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Friday, December 29, 2006

Sheila's Guest Editorial on the subject of Christmas

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

..........Or, as I like to call it

Why I can't afford Christmas Anymore

-

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

Boot up your P.C.

I’m sending you my E-mail list

(It’s modern, quick and free)

-

Margo wants a pink I-Pod

Cody wants the wii

Mommy wants some diamond studs

Dad – plasma TV

-

Grandma wants a membership

To the local gym

Grandpa wants a crate of steaks

(Tofu’s not for him)

-

My cousin “Jo” what a Ho

I’d love to tell you more

I guess a ten buck gift card works

But from the dollar store

-

As for me dear Santa Clause

I’m not hard at all

Just send cash and loads of it

I’ll need it at the mall

-

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Cheery Kwanzaa, A Jolly Ramadan

Blah, blah, blah…

-

And remember, at your New Year’s Eve party

q Egg nog has 400 calories per cup + 200 extra with the rum

q Champagne has 200 calories, sparkling non-alcoholic wine 80 calories

q Ginger Ale – 40, Club Soda – 0

q Enjoy your cloned hors d’oeuvres

q 0 trans fat crackers with no cholesterol, non fat, gag me with a spoon cheese balls

q or…. Eat the real stuff ‘cause it’s probably our last Christmas on Earth anyway unless the Mayans got it right and we have till 2012 before the planet is turned to powder…

-

So Happy New Years!!

-

Sheila King

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bring Back Who?

Headline, LA Times Editorial Section:
Jonathan Chait: Bring back Saddam Hussein
Restoring the dictator to power may give Iraqis the jolt of authority they need. Have a better solution?

You know, you really have to be doing some serious crack to write stuff like this. I mean already you've got to know this guy has a serious screw loose, but, hey, let's visit this guy's reasoning for just a minute anyway. I haven't visited the wacky palace in years and I have this morbid curiousity. Okay, here goes the rationale (the italics are Jon-Boy's):

1. Yes, I know. Hussein is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear. Bringing the dictator back would sound cruel if it weren't for the fact that all those things are also happening now, probably on a wider scale

Excuse me? Probably on a wider scale. This guy is proposing to bring back Hitler's kid brother because he thinks things may be worse. Let's not do any actual research here. Let's just go by the amount of negative media coverage. After all, a peaceful evening news is much more important than how many people are actually being slaughtered in Iraq.

2. Here is the basic dilemma: The government is run by Shiites, and the security agencies have been overrun by militias and death squads. The government is strong enough to terrorize the Sunnis into rebellion but not strong enough to crush this rebellion.

Okay, so our failure is that we didn't create a government strong enough to CRUSH a rebellion. I am sensing a theme developing here.

3. We may be strong enough to stop large-scale warfare or genocide, but we're not strong enough to stop pervasive chaos.

Oooh, ooh! I get it. Chaos is bad, but nice orderly deliberate mass murder is not so bad.

4. Hussein, however, has a proven record in that department. It may well be possible to reconstitute the Iraqi army and state bureaucracy we disbanded, and if so, that may be the only force capable of imposing order in Iraq

Again the same theme. We must have order above all, even if it means putting the Butcher of Baghdad back in the catbird seat.

5. Chaos and order each have a powerful self-sustaining logic. When people perceive a lack of order, they act in ways that further the disorder.

So, let me make sure I understand this. Chaos and disorder are so bad that we must put Saddam Hussein back in power to scare the bejeebers out of the Iraqis so that they will quit being chaotic and march into the killing fields in an orderly manner.

6. Restoring the expectation of order in Iraq will take some kind of large-scale psychological shock.

Well, Jon-Boy, putting Saddam back in power would certainly accomplish that.

7. The disadvantages of reinstalling Hussein are obvious, but consider some of the upside. He would not allow the country to be dominated by Iran, which is the United States' major regional enemy, a sponsor of terrorism and an instigator of warfare between Lebanon and Israel.

Aha! So Saddam wasn't paying Palestinians to blow themselves up? There weren't terrorist training camps in the desert? He didn't run over a neighboring country to try and steal their oil? He wasn't a problem after all. We were just imagining things.

8. Hussein was extremely difficult to deal with before the war, in large part because he apparently believed that he could defeat any U.S. invasion if it came to that. Now he knows he can't. And he'd probably be amenable because his alternative is death by hanging.

So now that we've whupped up on him, he's going to be a good boy. Oh, yeah, I bet that would really work out well!

9. I know why restoring a brutal tyrant to power is a bad idea. Somebody explain to me why it's worse than all the others.

I don't think it will do any good, but here goes.

a. It would confuse the heck out of the entire Middle East
b. It would demonstrate once and for all to terrorists everywhere that terrorism against the U.S. works
c. It would trade one kind of brutality for another - the only change is that it would be Saddam's problem and not ours.
d. If we ever get out of there on those terms, do you honestly think Saddam will ever be afraid of us again. Who in the world believes the US Congress would ever let a president go back to Iraq if Saddam gets frisky again?

Jon-Boy is the poster boy for the idea that order is more important than freedom. What we need is a big powerful government that can frighten the stupid masses into submission. He believes that even a bad leader, so long as he makes everyone want to behave themselves (even if it's because he's so quick to murder the unruly) is better than chaos and disorder.

There was a similar level of social chaos in Germany in the 20's and 30's. A powerful leader arose to calm things down. And lo and behold, the stupid masses lined up and marched onto the killing fields. The chaos ended.

Do these guys never read their history books?

Just one man's informed opinion.

Tom King

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Prophet Hath No Honor in His Own Country

Question:

Why will a woman take house building advice as thought it were gospel from a 19 year-old high school dropout with tool belt and a battered pickup truck that has "Kurt Kobain Konstruktion" painted on the side of it, as though it were gospel and reject out-of-hand the gentle suggestion of her own husband who loves her and has a master's degree in architecture?

Jesus said, "A prophet hath no honor in his own country." He had that right. As I recall his own family gave him no respect in Nazareth!

You can have a Ph.D. in English and 20 years teaching experience in an ivy league university and your wife will call up her sister the high school dropout who lives in a trailer park in Akron, Ohio and ask her to write a letter for her because she's "so good with words...".

She'll take medical advice from someone named "Master of the Q-Tip" on an Internet chatroom rather than from the highly trained physician that you just paid $600 to and who has actually examined her (especially, if he happens to agree with what you've been telling her all along).

You could be an astro-physicist working at NASA and your wife will argue with you about tourist accommodations aboard the International Space Station because she heard from her cousin Bob, who's into "space stuff" that they "used these artificial gravity generators to keep your poop from floating out of the toilet!"

You could be a neuro-surgeon and your wife will get one of the kids to bandage her finger because "...you never can put a band-aid on right!".

You could be a Grand Prix race car driver and she'll nag you about how you are driving.

You could be a psychiatrist and she'll tell you that you don't understand her.

You could be an FBI hostage negotiator and she'll tell you to "...shut up and let me do the talking!"

You could be a lion tamer and she wouldn't let you own a kitten because you'd just let it die if you were in charge.

You could be a jeweler and she'd get her brother Elton, the thrice-convicted burglar, to repair her broken necklace because he knows so much about "valuables".

You could be a Certified Public Account and she wouldn't let you balance the checkbook without double checking your work!

You could be president of the country, making decisions about the fate of nations and your wife wouldn't let you decide what necktie to wear!

I wonder about these things.

You always hear that women will ask if you will "respect them in the morning" before they sleep with you the first time. Maybe the better question would be, "Will she respect me in the morning if she sleeps with me?"

Rodney Daingerfield had the answer to that one. "It's tough to stay married," he said. "My wife kisses the dog on the lips.. but she won't drink from my glass!"

You've been a great crowd!

Tom King

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Keepers of the Earth


I had the privilege this week of spending time with a collection of some of this world's most beautiful creatures. I spent an enthralling afternoon with Brian Werner and his wife, Terri of Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. Tiger Creek is a tribute to the vision and mule-headedness of a man who believes deep in his soul that God has called him to a sacred task.

Tiger Creek is home to more than 36 tigers, lions, cougars and other big cats, rescued from abuse, neglect and abandonment. Brian's team collects tigers from all over the nation from private owners who find the task of caring for one of these beautiful creatures is too much.
These amazing cats chuffed a raspy how-do-you-do to Brian whenever they caught sight of him. As the day ended, they began roaring at each other, one after another bursting out in a sharp basso profundo burst of sound that must have had every deer, javelina hog, possum and racoon in the surrounding woods diving for cover. It was an amazing sound.
It reminded me of what man was put here for in the first place. We have two things we were supposed to do on the Earth. First, we were put in charge of keeping up the gardens. Then, Adam had to name the animals and I expect since we named them we were expected to take care of them.

Sadly, like children with their pets, we have proved irresponsible in that duty. Of 8 subspecies of tigers at the beginning of the last century we're down to 3. Scientists think two varieties have disappeared within the last few years.

I agree with Brian. We do have a sacred duty from God to take care of the animals, to dress the garden and clean up our messes. Some on the far right believe you can exploit willy nilly and it's okay since we're the big kahuna species on Earth. On the far left, many believe we shouldn't interfere with nature at all and withdraw to a few human reservations and let nature go "natural".

