DEALING WITH “DEMONS”

October 23, 2014

DEALING WITH “DEMONS”

Go to http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2014/10/23/elizabeth-vargas-returns-to-abc/?icid=maing-grid7%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl17%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D550698 and read another story of another celebrity coming out of rehab. How little does the general public understand what that attractive, professionally successful woman endures in her mind. No article can explain it nor can a Tweeter sentence do anything at all to educate the public about what goes on in her head.

Broadly written, this blog speaks to mental health, from a layman perspective. Far more people than one can imagine deal with “demons” in their heads. As well how to mitigate, control such “demons” remains a huge but seldom mentioned problem in American society. There are many different forms of demons, like the killer kid in Ct. through the hopeless drunk on the street, to professionals with a false face on how they really feel, to the “upset” kid in a school classroom. What to do across the spectrum of behavior remains a very difficult question, with no sound bite or easy answers for solutions.

But I will say, American society is not coming close to even mitigating such issues, much less solving them. Which would help America more, just today? Would a cure for Ebola help more than finding a way for Elizabeth Vargas to deal with her demons and the millions just like her? Just go read any newspaper or watch TV to get that answer, the priorities demanded by Americans.

I only address the “easier” problem, easier in the view of most Americans, of helping Vargas to mitigate her problems. I leave the far more dangerous and public issues concerning crazy gunmen, etc. to others to address. But I do believe the process to mitigate, but never solve, all those issues with “demons” has some common things to resolve.

Vargas has probably been an alcoholic all her life. Why, no one knows for sure. Sure genetics can play a major role in her case but that is not her only problem for sure. She faces issues each day in her life that have nothing to do with how Mom and Dad treated her long ago or what body metabolism or “chemicals” were there at birth.

More than likely Vargas has always been a “horse thief”. A combination of genetics and environment made her that way, a long time ago and her reactions to external events over the years reinforced her instincts to act like a horse thief.

Why use such a stupid metaphor, horse thief, you ask. I use it only because a very wise man once wrote, about 75 years ago, that if you sober up a drunken horse thief, you still have to deal with a horse thief. That very simple message of what must be done AFTER one sobers up is profound and true as true can be, in my view. Vargas has been a ……., a drunken …… from time to time. Coming out of rehab she MUST stop being a ……. if she has a chance to remain free from addiction to alcohol or other chemicals.

Said another way, getting sober is easy but remaining sober is a lifetime struggle for most alcoholics. There is no magic or medical treatment yet available to make it easier to stay sober, free from chemicals. The only way to do that, remain sober, is hard, hard work for the rest of one’s life, period.

At least most Americans no longer sneer at Vargas, call her names, etc., unless of course she shows up drunk, again, which I assure you she does not want to do, get drunk, again. Right now she feels she will do literally anything to not drink. She is now on a “pink cloud”, a sense of momentary happiness to stay sober and the resolve to do so, for now. But no one can live on a “pink cloud” the rest of their lives.

Rather Vargas must become, over time, much better able to live “life on life’s terms” without resorting back to “stealing horses” when stress, real stress reenters her life. If she relapses and drinks again she will first find herself “stealing horses” long before she picks up the next drink.

Again, 75 or so years ago a very smart doctor claimed that staying sober demanded a “psychic change” in the alcoholic. That in essence is what Vargas faces, changing her psychic, her personality, her instinctive or subconscious reactions to stress in any from. She must STOP letting external things, people, places and things it is called, to cause such turmoil with the demons now sleeping but still very much there, in her head.

For alcoholics those demons never die. Like old soldiers they just fade away, into the background, perhaps the subconscious in the mind of an alcoholic. And those demons are always ready to wake up and rampage again, demanding Vargas and millions more to go “steal a horse”, with the drink to soon follow even if she does not get caught “stealing”. Think of Vargas’s real problem as “stealing”, not alcohol. Stop the first and the second becomes irrelevant, to her.

It is my own view that the mental health community has yet to find a way to actually remove such demons in the heads of alcoholics. Maybe medical science will never find a way to do so without just removing portions of one’s brain, a different form of a lobotomy if you will. I hope not, but ……

I close with this observation or consideration for the reader to think about. I have described what Vargas now faces. But take a different example of the need for “psychic change”. A 16 year old kid in high school is a “bad actor”, a “hoodlum” as demonstrated time and time again by his actions in school.

While many may never have experienced it, just imagine how his “mind” demands attention and he acts wildly in class, disrupting any class he attends. Tell him to sit quietly and say nothing. Tell him gently or scream at him, either way. Can you imagine the “psychic pressure” he feels building up in him and thus soon starts again to act like a “hoodlum”. Threats of punishment rarely work in such cases as well. “I could give a ……, what might happen” is a frequent thought, for that kid or an alcoholic.

That psychic pressure in that kid is the similar to what Vargas will surely feel soon, and again, to just go have a drink.

Something in the minds of many people, people the public in no way consider “crazy”, causes such “bad behavior”. Why and what can be done to mitigate such behavior?

When I acted up as a kid Dad used to routinely say “straighten up and fly right”. Easier said than done, Dad. And yes, I still deal with trying to “fly right” many times even as an old man, now. I KNOW “right” and want to “fly right”. That is not the issue. It is doing it that is hard, very hard sometimes.

How about you, the non-addicted reader. Do you too deal with such “psychic pressures” and stumble in trying to resolve them?

I write such words not in attempt to make life “easier”. I simply want life to be better, for Vargas, the kid in school, the drunk on the street or the really crazy gunman. But I have no idea how to do it, all the time, and neither do doctors, in general at least.

A SUMMARY OF MY VIEWS ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

October 22, 2014

A SUMMARY OF MY VIEWS ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

No doubt I have been interested in public education for a long time, aggressively interested one might say. Recently I have come to a rather fundamental conclusion as to why it is so difficult to improve public education in America today. That is the summary offered in this blog.

The challenge of public education, K12 education, is to increase the knowledge (and understanding of how to behave as well) of every American child, age 5 -18 in America. All children in that age range have an absolute RIGHT to avail themselves of such education, no question about it. In fact parents or guardians of every child in that age range have a legal obligation to ensure that all those kids in fact attend K12 public education, bar none, no excuses, etc.

As well every public education system in America has a firm and unwavering obligation to provide that K12 education to all those kids, bar none as well.

Such is where K12 public education in America “is” right now in terms of opportunity and obligations for schools, parents and children. I would not change that in any way. It is one of the very important underpinnings of American society, good public education for everyone in America, physically in America, regardless of “origins”.

On the other hand, bad public education degrades American society. Anyone care to argue that point?

But America is very diverse in many ways, ways that I will not enumerate at length. But however “diverse”, different if you will, as any child might be, he or she deserves the best education, K12 education that we the people can offer to them.

There may well be some 100 Million children, the exact number I do not know or care to know, that must be “in” K12 education in America today. How can a national public system of education address the needs of 100 Million children, where each child is “different” in some ways?

