In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington DC, or Hollywood.
As I creep inexorably toward nearly 70 years of life experience - which was gained in many cities in the U.S. and in about 30 foreign countries, I decided to put down some ongoing thoughts in a series I call "The View From the Outback." That experience has included the U.S. Marines, law school, the ATF, the CIA, Fortune 500 executive, writer, public speaker, educator, editor, and publisher - for openers. For over 20 years, I have written articles off and on for various magazines and newspapers. I've had an enormous number of letters published in major national publications. The Outback is the rural area in Northeast Texas where I have lived for the past 11 years. Each Saturday (or so)I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
President Bush does not want the airport screening function to be federalized. One of his arguments is that it would be too hard to discipline or fire an incompetent screener. Congratulations, Mr. President. You have taken the first step to publicly announcing that the Federal Civil Service system stinks and that it is badly in need of reform. A survey by the Brookings Institution's Center for Public Service found that only 30% of civil-service employees think that their organization does a very - or somewhat good - job of disciplining poor performers. The average Federal worker believes that about 23% of their colleagues are "not up to par." The screeners could be made Federal employees without coming under Civil Service. But the politics of whether Federal employees would join unions and pay dues which might then support Democratic candidates, and so on, has tarnished the debate about this very urgent matter of getting screeners upgraded and better trained. The House and Senate bills will go to conference. Watch the result carefully. Political bickering is alive and well, even in this time of national crisis. While Nero fiddles, Americans are still largely reluctant to return to air travel.
The prophets of gloom and doom are making much of the "rigors of the Afghan winter," and the supposed lack of our military's ability to cope with it. Have you ever lived in a rural or mountainous area during a winter with heavy snowfalls? Not even a rabbit can move without leaving tracks. For whatever disadvantages the winter brings, every foray out of a cave or a tunnel or every fire will be easily seen from the air. If I were military commanders, I would relish the chance to see if the rabbits can come out of their dens without leaving tracks. Even Osama cannot walk on snow without leaving tracks. Only one fellow in history could pull that off. A helicopter went down in a freezing rain. Don't do that. A lesson learned. One person who knows the area says the winter is no worse than Denver. They play football in Denver in the winter. We'll see how it goes.
Things are tough all over department: I spoke with a friend in England this week who has a bulging hernia. He has to wait eight months for an operation under the socialized medicine plan. Hillary are you listening? A friend in Bulgaria told me he is working two jobs, one as a construction worker for $4 a day. A friend in Omsk, Siberia, notes that the average wage in this town of 100,000 population is about $40 a month. Yes, prices are lower in these last two areas on many items, but not that low. A computer in Bulgaria may cost $1000. They have no SAM's Club or Costo. Now you know how to finance your trip to Bulgaria or Russia, unless they hit you with a 1000% import tax. I dunno. Check it out. But don't call me from your Bulgarian prison where you are being held on charges of smuggling.
A friend in Australia said that he hoped he would not offend me, but Aussies were tired of the crappy movies we keep sending them. Shootouts with hundreds of shots fired and nobody hit - and all that sort of nonsense. My answer relieved him. "I understand. It is bad enough they we have to watch that junk, which I do not, but to send it to you is tragic. It can only paint us in a poor light. Read my Web page and see what I think of Hollywood." I love to tell my Aussie friends to read "The View From The Outback." They are as surprised as I was that there is no such column title in Australia. A search on the exact phrase at google.com returns only my Web page!
A friend who is undergoing chemotherapy has the nausea and associated "up all night" stuff often associated with the treatment. She was prescribed Zofran for the nausea. They seem to work pretty well. They should! They cost her $27.77 a tablet! And she has to take several a day. Would somebody please get a search warrant and go to the plant and pull the records on how much it costs to make one pill. Our suspicion is that this is a "what the traffic will bear" pill, since to the suffers the relief is worth almost anything.
