Friday, May 27, 2005


On a recent Sixty Minutes episode, an emeritus professor from Princeton talked about his runaway best seller (every book seems to be a best seller even if you haven't heard of it), called ON BS. He talked about BS in our lives. "Nobody really tells the unadulterated truth," he says.

Few of us take the time to delineate BS from lies--its worth the effort and Professor Frankfurt has spelled it out. The interesting little "read" got its biggest boost from Jon Stewart's, The Daily Show, which fits perfectly with this book as the show is a perfect metaphor for the term BS--A fake-news show that walks the line between social commentary and yes, BS on one hand and comic hyperbole and "over the top exaggeration" on the other? And, what makes The Daily Show so good is that they don't care what the truth really is. Consequently, what they have to say is more truth than fiction as it pokes fun at BS, especially government BS.

Jon Stewart was interviewed on his view and said, simply, "BS is a way of life." The biggest purveyor, of course, and the most important is the government. The most egregious incident of government BS is Iraqnam. It started out as weapons of mass destruction. They weren't found, then it became Iraqi Freedom, and now it is the war on terrorism. According to the good professor, "in there somewhere is some shade of the truth."

The little book is a quick read and worth the time. It will not change your life but just might make you more aware of your own BS and that of others.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


This was the title of a NY Times piece which dove tailed into their series on Class in America. Very good and the series has surfaced many of those things that we don't talk about in this country. However, I thought the piece on the National Guard as blue collar workers who peopled the Guard was especially poignant for now that we are war.

In the Volunteer Army, there is nothing more apparent than "class." Officers are mostly taken from the upper middle class, either college graduates and more likely West Point or another of the Service Academies. And, the enlisted ranks are filled from the working class, whatever that comprises. Where the Times got it a little skewed is that it isn't just the Guard but the Army at large. I don't have any hardcore statistics but believe it to be true. The Navy and Air Force are peopled with a higher "class" of soldier. If by "class" we mean education, family background and the "priviledged" in various ways. For opening up this, we thank the Times.

If there is anything that makes the case for the failure of the All Volunteer Army, it is the fact that the working class of Americans are fighting America's wars and nothing is more representative of this fact than the National Guard.

To take the tact of the Times and tackle the hard subjects, think of the most egregious national embarrassment, among many, that we have dealt with in Iraqnam--prison scandal and who was at the center of it? The National Guard. A group of rogue Guardsman whose claim to fame was stupidity but mostly emotionally unsophisticated men and women who were without supervision and proper training. It was and is an abomination and an indictment of the shortcomings of leadership and of the Volunteer Army they have promoted.

According to the article which I think is true. The Guard is almost entirely made up of those from the working class and is a far cry from a cross section of America. And, in my opinion, these patriotic Americans are to be lauded not condemned. During Vietnam days, the Guard was used as a harbinger for those dodging the draft and Vietnam. Think of the President.

The Guard doesn't view its role in class terms but by in large as patriotic duty. Who can complaint about that great attitude! And, let's face it, there's some consolation that in most circles, rising from poverty to the White House is a plus. And, we cannot imagine any politician who doesn't want to tout his common roots.

There's lots to be said for how the Guardsmen see themselves. I especially like the comments from one Sergeant who had served three years on active duty and then joined the Guard. He said, "there are rich people, who are the thinkers. There are blue collar people like us, who are the doers. And there are the poor people, who don't do anything but will follow." This sergeant favors a draft. Good for him. Yes, these are the working class, the salt of the earth: a crane operator, Walmart worker, a fireman, and a prison guard. GOD BLESS AMERICA

Monday, May 23, 2005



The grieving father, Fernando Suarez del Solar, lost his Marine son, Marine Lance Corporal Jesus Suarez, in Iraq in March of 2003. Devastating! This is the second time I've read about this sad Father. The first time was when he literally went to Baghdad with Global Exchange, an antiwar group. I understand and grief does something to people. He is presently making a campaign out of attempting to talk Latinos out of joining the military. He appears to be relatively successful. Less Latinos are joining up. This is not good news for the recruiting woes of the military.

That having been said, still, this is not just about a grieving father. You have a father who, in his grief, has a need to blame someone for the death of his son. I can understand but war by its very nature means loss. The military is about war and fighting wars. It is not about gaining citizenship, educational opportunities, or career possibilities. It is about war and in war, people are killed. It is a choice Lance Corporal Suarez made.

I think that quite possibly the father of Lance Corporal Suarez might be desecrating more the memory of his son than promoting his cause. It is a "tricky" emotional difficulty. He cannot bring back his son who willingly joined the Marines and bought into their philosophy. He died in service to his country. Taking it a step further, what would it have been had Lance Corporal Suarez lived: he would have easily become a citizen and made a different and better life for himself. Thousands and thousands who have gone on before him have done exactly that.

