Thursday, February 28, 2013

We'll miss you, Van.

Yesterday in the news, famed pianist Van Cliburn died at the age of 78.

I grew up in the same community as Van Cliburn. But we were worlds apart. He had been to The Soviet Union and captured everyone’s imagination by winning the Tchaikovsky Competition. And yet, he would sit in my parent’s living room and play piano on my mother’s upright Hamilton piano.  He always told her she needed a baby grand in that room.

Van was an ambassador of music. Of peace and of self-assurance. He was also a hell of a basketball player.  There is a story in Kilgore, our hometown, which has become something of legend. In high school the basketball coach watched Van sprout up and grow tall. He saw his enormous hands and just knew the kid was a star in the making. He asked him to come out for the team. Van’s mother put a quick end to the athletic career. She didn’t want her son’s hands being injured in a sporting competition. He had more important things to do with them, in her estimation. She, of course, was right; but one has to wonder how good he would have been on a fast break with that Kilgore team.

Back to our living room. One evening — it was a Sunday evening, Van, his mother and father and a friend of our family were all at the house and Van sat at the piano and started playing the most delicious New Orleans jazz you’ve ever heard. From there he went into a bit of boogie woogie and finally some rock and roll, at which time his mother cleared her throat rather empathically and Van returned to a Chopin piece and finally rested. The room was having fun and we had enjoyed his rather spontaneous and mixed collection of tunes. (I’m not sure his mother did, but this is about him, not her.)

That was Van. Always predictable at being unpredictable. He almost always started each concert with the National Anthem and always had fun with his audience, even in the most serious of formal settings. Van Cliburn will be missed. He is truly a Texas star, always will be, too.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Deep cuts into the pork.

I received several emails yesterday about my blog on the sequester. A few agreed with my point of view and several did not. So be it. That is the purpose of a political blog that is open to all to express an opinion. But I found one note interesting.

My view that this may be the only way in which to get the right and the left together was taken by Sam Nells as a blow to the leadership of President Obama.  Sam felt that I was attacking the President for not being able to bring the two sides together.  “You call into question his leadership, when in fact the Tea Party has stood in his way on everything he has tried.” Well, Sam, you’re right he can’t get things done. The right winger in this land hate him so, he couldn’t get them together over a card game with free chips. We have a stalemate. An impasse.

My feeling is that the Obama administration has misjudged the GOP.  The White House felt that the sequesters cuts in defense spending would send the Republicans scurrying to the negotiating table for a last minute “let’s save the pentagon pork barrel.”  It has not. And I for one am glad.

For far too long we have let the tail of defense spending of this country wag the dog.  It is huge and out of balance with the needs of the land. It has become the most misused favor wagon in the entire budgeting process.  Want to build a F22 jet fighter? Then make the nuts and bolts in my district and the wing supports in Tom’s district and build the tail section in Alice’s district…that sort of thing.  Jobs.  It was about putting people in representatives’ districts to work so the members of Congress could return home and stand for re-election with the facts, “Look how many jobs I brought home here.” Enough.

The sequester has done something that neither side can deny.  It has killed the pork. At least for now. It has sliced it up and moved it to the side. NO one gets to have their special little “bridges to nowhere.”  The fat is going away. And neither the right nor the left can stop it.

I don’t care if Obama misjudged the Congress or the Congress got too powerful and stood up to him— either way it means the same thing. We got cuts. We needed cuts.  We will all hate the cuts, BUT they are necessary.

The sequester is a bit like King Solomon’s “Chop the kid in half and each of you take a portion.”  The Republicans and Democrats are both going to see that the sequester hurts and hurts like hell.  But unfortunately, it maybe the only way we can get the job done with this abysmal scene in D.C.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sequester me. Please.

So everyone (both sides of aisle) are worried about the “sequester”.  Both are pointing the finger at each other.  Both accuse the other of not doing anything to stop it.

Well, they are both at fault.  And I for one, may be glad.  Hear me out.

I am not sure the right and the left could ever get together to trim the budget as deeply as this so-called sequester is going to do.  Sure, there are going to be programs slashed that we need.  And there are going to be people laid off and families disadvantaged until all the dust settles and we can figure a way around it— but guess what?  It is the medicine we must take.

