BUSHWHACKEDTo order a paperback copy of Bushwhacked click on the cover or go to amazon.com.ABOUT THE COVER: Less than a week after the tragic suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I was purchasing a gallon of milk at a convenience store when a magazine rack next to the checkout counter caught my attention. Several tabloids featured slick, garish full-color closeups of burning corpses descending from shattered windows. It struck me as disrespectful in the extreme. The picture I carried in my mind from the newscasts I had watched on 9-11 was much more solemn—a gray on gray rendition of dust-covered refugees in suits and ties fleeing Manhattan on foot. Why not portray the World Trade Center in a similar fashion? Thus was born a grayscaled digital image in which the towers appear to be melting rather than crumbling. There are no windows to admit the hijackers' hate. What happened on that terrible morning must be depicted as surreal, for, indeed, there can be no other explanation for how intolerance and vengeance—an embodiment of insanity and evil if you will—came to triumph, albeit only for a brief moment in time, over civilization. by Fred Dungan Copyright 2002 To My Son—
Captain Che Peter Dungan,
United States Army
Duty, Honor, Country
Other Books by the Same Author:
The Gospel According to Condo Don (fiction—published by Domhan Books)
9/11 Vigilantes (fiction—published by DUNGAN BOOKS)
Chasing Loose Nukes by Derek Duke (as told to Fred Dungan) (non-fiction—published by DUNGAN BOOKS)
Quacks (non-fiction—published by DUNGAN BOOKS)
Table of ContentsPreface
Chapter 1 The Way It Is—21st Century Law of the Jungle
Chapter 2 A Legacy of Self-reliance and Independence—Free Yourself
Chapter 3 Accepting Responsibility—Put the Blame Where It Belongs
Chapter 4 Loners Need Not Be Lonely—Be Social Without Sacrificing Independence
Chapter 5 The $hit End of the Stick—It's An Uphill Battle
Chapter 6 The Money Is No Good—Trust God, Not Money
Chapter 7 Burned at the Stake—What Happens Should You Dare to be Different
Chapter 8 House of Worship or Place of Business?—Corporate Religion
Chapter 9 Women and the Draft—Body Bags Know No Gender
Chapter 10 How the Electoral College Rigs Elections Against Us—Tilting the Vote
Chapter 11 Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican?—Politics Sans Parties
Chapter 12 So Long, Savannah!—Lost Nukes Threaten the East Coast
Chapter 13 Dumping the SAT—Ethnic Quotas Sneak Through the Back Door
Chapter 14 Environmental Meltdown in the Heart of Southern California—Lack of Vision
Chapter 15 Pushing the Envelope—Going Postal
Chapter 16 Freedom of Expression—Having a Voice
Chapter 17 Daylight Saving Scam—Uncle Sam Thinks He's Smarter Than God
Chapter 18 Patriots—Where Were the Missiles on 9/11?
Chapter 19 Bushwhacked—Corruption, Influence Peddaling and Outright Bribery
Appendix A George Washington's Farewell Address
Appendix B Email About Snail Mail
Appendix C Real People Let Off Steam—Mark Twain
Bibliography"You show me a capitalist, I'll show you a bloodsucker." - Malcolm XWhat if I don't want to be a consumer? Mortgaging my soul for a houseful of high-tech baubles and trinkets doesn't really appeal to me. Do I have a choice? Am I doomed to do what inhuman multi-national corporations will me to do or can I take control of my life and make my own decisions?
Early man, the carniverous hunter, once stalked game with primitive spears. Today, his direct descendant, the corporate executive, has a far more effective arsenal. Small monthly payments, easy credit, and instant cash rebates lure prey while double digit interest rates stun rather than kill, a marked improvement, considering that it enables corporate predators to cut innumerable meals from their live consumer victims.
Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate how much drudgery has been eliminated by technology. But if I have to spend 80 hours a week closeted in a claustrophobic cubicle breathing the stale, recirculated air of an overcrowded high rise office building where the windows can't be opened to afford the lifestyle of my dreams, how much use am I getting from the stuff I worked so hard to buy? Deep down inside I feel an urge to chuck it all and be free.
An ongoing survey of 5,000 American households concluded that job satisfaction dropped 13.5 percent between 1995 and 2000. The director of the consumer research center for the Conference Board in New York, Lynn Franco, was astonished to discover that despite an invigorating upturn in employment, more and more workers are disgusted with their jobs. She thinks that "over the last several years, things have really accelerated. The pace of change, the learning curve on the job—we're seeing some of that stress spill over and have a negative effect on employee attitudes."
What lies ahead? That balding Maalox-chugging co-worker with the prodigious paunch whom the company just let go could be me in fewer years than I would care to imagine. All that keeps me here is fear—fear of not being able to pay the bills and fear of the unknown. Do I have what it takes to make it on my own?
There is only one way to find out. Clinging to the teat never got anyone anywhere. Nor did self-doubt. It's about a whole lot more than just the money: it's about fighting for what is right, becoming the person I always wanted to be, and living life with a meaningful purpose.
Dependency is for those who can't survive on their own. Pets and little children are dependent. Anyone who possesses a decent education and a modicum of common sense should strive for better.
Nothing of worth comes free. My independence cost me plenty. There isn't a shiny new car in my driveway—in fact I don't even have a driveway. Although my winter coat is eleven years old and the lining is in tatters, it will have to last a few more seasons. And, because I cannot afford to take a day off or go on vacation, I work harder now than before I quit my job. But I'm probably better off without all that soft living and abundance.
What little I do have I appreciate more. My boots get shined every night, the books get returned to the library on time, and I make it a point not to hold the refrigerator door open any longer than necessary. More useful to me than a Ginsu, my closely honed pocketknife can pry the lid off of a paint can or punch a hole in a leather belt. Making do is a lost art that I rediscovered when I joined the ranks of the unemployed. Are you aware that popcorn popped in an ordinary skillet on an ancient gas stove tastes much better than the expensive microwave variety and costs ten times less? What good is fast food if it takes longer to drive back and forth to the restaurant than it would to cook a real meal? Don't be duped by the ads, nothing is more convenient than staying at home.
No, less is not more. But neither is more always better. If something you add to your life subtracts from something else, the sum total could be negative.
Stress is usually the unseen quantity in life's equation. It greatly subtracts from everything we value most. Too much stress can cause indigestion, make us snap at loved ones, turn our hair gray prematurely, and raise the blood pressure. Continued stress over long periods of time has been known to affect people to the point where they commit suicide or go postal.
Deal with it? That's easier said than done. Averting stress with alcohol and drugs is for losers. Although physical exercise seems to help, you can only jog so far. Your employer won't tell you this, but the only proven method of eliminating stress in the workplace is to go face to face with the boss. There are ways to do it without being insubordinate or losing control. If he fires you anyway, then the job wasn't worth keeping. You can do better than work for a jerk who can't take constructive criticism.
Let's get one thing straight. The reason you took the job in the first place was to improve your life. If it winds up ruining your life, you are better off without it.
No job is easy and legitimate hardships only serve to make us tougher. Never whine, but be sure to confront any incursion upon your dignity—unfair treatment of any kind—before it can snowball into something you won't be able to deal with. No matter how much they pay you, it can't compensate for loss of self-respect.
If you belong to a union, don't expect it to do this for you. In case you haven't already noticed, a union's primary concern is its own perpetuation and aggrandizement. The best way to resolve a grievance is to communicate it directly to the boss yourself. Do you really think a union steward is going to put more effort into it than you would? Solidarity in the modern, competitive workplace is a bad Polish joke. Unless your interests happen to coincide with those of others, do not count on their support.
Don't be scared to go it alone. In the workplace, as well as in our personal lives, it is usually the best way to go. What we may lack in experience, we make up for in perseverance. Face-to-face and one-on-one is how things best get done.Diogenes searched for an honest man and never found one. You probably won't either. The more money that is involved, the less likely it is that you will get the truth out of someone. William Shakespeare advised people to "love all, trust a few." Far be it for anyone to add an adjective to the immortal bard's wisdom, but society has seen some dramatically disturbing changes in the last 400 years and, were Shakespeare to pen the same phrase for modern readers, it would most likely be changed to "trust pitiful few."
Never trust a government agency. Bureaucracy is an odd duck. Insulate it from the truth with enough layers of well-intentioned public servants and it will look you in the eye and tell you with a straight face that the President didn't have sex with an intern in the Oval Office. Produce evidence to the contrary and it will quibble over the definition of sex. Bereft of morals and ethics, acknowledging no guilt, it has no qualms about flying in the face of propriety.
Government is as good as the person who heads it. There is a long-standing myth that the President is elected by the citizenry and is therefore responsive to our needs. I doubt very much that anybody still truly believes it, but, just in case, let's go over the reasons why it isn't so. First of all, the votes which elect the President are cast by the Electoral College, meaning that the popular vote doesn't count for squat. Secondly, the fact that we have a two party system dictates that there is little chance of a third party candidate being elected. In a radio broadcast during the 2000 Presidential campaign, analyst Dave Ross made the remark that Ralph Nader and Osama bin Laden were the two most feared men in America—bin Laden because he spread terror and Nader because he spread truth. After being informed he would not be allowed to participate in any of the three televised debates, Nader tried to take a seat in the audience, but was turned away at the door. He returned with press credentials, but once again was recognized by security personnel and was politely told to get lost. Anyone who saw the debates knows that Bush and Gore did not differ very much in their viewpoints and came off more like two good old boys from an exclusive men's club than opponents in a hotly contested race.
Approximately one-half of all voters do not go to the polls on election day. In a way this means that 50 percent are casting ballots for none of the above. Lamentable, yes, but it is better to be disaffected than duped. If such a large number of citizens boycotted an election in any other country, would we consider the results to be valid?
Wouldn't it be nice if we could tell everyone that their vote really does count? But then, that would be a lie. The Electoral College determines who will be the next president. Congress does not trust us to make that decision for ourselves.
The game of life is rigged. In business as well as politics, the average guy foots the bill and gets peanuts in return. Don't speak up and they will think you like it. Suffering in silence will get you nowhere. I'm for screaming bloody murder.
Ashamed of what burns inside you? Must you always maintain your composure, even if it requires mind-dimming medication and excessive amounts of chicken soup for the soul to get there? Anger exists for a reason. When amalgamated with common sense and a rigid will of stainless steel, righteous anger can function as a keen knife for precision surgical removal of deep, malignant institutional corruption.
Anger is essential to emotional well-being. Step on my toes and I hurt. Given enough pain, anyone will react. Being natural isn't just good for animals and the environment, it's good for us as well. With direction, righteous anger can shake mountains and topple the unjust—it's what cunning manipulators fear the most.
Never allow anger to grow into hatred. While anger can be put to constructive purposes, hate has no purpose other than to destroy.
Unlike most Americans, I live in a rundown neighborhood where there is more anger than money. Unfortunately, much of the anger is dissipated on gambling, alcohol, drugs, and sex instead of being focused on the conditions that produced it.
What ever happened to the War on Poverty? When I take a look around me, it certainly seems that poverty won. Too bad, because it really wouldn't take that much to reverse the trend. In fact, simply by eliminating waste, we could save enough to give all the children who live in impoverished communities a decent education.
Let me give you a familiar example. There was a ton of money—much of it tax dollars in the form of matching funds—spent on the 2000 Presidential Election. Federal figures estimate the two major parties spent $405 million on the campaign. Here's how the money breaks down for Republicans, Democrats, and You:Campaign 2000:
Total Spent by Republicans: $252,000,000
Total Spent by Democrats: $153,000,000Dollars Spent per Vote:
Democrats: $3.18Here's what that money could have bought...Gallons of Gas ($1.65)
Republicans: 152,700,000 gallons
Democrats: 92,700,000 gallonsInternet Access ($20/month)
Republicans: 12,600,000 months
Democrats: 7,600,000 months4-Year College Educations ($100,000)
Democrats: 1,530Ford Explorers ($22,000)
Democrats: 6,954School Lunches ($1.25)
Democrats: 122,400,000Dictionaries ($8.00)
Democrats: 19,100,000Yes, $385,000,000 could have accomplished some good. Instead it mostly went to buy television air time for George W. Bush and Al Gore. What an incredible waste, considering that each station is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and must by law serve the public's interest. Asking broadcasters to provide free spots for presidential hopefuls is within reason. That they don't is yet another example of regulators being in bed with the industry they are supposed to be regulating.
As I write (late December 2000), there are rolling electrical blackouts throughout California, analogous to those that tourists sometimes encounter when traveling overseas—an ongoing embarrassment to a state that defines itself as cutting edge. A former Republican governor, Pete Wilson, deregulated electric utilities three years ago, claiming that competition would result in lower rates to the consumer. Instead, what has happened is that wholesale power generators in Texas and Oklahoma have artificially decreased supply to justify upping their profit margins. The squeeze on consumers is twofold—less juice for more money in a melodrama where Adam Smith is held for ransom by Niccolo Machiavelli (played ably by Enron Corporation, a prime producer of wholesale electricity and the number one contributor to George W. Bush's lavish bid for the presidency). Laughing all the way to the bank, Enron moved up to Number 7 among the Fortune 500 for 2000, rising from Number 18 (Enron subsequently went bankrupt, its top executives having bilked the shareholders out of billions). Its competitors (some might say collaborators) did almost as well—Reliant Energy made it up to Number 55 from 114th place and Duke Energy surged from 69 to 17.
According to Jesse Jackson, George W. Bush stole the election and should not be president. Certainly, the last minute partisan machinations of the United States Supreme Court which effectively stopped the recount of thousands of disputed Florida ballots lends credence to this allegation. Did wisdom and jurisprudence take a backseat to power politics? If so, we need to consider replacing the rule of law with trial by combat to more honestly reflect our values.
In his annual report to Congress on the U.S. judiciary, Chief Justice Rehnquist confessed, "This presidential election...tested our Constitutional system in ways it has never been tested before...Florida state courts, the lower federal courts and the Supreme Court...became involved in...way[s] that one hopes will seldom...be necessary in the future." A ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, remarked, "the court [has been dealt] a serious blow by taking actions many...consider to be political rather than judicial."
As of December 21, 2000, the United States Bureau of Prisons housed 146,535 inmates. The adult U.S. correctional population reached 6.6 million men and women at the end of 2001—a record high—with 3.1 percent of the nation's adult population in jail or on parole.
Knowing the biases of judges, I can't help but wonder how many inmates are incarcerated for committing crimes of conscience. Of course, nobody admits to any political prisoners whatsoever. Considering that blacks form 38 percent of the federal inmate population—a number many times greater than one would expect from an ethnic group accounting for 12.8 percent of all Americans—it appears likely that Justice is sneaking an occasional peek beneath the blindfold.
Justice has a price. Supreme Court Justices receive lifetime appointments (how's that for job security?) and make $140,000 per annum. Not too bad, considering that almost half of all justices were appointed to the court with no previous judicial experience.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Akil Amar, professor at Yale University, observed that "this is a very assertive court that is not afraid of invalidating everyone else. . . the only thing it's afraid of is admitting it made a mistake." Such is the nature of absolute power when it is mistakenly bestowed upon lesser men and women.
George W. Bush, who was selected rather than elected, is intent on reviving ruthless 19th century cartel capitalism. Currently, he is refusing to rebuke his Texas cronies at Enron for having produced an artificial energy crisis as a means of jacking up the price of electricity in California (revenge for having voted overwhelmingly for his opponent?) and, if successful, I predict that these very same cunning thieves who bankrolled Bush's run for the presidency will go on to suck the life out of our nation's economy by denying us sufficient sources of electricity and natural gas at reasonable prices.
Historians will someday write that ours was a golden age, the Golden Age of the Pax Americana. Similar to the Pax Romana, when Rome's legions kept order throughout the world, allowing commerce and culture to flourish, our military stands virtually unopposed. Like ancient Carthage, the Soviet Union has fallen. For a decade the United States has been exercising singular control over world affairs, policing the planet, rendering it safe for corporate capitalism. The republic yet stands, weathering crisis after crisis, succeeding where Rome failed.
It's a good sign, but there are no guarantees. Whither we go from here will make us or break us. An unprecedented opportunity exists to reform what ails us and bring all of the sheep into the fold.
We all know inherently what is right. But when you listen to the evening news, you get the corporate version of what is wrong. There is more amiss than Mediterranean fruit flies spoiling a bumper crop of kudzu with a street value of 50,000 rubles. People don't become disaffected over trifles. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was correctly assessing the potential for social upheaval when he remonstrated, "A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard." Voices of the underclass largely go unrecorded. This book is my honest attempt to remedy, if only in part, this regrettably unjust situation.
The Way It Is
"The condition of man . . . is a condition of war of everyone against everyone." - Thomas Hobbes
Everyone is a loner. From birth to death, nobody cares about you but yourself. Believe me, if you don't look out for Numero Uno, no one else will. What's that you say? Your mother cared about you and that's why she clothed and fed you? Bullshit. The dumpsters behind hospitals are full of tiny rotting corpses from women who got an abortion to get out of motherhood. Mothers don't give a damn.
Think you have friends? They put themselves first. Let it get tough and you will soon see what people are really like. The Donner Party wagon train was supposedly an association for mutual benefit and protection. But when the snows fell and food ran low, they ended up killing and eating each other. Your friends are no different. What they like about you most is what they can get out of you. Better wise up before it's too late. You are on your own in this world, whether you realize it or not. Whenever someone starts to get chummy with you, just visualize him hunched over your corpse with a salt shaker in his hand.
Whenever a reporter labels someone a "loner" on the evening news, most people are conveyed the image of an introverted sociopath—definitely angry—most likely violent, possibly even a crazed serial killer or a mad bomber. Such ridiculous stereotypical profiling used to be reserved for minorities and women. But nowadays these groups have some degree of protection under the law, consequently the media have taken to demonizing illegal aliens, the homeless, and social outcasts. Why? Because those segments of our society lack political clout and are therefore easy targets. That's how it works; skulking predators attack the weak as they straggle behind the herd. If society was half as civilized as it purports to be, it would protect these people. But, no, when pushed to the limit, we act like animals. When you get down to basics, the name of the game is still Survival of the Fittest.
In case you haven't noticed, almost all of the social welfare entitlements enacted since the Depression have either been cut or eliminated entirely. Food Stamps are down nearly 25 percent and single mothers are systematically being kicked off of welfare and forced to take dead-end minimum wage jobs while their children go unsupervised at home. Uncle Sam is literally pulling the safety net out from under us. The "haves" are doing their best to glamorize this economic butchery as a return to the glorious era of laissez faire capitalism.. For the vast majority of the "have-nots" this will undeniably translate into a return to the Law of the Jungle.
Even worse, the gap between the rich and the poor is steadily increasing. The number of Americans living in poverty increased from 25 million in 1980 to 36.5 million in 1997. Currently, the poverty rate for children in the United States is 20.8 percent—twice the rate of any other age group. Needless to say, not even the staunchest of laissez faire capitalists would dare claim that the growing numbers of malnourished, impoverished youth have only themselves to blame for their degradation.
According to a 1996 estimate, 760,000 people are homeless on any given night. Fully 6.5 percent of Americans have experienced homelessness at some time in their lives. Families with children—those least able to cope with the effects of homelessness—are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, presently accounting for upwards of 40 percent. Moreover, 8.5 million households have incomes of less than $10,000 per year. Could you adequately clothe and feed your family on such a meager salary?
But nothing like that could ever happen to you. You've got a steady job and you're not a bit worried.
Oh, yeah? Just how secure is your employment? Do you expect to work for the same company until retirement? What's the chance that you will be downsized or replaced with a younger worker? Is your employer as loyal to you as you are to him? Or will he suck the life from you and then discard you like yesterday's newspaper once he has gotten his use from you? Be realistic; after all, don't you owe yourself the truth?
What's that you say? You can always get another job? Today, maybe, but how about after you turn forty or fifty? Although you probably have a lot of miles left in you, nobody ever buys a used car when they can purchase a new one for the same price. They will slam your doors and kick your tires enough to keep you from suing them for age discrimination before hiring a younger applicant. I know. I've been there and done that.
And, while we are at it, let's analyze those rosy economic/employment statistics the federal government has been feeding the media lately. Since the numbers are compiled by Uncle Sam rather than an independent firm, they are not above suspicion. It turns out that the formula for figuring unemployment gets changed about as often as a baby's diaper and has been known to contain an even higher concentration of fecal matter. If my own eyes convince me that an amazingly high percentage of my neighbors are long-term unemployed, then why should I believe what I read in the newspaper? Nobody I know is a millionaire and the majority of people with whom I come into contact on a daily basis—clerks, receptionists, etceteras—earn little more than minimum wage. In most cases, an individual in the exact same job twenty years ago made more in terms of real take home income than the person working it today. This explains why husband and wife now both have to work in order to adequately support a family, whereas the previous generation was able to get along rather well on only one income.
It is not by accident that what we regard as the traditional nuclear family—husband and wife with two kids and a mortgage—is fast becoming an endangered species. Our hopes and goals are not so much changing as the conditions under which we labor. Make no mistake, the vast surge in non-traditional lifestyles of the past thirty years has been to a greater extent than most of us realize a knee-jerk reaction to forces in the workplace. As real wages decline and job security all but vanishes, it should come as no surprise that men and women would opt for one night stands or odd, often bizarre, relationships rather than raising a family as their parents did. A future full of economic uncertainties—a future viewed by all too many young people as offering no guarantees whatsoever—is hardly conducive to family planning. Isn't it ironic that family planning in this day and age has come to be a synonym for birth control? Am I the only person who can recall when family planning meant deciding on how big of a house to buy and how much needed to be set aside for the children's college tuition? Historians and social scientists have a term for successful cultures that lose sight of the values that made them strong. They call them decadent. Squandering the birthright of future generations on hedonistic self-gratification is suicidal. So died ancient Rome—partying as if there were no tomorrows until suddenly—lo and behold—there was no tomorrow.
Economic prosperity is not shared equally. Those who promote the theory that wealth flowing in at the top will sooner or later trickle down to the bottom are oblivious to the fact that the gap between the richest five percent and the poorest five percent of the population continues to widen at an alarming rate. It is amazing how well people will endure poverty when conditions warrant. But having to go without the basic necessities while watching others enjoy abundant luxury is an entirely different matter. Such is the stuff of discontent and rebellion.
Not being completely stupid, the government does what it must (albeit grudgingly) to protect its image. In order to achieve an outward appearance of working towards equality, it has set quotas for hiring blacks, women, and other minorities. However, because the problem was misstated as being one of race and gender instead of what it is—one of economics—the end result has been little more than a cosmetic facelift. Yes, some of the white male faces have been replaced by black, brown, and female faces, but nothing has really changed. The unjust, exploitative, and injurious system remains intact. The predators may look different, but, make no mistake about it, they are still predators. Of course, potential predatory types always existed among all races and genders. By empowering the predators among the disaffected, the government has cunningly created a new super breed of exploiters that are even more effective than their white male predecessors at keeping the disadvantaged down. While it may be of small comfort to know that the boot that is stomping on your fingers is black, you should nevertheless realize that it is first and foremost a boot, and its color is only of incidental or, at best, secondary importance.
Economic inequality breeds social injustice which, if left to simmer, inevitably results in violent action. Terrorists aren't born, they're made. Dissect one and you will most likely find it fueled with high octane righteous indignation. Although it tends to function like a beast, it used to be a human being—just like you and me—before it became angry as hell and decided it wasn't going to take it anymore. Don't believe me? Then please explain how Gerry Adams and Yassar Arafat, formerly labeled as terrorists, have managed to become internationally respected leaders? People change when conditions change. Inside of every wild-eyed, pistol waving terrorist, a law-abiding, productive citizen is struggling to get out.
Terrorism is spawned by lack of opportunity, desperation, and frustration. Speaking at the United Nations Summit on Global Poverty in Monterrey, Mexico on March 21, 2002, World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore called poverty a "time bomb lodged against the heart of liberty," while the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Han Seung-soo, referred to the world's slums as a "breeding ground for violence." Refugee camps where displaced people live in squalor without hope for the future are a good source of recruits for terrorist organizations. Place a peaceful individual in an overtly hostile environment—starve and subject him to innumerable injustices over which he has little or no control—and he will eventually turn violent.
Only when all other options have been exhausted do irrational acts come to be seen as being rational. Our natural instinct for self-preservation and survival is not easily overridden. Imagine the degree of inhumane treatment it would take to make a sane man strap sticks of dynamite to his body and blow himself up in the midst of a crowded marketplace. Under the right circumstances, sane men can and do commit insane acts. Someone please explain what advantage is gained by maneuvering someone into such a position. One could adequately clothe, house, and feed an entire refugee camp for the price of the security system at a single major airport. Which is preferable, installing expensive metal detectors and fluoroscopes or alleviating the need for them?
I can remember when terrorists were bad guys who accomplished their objectives by randomly maiming and killing innocent people. With the passage of time, however, the definition of terrorism—previously limited to particularly heinous crimes that terrorized humanity—has been expanded until it now includes minor property damage and verbal threats. The concerned father who threatens to demolish a boyfriend's car for failing to bring his daughter home by midnight, runs the risk of being arrested for making terrorist threats. Likewise, the terminated employee who, with a couple of beers under his belt, boasts to the entire bar that he intends to get even with his former employer, may find himself brought up on criminal charges. Ordinary citizens in a free society have the right to say what they want in private conversations without it being analyzed for politically incorrect content by Big Brother.
But it gets more absurd than that. Recently, a middle school student in Riverside, California, was expelled when a teacher saw a nail clipper equipped with a small blade in his open 3-ring binder. The school's principal agreed with the teacher's belief that the nail clipper could, under certain circumstances, be used as a weapon. Although the student had never actually touched the nail clipper, he was judged guilty of having brought a weapon to school. It took public protest and a lengthy appeal before the boy was allowed to go back to school. Common sense should have told the school administrators that this was a young man focused on education—this was his first offense—not a budding terrorist hell-bent on smuggling weapons into the classroom. However, if the school district was looking for a way to motivate the student body into rebelling against authority, it could undoubtedly find none better than to actively pursue its zero tolerance policy on weapons in just such an inane, unjust manner.
The day of the lone mad bomber is long gone. Terrorism, like everything else, has been taken over by disciplined professionals who, in view of the risks inherent in the trade, expect to earn a good living at what they do. Groups such as al-Qaida, Abu Sayyaf, Revolutionalry Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and Hamas are structured like corporations and are similarly mindful of finances. Prospective recruits undergo a probationary period during which they are screened, indoctrinated and trained. Other than the danger, it's just another job. No room for loners here; those in charge will stop at nothing in eliminating cowboys and loose cannons. An individual who acts in accordance with his or her principles is no more encouraged or tolerated here than in any other business.
When it comes to terror, no one individual could ever hope to match the expertise and resources of government agencies. A lone gunman or bomber is inevitably outclassed whenever an agency such as the FBI or CIA becomes involved. Faced with probable failure, only a madman—or, much more likely, someone driven to temporary insanity by situations and circumstances over which he/she has no control—would engage in such self-destructive—often suicidal—behavior. In the end, the only winners are the law enforcement agencies that depend upon public fears for increased funding. Were it not for the perceived threat of terrorism, all those expensive flak jackets, surveillance devices, and assault weapons—and the training it takes to utilize them—would quickly vanish.
The Twentieth century witnessed the birth of the totalitarian state. Increasingly, government is gaining a monopoly on violent force and using it to terrorize the individual. Let's not forget that the largest, most repulsive outbreak of terrorism in history—the Holocaust—was planned, organized, and executed in all its horrific details by a government. Is there any doubt that Hitler did not act alone?
In the 1930's, J. Edgar Hoover built a fiefdom by publicizing the chilling exploits and subsequent arrests of small-time hoodlums. Today, his successors seek to do likewise by magnifying terrorist activities. The plain fact is that there have always been fringe malcontents who have attempted to gain their political objectives by maiming and killing innocent people.
Security is worthless if it does not help the public to sleep well at night. Those who prey upon our fears betray the public's trust.
Compounding the problem of terrorism are various economic and social factors. Have you ever had to go through a metal detector before boarding a bus or a train? Ever stopped to wonder why not? I think I know. Everyone knows who Charles Manson is, but few have heard of Juan Corona, who claimed many more victims in California at about the same time. That's because Manson murdered celebrities while Corona slaughtered farm laborers. Why blow up a busload of common folks when the same munitions could knock an airliner from the sky?
Personally, I like people. One-on-one is all right. But add a cause or an ism to the mixture and things begin to get strange. Experience has taught me that corporations and governments use us shamelessly to gain their goals. After a while, being a pawn in somebody else's game loses its charm. That's why I chose to go it alone.A Legacy of Self-reliance and Independence
"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called." - John Stuart Mill
What happened to rugged individualism? Our pioneer ancestors fought their way across America, each striving to realize his own unique ambitions, building a nation as they went. Although their lives were much harder than ours today, decadent social disorders such as divorce and suicide were almost unheard of.
Getting divorced and remarried is like trading in a used car. You are trading problems you know for problems you don't know. As soon as the honeymoon is over, you begin to realize that everyone has faults and that this relationship is destined to end like the last unless you work at making it successful. Anyone who expects to be deliriously happy is naive. Your great grandparents stayed married to each other because they had the good sense to make the best of what they had. How many marriages will it take until you realize that you got yourself into this situation and it will not get any better unless you learn to deal with it? One old clunker is as good as another—how long it will last depends on how it is driven.
Truly rugged individuals—the independent types who play the lead roles in the action movies—accept responsibility for their own actions. That's right, you married her and now you are stuck with her. You didn't choose your parents or grandparents and you don't want to get rid of them, so what makes you want to jettison your spouse? Isn't it ironic that the only member of your family that you selected of your own free will is the one individual you cannot get along with?
Little children blame others when anything goes wrong. As a responsible adult, you should realize that you can't learn from your mistakes unless you acknowledge them. Neither society nor Mom and Dad are the cause of your troubles. And even if they were, would it make any difference? I am willing to bet that somewhere, deep in your subconscious, you know this to be true. The time to start dealing with it is now. Nobody but you can put your house in order.
Rugged individualism is all about taking charge of your life. Being dependent on others renders you subservient to their values and goals. Trading your God-given right to do as you see fit for a handful of baubles and illusory convenience is nothing short of stupid. Be your own person. Happiness begins when slavery ends.
The mere act of declaring your independence can be cathartic. Hostility and despair soon vanish and are replaced by feelings of optimism, dignity, and self worth. As your perspective changes, so will your life. The key to loving others is to love yourself.
Rugged individualism is not gender specific and has little to do with machismo. In the wagon alongside every pioneer man there was a pioneer woman. To the east lie servitude and tenements, to the west lie hardships and an uncertain future. Leaving the past behind, they cast fear aside and set out in the direction of the Sun's arc—towards hope and a new tomorrow.
The frontiers are still there beckoning. Although different, the frontiers of the Twenty-first century are no less challenging than those of the nineteenth. An endless realm of choices awaits you. Inventions are waiting to be invented; galaxies are waiting to be discovered; and the world is waiting for you to find a cure for the common cold. Anything is possible for those who have the courage to take the risks. Nobody is going to do it for you. No corporation is going to knock on your door and set everything out for you nor is a government agency going to call you on the phone and tell you how it is going to be. You must do it for yourself. All that is required is the concentration it takes to formulate a plan, the will to act on the plan, and the perseverance to follow through.
It is your life. The choice is up to you. Will you take the high road, steer your own course and meet the challenges or skate downhill on a fun ride until you hit bottom? It takes courage to go the hard way. Have you got what it takes?
Tell me, when you go to the bathroom, do you wait for someone else to wipe you? Far too many people nowadays can't do even the simple things for themselves. They expect the government to find them a job and, in the event it doesn't, they demand food stamps, welfare, and free medical care for the rest of their lives. Like the superficially genteel Southern belle, Blanche DuBois, in Tennessee William's 1947 play A Street Car Named Desire, they are nice people who depend on the kindness of others. We feel sorry for them and want to do all we can to help. That's natural, but we have to be careful how we go about it. Assistance that does not work toward getting people to stand on their own two feet is no help at all—in fact, it's demeaning. In order to feel good about one's self, a person has to be productive. It is the givers, not the takers, who benefit emotionally from charity. Real help is a hand, not a handout.
* * *Have you ever hired someone else to do a job, only to lament afterwards that you did not do the work yourself? It is a maxim that nobody cares about what is important to you as much as you do. Slipshod work, overblown pricing, and inordinate delays are all dangers of the post-industrial service economy era. Although you might want to think twice before attempting do-it-yourself surgery, there is absolutely no reason why you can't mow your own lawn, replace the washers in a leaky faucet, or paint the bathroom.
Not understanding the details of a job you are paying someone else to do puts you at their mercy. A disreputable plumber might sell you a new hot water heater when all you need is a thermostat if you don't have a clue as to why there is no hot water. Others will tell you this is the age of specialization—I'm telling you that although technology has changed, human nature hasn't. Leave yourself open and someone is bound to take advantage. It is best to know a little something about everything. The more you learn, the less of a sucker you will be. And, whenever possible, do the job yourself.
In addition to living better, self-reliance may actually help you to live longer. Reducing your dependence factor—the number of people you have to deal with on any given day—will result in a corresponding reduction in stress. It is possible, even in the midst of a big city, to be a loner. Cut out the bastards who are making your life miserable and you will be a much happier person.
Becoming a loner is almost like being born again. Wiping the slate clean and starting over is always an immensely exhilarating and rewarding experience. In self-reliance there is solitude and inner peace. Judging by the self reliant example set by holy men and monks, it actually aids the cleansing of the soul and thereby brings one closer to God.
The term "monk" comes from the Greek word "monos" which means "alone," "one," "only." There is perhaps no better way to attain enlightenment than to experience being joyfully alone and yet one with all. It is solely as individuals that we can find our place in the universe. The worth of an individual cannot be calculated by his value to a corporation or government; all institutions are artificial, temporal entities created to serve man's needs. When they degenerate to the point where they begin to affect people in a negative fashion, they lose sight of their original purpose and need to be changed. Meanwhile, it is better to be joyfully alone than unhappily together—it is up to you to decide whether these institutions are a positive or negative force in your life. Once you withdraw and reorganize, you may find it to your advantage to rejoin society under improved terms. Just remember the lesson of the monk: inner peace is not to be sacrificed on the altar of outward comforts.
Being a loner does not necessarily mean you have to rough it. The "rugged" in "rugged individualism" refers to strength of will rather than macho toughness. Loners don't all adhere to the same lifestyle. Independent people who go their own way are as liable to be found in a big city as on a secluded ranch. You don't have to live like a hermit or a refugee. Making money and selling out are two very different things. It is possible to sell your labor and/or ideas without sacrificing your soul. Though you might not, at least at first, make as much money, you will certainly feel a whole lot better about what you are doing. Whatever you do, remain true to yourself and you will experience less stress and less problems in the long run.
"We do not do what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are—that is the fact." - Jean Paul Sartre
It has become fashionable to blame others for what goes wrong in our lives. If a student ditches school, doesn't pay attention in the classroom, and consequently does not acquire the skills it takes to succeed in the job market, it is said to be a failure of the educational system. A mother who leaves an infant alone in a highchair and returns to find it toppled and the child injured is liable to sue the manufacturer. The lawyer representing a killer who was caught standing over the body with a warm gun in his hand will undoubtedly whine to the jury about the verbal and physical abuse his client suffered at an early age. There are psychologists who would have us believe that trauma can rob an individual of his or her inherent sense of right and wrong so as to render that person not responsible for any subsequent adverse actions.
That's bullshit. We can't all be victims. Someone has to be responsible. Taking responsibility for the consequences of one's own actions (or lack thereof) is a sign of maturity. Until we acknowledge them, we can't learn from our mistakes.
Each mistake we make is an opportunity to learn something new and benefit from the experience. Fixing what went wrong deserves your undivided attention. Leave any assignment of guilt where it belongs—to God—and concentrate on what you need to be doing.
