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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Forever

I was young in that place where we are all young, when the world seems larger, the fires seem to warm you better, and the fallen leaves and frozen world of snow just create new landscapes of adventure. I remember perfect, clear ocean water and the smell of salt in the air as spring finally gave way to summer.

And there are other kinds of seasons. There are the seasons of childhood and paper-glue constructions and grade-school innocence. There are the seasons of awkward glances and school dances. There are the seasons of the first warm blush of love, where the world will always be the clearest and the sunlight reveals only new endless moments, which you can time-travel within - because in that season we can all stop time.

There are the seasons of friendship and those of first duty and dedication where there’s less time for memories and where people rely upon us for their living and their life. There are the seasons of loss when we find that it is possible for endings to come abruptly and hit us with the power and weight of the whole world – maybe the universe. There’s the season of beauty, when we discover we can see the world through the eyes of our children, if we’re willing to try. There’s the season of strength and will, when we discover we can, indeed, overcome.

There’s a season for all of it.

Let the slideshow of your life spool through you. See the images of all those yesterdays, once so overwhelming – now so light and delicate, like pale tracings on fine tissue. Does any of it have enough texture to wash you back – even for a moment – so you can know, even in the Autumn of your life, what it felt like in that first summer kiss?

How many years – how many seasons before the boatman comes for us all? Or will we warriors be fortunate and be carried aloft by valkaries, flashing silver and gold in their ivory chariots, stiff battle harness, heavy horses clad in polished iron, unearthly breath clouding in the crisp air of our endings?

Give me the tall drinking mug and I will toast heartily your exploits and beauty – I’ll toast your future and exclaim in lofty words, your unending power and eternal, untouchable grace. We will wake the sleeping countryside with the great call of the living and certain immortals.

I know the way to the future. See it – it is just there beyond the next stand of trees, waiting for us, promising a new season and a new beginning. The promise is always new and always seems to shine with its’ own light and soul. Whether we choose to grasp it and breathe into it and make it real and whole – it is all there. See the birds, tilting amongst the heights and haze of our horizon. But are they birds or angels? Do they call for our action, or come for our release?

Compassion and forgiveness are the gifts of angels, should we choose to accept them. In our new seasons we can do that, and open our hearts, feel the smile warm us, and go to our sleep knowing that the day we have just been given has been truly lived as if it were our last.

And if given the chance, we will live it again tomorrow.

We can have forever.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One man - a way to fight Washington.

People are scared lately.

I know, because the e-mails and notes I get all lead to one question – what can we do? With Congress no longer listening, and the rest of our leadership free-wheeling us into a very dark future, how can we fight?

How can we win?

Demonstrations of even massive size haven’t done it. Letters and e-mails and tweets have fallen flat, because our representatives refuse to represent us – they would rather line their pockets and enjoy the trappings of elite society. Can you feel it in your bones? Can you feel the anger and the fear out there? Don’t you see it and hear it?

It’s easy to cast around and sink into whatever black hole waits for the despondent. But I am not one to give up or back down. You want to make a difference? You want to feel some measure of control again? You want to win?

To do it, it requires a simple, small step. But that small step will make such a statement that it will be heard everywhere. You and I are going to help take back a Senate seat – but not just any seat. We’re seeking to take the former seat of Senator Ted Kennedy.

In just 21 days, Scott Brown, a Lt. Col. In the Massachusetts National Guard is going to face a tough special election against the Dem Candidate, Martha Coakley, an attorney general who has failed to face off against ACORN, vacillated on her position on various issues, and accepted assistance from SEIU, which publicly admitted to using state resources to campaign for her. Other aspects of Coakley’s job performance, suggests she is a very questionable character – not unlike those already currently occupying the nation’s capitol.

In contrast, Brown is a straightforward guy who clearly states his positions and stands by his record as a State Senator.

The most important of our challenges is getting the U.S. economy moving again,” said Brown. “People are hurting as they struggle to make ends meet. They're worried about their future, and that of their children and grandchildren. I want to ensure that we leave them an America that is financially stronger and independent: minus a national debt that we can never repay.”

Brown is an advocate of free enterprise, a fiscal conservative who as a serviceman, himself, is firmly behind the nation’s veterans. He’s a supporter of Second Amendment rights, believes states should be free to make their own determination on marriage law and believes Iran’s leadership should be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons – or isolated from the rest of the world until they give them up. His opponent, of course, believes “personal” meetings with the Iranian dictator are the answer.

At www.brownforussenate.com, you can read about the guy in much greater detail. But here’s the simple truth:

You may believe you simply don’t count – after all, this is an election happening in 21 days, in a small place, many of you have never heard of. Scott Brown is a nice, regular guy, whom you might meet anywhere, but he’s still in a race against some forgettable apparatchik in a part of the country you’ve never visited.

How can we win?

Consider this. If it is possible to seat Brown in our nation’s capitol, the simple statement that will make, will be remarkable. In a position formally held by Kennedy – the oft-remarked “father” of the government’s current Public Health Care Reform goals – Brown will be the beginning of major change. A win by Brown would mean a Republican filibuster could not be stopped. Put quite simply - if Brown gets in, he changes everything.

That simple act would signal the end of the Socialist dreams of our country’s current leadership. You want a way to get to them? You want a way to fight? Here it is.

All we have to do is get the word out. We, the regular people, have to get this story and Scott Brown’s website out to as many like-minded folks as possible. We have 21 days to back this guy up in some kind of meaningful way and fill the voting booths with folks who are ready to make America great again.

Just one guy could change it all.

Fattening INTERPOL

Plagues are interesting things.

