West of the Rest: Secession Now!

While this post will become dated shortly after the national election, the spirit of the message should linger with a portion of the nation for a long time afterward. Notice how the long-standing "red" and "blue" states have now been joined by "Purple" states? Scared pollsters, reluctant-to-commit electorate, and hourly-breaking wacky news items all combined to take some states that were thought of as 'understood' before [ = where their Electoral College votes were going] and now thrown them up in the air.

The configuration of the United States map starts to look more than a little schizophrenic especially since some of us west of the Rockies have never counted on Anybody's radar screen as being significant -- no matter our Latino votes, our Gay electorates, or our numbers perished in Iraq (all sub-themes of this election). We just haven't mattered in this election, once again.

Let me be clear -- NO jet fuel has been wasted on trekking to my state (or neighboring states) to win my vote by Anybody.

Since some of us are sick of being 'Beige States' -- transparent to the national agenda -- it bears asking that hard question that was raised in the years leading up to 1861. Shades of Jefferson Davis. . .

Right now, one state, CA, has relative bipartisan support for a governor who could probably win a western states Nation coalition as President. With a new Nation identity, we could start fresh with constitutional rules so that immigrants like Arnold -- who compose so much of our western population -- can assume western national leadership positions.

The old boys club of Yale and Princeton just don't cut it out here. We need people who represent us and count us on their radar screens.

See, it's different out here; it's not just about the time zone or the weather. Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada -- well, we'd have to figure where to draw the line -- are relatively sympathetic to economic, commerce, and social needs of OUR Region. We GET that the rest of the country enjoys Bashing us and to a large extent Excluding us from their mindshare.

If we can't be Red, Blue, or even Purple at a time like this, then it's time we wake up and ask why we're hanging onto an old scheme that served old railroad barons one hundred+ years ago.

I'm sick of being Beige in 2004 just like in 2000. Aren't you?


Tsk tsk TSA

Most of us like a good party, but few of us get to bill the federal government for it while awarding ourselves for our clever ingenuity. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) did just this in November 2003 but somehow like so many things it only came to the public's attention in recent weeks. Why is that?

See, a half-million dollar party ($461,745) would often catch our attention if say, the Bureau of Engraving, held such an affair. The details of the party's expenses include some chokeworthy items like $3.75 per soft drink and $81,000 for awards plaques. Heck, most software programs have award programs built-in and any Staples, Office Depot, Target,or CVS can sell a certificate frame for $3.95. I think they should have contacted me; I could have saved them about $80,000 on that line item alone. (And hey, I could get a darn good case price of Sam's Club sodas for what they paid for a single can.)

But the Washington D.C. Grand Hyatt affair got expensive because, you see, lodging, flights, taxis, and per diem allowances for schlepping these people from all over the country was expensive for the 3-hour event. Seems like poor managerial judgment to me when a central location outside the District, in a cheaper rent neighborhood, like St. Louis, would have been far more egalitarian.

Even better, why couldn't a few executives with the technology available today have held a live televised awards announcement for those who could tune in and others could catch it on rerun?

However, the big insult to other long-standing and hard-working federal employees was that 76% of eligible TSA high level managers got bonuses ($16,477 on average) compared to federal departments generally who gave bonuses to only 49% of their eligible managers ($12,444 on average). By stark contrast, less than 3% of TSA's non-executive employess, of which there are more than 50,000, received financial bonuses.

OK, bad party (or way-good party depending on where you stand). Who's accountable?

Well, once again, no line is forming to take the leap into the croc pit for this one. TSA's Leadership Council has some distinguished looking names associated; maybe they need to spend a little time getting 'dirty' with their troops, micromanaging a bit so that they instill some cultural norms about spending your money and mine.

But in case it just doesn't happen naturally, you can write them, you know, and demand that they take action to see that this doesn't happen again.

Jonathan Fleming is TSA's Chief Op. Officer; Tom Blank is the Chief Support System Officer; Carol DiBattiste is Deputy Administrator (with her legal and investigatory background, can't fathom that she's not getting to the bottom of this mess); and Ret. Rear Admiral David M. Stone, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the TSA.