At times we all feel like the world is against us. But, even if it was, does that mean you should lay down and die? There are people who succeed against seemingly impossible odds—victory is simply made sweeter by the struggle. There is no more gratifying feeling than working steadfastly towards a self-chosen objective, straining with heart, soul, mind, and body to reach that which is just beyond your grasp, and fully knowing that what you are doing is right for you.
Buds fulfill their purpose by blooming. So, too, do all your hopes and dreams. Those that don't will inevitably rot and fall.
Yes, the experience can be painful. But pain is God's way of letting us know we are still alive. Pleasure and pain constitute the yen and the yang of life—they seek equilibrium by balancing each other. We all hurt sometimes and the pain serves to make us tougher.
It is up to you to set the direction your life will go. Plot a proper course before you drift. Life's rocky shoals are strewn with skeletons of rudderless derelicts. You serve as the captain of your destiny and you alone can bring it to safe harbor.
During my late teens growing up in Southern California, I used to hang out with the kid across the street. We spent hours comparing bosses, complaining about how hard we had it. As time went on, I moved away and we lost touch. Twenty years went by before I returned to the old neighborhood for a visit. I was surprised (and disappointed) to find he hadn't changed a bit. As far as he was concerned, the world was still out to get him. His father had kicked him out of the house and he had moved into a small trailer parked at the far end of the driveway. Some people, I guess, never change. If you are happy like that, then it's O.K. with me. But most of us want more from life than that.
At times we all get stuck in a rut. It's far easier to react to stimuli than to use our brains. Yet if we don't, we can never hope to improve our condition—in fact, inertia dictates that we either keep moving forward or begin to slide backwards. Although going from a house to a trailer in the driveway might not seem so bad, the next stop can only be life on the street with a shopping cart for a companion. A few are born homeless, some are victims of circucumstance, however, most readily admit to having made themselves that way.
Loners Need Not Be Lonely
"We live as we dream - alone." - Joseph Conrad, Heart of DarknessWe are born alone; we die alone; and in between we compete to survive. Such is the nature of man. In this we are no different than any other species on this planet. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.
This does not mean, however, that we do not interact and form relationships with others. It takes nine people to play baseball and unless they play as a team, they will surely lose. Temporary relationships such as these are formed for a specific purpose and dissolved as soon as that purpose is fulfilled. It is solely the game that has brought these players together and there is no need for them to share their innermost secrets. The peril of doing so should be readily apparent to anyone who has ever read Ball Four, Jim Bouton's classic locker room exposé.
Although we tend to think of individuals with whom we closely associate as being our friends, we must constantly be on guard to prevent any Jim Bouton type who may be lurking among them, i.e. a wolf in sheep's clothing, from exploiting the relationship. I've singled out Jim Bouton, but, in truth, I think he is no different than any of the rest of us. It is the nature of the beast within us—we are all potential predators. People do what they must to survive. Trusting anyone farther than necessary is an invitation to betrayal. In extraordinary circumstances and under tremendous pressures, even the best of friendships can unravel. Tell no one more than they need to know and you won't get burned. You can be a nice guy without being a sucker.
Man is a social animal. Establishing bonds with fellow human beings is a natural, healthy desire. Most would argue that it is essential to the individual's psychological well-being. I do not dispute this fact. Nonetheless, a person would have to be a fool not to realize that the potential for danger is very real. Linda Tripp provides an example with which we are all familiar. Monica Lewinsky approached her as a trusted friend and co-worker, asking for Tripp's advice on a personal matter. Tripp took advantage of the relationship by surreptitiously recording their conversation. Wearing a wire is to me the ultimate act of betrayal. Of course, this was an extraordinary case involving no less a personage than the President of the United States. Still, if a savvy politician like Bill Clinton could be snagged in the fine mesh net formed by interlocking relationships, shouldn't that give all of us cause for concern?
The classic model of friendship which we learn as children is the story of Damon and Pythias. According to the tale, they were such close friends that when Pythias faced execution for plotting against a tyrant, Damon volunteered to take his place so he could go home and arrange his personal affairs. Should Pythias fail to return, Damon would be put to death. Of course, Pythias returned at the last possible moment and the gods, moved by the display of friendship, intervened and released them both.
Through the ages this tale has set the standard for faith and loyalty between friends. Too bad it's no longer so. Nowadays, a friend is someone you invite to your Princess House party or sell Amway products to. Friends are for networking and are valued for what they can do for you. Needless to say, friends are no longer necessarily soulmates. "To die for" has come to mean Haagen Daas and Gucchi—Damon and Pythias would find themselves very much out of place in our modern materialistic culture.
Damon and Pythias purportedly lived in the 4th century B.C. A lot has changed since then. In Roman times, most people lived in the place where they were born for their entire lives and came to know and trust their neighbors. But today, due to the increasingly mobile nature of the post-industrial workforce (pundits quip that we have become high tech nomads riding SUV's instead of camels), the average family uproots and moves once every three years. This is hardly conducive to deep bonding. When is the last time you went next door to borrow a cup of sugar? Do you know the last name of the people who live four houses down?
Friends are not what they used to be. Increasingly, the term is being applied to casual relationships in which we have limited knowledge of the other person's character. How much do we really know about a friend we meet in an internet chatroom? Most likely he or she is little more than a nameless, faceless personality, a cyber substitute for the real thing.
This is the era of the one night stand, wherein an individual we met a short time ago in a darkened discotheque is suddenly and miraculously transformed into a surrogate spouse. Afterwards, of course, we feel cheapened and demeaned. The seeming inability of a substantial percentage of the adult population to fulfill their lives through permanent, meaningful relationships is the dreadful tragedy of the modern age.
It would be all too easy to place the blame for the breakdown of the social order on the doorstep of greedy businessmen and the questionable influences of advertising. However, the fact of the matter is that an overwhelming majority of Americans like it that way. Consumption (often to the point where our cup runneth over) is addictive. One can never get enough. It is not that we don't like people, it is simply that material possessions and the sense of security that comes with them have become more important to us than our relationships. For Damon and Pythias in the 4th century B.C., the key to security was friends and family. Today, the key to security is a bulging stock portfolio and an IRA.
This trend towards ever increasing materialism should give us cause for alarm. I can remember when shop was used esclusively as a noun—never a verb. That there could ever be such a thing as an urge to shop was unthinkable to previous generations of human beings. Science fiction failed to predict the emergence of an artificial instinct implanted deep in the subconscious by means of subliminal messages delivered to us via our television sets. Have we lost control of our mental processes? Is advertising short-circuiting our brains and causing us to confuse our wants with our needs? More than 40 years ago, renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith warned us in his book, The Affluent Society, that "wants can be synthesized...shaped by the discreet manipulations of the persuaders." I don't know about you, but I resent being manipulated, regardless of how discreetly it is being done.
Clearly, the propaganda of materialism—ads that continually assault our senses from billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the internet—has gotten so far out of hand that it is having an adverse effect on the quality of life. No longer do we buy to satisfy our needs; we now shop till we drop in order to appease inner cravings. Anything taken in too large of a dose over too long of a period of time can become addictive. Shopaholics are sick people. Pushing the off button on the television only serves to reduce the symptoms. The sad truth is that the only complete and lasting cure involves some degree of withdrawal from society—in effect, becoming a loner.
Do you think you are immune to the effects of advertising? Think again. Advertisers don't always hit you over the head with their messages—they can be subtle when it pays them to do so. Edward Bernays, known as "The Father of Advertising," was a firm believer in surreptitious promotion. In the Depression era, when it was considered vulgar for women to smoke in public, Bernays hired 1,000 young women to smoke Lucky Strikes during an Easter parade. The best promotion, according to Bernays, leaves the victim unaware that he or she has been suckered. Vespa recently ran a campaign in which they sent good-looking people to trendy bars on Vespa motorscooters. The mission was to approach unsuspecting singles, strike up a conversation, and then ask for their phone numbers. Come the next day, the god or goddess they had met at the bar invariably failed to call, but a Vespa salesperson did.
Most of us embrace free enterprise because we believe that it is the system best suited to provide goods and services to the public in an efficient manner. However, when corporations become too big and powerful, as has become the case with a handful of multinational corporations, they gobble up competitors and literally force consumers to pay ridiculous prices for products which they foist on us through deceptive advertising (no down payment with 0% APR for example). Too often commercials fail to respect the thin line between promotion and exploitation. Clever ads do this subtly by design, transforming what was formerly a service, i.e. providing helpful information, into a disservice. The FCC—supposedly the guardian of the airwaves—turns a blind eye to what amounts to outright fraud. They can shove their ads. My right to privacy supersedes the license the FCC gave them to steal. Leave me alone!
The worst cases of saturation advertising come from the health care industry where since August 1997, when the FDA issued more liberal guidelines on direct ads to consumers, spending by pharmaceutical manufacturers on advertising has increased severalfold. I can't listen to the midday news report without being asked, "What's your excuse for not having more and better sex?," and being told that I can have the "real" Viagra prescribed over the phone and shipped to my door in a plain package with no embarrassing markings. Could they be more explicit? According to the spot ads—broadcast during the noon hour when a substantial percentage of the audience is composed of preteens eating lunch at home—the most important part of any relationship is "satisfying your partner." These ads have proven so objectionable that Pfizer has found it expedient to post a 19 page document on its website refuting claims that the purpose of such ads is to get patients to "pressure doctors for unnecessary prescriptions," thereby pushing drug prices higher and increasing profits.
A dishonorable mention in the health care products sweepstakes goes to Body Solutions who snidely inquire, "When you look in the mirror, do you see the Michelin man staring back at you?" If so, you need to fork over a bundle of money for nutrition spray, morning weight loss formula, and evening weight loss formula (contains aloe vera, trace minerals, and conjugated linoleic acid). Wouldn't it be ironic if this particular advertiser's bad taste really was the key to a slimmer you?
Excessive, saturation advertising should be forced to carry a warning label: "The Treasurer of the United States, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the Secretary of the Treasury, hereby give warning that prolonged exposure to media ads can damage your financial well-being by encouraging you to buy consumer goods and services you do not need and/or cannot afford. Maxxed out credit cards, loss of credit, property liens, repos, and bankruptcy will follow in quick succession." All too many families live paycheck to paycheck as indentured servants of lending institutions. Most cannot identify the source of their economic difficulties and can only say that their purchasing has somehow gotten out of control. Of course, they blame themselves for their predicament instead of the constant subliminal assault by Madison Avenue on their buying habits in which techniques developed by behavioral scientists are misused to trigger an immediate gratification response. Although you may not rush out and buy a particular item, the likelihood of you eventually buying that product increases with exposure to its ads. Considering that most of us have limited resources, we need to spend our money wisely. The last thing we need is some greedy advertising firm tinkering with our minds. Don't get me wrong, a little advertising is helpful in that it informs the consumer and stimulates the economy. However, as in everything else, too much of a good thing becomes harmful. The solution, unfortunately, is not as easy as switching off the tube. It has been my experience that advertising is pervasive and omnipresent—it reaches us via radio, television, newspapers, billboards, and junk mail. Unless you are willing to at least partially withdraw from society, i.e. become a loner, you cannot escape its influence.
This reminds me of those old black and white movies from WWII in which the Gestapo major informs the downed American flyer that "we have ways of making you talk." Imagine an ad man playing the part of the bad guy, telling his captive audience via the airways that "we have ways of making you shop." And he does. Most of us already spend more than we earn. Do we do it because we enjoy it or has the pleasure proven to be fleeting and illusive? It seems that the bad guy has tricked us again.
Binge spending takes a tragic toll. When I take my Labrador, Speedo, for a walk, we pass by an Advance Paycheck store (the 21st century, slicker version of a pawn shop in which post dated personal checks function as the collateral). People are constantly going in and out—in fact, it appears to be doing more business than any other shop in the neighborhood. I did not say better business, because it is obvious to me from the frantic appearance of its customers that they are there because they have run out of options. Receiving an empty envelope on payday is the ultimate exploitation. Question: What is the difference between signing a contract under financial duress that effectively leaves an individual working for nothing for a stipulated period of time and indentured servitude? Answer: The indentured servant merits free room and board. Charging 150 to 200 percent interest is unconscionable. All too often, the victims of these loan sharks are enlisted military personnel for whom nonpayment of debt is a punishable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
I am not inferring that debtors should not be held accountable for their debts. A fool and his money are soon parted and, in my opinion, rightfully so. There is a world of difference, however, between being foolish and being pressured by outside forces to do something that is unwise. According to the Bureau of the Census, outstanding consumer credit debt rose 87.5 percent for the decade between 1990 and 1999, going from $796 billion to $1,393 billion. Considering that there was little or no growth in real wages over this same period, I am forced to conclude that either foolishness struck consumers in epidemic proportions or something else was at work. This was the Reagan era in which economic deregulation was a primary plank in the political agenda. The FCC saw its control over advertisers diminish, giving birth to infomercials, hitherto unheard of advertising of distilled liquors over the airways, and a brain-numbing expansion in the sheer number of commercials that television viewers are forced to endure. What is the likelihood of this having had little or no effect on consumer buying habits? Judging from the six figure incomes of advertising executives, it's practically nil.
Statistics published by the American Bankruptcy Institute say that consumer bankruptcy filings increased a whopping 475 percent between 1984 and 1997, going from 284,517 to 1,350,118 cases. In the same period business bankruptcy filings decreased from 64,004 to 54,027 cases. Who got the worst of it, consumers or business?It is going to get much worse. One of the first bills to be passed under the Bush Administration concerned bankruptcy. The oppressive legislation limits access to Chapter 7 bankruptcy (the type that erases all debt) to those families with incomes below their state's median income level. All others must file under Chapter 13, which requires repayment under court supervision. While this may seem fair on the surface, research has shown that upwards of 75 percent of people who file for bankruptcy are middle-class families hit with catastrophic illness, unexpected unemployment, and/or divorce. Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota who voted against the measure said that "the little people are going to get smashed ...no question about it...[being] a wish list for the credit card industry and a nightmare for vulnerable families." In fact, banks and credit card companies, who get first dibs on any assets, lobbied heavily for passage, funneling millions into Congressional coffers. Federal Elections Commission figures show that banks and credit card companies gave $37.7 million to parties and candidates in 2000, up 75 percent from 1998. MBNA America, the nation's largest credit card issuer was also the nation's largest supporter of George W. Bush's successful bid for the presidency, anteing up $240,700 in hard money donations. And MBNA's Chief Executive Officer, George Cawley, was a member of a select group known as "Bush Pioneers"—each of whom raised at least $100,000 early in the campaign. Although the new "reform" bankruptcy legislation claims to promote financial responsibility, the credit card industry is in no way prohibited from encouraging everyone (including naive minors) to get into debt. Although I earned less than $15,000 last year, I received an average of three unsolicited applications per month. According to the Consumer Federation of America, in the third quarter of 2000 alone, credit card companies mailed 2.5 billion solicitations, extended 13 percent more credit than a year earlier, and reaped profits at a record five year high.
Some universities—Nevada, for instance—sell student names and addresses to credit card vendors. One study found that 6 percent of freshmen at UC Berkley have credit card debts of $2,000 or more. Many students are lured into applying for credit by an offer of a free T-shirt or calculator.
In February 1998, Sean Moyer, a University of Oklahoma junior with a part-time job in a department store, hanged himself while brooding over the $10,000 he owed on 12 credit cards. But where financial institutions are concerned, death does not necessarily bring closure. Sean's mother, Janne, says he still gets credit card offers in the mail. At least once a month, junk mail credit solicitations reopen this grieving mother's wounds. The latest to arrive was an offer for a "preselected credit line of up to $100,000 from Chase" . . . a not-so-subtle reminder that Sean died owing a substantial debt to Chase-Manhattan Bank.
At about the same time, Mitzi Pool, an 18 year old University of Central Oklahoma freshman, phoned her mother, sobbing and distraught over having lost her part-time job as a telemarketer, afraid that she would not be able to make ends meet. With a weekly income of $65, she had managed to run up a balance of $2,500 on three credit cards. Her mother tried her best, but could not convince Mitzi that she would eventually be able to get out from under her debt. Later that night, the police called to inform her that her daughter had committed suicide. When they found Mitzi, credit cards and bills were strewn about her bed.
According to research presented by Georgetown University sociologist Robert Manning, "The unrestricted marketing of credit cards on college campuses is so aggressive that it now poses a greater threat than alcohol or sexually transmitted diseases. Typically, students slide into debt through the extension of unaffordable credit lines, increasing education-related expenses, peer pressure to spend, and financial naivité reinforced by low minimum monthly payments and routine increases in credit." Credit has reached epidemic proportions; 78 percent of U.S. college undergraduates have at least one credit card and 10 percent of those with credit cards owe more than $7,000. If a student who owed $7,000 was to pay the two percent minimums at 18 percent annual percentage rate, it would take him or her 51 years and 9 months to pay off the debt, having cost the student a total of $19,931.76 in interest.
As I stated previously, the net effect of saturation advertising is to transform wants into needs. That this is having a negative effect on consumers is given credence by the number that are having to file for bankruptcy. What we need to do now is to examine the finite nature of our needs so that we can better satisfy them, as opposed to our wants which are limitless and therefore impossible to satisfy.
Abraham Harold Maslow, a co-founder of humanistic psychology, contributed greatly to our knowledge of human needs. Noting that "man is a wanting animal," he observed that as soon as we satisfy one desire, another takes its place. There is sense and order in the succession of motives, a distinct heirarchy of needs which he ably illustrated with a pyramid divided into ascending levels of human needs.
At the base of the pyramid are survival needs: water, sleep, food, reproduction, and shelter. Before going to the next level, each of these needs must be met. Should a deficiency be detected at some future time, we will drop everything else and concentrate on correcting the deficiency.
The second level of human needs is safety and security. This includes economic security and freedom from threats. People need to feel out of danger before going on to fulfill higher needs.
At each succeeding level, our needs become more complex. The bottom two levels are labeled deficiency needs while the top three levels are labeled growth needs. An individual is prepared to act on growth needs if and only if his/her deficiency needs have been fulfilled. Here is where saturation advertising wreaks its havoc by persuading us that life is not worth living without a cellular phone, Weber grill, and thousands of other non-essential products and services before we achieve financial security. There will be a time to buy all these things, but is that time necessarily now? A substantial number of the 1,350,118 consumers who filed for bankruptcy in 1997 undoubtedly did so as a result of purchasing products they really did not need or were not yet in a financial position to buy. Far too many individuals are getting the cart before the horse for it to be happening entirely by accident.
A later researcher named Alderfer modified Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs by including concepts from systems theory. According to Alderfer, relationships at the first two levels are characterized by one person's gain being another person's loss. This is not so much due to meanness or bad intent as it is to limited resources. In other words, it is the limited nature of resources which makes the Law of the Jungle operative at the deficiency levels. Unless the deficiency needs have been satisfied, which, needless to say, is not the case for the vast majority of us, individuals grab for all they can get in any relationship with the end result that one or the other almost always ends up feeling cheated. The operative pairs at the first two levels are strong and weak, winner and loser. This is simply the way it is. To quote former President Jimmy Carter, "life is unfair." Certainly this is more true for the have-nots, those of us in the multitude near the base of the pyramid who are attempting to claw our way up slippery slopes, than it is for the haves, who, having reached the apex, necessarily have an entirely different perspective.
At the third level is the need to socialize and belong. Once the survival needs are satisfied, a person will experience a need to be accepted. Relationships with others become more important and begin to be explored in greater depth. Thoughts and feelings are mutually shared in an effort to reach understanding. This is the touchy-feely stage of human development, the one at which New Age Spiritualists, clinical psychologists, behavioral therapists, liberals of every stripe and color, and other assorted do-gooders seem to assume we are all at. The fact is, however, that most of us are far too busy trying to make a living and survive to engage in what, from our perspective, appears to be utter nonsense. But the age of social engineering is upon us, and it is unlikely that those who think they know it all will refrain from imposing their way of life on the rest of us.
Perhaps the strangest example of misplaced social engineering is occurring in today's armed forces where recruits are receiving sensitivity training concurrently with being taught to kill. The end result is confusion. It is impossible to rip an enemy's guts out with a bayonet while considering his feelings.
The topmost levels of the pyramid are ego, i.e. an individual at the fourth level is motivated to seek status and prestige, and self-actualization, i.e. an individual at the fifth level derives satisfaction through creativity and innovation. From these lofty heights, leaders are expected to emerge. That they are no longer the quality of a George Washington or a Thomas Jefferson is to be lamented. Too much soft living and touchy-feelyism can undermine a culture. It is a sad fact that successful societies eventually tumble into decadence. But don't expect a revolution tomorrow or any time soon. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire took many centuries and was followed by a breakdown in the social order.
Do you trust today's leaders? And are you confident that the system will fulfill your needs? If not, if you have already felt the need to rely on your own judgment and fend for yourself, then you are moving in the direction of self-reliance and independence and are much closer to being a loner than you would probably care to admit. Have you ever wondered what you would do if the social order suddenly crumbled? That it is not likely to happen any time soon does little to allay our fears. Consternation over widening cracks in society's framework is mounting. Because security is a deficiency need, any lessening in its overall nature as perceived by the public is bound to have a devastating effect.
Civilization is an incredibly thin veneer. Even those at the top of the pyramid are likely to behave like animals if they feel threatened. Do you remember Patricia Hearst? She was the direct descendant of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and never lacked for anything money could buy—a perfect example of proper breeding and education. In 1974, she was kidnapped by Symbionese Liberation Army terrorists. Deprivation, it seems, is a powerful motivator. After some months of experiencing just how rough life could get by failing to cooperate, she went over to her captors and was later convicted by a jury of having willingly used a machine gun to help them loot a bank. Scratch the surface of a debutante and you may well find a terrorist lurking beneath the skin.
There are approximately six billion people in the world today, the vast majority of whom do not have their deficiency needs met. Empty bellies cause dissatisfaction and unrest. The challenge to the leaders of the 21st century will be to integrate these people into the global economy before violence and terrorism can destroy civilization. Nobody likes getting left behind. Until the chasm between the industrialized giants and the underdeveloped nations/
the haves and the have-nots/the rich and the poor narrows, we can expect the turbulence to continue. Doing without in the midst of plenty is both intolerable and unnecessary. We gain no advantage by keeping others down.
* * *
Becoming a loner isn't easy. Planet earth is so crowded that only the wealthy can afford to get away from it all. Living in a one-room, windowless cabin in Montana might appeal to some, but I prefer T-shirts to hair shirts and see no reason to punish myself for the wasteful consumption and degenerate lifestyles of others.
Independent thinking is the characteristic that distinguishes a loner from the herd. Where you live is of less importance than what you do with your life. It is possible to live in a big city and not succumb to infectious consumerism; all it takes is mental discipline. Live your life the way you want to live it—not the way large corporate interests would have you live it.
A little common sense goes a long way. Why people would ever willingly mortgage their lives for baubles and trinkets is beyond me. The Indians who sold Manhattan for a handful of beads made a better deal than most people get on a bank loan.
Borrowing money is like casino gambling: the percentages are always with the house. The longer you stay at the table, the more the croupier rakes from your pile. The big difference is that in casino gambling you occasionally get to win. Nobody has ever won at borrowing—it's a fixed game that only suckers play. Chances are that by the time you finish paying off the loan, the consumer goods you bought will have worn out or lost their value.
The excuse most often given for borrowing is that people want to live now. Few comprehend that time is really what the game is all about. You get a little fast cash now and the bank gets much more later. So, who gets to live better? Have you ever heard of a banker with shabby clothes, a beat up car, and a rundown house? If your goal is to live well, borrowing is definitely not the way to go about it.
Besides, there is a lot more to living well than accumulating consumer goods. How you feel about yourself is possibly the most important factor determining happiness. Do you do what you think is right or do you do what is expedient? I've found that all too many people nowadays follow the path of least resistance and make themselves miserable by doing so. You might fool others, but you can never fool yourself. Are you the kind of person you respect? If not, then you might as well return to the point where you went wrong, because the path you are presently on doesn't go where you ultimately want to go.
You will recall from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that another factor in living well is satisfying the need to belong. Although this may appear to contradict our stated rationale for becoming a loner, it actually does not. It isn't necessary to spurn society to be a loner—as I stated earlier, interacting with individuals one-on-one is, in my opinion, both healthy and desirable—rather it is the overbearing and oppressive dictates of megacorporations dedicated to achieving uniformity by pounding well-rounded people into square holes that we reject. Maslow states that in order to realize our full potential, we need to grow. For those of us who work dead-end, minimum wage entry level jobs, this is little more than a cruel joke.
Young people's survival needs are generally supplied by their parents. Thus, as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs would predict, the youth culture is all about belonging. Corporations such as Nike, The Gap, and MTV don't just sell products and services, they vend lifestyles. Those who belong do like Michael Jordan and wear the Nike swoosh. Belonging, according to the ads, can be bought just like any other commodity. Nothing—neither personality, talent, character nor education—is as important as wallet size. Steal, beg, borrow, pay overseas workers 14 cents an hour—"Just Do It"—the ends justify the means when the cherished logo is at stake. Is it any wonder that impressionable youths force-fed this highly volatile, perversely materialistic weltanschauung could become so desensitized as to be capable of slaughtering classmates? Harris and Klebold were not loners or outcasts as initial reports of the Columbine High School murders would have had us believe; a shared interest in fantasy baseball and other activities normal for boys of their age would indicate a strong desire to belong. I suspect that it was frustration with the mechanics of belonging—exactly what one might expect from teenagers who had a BMW and everything money could buy, but still didn't have a clue as to what life was all about—that initially produced the hatred that later would fester into violent action. To say that consumerism does not deserve all of the blame is not to deny it was a contributing factor.
* * *As Thoreau saw it, city life is little more than "millions of people being lonesome together." Our cave dwelling ancestors had a healthier and more satisfying social life than today's yuppies. Does meat taste better when grilled in a restaurant or when it is cooked over an open wood fire? Is cyber sex an improvement on ordinary sex? Does watching extreme sports on cable television provide us with a proper substitute for the rush that early man felt when he chased his quarry? When it comes to fulfilling real needs, there is nothing like the real thing.
While technology advances, the human beings who use it remain pretty much the same. Five thousand years of evolution have seen fewer physical changes in man than the last fifty years have made in the automobile. Our needs are not as complex as we would like to believe. Pretensions of sophistication have gained us ulcers, heartburn, hypertension, and eyestrain. Live right today and you can flush the Prozac down the toilet tomorrow.
Eminent French philosopher Jean-Paul Satre mused that "if you are lonely while you are alone, you are in bad company." Instead of looking for fulfillment through others, we should be improving ourselves. Have you read Homer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronté, and Poe? Are you familiar with the paintings of Reubens, Caravaggio, Ingres, and Rembrandt? Do you know why Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson were expelled from baseball? Have you ever flown upside down or stood up at a political gathering and voiced a contrary opinion? You are as interesting as you make yourself.
It is far easier to affect changes in yourself than to affect changes in others. Besides, you can't really expect to solve the world's problems until you have solved your own. Do you meet the high standards you demand from other people? True pleasure comes from being the best you can possibly be. Immediate gratification (whether it comes from alcohol, sex, drugs, or consumer goods) is but a momentary distraction from the pain which we all experience in the struggle which is life. Far better to climb to the summit and achieve self-actualization than to spend a moment longer than necessary grubbing for survival at the bottom of the Hierarchy of Needs. Stay focused and no force in the world can hold you down.
Of course, it would be nice to have your cake and eat it too. But this type of rationalization usually leads to the abandonment of goals. A common example is that high school seniors who elect to travel for a year before going on to college seldom go back to school and, of the few who do, fewer yet graduate. Take a detour and you take a chance on getting lost. Lose your way a few times and someone else will end up eating your cake.
But what about cheesecake? Life gets dull fast for those who pay no attention to the opposite sex. What you do in your private life is your own business. But never forget for a moment that in choosing to pursue your sexuality, you are opening a wide door to distractions, temptations, and obsessions that have the potential to take over your life.
Nothing is more pathetic than a pussy whipped male or a female punching bag. Contrary to popular opinion, bad sex is not better than no sex. Should you find yourself in this type of situation, celibacy may be the optimal choice. Your common sense should tell you that if something is causing you pain, you need to stop doing it for a while. Although celibacy and sainthood are not necessarily synonymous, it is easy to see why the two are closely associated. Freeing your mind of sex permits you to focus on matters that are more important in the overall scheme of things.
One of the biggest misconceptions about loners is that we are lonely. What utter and complete nonsense! It is the banality of being a nameless, faceless marketing target continually being bombarded with tons of degrading, commercialized sex while inwardly longing for a single ounce of genuine love that makes people lonely. Get rid of the packaging and you will see that what they have to sell isn't worth the price.
Remove the spangles and scrub the face paint from a Las Vegas showgirl and you have just another exploited working woman trying desperately to earn a living. Get it in your head that people do what they do to survive and you will be ahead of the game. Think otherwise and they will justifiably treat you as a rube, ripe for a fleecing.
Of course, it's natural for everyone to feel lonely once in a while. Next time the urge for genuine affection strikes, instead of blowing a bundle in a nightclub, try adopting an abandoned puppy from the pound. My Labrador, Speedo, is infinitely more loyal than my two ex-wives and considerably cheaper to keep. There could be no better companion. Of all the animals that God put on this earth, dogs have grown the closest to Man. They do not choreograph their emotions or play head games. It's almost impossible to be lonely or depressed with a dog around. If society would treat us ordinary citizens half as good as our dogs do, there would not be any loners.
The $hit End of the Stick
"Never give a sucker an even break." - W.C. Fields
Normally I would deem a title such as the above inappropriate for a book such as this. It is not so much that the reader would be shocked or offended, but that vulgarity tends to subtract from the quality of one's argument, while adding nothing of importance to the gist. I came very close to titling this chapter The Short End of the Stick. Please permit me to explain why I did not.
Prior to the 20th century, the majority of Americans lived on small farms. When a cow or a horse got sick, the most common way of administering treatment was by means of suppositories. Often, this required the use of a stick. As you can well imagine, many jokes circulated about farmers, who, due to some unanticipated twist of fate, ended up holding the "shit end of the stick." Today, these jokes have largely lost their relevance. The few that do survive have been sanitized into the "short end of the stick."
This chapter proposes to examine what type of deal most of us feel we are getting from the corporations that employ us. As you probably already suspect, there is nothing clean about it. There is no mechanism by which I can convey the degree of filth without making reference to fecal matter.Entry level positions in corporations are all pretty much the same. They start with a probationary period of somewhere between 90 and 180 days during which the worker can be terminated without giving any reason whatsoever. This is one hell of a way to start a new job. What crime did the new worker commit that resulted in him/her being sentenced to probation? Is this punishment without cause meted fairly to all or are newly hired management employees exempted? Why isn't this sort of discrimination illegal?
Things could be worse. Part-time and temporary workers don't really have a job. They get shuffled from company to company and have absolutely no rights. Keeping a few of them around helps to remind workers how easily they can be replaced.
Newly hired workers are normally not permitted to participate in the company's medical plan until they have finished probation. If they or their dependents become ill or suffer an injury in the interim, it's their own tough luck. And, to add an insult to the injury, a probationary employee who misses work can almost always expect to be fired.Like most people, I deeply admire courage. Senator John McCain is one of my heroes. In his autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, the former Navy pilot and Republican presidential candidate describes the horrible way he was treated by his captors after being downed by a surface-to-air missile while on a bombing mission over North Vietnam. As his A-4 with it's right wing gone violently spiraled towards earth, McCain ejected and landed in the middle of a lake, mangling both arms and his right knee. Later, he was struck with a rifle butt in the shoulder and bayoneted in the ankle and groin by a crowd of angry Vietnamese. They threw him onto the damp floor of a filthy cell in the infamous Hanoi Hilton and, though he pleaded for a doctor, refused him medical treatment for four days because of his "bad attitude." When they finally took him to a hospital, the care he received was less than adequate.
Not having signed the Geneva Convention, the North Vietnamese maintained that they had no responsibility to treat downed fliers as prisoners-of-war. It was a legal technicality that McCain and his fellow POW's constantly protested.
Like McCain's mean captors, employers love to wallow in legal technicalities. Their rationalization for withholding medical care from new hires and their dependents is that these workers are not yet full fledged employees. Something here really stinks. Corporations on whose side we are on refuse medical care for 90 to 180 days whereas the evil Communist enemy relents after four days. It makes you wonder who is guilty of crimes against humanity, doesn't it?
There are those who would argue that care is always available at county hospitals. I know better. The county hospital near me has been demolished to make way for a building supplies retailer. As employers increasingly abrogate their responsibilities towards their employees, government is expected to pick up the tab. When it refuses, as happens all too often, sickness goes untreated and disease gains the potential to spread and infect the rest of us.
Failing to provide new hires with health coverage is a sin of omission that would be forgivable if American businesses were not making a profit. According to Forbes magazine, however, business could hardly be better. In 1999 profits increased 26 percent for America's 895 largest corporations. The Federal Reserve says the current economic expansion is the longest on record. There seems to be no reason for being stingy other than greed.
But to be fair, we need to look at whether the people who run these companies are acting out of dedication to principles. Isn't it possible that they ask no more of others than they are willing to give of themselves. Maybe it was hard work and self-denial that got them where they are today.
The numbers say otherwise. Michael D. Eisner, head honcho of Walt Disney, received a compensation package (salary plus stocks) of $589,101,000 in 1998. The following year, earnings of the top 800 heads of corporations jumped 12.8 percent to a combined total of $5.8 billion. Clearly, these men are in it for the money.
In 1981, America's 10 most highly paid chief executive officers were paid an average of $3.5 million each. By 1988, the average had climbed more than 450 percent to an unconscionable $19.3 million. A dozen years later, in 2000, the aveage annual pay of the Top Ten had soared to $154 million. Does anyone really believe that the services rendered by these men were 43 times more valuable in the year 2000 than they were in 1981?
Gilbert Amelio, the former CEO of Apple Computer, serves as a good example of how corporate greed is out of control. According to an executive pay report in the Wall Street Journal, Apple lost about $2 billion during Amelio's brief tenure of 17 months. Some 3,600 employees lost their jobs. Yet Amelio's "golden parachute" exit clause garnered him $6.7 million in severance pay plus other compensation. Amelio had the nerve to say that the Apple package "didn't protect my downside as well as I had hoped it would."
Most corporate leaders would say any government regulation of CEO pay would be a terrible interference in the free market. But the federal government is already deeply involved in CEO salaries through the tax code. The tax code allows businesses to deduct a "reasonable allowance for salaries or other compensation." Since the code doesn't define the term "reasonable," corporations can—and do—routinely deduct 100 percent of exorbitant executive pay packages. The corporation pays less in taxes than it should, and the ordinary taxpayer—you and I—picks up the slack.
Chief executive officers also benefit tremendously from a cut in the long-term capital gains tax from 28 percent to 20 percent. For every $1 million in long-term capital gains they get from the sale of stock, they now pay $80,000 less in taxes. They purportedly receive large salaries and perks because they have enormous responsibilities. However, under current Security and Exchange Commission regulations, neither chief executive officers nor chief financial officers can be held responsible for the information in quarterly and annual reports. Enron's chief executive officer, Kenneth Lay, hid more than a billion dollars in debt from investors without going to jail.
Yes, the rich are getting richer. And, to make things worse, they are doing it at the expense of taxpayers like yourself. You probably already suspected as much. What you really want to know is how everyone on the other end—the end of the stick that fate stuck you with—are faring.
A study funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, as reported in the July 10, 2000 issue of Business Week, concludes that "despite America's record-breaking economic boom, poverty among full-time workers has increased." According to Dr. Linda Barrington, the author of the study, "the number of full-time workers classified as poor increased between 1997 and 1998. Over the last quarter century, the poverty rate among full-time workers has been higher only twice—1982 and 1983—years in which the economy was coming off a recession."
"Simply working full-time year-round, even in a booming economy, is not enough to lift everyone out of poverty," says Barrington. "The benefit to the lowest paid workers from being fully engaged in the workforce, as measured by the poverty rate, is not improving. This time trend provides an important economic backdrop to the recent movement of people off government welfare rolls and into the workforce, as well as cautionary context for these otherwise prosperous times."