At once, they are horrible and destructive, and they can wipe out entire societies. Take the Swine Flu as an example. While it hasn’t proven as virulent yet, as the public was initially led to believe, the potential was there to kill off large segments of the population. But the world has seen pandemics, where the dead were measured by percentages instead of hard figures, because the scope was so huge.

But a government out-of-control can seem to mirror this model. As an example, look at the recent amendment to Executive Order 12425, which removes safeguards placed upon INTERPOL by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

It has been suggested the new amendment will allow “witch-hunts” within our own country, carried out by international police who will be answerable to no one but themselves. In essence, according to this interpretation, American citizens, American troops and even former leadership from previous administrations could be arrested and taken out of the country for trial by various kangaroo courts on the word of banana republics and terrorist states.

And no one in the United States would have the authority now to stop them.

In fact, INTERPOL, which had a fair amount of diplomatic courtesies extended to it during Reagan’s administration, now has been given what basically amounts to full diplomatic immunity and the ability to gain greater access to documents and carry out aspects of their operations without national oversight, within U.S. borders.

However, this type of activity would – on its’ face - suggest that the organization would have a large dedicated police force, which it does not. INTERPOL officers are actually “seconded.” What this means, is that officers within each member country are designated as a kind of liason to the organization, providing coordination, planning and direction for national law enforcement groups within each country to make arrests, etc.

But although some might argue the point, I consider this kind of broadening of any international police powers, to be a disease. The result of these expanded authority, is that a country subjected to this kind of police force, eventually is a country no longer – it is a compound. And within the compound, anything is possible because the rules are employed and changed at a whim by those who live in the towers and walk the perimeter. In this case, the power-brokers are a massive world group and an administraton which can replace the "seconded" folks with their own "choices." Thus, INTERPOL in America could become an immediate extension of our President.

Those in support of the amendment may like to say that it is impossible for INTERPOL to grab up citizens at will, etc., but they neglect to look at history. Sometimes expanded power structures may be benign within one environment, but actually become malignant as times or administrations change.

INTERPOL has a speckled history, peppered with NAZIs – and actually at one point, served as an arm of the NAZI party in Berlin. The resources of the organization were used to assist the Gestapo in the targeting of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. But the SS weren’t the only corrupt officials in its’ history. And while the organization maintains a massive database and extends its’ fingers into a wide variety of criminal enterprises, it is comprised of representatives from 181 member countries and oversight is cloudy and complex, at best.

Old reporters adhere to the great rule, “follow the money.” But in these modern times, as data streams run faster and databases become larger and more interconnected, I believe we face some very real scenarios which allow for the misuse of personal information on a grand scale. Subsequently, “follow the data stream,” seems more appropriate.

And if those criticizing people for fear-mongering, wish to argue the point, they first have to explain clearly what benefit a change like this amendment provides – and I have seen no such explanation. Following that question, the supporters of the amendment must also provide the assurance that these massive data-mining efforts, which result from this kind of power being given, will not someday be used in a nefarious way by either the organization in question or its’ follow-on groups.

That kind of assurance is impossible to provide, of course. But one can say that immunity has been provided, and by extension, improved ability to expand and reach into areas previously inaccessible. This authority has been given to a body, which is not a national entity.

And so, this activity allows international government groups to worm their way through the population, feeding off the material their authority provides and expanding their reach and power exponentially. Most of the time, this means improved security by cracking down on organized crime and terrorism, but the true end results cannot be known.

What is known is that the regular people here in the U.S., see it and feel it as a kind of weakening of their Constitutional rights and a deferment of our sovereignty. And it may be exactly that – if not today, then perhaps in time.

It is a kind of administrative, political and digital plague.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More on NM candidate, Adam Kokesh

Someone recently wrote to me on behalf of Adam Kokesh, who is running for Congress, 3rd District, New Mexico. Since I live in New Mexico, Kokesh is of interest to me.

The individual fortunately corrected me on a error in fact which I had previously in one of my articles – that John McCain had not been a Medal of Honor winner. His e-mail to me is shown below:

I stumbled upon your blog by accident, but as a service member and lover of liberty I was compelled to comment on "Rat #2 Adam Kokesh". I wanted to comment on a few items mentioned in your blog post, and by the one comment which you have added to the right side of your main page.

1) John McCain is not a Medal of Honor recipient.

2) In light of his terrible voting record on veterans issues, frequently cited by vets in the know during the campaign season, and his efforts to cover up the abandonment of untold numbers of Vietnam POWs; McCain is more of a disgrace to the military than Kokesh.

3) After giving your site a once over, I find it odd that you criticize President Obama and others for Socialism, and yet ignore McCain's socialist tendencies. Do you not recall him "suspending his compaign" to help the senate rush through a socialist bailout? Anyone who limited their voting options in '08 to the Republican and Democratic nominees were truly choosing between a Warmongering Socialist and a Socialistic Warmonger!

I personally find your arguments against Kokesh to be poor. Your right that he must have been a fool to thing he could smuggle a pistol back from deployment, but I don't see that mistake as weighty enough to keep him out of government. I also don't place any significance on his demotion or the type of discharge, as they were a result of this same mistake.

I realize that it is unlikely that I will change your opinion of Adam Kokesh, as I suspect that they are actually rooted in his opposition to our current immoral wars and the manner in which he has spoken out against them.

Feel free to reply if you like.

The response to the three points made by this individual, in support of Adam Kokesh is shown here:

REF: Adam Kokesh

What I have found:

Ref: #1 - you are correct. I got him (John McCain) confused with the first Vietnam POW. I have subsequently gone back to make sure my references are correct. McCain did win: a Silver Star, a Legon of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals and two Purple hearts as well as a dozen service medals.