I don't buy either option. I think God expects us to keep and tend the Earth. I think we should intervene, especially when it is our fault for the mess nature is in. I think we ought to try and fix it if we can.

What a lovely thing to do for your life's work. I envy Brian and Terri.
Just one man's opinion.

Tom

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blame It On the Good Guys!

If you read the Old Testament, God comes off as rather a harsh character. On the one hand the writers talk about God's mercy and goodness and on the other hand they describe in detail, His vengence and anger. So which is it? Is God merciful or vengeful? Love and peace or war and revenge!

Does God, who tells us not to kill, for instance, kill people Himself in violation of his own law? What happened to the God of Love?

The best explanation I ever heard for this conundrum was given to a group of us by a brilliant theologian I knew. He explained the whole thing using gravity and a pair of glasses. His explanation went like this:

"If I let go of this pair of glasses," he explained extending his hand with a pair of reading glasses in them, "What would happen?" he asked.

We all looked down at the tile floor and answered, "They would break."

"Why would they break?" he asked again.

"Because you dropped them," we explained.

"And not because of gravity?"

"Well," we hesitated.

"And whose fault would it be that the glasses were broken?" he challenged us.

"Yours," we answered (we thought quite reasonably).

"And not God's?" he suggested. "After all God was the one who created gravity in the first place."

"Yeah, but you dropped the glasses..." someone protested.

"Yes, but without the law of gravity and without intertia, both laws of physics created by God, the glasses would never have broken would they?"

"Well, no, but..."

"Then the broken glasses are ultimately God's fault aren't they?" he asked.

"Well, uh..." We opened and closed our jaws, like a row of stunned goldfish.

Elder Lewis went on to say that he believed that God does not bring death, but that, in fact, the text that states, "The wages of sin is death" is quite literal. Sin and evil inevitably leads to death. This is a law like gravity. If we observe this world for any length of time, you can clearly see that unrestrained evil leads inevitably to death. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Saddam, Napoleon - all purveyor's of massive death in an effort to satisfy their lust for power.

If God is the ultimate good, then he can hardly be responsible for death. He gave his Son specifically to conquer death and evil. Notice, it was we who took Christ's life, not God. In this world we have a choice. If we let go of the glasses, they will fall and break. That's what happens if you drop something fragile onto a hard surface. In the same manner if we choose to do something which we are warned will lead to death, who do we blame for our choice. If we place a gun to our head and pull the trigger, who killed us.

God was not responsible for the holocaust or Stalin's or Saddam's or Atilla's extermination of millions of innocent people. At the end of the world, I suspect He will not be responsible for its ultimate destruction either. God has told us what evil leads to just as my physics teacher told me what would happen if I released a fragile object from a height and let it fall.

It's funny how we are so quick to blame God when bad things happen. It effectively draws attention away from who is actually responsible - the one who chose to do the bad thing; the one who inspired the evil deed in the first place; the one who would assume the place of God.

Kind of reminds me of U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan's farewell speech this week in which he blamed the U.S. for pretty much all the bad things going on in the world. If things are bad, why do we always want to blame it on the good guys - never on the guys who are actually beheading and blowing up people willy nilly. Why is that?

Now who could be behind all that misdirection. Who would want to blame God or Christianity or the U.S. for all that nasty terrorism? Who, who who?

Could it be, uh............

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

Monday, December 11, 2006

Trolls and the Free Market System

A peaceful farmer once lived and worked at the edge of a great forest. He went into the forest each day to find firewood with which he cooked his food and warmed his home. He collected herbs and game there with which to feed himself and his family and heal their illnesses.

In the wood there lived several trolls. The farmer, to avoid problems with the trolls, brought them gifts of food, clothing, blankets and other necessities. In exchange, the trolls allowed the farmer to gather firewood, healing plants and hunt game within the forest.

The trolls constantly fought among themselves for supremacy, though what any one of them would have done had he truly ruled the forest was never really thought through. At last, the largest and most powerful of the trolls got it into his head that all this fighting and strife among himself and his brethren was really the fault of the farmer - forgetting, of course, that trolls had been fighting among themselves for centuries before the farmer ever settled along the borders of ther forest.

It never occurred to the trolls that they were better off than they had ever been before the farmer came along. They had good food, clothing and warm blankets in the winter. They looked upon the farmer and his productive lands with envy and purposed to kill the farmer and take all that he had for themselves.

The farmer got wind of the plot (trolls tend to talk too loud) and gathered up his family in the middle of the night and fled with his tools and his knowledge of farming and went to stay in the next valley over. There he waited.

The trolls, disappointed that they had not had the pleasure of killing the farmer, were nevertheless happy to have his farm and goods. They struggled for days to figure out how to make the farm equipment work and to coax food from the farmhouse kitchen, but to no avail. Soon they had eaten all the stores from the farm and were forced to return to foraging for their sustainance.

Unfortunately, during the years of trading with the farmer, the trolls had forgotten how to forage for themselves. They soon began to starve. They began to fight among themselves and soon there were only a few trolls left alive in the forest.

Meanwhile, the farmer had been making secret forays into the forest to see what the trolls were up to. When he knew that the trolls' in-fighting had made them defenseless and weak, he gathered his family and returned to the farm. Hearing that the farmer had returned, the remaining trolls tried one last desperate attack, but they were met with dogs and guns and pitchforks and were driven back into the forest.

The next day, a large force of men from several neighboring valleys joined the farmer and together they cleared the forest of trolls. Those who survived were driven far away where they were forced to scavenge just to stay alive. The new land was poor and no one wanted to trade with them anymore because of their reputation for treachery. Over time, the trolls became extinct and were never seen in the world again.

The Moral of the Story: Probably the one about not doing anything uncouth in your own nest works best for this one.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Signs from God


When my son Micah was only 4 years old, my wife Sheila composed a song. She never knew where it came from. It was not like her other music. She always said the words came to her like dictation. The words were these:

CORIN THE PIPER
by Sheila King

Corin the Piper lives here no more
He and his mother left when he was four
Some day there'll be music, same as before
But it won't be easy for Corin
lives here no more

1. I sit here at the window, watchin' the children play
They don't know I'm even here, but they come here every day.
Sometimes the tears start fallin', and I wonder what they're for
Until I remember, Corin lives here no more

2. He filled my days with laughter, sunshine and song,
And Corin, the drummer, was seldom ever wrong.
Sometimes I hear him singing, and my heart starts to soar.
And then I remember, Corin lives here no more.

-------
The song was written before we ever became interested in Celtic Music. We tried to puzzle out the meaning of the song for years and where it came from, but we never could. Sheila, like most mothers, has a mental image of her children and they are always a certain age. Meg is 3, Micah is 4 and Matt is 6 in her mind's eye. We never connected the song to Micah until after his death in January 2006. One day, about two months after Micah died, she was sitting in the rocking chair that she bought when he was born. She was crying. From where she sat by the window in our living room she was looking out across the road toward the little park by the lake. Without thinking, she began humming the first verse of that song and suddenly realized that the song described what she was experiencing at that very moment.

God knew! He looked 24 years into the future and saw her sitting there by the window, watching kids play in the park across the street and he gave her a song to let her know that all of this was in his hands. He knew and he reached out across two decades and said, "I understand but don't be afraid. He is in my hands now.". She told me about her experience when I got home from work that day and recognized it immediately as something from God.

We were still puzzled about the name in the song. So, I looked it up on the Internet and there is actually a Scottish clan called Corin. My son took after my wife's McKay ancestors, tall and blonde and big. He wore a kilt to have his graduation picture taken in it, so it made sense. When Sheila wrote the song, she'd never heard the name before. I once asked her where she got the name. She said it just came with the song.

When I looked up the web page, I was struck by the Corin Clan motto:

This is the way to heaven!

I have to believe God was telling me that for my son, this was the time God had chosen to take him home so that he would win his way through to heaven. We are in God's hands after all. I worry about the line that says "He and his mother - left when he was four". I worry that the song may be for me and that I may lose Sheila too. It frightens me, but whatever happens, I do know God will make it all come out okay. The next day after she told me about the song, as I was driving home, God gave me one more verse for the song.

In the evenings I would watch him, walk up the path alone.
His head bowed and weary from a day gone on too long.
And I know that he is sleeping; till I see him once more
But I can't forget that Corin, lives here no more.

It felt like closure and I needed that.

Here's Sheila singing the song.




The video is dark because I had to sneak this video without Sheila knowing I was recording. Her performance was perfect as always. I wish she hadn't made me sing along. I imagine this was the last time she will ever sing this song. It was recorded January, 2004 - two years before Micah died.

Finally, when our first son was born, Sheila had a long tough labor. She kept passing out between contractions. Then, suddenly, she sat straight up and said, "Isaiah 54: 1 and 13." Then she passed out again. I looked at the two ladies that were sitting with her along with me.

"Did you hear what I heard?" one asked.

"If you heard 'Isaiah 54: 1 and 13' I did?"