The study further determined that since 1973, poverty has increased in both overall number and as a percentage of people employed full-time and year-round. Nearly three percent of all full-time workers were living under the poverty line (defined as $13,003 for a family of three) in 1998, the latest year for which data was available. Including dependents, this could be upwards of five million people.
The Boston-based organization United for a Fair Economy (UFE) discovered that if the 555 foot Washington Monument reflected the average 1997 CEO pay, then a replica depicting average worker pay would be just 21 inches tall. The Workers Monument shrunk almost a foot in a year. In 1996, it measured 32 inches. Back in 1970, when the wage gap was 41 to one, the Workers Monument measured 13 feet, 6 inches.
The UFE unveiled the Workers Washington Monument at a Capitol Hill press conference. Chuck Collins, UFE co-director, said, "In 1970, it would have required a pickup truck to transport the Workers Washington Monument. By 1996, you could carry it on an airplane and put it in the overhead luggage bin. The 1997 model fits easily in the little space under the seat." Nowadays, the Workers Monument would fit in your pocket.
In their 1992 book, Putting People First, Bill Clinton and Al Gore remonstrated, "It's time to honor and reward people who work hard and play by the rules...No one who works full time and has children should be poor any more." Now, eight years later and at the end of their second term in office, I think it appropriate to ask where is the fulfillment of that promise? Clearly, those who play by the rules are losing the game.The Money Is No Good
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C., 21 foreign corporations made large (greater than $75,000) contributions to the Republican and Democratic national committees for use in the 1996 elections. Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, a Canadian-owned distiller, contributed a total of $1,938,845 to both parties. Immediately following the election, Seagram abrogated the long-standing voluntary agreement which prohibits advertising liquor on radio and television. What did the FCC do about it? Absolutely nothing. Seagram definitely got more than its money's worth and is now sponsoring youth-oriented rock groups and rock concerts. That their primary audience consists of teens below the legal drinking age ensures a steady supply of customers for yet another generation.
As of July, 2000, Seagram has given $324,970 to the Democrats and $171,269 to the Republicans to finance candidates in the Novemeber 2000 elections. Anheuser-Busch is also a significant contributor with a combined total of $742,106 to both parties. Other contributors with questionable agendas include Bacardi-Martini USA ($189,024), the Distilled Spirits Council ($177,968), E & J Gallo ($245,000), and Philip Morris ($1,268,602).
But does soft money actually buy politicians? Let's go to an insider to find out. In a speech before the United States Senate on October 14, 1999, Senator John McCain had this to say:I believe that part of the problem, indeed a 'key ingredient' of wasteful spending and special interest tax breaks is the effect of soft money on the legislative process....I have already cited...the large amount of soft money given to both parties by various industries and the aggregate amount of tax breaks those industries received. I believe, even if some of my colleagues do not, that these amounts have impaired our integrity. I believe that as strongly as I believe anything. Unlimited amounts of money given to political campaigns have impaired our integrity as political parties and as a legislative institution....if special interests did not believe that their millions of dollars in donations buy them consideration in the legislative process, then...those special interests—who have a fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders—wouldn't give us that money, would they? Those interests enjoy greater influence here than the working men and women who cannot afford to buy our attention but who are affected, sometimes adversely, by the laws we pass....that seems to be a good working definition of an impairment of our integrity, which is...Webster's [dictionary] definition of corruption.Several months after assuming office, George W. Bush issued a statement about what it would take to get him to support campaign finance reform: it could not place a ban on soft money donations to political parties by individuals and must require labor unions to obtain authorization from their members prior to spending dues on political campaigns. But in its votes on pending legislation, the Senate has clearly rejected both of those provisions.
Despite strong opposition from the administration, McCain managed to push a campaign finance reform bill through the Senate. But on July 12, 2001, a dispute over ground rules effectively killed the bill before it could be debated by the House. Considering that the GOP House campaign committee admits to raising $38.6 million during the first half of 2001, $21 million in regulated money and $17.6 million in unlimited soft money donations, the outcome came as no surprise. As Senator McCain aptly remarked, "This is the last refuge of the scoundrels."
On March 20, 2002, the Senate voted 60-40 for a watered-down campaign finance reform bill which the House had earlier approved by a vote of 240-189. In a written statement, President Bush promised to sign the bill into law, despite it being "flawed in some areas." It will not go into effect until November 6, 2002, too late to influence fundraising for the mid-term elections. Referring to the limits placed on donations, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas called the bill "blatantly unconstitutional." He and other senior Republican critics of the bill promised a swift court challenge. Evidently, the fundraising scandals of the Clinton years—the White House coffees, Vice-President Gore's solicitations at a Buddhist temple, the Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers, and attempts by the Chinese military to influence the outcome of American elections—were not sufficient to convince a few self-serving, money-grubbing scoundrels of the need for reform.
Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution says that "Congress shall have power to...coin money [and] regulate the value thereof...." And Congress in its wisdom has decided that our money will be backed by our faith in our government. Only a generation ago, that was more than enough. But soft money has corrupted Congress and perverted the political process as well. Allowed to continue unabated, the practice of selling influence to the highest bidder may at length force us to reflect that money isn't worth anything more than the government that prints it.
The implications, however, go far deeper. Because the global economy is dependent for the most part on the integrity of United States currency, we need to at least give the appearance that our money has actual worth. The recent devaluation of the Argentine peso, which was pegged to the U.S. dollar on a one-to-one basis, gave us fair warning. Allowing the trade deficit to spiral out of control is extremely dangerous. Whether accomplished by force of arms or economic trickery, commerce that is primarily going in one direction will inevitably be labeled imperialism by workers in other countries who, though they labor long hours, cannot hope to ever afford the goods they make. Paper promises of future reward will eventually have to be redeemed, i.e. the balance of payments cannot continue its negative flow devoid of consequences. Paying down the national debt is only half the battle: we need to wipe the slate clean—unburden ourselves of the entire national debt and international debts as well. Indebtedness is not the sort of legacy we want to leave our children.Burned at the Stake"A cult is a religion with no political power." - Thomas WolfeSpeak of being burned to death for religious beliefs and what comes to mind is Joan of Arc, the Inquisition, and, most recently, the Holocaust. Surely such a tragedy is not possible in this day and age—especially in the United States where religious freedom is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
But laws (or, more properly, the administrators who interpret them) can be corrupted. On April 19, 1993, at Mount Carmel, near Waco, Texas, 86 hard working, honest citizens (including 28 young children) were torched alive because Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, found their ideas and practices out of line with contemporary mainstream theology.
Corruption occurs when positions of authority are occupied by networking, self-serving careerists rather than individuals of character and good conscience. That the 1993 Waco assault should never have taken place becomes clearer with every new denial from the Attorney General that federal law enforcement had anything to do with starting the fire. Ms. Reno's protestations of innocence belie the fact that the fire would never have occurred had it not been for the questionable actions of the FBI agents on the scene.
Was it necessary for the government to stage a frontal assault? If, as Janet Reno alleges, she felt it was her duty to have David Koresh arrested for statutory rape, she should have referred the matter to Texas law enforcement officials, or, if she insisted on pursuing a matter which was not within her jurisdiction, why didn't she have Koresh picked up while he was jogging outside the compound? However deplorable Koresh's behavior may have been, it did not justify a shootout, a siege, and the deaths of the children the government says it was trying to protect.
The incident began on February 28, 1993, in an attempt by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to use overwhelming force to serve search and arrest warrants on Mt. Carmel. The operation required assembling almost a hundred agents from locations around the nation. They descended upon the residents of Mt. Carmel in a convoy of 60 vehicles with armored support. Flying overhead were an airplane and three National Guard helicopters.
The official rationale for the raid was that the residents of Mt. Carmel were in possession of machineguns without the required licenses and tax, and that nothing short of overwhelming military force would enable the arrest of the Branch Davidian's leader and a search of the compound.
BATF has grudgingly conceded, however, that, when informed of the investigation, the leader, David Koresh, invited agents to go through the firearms and remove any that were illegal. Relations initially went so well with the Branch Davidians that on February 19, 1993—nine days before the assault—Koresh and several BATF agents investigating the case went target shooting together.
Considering the convenient timing of the raid—less than two weeks before the issue of BATF's annual appropriation was to come before the House of Representatives—coupled with the assignment of a Public Information Officer to the team to alert the media to await a significant story that weekend, one is forced to conclude that Operation Trojan Horse (the assault's code name) was a poorly conceived and executed public relations stunt designed to garner national media coverage at a critical point during the appropriations process.
But the BATF severely misjudged Koresh and his followers. It was thought that killing the Branch Davidians' dogs would produce a quick surrender. Instead, it provoked a battle that eventually would earn the dubious distinction of being the bloodiest assault in federal law enforcement history. By the time it ended in fire on April 19th, ninety civilians and four agents would be dead.
How would you react if someone shot your dog? Now imagine if every dog on your street was gunned down. That the planners of Trojan Horse thought a bunch of rural, gun-toting Texas dog lovers would roll over and play dead for the beasts who slaughtered their best friends is proof positive that ass-kissing higher ups reside in a different world than the rest of us. Any ordinary citizen with a modicum of common sense could have done a better job.
But, as Janet Reno was later to admit under questioning, hers was the ultimate responsibility. That she could not see that the BATF and Koresh were deeply engaged in a pissing contest and that she lacked the tenacity to resolve the matter by means other than a bloody frontal assault, casts her in the role of an incompetent administrator easily manipulated by subordinates.
What next ensues is a lengthy standoff in which the FBI (who assumes jurisdiction within hours of the failed BATF assault) and Koresh each maneuver for an edge. Although President Clinton and FBI Director William Sessions concur that a negotiated settlement should be attempted, it becomes readily obvious that neither side intends to negotiate in good faith. The FBI cuts all phone lines with the exception of the connection to the negotiators and moves its armored vehicles closer. Koresh makes a one-hour tape of his religious teachings in which he promises to surrender immediately following its broadcast over national radio. However, he reneges after the tape is played over the Christian Broadcasting Network, claiming that God has spoken to him and told him to wait.
On Saturday, March 6, with negotiations at an impasse, Koresh and his top aide, Steve Schneider, voice concern that agents will burn the compound down to destroy evidence. It is estimated that the Branch Davidians have a one-year supply of rations, including military MRE's (meals-ready-to-eat).
On Monday, March 8, a videotape of the compound's children is sent out. The FBI expresses concern that if the tape is released to the media, the Branch Davidians would score a public relations victory. From this point onward, pressure tactics are introduced that conflict with the FBI's stated goal of reaching a negotiated settlement. The electricity to the compound is cut; the compound is brightly illuminated at night with intent to disrupt sleep and increase stress; a barbed wire barrier is strung around the perimeter; and finally, in a move reminiscent of tactics used by communist North Korea against United States troops in the Korean War, audio tapes of disagreeable noises are broadcast over loudspeakers.
On Sunday, April 18, President Clinton is briefed by Attorney General Janet Reno on the FBI's plan to assault the compound with armored vehicles spewing CS gas. Early the next morning, the FBI reads a message over the loudspeaker, advising the Davidians they are under arrest. Three minutes later, the attack begins. Tanks and military Bradley vehicles punch gaping holes in buildings and saturate the compound with gas. Shortly after noon, fires break out. The Branch Davidians have the children huddle together and cover them with wet blankets, but by the time firefighters arrive, those not crushed to death beneath the rubble have been incinerated.
CS, a particularly disabling form of tear gas, is rarely used against civilians. I have personally experienced its effects and can say without reservation that employing it against defenseless children is an act of barbarism. Furthermore, the government was aware of its highly flammable nature.
The fires broke out simultaneously in three separate areas of the compound. Who or what ignited them may never be known. What is known, however, is that 28 innocent children perished in a dispute with the federal government over freedom of religion.
As if that was not enough, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, on the basis of highly suspect evidence provided by the FBI, would later, on September 21, 2000, summarily dismiss a $675 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by survivors and relatives of the dead. His conclusion that the FBI did not act negilgently by employing tanks against defenseless children underlined the fact that the entire incident—from start to finish—was politically motivated.
For years the Justice Department steadfastly denied that the FBI had set the fires with incendiary tear gas in an effort to smoke out the Branch Davidians from the compound. Not until a filmmaker found a spent tear gas canister while staging a review of the evidence did the government finally admit that it withheld evidence. On February 6, 2001, former federal prosecutor Bill Johnston pleaded guilty to "misprision of a felony," a crime similar to obstruction of justice that carries a lesser penalty. It looked like a cover up, it smelled like a cover up, and nobody was surprised when Johnston finally admitted in court that it had indeed been a cover up. Nor was anyone surprised when U.S. Distict Judge Charles Shaw let Johnston—who everyone suspected was taking the rap for Reno—off with no time in jail. All he got was a measly two years' probation and 200 hours of community service.
An analysis of FBI transcripts shows that agents on the scene belittled the Branch Davidians' beliefs as "Bible babble." Which brings up the question, what is the difference between a bunch of Waco whackos and a true religion? The answer might surprise you. All religious beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they may appear to others, are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Noting extensive similarities—the controversial practice of marrying multiple wives, the perceived need to stockpile weapons, and the decidedly revisionist interpretation given Christianity—what befell David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco in 1993 all too grimly resembled the massacre of Joseph Smith and the Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1844. When any group differs significantly from the majority in its beliefs and practices, there will always be a few hotheads in the majority who will advocate intolerance. Government exists to protect the weak from the strong; the minority from oppression by the majority. Although the federal government and much of the public are still in deep denial, history will no doubt record the Waco tragedy not as a law enforcement victory, but as an enormous setback for Freedom of Religion and human rights.
Having a long tradition of tolerance, we don't know the first thing about burning people at the stake. And, because our hearts are not in it, we tend to botch the job. Please, no more Wacos. One was enough.
House Of Worship Or Place Of Business?"It is written: 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" - Matthew 21:13That fellow driving with one hand in the lane next to you who isn't paying enough attention to traffic is probably talking to a client on his cell phone. Today, there are more than 101,400,000 people who own cell phones in the United States alone. According to data furnished by the Cellular Telecommunications Association, that number is growing by 67,082 new users a day.
With more of us using cell phones, the companies that provide cell phone service are constantly looking for new sites for their antennas. Since upscale communities often oppose construction of unsightly towers, wireless providers have been challenged to come up with new ways to minimize the aesthetic impact. Increasingly, they are turning to hiding their antennas within church steeples. More than 1,000 churches have already succumbed to the temptation of easy money, renting the space above parishioners' heads to the highest bidder.
Walker Chapel United Methodist Church of Arlington, Virginia, leases its 85 foot tall white brick steeple erected in the 1870's to AT&T Wireless for $1,000 per month. Actually, there are three separate antennas which are totally concealed from outside view.
A cellular steeple has been a windfall for First United Methodist Church in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Its steeple is home to four service providers, whose rent has paid for the church's $450,000 renovation project.
Mullins United Methodist Church of Memphis, Tennessee, was so anxious to make a cell phone deal that church officials permitted Bell South Mobility and the engineering firm of Buchart-Horn, Inc. to raise the bell tower eight feet. However, instead of building it of brick and limestone like the existing bell tower, they took a cheaper course and constructed it of fiberglass fabricated and painted to look like the original.
Since it is the highest point in Washington, D.C., Washington National Cathedral was eagerly sought as an antenna site. Though the exact price has not been disclosed, it is known that Motorola pays in excess of $100,000 per annum to keep its prime location.
What dangers, if any, do these antennas pose to parishioners? While the cellular phone industry steadfastly maintains that cell phones are totally safe, a former industry research director says he is not so certain. According to Dr. George Carlo, the man who ran the industry's $25 million research program studying possible side effects of microwave radiation on humans for over six years, "We've moved into an area where we now have some direct evidence of possible harm from cellular phones. The industry had come out and said that there were thousands of studies that proved that wireless phones are safe, and the fact was that there were no studies that were directly relevant."
Dr.Carlo's concerns were given additional credence with the publication in August 2000 of one of his papers in an internet peer-reviewed medical journal, Medscape General Medicine. The paper said radio frequency radiation from wireless phone antennae "appears to cause genetic damage in human blood," while another case study uncovered a "statistically significant increase" in neuro-epithelial brain tumors among cell phone users. Dr. Carlo parted company with the cell phone industry in 1999 because it did not enact any of his recommendations.
Studies indicate that electromagnetic signals from cellular phones reduce the ability to calculate and coordinate complex functions such as driving a car. Stuck with $4 billion a year in extra claims by drivers who have cell phones, insurance companies took a closer look and found that talking on a cell phone while operating a vehicle was much more likely to result in an accident than tuning a radio, applying makeup, or drinking coffee.
Rather than being just another dangerous distraction, tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy found that using a cell phone severely impairs memory and reaction times. One theory has it that the UHF signals from wireless devices interfere with brainwaves, resulting in slower reflexes similar to what drivers experience while under the influence of alcohol.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that an industry that makes $200 billion a year would be inclined to lie about the dangers inherent in its products. Let's not forget that that Agent Orange, asbestos, and DDT used to be touted as safe by the companies that produced them. Once burned, twice shy. If the wireless phone industry wants us to believe there is no health hazard in being exposed to RF (radio frequency) radiation, they are going to have to come up with better evidence than they can presently provide.
Unless you purchase a headset attatchment, you are forced to put a radio transmitter against your head in order to use a cell phone. In some European nations, cell phones have become so popular that a majority of the adult population does so. Surely, this fact alone warrants concern about the safety of this form of radiant energy.
Britain, which has nearly three cell phones for every four people, is so concerned about potential long-term health hazards that the government issued a ruling in December 2000 requiring all cell phones sold in the United Kingdom to come with printed warnings of the potential health hazards that wireless technology may pose to children. A report, known as the Stewart Inquiry, suggests that radiation from cell phones speeds up the growth of human tissue and negatively affects thought processes. Children are said to be more vulnerable due to their developing nervous system, greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head, and a longer lifetime of exposure. £7.4 million ($10.5 million) has been allocated by the U.K. Department of Health to fund further research, including:
2 studies on human volunteers to determine how cell phones affect hearing and blood pressure 4 studies to see if cell phones cause leukemia and brain cancer 2 studies investigating possible effects on brain function and behavior 1 study to document how cell phones impair driving 2 studies looking for evidence of biological changes induced by cell phone radiation 4 studies to determine how much energy is absorbed by the body and which parts are affected
The bottom line is that cell phones in Great Britain are regulated like cigarettes—the government makes them carry health hazard warnings and people are allowed to choose whether or not they want to take the risk.
In Germany, the Institute for Social-Ecological Research and Education (Ecolog-Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung und bildung) went public in April 2001 with the results of an analysis commissioned by wireless telephone operator T-Mobil (Deutsche Telekom MobilNet) which found a connection between electromagnetic signals and cancer. The researchers have recommended that Germany reduce the maximum wireless signal strength from the current level of 2 to 9 watts per square meter to 0.01 watts per square meter, especially for antennas located near homes, schools, day care centers, hospitals, and "similarly sensitive" areas. Ecolog went so far as to issue a warning about the potential harm to youths using cell phones, urging providers to halt marketing efforts aimed at children.
Wireless communication systems operate at several frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from a low of 850 MHz in North America to a high of 1800 MHz in Europe. Radiant energy in this frequency range is termed non-ionizing and is not thought to be sufficient to knock electrons from the atoms of which we are composed, a source of severe biological damage in X-rays. The most readily apparent effects of RF (radio frequency) energy in the frequencies used by cell phones are due to heating. Although additional effects have been observed by researchers, they have yet to be demonstrated to occur at other than extremely high exposure levels.
In late May, 1999, the Washington Post, acting on preliminary findings from an industry-funded study, suggested a possible link between RF radiation and chromosomal damage in human cell tissue. However, a report released a week earlier by the Royal Society of Canada concluded that "under normal use, no evidence exists that RF fields pose a health risk." But the same report went on to admonish that "existing scientific evidence is incomplete, and inadequate to rule out that these non-thermal biological effects could lead to adverse health effects."
The FCC and other agencies have designed standards to protect the public against all identified hazards of RF energy. However, these standards are largely voluntary. All too often in the past these agencies have adopted the viewpoints of the industries they are supposed to be regulating. The recommendation at the present time is that a minimum distance of 5 feet be maintained by anyone working on an antenna. But this is, of course, for short periods of time. Not only do some sermons and services go on for several hours, potentially exposing their congregations to more radiation than that encountered by industry workers, but steeples have been known to contain multiple antennas. In addition, signal strength varies with the distance involved. God only knows the risks that church goers face—the industry has already admitted it doesn't. Since no warning of potential danger is required to be posted, it is doubtful that the average parishioner is even aware that he or she is being exposed to RF radiation.
As a Church of Christ minister in Mississippi put it when his congregation met in a warehouse following a tornado, churches are composed of people, not buildings.
When Christ chased the money changers from the temple, He was making it abundantly clear that a house of worship is not a place of business. The lesson has evidently been forgotten. Organized religion needs to get back to its roots. Until then, it might be safer to stay home and study the Bible than to go to church.Women and the Draft"Women will always fear war more than men." - Natalya BaranskayaIn 1968, I was a sophomore at the University of California at Irvine with a student deferment and a B+ grade average. I thought I was pretty well immune to the draft. Besides, NROTC had turned me down for officer training due to poor eyesight and had refused to give me a waiver despite a 99th percentile score on the mental fitness examination. And someone had once told me that flat feet (I had fallen arches) were an automatic disqualification.
Then came the Tet Offensive. The war in Vietnam was becoming uglier and the military needed more conscripts. Unable to supply the sharply increased quota of men under existing guidelines, the Orange County, California, Draft Board, with whom I had registered, decided to eliminate student deferments for everyone who did not have a "war essential major." My major was Social Science and within weeks I received a notice that I had been reclassified to I-A.
The rules had suddenly changed and I and my fellow classmates found ourselves struggling with our consciences. Some decided to resist and others went to Canada but I, being the son of a career Navy non-commissioned officer, did not have those options. The playing field had been unfairly tilted against me and there wasn't much I could do about it.
My solution to the dilemma was to enlist. To my complete and utter surprise, they took me—coke bottle lenses, flat feet, and all. At 5'11" and less than 140 pounds, I wasn't much to look at physically. However, my drill sergeant had a talent for pounding round pegs like me into square holes and he made a soldier out of me and others that were in even worse shape than I was. Surely if the Army could make a man out of me, it could do the same with anyone—including women.
Rachel Stein had kicked my ass in the 6th grade and shattered any notions I had of male superiority and invincibility. Why was Rachel Stein exempt from the draft? Slogging through the jungle, I couldn't help but think that she really belonged here more than I did. Besides, the Army had sent me to Panama where the chances of being shot were not huge and I could see no reason why a woman could not do my job. I became a staunch advocate of equal rights for women not so much out of any sloppy liberal sentiment as from pragmatism and personal experience.
After earning an Honorable Discharge and getting an early out to go back to college, I heard an announcement on the radio that the Selective Service System was looking for volunteers to serve on local draft boards. I applied and was approved despite having clearly voiced my decidedly dissident views to the officer-in-charge. I thought I could better bring about change from within. But now, 20 years later, I am still struggling to bring about some of those changes and have never heard anyone give a satisfactory explanation as to why women don't have to register for the draft.
The draft is currently inactive. With the demise of the Cold War, it is unlikely that Congress will deviate from its policy of having an all-volunteer Army. But it keeps the Selective Service System around as an insurance policy—just in case a lot of warm bodies should be needed in a hurry.
To my mind equal rights involves more than getting a piece of the pie—if it is to be lasting it must entail an equal share of the obligations. No Orwellian feat of logic could justify making some more equal than others in a democracy such as ours.
In order to get a better grasp of the issue, we need to study the history of conscription, the role of women in combat, and how women came to be excluded from the requirement of registering for the draft in the United States. The exclusion is total. A woman who volunteers to register with the Selective Service System will not be permitted to do so.
Conscription, i.e. compulsory enrollment in a country's armed forces, is probably as old as civilization itself. We know for a fact that the Egyptian Old Kingdom (27th century BC) used a draft to flesh out its armies.
Variations of conscription were used by Prussia, Switzerland, Russia, and several other European nations to supply soldiers for the conflicts that ravaged the continent during the 17th and 18th centuries. The first comprehensive nationwide system was started by the French Republic and expanded by Napoleon after he ascended the throne in 1803. Following the devastating defeat at Waterloo in 1815 it was discontinued, but was reinstated a few years later with significant restrictions.
In 1807 Prussia inaugurated a system of conscription that was soon emulated by many European nations. The Prussians got around limitations dictated by Napoleon concerning the strength of their army by calling up the permitted number of men (42,000), training them rigorously for a short period of time, then placing them on inactive status so as to be able to call up a new contingent. In this way they were able to build a powerful reserve force while not openly defying Napoleon.
During the Civil War, Congress responded to the need for huge armies by passing draft legislation. However, this first attempt at a conscription system was so obviously unfair (men with enough money could pay a fee to have someone else take their place) that it sparked riots in New York and other large Northern cities. It was dismantled following the South's surrender and was not needed again until the advent of the First World War.
In 1873 Japan abandoned hereditary militarism for a conscript system. Despite its elitist samurai tradition, Japan adopted the spirit behind the mass citizen army in a more wholehearted manner than any of the Western nations. About 150,000 males were called up for training each year. The conscripts served a two year term and were made to feel that it was an honor to serve. By the dawn of World War II, most officers came from humble origins and could claim greater affinity with the enlisted men. The conscript army during this period was viewed as a living symbol of upward social mobility by impoverished peasants, who served in and supported it with fanatical devotion.
Both Britain and the Soviet Union found it necessary to draft women during World War II. At the end of the war, Britain had 19 percent of its males and two percent of its females serving under arms. While the majority of female conscripts in the Soviet army served in regular combat units, their English female counterparts did not.
On September 16, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act into law, establishing the first peacetime draft in U.S. history and placing it firmly under civilian control. As World War II began to produce more and more carnage, a critical shortage of trained nurses developed. In his state-of-the-union-address on January 6, 1945, Roosevelt proposed that the law be amended by Congress "to provide for the induction of nurses into the Armed Forces." A 1945 opinion poll showed that 78 percent of Americans believed that there was a shortage of nurses in the military and 72 percent favored drafting women. The House of Representatives passed HR 2277 by a vote of 347-42 calling for the draft of nurses and the bill received a favorable report from the Senate Military Affairs Committee where a provision exempting married women was struck out. The American Nurse Association and the National Nursing Council gave the bill their full support and also supported passage of a National Service Act that would make all women subject to the draft. But with the surrender of Germany in May, the urgency diminished and the legislation died quietly. As the Second World War ended with the surrender of Japan, the draft was permitted to expire, but was revived less than two years later at the beginning of the Cold War.
From 1948 until 1973, the draft was used to fill positions in the military for which there were not enough volunteers. Protest against U.S. involvement in the War in Vietnam sparked resistance to the draft in the late 1960's, persuading Congress to create an all-volunteer military beginning in 1973.
The registration requirement was suspended in April 1975, but was resumed again in 1980 when Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. Although President Carter pleaded with Congress to change the law to include women, Congress chose not to act upon his request.
There have been several court cases over the years concerning the role of women in the military, but there has yet to be a case which directly challenges the constitutionality of laws excluding women from combat arms. In the case of Frontiero vs. Richardson, the court rejected the notion that "man is, or should be, woman's protector or defender," which was found in actuality to put women not on a pedestal as was alleged, but rather in a cage. In Satty vs. Nashville Gas Company, the decision stated that gender should not be used to determine who was capable of performing the duties of a soldier. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Schlesinger vs. Ballard that excluding women from combat does not permit them to gain the experience required for promotion within the military because leadership training that can solely be acquired in combat is usually needed to qualify for high-level positions.
In May 1995 the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick, Massachusetts, began a 24 week training study to determine if women could develop the strength and endurance to perform duties normally assigned to men. At the start, less than 25 percent of the 41 women studied were capable of performing the tasks. But after following a regimen of jogging, weight lifting, and similar rigorous exercise which included running two miles with a 75-pound rucksack and performing squats while holding a barbell on their shoulders, over 75 percent passed. Nationally certified trainers oversaw the conditioning. All but one of the women were civilian volunteers. None had previously exercised regularly and several had recently given birth to children. The conclusions of this study were later confirmed when a similar study conducted by the Ministry of Defence in Britain produced similar results. The British study also noted that operational performance was greatly enhanced in groups "if both sexes are involved."
But studies cannot produce actual combat conditions. Therein lies the objection of many experts that has effectively prevented women from assuming men's roles in combat arms (artillery, armor, and infantry). However, their misogynistic judgments are refuted by the historical evidence.
In October of 1778 Deborah Samson of Plymouth, Massachusetts, disguised herself as a young man and enlisted for the duration of the Revolutionary War as Robert Shirtliffe. During three years of service, she was wounded twice—suffering a sword cut on the side of the head and (four months later) a shot through the shoulder. Had she not come down with a brain fever, her true sexual identity might have never been disclosed. A physician discovered her charade and she was discharged from the service with a sum of money sufficient to pay her travel expenses home. Years later, during the presidency of George Washington, Congress granted her a pension, in addition to a parcel of land, acknowledging her services to the country as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, in part due to efforts on her behalf by Paul Revere.
When the United States went to war with Mexico in 1846, Elizabeth Newcom enlisted in Company D of the Missouri Volunteer Infantry as Bill Newcom. She marched 600 miles from Missouri to Pueblo, Colorado, before being discovered and discharged.
During the Civil War, women provided care and nursing to Union and Confederate soldiers in field hospitals. In 1866 Dr. Mary Walker was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Twenty nurses died as a result of the Spanish-American War. Of the 21,480 Army nurses who served during World War I, more than 400 died in the line of duty.
In 1915 Madame Arno organized a regiment of Parisian women to fight the Germans. A number of women served the French forces as military pilots during World War I. Emilienne Moreau was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the British Red Cross Medal and the St. John Ambulance Society Medal for outstanding bravery during the Battle of Loos in which she killed two snipers. In 1940 she would again fight for France, earning a second Croix de Guerre.
Elaine Mordeaux, a leader of French resistance forces, staged a successful attack against the 101st Panzers. Her unit, a third of whom were women, disabled almost one hundred trucks and tanks, assisting the allied invasion of Normandy by delaying the advance of the panzer division to the coast.
Odette Sansom, a French widow with three daughters, became an operative in the French Section of British Special Operations and organized a resistance unit in Auxerre. Following capture by the Germans, she was sent to a concentration camp. A subsequent escape attempt resulted in solitary confinement on reduced rations for more than a year before she was liberated in April 1945. Her extraordinary bravery earned her the George Cross.
Ho Te Que, adjutant of the 44th Rangers as well as the mother of seven children, led Vietnamese troops successfully against the Viet Cong in the Delta Region. She died in battle in 1965.
Wang Yunmei, now a robust 90 year old great-grandmother, enlisted in the Women's Detatchment of the Chinese Red Army at the age of 20. Barely five feet tall, she went to battle with a newborn baby strapped to her back. In a recent interview with Los Angeles Times staff writer Ching-Ching Ni, Wang reminesced, "I thought to myself, what is there to fear? If I die, my daughter cannot survive, If she dies I won't want to live. Let's live together and die together."
The official U.S. Army website has an article about two women MPs who hoofed it with the infantry in Afghanistan, carrying weapons and full packs. It's the same old story. Men advance in their careers while the most that women can hope to achieve is an official pat on the head. When it comes to soldiering, women are still being treated like second class citizens.
In the first week of the Second Gulf War, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Jennifer Hackwith, executive officer of "Hellbent Charlie Company," of the 7th Engineer Support Battalion was traveling in a convoy towards an airfield in northeastern Iraq when her unit came under assault by small arms and rocket fire. Some of the women in her command drove five ton trucks while others manned the .50 caliber machine guns mounted on turrets that guarded the convoy. According to Hackwith, fighting is part of the job. When the four-year veteran was asked by a reporter how it felt to be a fighting Marine, she instantly replied, "It rocks!"
Section 1(c) of the Military Selective Service Act, proclaims "that in a free society the obligations and privileges of serving in the armed forces and the reserve components thereof should be shared generally, in accordance with a system of selection which is fair and just, and which is consistent with the maintenance of an effective national economy." As of August 16, 2000, more than 43,257,793 young men have registered with Selective Service since it was reorganized in 1980. By doing so, they demonstrated their willingness to serve their country. That women were not accorded the same privilege is indeed an injustice. Now that war has been declared on terrorism and President Bush is committing ground forces, perhaps Congress will reform the Selective Service System to make it more equitable by ending gender discrimination.
It is possible in Afghanistan for women to be treated like beasts of burden precisely because gender ignorance has been codified into law. We pride ourselves on being democratic, but when it comes to the draft, we aren't much better than the Taliban.
Registration can be as simple as answering a few questions on a website or dropping a postcard in the mail. The possibility of ever being called to serve is remote. Considering the importance of maintaining a high standard of national defense, I personally do not think it is too much to ask of a young person, male or female. There is (or should be) a price paid for citizenship and enjoying our hard won freedoms. True equality demands that there be no free rides. Besides, should the world suddenly go to hell in a hand basket and the worst possible scenario come to pass, it may be of comfort to note that U.S. military forces are provided with unisex body bags that know no gender.
How The Electoral College Rigs Elections Against Us
"U.S. politics is a beautiful fraud...." - Congresswoman Shirley ChisholmQuestion: What is the oldest publicly funded college in the United States? Hint: It's a trick question. This college has no "smarts." In fact, it is safe to say that this college is to the science of mathematics what Pete Rose is to the game of baseball—a complete and total disgrace. Give up? Answer: It is the Electoral College, an institution which is definitely not interested in higher learning. But no matter how dumb the Electoral College is, it's a whole lot smarter than you and me, because, as taxpayers, we pay for it. Much like slavery, it is an unsavory compromise made by the Founding Fathers that has outlived its usefulness.
With the notable exception of Madison and Morris, the framers of the Constitution didn't trust their fellow Americans to choose a responsible leader. The Founding Fathers argued back and forth about which was the best method of disenfranchising the masses and settled on the unwieldy mess described in Article II, Section I. Each state got a number of votes (personified by electors) equal to the total of its representatives and senators. How to choose the electors was left up to the states. Some states decided to do it in the state legislature, while others used something called a general ticket, which can best be described as a winner-take-all popular vote. A third method was to vote on electors by congressional districts.
None of these methods worked very well, even when modified by the 12th Amendment. People were unhappy with voting for electors and wanted to vote for who was actually running for president and vice-president. Instead of listening to the voice of the people, many state governments fraudulently deleted the names of electors from the ballots to make it look like voters were voting directly for the candidates. But they didn't really fool anybody and many otherwise diligent people will tell you that the reason that they don't bother to go to the polls on election day is that they know that their vote doesn't count.
When compared to the Electoral College, New York's Boss Tweed and Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley were a couple of amateurs. Why take a risk of going to jail for stuffing ballot boxes? The best way to rig elections is to do it legally.
Forget all that mandate-of-the-people election day propaganda on network television—what you don't see is what hurts you. On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, electors meet in their respective state capitals to vote for president and vice-president. They are not sworn to ratify the people's choice and have been known to change their minds at the last minute. To decrease the chance of having a president and vice-president from the same state, at least one of the candidates for whom they vote must not reside in the elector's state. Certified lists of votes cast for the two offices are then transmitted to the president of the United States Senate. Finally, on the following January 6th, the president of the Senate opens the certificates during a joint session of Congress, and the votes are counted. Needless to say, this is a far cry from what we are told by the press.
The Electoral College is deeply entrenched. Nothing short of a constitutional amendment could get rid of it. But an amendment would have to be ratified by three fourths of the states and this is unlikely to occur because small states (of which there are 39) have a proportional advantage under the Electoral College system.
Although California's population is 68 times larger than that of Wyoming, California only gets 18 times as many electoral votes as Wyoming. Question: What kind of system gives more than three times as much clout to the voters of one state than to the voters of another state? Answer: An extremely skewed system that makes a mockery out of the cherished principle of one man, one vote.