Back on June 2, 2001, I wrote the following concerning the TV show "What About Joan":
"Even now, I don't understand why people are watching ABC's "What About Joan." After a couple of tries, it seemed pointless and disjointed. And Joan Cusack seems nearly spastic in the role of Joan - making me uncomfortable after just a few minutes of viewing. She is somewhat of a subdued female version of Jerry Lewis with his long-ago version of spastic comedy."
"What About Joan" has mercifully been canceled.
I don't mean to keep nagging, but since I spend so much money on medical newsletters, I pass these seasonal cold and flu avoidance tips along. If someone sneezes, do not inhale and walk out of the area. If you are trapped in the checkout line, tell the person to stay home when they are sick. Wash your hands when you have been in public places. Do not put your hands to the area of your nose or eyes - until after you have washed your hands. Scratch your nose with your forearm - seriously. At reasonable intervals, spray a saline solution in your nose (little pinch spray bottles are in most stores) and blow your nose on a tissue. (I wonder if this would help dislodge Anthrax spores caught in nostril hairs? I cannot find any clue anywhere.) I carry some baby wipes or alcohol hand wipes in the truck to wipe my hands when I come out of shopping, especially if I have been pushing a cart around. And of course, get a flu shot.
On an associated subject, victims of inhaled Anthrax apparently don't have runny noses, sore throats, or congestion. Doctors are trying to spread the word. This is going to be a long fall and winter with every sniffle from the cold or the flu triggering a run to the doc or the emergency room with the obvious concern. Antibiotics do nothing for colds and flu. Perhaps as many as 40 % of flu victims do not get the sniffles. That confuses the picture even more. What a rough time docs are going to have with patients demanding Cipro et al, at the first sniffle or first cough without the sniffles.
U.S. Government in a Frantic Scramble to Catch Up
Since September 11th, like most people, I have been angry with the terrorists, with Osama bin Laden, et al. But, I find that increasingly my inward rage and anger is directed at the Federal government, toward radical civil rights advocates, toward liberal politicians, and a liberal media. For 20 years they collectively ignored the terrorist threat and repeated a mantra about not invading privacy or infringing in the slightest on any civil rights. Our military was allowed to decay to where it is barely up to snuff to handle a campaign in Afghanistan, let alone a real war.
Now, we see a frantic scramble to make up for all those years of neglect. As I watch the press briefings, the testimony before Congressional committees, and the press coverage, I get a sense of near despair. Every government agency is basically saying that they were nearly totally unprepared to combat terrorism. New laws are literally flying out the of doors at the Capitol. Money is being spent on new security programs and on additional personnel. When you hear Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California (the Left Coast) bitterly complain that we educated two of the top terrorists in our colleges, and that we need to crack down on student visas, you know that a catharsis of monumental proportion is taking place. A day late and a dollar short.
We hear testimony about the lack of security preparations at airports, on airplanes, at seaports, on trains, buses, at bridges, at dams, nuclear power plants, for tunnels, water supplies, lack of public health preparedness, lack of vaccines and medication stockpiles, inadequate preparedness for bio- terrorism, vulnerable electrical generation facilities, computer infrastructure, the theft of Social Security numbers, fake driver's licenses, visas that should never have been issued, and visas gotten under false identities. There is hardly a facet of commerce and human endeavor where we were prepared.
The government is mobilized and starting to cooperate among its bureaus like never before. But it will be years before all the tools and the exchanges of information are up and running reasonably smoothly. And years before we get the control over entry visas that we need, or adequately track visitors, or get control of our borders, or identify the 7-8 million illegals in this country, and on and on. It is hard to play catchup for 20 years of inattention with a few weeks or months of furious activity. That is why President Bush says we must prepare for the long haul and why Gov. Ridge, Director of Homeland Security, says that we will need to remain on high alert as a people for a long time in the future. They both know how pathetically prepared the Federal and state governments are to deal with terrorism.
In the meantime..... Who knows? But how dumb were we? Here are a few highlights that seemed to barely make a blip on the radar:
1983 October 23 - Marine Barracks in Beirut truck bombed, with 241 killed and 80 wounded.
1993 January 25 - Mir Aimal Kasi shot and killed two CIA employees as they were driving on the highway near CIA headquarters in Virginia.
