The most egregious Bush

There is a growing public outcry for justice in the Bush administration’s use of torture and the breaking of long-standing laws preventing “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Many of us are still wondering how Bush & Co. got away with what they did to Valerie Plame Wilson – blowing her cover as a covert CIA operative. Cheney’s loyal lieutenant Lewis “Scooter” Libby was as high as the punishment went, when the whole damn bunch should have been frog-marched to justice. There’s a movie coming out about all this, “Fair Game,” based on Plame Wilson’s book. Let’s hope it opens some eyes. In the meantime, her husband, former Ambaassador Joseph Wilson IV says Cheney is a hypocrite for wanting certain torture memos declassified to prove his point, while refusing to release secret memos denied the CIA leak investigation (LINK).

Then, there’s 9/11. The conspiracy theorists will never give up on this, continually knocking the scab off one of our deepest wounds. There’s a guy out in Oklahoma giving it his heartfelt best, trying to prove that the recent cancellation of a scheduled Oklahoma University speaker is all part of the great “9/11 conspiracy.” (LINK)

This determined soul contends that CIA agent Michael Scheuer, described in the speech promo as "the long-time chief of the Bin Laden tracking center," was canceled for a reason. The writer asserts that OU president David Boren, a former U.S. Senator with “many ties to the CIA,” was somehow connected to that old story that bin Laden met with a CIA agent while being treated at an American hospital in Dubai in July 2001. At the time that story was reported in Le Figaro in France, a United Press International story (LINK) revealed the CIA had denied all this as “absolute nonsense.” Will we ever know everything behind what happened on that fateful day? Probably not. The story, like the JFK assassination, has taken its place in the conspiracy theory hall of fame.

I contend that there is something else left over from the Bush administration – something that continues nagging at my mind – which could have been more egregious than any of these occurrences – real or imagined.

A more egregious crime as defined by this country’s laws.

This claim is not that of a conspiracy theorist. I plow through many reliable sources and tons of documentation to back up my conclusions.

As early as 2002, just months after 9/11, I began to detect a PATTERN in the actions of the Bush administration. In almost every instance of breaking stories which were “bad news” for the Bush White House, there was an accompanying “terror alert.” I contended at the time these alerts were aimed at fearmongering and diverting publlc attention. I began to document these occurrences and relayed them in several blog posts.

After about five years of this pattern – ignored by the public and the MSM - one person dared to make it very public. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann began to take a serious look at some undeniable facts.

Relying heavily on Olbermann’s transcripts, in June of 2007, I gathered together information – his and mine - for a post on my “I See My Dreams” blog. At that time, there was no evidence that anyone bothered to read the post. Too long.

If an American president continually attempted to frighten Americas, feeling very vulnerable after 9/11, just to cover his ass, that, in my opinion, is a crime which must not be forgotten.

As layers of subterfuge and secrecy are peeled away, things which seem unreasonable become plausible.

The following post is an investment in time, perhaps about 30 minutes, but if you, dear reader, have any doubts about this claim, read the facts for yourself – and for your country:

“It’s your country: read or ignore,” I See My Dreams, 7 June 2007: LINK


On Balance, America Moves Ahead

Millions, maybe billions, of words are being written today – across the world – about President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office.

I salute The Progress Report for its excellent recap of the achievements during these days and their impact on America. And, for its second report on those who wish to obstruct Obama’s – and America’s – progress.

You might want to copy and keep or even share these two reports – worth reading:

“Radical Right: 100 Days of Opposition,” 28 April 2009: LINK

“Adminstration: Obama’s 100 Days of Progress,” 29 April 2009: LINK

OBAMA – On Balance, America Moves Ahead!

Don’t miss our president’s prime-time news conference tonight at 8 ET.


Waiting for my muse

DemWit is heavy on my mind. I am so uninspired right now. We just knew so much about what was going on in the eight years of the Bush administration, and I now feel like a fish out of water since I no longer have any real news coming my way.

When I check headlines on various Web sites, they cater to the pop-culture set (just as cable news does), and I find nothing in the way of real news. Not opinion, but current events. I still find The Progress Report, the daily newsletter from the Center for American Progress, very helpful (when I get a chance to read it).

I just figure I've got no business blogging until I've got something to offer my readers. Maybe a fire will be lit in a day or so.

In the meantime, I’ve finished listening again to the first two Harry Potters and will start on the third in a few minutes. This second trip to Hogwarts is deeper, fuller, richer than the first.

A most amazing thing when a muse inspires 4,400 pages of fiction. I’m just looking to share a few lines of truth.


Damn the GOP, full speed ahead

President Barack Obama has an almost complete cabinet – pending the confirmation of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) as secretary of health and human services.

Obama is ahead of the three previous presidents in making critical appointments, but according to a very informative Associate Press article from 12 April 2009, the president has a long way to go in naming lower-level appointments critical to the advancement of his bold agenda.

In the article, New York University professor Paul Light estimates Obama “has about 500 appointments to make that are subject to Senate confirmation, and about 3,000 positions to fill overall.”

At the cabinet level, Sebelius’ nomination has been approved by the Senate Finance Committee. According to The Progress Report, eight of the 10 Republicans on the panel voted against her, "underscoring the increasingly partisan nature of the emerging healthcare debate on Capitol Hill."

Obama has charged his cabinet to cut $100 million from their budgets, but House Minority Leader John Boehner, according to politico.com, says that’s not enough.

I am fed up with this sudden fit of frugality from the GOP. And, I feel a rant coming on, so get a cup of coffee and get comfortable!

