Saturday, November 28, 2009

HIGH SCHOOL -- 1959 vs. 2009

This is one of those emails that go around. My friend who never forwards was struck by this one. It does give one pause...

Scenario 1:
Joe goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck's gun rack.

1959 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Joe's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Joe.

2009 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Joe hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers...

Scenario 2:
Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1959 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2009 - Police called and SWAT team arrives -- they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They are both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario 3:
Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

1959 - Jeffrey sent to the Principal's office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2009 - Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The school gets extra money from the state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4:
Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1959 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.

2009 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario 5:
Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1959 - Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock.

2009 - The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6:
Pedro fails high school English.

1959 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2009 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7:
Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed.

1959 - Ants die.

2009 - ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents -- and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny's dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8:
Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1959 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2009 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We Live In A World of Extremes

(Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh)Former journalist Lubna Hussein leaves the cafe where she was arrested in Khartoum

In the Sudan, Lubna Hussein, a former journalist who works for the United Nations is going on trial and may be subject to 40 lashes for wearing a pair of green slacks in public.

In the United States, the blog entitled "The People of Walmart" is highlighting the mode of dress of many of our fellow citizens in the public shopping space. And what a sight it is!

The juxaposition of these two stories shows how extremism in the pursuit of certain concepts of morality or lack thereof certainly is a vice--to painfully paraphrase the late Barry Goldwater.

It is a given that communities set their own standards and laws according to their own customs. To be sure, there are lots of stupid ideas that get adopted into the vernacular as religions, societies and cultures evolve. Many are eliminated over time by enlightenment, improved economies, scientific discovery and so forth. Many remain as they are a source of power for segments of those societies. Of course, the pursuit of power over one another is the root of most things that end up being evil.

But the flip side, as we can see from the Walmart example, has equal if not greater perils. It is one thing to be in favor of individual freedoms in a society that presumes an inherent level of decency based upon cross-cultural and religious tenets. It is true that all the religions of the world share the golden rule-do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

But the erosion of religion and morality in a fiercely independent democracy spells disaster. That is because most people simply do not stop to reflect upon the greater meaning of their lives. Being caught up in the falling prices at WalMart and rushing to preorder the 2012 movie even before it comes out on DVD so you can watch it over and over again, leaves little time to ponder just what it would mean if the world did come to an end, or what, if anything, is the point of this lifetime we are living?

Here is the creepiest part of all. In her country Lubna Hussein likely cannot vote. Here? Each and every person shopping in Walmart can. Explains a lot doesn't it?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


"Recommendations from an independent panel that most women don't need mammograms in their 40s, and should get one every two years starting at 50 have spurred intense debate."


"Angry reaction to new government-funded guidelines on mammography has grown so hot that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, is trying to put out the fire."


These are the leads on two NPR stories today on the subject of new guidelines for breast cancer screenings done by mammogram. The reaction to this new information is not a medical one. It is a knee-jerk political debate that is harbinger of things to come; we will be having the same discussions about annual physicals into the next millennium that we have been having about climate change since the last millennium once the federal government gets involved. We will be lining up doctors and researchers on opposite sides of the aisle like we now do with climatologists and undereducated Nobel Prize winners.

Notwithstanding my long personal aversion to the whole "test people to death" mentality that is the root of our spiraling medical costs and cultification (to apparently coin a word that is not in my computer's dictionary) of certain ailments, I am totally disgusted at the politicization of this latest report. It and the fact that the local Catholic diocese sent $50,000 to the Maine anti-gay marriage campaign combined to raise my stress level over the past couple of days requiring extra chanting at yoga tonight.

What makes me crazy is that these issues cannot be generalized. What is good for one may be awful for another. Each of us needs to make an educated decision about what to do vis a vis our personal situation. Here is an example. Both of my grandmothers and their mothers before them lived well into their 80's (90's) with their breasts intact. My mother is now 73 and her sister 63. Same deal. I concluded long ago that I come from very breast healthy stock and chose to forego the risks (albeit relatively small, but unnaturally present nonetheless) associated with regular mammograms. I have had couple but that it is it.

Of course, we all seek validation and I got mine by reading Barbara Ehrenreich's controversial but straightforward treatment of the whole breast cancer issue "Welcome to Cancerland: A Mammogram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch" . To read her speech about the topic go to:


That is not to say I am naïve about these things, only that I have made a decision that is right for my own situation. I know a woman who I admire very much for having the courage to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy before even having children as her own grandmother succumbed at a very young age to a breast cancer death. She too made a decision that was right for her situation.

