Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Worst of Times?


 

"I know you feel these are the worst of times
I do believe it's true
When people lock their doors and hide inside
Rumor has it, it's the end of Paradise"
 
Musical Group Styx
1981
 
 
 
I am not a big 80's music fan - I am more of a 60's and 70's guy. However, there are a few groups that stand from the rest. The group Styx is one of them. It is interesting I would use Styx as part of this article. It is interesting because the name Styx in Ancient Greek also means "hate" and "detestation". In Greek mythology, it was a river that formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld (Hades). In other words, the name Styx is not very uplifting.

I have now lived through two economically turbulent times in our country. Unlike the generation before me, I did not live though the whopper of all bad economies - the Great Depression. However, in the late 1970's and early 1980's we had a very bad economy. High interest rates, double digit inflation and anemic growth. Terms like "stagflation" and "misery index" were coined. However, as bad as the Jimmy Carter economy was, this economy is worse.

To me, the biggest difference between the Carter economy and our current economy is the dark cloud which hangs over us these days. I have never seen anything like it. I don't care what the "right track, wrong track" polls say - most people I talk to think we are going nowhere, racing a hundred miles an hour down the wrong track. The good jobs which made our careers are disappearing daily, only to be replaced by hourly temp work. Our government statisticians tell us inflation is under control, however they factor out food and fuel which are going up like Roman candles.  Less money, more expense is the order of the day.

So are these the worst of times? Or are they (as the Administration tell us), "a bump in the road" to an eventual recovery? Today, people are scared and worried. They are more apprehensive than the days leading up to Y2K. Is it because the Mayan Calendar ends on December 21st? Is this the beginning of the dark days prior to the return of Christ? In Islam, is this the period prior to the return of the 12th Imam? What is it? Why are people so fearful about the future? We have the resurgence of survivalists, the advent of "preppers", soaring gun and ammo sales, "bug out" kits and "E" plans. I can't remember this much preparation during the cold war when we all thought nuclear war was inevitable. Today, we are preparing for the end of the world. 

After the defeat of Jimmy Carter by Ronald Reagan, the nation's mood was dour - just not to the extent it is today. Ronald Reagan did two things for us - he told the truth, and he assured us the party was far from being over. In fact, he told us it was again "morning in America" and our country truly was the "city of the hill"  the world looks to for inspiration. Ronald Reagan did not do "worst of times" - it was not in his DNA. He as an optimist with an infectious personality - his optimism spread across the landscape like wild fire.

We can't have President Reagan back, we can't even channel him. We need someone new to step forward and restore faith in ourselves, and in our country. We need someone to blow away the dark clouds covering our country with the mighty breath of optimism. As the world remains a dangerous place, we still need to stay alert, aware and prepared. Knowing that, we still need someone who can tell us it is okay to come out of our basements and once again experience the new morning, not the continued mourning, of America.
 
 
 "We'll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we'll find these are the best of times"

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Jar and the Tape

















Some remember from decades ago, an avant-garde homoerotic artist named Robert Mapplethorpe who in 1989 showcased an art exhibit with many taboo items including a crucifix sitting in a jar or urine. The purpose of this exhibit was to shock and disgust. For many, it was mission accomplished. The exhibit caused a big dust up for a couple of reasons: 1) some said it was not Mapplethorpe who inserted the crucifix in the urine and he should not be blamed for it and 2) some of the funding for this exhibit came from the taxpayer funded NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). Mapplethorpe died of AIDS at age 42, so he never was able to see the long term impact of his exhibit on the NEA.

The current uproar over National Endowment for the Arts funding of controversial artists began in 1989, when the American Family Association held a press conference to denounce NEA funding of "anti-Christian bigotry", which included a photograph of "the jar". A letter was sent to the NEA by over 30 Senators calling for the removal of the Mapplethorpe exhibit  as it was "morally reprehensible trash." The NEA refused to remove it. However, even though the NEA took a hit in annual funding (slightly less than $100M/year), it was not "killed" by Congress, as poor and vile excuses for art are protected by our First Amendment. To add insult to injury, funding has now been totally restored to the NEA, which it is almost $150M/year.

I will now juxtapose this most crude and offensive art exhibit with the 14 minute video that was released earlier this year. I have not seen it, nor have I talked to anyone who has. In fact, if not for the strong, turbulent reaction in the Middle East, I doubt if most people would know anything about it. The video is suppose to be disrespectful to Islam, but not having seen it, I have no idea in what way. All I know is this - since this video has come to light, dozens have been killed and tens of thousands have protested against America. The irony is this video was made by a foreign national, a man from Egypt - not even an United States citizen. It was reported that this Egyptian wanted to make this video in this country as it would be protected under the rights of our Constitution.

Back to how we protect garbage as art for a minute. In 1996, another "artist" named Chris Ofili painted the Virgin Mary using elephant dung. To make matters worse, he also had collaged pornographic images as background in the painting. Once again, even though repulsive to many and reprehensible to most, it was protected under the First Amendment.

Because of these examples, I have come to this question - does Islam react too strongly to disrespect concerning their faith? Or do Christians take their faith too lightly. I don't know the answer. My guess is Robert Mapplethorpe, if Muslim and living in the Middle East, would have died of something other than AIDS. Here, he was celebrated by some, eschewed by others. However, nobody put a death sentence on him.

My feeling is this - all faiths should be respected - they are very important to those who hold them. If someone besmirches another's faith (listen up Bill Mahar), that person should be shunned, not killed. I may not be a Shinto, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or other, but I can still respect people who are. Our First Amendment protects those who offend. However, if one chooses not to participate in the offense, then offense is not possible. Garbage, not acknowledged, will die under its own weight. It might be as simple as that. 