While writing this post last night I caught a couple of Texas clowns on C-SPAN - Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX, 26th District) and Rep. John Carter (R-TX, 31st District). It’s a frightening thing to realize such crazos serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. They appeared absolutely crazed over the recently released DHS advisory on right-wing hate groups. You, dear reader, should have heard them: “They are accusing possibly 80 percent of Americans of being extremists.” While demanding the resignation of Homeland Security Secretry Janet Napolitano, these two twits made no mention of a similar advisory on left-wing extremists, issued by the DHS in February.

Are you comfortable yet?

I then watched the replay of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appearance yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Republicans on the Committee, instead of probing her foreign affairs expertise, used their allotted time to rant about right-wing talking points.

One, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN, 6th District) used his time to quote from Natan Sharansky's “The Case for Democracy” – that’s the dog-eared book Dubya carried around, asking everyone he met, “Have you read this?” Pence then asked Secretary Clinton if Obama’s shaking hands with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez caused the president to be “used for propaganda purposes,” throwing one of Clinton’s campaign statements back at her. He was baiting her, and the lady held her own – beautifully. (Watch the video.)

"President Obama won the election,” the former first lady told Pence. “He beat me in a primary, in which he put forth a different approach. And, he is now our president, and we all want our president, no matter of which party, to succeed, especially in such a perilous time.

“The United States spent eight years trying to isolate Chavez, and what has been the result? I don't think it's been in America's interest. So, we're going to try some different things.”

During the Cold War, she recalled “virulent anti-American communist dictators threatening our country on a regular basis, and I remember our presidents meeting with them, shaking their hands and negotiating. They did not do so without conditions or without strong principles, but they did so.”

She told Pence his strong feelings about Chavez are “certainly understandable, because he has clearly been someone who has behaved in ways that don't accord with our values and our principles, but so were the Soviet leaders, and so did so many others with whom we eventually created an environment in which we could see some changes that benefited the United States of America.”

Nice to have a diplomat who can think in the hot seat.

“My bottom line is, I am here to serve my country, which I have loved ever since I was a little girl. And, I'm going to support my president, because he is committed to doing whatever he can in the time he is given to serve to make this a better, safer, more secure world. So, I appreciate your strong feelings, but I think that we are pursuing a course that may very well open up some additional opportunities that we hope will be in our interests, and advance our values, and protect our security." (Quotes from ABC News report.)

And so, I would ask the Fox News crowd: is there anything Obama can do at this point that will win the approval of right-wing leaders and pundits? Probably not. They are raising hell over every issue confronting this country – from economic recovery to Homeland Security alerts about hate groups to the public outcry for justice in the breaking of torture laws.

Americans are concerned about the economy, affordable health care, energy costs, two wars and so many other major issues – not the least of which is America’s image in the world. If the Republican Party had good, solid solutions to offer Americans, it would be in the majority and in the White House.

The mouths of the far-right – Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, Savage, Malkin, Coulter - are very adept at brainwashing techniques; they’ve had eight years to perfect them. Their power lies in fearmongering. According to crime writer Ann Rule:

"For brainwashing to occur, a human being must be exposed to four basic elements: 1) a severe traumatic shock; 2) isolation, being taken away from persons or surroundings where a person feels secure; 3) programming, hearing what the mind controller wants the subject to believe - over and over and over and over; and 4) the promise of reward, often the subject's very life.

If you start with the trauma of 9/11, it’s not a stretch to apply these elements to what’s happening to some in this country. Just listen to the callers on C-SPAN!

The path to solutions is so slippery with right-wing red herrings at the moment, it will take a strong leader to guide us along. This nation is fortunate to have a president of keen intellect and sound moral judgment.

And speaking of moral judgment, here’s how Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a think tank, describes Obama’s deliberative selection process in filling important posts:

Obama is setting "Mother Teresa standards in a city with very few saints."

In the AP article cited at the beginning of this post: “West called the number of appointees in place ‘dangerously low given the enormity of the challenges we face. Obama is holding his people to such a high standard it is wounding his administration.’"

Has it come to that, Mr. West?

A return to morals after eight years of an amoral administration won’t work?

Damn the GOP, Mr. Obama, full speed ahead.

Read the Associated Press article.


For the convenience of readers, I have placed a link to a listing of Obama’s cabinet members and staff at the top of DemWit's left sidebar.


Earth Day 2009

According to a Gallup report yesterday (LINK), 41 percent of Americans say the environment is getting better, up from 26 percent last year. “Americans still on balance believe the quality of the environment in the U.S. is getting worse rather than better.” A slight majority – 51 percent - still say environmental quality is getting worse.


It seems infinitesimal to place the burden of saving Earth and its inhabitants from extinction on the shoulders of an individual. But, that’s where the solution rests.

William Faulkner, in his 1950 acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, says it so much better than I:

“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny, inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

Then, it’s up to me.


A few things I do for Earth:

* In my all-electric apartment with central heat and air conditioning, my electricity bill for every month in 2008 never got out of the $40 range.
* I use my oven more in winter when it helps to heat my home.
* I purchased a portable ceramic heater with thermostat online ($44 on sale) for my living room where I spend the most time.
* I got the maintenance man to lower the thermostat on my water heater by a few degrees, knocking about $20 per month off my electric bill.
* I replaced all my light bulbs with energy-saving fluorescent bulbs. (Another $20 per month saved, and I never have to change a light bulb!)
* I keep a vaporizer going in winter as moisture in the air makes it easier to heat – and it’s good for lungs and furniture!
* My townhouse is flanked by apartments, so I get the benefit of their heat.
* I grab a sweater instead of turning up the heat.