We all agreed that's what we heard, so I looked it up. I had my Bible beside the bed. The translation read, "Sing aloud oh barren woman, shout for joy, you who have never been in labor."

At that point everbody started laughing. I went on. "For the children of the barren one shall be more than of she who is beloved by her husband." That one I didn't get and for years it bothered us, but verse 13 was pretty clear. "Your sons shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be your son's prosperity and in triumph shall you be restored." It's the only translation where it reads just like that, but most translations are pretty close. Some say sons, some say children. We understood that and as our rambunctious, head-strong boys grew up, we often claimed that promise for God to be their teacher.

When Micah died without children, we were reminded of the "children of the barren" part of God's promise to Sheila. When we saw all the children who came to his service and heard story after story about Micah's kindness to "his kids", we began to realize what this promise had meant. Though Micah never had kids of his own, he left behind more children than we will ever know. Three years later, we still meet kids who talk about him and how much he meant to them. When he died three large local elementary schools had to bring in grief counselors to help the children.

I don't know what lies along the path ahead of us, but I have confidence that God will light the way. Till then, I guess we'll just walk it as best we can.

Just one man's epiphany....

Tom King

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bye Bye Yourself!

U.S. News and World Report's Liz Halloran gleefully reported this morning that President Bush's phone surveilance program was going "Bye Bye" with the new Democratic majority in the Congress and Senate.

Cool! Now mean old George can't listen in when Osama calls his terror cells in the U.S. of A. anymore. I suppose this must be part of the Democratic plan to reduce their voter base on the East and West Coast - a cunning plan to put themselves on the "endangered politicians" list.

Once we open up communications a little bit, Al Quaeda can go back to its old throwaway cell phones and musical dummy phone numbers without endangering their operatives in the states. By the time someone issues a wiretap, they'll be long gone with their messages of peace and love safely delivered to their representatives here in the states. The FBI and CIA won't be able to peruse phone records and find out who's getting a lot of phone calls from bad guys. They'll have to guess who is getting phone calls from bad guys first and then they'll be able to get permission to look at that one person's records to find out if they were right. It's like getting a license to fish in a bucket. If there aren't any fish there, you've wasted your time and money.

Now, with this reduction in ability to track terrorist communications (and Congressman Bob's corresponding relief that he doesn't have to worry about anyone finding out about those late night calls to 900-TEENSEX) where do you suppose they'll hit us first? Let's look at possible targets to nuke and look at what that means to the Democratic party if they hit those targets.

1. New York - Al Quaeda's perennial favorite, bastion of liberalism. They only have a one in five chance of catching Rush Limbaugh in town - he's usually in Florida somewhere and a little harder to hit! You might take out Fox News, but you'd also get CNN, ABC, NBC AND CBS AND the New York Times. We could paint a big "X" on 30 Rock - make it easier to find!

2. Los Angeles - Another symbol of American iniquity. You wonder how they've resisted this decadent target for so long. I mean Hollywood is the very icon of all they hate about America. Now, this is really terrifying. They could accidentally get Alec or Rosie or (gasp) Barbara! I wonder what the political demographic is like there? Want to guess?

3. Washington D.C. - Even when Republicans had the majority in the Congress, they were a minority in the population. You hit Washington (or any state capital for that matter), you are going to reduce the number of liberal Democrats drastically. That's where they all go to mate and eat Sushi.

4. Seattle, Washington - For some reason terrorists have a real jones for Seattle. I think it has something to do with the Space needle and phallic symbols, but I could be wrong. Once again, want to guess what the political demographic looks like?

Politicians and Christians are alike in one important respect; they're like manure! If you spread them out over a large area, they can do a lot of good, but if you heap them all up in one place, things begin to stink pretty darn quickly.

With the Democrats' love of government as the end-all, be-all solution for our woes, they are irresistably drawn to the seats of power where, once we loosen up on Al Quaeda and Hammas and all the rest of them, they'll be big fat targets. Oh, and when the bombs do start going off, guess who will be back in power next go-round?

Clever plan guys! How to make yourself extinct without really trying! Wish I'd thought of it.

(No I don't). To my Democrat buddies, I'm not mad at you, I just think you're not thinking this thing through. Now set your Mai-Tai's down and step away from the Sushi Bar!

Just one man's opinion...

Tom King

A Three Ring Binder Solution?

Today, the East Texas Regional Transportation Coordination Steering Committee released its plan for coordinating transit in the 14 counties served by the East Texas Council of Governments. Several of you glazed over and dozed off right there on that sentence. Why should you care? You’ve got a car.

Let me make this simple for you.

You ought to be paying attention to this issue. First it’s your tax money that’s been wasted in the past and if something isn’t done, more will be wasted in the future. Second, you’re gonna need transportation some day. Here are the facts!

  1. 1 in 5 East Texans doesn’t have reliable access to a car. They can’t go where they want unless they find someone who will take them.
  2. For most of us, it’s not if we lose the ability to drive, it’s when.
  3. We all get old.
  4. By 2010, 1 in 4 of us will be over 65 years old.

See. Someday, you’re going to need a ride. Your grandma may need one right now! Your disabled neighbor may need one.

Here’s why this all happened. The state got sick of throwing money at an inefficient transit system, especially in rural and small urban areas. Empty buses were running everywhere. Old people and disabled folks were left stranded all over the place. Commuters didn’t have any alternative to driving their cars to work. The state demanded that transit be coordinated with human services, local government, other transportation providers and other modes of transportation. They mandated a planning process with broad-based public participation.

Now the plan is ready. It’s been reduced to a three ring binder. The plan was approved unanimously. At that point I got up on my hind legs and asked the group what happens now? Is this one of those three ring binder solutions where we spend a horrendous lot of time and effort and create a plan that gets consigned to a bunch of notebooks and forgotten.

Griff Hubbard, the chairman of the committee, answered the question with a challenge. Evidently it’s now our individual responsibility to make sure the plan gets done.

Sadly, the resources for making our transportation dreams come true aren’t readily available to a large segment of the transportation stakeholders who developed the plan. If, for instance, an agency controls the region’s transit dollars AND acts as the recipient of those dollars as well, isn’t it sort of the fox watching the hen house? Yet that’s what could happen if the rest of us don’t get organized and make sure the plan gets done.

The steering committee will still meet, but it’s not enough. Somebody's got to bird dog this turkey! (I mean that in a good way - I like turkey! It's yummy!)

So we’re going to have to go to work. Should be interesting.

Just one man’s opinion….

Tom King

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Difficult Come, Easy Go

Local TV news announced last night that the late run of the Red Line bus route will be discontinued in January due to lack of funds. Don’t know yet if the JARC and Para-transit service will continue or not.

Most people will not be affected. Only the poor, seniors and people with disabilities are going to be affected. The problem is the same that it has always been.

  1. East Texans don’t use the bus if they can help it.
  2. The 20% of us who don’t drive are, after all, a minority
  3. We don’t like to spend tax dollars if we don’t have to on something that isn’t giving us a return on our investment.
  4. We figure bus riders are people we don’t really want to have in our community anyway. A Tyler city housing official once said, “We don’t really want to attract ‘those people’ to our community.” We want to attract rich retirees to Tyler according to an economic development official, not poor and middle class.

For those of us in the middle class or below, who are aging or who have a disability and for some reason depend on others or public transit to get around, we will only get what we need in the way of resources or retain what we already have if we make ourselves heard by those we elected to public office.

Before you dismiss me as a liberal, left wing kook, let me say up front that I’m a conservative down to my bones. Public transportation is an important element of a healthy economic infrastructure. It’s a long term investment we, as a community need to make. Here’s how the community can communicate our interest in making this investment.

  1. Right now, everyone who cannot now drive, who may not be able to drive much longer, who owns a business that depends on entry level workers (food service, hotels, retail, restaurants and service business should drop a note to their city councilman and the mayor and the manager of Tyler Transit asking them to re-examine the reduction of evening services. At the very least, alternative strategies should be aggressively pursued and the word should be got to the media that we’re not just cutting service, but finding a way to make it more cost-effective and more efficient.
  2. The advocacy community needs to begin a guerilla PR campaign to promote the idea that a whole segment of the community is stranded and needs a ride rather badly. The campaign needs to make the public aware that as they age or if they become disabled, they may need transportation.
  3. The advocacy community needs to promote bus service as a low cost alternative to the daily commute for workers in Tyler. Commuters are the allies of seniors and people with disabilities.
  4. More people need to take part in the regional transportation planning effort that is taking place in this area..

We worked awfully hard to get service expanded. We need to work a little harder to keep it evidently.

Good luck and may the force be with you.

Just one man’s opinion….

Tom King

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

You've Got To Wonder When the Impeachment Proceedings Will Begin

I just finished Michael Crichton's fascinating book, "State of Fear". The book tears apart the mythology that surrounds the whole "Global Warming" debate. In the book one of the characters makes the claim that the military-industrial complex has given way to something that he calls the Political-Legal-Military (PLM) complex. He makes a convincing case that politicians, lawyers and the media form an unholy alliance in support of one another designed to keep the public in a constant state of fear in order to control the masses and to build their own power base.