I suggest “we” can do that, individually for every child, at least “sort of”. First however we must distinguish from real needs and wants for every child. The need is simple to grasp in concept and the Army has a slogan to so state that need. Be The Best You Can Be is the simple need of every child in America in terms of becoming well educated.

That is the real challenge to educators, somehow finding a way to bring each kid up to a level of learning and behavior, as kids, to go as far as they can possibly go in terms of learning knowledge and behavior to function in society, at least up to the best level in society they can “reach”, through using good knowledge and behaving as society demands and they can achieve.

The real problem with public education is setting common goals for all children and deeming those that don’t reach those goals as failures. I submit there is no such failure on the part of a child. There is simply a lack of knowledge and/or behavior skills expected of other kids.

I submit that the job of schools is to teach each kid as best any teacher can teach kids and report that result after both teacher and student have given it their best shot so to speak. Schools must identify, accurately how each kid has learned and behaved, TRUTHFULLY at all costs as well. Grades must reflect achievement, both in terms of knowledge gained (not hoped to be gained) or behavior at a given time (not behavior hoped to be achieved).

Let’s take the issue of IQ, how smart a given child IS, not might become. Like it or not all children will fall upon a bell curve of IQ of a large population with some extraordinarily smart and others very dumb as well. “God”, genetics probably made that happen and most agree that a genius taking an IQ test at age 10 will still be a genius taking such a test at age 40. Or a kid with an IQ of 50 will have close to the same IQ when age 40 as well. Certainly the genius will not fall down to an IQ of 50 or the less intelligent child rise to a level of 140 except in maybe the most extraordinary circumstances.

Think of IQ as a physical equivalent of carrying a load weighed in pounds. A small and weak man will only be able, doing his best, to carry a 50 pound load, after a lot of training and exercise. But the strong and robust man will be able to carry a 200 pound load after similar training and exercise. Neither man is a failure. They are just capable of carrying different size loads. Getting each man up to his best level is the goal, in physical education at least.

As well it would be ridiculous to try to force the smaller and weaker man to try to carry 200 pounds. He will either “die trying” or just tell you to go to hell. You would have expected too much of him, something beyond what “God” would allow him to be or do, in a manner of speaking.

The key in education, physical training in the example provided, is to “teach” both men to carry the best load they can carry, be the best they can be in “knowledge carrying”, if you will. THEN, after they have reached their own “best level” we must find a way for them to live, as independently as possible, in our society.

The smaller weaker man might well become the best “geek” around, creating new computers, etc. The 200 pound carrying behemoth might become a damned good “ditch digger”, the best ditch digger in town so to speak. Neither man is a failure in our society. They just become different men using different skills to become productive citizens in our society, the best citizens possible in our society.

Grades in public schools are the measure used to REPORT knowledge gained and behavior demonstrated (not “load carrying” grades). They are not predictions of success or failure as such. Report cards, honest report cards based on demonstrated performance in gaining knowledge and behaving, do not necessarily predict greatness or utter failure as a citizen in the future or even nuances of such in between. All a report card should report is this child achieved “grade level” performance or did not do so. Extra grades, higher or lower, refines such reporting into really learned a lot more or learned nothing close to what was expected by most students.

Think of it as a proficiency report. This man does his current job, correctly, well or poorly. This student is proficient in “math” at the level of the third grade. It is basically a yes or no report or should be, with some obvious variance allowed for “almost”. Using the current grading system, I would suggest a C means “is proficient”. Grades above C mean …. And those lower than mean …….

If such a system is used honestly and consistently anyone can see those students that are in fact “proficient” (or above) and those “not proficient” (or much less than…).

Every normal person, child or adult, wants to do well. No one wants to consider themselves “less than” anything. But wanting is not getting in society. And giving higher grades than reflected in performance only sends a signal that no further effort is required. I am proficient at what I do and therefore ……. Is the incorrect, dishonest in many cases, signal sent to many kids and parents of kids.

Now forget IQ or other metrics related to intelligence or learning. Let’s talk just about demographics, a modern term that supposedly puts people is some status, socio-economically perhaps. Joplin has demographics very different from say San Francisco. Joplin is “blue collar” and San Francisco decidedly more “metropolitan”. Just cost of living alone shows such demographics. Take the rich household in Joplin and move that family to San Francisco. They might well live in much “less than” housing, etc. than in Joplin.

Now in terms of educating kids, in Joplin or San Francisco, should not the basic goal be to produce all kids in either city as “proficient” in level of knowledge and behavior? By that I mean all kids in both cities should be able to, taught to be able to, do, at least, the grade level in math, English, etc. in both schools systems to be deemed proficient in each school? In a perfect world, that would certainly be the goal, all kids brought to a common national level of expectations (or above) in school, demographics be damned.

What I am proposing is simple in concept. K12 public education must have the goal of sending every kid out into society as a “proficient kid”, able to achieve things for themselves in any society in America, at some basic level. In other words, demographics are brought UP to a common level in America, not allowing demographics to dictate what a common level is in Joplin today.

Instead, much argument is over bringing education down to a level that demographically local folks are satisfied. I can’t “do math” so why should my kid do it? And if my kid doesn’t “do math” very well, don’t you dare fail him!! By “doing math” I mean reaching a level of mathematical skill to do …… in society, anywhere in America, or the world for that matter.

You see “proficiency” becomes some level of a skill required by good citizens in society. It is ultimately dictated by society, not teachers or even parents and educators. It is what becomes “required” of every good citizen. To set a level of knowledge deemed proficient in Joplin, by some people that in fact are not proficient, is not the correct goal. “Proficency” in academics is set by society in the demands placed on people by society.

And God forbid, assigning grades as proficient or above when in fact a kid is less than proficient is a disservice to the kid, his parents and society as a whole. Schools send a signal that “their kids” are all just doing fine. Yet when many of those kids enter society, well watch out!!

I believe since the inception of NCLB there has been a wakeup call that many Americans do not at all like. About 50% or more, nation-wide, of American kids are less than proficient, in fact, not just test scores. Changing tests, giving false grades in school might show kids and certain schools are doing just fine. But then when those kids enter society, well watch out. Reality in living life in America or the world is not measured in grades from schools. But measured it is for sure, in any society. Some do great things, others get along and some fail, in society by becoming drags on society and demanding that society simply “give” them what they think they deserve.

The ultimate goal of public education is to eliminate that last class of people in America, people unwilling or unable to fend for themselves during their adult life as working Americans. To do that, demographics must IMPROVE up to better standards of living. Education more than any single thing will help to achieve that goal, real education reported honestly and as accurately as possible based on performance in the education system for 12 years for every child in America. Each school should do exactly that and not expect outsiders to tell them they are not achieving the correct level of behavior and knowledge gained.