Ref: #2 - Schanberg, who's article you used as a reference in "efforts to cover-up abandonment of Vietnam POWs," is an interesting reference, as he is noted for his support of the Communist-backed governments during the Vietnam War. In fact, his coverage of Cambodia was why he received his Pulitzer Prize. Here's a quote from Schanberg:

"Wars nourish brutality and sadism, and sometimes certain people are executed by the victors but it would be tendentious to forecast such abnormal behavior as a national policy under a Communist government once the war is over." I suspect, he might have been a little off-track on that one. His other writing exploits included interesting coverage in Penthouse and the Village Voice and lend Schanberg a strong liberal spin. However, despite this, I will still explore the "efforts" portion of #2 - and attempt to interview Kokesh on the matter as well. It will take some time, and I doubt Kokesh would be up for an interview anyway. But I will pursue the story.

Your suggestion that McCain is more of a disgrace than Adam Kokesh is your subjective opinion. However, please list Kokesh's military accomplishments and his awards and citations and we may then compare them to McCain's in an objective list. I think little Adam may come out a bit behind on that one. If you don't want to go there, I understand. It would seem - as you accused me of - you would be "unlikely to change your opinion."

Ref #3 - Glad you noticed my criticism of Obama and friends for Socialism. They are the ones currently in-charge of the country, and are indeed in need of replacement. McCain's suspension of his campaign was a poor choice. That choice certainly contributed to him losing the race and subsequently he should have taken that into account. Your last sentence suggests that perhaps you voted for an alternative candidate. And your reference to the others - and your last sentence in reference to my own views might mean you are in opposition to these wars and to Democrats and Republicans - as is your right.

However, I find my arguments against Kokesh to be valid. He was a fool when he attempted to smuggle a firearm back from deployment and he was a fool when he performed "Street Theater" in uniform. I wonder if he's still a fool? Please see the paragraph from my previous article below:

"Then, to add insult to injury, this character is caught engaging in street theater, while in uniform (something which he narrowly beat in court because the Uniform Code of Military Justice doesnt apply to Inactive Ready Reserve). His response to the Marine Corps when they contacted him regarding this was a letter which he ended with, ... ask you to please kindly, go f**ck yourself.

The Marine Corps took out the hammer and brought this guy and his buddies before a tribunal. In fact, on his website, he claims an "honorable" discharge in 2006, but conveniently forgets to mention that a military tribunal downgraded this guy to a general discharge a year later (a status below honorable, but not "other than honorable," which would have caused him to lose access to VA services and forced him to pay back more than $10,000 in educational benefits he collected while getting his BA degree.) Of course, he appealed the decision and that appeal was denied."

Now if Kokesh had addressed these incidents up-front on his website, I would certainly view him in a different light. I would see him then as an individual who had made one or two mistakes - albeit really dumb ones - but who was presenting himself honestly and trying to move forward without the kind of PR babble which has given us the current idiots in the administration and Congress.

Maybe he's addressed these issues - and please let me know if he has or does.

Also, let me know if I can be of further service in addressing any other questions or comments.

-d


Also in reference to Kokesh, is another interesting blog site which can be found: HERE.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Turning Point

At least four terrorist plots - and probably more - have been foiled or come to fruition during the Obama administration, compared to possibly five or more during the Clinton era, leading up to the Trade Center attacks.

In recent days, Osama Bin Laden's family has turned up under strange circumstances and the wires are buzzing with news of the recent Airbus 330 attempted attack.

It would appear a turning point may have been reached - albeit not the kind of turning-point folks might think - and certainly not the kind of turning point the government may want.

While we may seem to be witnessing a slide back into the times of pre-911, where a single terrible successful terrorist act can seriously damage even a city like New York, it is important to realize that there is a major difference.

Think of the idiot shoe-bomber, Richard Reid, and the most recent village idiot, a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with a shampoo-bottle of high-explosive goodies woven into his underwear and strapped to his crotch. Both were educated in England, although Reid was a street criminal and Abdulmutallab, the son of a wealthy banker, had earned an advanced degree from the University College London in 2005. But these two morons are just a side-show to something far more important.

In both cases, something was different. It may have begun on Flight 93, the only aircraft during the 911 attacks, which was unable to reach the intended target. But I believe the turning point came long before that – and in fact has been with us all along in actions and reactions we just never noticed.

Brief flashes of this “turning point” have been glimmering, unrecognized over the years, and we’ve treated each with the same brief glance this one likely will receive.

But we should give this more than a glance and more than a passing thought, because if this recent attempt on that Airbus proves anything at all, it is something beyond profound.

Prior to 911, heroes were sports personalities and barely-functioning celebrities. With a society mostly asleep, we went blithely into that September day without any hint of how we would all be changed. Following the destruction of the Trade Center we knew what real heroes looked like. They were there, buried amidst the rubble, and they were also there, digging out the remains of friends, for months.

They came out in huge numbers and joined the nation’s military, and have given everything they have – and in some cases, everything they will ever have, to see us safely through another day.

The difference in this latest attempt, I believe, is that the heroes of our generation have finally given us something even greater than their actions. They have lent us their spirits. Death and mayhem is being avoided due to people realizing that those in authority may not have the answers or the ability to do the right thing, every time. Folks are starting to internalize the thought that they need to take action themselves.

Because it wasn’t government troops or policemen or firemen, or air-crew, air-marshals, FBI, CIA, or any other kind of official which brought this most recent would-be terrorist down. Like Flight 93 and like the American Airlines Flight 63 where Richard Reid was stopped, the heroes were just regular people.

And here’s a perfect truth…

They always are.



Friday, December 25, 2009

The cedar stump - and tradition.

We often look at tradition as a one-dimensional thing. I have seen this element of our lives from different vantage points – as a martial art teacher of many years and as a member of the military, on the honor guard at two of my postings. But my greatest lessons in tradition come from my childhood.

