Sunday, December 31, 2006


Jesus only got three days and let's face it, 6 days for former President Ford is a bit over the top. In NC, we have this thing: never speak ill of the dead. And, trust me on this, we do not. In fact one of my favorite stories is about the preacher who is talking at this man's funeral. In the front row are his three young sons and wife. As the minister goes on and on, suddenly, the 12 year old gets up and walks to the casket and looks in. After the service, someone asked him, "Why did you go and look in the casket?" I wanted to make sure that was my Dad. Meaning, of course, that the words said about the Dad didn't match the kid's experience.

Former president Ford was a good man I think. He came along at a time in history when our country needed him and did the job. And, now, based on many revelations, we know how he thought about lots of things. We need to honor him and have--God bless his family.


What a thought provoking time in thinking about those departing the scene: James Brown, celebrated with much adulation: a great talent--Michael Jackson showed up at his funeral extravaganza and danced. And, then there was Saddam that went to his reward amid the fanfare of a phone camera.

Now, here is the question that we all think about and nobody knows. For those of us of faith, what happens when someone kicks off. If they have "faith", we would say that this life is not the end. Wow, this is a heavy question. OK, we're going on the plus side for the former President and Brother Brown, even if James had a few jail visits. Saddam? I don't think so. So what? Hmmmmmmmmmm--maybe joins Hitler and several others who did awful things. I don't know.


Anytime we come to a time of national reflection, maybe it is time to project our own demise. When I "hit the road," I'd kind of like not much fanfare, keep it simple, don't make folks go to much trouble. I hope I've lived a good life and hope that it is not too much an effort not to speak ill of the dead.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I doubt anyone I know feels sorry for Saddam. To say the guy was a brutal despot and dictator is almost synonymous with saying, "how about that?" By conservative estimates, he killed a million of his own people. Idi Amin does come to mind as worse and there are others I'm sure but for now, let's stick with Saddam.

Saddam views himself as a martyr. What I wonder is whether he still gets his 93 virgins; he does say that he is looking forward to seeing his sons. Now, that was a close knit family. Sounds almost like the Christian concept.

I must admit, however, that his hanging seems a little unseemly to me. I don't know exactly what I mean but watching all the news accounts as though this is some great victory brought back the same feelings with his capture. It was good riddance and kind of a shame that he wasn't killed in war or trying to escape or something. Still I didn't like the gloating. I thought then, "let's don't bring him back and give him a forum." The forum never happened mainly because Iraq and American involvement went to hell in a handbasket and Saddam became OBE (overcome by events). I must say too that Saddam being streached in the final analysis has something to say to us: the fact that we are involved with a country that hangs people has got to be a message. I guess the same as repression of women, neanderthal religiouos fanaticism, and violation of civil rights in the form of being killed--Oh well...


Well, that really isn't possible now, is it? But...Winston Churchill is said to have posited, "it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." I think that what he means is that democracy is still better than the rest. I do agree for us but as Iraq has obviously spun out of control into civil war, any form of government that spells order seems like a good plan. At least, to thinking and caring people but based on what we are still seeing coming from the "powers that be", not even the lower than whale manure ratings make a dent on their horizons.

I think we are surely at the point to rule out an American type democracy. Dud! Since theocracy looks like the future for a big chunk of Iraq, why not accept it and figure out a way to keep the warring sides to a minimum of killing. Every day, Iraq looks more like Deadwood, one of my favorite past TV shows. However, on Deadwood, they made zapping the bad guys an act of Elizabethan humor, except to the zapped. I don't mean to make light. But, after two supposedly free elections and I think they were, things have gotten worse. If we could find a benevolent dictator, this might be better. But, since there are no applicants for the job, we're in a dilemma.


We didn't need a fancy commission to tell us what we needed to do or how we had screwed up. The Commander in Chief ain't home anyway as relates to the Commission. Did they get paid by the way? Howsomever, all we have to do is look to what Kissinger convinced tricky Dick to do about Vietnam: declare victory and get the hell out. I like it. kt

Friday, December 29, 2006


Dear Mr. Edwards, as a fellow North Carolinian, I applaud your entry into the Presidential sweepstakes. I am often amazed why anyone would be in politics unless it is a "calling" and I think yours is. Unfortunately, for many, it morphs into a career and politics as usual. I hope and pray that your commitment is different.

My basic purpose for writing, doubting you will ever see this but you might, based on a recent Newsweek article. Your desire for the voters to see the real you. "Untucked." I like it. And, the idea of putting your campaign on "youtube" is right on--very creative from my point of view and I sent the link to dozens. I think that the transparency is truly the only way for a democracy and what you're doing is part of it. You have my support, I assure you.

