Sunday, October 30, 2005

Politics War and Bird flu

Politics, War and the Bird Flu, is anything going right these days?

The Bush Administration:

Looks like some of the Bush and Cheney staff is getting ready to visit G. Gordon Liddy’s old finishing school. For those who don’t recall, Mr. Liddy spent 54 months in federal prison following the Watergate scandal. Speaking of the G-Man, now there is a man. He stuck to his principals, never gave in, paid his time and is now anchoring a syndicated radio show broadcasting on 232 stations nationwide. Bless you G-Man and thank you for your service. As my Grandfather used to say, “May you get to heaven five minutes before the devil knows you’re gone.”

President Bush, you could have gone down in history next to Ronald Reagan, Roosevelt - Teddy and Franklin, the greats. When you stood at the devastation of the World Trade Center, the fireman standing next to you, you defined your presidency. You said to a fireman, “They can hear you.” “The Whole world can hear you. And soon, (pointing to the devastation) the people that did this will hear you!” For one brief moment you stood on the precipice of history. You were and are a great man. You have a strong belief in your principals, God, and this great country. Within that same period of time when asked what your response would be to the attack on the WTC, you were quoted as saying, "I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive." Then slowly you fell. Not because of your principals, nor your response. You fell because of those you surrounded yourself with. You made the same mistake as other presidents, you trusted the president’s men. You remained loyal to them, supporting them in their mistakes.

Loyalty is a wonderful virtue. In everyday life this one act will make a difference in a friendship. But, you are not in everyday life. You are the most powerful man in the free world. The individuals you consult with need to be untouchable. They need to be qualified for the task you have given them and to the presidency in which they serve. If and when one of them does not live up to your expectations, or those of the nation, you replace them. I for one am very sad to see the decline of your presidency. You are a Texan, a proud state with a prouder history. Great men carved that state out. They paid in blood, sweat and lives. Be a Texan. Surround yourself with the greatness preceding you. The Alamo lives as a monument to their bravery, courage and principals. The blood of legends lies on that sacred ground. Grasp the greatness that is Texas and declare war on the ineptness surrounding you. Become the great man a lot of voters feel you are.

Iraq and Afghanistan:

Iraq and Afghanistan scream at us from the headlines. Our troops rise up to meet insurrection and terrorism head on and kick it in the ass. Bless the men and woman who have given their lives for this great country. They are guarding heaven’s gates and enlisted in the corps of angels. Rest in peace my brothers and sisters.

I hate what the media has done with the lives lost by these brave men and woman. They have turned it into another anti-this, anti-that media event. When writing or publishing their dribble, how can they neglect to mention the reason American lives are being lost? How can they forget about the thousands of lives lost at the WTC, on September 11th, 2001 or the 343 lives lost by the brave New York City firefighters, or the police officers, or the lives lost in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. The list of American’s loss of life is quite large. We are in a war on terrorism. It has no name, no country, no front lines, and no boundaries. It does not have a person, like Adolf Hitler to hate. Although Usama Bin Laden is right there on the top of America’s hate book. But there will be terrorism as long as one person wants to strap on a bomb and run into a crowd. The media sickens me at times.

Avian Influenza: The Bird Flu (Center for Disease Control, CDC)

Avian Influenza, The Bird Flu, H5N1 could become the black plague of the 21st century. The Bush administrations Bird flu battle plan reportedly predicts that almost 2 million Americans could die in a major outbreak. States and the federal government have already prepared emergency plans in the event it turns into this. The best way to find emergency plans for your state is to google with “Bird Flu Emergency Plans for Insert You State”. Example, bird flu emergency plans for new york. Presently the US is preparing to fight this virus. But it is attacking it five years too late. We have been aware of the H5N1 strain for that long. It took a lot of recent media attention to get it off its collective butt and begin doing something about it. Only recently has the Bird Flu been the talk of the media, yet if you google the words, Bird Flu you get back 47,000,000 hits, the term H5N1 will return another 6,130,000 hits. We need to all be concerned about this.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, October 14, 2005 “U.S. not ready for bird flu”, staff reporters, Jeremy Manier and Tim Jones wrote, “Congress and the Bush administration are scrambling to improve the nation's scant supply of vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could fight such infections. Lawmakers said the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina highlighted weaknesses in disaster readiness”. They stated that Michael Osterholm, an adviser to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy was quoted as saying, “Quarantine will be playing a very limited role," "Influenza is such an infectious disease that unlike some diseases where quarantine can work, with this one it will not.” and Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), who heads the House subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said “disease control has surpassed war and terrorism as the nation's top priority”. “Everything else pales in significance”, Leach said.