The Paradigm Shift



Years ago, this was something that I put together for my two girls as they were leaving high school. The purpose was if one was to succeed in college, the thinking, or paradigm needed to shift. Many struggle in college because they still use the high school model rather than the college model. Much of this comes from my own experience in college, both from  success and failure perspectives. My first college experience out of high school was dismal - I used the high school model. I had fun, but the results were dismal. After my first hitch in the Navy, I used the college model. There was very little fun, but it was successful.  
 
 
HIGH SCHOOL
 
1) I am all caught up
2) I have nothing to do
3) I read when I have to
4) I have a social life
5) I hate to study
6) I need time to chill
7) Organization is a waste of time
8) My parents work against me

COLLEGE

1) I am never caught up
2) I have too much to do
3) I have to read
4) I will have a good life
5) I need to study
6) I need more study time
7) Organization keeps me from wasting time
8) My parents work with me

 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spirals in the sky



Please don't think I have morphed into Art Bell. This topic is very weird, but very real as spirals in the sky have been witnessed by thousands of people. Ever since December of 2009 when the first notable spiral appeared over Norway (some say the first one was over Russia in 2006), these phenomena have led to speculation, theories and unease. The Norway spiral only lasted two minutes and was quick to be explained away as some visual anomaly resulting from a Russian missile launch.

After the Norway sighting, other spirals began to appear. In June 2010, one appeared over Australia and lasted longer than the two minute Norway sighting. Again, this one was explained away as after a rocket launch from Florida, people saw the visible tail of the rocket heading down range over Australia.

Now the story is going to get stranger. In May 2010, a mysterious spiral was seen and heard across Western Canada in what looked like something out of a science fiction movie. It was reported that an object swooped down from the sky and then returned in a brilliant display across Western Canada. The experts have examined the photographs and videos of this event and cannot see what would caused it - certainly nothing from Earth. YouTube has a very good video (with sound) of this spiral and it is strange and disturbing to say the least. The Norway spiral was said to be caused by a missile launch in the Russian territory, but there were no known missile launches anywhere prior to the Canada sighting.

Many other reports of spirals have since been noted. All have been after the 2009 Norway sighting. Mexico, Utah, China, New York and the Middle East to name a few. All have similarities to the Norway sighting, albeit most not as spectacular. It seems like the more events which are witnessed, there are fewer people who believe they have anything to do with wayward missile launches.

So what in the heck are they? They are something since so many people have seen and photographed them. Some people believe they are a purely natural occurrence based on the Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence exhibits a certain numerical pattern which originated as the answer to an exercise in the first ever high school algebra text. It can be used to model or describe an amazing variety of phenomena, in mathematics and science, art and nature. The mathematical ideas the Fibonacci sequence leads to, such as the golden ratio, spirals and self- similar curves, have long been appreciated for their charm and beauty, however no one can really explain why they are echoed so clearly in the world of art and nature.

What else could have caused such a perfect spiral to appear in the sky?  According to some, the Norway event was accomplished using the Norwegian EISCAT antenna array located near the estimated position of the spiral display. EISCAT, like HAARP in Alaska, was designed to stimulate electrons in the upper atmosphere for research purposes, but rumors abound that these antenna farms have military applications as well. There appears to be evidence that an experiment at EISCAT was in progress at the time when the spiral appeared. The antenna array is well placed to create the spiral, and it is suggested that "torsion weapons technology" was likely used in its creation.
 
An India newspaper article citing Todd Pedersen, a research physicist at the US Air Force Research Laboratory in Massachusetts and the leader of a team of experimenters at HAARP. In that article, Pedersen claimed that in 2008, HAARP was used to "induce a strange bull's-eye pattern in the night sky. Instead of the expected fuzzy, doughnut-shaped blob, surprising irregular luminescent bands radiated out from the centre of the bull's-eye".  Perhaps the perfect Norway spiral could be attributed to the much higher one gigawatt power used by the EISCAT array.


From there the theories go directly to the X-Files. UFOs, wormholes, inter dimensional portholes, and so on. Some believe the first one in December 2009 over Norway coincided with President Obama's Nobel Prize visit for a reason - and that reason is not known.  The theories are endless - as endless as the mind's imagination. All I know is this - for the past four or so years, something natural or unnatural is causing these spirals. Whatever the answer, I am very anxious to find out what, or who, it is.

Harp, HARP or HAARP

 
 

 
Harp - A plucked stringed instrument consisting of a resonator, an arched or angled neck that may be supported by a post, and strings of graded length that are perpendicular to the soundboard.
 
 
Now most of us know what a harp is - in fact some of us have heard a harp being played. However, I would bet not as many know what the HARP Program is and even fewer know about HAARP. Even though they all sound alike, there is a huge difference between a harp, HARP and HAARP.

The HARP Program was first announced in March 2009. It is a federal government program designed to help five million "underwater" or near "underwater" homeowners refinance into a fixed loan with a lower monthly payment. It bombed. As of August of that year, only 894,000 borrowers used this program to refinance their mortgages. In October 2011, President Obama announced an overhaul to the HARP program with the intent of reaching more underwater homeowners. This expanded HARP program also referred to as HARP 2.0 and took effect in December 2011.

Much more could be said about HARP, but I would rather address HAARP as compared to a well meaning yet inefficient government program like HARP, HAARP is cloaked in mystery and conspiracy theories abound. 

HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is defined on the government website as follows: "A scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes." HAARP is jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U. S. Navy, the University of Alaska, and DARPA. From this, it sure sounds harmless - so what is all the fuss?