* I plan my grocery shopping, buying groceries once a month.
* My water/sewer bill never goes over the basic rate.
* I don’t use my TV for “white noise.” I turn it off and listen to birds sing or rainfall.
* I actively encourage my U.S. senators and representative to support environmental legislation.

I regret:

* I am no longer able to recycle as I once did, when I could still drive to recycle centers. I do return kraft paper bags to the grocery for recycling.


Join Live Earth!


Tell us what you do for Earth!

PHOTO: NASA’s “Blue Marble Earth with Moon.”


The pork police

This past weekend, on C-SPAN, I caught the announcement of the "Oinkers" of 2009, the annual awards presented by Citizens Against Government Waste. CAGW is “a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in government.”

The awards (LINK) recognize “dogged perseverance
in the mad pursuit of pork” and have tracked Congress’ big spenders since 1996. Here are this year’s winners:

THE LOG ROLLING AWARD: For $4.5 million in wood utilization research in 10 states by 19 senators and 10 representatives.

THE PORKY LE PEW AWARD: To Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for $1.8 million in swine odor and manure management research in Ames, Iowa.

THE NARCISSIST AWARD: To Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) for $2 million for the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program.

THE TAXPAYERS GET TATOOED AWARD: To Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) for $200,000 for a tattoo removal program.

PORK: THE FINAL FRONTIER AWARD: To Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), and then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) for $900,000 for the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Chicago.

THE WHEN ALTERNATE PIGS FLY AWARD: For $465 million for the Joint Strick Fighter alternative engine.

THE DIM BULB AWARD: To Michigan Sens. Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D), and Rep. Carolyn Kirkpatrick (D) for $951,500 for downtown Detroit energy efficient street lamps.

THE MIGHTY WINDBAG AWARD: To Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) for $47,575 for the Harlem United wind power project.

THE PORK-A-SAURUS AWARD: To Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for $143,000 for the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History.

THE TAXPAYERS GET SHELLED AWARD: To Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby (R) and Jeff Sessions (R), then-Rep. Terry Everett (R) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R) for $413,000 for tri-state joint peanut research.

THE HIGHWAY ROBBERY AWARD: To Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) for $9.5 million for Corridor H.

THE TOUR DE PORK AWARD: For $9.4 million for 14 projects for bike paths and trails.

THE WATER TAXI TO NOWHERE AWARD: To then-Rep. Chris Shays for $1.9 million for the Pleasure Beach water taxi service project.

CAGW has released its 2009 Congrssional Pig Book, “the latest installment of the group’s 19-year exposé of pork spending” … revealing “10,160 earmarks worth $19.6 billion.”


“ ‘Everyone in Washington has promised a new era of transparency and restraint in earmarks, from President Obama to the leaders of both parties in Congress,’ said CAGW President Tom Schatz. ‘Sadly, the hard numbers from the 2009 appropriations bills tell a different story. The current Democratic congressional majority is following the same trajectory as their Republican predecessors. They came into power promising to cut earmarks and made a big show of it during their first two years. However, as the 2009 Pig Book amply illustrates, pork-barrel spending is growing fast.'

“While the number of specific projects declined by 12.5 percent, from 11,610 in fiscal year 2008 to 10,160 in fiscal year 2009, the total tax dollars spent to fund them increased by 14 percent, from $17.2 billion to $19.6 billion.”


I hope participants in tea-party protests will get your copy of the Pig Book HERE and will dog-ear the earmarks of those bringing home the bacon to your home state.

And, to my friends and family in Mississippi, I’ve saved this one for you:

THE SUPER THAD AWARD: To Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) for $653 million in total pork.


Reading the tea leaves

A brief message to all those “salt of the earth,” hard-working Americans hitting the streets in tea-party protests against – what? – taxes, government spending, President Obama:

In 2010, President Bush's tax cuts will give millionaires more in tax breaks than 90 percent of Americans will earn in income.

You might want to read that again.

Here’s the numbers-crunching.


Growing up Potter

Call it fiction addiction I am hooked on Harry Potter. I have all seven books. I’ve listened to all of them through the voices of actor Erik Sandvold on Talking Books for the Visually Impaired. I have five of the movies, so far, on videotape or DVD.

Of the thousands of books I’ve read, I’ve bumped the series to the top of my favorite books list.

I get a fix on July 15 with the movie release of the penultimate Potter - “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” - then will await the telling of “Deathly Hallows” in two final films.

Those who would scoff at the commercialism of the Potter phenomenon apparently haven’t read the books. The genius of J. K. Rowling is that she took a children’s story and allowed it to grow up with its readers. When the story takes its dark turn at the end of book four, it introduces young teenagers to trials which parallel their own and teaches them that forces of good can prevail.

I am today finishing a book chosen because Entertainment Weekly named it the No. 1 nonfiction work of 2008. The book is “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff. Had its subtitle been listed I probably would have avoided it altogether: “A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Addiction.”

Experiencing this book has been a painful retrospective into the death of my own son Michael from suicide at age 17. Twenty-seven years of the bitter and the sweet have taught lessons.

One is certain. Better that children be hooked on a world of magic and imagination and comforting resolution than on anything drugs have to offer them.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for taking them through their teen years.


What the world needs now

The number of hate groups in the United States is on the rise and is once more at the levels of the days of a Timothy McVeigh in 1995.

So says the Department of Homeland Security, in a report that is in sync with that of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, Alabama, an organization which keeps close tabs on such groups.

I caught the Center’s director Morris Dees on CBS’ “The Early Show” Wednesday morning. Dees is pleased that Homeland Security is recognizing the threat from these groups – a threat he claims is greater than that from foreign terrorists.