An amendment (Senate Joint Resolution 56) recently introduced in the Senate by Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois) seeks to abolish the Electoral College and provide for the direct popular election of the President and Vice-President. Passed by a two thirds vote in the Senate and the House of Representatives, it will now go on to the states for their consideration. This particular amendment also provides for a runoff election if no candidate receives more than 40 percent of the popular vote.
In the 1992 election, third party candidate Ross Perot almost succeeded in keeping the other candidates from getting a majority of electors. Should that ever happen again (the last time was in 1824 in the race between Jackson and John Quincy Adams), then the election would be decided by the House of Representatives.
Almost as soon as the last election ended, the Democratic Party challenged the results, claiming that Al Gore, who got the majority of the popular vote, also won the electoral vote. However, they eventually, via a marvelous, but highly suspicious, shuffling of Florida election statistics by the Miami Herald, went back to licking their wounds and blaming Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for robbing them of a margin of victory. In the end, the only vote that mattered was that of the Supreme Court, which voted 5 to 4 to ignore the will of the people and place George W. Bush in the White House.
The quirky disputed outcome of the 2000 presidential election screams for abolition of the Electoral College. What could argue more against a way of doing something than that after two hundred years of modifications it still doesn't work right? If it was an aircraft design, it would have been discarded after the second or third crash. Is the fate of our nation with all of us aboard any less important than the fate of a 747 or a DC-10?
Liberal Or Conservative, Democrat or Republican?"Man is by nature a political animal." - AristotleWhere do people get their politics? Why choose one political party over another?
Let us assume that human beings are rational. However untrue this may be for certain individuals, the vast majority of us have more than a little common sense. Doesn't it then follow that the politics of any given individual will most likely be the politics from which that individual derives the greatest utility, in other words the bottom line can be said to be "What's in it for me?"
Almost always there are both carrots and sticks. An investor with a substantial portfolio in stocks and bonds, let's call him Mr. X, might be elated with a Republican proposal to reduce the capital gains tax while viewing with alarm an effort by Democrats to increase taxes for people in the uppermost income brackets. A working mother of two children who is hard pressed to make minimal monthly payments on her credit cards, Ms. Y, would have a different perspective of these same issues and could be reasonably expected to function as the counterpoint to Mr. X.
Since the Y's vastly outnumber the X's (recall from Chapter 4 that numbers decrease as one approaches the peak of the pyramid), one might expect liberalism as a general philosophy to inevitably prevail. When considered as a whole, our history has indeed been progressive (slavery has been abolished, women and minorities now have the right to vote, etc.), but the progression is much slower than we would anticipate from the numbers. It follows that there must be other factors at work. In fact, there are. It turns out that the Y's are by no means a match for the X's. Our government is a republic—a limited form of democracy—where Mr. X can use his affluence to his advantage. However, that is not necessarily bad. Maslow tells us that climbing the social pyramid involves a lot more than amassing a fortune.
Sociologists and historians have postulated that the struggle to succeed is what makes us great. In this scenario what becomes most important is that there is a level playing field encouraging upward social mobility. Why allow obstructions on the field that can permanently disable contenders? While the game of life needs to be competitive, no rules smash mouth bloodsport in which losers are fed to the lions should not be confused with free enterprise.
Neither people nor politics are static. Should circumstances change (let's say she inherits a fortune), Ms. Y might decide she has more in common with conservatives. Likewise, Mr. X could put his money into a dumb venture and end up on welfare. Since class structure in the United States is not rigid, i.e. there is upward mobility and, to a lesser extent, downward mobility, one does not find a sharply drawn divide between conservatives and liberals or the innate hostility between working class and elite that one can frequently discern in other cultures. In a consumer culture such as ours the car you drive and the beer you drink takes precedence over everything political. We've learned from the School of Hard Knocks that those that go along get along while serious types are apt to be viewed with suspicion. In such an environment Democrat and Republican are little more than logos with substantially less clout than those of Microsoft and Nike.
Don't think so? How else could you explain the timidity with which the government pursued its antitrust case against Microsoft or its apparent inability to prevent Nike from importing products manufactured by slave labor (Vietnamese assemblers earn as little as fourteen cents an hour—approximately half of what is paid to inmate laborers by the United States Bureau of Prisons).
In such a context the terms "liberal" and "conservative" lose all meaning as everything political gravitates towards the center with heads of business intermingling and interchanging with heads of government, hands in each other's pockets, and bleeding hearts pumping for the highest bidder. Welcome to 21st century no-holds-barred politics where, regardless of how you vote, the rich get richer and you get poorer. To gain the attention of a politician takes the financial resources of a multi-national corporation. Greed breeds corruption that destroys the character and integrity demanded of leaders if representative democracy is going to work.
Savvy politicians test the wind with public opinion polls and move in the direction it's currently blowing. Someone who agrees with your views does not necessarily deserve your vote. When you vote for crooks, you get crooked government. Our first president, George Washington, in his Farewell Address to the nation (see Appendix A) left us with these immortal words of wisdom:...government for the whole is indispensable...associations,
under whatever character, are destructive of this fundamental
principle...they serve to...put, in...place of the...will of
the nation, the will of a party...rather than wholesome plans
...modified by mutual interests. However...associations of
the above description may now and then answer popular ends,
they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become
potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled
men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and
to usurp for themselves the reins of government....common and
continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to
make it the interest of a wise people to discourage...it. It
agitates...with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms....
opens the door to foreign influence and corruption.... Of
all the dispositions...which lead to political prosperity,
religion and morality are indispensable supports. Virtue or
morality is a necessary spring of popular government.George Washington warned us that political parties would come "to subvert the power of the people." He also said that although the "spirit of the party" is "inseparable from our nature," it is the solemn "duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it." Washington believed in the "power of the people" and entrusted us to do what was right. But we forgot that "mutual interests" were more important than factional differences. We are paying a high price for our negligence. When lesser men purchase political office by corrupt means, the very foundations of our liberty are shaken.
In testimony before the House Reform Committee while under indictment for soliciting illegal foreign contributions, Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung testified that General Ji Shengde, the chief of China's military intelligence, contributed $300,000 to the Democratic National Committee. What did China get for its money? Quite a lot, it seems. Despite its horrendous human rights record, China was granted most favored nation status. It is also clear that Loral Space and Communications of Manhattan and Hughes Electronics, a General Motors subsidiary based in Los Angeles, were permitted to sell China guidance technology for ballistic missiles that could be used against the United States.
President Clinton tried to broker a deal to lease the Chinese government an excess naval base at Terminal Island in California. There is evidence that mainland Chinese banks funneled money into Clinton's campaign fund via donations made by individuals in their employ. Several Indonesian businessmen also contributed to the Democratic National Committee. And, on Clinton's last day as President, he gave a pardon to multi-millionaire-fugitive-living-in-Switzerland Marc Rich, a tax cheat whose only redeeming virtue seems to have been his wife's generosity to the Democrats—would anyone be shocked if the money came from Swiss bank accounts that had been kept secret from the IRS? When George Washington warned us that political parties would expose our government to "foreign influence and corruption", he hit the nail squarely on the head.
The system works best when it functions as a meritocracy with few if any biases towards class and privilege. Too often a party throws its support to whichever candidate the party estimates can raise the most money to defeat the opposition. Leaders should be individuals of good conscience and proven public service, not the inbred offspring of the elite or dull-witted, lockstep loyalists. Nominating conventions have become scripted events, choreographed media-savvy productions with scant room for spontaneous democracy or anything remotely resembling the will of the people. Politics is too real to make good theatre. No wonder both parties are getting such bad reviews.
Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat should not be the issue. Asking "what's in it for me?" is not getting us where we want to go. Let's stop defining ourselves in terms of parties and go back to thinking of ourselves like George Washington wanted us to think of ourselves—as a people. Only then will there be sufficient power to confront multinational conglomerates and regain control over our lives.
"A thermonuclear bomb was lost in 12 feet of water and lies buried under a little sand within 1 mile of the beach. Is it armed? The Air Force is betting your life that it isn't." - Name WithheldFounded in the colonial era, Savannah is a stately city with a warm heart—aptly termed the Hostess of the South. Designated by Conde' Nast Traveler as one of the top ten U.S. cities to visit, Savannah is a stroll back in time with hidden charms that could not help but entice the most jaded sophisticate. Porticoed mansions, moss-draped oaks, and churches nearly as stern as they are inviting, give Savannah a unique flavor found nowhere else in the world.
Twelve miles east of Savannah, beneath shallow layers of sand and water, an abandoned 7,600 pound nuclear bomb is biding its time, waiting to rain death and destruction on the southern Atlantic coastline. If not disarmed, perhaps some sleepy Sunday morning an atomic fireball will erupt on picturesque Wassaw Sound, shooting along nearby heavily traveled Interstate 80 with the force of a hundred hurricanes, instantly vaporizing tidal wetlands, and brutally firestorming a vibrant, thriving metropolis—women, children, more than 200,000 people instantly incinerated—into a crumbling, deserted heap of radioactive rubble.
A cold, calculated act of terrorism? Not quite. It's simply that the United States Air Force isn't in the habit of picking up after itself.
In February 1958, a B-47 Stratojet bomber had a midair collision with an F-86 Saberjet fighter southeast of Savannah and had to jettison the bomb in order to land safely. It was dumped in the dead of night somewhere along the southern shore of uninhabited Little Tybee Island. After a cursory search failed to reveal its whereabouts, the military threw up its hands and abandoned the search.
According to the Air Force, this rusting relic of the Cold War, designated No. 47782 Mark 15 Mod 0, contains decaying radioactive uranium and a detonator packing the wallop of 400 pounds of high explosive. The Deputy Director of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Proliferation Center, Major Don Robbins, thinks the Tybee bomb lies at least 5 miles from shore beneath 20 feet of water and 15 feet of sand and silt. If the bomb exploded, it "would create maybe a 10 foot diameter hole and shock waves through the water of approximately 100 yards . . . boats going over it would not even notice. They might see some bubbles coming out around them." According to the Air Force, there is no chance of a nuclear explosion because the Tybee bomb lacks a key plutonium capsule.
Derek Duke, a former Air Force pilot who has been researching the matter for several years doesn't agree. "It's a nuclear bomb...it's like if I take the battery out of your car, then I try to convince you it's not a car." Duke points to an April 1966 letter to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy from W.J. Howard, who was then the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Howard wrote that four nuclear weapons had been lost and never recovered. Two were "weapons-less capsules," assumed to be incapable of a nuclear blast, but the Savannah bomb and a device lost in the western Pacific Ocean in 1965 are listed as being "complete."
But the Air Force says that Howard got it wrong. Speaking in an official capacity, Major Cheryl Law reiterated the Air Force's stock statement concerning unrecovered nuclear devices, "the bomb off the coast of Savannah is not capable of a nuclear explosion." What about the ton or so of enriched uranium encased in the bomb? "To have that hurt you, you would actually have to ingest it."
Let's see, that means that Howard was either a "complete" idiot (no pun intended) or he intentionally lied in writing to Congress and signed his name at the bottom. I wonder if Howard, analyzing the incident eight years after it happened, might have had access to information not available today. Although he now says that he may have made a mistake, it seems likely that the Department of Defense coerced Howard into changing his story.
Howard H. Dixon, a former crew chief who loaded nuclear weapons onto planes at Hunter Field, Georgia, from 1957 to 1959, claims the bombs were always armed. "Never in my air force career did I install a Mark 15 weapon without installing the plutonium capsule," he insists.
A local resident, Donald Ernst, runs a website about the bomb called Tybeebomb.com. Ernst says that "if all accounts of the bomb are correct, as far as the make and model, it is 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima . . . . I believe, using common sense, that if the bomb were to detonate, it would crack the Floridian aquifer. This aquifer is the source of drinking water for four-plus states. Why not take something that is inherantly dangerous and remove it? Sometimes the government really amazes me."
At a special hearing called by Mayor Walter Parker, the City Council of Tybee Island approved a resolution which urged the Department of Energy and the Air Force to locate the bomb and give residents a "realistic assessment of potential dangers" to address local concerns "about the safety, health and peace of mind and economic livelihood of residents of the city and its visitors."
Could it be that the Air Force weighed the cost of conducting another search ($1 million or more) against the risk and Tybee Island/Savannah came out the loser? Even with 20/15 hindsight into the survival-of-the-fittest mindset of the Air Force in that era, it beggars the imagination to envision a nameless, faceless staff functionary cavalierly mumbling "So long, Savannah!," as he stamps the report "TOP SECRET" and returns to business as usual.In March 1958, a month after the Savannah incident, a similar bomb, but without a nuclear payload, was dropped from a B-47 over Florence, South Carolina. Exploding over ground zero, it injured six people and left an enormous crater. The high explosives used to trigger an atomic bomb are by themselves a significant threat.
Three years later, on January 24, 1961, two bombs fell from a Strategic Air Command B-52 when a fuel tank in the right wing exploded, causing it to break up over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the eight crew members survived. A parachute provided one bomb with a soft landing, but the other buried itself beneath soggy farmland, leaving a crater eight feet in diameter and six feet deep. After excavating to a depth of 50 feet and recovering a parachute pack, some high explosives, a tritium bottle, and a portion of the nose, the Air Force paid $1,000 for an easement on the site (much cheaper than the $500,000 estimated cost of recovery) and left the business end of the hydrogen bomb where it lay. What could the commanding officer have been thinking when he cavalierly dismissed responsibility for a nuclear device capable of slaughtering the inhabitants of an unsuspecting city. "So long Savannah, goodbye Goldsboro?" Most of the fail-safe mechanisms were disabled by the force of the impact. It is entirely possible that nothing stands between the people of North Carolina and the detonation of an unstable Mark 39 2.5 megaton thermonuclear weapon except a single hair trigger. Speaking at a press conference in September 1983, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, had this to say: "The bomb's arming mechanism had six or seven steps to go through to detonate, and it went through all but one, we discovered later." Given the possible consequences, it is unconscionable for the Air Force to continue to stonewall the media about the danger—however remote—that this maverick H-bomb poses to the public.
Shouldn't a bomb—not just any bomb, but a thermonuclear weapon—be as deserving of proper disposal as other forms of biohazardous wastes? A local reporter, Mike Rouse, who covered the story for a Wayne County newspaper at the time of the incident says it is his understanding that the bomb broke apart when it slammed into the earth and now lies in pieces. The Air Force claims that no radiation was detected, but that is not surprising since it is insulated by more than 150 feet of soil. If the casing did in fact shatter, it is all the more reason to clean up the resulting nuclear contamination. Since fusionable radioactive elements have an extremely long half-life, the problem is not going away anytime soon. Unlike the Chernobyl disaster, no concrete buffer has been poured. Because the soil which surrounds the abandoned H-bomb is saturated and unstable, it is imperative that the Air Force admit to its mistake without further delay in order that steps can be taken to protect the public. Isn't it ironic that billions are being spent to develop an anti-missile missile capable of shooting down a nuclear device before it reaches our borders, but we can't spare a half million to make one that is already here safe?Sometime in late July, 1957, records aren't quite clear if it was the night of the 28th or 29th, an Air Force C-124 cargo plane experiencing mechanical difficulties was forced to dump two nukes off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, one 50 miles out, the other 75 miles. The bombs, called Mark 5's, did not explode when they landed in the Atlantic. Once again, the Air Force says that the bombs lacked crucial plutonium capsules. However, they admit that the detonators—a ton of high explosives each—pack enough punch to level a city block. Needless to say, they are still out there—presumably at the mercy of the tides and currents with 43 years worth of corrosion eating away at them.
"If you thought syringes on the beach were bad...imagine if a nuclear bomb were to wash up. Lots of heavy things wash ashore," warns Stephen Schwartz, a researcher at the Brookings Institution who recently edited "Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940."
Arrivederci Atlantic City? Or is it possible that one of the bombs might have made it to Manhattan by now?
This simply isn't the Air Force's strongest area of expertise and it wouldn't surprise me if the Air Force knew less about what goes on beneath the waves than Bill Clinton knows about celibacy. The Atlantic sea floor is anything but static. Flowing to depths of 3,000 feet or more, the Gulf Stream steadily washes the entire eastern seaboard. Differences in temperature and salinity result in changes in the density of seawater, producing both up and down welling. And large surface storms can scour continental shelves.
Probably the greatest danger stems from the enormous pressure to which a submerged bomb can be subjected. At sea level average pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch, but it quickly increases with descent, expanding to 1,338 psi at 3,000 feet, sufficient to implode watertight metal casings. Add corrosion from forty years of continual immersion in seawater and you have a time bomb waiting to go off.
How much truth there is in the Air Force's assertion that the bombs pose little or no danger is illustrated by a "Broken Arrow" incident that occurred on January 17, 1966. A B-52 collided with a K-135 refueling plane over Palomares, Spain, with four hydrogen bombs aboard. One bomb floated gently down suspended between two parachutes, another bomb sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean, and it is rumored that the high explosives in the other two bombs detonated upon impact, spewing radioactive material into the sea.
On January 21, 1968, another B-52 crashed approximately seven miles southeast of Thule Air Force Base in Greenland. Four bombs were alleged to have burned with the plane, spreading radioactive contamination over icy seas. However, a group of ex-employees of the Arctic facility have obtained classified documents suggesting that one of the thermonuclear hydrogen weapons sank to the seabed and still lies there today. According to an article published in the daily Jyllands-Posten, a prominent Danish newspaper, the lost bomb, serial number 78252, was never reported to Denmark, despite the fact that Denmark is a NATO ally and Greenland is an integral part of the kingdom of Denmark. Needless to say, this is not the way to treat a friend.
The Danish Ritzau news agency released a story reporting that a U.S. submarine filmed images of something resembling a hydrogen bomb in April 1968 while conducting a search for remains from the B-52 wreckage.
Because Denmark had banned nuclear weapons from its soil, the crash has soured relations between our two countries. With State Department officials scheduled to visit Greenland on August 21 to 24, 2001, for talks with Danish officials on whether or not Thule will play a role in the planned National Missile Defense program, the disclosures could not have come at a more inopportune moment. Home to a ballistic missile early-warning radar station, Thule is ideally situated to detect incoming missiles from what the United States labels "states of concern"—countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea. Greenland's native people have repeatedly expressed strong opposition to having anything to do with the NMD proposal.
Consequences still reverberate from what happened on December 5, 1965, when an A-4e Skyhawk rolled off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and sank to the bottom, along with a live hydrogen bomb, 80 miles from Okinawa. In 1989, the United States informed Japan that the bomb was leaking radioactive material, no doubt providing ammunition for local protestors who would like nothing better than an excuse to kick United States troops off of their island.
It's not like we are the only nation that ever lost a nuclear bomb. Cold War nuclear policy expert Stephen Schwartz admonishes that the "Russians had many...accidents, but...they have not been forthcoming about them." How about the other nuclear powers? "I wouldn't be surprised if the British, the French, and the Chinese had their share as well."
Nobody knows for sure exactly how many derelict nuclear bombs are rolling about on ocean floors worldwide. In 1989, Greenpeace estimated the number to be 50. At least 11 of them belong to the United States. Of those, four definitely have live payloads. We know from the Bikini tests that 40 kilotons detonated in a lagoon can render an atoll uninhabitable for decades. When you consider that a single hydrogen bomb packs 10 to 1,000 times as much punch as a fission bomb, it is tantamount to criminal negligence to let such a device endanger an unsuspecting populace. A megaton blast (equivalent to a million tons of TNT) results in severe damage to buildings 10 miles away. The power of the explosion increases in direct proportion to the size of the bomb. Detonate a good sized bomb in shallow water near a major city's shoreline and it's Post Toasties for the inhabitants.
It doesn't have to be that way. The U.S. Navy has submarines capable of finding and retrieving nuclear weapons regardless of the depth at which they are lost. When President Johnson learned about the lost Palomares hydrogen bomb, he abruptly demanded that the Navy find it before the Soviets did. Two submersibles, Alvin and Aluminaut were loaded on cargo planes and flown to Spain. On its tenth dive, Alvin sighted the tattered remains of a parachute wrapped around the missing H-bomb. It was 2,500 feet underwater, wedged into a 70-degree slope. Alvin first attempted to hook it, but the bomb fell back into the water and was lost for three more weeks. Then a robot cable-controlled underwater recovery vehicle (CURV) guided by a surface ship got tangled up in the parachute's suspension lines. In desperation, the Navy decided to hoist both the CURV and the bomb together, hoping that the tangle would hold long enough to get them to the surface. Luck was with the rescue team that day (April 7, 1966) and three months' worth of tenacity finally payed off big time.
Motivated by the less-than-graceful recovery of the Palomares bomb, the Navy went on to develop an array of manned and unmanned advanced technology submersibles capable of accomplishing "Broken Arrow" missions with minimal risk to personnel. NR-1, the Navy's first submarine designed specifically for deep submergence search and recovery, was the brainchild of Admiral Rickover. Unlike Alvin, the much larger NR-1 was nuclear powered and not dependent upon the support of a surface ship. Its heavy-duty grappling arm gave it deep sea capabilities that outpaced Jules Verne's visions in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Two nuclear submarines that had been facing retirement, USS Halibut and USS Seawolf, were rebuilt and pressed into service as deep sea search vehicles. USS Parche was also overhauled and refitted with state-of-the-art electronic gadgetry qualifying her as a "special projects" sub.
But perhaps the most grandiose and costly salvage ship of any era, the Glomar Explorer, constructed jointly by the Navy and the CIA (Note: the CIA's cover story had Howard Hughes' Summa Corporation using the Glomar Explorer to mine magnesium nodules from the ocean floor) in the early 1970's as part of Project Jennifer, provided the best proof that any object at any depth can be located and lifted from anywhere beneath the sea. After Halibut discovered a sunken Soviet submarine containing at least one intact ballistic missile complete with nuclear warhead, Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense under President Nixon, approved Jennifer. Six years later, 1,700 miles northwest of Hawaii, five mighty mechanical claws descended 17,000 feet to the bottom of the Pacific and, guided by computers on board the Glomar Explorer, clamped onto 5,000 tons of twisted, rusting steel and began slowly raising it to the surface. But the Soviet submarine fell apart at the seams when three of the grasping claws cracked, sending the bulk of the submarine back into the depths. Although ten percent of the submarine was brought up, including the bodies of six Russian sailors, the missile and its warhead were lost. A second attempt was scuttled by the resignation of President Nixon and the subsequent revelation that the CIA had illegally compiled files on more than 10,000 American citizens. Nonetheless, it can be presumed that few, if any, lost nuclear devices lie at a depth greater than 17,000 feet and that none outweigh the 500 tons that the Navy managed to bring up. Now, with the end of the Cold War, instead of mothballing nuclear submarines, we could be using them to locate and dispose of lost and all-but-forgotten thermonuclear Cold War relics instead of leaving them lying around, waiting for God-only-knows-what terrorist group to salvage.
It would only take a fraction of the $1 billion dollars which the Air Force wasted on an atomic aircraft that never got off the ground to do the job. It's morbidly ironic that at the same time the Air Force was saying it couldn't afford to continue searching for the missing nuclear bombs, it was throwing money into Project Halitosis for development of CAMAL (continuously airborne missile launcher and low level) technologies in a vain attempt to attatch gossamer wings to heavyweight nuclear reactors.
Nations at war have a responsibility to dispose of unexploded ordnance posing a danger to civilians as soon as the war is over. During the 1990-91 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, occupying military forces scattered landmines over 97.8 percent of Kuwait. As soon as the Gulf War ended, the cleanup effort began. By April 1999, a total of 1,646,916 landmines had been recovered, more than one mine per every man, woman, and child. The costs in terms of humanity have been enormous. Sixty people have been killed and 131 injured, 12 of whom were Americans, while attempting to disarm these devices. Because H-bombs are potentially more hazardous than landmines, it makes no sense that a similar effort to find and defuse hazardous abandoned weapons was not part of the victorious aftermath of the Cold War.
The root of the problem appears to have been that certain Air Force leaders, General Curtis LeMay among them, advocated adopting a first strike policy against the former Soviet Union. Expediency dictated that they downplay the lethality of nuclear weapons or run the risk of being labeled madmen. The impossibly ridiculous notion that honor and duty necessitated that real men, as the Air Force's official song dictates, "live in fame or go down in flames" was at least in part to blame.
This Dr. Strangelove insanity will not be put to rest until we get a full and complete accounting of all missing nuclear weapons together with assurances of their safe disposal. In the parlance of Cold Warrior LeMay, we need to get rid of them before they get rid of us.
Parts of So Long, Savannah! appeared online in the July 2001 edition of 3AM Magazine at http://www.3ammagazine.com.
Dumping the SAT"...God made idiots...then he made school boards." - Mark TwainWhen I graduated from the University of California at Irvine in 1972, the tuition-free UC system was rated among the best. Since then, it has slid steadily downhill. Under Republican Governor Reagan, students were hit with so many fees that the face of the campuses changed from the children of the working class to children of the elite. Although sororities and fraternities never had it better, the hedonistic environment flourished at the expense of learning. To make matters worse the state colleges were integrated into the UC system, resulting in hodgepodge academic standards. According to U.S. News & World Report, Berkeley, the premier UC campus, has plummeted to the Number 20 slot in national college rankings.
Now, the UC president, Richard C. Atkinson, is threatening to knock the bottom from the barrel by getting rid of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), the accepted national standard of math and verbal skills for determining undergraduate admissions. Speaking on February 18, 2001, before the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., Atkinson said that "...minorities are concerned that, on average, their children score lower than white and Asian American students."
While that may be true, is it fair to blame the SAT? However embarrassing it may prove to those who score low, nobody to date, including Atkinson, has been able to devise a fairer system. And, it is not as if the SAT was incapable of change. In direct response to Atkinson's criticism, an essay question is being added, the math section is being made tougher, and analogy questions are being eliminated. The new test, which will be introduced in March 2005, is intended to be an accurate assessment of a student's math/reading/writing/reasoning skills and will be more aligned with curriculum and state standards.
The SAT (now known by its acronym to avoid use of the A word) was first used experimentally in 1926. Prior to 1967, admissions were primarily based on high school transcripts. Disillusionment with high school grades as a yardstick of aptitude finally led to UC requiring all applicants to take the test.
Why does Atkinson want to turn back the clock? Several years ago, California voters passed an initiative banning racial quotas (also known as affirmative action). Evidently, Atkinson does not like having the people who pay his salary tell him what to do and wants to bring in through the back door below par applicants whom he can't bring in through the front door. Considering that black and Hispanic people have been the victims of years of oppression, this might appear to be an unselfish, altruistic act by a man who only wants to make things right. But what it will really do is to increase Atkinson's power and prestige since the proposed changes are labor intensive and will result in a bigger staff and budget. Even Atkinson admits that his revisions "will not result in earth shaking changes in . . .which students are admitted and which are rejected."
Starting this year, the top four percent of graduates at each of California's high schools are guaranteed a slot at one of UC's eight undergraduate campuses. On campuses where the applications exceed available space, nine other academic criteria will help to determine entrance. The costs of meticulously examining each and every application—238,000 for this year alone (to apply to more than one campus takes more than one application)—have yet to be determined.
Nothing about the new admission system is fair. Once standardized testing was abandoned, the various UC campuses went off the deep end pursuing utopian goals. Sob-stories took the place of SAT scores. Each campus in the UC system currently has their own definition of what constitutes hardship and how much it can count towards admission. At UC San Diego, an applicant with a hard luck story can get up to 500 points. Although UCLA does not tally points on a scorecard to determine which applicants will get admitted, it does take into consideration a number of personal disadvantages such as recovering from a life-threatening illness, accident or a shooting. At UC Davis, students can earn up to 250 points for perseverance, which they define as difficulties associated with family disruptions, bad health, poverty, and/or dysfunctional environments. However, perseverance cannot account for more than two percent of the maximum point total. What is incredible, is that the educators who devised these complex formulas for deciding who should be allowed a chance at a better life actually believe that they know what is best for California. Atkinson having set the example, arrogance now reigns supreme in the UC admission system where an unrepresentative elite thrawts the will of the people as expressed in Proposition 209—a California law that prohibits racial quotas—and assigns merit on the basis of who whines the loudest.
Social scientists find it difficult to explain racial gaps in test scores. Black students whose parents have the same level of education and income as a comparable sample of whites score about 120 points lower on average. Critics of standardized testing speculate that since most of the people who create the questions are white, cultural biases are inadvertently written into the test. But the College Board (a non-profit organization set up to administer the SAT) insists that all questions are previewed by a representative sample of test takers, and any questions that show disparities in race are thrown out. According to College Board president Gaston Caperton, "the SAT is...thoroughly researched" and the test score gap can be attributed to the "different educational opportunities these students have had." Blaming the SAT for poor quality high schools in communities with disproportionate levels of minorities is akin to shooting the messenger. Black students "are getting a lousy education—it's as simple as that."
A College Board study examined 46,379 students at 55 colleges and universities across the country and found that for minorities test scores are a "better predictor of [how students will perform at the university level] than are high school grades." Moreover, "for [blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians]...the SAT tends to predict a slightly higher GPA than the students actually earn."
Perhaps this explains why Californians passed Proposition 109 to eliminate racial quotas. But Atkinson, whose background is in psychology, believes that young people are suffering egregiously: "...overemphasis on the SAT" has had "a devastating impact on the self esteem and aspirations of young students."
"In many ways," he says, "we are caught up in the educational equivalent of a nuclear arms race...[overemphasizing] test scores hurts all involved, especially students."
Atkinson's own statistics tell a different story. Of the 1312 black students who applied to UC Berkeley last year, 349 received admission. Of 10890 whites who applied, 2969 were admitted. For both races, the admission rate was approximately 27 percent. But the SAT scores were significantly different. While whites scored between 1300 and 1460 points for total 25-75th percentile scores, blacks scored between 1050 and 1290 points. Pretty much the same could be said for Hispanics—27 percent admitted, with scores between 1070 and 1320, and American Indians—28 percent admitted, with scores between 1180 and 1410. This would indicate that test scores were summarily thrown out the window in order to give the various races equal treatment.
So what's unfair about the current system? If anything, it's the white students who should be complaining. Better test scores on the SAT got them nowhere. Atkinson appears to be playing what Churchill termed the Orange card—utilizing ethnicity to further his own agenda. In my opinion as a UC alumnus, this shows how far my beloved alma matter has sunk on Atkinson's watch. Cunning now passes for intelligence. Street smarts are the order of the day.
What is not smart is attempting to evaluate applicants on the basis of their high school grades. Because UC recognizes an A in an Advanced Placement course with five points while retaining the standard four point scale, averages are skewed, with far too many applicants reporting grade-point averages higher than the maximum 4.0. Fully 75 percent of the students admitted to UC Berkeley in 1999 had a GPA of 4.0 or better. If baseball players were rated in a manner similar to the system UC uses to evaluate high school students, three-quarters would be batting a thousand.
Advanced Placement classes are elite courses sponsored by the College Board. Although Advanced Placement classes help students earn college credit early, inner city schools often cannot afford the required top-level instructors and materials. One California study found that as the percentage of low-income students goes up in a high school, the opportunities for taking Advanced Placement courses goes down. In 1999, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an action against the State of California, accusing UC of favoring those applicants who have taken Advanced Placement classes. According to the plaintiff, Rasheda Daniels, she and her classmates stood less of a chance of being admitted to UC than students from affluent schools offering Advanced Placement. "When you look at...schools, there are gross disparities across class lines," she said. "It's not fair."
A British study released in February 2001, shows that kids in state-run schools who did well on the SAT are falling through the cracks of the current British testing system, which rewards those who have mastered specific subjects rather than assessing general skills. Britain's education czar said he believes SAT's could be compulsory in the United Kingdom within the next few years.
According to the College Board, SAT test-takers are a diverse group. More than one-third are the first in their families to go beyond high school, over half are female, and 34 percent are from black, Hispanic, and Asian minorities. During 2000, 1.26 million U.S. high school seniors took the SAT. Math scores were at their highest since 1969, increasing by three points from 1999 to 2000, bringing the average score to 514. During the 1990's, average math scores rose 13 points. Verbal SAT scores have remained steady at 505 for the past five years.
"I think we're seeing the investments that have been made...across the country," observed the president of the College Board, Gaston Caperton, "the...focus...on education is beginning to have a positive effect."
The main reason why standardized testing is under bombardment wasn't discussed by UC's Atkinson. It seems that permissive baby boomer parents think that their children shouldn't have to suffer the indignity of being evaluated. Movements are awash to abolish homework, end class rankings, and reduce graduation requirements. That's too bad. Nothing worthwhile is easy and, sooner or later, everyone has to face the real world.
For those who aren't in any hurry to grow up, college life is the source of many happy memories. It is in that respect that UC has scored its greatest success. UC Santa Barbara ranks 19 among the top 20 party colleges as reported by the Princeton Review and uppercrust fun-in-the-sun UC Santa Cruz cruised its way up to the Number 7 slot.
Word travels fast among high school seniors. A record 33,476 of them applied to beachside UCSB this year for admission.
I graduated from UC's Irvine campus in three and a half years on the GI Bill while holding down three part-time jobs. If only I had approached education like some educators recommend today, I could have taken five and had a lot more fun.
As it turned out, there wasn't much of a market for someone who could do calculus and conjugate verbs in several languages—my Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science netted me a succession of blue collar jobs in dirty factories. I've had the salt of the earth rubbed into my bleeding flesh and, having gotten a second education the hard way, deeply resent having to listen to an academician who hasn't been there tell it like it isn't.
Environmental Meltdown in the Heart of Southern California
"Bureaucracy, made up entirely of petty minds, stands as an obstacle to the prosperity of the nation; delays for seven years, by its machinery, the project of a canal which would have stimulated the production of a province." - Honoré de Balzac
When my father first took me to the Salton Sea 40 years ago, it was one of the most popular recreational areas in Southern California with almost as many visitors as Yosemite. But over the years the vast inland sea has been used as a sump for the polluted leachings of local irrigation districts, causing the once plentiful birds and fish to die.
Today, the Salton Sea is experiencing an environmental meltdown. It is already 25 percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean. If a solution is not forthcoming soon, the sea and everything that depends on it—fish, migratory waterfowl, and the region's economy—will be dead. The time for environmental studies and reports has run out—either we begin saving the sea now or there soon will be nothing left to save. In the summer months of June, July, and August, 2000, 413 brown pelicans (an endangered species) died. With over 90 percent of California's wetlands gone, these birds are increasingly dependent upon the Salton Sea. When 2 million fish, mostly tilapia, died on August 27-28, the shoreline quickly became a putrefying, malodorous mass of carcasses rotting in 120 degree heat and 75 percent humidity.
Formed by accident between 1905 and 1907 when the Colorado River burst through shoddily constructed irrigation gates south of Yuma, Arizona, the Salton Sea lies within Riverside and Imperial counties near the U.S./Mexico border in southeastern California Nearly the entire output of the raging Colorado flowed into the Salton Basin for several years, inundating communities, farms, Indian reservations, and the Southern Pacific railway. Flooding was finally checked in 1907 by a dike built by railcars dumping boulders into the onrushing waters. By then, the Salton Sea was about 40 miles long and 13 miles wide.
The Salton Sea is currently 35 miles by 15 miles and has been as long as 40 miles by 20 during a period when the Mojave Desert got an unusually large amount of rain. It has an average depth of 29.9 feet and, at its deepest location, is 51 feet. The sea contains 7.1 million acre feet of water, 1.3 million acre feet of which evaporates annually. A five-mile-long trench on the south end of the Salton Sea forms its deepest point. Approximately 220 feet below sea level, the Salton Sea lies only thirteen feet above Death Valley, the lowest spot in North America.
Irrigation runoff from farms in the Coachella and Imperial valleys and two streams—the Alamo River and the New River—feed the Salton Sea. There is a danger that impending legislation will transfer some of the local farmers' share of Colorado River water to San Diego developers which studies show has the potential to make the shoreline recede more than a mile.
