicemen, their wives, and the nurses who tended the troops are dwindling daily. Any newspaper in Any Town, U.S.A. lists the obituaries of the men and women whose commitment to duty made all the difference in a grueling era of deprivation and fear.

Yet there are still precious souls among us who, upon casual conversation, can be persuaded to take us back in time -- their time at war, to their lives interrupted.

It's interesting to hear the rationale for which service branch was selected. "Well, I knew I could use my mechanical engineering and machinery talents on a naval ship and frankly, I didn't think I would be much use with a gun. At 6' 4" I just figured I would be a splendid target, that's all," and the like explain why Earl entered the Navy instead of the Army as many of his New Jersey friends and neighbors did.

A couple of those Jersey fellows were Earl's high school buddies and before the war they practiced an extracurricular skill as a team -- acrobatic leveling or balancing. At one time (the now near-90 year old man was regaling me with stories encompassing the heart of a century), Earl was on his way to becoming a professional leveler. I never knew this term. But when Earl explained it to me, I could imagine how the performers who climbed higher and higher on top of him needed to count on the steady stance of the underpinning form of their colleague -- Earl. Earl, the human leveler.

As he talked, Earl's eyes twinkled remembering those days and I could almost see in my mind's eye the shapes of bodies climbing higher and higher to the sounds of awes from the audience. I felt goosebumps.

For a time it surely seemed that Earl and his band of brothers were headed for the professional performing circle. Favorable auditions were granted and they felt at age 18 the world was just beginning for them.

And then the U.S. entered WWII and the performance artists placed their skills in the hands of their country instead.

Earl and I talked about the twists and turns in one's life, how doors open and close without our awareness that sometimes they are altering our lives forever. That he would, post-war, meet a gal, Margie, in his college town, who shared his old love of acrobatics, herself using a trapeze at times, seemed almost too good to be true. Their love was immediate and he was overjoyed to discover that he could level her just like he had leveled the fellows a few years before. And so life was good for them.

As we talked over old times and how he came to become an engineer in Silicon Valley instead of the circus performer traveling on-the-road, lovely Margie walked over grinning to ask him a simple question. "What's the name of our road?"

Earl answered her gently and she happily walked back to her friends. His eyes weren't twinkling as before when he told me that Margie now has Alzheimer's Disease. But they still danced the night away at the holiday party with other retirees who returned to celebrate the occasion with fellow workers. We were grateful Earl and Margie were there.

And I was so thankful that he shared this and other vignettes of the lives of the WWII generation at a time when I'm communicating with soldiers in Iraq and some are struggling to adjust to life after Iraq. There's never a comparison between wars, eras, nor people of course.

I am reminded that real courage is born of those who serve. And those who keep a level head while continuing to 'Level' their beloved through the storms and trials of disease are heroes indeed, because their course too, like soldiers, is uncharted, yet steadfast.


Nixon's Right Hand Man Tells Troops to Suck It Up

Some news days are almost too surreal to believe. Today was one of them.

Chronicling both Pres. Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's flights of fury to Camp Pendleton, CA and Camp Buehring, Kuwait respectively allowed them to acknowledge the time-honored Pearl Harbor Day occasion with real troops, not just veterans. And of course, it was to buck up the morale of the troops, the ones already there and bone weary and those who are dreading going even with all of the honorable duty talk in the world hanging over their heads.

Not surprisingly, Pres. Bush's visit was, well, presidential. Pendleton has lost around 270 Marines in Iraq. Camp Pendleton understands what sacrifice is. During the emotional visit with family members and troops, he gave the broad appeal to all Americans to help out however they can with military families. So many Americans have been doing this from the first troops' deployment; he hardly had to ask, but it was a good, strategic request of the whole country in case anyone out there has had their heads buried in P. Hilton videos. He was in fine form, truly presidential. It was only a shame that he didn't send somebody else to Kuwait instead of old Rummy.

It's possible that there are many factors at play with Rumsfeld. Age, too many years with pharmaceutical companies, and the obvious -- he's got a 'lock-in' now as a lame-duck Defense Secretary so perhaps he thinks he's untouchable. After all, did you vote for him? Think about it. How do you impeach a Defense Secretary?

Well, Secretary Rumsfeld did not prepare enough for the tone of his encounter with troops in Kuwait. You know, the kind of drill that we all learned in Business 101 -- "Worst case scenario: what do you do if the cash register jams and customers are lined up at the door?" Duh. You have to be prepared for thoughtful, seasoned, and accommodating responses to your 'customers. . .'

Like it or not, Rumsfeld, that congressional-go-lightly Princeton fellow who kowtowed to Nixon all through his Watergate days (somehow never getting burned himself), is more than a little OUT OF TOUCH with reality, the kind of reality that troops know in the field. This is the same Rumsfeld who never got the tiniest bit dirty in bloody combat himself, lucky devil. His brief aviator days in the mid-1950's allowed him to miss WWII, Korea & Vietnam. Talk about luck.