He attributes the rise to a number of factors, including the economy, the election of Barack Obama, the perceived threat of gun control and immigration problems.

The SPLC has released its “Intelligence Report” for Spring 2009. Here are writer David Holthouse’s opening words:

“From white power skinheads decrying 'President Obongo' at a racist gathering in rural Missouri, to neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen hurling epithets at Latino immigrants from courthouse steps in Oklahoma, to anti-Semitic black separatists calling for death to Jews on bustling street corners in several East Coast cities, hate group activity in the U.S. was disturbing and widespread throughout 2008, as the number of hate groups operating in America continued to rise. Last year, 926 hate groups were active in the U.S., up more than 4 percent from 888 in 2007. That's more than a 50 percent ncrease since 2000, when there were 602 groups.”

The report, which measures five pages on 10-point font, offers “a detailed look at the three most active and dangerous white supremacist hate group sectors in 2008: Ku Klux Klan groups, neo-Nazis and racist skinheads.”

Americans need this reminder that terrorism is not limited to outside threats, that seeds of hatred are not always grown in foreign soil.

Read the SPLC report HERE.

The nine-page assessment of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Department of Homeland Security, has warned local police departments of “right-wing extremists.”

And, the right-wing has gone ballistic, emphasizing the report’s reference to disgruntled returning veterans. Like, say, Timothy McVeigh? Michelle Malking calls the report a “piece of crap.”

In my opinion, Homeland Security must point out right-wing extremism, if that’s where the threat lies. (And, don't even think about accusing me of attacking returning veterans.)

In a report this morning:

“DHS’ domestic terror warning angers GOP,” CBS News, 16 April 2009.

Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands in disgust. It seems to me the GOP and the right-wing are hellbent to bring this country down.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love …”

And, then some.


Brothers of the Ia Drang

Joseph Lee “Joe” Galloway was meant to be there. Not just to chronicle a story, but to tell it with love.

Two books, “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young” and “We Are Soldiers Still,” co-authored with Lt. Gen. Harold G. “Hal” Moore, do not let us forget what took place in 1965 at LZ Xray and LZ Albany in the Ia Drang Valley of South Vietnam’s central highlands.

Joe, then a young UPI reporter and photographer from Texas, was dropped by helicopter into the middle of the bloody battle at LZ-Xray and became a soldier in every sense of the word during those days. He is the only civilian the U.S. Army awarded a medal of valor - the Bronze Star With V - during the entire Vietnam War. No small distinction that a rookie reporter was recognized for rescuing wounded troops under enemy fire.

Joe continues to devote his efforts to the men and women who wear the uniform of this country.

And, he continues to remind us not to forget.

This commentary for McClatchy appeared 13 April 2009 and is reprinted here with Joe’s permission:

Fallen brothers found _ and lost

By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Newspapers

As with so much in life and in death, there was news this week that was joyous and sad and bittersweet all at once for the small community of the Vietnam War's band of brothers of the Ia Drang Valley.

Early in the morning of December 28, 1965, a U.S. Army Huey helicopter, tail number 63-08808, lifted off from the huge grassy airfield at the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) base at An Khe in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.

Two experienced pilots, CWO Jesse Phelps of Boise, Idaho, and CWO Kenneth Stancil of Chattanooga, Tenn., were at the controls. Behind them in the doors were crew chief Donald Grella of Laurel, Neb., and door gunner Thomas Rice Jr. of Spartanburg, S.C. All four were already veterans of the fiercest air assault battle of the war, fought the previous month in the Ia Drang.

Huey 808 was one of 10 birds in a platoon of A Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, led by Capt. Ed (Too Tall to Fly) Freeman. It was bound on a short, routine flight down Route 19 to an infantry field position just over the high pass between An Khe and the port city of Qui Nhon.

It was what Army aviators called an "ash and trash mission," hauling cases of C-rations, ammunition and other essential supplies to a company of grunts preparing for an air assault mission.

Normally, all missions were flown by at least two helicopters, but this one was so brief and so routine and along a route so well known and marked by the center white line of a familiar highway that Capt. Freeman and his boss, Maj. Bruce (Ol' Snake) Crandall, already at the Landing Zone with the rest of A Company's 20 helicopters, agreed to waive that requirement and let 808 fly alone.

With that, 808 flew off the face of the earth. It disappeared without a word on the radio of distress or trouble. The helicopter was gone, and a massive search effort began almost immediately and continued for months, both as an organized and methodical search and by individual Huey pilots who flew anywhere near that route.

For weeks, they combed the rugged jungle hills on both sides of the road and on both sides of the mountain pass. Choppers hovered over every break in the tree cover peering down if they could see or sending crewmen rappelling down ropes to look around clearings that were not easily checked from the air.

They found nothing. The Huey and its four crewmen had vanished.

The families of the crewmen joined the ranks of those who wait for news, for hope, for some closure of an open wound. More than 1,600 American servicemen are still listed as missing in action in Vietnam.

This week, the Department of Defense liaison officers who work with MIA families called Ol' Snake Crandall and surviving family members of the four missing crewmen to confirm that after 43 years, search teams following one of thousands of leads had found and positively identified the wreckage of Huey 808.

In what amounts to almost an archaeological dig the Joint Task Force _ Missing in Action (JTF-MIA) team assigned to this lead also recovered dog tags, other personal artifacts and some human remains. After so long a time in the acid soil of Vietnam, that usually means bone fragments and maybe a tooth or two. Often that adds up to no more than will fill a small handkerchief.