The New River originates just south of Mexicali, Mexico, and picks up agricultural pesticides, dead cats, industrial wastes, and human excrement as it flows north. A recent report by the California Water Resources Control Board found that Mexicali is dumping 20 to 25 million gallons of raw sewage into the New River daily because of breakdowns in its municipal treatment system. By the time the New River crosses the U.S./Mexico border near Calexico, California, the river violates water quality standards by several hundred-fold. Border Patrol agents who have jumped into the toxic flow to rescue drowning immigrants have had to be treated for skin rashes and infections. The New River is a caustic cocktail whose ingredients include 26 viruses—hepatitis A and polio to name a few—assorted pesticides from Mexican farms (some of which have been banned in the United States), together with hazardous chemicals and heavy metals from maquiladora factories.
A recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control noted that California has twice the rate of infections of two food-borne pathogens associated with human sewage, campylobacter and shigella, than any other state. State and federal legislators are reluctant to approve the vast amount of funds it would take to clean up what many consider a desert wasteland. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is paying 55 percent of a $50 million addition to Mexicali's sewage treatment facility, it has yet to tackle the pollution which has already been carried across the border and deposited in the Salton Sea. Fecal coliform is at levels of 100,000 to 5 million colonies per milliliter at the border checkpoint, far above the treaty limit of 240 colonies. The New River is so heavily polluted that technicians usually wear two sets of gloves and other protective clothing when testing the water. However, state officials claim that contaminants in the Salton Basin do not exceed acceptable levels and pose no risk to the region's inhabitants, a large proportion of whom are senior citizens.
Because the Salton Sea has no outlet, selenium from sewage and agricultural runoff accumulates in the silt at the bottom where it is ingested by pile worms. These worms are in turn eaten by the fish who serve as food for higher life forms—including people. At each successive level of the food chain the selenium becomes more and more concentrated.
According to the Encyclopedia Americana, "all selenium compounds are toxic, except for copper and lead selenides. . . their. . . effects. . . resemble those of arsenic, causing lung and liver damage, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pains or cramps. . . contact with selenium or its salts may cause dermititis. . .no more than three parts per million of the element has been suggested as the safe concentration limit in foods."
In past years, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service released joint studies in response to concern about drainwater contamination that could "pose a threat" to human beings along with fish and wildlife resources "of the Salton Sea area." One scientific study concluded that "drainwater contaminants. . . are accumulating in tissues of migratory and resident birds that use food sources in the Imperial Valley and Salton Sea. Selenium concentrations in fish-eating birds, shorebirds. . . could affect reproduction."
Of even greater concern is the high concentration of arsenic found in local wells. Residents of Pioneertown and Bombay Beach are concerned about carcinogens in their drinking water. Pioneertown, a community of 150 people west of Joshua Tree National Park, has arsenic levels as high as 82.1 parts per billion in its wells (current Environmental Protection Agency standards permit a maximum of 50 parts per billion and the Bush administration is committed to lowering the standard to 10 parts per billion by 2006).
The only practical, long range solution is to dig a sea level canal from the Laguna de Salada in Baja California to the Salton Sea. This would keep the sea from getting any saltier and would also provide inland Southern California and Mexico with a convenient port for international shipping. Because Mexico has no rail line down its western jagged-mountain coast, poorly regulated diesal trucks must ply the long trek that begins and ends in the smog-prone Los Angeles Basin. Restoring the sea would mean the return of fishing and other water sports. Marinas could be built along the entire length of the canal, increasing the value of desert real estate in both the United States and Mexico. Since the Salton Sea is presently 220 feet below sea level, a connection with the Pacific Ocean would result in a vast inflow of seawater, expanding the Salton Sea's boundaries to approximately those of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the freshwater lake that filled the Salton basin as recently as 500 years ago.
Metcalf & Eddy, a Massachusetts based firm with almost a century of experience in large scale water resources management, has proposed building two canals, the largest of which would be navigable for ocean going vessels. The cost for digging the U.S. section is estimated at $300 million, with the final pricetag for the completed canals approaching $3 billion. While this is indeed a considerable chunk of money, it is nonetheless a good bargain, considering the increased revenue in land and commerce taxes which local governments stand to gain.
I live in Riverside, California, about halfway between Los Angeles and the Salton Sea. Several times a day, freight trains pass through my community on their way to San Bernardino, Palm Springs, and other inland cities loaded with ocean-going containers from the Orient stacked two high on flatbed cars. Some of these trains stretch for a mile or longer. Of course each container means more revenue for the congested ports of Long Beach and San Pedro and higher shipping costs paid for consumer goods by the residents of inland Southern California.
Digging a canal through the desert would involve no insurmountable problems. In fact, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faced a considerably tougher task in constructing the Panama Canal a century ago.
What's stopping us from building a sea level canal today? All we need is the will. Prior to his death in a tragic skiing accident, Congressman Sonny Bono was actively seeking public support for the issue. Perhaps the Salton Sea's strongest supporter in the House of Representatives was the late Congressman George Brown whom I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago. He was the driving force behind restoration of the sea and his death was a great loss to the Salton Sea, California, and the world. He understood the crucial environmental role the sea plays as an intrinsic part of the Pacific Flyway. To Congressman Brown, saving the Salton Sea was more than a regional concern of the United States and Mexico. It was—and is—an international issue with global impact.
There are many parallels between the Salton Sea, which lies near the U.S/Mexico border and the Dead Sea, which is on the border between Israel and Jordan. The Dead Sea is three-hundred-sixty-five meters below sea level, the lowest point on Earth. Unless something is done soon, the Salton Sea will resemble the Dead Sea, which is so salty that it cannot support life. The Dead Sea is shrinking by almost one meter each year. Most of the water that flows into the Dead Sea comes from the Jordan River. However, fresh water flowing from the Jordan River has been tapped for other uses in the area. Environmentalists believe that within the next fifty years, the Dead Sea could shrink to less than half of its current size. To prevent that, Israel and Jordan plan to build a pipeline more than three-hundred kilometers long. The pipeline would pump water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea. After the pipeline is built, the two countries hope to build a canal and a salt removal system that will provide fresh water to Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians. The pipeline will take at least three years to build and will cost a billion dollars. Israel and Jordan plan to pay for it with aid from other countries. The project is expected to begin after a nine-month study is completed. The water project is seen as a major step forward towards peace in the Middle East. Experts say the agreement sends a message that the environment, ecology and nature are more important than borders or political conflicts. Why Israel and Jordan can do it and the United States and Mexico can't is a question that no one seems to be able to answer.Recently, the U.S. Deptartment of the Interior unveiled five alternatives it is considering to restore the sea. Speaking at a symposium in Desert Hot Springs, acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes remarked that evaporation ponds and misting systems looked promising. Considering that nearly 9.4 million tons of salt would have to be extracted annually to keep the sea from getting any saltier, Senator Dianne Feinstein said she had "concerns about the practical nature of an evaporation system and whether it can get the salt out fast enough." Ironically, when Senator Feinstein questioned David Hayes concerning the feasibility of selling salt to offset the cost of rejuvenating the sea, he stated that transportation costs could prove prohibitive since most successful commercial operations have plants next to shipping ports. In effect, the Department of the Interior has gone on record saying that the sole way to make the project economically viable is to build a deep water port.
Congressman Duncan Hunter has introduced H.R. 2764; a bill that would rob the Salton Sea of 300,000 acre feet of water a year and turn it over to greedy San Diego developers. Should this bill become law, the sea would drop 15 feet and the shoreline would recede nearly a mile. Ironically, the State of California has endorsed the ripoff.
According to an article by Ben Spillman in the September 11, 2005 edition of The Desert Sun, a study financed by the Salton Sea Authority claims that the Salton Sea could support 80,000 new homes along its shores once the waters are rendered less polluted by the proposed use of dams and dikes. The report estimates that tax revenue from development could support future improvement projects.
Make-do stopgaps such as ugly misters and unsightly, smelly evaporation ponds would only serve to compound the sea's problems. This is an environmental emergency with no room for error. Unless we intervene soon and take drastic action to halt the meltdown, the sea is a goner. What a shame that would be. If nothing else, the Salton Sea qualifies as a theme park without equal—the primary differences being that it isn't owned by a corporation, there are no fences, and admission is free.
Pushing the Envelope"Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies." - Honoré de BalzacTerrified pedestrians lie face down on the pavement while a plane strafes city streets. A hooded ninja dressed in black slays a woman with his samurai sword and hurls grenades at police. Taking a hostage, a lone gunman shoots four people during a 13 hour siege. No, these aren't scenes from some foreign capital in the midst of a civil war. It is "business as usual" for the United States Postal Service where violence and mass murder have become part of the cost of delivering the mail. Buckets of human gore are routinely mopped from the workroom floors while the Postal Inspection Service attempts to downplay the internecine warfare.
Fighting for its life against unconscionable wage demands, threats of privatization, and public criticism, the U.S. postal system has begun to crack under pressure. Purges of veteran employees have become commonplace as the quasi-military government monopoly struggles to quash organizational dissidence and maintain an anachronistic infrastructure that predates the American Revolution of 1776.
In 1753 King George II appointed Benjamin Franklin, then serving as postmaster at Philadelphia, as one of two joint postmasters general for the American colonies. Dismissed in 1774 due to his revolutionary sympathies, the Continental Congress reinstated him as the new nation's first postmaster general in 1775.
For the next 200 years the Post Office Department existed as a small cabinet level branch of the United States government. Its workers were low-paid and its budget was subsidized by Congressional grants. Postal workers were viewed as friendly, albeit somewhat lazy, civil servants. Letter carriers commonly carried neighborhood gossip as well as mail and postmen often worked a single route for their entire career.
By 1968 the U.S. taxpayers were ready to scrap the inefficient, politically-oriented Post Office Department. On July 1, 1971, the United States Postal Service was established as a non-profit, self-supporting corporation. However, the act of Congress that created the Postal Service also institutionalized collective bargaining for employees. The race was on between the four major competing unions for the biggest slice of the postal pie. Each outdid the other in outrageous wage demands.
As labor costs soared, the Postal Service automated in an attempt to balance its budget. Despite modernization, wages and benefits had risen to 83 percent of the postal budget by the late 1980's. The average postal salary, including benefits, was more than 47 percent higher than the average for private-sector workers.
The only way to pay for the increased wages was to increase productivity. Routes were lengthened, quotas were introduced, and speedups became commonplace. Management adopted the policy of "pushing the envelope", meaning that every last ounce of effort was extorted from employees by any means possible.For some the pressure became unbearable . . .Patrick Henry Sherrill, like his fiery revolutionary namesake, was a patriotic American. After lettering in three sports in high school, he joined the Marine Corps and became a weapons expert. Following an Honorable Discharge, he joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Never marrying, he lived at home with his ailing mother and spent his spare time contacting fellow ham radio operators.
In 1985 Patrick Henry scored high on a United States Postal Service entrance examination and was hired as a letter carrier for the Edmond, Oklahoma post office. He worked hard and easily passed the tough 90 day probationary period. Proud of his job, proud of his uniform, and proud to be a public servant, Patrick Henry could not understand why his superiors were never satisfied. The harder he worked, the more they expected from him. He was giving 100 percent and they wanted more. There was nothing left to give them but blood . . .On August 19, 1986, two supervisors, Bill Bland and Richard Esser, Jr., escorted Patrick Henry into an office and took turns giving him a verbal beating. It was all a well-rehearsed act. They knew Patrick Henry was an excellent worker and figured that a reprimand would motivate him to work even harder. Supervisors were evaluated by how much mail they moved and upper management did not care how they did it. An employee who was "running scared" could be a considerable asset towards motivating the other workers. Mr. Bland was in especially good form this day and ended his harangue with a threat to fire Patrick Henry if his performance did not improve. Patrick Henry left the office a visibly shaken man. That afternoon he phoned union headquarters to ask about a transfer to maintenance. The answer was not encouraging.
Driving home, Patrick Henry began to get angry. He knew he was a better letter carrier than most of his co-workers. In high school football, the Marine Corps, and the Postal Service he had always given his best. Now he was going to be fired. It wasn't supposed to end this way in America . . . .
On August 20, 1986, Patrick Henry made his last sacrifice to the system he believed in. Stern-faced and sober, all anger drained from his body and replaced by a determination to do what he knew to be necessary, he dressed in his best summer blue uniform, placed two .45 Colt government-issued semi-automatics, a .22 caliber pistol, and ammunition in his mailbag and drove to work as usual at 6:45 AM.
Despite the miserable August heat, the air conditioning had been turned off in most of the large, new post office for the past several weeks in order to save money. The place had become, quite literally, a sweatshop—a windowless brick oven in which both the customers in the lobby and the employees on the workroom floor sweltered. Only the new postmaster and his closest cronies in the plush administrative offices were deemed deserving of the comforts of air conditioning. Employee morale had hit at an all time low.
Entering from the east side of the building, Patrick Henry strode towards Supervisor Esser. The .45 caliber Colt Model 1911-A1 is a handgun that requires concentration. Thumbing off the two safeties, Patrick Henry lifted the weapon from his satchel and pointed it at the ceiling, reaching across with his other hand to pull back the slide and jack a round into the chamber. Coming closer, almost to point-blank range, he extended his arm until his elbow locked and slowly brought it down while he sighted across the barrel. Being careful to squeeze, not jerk, the trigger, he applied the five pounds of pull necessary to fire the weapon.
It discharged with a blast that sounded more like a shotgun than a pistol. Supervisor Esser was leveled by the tremendous impact of the flat-nosed slug as it tore a gaping hole through his body. The recoil knocked Patrick Henry's hand upward. As he lowered it again, he aimed at nearby postman Mike Rockne. Too stunned to flee, he too was gunned down.
Everyone either hid or fled towards the exits. Patrick Henry chased several of his co-workers through a side entrance and shot one, then shut and bolted the door. His victim, mortally wounded, managed to crawl to the parking lot before collapsing from loss of blood.
Methodically going from exit to exit, Patrick Henry began to seal the building. While securing the doors, he noted the location of those who had failed to escape. He started toward the lobby entrance, but had to stop to reload. Hiding in a nearby broom closet with another employee, letter carrier Tracy Sanchez distinctly heard the metallic clicks as the bullets were being inserted. Seven bullets to each magazine and an extra one for the chamber. It took less than a minute.
Systematically searching the workroom floor, he flushed several employees who were hiding in gurneys or under letter cases. He envisioned a target on their upper torsos and seldom missed his mark. Working fast and efficiently, he took less than five minutes to slaughter everyone in the large work area at the rear of the building. Some of the survivors would later sardonically admire the speed and skill with which Patrick Henry Sherrill had performed his grisly task.
All that remained were a few clerks and some office personnel in the front of the building. Most had already fled through the open lobby entrance. Patrick Henry strode past several clerks and shot several others. Not everyone deserved to die . . . .
Having traveled in a circle through the building, Patrick Henry found himself in front of the lifeless body of Supervisor Esser. Less than 50 bullets had killed 14 employees and wounded seven in less than 15 minutes. As he stood staring at the carnage, his concentration gave way to a feeling of revulsion.
Would the Postal Service now concede that he had worked hard enough? All he had wanted was to do a good job. Nobody seemed to understand. But he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. Patrick Henry raised the pistol to his own head, sobbed, and squeezed off one final round.
When the body count was tallied, it became the third largest mass murder by a lone gunman in United States history. Publicly the Postal Service feigned shock and outrage, but privately they had expected it for quite some time. Incidents of violence were on the increase and two supervisors had been killed in Atlanta the previous year. In the next three years there would be 355 assaults reported (undoubtedly many went unreported) by workers on supervisors and 183 by bosses on workers. Few of these would ever become public knowledge.
Nothing could be allowed to disrupt the flow of mail. The gore was mopped from the brown linoleum floor and Edmond's post office was open for business as usual the next day. Dick Carleton, general manager for the Oklahoma division of the Postal Service, countered charges of worker abuse by saying, "If there were so many problems, would you have everyone showing up for work on the day after a tragedy?" Bill Shockey, Edmond's former postmaster, commented that everyone who came to work "performed like champions." Although Supervisor Bland originally admitted to police that he threatened Patrick Henry with dismissal, the Postal Service told the press that he had merely been "counseled".
"Crazy Pat" became the Postal Service's official spin to downplay the incident. Postal inspectors circulated stories about "Crazy Pat" dressed in fatigues (considering he was in the Oklahoma National Guard, this was hardly unusual), peeping in neighborhood windows. He had once ridden solo on a bicycle built for two and someone remembered that he had smiled too much at his twentieth high school reunion. By proving his insanity, the Postal Service sought to avoid any question of its own sanity. A one time neighbor, Charles Thigpen, commented that everyone wanted " . . . quick answers. And since Pat's not alive to defend himself, they don't have to be the right answers."
Meeting in San Antonio, Texas on August 21, the day following the tragedy, the 26,000 member National Association of Postmasters requested greater authority to fire Vietnam veterans. Postmaster Hugh Bates of Clanton, Alabama, president of the association, called for a get tough policy and vowed to continue to press workers to be more productive.
In the 1980's certain groups of employees enjoyed a special status within the United States Postal Service. To better fulfill job quotas mandated by Congress, exclusive "in house" social organizations were formed within the Postal Service to better serve the perceived "special" needs of women and minorities. Women, in particular, were encouraged to meet in officially sanctioned, informal discussion groups to solve mutual problems. Objecting to the harsh, regimented, quasi-military atmosphere of the Postal Service, some women saw Vietnam-era veterans as the chief obstacle to their campaign to civilize the Postal Service. Militant feminists complained that Vietnam-era veterans tended to be aloof, insensitive, and over competitive. Since women comprised upwards of 35 percent (and rising) of the postal workforce, their complaints were treated seriously.
Following the Edomond, Oklahoma tragedy, women's newly acquired power coupled with their imagined fears led to prejudice against Vietnam-era veterans. The Postal Service had created "Crazy Pat" and he had come back to haunt them.
The effects of the slaughter were felt far from Oklahoma. The shock waves quickly reached Riverside, California where I was working as a letter carrier. When I finished my route and returned to the post office on the afternoon of August 20, 1986, I heard the sketchy and distorted details of the story as it was then circulating on the workroom floor. A "pscho-vet", drunk or drug-crazed, had gone on a rampage and murdered scores of his fellow carriers in Edmond, Oklahoma with a .45 military pistol.
Shortly afterwards a female supervisor made a bad joke about my experience as a Military Policeman in the Army, alluding to my expertise with a .45. It wasn't funny and nobody laughed. But everyone stared at me, instead of her. In the ensuing months relationships with my fellow carriers became increasingly frigid and I began to seek support from the other Vietnam-era veterans in my section who like me were beginning to suffer the pain of ostracism.
We thought the problem was only temporary, but we were mistaken. Rumors of violence and mayhem at unidentified post offices continued to spread. Psycho-vet had become the postal bogeyman.
Tension mounted. In June 1988 a clerk in Chelsea, Massachusetts killed a co-worker before committing suicide. During a 13 hour siege in New Orleans in December 1988, a mail handler, holding his ex-girlfriend hostage, shot his supervisor in the face and killed him. Three others were wounded and one was blinded in one eye. In May 1989, Alfred J. Hunter, a 42 year old Boston mail handler, murdered his ex-wife. He then stole a two-seater Cessna airplane and strafed the city's streets with an AK-47, bright green tracers spewing from the muzzle, for three hours. The Postal Service attempted to cover up these incidents and released few details. Rumors circulated that they were the work of psycho-vets. More and more pressure was being placed on postmasters to rid their workforce of Vietnam veterans.
On August 8, 1989, award-winning career carrier John Merlin Taylor was being jibed about the Edmond, Oklahoma tragedy by a group of his fellow carriers at the Oak Glen station in Escondido, California. Letter carrier Johnny Simms later claimed they were just innocently "joking around" with Taylor. The next day Taylor, a Marine Corps veteran who rarely complained, made a few sarcastic comments about the growing volume of mail before he clocked-out and went home.
On August 10, 1989, Taylor woke up early and put two bullets in his sleeping wife's head with a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol loaded with long rifle ammunition. Dressing in his regulation summer uniform, he drove to work as usual, and shot fellow letter carriers Richard Berni and Ronald Williams to death as they sat on a picnic bench on the loading dock. Entering the post office through a side door, he shot co-worker Paul De Risi in the upper arm. When Taylor stopped to reload, fleeing window clerk William Karlson noted that "he didn't have any emotion. He was stern-faced." It was too early for most of the employees to be at work and Taylor soon ran out of targets. It was almost time to clock-in when Taylor put the pistol to his right temple and fired. He was just three years from retirement.
His stepson later remembered that John had been in tremendous pain from occupational disorders. Twenty-seven years of carrying mail had injured his feet, back, and shoulder.
Psychiatrists who had never met Patrick Henry or visited Oklahoma had attributed his behavior to "factitious posttraumatic stress disorder", a fancy term for self-induced battle fatigue. By 1986 many negative articles had been printed in the United States about the problems of Vietnam-era veterans. They had lost the war and were rapidly becoming the scapegoats of a deeply divided society suffering from moral decay. In contrast, "shell-shocked" veterans of previous wars had been the recipients of respect and understanding from a grateful nation.
Glenn Krouch, a spokesman for San Diego Regional Postmaster Margaret Sellers, denied that she routinely pursued a policy of discouraging employees from filing disability claims when injured on the job. Official postal policy maintained that workplace violence was the result of employees transferring personal problems to their work. Since on-the-job stress was not a recognized factor, the Postal Service did nothing to prevent its managers from conducting work speedups or bullying workers to increase productivity.
Shortly after the Escondido killings, I personally witnessed one of the many minor stress-related incidents that were occuring with frightening frequency throughout the nation. As I was sorting third class "junk" mail in the afternoon at the Arlington substation in Riverside, California, a recently injured carrier who was on light duty exited Acting Station Manager Jim Smith's office following an official "counseling". He threw the heavy door open with such force that the lever handle fully penetrated the opposite wall. Running down a narrow hallway, the "counseled" letter carrier stormed into the main workroom, leaving a trail of overturned mail cages and gurneys in his wake. Tubs and trays of mail were spilled everywhere. Lunging through the large double swinging doors at the rear of the building, he collapsed, spent and exhausted, against the metal railing of the loading dock.
My foreman, Ron Moreno, and I immediately dashed after him, while our supervisor hid behind a desk and dialed 911 (Emergency). We talked to the distraught carrier for several minutes and he had calmed down by the time the police arrived. But our supervisor was upset with us for having become involved and she gave us both a verbal reprimand.
It wasn't hard to guess what had happened during the counseling session. Jim Smith was a retired serviceman who had worked his way up from the enlisted ranks to become a mustang officer. He was a bull of a man and could have given Mike Tyson a lesson in intimidation. Once, when an intoxicated driver had veered and nearly rammed my postal vehicle in the parking lot of a local cantina, he had taken me into his office and screamed in my face until I had broken.
Jim Smith's latest victim was, of course, fired. My boss, Ron Moreno, wisely transferred to Kentucky, leaving me to face the wrath of the Postal Service alone. My route keys were mysteriously found on the roof of the building and I was given an official warning. A windshield inadvertenly spidered by a tray of mail subsequently earned me a suspension. Finally, on April 12, 1990, a recently installed ceramic sink fell from a restroom wall when I was nearby. Although it wasn't damaged, torrents of high pressure water cascaded from the broken supply lines and soaked a supervisor. I was formally charged with Destruction of Government Property, placed on Administrative Leave, and banned from all postal facilities pending a formal investigation. Since I was prohibited from entering the post office to gather evidence and interview potential witnesses, I was unable to prepare an adequate defense. When the investigative hearing was convened on May 11, 1990, a panel of four supervisors and Riverside Postmaster Jim Felts quickly and unanimously concluded that I had willfully sabotaged the china sink. Because it wasn't chipped, they concluded that I had somehow mustered the superhuman strength necessary to rip it from the wall, then had gently placed it on the floor. Nobody had seen me do it and nobody could explain how I failed to get wet, but everyone was sure it was the work of "Crazy Fred". The union steward, at the instigation of the postmaster, suggested I apply for a psychological disability. When I refused, I was asked to leave the room while the investigative panel decided my fate. Later, when I attempted to subpeona the minutes of the hearing, Personnel Director Ameal Moore testified under oath that they had been inadvertently lost from a locked file cabinet while being moved to a new location.
Four months later I received a certified letter informing me that I was discharged from the Postal Service, effective September 24, 1990. I immediately appealed the decision to the United States Merit Systems Protection Board, the agency charged by Congress with safeguarding the rights of veterans and civil servants. With 14 years of faithful federal service, 440 hours of accrued annual leave and over 900 hours of unused sick leave, I thought my loyalty and honesty were beyond question.
I was wrong. The majority of issues in my appeal were decided by a court-ordered telephone conference call between the administrative law judge, the Postal Service's representative, and myself. No transcript was made of this call. Eventually, a formal hearing was conducted at the Postal Service's San Bernardino Mail Service Center (hardly a neutral location). The Postal Service's representative presented the court with a thick file of unsubstantiated allegations that were entered into the record despite my objections. Since the National Association of Letter Carriers would not supply me with an attorney, I had to represent myself.
Appeal denied. With the firing of me and hundreds of Vietnam-era veterans like me across the nation, the Postal Service sought to restore peace to the workplace. Like all purges, it was unsuccessful because it looked for scapegoats rather than solutions. Once again, the violence flared with an even greater intensity . . .Joseph M. Harris, a 35 year old Navy veteran had trouble sleeping on the night of October 9, 1991. Waking before midnight, he dressed in a bullet-proof vest, black military fatigues, combat boots, and a black silk ninja-style hood.
Writing a two page note, he referred to the Edmond, Oklahoma deaths and explained his own unfair treatment by the Postal Service. Carol Ott, a supervisor at the Ridgewood, New Jersey post office where Harris worked nights as a clerk, had had a personality conflict with him. Disregarding his twelve years of government service during which he had demonstrated no mental aberrations, she ordered him to take a "fitness for duty" psychological exam with a doctor chosen and paid by the Postal Service. Insulted, he refused to cooperate with the pseudo-psychological ruse and Ms. Ott instituted proceedings that resulted in Harris' dismissal in April 1990. The American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, of which he was a member, did not make a reasonable effort to have him reinstated.
Armed with a 9 millimeter Uzi handgun, a .22 caliber machine gun with silencer, three hand grenades, numerous homemade ether bombs, and a samurai sword, Harris booby trapped the front door of his apartment and drove to the suburban home of Ms. Ott. After forcing entry, he found her clad only in a T-shirt. Swinging his heavy sword in a great arc, he deeply slashed her left shoulder and continued to thrust as she staggered backwards. Stepping over her lifeless, nearly nude body, he crept down the stairs and shot her live-in boyfriend, Cornelius Kasten, Junior, behind the right ear as he sat watching television in the basement.
At approximately 2 AM on the morning of October 10, Harris entered the rear of the Ridgewood post office where he shot and killed two mail handlers, Joseph VanderPaauw and Donald Mc Naught. Barricading himself in the basement, he then shot at truck driver Marcello Collado who had become suspicious when he arrived at the back dock and could find nobody to help him unload his truck. Ducking low, Collado escaped unscathed and drove to the nearest police station. At 2:20 AM Sergeant Robert Kay and Officer Peter Tuchol attempted to enter the post office but were forced to retreat and await assistance when Harris lobbed a homemade grenade at them.
The Bergen County SWAT team surrounded the building and attempted to telephone Harris. Refusing to answer, he kept the SWAT team at bay until 6:30 AM when he surrendered to a police negotiator. At 7 AM the police defused a bomb made from automotive starting fluid from Harris' apartment door and the note detailing his grievances was found inside.
The Postal Service refused to give details of Joseph Harris' personnel file to reporters and a sign posted in the lobby of the Ridgewood post office ordered patrons ". . . do not ask the workers any questions regarding events of yesterday." Social workers and psychologists were brought in to instruct employees in how to deal with the experience and to shield them from inquiries from the press.
The Postal Service's business-as-usual, blame-it-on-a-psycho-vet, keep-a-lid-on-it, non-cooperation strategy was not without success. Only one major American newspaper picked up the story, despite its intriguing overtones and it curiously failed to spark the interest of editors on a day when the headlines concerned the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Subsequently, it received little national coverage from weekly news magazines (influenced without doubt to no small degree by the fact that magazines can't get delivered without a Second Class permit issued by the Postal Service).
Joseph Harris was subsequently convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. He died on death row in 1996.
On the same day that Harris took the law into his own hands to redress his grievances in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan met with Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank to discuss an unusually large number of complaints by employees and customers about the suburban Detroit, Royal Oak post office. "The Postal Service . . . acknowledged management problems in the Royal Oak operation," Senator Levin later stated. He was promised a prompt investigation by the Postmaster Gerneral.A response came sooner than expected . . .On November 8, 1991, letter carrier Thomas Mc Ilvane, a 31 year old former Marine, lost his appeal for reinstatement to his job at the Royal Oak post office. He had been fired in 1990 for alleged insubordination.
Six days later, armed with a sawed-off .22 caliber Ruger Rimfire rifle, Thomas walked across the loading dock, passed through the large double doors, and entered the main sorting room of the Royal Oak facility. Grabbing one woman, he put his rifle to her head but then let her go, saying "You're not the one I want." Wandering through a maze of offices and cubicles, he killed four employees and wounded five others in less than ten minutes. The dead included a former supervisor and the labor arbitrator who had turned down his appeal. Having accomplished his gruesome task, Mc Ilvane fatally shot himself in the head.
"They needled him and needled him," commented Joan Mason, a Royal Oak clerk, "Everyone's got a breaking point."
Several years later, I obtained a partially blacked-out (what could possibly have pertained to our national security?) copy of an inquiry into the Royal Oak incident from the Postal Investigation Service through the Freedom of Information Act. Despirte being several reams thick, the report amazingly made no recommendations whatsoever for restructuring the USPS so as to prevent further violence. With no changes in the works—or, for that matter, even being contemplated—it was only a matter of time until . . .At 8:45 AM on May 6, 1993, 45 year old postal mechanic Lawrence Jasion, who had worked for the USPS for 24 years, went on a deadly rampage in the garage area of the Dearborn, Michigan post office, killing Gary Montes, a 34 year old postal mechanic, and wounding Supervisor Harvey Kruger and administrative clerk June Collins. Another employee was injured after he fell while running out of the building for safety. The disgruntled parts clerk had opened fire with a .38 caliber revolver (he also had a shotgun) and carefully picked his victims, before turning the gun on himself. Afterwards employees said to reporters that they hoped the tragedy would lead to a change in the post office's authoritarian structure. Later the same day, fired postal employee Mark Richard Hilburn shot two of his fellow workers, one fatally, in a Dana Point, California, post office. In slightly more than a decade of postal violence the count according to one source stood at 41 dead and 16 wounded when . . .On July 9, 1995, at the mail processing center in City of Industry, California, Bruce Clark, age 57, a 22 year veteran postal service clerk, punched postal supervisor James Whooper III, age 50, in the back of the head. Supervisor Whooper left the work area to report the incident to his boss. Clark also left the work area. A few minutes later, Clark returned with a brown paper bag. When Whooper asked Clark what was in the bag, Clark took a .38 revolver from the bag and shot Whooper twice, in the upper body and face, at close range, killing Whooper where he stood. Two of the 75 postal workers who witnessed the shooting took the gun from Clark and held him until the police arrived. Subsequently, Clark pleaded guilty to a federal second degree murder charge and received a 22½ year sentence.Approximately, two months later, on August 29, 1995, postal clerk Thomas S. Dorsey, 53, a tall man with graying hair who was described by a fellow postal worker as a "beautiful guy," walked into the postal processing center in Palatine, Illinois, and without saying a word fired five rounds from a .38 caliber semi-automatic pistol at fellow postal clerk Mike Mielke, 41, seriously wounding him. Thomas then calmly went down to the lobby of the facility and fired the two remaining bullets at postal worker Steve Collura, 41, whom he also wounded. Out of ammunition, Dorsey walked out to his car in the parking lot and drove 20 miles to where police arrested him near his home in Northlake, Illinois.
"I can't figure out why he did it," remarked Maude Kelly, a clerk who had worked with Dorsey and the victims for more than 20 years. "He was just a beautiful guy. We would joke and laugh together." "Don't make it seem like he was some type of vicious person, some fiend, because he was just a nice guy," a fellow postal worker, Willie Little, said. "You'd speak to him and he'd go about doing his business."
According to an article by Dick White, staff reporter for the New Bedford Standard-Times, most of the postal workers he talked to did not want to give him their names for fear of retaliation by management. One supervisor said he had been told not to address the issue. "It's going to keep on happening, the way they treat people," a retired postal worker said to reporters. "It's their whole system. It's all over the country. All of a sudden they control your life. It doesn't surprise me at all. And it's going to happen again, and again, and again."
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that murder was the second leading cause of death on the job for postal workers. Stress is a killer. Said one worker who preferred to remain anonymous, "I've been working for the post office for 21 years, and they pick a young gung-ho guy, throw a tie on him and he starts approaching you like he's better than you. It goes to their head. It's an attitude—a management attitude. And it needs to be changed.On October 6, 1998, in Riverside, California, my home for more than 25 years, a Fontana letter carrier, Joseph L. Neale, Jr., age 49, snapped under the strain of working two jobs to earn a decent living and, at a meeting of the Riverside City Council, shot the mayor, Ron Loveridge, two councilmen, and three police officers. Return fire from quickly responding police wounded councilwoman Laura Pearson before Neale could be disarmed.
Neale was represented in court by Deputy Public Defender Lawrence Fait who directed his client to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Fait stated that "there was very strong consensus between the experts that Joe was in fact legally insane back on October 6. It is our position that the messenger was insane, not the message. There was nothing wrong with what Mr. Neale was attempting to convey." For some unknown reason Fait did not enter as evidence the many long letters which Neale had written to public officials regarding the injustices that had been committed against him and the children he had grown to love in his part-time job for the City of Riverside as a chess instructor in an inner city ghetto—a position which the City Council had eliminated, ostensibly due to lack of funding.
What Mr. Neale did turns my stomach. Both I and my son have served on various local community advisory committees and we have the greatest respect for the integrity of our municipal leaders. They are without doubt dedicated men and women whose honorable service too often goes unappreciated. However, their priorities are not always those of the community and I know for a fact that $300,000 in federal block grant funds which were allocated for a Day Care Center several years ago have been, at least temporarily, diverted to build an inline skating rink used primarily by upper middle class kids from outside of the redevelopment area. Could it be that these frustrations, when added to the pressures of working as a letter carrier, were simply more than Joseph Neale could take?
Neale was convicted of 12 counts of attempted murder by a jury in a trial held at the newly renovated Riverside County Courthouse in November, 2000. Ultimately, the jury did not buy Neale's argument that he had sought only to take hostages.
On February 9, 2001, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach sentenced Neale to 374 years in prison. The sentencing came after several people targeted in the attack and their relatives urged the maximum term. Neale would have to live to be 175 years old before he would be eligible for parole. Although this may sound drastic, it should be remembered that the victims are still suffering. Councilman Chuck Beaty, who was shot in the face, shoulder, and back, received 32 stitches to his tongue, lost some teeth, and has had his jaw bone rebuilt several times. He is still in severe pain. Councilwoman Laura Pearson has bullet fragments in her hip and thigh which cause her to walk with a limp. And former police Sergeant Wally Rice is partially disabled. Considering how many people were wounded, it is a miracle that no one was killed.
What a waste! If ever there was someone who deserved a chance at rehabilitation, it is Joe Neale. I know Joe Neale to be an erudite former Air Force sergeant who, prior to the unfortunate incident at City Hall, was well known locally for his public spirit and civic mindedness. That he should be incarcerated at Pelican Bay State Prison on the California-Oregon border with hardened felons and gangsters is an outrage. The only reason why Patricia Hearst is free and Joe Neale is in prison is that the Hearst family could afford the best team of lawyers money could buy while Joe Neale had to settle for a single underpaid, overworked Public Defender. In my opinion, the public would be better off if Joe Neale served his sentence doing public service rather than rotting in a jail cell at considerable expense to the taxpayers.
