"If You'd Like to Report a Problem, Press 2. . ."

Anyone else MAD as hell with convoluted company voicemail systems?
Anyone else have a friend or relative out of work?
Anyone else 'taken it on the chin' too many times from being disconnected after 20 minutes of wading through endless questions and telephone button pushing?

Why are we such patsies of corporate greed? 'Cause that's what it's about, you know -- how they can save a buck and we just can just curse them with a loud 'shecky durn' to that quiet, endless pause, or worse, some mind-numbing musaq designed to torture.

What most corporate voicemail is NOT about is good customer service. Man, after another maddening round of two such cases this morning [not that I'm normally logging them!], I want to start a people's power movement designed to identify the worst of the perpetrators, Flogging them with well-crafted Blogs, and demanding some R - E - S- P - E - C - T and fundamental change in their behavior.

First, somebody's gotten way-rich on selling these pricey voicemail systems that are not user friendly to any age group. This could really get in the way of commerce, personal safety, and plain old blood pressure-driven peace-of-mind.

Second, the companies over-utilizing these aggressive and relentless voicemail systems are getting rich off our misery. We don't like it, doesn't solve our problems or requests for help or a purchase either lots of times. After all, when you've had enough, you've HAD it!

Third, I know a number of people who would love to have those jobs -- NO, they NEED those jobs that pricey corporate voicemail systems replaced them with. You know, they're our neighbors, parents, wannabe taxpayers, and they/we deserve a chance to be the driving Capital behind American business once again.

Fourth, who's making the decisions to go this route? Is it at the board room level or is some bean counter in the Accounting department figuring it maximizes his/her own company benefits to force-feed corporate voicemail down our throats?

Fifth, when was the last time a real person answered a corporate call and delightfully said, "Hello, my name is Dan; how can I/we help you today?" Hey, I think the good, respectful companies for customers' desire for human contact should also be Blogged with praise. It's just that sadly, they're fewer these days or so it seems to me.

Trust me, I FEEL YOUR PAIN; all you have to do is share the stories of the Good, the Bad, and the downright Ugly.

But I'm also thinking we've got some power ourselves.:
-->We can hang up and sometimes appear in a business lobby (that won't work most of the time).
-->We can email the Public Affairs Liaison for the company in question itemizing our complaints.
--> We can (when possible) change who we're doing business with and let the old company know why.
-->And we also could start a Movement, a Liberation Movement of sorts to remove this tyrrany from our backs as consumers in a giant worldwide marketplace.

Do we have it in us? Up for the task? No guts, no glory, so. . .

Who's with me out there? We all have different skills and come from different walks of life, so Is There an MBA in-the-house out there who could calculate for a given company how many Jobs could be restored right here in the old USA by eradicating the Goliathan beasts of corporate voicemail?

So the message is, you want to run your business, collect my dollars, benefit from some tax breaks and take away HOW MANY jobs from my neighborhood? See, my neighborhood is pretty darn big -- it goes from Maine to Hawaii, Alaska to Brownsville, TX and a criss-cross of the in-between. We've gotta Think Globally and act Locally. Remember that old 60's or 70's phrase.? Made great signs then and would now too.

Are you with me? If so, "Please type in your mother's maiden name and press 7."

~~Riled & Ready Lucy


Time to Turn the Page on Pa[i]ge

A long time ago Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that people will judge how wise a leader ('prince' in the text) is by his choice of close advisors or 'ministers.' The main criterion for a good and trusted advisor is one who puts the prince's concerns over those of his own.

We can think of 'ministers' as heads of cabinet departments to our modern day version of the 'prince,' or the President. A little dose of history permits us to reflect upon the cohorts of 'ministers' in decades past. How well did they all stack up? Well, someone (or many, Google might show) has probably written a book comparing Truman's cabinet to, say, Nixon's.

But on one measure alone, longevity in office, I thought of four presidential cabinets, those of Truman, Johnson, Nixon, and George H. W. Bush. [Hang in there with me; there's a point coming to this!]

Is it always wise to keep someone in office for the duration of a presidency?

When should a President replace a cabinet secretary?

Is there a downside to a cabinet change?

Some present day cabinet departments did not exist back in the nearly 8-year term of Harry Truman. So, I looked at one that flowed across generations -- the Department of Labor. Hey, we all should be concerned with the head of the department that keeps tabs on our workforce, the engine of our national welfare and contributors to our domestic coffers, right?

Truman inherited Frances Perkins upon Roosevelt's death but he went on to have two secretaries of his own selection -- Lewis Schwellenbach and Maurice Tobin. Like Truman, Lyndon Johnson inherited cabinet heads, but Labor's W. Willard Wirtz suited Johnson through his entire administration.