I learned what I really know from my parents and my grandparents. And I’m still learning those lessons as I look back on those times.

I find it interesting that we see continued degradation of the Christmas holiday in the States, yet the same intolerance is not shown for other holy days of other religions. But this is surface scrabble. Like ice after a hockey game it is only scratches on the surface of the thing – the real item, which is as hard and clear as that ice, is unchanged beneath.

Our traditions endure, if we want them to.

I remember Thanksgiving holidays at my Aunt’s house. The entire family would go, and both sets of grandparents, Swedish and Portuguese, would show up there. My father’s parents were Catholic and my mother’s were Protestant, but we were a family. There were Super Sundays and of course, Christmas, but I remember Thanksgiving distinctly because of a cedar stump.

After stuffing ourselves with the adults sitting at their table – and the children at theirs, my mother’s father would take us kids on a long walk.

It was a circuitous route, which wound through the neighborhood streets, down through a forest trail and seemed to stretch on for miles. But we’d always seem to end up at a little clearing – a sort of fairy's circle – in the center of the woods. There were patches of moss there and one simple stump from some tree long-ago cut down. My grandfather would peel off a piece of that stump each year and hand it to my sister and I.

“You smell that?” he’d ask, and we’d nod our heads. “That’s cedar,” he’d say. Every year we’d visit that stump – until it was at ground-level. And we’d visit a year or two longer, until there were no more walks at Thanksgiving, and I’d left for the promise of life in the Air Force and made room for my traditions of youth, to learn new traditions.

And there was more. My father used to take us on a drive the week of Christmas, so we could see all the lights at all the houses in the area. One street we’d leave for the last was the home of a friend of mine, Kyle Cordeiro. Kyle’s mom would decorate the house unlike anything you had ever seen. Lit up in a perfection no one else could match, the home looked like an ice-castle in the dark. We’d all agree that her light display was the best – every year, until there were no more drives at Christmas.

I miss that. I miss those drives, sitting in the back-seat of that green Ford, warm while the New England night cruised by, and the lights reflected in the window glass and our wide eyes. I am 43-years-old, and I still miss it – my father driving, his sure hands on the wheel, and somewhere out there at the end of the trip, knowing the Cordeiro’s lights would be there.

I miss the times at my father’s parents home, with his dad sitting in his chair – the smell of the cigars - the special flat Portuguese cookies, which his mom would make us. I miss talking to my Uncle Ben about fishing, admiring his amazingly perfect old fishing reels, the beautiful lures. My aunt’s clam-cakes in the perfect summers – and when she would say “ohh” and wince while cooking the eel I had caught, because the pieces would roll in the pan.

It was all tradition – and I can remember it and feel it as if it were only yesterday. It is an ache, which settles in my bones and will not shake free. I live in a desert – on the other side of the United States. I have not been back to New England for the holidays for many years, although I send a box each year. And it’s not the same. The boxes get lighter, but the memories get heavier.

I miss the cedar stump.

And all I can tell you, dear reader, is don’t get drawn into the arguments about whether the holidays are too commercialized, or whether the local government is banning this or that… it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, because we all have some kind of tradition to honor, and we can all deliver the respect it deserves, so the future generations can find their own patch of woods and their own stumps.

And someday they will walk with their grandchildren when we are all long dead. And they will pull out a worn pocketknife and peel off a piece of wood and crouch down and look into their eyes. Their coats heavy, in the cold air they’ll hold out those small pieces of wood.

“You smell that?” they’ll ask.

That’s cedar.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My own Christmas story

I guess I have one final Christmas story for you.

It’s a tale I haven’t told much, because to tell it, I have to climb down into those dark spaces where people keep the material they would most like to avoid in their day to day lives. It’s the place in the Mind’s attic where shapes are hidden beneath ancient, dust-laden, abandoned sheets.

But the shapes are still familiar – even as you draw close. The edges of the forms beneath are sharp and cold and even in the half-light of the half remembered, they cast meaningful shadows onto the lonely floor.

I don’t like this place. The denizens of it, cavort far to merrily in my dreams, making every night a new torture. “Real rest,” they whisper “is for the dead.” They are right, of course. I have said those words before, back when I was a sergeant. I may have even said them in Africa.

Christmas Day 1992, Somalia: I was in Baidoa for a food distribution run. I remember the trucks loading up with whomever could be spared for security. It was still considered to be a lightly held area, and while food was getting through to the regular population at long last, the warlords were making problems, which had to be solved with force.

Next to our encampment were the French Royal Marines and the French Foreign Legion. I’d done a little work with them while there. They needed a specialist for some things. I had been volunteered. But that was two days ago. Today was Christmas, and I slipped onto one of the trucks, enjoying the anonymity and freedom afforded by being an Air Force NCO amongst mostly Marines and Army.

This was the cutting edge of the mission – making sure the food convoys got through and were not stolen by the thugs in the area. We bounced and banged out of the countryside on a dirt road which had, just last week, claimed the first lives when a mine took out a vehicle like this one. It was clear, but you could tell the driver was taking extra care not to stray even an inch off the long, dry brown scar which led through deep green into the city.

The city of Bones.

That’s what it had become known as, because no one could be seen on the streets. It had been seemingly deserted. Houses missing roofs, burned out structures, vehicles which may have smoldered recently, or been set to flame more than a decade ago, added a random emptiness to it all. It was a place, which had long ago accepted death as if it had washed through in a wave, taking everyone in a single, gasp of relief. It was relief from the indignity of life in that place, but also relief from the decay of malnourishment and the maddening hunger and the hallucinations of dehydration.

We stopped in a wide field and set up a perimeter. Just the security for the NGOs to operate within, our job was to hold those who were not part of the food drop, at the perimeter. Easy it seemed, because there was no one in sight – until of course, there was.