Jennifer Sanmarco, 44, had worked for the Postal Service at the huge mail processing center at 400 Storke Road in Goleta, California, for 6 years when, in 2003, she was judged to be unfit for duty. Attempting to make the best of a bad situation, she returned to New Mexico where she had been born and tried to start a small business. When that failed she started another business. However, it eventually became apparent that she didn't have the aptitude to succeed as an entrepreneur. Where she really belonged was in her old job with the Postal Service—a job that had been taken from her. Life just kept going from bad to worse. It wasn't fair. The more she thought about it, the angrier she became.
Finally, she couldn't stand the pain and anguish any longer and returned to California to set things straight. On Monday, January 30, 2006, she went to the condominium complex in Santa Barbara where she had once lived and shot Beverly Graham, a 54 year old former neighbor who had once complained about her behavior, to death with a 9 mm handgun. Several hours later, around 9 PM, she drove to her former workplace, made it through the gate behind another car, and gained entry to the building by taking an employees identification badge at gunpoint. Although that employee was not hurt, Sanmarco fatally shot six other postal employees before committing suicide in what is believed to have been the deadliest workplace shooting ever committed by a woman.
Upon responding to an emergency phone call from the mail facility, a unit of the Goleta Valley Patrol Bureau came across two victims in the parking lot, one just outside the entrance to the facility, and the other just inside the facility. The deputies proceeded to evacuate any employees who hadn't already escaped to the fire station across the street. City and County SWAT teams were also sent to the area to conduct further searches for victims and the shooter. These teams discovered three more bodies, including that of Sanmarco who had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff James Anderson, San Marco reloaded at least once during the senseless rampage.
Could the deaths of the victims have been averted? Gone, but not forgotten, are:
Ze Fairchild, 37, of Santa BarbaraWhy wasn't there an armed guard on duty at the mail processing facility? Why was the gate designed to permit entry by more than one vehicle at a time? How many more postal workers must die before the USPS will decide to provide adequate protection for its employees? The multiple massacres of the past two decades have had no effect whatsoever on the boot camp conditions that exist for the majority of postal workers. Veterans are still being harassed with bogus "fitness for duty" psychological exams and trumped-up charges. Postal unions, which collect approximately $350 a year in dues per member, have made scant effort to end prejudice against minorities.
Dexter Shannon, 57, of Oxnard
Nicola Grant, 42, of Lompoc
Guadalupe Swartz, 52, of Lompoc
Malika Higgins, 28, of Santa Barbara
Charlotte Colton, 44, of Santa Barbara
Grant Gallaher, a 41 year old letter carrier in Baker City, Oregon, with 18 years of service had been on a new mail route for about three weeks when postal supervisors, upset by his outspoken vociferous nature, opted to harass him by subjecting him to a week long work-time study. Upon discovering that Gallaher was ahead of schedule on Tuesday afternoon April 4, 2006, Supervisor Lori Hayes-Kotter brought him some more mail to deliver. Then, according to a union official, "he got a little snippy with her" and took the matter up with Postmaster Michael McGuire on his cellphone. Subsequently, Gallaher became so enraged that he drove home, and, without telling his wife, Kelly, what he was doing, grabbed a .357 Magnum revolver, then drove another 3 blocks to the post office near the Powder River where he spotted Hayes-Kotter on foot and ran her over in the parking lot. After searching for and not finding the postmaster inside the building, Gallaher returned to the parking lot and made sure Hayes-Kotter was dead by shooting her prone body several times. Still steaming, he put 3 bullet holes in the windshield and 3 in the hood of her car.
Local resident Vicki Williams said she was paying a post office box bill at about 4:15 p.m. when she heard shots.
"It's scary I thought it was Les Schwab, the sounds I heard, like banging on a tire," Williams said.
Evidently, the gunshots were audible even above the clatter of air-powered wrenches at Lew Brothers Les Schwab Tires, which is across the Powder River from, and slightly north of, the Wheeler Building parking lot. Co-owner Rocky Brown said employees who were changing tires inside the store heard sounds they thought were gunshots. When they went outside to look, Brown said the tire shop workers saw Gallaher standing in the Wheeler Building's parking lot. They watched him toss a gun toward the river. After getting rid of the gun, he walked west, toward the Wheeler Building.
Cheryl Thayer was working across the street from the post office at Ragsdale Mobile Glass when she heard what she thought was noise from a skateboard, before she determined it was gunfire.
"There were two sets of shooting the first four, a gap, then two more. Not two minutes later the first cop showed up," Thayer said when interviewed by a reporter from the Baker City Herald. Subsequently, someone pulled a fire alarm at the back of the building and there seemed to be sirens everywhere. She saw Gallaher walk from behind the post office and give himself up to a police officer. "He gave himself up, came walking right up to him," Thayer told reporters. "They frisked him on the police car, handcuffed him and put him in the car."
Gallaher was arraigned in Baker County Circuit Court on a charge of intentional murder in Hayes-Kotter's death and attempted aggravated murder in the alleged attempt to kill Postmaster McGuire. Both charges carry mandatory minimum sentences upon conviction. The mandatory minimum for murder is 25 years; attempted aggravated murder carries a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence. Gallaher also could face maximum fines of $375,000 on each charge.
Nobody knows where and when the next mass murder may occur. Contrary to postal propaganda, the killers are not drug-crazed psychotics, but hard-working, caring employees who, under what the Postal Service considers its "right to mismanage," had their work ethic turned against them by a top heavy bureaucracy that feeds unappreciatively off the fruits of labor. Postal supervisors regularly stalk their intended victims in packs, striking from all sides without warning, using unethical tactics no longer utilized in private industry. The cornered worker naively seeks redress from the grievance procedure and, upon finding the system to be corrupt, goes down fighting—most often in the courts, but sometimes by the desperate means which have come to be known as "going postal."
The names of dismissed employees are sent to the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. where they are put on a special blacklist. Of major American employers, including the federal government, only the Postal Service discriminates against veterans and systematically terminates loyal employees with long service.
I want people to understand that these shooters were normal people who were pushed over the edge by ruthless administrators. None of them had criminal records and most put a gun to their own head when they realized what they had done. The USPS was a willing accomplice to these murders. The honchos at USPS national headquarters at L' Infante Plaza in Washington, D.C., did everything short of pulling the trigger and were well aware of where pushing the envelope would get them.
For every murder by a postal employee, it is estimated that there are five suicides. Most employees internalize their problems, blaming themselves while searching for a viable solution which, in the "Catch 22" workplace regimen instrumented by postal administrators, far too often does not exist. The ultimate indictment against the white collar criminals who run the postal monopoly is that they use up and discard the very best—a horrible, unconscionable waste of humanity.
I worked as a "leg man" (a letter carrier who legs other carrier's routes while they stay inside sorting mail) for 11 years, striding six or seven miles a day with 50 to 60 pounds of mail on my back—a human mule delivering weighty junk mail circulars to people who would rather not have them. My labor bore bitter fruit. My arches have fallen, I have hammer toes, and my right knee gives me trouble. Although I cannot condone their actions, I do understand the pain and frustration that made a number of my fellow workers go postal. In my heart I know that there but for the grace of God go I.
Americans who honorably served their country during wartime are being unjustifiably labeled as unemployable by the United States Postal Service. Those who work hard to get ahead are increasingly finding that it gets them nowhere. What was once an excellent job for a career-oriented family person has become a fear-ridden nightmare.
Are the purges official? The Postal Service is a "top down," quasi-military operation. Discrimination against any grouping of employees is impossible without the knowledge and explicit approval of the Postmaster General. The insanity will come to an end only when the Postal Service is forced to drop its policy of continually pushing the envelope. Those who push run the risk of push escalating to shove.
Not content with intimidating employees, the Postmaster General has taken to threatening Congress as well. Contending that he needs a freer hand in raising postage rates in order to counter $1.7 billion in losses for fiscal 2001, Postmaster General John Potter says that if Congress doesn't allow him to get his way, the guarantee of mail delivery to every part of America at the same rate may come to an end. Either they let him take "bold actions" such as post office closings and suspension of Saturday delivery or "the universal [mail] service we rely on will be in jeopardy."
Ending Saturday delivery—as has been often suggested by armchair business analysts unfamiliar with the Postal Service's unique circumstances—would accomplish next to nothing. A complete overhaul of the unwieldy infrastructure, accompanied by a strong entry into the burgeoning electronic mail market, would be desirable. Snail mail is going the way of the Pony Express and the telegraph. Only a government monopoly stocked with petty bureaucrats posing as administrators could manage to get so far behind the times. Tiny Singapore's postal sytem—with far fewer resources—has managed, in this respect, to do a much better job. In fact, with the possible exception of what passes for a postal service in Italy, the United States Postal Service delays, loses, misdelivers, and mutilates more first class mail than that of any other industrialized country. It would not be that way were it not for the constant, unrelenting pressure on carriers and clerks to "move the mail." The USPS could learn a lot about quality control from the private sector.
What further evidence is needed to prove that the United States Postal Service regards its hourly workers as expendable second class hired hands than the death of Robert Morris Jr. from anthrax. Morris, age 55, was working at the Brentwood processing center in Washington, D.C., when a woman next to him found a letter with powder in it on October 13, 2001, two days before Senate Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle received a letter containing anthrax that had been processed through the Brentwood facility. On October 16, Morris began feeling achy and having headaches. Suspicious, he went to his doctor on October 18 for a throat culture but never received the results. "I guess there was some hang-up over the weekend. I'm not sure," he said later. "The doctor thought that it was just a virus or something." In desperation Morris finally dialed 911 on October 21, a Sunday, minutes after he began vomiting. Morris told the dispatcher that postal officials had issued a bulletin describing anthrax symptoms and that his symptoms matched them "almost to a T." An ambulance was dispatched to take Morris to the hospital, but it arrived too late. "They never let us know whether this thing was anthrax or not," Morris had confided to the emergency dispatcher. He said he had placed calls to postal officials but to no avail.
When the anthrax scare started, members of Congress and media celebrities got tested right away. Two postal workers—Joseph P. Curseen Jr. and Thomas L. Morris Jr.—had to die before Postmaster General John E. Potter got moving. When asked by a reporter why the Postal Service hadn't begun treating postal employees sooner, Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan snapped, "We don't need you all to cause us to second-guess." You would think that this would have cost him his job. But it didn't.
We can't bring back Morris or Curseen or the hundreds of other men and women in uniform who died needlessly because their overseers thought of them as wage slaves—good enough to sweat like pack animals to get out the mail, but not good enough to be treated like family. What we can do—and what I urge you to do—is to write Congress and tell them that the Postal Service needs to be completely overhauled, starting at the top. The Deputy Postmaster General says, "we don't need you all" and by God we surely don't need anyone like him.
Exercising Freedom of Expression"I have been gagged all my life, and whether they are appreciated or not, America needs some honest men who dare to say what they think, not what they think people want them to think." - General George S. Patton, Jr."The true character of liberty is independence, maintained by force." - VoltaireTo speak out against the way things were done in colonial times was to risk a charge of sedition. The American Revolution changed all that, giving people the right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans said what they meant and meant what they said (see an example related by Mark Twain in Appendix C). It may not have made us loved—but we certainly gained the world's respect.
How soon we forget. In an age of "political correctness" it has almost become a sin to say something that might hurt someone else's feelings. Have we become so soft and delicate that we suffer permanent injury from mere words? Verbal abuse? Give me a break. The wonderful thing about freedom of speech is that if someone - anyone, regardless of position and power - says something you don't like, you can let them have it with both verbal barrels.
Don't be intimidated. Your opinion is just as good as that of the so-called experts. That is what democracy is all about. Like anything else, freedom of speech soon atrophies if you don't employ it. God gave you a voice for a reason - to fail to use it to the best of your ability is an insult to the Almighty.
Stress is a killer. Quit stuffing it all inside. You don't need Valium or Prozac - the best medicine in the world is to let off a little steam. Be yourself. Stop worrying about unseen consequences. Offending isn't a crime. Not to get on someone when they truly deserve it often compounds the problem. How is someone supposed to know they are acting like a jerk if you don't tell them?
Sucking up is for sychophants, lackeys, and the insincere. Have some dignity. Make it on your own merits.
Cervantes, Milton, and Martin Luther King, Jr., went to jail for what they had to say. No such fate awaits you. The strongest prison is the one you build for yourself. Break out now before it's too late.Sometimes it's not what you say, but what you refuse to say. On July 20, 2001, novice writer Vanessa Leggett was found in contempt of court by a federal district court judge and sent to prison for an indefinite term for refusing to surrender a portion of her interviews for an upcoming book about the 1997 murder of Texas socialite Doris Angleton, the wife of millionaire bookie Robert Angleton. The court believes that her notes will shed light on the shooting and subsequent jailhouse suicide of a suspect. Vanessa is the victim of an entrenched system of justice that demands unquestioning obedience from the citizens it is supposed to serve regardless of mitigating circumstances. How ironic that a writer who is only tangentially connected to the crime is the only person serving time. She originally cooperated with the FBI and gave them information concerning the crime. But they wanted more and when she refused to become an undercover snitch, they resorted to strongarm tactics. First they subpoened her and when that didn't intimidate her, they had her thrown in jail. And they did it in a sneaky way - the proceedings were closed to the public. The federal government has taken the ridiculous stance that Vanessa isn't entitled to First Amendment rights guaranteeing freedom of the press because she is a freelance journalist rather than a salaried employee.
While it is true that Leggett took an unconventional path to becoming a journalist - the Texas native worked as a legal assistant, a private eye, and a part-time teacher of English and criminal justice before turning her attention to writing books - there is no law that prevents people from following the career path of their choice. The long and the short of it is that Vanessa has been left to rot in jail because she had the guts to stand up to a bunch of bullies. In a decision dated August 17, 2001, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that "the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Leggett incarcerated for contempt." So they think she failed to show the court respect, do they? It seems to me that it was the other way around. Tossing a law abiding citizen into the slammer for refusing to compromise her integrity is about as rude and disrespectful as it is possible to get.
Writing from her 8 by 10 cinder block cell in downtown Houston to Newsweek, Leggett describes her ordeal:I am not a gambler or a murderer. I am a 33-year-old college English teacher and freelance writer.
Four years ago I began investigating the murder of Houston socialite Doris Angleton in order to write a book about the case. I interviewed countless witnesses and chased leads in Houston and in six states.
Doris was the wife of Robert Angleton, a bookie who took bets from Houstons rich and powerful. He had friends (and clients) in high places, including the district attorneys office and the police department.
Doris filed for divorce in February of 1997, threatening to expose Roberts illicit empire if he didnt share the millions he had stashed away. On April 16, police found her bullet-ridden body sprawled on her kitchen floor. Robert immediately fingered his brother Roger.
When authorities arrested Roger Angleton in Las Vegas, he was carrying a briefcase with $64,000 in cash that had Roberts fingerprints on it. They say Rogers briefcase also revealed notes about the killing and a cassette tape of the two brothers plotting the murder.
A Houston grand jury charged both brothers with capital murder. The prosecutors theory was simple: Robert Angleton paid his brother to kill his wife.
Over four months of extensive interviews with Roger in jail, I gained intimate details of the case from this alleged triggerman. Our sessions came to a halt when Roger was found dead in his cell with a suicide note shortly before his brothers trial. The D.A.s office insisted my interviews with Roger made me an essential witness. I was subpoenaed, but never called on to testify.... I was stunned when the judge read the not guilty verdict.
Two years after the state-court acquittal, the FBI sought my help in its investigation of Robert Angleton for federal charges.... Agents offered me a confidential-informant contract, which stipulated that I would provide them with my research in exchange for cash. I declined. My research was for a book, and not for sale to the FBI. The contract also gave the agency the power to control the dissemination of my research. I felt strongly that this infringed on my right to free speech. As I pushed the document back across the table to one agent, another agent handed me a federal-grand-jury subpoena.... The...subpoena demanded that I turn over any tapes or transcripts I had from all of my interviews, including copies. If I had complied, the Feds would have had sole access to my work, preventing me from writing my book and substantiating my research for a publisher. More important, I would have violated the confidentiality agreements I had made with my sources.... The Feds responded to my noncompliance by sending me to jail.
I spend my days alone for the most part in my cell.... I can stand in line to use the phone, although sometimes the wait is so long it is turned off before its my turn. The government listens to all our conversations anyhow. My mail...is read by the prison.
My new home is one block from Enron Field, home of the Astros. I can glimpse the stadium from a narrow window in the prison day room. On weekdays my students are not far: the campus where I am scheduled to teach this fall is six blocks away.
Though all of this is around me, Im living a lonely existence. My belief that I am doing the right thing buoys my morale. Its uncertain how much longer my government will keep me in prison..... But for the near future at least, maintaining my journalistic freedom will mean sacrificing my personal liberty.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee urged that Legget be released on bail because she "presents no risk of flight, nor does she pose any danger to society or to herself. Her only 'crime' was to protect her confidential sources in keeping with the traditional notions of a free press."
By refusing to release Leggett our government is sending a message to other nations that we condone sending the press to prison when they show some spunk and refuse to go along to get along. Throughout the western hemisphere, only three journalists are in prison for doing their jobs. Leggett is one and the other two are in Cuba (Note: Vanessa Leggett was finally released from custody on January 5, 2002, one day after her attorney filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case). She had been incarcerated for 168 days and federal prosecutors are considering filing further charges against her. A journalist languishing in jail is a sure sign of an authoritarian regime. Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department appears to be long on vengence and short on civil liberties - a mean-spirited caricature of the image of fair and impartial justice that the United States endeavors to project to the rest of the world.
On April 12, 2002, the PEN American Center whose ranks include many of the country's most prestigious writers, announced that Vanessa Leggett had won the PEN First Amendment Award which includes a $25,000 prize. Her fellow journalists cited her as "a powerful example of personal conviction and courage in the face of the most extreme pressure" and "a hero in the effort to preserve investigative freedom for writers and journalists in the U.S." Three days later, a different panel of judges - the justices of the United States Supreme Court - put a damper on the celebration by refusing to consider Ms. Leggett's bid for a hearing on the constitutionality of the contempt charges and associated legal issues facing U.S. journalists.Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press amount to pretty much the same thing - the right to express yourself in any way you choose to whomever you want to communicate your opinions, ideas, and thoughts to - with one important exception: while everyone has a voice, not many have ready access to the media and fewer still own a printing press. This is a real shame, considering that a printing press, radio station, or television network amplifies a person's voice, enabling him/her to reach a wider audience. And reaching a wider audience is a sure-fire way to gain power. The rest of us, regardless of our individual education, experience, and/or common sense, are left hanging.
That's all changing. Almost anyone can gain access to the internet. Even if you can't afford a computer, you can go to your local public library and use one of its computers (the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated two state-of-the-art computers to the branch library in my community - part of a nationwide effort to provide universal access). Alluding to the value of the internet as a free and open forum, the U.S. Supreme Court recently observed that the worldwide web is the place where "any person can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox."
But there are people who want to limit that voice. And the danger is that they are keeping it out of schools and libraries - the very institutions that we built to teach the principles of free speech found in the First Amendment. The Children's Internet Protection Act (sneaked through Congress on December 21, 2000 as part of an omnibus appropriations bill) requires all institutions receiving federal funds to install filtering software designed to block access to obscene content on their computer terminals. But the software is seriously flawed. A study by Consumer Reports found that "filters block harmless sites" because they have no way of determining "the context in which a word or phrase is used." Even worse, they can lull responsible, caring adults into a false sense of security. No filtering technology available today can catch 100 percent of the garbage that is out there.
In my opinion, if we are going to censor anything - a recent informal MSNBC opinion poll found that of 8344 people responding, 58 percent believed that government should not be in the business of censorship - the job is better performed by humans than machines. Teachers and librarians aren't stupid. I think we can trust them to supervise the materials our children are viewing. And we always have the option of firing any that fail to live up to our expectations.
This was not Congress' first attempt to censor the internet. In June 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court found it necessary to strike down an earlier law known as the Communications Decency Act. The problem, of course, is that there are things on the internet that we don't want our children to see. The best way to regulate is to just say no. It is impossible to devise a software program or a law that can substitute for the traditional role of parents and educators.
A federal court has ruled that a Missouri school district violated a student's freedom of speech when it suspended him for criticizing his teachers on his personal web page. Brandon Beussink, 17, in conjunction with his sister, used his parents' computer to set up a personal web page on the internet in which he criticized Woodland High School's official website and urged visitors to e-mail the school's principal. Athough he got rid of the webpage after receiving complaints from school officials, they went ahead and gave him a 10 day suspension and subsequently failed him for the semester as a result of his absences. In December 1998, U.S. District Court Judge Rodney Sippel acted to bar the Woodland School District from restricting what students could post on the internet when at home. Writing in summation, he affirmed that "dislike or being upset by the content of a student's speech is not an acceptable justification for limiting student speech."
Edwin Darden, an attorney for the National School Boards Association believes that courts are performing "a balancing act" in weighing students' freedom of speech against school districts' need to maintain discipline. "These really are untested waters," he remarked.
Long ago, powerful people who desired to limit what others had to say on the internet figured out that the easiest way was to intimidate a commercial internet service provider (ISP's connect people to the internet) into doing the dirty work for them. By pulling ads and organizing boycotts, they can exert leverage on ISPs to pull the plug on controversial websites. While the First Amendment prevents the government from interfering with your freedom of speech, there is nothing to prevent a corporation or group that is giving you a bad time from writing to your ISP and complaining about something you posted on the internet. In my experience, far too many ISP's - especially those who know the value of good public relations - won't even bother to investigate the charges. If it is a choice between keeping you as a subscriber and turning a profit, you had best be prepared to kiss your website goodbye.
One noteworthy example is that of a website dedicated to Anne Frank which was set up by a university student. An excellent site, it included pictures and quotes from the famous diary. Being excerpts, they in no way violated copyright law. However, the organization which owns the rights to Anne Frank was able to get the university to shut down the site by lodging a complaint.
This approach is far more effective than one might expect. My publisher, Domhan Books, began business in 1998 by advertising its e-books on the web via the free (in exchange for running a banner ad) services of a San Francisco based ISP. Such were the host's policies, that the very first complaint generated prompt removal with no possible means of appeal. Subdomains (hosted - usually at no charge - by large dot coms like Fortune City, Talk City, Spree, and Tripod) are particularly vulnerable. But even individuals and companies who go to the expense of purchasing their own domains are not completely safe.
Anonymity will not necessarily protect you. While services such as America Online (AOL) and Hotmail permit you to set up fictitious accounts (or sometimes force you to do so because your name is not available), they either expose or dump you (AOL did it to my son) as soon as anyone begins to throw dirt. AOL has a reputation for disclosing user identities upon receipt of a subpoena, and, occasionally, even without one.
In July 1996, AOL (the largest ISP in the world with more than six million subscribers), decided to ban messages written in Spanish from its chat rooms and message boards. At the height of the 1996 Olympics, AOL's "Grandstand Forum" was deluged with messages written in Spanish and Portugese - two languages which it claimed were not spoken by any of its monitoring staff. Because AOL didn't want to be responsible for messages over which it had no control, the company elected to delete them as soon as they appeared. However, AOL continued to maintain chat rooms and message boards for its French and German subscribers. Allegations of racism were rampant. "Why did this rule apply only in the Latin folders. Why didn't it apply in the German or French rules?," inquired Marcello Rossetti, a frequent contributor to Grandstand Forum. "This rule should have applied across the boards...you're going to tell me that in the United States they can't find anyone who speaks Spanish?...maybe in Iceland, but not here." Rosetti posted messages - in English - on Grandstand Forum outlining his case and asking other subscribers for their support, but his messages were erased by AOL almost as quickly as they were written. It took a complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union and a threat of legal action by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund to make AOL back down.
On December 11, 1998, America Online closed most of the 23 discussion groups in its Irish Heritage Forum. According to AOL, they were shut down due to profanity and personal attacks which were expressly prohibited under the Terms of Service contract with its subscribers. However, there were reports that AOL's actions were precipitated by Unionist subscribers who complained about the forum's pro-republican content. Activist Kate Sheridan claimed that AOL's actions were "politically motivated, intended to extinguish a growing firestorm of pro-republican news and comment in the Forum." On December 28, 1998, AOL reinstituted the Irish Heritage Forum after erasing all previous postings. A notice was posted by an AOL manager lecturing users on internet protocol.
America Online continues to garner criticism for over-policing its sites. Official monitors roam the chat rooms and forums looking for forbidden words and phrases. The Terms of Service agreement signed by subscribers gives AOL carte blanche to delete posts, shut down websites, and, following three violations, disconnect offenders. The fine print in the contract obligates subscribers to avoid "posting on or transmitting through the AOL service any unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, profane, hateful, racially, ehtnically or otherwise objectionable material." The premise is that subscribers enter into these agreements voluntarily. However, the reality is that it is next to impossible to gain access to the internet without signing a Terms of Service agreement with an ISP.
In the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Patriot Act and other legislation was enacted that placed severe limitations on civil liberties. On May 30, 2002, the Department of Justice announced new guidelines giving FBI agents greater latitude to monitor internet sites, libraries, and religious institutions without having to offer any evidence of potential criminal activity. Under the new guidelines, field office directors are allowed to launch terrorism investigations and undercover probes against individuals and organizations without clearance from headquarters. According to a Department of Justice spokesperson the changes were made because "investigations of criminal groups were impeded by limits on scope, duration, and red tape." By red tape, one can assume the FBI is referring to constitutional requirements. These new guidelines, in effect, remove all reasonable control of the agency, giving them the authority to act pretty much as they please.
Under the guise of protecting the public from terrorism, Internet Service Providers have moved to silence controversial viewpoints. In what appears to be a knee jerk reaction to 9-11, we have seen a record number of websites deleted from the internet by their ISP's:
In February, 2003, the well known alternative news publication YellowTimes.org was shut down without explanation by its hosting company after it published an article by an Iraqi nuclear scientist. In March 2002, Angelfire closed a website devoted to discussing issues surrounding 750 Florida detainees. In October 2001, a fan discussion forum devoted to the popular alternative band Rage Against the Machine was shutdown after the FBI purportedly called the Internet Service Provider, saying there was too much anti-American rhetoric on that board. allewislive.com, a website about Al Lewis, who played Grandpa on the Munsters television show, was shut down by web hosting provider Hypervine without explanation.
I belong to a military discussion group where the discipline exercised by the parent body is so strict that I once got kicked out for engaging in a dialogue concerning whether or not certain members of the armed forces were required to file state income tax returns (a subject not military enough, in the opinion of my superiors, to warrant posting). Although I was later reinstated, our local chapter's president was subsequently expelled for expressing her views in private correspondence. This must sound draconian in the extreme. However, the regulations appear to enjoy the approval of the membership who support the parent non-profit organization through voluntary donations.
For the free spirits who prefer to play without rules, there are thousands of newsgroups in hundreds of categories serving every imaginable subject from alt.binaries to zoom.quake (the software required to access these sites—Free Agent and Microsoft's Outlook 5.0 among others—are shareware programs which can be downloaded at no charge). Be forewarned, however: unmoderated sites are frequently chaotic, disruptive, and/or downright repulsive. All but a handful are deserted archives frequented by outcasts and spam artists. The wild frontier of the infant worldwide web is rapidly disappearing. Flaming diatribe has given way to intelligent, meaningful discussion. For the most part it is welcomed.
My chief gripe with CNN.com, MSNBC, and similar online media outlets is that they are rapidly becoming as fearful of offending the status quo as traditional print and broadcast sources. It took a Matt Drudge to unveil the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. While a good case could be made for not airing such trash in public, the right of the public to get wind of potential corruption and abuse of authority is indisputably paramount. Democracy functions best in an atmosphere of tolerance where there are minimum restrictions placed on the free exchange of information.
Having been treated as a commodity in the labor market for more than 30 years, afraid to speak out lest I be terminated by my employer since I did not possess the means to do so effectively, I can readily testify that the internet and its interactive offshoots (e-mail, message boards, newsgroups, forums, etcetera) are effecting the liberation of the common man such as no amount of do-goodism and liberal sentiments could ever accomplish. For the price of a computer (much less than that of a Model T in Henry Ford's heyday), anyone can put the pedal to the metal on the information superhighway, escaping the stultifying confines of modern existence, and be transported to a universe of the mind that knows no boundaries.
Bash the military-industrial complex as one might—and, in truth, I have done my share—it should be remembered that the Pentagon gave us the internet. Not since the Marshal Plan has there been such an outbreak of altruism.
I invite you, the reader, to join me at http://www.fdungan.com and tell me what you think needs to be done to further ensure freedom of expression on the internet. You can save a 37 cent stamp by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daylight Saving Scam"We burn daylight." - William ShakespeareIt's an atypical dark, rainy April day where I live in inland Southern California and it is so bitterly cold that I turn on the heater. Why am I up so early? Because the Department of Transportation in its infinite wisdom made me set my clocks up one hour on April Fools' Day. We, here in the Golden State, are in the middle of an energy crisis—Stage One alerts and rolling blackouts are crippling California's economy—and, rather than help us out in our time of need, the dim bulbs in Washington, D.C.—who are beholden to big energy producers for their jobs— want everyone to work an additional hour. If I am burning an extra hour of electricity and gas, then how am I conserving energy? With skyrocketing utility bills and limited supplies of energy, wouldn't it be better for everyone concerned if I had stayed in bed? Pacific Gas & Electric filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week and Southern California Edison is threatening to follow suit. Governor Davis had to bail out Southern California Edison's parent company, Edison International, by paying $2.76 billion for its 10,000 miles of electrical transmission lines (Note: as this is being written—April 2001—the acquisition is being hotly debated by the state legislature). Doesn't Daylight Saving Time only serve to compound the problem and further the crisis? People consume less energy when they are sleeping. If I turn on a light, it burns 100 watts, my vacuum cleaner uses 7.2 amps, my microwave oven drains 8.5 amps, and my pride and joy—the vintage early 1980's made-in-Canada portable 1/3 sack cement mixer I recently rebuilt at considerable expense—guzzles a whopping 1/2 horsepower. So why am I getting up an hour earlier? To sit in the dark and strengthen my will power by resisting the urge to turn on an appliance?
Of 89,372 people who responded to a CNN poll taken in October 2002 that asked whether or not we should get rid of Daylight Saving Time, 41,794 (47%) said they thought Daylight Saving Time was a waste of time, 24,752 (28%) said that Daylight Saving Time was worthwhile, and 22,826 (26%) responded that they didn't care one way or the other. If it were up for a vote, Daylight Saving Time would be a thing of the past.Primitive man calculated time based on the position of the sun—he didn't need an Einstein to tell him that time was relative to location. It was noon when the sun arced to its highest point in the sky. How amazingly simple and accurate!
Being the first country to industrialize, it was only fitting that Great Britain would be the first to tamper with time. Originally, cathedral bells announced the hour in harmony with natural cycles. But in order to schedule trains with precision accuracy, it was deemed necessary to establish uniform regional time zones. Dr. William Hyde Wollaston came up with the idea and Abraham Folett Osler got it moving. The Great Western Railway was the first to run throughout on London time and by the middle of the nineteenth century nearly all of the railroads in England were following its example. In 1847 the Railway Clearing House recommended that Greenwich Mean Time (an entire observatory was devoted to making it meaner) should become the standard time for all railways. The legal system, however, remained faithful to local time until the Definition of Time Act took effect on August 2, 1880.
Three years later, on November 18, 1883, U.S. and Canadian railroads adopted a uniform system of time with regional standardized time zones. In 1918, Congress decided to go the railroads one better and placed the United States on Daylight Saving Time (the Department of Transportation insists it is Daylight Saving Time, rather than, as most of us say it, Daylight Savings Time) in order to conserve fuel needed for the war effort. However, it proved so unpopular—especially with farmers—that it was repealed seven months later over President Woodrow Wilson's veto. Year-round Daylight Saving Time was observed during World War II from February 2, 1942 to September 30, 1945.
Daylight Saving Time began as a brainstorm of Benjamin Franklin in an era when the dictates of commerce were considered to be paramount. Writing in a Parisian journal, Franklin asserted that the inhabitants of Paris could annually save a bundle of money on candles and lamp oil if they would rise with the sun during the summer months and not several hours later as was then the French custom. The French, it seems—though they dearly loved Franklin—paid him little heed and went on living as they had always done.
Healthwise, they probably made the right choice. According to a study performed by the non-profit National Sleep Foundation (NSF), Americans average fewer than seven hours of sleep during the work week and one-third of the population is getting less than six and one-half hours of sleep a night. This is far from the healthful eight hours of rest recommended for adults by most experts. Losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Saving Time only makes the situation worse.
Forty percent of Americans report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities. "Most people will admit they don't feel as good when the get too little sleep; in addition, research studies show that functions and abilities such as memory, mood, reaction time, and alertness are also diminished when we are sleep deprived, "asserts Richard Gelula, the Executive Director of NSF.
This has major implications for anyone who has a critical task to perform such as driving. The NSF found that 62 percent of Americans drove while drowsy sometime during the past year and 27 percent actually dozed behind the wheel. Statistics maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 100,000 accidents each year can be attributed to drivers not getting enough sleep.
Daylight Saving Time is not observed in Guam, Hawaii, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Arizona, and the Eastern Time Zone portion of Indiana. Internationally, 70 nations use Daylight Saving Time. Most tropical countries do not utilize it due to the fact that there is no need to make seasonal adjustments at the Equator.
In 1996, the European Union (EU) acted to establish a standardized "summertime period" throughout Europe. During the winter, Russia's 11 time zones are on Daylight Saving Time and in summer they move their clocks an extra hour ahead to compensate for decreasing daylight in higher latitudes. Both Israel and Palestine employ Daylight Saving Time, but they schedule it differently. In 1980, the Chinese government placed the entire mainland under one time zone.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 13, 1966. Except for those states which opted out, Daylight Saving Time would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday in October.
With the advent of the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors in October 1973, OPEC issued an embargo against the sale of crude oil to nations allied with Israel. Gasoline prices in the United States soared 40 percent and long lines became commonplace at service stations. Motorists were divided into odd and even categories based on their license plate numbers and were allocated gasoline accordingly. After the Arab oil embargo, Congress placed the United States on extended Daylight Saving Time to save additional energy. The extent to which it worked is arguable and Congress voted to discontinue the experiment in 1975.
President Ronald Reagan changed Daylight Saving Time in 1986 from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April. The Department of Transportation claimed that the additional weeks of Daylight Saving Time would save approximately 300,000 barrels of oil annually.
As Daylight Saving Time begins, clocks are moved forward an hour, with the intent of taking an hour of daylight from the morning and giving it to the evening. In the United States, clocks change at 2 AM. In fall they go back, and in spring they go forward. The European Union is slightly different. There, clocks change at 1 AM.
Fire departments encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks. Although more than 90 percent of American homes have smoke detectors, 30 percent are estimated to have missing or depleted batteries. A better solution, in my opinion, is to either purchase long-life lithium batteries or hard wire the smoke detectors (and, likewise CO detectors) to your home's electrical grid.
All too often we forget to set our clocks ahead and show up an hour late for work. But the inconvenience does not end there. It takes me upwards of an hour to change the two clocks in the kitchen (a wall clock and the clock controlling the microwave oven), three clocks in the living room (four before I burned out the VCR), a working digital clock in the inoperable radio in my truck, and the two alarm clocks in my bedroom. I don't bother changing the clock for the automated sprinkler system—whether the sprinklers go on at 2 AM or 3 AM matters less to me than it does to the gophers.
To illustrate how complicated Daylight Saving Time has become, the following is how a government website set up to make the process easier for the average citizen says to calculate when Daylight Saving Time starts and ends:"You can use the following equations to calculate when DST
starts and ends. The divisions are integer divisions, in which
remainders are discarded. 'mod' means the remainder when
doing integer division, e.g., 20 mod 7 = 6. That is, 20 divided
by 7 is 2 and 6/7th (where six is the remainder). With: y = year.