This party aside, you need to get to know the TSA organization and these folks. . . they work for you and me.

Sometimes. . . we need to remind them.

Shall we Dance?

The long line backed up leading to the security stations at one of the Detroit Metro terminals. It creeped ever so slowly as the layers of TSA staff performed their specific tasks. I knew that when I reached the first stop, I would be sent to the 'Outer Banks' -- that distant, but much shorter line -- due to the "SSSS" branded on the bottom of my boarding pass. This was their clue that I needed Extra security screening.

You see, I could be/might be/must be a Higher-than-Average security risk. Why? I was flying on a 1-way ticket, plain and simple.

I also knew that by moving to that station that was immediately awaiting me (I felt so special!), I would have a little something 'special' awaiting me by virtue of my gender.

You see, several weeks ago some Chechnyan woman got on airplanes in Russia and they had bombs strapped to their bodies, apparently in/near their bra-range it's presumed. The outcome was dreadful; more than 90 lives were lost. According to some reports, though, these women bribed their way on board, so how extra security could have helped them is unclear. But TSA has implemented procedures for extensive pat down searches which includes using an open hand (not just wanding with a device) around the body paying particular attenting over the chest and around the breasts. [Note: this makes me think that my long held bias against underwire wear may become obsolete if TSA has their way. . .]

I've had this procedure before because I travel fairly often and unfortunately for me, my needs require for cost-savings and route, the use of 1-way tickets. On one quiet day at an airport somewhere in the U.S. a TSA staffer said he felt bad that people with 1-way tickets are persecuted, but he had heard that they're trying to ratchet up some form of clearance system so that if my frequent flyer club, my neighbors, my mailman, my high school algebra teacher, my Aunt Polly, and 3 business associates all vouch for me, I might be able to bypass this 'extra' layer of security.

Actually, I'm not complaining; I'm resigned to it. Most of us, seems to me, are resigned to our personal liberties and dignities being whittled away. That resigned malaise is far worse than the effects of not getting the flu vaccine.

But on that particular day, last week, after my security search, the female agent and I finally had to laugh because you know, you get to know someone for those few moments they're exploring your body parts. Perhaps it was the madcap mood of the moment, but finally I snickered, "Wanna go steady?" and she howled with laughter. Hey, we all have to get along as best we can.

The little old lady in the wheel chair behind me looked rather shaken as she came through, though. She was able to stand briefly and they explained the process of the search; she looked momentarily alarmed and I could see she was looking for her daughter who had not come through yet. I reassured her that I survived it and she would too and just sort of hung around and murmured nurturing sounds while they finished. I offered to help her get her shoes back on and about that time her daughter, who's apparently not a frequent flier, arrived for her personal screening.

Daughter, though, was not listening carefully; instead she was looking backward to this strange lady (Yo) helping her mom get her shoes on when suddenly she realized someone was cupping her bosom and her head spun around in shock! Poor thing. I thought she might have the big one, so I offered, "It's ok, won't take long, they have to do this . . ." "Why?" she implored my direction. Well, I did the best I could and said, "Some bad ladies in Russia brought us to this it seems, sorry, but it won't last long."

She asked if I worked for TSA. HA! Just another fellow passenger in life.

Well, I've got a lot more 1-way trips in my future and so do many men I know. And here's what I'm thinking might get us to some, well, better place, you know as human beings. I've never been a rumormonger but maybe there's a purpose for everything under the sun. So here's the rumor I'd like to ask each of you to tell at least 2 people you encounter in the next day.
"I forgot the name of that country, but I heard that the young men on the plane who were on a suicide mission, terrorists-in-the-making apparently, strapped explosives to their testicles. It was awful; so many were killed. Now TSA will be open-hand examining the genitalia of every man boarding an airplane because they have so many 'hiding places' you see and since the attention is presently turned to women, no one would expect this. Thank God we have security planners to anticipate such atrocities, to help us prevent same here and to keep us safe during these trying times."

Wow, do I feel safer already.