Recent news articles showed there are plans in place to turn our schools into emergency hospitals, our office buildings into morgues. The probability of expected death from this flu is expected to surpass the Spanish Flu of 1918. Presently a human must come into direct contact with an infected bird. Such as in Asia where cages holding hundreds of birds are stacked atop one another in market places.

The time will come when the virus mutates, jump species as all influenzas do and begins infecting humans directly. Jumping from one infected human to another. This type of infection occurs all of the time. We feel a bit under the weather, or get hit with a cut-down version of the virus, spend a few days in bed, recover and get back to work. Because we have immunity, we have had versions of it before and our body either ignores it, or gets a little of it and builds more immunity. The problem with this particular strain, H5N1, is that human beings have never been subjected to it. We have no built-in immunity. If this strain mutates it will hit humanity like a ton of bricks being dropped on it. A pandemic of proportions never seen may hit us. Some sources are stating that the “Bird flu 'could shut down world travel'. The United States is now stockpiling more of the vaccine, Tamiflu.

To find out more check the NewsXS feed, or the CDC, Center for Disease Control.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hey Media its war deja vu again

Hey Media, it's war, deja vu all over again!

I swear I am getting flashbacks to the 1960's! I am inundated with negative press, slanted press and at times, downright wrong press statements and they are all pertaining to the on-going war. Bob Dylan is on the radio, “How many roads must a man walk down, before they call him a man”. I hear it, plain as day! Man, I hope the Old Lady’s in the kitchen whipping up a batch of brownies from that Alice B. Tokla recipe my bud gave us. (Nope, no link for that one. Find it yourself,) It’s back! The summer of love, 1967. Reality hits! It’s 2005! Dylan is an icon and deserves it. The man is a poet. No drugs, booze, caffeine or cigarettes. We are all healthy now. Not as much fun as it was, but healthy.

The media never changes. It simply changes reporters. It instills, controversy, makes you think, your hearts bleed and tears fall down your cheeks. That is what it is supposed to do. They are supposed to do it by reporting the news in a fair and unbiased manner. They are to report it accurately and without prejudice. But, just as in the 1960’s they have began their little slant towards reporting what they want, not what is happening. A cameraman can capture beautiful images. The problem is these images can be construed many ways. One picture is worth a thousand words, but is that picture accurately telling the truth?

How many times do we see a reporter in Iraq or Afghanistan, standing in the desert, smoke billowing behind him, people running, and solders standing around with M16’s. He is reporting on a bombing that had occurred, an IED, (Improvised Explosive Devices) had gone off. He is in the middle of hell, reporting on something he was able to gather the facts on as quickly as possible. The problem is he may not have all the facts. That I understand. What I don’t understand is how many articles I am reading pontificating the failures in the war in Iraq. Who told them that? Where are they getting their sources? It is nothing but one sided, biased, pure crap the media is spoon-feeding the American public on a daily basis, and the problem is, the media knows it.

Do you want to know what is really happening? Who is really winning? Start reading the MilBlogs, (Military Blogs). These are posted from solders, marines, sailors, men and woman who are there, front line, see it, doing it, and wearing the t-shirt. Granted, they talk about a lot of joking, insanity and pranks. At times their idea of a joke we find offensive. Of course they do. They are in a combat zone. People die. At any moment they have to be able to pull the trigger and kill. Why, they are the United States Military, that’s why. Black humor, insane humor, and just plain boyish humor are part of the norm. I’ve been there, and that type of humor helps keeps the flying monkeys from attacking you, in other words, keeps you from going crazy.

Everyone should read the open letter to the media that LTC Tim Ryan, CO, 2/12 Cav, 1st Cav Div, a Battalion Commander presently serving in Iraq wrote. It is titled, Aiding and Abetting the Enemy: the Media in Iraq.