As said in a recent column in the Globe I believe our local public education system has the tools, policies, procedures, etc., to IMPROVE our demographics in education UP to a better level for kids. All we must do is now use those tools and REPORT reality in terms of student achievement, on every report card for every student in every grade and core subject. Note core subject is as far as I go in such grading requirements. Music, gym classes, home economic, etc. is not my quest to grade students in proficiency as a matter of priority. But core subjects are in fact needed by every adult in society. Some, many perhaps will not have to use “geometry” in their lives, but they must have the processes to think and reason like they have to do in a good geometry class, or English class, etc. As for science, most citizens use it all the time without thinking of it as science. How long should it take to drive to Kansas City is physics at a very basic level, as only an example. If I leave at a certain time, must I speed to get there when I want to get there is another example.

I want to know, and I hope society wants to know, those people that are not proficient in certain things. That does not mean we cast them aside either. It simply means we won’t expect them to be a “rocket scientist” (or carry a 300 pound load) and put them into the right starting position in society as adults. Then when they start at that point, minimum wage perhaps, they have all the opportunity in the world to become proficient at a higher level as well to move up the rungs of demographics in society based on being the Best They Can Be, themselves.

I am a high school graduate SHOULD MEAN I have achieved a grade level (12th grade) level of proficiency in academics and behavior, demonstrated knowledge and behavior. Give other pieces of paper clearly showing what others have achieved as well but not a high school diploma for less than proficient performance in schools. That is like giving a trophy to every kid on the team and that degrades America in the long run, even though kids and parents “feel better”.

Education is not about feeling good. It must be about learning and behaving as expected by a reasonable society in America, not just Joplin.

RUSSIAN SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES

October 20, 2014

RUSSIAN SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES

Go to http://www.aol.com/article/2014/10/20/sweden-3-credible-sightings-in-submarine-search/20980869/?icid=maing-grid7%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl5%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D548587 to read of a search for a possible Russian submarine, nuclear or not is not reported, near Sweden. No, I in no way consider such to be a “threat”, to Sweden or anyone else, so far. But an indicator of renewed Russian interests outside its own borders, well it might be exactly that if Swedish suspicions are confirmed.

Make no mistake; the submarine force of the Soviet Union during the Cold War was a real, potential threat to America, for sure. I spent a whole career trying to understand and be able to counter that threat. It was real and it was dangerous, to America and for 23 years I did all I could to be ready to respond to such a threat in wartime. It was expensive but necessary in my view for America to do exactly that during that 50 year confrontation with the Soviet Union. Based on post Cold War comments by former Soviet leaders, our American submarine force efforts were effective as a deterrent force as well.

A few years ago, maybe two or three, as Putin continued to strengthen his power in Russia, I wrote a blog warning to keep a close eye on new Russian submarine operations world-wide. If they increased, from little or no Russian submarine operations outside of Russian home waters since 1991, near their own coasts and ports, then all would be reasonably well on that count. But if such activity was found, then a close eye on just Russian submarines would be warranted.

There is much I do not know about the recent activity near Sweden in the Baltic Sea. It is a sea I never travelled in during the Cold War as well. Soviet subs in the Baltic were not a direct threat to America by and large so as far as I know American nuclear submarines were seldom used in that sea during the Cold War. Other western countries protected western interests therein instead.

I feel the same way today. If Russia chooses to use submarines to “lurk”, spy if you will, around Sweden, let the Swedish Navy contain it, in their own waters is my call. But if such new Russian submarine activity represents a broader Russian use of nuclear submarines around the world today, well we must be aware of it and ready, now to respond to such new activity.

Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) is a daunting task, during the Cold War and any other time. It is expensive and requires a combined arms approach using a broad spectrum of American military power. Air power and surface ships able to find and isolate a nuclear submarine in any international waters and American submarine activity near Russian borders (but only operating in international waters as well) is required. As well a full up electronic surveillance of any submarine related transmissions is needed.

Finding and isolating a submerged nuclear submarine is hard work and demands the highest level of technical competence. But even more important is the training and professionalism of the men and women conducting world-wide ASW operations. We had such professional forces during the Cold War.

Do we have them now? Should we have such forces, now? If the answer to the last question is yes, and I believe it should be, then I wonder what any administration will do, now or in the future, to be able to again counter such a Russian capability?

No I am not calling for a huge and sudden increase in American defense spending because a Russian submarine might be near Sweden today. But we must continue to consider the ASW capability of our Navy as a strategic concern today.

It is yet another point to at least think about and certainly debate within our defense establishment, including the White House, today and tomorrow. In matters related to ASW being ready is daunting and expensive. But the need to be ready, long before tensions increase to the point of ….. should be carefully considered, today and tomorrow. Just something else to worry about in still a dangerous world.

PREVENTING, CONTAINING AND TREATING EBOLA

October 16, 2014

PREVENTING, CONTAINING AND TREATING EBOLA

Two of the three actions in the title of this blog are indeed “rocket science”, very hard to do technically. But the third element, containing the “bug” of Ebola is NOT a medical mandate, alone, nor does it take a “rocket scientist” to figure out what to do. I would add the Federal Government and the Center for Disease Control, CDC will flop around forever trying to provide “procedures” to do so, contain Ebola once it gets “out” which has already happened in America, but not yet Joplin.

What it will take is absolutely firm and effective local leadership wherever the disease is found, period. Isolate, contain the people and materials with the disease, or even might have been infected by the disease, until it can be proven beyond a doubt they do not have the “bug” inside or “on” them, each and every one of them and everything they touch.

Doing just that, isolating and containing both people and materials that “might have” the disease of Ebola takes command and control, of people and materials. That is not a medical challenge alone. It is a challenge for leaders to command and control anyone that has come into contact with that invisible, until it is too late, disease, for now at least.

I am in no way a medical expert, a doctor or anyone that knows much at all about disease and how to prevent it or treat it. Medical experts are the only ones that can develop a vaccine or treat infected people. As well medical experts are the only ones to develop tests to find the disease in people before they present, physically, with the disease in terms of temperature, vomiting, etc. There “should be” a blood test or “something” to detect the presence of Ebola in a body or on an object, before the bad stuff starts presenting. But that seems to take time as well to develop such tests. Go to work CDC and do that if you please.

So why do I try to write with any confidence on containing a “bug”? I submit that I did exactly that for 35 years, rather intensely. Except containing bad stuff and resolving issues when it was accidently released to the public environment was limited to radioactive materials, not “bugs”. But believe you me the risk to the public of release of radioactive material can approach the dangers of releasing Ebola into America, which has now happened.

As a nuclear trained naval officer and later an executive in charge of a very large and dangerous radioactive facility, I ran countless “drills”, table top exercises, manned up emergency action centers, even coordinated things with local police and fire fighters and hospitals during simulated accidents. Thankfully I never had to do it “for real” as I never was around a major nuclear release. But if such had happened, I was trained myself and trained many others to deal with it, correctly.