Brain Fog to the Finish Line

More than 2 weeks ago the Iraqi government's representative to the Ministry of Science and Technology's Planning and Following Up Directorate, Mohammed J. Abbas, informed the United Nations that tons of high explosives were missing in Iraq. Notifying the UN watchdog monitoring group,The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was relevant in that this group had last inventoried the facility 30 miles south of Baghdad and tagged & sealed the explosives in January 2003. They returned 2 months later and verified that the tagged explosives were still there. It was reported that when Coalition forces entered the vicinity in April '03 they found nothing close to the quantity of materials specified in the report with the IAEA seals according to a news item of the American Forces Press Service (Oct. 26, 2004). The rest of this story has become evolving news for us and 'coincidentally' a lost-presidential debate opportunity. Presumably the DIA, the CIA, Homeland Security, and yes, the White House knew this, though, long before you and I.

So, looking back -- the U.S. did not find WMD in Iraq. But Condy insists that they had the evil intent in their minds to build them and use them. Pre-crime convictions apparently make us safer.

However, we DID have an enormous stockpile of explosives [or proximate access to it]. But who was in charge of those explosives? Didn't the 'buck' stop on somebody's watch? Wonder if it's on a job description or an Org. Chart? Why isn't anyone offering themselves up? You know, this would be a good time for a sacrificial goat (wink, wink, Rummy, if you're picking up the vibes).

I'm beginning to think that there's a psychopharmaceutical answer to a big part of this -- you know, the 'brain fog' of this question --the "Dumb & Dumber" of it all. It's time the public have the right to see the open medical records of all federal and military officials involved with any operations in Iraq, looking specifically at their use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. See, I think WE can help THEM with their Brain Fog if they'd only let us.

What if we learned that, say, 22% of the analysts funneling information to decisionmakers were on Ritalin and coincidentally regularly take Antihistamines. Add to that their alcohol consumption (moderate to high) and periodic use of Anti-depressants [Typically during the Fall and early Spring]. Hmmm, that could be verrrrry interesting.

Take a different population, say Generals (3-birds up), cabinet heads, the right hand men and women of the oval office and look again. How many have lives outside the office? How many have someone or something to live for, like children, mates, churches, hobbies, future dreams to pursue? How many moral charges are buried in their pasts? What's their profile with Anti-Depressant, Anxiety Meds, Beta-Blockers, Seizure drugs, Sleep Meds, Pain Meds, Alcohol Use, etc? At what hours do they make their most significant decisions? At the onset of medicine intake or in the waning hours? What kind of dietary needs are being met? High protein? Caffeine?

What I'm getting at is, What is fueling the human engines that's driving our war?

Well, maybe it will turn out that we're 'recycling' the munitions/explosives in the promulgation of the war effort and just forgot to log it. You see, we sent all kinds of engineers, well-diggers, truck-drivers but it appears we forgot to send the most important of all -- Accountants with darn good Administrative Assistants. Maybe they were the 'jewels in the crown' -- the guards to the cache, you know? Some honest, independent groups to keep track, if not keep control of the comings and goings of where stuff went and who had control of it. Heck, go through the yellow pages of Kansas City or Boise and almost anyone with a license would do.

Because the 'leaders' at the top? Well, they're sort of confused, "working hard," kind of distracted, and overwhelmed. They're offended that questions about those misplaced explosives are staying on our minds in the waning hours of this campaign. Come what may, these questions are going to continue after the election. Win-lose. . . machts nichts as the Germans say -- on this score, "matters not." This and much more America will get to the bottom of. You know, part of D.C. is aptly called, historically-speaking, Foggy Bottom. There's a whole 'nother district within the District of Columbia and it should be called, Foggy Top. It's 6 p.m. Foggy Top. Do you know where your Xanax is?


Elm & Maple -- raking this fall

Like those interminable drips of the faucet, each tree keeps dropping another basket of leaves hourly keeping the rakes flying in the neighborhood. But the busiest rakings going on are occurring the last days before the presidential election. Who knew that raking the national 'yard' could be so uncomfortably felt on so many levels?