1993 - An alleged plot foiled to assassinate President George Bush during his trip to Kuwait.
1993 February 26 - World Trade Center bombed, with 6 dead and more than 1,000 injured.
1995 April 19 - Alfred P. Muurah Federal building in Oklahoma City truck bombed, with 168 dead. We may never know if there was foreign involvement.
1995 January 6 - Abdul Hakim Murad and Ramsey Youssef, followers of bin Laden, were arrested in Manila. Computers and diskettes revealed a plot to hijack up to 12 U.S. airliners and either bomb them or crash them into targets, including the CIA headquarters, FBI headquarter, The World Trade Center, The White House, The Pentagon, the Transamerica Tower (San Francisco), and the Sears Tower in Chicago. It was called project Bojinka (big bang). There was also a plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II when he visited Manila. Murad told U.S. and Philippine authorities that he had been taking flying lessons in the Philippines in preparation for suicide flights into the FBI and CIA headquarters. The computers also contained plans for the first bombing of The World Trade Center in February of 1993. All of this was shared with U.S. authorities. Youssef and Murad were convicted of the 1993 WTC bombing.
1996 June 25 - A military barracks, the Khobar Towers, in Saudi Arabia was bombed, killing 19 U.S. servicemen and wounding 370 people.
1998 August 7 - The U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, were bombed. More than 220 people were killed and 5,000 wounded.
2000 October 12 - The U.S.S. Cole was rammed by bomb-laden boat, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others.
2001 - Zacarias Moussaoui, a terrorist from Algeria, applied for 747 simulator training in Minnesota to steer a jumbo jet, but had no interest in learning to take off and land. He was detained on August 17, 2001 for suspected visa violations. An FBI effort to get a search warrant for Moussaoui (car and domicile, one presumes), under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was rejected by FBI and Justice Department lawyers. They said there were not sufficient grounds to seek or issue a warrant. Do you have any doubt that today such a warrant would be issued in 15 minutes?
Where were the FBI, CIA, BATF, NSA, INS, FAA, Postal Inspectors, Customs Bureau, Coast Guard, State Department, and the Congress through all of this since 1983? With their heads in the sand - living in a dream world. We should never forget how our government failed to respond to an obvious threat that allowed the WTC destruction on September 11, the Anthrax letters, and who knows what else is to come? At election time, you have a right to ask some hard questions. Where were you when all of this stuff happened since 1983? What did you do to protect our country? Very embarrassing questions.
We should remain on guard for those in the media, and civil rights and privacy groups, who will attempt to chip away at our anti-terrorism effort with claims of invasions of privacy or the violation of civil rights. They have already started.
Petty carping in an attempt to undermine our efforts to thwart terrorism borders on being treason. (Treason: betrayal of country. Violation of an allegiance owed by a person to his or her own country, for example, by aiding an enemy.) So, when you hear or read of irrational or petty attacks on our anti-terrorism efforts, let your voice be heard. And don't be afraid to use the word Treason. Those who attempt to undermine a legitimate law enforcement or intelligence effort are "aiding the enemy." Whatever invasions of privacy or violations of civil rights might take place can be addressed in the legal system in due course. We do not need the liberal media and groups like the A.C.L.U. stirring the pot just to make headlines.
How the Media Should Cover a Covert War
As I predicted in my September 20 Outback, the media has been asking stupid questions about the war of Pentagon and other officials - having to do with battle plans and troop movements. Some idiot in the press gallery at a Pentagon briefing asked the Secretary of Defense why we were "carpet bombing" in Afghanistan, since such bombing is "so indiscriminate." Donald Rumsfeld said about carpet bombs, "They are being used on front-line al-Qaida and Taliban troops to try to kill them, is why we're using them, to be perfectly blunt." Rumsfeld pointed out that the World Trade Center rubble was still smoking and that terrorists are "indiscriminate" in killing civilians.