If someone gets a microscopic “bug”, Ebola, inside themselves today they are likely to die so far. Get an invisible and very hard to detect microgram of plutonium in your lungs and you are likely to die, in about 25 years from lung cancer. So containing just plutonium, all 57 tons of it in nuclear materials and facilities was very much part of my job a few years ago. And I did that in the same way I would do it if I heard of an Ebola case in Freeman Hospital, if I was in a position of leadership in Joplin, government leadership, like a Mayor or City Manager. A rapid and effective response to contain further spread of the disease outside of that hospital would be MY job, at least in my mind. And I would not bother calling the CDC to ask how to do that and wait for an answer!!

I offer just two examples, both of which require the same action in terms of containment.

Say a large truck carrying highly dangerous “plutonium” crashes on I44, in Joplin. OR a stranger is walking down I44, sick as a dog, vomiting, etc. Both “accidents” MUST be contained, right where they are found, immediately and effectively with NO mistakes allowed, period. I only address “the man” one individual found that might have the disease of Ebola from here on in.

“Wrap him up”, completely by emergency responders arriving on the scene. Rubber sheets, poly bags over his arms and legs, blankets, anything available to prevent the further spread of the virus, possible spread of the virus. Be conservative to be safe. Isolate that area around him, make it a big area to be safe and do not allow ANYONE to enter that area, no mistakes, after initial emergency responders arrive to care for the man. And of course they must be assumed to be fully contaminated as well, whether they are or not to be determined elsewhere and much later. Contain such responders at the scene until……

Transport the man to a local medical facility, one ready to receive an Ebola patient. Do we have ANY such facilities right now in Joplin, a hospital ready and willing to receive an Ebola patient? If not, why not and it is something to do now to be ready, if…… Or we can wait to actually find an Ebola infected person and then call for help from the CDC, right?

The ambulance and medical responders transporting the man to the medical facility must also be assumed to be contaminated with the “bug” until PROVEN otherwise. Same applies to every nurse, hospital worker or doctor that comes anywhere close to that man. Any material, stretchers, rags, towels, rubber sheets, etc. must also be treated as very deadly stuff, period.

Where does one throw away a dirty towel, today in Joplin that might have Ebola on it? Once that waste is thrown into a “can” a properly labeled and sealed “can” how is that “can” disposed and where and when? If those answers are not clear right now, well should they be well understood, by every emergency responder or health care worker or ambulance attendant or citizen trying to “help” a very sick man, NOW, not just when it happens?

Of course when one sick man with a life threatening disease arrives accidentally in Joplin care MUST be provided in such an emergency. Of course such care should only be provided by trained and responsible personnel as well. Training however is only half the demand. Responsibility, at the individual level, is an absolute MUST, when dealing with “bugs or plutonium”. Not only must one be trained to put on the right protection, they must actually do exactly that, every time they don the hazmat suits, every time, no mistakes allow or ……. They must all take off such suits in a highly controlled manner and dispose of the waste strictly and very carefully, all of it.

That my readers is very hard to do for anyone, do everything right as if your life depends on it. In the case of Ebola or “plutonium” such is exactly the case and everyone involved, tired, overworked, or not, must do so, all the time, or …… Now go train everyone to do that, all the time. Impossible I say.

So independent monitoring, people that sit back and watch, people that KNOW what to do but only observe others doing it are very important to such emergencies. And they must have the authority to STOP potentially unsafe actions WHEN they happen, not hours after a torn glove is found and everyone says “opps”.

Now do you understand why I consider such emergency actions to first be a matter of command and control? Sure training helps but I submit that if a given emergency responder in Joplin today knows how to respond and contain a radioactive spill on I44 they can effectively respond, in an emergency, to that sick man proposed herein. A firefighter with a mask and full fire protection clothing will be as safe dealing with Ebola, for a while, as he would be responding to a radioactive spill. Sure extract measures once the emergency is contained would be required for Ebola, medical measures, but that is not the initial need to respond to the first emergency.

One last point for this situation, a person is found in Joplin with Ebola. This is where command and control of the finest sort, and toughest sort I would add, is critical and potentially highly unpopular. People would be outraged to do what I suggest.

Anyone within “breathing” distance or certainly anyone that comes into contact with an Ebola patient without full and effective protective clothing, must be medially isolated and contained , period until it is PROVEN they do not have the disease. No contact with anyone other than trained and protected medical personnel for as long as it takes to PROVE they are not sick with Ebola. Just how do we do that, Mr. CDC? You should be the expert to offer such advice. Wait at least 21 days, in isolation, is all I know to do, for now, to be SURE and thus safe.

Every emergency responder initially arriving on the scene without full hazmat protection must be so isolated. Every ambulance and people in every ambulance must be isolated. Every nurse, health care provider, doctor, citizen sitting in an emergency room, etc. that comes within such “distance” of an Ebola patient must be isolated, for as long as it takes, period. Unprotected trash haulers, etc. fall into that category as well, and the people operating the incinerator, etc., or God forbid the trash dump!!!

As for traveling, going home to family, going shopping, are you kidding me. Would you do THAT, to your family, other travelers, or the general public with which you mixed, until you were sure, no guessing allowed, that you were not contaminated?

Sure that is very conservative, inconvenient, makes people mad, etc. But I assert it is the only way to be safe, as anyone can be safe so far, from further spread of a very deadly and not yet well understood disease.

Can you imagine a public figure, a mayor or city manager or even hospital president ORDERING such actions? I can’t yet. But by God if I was “in charge” that is exactly what I would so “order” and put cops on the street to ensure compliance, total compliance, mobs in protest be damned in such a case.

Will our President so order, or our Governor, or the Director of the CDC? Not a chance or a snowballs chance in hell. Is such command and control needed however, for now, with Ebola? I’ll let you decide.

As for our current emergency responders, hospitals, even schools, are they now ready and willing to do what it takes IF Ebola shows up in Joplin, an unlikely but possible event. I submit they will not be so ready, today, unless they at least consider what I have written herein and then do as they deem best after being exposed at least to what I think must be done, if……

Everyone in America wants to be safe from Ebola. But is everyone in America ready and willing to do what it takes to achieve such safety? Asking, demanding just the government fix it won’t work, now that the stuff is here, which should not have happened in the first place but is now beside the point.

I’M NOT SURE, ARE YOU?

October 14, 2014

I’M NOT SURE, ARE YOU?

A recent column in the Globe by Herb Van Fleet and the subsequent exchange on the Erstwhile Conservative (liberal in the extreme) blog has prompted me to restate the fundamental reason I have been blogging now for some six or so years. The title of this posting and the overall blog itself is the reason.

I want to explore how best to resolve complex problems in America today. I thus write many opinions on every subject under the sun to some degree. But never, have I intended to proclaim absolute truth in such views coming from me. I admit my style of writing is “authoritative”, in your face sometimes but that is just me, how I talk, act, write, etc. But if you pay attention over time you will find that my frequent opinions will be modified, even changed, from time to time. Sometimes I am not even aware of such changes as well as they “grew within me” step by slow step.