No candidate can hardly endure the marathon of adrenalin rush. And there's got to be at least one batch of salmonella left out there at some campaign stop awaiting one mouth's mugging for a camera shot. But the bellyaches of campaign roads and 'toads' [or fried frog legs, hey, I was working on a literary thing here], are nothing compared to the Mother of Indigestion going on in families all over the country. You know, that indelicate subject that Peter Jennings, Diane Sawyer, and Larry King won't be covering -- political dissent within families. Oy. . .

I don't believe that our family can be all that unique. We just don't have a support group to turn to when we need it most. And presidential elections -- while only every four years -- last at least a year long, in truth. That's a lot of time to figure out how to conduct family get-togethers peacefully, respectfully, and without letting the air out of each other's tires.

I hardly think of myself as a die-hard political partisan. I've been a member of each party as the times and spokespersons 'spoke' to me. I've never believed in the logic of a 'straight ticket' for the 'sake of the party.' I'm just way too independent. I study as many issues about each individual and subjects as I can and form my own opinion. I am not swayed by talking heads nor are negative campaign ads and vitriolic speeches of any party effective on me. I realize, though, that everybody does it.

In the last month of every presidential campaign the lowest common denominator in the human condition will reveal itself to the public forefront, plain and simple -- I just expect it.

Ok, let's get back to what we do in our real lives in the meantime.
We each have choices and we have other elements of our lives besides these elections.
Life goes on.

Except. . . that you find yourself biting your tongue and leaving a room to slap yourself silly in the bathroom when you hear a family member who vociferously supports one candidate, let's call him Elm, telling a young child a political joke that disparages the other candidate, let's call him Maple.

You know that you have choices. You can -- do nothing; laugh as though it is funny (which is a lie if you don't feel it); challenge it; tell an Elm joke promptly to balance the scale; tell the adult family member in private that children deserve the chance to learn and grow without prejudicial influence politically from so-called 'jokes' (which she/he may not agree with for that matter), transcend into a Zen moment and/or go to the bathroom (leave the room first, though).

See, it's really not about humor. It's about bullying and there's no comfortable way to respond to a political pit-'bully.' The pundits behind the tv screen are suddenly the people who are eating your mother's meatloaf recipe while posturing, gesticulating and waxing imperiously proud and full of themselves. How did this happen? When did we start to mirror 'them?' Those late night politicos or wannabes who create polls or respond to so-called polls in order to make 'news' that's supposed to generate a new pulsecheck out of us. Argh!

Loving our family members as we do, in spite of themselves (some might say) and their political opinions, we don't need to 'win' an intrafamily 'election contest.' We're already comfortable in our own minds and in our own political shoes. "Can't we all just get along?" to quote someone from a Civil Rights movement I think years ago.

It's just that hearing babies-in-the-cradle taught to say "Elm" or "Maple" as their much anticipated first word seems wacky-wrong to me.

Oy. . . pass the Pepto Bismol!

Let us all rake our own yards well -- to mix a few metaphors (and possibly to quote that movie character Chauncey Gardener).


Newsprint: cut to fit the cages

Sometimes it takes that random sidetrack trip around the U.S. to help calibrate the nation. These travels, particularly when confined in a town like Detroit, to pick on one, suffering with an upper respiratory infection and unable to fly as I am now, means that you will end up reading newspapers that are not your normal reads. That is, if you're a reader, didn't bring adequate reading materials for an unexpected week on the road, and are sick of cable tv, you will inevitably deposit 50 cents in the motel lobby newstand every morning.

Why is it like a foreign country out there?

I mean, I can't even get my favorite comic strip (For Better or For Worse, by a Canadian, just across the bridge for heaven's sake) in the Detroit News and Free Press.

There's a lot that could be said but I just want to pick on an actual edition, the October 23, 2004 Detroit News and Free Press. [Editors, you see, make all sorts of decisions about what articles get into the papers, their length, and their positioning relative to other articles. It's my guess they get paid pretty well for their judgment on these points too. I contend some of them have gotten lazy and may be overpaid.]