First is should be pointed out that some believe HAARP is indeed a weapons program that is a remnant left over from the now infamous "Star Wars" SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) from the mid-1980's. This is one theory - now we are going to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

In some circles HAARP become synonymous with intrigue. Determined investigators, delving deeply into the permutations of power the globally expanding high frequency radio installations wield, claim that HAARP can create weather, steer massive storms, ignite mighty volcanoes, and trigger devastating earthquakes. Others say they have uncovered evidence that the project far exceeds the study and manipulation of the Earth’s ionosphere, and may actually affect gravity and time. As you will see from a subsequent article, they are even suspected to be causing the recent phenomenon of "sky spirals".

On March 11, 2011, a massive 8.9 Richter scale earthquake and resulting tsunami rocked the Japanese city of Tokyo. Some believe this catastrophic event was due to the effects of HAARP. Many believe that HAARP was energized on 9 March 2011 - just two days before the earthquake. Coincidence or not? 

There are more theories abound concerning HAARP. All I know is this - when I was in the Navy, I dealt with radio wave propagation and there are interesting things radio waves can do in the very low or very high frequencies. In short, some of these theories suggest that HAARP has the ability to take down an aircraft, manipulate weather and trigger natural calamities. All these possibilities help make HAARP one of the most interesting conspiracies in the world.

There it is - a brief introduction to the three harps. The first is straight forward and non controversial; the second is straight forward and somewhat controversial; the third is not very straight forward and very controversial. So the next time you hear or read about HARP or HAARP, remember - there might be a whole lot more involved than meets the eye.


 
















 


 
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Contrails or Chemtrails?



I just returned from doing some errands on a beautiful fall day. While out, I noticed an unusual amount of planes and contrails in the sky. I started to think about that old controversy (or possibly urban legend) of chemtrails. Was what I saw in the sky really contrails, or possibly chemtrails? I thought this might be a good subject to look into again as some of the facts might have changed over the past few years.

First a bit of science. The word contrail is short for "condensation trails". They are long thin artificial clouds that sometimes form behind aircraft. A condensation trail, also called a vapor trail, forms at altitudes above 25,000 feet in temperatures below -40 degrees when engine exhaust condenses into ice crystals, creating an artificial cirrus cloud. Water is produced by hydrocarbon burning engines in about the same quantity as fuel consumed, and in the right conditions, this extra addition of water into the air pushes the water vapor past the saturation point, and condensation occurs.

Now I will go from science to possible science fiction. There are quite a few people that believe in a chemtrail conspiracy theory. This theory holds that some trails left by aircraft are actually chemical or bio agents deliberately sprayed at  high altitudes for unknown reasons. Some believe this is part of a clandestine program directed by some nefarious government official. To say the least, this theory is not accepted by the scientific community even though it lights up the blogoshpere on occasion.

It can get more bizarre. For example, since 1997, some believe we are breathing a cocktail of Ethylene Dibromide, Virally Mutated Molds, Nano-Particulates of Aluminum and Barium and so on and so on. As the story gets stranger, some believe self-replicating nano-machines and tiny parasitic nematode eggs and other very weird and unpronounceable things are also present in these mysterious chemtrails.

I have searched high and low on the internet and found many different theories on what chemtrails are. They range from part of the former "Star Wars" program to HAARP to alien technology to prevention of global warming. In short, chemtrails can be whatever the imagination can conceive. It is fascinating though to think why so many think these trails are something other than water vapor produced a high altitude by an aircraft engine. My theory is that people today are so distrustful of their own government, logic can take a back seat to legend. Do I think it is possible that contrails are really something else, possibly sinister. Sure, I think that is possible, but at this point I don't think probable. I still believe enough in our government that they would not intentionally do its citizens harm.

So when I look up in the sky on these beautiful autumn days and see the white lines crossing the azure blue sky, I will continue to believe I am seeing the evidence of many jets at different altitudes going many different places. However, that quiet still voice inside of me will always wonder "and what if they are not...".


 

 



Do we really have to sell our souls?



A few years ago, I unexpectedly retired from American industry. This has given me the chance to do a whole lot of thinking about my life and my career(s). In particular, I have thought quite a bit about how much industry has changed, and why it did.

Recently. I became invigorated by a book called "Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It". It did not read the entire book, but read enough to get the gist of it. The bottom line is the title - why does work have to suck?

First a bit of history. When I was growing up, my Dad worked at a manufacturing plant in St. Paul. He worked in the Procurement Department for nearly forty years. I remember my Dad went to work at the same time and came home at the same time. Once in a while he brought work home, but for the most part our evenings were spent as a family. We ate dinner together every night at the same time and after homework, watched television together before bedtime. Very simple - very Ozzie and Harriet.

When I started work in the mid seventies, the climate was not that different. Full time was considered 40 hours a week and once in a great while a situation came up where more time was required. However, I left work pretty much at the same time and had the appropriate amount of time for my family and myself.

In the mid 80's when I was at my second company, the worm began to turn. It was one of the premiere companies in Minnesota. However, first the first time in its history, it needed to "rightsize", so it began to RIF (reduction in force) employees. This went on from 1985 until I left in 1989. For those years, many lived in fear of being shown the door. Those were not good times as fear stalked us all from the time we got into work until the time we left. If you were asked to leave, that is one issue - if you survived yet another reduction, the work was redistributed and the survivors had to pick up the slack. All of a sudden, the 40 hour work week became 45 and up.

After leaving that company came my next two companies. Both were the same thing - they were "rightsizing" the work force and those that remained were expected to do more with less. Towards the end of my career, my last company put out an edict that the expectations for billable hours were at a minimum 55 hours per week.