Richard Nixon had three Labor Secretaries: George Shultz, James Hodgson, and Peter Brennan. George H. W. Bush had the distinction of two women in that office, Elizabeth Dole and Lynn Martin.

Funny thing, but not one of the Secretaries of Labor left a tarnished legacy upon the commander-in-chief -- not that we remember anyway. And one even went on to win a Senate seat -- pretty darn respectable, so it seems.

This dose of history leads me to ponder the Cabinet Secretaries, the 'ministers' or the trusted advisors of our current President George W. Bush. Without examining them all, I'll cut to the chase and say that one of them is leaving a shadow on his 'prince,' and the 'minister's' legacy may be recalled someday in shame.

In the entire history of the United States of America, we have had only seven Secretaries of Education -- Shirley Hufstedler, Terrel Bell, William Bennett, Lauro Cavazos, Lamar, Alexander, and now, Dr. Roderick Paige. The Secretary of Education is charged with ensuring equal access to education and promoting educational excellence throughout the country. Dr. Paige's antics are inflammatory, though, and not inspiring of excellence. He can serve his boss best by resigning now.

Tough talk? Well consider who's doing the tough talking on behalf of a nation concerned with the big 'E' -- Education.

During a February 23, 2004 meeting with the nation's governors, Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization." Hmmm. . .terrorist? Does that mean teachers who are members of the NEA can't pass through airport security or what? With 2.7 million members of the NEA, we've got a heckuva job corner-eying that crowd!

Gee whiz, Secretary Paige, the use of terms like "terrorist" is pretty loaded stuff.

Hold on a second, just who is this man Dr. Paige, who would point a finger at the teachers of your kids and mine and call them "terrorists?" True, he offered an apology of sorts the next day distinguishing the "terrorists" he meant were the lobbyists who work for the NEA (and challenge his agenda). Oh, great recovery Dr. Paige.

In reflecting upon his upbringing as a child in rural Mississippi, Paige mentioned in a May 2004 interview that he got hand-me-down books from other schools. There were pages ripped out and there was writing in the margins he said. What pages were missing that might have led him -- a half-century later -- to label anyone "terrorists" without pondering it first with his own trusted advisors as well as running the notion by his Boss? Do I hear the sounds of a loose cannon rattling along the steps of the Department of Education?

Apparently, Dr. Paige loves history. He said in an interview for the Sept./Oct. 2004 Humanities journal that history "is a collection of really great stories. . . it is fascinating."

Well, in recent months it seems that we have learned a great deal of history about Who in the administration served in the military and who did not and what the heck the difference makes in the execution of their present job.

Not that it matters for a Secretary of Education, but Dr. Paige doesn't talk about his own military service or Peace Corps tenure. Nope, can't find the mention in his biography; was it overlooked? Maybe he was deferred during the Berlin Crisis or during the Vietnam 'conflict' because of an education deferment. He was after all, hard at work at Indiana University on his PhD in Physical Education where he advanced the scholarship on response time of football linemen. What a relief.

The annals of history show that one teacher who turned school superintendent, and again turned college president, became the first permanent secretary of the National Education Association. Dr. Irwin Shepard held this position 1893-1912 and out of deep conviction ran the NEA out of his home in Winona, Minnesota longer than he planned to work.

The NEA, you see, was founded in 1857, a year before Minnesota even became a state! Wow, who knew that the pioneer spirit among those bespectacled schoolmarms cloaked the spawning of a terrorist organization rustling behind their skirts?

But the rest of Dr. Irwin Shepard's story is worth knowing. He did not hire a substitute for military service in the Union Army in 1862 (which was legal and done by some men) while he was a college student in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Instead, he served in the proud 17th Michigan Infantry, became a sergeant, and was wounded in May 1864 at the battle of the Wilderness, Virginia. And, yes, it's also true that Dr. Shephard was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in service during the Siege of Knoxville, Tennessee in the Fall of 1863.

The history of the NEA? Like Dr. Paige said, history really is fascinating.

Is President Bush hearing the voices from the heartland who are asking for Dr. Paige's firing or better, his resignation? Apparently the volume has not increased sufficiently to capture his attention during a time of war concurrent with a time of political campaigning. That's just another problem of a wartime president; he can claim, easily enough, that his time is more urgently needed on foreign affairs, especially when our men and women fall upon the country's call.

But. . . we were a nation with domestic concerns that needed tending long before we went on pilgrimage for WMD in Iraq and with or without the leadership of President Bush, we will someday resume appropriate attention on domestic affairs like Education once again. The pendulum cannot swing in one sole direction indefinitely. Go ahead, quote me on that.

A recommendation? Earn some political favor while doing the right thing besides -- 'elevate' Dr. Paige to the rolls of History by helping him become a former Secretary of Education. Yes, it's time to "Turn the Page on Paige."