We got ourselves in this mess by spending, spending, spending and cutting taxes over and over and over again.  It doesn’t work that way folks.  If you spend it, you’ve got to have it. And if you don’t you go into debt. And that debt builds up faster and faster with interest until you are in the shape we, as a country are in.

So the sequester is going to force us to make harsh decisions on what is vital and important in our country and what is superfluous. And we will not all agree on those things.

But here are two tings we HAVE to agree on. If you want to add programs and pork barrel projects back into the budget, you have to add revenue. And to add revenue you have to raise taxes.

Talk about unpopular, but that is the tough medicine we must take to trim our fat and get our country back to solvency.  It’s funny, I have never agreed with much of anything Speaker of the House Boehner has ever said, but this I do agree with. “The sequester has forced us into facing the real tough facts of life head on.” He’s right.  Now what we do about them is the measure of a smart and strong nation.

This is about cutting spending. It is also about increasing revenues. We have to do both.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How bad can this Congress get?

There is a stalemate in Washington that is not based on anything logical. It is rather, based on immature “I didn’t get my way” thinking from the Tea party Right.  Jon McCain summed it up best Sunday on the rounds of the TV news Talk shows when he said, “They hate Obama. Nothing will pass with his name on it.”

That is your government at work.  Republican governors are so incensed at Obamacare that they are offering their own solution— far more liberal and costly to American taxpayer than the President’s. Why? Because they hate Obama.

The immigration plan set up by the White House. The Tea Baggers  are against it. Why?  (Even though its foundation was originally written by a senator from Arizona and a Congressman from California both Republicans…why do they not support it?  Because the Right hates Obama.  The plan came from his White House and has his stink on it.

This is the American government right now.

Someone the other day in one my circles was bemoaning the fact that the President was making so many Executive Orders (fewer than most Presidents in the last 35 years!) I said the reason he has had to do that is that Congress isn’t acting on anything. Not just voting it down. No that would take guts.  They are just sitting on stuff and letting it pile up.

I find this Congress most unpatriotic. After all, even the Democrats supported the W’s actions even after it was proven that he had led American down a false train of WMD.  He was still the President and a measure of respect was due the office. Not now. No longer. Not with the Tea party in control.

This is what you get when you let radical radio talk show hosts, run your country once removed. Congress is their political drone.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Same song, second verse...come on American, change the tune.

Yesterday the spokesman for the new American Airlines started his remarks saying this new airline was going to be good for investors — good for shareholders. It will also be good for our customers and our employees.

Talk about starting off on the wrong foot.  They never learn. The suits never learn. Perhaps it is business school indoctrination. I don’t know, but that is not how it is done. In fact he’s got it just about backwards.

You want to run a successful business; you take care of your employees. Then you make sure they take care of your customers. When you do those two things your stakeholders will be taken care of with rich returns. That is the order of the universe.

Ever wonder why Southwest Airlines has been so successful?  Aside from a great fuel deal they struck a decade ago, which has now played out, they put the employee first.  They take care of every man and woman who works for them. They make sure they have a great company for which to work, one who cares about them and takes care of them and treats them like humans.  Then Southwest says, “Now you go take care of our passengers.”  And they do. And the shareholders and the crooks on Wall Street make big returns on SWA.

It is how it is done.

Look at the truly successful companies and you’ll see that the CEO makes it his duty to see to it that the employees are well treated and are empowered and expected to take just as good a care of the customer. (Read about Costco and GE just to name a few.) The money guys will get theirs in due time. And it will be in big returns.

Get it backwards, American, and you’ll be right back here where you are now, in just a few years.

The employee comes first.  Then the passenger.  Treat them both with respect and treat them well and you will be financially successful. Then your stakeholders will be taken care of.

Do not get it backwards. Too much is riding on this for you to screw it up again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Myth Makers receives more Kudos. This time one for art on the cover. A big shout out to Bob Young of Dallas for the wonderful cover design. Way to go Bob.

It takes a lot of time and work and many people to get a book launched.  Bob has been part of my team for some time now and I can say without a doubt, he is one of the finest designers in America. And on top of that, his lovely bride, Vicki, is my PR agent and she gets me more mileage and more ink for me than anyone I've ever seen. Kudos to both of them.  Jobs well done.