I also have participated in Duane Graham’s blog as a commenter for almost all of the past six years. Sure I have gotten mad as hell at some things he writes and even madder at some of the comments offered back in my face. But I get over the anger and actually think, most of the time, about what is written “over there”. I would lose valuable input to my individual attempts to both learn more and even develop better opinions about the world around us if I just ignored detractors.

In the multitude of people I have engaged with “over there” and in this blog as well, I can honestly say I have never met hardly any of them. I have met with and talked with both Herb Van Fleet, the brother of a good friend of mine, and Duane rather briefly several years ago. As far as I can recall I have never met and talked with anyone else “over there”. All we know about each other is what we write, usually against each other’s views, “over there”.

The same is true for commenters in this blog. Geoff Caldwell is the only one that I have ever met as far as I can remember. OK, a recent commenter, Anita, is another one. If I left out others I apologize to make a bigger point.

That point of course is that, despite the information age, we really don’t “know” many people with whom we now engage. Anyone reading this blog or my comments on others have no way of really knowing me, or me knowing you. Put me into the “stupid or arrogant box” and so be it. You know me well enough to do so, in your opinion only of course. But I submit you really don’t “know” me and what really makes me “tick” in daily life. Just like I don’t “know” President Obama in any meaningful way as well. I can only guess about such matters and then spout off, acting like I know stuff that I actually don’t know in any depth.

What got me thinking about all of this stuff is the issue of who should vote in America and how they should vote. All else aside, every American citizen should be able to vote in every election, but only once for sure, for which they are registered (or qualified) to vote. How they vote is up to them.

I also don’t demand that all American citizens vote “intelligently”. No way should an IQ test be part of mandating who can vote, or how much money they make or don’t make, where the live, what job they have or don’t have, etc. All I ask but cannot demand under law is that people vote only when really informed about the pros and cons of their decisions made in a ballot box.

No way can we write laws mandating such a thing, being informed, or give tests to measure the degree of information absorbed or even a more intrusive test to determine WHY they voted as they did.

But there is nothing wrong at all by ASKING people to vote only when they understand what they are voting for or against, at least to the best of their ability.

I am never sure, for sure, that I vote correctly every time. But I sure give it my best shot to do so, be sure I think I am voting correctly. I believe all Americans should do so as well, but I am not the one to dictate such a requirement to prove it, to themselves or anyone else.

Said another way, never would I call for legally excluding someone from voting because they were “dumb as a post”. I would only ask that they do their best to be an informed “post” so they at least understand what they are doing. One does not have to read and write to become informed in today’s world. But it takes hard work to achieve enough information to make big decisions, which voting certainly should be, a big decision.

From time to time I leave blank choices on a ballot, usually local ones, simply because I have no idea who (or what) I am voting for. Never heard or them or met them, locally, or read their views on anything. I choose NOT to vote in that particular selection simply because “I don’t know” how to vote.

I believe that is a fair request of all American voters.

OPERATING IN A CRISIS MODE

October 9, 2014

OPERATING IN A CRISIS MODE

Since 9/11 at least, and maybe before then, American foreign policy has been operating from crisis to crisis, not by long term and effective leadership. It is time to stop doing that. I make that statement apolitically as well. There is enough blame to go around for both political parties and their chosen leaders, in public or behind the scenes.

For 50 plus years after WWII our foreign policy was driven by opposition to communism. We put in place the conventional and nuclear forces to deter war and always let others know we would use the power “if……..” Sure we made mistakes along the way but overall the world was kept safe from major wars as a result of our UNITED agreement in America to do all possible to deter war with communism and let it simply die a natural death, on the vine so to speak. I submit it worked, overall.

Now you tell me which is worse. A monolithic communist threat, bristling with conventional and nuclear power, or a secret, sneaky monolithic threat from radical Islam? At least that communist threat did not use sneaky conventional power, terrorism, to kill 3000 Americans in one day in a coordinated attack. So again, which is/was worse?

In my view they both are equal in terms of threats to America. One was upfront and directly in our face, so to speak with massive forces arrayed along a “line” that was never crossed, by either side. You do your thing over there and we will do ours here. Let the winner be decided over time. We won!!

For at least 14 years, and longer if you take the initial immergence of Al-Qaeda, we have faced a brutal, sneaky, violent in the extreme, large group of “nuts”, religious nuts, bent on our destruction when possible and diminishment when they failed to blow us up, or our friends be destroyed in our place. And it is today a real mess, period. As a result America is experiencing decline in many areas, over there and here at home. It is time to “bend that curve” back up, militarily, economically and spiritually in America.

NO, when I say spiritually I don’t mean using religion as our motivation. Rather it is time for Americans to relearn what our basic values really might be and then develop the moral, physical and emotional strength to fight with every means possible against crazy opponents that want to destroy those values, here and over there.

Want another “which is worse”? How about Hitler killing millions in Europe and trying to wipe out the Jewish race, or radical Islamists limited to killing only hundreds of thousands so far, but also trying to wipe out the Jewish race?

Leon Panetta said recently in an interview with Bill O’Reilly that he felt our government was operating from crisis to crisis, implying no plan to prevent such crises in the first place. I certainly agree with him and believe such “crisis management” has been happening at least since 9/11. Many believe we over reacted under Bush and now have under reacted under Obama. I blame both Presidents for such reactions without being guided by an underlying and united , politically, approach to deal with radical Islam.

At least in terms of foreign policy that will be the key debate in the 2016 Presidential campaign. You can bet on that for sure. What we need, be it Democrat or GOP, is a leader to emerge that can and will unite the country for a long term and effective battle against radical Islam. Maybe “battle” is the wrong word. To me “war” better describes the intractable ideology we face from radical Islam (or Nazis in Germany long ago). No, all Germans were not bad, but …….????

I will be so bold as to suggest that there is a template to follow, something done before that has worked, against radicals in the Muslim world. I use that term rather broadly as well, radicals in the Muslim world. Force, modern force going far beyond just “boots on a battle field” has kept Israel safe or at least “alive” in the face of the same threat we face today, Islamists that want to kill them, and now us. Since Egypt got its ass kicked in 1973 by Israeli military power, all out (except nuclear) power, Israel has not had to use overwhelming military power to remain intact and relatively secure. As well radical Islam, while it still tries hard to diminish Israel, make Israeli’s afraid, willing to bow down to outrageous demands, etc., those radicals suffer greatly and secretly, all the time.

That “game”, the use of raw terror against Israel was first seen in 1972, in Munich. It took about 4 years but every member of Black September was dead as a doornail after Israel, led by a very brave and determined Prime Minister told her men (and women) to “go forth and …….”. Did innocent people get killed in such attacks? I don’t know and really don’t care and I would never have asked Golda to prosecute each terrorist in a court of law at the time. Sure if Israel had blown up a whole city in the Arab World or invaded Saudi Arabia shortly after Munich, I would wonder ………! But instead Israel went all out to achieve about 20 “eyes” for the nine Israeli’s killed, slaughtered, in Munich before the eyes of the whole world.