My feeling is that you are saying some good things. I saw you in New Orleans. Right on. However, many are going to say those same sorts of things and what you need is something to get you out ahead of the crowd. Here's your issue in my opinion: UNIVERSAL SERVICE. Congressman Rangel has proposed a draft but it simply won't fly. Too much opposition even if I think it is a good idea. Unfortunately, in my estimation, those who are in opposition to the draft or may even oppose Universal Service, are in NC parlance, "cutting off their nose to spite their face." What "peace" groups or even others in opposition don't get is that If we had a draft/Universal Service, a President would think twice before he sent us to war.

However, all that aside, Universal Service would be good for the country. For the last 12 years or so, I have been promoting the idea that we need Universal Service-- something unifying and what better to do it than requiring those 18-26 to give 18 months to 2 years in service to this great country. My basic theme has been simply that it is immoral to ask such an infinitesimally small number of Americans to fight our wars. Columnist Ben Stein says it this way, "In the old days, the rich, the famous, they all put it aside to fight. Now who fights for us: "Southerners, Hispanics from New Mexico, rural men and women from upstate NY. Small town boys and girls from the Midwest. No children of the powers on Wall Street go off and fight? They 've left the burden of defending an affluent nation to those who enjoy less of its affluence. They don't want to fight for a system that made them rich or a way of life that made them princes of finance."

I would add, and not original with me, "the kids who are in the military today are those whose economic prospects are less than stellar. They are high-school graduates who're not going to college because of costs, many young parents who need a regular paycheck and health care for their families." According to DOD statistics, soldiers come from households earning between $32,000 and $33,500. " (The median American income is $43,300.) It is not that the Volunteer Army is not working. We have a military that is as good as we've ever had. Simply, they are not representative of our country and this is not right nor good for us.

The difficulty, in my opinion, with selling the draft is simply too much opposition to the military, war, etc. Few can argue with universal service. From various reports, we've got lots of activism: students are getting involved in Teach America and there's been a resurgence in the Peace Corp. And, your comments in New Orleans, who came? Many students showed up to help.

Without a draft or any sort of Universal Service, kids by in large don't have any incentive to serve. I talk to parents of kids who are draft eligible with great regularity and simply unless there is an unusual circumstances, they don't think about it. Thinking has changed and more and more parents of eligible kids see the advantage of a Universal Service. Having a choice is the selling point. I have a blog called AllServe and constantly get comments about what a great idea this is.

What would a Universal Service do for America's kids? Lots of things, something like a common interest and experience, something that is nonexistent in our culture. Universal service would make a difference in changing our fractured America--a youth culture built around service. What I am discovering is that many Americans will go for Universal Service if youth is given an option. If they didn't want to choose from a list, let them define their own. American kids are smart and creative, we might be surprised at what they come up with and how willing they are to serve.

This is an issue that is begging for someone like yourself to take up--it is the JFK "ask not what your country can do for you" theme. Universal Service could be phased in over ten years and promoted among our youngsters now. A success story and the way AllServe could work is an organization I've read about: Teach America. I only know what I've read. They are getting top graduates who could be in medical school or Wharton business or wherever--yet choose to do something meaningful before they start their careers. Teach America sends graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years. For many, it has become a next step after graduation. These kids want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open. At Yale for instance, Teach America, drew applications from 12% of the graduates, 11% at Dartmouth, and 8% at Harvard. All told a record 17,350 applied in one year.

Are our present kids a post 9-11 generation ready to opt more aggressively for public service? I think so. Many of those volunteering for Teach America don't know what they want to do. The thought is that not knowing what to do, why not take some time to do something meaningful for a couple of years and think about the future. The military is as I've said only one of the options. Universal Service will work.

There's probably some opposition to Universal Service or anything related but what the hell: us North Carolianians know a cause when we see it. Universal Service will fly and I think you are just the one to make it happen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Are Things Worse Than Ever Before

I really don't think that our world is any worse than it has historically been. I use to do a sermon on the Second Coming and use the Biblical concepts of Jesus return as the end of the world. I believe in a theory of "end times" called the pre-millinial view of His return and basically means that the world gets so bad that there is no possibility of redemption and God ends it. Well, my belief is that we are not even close to that: there are lots and lots of good people in the world, many of them doing wonderful things.


What those of us who care, especially about Iraq, get hung up over is the "looming" effect of this disaster. Overall, I think, it contributes to a feeling of "things are bad, so hopeless--the world is in a mess.

We are in a quagmire in Iraq with no real way out. The powers that be continue to be in maxed out denial, even with the midterm elections turning as they did which gives hope of change.