Then. . . appoint Secretary number 8 in his place. If you need suggestions, get out of Washington, D.C., Camp David, or Crawford, Texas and talk to the rest of us. See, you just have to think of us as trusted advisors; we won't let you down.


A Screamin' Eagle on R&R

While I first wrote this several months ago, I wrote it for myself and friends. Some of them suggested sharing it and I think it is as relevant now as it was then so I'm sharing it with my Blog. The article was published in the Fort Campbell Courier on Christmas Eve 2003. Poignantly the U.S. death toll as of today's publication now exceeds 1,000, unlike when this piece was written. -- Lucy

After a business meeting last Fall [2003], I visited the Alexandria, Virginia National Cemetery. Located at the end of a residential street, it is otherwise unremarkable except for being in the company of another half dozen cemeteries nearby. So many graves of men from around the country form straight lines across the rolling acres of the national cemetery. Growing overhead are thick shade trees turning Autumn gold that intermingle with droopy power lines.

Other than names eroding into aged stone markers, we are left to imagine their last moments in service of their country and how they came to rest here for eternity.

The Washington Post’s headlines that same day noted than three more U.S. troops were killed in Iraq bringing the death count, since the 'official' close of war to a number greater than 100 lives.

Waiting for a flight at Washington Reagan Airport, I also read the local Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. This newspaper listed six columns of names of service personnel for whom family and friends wished that they be remembered in thought and prayer -- Captain Castro, Major Durcsak, Airman Panek, Private Garcia, Ensign Bauserman, and Staff Sergeant Millett were among those for whom ‘petitions-of-the-people’ were printed in the "Religion" section.

I switched my seat once on-board for the flight to Nashville so that a husband and wife could sit together. Funny how small movements in our lives can lead to bigger moments.

I was now seated with Ryan, a very tall and lanky young man, twenty-something, who I learned was returning home to Fort Campbell from Iraq on a 15-day R&R. Over the course of that flight we talked nonstop. He was so eager to reunite with his wife Ashley who is his "best friend," four-year-old son, Nick, and his two-year-old daughter, Julie, who does not remember him, but tried to talk to him by telephone earlier that day.

The travel time from near Baghdad to Nashville had taken about 6 days. Through helicopters, trucks, layovers in Cyprus, stand-by flights, and eventually a flight from Frankfurt to Baltimore, Ryan had been traveling for days without benefit of sleep or shower. He assured me that he was a pro at that. Fortunately a VFW volunteer transported Ryan and some other troops from Baltimore International Airport to other area airports for their domestic flights home. Without that service, the cost for Ryan to get to Reagan Airport would have been about $90, possibly prohibitive. I didn’t know that the military didn’t cover the cost of transit during R&R to home destinations, only to ports of entry in the U.S. This didn’t seem right to me. Ryan didn’t complain; I did. [This has reportedly changed since this writing.]

The troops who disembarked the VFW van at Reagan National Airport had long waits for connecting flights; in Ryan’s case it took about 9 hours. I told him that many people like me would have gladly paid for a motel room for them to rest in and to freshen up with showers before arriving home had we known of them and how we could help. He said he couldn’t complain about being bone tired and dirty; he was going to be with his family soon, that’s all that mattered.

Ryan talked proudly about his division, the Screaming Eagles, or the 101st Airborne Division. He related their tie back to the Civil War days in a proud fashion; a story I already knew but was very pleased to hear him tell it anyway.

His father served in the same division in Vietnam and his grandfather served with it in WWII. Back home in Waterford, Michigan his folks were none the wiser that Ryan was stateside. He wanted some quality team with his little family alone before visiting with anyone else.

Being 6'4" Ryan was understandably cramped in his seat. I asked him if anyone had advised troops during these extremely long-hauls home of the merits of taking aspirin, if they’re able to tolerate it, as a preventative for DVTs – deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots. No, he never heard about this, but said he would be sure to remember it now.

Ryan said that he and his comrades came home nervous about fellow countrymen’s reaction to them. There’s a worry, he said, that the troops are hated as the country has polarized during what we now term 'postwar occupation.' A segment he heard on talk radio in the VFW van had upset him. I reassured him that no matter what he heard on talk radio, people, generally, support the troops and can distinguish their feelings about that issue versus the war itself. He listened but didn’t look convinced.

Since leaving home 9 months before, after a prior tour of duty in Afghanistan, his son had grown up sufficiently by the age of four to admonish his little sister to obey the house rules because, as little Nick said,

"Daddy carries a gun and kills bad guys."

This troubled Ryan greatly.

Ryan, a team leader, talked affectionately about ‘his’ men. He also talked about division comrades who are now dead. He and his men talk about how easy it is to be killed in so many different ways over there.