What does all this really mean to us? Are we afraid of a little work? The consequential effects of this monumental change in the work place has resulted in the following:
  • The two way loyalty between employee and employer is gone. People come and go constantly and tenure becomes shorter and shorter. RIFs, rightsizing, realigning and so on are a constant in today's business world.
  • The effects on families are chilling. Kids need both the mother and father to be engaged. If both are working for employers where many hours are required, the effect on kids can be devastating.
  • Divorce is rampant in the business world. Having a marriage fail is like a product launch which went bad. Second and third marriages with people from the workplace are not uncommon.
  • Commutes have gotten worse as most companies still adhere to everyone leaving at the same time, Monday through Friday. Employers do not care if the employees sit in traffic for an hour plus on the way home just as long as they have bled for the company.
  • Health - with time becoming more and more squeezed, people take care of themselves last. Less sleep, poor eating habits and less exercise. Diabetes, hypertension, heart issues and obesity are all on the rise.
My first boss right out of college (who I also car pooled with) was a very wise man. He was a WWII and Korea vet and knew more about life than I could ever imagine. He would often tell me the following: "Every day we have 24 hour hours. You owe 8 hours to the company, 8 hours to your family, and 8 hours to yourself by getting a good sleep" If you put more than 8 hours in on any one of these, the others will suffer by getting less time". Wise words from a wise man who raised six children. Of if only we could follow that wise counsel today.....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Iran Policy - Revere or Chamberlain?




"The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding."

Albert Camus


The hit science fiction show on TV again this season is called Fringe. In that show, a parallel universe exists which is similar, yet different than ours. For the sake of this article, I will assume we also live in a parallel universe to the one we know.
 
In this new universe, Hugo Ch├ívez is the president of Mexico instead of Venezuela. He has a visceral hatred of the United States and continuously refers to us as vermin or worse. In fact, he has threatened to exterminate us more than once. Up to now, it has just been an annoyance as we have nukes and he does not. However, he has been working on enriching uranium and has numerous locations where secret research and processing is being conducted. In fact, we know through excellent intel that he has over 3,000 certerfuges operating at full capacity. The IAEA recently published a report stating that Mexico will have at least one functional nuke by the end of the next calendar year.

Back to reality. In our universe, this is what Israel lives with day in and day out. A nuclear Iran will be a real game changer. Best case, it will lead to proliferation allowing Saudi Arabia to develop their own program as to counter balance this new threat. Worst case, it will lead to a nuclear firestorm which will have global consequences extending far into the future.

Even though our current Administration has taken a caviler attitude towards a nuclear Iran as well as shown antipathy towards the Israeli Government, that is not the case in Israel. Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United States must establish a clear "red line" that Iran cannot cross with its nuclear program if it wants to avoid war. "I think the issue is how to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program. They're moving very rapidly to completing the enrichment of the uranium that they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so, they will be 90% of the way there. I think it's important to place a red line before Iran, and I think that actually reduces the chance of a military conflict because, if they know there's a point, a stage in the enrichment or other nuclear activities that they cannot cross because they'll face consequences, I think they'll actually not cross it." 

It has often been said that acts of omission are as heinous as acts of commission. Doing nothing to actively or passively support our most important ally in the Middle East sends the wrong message to friends and foes alike. We must learn from the likes of Neville Chamberlain that policies of appeasement never work when dealing with evil. Rather we need to join Israel and be the modern day Paul Revere by telling the world that evil is not only coming, it is here. We need to tell Iran where our "Red Line" is and we need to do it now. We need a line which the United States and Israel are in total agreement. Iran needs to know to cross that line will lead to the most onerous and catastrophic of outcomes for her people and their future. In short, we must stand with Israel, and no country, friend or foe, should have any doubt of that fact.

  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Have the Right to Remain Silent...



Every now and again it is good to be humbled. As we go skipping down the path of life, once in a while something very unexpected will come out of the woodwork and smack you along side the head. That is what happened to me when the FBI came a calling and read me my Miranda Rights - twice.

First, a bit about my background. My police, military and traffic records are about as clean as you could want. I have had one moving violation in my over 45 years of driving - and that was when I clipped a do not pass line after a slow moving garbage truck pulled right in front of me. It was a cheap call and I thought I could win in a court of law, but the court date they gave me was when I was going to be in Australia on business. So I let it go and paid the fine. That being said, my records are clean. Not that I have been all that good, I have been fairly good and mostly lucky.

Shortly after starting my final job in the Defense Industry, I received a phone call while at work. To my surprise, it was the FBI. They informed me I was "a person of interest" in a Federal investigation and they would like to talk to me. They asked if I would come in and answer some questions. I agreed and the next day I took some time off and went downtown to meet the FBI.

When I arrived at the Federal Building, I was ushered in to a small interrogation room. Two agents came in and showed me their badges. Not really knowing what this was about, I started to ask questions. One agent looked at the other and asked if I had been "read in" as yet. They thought I should not be talking until they were sure I had the Miranda Rights read to me. As they were reading me my rights, I got this sinking feeling I was being set up for something I knew nothing about.

Even though I was new at things like this, I told them I had better get some legal representation before I said anything further. However, I did ask them what I was being charged with. One of the agents said " Right now, nothing. That is in the hands of the United States Attorney who is looking into this matter. Currently he is considering a potential violation of United States Code 3729-3733, the False Claims Act".

I left the Federal Building, went home and made some phone calls. I called my former company and told them what had happened. The Division Attorney told me he was not surprised by this news as the FBI had been there with a search warrant and took copies of my old files. By the end of the day, I was "lawyered up" with three lawyers, compliments of my former company. I also called the Division Attorney at my new company and advised him of my situation. He was good friends with the Division Attorney from my old company so he told me he would make contact and get all the specifics.