Such conclusions are drawn on the basis of reviewing all available information and appyling that guidance to one's own facts. We should take all the information into consideration and we should keep gathering information in a meaningful way-to wit, through objective data gathering. Sadly, the politicization of healthcare will do exactly the opposite. Mass hysteria over generalized reports does no one any good. Once we become politically correct about how we decide which data to collect and how to collect it, it will cease having any value whatsoever, thereby depriving each and every one of us the opportunity to make sound health decision.

The political objectification is not endemic to either the liberals or the conservatives. Both are guilty of doing that to amazing extremes that have real world consequences. In this example it is the conservatives who are making ridiculous hay with the issue by suggesting that the study is representative of the death panel components that will necessarily creep in to any public health program. Shame on them for tainting this data with the stupid suggestion that somehow there is a connection. There is absolutely no evidence that this study was conducted with that end game in mind.

Ironically, my conclusion is the same as the conservative position, though. Once the government gets into your body there is no freedom left. I wish to remain free to choose whether or not to have a mammogram. That is my right. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness used to be the thing. This threat to my life by limiting my health care liberty and confusing the marketplace with political rhetoric over scientific information is not making me any happier than Al Gore is about the reaction to alleged climate change. But think of the energy I am saving by foregoing the annual tests!





Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is There Really Any Difference?

One of the fun things about being an all-inclusive household is that you get all the mail. Until very recently (I say recently because one of us threw in the towel and went independent, unable to take it anymore) we have had a registered republican and a registered democrat living in near perfect bliss under one roof. This is not unusual; my parents are the same way and have just celebrated 56 years of marriage. This dual registration has enabled me, over many years, to conduct an empirical survey of sorts by comparing the mail.

I suspect that one of the major impediments to resolving the huge problem that has developed in each and every one of our fundamental institutions stems from the two party system of politics. Although they may seem to be completely different, the two parties are actually exactly the same.
I came to this in part from my own survey of the mail and in part from my observation of the general goings on. I know, I know, it has always been like this-I only read non-fiction as you know. But I have also concluded that as voters we are all being duped into thinking that what has evolved into a mere political categorization of cash presents no real differences between the groupings. Sure, they espouse platforms that seem diametrically opposed, but fundamentally they are just the same. [I just can't stop thinking about Paulson and Geitner-- the twin towers of Goldman/Fed greed and financial frontmen of different political persuasion.]

The masters of the game are the head honchos in Washington DC known as "Democratic Party Headquarters" and" Republican National Committee." These organizations are the lifeblood –the aortas facilitating the green blood that feeds the guts of all campaigns. Sure, you can make your measly limited donations to individual candidates, but all those local fund raisers are just a feel good moment to appease the little guy into thinking he actually plays a role. Compared to the party blood clot, your money is just a white blood cell.

But where do they get their dough? Well from big donors mostly. But once in a while they want to keep up the theater that they are actually listening to you, the voters, so they send out a "survey" which if read properly is a pay to play, or a fund-raiser disguised as a chance at participation.

What I found most interesting about the latest salvo in the big time political game is how homogenous it is. Both parties are conducting a survey. They must have internal spies in one another's organizations for low and behold both parties surveys landed in the mail box on the exact SAME day. Aside from the fact that one was blue on grey and the other had a bright yellow envelope, they are virtually the same. Oh, one other big difference—the democrats are at least up front about it-the funding ask is right at the beginning. Those clever republicans wait until they have you all riled up after reading the specifically worded questionnaire before they actually get to the money part.

Otherwise both have charming and personalized letters to Dear Mr. or Mrs. MacEachern from the Chairman himself regaling us on the importance of recognizing the horror of the opposing party and rising up to save the country from them. And how will they accomplish this daunting task? By having you return the survey (top priority) and throw in some money along with it (priority number 2, of course) right away or all will be lost. And best of all you get to do it without even having to put a stamp on the envelope. They pay the postage!