The remains will now be flown to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii and every effort will be made through DNA testing to identify them and attach a name to them.
"They told us it could take several months to complete that process," said Shirley Haase of Omaha, Neb., the sister of crew chief Don Grella. "I only wish my mother was here for this news. She waited for so long."

The men of Huey 808 will be coming home at last. Grieving mothers and fathers have died waiting for news that never came. Siblings have grown old. Their buddies have never forgotten and never rested in pressing for a resolution to this case.

Too Tall Ed Freeman and Ol' Snake Crandall, his wingman and boss, never missed an opportunity to ask questions or get a little pushy with a government official, even a president of the United States or a North Vietnamese Army general, in seeking an answer to the mystery.

Too Tall Ed died last summer in a Boise, Idaho, hospital. In their final farewell visit, he and Crandall, both Medal of Honor recipients, talked about Huey 808, and Bruce promised Ed that he'd keep pushing the search as long as he lived.

A week ago, the Ia Drang fraternity buried Doc Randy Lose at the National Cemetery in Biloxi, Miss. Doc was the medic of the Lost Platoon of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th U.S. Cavalry at Landing Zone X-Ray in November 1965.

Doc's old company commander, Col. (ret.) John Herren, was there. So was Sgt. Earnie Savage, who inherited command of the Lost Platoon after Lt. Henry Herrick and three more-senior sergeants were killed in the first 10 minutes of battle after the 30-man platoon was cut off and surrounded by hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers.

In all, nine men were killed and 13 were wounded in the opening minutes of a struggle for survival that lasted 27 hours for the cut-off Americans. Doc Lose used up all the bandages and kept plugging wounds with small rolls of C-Ration toilet paper. He crawled from man to man under intense enemy fire, was wounded twice himself and kept every one of the 13 wounded alive during the longest day and night of their lives.
Doc earned a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, and his battalion commander, Lt. Gen. (ret) Hal Moore, and I did everything we could to get that upgraded to the Medal of Honor we think he deserved.

Doc Lose died last month, killed by the Vietnam War just as certainly as if he'd been shot in the head by a sniper during those 27 hours with the Lost Platoon. You see, my friend Doc Lose came home from Vietnam a different man. He carried wounds no one but other combat veterans could see. Doc carried the battlefield memories of suffering and death and killing, and they never let him rest.

All that's over now. Doc has crossed the river to be with some other great soldiers. The rest of us will be along soon enough, Doc, so pop smoke when you hear us inbound. The goofy grape (purple smoke) will work just fine.


“We Were Soldiers Once … And Young,” “We Are Soldiers Still,” and the movie “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Gen. Moore and Barry Pepper as Joe Galloway, are available HERE.

You can read Joe’s current commentary as well as other recent columns HERE.


Is Bush war-crime trial realistic?

A couple of days ago I received an email from a friend – probably one of the most well-informed person on the planet, which read:

“By the way, am reading ‘Charlie Wilson's War.’ Will find the movie once I'm done. I truly missed all of this. I had no idea.”

Nor, did I. Until I read the book by the late "60 Minutes" producer George Crile – the story of how one American congressman’s involvement led to the Soviet Union’s retreat from Afghanistan.

I wrote back that there are probably a lot of things going on on the political stage that would catch us unawares.

Here’s one. Long before there was even a mention in the mainstream media (MSM), the diggers for information were reading reports online of “rendering” – how our country, which has laws against torture, was “rendering” prisoners to countries without such laws, to secret prisons, to be tortured.

Before I go on, let me point you to a good place to get the news before the news “gets it.” Sonoma State University’s “Project Censored” since 1976 has reported annually the top 25 news stories which have been neglected by the MSM (until they are forced by the information flow online to report them). This very helpful site has indexed all previous PC stories by categories. (There is a “torture” category.)

A lot of friends and associates want Bush, Cheney and the neocons brought to justice for “war crimes” such as lying this country into an unnecessary war and ignoring its torture laws. The International Red Cross has condemned their actions. A special court in Spain is examing the possibility of bringing them to trial.

Being a realist, I keep insisting, “It ain’t gonna happen.”

For those demanding “justice,” the following brief item from The Progress Report of 10 April 2009 (LINK) will be of interest:

TORTURE -- CIA TO CLOSE SECRET OVERSEAS PRISONS: Although the CIA stated yesterday (4/9/09) that it will decommission overseas prisons where detainees were tortured, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced that he would not punish those who perpetrated the acts. He said officers who committed such acts "should not be investigated, let alone punished" because the Justice Department under President Bush had assured them that their actions were legal. The New York Times writes that Panetta's move to close the prisons "underscored the new administration's sharp break with policies" from the Bush administration after 9/11. However, "a number of CIA officials implicated in the torture program not only remain at the highest levels of the agency, but are also advising Panetta," writes The Daily Beast's John Sifton. "Panetta's attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush's policy into the Obama administration's dirty laundry.” Indeed, as Salon's Glen Greenwald writes, Panetta's stance reflects an administration "vigorously shielding criminals from all investigation and accountability." Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) insists he is still "continuing to explore" the idea of a truth commission-style torture investigation in congress even though he told several of his constituents last week that the political opposition from Republicans may be too great to overcome. –END-

I welcome discussion of this development in The Comments Zone.


Beck's bad boy

There are a number of definitions of the word “dick,” and for the purposes of this post, here’s one:

dick n. 3. A person, especially a man, regarded as mean or contemptible.

I googled Fox News’ new populist superstar to get an idea of the coverage he’s receiving, and, amid reports from The New York Times, Salon.com, The Huffington Post and Time magazine, I ran across the following reference:

“Glenn Beck (born February 10, 1964) is a right-wing American talk show host and a dick.”