Colonel Ryan has not only printed the truth, but he is telling it like it is. The United States Military needs the support of the media. It needs the support of every man and woman in the United States. I can tell you from experience, that being in a hot zone and reading how bad we are doing hits you like a ton of bricks. It does more damage to the troops then a terrorist ever could. The media loves to say how many of our men and woman died, but do they tell the whole story? The truth of the matter is, in Fallujah. We faced a well-trained, well-entrenched enemy. Colonel Ryan equates it to the Allies breakout from the hedgerows in France in WW11. He states that in both cases our troops overcame the enemy and began what could be the latter’s last stand. Read this yourself and you will understand.

The inherent problem with slanted media coverage can be described in two manners. First, it dramatically affects the moral of our men and woman in uniform. Second, and I wish a politician would get off their buts and say this, “Media, you are Aiding and Abetting the Enemy when you print crap like that.” A terrorist wants slanted, biased, inaccurate reporting. They want to undermine the people at home. They want to pull support away from on-going military operations. People, this is what the terrorist wants. Don’t you understand that? Lately I often hear the quotes of Sun Tsu. For those of you unaware, he wrote what is referred to as The Oldest Military Treatise in the World. Further, this is not yesterday’s news, nor written last month. It was written over 2400 years ago, and is still in practice in some way or manner today. In this, Sun Tsu is commenting on "Kill one, scare ten thousand". This is the basis and strategy of terrorism today.

Even Senator James Inhofe, Oklahoma, returned from visiting our troops had conveyed their thoughts about how our own media undermine their mission. According to an article The Inhofe survey, compiled from the LexisNexis data retrieval system, shows that the Post and Times have run 90 editorials since March of 2004 about U.S. detainee policies and treatment of prisoners at facilities such as Abu Ghraib. By contrast, since March of 2001, these papers have run only eight editorials about the terrorist tactic of beheading hostages in Iraq and elsewhere. These papers have run only three editorials about the estimated 290,000 to 400,000 bodies found in 300 mass graves in Iraq. These papers have run no editorials about the accusations of rape of women and children committed by U.N. peacekeepers and U.N. personnel in the Congo in Africa.

One more item was the recent coverage of a woman prompting U.S. troops prior to being addressed by the President. The video showed her telling the solders what to say, who to give the microphone to, etc. The media loved it; they ate it up and spit it out to us in volumes. Did anyone every think that this was inaccurate? Did anyone ever wonder what really happened? Think about this. They are going to be interviewed by their Commander in Chief. The President of the United States. Wouldn’t it be nice to have things prepared? Wouldn’t it be nice not to choke up on camera? Want to read what really happened from a solder that was there, bottom right corner of the picture. Read They Call Us, "Doc", subtitled, Speaking with President Bush by Sgt Ron Long. Find out the truth. There is a concept.

This improper use of the media to convey the agenda of another has got to stop. We don’t want biased coverage, no coverage, partial coverage. We the American public deserves and demands fair, timely and factual coverage of the war. We are tired of being portrayed as the schoolyard bully. We are tired of inaccurate media. We deserve better. Why? We are Americans.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Customer Service. We hardly knew you.

Customer Service, Rest in Peace my friend, we hardly knew you.

Whatever happened to Customer Service? I mean real Customer Service, not the 1-900-“Who Cares” we are subjected to. I mean providing service for your customers. I had an Uncle who owned a furniture store. He would often say, “The customer is always right”. He meant it too. He demonstrated that to many customers over the years. They rewarded him with coming back and telling others. He had an excellent business.

Treating your customer’s right. Showing them that you care about them more than the product you are selling. That was the way it used to be.

Just to test my hypothesis “No One Gives a Damn” I decided to search Encarta and Wikipedia, I wanted to see just how Microsoft would define it in relation to another encyclopedia source. It makes me feel good when a theory is validated. Here are the responses:

MSN Encarta defines Customer Service as: business department dealing with customers: a department of a business that deals with routine inquiries and complaints from or disputes with customers.

I found it interesting that Microsoft failed to describe it as a service to customers, nor a behavior, but a department dealing with complaints. That comment alone speaks for itself.

Wikipedia defines Customer Service as: a set of behaviors that a business undertakes during its interaction with its customers.