Two major points stuck in the craw of troops in the audience. Too bad more women weren't there; he might have been hissed off the stage (kidding).

1. A serious and well-presented question was asked about by a true 'Volunteer' [that's what Tennessee troops are called historically] as to why they still have inadequate supplies of armor for their vehicles. Just imagine what Pres. Bush might have said way over at Camp Pendleton. I suspect he would have said something like, "It's my understanding that we're nearly up to full capacity with supplying armor for military vehicles, but I take your question seriously and we will look into it."

Not old Rummy. He just cracked that verbal whip right back at Army Spc. Wilson and said,
"You go to war with the Army you have."

"Arguments of convenience lack integrity and inevitably trip you up."

Let's face it, that whole audience in Kuwait had Rummy's number and was just too darn polite to carry him to his Limo in pieces.

2. The 2nd Hot Button issue that's on many troops' minds and is more than a bit sensitive as lawsuits flurry about like a Nor'easter is the "stop loss" problem which means the effective use [or abuse] of soldiers preventing them from retiring or quitting when their time is up. It's pretty hard to not know about this from newspapers and TV programs where disabled veterans are being dragged out of their homes, 4' 8" 60-year old grandmothers are being hauled back to training, and mothers of infants who thought they had fulfilled their commitment are now in uniform. Oh yeah, it's a sensitive issue.

To say that we don't have a Draft is, in light of all of this, just a plain Lie. We may not have a lottery like we did in the 60's & 70's (yet) but we have a draft, de facto. It's just that the people taking it on the chin are those already in the military and those who have ever been in who could in any way be hauled back by some technicality.

So when Rumsfeld was asked about how much more of this "stop loss" power they were going to use on troops who would otherwise be eligible to retire or quit, quick to answer, the Defense Secretary just said that this was a good, sound principle and
"It's nothing new, it's been well understood by soldiers."

But that presumes that all of these people could simply be misguided, crazy, or wrong. But maybe something ELSE was "well understood" by these soldiers, something RUMSFELD SAID:

"I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today will last five days, five weeks or five months, but it won't last any longer than that."

What do we make of this Secretary, the counselor to Nixon, Reagan's envoy to Saddam Hussein (remember when he was our friend?), a man on the board of a global technology group for nuclear power stations off North Korea (remember, the Bad Guys?), and curiously the CEO of Searle who might be called "old Bitter & Sweet" who got FDA approval for an artificial sweetener by the name of aspartame. Rumsfeld's very proud of his achievements for turning business profitability around -- usually, like at Searle, it's at the expense of the jobs of rank and file workers.

Do you think Rumsfeld got the war confused with a giant Widget Factory and by losing troops and not shipping all of the supplies needed he can demonstrate greater profitability? Wow, that's tough talk isn't it, kind of like calling someone guilty of war crimes.
But, to Quote RUMSFELD:
"Prune -- prune businesses, products, activities, people. Do it annually."

But what's clear is this: Rummy's a man who loves the Business of war but only tolerates troops. Can we afford to have a Secretary of Defense who is so indifferent, antagonistic, if not hostile to the men and women who implement his plans? Is he really the Best and Brightest that our Country can find for this important job?

I'd go back to Kuwait and ask some of the men and women who spoke up at the Secretary's apperance -- ask them who they would be inspired to follow. I have faith in my fellow Americans, something that Donald Henry Rumsfeld does not share. He was not forthcoming like that Tennessee 'Volunteer' at Camp Buehring.

No, Rumsfeld did not resign at the end of the first term like so many other cabinet members. But just because he didn't offer his resignation does not mean that our President doesn't know how to request it. Let's give President Bush our support NOW to help Secretary Rumsfeld retire. We don't want to 'stop loss' him now, do we?

And if it helps ease into it, LET'S REMIND RUMSFELD OF SOME OF HIS OWN WORDS:
"Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the President and do wonders for your performance."


Killed in Service

There will be many more analyses, investigative hours, and possible charges over the recent report that NFL player turned-soldier Corporal (Army Ranger) Pat Tilman was killed last April by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan. The tragedy of his death stands alongside the collective tragedies of more than 1,400 coalition troops as of this writing.

When you step one hour, one day, one week or one year away from the fact of the individual case what remains is this – he or she is dead, just the same. However, wherever, and whenever the loss, the loss remains as true and real to those who know what loss really is.

Not all deaths are reported and counted in the same way, however. And the “KIA” (killed in action) numbers are the ones we, the public, tend to watch closely. (It makes me wonder if COs are given performance evaluations in which their mortality counts are a measure of their success so they don't want those car accidents, heart-attacks, and drug overdoses to drag their record down.)