And, there it was: http://www.dickipedia.org/ I once gave a gift membership to an editor named Dick to "Dicks of America," an organization aimed at allowing Richards of the U.S. to commiserate with each other.

The “dickipedia” site, which might give a whole new meaning to “.org,” has an altogether different aim and takes no prisoners, as evidenced by its right-up-front listing of “political dicks” and “media dicks.” Democrats or Republicans, left- or right-wing, man or women – no one is spared.

So, why is Glenn Beck getting all this attention?

Since leaving CNN for Fox News, Beck has skyrocketed to the top of the cable news ratings charts. He has become the new archetype of right-wing fear-mongering and histrionics. He and his ilk have tapped the one-quarter of Americans who are disaffected, angry and scared as hell of liberals and President Obama.

According to The New York Times, “Mr. Beck … is suddenly one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative populist anger. Barely two months into his job at Fox, his program is a phenomenon: it typically draws about 2.3 million viewers, more than any other cable news host except Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, despite being on at 5 p.m., a slow shift for cable news.”

I’m not given to “name-calling,” but “dick” – in the sense above – fits. Is there anything more contemptible than making big bucks off unsuspecting ignorance?

But, let’s get serious. Glenn Beck’s newfound popularity is no laughing matter. Here are two essential articles which will introduce you, dear reader, to the new champion of conservatism:

“Fox News’s Mad, Apocalyptic, Tearful Rising Star,” Brian Stelter and Bill Carter, New York Times, 29 March 2009

“Glenn Beck and the rise of Fox News’ militia media,” Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, 7 April 2009


On worry

A few close friends know I’ve had a, let me say, concern the last few days. I will not bore those just passing by with details. (Or, as my longtime friend Bill Sumrall says, “TMI” – too much information.)

During these days, I thought about the following column, which appeared in the Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail 7 September 1987. I thought I would dust if off and share it with you, dear reader, because it is very much who I am.

Life without worry isn’t E-Z-z-z-z-z

By B. J. Trotter

I cut my eyeteeth on the wonderfully “moxie” Mad magazine, featuring Alfred E. Neuman.

You remember Alfred. He’s the gap-toothed, freckled-faced kid with that great attitude, “What, Me Worry?”

I got to thinking about worry at the drugstore the other day while reading the instructions on a bottle of Lady Grecian Formula.

The product claims to restore natural color to all those gray hairs that greet some of us each morning from the bathroom mirror. And, you know what causes gray hairs.

Why is it that so many of us spend so much time worrying when that effort is unproductive and won’t change a thing that’s happening in our lives?

Norman Vincent Peale devotes a convincing chapter to the absurdity, the uselessness of worry in his book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” I highly recommend his advice.

I have tried to take it myself. Sometimes it’s not easy, but to rid my days and nights of worry I’ve adopted something of a two-part, light-hearted philosophy of life.

Part I is based on an old, laminated copy of a Peanuts comic strip, which has been a fun lesson throughout the years.

In the first frame, Snoopy is lying on his back atop his doghouse staring at a starry night sky. He says, “Sometimes I can’t get to sleep at night because I worry that a star will fall on my head.”

In the second frame, he frets, “Sometimes I can’t get to sleep at night because I worry that a queen snake will come up and chomp me.”

Third frame: “Sometimes I think about how it would be if the star fell on the queen snake.”

And, in the fourth frame: “Z-z-z-z.”

I’m with Snoopy, Alfred and Dr. Peale.

I think a lot of us spend too much time worrying about the past, which we cannot change, and about where our lives are taking us. Isn’t that a senseless waste when that time is ours to use for better things? And, those better things might just take us where we want to go.

Part II of this homespun philosply deals mostly with ridding myself of the tyranny of expectations - that’s knocking yourself out to fit into some mold another person has created for you.

Being myself comes easier with the help of my favorite movie line, spoken with conviction by Glenn Ford in the oldie, “Teahouse of the August Moon:”

“I have made peace with myself somewhere between my ambitions and my limitations.”

Arriving at that plateau can provide you with all the “moxie” you want, without spending your money on a magazine or self-help book.

Or, for that matter, Lady Grecian Formula.



Whiskey at the good-old-boys club

Once upon a time at a certain daily newspaper in a certain Southern town, I edited the opinion pages.

In an editorial board meeting with the publisher and the executive editor, where plans were made for the week’s opinion pieces, I commented that Mississippi once taxed illegal liquor. There was a state tax collector, I added, whose salary was a percentage of the take.

Pretty confident of my home state’s history, I punctuated these remarks with “That’s how William Winter got rich.”

Maybe this newspaper had not yet gotten the word that women were becoming a force in journalism, for the publisher immediately put me in my place. “That’s ridiculous!” he retorted, “and I know Bill Winter. Bill Winter is not rich.”

When the publisher left the conference room, the editor, in front of the other board members, looked at me and snapped, “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut!”

I kept my mouth shut.

I did not tell him that my brothers-in-law Paul and Harold and my brother Leroy were friends of William Winter, former Mississippi governor, back in their Grenada, Mississippi, growing-up years.

Nor, did I tell him that William Winter had never in his life been called “Bill.”

Didn’t even mention that seen from the perspectives of a publisher and a lowly editorial editor, “rich” might be relative.

Heck, Mississippi politicians were among those who practically wore out the old Pearl River bridge connecting the state capital to “The Gold Coast,” a Rankin County road lined with wooden shacks dispensing illegal whiskey from drive-through windows.

A few days ago I ran across the delightful memoirs of retired Mississippi Judge Thomas Givens of Oxford.

