Monthly Archives: January 2010

Separated at Birth?

Republican strategist and pundit Mike Murphy, and Babylon 5’s Lenniere (played by Billy Mummy, the original Will Robinson on “Lost in Space”).

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Command and Controlling a Humanitarian Crisis

Slate ran a very interesting article titled, “Why Did We Focus on Securing Haiti Rather Than Helping Haitians?” We’ve all heard various news reports about how aid was reaching the airport, under US control, but not Haitians. This article talks about that.

We sent in naval ships and 10,000 troops, and the military did what it does best: command and control.
“Troops? Port-au-Prince had been leveled by an earthquake, not a barbarian invasion, but, OK, troops. Maybe they could put down their rifles and, you know, carry stuff, make themselves useful….

“Like a slow-witted, fearful giant, it built a wall around itself, commandeering the Port-au-Prince airport and constructing a mini-Green Zone. As thousands of tons of desperately needed food, water, and medical supplies piled up behind the airport fences–and thousands of corpses piled up outside them…the military’s first priority was to build a ‘structure for distribution’ and ‘to provide security.’
Forget hunger, dehydration, gangrene, septicemia–the real concern was ‘the security situation,’ the possibility of chaos, violence, looting.”

The article talks about how military flights were given priority over planes bearing much-needed relief supplies. That didn’t change until the United Nations intervened.

“Meanwhile, much of the aid that was arriving remained at the airport. Haitians watched American helicopters fly over the capital, commanding and controlling, but no aid at all was being distributed in most of the city….

“Why the paranoid focus on security above saving lives? Clearly, President Obama failed to learn one of the basic lessons taught by Hurricane Katrina: You can’t solve a humanitarian problem by throwing guns at it. Before the president had finished insisting that ‘my national security team understands that I will not put up with any excuses,’ Haiti’s fate was sealed. National security teams prioritize national security, an amorphous and expensive notion that has little to do with keeping Haitian citizens alive.

“This leaves the more disturbing question of why the Obama administration chose to respond as if they were there to confront an insurgency, rather than to clear rubble and distribute antibiotics and MREs.”

I suspect all of this has been solved at this point, and the focus is on saving lives, where it should have been from the beginning, rather than on carrying out a military mission. Maybe this emphasis on security only lasted a couple days. But still.

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Rehab in Haiti

Amy Sullivan, writing on the Swampland blog, addresses the issue of John Edwards’ current trip to Haiti.

I have no doubt that Edwards, with his long and admirable commitment to poverty issues, really wants to do what he can to help in Haiti. It
also seems likely that this sounded to him like an EZ-Pass lane to get to image rehabilitation more quickly.

If I were Jon Stewart, this is where I’d say: “Edwards. Meet me at Camera 3.”Sir, it’s obviously killing you to have fallen so far, even if it was
your fault and you do still have millions and millions of dollars. You
may possibly have a chance at some day rehabilitating your image. But
you’re going to have to follow these steps:

Step 1. Go away and keep your mouth shut.
Step 2. Seriously, you can’t skip Step 1–go back and try again


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Bring Back the Master


Compliments of

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Doom and Gloom from the Fire Swamp

Michael Sherer, over at Swampland, wrote a piece titled “Five Ways Obama Went Wrong.” Then, he wrote a follow-up called “Swampland Responds: What Went Wrong for Obama,” which used reader comments from his previous post.

It’s very interesting stuff. Some great insights.

Charles Krauthhammer, on Fox, loves apocalyptic hyperbole. He’s prone to statements like: “If this doesn’t pass, Obama’s presidency is over.”

We’re hearing a lot of nonsense like that in relation to Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts. I, for the record, am delighted that Brown won and broke the super-majority. I’m tickled pink. I’m disgusted with the way healthcare reform has gone.

But after just one year, don’t you think it’s a bit early to write Barack Obama’s obituary? As it was with Bill Clinton?

A number of good things have happened under Obama’s presidency, many things which I’m very pleased about (but which don’t necessarily get much attention). But the healthcare mess and deficit spending overshadow everything.