They came shuddering and jerking across the five miles of open territory between this particular god-forsaken place and the next one. And although I prayed for the people on the trucks to hurry up and offload, it wasn’t long before the first of the small group of sad humanity reached our perimeter. To my left, two Marines were keeping them back. Not hard to do, because most had given up standing. It was too difficult. They were pretty far gone.

The signal came finally to mount up and the perimeter drew in on itself, we clambered back into the trucks and took our lofty perches on the backs of those huge 925s. The Somalis that had made the trek to no avail, had turned back and dwindled away as I glanced back at them – now occluded by clouds of dust. Still, I felt relieved – a little triumphant. We had delivered 10 tons of food to the starving on Christmas Day. It felt like one of the best days I’d had in a while.

I focused again on my job, scanning buildings for threats. But in only one, did I see movement. The truck had slowed through a tighter section of town, so I had plenty of time to watch a skeleton with skin work his way unsteadily past a charred vehicle and dead tree to a dusty prayer rug in the back yard of a home. We drew abreast of him as he dropped to his knees. I describe him as male, but he may have been a she – it was impossible to tell anymore. I knew he wouldn’t be getting to his feet again – ever. I said something to the senior guy, pointing now back at the man. “Surely we can do something – leave him some food, water?”

He shook his head. Without great care in a modern hospital, the high protein content of any food we could leave him would only serve to kill him painfully. He was too far gone. He was better off meeting God on his terms now. And stopping amidst the ruins might place the convoy and the Marines at greater risk.

I wanted to scream, “stop the truck!” I wanted to set up a perimeter and get in that yard and evacuate that man if necessary. I wanted to do anything but keep on rolling away. The dying man never looked up and I don’t know if he even could have. I don’t know if he wasn’t already floating on the winds of that other place, looking down on us from impossible heights – perhaps sad that he couldn’t save us, as well.

I, who was a nobody – from a totally different kind of world, had flown halfway around the globe as part of the greatest expeditionary force the world had ever seen. In one more week we would have accomplished our mission – to restore the food convoys to the starving people of Somalia – to Restore Hope. And in that, we were successful.

But we would leave that country a long time from then, for very different reasons, and despite our successes there, the world would now view the operation as something to be ashamed of. We who were there would be forgotten – or if the subject came up in polite conversation, meet a shaking of head, a guilty glance quickly sliding away.

For me that shame is at least partly to do with that Christmas Day – and the single, lonely, man who seemed as much made from solid, pointed pieces of despair, as he was the bones and swollen joints and pendulous skull. He died there in the City of Bones, be it that day or the next. But he was certainly dead. No one left to care for him. No one left to even accomplish the burial. No one left to even know his name.

We couldn’t save him.

On such a holy day, in such a forlorn place, we faced a darkness I cannot adequately describe. It was pure anarchy, but it was more than that – it was self-destruction, but it was more than that, too. There was evil dragging it’s fierce claws across the stonework left still standing. It was palpable – tangible. The place reeked of more than death and tasted of more than blood. We brought food to the starving, but not all of them.

I struggle with this one, because there is no answer. But these struggles continue and I see that prayer rug over and over again. I keep it in the attic spaces of my mind. The bent and broken charcoal shape which kneels on it has lost none of its’ horror. I try to live better days. I try to help people where I can. I try always to be a better man because of it.

Perhaps God someday will answer my question “why.” Or, maybe my Somali friend will come down from heaven and be the first to greet me or judge me when I too leave this place. I would welcome that. I would like to think that we will smile and I will shake his hand finally, and he will be whole and well. And we will know each other’s language in that place where all things are known, and he will tell me of his life, his loves, his children and grandchildren and we will laugh. We will laugh at his stories, at the improbable perfection of the place in which we find ourselves. We will laugh at our silly mortal beliefs and misperceptions now fading and almost forgotten. We will cry together over our failings and we will talk of the subjects which once seemed so hard.

And I will finally be able to tell him I’m sorry.


- Dave

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mary


A Defining Moment

Every year as Christmas approaches, I always intend to write this, and now that my 79th birthday is approaching---January 6, 2010---there is an urgency to get it done.

This story happened in Dallas, Texas at Gaston Hospital, a hospital for blood disorders in young children.

Our football coach at SMU felt that we could bring Christmas cheer with small toy footballs that the children would enjoy. I must admit, I was not, at the time, too happy that my buddy, Ed Quintana, and I were chosen to fulfill his wish.

As Ed and I approached the hospital with two large bags filled with small footballs, we were met at the door by a beautiful young blond nurse with a smile as big as all outdoors. Our interest in our assignment changed immediately from a chore to an opportunity to get a date with this beautiful creature.

As we walked down the hall, I looked to my left and there was a living doll about five or six years old with long blond hair and eyes as blue as the sky.

“Hi, what’s your name?”

“Mary,“ she said shyly.

“Well, Mary, what is Santa Claus going to bring you this Christmas?”

“I hope he will bring me Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.”

“I just bet he will. I didn’t see a chimney, but the front door is large enough to get his reindeer and sleigh through.”

As we talked, Mary told me she would like to be a nurse or a teacher. I assured her she would be great at anything she wanted to do, and then told her I would check back to see if Santa had made his magic journey.

Well, like most young sophomores at SMU, our days and nights were filled with frat parties and constant fun. It was two weeks after Christmas that I happened to be in Sanger Harris, a large department store, and ended up in the basement where the sporting goods were located.

Right next to the sporting goods was the toy department; and in the toy department, on a top shelf there was a Raggedy Ann and Andy doll set. My sanity returned and I purchased both and headed for Gaston Hospital.

At the hospital, I started for Mary’s room. I was met by a new nurse who looked at me with an inquiring look. I said, I have both of these for Mary. She is in the third room to the left.