Peace groups like Global Exchange and the Quaker antiwar group, American Friends Service Committee, are missing the boat in my opinion. They are not achieving their goals with individuals like a grieving father when they would do better to promote something like a Universal Service for America's youth--an AllServe. By so doing, if America's youth were required to AllServe, an American president would be much less likely to send those like Lance Corporal Suarez to war.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


For the past three months the Army has failed to meet its recruiting quotas, and some recruiters have been accused of signing up young men and women they knew were not qualified. The head of the army recruiting command says that recruiting these days is the toughest he's ever seen.

One of my oft repeated mantras used to be that every young man and woman in America could benefit from a time in the military. In fact, with great regularity I use to recommend it to kids at my Church, those I saw on the bus, wherever: "Have you ever considered the military?" I thought that the youngsters who mostly would benefit were the ones who didn't have a clue what they wanted to do with their lives. Little or no resources and for sure were not going to college. They could go in the military and get some discipline, build up some bucks for college and come out with some relative direction. A few actually followed my advice.

And, then something happened to me: I quit recommending the military. Why? In a word, Iraqnam. And, I suddenly discovered that I am, like many Americans who care, are part of the reasons that the Volunteer Military is in a world of hurts. We have cease to be the influencers to our children, our neighbors, our friends. And, according to the head knocker of the Recruiting Command, General Michael D. Rochelle, recognizes this is why it has become so difficult for recruitment. Recruiters have lost the support of parents, grandparents, and friends to influence America's youth to sign up.

And, in a sense, maybe this is a good thing. When we realize that the All Volunteer Military is not working, then we are in a position to consider what we should have had all along, an AllServe military. The All Volunteer force is workable when we are at peace and it has been sold on that basis. It's a job. Now, that we are war, these parents are reluctant to put their children in harms way. For most, they probably haven't thought much about putting other peoples' children at war but now that they do, noway are they going to encourage it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


No one denies that our country is facing all kinds of crisis. Maintaining an armed forces at the level to protect and defend is suddenly surfacing as a number one problem. The Army is way behind in recruiting as well as the venerable Marines who have missed their goals for the last three months--unheard of! The head general of the recruiting command, Major General Michael Rochelle, is getting more TV time than Britney Spears. And, the General has been to all the schools: calling Lou Dobbs, "Lou." Lou, of course, is on a break from bashing illegal aliens, to talk to the good general. And, according to the General, the Army is going to hold a conference, a "stand down," as they are calling it and as we did in Vietnam, to figure out the problem. Good luck!

I've got a few suggestions. An AllServe military. A universal service, choices for America's young people, ages 18: they can choose different avenues to be named, i. e., Teach America, etc. But, enough would choose the military to fill the ranks. However, something larger is at stake here rather than just filling the ranks--a chance to restore a sense of community to the country. Think about it. A hundred years ago, a national consensus existed and today, no way--the country is fractured and is in despeate need of repair. What better way than through national service, an AllServe.

The military holds the greatest possibility in restoring a sense of unity to our country. The AllServe military could easily restore a sense of balance and tradition not to mention some sense of discipline. Americans today disagree on fundamentals, ethics, a thousand and one things and this is not going to change. But, we have no unifying institution--an AllServe universal service could do that for us.

The schools have failed miserably in doing what they should be doing, the least of which is to introduce a shared Amcrican culture. A concept of universal service--youngsters being required to give back to America a little something in service. I'm convinced that youngsters, given this opportunity, will respond.

It is unseemly for Generals like Rochelle and these poor young recruiters going out hat in hand begging young men and women to serve their country. AllServe is the answer.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Base Closings. Every few years, there's a big exercise where the American public, those of us who care, are put through this experience. There's a Commission: they look at all the military facilities. They have staffs, they go for visits, they intimidate the people at these bases. The people at the bases put on a good show, taking them away from what they are suppose to be doing. The Commission goes back to the funny farm, Washington DC, and they make a recommendation to a gutless Congress who lamely accepts the recommendations.

All the while, it is a sham. Basically, all that happens is that we transfer tax payer dollars from one pot to the other. In the long run, nothing is saved for the taxpayer and an exercise in futility takes place. And, there's the psychological effect which is incalculable. A local military presence disappears from the American conscience: a sham.

And, worse of all, the person making the recommendations is the Secretary of Defense, who has been the architect for the worst debacle in modern military history, IRAQNAM. And, we are to trust his guidance. Give me a break!