Iraq is violently partitioning itself in civil war (my thoughts but also heard a good story on NPR recently which confirmed my beliefs). Sunnis are being moved out of Shiite neighborhoods and ethnic cleansing is happening. And, GIs are dying.

Friday, December 22, 2006


When news of Capt. Lucas McConnell's possible involvement in war crimes in Iraq broke in the spring of 2006, people in his hometown who had watched him grow up to become a high school football star and Marine were totally incredulous.
CHARGED WITH DERELICTION OF DUTY. What the hell is that? Lack of supervision, what? Basically, it sounds a little like the Marine mentality. I love the Marines but they have a tendency to overreact. In Vietnam, we called it the "put your head down and charge" approach. It was a euphemism for not seeing the big picture.

Marines are like most elite units, especially the 82d Airborne Division that I know a lot about: they are into suffering. How can we make this harder? Harder often equates to tougher in their minds. In this case, it means, sacrificing probably a good officer to show that they are "the Rocky Balboa" on their Marines who don't do their job. This young Captain was not even present at the supposely crime. Based on what little I know, if he is charged with dereliction of duty, what about all the other people above him right to the top.


The difference in the military and often the civilian world is the "chain of command." In the military, somebody is always in charge. Every soldier, down to the lowest Private has someone checking on him. And, most of the time it works. In this case, it would have been almost impossible for this young Captain to know exactly what his men were doing and in between him there were several others in the chain of command.

Let's wait this out but what it looks like to me is a "rush to judgement" decision to charge this young officer. His career is ruined. Plus, let's face it: war is not a day at the beach. We need to wake up and smell the roses here. Iraq is a sad scene, any way you cut it. We are in a confusing mess. I sit here in the comfort of my home, getting ready for Christmas and soldiers in Iraq are dying, not knowing who the enemy is, doing their job. Any minute some situation can pop up and they have to decide--life or death, live or die.

And, here's another something that eludes those who have not been to war: when the right/wrong, sad, difficult decision has to be made at war, the soldier stands alone. In this case, there is no doubt the good Captain loves the Marines, devoted himself, Sempi Fi to the max. However, his "stuff" is in the street and he feels alone and sadly, he is alone.

I have little tolerance for this sort of Marine mentality. God bless this young Captain and all the soldiers fighting the battles in Iraq and often at home. kt

Thursday, December 21, 2006


When I was in Vietnam, I took a drag or two of pot. It burned my throat and made me cough. So, forget that I have to defend whether I inhaled or not. But, if there's an American who pays any attention or watches TV or the movies or maybe inhales and doesn't think that many in our great country are involved with the "weed," they must have their ipods maxed out. And, if you watch an HBO series like The Wire, you understand the unbelievable pull drugs have on our society and how so many kids are crashing and burning.

Without exception, the "girlfriends" think we should legalize pot, take the profit motive out and the problem goes away. We're smart people and could figure it out. I doubt we'll do it as somehow following the old paths seem to be easier and the only ones we'll do. (I will have to admit, however, that I personally have never known someone heavy into drugs that did not start with pot, even though studies say this is not the case).

However, in Afghanistan, it ain't pot, rather the makings of the "hard stuff." Based on what I read, we have the resurging problem of the country growing poppies which becomes heroin--the country grows 92 percent of the world's heroin. Over 400,000 acres in cultivation. And, it is grown mostly by small farmers. The U. S. official position: it has to go, plain and simple. We spend millions to get rid of the poppies just as we do in California with pot and guess what: we can't eradicate it. And, in Afghanistan, who gets hurt? The small farmer. From what I read, one promising possibility might be in the legitimate production of poppies which would in turn be turned into codeine and morphine used for medical purposes. Makes sense to me.

This is an aside but just as relevant: what I think is a problem with government in general and this problem in particular is that we don't have any real thinkers who get themselves in a position that they can do something about problems that need "thinking outside the box." The best illustration of this shortcoming I know for my point is an episode of HBO's, The Wire. One of the police Captains decided on his own to legalize the drug trade in his sector which is only what he could control. Kids were dying, shooting each other while fighting rivals for the possibility to sell drugs. The police captain did it by innovative approaches to what was going on. Guess what: it worked miraculously almost but in the process, he got vilified and forced to retire. Get the picture, this happens over and over: government comes up with plans usually created by bureaucrats. The bureaucrats don't listen to outsiders or those with new ideas, it is business as usual and in this case, millions of dollars to eradicate and basically hurt the small farmer eking out a living under the worst of conditions in Afghanistan. Thus we hurt the very people we are trying to liberate and win over.