For those who are following all of this, I'll be having a new novel out this summer.  Look for it. It will be something (as always from me) quite different in approach and subject matter. 

I want to thank all the fine readers who have made The Myth Makers such a huge success for me. Your kind words, letters and reviews have made me want to write and write some more.  Even Ms. Thompson from Ft. Lee, N.J. whose blistering attack on incomplete sentences in my style, not withstanding, the mood is raised as is the bar.  More words to follow in bound additions, I promise you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

So long Benny

Pope Benedict XVI is on the way out. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy or soon enough. His entire tenure reeks of abuse, scandal and cover up. as well as ridiculous rulings against women and abused children.  He has turned his eyes away from the overpopulation of the world all in the name of keeping the Vatican’s theory on birth control sanctified. He has excommunicated young girls who got abortions following rape, but looked the other way when priests raped young boys. Even people within the Vatican walls said the administration had a stench to it. “…(T)he work of Satan” one high ranking Roman Catholic official was quoted as saying.

Goodbye Senior Pope. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. You are no man of God.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

To drone or not to drone.

The Obama administration is wrong.

Quite frankly the administration before them and the one before that were wrong as well. The use of unmanned drones to kill American citizens when in harm’s way of a battle area is tantamount to death by friendly fire…only organized.

We have a problem in our country today, that the military has been turned over to private enterprise…outsourced since the Bush Administration. It is as if Halliburton could be fighting our battles for us. In her book, Drift, Rachael Maddow paints a rather sobering picture that most Americans aren’t even aware of the wars going on fielded by this country unless you have a direct family involvement. There is no shared society pain. No community involvement. No victory gardens. Just business as usual. And its part of an organized Pentagon mission to take the heat off the  military in its actions by the civilians back home. Few dead soldiers and pilots, the better.

And the drone became a huge part of that strategy.

By flying unmanned drones into battle, the administration believed it could reduce the number of U.S. military deaths and could field a large air strike force for a whole lot less tax dollars. (Let’s face it, if you don’t have to make a plane with a cavity for life support— namely that of a pilot— the costs for such a flying tube just got a lot cheaper.) It was also reasoned that a fairly silent unmanned drone could reach into enemy territory and take out terrorists’ cells with precision.

This whole enterprise has the feeling of a video game.

It is the precision part that has come into question. Not that drones aren’t precise. They can be. With deadly accuracy. The problems truly lies in the information that is given to the commanders who use them, as to just where and who and what the targets the drones are going after are. And in too many cases those targets have been and could be American citizens.

Now comes the realization that Americans are actually being targeted (or can be) and under the patriot Act (thank you again Mr. Bush and Mr. Chaney) there needs to be no due process in the killings. An American caught in the fire of a drone, even targeted by a drone, is considered to be in a combat- sensitive zone and does not need protecting under our constitution for their rights and due process.

The killing of an American citizen by this country’s military without the necessary due process is wrong. Unless that American is killed accidentally or in some way as collateral damage which could not be helped.

But the preciseness of drones and the intelligence, which leads drones to their targets, suggests jut the opposite. If we have the power to pin point our targets with such amazing technology, then the ability to put a target on the back of a U.S. citizen overseas in a hostile area is quite possible and just as wrong.

Sorry. Mr. Obama I do believe you (and your predecessor) have overstepped your bounds as commander and chief in this matter.

Recognizing that today (and tomorrow’s) wars are not going to be fought conventionally like in the past — no cold war facing off across miles and miles of frontier lines with army tanks and brigades of armed troops— no, tomorrow’s battles will be fought more along the lines of the CIA insurgency tactics that we are using in Yemen and Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Slip in at night. Do the damage. Leave before sunrise. Slice and dice. Drone in. Drone out. Seals in. Seals out. And if Americans are in the targeted inner circle, too bad.

Don’t see it. Do not like it. Feels very, very uncomfortable and just like Guantanamo, makes us less a country of law and order and more a country of fear and strength. (Those two usually go together in a thing called a bully.)

Rethink the drone issue. Rethink the entire way in which we fight. I don’t disagree with drones as a weapon. They make perfectly good sense. I do believe, however, their usage should have the same moral and constitutional clothing as the soldiers who go into a region to carry out our bidding. We had the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, which was soldiers acting outside of the code of conduct. Let’s not do it with drones now.