Saturday, May 14, 2005


The below comments were in response to an email that someone sent regarding a female chaplain at the Air Force Academy who bad mouthed too much religion at the Academy. The full article can be found at the Thursday, May 12, NY Times. The article was sent to me by a chaplain buddy of mine.

Thanks for sharing this article, Lamar. My basic feeling is that probably much has been taken out of context by the news media. All news media slant; whether it is the NY Times, Newsweek, Time or some of the various patron saints of Conservatives: O'Reilly, Fox, etc.; all slant, even us "bloggers." My suspicion is that this is true of the comments of this female chaplain. I started to say, gal, but then decided to be PC. I think the account of her comments were probably slanted.

My basic reaction is "to hell" with the crowd wanting us to be other than what we are. Fight their asses tooth and nail. I know you guys won't remember this but at the big Reserve Chaplain Conference when I was at the Presidio (of San Francisco when it was a full scale military installation), the Chief (of Chaplains) was suppose to show up for the morning talk and cancelled. The 6th Army Chaplain made the mistake of asking me to fill in at the last moment. I developed a talk about an outfit in San Francisco called, "Class Act." They would do anything for you in the way of organizing a party, gathering, etc. and their concept was that it should always show "class." I did a take off on this idea that chaplains should always be who they were: if they were Mormons, Baptists, Catholic, Jewish, whatever--just because they were in the chaplaincy should not change who they were. I thought the speech was fairly benign, nobody reacted to it as I remember. Later in the day, I almost got in a fistfight with the Rabbi that the Chief, (of Chaplains) had hired to waste money fighting the unconstitutionaly (two law students back during the 80s filed a law suit attemtping to get the chaplincy decared unconstitutional. They did it as a school assignment and the Chief of Chaplains overreacted) suit against the chaplaincy. The Rabbi who happened to be a lawyer and a Reserve Chaplain later wrote a book. Anyway, this Rabbi goes back to the Chief's Office and distorts everything. I don't know what happened but as I remember, nobody stood up for me. The moral of this war story is "Let's give this gal the benefit of the doubt" and if the story is accurate, "to hell with 'em, chaplains need to be a "class act" and who they are. Airborne. Power in the blood.

I am much more concerned with spending all this money on sending us these lapel pins, etc. (see previously published blog article). We need an AllServe conscription plan in America and it ain't going to happen with stupid stuff like spending money on us "over the hill" types to help them recruit--how many people have you talked into joining the Army lately? God bless America. What a great country!

Friday, May 13, 2005


Most Americans support the troops to do their fighting for them for sure. Uncle Sam desperately needs new soldiers. How is the best way for him to find them? This was the lead sentence in a story in the NY Times on the critical nature of the recruiting problems for the military. The Army has missed their goals for enlisting America's youth for several months. And, the forever successful and stalwart Marines, have missed their goals for three months in a row. What portends are dire scenarios if shortages reach a stage where truly national security is in peril. In my view, "the powers that be" have only themselves to blame anyway. The military is treated somewhat like the "play thing" of the President and the "illegitimate son of Buffalo Bill" by most Americans who give any thought to the military anyway. They do support as long as it is not their sons and daughters.

The article in the Times tried to help the military with a few ideas, none of which were useful in my opinion. Appealing to the "jobs and training mentality" is definitely not working. For almost the entire life of the Volunteer Army, this has worked. No longer. Once on a planeload of soldiers heading to AIT (advanced individual training), I casually asked about why they had joined the military. To a person, it was training and job skills, educational expenses after the military, and their best offer at the time. Patriotism was never even mentioned.

Idea number (1) Basically, use all sorts of measures now to appeal to young men, especially peer pressure, the opposite sex--smart TV ads, etc. Dumb! Wasting money on advertising with Nascar and in popular magazines are not going to get America's young men to enlist. Give me a break. Already, our voluntary military has reached out to the lower socio category of our populace. We don't have lawyers, doctors, chemists, Indian Chiefs sons and daughters now serving. While the Volunteer Army, up till now, has worked in terms of numbers, it no longer is, given the shortages faced.

The dumbest idea, however, appears to have come from some author of a book called, The Kinder, Gentler Military: How political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars. (2) She wants to privatize nearly everything outside of the infantry. In other words, let's outsource everything except those who die. If the NY Times article has conveyed her ideas correctly, what she doesn't have a clue about are the workings of the military in combat. You can't take some military contractor and give him/her the dedication to support the troops doing the fighting. There's aspects to the military that defy logic and esprit de corps is one of them. Esprit can't be outsourced. Sure, it might sound good to some civilian sitting in an armchair at the Pentagon but it won't work and will actually hinder. Stupid, stupid.