Case in point - environmentalism. With little proof other than manipulated data, junk science, media support, a flood of litigation and hysterical legislation environmentalists have convinced Americans to believe something for which there is precious little evidence - namely that human activity is heating up the temperature of the earth and will cause an ecological disaster.

They cite temperature studies that look like they show dramatic increases in temperature over the past few years. What they don't tell you is that since about 1850, the climate began warming after a 400 year long "little ice age". They say the Antarctic ice cap is melting, but don't tell you it's been melting for the last 6,000 years. They say we've threatened the world by not signing the Kyoto Accords, but don't tell you that those Accords would most negatively impact the US economy and would at the best, most optimistic scientific guess would reduce the global mean temperature by an infinitesmal .004 degrees (that's 4/1000 of a degree) in the next 20 years.

In the 80's there was a wave of hysteria over magnetic fields generated by power lines. Laws were passed, millions of dollars in lawsuits won and a wave of media attention focused on the 'crisis'. Now the same folks that were screaming about power lines and televisions generating magnetic fields are walking around 20 years later with magnets strapped to their arthritic joints because suddenly magnetic fields are good for you.

After environmentalists (and their lawyers) went after the popular pesticide DDT, legislators banned it even thoug scientists had actually proved DDT wasn't as harmful as believed by the environmentalists. The media covered the DDT scare and convinced the public that DDT was going to kill us all. So farmers switched to parathion which is very toxic (several hundred farmers died from parathion poisoning in the wake of the DDT ban) and more than 50 million people (mostly children in third world countries) died from malaria after DDT was taken from use in mosquito control. That's more people than were killed by Hitler and Stalin TOGETHER! But no one has suggested a Nuremberg trial for the environmentalist community. No one calls them murderers, despite the consequences of their actions.

In the past election, we saw two parties go at it hammer and tongs, each trying to convince the American people that they should fear what would happen if the other party were to come to power. Their accomplises in the legal profession will pluck from the debate, new opportunities to make money filing lawsuits and the media cheerfully documented the whole disgraceful exhibition.

The upshot of the whole thing is that Americans are once again fearful for the economy (despite it being the strongest economy in decades). They fear unemployment though it's so low that employers have difficulty finding people to hire. They believe crime is rampant even though it's decreased by better than 10% of the past decade. They believe we are not safe from terrorists, even though we haven't had a successful attack here since 9/11 (and they believe that the Iraq war is the reason we're in more danger at home).

Oh well, we see what we want to see and we hear what we want to hear and usually what we want to see and hear is what everyone else is seeing, hearing and believing. It makes us feel safe and like we belong. "Everybody knows it" is the most pathetic reason to believe something I can think of.

Unfortunately, much of what we all accept as truth is merely what everyone else believes. We seldom think about why we believe it. We go to church on the same day everyone else does and don't think why. We believe things as Christian doctrine that are not found in Scripture, but are borrowed from pagan tradition. We hold unexamined ideas about people because of their beauty (or lack of beauty), race, socio-economic status, the car they drive or the clothes they wear.

So in this past election, one party was more successful at convincing us of what we should fear. This bunch is angry and frustrated from being out of power for so long. My bet is they'll be looking for retribution and it won't take long to be calling for the president's impeachment. Rumsfield went down today. They'll go after Bush and Cheney next. Just wait!

Sad really.

Just one man's opinion....

Tom King

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fear Itself

In almost 6,000 years of recorded history, the names that ring down the corridors of time are the names of the brave. In every nexus of history, at every turning point, stand men and women with the courage to face the eternal bugaboo of every titanic ego since Cain used a rock to shut up his overachieving brother – FAILURE!

People who seek power for the sake of power all seem to have one thing in common – a deep dread of not getting it or not holding on to it. As a result, an endless stream of history’s bureaucrats and placeholders never did anything if there was even a slight chance that they’d lose hold of the reins of power. History’s bullies never attack unless they have overwhelming superiority of numbers (or at least believe they do). They never defend to the last man if they can negotiate a surrender that leaves them in their nice cushy palaces – often literally selling out their own grandmothers to preserve their well upholstered tushies. It’s a shameful litany of compromise, betrayal and thuggery that marks the interstices between the rare moments when someone does something actually brave.

Then there are the heroes – those who stand out for their courage. These are the men and women who believed in something and bravely stuck to a course until they went down in flames – again, often literally. Jesus and his disciples died almost to a man at the hands of terrified bureaucrats who saw Christianity as a threat to their retirement plans. The English set fire to Joan of Arc because her example of courage to her fellow Frenchmen in facing English troops, threatened their empire so they maneuvered her into their clutches by convincing some cowardly French bureaucrats to rat her out (big shock there).

A string of popes sent thousands of protestant preachers and their followers to their deaths during the middle ages and the reformation era to protect the Catholic Church’s hegemony over the Christian faith. Santa Anna overran a fort full of Texicans hoping to punish a weak province for its rebellious behavior and protect his control over the Mexican nation. Jefferson Davis and his followers figured with all the good generals and the power of the slave economy that he and his fellow plantation owners could slip out of the Union and preserve their way of life. The string of weak-kneed generals who led the Union armies early in the war were so afraid of losing that the threw away opportunity after opportunity to end it. The Romans got so decadent in the later empire they split their capitals, negotiated with a succession of invaders, and gave up territory till there wasn’t anything left.

Luther, Huss, Jerome and Wycliffe stood up to the church and changed the face of Christianity. Bowie, Travis and Crockett stood up to Santa Anna buying Houston time to gather his forces. Houston’s men dragged a reluctant Sam into a fight that won Texas’ independence. Commodore Edwin Moore disobeyed Houston (a consummate weak-kneed bureaucrat) and pounded the Mexican Navy into submission and saved the young republic from invasion. U.S. Grant lost virtually every battle he fought with the Army of the Potomac and kept on advancing and attacking until he beat Robert E. Lee and ended the war. Abe Lincoln once asked wimpy General McClellan if he could “borrow the army if he wasn’t going to use it!”. The English Navy, outnumbered and outgunned, stood up to the Spanish Armada (a gang of politicians who had no stomach for a fight it turned out) and sent them flying into the teeth of a convenient hurricane. A tiny little band of colonists stood up to the mighty British Empire at the risk of their lives and property and made it too inconvenient for them to hold on to the place – creating what turned out to be the most powerful nation on Earth in a mere 200 years. There was FDR who said, "We have nothing to fear except fear itself." and quietly rebuilt America's military while everyone else was trying to figure out how to talk Hitler and Tojo out of attacking us.

Historically, those who accomplish something worthwhile have been those willing to run the risk of failure. Unfortunately, the United States has gotten older and is afflicted with the same sort of weak-kneed bureaucratic mentality that afflicted the Romans, the Spanish, the Israelites, the Mexicans, The French and the British once the bloom was off their particular rose!

Today we face calls by media, academics, left-wing politicians, ex-generals and government bureaucrats for “more negotiation”, compromise, retreat and ‘diplomacy’. Get out of Iraq. Apologize to the Islamic nations. Use more diplomacy.

The sunshine soldiers and crafty politicians who have dominated US foreign policy really believed we could have wars without casualties, that we could bend the world to our will (or at least get them to leave us alone and not attack us) by being smarter and craftier than everyone else. Diplomacy it’s called. The military doctrine of the past has always been that we should only go in if we have overwhelming (and expensive) firepower which is developed and purchased by retired generals working as consultants for defense contractors. The diplomatic doctrine of the past century focused on appeasement and negotiation to accomplish American goals.

Did it work? Let’s see. There was World War I, World War II, the unfinished Korean War, the failed Vietnam War, the unfinished Persian Gulf War, a string of terrorist attacks on American soil and American interests abroad and an interminable Cold War. Into that breached stepped a starry eyed actor/president name Ronald Reagan. An affable old geezer who believed America was strong, smart and could do anything it wanted to. He walked away from weapons negotiations with the Russians (against the advice of every politician, media pundit and diplomats everywhere who predicted a nuclear holocaust) and wound up ending the Cold War and dismantling ICBM’s that were pointed at us. He told the Russian president to tear down the Berlin Wall (against the advice of every politician, media pundit and diplomats everywhere who predicted we’d set back relations with Russia by decades) and got the Russians to do guess what? That’s right – tear down the wall.

I hope the majority of people who have been polled recently about it who believe we should cut and run from Iraq will rethink the matter. Are we running a chance of losing (or at least taking losses)? You bet. Is it worth it? So far, we’ve confined the conflict to the middle east. Could we do it better? Definitely. My main criticism of President Bush’s approach is that he hasn’t seriously suggested we go ahead and kick butt in Syria and Iran to keep them from continuing to support terrorism. If we don’t stop the funders of terrorism, we’ll never stop terrorism. The funders are nation states, not isolated fanatics. Most Arabs and Muslims would rather do business than blow themselves up, but as long as the greatest nation in the world remains cowering on the borders, afraid to take on the local bully boys, freedom will never catch hold. We need to get Pakistan’s attention too and get a serious effort going to take out Al Quaeda where it lives in the mountains of western Pakistan.