Further, we can’t help but marvel at the slug-sticky trail left by those (official investigators?) whose tangled webs were well practiced to confuse or deceive us (to mix metaphors while mangling a quotation along the way) about the truth behind the big 'incidents.'

And that brings us back to Corporal Tilman. Much will be made of this friendly fire incident because of Tilman’s high profile case – he was well known, highly admired, fondly respected and loved by many.

But there are also lesser known cases of friendly fire that we ought to study just as earnestly if we are to learn anything about our commitment to troops and to truth.

Take Marine Corporal Jason David Mileo, for example. Mileo, from Pasadena, Maryland, survived the April 2003 assault on Baghdad but was mistaken for an enemy soldier when he was killed. It took a year for military investigators to lay partial blame on Cpl. Mileo (!) for causing the confusion that led to his own death.

According to the U.S. Central Command, Cpl. Mileo (at the time, unarmed) had removed his flak jacket and helmet and was smoking a cigarette – conduct violations – when he was shot in the back by fellow Marine snipers and spotter. Yet, the report, a full year in the making, absolved military responsibility by saying:

“Even though no one event or person was the catalyst for Corporal Mileo’s death, one break in the chain of events may have spared his life.”

Hmmm. . .I'd like to know who wrote that line; it's sort of Zen-like, kind of out of touch with the Reality that most of us know and live with.

Counting ‘friendly fire’ deaths is perhaps the hardest count of all because of the admission of guilt and the implicit responsibility (public outrage, loss of support for the war, lawsuits, to name a few) that accompanies it. But it’s hard to tell the survivors of those who died from accidents, ‘noncombat weapon discharge,’ disease, or even suicide that their loved ones’ deaths were not brought on at least in substantial part by their service to their country.

It’s time that the algorithm change. Since the U.S. Civil War, at least, military deaths have been tracked by disease, accident, suicide, death-in-combat, murder, among other categories.

But just as we don’t send out brightly dressed fifers and drummers in advance of marching troops anymore because it doesn’t fit modern warfare techniques, we need to stop segregating deaths-in-service by cause.

The aggregate death count – the total count of souls lost -- is good enough for me because they all matter, even those whose futile destinies lay in their own hands by their acts.

After we’ve seen the movie based on the death of Cpl. Tilman, try to remember the movies that you won’t see – of young fellows like Cpl. Mileo whose father's thoughts should linger with us all:

“His death was noble because he was a soldier who willingly went into battle to fight for freedom and liberty and he fell. And he lost his life.”

What else is there to say? The count with Tilman and Mileo?
Two more were “killed in service” of their country.



Milbloggers & the 'Experts'

[The following letter was sent to a Northeast newspaper to set the record straight on their reporting.]

Dear newspaper editor,

Thanks to the Internet, we're reading your newspaper in Baghdad as well as in Arizona. Your November 21, 2004 article ("Dispatches from the front") warrants some serious clarification for readers.

You see, as it is, the reporter might have left you with the impression that a Milblog by the handle "Life in this Girl's Army" was an easy kick-back "college kid's diary." On the contrary. Those of us who have kept up with Sgt. Lizzie's writings know that this Blog was a creative and expressive outlet for her and a way to stay in touch with family and friends.

Along the way (and not part of her own plan, I might add) she's educated perfect strangers like me and connected us with other Bloggers, creating a pretty powerful network of that old American spirit. You remember -- people extending their hands and helping each other as they best can.

Multiply the power that comes from someone like Sgt. Lizzie! Just imagine, because of her, in a small way I've helped a horribly injured soldier get his family to Walter Reed; 'adopted'
the family of a deployed Marine for holiday support; sent telephone calling cards to soldiers; and helped a returning reservist's family who unfairly lost his stateside job get back on their feet. Again, I say, multiply the power that comes from Sgt. Lizzie's impact on others.

Well, yesterday, Dec. 4, in that foreign soil, wearing her uniform in service of her country, Sgt. Lizzie's truck hit an IED. (We learned from her mother who updated her Blogsite.) You see, no one in Iraq is a "college kid" as you suggested. No one is exempt from great peril, pain, suffering, and death.

Sgt. Lizzie was injured, was hospitalized, but she was lucky; her comrade, the driver, behind her, God rest her soul, was not so blessed.

It would do a gross disservice to the military personnel who serve in Iraq or elsewhere in the world in harm's way (as well as Sgt. Lizzie, in particular, since she was identified in this article) if your information was not updated for readers.

"Dispatches from the front?" Not such a simplistic article to write, now is it?

You see, just like looking in our rear-view mirrors, "Objects may be larger than they seem." When you read a Milblog in the future, do not trivialize what you do not understand.