Drawing me into Judge Givens’ stories were his title, "Whiskey, Chickens and Cherry Bombs," and this on the Web site:

“Note from Ye Editor: Judge Tom Givens writes stories that are not only entertaining, but also give us a glimpse into a rapidly fading era of Deep South history. Readers will enjoy these four memoirs - and will learn a thing or two.”

Learn a thing or two, indeed!

With permission of Beth, whose Web site, USADEEPSOUTH.COM, is an amazing collection of all things Southern – “stories, humor, travel, news, links, poetry, personal essays, memoirs, and lots more” - I quote a few words from one of Judge Givens’ stories:

“As I said before, just about all the (Mississippi) Delta and River counties allowed liquor sales. You could walk into any of those establishments, and there tacked on the wall would be their black market tax receipt.

“Now, get this, they had a ‘State Tax Collector.’ His only job was to collect the black market tax, and his compensation was a percentage of the collection. In the 50's, Life magazine did a profile on him as the highest paid public servant in the United States. That was none other than the most Honorable William Winter. To Winter’s credit, he lobbied the legislature to do away with the position, which they finally did.”

Well, that makes two Mississippians who know what they’re talking about!

Thanks, Judge! Once upon a time a woman could get pretty lonely working at a good-old-boys club.


This post originally appeared in my archived blog, “I See My Dreams.”


'Our comfort zone'

Before you read on, let me tell you this Calhoun County, South Carolina, story is one of the saddest you’ll ever read. If you have reached a certain age and live alone, it will be particularly poignant. This Associated Press writer went the extra mile to get the story behind the headline. I share her account here in its entirety:

Death went unnoticed — for 18 months in Calhoun County

Associated Press
Thursday, April 2, 2009

SANDY RUN, S.C. — Mary Sue Merchant died of natural causes in a tightly locked house on 25 acres in this small community, with only a dog for company. Sometime later, the lonely dog died of thirst in the same room.

And for 18 months, nobody knew the reclusive, 72-year-old widow was gone, not even when the house was sold for back taxes while her decomposing body lay inside.

"We didn't know this lady existed," Sheriff Thomas Summers said.

Unpaid property taxes, and the fact that her car never moved, finally led to the discovery of her body, 18 months after she died.
Only after the woman's body was found last week did it occur to neighbors that they hadn't seen her in a while. And some people wondered if they've lost a fundamental connection of small-town life.

"We've lost the community," said the Rev. Neil Flowers, who plans to talk about Merchant on Sunday at Beulah United Methodist Church, a few miles from where Merchant died.

"We do our own thing. We lead busy lives. We go and go and go ... and stay within our comfort zone."

By all accounts, Merchant and her husband kept to themselves. They had no children. The sheriff and coroner said one neighbor told them that David Merchant was a prison guard who feared retribution from former inmates, but officials couldn't confirm if he worked for the state.

David Merchant died in October 1985 at age 53, and his widow apparently lost touch with her own older sister years ago, said Calhoun County Coroner Donnie Porth, who's trying to determine that woman's last name and track her down.

A sister-in-law who tried to call — once — found the phone disconnected and assumed that Merchant had gotten a cell phone, Porth said. Through the coroner, the woman declined to comment.

"It's a sad tragedy this lady had absolutely nobody who cared enough to check on her; very sad," the sheriff said.

His deputies check on about 200 senior citizens monthly in this county of less than 15,000, 20 miles south of Columbia in central South Carolina. 'But we have to know they're there.'

Sandy Run, which lacks even a red light, is an unincorporated community, a wide spot in the road that drivers could miss if they blink.

It's the kind of place where locals can usually be counted on to say that everybody knows everybody else.

But safety nets for seniors who live alone failed in Merchant's case, or didn't exist. Authorities believe she didn't attend church. Her only prescribed medicine was for glaucoma, so she wasn't on any medical check list.

Many older people rely on family members to check in on them, especially in rural areas, said Mary Beth Fields, aging services coordinator for the area.

"You'd hope neighbors would call," she said.

Mail, Fields said, should've been a red flag. But Merchant had a post office box, so no mail piled up for neighbors or a carrier to notice.

Merchant's electricity was cut off in February 2008 after three months of unpaid bills.

Meanwhile, the brick ranch home sat partly obscured by trees and brush from the road, Merchant's white four-door Chevy parked in front and a faded "Beware of Dog" sign on a telephone pole.

Four days after Merchant's body was discovered, with a loaded .38-caliber revolver beneath her pillow, neighbor Ed Spradley heard the news from a reporter. He said he never talked to Merchant, but realized it had been awhile since her car had moved.

Across the street, neighbor Tonya Craven said if she'd known Merchant was alone she would have checked on her. But she said they spoke only once, when Craven's dog ran away.

Merchant fed and cared for about 15 wild dogs, so Craven wanted to see if her dog had joined the pack. "She was very generous to them," Craven said.

While she was talking, it occurred to Craven that she hadn't seen those dogs in some time.

Merchant's unpaid property taxes led to her discovery.

When she didn't pay a $234 bill in January 2008, the county mailed delinquency notices to her post office box, which came back as undeliverable. The property, worth about $160,000 according to county records, was sold Dec. 1, 2008, for $20,000, county administrator Lee Prickett said.

The buyer, local real estate agent Thomas Kohn, did not return messages seeking comment.

No one from the county walked the property before selling it. Prickett said that's considered trespassing because owners in debt have a year to pay.

But authorities said Kohn noticed that Merchant's car never moved, so he asked deputies to check.

Officially, it's assumed that the remains discovered Thursday are Merchant's. Dental records are being checked before she is buried beside her husband in a prepaid plot in Newberry.