This is what you get with young reporters from Eastern schools who have never been anywhere or done anything. Watch the Pentagon briefings on C-SPAN and take note of the average age of the questioners. All they know is what they were taught by their liberal professors. I guess they would like us to drop water balloons, like they did in college. This is not a frat party - or a Peace Corps mission to the rain forests. Here's an idea. Require that anyone who has press credentials to cover the Pentagon have either served in the military or has a close relative who has done so.
The media is complaining that they are not getting enough information. The panel on "Special Report" with Brit Hume on FoxNews were kicking the subject around. One suggested that the Pentagon needed to do a better job of conveying to reporters what they should and should not report on. Say what? I have a better idea. Do not tell the press anything that is not ready for prime time, and prosecute the leakers to the press who leak classified information.
I wrote Brit Hume at FoxNews an e-mail. The Subject: was "How to Cover the War?" The text was:
"Here is how to cover troop movements and actions. You wait until the guy with the four stars stands up and tells you about some action and shows you the photos or the video. That is very simple. Next, all those at the Pentagon and elsewhere who leak troop movements and advance strike information to the media should be prosecuted under the criminal law (Rumsfeld said there was such a criminal law, although I can't recall what it is.) Maybe we need a clearer law, like the much maligned British Official Secrets Act.
I really take offense when Mara and others say the Pentagon needs to give better guidance. And at those who say the media might be told some "secrets" and then asked not to report on them. That's bullshit. Don't tell them anything classified in the first place! Why in the world would anyone tell the media about an operation and them ask them not to report on it? Makes no sense, does it? New policy. You don't ask and we won't tell. Has a familiar ring, doesn't it."
The polls indicate that the American people understand that battle plans and troop movements, etc., should not be discussed in the public media. Why can't the media get this through their thick heads? It is all those hours of TV time and pages of print to fill. What ever happened to Chandra Levy? Who is Bill Clinton porking these days? There are plenty of other topics of searing public interest to cover.
And as I predicted there were leaks of classified battle plans and troop movements which were reported on in the media. It had to do with the Special Ops guys that dropped into Southern Afghanistan one night. There was no public purpose served by reporting in advance and during the operation about such an operation. Only harm to the soldiers could result. There are reports that our insertion force was badly shot up by the Taliban. Repeat after me - Treason.
Suggested Reading From Past Columns
(Right-click on an underlined link and select: "Open in New Window" to leave this window in place)
"Americans Succumbing to a Climate of Fear" Sunday, October 28, 2001
"Secure ID Cards and Visas" Sunday, October 28, 2001
"Anti-Terrorism Bill Sniping Begins" Sunday, October 28, 2001
"Various reflections on the events of Sept. 11, 2001" Thursday, Sept 20. A Must read Outback re Sept 11 Events
"The World Trade Center & Pentagon Attacks!" Update on Sept. 11 to Outback for September 8, 2001
Global warming and environmental debate:
"Rush to Glacier National Park Before All the Glaciers are Gone" September 8, 2001
"Chipping Away at the Global Warming and Environmental Alarmists," September 1, 2001
"John Stossel And ABC's 'Tampering With Nature,'" June 29, 2001
"The Kyoto Protocol & Global Warming - A Monumental Scam?" June 16, 2001
"Public Interest Groups With Sometimes Very Little Public Interest," May 12, 2001
"Environmentalism For Dummies - Part II," April 21, 2001
"Environmentalism For Dummies," April 7, 2001
"Environmental and Animal-Rights Terrorists," March 24, 2001
"My Friend Senator Jesse Helms," September 8, 2001
"Forget Liar & Adulterer - Cong. Gary Condit is Simply Stupid," September 1, 2001
"Government Waste and Fraud," August 18, 2001
"President Bush's Excellent Adventure," June 29, 2001
"The Bush Budget - Fighting Over 4% Growth Versus 8% Growth Is Nonsense," April 21, 2001
"The Chinese Demand for an Apology Regarding the Aircraft Accident is Preposterous," April 7, 2001
"Campaign Finance Reform - A Senatorial Catharsis - And National Snow Job," March 31, 2001
"Florida Secretary Of State Literally Begged Networks Not To Call Election Early," March 24, 2001
"Charlton Heston Speech at Harvard," March 10, 2001 (about free speech, PC, et al.)