I once had a professor with a sign on his desk saying “an eye for an eye and an eye for a tooth”! Said another way, get in our face and you will surely lose your whole face, no moral restraint applied as well, man to man so to speak. When someone tries to get into a bar fight with Israel, even today, they might find themselves confronted with a tank, not just a strong set of fists!! That is deterrence of the finest sort, in my view.

Israel rarely wins the PR war today. CAIR (spelling?), that public organization supporting Muslims (including the radical ones) makes all sorts of humanitarian cases against Israel and many in the West believe such “stuff” (crap in my view). But put missiles into Israel from schools in Gaza and see what you get, public support in the West, or not!!

You see “land for peace” is not the Israel concern. It is who will live on the land provided and how they will act against Israel is what drives their foreign policy. If Hamas keeps doing what Hamas wants to do against Israel, the population of the Sinai Desert will increase by a million or so souls, refugees from Gaza returning to a nomadic, desert life, riding camels instead of shooting modern missiles at Israel. That is not very humanitarian but ……..?

From 1945 up to about 1989 America faced “godless, communist hordes” opposing America. We won. Today America faces “god fearing Islamic hordes” bent on even more destruction to America. Can we win that one?

You bet we can, if ………..?

Just consider this “little” example. Think of Benghazi as a form of our own “Munich”. I am sure we have pictures of about 100 TERRORISTS (not protestors) killing Americans. So how many “eyes” should we now be collecting secretly but VERY effectively, with no gloves on those men and women collecting and killing the “eyes” from Benghazi? Rule of law my ass. They sure failed to follow any law, other than Sharia Law and Allah’s Will, maybe.

As well, where exactly did those terrorists at Benghazi get their arms, etc.? That stuff costs money. Where did the money come from, I wonder. Go kill that source as well in terms of 21st Century Law if you will, the law that says we are right and they are wrong!!

CREATIVITY

October 6, 2014

CREATIVITY

Readers outside of Joplin might want to check my Monday, October 06, 2014 column in the Globe at http://www.joplinglobe.com/opinion/article_036d26b6-4d61-11e4-b19f-cbcda1e01257.html. Following a great dedication ceremony for our new High School, along with the completion of all rebuilding (about six new schools) and repair of others following our tornado, I speak of the great challenge now remaining for Joplin public education, at least in my view. We have 21st Century facilities but now need to put the standards, curriculum and rigor inside each of those buildings to greatly improve the public education of our students in Joplin.

So why do I entitle this blog “Creativity”?

I do so because it is a word often heard about a goal for public education, to enhance the creativity of students. I disagree, rather strongly with such a goal at least within K12 levels of education. The ONLY valid goal for K12 public education should be grade level achievement in academics and behavior for each student in every public school. Taking it one step further, I call for progressive, grade level achievement in reading, writing and arithmetic and behavior in school appropriate for good citizens throughout 12 years of public education.

Is creativity important? Yes it is. But before someone can really demonstrate creativity they must first learn the “basics”, both basic knowledge and basic norms of behavior.

Yes, creativity can be encouraged, to some extent, in public schools. But that is an extra if you will and not a fundamental requirement.

Being creative is easy. Just follow your imagination and do what that imagination tells you to do. For some it is fun to do so. And rarely does it require hard work to learn to think, creatively. One can just grab a “trumpet” (any musical instrument) and create “noise”. One can also grab a hand full of paint and throw it on a canvas to create “art”. And of course anyone can come up with an “idea” and stand in the street to promote that idea. But the “idea” itself may well be just more “noise”, public noise with the loudest getting their way, they hope.

A month or so ago I published a blog on the progress of science in Cosmic and elementary particle physics. I was amazed at that progress achieved since I attended college fifty years ago. That progress was “creative”, beyond my own imagination in terms of better understanding of our world and the universe(s) in which that world exists today. But to even come close to understanding that progress demanded a basic level of skill to read, write and do arithmetic is required to understand such progress.

Take any burning public issue today in Joplin or America. It takes a lot of reading and hard work to even begin to understand the complexity of such issues before reaching one’s own opinion of solutions and then expressing those opinions constructively. Yet I firmly believe less than half of our high school graduates today have such skills, or interests for that matter, to understand better the world in which we all must live.

Let me put it this way. I would hope, even demand, that every high school graduate be able to read a news column in any newspaper (I think they are written to the eighth grade level of reading skills), understand what was reported and be able to write a one page essay capturing the essence of the information in a given column. It the subject is say economics the reader should be able to do the math to understand what is written as well.

Note, I did not say such a reader should be able to form an opinion of that information as a first step. No, they should just be able to UNDERSTAND what was written. Then and only then should they be able to take the next step and form an opinion about the topic written in a news article. If the information is even remotely complex or controversial they should also know that they must do MORE reading about the subject and not form opinions based on just one article, most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not object in any way to creativity. But I appreciate creativity only from mature adults, people that first know the basics of how to read, write and do arithmetic. Then when opinions are formed, say political opinions, it is fine to disagree, debate, promote or discourage new ideas, new ways of thinking based on knowledge and normal rules of behavior to promote new ideas, creative ideas.

Far too many citizens today form opinions without doing the basic work to study the ideas behind the opinions. No good citizen should just make “noise” alone. In a democracy, a very “noisy place” ideas must be developed in an informative and carefully considered process. If a citizen cannot read, write and do arithmetic (all three) to a 12th grade level at least, then the likelihood of just producing “noise” is enhanced and destructive to a democratic society.

Gaining information through reading, writing and arithmetic should be the basic level of instruction in K12 education. After that ability is learned and used on a daily basis, then go be as creative as one can be is my call.

A BRITISH PERSECTIVE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

October 2, 2014

About 30 minutes after posting my last blog, “Who is the Enemy?” I came across the below pasted article. I offer it as food for thought as America tries to navigate this minefield of War and Peace in the Middle East.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 1st October 2014

Let´s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely
this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at blowing up Islamic State,
when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all,
was last year´s moral imperative. What´s changed?

How about blasting the Shia militias in Iraq? One of them selected 40 people
from the streets of Baghdad in June and murdered them for being Sunnis.
Another massacred 68 people at a mosque in August. They now talk openly of
“cleansing” and “erasure”, once the Islamic State has been defeated. As a senior
Shia politician warns, “we are in the process of creating Shia al-Qaida radical
groups equal in their radicalisation to the Sunni Qaida.”

What humanitarian principle instructs you to stop there? In Gaza this year, 2,100
Palestinians were massacred: including people taking shelter in schools and
hospitals. Surely these atrocities demand an air war against Israel? And what´s
the moral basis for refusing to liquidate Iran? Mohsen Amir-Aslani was hanged
there last week for making “innovations in the religion” (suggesting that the story
of Jonah in the Qu´ran was symbolic rather than literal). Surely that should
inspire humanitarian action from above? Pakistan is crying out for friendly
bombs: an elderly British man, Mohammed Asghar, who suffers from paranoid
schizophrenia, is, like other blasphemers, awaiting execution there after claiming
to be a holy prophet. One of his prison guards has already shot him in the back.