Almost equally as dumb is an idea of letting illegal immigrants fill the ranks of the military. Now, wait till Lou Dobbs hears this. (Lou is an anchorman on CNN who appears to have made his entire mission in life ridding the borders of illegal aliens). It is bad enough for us to have a volunteer Army where only a small portion of the people incur the risks. What about taking people from another country and letting them fight America's wars. This takes the Volunteer Army to a new level of mercenaries. Now there's some real patriotism, put people in harm's way simply because they are poor and want a better way of life. Why don't we go to the projects in Baltimore and offer the drug dealers the same amount of money they're making to get their troops to enlist. (Idea of Baltimore comes from the TV show, The Wire, which shows the Baltimore drug scene--could be any large city).

All of these silly ideas are surfaced simply because we don't want to face the problem that in order for our Armed forces to solve this problem, we have to admit that what is happening to us now is the result of a lack of foresight and designing a fair and objective system for all of America's young people to serve their country. AllServe. Some may choose the military. Others can choose a variety of things: the Peace Corps, Teach America, other possibilities of which we haven't even thought. In the final analysis, AllServe, problem solved.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I am absolutely astounded. Today, in the mail I received a letter, telling me how great I am and thanks for continuing to be an enlistee in the war on terrorism. Signed by no less than the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army. Plus, I got a nice certificate that I can hang on my wall and an army pen to wear in my lapel. And, then I have a couple of decals to put on my car. Wow, what is this! I've got to email my retiree buddies to see that they got the same thing. We are talking beaucoup bucks here. What is this all about? My suspicion is it is an attempt to enlist the retirees in recruitment efforts. If so, I doubt it will be successful but I'm just as concerned over the expense. What would be the motive to do something like this? It is beyond me.

What seems to totally escape the mentality of the "powers that be" is that the very Voluntary Army is the creation of the problem. The Army, for instance, is about to have a "day" when they sit around and try to brainstorm the problem. Why are not America's young people joining up? They didn't invite me to the conference but I could tell them. We have created a mentality in our country which simply put says, "let other people's children fight our wars." And, it is OK when recruiters can talk to kids about educational opportunities, learning skills, adventure but dodging bullets in Iraq and Alfganistan, now that is another story.

We are approaching the problem entirely from a "no win" possibility. It is time to be realistic and float the "AllServe" possibility, at least start the debate.

Abu Ghraib As Reality TV

Noway could Fox have come up with a better reality show than the Abu Ghraib ongoing embarrassment. Here it is: you have a somewhat older guy and a less than "bright bulb" in the Maryland Guard. They join up to wear the uniform and yuck it up at a meeting once a month. Iraq was not in their plans. He's a cave man type who admitted dragging his former wife around the house by the hair.

This unpromising couple ends up in Iraq in the sensitive job of guarding and interrogating prisoners. For amusement, they take some pictures flashed to a weary world. Older soldier meets another girl, beds her while impregnating the other, eventually court martialed because of abuse of prisoners, goes to jail, ends up rescuing his former girlfriend and Mother of his child from prison herself, meanwhile getting married by proxy to another girl that he met while he was abusing prisoners. And, Elvis does the wedding. No, that's another reality show. The parents accompany the daughter to the proxy wedding as they want to be part of the reality show. Now, tell me, could Fox come up with a better reality show? I don't think so.

And, all the while, all those Officers and NCOs (Non Commission Officers) choose not to be in the reality show as they, like the infamous Enron crowd, claim to know nothing about the abuse. And, yes, Kenneth Lay was not a great buddy of George W. and didn't meet with VP Chaney on energy policy. Thank you very much.

Monday, May 09, 2005


I met this really fascinating guy the other morning, a retired attorney, Korean war veteran and very much opposed to Iraq. I was sharing with him that one of my big dilemmas was the fact that I did indeed support the troops as they are merely doing their jobs. But, I was troubled by the idea that on a wholesale basis, without fail, they are totally in support of their mission. And, that I understand: soldiers have to support what they are doing. His comment took me aback--he said something like "I don't disagree with you but when something is based on a "lie" then everything associated with it is tainted." What he was referring too, of course, was the non existent weapons of mass destruction. THINK ABOUT VIETNAM and what we now know about the Bay of Tonkin incident which propelled us into a wholesale involvement in that sorry war.

Also, my new acquaintance went on to say that what he believes is that we have a civil war in Iraq. And, I will have to admit that there surely appears to be truth here. Think about it: almost daily, Iraqis killed by Sunni Muslims it appears. Today, sixty eight killed. In one incident, this car was turned away from a checkpoint, goes down to a place where Iraqis are trying to get day work. The Iraqis gather around the car which then blows up. This sort of thing has become the rule rather than the exception.