For the United States: Begin DST: Sunday April (2+5*y-y/4)
mod 7+1 End DST: Sunday October (31-(y*5/4+1) mod 7)
Valid for years 1900 to 2099 (though DST wasn't adopted
until the 1950s-1960s.)
European Economic Community: Begin DST: Sunday March
(31=(5*y/4) mod 7) at 1h U.T. End DST: Sunday October
(31 - (5*y/4 + 1) mod 7) at 1 h U.T.
Since 1996, valid through 2099"Wow!, wasn't that impressive? Perhaps I'm just too ignorant and selfish to realize how much Daylight Saving Time benefits mankind.
Daylight Saving Time was introduced to Japan during the U.S occupation which followed World War II. Many Japanese associated it with defeat and longer working hours and it was dropped in 1952. Since then, Japanese politicians have attempted to revive the system. However, most people harbor doubts about the claims of benefit to employees. Some think that Daylight Saving Time is a plot by employers to wring extra work out of them without paying overtime. In fact that is exactly what has happened to salaried employees who agreed to participate in a "voluntary" Daylight Saving Time system on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island.
Daylight Saving Time is not nearly as "business friendly" as the Department of Transportation would have us believe. When it comes to conducting business electronically from a distance, there are far too many exceptions to the rules. The Navajo Nation observes Daylight Saving Time, but the rest of the state of Arizona does not. Indiana is divided into two camps, east and west, with only the western portion of the state observing Daylight Saving Time.
A number of alternate systems of calculating time have been proposed to compensate for the increasingly globalized character of business. Most divide the globe into degrees and calculate time accordingly. What was good for the railroads back in the 19th century could use some improvement today. Place a long distance call at the wrong time and the person you want to talk to may not be there. And the internet, which links us together in a worldwide web and is doing so much to empower marginalized cultures, positively demands a clearer, more concise method of calculating what time it is on the other side of the planet. Time waits for no one—clinging to an inefficient system from the early age of steam only serves to slow us down.
A 2008 study by Matthew Kotchen and Laura Grant of the University of California at Santa Barbara concluded that Daylight Saving Time actually increases residential electricity demand between one and four percent. That study titled "Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence From a Natural Experiment in Indiana" looked at the electricity use when portions of Indiana that had chosen not to observe Daylight Saving Time were forced to observe it starting in 2006. It is estimated that Daylight Saving Time cost Indiana households $8.6 million per year more on their electricity bills than they were paying before they switched to Daylight Saving Time. Furthermore, the study estimated that the social costs from pollution emissions increased $1.6 to 5.3 million per year as a direct result of Daylight Saving Time. Clearly, Daylight Saving Time is a drag on family budgets. If businesses want Daylight Saving Time, then they should be the ones who pay for it. I see no reason why economically hard-pressed American families should have to subsidize business. Corporate welfare (crony capitalism) is hurting our economy—Haliburton, Brown & Root, Blackwater, the oil companies, and all the rest of Bush and Cheney's corporate buddies can fend for themselves.
Daylight Saving Time is a cheat and a swindle—an affront to our intelligence. No matter how a day is divided, it still adds up to 24 hours—the sum can never amount to more than the parts. Need an extra hour of daylight? Isn't that what light bulbs are for?
Patriots"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." - George WashingtonSeptember is always hot in inland Southern California - not just hot, but nasty, ungodly hot. The kind of hot that makes vinyl dashboards turn brittle and crack when you leave your car parked at the Galleria with the windows rolled up. The type of hot that softens asphalt and makes it stick to your shoes. A new record, 111 degrees with 39 percent humidity was set, but nobody was cheering. Due to a shortage of power plants on the West Coast, rates for electricity have skyrocketed and many people can no longer afford to run their air conditioners. Chrissie, our Labrador, is pregnant again and suffers in silence. Thank God I didn't get rid of the evaporative cooler in the living room when we had central air installed some years back.
I work late on Sunday and don't wake up until nearly noon on Monday, September 10. Being 53 years old, my bladder beckons me to the bathroom. But when I flush the toilet, it goes down sluggishly and flows over onto the floor. After slogging down a bowl of corn flakes, I go outside and remove the cover of the sewer clean-out on the side of the house nearest to the bathroom. To my surprise the sewer is as dry as a bone. Every couple of years, tree roots invade the clay joints and I have to run a snake through it to unclog the line. But that doesn't appear to be the problem this time. Perhaps something fell into the toilet bowl and got stuck going down. I go out to the tool shed and get a length of baling wire with which to probe the bowl, but the wire encounters no obstructions and I am left scratching my head.
Did I mention that I fancy myself to be a fair-to-middling do-it-yourself plumber? With the help of how-to books I've tackled everything from installing a small diameter backyard well to roughing in the new bathroom. The only thing I haven't managed to master is how to change those rubber non-washers in washerless faucets. To admit that I have no clue as to why the toilet is leaking might deflate my ego. Decidedly better to employ my overactive imagination to concoct some ridiculous theory as to how the wax gasket has induced a reverse suction, thereby nullifying the Law of Gravity and causing water in the toilet bowl to flow upwards. Pulling the toilet from the floor to replace the gasket uses up the entire afternoon. When I finally get everything back together, the results are spectacular. Now, not only does water leak over the wax gasket onto the floor, but it also backs up into the bathtub. The shutoff valve had been frozen and I had had to turn the water off at the main. Nothing can compare to the rich aroma of raw sewage simmering in 100+ degree heat. It permeates my clothes and interferes with my decision making abilities. It is getting dark. Either I must get this stupid toilet fixed right away or I am going to have to prepare dinner with filthy hands and go to bed without a shower.
So why not replace the whole thing? I jumped into my battered old Mitsubishi Mighty Max and drove to Home Depot where, fortunately for me, the toilet I wanted was on sale. But, best of all, they were displaying a new device, the cutting edge in toilet gaskets, a complicated, but relatively inexpensive doohickey made of rubber and plastic that was absolutely, positively guaranteed not to leak for 10 years. Exactly what I needed!
But when I got home and went to assemble the leakproof gasket, I found it had more O-rings than the space shuttle, all of which had to be stretched to fit various cylindrical plastic parts. And - somewhat predictably - after putting it together there was one piece missing which I had to drive back to the store to get. However, it was worth it, because the gasket performed as promised and my troubles would have been over were it not for one small detail: the porcelain toilet tank had a hairline crack near the handle through which water seeped in agonizingly slow droplets.
Racing down the freeway, I managed to make it to Home Depot before it closed. I didn't bother to stand in line at "Customer Service/Returns." After leaving the defective tank at an empty checkstand, I hefted another one from a pallet in the Plumbing Department, stopping only for a second to peel back the packaging to check for imperfections before bolting for the door. What the heck, I had a sales receipt. Let them try and stop me.
It's now after 9 and I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast. Neither had the dogs so I splurged and got three takeouts from a Japanese restaurant. Labradors in Southern California wolfing down Japanese cuisine - a truly international banquet that could have been festive were it not for the circumstances. As it was, there was no water with which to wash my dirty fingers - not even enough to wet a dishrag to wipe the table.
Adrenaline kept me going. I got the tank on, but it wobbled. A glance at the parts bag told the story. The only items remaining were four acrylic spacers. The assembly instructions said they were optional, neglecting to mention that the two options were to use the spacers and have the tank rest solidly atop the bowl or not use them and permit the tank to shake like jello. Off came the tank, on went the spacers, and, several hours later, after nearly stripping the bolts with a monkey wrench, the tank was sitting squarely atop the bowl, a testament to the perseverance of an All-American do-it-yourselfer, proof positive that stamina could triumph over brains (or lack thereof).
But the adrenaline was wearing thin. I went outside and had to concentrate to remember which way to turn the water back on. It was still dark, but I could make out the first trace of daylight on the horizon. There was a time when staying up all night had been fun. Now it simply served to gauge my age.
Flushing the toilet several times and discovering no leaks, I feel no elation whatsoever. Force of habit makes me put away my tools, load the dishwasher, and then run a mop over the bathroom floor. The rest of my actions that night are blurred in my memory: three bullets tear apart a buried peanut can while scorching hot water melts avocados, pouring me into bed. The worst night of my life has come to an end as the worst day in America's history is about to begin.
It's long past noon when I wake up, Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Speedo and Chrissie are sleeping at the foot of my bed and I am careful not to stumble over them as I trudge to the bathroom. But I'm still shaken by what happened the previous evening and I'm a bit nervous about flushing the toilet. I decide to wait until I am dressed. Should it overflow, I want to be able to immediately do something about it. So instead of flushing, I go into the kitchen and, passing a radio nestled amongst potted plants on a shelf in the garden window, I flick it on.At 8:45 AM this morning a hijacked Boeing 767 airliner struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan, setting it ablaze. A half hour later, a second hijacked 767 slammed into the other tower. Both have collapsed and continue to burn. The number of casualties is not yet known, but is thought to be in the thousands. Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center, a third hijacked airliner crashed into the Pentagon, tearing a huge hole in the west side of military headquarters. Despite severe smoke and flames, the living, injured, and dead are being pulled out from beneath the rubble. For more on this hellacious calamity, an unprecedented three-pronged attack by terrorists on our eastern seaboard, we take you to Washington, D.C., where . . .
"Not very plausible," I say to myself. This must be an updated War of the Worlds broadcast. Hadn't Orson Welles fooled millions in the 1930's with a breaking news version of H.G. Well's classic science fiction yarn? I wasn't about to be taken in by a dusty trick and, reaching for the knob, somewhat indignantly turned the dial to what I thought to be a reliable all-news-all-the-time station.. . . a fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Pittsburgh. There are no known survivors. Police and firefighters are combing through . . .
Oh my God! It's for real. Thousands of Americans - civilians for the most part - mangled, crushed, burned, and buried alive in a sneak attack that by comparison rendered Pearl Harbor a scuffle in a bathtub. Organized terrorism, the kind that involves lots of money and planning, had been confined to the fringes of our collective radar; a daily occurrence in Beirut and Tel Aviv, but not perceived as a pressing domestic problem. This was a wakeup call, a reminder that we are part of a shrinking world where a fire in our neighbor's house needed to be put out lest it spread to our own.
But why? Why us and why now? Was it God's punishment, a prelude to Armageddon? I just couldn't buy that. New York and Washington, D.C. weren't exactly Sodom and Gomorrah - as a matter of fact they weren't anywhere near as decadent as Amsterdam and Bangkok. No, despite the shrill rasping of mullahs and Osama bin Laden, the United States was no Great Satan. If anything, we were simply too complacent, too trusting.
And then it hit me. Sometimes the toilet overflows. You never know how or why. Often there is no quick fix. Like the bumper stickers say, "Shit happens."
The news does not sit well with my breakfast. Feeling queasy, I go back to the bedroom, intending to make up the bed and get dressed. But I can't escape the carnage. Through an open window in the living room, I can hear my next door neighbor's television set blaring full blast as he surfs through the channels. Most stations have preempted their regular programming and are airing live telecasts of frightened people fleeing Manhattan on foot, refugees in suits and ties; a drab, depressing, portrait painted gray on gray by boundless soot, smoke, and debris.
Could my son be one of them? He is a helicopter pilot with the 10th Mountain Brigade at Fort Drum, New York. Manhattan is where my son and his buddies hang out when they get the chance. However, I recall that he has used up all his leave time. Still, I am uneasy until he phones me and lets me know he is all right.
I have only been to Manhattan once. It was the day after my son's graduation from West Point and he took me around to see the sights. Because of the heavy surface street traffic - gridlock worse than a freeway during rush hour with delivery trucks double and triple parking - we only get as far as the Flat Iron Building which is the worst excuse for a skyscraper imaginable with an ancient elevator that jerks to a halt and then struggles to align itself with floor level. In the distance I recognize the twin towers scaled by King Kong in a remake that was no match for the original. King Kong swatted planes like flies. Too bad he was nowhere to be found on September 11.
But where were the Patriots? You know, the missiles that downed Saddam's SCUDs during the Gulf War. Surely an airliner flies lower and slower than a SCUD and presents a better target. A thirty minute search on the internet confirmed my suspicions. The Patriot was originally developed to intercept aircraft and only came to be employed as a SCUD buster out of necessity. It packs a 90 kilogram warhead - enough to knock down the biggest airliner and then some. There is almost no lag time; it can be armed in 9 seconds, goes supersonic 20 feet out of the starting gate, and has a maximum flight time of slightly less than 3 and a half minutes. The M901 mobile launcher carries its own control center and 4 missiles. Following launch, a computer steers the missile to its target. And a proximity fuse makes a near miss as lethal as a hit. An airliner would be a sitting duck for any one of these, let alone four. This baby has DEATH TO TERRORISTS written all over it.
Somebody high up must have messed up big time. Either there weren't any Patriots within 70 kilometers of Washington, D.C. or New York - unthinkable, considering that U.S. built Patriot missiles are protecting Israel, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, Taiwan, and the Netherlands - or the air traffic controllers didn't have the ability to communicate directly with Air Defense, or local commanders don't have the authority to launch without going through channels. Needless to say, there is no room for excuses when it comes to our nation's security.
Patriots aren't the only ordnance capable of bringing down an airliner. Hand held Stingers could have done the job. Anti-aircraft flak and artillery projectiles can also score hits on a low flying subsonic jet. Even small arms are capable of igniting a fuel tank. Isn't it strange that we didn't have so much as a peashooter defending the skies over Washington D.C. and the Pentagon? Let's face it, we got caught with our pants down.
During the Cold War, we had sufficient forces to deploy troops throughout the world and still have enough to defend the homeland. Afterwards, being the only remaining superpower, we grew complacent, closed what were mistakenly labeled "surplus" bases, downsized our military, and left ourselves open for a sucker punch.
In the days and weeks to come, I was able to piece together what had gone wrong from reports appearing in newspapers and magazines. American Airlines Flight 11 had departed Boston on schedule at 7:59 AM on the morning of September 11. Shortly after takeoff, the air traffic controller loses all contact. His transmissions receive no response. Then a strange, unidentified voice ominously pierces the prolonged silence, saying, "We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you'll be OK. We are returning to the airport."
The controller demands, "Who is trying to call me?," but receives no response. A short pause and then the mysterious voice from the cockpit resumes, "Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves."
Apparently someone not familiar with the sophisticated equipment was trying to talk to the passengers, but was instead transmitting on a frequency used for communications between pilots and air traffic controllers. It was at this point that the military should have been alerted.
At 8:14 AM a second American Airlines Boeing 767, Flight 175, departs the gate at Boston, headed for Los Angeles. After takeoff, the air traffic controller asks for help in locating Flight 11.
At 8:41 AM Flight 175's captain answers, "We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from BOS. [It] sounds like someone keyed the mike and said, 'Everyone stay in your seats.'"
Less than two minutes later, Flight 175 became the second plane to be hijacked. After taking control of the plane, the hijackers veer sharply off course. By now the Long Island air traffic controller must surely be aware that an emergency exists. However, no action is taken. Continuing to watch and wait, the controller observes, "There's no transponder, no nothing, and no one's talking to him." Is he afraid to voice a conclusion that may later prove to have been unwarranted?
Manhattan is restricted airspace, so everyone on the ground looks up when a fast-flying commercial airliner suddenly appears overhead. It is flying so low that a police officer clearly discerns the number on its tail. At 8:45 AM Flight 11 slams into the north face of the northernmost tower of the World Trade Center from the ninety-second to the ninety-ninth floors, snapping 41 ton exterior steel beams like matchsticks, as a 20,000 gallon high octane fireball erupts over the financial district. And at 8:50 AM an anonymous pilot asks the portentous question, "Anybody know what that smoke is in Lower Manhattan?"
At 8:53 AM, while hijacked Flight 175 is skimming the treetops of the Hudson River Valley at 500+ miles per hour on its way to the south tower, the truth finally hits home. "We may have a hijacking," admits the controller. "We have some problems here right now."
One of the problems was with communications. The right hand wasn't attatched to the same body as the left hand. Being a democracy, civilian and military avionics in the United States are seperate entities with seperate radio frequencies. Unfortunately, that makes for slow reflexes.
Shortly after Flight 11 crashes into the north tower, an air traffic controller in Indianapolis tries to reach Flight 77 which is flying from Dulles in Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. There has been no response from the pilot since he acknowledged directions to fly towards a navigation beacon in Kentucky.
"American 77, Indy," the controller keeps repeating. "American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?"
Another missing flight, presumably hijacked. By 8:46 AM the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has notified NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) of the situation and two 1970's vintage F-15's armed with heat-seeking and radar guided missiles are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base at Falmouth, Massachusetts. Prepardness has been allowed to deteriorate since the end of the Cold War and there are only 14 National Guard jets on standby alert status (it is a sleepy job which the pilots refer to as "Dozing for Dollars") to protect the entire nation. Ten minutes after the fighters become airborne, United Flight 175 plows headlong into the second tower. A veteran New York City firefighter, James Filomeno, watches in horror from a nearby fireboat as the jumbo jet comes in over his head and explodes in a fireball on impact with the second tower, plunging some of the tower's residents cartwheeling on fire to certain death on the promenade a thousand feet below.
Meanwhile, United Airlines Flight 93 flying from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California, receives a text message from a flight dispatcher sitting at United's transcontinental desk outside Chicago warning them to "Beware cockpit intrusion." But there isn't much that Captain Jason Dahl and his co-pilot, First Officer LeRoy Homer, Jr., can do. They are unarmed and the door to the cockpit was intentionally designed to come open under 150 pounds of pressure in order to prevent the crew from being locked out. As Flight 93, flying at 35,000 feet, approaches the Cleveland regional air traffic center that guides long-range, high altitude flights, a voice screams "Hey!" over the air traffic control frequency. A startled air traffic controller then asks, "Did somebody call Cleveland?" Seconds pass in silence. Then comes the distinct sound of a scuffle, followed by an American voice screaming "Get out of here!" Like the others, Flight 93 will soon vanish from the screen. But shortly before it does, a male voice with an Arabic accent says, "Ladies and gentlemen, here, it's the captain. Please sit down. Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb aboard." His hands slippery with the blood of his victims, an out-of-breath terrorist has inadvertently keyed the radio instead of the intercom and is saying to the authorities what is meant to be heard by the passengers. The airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were each hijacked by five terrorists. For some unknown reason, the terrorist team that took over Flight 93 has only 4, only one of whom stands guard over the passengers in the cabin. The passengers overpower their captor while the flight attendants douse him with boiling water. Having gained control of the cabin, the emboldened passengers attempt to use a food cart as a battering ram to get into the cockpit. It might have worked had the jetliner not been flying at treetop level. Attempting to turn back the passengers, the inexperienced hijacker pilot attempts to do a roll and winds up plowing the upside down jetliner into spongy earth while going more than 575 miles per hour. By the time the Shanksville Fire Department arrives at a copse of pines adjacent to the crash site, nothing larger than the hood of a car remains of the fuselage. There are no survivors. Later, upon being told while flying back to Washington aboard Air Force One that an airliner has gone down in Pennsylvannia, President Bush asks, "Did we shoot it down or did it crash?" He is relieved to find out that the 38 passengers and 7 crew members aboard Flight 93 went down fighting.
More than a half hour passes after the hijackings are confirmed before the order comes to scramble the F-16's who have been waiting on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. At 9:30 AM three F-16's, capable of flying at Mach 2, leave the tarmac and climb to 25,000 feet. Flying at just under the speed of sound, they hear over the radio that the FAA has ordered all civilian aircraft to land - their first indication of the seriousness of the situation. It is too late to intercept Flight 77 before it can take the lives of 123 brave men and women at duty stations in the west wing of the Pentagon.
"It kept us from having to do the unthinkable," Major General Mike J. Haugen of the North Dakota National Guard would later say.
Next comes a loud squawk from the F-16's transponders, an unmistakable notice that Huntress (call sign of NORAD sector control) is placing them on wartime alert. Then Huntress asks them if the Pentagon is ablaze. Looking down, the lead flier confirms that it is indeed on fire.
The day is yet young; it is only 9:46 AM. Less than a minute ago, the White House began to evacuate. In four more minutes extensive fire damage will cause the south tower of the World Trade Center to lean to the right prior to collapsing. Seconds later, smoldering debris falls on the 47-story structure known as 7 World Trade Center, igniting 42,000 gallons of diesel fuel used to run emergency generators. An additional 24 minutes will tick by before Flight 93 goes down in the woods of western Pennsylvania following a brave struggle by its passengers to overcome the hijackers. Almost simultaneously, a portion of the Pentagon collapses. Because the airliner entered at an angle, the destruction is much worse than it appears from the outside. Three of the five rings of which it is composed will have been gutted by the time that weary firefighters depart, 8 days from now. Another 39 minutes will elapse before the north tower, its steel supports softened by 2,000 degree heat, will collapse. It has been a gruesome morning, these first few hours of daylight on Tuesday the 11th day of September, a morning unsurpassed in treachery, a morning drenched in the blood of patriots, a ghastly morning that has witnessed the collapse of the tallest skyscraper in the world, the World Trade Center, together with a collapse of a portion of the largest building in the world, the Pentagon, a morning that has seen more than its share of death and destruction. The White House, the United Nations, and the World Bank have been evacuated, all flight operations at domestic airports have been halted, the FAA has diverted all inbound trans-Atlantic air traffic to Canada, Vice-president Cheney is in hiding and the United States is at war. September 11, 2001; a day of sneak attacks, a day in which a trusting nation fell prey to the evils surrounding it, a day which will burn in our collective memories for a thousand years - we cannot forgive and we shall not forget.
* * *
It bothers me that much of the blame for the hijackings has been placed on airport security. Having missed a flight prior to September 11 despite getting in line a half hour before takeoff, I can testify that security at international airports has always been tight. More than once I have had one or two coins in my pocket set off a metal detector. I suspect that the hijackers resorted to boxcutters because they figured they couldn't get by security with knives and guns. There is legislation pending in Congress to make security screeners at international airports federal employees. It does seem that the level of security varies between airports: between 1991 and 2000, security personnel at Los Angeles International confiscated 1932 weapons while during the same period Newark International reported 74 violations (while screening approximately twice as many passengers as Newark, security personnel at Los Angeles found 26 times as many weapons). Beefing up security is always a good idea, but we must be careful about how we do it lest we turn traveling by air into a major chore.
Just how vulnerable large airliners are was made abundantly clear three weeks later when on October 4 a Tu-154 airliner with 78 Israeli citizens aboard was accidently shot down over the Black Sea by a Ukrainian S-200 missile. It goes without saying that the S-200, based on aging Soviet-era technology, is no Patriot. The simple fact is that airliners are totally defenseless. They have no stealth capabilities. Even with the transponder turned off, a commercial jet should make a fat blip on radar. Given that much of the East Coast is restricted air space - off limits to civilian aircraft - it seems strange that the military had to learn about the hijackings from the FAA.
I suspect that the real reason why our elected officials did not ask the right questions after September 11th is that they already knew the answers. A substantial portion of America's multi-billion dollar defense budget goes to entrenched defense contractors who employ retired generals to curry favor and lobby incessantly to keep Congress from pulling the plug on the research and development programs that keep them in business. In the judgment of Colonel David Hackworth and many other experts, wonder weapons haven't lived up to expectations. An investigation into why our defenses proved vulnerable would most certainly have revealed that all that whiz-bang gadgetry amounts to nothing unless it is properly deployed under local commanders who have the authority to engage an enemy should it prove necessary. There was no attempt made to establish blame because any such inquiry would have most certainly have proven embarrassing to the military-industrial complex.
There appears to be a large, gaping hole in our national defenses. If someone had told me on September 10 that an unidentified subsonic jet could fly over the White House without being challenged, I would have laughed in his face. The four hijacked aircraft flew back and forth over six states for hours buzzing densely populated cities with impunity. When I was a boy growing up in Long Beach, California, it was commonplace to hear jets breaking the sound barrier. Far from being a nuisance, it was comforting in the Cold War era to have them flying overhead. Somehow, somewhere, we misplaced our priorities. Just as a dog cannot protect his master unless he is allowed in the house, so we dare not restrict our supersonic fighters from pushing the envelope over residential areas. Shattered windowpanes and occasional static snow flurries interrupting someone's soap opera/sitcom are a small price to pay for not having to worry about some suicidal maniac playing havoc with the good life. Security comes first - otherwise we might not be around to debate what comes second.
If we are going to blame anyone for what amounted to a poor showing of our military forces on September 11, we will have to start with ourselves. When communism crumbled, everyone expected a peace dividend. Part of the price of that dividend was base closures. Those that were not serving any useful function deserved to be closed. However, in my opinion, we went too far. When you dial 911 for an emergency, the speed with which the fire or police department responds is directly related to how far the station is from your house. The same thing holds true for the armed forces, i.e. the nearer a military base is to your community, the better they can protect you. As the last remaining superpower, we have become the policeman for the world at the expense of homeland defense. Here are some of the major bases that we have shut down since 1988:Hamilton Army Airfield, California - Closed SEP 94
Presidio of San Francisco, California - Closed SEP 94
Bennett Army National Guard, Colorado - Closed JAN 89
Cape St. George, Florida - Closed FEB 88
Fort Sheridan, Illinois - Closed MAY 93
Lexington Army Depot, Kentucky - Closed SEP 95
New Orleans Military Ocean Terminal, Louisiana - Closed DEC 94
Fort Douglas, Utah - Closed NOV 91
Cameron Station, Virginia - Closed SEP 95
Defense Mapping Agency, Herndon, Virginia - Closed OCT 93
Tipton Army Airfield, Fort Meade, Maryland - Closed SEP 95
Naval Station Lake Charles, Louisiana - Never Opened
Naval Station New York, New York (Brooklyn) - Closed MAY 93
Naval Hospital Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Closed APR 93
Naval Station Galveston, Texas - Never Opened
Naval Station San Francisco (Hunters Point Annex), California - Never Opened
George Air Force Base, California - Closed DEC 92
Mather Air Force Base, California - Closed SEP 93
Norton Air Force Base, California - Closed MAR 94
Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois - Closed SEP 93
Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire - Closed MAR 91
Fort Ord, California - Closed SEP 94
Sacramento Army Depot, California - Closed APR 94
Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana - Closed Sep 95
Fort Devens, Massachusetts - Closed MAR 96
Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Tustin, California - Closed JUL 99
Naval Air Station Moffett Field, California - Closed JUL 94
Naval Hospital Long Beach, California - Closed MAR 94
Naval Station Long Beach, California - Closed SEP 94
Naval Station Treasure Island (Hunters Point Annex), California - Closed APR 94
Naval Station Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Closed JAN 96
Naval Ship Yard Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Closed SEP 96
CBC Davisville, Rhode Island - Closed APR 94
Naval Air Station Chase Field, Texas - Closed FEB 93
Naval Station Puget Sound (Sand Point), Washington - Closed SEP 95
Eaker Air Force Base, Arkansas - Closed DEC 92
Williams Air Force Base, Arizona - Closed SEP 93
Castle Air Force Base, California - Closed SEP 95
Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado - Closed SEP 94
Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana - Closed SEP 94
England Air Force Base, Louisiana - Closed DEC 92
Loring Air Force Base, Maine - Closed SEP 94
Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan - Closed JUN 93
Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, Missouri - Closed SEP 94
Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina - Closed MAR 93
Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas - Closed SEP 93
Carswell Air Force Base, Texas - Closed SEP 93
Fort McClellan, Alabama - Closed SEP 99
Fort Chaffee, Arkansas - Closed SEP 97
Oakland Army Base, California - Closed JUL 01
Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, Colorado - Closed SEP 00
Savanna Army Depot Activity, Illinois - Closed JUL 01
Fort Holabird, Maryland - Closed SEP 96
Fort Ritchie, Maryland - Closed OCT 98
Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal, New Jersey - Closed JUL 01
Seneca Army Depot, New York - Closed JUL 01
Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania - Closed SEP 98
Fort Pickett, Virginia - Closed SEP 97
Naval Air Facility, Adak, Alaska - Closed JAN 98
Naval Shipyard, Long Beach, California - Closed SEP 97
Ship Repair Facility, Guam - Closed SEP 97
Naval Air Station, South Weymouth, Massachusetts - Closed SEP 97
McClellan AFB, Calfornia - Closed JUL 01
Bergstrom Air Reserve Base, Texas - Closed SEP 97
Reese Air Force Base, Texas - Closed SEP 97
Naval Station Mobile, Alabama - Closed JUN 94
Naval Shipyard Mare Island, Vallejo, California - Closed APR 96
Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California - Closed JUL 99
Naval Air Station Alameda, California - Closed APR 97
Naval Aviation Depot Alameda, California - Closed MAR 97
Naval Hospital Oakland, California - Closed SEP 96
Naval Station Treasure Island, San Francisco, California - Closed SEP 97
Naval Training Center San Diego, California - Closed JUN 97
Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Florida - Closed SEP 99
Naval Aviation Depot Pensacola, Florida - Closed MAR 96
Naval Training Center Orlando, Florida - Closed SEP 98
Naval Air Station Agana, Guam - Closed MAR 95
Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii - Closed JUL 99
Naval Air Station Glenview, Illinois - Closed SEP 95
Naval Electronic Systems Eng. Center, St. Inigoes, Maryland - Closed SEP 97
Naval Station Staten Island, New York - Closed AUG 94
Naval Shipyard Charleston, South Carolina - Closed APR 96
Naval Station Charleston, South Carolina - Closed APR 96
Naval Air Station Dallas, Texas - Closed SEP 98
Naval Aviation Depot Norfolk, Virginia - Closed MAR 97
Homestead Air Force Base, Florida - Closed MAR 94
O'Hare International Aprt Air Force Reserve Station, Illinois - Closed JUN 99
K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan - Closed SEP 95
Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York - Closed SEP 95
Newark Air Force Base, Ohio - Closed SEP 96Are any of these closed military bases near where you live? If so, you aren't quite as safe as you used to be. All those supposedly "surplus" beds in military hospitals could have come in mighty handy in the event of a biological or chemical attack on our big cities. Isn't it a shame we got rid of them? And if we hadn't shut down all those naval shipyards, we would have sufficient aircraft carriers to make rogue nations think twice before misbehaving. Call me an insensitive jingoistic imperialist pig if you must, but from the moment when I first saw the smoldering rubble that was formerly the twin towers of the World Trade Center, I became a staunch advocate of gunboat diplomacy.
Did I say that these bases were shut down? Actually, they were pillaged and raped. Instead of mothballing "surplus" facilities, thousands of acres of federal land and numerous structures were laundered through local government agencies and turned over to business interests in the biggest taxpayer ripoff since the right-of-way land grants to the railroad robber barons in the latter half of the 19th century. Need I point out that we never know when we are going to have another war? Living in Southern California, I know I would sleep a lot better at night if I knew jet fighters from March Air Force Base and El Toro Marine Base were guarding against intruders. I always viewed them like insurance - you hope you never need it, but you can't afford to be without it. Let down your guard, and, sooner or later, as what happened on September 11 aptly illustrates, some lowlife will take advantage of the situation and make you wish you hadn't.
On March 31, 2003, the first public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States was held at the U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green, New York City. The Commission is restricted to a $3 million budget to conduct its investigations which, according to the Washington Post, is much less than the $47 million that the government spent investigating the previous administration's involvement with the Whitewater and Monica Lewinski scandals. This restriction placed on funding, after President Bush resisted having an independent commission, and then tried to appoint Kissinger to head it, shows how serious he is about disclosing what really happened. Nor has the Commission been given full access to the officials and documents it needs to complete its investigation. Could it be that Bush is afraid that the Commission will dig too deep?
I agree with the Commander-in-Chief that we need to establish military tribunals. And the first person to be brought to trial should be the officer who was in charge at Langley on the morning of September 11th. Those fighters were capable of achieving Mach II+ but were held down to subsonic speeds so as not to upset civilians by breaking the sound barrier. Likewise, Army Air Defense was caught napping - no Patriots, no Stingers, not even an anti-aircraft gun to protect New York City and Washington D.C. Not a single shot was fired during a crisis that covered several hours and thousands of miles over the most densely populated region in the United States. Call it criminal negligence, call it dereliction of duty, call it what you like, but it's time to hang 'em high.
Unfortunately, the members of the 911 Commission who were supposed to investigate the attack were handpicked by President George W. Bush. By ignoring evidence and asking the wrong questions, they managed to clear everyone - George W. Bush and cronies included - of any negligence or wrongdoing. The proceedings can be summed up in one word: WHITEWASH. How else to explain the Commission's conclusion that inaction + incompetency = effective defense? Such is the formula for disaster. Lord help us because failure to learn from the mistakes of 911 bodes ill for the future of our beloved nation. There should be a Patriot battery staioned near every major American city. Would someone please explain to me why defending Riyadh is more important than defending Manhattan?
* * *Some people never learn (or is it that they just don't care?). On March 18, 2002, barely six months after the worst attack that the mainland United States has ever been forced to endure, our esteemed leaders in Washington D.C. decided to end around-the-clock combat air patrols over New York while maintaining 24-hour combat air patrols over Washington, D.C. to protect their own rear ends. They say the around-the-clock patrols have been a drain on the military, costing some $350 million. In my opinion, it was money well spent and it's only a small fraction of the overall defense budget. Is bombing Afghanistan and Iraq more important than defending the homeland? Bush seems to think so. He claims that due to improved aviation security since September 11, 2001, we can go back to having our jet fighters on 15 minute alert status. But if that wasn't good enough on September 11 when our supersonic fighters failed to catch up with the four hijacked airliners, it surely isn't good enough now. If we can afford to spend billions to develop Star Wars anti-missile missiles, then we can definitely afford $350 million to keep New York City and the rest of the nation safe from attack. Vice-President Dick Cheney can hide in the White House's basement, but the rest of us don't have that option. [Note: On 9-11-02, the first anniversary of 9-11, we resumed round-the-clock patrols and the White House announced that anti-aircraft missiles had been set up around our nation's capital - evidently they had been in place for quite some time, having been disguised as a "training exercise." Better late than never. Hopefully, our leaders have learned a lesson and we will never let down our guard again.]Parts of Patriots appeared online in the November 30, 2001 edition of American-Partisan at http://www.american-partisan.com.
Bushwhacked"I am not a crook." - Richard M. NixonLast year, in 2001, California was riding high with a $5 billion surplus in its saddlebags. But somewhere along the trail we got bushwhacked and this year California is $12.4 billion in the hole. I and a few others got a good look at the men who robbed us. One of the bad guys looked remarkably like our president, George W. Bush. The rest of the desperadoes were Enron executives.
Yes, I am well aware that there is a war going on and that I, as well as everyone else, have a duty to be patriotic. Nonetheless, evil-doing scoundrels deserve to be known as such, regardless of how deeply they wrap themselves in the flag. Forget impeachment, why not simply bring these hombres in front of a military tribunal and hang a noose from the nearest oak tree, Texas-style?
Bush is as guilty as they come. Sidestepping a reporter's question during a Yuletide retreat at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush remarked, "I have had no contact with Enron officials in the last six weeks." While that might be technically correct, it is almost as misleading as his predecessor's claim that he never had sex with "that woman."
Have a look at the evidence. The Bush/Enron Gang goes way back. In January 1999, after contributing $312,000 to Bush's campaigns for governor, Enron forked over $50,000 more to pay for a gala inaugural bash in Austin, Texas, as he begun his second term as governor. Later, when he decided to run for president, Enron Chairman Kenneth L. Lay let him use corporate jets to campaign in high style. On April 7, 2000, Lay played host to Bush and his father, the former President, at the Houston Astro's opening game in the franchise's new stadium, Enron Field - built with $100 million of Enron's money. [Note: In exchange, Enron got free ads, tax breaks, and a contract worth $200 million to supply the stadium with power. After the Enron name became discredited, the Astros bought out the remaining years of the 30 year contract for $2.1 million in February 2002. Four months later, in June 2002, Coca-Cola reportedly paid upwards of $100 million to the Astros to rename the stadium Minute Maid Park as part of an ongoing effort to promote its line of juice products.]