I’m hoping Obama can get back on track with some of the ideals expressed in his campaign and in “The Audacity of Hope” (a book I loved). I’m not confident he will, and in my cynicism not even confident those were heart-felt ideals. But it’s okay to hope. In two years, the gloom being expressed right now could be a distant memory. He’s still in the early days of his presidency.

I suspect Obama’s doing a lot of soul-searching right now, and realizes he got caught up in the Washington game in a rollercoaster year of crises. In his deep desire to pass healthcare reform, he allowed an “ends justify the means” mentality to rule, which inserted what is essentially blackmail and corruption into the package. Either he never intended to fulfill the ideals of his campaign (Dick Cheney: “We will not be bound by the things we had to say during the campaign”), or Reality stampeded him away from those ideals.

I’d love to seem him, in his State of the Union Address, say, “The deals made in the quest for universal healthcare are wrong, should never have been allowed. So I’m calling on Congress to scrap what it’s done so far, and start over. We still need healthcare reform. But we need to do it right.”

That’ll never happen, I realize. But it would restore some confidence on my part. And I do believe he’s a person of ideals, whose heart is to be a different kind of politician. There’s still time to resurrect that potentially transformational person, though a whole lot of damage has been done. 

I might be wrong on that–I’ve been burned so many times by earnest-sounding politicians, most recently GW Bush, that I’m terribly cynical–but it’s what I saw in “The Audacity of Hope,” which shows a man who has thought deeply about a whole lot of issues. So though I’m disappointed right now, even gloomy, I cling to a few tablespoons of hope.

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Healthcare Reform for the Price of Our Soul

I would absolutely love to see the Dems lose the Ted Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts. That 60-vote majority in the Senate is a bad thing for America. Need to bust that up.

I’m a big believer in divided government. George Bush ran amuck when he commanded both houses of Congress. The Democrats are going the same route. If the Dems can’t muster up enough bipartisanship to gain a couple Republican votes, then they are totally inept. Which looks like the case.

I’ve been in favor of the idea of universal health care. Repeat: the IDEA. But what’s being done in Washington right now really stinks. If we must resort to corruption and blackmail to institute health care reform, then I want no part of it. These deals with the pharma companies, and the vote buy-outs in Louisiana and Nebraska, really disgust me. Plus doing everything behind closed doors. Really disappointing.

You can say this isn’t Obama’s doing, that what’s happening is happening within the halls of the House and Senate. Which is true. But you know Rahm Emmanuel is in the thick of it, signing off on all kinds of junk.

If this is the way we’re going to get healthcare reform, then I say: kill it.

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Slavery, and a Really Big What If

Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech references President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had happened 100 years before. At that point, the United States had allowed slavery for 80 years (plus many years before that under English rule).

But here’s something to consider.

In 1807, Great Britain banned trafficking in slaves, and in 1833 banned slavery in most of the British Empire (there was a business exemption for the East India Company; corporate lobbying is nothing new).

Imagine the human misery that would have been spared if the American colonies had not revolted. Over 50 years of slavery wouldn’t have happened. Tens of thousands of African families would not have been ripped apart, their members shackled and transported across the ocean and thrown into slavery. And the Civil War would not have been fought; 620,000 people wouldn’t have died. The suppression of blacks which followed the Civil War, replete with lynchings and other atrocities up into the 1960s, would not have occurred.

So you have to wonder: was it truly God’s will that America revolt against Britain? I’m just asking.

Romans 13:1-2 states, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

Did God violate his own Word with America by backing the American Revolution? Was rebellion okay in our case? Is that an example of divine American exceptionalism? Because if God violates his own Word…then that fundamentally changes my faith.

Let me continue musing. In addition to an early abolition of slavery, lots of other things would be different if the American Revolution hadn’t happened. No Louisiana Purchase. No Mexican War land-grab (Texas would probably still be part of Mexico). Most likely, the atrocities of the Indian Wars would still have happened (as did similar suppression in Australia). America would still have been the Land of Opportunity to millions of immigrants from all parts of the world; it would have just been a smaller America. Though maybe we would have merged with Canada. The United States would have gained independence sometime during the 1900s. We would have gotten into World War 2 much quicker.

Really, that alternate what-if history would not be bad at all. Vastly different, but nothing to complain about.

Just musing.