This sort of thinking in Afghanistan is probably what is going to sink our efforts in a country that had such great progress. Help.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Mistakes and correcting them has always been a fascinating thing to me. What do you do? And, on a national and international level, wow, is it ever compounded. And, now we have the Iraq Study Group Report. It is not anywhere comparable to the 9-11 Commission Report, primarily, I think, because you can only say the same thing two or three different ways. We've f..... up and here are some possibilities.

Do we think that the Powers that be will listen. The signs don't appear hopeful, primarily because the lack of realism among the decision makers at the top is next to unbelievable. If we haven't discovered as of yet that we cannot control the situation in Iraq, what has to happen? Beefing up Baghdad with more troops surely is not going to do it. Two of the most promising recs: talks with Syria and Iran and a time table for moving out has already been ruled out. Boiled down to it, the 79 recommendations says we've failed and what do we do when we've messed up. Here are some recommendations.

It is as though the Prez gets his views from those who still scream and use the same rhetoric: retreat, surrender, etc. These zeolots were repudiated in the last election. For those Americans that care, we said, time to go in another direction. The Iraq Study Group confirms this.

Iraq is not like there is a military solution--that has longed passed even if it ever was an option. It is not like we are backed in a corner and can fight our way out. We can't. It is more of the same.

What the Iraqi war has taught me is how important electing the right person for President can be. In the past, I have pretty much thought that whoever is President, not a big deal; based on how complex our society has become, Presidents don't have all that much influence. However, what the President can do is send us to war. We are now in the throws of exactly how significant that can be. And, if this fact doesn't wake reasonable Americans up, I don't know what will. kt

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


When I use to be an active pastor, a friend of mine would send me $500 every year and tell me to give it out to the needy. I did and tried to give it to those who truly would benefit from some "found" money. I gave a $100 to Joe and Sarah. She was older, had lived alone for years and in some oddity, had taken in Joe that she found living on the river bank. Quite a pair and always scraping along the edges financially and in about every other way. And, then, John and Mary, had lost their house in a fire and after the initial burst of charity were barely surviving with their three kids. And, then I went down to the Tenderloin in San Francisco and gave the rest out to those on the streets. It made my friend feel good he said. The truth of the matter is that he should have been giving $50,000 (not to me but to some charity, he could well afford it.)

Many would say that is a no no--giving to feel good hardly seems the best motive. I guess the only one who would give a thumbs up is Thomas Hobbs, the 17th century German philosopher. Duty or in the Christian context, Christ commands it, is the best motive. Hobbes said no as he was in personal pain to see the plight of the poor and it made him feel good to give. Regardless, I can go with the Christ example or the feel good one if it helps someone. I still try to keep up the act even though my buddy is not sending me any bucks.

A recent, NY Times Magazine article dealt with the same general issue while demonstrating how giving by the wealthy could eliminate world poverty. Before your eyes glaze over with the idea that this is too lofty a notion, not really even if the concept is a little "head in the clouds". The author, Peter Singer, a Princeton Prof. has calculated what the rich would have to give to eliminate world poverty. Some of his illustions are really good. For instance, he compares wealthy giving or lack thereof (my interpretation) to walking by a shallow pond where a child is drowning. Would you go in to save the child? Well, many wouldn't or they aren't as it would mess up their nice shoes, clothes, etc.; however, think of what you could do--if you were wealthy and would wade in and save a life. Why not do it? You would still have plenty "preams" left as my brother would say.

These comments are pretty simplified but Bill Gates, for instance, has seen the "kid drowning." He realized that a half million children died a year from diseases that we have eradicated in America. They still die in the developing third world countries--they don't have the medicines to fight or prevent the diseases. The simple, sad, despicable fact is that the companies that make the medicines have no market in these countries and so kids die. Bill Gates Foundation provides the funds, creating the market and children are being saved. The analogy is that he is wading into the water to save the child. It is much more complicated but you get the idea.

Before we jump into the "nobody is home" look or say, the wealthy will never do this. Warren Buffet did. One interesting facet of the article is that the good Princeton prof only deals with the wealthy. His ideas present things I've never thought about: most of the wealthy would not have their wealth if we did not live in a country where it could be created. For instance, we have peace, we have markets, etc. and so there is the opportunity for those like Gates to make the money and so he owes something for this great opportunity. I like it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


When I hear or read comments of sending more troops to Baghdad to handle the violence, I honestly think that these people have their heads up their 4th point of Contact. (Airborne talk for head up their arsh). I can hardly believe it. It is as though there is absolutely no thinking. All of this in light of our top general warning that our military "will break" (his words, not mine) without thousands more active duty troops and greater use of the reserves. At least I think he is trying to be truthful.