The nurse said, “Just a moment, please. I’ll be back shortly.”

When she returned, she had with her the first nurse I had met at the door when we first came to the hospital. I knew by looking at her that something was wrong.

I stammered, “These are the dolls for Mary; sorry I’m so late.”

“Yes, you are late,” she responded. “Mary died three days after Christmas.”

“Would you please give these dolls to another child?” and I made for the door.

I sat in my car for a long time. I kept seeing that beautiful little girl and asking God , “Why?” The only answer I could come up with was God needed a little angel and also a lesson to a rather spoiled young man.

From that moment on, I have tried to never make a promise I didn’t keep and to also make Christmas a daily occurrence in my life---not a day or a week---for love and caring warm the coldest heart. Yes, every Christmas I think of this defining moment. I’m glad it came in my youth for it changed my life.


- Tom Macon


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Superman.

We live in a world of wonder.

If you doubt this, you would have to doubt an incredible story from Ottawa, Kansas. And I for one, prefer in this case to believe in the impossible.

Nick Harris, a 5 foot 7, 185 pound average guy was dropping his daughter off at school last week when he saw a car back out of a driveway, and hit a 6-year-old girl, trapping her beneath it.

Without even thinking about it, Harris was at the back of the Mercury sedan, lifting it off the child and pushing it away. No witnesses were there to confirm what happened, but the Ottawa police have nothing to dispute it – and only the word of the little girl, Ashlyn, who escaped with just a concussion and some scrapes.

She said as she hugged him, “Thanks, Superman.”

Watch for a great Christmas article!

Coming up in the next day or so, we have a great article from my old buddy Tom Macon - a much better writer than I'll ever be. If you're looking for the Christmas story of the year - it has arrived. Keep checking back.

Old Tom Macon - only here - on The Jolly Rogers.


Healthy and happy in Nebraska.

Nebraska is the state with the highest percentage of its’ population insured. And so, we will now be required to pay for everyone there after Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) sold his vote on health care reform to secure full federal funding for his state to expand Medicaid coverage to everyone below the poverty level. He was also able to roll back cuts to health savings accounts for folks in Nebraska.

Yay.

So, as long as you’re a fat cat holdout, and you’re in the way of something the reigning king wants, you get your bag of coins. That’s how this works. Of course, if you don’t live in Nebraska, you get squat, but that’s not the game.

You just have to maneuver yourself into the 60th vote position, then balk. That gets the serious courting underway. Of course, to save face, Nelson has abortion to fall back on – because he really did this for the unborn – not for insurance money. Nelson allegedly held out because the bill had language, which allowed for blanket abortion funding by the U.S. government. After a few hours with Harry Reid, however, he feels much better now.

I am an old reporter – and so, am not new to the glad-handing, back-slapping antics of government elitists, albeit not at the level these guys are operating. And as a reporter, I can see the possible necessity of some kind of health reform. I just don’t think this package is it. But how can anyone be sure? Look at the size of the thing. Look at the continued claims that it is not being read – hell, that it’s unreadable. What fancy Easter Eggs are hidden away in its twisting language?

Nelson’s claims that he would withdraw support for the bill if meetings changed any of the provisions he and Reid worked out seem ridiculous on their face. How would he even know? The President is now beating his chest, claiming the Senate’s bill is really a “bill of rights” where there are “on any page, patient protections that dwarf any passed by Congress in at least a decade.”

All I can say about this is that in my meager experience, any time a politician uses the term “dwarf” – it’s time to check your bank account.

Unless you live in Nebraska.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Getting Gored

First, I must apologize for this. I had intended to enter the Christmas holiday on an upbeat note - and leave it that way until after Christmas, but since Congress and all the government yuckies seem to be carrying on trying to kill us all, I thought I should maybe continue writing. Anyone who has a problem with this should take it up with the country's leadership. If they wouldn't keep screwing up - I wouldn't have to keep writing.

-d



Getting Gored.

That has a completely new meaning these days, doesn’t it?

It used to be that only rodeo participants and the folks running with the bulls in Spain, had to worry about such a thing. Now, it is possible that anyone could be Gored. Of course, in this case, we’re talking about being Al Gored.

It’s an interesting phenomena, because it includes elements of truth and trust – almost faith – in the wide scope of the story. The interesting part is that our country is at the brink, courtesy of the “Green Machine,” and it is frightening, because we are still there, waiting for the shove, which will send us flailing toward the white-capped waves below.

But it feels engineered. The entire mess has the texture of planning, and this is only reinforced as we look at those in the middle of it all: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, all the other skin-walkers in Congress, a president who can only speak if he’s spoon-fed the words by his handlers via tele-prompter, big bankers, big businesses, and now even scientists as a whole.

Bummer about the scientists. I always liked those guys.

But it seems the poop-bomb named Gore may get them all. With even media outlets, which usually side with these characters, reporting some of the facts, the tide seems to be changing. But it isn’t over yet, so don’t relax. It is still possible to be Gored.

As a former reporter I follow the old-school, tried and true idea – follow the money. It is sadly not entirely possible in this environment, because so much money just disappeared with TARP and threatens to drop down various rabbit holes through the application of health care reform and Cap and Trade. But you can sort of apply the “follow-the-money” idea via the Nobel Prize – recent peace prize laureates to include Al Gore and President Obama. Why did they win these prizes? That part is a bit hazy.

But what’s not hazy is how much money Gore, a partner from Goldman Sachs, actually was able to stash during his campaign to save the world. How much is he worth after all this? Nearly 100 million is the answer to that, despite promising Congress in hearings over the years, that his foundation was donating all money to furthering the global warming movement.