The next part of this could be called "let no good deed go unpunished". This can be very technical, so I will edit out some of the mundane details. I was the team lead on a major negotiation. It was a big deal and the team was working to find some creative ways to keep the price of the product down. The company sold a similar product in the commercial market - and sold quite a few of them. The Navy was interested in a product with the same capabilities, but needed something with a more robust enclosure. We came up with the idea of taking the commercial unit through 60% of the manufacturing process and then having it transferred it to our division. A more ruggedized enclosure would then be applied. This would save considerable time and money by not having to remove a perfectly good commercial enclosure and replace it with the more rugged enclosure. For this multi-year deal, it would save the Navy hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So what is the big deal one might think? The fly in the ointment was the government had 100% audit rights over anything manufactured for defense. However, with any commercial item, the government had no audit rights. Therefore, because 60% of this product was commercial, the government had no cost visibility. Most all the government people we worked with understood the logic and accepted the approach. All were okay that is, except one auditor. Unknown to anyone, he filed a whistle blower report stating there was suspected "defective pricing" on this deal. If the government found that to be true, defective pricing could lead to a False Claims violation. Again, a perfect example of  "let no good deed go unpunished".

A few weeks passed and I received yet another phone call from the FBI. They wanted to see me along with my legal representative. I had to take some more time off of work and go down to the Federal Building once again. Once we arrived, there was some glitch in their records and they did not know if they read me my rights as yet. I assured them they had, but they did it again anyway. My lawyer and I were there for over two hours and this time the questions were more direct and everything we said was recorded. When we leaving, one of the agents told us that the United States Attorney was probably going to convene a Grand Jury to hear this case. If that happens, I will be summoned.

After another week or two, I received another phone call. There was an agent in the lobby of my company and he was there to serve me with a summons. Myself, the president of my former company and three other employees were to testify in front of a Grand Jury. The sinking feeling I had when I had the first FBI phone call had returned. For someone who had never really been in trouble, I felt my life was about to change.

Without going into detail, the day arrived for the Grand Jury. We all had our lawyers with us, however the rules of a Grand Jury are the defense lawyers are not allowed to be with us during the questioning. I was on the stand for over an hour. The only expression I can use for this experience was gut wrenching - it was horribly gut wrenching. After being grilled by the FBI for hours and then the United States Attorney, I was starting to question which end was up. We were finally dismissed and we all went home to be with our families. The government told us they would contact our lawyers with what the next step was.

Weeks passed, and then months. No word from anybody. Finally one day I got a call from my lawyer telling me the government was not going to pursue this matter as even though they did not like it, they could not prove any wrong doing. Wrong doing? All we did was try to save the Navy many thousands of dollars!

The lesson I learned from this is simple - doing the right thing, the legal thing, sometimes is not good enough. It was an experience I will never forget. After being a "good guy" most of my life, it gave me a glimpse of what being a "bad guy" might feel like. In this case, a good deed almost caused me to be unjustly punished, and I will never forget it.





Saturday, September 22, 2012

Going out Clean...

 
 

"And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors."

Matthew 6:12

Our former pastor would often say that church is a place to, "love and be loved, serve and be served, forgive and be forgiven." Those are great words spoken by a great man. The loving and serving are things that most people come to without much trouble, but the forgiveness thing is tough - very tough.

A few years ago, my wife and I took a class on forgiveness. How to forgive others, how to ask for forgiveness, and the toughest one, how to forgive yourself. It is amazing once we build a "case" against someone for an infraction that was committed or perceived, how hard it is to release it. Yes there is a reason why in many places the Bible teaches the importance of forgiveness.

Many years ago, there was a family dispute which lead to a long period of silence. It was uncomfortable as well as unsettling. Communication, when it happened, was strained. Hurtful words had been spoken and the initial issue had now grown into something far bigger. Why? Forgiveness. Nobody involved in this issue ever thought to call others and  simply say "I'm sorry". Reconciliation finally came, all was forgiven, and for the most part, forgotten. However, the real crime resulting from this episode was the valuable time which was lost. Time that can never be reclaimed. A simple "I'm sorry" or "I forgive you" at the beginning would have saved so much hurt and heartache. From this, a painful lesson was learned.

I have often thought as we go through life our sins against others accumulate, and stick to us like Velcro. It is so easy to offend - of this I know from painful experience. As I have grown older, I try to have my words edify instead of hurt. Every day however, I fall short. An older gentleman, speaking from years of accumulated wisdom, told me something very profound. At night when he prays, he asks first for forgiveness of the sins he knew he committed against both God and others. He then asked for forgiveness for sins he was unaware of, of which he believed were many. True words from a wise saint.

This past week we went to a fund raising event for a Hospice. During a testimonial from a volunteer, a story was told about how important it was for those in their final days or hours to have friends and families gather. Besides the reaffirmation of love and telling of stories, an important thing in the final gathering was to forgive - to forgive before it is too late. This is what I have called for some time "going out clean".

As much as I admire addressing the business of the heart in the final moments, I also think how much richer our lives would be if we did it as a daily routine. In other words,  rather than wait for our death bed, would it not be better to "go out clean" every night? To do it at the end of every day?  We could release the pain of unforgiveness by simply forgiving others as well as ourselves.

How important is forgiveness? It is important enough to be a cornerstone of The Lord's Prayer. It is as important today as it was 2,000 years ago. To truly to go out clean, we should live clean by not having the burden of unresolved forgiveness burden our heart thereby infringing on our most important relationships.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Pieces of Paper

 
 
 
That is it? Only these two pieces of paper?