You can’t build a wall around America and keep evil people out forever. It won’t work. No fortress has successfully withstood all sieges raged against it. They all fall eventually. When Rome quit expanding its borders and went on the defenses, it soon got its Italian butt kicked. When Spain settled down to defending its property, it wound up losing it. When the Catholic church started defending its power, it lost its power. And you can't talk evil people out of hating you or wanting to take away your property or your money. Ask the French, the world's preeminent diplomats, just how well that's worked for them the past 400 years.

One thing I admire about the President is the thing he is most criticized for – his stubborn vision of what’s right. His policies have been called naïve because they risk failure and disaster. He’s called stubborn and single-minded and is accused of refusing to listen to his advisors because he insists we can and should win in the middle east.

Good for him. I’m a Texan like George. If it hadn’t been for Commodore Edwin Moore’s stubborn insistence on defeating the Mexican Navy, Sam Houston would be remembered as the Texas President who fiddled while Austin was sacked and burned and I’d be pledging allegiance to Vincente Fox and trying to sneak across the border to find a job in Oklahoma! Thank God there are men in history who are willing to risk their lives, their reputations and careers because they are impelled to do the right thing, whether it’s politically expedient or not.

You cannot win if you are afraid of losing.

God bless America and God bless the President. The rest of you – get some cajones for crying out loud!

Just one man’s opinion.

Tom King

Monday, August 28, 2006

Pluto: Planet with a Disability



Okay, now I'm mad! A dinky little group of elitist astronomers just voted to demote Pluto from a planet to something called a "dwarf" planet which is actually not a planet at all, but a "trans-Neptunian object". Can you imagine some third grader trying to say "trans-Neptunian object", must less memorize it!

Pluto is one of my favorite planets due to it's spunky out of kilter orbit. You've gotta love a planet that's sometimes the farthest planet out and then, part of the time it cuts inside of Neptune and becomes the next farthest out. It has a little moon called Charon that's almost as big as it is. How cool is that?

There ought to be a Planets with Disabilities Act to prevent discrimination against planets simply because they are size challenged. The term 'dwarf' planet unfairly labels planets of limited stature. What we need is to encourage astronomers to use "planet first" language. I propose we send an official letter to the International Astronomical Union to express our outrage at their discriminatory language toward Kuiper Belt objects like Pluto and demand the use of "Planet First" language. Dwarf planets are planets first, therefore People for the Ethical Treatment of Planets (PETOP) proposes the use of terms like "Planets with size challenges" or "Planets of dimuntive size". In this way we emphasize that objects like Pluto are planets first. Small planets are planets, not dwarfs. No planet should be defined entirely by its size. A planet of diminutive size may have as much or more character as one of those overblown blobs of methane like Jupiter and Uranus!

PETOP also proposes standards for equal accessibility to orbital paths for planets with size challenges like Pluto. These should include protecting a planet with size challenges from being jerked out of orbit or sucked into the gravity well of a gas giant. No planet should be forced to become a moon against its will.

How we'll enforce the PDA, I can't tell you, but, hey, when did that ever stop a bureaucrat from drafting a law.

Just one man's opinion...

Tom King

Thursday, July 27, 2006

There's a Reason "Everybody" Hates Americans

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. — D.H. Lawrence

I like a lot of D.H.’s quotes, but this one that I found on neveryetmelted.com, a pithy conservative blog I stumbled on today, is another of those attempts by a ‘sage’ individual to define the American character against some standard that the rest of the world has apparently set for civilized behavior. I challenge D.H. to name me a culture whose soul is soft, communal, passionate and passivist. He might find a tribe of isolated hillfolk somewhere that meet one or two of those descriptors, but other than a few devout religious communities I’ve seen (nearly all of which had fallen prey to autocratic leaderships), I don’t think Lawrence would have had much luck.

I’d like to challenge Lawrence’s comment, item by item using quotes from other sages, foreign and native-grown, many of who also disdain American culture, but managed to get something right in stumbling for a definition of our country’s denizens.

HARD:

I'm sorry, D.H., but Americans are the biggest bunch of softies in the world. First, most of our ancestors probably had attention deficit disorder and got kicked out of their original countries because they were causing trouble, doing things without permission, saying what they thought without caring about the consequences and dreaming about a better way of life. On the cutting edge of our culture, you still find fidgety, creative, hungry people who sympathize with anybody, anywhere that is in trouble. A tsunami rolls over a country, famine breaks out, earthquakes strike – you name it, and the first guys on the scene are Americans. Sometimes the natives take shots at us, but we just duck and do our best to get help to the victims.

“Americans think of themselves collectively as a huge rescue squad on twenty-four-hour call to any spot on the globe where dispute and conflict may erupt.
- Eldridge Cleaver (b. 1935), U.S. civil rights leader, writer


ISOLATE:

Americans are a wondrously curious lot, sticking their noses into everywhere. Check these complaints…

Americans are rather like bad Bulgarian wine: they don’t travel well.
- Bernard Falk (1943–1990), British broadcaster, author

Americans have always been eager for travel, that being how they got to the New World in the first place.
- Otto Friedrich


English is the language of air traffic control. Why? More American planes fly than those of any other country. Entire countries depend on American tourists to support their economies. Countries like France complain because American tourists, movies and television programs are “corrupting” their culture. Isolate? Since when?

STOIC:

You can shoot an Englishman and he’ll call it a “bit of bad luck”. You shoot an American, (or his wife, child or dog for that matter), he’ll likely either shoot you back or sue you to bankruptcy depending on how unstoic he gets and whether he survives the bullet wound. We went down swinging at the Alamo, the Battle of the Bulge and Gettysburg. During the Civil War, both sides constantly cheered for their generals, their fellow soldiers who did something brave or even their enemies across the field who did something brave under fire. We get all worked up about a child who falls in a well, genocide in Yugoslavia and an attack on our soil (as the Japanese and Al Quaeda found out). Stoic? I don’t think so. We’re accused of being loud, brash, awkward and pushy (mostly by the French). Hardly what I’d call stoic.

The American character is more amiable, though often less reliable (than the English). The Americans are cordial, frank, anxious to oblige, and ready to make friends. In the fullness of their heart, they generally promise more than they can keep. Easily excited, they are not seldom deceived by their impressions, which, therefore, are often only transient.
- Francis Pulszky, and Theresa Pulszky. White, Red, Black: Sketches of American Society in the United States During the Visit of Their Guests (1853).


KILLERS:

Throughout American history, we have fought wars, some of them bitter and bloody. We’ve won most. In every war, Americans have stacked arms at the first sign that their opponents were ready to accept peace. Yes we dropped the A-Bomb on Japan, but in doing so we probably saved more lives than we took. U.S. Grant gave generous terms to the Army of Northern Virginia, despite the long and bloody struggle that preceded his meeting with Lee at Appamatox. Sherman, the scourge of Atlanta far exceeded Congress’s wish to punish the South when he left Southern soldiers their muskets so they could hunt and feed themselves and left the cavalry its horses so farmers could plow their fields and pull their carts. We rebuilt Germany and Japan, sunk millions into restoring infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was a Peter Sellers movie in the 60’s in which a small country that was going bankrupt declared war on the U.S. because it was the quickest way they could think of to get their country rebuilt. Americans have gone to war for less than worthy causes in our history, but someone had to convince us that we were saving someone or defending ourselves first. We’ve never been able to attack someone simply because we wanted their land. People forget that our difficulties with native American tribes often resulted because the tribes didn’t want anyone sharing the vast and largely uninhabited spaces they occupied and attacked settlers. The destruction of the Native American culture was actually opposed by a significant portion of Americans. Powerful political zealots did manage to wage an often unpopular genocidal war on the tribes, despite widespread criticism of these excesses and Americans have been on a guilt trip ever since. Hardly a federal grant comes through Congress anymore that doesn’t include aid for Native Americans in it somewhere.

Americans are uneasy with their possessions, guilty about power, all of which is difficult for Europeans to perceive because they are themselves so truly materialistic, so versed in the uses of power.
- Joan Didion (b. 1934), U.S. essayist


Americans were fugitives from every culture in the world. We are probably the most nearly classless society in the world (Except for some older communities on the East Coast where our disapproving Puritan ancestors have sat for nearly 400 years and watched their hyperactive offspring run away from home, bound for the wild West on foot, by wagon, horseback, sailing ship and train). We don’t think like the rest of the world (that’s why we ran away from the rest of the world and came here). We value action, activity, passion and progress.

Americans see history as a straight line and themselves standing at the cutting edge of it as representatives for all mankind. They believe in the future as if it were a religion; they believe that there is nothing they cannot accomplish, that solutions wait somewhere for all problems, like brides.
- Frances Fitzgerald (b. 1940), U.S. journalist and author

Some foreign writers see American culture as somewhat less worthy than the culture of our parent cultures.

The Americans are certainly hero-worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.
- Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author


Wilde, a prissy Irishman, misses the point entirely. Most of our ancestors were considered criminals in their homelands before they came here. We look up to them and find nobility in their “criminal” behavior. It could explain why most of the United Nations membership despises us and would like to see us wiped off the face of the earth (along with Israel if possible). Fortunately, for us, we still have all those pesky nukes. The Napoleons of the Old World and the Third World will have to content themselves with more limited ambitions than the world domination contemplated by Mssr. Bonaparte.