Today our President makes claims that an “important agreement” has been achieved in Copenhagen’s “save the world” summit. Apparently he hasn’t yet noticed the rest of the country – in fact, a growing majority of the population – has not only given up on the idea of global warming, but are going out of their way to express their distaste for the whole thing.

Money drives it all, dear reader. Money drives the big financial groups to back the alternative energy groups which in-turn, back Obama and his administration which in turn, can create an environment that they can all flourish in. Money drives these groups to marginalize those who might represent a threat to the whole scheme by either exposing the impossible numbers, the bad science, or the reality that energy independence can be achieved without dismantling the system, and health care reform can be achieved by hammering down some of the lawyers instead of threatening to force the population to buy into the government scheme. Money drives witless PR morons like Gore to carry on spouting ridiculous crap, while the rest of the thinking world ponders the extent of the corruption. And money in the form of grants and government funding causes the scientists involved in the scandal to sacrifice their ethics.

Of course, now that we are on the brink of passing legislation to provide government with more power over the regular people, we face the biggest poop-bomb of all in the dash for the cash.

You see, we have always wondered what an extinction-level event might be. Would it be an asteroid from space, a gamma ray burst, aliens, something a bit more biblical like a flood or the Rapture? Or would it be an ice-age or a global warming sweatbox?

Of course, now we know the truth.

We will all be Gored to death.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flashpoint 2 - universal beauty

Was just thinking about some of the things, which shape our world – the good things.

It’s easy to look around us and see only the bad. Newspapers and their progeny, radio, TV and the internet have always operated on the general formula “bad news sells.”

But it doesn’t take much, either, to look around with different eyes and see the miasma peel away, leaving gleaming surfaces of beauty and truth. Understanding is here around us, if we can shake the grip of depression that seeks desperately to pull us down.

Know the truth that brings with it freedom. We are here for such a short time – like cherry blossoms or autumn leaves in New England, but while we are here, we can do such things as no one in the whole of history, has ever dreamed. We are as much creators as we are destroyers. We can be more than we are.

Our future may include the aforementioned “flashpoint,” but there is also a different kind of destiny in store for us, which could reveal itself. Because no matter the darkness, dawn is out there, hovering just over the horizon of all our lives. It opens itself to us like a flower – it whispers in our minds like the voices of angels.

“See here, the hope,” it says and maybe, it is right and true.

Clear your mind and remember what it was like: The first time you can remember another person smiling in anticipation as they watched you open a gift and the moment when you gave something back; remember walks when you were young and the world was new. Try to recall the texture of the moment when you met your first love; say nothing at all, but remember the sensations of a smile at sunset, or the perfection of the world on a perfect morning at sunrise – how you stretched and woke from a good dream and opened your eyes to witness perfection. Remember laughter you shared – totally uncontrollable, unstoppable laughter. Remember the first place you lived, when you finally got out into the world on your own – the freedom and the sense of all those sunrises and sunsets stretched out before you. Recall the moment you first held a baby; the sounds of distant children playing, their voices shrill and excited and happy.

“Flashpoint,” in this case, can have a very different meaning. Consider some of the greatest speeches – the ones that really brought so much to our world. The words of the Gettysburg address come to mind, as Abe Lincoln said “…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.” The WWII speech of Eisenhower as he stood amongst the ranks of Airborne troops on RAF Greenham Common before the D-Day invasion still ring clear in my head, even though I only heard them as a recording – “The eyes of the world are upon you tonight.” The words of the great Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963 sparkle in my mind, like jewels. He said so many things then, but the most important probably was"’I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Flashpoint can be viewed as a negative thing – as a moment of horror. But if you allow yourself a little time to see the good in the world, everything shifts.

Flashpoint can also be that perfect moment when you could feel the ebb and flow of history around you. It is a sensation as time slows and you can look around as if you were almost outside of yourself – and you know with timeless certainty that you are witnessing something great and pure and true.

And in that time, as in all the others we have shared because they are universal and human; and in spite of the fact that we have never even met, we will see something beautiful. And whether that is because our perspective is now different, or the places around us have become something great and unexpected, the truth will be inescapable.

There will be a flash – a moment so golden, warm and exultant, that suddenly and inexplicably, the world will be a better place.

And we will know it, look at each other, and smile.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Flashpoint

I wondered today about the things, which shape our world – the bad things.

Mankind has an oft-remarked penchant for destruction. Serial killers and snipers, mass-murderers and things, which blacken our days just by their existence, walk among us unseen.

As children we know they are out there – the bump in the night, the scratch at the windowsill. Then we get older and decide those things were all our youthful imagination. We decide these creatures are not real, because the message, “you are safe,” is repeated continually. We are all told this fable, by those in authority, because most of the time, it is true.

Don’t believe it anymore.

One of my friends, a former SEAL team member recently told me, “I see terrorists around every corner.” Maybe this is because they really are out there in a myriad of guises. My friend also pointed something out, which was a brilliant observation – but he got it from a friend of his, so the source of the brilliance is really somewhat unclear.

Here it is: Like pushers and pimps, the real monsters in our leadership have in the past done all their dirty dealing and shadow-works in hiding. Obama’s administration was supposed to open a new era of transparency – and in one way it has. All the dirty dealing and all the thievery and attacks on the regular people, is being done in the open. They don’t care who views their actions. Nor do they care who opposes them. They are terrorists themselves. Instead of hijacking planes, these monsters are taking a country, piece by piece.

It doesn’t matter how many marches or how many demonstrations are held in Washington or elsewhere. They will continue to crash the pieces of the country they have control of, until there is nothing left. What happens then?

My belief is that the end of this all may be “flashpoint.”