As I have gotten older, I have pondered the concept of legacy. To quote Rick Warren, I have often wondered "what in the world am I here for?". Not just why am I here, but will my being here make a difference a generation or two from now?  When a friend or a loved one passes, the freshness of the memories stays with us for a long time. However precious, those memories will fade. For example, most of us know very little of our great grandparents, unless there are stories passed down within the family. Unless we become famous, other than a grave or crypt marker, all that will remain in a hundred years will be two simple pieces of paper.
 
No matter what county where we are born in, our birth is memorialized on a birth certificate. When we die, the same holds true for our death certificate. Two pieces of paper - an entire life lived between them. These two pieces of paper are important for history or genealogy, but what really matters is the life that existed between them.

As we have been going through my Mother's old papers, we have come across birth and death certificates for my grand parents. These are treasured documents and not only have I scanned them, but am keeping them safe to pass on to my kids. My kids will never know my grand parents as they have been gone for many years. However, I knew them and witnessed the impact they made on other's lives. 

I think back to my friend Paul from many years ago telling me that every day he likes to impact someones life, even if minute. A kind word, a caring deed, a hurtful wrong forgiven - these are simple things we can do every day to help fill in the pages of our life that lie between those two simple pieces of paper.

The next time you ponder your two pieces of paper, think of the opportunity that God has given us to make a huge difference as we journey between birth and death. Our two pieces of paper will eventually turn to dust, but our impact on others, on our world, is eternal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

And Now Eros?

 
 
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players..."
 
 
William Shakespeare
As You Like It
Act II, Scene VII
 
 
 
The goal of argumentative writing is to persuade your audience that your ideas are valid, or more valid than someone else. Almost 2,500 years ago, Aristotle divided the means of persuasion into three categories: 


Ethos (Credibility) means convincing by the character of the author.
 
Pathos (Emotional) means persuading by appealing to the reader's emotions.
 
Logos (Logical) means persuading by the use of reasoning.


These three categories still hold true today. I find it interesting to read different stories or articles and try to determine which  style of writing style it used. For example, one of my favorite writers is George Will. His style is total Logos - very logical. On the other hand, Maya Angelou's style is Pathos. Jimmy Carter uses Ethos - he uses the power of his presidency to have his writing bona fide. 
 
Pathos also has to do with the theater - live, movie or TV. When I was in high school, we had an excellent theater arts teacher. He was very gifted at taking a script, training young actors to read it, and ending up with excellent high school theater. Under his tenure at my former high school, many awards were won, and some of the young actors he trained went on to become national thespians.
 
I had the honor to be in one of this very gifted man's plays. I can remember many times, being coached about Pathos - making the audience feel what you are feeling. Pathos is often associated with emotions, but it is more complex than simply emotions. A better equivalent might be appeal to the audience's sympathies and imagination. If you could make that connection with the audience, your play would probably be a success.
  
That brings me to today's entertainment venues - both cinema and television. Rather than Pathos, the words that come to mind are vapid, vacuous, vulgarity and empty. What in the world has happened to our entertainment industry? Today there only are a handful of shows that honestly "touch us". Mostly, they just revolt us. In fact, one more term from yesteryear is conjured up - Eros. Entertainment today is mostly to titillate, not to fascinate. It is rare to see a good television show or a memorable movie. In the event a very good one is found, watching it surprises and delights us.
 
To conclude, I will say this - what Aristotle knew in the age centuries before Christ, we seem to have forgotten today. As a man, I will admit that I enjoy a watching a show that brings a tear to my eye - I know how hard that is to achieve. I will continue to search for the venue, the medium, that allows me to truly escape into another's reality, albeit for a brief time. When I find it, I will once again experience Pathos as Aristotle defined it, and for that I am thankful. Unfortunately, I must first make my way thought the hours and hours of Eros, which seems to have clogged up many of the channels on the television.


A Pill Popping Party!



Yea! We are having a party! Not just any party, we are having a pill popping party! In case you have not noticed the myriad of commercials that are on TV, we are encouraged to take pills from everything from ED to toenail fungus. And if the pills cannot be purchased over the counter, you are also encouraged to talk to your doctor to write you a prescription for the "cure all" pills.

So what is my beef? Don't pills give us health, longer and better life? Yes, to a degree I do. I have been taking hypertension pills for some time now (two pills a day), cholesterol pills (one a day), aspirin (one a day), multi vitamin (one a day) and calcium pills (two a day). My wife also take some of the same and some different pills every day. We are prisoners to our medicine cabinet and the mail order company for getting us the pills we need to keep the supply going. We have become addicted to the pills we take.

Earlier this week I was in a small repair shop for a tire repair. As I was talking to the owner, I noticed he had his five pills that we was going to take at noon time lined up all in a row. They were different colors and different sizes. I had no idea what they were for nor did I ask him. We all seem to have the unique "cocktail" mix of pills that we take.

I read in the ads now that taking a multi vitamin is not enough - now we have specialized vitamins for men, women, cholesterol and so on. Also, lets not forget about the epidemic of ADD, ADHD, depression, bi-polar disorders and so on. So if you are an adult with hypertension, borderline diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, ED, and so on, think of how many pills you would have to take just to maintain. Now consider going into your local health store because you are feeling a bit run down. Maybe a Vitamin D deficiency? Take two a day and call me in the morning. Knees hurt? Take two joint pills at noon.  Not wanting to catch an early cold, Vitamin C every morning should help. Lets not forget about the wonder Vitamin, B12, Fish Oil, Saw Palmetto, Omega 3 supplements and on and on and on.