In the first section, "A," or "Nation/World," follows "Local News" for some reason. There are different theories about how people relate to their worlds I suppose; top-down or bottom-up. If someone only had time to read one section only aloud to their carpool van each morning (Hoo-HAH, Scoozehmehwha, that wouldn't be the Michigan Way!), which section would a growing globalized world want to know about? Oh, I digress. . .

Three pages are challenged here: 3A, 4A, and 5A.

Margaret Hassan, the kidnapped director of the international aid group CARE was covered with a sorrowful photo and the caption, "Aid Worker pleads for her life." This is a tragic story still unfolding, perhaps is by now even unforgiveably, brutishly, settled.

Then there was the tragic case of a lovely 21-year-old baseball fan, Victoria Snelgrove, who was killed in the riot-like conditions in Boston following police pepper-spraying/pelting. About her death her father said, "she was a bystander, she was an exceptional person."

And, the third story of comparable space and size is one that might appear any October in some small town weekly, "Surgeons' knives to meet pumpkins." You probably get the gist of this 'news item' -- a lot of carved 'victims' for charity fundraising.

I just don't think the pumpkin story should have taken the prominent position of page 3, followed by the potential beheading on page 4, and the death on page 5. It's not a good measure of newsworthiness.

But then, don't get me started. You see, when you flip back to page 11A you can't help but notice two obituaries side by side: "Badminton Champion," and "Funeral for soldier today." They are actually called "death notices," which means they are paid for privately (often written so as well, even if edited by the paper). The family who is Able to do so pays for each word by word. No doubt genealogists treasure the items found in the sizeable (10"x10") article of the 85-year-old's badminton player's obit., like her youthful picture (~17 yrs. old), mention of every safari, and her beloved badminton awards.

Yet, I couldn't help but feel humbled by the tiny 1"x3" pictureless notice of the soldier killed in Iraq near Ramadi when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb Oct. 14. See, he was just 22, so he hadn't done a lot of living yet; although he did leave a son behind. I would have had liked to have known much more about his sports, his hobbies, a fund to contribute for his young son, and what his dreams were after his years in service to the U.S.A.

Ah, the choices that newspaper editors makes --

Pumpkins versus Beheading; Badminton versus Bomb detonations. . .

It just makes me want to claim a refund on my 50 cents.


Starting small; be American Smart!

We can all make a big difference upon international trade and keeping jobs in the U.S. by starting with our littlest consumers. It's our responsibility, really; just like teaching kids to look both ways before crossing the street.

Take a look at the label on that plastic pumpkin, that cute t-shirt, the bicycle attachment, the pinwheel he or she wants to carry in the town parade. Get into the habit of scrutinizing where things are made and consider your alternatives.

Every manufacturer and every department store has a customer service department as well as web-site that in theory are looking for your opinions. Let them hear from you AND your 6 year old daughter or son.

"Dear Store XYZ,
I wanted to buy a pair of tennis shoes for gym class at school; I really liked your pink ballerina character ones but then my Mom/Dad showed me the label that said they were "made in China." We know that many times children around the world have to work like slaves to make products like these tennis shoes so cheaply and it makes me really sad. I won't buy them or support a store that carries them. And you know my friend, Andy? Well, his Dad has been out of work for 2 years and we've talked about how he would really like to have a good job making shoes or notebooks for kids going back to school. Why don't you give those jobs to people in my neighborhood?"

It's out of control. We've got to go back to the basics and influence the youngest consumers who can also carry important messages of trade/commerce in the marketplace.

It may take you a few moments longer to complete your shopping but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you shopped 'American Smart.'


Relocate this, EC

It comes on very good authority that there is a loosely structured movement afoot and it's brought on by nothing less than a complaint heard in many parts of this country this year and four years ago,

"I'm sick and tired of my vote not counting because I'm in a state where the Electoral College is already 'figured out' so it really doesn't matter if I knock myself out to vote in a downpour on election day or not. . ."