It is the moment that always occurs when unarmed, untrained people meet trained, well-armed people in a small street conflict. People make mistakes in this kind of environment and then there are deaths. China’s Tiananmen Square comes to mind. Remember 1989? One million people had gathered in pro-democracy and anti-corruption demonstration in China. The whole movement lasted seven weeks until military units cleared the square on June 4. The estimated civilian death toll after the protesters were attacked is not even known, but could range from 400 dead to well over 1,000 or more.

Arrests, jailing and disappearing of supporters of the movement then ensued. The government in China remains, but many of those people who protested it, do not. The structure of these kind of protests here in the U.S. is already in place. A government turning away from free-market, democracy and toward Statism, is now a reality here and it is attracting heavy opposition from the regular citizenry. We have even had large demonstrations, approaching the size of Tiananmen in our own country’s capitol. How strange is it that the crowds gathered in D.C., have collected there for the same reasons that the people in China demonstrated in 1989 – because of government corruption and loss of freedom. Both groups have tried to face the darkness.

Whether we win or not this time – and whether we face “flashpoint,” depends on how much power our own set of government creatures are given, or allowed to steal. From global warming to universal health care; alternative energy to new taxes, we are facing a government which will be fit for a dictator – not a president. People keep asking “where is Waterloo” for one group or another – even for Obama himself.

But I want to know where will be our Tiananmen? And do we really need to have one?

Can we stop the monsters?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A blog you might want to watch.

Here's a blog just started, but the first post was so well written, I had to pass the link along to you.

-d

Monday, December 7, 2009

Darkness and visions

In the perfect desert night I see things.

Since most of my dreams bring me to places I don’t want to go, I often stay up. The blank page, like the darkness beyond this screen, calls to me. My mind wanders. I lose track of time. Sometimes the sun comes up, yet I am still here.

I wonder how many others share the darkness with me.

People send things to me. They ask if this piece of video is real, or if a certain story is real. They’re scared. They don’t know what to prepare for, but they can feel that things are becoming more dangerous. They know that peace within our own borders is becoming a much thinner veneer than it once was.

Darkness it seems, crosses the boundaries of dreams, and seeks to take shape in our waking lives. We give it breath and purpose, and like the legendary golem, it takes its’ vengeance out on everyone – even those it was never meant to hurt. In the weeks preceding the 9/11 attack, I painted a mural on my garage door: two towers – and a bird circling overhead. After the attack, I never finished it. It was either terrible coincidence or something I don’t want to examine any closer.

I feel the approach of a failure. Something has me awake more often. Yes it’s probably the PTSD, and the stress watching, reading or listening to the news exacerbates that existing problem. I am probably reacting in some predictable way to things, which in the grand scheme, don’t matter.

But you see, our problems in this country are really an issue of perspective. Those who claim to have the answers are like patients without doctors – self-diagnosing and self-medicating for conditions they can’t really see. Global warming is a fascinating example. Consider – a handful of people want to exclaim to the world that they completely understand such a complex living system, like the planet and everything on it. Not only do they understand it, they claim, but they can tell us what ails it and prescribe treatment.

Yet, these same people exist in a single moment, within barely a blink of existence when you consider the age of the Earth and the age of the cosmos. Their perspective is so tiny and narrow, that they cannot even forecast what will happen in their own lives tomorrow – yet they have the hubris to hold court on what will be the future of our world. Like the patient, self-diagnosing, they believe they have an answer based upon their own limited view from within the system in question – this view is therefore based on a lifetime, lacking perspective.

And the problem of perspective extends to every human endeavor. Our lives are short – the consequences of our actions affect generations un-born. We are alone within ourselves and nothing can change that.

So real perspective could only exist if we could live millennia, outside the system – and had a complete data-set, instead of the suppositions and fabrications available via journals, published papers, e-mails and other primitive communication. Then we could decide whether we as a race were reaching some kind of end-game, destroying the planet, or in the words used by the religious; heaping sins upon sins.

I don’t know why I painted the garage in 2001. I don’t know why the world feels the same to me as it did then. I can’t find a way to stop the bad dreams from visiting me every night. And I don’t have a way to see the system from the outside. I feel as so many others probably do – trapped.

But there are many who would claim that real perspective is reserved for God and man is only required to have faith. Faith for what? Are we to have Faith that things will work out? Faith that people who believe they are also listening to God, will not fly into buildings or shoot a whole bunch of their co-workers while screaming “God is great!” Are we expected to have faith that the bad guys will always lose to the good guys? Are we to have faith that our government won’t simply ditch our liberty in exchange for a comfy dictatorship? How’s that particular plan working out for you?

So we need to form a question. The question doesn’t have to do with right or wrong – but maybe simply put, the question needs to accept the possibility or hope that somewhere out there, there’s something other than us, which has some kind of a viewpoint on all this – something with a greater perspective. Maybe the question is a personal one – like the answer, it is part of the individual and no single question will do.

I don’t know. But I know what I would ask.

What does God see when he looks at us? That’s my question. I think he’d be sad – if I can be so bold as to attribute a human emotion and a wild guess, in this instance. I think it’s just possible that he would see us as little better than our monkey ancestors – ready to bash the brains out of the next monkey over resources, power or beliefs. That we have carried ourselves no further from that point seems to me to be a travesty, and just maybe, the source of the darkness. How many others share the night with me?

I hope for everyone’s sake, I’m the only one. I would wish that for you, even not knowing you, and even knowing that it is probably not true. If my dreams are penance, than there is much to pay for. If they are not – and are just a chemical reaction, then I’m only a damaged monkey and it’s no big deal.

But if there’s a God out there, maybe his perspective is matched by his compassion and there will be enough grace remaining to give us all better, beautiful, perfect dreams – and allow us the strength to carry those visions into the waking world.

And make them real.

Want to see something which will pick up your spirits?

Have a look at this link if you're feeling a bit down...

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