Now for one more pet peeve. One of the local radio personalities recently waged a campaign against all of the ED pills being advertised on TV. I agreed him. His point was, if small children are watching an ED commercial, is it really necessary to go into embarrassing detail on what ED is and why it is important to take pills to fix it. Also, who wants questions from a small child like "why is having an erection for four hours bad for you, and by the way dad, what is an erection?" With the non stop advertising for pills that will "keep you ready whenever the moment is ready", we get the message. Enough already!

So the next time you take your morning meds or vitamins, think about what you are doing. Are you taking pills to really extend or enhance your quality of life, or are we all slaves to the pharmaceutical industry. I don't know. I just know this - I am tired of popping pills every day and just wish there was a shot I could take once a year that would give me the same benefit. I am so ready to quit this pill popping party!

My Friend Bill

 
 
 
 
"Make new friends, but keep the old - for one is silver and the other is gold..."
 
 
It has been said when you go through life, you will make countless acquaintances, many casual friends, and a precious few very good friends. This is the story of Bill, a man who fell into the high end of the "very good friend" category.
 
I had just started with the Control Data Company in 1980. I was recruited to take a job I was immanently unqualified for - something I had never done before in my life. However, the money offered was very good, and I "fudged" the truth a wee bit in the job interview. So once I was hired, the panic set in - I had to perform or my tenure with this new company would be very short.
 
I was hired to be the Buyer on Core Memory Units for the newly awarded AN/AYK-14 computers which were to be used primarily on the F/A - 18 Hornet. In my first production meeting, an engineer named Bill got up to present a summary of his recently completed trip to South Korea. He went there from time to time to check on factory progress for the memory units.
 
Bill had a full stock of white hair which looked like it had not seen a comb for a while. His cheeks were rosy and he had a twinkle in his eye. In short, this engineer looked like someone I could have run into Dublin rather than Bloomington. His engineering knowledge was very impressive and I knew from the git go that he and I could work well together. 
 
After that first meeting, Bill and I spent quite a bit of time together. I found out we were both Navy Vets and both had other industry experiences prior to joining Control Data. I asked Bill to be my engineering lead during the upcoming negotiations in California. He was as anxious to learn about the negotiation process as I was to learn about this new job and new product. I don't think Bill realized this at the time - I was much more dependent on learning from him than anything he could possibly learn from me. 
 
Over the next few months, Bill and I traveled quite a bit together. We had a large team assembled as this was a high value, high dollar negotiation. In the "old days" of negotiations, there was quite of bit of libation and fancy restaurants after days of fact finding, discovery and discussions. Sometimes we ended up in parts of LA that were not particularly safe. At all times, whether it was at the negotiation table, a fancy restaurant or otherwise, Bill would always tell me "I've got your back". And had my back he did.
 
I had never had a friend like Bill in the business world - in fact, I had never had a friend like Bill anyplace. He was a confidant, a mentor and a body guard. He was there for me day in and day out. I was with him when his marriage fell apart, the divorce, when he met his new wife, and at his wedding. I helped him move into his new house and with his new wife, he was ready to start the next chapter in his life.
 
Not long after he moved into his new house, I went down to Engineering to visit. Bill was not in as he was on a sick day. A sick day? Bill? That was a first. Bill was about as robust as any man I had ever met. He was out the next two days as well. When he finally came back to work, he told me why he had been out. After having some indigestion that would not go away, he went to the doctor to see if he had gall stones. What the doctor found was much, much worse. Bill had three inoperable tumors on his liver. He was to start chemo immediately as with this cancer, time was not Bill's friend.
 
Bill fought this cruel disease in the same manner he did everything else - full throttle. The first time I visited Bill in the hospital, we talked about "guy things" and danced around the gravity of his situation. Bill was so strong, it was so strange to see him laying in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of him. After the visit when I got up to leave, he and I shook hands. His grip was firm and he would not let go of my hand. He and I looked at each other and without speaking, our eyes communicated what our voices could not. It is a moment I will never forget.
 
As Bill continued treatment, I had received a job offer and moved on to another company. I had just gotten home from my first business trip when my wife told me she had some bad news to share. Bill died that day. I sat at the kitchen table and cried like a baby. It was so unfair - Bill was only 47 years old.
 
I often think about my friend Bill. He was a friend like I will probably never have again. I had never met anyone so loyal, so true. He taught me so much, but the thing I remember the most was learning what "I've got your back" really means. Rest easy my friend, rest easy.
 
 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Change in the Weather

 
 


"You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows"

Bob Dylan
 Subterranean Homesick Blues
1965
It has been said many times "there is a storm a comin', and it has nothing to do with the weather". The other night, as I was laying in bed listening to the wind and gentle rain ushering in the first cool front of autumn, I thought about the change coming to our country, coming to our world. Unlike the evening wind whispering through the pines, bringing the gentle dance of raindrops to the window, this change will rush across the landscape like a thunderstorm on a sultry, summer afternoon.

Most of this year I have been listening, watching and reading. I have been trying to learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can. I have been learning more about our history, world history and current events. There is something gnawing at me - a type of unrest. It is something that I cannot identify, except I feel urgency. Not panic, just urgency. I feel the need to be at the top of my game, to be totally prepared, to leave absolutely nothing to chance. 


One of the mantras I try to live by comes from more than a century ago, when Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” By this he meant that many outcomes don’t just happen— they are the products of preparation. Preparation, therefore, is a key - sometimes to survival itself.