An autopsy Friday determined that she died of natural causes, though specifics are unknown due to the condition of the remains, said Porth. How long the dog — breed undetermined — lived without its owner is unknown; there was plenty of dog food in the house, but no water, Porth said.

Becky Rucker, owner of the local flower shop for 30 years, said she vaguely remembers David Merchant, but has been trying to recall what Mary Sue Merchant looked like.

"It's so sad. It makes me feel bad for our community," she said. "In this day, we're supposed to be out of everybody's business, but I think sometimes that goes too far."


Rest in peace, Mary, and may you meet your faithful dog across the Rainbow Bridge.


The closet epicurean

I like food.

I don’t want to turn on my TV or come online in the morning and learn what’s going to kill me.

I don’t want to hear that favorites like eggs and coffee are bad for me only to be told later they are healthy.

I don’t want to hear about salmonella, E. coli, trichinosis, mad cows or mercury.

I don’t want to know the effects of red wine on my heart. I don’t like the taste of red wines.

I don’t want to know how many calories are in a large combination pizza.

I can do without reports about fppd-processing plants filled with roach and rodent droppings.

I don’t want to see a morning show chef prepare a recipe which calls for 47 ingredients unavailable west of Bangkok, Thailand.

I don’t want to know if I am meeting half my fiber needs before lunchtime.

Lobster and popcorn are useless to me without the appropriate melted butters.

I like salad with my salad dressing.

The only way to eat chicken or pork chops is fried.

I turn 67 this month, and a lifelong intake of Snickers candy bars has not “rotted” my teeth.

Like Jane Fonda, I’ve given up on returning to my Barbarella body.

My mother was the world’s best cook, and I still yearn for my favorite meal of fried salt pork, boiled new potatoes, wilted salad and cornbread. (Don’t know what wilted salad is? Fill a large salad bown with lettuce, chopped green onions – tops and greens – and sliced boiled eggs, then pour hot bacon drippins over mix and stir.)

For The Comments Zone:

What foods do you refuse to give up?


Back to the future

I was talking with a 78-year-old friend recently, who opined, “This is just a crazy time; things have never been this bad.” She was referring to the current financial crisis, and I had to remind her that there have been turbulent and catastrophic “times” throughout history.

Interestingly, I have just begun listening to Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” which begins: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”

In her preface to “Great Lion of God,” a novel about the Apostle Paul, Taylor Caldwell writes about “turbulent times” seemingly ripped from today’s headlines. So dead on is she about the world around you, she leaves you wishing for a return to better times. Then, in conclusion, she reveals that these events were all taking place in the time of the apostle from Tarsus.

For The Comments Zone, as the world seeks a solution to its current economic woes, I leave you to comtemplate this marvelous quote by Walter Benjamin:

“A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel, his eyes staring, looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed, but a storm is blowing in from Paradise. It has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future, to which his back is turned while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call PROGRESS.”

- Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 1940.

PAINTING: “Angelus Novus” by Paul Klee, 1920.


Bumps and Dots

Many of you know of my vision impairment from retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Basically, the only things I see with any clarity are my computer screen and my videomagnifier. These were almost lost to me before recent cataract surgery.

The Optelec videomagnifier (VM) is basically like a TV with a tray underneath for holding printed matter which is magnified on the screen. (The VM is essential for reading cooking directions on food packages.) Windows “Accessibility Wizard” (found under “accessories” in “programs”) allows me to enlarge everything on my comuter screen with white fonts on black backgrounds.

Other aids include a talking clock, a talking calculator, a talking color indicator (“very dark green”) and personal checks with very heavy raised lines.

Remarkably, as vision ebbs, a person can let go of dependence on sight and let the other senses kick in. And, believe it or not, one becomes more observant.

A couple of examples:

When I could no longer see the settings on my clothes dryer, I marked the point where the knob should stop with a black marker. When I could no longer see the mark, I realized if I turn the knob slowly, it automatically stops at that point, something I never realized until it became necessary.

I used to get terribly frustrated “looking” for cooking aids in my kitchen gadget drawer, then I let go of vision and began to feel for the shapes of a spatula or garlic press. So much easier!

I have a keen sense of hearing which helps me locate items which fall to the floor. I can hear an eyelash hit the floor!

This gives a whole new meaning to “coming to your senses.”

Handy little helpers for the visually impaired are white plastic “dots” with adhesive on the back. Placing these on the dark brown knobs on my stove guides me easily to the proper settings.

Equally helpful are clear plastic “bumps.” Placing these over the microwave touchpad numbers I can no longer see allows me to feel the numbers, which are positioned the same as those on a telephone.

Let me give you a test of how observant you are. Check your computer keyboard, your telephone and your stove. You will feel little bumps under your index fingers when you place your fingers on the home keys; you will feel a bump on the “5” on your telephone; and you will feel bumps on the “off” position of your stove knobs. All these wonderful little bumps are there to help the visually impaired or blind, whether typing, using the phone or cooking. Had you noticed them before?

Here’s another test of how observant you are, and this one blew me away! How many times have you tried to use aluminum foil or plastic wrap and had the roll fall out of the box? If you will “feel” the ends of the boxes, you will discover a perforated circle. You will “see” that it says “Press here to lock in end.” Doing this will keep the rolls from falling out. Now, how many of you have ever noticed this? It only took me about 50 years!

My favorite use of bumps and dots is the one I got Chris to place on that pesky “insert” key on my keyboard, which, when accidentally touched, will gobble up your type. Now, all I have to do is feel for the bump instead of looking for the key!

Little things really do mean a lot.