Since 1993, Enron executives have contributed nearly $2 million to Bush. In early 2000, Lay sent a memo to Enron employees, suggesting they donate a portion of their earnings to Bush's campaign fund, ranging from $500 for minor league administrators to $5000 for the star players. Subsequently, his wife donated $100,000 to pay for Bush's presidential inauguration festivities. There is little doubt these payoffs were repaid with big favors such as keeping the Securities and Exchange Commission away from examining Enron's financial records.
Meanwhile, back at the White House, Ken Lay was conspiring with Vice President Dick Cheney to radically change our nation's energy policy - a cunning move which enabled the energy oligarchs to pistol whip California and other western states out of billions for energy transmission. Enron also wormed its way into the Coalition of Service Industries, which gave the energy honchos substantial clout in the World Trade Organization negotiations. This isn't the first time Cheney and Lay have ridden together. While Cheney was CEO of Halliburton , his Houston subsidiary, Brown and Root, lassoed the contract to build Enron Field. Although two federal judges repeatedly ordered Vice-President Dick Cheney to turn over the documents that pertained to his Energy Task Force meetings in February and March 2001 with leaders of the National Association of Manufacturers, energy producers, and Ken Lay, Cheney pulled every trick in the book to delay their release. In fact, the 11,000 pages he eventually turned over to the court in March 2002 were heavily blacked out, often containing nothing more than a heading and one or two names. Not since Spiro Agnew has a Vice-President demonstrated such utter contempt for propriety, the American judicial system, and public opinion.
On May 28, 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into Halliburton's accounting methods for reporting cost overruns on construction jobs. Several weeks later, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit which accused Halliburton of overstating its revenues by $445 million. Cheney was the chairman and the chief executive of Halliburton Corporation from 1995 to 2000. Judicial Watch Chairman and General Counsel Larry Klayman also claimed that the White House attempted to influence the outcome of the ongoing SEC investigation by issuing a statement that the lawsuit was "without merit." Klayman went on to say:The American people are fed-up with corporate fraud and powerful politicians operating as if they were above the law. The life savings of millions of Americans have been devastated by a string of major bankruptcies and alleged fraudulent corporate accounting practices....Vice President Cheney has a lot of questions to answer about his days at Halliburton, and President Bush should take responsibility for his Vice President. It is extremely hypocritical and improper for President Bush to chastise Wall Street and corporate CEOs and rush to propose more regulation of private industry while simultaneously dodging questions and making dismissive remarks about his Vice Presidents own alleged improper business practices.
After intimidating the Supreme Court into assisting them in rustling the 2000 presidential election, the Bush/Enron Gang took over the federal government and manipulated the tax laws to further enrich their fellow bushwhackers. Lay handpicked Pat Wood to direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; slick, unethical chicanery which, in effect, put the energy oligarchs in charge of overseeing themselves. Another one of the thieving varmints is Thomas White, Jr., Secretary of the Army, a former top Enron executive who unloaded his 50 million dollar stake in the company before financial shennanigans drove stock prices down from a high of $87 to a low of 29 cents a share, plunging Enron into bankruptcy and further deflating an ailing stock market during a recession. In October 2001, according to detailed information furnished to the U.S. House of Representatives Government Reform Committee, White met or phoned former colleagues at Enron 13 times prior to making his decision to sell more than 200,000 Enron shares at the end of the month. These contacts were in addition to numerous phone calls made from his office in the Pentagon. It seems clear that White abused his office and his authority to gain insider information that ultimately proved critical to selling his shares at just the right moment to make a killing. Robert Zoellick, given the posh post of U.S. Trade Representative by Bush, served on Enron's advisory council. So did Larry Lindsey, Bush's most prominent economic advisor, a shrewd double-dealer who got $50,000 from Enron in 2000 for his efforts on their behalf. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham received $13,500 from Enron. Before being appointed Republican Party National Chairman in December 2001, Marc Racicot was Enron's chief Washington lobbyist. No doubt it will take a Congressional investigation to uncover exactly how Enron with the connivance of many who are currently in the Bush Administration manufactured a phony energy crisis to bilk the public out of billions and, their greed running at full gallop, cooked the books, defrauding shareholders and hourly workers out of billions more while driving Enron into bankruptcy. According to William Lerach, a lawyer representing shareholders suing Enron, 29 top executives and directors of Enron unloaded approximately $1.1 billion in stock during a time when "they were overstating the reported profits of Enron by $600 million and the stockholder equity of the company by $1.1 billion."
"Now who do you think cooked these books? Some janitor or low-level employees?," Lerach asked while being interviewed by CNN. "These books were cooked by Lay and the other top executives who put hundreds of millions of dollars in their pockets, while the employees... were victimized and hundreds of thousands of other investors lost billions of dollars."
Enron's dishonest "creative accounting" practices were apparently modeled after those of Harken Energy a dozen years ago when George W. Bush was on the Board of Directors. On June 22, 1990, Bush sold two-thirds of his holdings in Harken Energy—212,000 shares at $4 each. The stock later fell to $2.27 after Harken Energy altered its financial balance sheets and disclosed it had a larger debt. This adjustment resulted from an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the accounting methods used by Harken Energy when it sold a subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum. Harken's auditor, the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen, was also investigated by the SEC. Allegations arose that Bush had profited through use of insider information, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Could it be that George W. was let off the hook because his father was the president?
With the situation becoming desperate in October, 2001, Mr. Lay got on the phone with Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. But his calls did not produce the desired results. Recognizing that Enron was going down and not wanting to get pulled under with it, the Bush Administration took steps to disassociate the president from Kenneth Lay. According to Secretary O' Neil, Bush was not even told that his close personal friend - a man who had contributed over $2 million to Bush's campaign fund—was in trouble. "I didn't think this was worthy of me running across the street and telling the president—companies come and go."
When Enron's Board of Directors—with Ken Lay as Chairman—made its decision to file for bankruptcy in December 2001, rather than choosing to do the right thing and paying off some of the corporation's staggering debts or granting severence pay to laid-off employees, they squandered what little remained by awarding hefty bonuses to 500 executives. Here is what they took from the energy giant's corpse:ENRON BANKRUPTCY BONUSES
John Lavorato - arranged energy deals - $5 million
Louise Kitchen - also arranged energy deals - $2 million
Jeffrey McMahon - Enron front man - $1.5 million
James Fallon - $1.5 million
Raymond Bowen Jr. - $750,000
Mark Haedicke - $750,000
Gary Hickerson - $700,000
Wesley Colwell - $600,000
Richard Dimichele - $600,000
James Hughes - $500,000
John Nowlan Jr. - $500,000
Roderick Hayslett - $400,000
R. Davis Maxey - $400,000
George McLellan - $400,000
Mark Muller - $400,000
Gregory Piper - $400,000
Paul Racicot Jr. - $400,000
Robert Butts - $375,000
Sally Beck - $350,000
Eric Gonzales - $350,000
These so-called "retention bonuses" (hush money for people who knew too much?) ranged in size from $1,000 to $5 million.
Enron never was a corporation in the nomal sense of the word. Founded in 1985 by Kenneth Lay, a brazenly brash insider who got his start by working for the Federal Power Commission, Enron traded natural gas commodities to sew up the long term market, hid its debts in dummy companies set up specifically to defraud shareholders, then bought political influence to get sweetheart legislation passed which enabled them to gouge businesses and consumers alike. Between 1997 and 2000, corrupt Washington D.C. politicians took $10.2 million in bribes from Enron. During the first six months of 2001, when Enron was using the threat of artificially-created blackouts to hike electricity rates on the West Coast, Enron spent $2.46 million on lobbying to get Congress and President Bush to look the other way. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 71 senators and 188 House members were on the take between 1989 and 2001.
Can there be any doubt that these so-called "campaign contributions" were actually quid pro quo arrangements in which Enron gave bribes to politicians on both sides of the fence to get laws passed that permitted the energy industry to ruthlessly gouge consumers? California state senator Jim Brulte and California state assemblyman Dave Cox actively solicited $50,000 in donations from Enron. The money arrived at the same time as lawmakers were completing energy legislation. An internal memo written by Jeff Dasovich, an Enron government relations executive, warned, "[to] Expect Brulte and Cox to push us for another $75K." Only people with heavy-duty clout have the power to "push" a giant corporation like Enron. Evidently, Enron desperately needed what these men had to offer.
According to CBS radio, as of June 2002, 13 of the 42 California politicians who accepted contributions from Enron had either returned the money or donated it to a fund for ex-Enron employees. Most, however, seem to have followed George W. Bush's example, that is, they don't mind biting the hand that fed them as long as they don't have to give up the food.
With both Democrats and Republicans getting caught red-handed and Attorney General John Ashcroft not losing his job as sheriff despite having had his outstretched palm greased by Enron to the tune of $61,000, anything remotely resembling justice seems impossible. Being just as dirty as the rest, Ashcroft isn't about to appoint a special counsel to investigate the matter. Reverend Jesse Jackson aptly summarized the Bush administration's failure to seize the initiative: "The government was neutralized because they were in collusion with Enron and could not protect the interest of the workers." What other motive could the FBI have had for allowing Enron sufficient time to shred incriminating documents before initiating its investigation?
Ex-Chairman Kenneth L. Lay and his henchmen continue to live the good life, seemingly unaffected by the demise of Enron. Having gotten out while the getting was good (Enron's top executives cashed in their chips for $177 million at the same time they were prohibiting lower-level employees from devesting their holdings), Kenneth Lay is building a sprawling mansion (his current home is the entire 33rd floor of a skyscraper) and plays an occasional round of golf at the River Oaks Country Club where membership costs $75,000. Would a man who has nothing to hide and wants to clear his name pull out from testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee at the last possible minute? Testimony by Sherron Watkins that Ken Lay was somehow duped by subordinates belies the facts. Lay is as smart as they come. He has a doctorate in economics. What seems more likely is that Sherron Watkins was duped by Lay.
Yes, something certainly smells rotten in Houston. For carrying the putrid stench to our nation's capital and thereby offending the citizenry, the Bush/Enron Gang deserves to get the same type of justice that the legendary Judge Roy Bean—the law west of the Pecos—became famous for dishing out. George W. Bush's gab about how what is good for the bushwhackers is good for the rest of us is every bit as bankrupt as Enron, that defunct wheeler-dealer gang of no good thieving cutthroats whose ill-gotten gains helped to put him in office. Enron wasn't capitalism, it was corrupt, predatory cronyism, an enticing web of sticky influence that ensnared consumers and investors alike. Lay and cronies managed to destroy a vibrant economy in which Americans were enjoying unprecedented prosperity by bushwhacking our faith in the stock market. Who is going to buy shares in corporations if they can't trust the individuals who run them?
Having been the single largest contributor to George W. Bush's campaign fund, Ken Lay called the shots, drafting legislation and appointing regulators with smug impunity. When the California State Senate issued a subpoena for e-mails from top Enron officials, all they could get from Ken Lay was 18 of his e-mails over a period of two years. Peter Sorokin, a computer forensic expert, testified before the Senate Select Committee to Investigate Price Manipulation of the Wholesale Energy Market that the e-mails were incomplete, much of the information they contained was not relevant to the subpoena, and there was a possibility that they had been physically altered. After shredding tons of documents to cover their tracks, Lay and his close associates did their best to shift the blame onto the accountants and others who carried out their orders. If the Bush administration gets its way, small fry like Michael Kopper of Enron Global Finance will take the rap while the big fish swim free. Yes, we got robbed and the bullet-ridden economy is pointing at the men who did it. As far as I'm concerned, hanging isn't good enough for these rapscallions.
* * *
Internal Enron memos discovered in May 2002 revealed an Enron strategy that called for giving Cal-ISO, the not-for-profit corporation whose duty is to balance California's power grid, false signals about Enron's anticipated load, i.e. the amount of power their customers would require. According to these documents, on a day of high demand, Enron would exaggerate the amount of power its customers would need, so that Cal-ISO, worried about meeting demand, would then offer to pay a premium to Enron and other energy providers that agreed to send extra power. Enron would claim it reduced its usage, thereby reaping the benefit of cutting back power it never really needed in the first place. An almost total lack of regulation was what made this scam possible. Cal-ISO board member Mike Florio, speaking as a senior attorney for the Utility Reform Network, a consumer group, claimed Enron was a driving force behind the state's move to deregulate energy in the 1990s. "There was a handful of us saying you could not have this loosey-goosey system and cowboys rule," Florio said. "They [deregulation advocates] said, 'Don't worry. The miracle of competition will make people behave....' From the beginning ... this was a market of the gamers, by the gamers and for the gamers."
California is seeking $9 billion in refunds from generators, including Enron, for bankrupting utilities which taxpayers had to bail out. Allegations that Enron had manipulated the California power market in order to boost prices first surfaced in May 1999.
The now-defunct California Power Exchange spent a year investigating the case. In 2000, the Power Exchange found that Enron had violated California's regulations for trading power back in May 1999 by submitting a bid for 2,900 megawatts on a transmission line that had a rated capacity of 15 megawatts. On April 28, 2000, the California Power Exchange accepted an offer of settlement from Enron Power Marketing, Incorporated, in which Enron agreed to pay California $25,000 to settle without admitting or denying the charges. Enron spokesman Mark Palmer claimed that the settlement did not amount to an admission of guilt. Interviewed by Dow Jones Wire Services, Palmer said Enron had merely made a "contribution to CalPX costs for investigating the incident." Enron had been caught congesting a line which runs from California's Central Valley to San Diego. Investigators concluded that Enron unfairly kept its competitors from using the transmission line, an action which overburdened other transmission lines in the area, resulting in higher prices for power, including power sold by Enron.
On May 6, 2002, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released two memos written by Enron lawyers in December 2000 which describe "Fat Boy," "Death Star," "Get Shorty," "Richochet," and "Load Shift" - unlawful market manipulation strategies developed by Enron executives to cheat customers. According to energy analyst Robert McCullough, Enron traders deliberately made it appear as if there was congestion and shortages in order to boost profits. Having fallen for these ploys, the people who manage California's power grid ordered rotating blackouts on six occasions in early 2001, some of which could have been avoided. Since the summer of 2000, the wholesale price of electricity had surged tenfold, forcing California's utilities to pay billions in excess charges, an action which bankrupted Pacific Gas & Electric and forced Southern California Edison to seek assistance from the state.Following a lenthy investigation in which reams of evidence were presented, the Federal Energy Commission announced in March 2003 that there was clear proof that a number of energy companies had gouged California utilities and ultimately California ratepayers. The commission determined that Californians had paid $7 billion for electric power one year and $27 billion the next, an increase for which the energy brokers could not provide sufficient justification. Consequently, the commissioners were considering awarding the plaintiffs a $3.3 billion judgment. The station manager of KNX, a Los Angeles CBS radio affiliate subsequently stated in an editorial that "the commission needs to take a hard look at . . . [the] evidence and return the money that was ripped off . . . $3 billion is not enough" and called upon California Governor Gray Davis to be relentless in his pursuit of the matter.DECEITFUL ENRON PRACTICES
Fat Boy A slang term for artificially increasing or sending more electricity into the California market in order to receive a market premium from the California Independent System Operator (ISO). The trading strategy was intended to offset when utilities underestimated their load in the day-ahead market, which Enron said artificially lowered the day-ahead price. Example: Enron submits a day-ahead schedule to the ISO showing 1,000 megawatts of generation, but only half of that amount is used, generating a bonus payment for Enron from the California ISO. Death Star Enron traders devised the Death Star strategy to take advantage of electricity congestion between northern and southern California that Enron blamed on Pacific Gas & Electricity Corp. underestimating its electricity load. This technique generated money for Enron by scheduling transmission in the opposite direction of the congestion and then collecting congestion payments without actually putting on or taking off electricity from the grid. Get Shorty Enron created this practice by agreeing to provide small amounts of power - ostensibly to keep the California grid level constant - in the state's day-ahead market. Enron then covered its position by purchasing electricity hour-ahead market. A profit was made by shorting the ancillary services, i.e. selling high and buying back at a lower price. Enron characterized the strategy as "paper trading" because the company did not actually have the extra power to sell. "In order to short the ancillary services it is necessary to submit false information that purports to identify the source of the anillary services," instructs one Enron memo. Ricochet This strategy was patterned after a questionable industry practice known as megawatt laundering. By moving electricity out of California to neighboring states where the price caps didn't apply, Enron could resell the same electricity back to California at prices above the state cap. Load Shift In this strategy, Enron would shift the electricity load from a congested region to a less congested region, earning payments for reducing the strain on California's grid. "The effect of this action is to create the appearance of congestion through the deliberate overstatement of loads," wrote an Enron attorney. "Then, by reverting back to its true load in the respective zones, Enron is deemed to have relieved congestion and gets paid by the California ISO for so doing." According to the memo, this particular strategy produced $30 million in profits for Enron in fiscal 2000.
In mid-summer 2002, after Global Crossing and several other prominent corporations were found to have been bled dry by their administrators, George W. Bush signed an executive order creating a national task force composed of FBI agents and U.S. Attorneys to pursue corporate fraud. To its credit, the task force has done a fairly decent job of prosecuting Fastow and other minor Enron players. Nonetheless, it appears unlikely that Ken Lay will be brought to justice any time soon. (Although the worth of their charitable foundation plummeted from $52 million in 2001 to $2.4 million in 2002, Ken and Linda Lay have made a point of honoring their pledge of $48,350 to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Despite having dropped off the media's radar, the relationship between the Bush and Lay families is very much alive.
It's hard to imagine anyone who represents a greater threat to civilization than an ambitious flim-flam man with a doctorate degree in economics who masquerades as a business leader. No doubt Kenneth Lay and cohorts did far more lasting damage to America than al-Qaida's terrorists. Threats from without only serve to unite us, while decay from within rips us apart. Nothing is more destructive of the spirit than to see our own leaders go bad and not be able to do anything about it. If we cannot do any better than a glad-handing sexual degenerate such as Bill Clinton or a frat-boy megalomaniac such as George W. Bush, then maybe we need to reexamine our values. As the last remaining superpower, we possess the ability to make the world a better place—a world free from poverty, disease, and violence. I, for one, intend to do my level best to bring that about.
Having been cheated out of more than $60 billion by major investment banks, investors took their case to court, hoping to recover at least part of the money. That hope ended on January 22, 2008, when the Supreme Court declined to review University of California Regents v. Merrill Lynch and refused to tell us why. Of course, the reason they would not say why is because these arrogant justices, many of whom were appointed to their positions for life by the Bush Administration, did not think that the public has the right to know—despite the fact that we pay their salaries and they are supposed to work for us. In March 2007, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sided with the banks against investors, disregarding the recommendation of the Securities and Exchange Commission to decide the lawsuit in favor of the investors.
Enron stockholders had been seeking more than $30 billion from Merrill Lynch & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston and Barclays Bank PLC. The investment banks, say Enron investors, worked in collusion with the energy company, entering into partnerships and transactions that enabled Enron to take liabilities off its books and record profits from the deals when it was actually incurring debt. U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston had earlier ruled that Enron shareholders could sue as a class, but the Bush Administration put pressure on the courts to reverse that decision and the judges tucked their tails in between their legs and obeyed their master. Bush and Lay fleeced the public and the courts would not do anything about it. Like the 2000 stolen Presidential Election in which the Supreme Court also had a hand, it stinks to the high heavens. The public be damned seems to be the attitude of George W. Bush and his cronies whose corrupt administration has made the United States look ridiculous in the eyes of the world. We are a God-fearing people and we may take solace that Lay, Bush, Chaney and the rest of the Enron evildoers will roast eternally in hell for the damage they have done to our nation.
The following speech was given by a brave and honorable man who could easily have been king, but chose not to because of his principles. While the other founding fathers were debating how to get rid of tyranny, Washington was on the battlefield making it happen. He was not a genius like Franklin or Jefferson, but a man of action with practical common sense—respected by all who knew or came in contact with him.
My son and I rode our bicycles 70 miles on a sweltering summer day to visit his home at Mount Vernon. It was well worth it. He ran this large plantation the way he later ran the country—pragmatically, doing what needed to be done in order to achieve success.
The advice to the nation contained in Washington's Farewell Address is as pertinent today as it was 205 years ago when it was given. It's a pity that we did not follow it. He warned us about political parties and foreign influences. He says that we need to beware of political parties because they are most "often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community." We should have listened.GEORGE WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESSGEORGE WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS
To the People of the United States.
FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS:
1 The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
2 I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.
3 The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence impelled me to abandon the idea.
4 I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.
5 The impressions, with which I first undertook the arduous trust, were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
6 In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; than, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation, which is yet a stranger to it.
7 Here, perhaps I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.
8 Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
9 The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
10 For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of american, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
11 But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.
12 The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds, in the productions of the latter, great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connexion with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.
13 While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighbouring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
14 These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the union as a primary object of Patriotic desire. Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope, that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to Union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those, who in any quarter may endeavour to weaken its bands.
15 In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?
16 To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.
17 All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.
18 However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
19 Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of our common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
20 I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
21 This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
22 The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
23 Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
24 It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
25 There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
26 It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those intrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.
27 Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
28 It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
29 Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
30 As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.
31 Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
32 In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.
33 So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
34 As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
35 Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
36 The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
37 Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
38 Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
39 Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?
40 It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
41 Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
42 Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing, with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
43 In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
44 How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
45 In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation of the 22d of April 1793, is the index to my Plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your Representatives in both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.
46 After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.
47 The considerations, which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the Belligerent Powers, has been virtually admitted by all.
48 The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.
49 The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavour to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.
50 Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
51 Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.George Washington
United States - September 17, 1796
Source: The Independent Chronicle, September 26, 1796.Some of my statements concerning postal labor relations in Chapter 15, "Pushing the Envelope," may seem extreme. In justification, I must say that nothing could be more extreme than innocent victims being shot on the job while trying to earn an honest living for their families.
Tension between labor and management is at least as old as the Industrial Revolution. But violence has long been recognized as being detrimental to the interests of both sides.
What is different about the United States Postal Service is that its top executives are insulated from the real world by layer upon layer of bureaucracy. They steadfastly refuse to admit that matters have gotten out of control and changes need to be made. Even with a Congressionally guaranteed monopoly, they still manage to lose money year after year and are constantly whining that they need yet another rate hike.
Let's take a glance inside:
POSTAL SERVICE POSTS LOSS -
FAILS TO FIRE EXECUTIVES WHO RIP OFF THE PUBLICAccording to a story filed by Richard Powelson with Scripps Howard News Service on January 20, 2001, an audit by the Inspector General revealed that United States Postal Service executives cheated the public by misappropriating chauffeurs and limousines in excess of 520 times over four years, oftentimes giving rides to spouses and having packages delivered without paying postage. The study was conducted last year when the Postal Service was almost $200 million in the red and clamoring for the one-cent postage hike that went into effect on January 12, 2001. The United States Postal Service is projecting a revenue loss for fiscal year 2001 of at least $480 million with your taxes expected to make up the difference.
Only the Postmaster General, Bill Henderson, is allowed the use of a chauffeur driven limousine for travel between home and his office at L'Infante Plaza in Washington, D.C. Other executives are authorized use of official vehicles and drivers at top management levels and while on official business.
Of nine unidentified executives mentioned in the report, the biggest abuser used a chauffeur 460 times over two years.
Representative John Duncan (Republican - Tennessee) said the chauffeur service "is definitely an abuse of power. I think that all these people who have done it should be made to reimburse the Postal Service, and this man who repeatedly did this [460 times] should be fired."
Senator Jeff Sessions (Republican - Alabama) said he will seek a review of postal procedures by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to prevent further abuses. Sessions, who earlier this year instructed his staff to look for ways to cut waste and fraud in the federal government, remarked that "it's ironic that Americans were hit with a one-cent stamp increase this month and at the same time we learn that postal officials are ripping off taxpayers with limo service between their homes and offices."
Deputy Postmaster General Nolan disagrees. Writing to auditors, he commented that although some use of official vehicles and chauffeurs "was inappropriate...[it] did not rise to the level of 'willful'" that to his way of thinking is required for prosecution, suspension or firing. Nolan further asserted that some of the executives had retired and/or made "appropriate restitution."
Postal spokesperson Gerry Krienkamp said auditors did not determine the reasons for executives utilizing government limousines to get home or to the office. He surmised that they may have found using a USPS chauffeured limousine cheaper than taking a taxi. According to Krienkamp, executives were required to make restitution of $362 for two of the incidents. But he did not know why spouses at times got chauffeur service or why cakes and packages were sent home with chauffeurs. The audit concluded that poor logs were kept.A survivor of the Edmond, Oklahoma, incident tells of her ordeal:From: name email@example.com
Subject: Re: Windows
Date: Friday, March 24, 2000 9:32 PMStrange, the closet was so dark, my hearing was keen for survival, plus I was a 91B and a 91G in the Army 78 to 82. I may have it written down some where, but one of the things I did was count bullets, and I could have sworn there, that twice I counted 9 shots before he [Sherril] came back and reloaded, I was told by inspectors I was correct. And as far as where most of the shots I heard in the building, I was pretty close because of the police reports telling where shells were found. It's been 14 yrs though [....] He wasn't this loner like they said. I talked to a couple of guys that went to high school with him, and my mom knew a friend that went to school that kind of stuff, and they all said he was normal, and believed the po drove him to it. Anyways, as far as saying he was loner at work. He became that way, because of the way people treated him [....] Didn't sleep much last night. This stuff gets to me. Depressing. Sad it keeps growing.In a subsequent message the same survivor reveals how far Sherril was pushed:From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 12:01 PM
Subject: Re: hiWitnesses who saw Sherril in glass office said supervisor was punching fist in front of his face.The following message is but one of many I receive each day from frustrated postal workers. Please remember that the main reason the writer is experiencing frustration is because she really does care about her job and would like nothing more than an opportunity to do it better:From: (name withheld to prevent retaliation by employer)
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2001 8:16 AM
Subject: MASS MURDER AND THE POSTAL PURGESI'm a 19 year[s of service] postal clerk in Oklahoma City. I remember quite vividly the atmosphere at the Edmond Post Office the same night of the shooting by Patrick Sherril. I was there. No, the post office didn't shut down for an entire 24 hours... it stayed open for it's employees to report to work. The Edmond Post Office had 3 tours, so employees worked around the clock at this station. Although I was not employed at the Edmond Post Office, I was shipped in by bus to work that evening (I worked tour one hours from 10:30 pm to 7 am), along with several other volunteers from the Oklahoma City Main Office. The one thing that has to this day stayed in my mind was the blood stains on the bottom of my sneakers I saw when I returned home the next morning. Yes, the floors were mopped... but not well enough...You'd think that with a tragedy of that magnitude, the remaining coworkers would band together unify as family... have some sort of solidarity. What I witnessed was bickering and hard feelings among the clerks who were working at the letter cases that evening. I'll never understand why that was so. I'm not a military veteran, but I agree with you about the "Crazy Pat" syndrome. To this day, anything we say at work can and will be used against us... no matter WHAT the intent of the words. Our words can and do get twisted into some sort of "threat" used by management for the sole intent of getting rid of the "riffraff."Employees here have been warned by management that we will be removed from service for any acts that could potentially give the Postal Service bad public relations, including but not limited to contacting the media. One thing that really bothers me is something that the APWU [American Postal Workers Union] consistently says about Postal Management... that management has the right to "mismanage". I wonder who gave them that right? Congress?...God??? At one point a few years ago, I thought I could make a difference. I really did. I applied for the new Associate Supervisor Program, and was selected for the very first class held for Oklahoma City applicants. The program lasted 16 weeks... I lasted 14... by choice. I was called into the office by three of the "big wigs," and was verbally abused for not knowing the answer to a question. When my defense was that I wasn't told anything about it, I was verbally thrashed and threatened to be "sat down". The station manager smugly sat in her chair there with a smirk on her face and lied the entire time... saying that she did in fact tell me about the subject at hand. God knows and I know she did not. I was also threatened by her with discipline if I didn't give a letter of warning to a carrier for being bitten by a dog on his route, because this was the carrier's FOURTH dog bite in his career. Honest to God that's the truth. I'm quite sure the carrier stuck out his arm in sacrifice to that damned dog....The irony of the ASP program was that it was created to make a difference... a positive change. In a perfect world, that would be terrific. But, as you well know, this isn't a perfect world, and the ASP has a long way to go before any significant positive changes will really be seen.... when the assholes in charge are finally retired from service. Thanks for allowing me to get that off my chest... it's been a long time coming...Another eyewitness tells what she saw:From: name email@example.com
Subject: Edmond, OK
Date: Saturday, October 25, 2003 10:11 PM
I survived the murders in Edmond. I was a mail carrier....I finished my route the day before, just as Patrick Sherrill did. We walked into the building together and IMMEDIATELY I heard angry voices calling "PAT!!! COME HERE!!!!!" They had received a complaint about misdelivered mail. He was a relief carrier.... Any relief carrier OF COURSE will misdeliver mail. Rick Esser and Bill Bland spoke to him like no human should be spoken to. Much later, Pat asked a female clerk "Will you be here tomorrow?" She said, "Well, sure...." He said "Don't come in tomorrow". He was thought to have a crush on her. So...he had already decided what he would do the next day. Rick Esser was his first victim. Bill Bland, the other supervisor who had hassled him, was late for work for the first time in his life. By 7 a.m., Pat must have thought that Bill wasn't coming in and decided to go ahead.
Pat spared one person, an elderly carrier. He held the gun to Vernon's head, stared at him a long time, and then lowered the gun and walked away. Vernon never returned to work.
My former husband heard early news reports about a shooting at the Edmond Post Office. He called. He said later that the phone rang and rang and rang and was finally answered by a male. My ex said "I heard there was a shooting there. Is (name deleted) all right?" The reply was "Yes, there's a shooting, and it isn't over yet," then he hung up. This was Patrick Sherrill.
Details of the massacre were never made public. Only the basic body count. The postal inspectors were just horrible to all of us as they interviewed us.
From Edmond, OK
Name DeletedA little known fact is that when pushed over the edge postal employees are 5 times more likely to kill themselves than others:From: Concerned Carrier@aol.com
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2004 11:38 PM
Subject: Re: May God bless your Heart
. . . As for the carriers who committed suicide . . .
Jimmy Toriego, T-6 carrier of Granada Hills, California date of death July of 2002 ready to retire. Wife was ready to leave him. I believe he was a Vet, not sure.
Jose ______, carrier/204b of Sylmar, California date of death 1993/1994. about 10 yrs of service. Had Wife and I think 3 kids under the age of 18.
About a week before Jimmy's death, Jimmy and I . . . sat in our Mission Hills lobby, he asked me, " Are they still messing with you?" I answered, "Yes." Jimmy then stated to me, "If they would just leave you alone, you could do a better job." I shook my head up and down answering, "Yea, your right." Jimmy was moving his head from side to side in disbelief. On my way home that day I thought to myself, Wow! Even Jimmy can see what they're doing to me, and he's right. A carrier who loves overtime and never misses a day of work and minds his own business. On August 1, 2002, is when management came out and told us about Jimmy's death, he took a gun and killed himself in the head. I was in disbelief, shock, sadden, surprised because he was so close to retiring. He was a nice, never got in anyone's way, laughed when we all laughed and a hard worker. I pray that he is resting in peace, In Loving Memory.
Both under same Postmaster
San Fernando Postmaster, Thomas Ludovico, for the California, Van Nuys District effective October of 1990.
San Fernando's offices are: Granada Hills, North Hills, Mission Hills, San Fernando, and Sylmar.
Thomas Ludovico active San Fernando Postmaster and still maintains and allows a hostile environment.
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. It is an example of how normal people interact without sparing each other's feelings and, in my opinion, gives an insight into what is wrong with modern day touchy-feely sensitivity. No, it's not pretty - but it works. Horace Bixby eventually managed to turn Mark Twain's young mind, which he readily admits was loaded with "blank cartridges," into the sharpest wit on the Mississippi River. Mark Twain was forever grateful and upon running into his instructor unexpectedly many years later credited him with having instilled the values which led to the fulfillment of his ambitions.
. . . . . . . . . . .
It was a rather dingy night, although a fair number of stars were out. The big mate was at the wheel, and he had the old tub pointed at a star and was holding her straight up the middle of the river. The shores on either hand were not much more than half a mile apart, but they seemed wonderfully far away and ever so vague and indistinct.The mate said:--'We've got to land at Jones's plantation, sir.'The vengeful spirit in me exulted. I said to myself, I wish you joy of your job, Mr. Bixby; you'll have a good time finding Mr. Jones's plantation such a night as this; and I hope you never WILL find it as long as you live.Mr. Bixby said to the mate:--'Upper end of the plantation, or the lower?''Upper.''I can't do it. The stumps there are out of water at this stage: It's no great distance to the lower, and you'll have to get along with that.''All right, sir. If Jones don't like it he'll have to lump it, I reckon.'And then the mate left. My exultation began to cool and my wonder to come up. Here was a man who not only proposed to find this plantation on such a night, but to find either end of it you preferred. I dreadfully wanted to ask a question, but I was carrying about as many short answers as my cargo-room would admit of, so I held my peace. All I desired to ask Mr. Bixby was the simple question whether he was ass enough to really imagine he was going to find that plantation on a night when all plantations were exactly alike and all the same color. But I held in. I used to have fine inspirations of prudence in those days.Mr. Bixby made for the shore and soon was scraping it, just the same as if it had been daylight. And not only that, but singing--'Father in heaven, the day is declining,' etc."It seemed to me that I had put my life in the keeping of a peculiarly reckless outcast. Presently he turned on me and said:--'What's the name of the first point above New Orleans?'I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know.'Don't KNOW?'This manner jolted me. I was down at the foot again, in a moment. But I had to say just what I had said before.'Well, you're a smart one,' said Mr. Bixby. 'What's the name of the NEXT point?'Once more I didn't know.'Well, this beats anything. Tell me the name of ANY point or place I told you.'I studied a while and decided that I couldn't.'Look here! What do you start out from, above Twelve-Mile Point, to cross over?''I--I-- don't know.''You--you--don't know?' mimicking my drawling manner of speech. 'What DO you know?''I--I-- nothing, for certain.''By the great Caesar's ghost, I believe you! You're the stupidest dunderhead I ever saw or ever heard of, so help me Moses! The idea of you being a pilot--you! Why, you don't know enough to pilot a cow down a lane.'Oh, but his wrath was up! He was a nervous man, and he shuffled from one side of his wheel to the other as if the floor was hot. He would boil a while to himself, and then overflow and scald me again.'Look here! What do you suppose I told you the names of those points for?'I tremblingly considered a moment, and then the devil of temptation provoked me to say:--'Well--to--to--be entertaining, I thought.'This was a red rag to the bull. He raged and stormed so (he was crossing the river at the time) that I judge it made him blind, because he ran over the steering-oar of a trading-scow. Of course the traders sent up a volley of red-hot profanity. Never was a man so grateful as Mr. Bixby was: because he was brim full, and here were subjects who would TALK BACK. He threw open a window, thrust his head out, and such an irruption followed as I never had heard before. The fainter and farther away the scowmen's curses drifted, the higher Mr. Bixby lifted his voice and the weightier his adjectives grew. When he closed the window he was empty. You could have drawn a seine through his system and not caught curses enough to disturb your mother with. Presently he said to me in the gentlest way--'My boy, you must get a little memorandum book, and every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away. There's only one way to be a pilot, and that is to get this entire river by heart. You have to know it just like A B C.'That was a dismal revelation to me; for my memory was never loaded with anything but blank cartridges. However, I did not feel discouraged long. I judged that it was best to make some allowances, for doubtless Mr. Bixby was 'stretching.' Presently he pulled a rope and struck a few strokes on the big bell. The stars were all gone now, and the night was as black as ink. I could hear the wheels churn along the bank, but I was not entirely certain that I could see the shore. The voice of the invisible watchman called up from the hurricane deck--'What's this, sir?''Jones's plantation.'
. . . . . . . . . . .
Parents, teachers, and bosses please take note:Know your stuff, be yourself, and teach by example. We ask for nothing more and will settle for nothing less.
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