This brings me back to the change in the weather. In 1970, a futurist named Alvin Toffler wrote a best selling book called Future Shock. In the book, Toffler defines the term "future shock" as a certain psychological state that individuals, as well as entire societies may encounter from experiencing "too much change in too short a period of time". Even back in the early seventies, Toffler argued that society was undergoing enormous structural change. This change could overwhelm people. In addition the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people feeling disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation". In other words, they became future shocked. He also believed that information overload was a major component of many social problems causing future shock.


Wow - sound a bit like today? Not a bad assessment from Mr. Toffler considering the book was published over 40 years ago. Having lived through that time as well as today, I can safely say the pace of change  today is far greater than in 1970. Truthfully, so much is happening right now at such a breakneck speed, it almost impossible to keep up - and I am retired!


Many things once considered safe or sacrosanct, are now being brought into question. This rapid change has caused confusion not only by individuals, but also our society. Our Constitution, our religions, our politics, our everything is on the table. Things we grounded ourselves in at one time are no longer available to us. We can become disconnected, lost, or best case, just very confused.


Today we are seeing how many are reacting to these non-stop changes. There are record breaking sales for all types of guns and ammo. There is a new show on TV is called Doomsday Preppers - a show dedicated on how to survive a cornucopia of bad events. The latest Costco on-line catalog had the first two pages dedicated to all shapes and sizes of survival foods. There have been articles in the newspaper about the Federal Government buying hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammo for almost every major department. And lets not forget about the record sales and prices of gold and silver. Even the Mayan calendar ends on December 21st, which does nothing to settle the unsettled.


One final thing on this upcoming change in the weather. Many today believe that President Obama is following the game plan created by Cloward & Piven, two professors who taught at Columbia University. They outlined a plan to socialize America by overwhelming the system with government spending and entitlement demands. Today, more and more believe this might be a brilliant, Machiavellian plan to turn the United States into a socialist/Marxist state. This plan would involve changes, huge changes, rapid changes. So much change, sometimes up will look like down and black will be confused with white. Again, sound familiar?


Our hometown boy, Hibbing's own Robert Zimmerman, was very prophetic in his song about Subterranean Blues. You really don't need to be a weather man to know which way the wind blows. What is coming is yet to be known. All I know is this - the winds of change are blowing, and it is much more than a gentle breeze. Stay alert, stay educated, stay prepared.


Practice those three things and hopefully, we will make it through. Individually and together, God willing, we will make it through.

























Monday, September 17, 2012

WMD - WTF or OMG?


Now that we have another, brand new crisis in the Middle East, all eyes are off of Syria. However, Syria is a festering wound for many different reasons. Most of the attention has been focused on Syria's brutal dictator, Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Assad, like his father before him, will do anything to hold onto power and crush whoever gets in his way.  

For example, according to the United Nations, since the 18-month-old conflict in Syria began, more than 20,000 people have been killed, 1.2 million have been uprooted, and more than 250,000 have fled abroad. Food, water and medical supplies have run short in areas subjected to Syrian government air strikes, shelling and siege.

However, there is something far more sinister to Syria. First we need to dial back the clock to very early 2003, right before the Iraq War began. The United States and the UK asserted that Saddam Hussein possessed large hidden stockpiles of  WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), and that he was clandestinely procuring and producing more. After being subjected to withering pressure from the United Nations, Saddam Hussein finally agreed to let sanctioned inspectors resolve the status of suspected WMD.

We knew Iraq had them - since Saddam had used chemical weapons on the Iranians during the eight year war as well as on the Kurds (his own people) in the Northern Iraq. President Bush as been excoriated time and time again when none were found during the inspections. However, President Bush was not alone on his suppositions on WMD. For example, consider the following very important quotes by notable people:

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
--President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998


"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
--Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
Letter to President Clinton, signed by:
-- Democratic Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others, Oct. 9, 1998
 
"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
-- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
-- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
-- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

There are many more quotes, but I think the point has been made. Memories became very short after hostilities began with Iraq and again, no WMDs were found. All of a sudden the cry from many in the opposition party was "Bush lied and people died!". The irony was some of the people saying this are quoted above saying something quite different. Besides the fact both parties of our political system believed at some time Saddam had WMD, many of our allies also believed it!
 
So what happened to this huge arsenal of chemical and biological weapons? Some of these weapons are so heinous that to use them on a human population is beyond comprehension. Anthrax, Monkey Pox, Nerve Gas, and so on. To safely destroy these most toxic of weapons would have surely left some reside or clues. Or were we victims of a shell game with most willing accomplices living right next door - Lebanon and Syria. 
 
The Bekaa Valley in Lebanon is long suspected of housing Iraq's WMDs. Unfortunately, getting to them will be nearly impossible for the United States, as the containers are located in Lebanon’s heavily-fortified Bekaa Valley and it is swarming with Iranian and Syrian forces. In fact, U.S. intelligence first identified a stream of tractor-trailer trucks moving from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon as early as January 2003.

This needs to sink in just for a minute. Weapons of a horrible resolve are located close to and guarded by Syria. Syria, who is currently murdering it's own people, who will stop at nothing to retain power, has access to tons of WMDs. Syria, who has no love for us and hates Israel, is guarding these weapons along with Iranian troops, who also has no love for us and wants to destroy Israel.

U.S. intelligence sources also believe the area contains extended-range Scud-based missiles and parts for chemical and biological warheads.

Get the picture? Many in this country still believe the Iraq War was about oil and it was Bush's war of choice. The WMD question usually got a WTF answer. If these weapons come out of hiding to be used against Israel, our allies, or even us, we will then find the WMD question will be answered with OMG, and OMG might not even be adequate to describe the indescribable horror being unleashed.