Cool!

Just one man’s opinion…

Tom

Monday, July 03, 2006

When the Wind Blows...


A few years ago, someone gave me a catamaran sailboat. It had been sitting in a field for years, growing old and brittle. It still had all its hardware in a tattered sail bag and a couple of elderly sails, long past their prime.

I took it home and began restoring her. I replaced both hulls when they finally crumpled under the weight of the mast. I put an extra layer of fiberglass on the forward hull decks and added a cross brace between the hulls. I painted the hulls and bought a new trampoline. I rigged it up and dragged it down to the lake across from my house on a battered trailer that is much too small for it. My neighbor lets me keep it on his beach in the summer.

I never used to notice the wind. Now when I feel the wind begin murmering in the treetops, I instinctively look toward the lake. I can't always spare the time to answer the call of the breeze and take her out dancing on the waves. My life's usually too busy for me to spare the time. But I know she's there and she's always ready to catch a breeze and take me off across the water.

Just knowing she's there, waiting for me...

That's enough...

I can wait for a clear day when my chores are done...

Tom

Friday, June 30, 2006

Generations Together: Wrapping up...

The hardest part of grant-writing for me used to be the part where you tuck the whole thing in an envelope and stick it in the mail. After that, there was nothing else you could do except wait and I don't wait very well. Actually, that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was a week later when you were rereading the grant application to keep from chewing on the leg of your own desk and you realized you'd left something out or had made a mistake. Would they reject your grant because of this one error? Would 5 months of work go down the drain because you made a small error?

Well, now that I'm in the for-profit sector, I thought all that was behind me - that is until I encountered the dreaded Small Business Administration loan. Now, don't get me wrong, SBA is a GOOD thing. They guarantee the loan and you get lower interest rates as a result. Everybody says our loan is perfect for SBA. I just hope SBA agrees.

I guess I don't like "putting it all out there" for people to judge and accept or reject. It's why I never completed the great American novel I guess (though I have parts of several in bound vinyl notebooks buried in boxes in my closet). It may explain some of my difficulties navigating the philanthropy community!

One day I might drag one of my novels out and finish it and send it off to a publisher.

At least that's what I keep telling myself anyway.....

This is my second serious foray into the private sector. Our first Tom & Sheila owned business (also a day care center) did well for a few years and then closed. I chose the wrong place for it and didn't throw in the towel when I should have. Story of my life!

This time we developed a 192 page business plan, researched the financing, did the demographic and marketing research and generally obsessed over it. My partner in the venture is a dear friend and an experienced business woman. I am desparate not to let her down.

Meanwhile...

Generations Together has closed. In the midst of our capital campaign we suddenly found ourselves forced to compete with a 9 billion dollar disaster relief effort in the wake of hurricane's Rita and Katrina which severely drained philanthropic resources locally and nationally. Unable to raise money quickly enough, GT was forced to cease operations when the property owner sold the site to a developer. They bull-dozed everything we'd done.

I felt bad about it. We raised a lot of money and wound up losing it all. But everyone's donations were not wasted. Intergenerational day care will continue. We kept it alive for almost 3 years longer than it would have if we hadn't tried. Dozens of little old people didn't have to go to nursing homes because we were there a few years more. And finally, we have found another way to do intergenerational day care!

So what, if anything did we learn?

Lesson 1: What we learned is that sometimes it's easier to show people that a thing can be done and is worth doing than it is to talk them into helping you do it!

Lesson 2: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him forever. (in other words, we had to learn to fish and what pond to fish in)!

With the help of an imaginative local entrepeneur, some Small Business Adminstration financing (we hope), a providential day care center coming on the market and a lot of planning and hard work, we have managed to resurrect intergenerational day care in Smith County. When God closes a door, He opens a window! Watch these pages for announcement of the opening of the new Generations Project Christian Intergenerational Day Care Center.

Till then, in the words of Douglas Addams,

"So long and thanks for all the fish!"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Vietnam & Iraq: A Faulty Comparison

If you had accepted the convoluted mathematical extrapolations of many left-wing bloggers and even some reputable media outlets over the past couple of years, we should have had about 3,600 to more than 6,000 casualties by now in Iraq.

Instead we just hit 2500. Now 2500 is a terrible loss of life among our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, don't get me wrong. But it's nowhere near the carnage of Vietnam where 2500 was more like the monthly death toll. The left has gleefully predicted a spike in casualties in Iraq similar to the 1966 surge in carnage the military experienced in Vietnam. I don't believe that spike will happen and here's why.

1. We have Saddam Hussein sitting in a jail cell. Chairman Ho sat comfortably in Hanoi throughout the war, untouchable by the military who were prohibited from targeting him personally or crossing the border to take down the military machine that was supporting the guerilla war in the south.

2. Every time we win a battle in Iraq, (like dropping those two 500 pounders on Zirqawi's punkin' head), we get new information and then hit 20 to 50 other strongholds and knock them out too. Every time we won a battle in Vietnam, the VietCong retreated into the North, regrouped, got new men and equipment courtesy of China and Russia and then when they were rested up, came back south and picked another fight. To win a war, you have to find the enemies supplies and command/control centers and knock them out. In Iraq we're doing that. In Vietnam, it was doctrine to avoid doing that.

3. We ran the war in Vietnam from the Whitehouse. Commanders literally had to wait to respond to an enemy push until somebody woke up LBJ and got permission for them to do something about it. Commanders on the ground in Iraq have wider latitude to follow through in a combat situation than their brothers in 'Nam ever did.

4. In Vietnam, the doctrine was one of containment. In Iraq, we planned to win (which we did when Saddam's government fell) and then, once the nation is back on its feet, we do plan to get out. If we'd done that in Vietnam, the end would have been very different.

5. One of my liberal buddies suggested that we should declare war again because we were losing fewer men during the war than we have since Bush declared we had "won". That would be nice if the terrorists would line up in some tanks or jeeps or something and fight us out in the open, but that won't happen. We're at the part where you mop up the stragglers after the real battle. Guerilla forces have lost thousands of fighters in clashes with U.S. forces in the past year. If you think our losses are tough, you ought to see how hard the Al-Quaeda recruiters are having to work to keep up with their losses. The secret to winning a guerilla war (if you're a guerilla) is to win the confidence of the people so they don't rat you out, but protect you from the enemy. The problem the guerillas are having is that they are making the mistake of blowing up the regular folks so often that the general populace is tired of it and is ratting them out right and left in disgust at their mindless violence. How do you think we got the intel on Zarqawi?

6. In Vietnam, the North Vietnamese were never damaged beyond their power to recover. We never cut off their supplies from Russia and China and we never hit them in their strongholds across the border. By contrast, Iraqi terrorist Zarqawi's papers, found in his hideout after the bombing state that, "...the insurgency is being hurt by, among other things, the U.S. military's program to train Iraqi security forces, by massive arrests and seizures of weapons, by tightening the militants' financial outlets, and by creating divisions within its ranks." Now that's how you win a war.

7. Finally, when the war in Vietnam was so obviously being mismanaged and needlessly risking our soldiers so they could use up and try out all sorts of new Army stuff (remember Ike warned us about the misuse of power by the Military Industrial Complex), I got fed up with it and even protested a little (not against the soldiers, but against the idiots in Washington that were getting them killed by the thousands). This time, the left doesn't have my support at all. So, I'm not out on the protest lines. That alone should give them pause!

Just one man's opinion....

Tom

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I Might Need That Someday!

My wife married me for my charm, patience and my soulful brown eyes. It was not for my organizational skills or general tidiness. My office looks like I’ve been receiving love letters from the Unabomber. There are things in the trunk of my car that have become antiques since I put them there. The wife on the other hand (God bless her), is the terror of tidy. She’s a one woman war on filth and disorder. She’s always felt Mr. Clean could have used a little bleach on that t-shirt. Marine drill sergeants could not pass her inspections. She dusts places I didn’t know you could dust. Her idea of a satisfying Sunday is to scrub the baseboards, disassemble and dust all the light fixtures and send everyone out to eat so she can get all the vacuum cleaner lines on the carpet straight at the same time.

When we were dating, she broke up with me the day she first visited my home! Had not God intervened and told her she had to marry me, that would have been that. The apostle Paul once wrote that each of us has a cross to bear. My poor wife’s personal cross is me!
You see, my wife believes that there are only two kinds of people in the world. She doesn’t buy the whole Phlegmatic/Melancholic/Choleric/Sanguine thing. She totally rejects Erickson’s stages of life theories. Freud’s id, ego and superego and Jung’s thinking, feeling, sensing and intuitive personality types are unadulterated balderdash. Instead, my beloved, based upon her lifetime of observing human nature, believes there are just two basic personality types in the world: the "Adders" and "Subtracters".

Here’s how the theory works. When people are under stress they react in one of two ways. They either hoard or they throw things away. She knows this from the years of anthropological studies she’s done on our two families and how they respond to crisis. The data she’s collected, confirms her hypothesis perfectly. I am an "Adder", She is a "Subtracter", and God will have his little jokes.