The fun part is you get to tell them exactly how you feel by answering their questions in their own words. The Republicans have boiled it down to only 15 hot button items to which you can answer yes, no or "no opinion." The probing questions of course are sweepingly broad and not so subtly worded and they give the impression that these issues are all basically pretty cut and dried. You agree with the President and his minions or you don't. The Democrats on the other hand are more interactive, asking us to rank their list of issues by priority using similarly accusatory language (still blaming Bush-will they never get over that guy?) and generalizations that are equally as devoid of true meaning as their counterparts. At least they give subsets of questions within 8 general categories and a couple of blanks for you to actually fill in a very tiny concern, as if anyone will actually ever read it. Most amusing is the presumption among all of it that there are simply no grey areas; everything can be reduced to essentially black and white sound bites. {Maybe the democrats chatted with some color expert when they chose to print on grey paper. No doubt such a huge decision would require an outside consultant to determine if that would impart some sublimal effect of lulling the survey taker into a false state of admiration for the depth of the insight contained in the questions.}

Would that the world were so simply summed up that a two page multiple choice test is all we need to solve the massive concerns before us. Obviously each group has an agenda that has been set in stone in some dark carbon dioxide-filled room by a bunch of egotistical, self –appointed, hapless schmoes who value power and the money that goes with it over truly making things work; they have all the answers and only need us to confirm their suspicions by checking some boxes.

Both parties are equally deplorable as they are equally nonsensical. This exercise proves one thing for certain. There is not enough brain power or creativity among the whole lot of them to simply figure out how to differentiate themselves from one another. Given that they can't even do that, it is no wonder things just keep getting worse and worse.

Having carefully reviewed these documents I have but one regret--free shredding day was yesterday—the same day they came in the mail. (Do you suppose they researched that?). I could always just send them right back unanswered. After all it would be free. I wonder if they would even notice.

For Veteran's Day

My friend Chuck Blanchard, a brilliant lawyer and all around nice guy, is currently serving the Obama administration as the General Counsel to the Air Force. He passed this along and it certainly is worth sharing.

Captain Wendy Kosek, a young Air Force JAG officer now recovering from injuries suffered in an IED attack in Iraq. I had the chance to meet Captain Kosek a few weeks ago-she is still on crutches, and has multiple surgeries, but is on the road to recovery:

Remembering Why We Serve

Veterans Day, a day which honors the patriotism and sacrifice of men and women in the service and who have served before us, is a day that now has a special significance in my life and the lives of several members of the JAG Corps. On 21 August, 2009, while riding in a convoy from Camp Victory to the International Zone (IZ), my vehicle was hit by an IED known as an explosively-formed projectile (EFP). Although only two JAGs were in that vehicle, several other JAGs and paralegals were in the same convoy. Inside the downed vehicle, Army and Air Force personnel, both officer and enlisted, found ourselves in a dangerous position and immediately came together as a unified, cohesive team. I owe my life to the actions of the team.

The first person to react and bring the group together was the gunner, an Army Specialist, who called out "IED, IED, IED" after we had been hit. Another member assessed the injured and called for immediate medical assistance. Personnel immediately evacuated the vehicle and began to cross-load the most seriously injured, an Army Major and me, to another vehicle. Once inside the vehicle, I watched a fellow JAG wrap the Major's leg with a bandage and put pressure on his heavily-bleeding wound. From behind me, I could hear the voices of the other members of our convoy trying to keep the Major conscious by asking him questions. Beside me, I placed my hand on the arm of an Army Sergeant First Class, who called me "Ma'am" and told me that I could squeeze as hard as I wanted because I could not hurt him. In front of me, another service member held my ankle between his legs to prevent my leg from hitting the floor and causing more damage.

Once at the triage unit, the Army Major and I were put on gurneys and separated from the group. However, I was not alone. An Army Colonel from my vehicle came to my side. I had seen her before in the IZ, but I had never met her. While the staff removed my right boot and cut off my pants, the Colonel took my hand and asked me about my life back home. I was not her soldier; I was not even in her service branch, but she stood beside me. Her support embodied our core value of service before self.

That morning, the lines of distinction between Army and Air Force did not exist. AFSCs and MOSs were replaced with knowledge learned in pre-deployment training, and a group of brave Americans came together as a cohesive team and did what was necessary to stay alive.

We are lawyers and paralegals who strive for excellence in our Corps, but first and foremost, we are Airmen. We are all warriors. This Veterans Day, I am honored to serve in a military where no Soldier or Airman is left behind, where we defend each other lives without hesitation, and where we lead the way in ensuring justice is established.

Assistant Staff Judge Advocate
Little Rock AFB AR