The National Guard and Reserves, give me a break! The Reserves and the Guard were set up long ago as a strategic reserve but now we misusing them as an integral part of the nation's deployed forces. Long ago, during relative calm which always happens, the military was so reduced that it is closing in on ultra crisis as the General is politely saying. But, given all of this, there still seems to be a cluelessness that borders on stupidity at the very top about our soldiers.

It is very easy to see how some decision maker can sit in some oak paneled office or even the halls of Congress and hypothesize on sending more soldiers--troops that we don't have. And, without any regard to what these constant deployments are doing to morale and families of these soldiers.


Westmoreland calling for more and more troops and if you give us more, we'll be home by Christmas. What I'm not hearing is the military calling for more troops. What the "powers that be" still don't seem to get is that we can't beat these people. It is vastly different even than Vietnam. In Vietnam, we had enough troops to eventually take ground and keep it if we wanted too. However, the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong (insurgents) did not stoop to killing their own people, women and children, kidnapping, etc. It simply didn't happen. There is no sacredness of li

Saturday, December 09, 2006


The Iraq Study Group has done a good job. They have covered the territory in all directions. Unfortunately, they are not magicians, angels or miracle workers. Iraq cannot be reduced to a study group. Our choices are bad and worse. We have unleashed the very terrorists that we wanted to eliminate. Iraq is simply chaos, i. e., anarchy or civil war, take your pick. It is a lethal barroom brawl. It is Shiite against Sunni, (5 thousand years old) Shiite against Shiite, criminals, jihadists and fanatics of every sort against everyone. The police are criminals, the criminals are police.

A recent Newsweek, talked about the Prince of Baghdad, Moqtada al-Sadr, the cleric who controls the Maahdi army. The Prime Minister who the Prez says is our man in Iraq is controlled by al Sadr whose Army is probably better than the Iraqi Army. Are we getting the picture here? And, to sit around flailing the air and beating our chests is simply a waste of time. What to do?

Get out, no other choice. All along, I have said, we can't leave and we can't stay but now, we have to accept the fact that we can't stay. What the Iraq Study Group has done is the same that we have seen over and over with this debacle. Failure to face the reality of the fanaticism of the Islamic terrorists. Simply, you cannot reason with those who would kill themselves, their families, their own people. It cannot be done. All we can do is structure the situation to move out.

Will we see a blood bath? Not any different than what we already are: the Shiite will control the country, by in large. The Sunni's will resist as best they can until they get beaten down, and who knows about the Kurds.

Let's figure out how to position enough Special Operations troops around to keep some semblance of presence for awhile, rotate the troops out and don't replace them. Our military leadership is smart. What about this as an idea? As a prelude to gradually withdrawal: seal off the borders, thus keeping most of the outside terrorists at bay. Remove our troops from Baghdad, let the Iraqis give it a try in handling the city.

The idea that we should increase our troop level, even given my respect for John McCain, is about number one stupid. First of all, where are we going to get more troops? The same troops who have been in the crossfire would have to return. OUT is the only course of action given the total lack of sacrifice asked of Americans up to this time; and they are not about to want to "give at the office." Up until now, as someone has said, we've carpet bombed America with fiction about Iraq and so let's use the Iraq Study Group report to finally face reality.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Recently, a snipers manual was discovered on the internet. It spelled out how snipers were to target doctors, chaplains, medics and engineers in Iraq. Killing chaplains would supposedly have a psychological effect. According to reports, there have been 16 definite sniper initiated deaths against the Americans. Also, a laundry list of other potential targets was listed: Unit commanders, officers and pilots, "the head of the snake." Whatever that is.

I loved this about the Special Operations Forces. "They are very stupid because they have a Rambo complex, thinking that they are the best in the world." Don't be arrogant like them? Also targeted are specialists such as communications officers to prevent calls for reinforcements--tank crews, artillery crews and engineers.


A good question. Since America has no end to enemies. Who? I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that it is an insurgent sympathiser who wants to hurt America. Let's try some Islamic type living in America who has enjoyed the good life and wants to make a contribution to worldwide Islamic domination. The context of this manual for instance, is hardly written by an ignorant and sexually repressed Muslim Iraqi in Iraq fighting against the infidels but rather someone who is familiar with American culture, i. e., the Rambo comment.

Supposedly, there are 5 million radical muslims in the world dedicated to stamping out all vestiges of anything but Islam. I think we can reasonably be assured that a few of them live in our great country, have assess to the internet, and would create a manual for killing Americans in Iraq.