The sentiment is quite widespread and it's common among baby boomers who are now child-free, into our/their early retirement, second or third careers or are free-lancing or worse yet, are west-coast transplants who can move literally anywhere in the country and are eager to do so. Why not? Most of them/us weren't born out west anyway so why not cash out and head for an affordable lifestyle in a state where they/we can see their/our vote 'count?'

What does that mean for you Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and others? Well, it goes like this. For years, we've taken it on the chin. We've heard the snide remarks about your perceptions of our 'attitude' and guess what? Now, we're going to be like Mr. Rogers; we're going to welcome ourselves to your neighborhood!

We're going to run on your school boards, your town councils, your state assemblies, and yes, Congress.

Most importantly, we will be a viable and visible voting presence so if you have gotten a little bit slack out there in the hinterland, you might want to lick that lead on your pencil tip come November as practice because come 2008 it's going to be a whole different ball game.

We're movingon.now!

Just their Wives, One Pantyhose Leg at a Time

Few walk alone, especially those men at the top who live in that big white house.

Did we really think Jackie didn't know that Jack was a rabid cheater?
That Lady Bird didn't need to plant all those pretty roses as all those handsome soldiers fell dead in Vietnam.
Or that Pat didn't endure being an abused spouse, physically and emotionally?
Was it so peculiar that Betty turned to drink for the company that sticks around -- the bottle?
Or that even Nancy found peace, comfort, and built their schedules around the answers of clarovoyants?
How did Hillary keep smiling in the face of repeated infidelity and public humiliation?
And how could Laura expect to be exempt from addressing publicly the day she recklessly took a young life in Midland, TX and ended another family's best dreams forever?

Those fellows; we confuse them with something more than they are, more than they can be. They are mere mortals.

And the women who stick by them? Likewise. Let's not confuse their riches, their children, their poise, or their make-up with what's at stake in the U.S.

We know that future First Ladies can busy themselves planting more rose bushes, but there are plenty of gardens and mazes out there already with names memorializing many fine young people whose laughter won't infect this world again.

Enshrine those who can't get health insurance while they short-change themselves medication or a home health visit to change an essential wound dressing.
Enshrine someone who's carrying out this nation's duty abroad.
Enshrine someone who dies needlessly from influenza this year when it could have been avoided had our leaders been held accountable. In spite of an election, they won't be.

Just don't enshrine politicos and their families because they happen to be on all the television screens and carry the titles that should go with honor in that white house now behind the barricades on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Don't confuse them with the real heroes and heroines of this nation, that's all.


The Power of "F"

No point in calling or getting up early to drive to the clinic on the east side or the Costco on the other side of town.

You're just not gonna get that flu shot this year. Sure, you need it. Yes, you qualify in that urgent category.

Sorry, when you're a country like the U.S., national health care is just not a priority. Can't predict if Canada will bail us out of our mess either. Hey, how easy have we made it for their low-cost pharmaceutical drugs to flow across the border?

Leaving devilish public policy out of it, the head of the CDC off the chopping block for the moment, etc., I suggest that you don't have a caniption over it -- there are there many things you can do. Let's keep our wits about us for heaven's sake!

1. Starting now, don't leave your house until March 21, 2005.

2. About #1, so you have a job? Consider sick leave or anticipatory sick leave. This will put a crimp on the nation's economic growth multiplied by a few million but we can take it.

3. If you must leave your house, wear a mask, gloves, and avoid human contact of any exposed period of time.

4. Avoid any intimacy (you know, the kissey stuff) with anyone who's been outside your 'pod' environment.

5. If you have children who attend school outside the 'pod' then consider a boarding school' for them for the next 6 months. Writing letters builds character.

6. Or. . .Conversely. . . Live dangerously-- just do it, go out there, screw the immunization (or lack of).

7. Realize this: you will get sick, maybe very sick. Don't panic. That's why there are hospitals; enter one when you need it, don't be heroic.

8. Of course, long before hospitals, if you don't have a physician, pick one, any one! Even a Scrubs kind of doctor is better than nobody (maybe even FAR better) in a pinch.