I can see how she got the idea for her new psychology of human behavior. Just look at the subjects of her study. First there’s my people. I come from a long line of pack rats. The basic lesson my poor dirt farmer ancestors drew from the depressions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was "You might need that some day!" We hover over garbage cans, dangling big bags of trash, reluctant to commit ourselves to actually dropping it into the hopper. The thought that something might have gotten in there accidentally tortures us. What if we need that some day? What if the roads are blocked by rising flood waters and we’re cut off and there’s just a little duct tape on that roll - not much but just enough to patch the leaky life raft we’ve got shoved in a box somewhere in the attic! Then, we could blow up the raft and use it to escape and that would show them! "Yeah, what if I hadn’t had that duct tape," I would smirk. "Then where would we be?" We’d be drowned like rats! Now, aren’t you glad I kept that duct tape? I told you it would come in handy some day!"

Have you ever carefully slit open the side of a trash sack to retrieve something you noticed that your spouse had pitched without your knowledge? Have you ever used clear strapping tape to cover the hole so it wouldn’t show?. Have you ever had to make sure that you were the one who took out the trash on trash day so you could make sure and turn the taped up sack to the inside of the pile so certain persons wouldn’t notice that you’d been "digging in the trash" again? Has your wife ever thrown something of yours away as a form of retaliation? Have you and all your stuff been shoved into a corner, closet or shed and told not to step outside the designated area on pain of being flung into the nearest sanitary landfill? If you live alone, is your house so full of cats, old clothes, "antiques", vintage magazines or empty banana boxes that you have to periodically clean out little walking paths in order to get to the bathroom? Does the idea of moving make you hyperventilate? Do you still have a complete collection of your sixth grade essays on famous explorers? Can you find it?

Then, according to my wife’s personality inventory profile, you, my friend, are an "Adder" and you are part of what’s wrong with the world. "She", if you haven’t already guessed, is a subtracter. She’s not happy with a house cleaning job unless the resulting trash pile is high enough to develop a snow cap before morning. She loves the finality of a garbage disposal. I can’t trust her with a paper shredder. My wife’s rule for making purchases from the store is, "One sack of trash out for every sack of stuff we bring in." She even tried to extend the "One in/one out" rule to my book collection arguing that I’d "already read the old ones, so I didn’t need them any more!" When she's depressed, she rents a dumpster.

Her family formed the basis for her theories about the "Subtracter" personality type. Her dad was a prodigious subtracter. His shed was a brutally tidy collection of baby food jars screwed to shelves, each one holding one variety each of fasteners, screws or nuts. He kept the shed’s dirt floor carefully raked so that the lines were exactly parallel. Footprints were raked out each time he locked the shed door. Her grandmother couldn’t bear sick or damaged animals and had them shot or drowned as quickly as possible. During the depression, members of her family coped by doing massive spring cleaning and by butchering the weakest of the cattle, pigs and sheep. They make me nervous. I try to avoid limping, wheezing or dozing off at her family reunions. There are some family members who’ve gone missing recently and nobody will talk much about it. I’ve heard them refer to the dead as "...useful right up to the end."

My wife considers being an "Adder" something of a sickness like schizophrenia or serial killing. Someone once wrote an article on organizing yourself in one those women’s magazines - Better Homes and Hospital Wards or something like that. She left it lying open on the stool in the bathroom with passages highlighted in neon yellow. One statement that was triple underlined said, "If you haven’t used it in six months, you don’t need it!" She marked out "six" and wrote "three". Her philosophy is, "If it’s damaged or not in use, it’s headed for the dumpster." And she’s serious about it. I’ve trained the kids and the dog to get up from the TV once in a while and make a few passes in front of her just to let her know they’re still breathing. I go out to the tool shed and move things around every two and a half months so everything looks recently used. I have a storage building in another city that she doesn’t know about or have a key to.
When she used to have PMS, I could tell where she was in the cycle by the size of the trash pile at the curb. She threw away my sixth grade essays on Napoleonic era naval battles. My first (unpublished) novel is rotting in a landfill on the outskirts of Alexandria Louisiana. My collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys is gone. Three collections of rusty screws have mysteriously disappeared along with the mildewed box they came in as well as 25 pounds of leftover clips, tags, spare parts, nuts and bolts left over from years of late Christmas Eve toy assembly projects.

And she thinks I’m crazy! I mean, we might have grandkids some day and I might just be assembling one of their toys late some Christmas Eve and I might just need that part and I won’t have it and whose fault will it be? Who will be responsible for the tears in the eyes of our favorite grandchild when her toy is not completely assembled on that tragic Christmas morning?
"SOMEONE" who didn’t think we’d need that some day, that’s who!

Just one man's opinion....

Tom

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Double Standard Where Offending the Faithful is Concerned


I will say this for the Germans. They did learn their lesson from their experience with the Nazis. This week they ruled in favor of allowing a cartoon series that lampoons the Pope and all things Catholic when German bishops tried to get the series legally banned. This was consistent with their 'freedom of speech' stand in support of neighbor Denmark for allowing the infamous Mohammed cartoons. Not everyone has been consistent, however.

The Mohammed cartoons spawned many copycat cartoons and tributes (all in tremendously poor taste as is to be expected from those who deliberately torment people over their religion) and a whole lot of worldwide media hand-wringing. Predictably, the twinkie-munchers in the blog community got into the act. One blog proclaimed it "Draw Mohammed Week!" and posted lots of new pictures of the prophet in a less than flattering light. The blog got a tremendous number of hits from web-surfers who live in the Middle East - the faithful looking for something to be offended about no doubt. It's interesting that most of the blogger's readers were people who had googled the site looking for Mohammed cartoons. Then, of course, they promptly got offended.

I checked Wikipedia for international reaction to the Mohammed cartoons. They listed official responses from 36 nations, the United Nations, the European Union and The Organization of Islamic Conference. Most condemned the cartoons roundly, although about a third managed to mumble something about free speech in there somewhere.

Now along comes "Popetown" which is not just a couple of cartoons in an obscure Danish magazine, but an MTV animated series that features Jesus sitting in a Lazyboy in front of the TV and the pope bouncing through 'Popetown' on a pogo stick. The series offends Catholics six ways to Sunday and does so deliberately.

So, I checked out the international reaction to Popetown on Wikipedia - statements by governments in reaction to the arguably anti-Christian cartoons as I had done with the arguably anti-Islamic cartoons before. Want to guess how many countries got officially upset?

Two! Germany and New Zealand and then they took aim at the Catholic Bishops who sued to have the series taken off the air. The freedom of speech angle was not mumbled about, but spoken about rather clearly - in essence telling the bishops "Too bad you're offended. We have that pesky free speech thing going..." Great Britain, which paid for Popetown in the first place, never allowed it to run on the BBC and hasn't had much to say about it since. I didn't find the round condemnation that the Mohammed cartoons got. Nobody suggested any studies of potential anti-christianism or decried the rise of anti-christian sentiment in the EU or compared it to Nazi led anti-semitism as dozens of countries did over the Mohammed cartoons. The whole reaction to Popetown has been a distinct "Who cares?"

Hey, in the U.S., we've got the "Simpson's" and "Southpark". We're used to seeing Jesus in the wrestling wring with Satan or drunk and soliciting hookers in a back alley. Popetown is pretty tame compared to that and this stuff goes pretty much lawsuit free over here. I guess the German and New Zealand bishops thought that after all the hoopla over the Mohammed cartoons, they might get some traction if they were to get offended too.

Sorry guys, but Catholic bishops aren't likely to blow anyone up over this and we're not afraid of lawsuits. So, their efforts to stop the show have largely fizzled and since they shut down the Inquisition several hundred years back, the Catholic church has been pretty much left without an enforcement arm unless they want to start stuffing the novice nuns' habits with explosives.

Now, I believe strongly in freedom of speech since free speech tends to protect freedom of religion. I also believe in the Golden Rule, which, unfortunately, if enforced by other than the free will of believers who practice it, soon becomes a device to enslave and control people. The Golden rule only works if everybody obeys it because they want to, not because the law says you have to. I, personally, would not do anything to deliberately offend someone over their religion - unless, of course, they stop me on the street or come to my house on Saturday morning and seem to want to participate in an open theological debate, and then I may say something controversial, though not deliberately hurtful.

What protects our freedom in this sinful world are laws about free speech and religion. That protection means some folks with less than pure hearts will say hurtful things about your religion and do it deliberately. We are only guaranteed freedom to speak, not freedom from speech. I think it's a pretty good system. Apparently, some countries do not.

Also what is blindingly apparent is that unless you express your displeasure at having your religion made fun of by blowing up things, beheading innocent bystanders and knocking down skyscrapers, nobody really cares if you get your feelings hurt...

Now, class, what lesson have we just taught to terrorists about how successful their methods are? The recent book "The Lessons of Terror" by Caleb Carr makes a brilliant case that terrorism doesn't work very well as a tool to accomplish a national purpose. In all of history, terror never works well as a tool of societal evolution. If terrorists were really interested in accomplishing what their stated goals are, they might pay attention to that lesson and resort to other tactics. The problem with terrorists is that they aren't in this for the greater good of Islam, Communism solidarity or a United Ireland.