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Rating the NFL Sunday Pregame Shows


The FOX NFL pregame team in Afghanistan: L-r: Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, Jay Glazer.

One of life’s simple pleasures, guy-wise, is watching the three NFL Sunday pregame shows. In order of greatness, they are: FOX, ESPN, and CBS.

Each show has basic roles: “host,” “coach,” “quarterback,” and then miscellaneous players.

My favorite, by far. is the FOX team: host Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan, and Jimmy Johnson. They got chemistry! Adding Strahan last year was a huge; the gap-toothed one has personality plus. Strahan and Long duplicate the “defensive player” role, but I’ll allow it. Terry Bradshaw is irreplaceable. Then they always throw in a segment with Frank Caliendo, which is Must-See TV. And Jay Glazer adds some great reports from off-screen.

I like the ESPN team, too: host Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, and Chris Carter. A newcomer is Chris Carter, whom I really like. Keyshawn Johnson–he’s okay, but talks too slow (yes, I’m a petty person). Chris Berman is head-and-shoulders the best host of any of the shows, and Mike Ditka is the best when it comes to the “coach” role. They’re lacking a former quarterback, though Steve Young appears sometimes (he’s so-so). And with both Johnson and Carter, they duplicate the “wide receiver” role. Need some balance.

Then there’s CBS, my least favorite: host James Brown, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Bll Cowher, and Shannon Sharpe. James Brown is a really good host, who until 2005 anchored the FOX pregame show. They duplicate the “quarterback” role with Marino and Esiason; I’d ditch Marino, whom I find bland. Cowher is okay in the “coach” role, but Ditka and Johnson are better.

Looking at all three teams, my MVP goes to Terry Bradshaw. Can be a nut, or quite serious. Shannon Sharpe is my MEP (Most Expendable Person). He’s just way too serious.

Curt Menefee, at FOX, is the worst of the three hosts. The FOX team deserves better. I can’t imagine Berman anywhere but at ESPN. Brown was the FOX host until 2005. They need to get James Brown back. Then replace Jimmy Johnson with Mike Ditka. Now there’s an amazing team.  

Earlier this year, the FOX team spent a Sunday anchoring from Afghanistan. That was an amazing, amazing show.

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Our Love Affair With Bluejeans

I was at Cunningham Optical this afternoon getting a new lens (just the right eye–again). As I waited, I noticed how many customers were wearing bluejeans. Every single person who passed by me was wearing bluejeans. It’s something I had mused over previously.

Bluejeans, it seems, is the Great American Uniform. It’s what we wear when we’re not working (and for some lucky folks, it’s what they wear when they are working). In a society that worships  individualism, we all prefer denim.

I came late to the bluejeans world. I didn’t get my first pair of bluejeans, I believe, in 9th grade. I remember feeling like a whole different person, that person being “not a square.” Back then, if I remember right, we just called them Levis. There were basically two brands: Levi Strauss and Lee, but the generic “Levis” got attached to both.

Now, of course, everybody makes denim pants, so the even more generic “bluejeans” is needed. I own denim by Levi Strauss, Sonoma, Eddie Bauer, and Lee. As I type, I’m wearing my Eddie Bauers.

When I went to Honduras last week, I didn’t take bluejeans. They can be stiff. Instead, I wore casual pants, Dockers. Much more comfortable on an airplane, and they can double as dress-up pants. I remember when Dockers came out, and for a while you wondered if they would supplant bluejeans as the Pants of Choice. But after this flirtation, we reverted to our tried-and-true denim, and let Dockers reign on Casual Friday.

Denim, clearly, has a death-grip on Americans.

And, from the look of it, the rest of the world.

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Breakfast with Roger and Marilyn

This morning five of us–three Americans and two Canadians–are having breakfast with Roger and Marilyn Reeck, missionaries here in Honduras. They were instrumental in helping me write the book Tio Archie, the story of Archie Cameron and Honduras Conference. Archie is Marilyn’s dad. He pretty much founded the work here, which now includes nearly 100 churches.

The book was unveiled at the end of the Sunday night service which opened the General Conference. A number of people asked me to autograph their copies. That’s always a joy and a privilege to do.

This meant leaving the hotel at 6:45, instead of 7:45, but I think we’ll manage.

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