9. Remember the Power of "F." Fluids + Flushing = a (better) Functioning YOU!

10. Don't forget the Obvious -- Wash those Hands America! If you're not washing your hands at least 10-15 times daily (after every sneeze, bathroom visit, ear & eye scratch, pet pat, baby diapering, escalator handrail, public doorknob, office bathroom door push plate, etc.), then you're letting us ALL down! [A good 'wash' is both hands placed under warm running water for at least 20 seconds with rubbing liquidy suds. Paper towels for drying is better than cloth during flu season.]

Hey, whether you like any of the ten points above or not, don't forget to vote!

Be sure to get an absentee ballot, though, and if it happens that the old public policy devil crosses your mind when you're voting, let your conscience (not your kleenex) be your guide.

The Chill is Coming

Since 1980 the mention of this particular word, 'draft,' conjures up much more than a rough version of a letter or a waft of air on the neck causing a chill. It implies, in the worst case, images of somebody else's sons (because so far, they're the only ones who are required under federal penalties of $250,000) registering at local post offices upon attaining 18 years of age.

So why are we all talking about the Draft lately?
Is it just a typical election year issue?
Does it have something to do with expending human capital in a foreign war that seems without end?
Or is there something going on behind the word itself?

Taking a look at how things stand:

- National guard reservists are kept in permanent custody on the front lines -- no longer weekend 'warriors' dedicated to sandbagging flooded Pennsylvania streams.

- Some rare incidents of troops balking at command decisions have COs wondering if they should start building bigger brigs or maybe send the word up to get the Draft in place sooner rather than later.

Sure feels like a time of uncertainty.

But, one thing is certain. Someone did think to do something. Pres. Bush appointed a new acting director of the Selective Service System -- Jack Martin -- back on April 29, 2004. Martin knows a thing or two, presumably, about complex process engineering. He's spent his career (before joining the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services in 2002) with companies like General Motors and Control Data.

But besides Martin, other fresh faces are reenergizing the SSS and they're also too young to just be coasting to quiet retirement. The new system architect, G. Aldana, of the "Mobilization Directorate at National Headquarters," has a a heady background and must have felt there was a real 'future' to drag this die-hard Yankees fan away from NY to the DC area.

So, perhaps the question isn't IF we'll have a Draft . . but what kind of Draft should we have? Anyone around remember the Vietnam birthday lottery?

Hey, relax, we're halfway there; strap yourselves in and get comfortable with it. That whooshing sound you hear? It's just the sound of a national chill, a wafting breeze, or a Draft, you could call it, that will soon be coming to your neighborhood, consuming your son(s) [daughters?] and mine.


Do You See It Now?

Just visiting NYC during a meeting this week and thought I'd take the camera out for some interesting 'views' since last here. If my $200 per night "3 star" [Har!] hotel room was big enough to take a picture in I'd include it on the Blog but the room is so darn pathetic it's preferable to walk in the rain among crooked umbrellas universally aiming for my retina. Thank goodness the 'wayward' folks '[formerly known as 'bums'] who sleep on the fire escape immediately outside my 4th floor window, are relatively quiet only leaving their empty bottles in a row.

Wow, the musical Chicago is still in town. It's only mid-October; why is the ice skating rink all set up in Rockefeller Center? What keeps those pedicab drivers from being run over? Why the heck do they need a giant Hershey store near Times Square? You know, the usual stuff.

Newspaper under arm, take-out coffee, notebook under other arm, umbrella under death grip in left hand and camera hooked on right wrist when I notice the sign. Blink for a second and the sign changes.

I try to position the umbrella back a bit while zooming the lens without exposing it to rain to capture the high-rise sign, "The U.S. cost of war in Iraq is $1,364,225,675.97."

A puff of wind comes around the corner and ka-phlewey, down goes my camera (thankfully, lens closed) into a mud puddle. Yuck.

Rearranging the gear under arms and tied to wrists again, I wiped off the sad-looking Pentax and opened the lens one more time for another shot. It was just about 15 seconds later more or less but heck, you know, those numbers just grew and grew while I wasn't looking. Now?
Gone to $1,365,008,103.52.