Primarly, Ryan hoped that the military would stop sending unseasoned troops over there; they were doomed, he felt. While Ryan said that he didn’t want to be thought of as a killing machine, or at least not that alone; it’s not a job that he would wish upon anyone else either.

I really hated to say goodbye to this fine young man. Upon landing, as other passengers stood aside while troops nearly leapt from their seats, we watched them go bounding through the airport.

I couldn’t keep up with Ryan’s pace, but in the approaching distance I saw three smaller figures waiting patiently by the security ropes. Within moments Ryan seemed to devour them whole and the little family blended into one complete shape, at least for the moment that I wiped my eyes. I could only imagine this scene multiplied by hundreds or thousands throughout the country.

The next morning the identities of the three troops killed over that weekend were published. They were more of Fort Campbell’s best, and at that time, the senior ranking officer to be killed, Lt. Col. Kim Orlando. The newspaper reporting would have been much more effective if it had headlined that,

"Lt. Col Orlando, Staff Sgt. Bellavia, and Corp. Grilley were killed trying to keep the peace in Iraq’s postwar occupation."

Give them their due, put their names on the news headlines! They matter[ed].

Ryan is presumably now back in Iraq. Back then, I mentally counted down the days of his R&R and estimated the time it would take for him to return. During that same time I watched news reports intensely as helicopters crashed and more soldiers were lost in a myriad of ways.

I can’t help but wonder about Ryan. . .
Was his R&R all that he hoped it would be?
Do Julie and Nick have sharper memories of him to hold onto?
Did Ashley prepare his favorite meals?
Did Waterford welcome him back home?
Was he met with warmth, respect, and generosity by his fellow Americans?

You see, there’s plenty of room for considerable debate about this postwar occupation, the residue of a war that shows no end, in fact. I don’t have the answers. I listen to politicians, journalists, interviews with Iraqis, read Blogs and am left very glad that my own mind and my own hands are not personally in charge of the war.

But what I do know is this: no matter how any of us feels about the military activities that are going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in other locations where fellow Americans meet harm’s way, the personal face of this time in history will be etched in some stones somewhere, much like those found in Alexandria's cemetery lawns, for generations to come.

The places in our hearts, mind, and memory are formed by our person-to-person knowledge of service personnel like Ryan, Lt. Col. Orlando, Staff Sgt. Bellavia, and Corp. Grilley. They belong to all of us now. They all matter, regardless of what we call this continuing violence that robs another generation of children like Nick and Julie of a complete family and a nation of peace- of-mind and of peace-at-heart.



Blog Nation

This is my 1st post to a Brand New (baby) Blog. Hey, until I researched several sites, I wasn't sure what a Blog really is. Now I realize it's not just one thing but a Blog can be a Forum for expressing sentiments about topical issues or journal style day-in-the-life experiences.

Sgtlizzie.blogspot.com is the gal who motivated me to get going and I wouldn't have known about hers unless I read an AOL news item about soldiers Blogs and a 'Doc' now in Arizona guided me through his Blog to hers. That's how it flows -- freely and easily.

Blog Nation, the title of my first entry is intended to introduce me and my mission. Blog Nation stands for moments of time, frozen like, say, so manyphotographic plates that sunk with Sir Shackleton's 'Endurance' off Antarctica's rugged seas nearly a century ago. But capture them we must, the images, the sounds, the words of what is, what was important to us all.

Well, I tried to reserve a different Blog name, "Life as it is" and "Life as we know it" were among some of them -- GONE. It was way too hard to out-think those who have Blogged before me & grabbed those titles so I turned to some literary guidance in the form of the Bible, yea the Big Book, and the chapter of Psalm 22 verse 21.

It appealed to me as it reads,

"Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns."

Figuring nobody might have picked that, it was a winner! So be it; until the Blog Identity/Name confuses everybody, I'll hang with it and post/trumpet some thoughts of mine on the following subjects from the hornsoftheunicorn, particularly:

1. National health care and those who are left out. How will we answer this waiting nation?

2. How congressional 'Pork' squeals for our attention.

3. Are you better off? An election commentary. . .

4. "You've gotta give a little. . ." -- what are YOU doing to reach out America?

5. "Just a travelin' gal. . ." Views and viewpoints from across the U.S. from one who sees it all.

6. "Duck & Cover" -- how the war on terror immobilizes a nation.
Remember the 'Cold War?' Some feisty baby-boomers' retrospectives.

7. Iraq & You -- the effects on average Joe & Jane.

8. The Patriot Act & US -- how regular middle-America, heartland folks are persecuted.

9. Words that INFLAME & Words that INSPIRE -- let's hold officials accountable for their mouths!

10. TBD -- to be determined, you know, as the spirit moves me, etc.


[Reminiscent of the character in Peanuts who had that great little Advice Stand where almost anything was possible in the opinion category for a mere nickle. Ah, those were the days.]