Is there not an urgent duty to blow up Saudi Arabia? It has beheaded 59 people
so far this year, for offences that include adultery, sorcery and witchcraft. It has
long presented a far greater threat to the west than Isis now poses. In 2009
Hillary Clinton warned in a secret memo that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical
financial support base for al-Qa´ida, the Taliban … and other terrorist groups.” In
July, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, revealed that Prince Bandar
bin Sultan, until recently the head of Saudi intelligence, told him: “The time is not
far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally `God help the Shia´.
More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.” Saudi support for
extreme Sunni militias in Syria during Bandar´s tenure is widely blamed for the
rapid rise of Isis. Why take out the subsidiary and spare the headquarters?

The humanitarian arguments aired in parliament last week, if consistently
applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East and West Asia. By this
means you could end all human suffering, liberating the people of these regions
from the vale of tears in which they live.

Perhaps this is the plan: Barack Obama has now bombed seven largely-Muslim
countries, in each case citing a moral imperative. The result, as you can see in
Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan,Yemen, Somalia and Syria, has been the
eradication of jihadi groups, of conflict, chaos, murder, oppression and torture.
Evil has been driven from the face of the earth by the destroying angels of the
west.

Now we have a new target, and a new reason to dispense mercy from the sky,
with similar prospects of success. Yes, the agenda and practices of Isis are
disgusting. It murders and tortures, terrorises and threatens. As Obama says, it
is a “network of death”. But it´s one of many networks of death. Worse still, a
western crusade appears to be exactly what it wants.

Already Obama´s bombings have brought Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, a rival militia
affiliated to Al Qaeda, together. More than 6,000 fighters have joined Isis since
the bombardment began. They dangled the heads of their victims in front of the
cameras as bait for war planes. And our governments were stupid enough to
take it.

And if the bombing succeeds? If – and it´s a big if – it manages to tilt the balance
against Isis, what then? Then we´ll start hearing once more about Shia death
squads and the moral imperative to destroy them too – and any civilians who
happen to get in the way. The targets change; the policy doesn´t. Never mind the
question, the answer is bombs. In the name of peace and the preservation of
life, our governments wage perpetual war.

While the bombs fall, our states befriend and defend other networks of death.
The US government still refuses – despite Obama´s promise – to release the 28
redacted pages from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11, which document
Saudi Arabian complicity in the attack on America. In the UK, in 2004 the
Serious Fraud Office began investigating allegations of massive bribes paid by
the British weapons company BAE to Saudi ministers and middlemen. Just as
the crucial evidence was about to be released, Tony Blair intervened to stop the
investigation. The biggest alleged beneficiary was Prince Bandar, mentioned
above. The Serious Fraud Office was investigating a claim that, with the
approval of the British government, he received £1bn in secret payments from
BAE.

And still it goes on. Last week´s Private Eye, drawing on a dossier of recordings
and emails, alleges that a British company has paid £300m in bribes to facilitate
weapons sales to the Saudi National Guard. When a whistleblower in the
company reported these payments to the British ministry of defence, instead of
taking action it alerted his bosses. He had to flee the country to avoid being
thrown into a Saudi jail. Smirking, lying, two-faced bastards – this scarcely
begins to touch it.

There are no good solutions that military intervention by the UK or the US can
engineer. There are political solutions in which our governments could play a
minor role: supporting the development of effective states that don´t rely on
murder and militias, building civic institutions that don´t depend on terror, helping
to create safe passage and aid for people at risk. Oh, and ceasing to protect and
sponsor and arm selected networks of death. Whenever our armed forces have
bombed or invaded Muslim nations, they have made life worse for those who live
there. The regions in which our governments have intervened most are those
which suffer most from terrorism and war. That is neither coincidental nor
surprising.

Yet our politicians affect to learn nothing. Insisting that more killing will magically
resolve deep-rooted conflicts, they scatter bombs like fairy dust.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/30/isis-bomb-muslim-world

-air-strikes-saudi-arabia#start-of-comments

and…

http://www.monbiot.com/2014/09/30/bomb-everyone/ (with references)

WHO IS THE ENEMY?

October 2, 2014

WHO IS THE ENEMY?

How can a war be fought unless it is clear who, exactly, is the enemy? As I review the war against ISIL in Syria and Iraq right now, that question comes to mind for me.

I limit the discussion in this blog only to Syrian interests, Turkish interests, radical Islamic interests, Kurdish interests and America. I leave out any comments related to Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Russia, Egypt, and pick others if you like.

Syrian interests, meaning the interests of the Assad government in Syria are focused on one thing, keeping Assad and his government in power in Syria. So in this blog when I say “Syria” consider it to be “Assad” as well. Turkey is synonymous with the policies of President Tayyip Erdogan. When I speak of America I also mean Obama.

The other players engaged with America in Syria, for the moment, are ISIL, led by I know not who exactly, Al-Qaeda, led by I’m not sure at all at least in the Syrian/Turkish region, and the Khorasan Group, led by I have no idea. Nor do I have any clear understanding of the relationships between ISIL, Al-Qaeda and the Khorasan Group, other than they all are trying to get out from under any American bombs being dropped in that region. Sure they all want Assad out of power (and beheaded probably) but beyond that point, well your guess is as good as mine.

I have found a quote recently made that “ISIL is the greatest threat to Turkey since Stalin in 1946” Old Joe wanted Turkey to secede the Bosporus Straits to the Soviet Union at that time. Now it seems ISIL (and others maybe) want to reestablish an Islamic Caliphate in Turkey, as well as in Syria and Iraq, for now.

Of course the Kurds, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), have been fighting against Turkey for some three decades now, trying to form a region of Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. That organization has been declared a terrorist organization by both Turkey and America.

But the Kurd’s also now have the People’s Defense Unit (YPG) fighting against ISIL (and ……..?) in both Syria and Iraq. Is there now a form of alliance between YPG and PKK? And if there is such a short term common goal against ISIL, how can America determine who to bomb? Turkey of course would like us to bomb PKK. How President Erdogan might feel about dropping a few bombs on YPG is unknown for now, at least to me.

Erdogan’s position so far is that America has the military power to destroy ISIL, but he also has stated firmly that air power alone will not do the trick. As well Turkey, while agreeing to provide intelligence and some logistic support to American efforts in Syria, there is an American air base in Incirlik, Turkey not being used to launch air strikes anywhere. Actually what Erdogan really wants is American military power to be used to destroy ISIL, ……., AND Assad!!! But no, don’t ask Turkey for meaningful help at this point in time it seems.