"The Ever-Expanding First Amendment," January 26, 2001
"Bush Administration Needs To Review The Mission Of Federal Law Enforcement," January 26, 2001
"New York, What Were You Thinking?" November 13, 2000 (Re: Hillary Clinton)
"Lessons Learned In Election 2000?" November 13, 2000
"How the Federal Government Corrupts the Constitution to Intrude Into Your Life," October 30, 2000
"Let's All Make Fun of the Dumb Guy From Texas," December 15, 2000 (Pres. Bush)
Prescription drugs - advertised on TV - abuses in the pharmaceutical industry - supplements:
"Prescription Drug Plans," September 8, 2001
"Baycol Cholesterol Drug Withdrawn From the Market," August 18, 2001
"Prozac Gets New Life!" July 28,2001
"The New Cholesterol Guidelines - Everybody Gets A Pill," July 7, 2001
"Bitter Pills To Swallow," June 2, 2001
"The Drug Companies Continue Their Assault On Your Pocketbook," May 19, 2001
"FDA Questions Practice of TV Ads for Prescription Drugs," March 31, 2001
"Prescription for Disaster," September 11, 2000
Health - General:
"Trans Fatty Acids - The Hidden Fat," August 4, 2001
"Your Body Clock," August 4, 2001
"My Medical Writing Credentials - Such As They Are," July 7, 2001
"The 'Eggs Are Bad For You' Alarmists Strike Again," May 12, 2001
"Herbal Remedies, Supplements, And Alternative Therapies," September 18, 2000
Computers and Technology:
"LCD Flat Panel Displays & Dual Monitor Video Boards," August 18, 2001
"DishNetwork's Personal Video Recorder Dish Pro 501," July 28, 2001
"Internet Via Satellite," June 16, 2001
"The Internet in China," April 21, 2001
"Mark Cuban is the Posterboy for Dotcom Mania," April 21, 2001
Interesting Books to Read:
"Your Body Clock," August 4, 2001
"Body of Secrets," by James Bamford, July 28, 2001 (About NSA)
A case history of horrendous abuse by Federal law enforcement:
"FBI Sniper At Ruby Ridge My Be Tried For Manslaughter," June 9, 2001.
Crime, guns, gun-control:
"Eyewitness Testimony is Suspect," August 18, 2001
"The AMA Is Losing Its Way," June 29 2001
"Doctors Have Written the Wrong Prescription for Guns," April 14, 2001
"The FBI and the Hanssen Case," March 10, 2001
"FBI Director Freeh Stays On," January 26, 2001 (Some clues to recent FBI failures)
"Aircraft Cockpit Security," December 29, 2000
Late Night TV Cruel Humor, et al.:
(I quit watching late night in disgust, so there are no new articles on the subject.)
"David Letterman Grovels For The Colombians," May 19, 2001
"Are Leno And Letterman Using The Same CD-ROM For Constructing Jokes?" May 12, 2001
"Late Night Comedians Struggle To Lampoon Bush," May 5, 2001
"Late-Night TV Sick Humor," August 28, 2000
"Late-Night TV Political Comedy," August 14, 2000
Hollywood, Entertainers, Celebrities:
"Celebrities Rush to Move Overseas in Protest of Bush Victory," January 5, 2001
"The Mother of all Hollywood Activists," December 22, 2000 (Jane Fonda)
"Elton John, Political Pundit - Druggie - Drunk - Compulsive Spender," Dec. 15, 2000
"Telemarketers, Caller-ID, et al.," August 4, 2001
"Rid Yourself of Telemarketers," October 23, 2000
"TV 'Crawls' - Annoying and Distracting"Sunday, October 28, 2001
"The Decline in the American Work Ethic," May 12, 2001
"Made in USA," January 5, 20001
"How Many Gigabytes in Your Brain?," December 15, 2000
COPYRIGHT 2001 Richard C. Rhodes
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