I had to search Encyclopedia Britannica Online to find the answer I was looking for: Customer service involves an array of activities to keep existing customers satisfied.

Yes! Validation. Keeping customers satisfied! One can argue that a set of behaviors falls into the same definition, but the answer I was brought up with is satisfied customers, and it was free. It was not, the Gold Plan, Silver Plan, a paid 900 number, nor was it grudgingly given, while some guy is cussing you out in the back. Some person reading the answer off a monitor did not provide it either. The person you dealt with knew the product, sold the product, believed in the product and was more than happy to help you.

A few months ago I accompanied a friend to a home supply store. He is a licensed contractor and deals there often. We were in the electronics department. I was watching another customer argue with a salesperson dressed either as one of Santa’s elf’s or wearing the latest fashion in coveralls. The customer had a very red face and Santa’s elf was trying his best to look interested. My friend could not find whatever it was he needed and I knew we were in for trouble. I watched as the customer stormed out and Santa’s elf went off to feed the reindeer or hide somewhere. It did not matter that my friend had tried three times to get his attention for assistance. Santa’s elf was not in the mood to deal with another person right now.

My friend walked up and down a few sections. Then began storming down others. Try as he might, no one would help him. Let alone be found to ask. My friend never misses a thing. Often he had seen a salesperson pick up one of the phones attached to every area and dial a number to access the speaker. He gave up searching, walked to a phone, picked it up, and dialed whatever number he had seen. Magic! He was on the store speaker. He said, “There is a customer in the electronics section that has dealt here for years and would like some help before he leaves and never deals here again!” I watched with interest as three salespersons and two men in suits came rushing to his assistance.

“Sir, you are not allowed to use the store intercom”, the first suit exclaimed. Suffice to say, it was on now. They were all arguing. Finally my friend raised his voice higher than the others and said, “If you would give your customer’s service, then we would not have to pick up the damn phone and beg for it!” The quietness was so loud it was uncomfortable. It was actually quiet as a church for a moment. What transpired next truly impressed me. Not only did my friend find what he needed, he was given a 15% discount for his trouble along with his normal contractor’s 10%. He also agreed never to use the store intercom again. I guess one has to give to receive.

I can’t say if this changed any of their service policies. I can say that whenever he is in the store he is well taken care of though. The sad footnote to this is it should not have happened in the first place. Nor would it have happened 20 years ago. Back then a salesperson would have been fired over that, not today.

We can’t go into any store and get customer service. Nowhere. I was at a Walmart recently and watched as the complete sales team for a department stood in the back of the store. One woman stood in front and was actually leading them in a chant. They all began clapping their hands, jumping up and down and hollered something about Walmart. They ended with a group hug. Then each went a separate direction. I was in awe. I felt as if I was intruding on some ultra-religious experience. It seemed that personal. Impressed? You bet I was. I felt that I had just witnessed the holy grail of retail. I felt they loved their store, their products and was going to go the extra distance for their customers. Damn, I felt good. I wanted to hug someone. But my buddy that was with me would probably have punched me.

This good feeling lasted for a whole five minutes. For about that time later my buddy went searching for help. He found two of that same team and went up to them. I was so happy for him. This was THE team. I saw them. I watched their holy sales ritual. Damn, they had actually all hugged! I knew he was in for excellent service. Boy was I wrong! Not only did they not help him, one was actually nasty about it. I don’t recall what it was he was looking for, but they didn’t know where it was, nor did they care. They also left the department quickly. We ended up finding it ourselves.

I have reached the conclusion that customer service has died. It lays somewhere in an unmarked grave. Some of us mourn its passing. There are those of us who never knew it. Where ever it is, Rest in Peace my friend. You are missed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Thousand-Yard Stare.

It is not a natural act.

It is not a natural part of life to be shot at. It is not natural to take another's life. It is not natural to be placed in harm's way every moment of each day of your life. It is not natural to be 18 years of age and killing someone is part of your daily routine instead of playing football, going to college, working at the corner store, or learning the ropes of the family business. Let's be honest folks, it is not natural.