Of course “the Kurds” (whatever that term means) would like America to bomb Syria, Iraq, Turkey, ISIL (and ……) in order to establish a Kurdish region somewhere near where ISIL is right now, it seems. But obviously all the various Kurdish ground military power is insufficient to occupy whatever areas America might bomb. So they need help on the ground from ………?

As for some simple geography, keep an eye right now on Kobani, a Syrian village and Yumurtalik, a Syrian/Turkish border crossing. There are some 1.5 Million Syrian refuges that have used that crossing to get away from ISIL (and …….?) and now residing in Turkey.

Now are you the reader impressed with such a comprehensive summary of just one region in the Middle East with American military power on display? Wrong of course as I got all of the above information from one AOL News article today, Thursday, October 02, 2014. But I had to write down on a piece of paper all the players reported in that one article.

Other than ISIL and the Khorasan Group, I have no idea who else we should be bombing, right now. I also have no idea how we know which targets are ONLY ISIL and Khorasan Group men, facilities and equipment, not for goodness sakes, “civilians” of any sort. To me this is like a company of Marines trying to “take a village” in Iraq or Afghanistan over the last 13 years. Who do you really know to shoot (at)?

This of course leads me to a basic question. Just what the hell are we TRYING to do “over there”, right now. IF that answer is simply to destroy ISIL, then I ask how in the hell we expect to do THAT, right now or even in the next few years. Does anyone believe the American public will allow this current effort to go on for a couple of months, much less a few years?

Just wait, as only one simple example, for a picture to be shown on American TV with some 25 school kids dead on the ground because an American bomb hit their school, village square, a couple of buildings, etc.? Even if the dead bodies were all young ISIL fighters how would we be able to distinguish that fact in a picture? Are American pilots only allowed to bomb any people over the age of 18, or 21? Maybe if ISIL fighters of any age, creed, etc . . . . were told by the UN to wear ID cards on the top of their turbans American pilots might not incur any “collateral damage”!!!!

Whether the American people acknowledge it or not, we have been fighting this “war against ……” since 9/11/2001. Now look at how we are trying to fight it today.

If I get confused from one, single media article, just imagine how hard it is for the real “deciders” in this case, today and yesterday, and probably tomorrow as well.

Maybe we should try this approach. Put Bush II, Obama and Bill Clinton in a room together and tell THEM to sort it out for us. If I was able to put ONE advisor in that room to help, I would pick General Petraeus in there. If I could pick a second one I would put General McChrystal in there as well. But no, that can’t happen as both of those men said or did the wrong things, with one woman and one reporter!!!

Summing up, I am CONFUSED and WORRIED. Are you?

THE WEST WING

September 30, 2014

THE WEST WING

I have become a BIG fan of Netflix in the last year or so. I enjoy watching older TV series, without commercial interruption. The West Wing has captured my attention now and I am about half way through the third (of seven) seasons. It depicts a sensible but decidedly liberal administration from 1999 through 2006, centering on the President and his senior staff.

Some have claimed it is a recap of the Clinton Presidency. Certainly it depicts a decidedly Democratic Party administration, constantly engaged with a GOP majority Congress, and the ebb and flow of political differences between liberals and conservatives. What it does not in any way depict however is the tremendous political divide seen today in American politics. In this series politics is just politics without the almost hate filled divide seen today where little or nothing is achieved. Compromise, both between parties and within the administration’s own party is the theme seen again and again, at least in terms of domestic issues.

The domestic political divide is shown at the fundamental level as between bigger or smaller federal government. The administration is always on the side of doing more for people with less. The opposition party continues to attempt to keep the federal government smaller, not biting off more than any government can achieve, effectively in terms of both cost and simple ability to “move mountains”.

In at least the first three season’s money to fund government is not a big deal. The country is dealing with a budget surplus, not staggering deficits. The argument is simply how best to use the available money, not borrowing, borrowing, borrowing more money. Of course the humanitarian side of the administration gets most of the attention. Some of the political tension is within the administration’s own party where Congressional members constantly try to get more and more for their own districts while the President and his administration try to keep the focus on the greater good for the nation as a whole.

In terms of foreign policy the President is depicted as a hawk that must be restrained by his senior staff in terms of the use of raw military power. Each national security issue that arises, always a regional issue of drug kings, terrorists, bandits or low level dictators attempting to hold or gain power is almost always shown in the White House situation room, with no inter-party debates taking place. It is the President, the Chief of Staff, a wise and strong Secretary of Defense and always mutual respect between the President and uniformed members of the military. I have yet to see an episode where the President and military come to loggerheads over what to do in a given crisis.

I did not watch the series while it was on TV. I had heard that it was far too liberal and many on the right at that time were very negative towards the show. Today I find it entertaining and actually enlightening and can view the series almost apolitically. I see it as a good tug of war between right and left in America, certainly now a fictional situation, and the internal efforts within the “West Wing” to hold political sway, domestically, reminds me of seeing such efforts in the Pentagon during my brief two years in such a “Washington” environment.

Why you might ask did I use the phrase “good tug of war”, above? I use that term because the issues were fundamental politics, legitimate issues if you will. As well the disputes were not over money as such. Rather it was a debate over how best to use the money available rather than calling for unbelievable deficit spending. As well no war was going on with American combat troops engaged all the time in a real fight overseas. All the foreign policy issues were “brush fires” when military power was considered as a tool in foreign policy.

In terms of fictional personalities in the series it of course shows “heroes”. If a viewer takes off any political lenses, the President (Jeb Bartlett played by Martin Sheen) comes off as the kind of President any American would want in that position. He is brilliant, calm, deliberate and very human in both his official capacity and his relationships with staff and his own family. The Chief of Staff is also a consummate leader, tough as nails when needed and willing to use his political hammer as necessary.

The senior staff is a great team yet with all sorts of internal squabbles going on day in and day out. As well if you watch closely it is clear just how hard such people must work, 20 hour days, 24/7 sometimes over really trivial issues. If nothing else it shows just how hard politics is to win, lose or achieve a compromise time and time again with never an end to the upcoming crises. It seems impossible for anyone working in the West Wing to have any time for a personal life whatsoever. I suspect such is reality, not just fiction, on the personal level.

Unfortunately, The West Wing depicts a bygone era now, in my view. The clashes between ideologies took place in that series between traditional America values, but they were constrained clashes with the extremes in ideology never being shown, by and large. “Unilateral War” was never an issue nor was unconstrained spending an issue as well. The National debt, so far at least, is never discussed nor is real war with American combat power fully engaged in two different regions of the world an issue.

As mentioned before the arguments over money were constrained to the use of money available, not borrowed. The use of military power was handled by the administration alone in full cooperation with the uniformed military members present, a very important part of the team related to National Security.

There was no Tea Party in opposition nor was there an extreme liberal ideology trying to do everything wanted rather than only what was really needed and only using available resources.

It is a whole different world, politically, today in America. It is sad to see such a situation today. The extremes of both sides have taken over, unconstrained by things that should be traditionally American.


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