Do you see it now?


What About OUR Veils?

Such a big measure of success in Afghanistan and Iraq is our claim to have 'liberated' women from being forced to wear the traditional veil. But I contend, metaphorically, that the U.S. is doing nothing to remove our own women's 'veils' in the political arena as witnessed this election cycle.

Where are the women's voices in 2004?
Most commentators are men; some pundits are women but their names are not memorable among an informal opinion poll of 25 women I know.

Every time Senator Clinton dares to voice a remark she gets lambasted by every right-wing media statioin as though she could *never* have one kernel of relevance to offer to this campaign. Hey, she was the only first lady for 2 terms who lived thru Independent Counsels (Ha! Party-sponsored is more like it.) and got herself elected without her husband's clout. Why doesn't she matter? Shame on us.

So who do we have to look to, those of us who compose 52% of the population, the majority of the voters, the life-givers of the nation, and those statistically who will outlive all these men running about shouting at us?

We have Arianna Huffington, OK, she's on and off the scene, who knows why; she's no idiot after all. The reporter most respected? I can't spell her name but you know who I mean, Annaimpour for CNN; some of us wish she had her own dedicated hour she's that compelling. Nix Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer; they sold out to Entertainment marketing and no longer do solid news. Barbara Walters who always waffled between news and entertainment is retiring and let's face it, she's getting up there in years.

Molly Ivins' column contains a lot of humor with a lot of zinging
reporting; clearly she has an agenda but her coverage is limited to those who read newspapers and among those papers who carry her. By contrast, Phyllis Schaffly, on the right, died, I
believe (sorry if I'm wrong). Tipper Gore's on the farm I guess, taking photos and settling into private life. Mary Maitlin is just abrasive but she's worth hearing nonetheless; I enjoy her best with her husband, that wild eyed Cajun.

See what I mean? There's a gap here in what we have in solid respectable women representing all sides of the political coins. The campaign teams just don't cut it; they're trained to stand before the camera and babble for the bit of a minute they get. They're not real; they don't matter. Where are the thought leaders among women? Don't we think? Don't we have leaders who are women who we should hear?

I don't have the answer but I was encouraged to read an OpEd piece in the NYT of Tues., Oct. 12, by Deborah Tannen, a well-known, well-published sociolinguistics professor at Georgetown University. She's got a provocative case for politicos AND women to consider.

"Perhaps it was not by chance that it was a woman who
asked the president, at the town hall debate last Friday,
to list three instances in which he had made wrong decisions
since taking office. [Recall, he couldn't think of any.]
It drives many women nuts when men won't say they
made a mistake and apologize if they do something wrong."

Some forty years ago some of us were working hard for women's
rights; it was called, by some, the "bra-burning" era. I say it's time to flick our bics on the comfortable veils that we women have been wallowing in for a generation+ while men have thought and spoken for us. If we don't get around to it now, that damned veil from overseas may just start to make the rounds in Tallahassee and Topeka.

The 30-Minute Reagan National Airport Test

I'm ready to see an air marshall plow down one of these self-absorbed travelers who doesn't think that the repeated announcements about staying in their seats during the 30-minutes prior to landing (or take-off) at DCA -- Washington National/Reagan Airport -- pertain to them.

Again and again, somebody's bladder apparently just can't wait. Two or three laptop computers from people sitting in middle seats (notice how it's usually men?) suddenly must be replaced in their overhead stowage, some 10-15 minutes after the warning is announced. Flight attendants screech louder and louder into their PA systems, deafening the rest of us to the obliviousness of the offenders who already think they're just a little bit more special than the rest of us apparently and don't have to follow the rules.

Simple solution -- we KNOW there's at least 1 if not more air marshalls on any flight going to DCA; get their butts up and tackle these dudes right to the ground, cuff them, fine the hell out of them, and take them into custody. I think you would be amazed at the applause from the fellow passengers.

If we want to be safer, then quit screeching at the entire flight and ACT upon offenders, who, you never know, could be true risks to us all!