It used to be called, "Seeing the elephant", facing the enemy, shots being exchanged, people screaming, death, destruction, devastation, bombs raining down, missiles flying, the rocket's red glare. People bleeding, gore, body parts and that sound no person ever forgets, the crack of a bullet breaking the sound barrier as it is flying past your ear. It pops! Then you see the flash of the weapon firing.

It is not a normal part of a teenager's life to patrol areas, weapons locked and loaded, taking fire while on patrol and having to kill another human being so you may survive the night and write to your family the next day. Moments packed with adrenalin, people screaming, explosions, gunships flying overhead, rockets flying, doors being kicked in or blown down with prima-cord. Kevlar, helmets, gear, packs, boots, 9 mm automatics, M16's, these are not part of the normal dress for a teenager. Mine wear pants down to their butts; headphones glued to their ears and once in awhile will actually make a sentence structure to ask for money. They live in the real world, not the other side of the looking glass where the white rabbit is trying to kill you. The mad hatter just set a roadside bomb to take out your vehicle and you distrust every person you see not wearing your uniform.

It is not a natural act.

Seeing your buddies die. Seeing other's die, being responsible for some. So, how do they cope? Easy, with black-humor. Humor based on death. Instead of keeping it inside you it is let out in the form of insanity. You take pictures of the destruction; trade them for porn, anything of value. Sex is constantly on your mind. Why, it is a release from the devastation you see. It is the proverbial warrior thinking about their mate and what they will do to them after the battle. A release. You are Achilles, slaying ten or twelve trojans. You want to go back to your tent, and have sex with three women. You just survived hell. You made it. You have to cope somehow, someway. So, it's sex. It's anything that will make you feel better. If you don't let it out of you it stays there. It eats your soul.

It is not a natural act.

You see it is not like the movies. In the movie we see the hero, anti-hero, charging into battle with a machine gun on his hip. They never die. Those around him do. They always go out in a blaze of glory. Movies are great, but that's not how it happens. Normally they cry, their last words are of their mother. That's life, truth. That's what our kids are seeing.

So they stare into space. They see what has happened, not what is happening. They are reliving it. Shocked by it. Coping in the only way they can. They stare. Looking into infinity. Staring for a thousand yards.

Our brave military, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters have been seeing the elephant far too long. After awhile it is no longer an unnatural act to see it every day. After awhile it becomes part of you. It defines you. Worse, you become it.

It is not a natural act.

To the brave brothers and sisters serving in harms way. The thoughts and prayers from your brothers and sisters of another war are with you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Did we put any thought into getting back?

Did we think about getting back home?

Okay, I'm old, set in my ways, vote often and I'm a vet. I support our troops in whatever mission they are sent to accomplish. They are in my prayers nightly, when in harm’s way and when they are not.

I watch the news, read it on the net, read anything I can find on Iraq, Afghanistan, read the soldier’s blogs and one thought constantly comes to my mind. President Bush, what were you thinking when you sent these men and woman into harm's way? Did you think this would be an easy in-out combat? Did you think we are America, the land of the techno-weapons, and we would have an easy time? Did you and those you consulted with, your advisors; Joint Chief’s of staff, etc put any thought into getting the troops home once they completed their mission?

See, that is the part of the equation that was not thought out, getting out. Returning home. You know, to the parades, the pieces of paper floating all over, the medals, the troops smiling and hugging. I'm sure all of the vet's from good-old Viet Nam, the home of the red mud, remember that parade. Oh, forgot, wrong topic.

Tell me the truth, how many of you know a vet, or someone from the Vietnam era that did not say, "Yep, gonna be another Vietnam." And to which most replied, "Not another." "Nope." "Never happen again." See, we all knew it would happen again. Forget this crap about history repeating itself. It all has to do with politics; just as it did then. Back then politicians would call in the daily bombing targets, wait for a body count that was made up to begin with, then go home to their wives happy they accomplished something.

Nothing changes it all stays the same. The only changes are the names of the dead and wounded. The problem? If I were still 18 years old, full of lightning and thunder, I would be there right now. Why? Not because of the politicians, nor the president, nor anything except for the person next to me, because in the military that’s all that counts.

I support our troops 100%. They did not go there by themselves. They were sent to do a job and they did it. Remember, they are our military and they need our support now more than ever. Let's support them.