I think they're all in it for the girls!!

Okay, maybe not directly, but think about it. It's about power. It's about who's in control after the revolution. And.... whoever has the power gets the best women. It's pretty simple. So, what about women terrorists. Well, if you believe the movies, terrorist gals are only impressed by males with a great deal of perceived power (like a license to kill - which accounts for 007). Women terrorists in movies are either attractive, loose women whose taste in fashion runs toward spandex or they are sweaty, pistol-packin' man-killers or they are totally dominated by their male counterparts (don't hit me again, I promise I'll trigger the detonator this time!). Suicide bombers are promised 70 virgins in the Islamic terrorist version of heaven. Case closed, I think!

I have a hard time believing that terrorists really are thinking about societal change when they try to make people more respectful of their religion by blowing up women and children or beheading some electrical engineer who came over to get their lights running again for them.

Does anyone think, "Hey, he blew himself all to bits and took out the old lady and the baby carriage at the same time. How cool is that! Sign me up for that religion! I am so in!"

Maybe they'll blow up enough of their followers to make themselves ineffective. We can only hope.

Just one man's opinion...

Tom

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why would we want to boycott Exxon?


Well, I got the e-mail proposing a gas boycott of Exxon/Mobil today. It's kin to the one day "gas boycott" that went round last year. On the surface it makes some kind of sense, but there are a couple of flaws in the plan I'd like to point out.

1. Why hit Exxon/Mobil? Exxon is an American company run by Americans and employing tens of thousands of Americans. Sort of like going to war and having the sargeant tell you to shoot your own guys first!

2. How many people can really work up a lot of anger at Exxon? Why would I want to inconvenience myself to hurt this one company when so many are raising their prices too. It's not just Exxon after all.

So my proposed solution would be as follows:

Why not hit the oil companies that are owned by foreign oil interests - someone we can all get really mad at?

How about let’s go after Citgo, for example?

Instead of damaging an American company, how about we get the attention of one whose primary stockholder doesn’t even like America – Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez?

This in USA today:
But in fact there's nothing ordinary about Citgo. One of the USA's largest refiners, Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). As such, it ultimately belongs to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, an avowedly anti-American leader who counts Fidel Castro among his closest friends and mocks President Bush as a "genocidal murderer." – USA Today

The rest of the article can be found at
http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2006-01-11-citgo-cover-usat_x.htm.

The article further says…
"The only difference between Citgo and other companies is that Citgo has only one shareholder," he (Felix Rodriguez, the company president) said, referring to the Venezuelan president. – USA Today

Chavez’s company owns 6% of the US refinery capacity, but what is scary is that...

Thousands of veteran executives and petroleum engineers were recently cashiered, replaced by those politically loyal to the president's revolutionary aims (including company president, Rodriguez). – USA Today

Then there is this telling statement:

As Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated, any disruption to the nation's refining industry instantly increases gas prices. What if Chávez, who periodically threatens to curtail oil shipments to the USA, closed Citgo's refineries?

"He'd only have to do that for 90 days, and he'd destroy our economy," worries Matthew Simmons, a prominent energy investment banker. "He actually has our livelihood in his hands."
Others note that imported oil from elsewhere eventually could compensate for any interruption in Citgo supplies. And, because Chávez depends on the company's specialized refineries to process Venezuela's sulfur-rich crude oil, a shutdown would cost him and his country dearly.


"His capacity to make life difficult for George Bush would be at the cost of burying himself," says Claudio Loser, a former International Monetary Fund official. – USA Today

I don’t know about you, but I kind of like George Bush’s doctrine of preemptive action. Let’s take Chavez at his word and consider him a threat. If the US Government won’t make war, I sure as heck can wage my own personal war as an American citizen by boycotting Chavez’s gas.

Will Americans be hurt?

For a time maybe, because some American’s do still work for these bozos. But do you know how fast you can change gas suppliers down at the Kwik-E-Mart? Just try and find a Diamond Shamrock station, for instance – they were there yesterday weren’t they? If business goes to other oil companies, so will the jobs.

Or maybe the Venezuelans (who do belong to OPEC) will come to their senses and boot Chavez out like they did once before.

Who knows? But it does make more sense than hurting an American owned company like Exxon/Mobil, Valero, or Chevron. If you get this e-mail, why not send this blog entry back to whoever sent it to you and see if it makes sense to them? If we’re going to get the attention of the oil industry, lets slap the hands of companies whose owners have every reason to jack up oil prices – ones that hate us and are using the money they make off us to finance anti-American activities.

Tom King

"Speak softly and carry a big stick."
--Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, April 24, 2006

Evil in Uganda - Ineffectual Response!


Every night thousands of children travel through the night hiding in churches, shelters and abandoned buildings seeking to avoid capture by the Lord's Resistance Army's brutal commander, Joseph Kony. Kony reportedly makes sex slaves out of the children, tortures them and turns them into murderers and soldiers and slaves. The war between the Ugandan government and the rebels has been going on for 20 years with a death toll of tens of thousands of victims. The insurgency has mutilated, cooked and eaten, brutalized and raped indiscriminately. Now thanks to folks like Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, several thousand folks nationwide are planning a gigantic rally called Global Night Commute to increase awareness of the crisis in Uganda. The rally proposes to raise awareness for two purposes. 1. To raise funds for the 'effort' (no surprise there) and 2. To register outrage and demand that the U.S. government "do something".

Like what?

Now, I know these folks mean well, but providing humanitarian aid is only going to accomplish what it did in Somalia - provide the warlords with further supplies for their troops and point out clearly who need to be targets for their depredations. Women making money for their families and healthy children are only going to infuriate these guys. Don't forget - they're evil. That was pointed out in yesterday's Oprah segment. You know they are going to try and take out anyone who is not afraid of them and tries to stand up to them. Will people be heroic and stand up for what's right - you bet! Will many of them die tragically for it - of course!

Where I get crossways with Hollywood types trying to solve world problems is with their stubborn insistence that you can do something about evil by hosting house parties and talking about how awful it is and that giving money is as good as actually doing something.

You can't just sit around and talk about how bad it is and expect things to change. You can't just sit around a nice round table and negotiate and expect bad people to lay down their guns and stop being naughty. You can't send supplies and teachers and rest assured that everything's gonna be all right. You've got to put boots on the ground and make a mess before you can clean up something like this. Unless you take out the bad guys, they're going to keep on doing bad things. Did we learn nothing from Osama, Saddam, Tojo and Adolph?

The problem is the soft-hearted folks in the U.S. (and I count myself one of them) who look at this stuff and are apalled, haven't learned much from our experience trying to clean up these messes. We've thrown money at this stuff for years and only managed to strengthen the bad guys. If Oprah and George want to do some real good, they need to hire some mercenaries and send them into Northern Uganda to take out the LRA leadership and liberate the kids they are holding as prisoners.

Let me hear a call for the U.S. to offer military aid to the government of Uganda and neighboring countries like the Congo and put some divisions and equipment in there with the Africans and help them clean up this mess the only way you can deal with armed evil people.

If the liberals and conservatives in this country could unite in a call for a realistic solution to the problem of evil little armies running around helpless little countries in the third world - namely multi-national armed intervention (and by that I don't mean blue helmeted UN Peacekeepers). Lets send some Seal teams after Joseph Kony. Lets negotiate with the Congo and other neighbors where Ugandas tormentors go to hide out and let us give this pervert a real war.

Let's let the Seals show how it's done. Let them go in and help the villagers, bring them food, technical assistance, dig wells and plant fields. Watch how quickly the guerillas would be ratted out and exterminated if we went in there full up.

But you know why that won't happen? It's because everybody's afraid we might encourage the Christian religion or do some missionary work while we're at it or something. A lot of this is part of the ongoing conflict in that part of the world between Muslims and Christians (or more precisely between the perverse offshoots of both faiths). The world will demand that we go in and clean up the mess and then step aside so the persecution can commence once more.

We're handicapped because we don't want to get in the middle of a religious war. The problem is that we're already in one. And don't get me wrong, it's not with Muslims, it's with fanatic elements of Mohammedanism that claim to speak for their more moderate brethren and it's they who have declared war on us.

Why don't we put our troops on the ground? One of the reasons is it's so hard to figure out who to shoot! The good guys are very hard to identify in the third world. Often its both sides of the conflict who are doing evil things. Who wants to go through all that mess again.

The Uganda-CAN website lists 10 things you can do to help. They include lots of petition signing, various fund-raisers and prayer. Of all of those things, the last might just be the most effective thing we can do.

When I look at this kind of tragedy, I have to believe Jesus must be coming back soon. I can't think of any other way to get this all sorted out other than to take home the good guys and leave the evil ones behind to wipe each other out. I personally believe hell will be the nuclear holocaust that happens when God withdraws his people and his spirit from the Earth at the end of time. Seems like that's already happening in some places.

As the Kingston Trio once sang, "Then, some lucky person on some lucky day; someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away."

Very sad...

Tom