Friday, June 24, 2016

A View On Voting.....From My Side Of The Desk

By Stan G. Kain
June 24, 2016

I've been watching the U.S. Election Primaries this year with great interest.  Without a doubt, it's the most interesting I recall in my 70 plus years on the planet.  Certainly like no other I've seen and more of an exercise in futility than in democracy.  This morning, the United Kingdom "Brexit Vote" news overshadows most all the headlines...along with the unexpected "Exit" majority, in spite of projections that the "Stay" vote would prevail.

The United States touts herself on being the shining beacon of democracy, thanks to a voting system where "the voice of the people" decide.  Looking at the Brexit voting this morning, I'm left asking myself a lot of questions.  Right at the top of that list of questions, I have to ask if that beacon is still burning so brightly.  Perhaps it's time to take an honest look at "one man, one vote."

"One man, one vote."  How simple can a system of democracy be?  Here in America, apparently it's too simple.  Historically, it's been a long, uphill struggle, continuing to this day.  We've struggled with questions where we had to ask if that philosophy included the right for women to have that vote.  We've wrestled with the right of Blacks and other minorities...and whether they should have a voice in our voting system.  We've imposed "literacy tests" before allowing the right to vote.  We're still a checkerboard of voting rules.  In some states, a convicted felon is forever barred from having a voice in the voting process.  Other states allow a convicted felon to vote under certain conditions...completion of sentence, time period following conviction and completion of sentence...while in other states, a convicted felon has a voice even while incarcerated.  All the while, each and every one of these citizens....felon or not....are citizens of the same nation, voting on the same issues.

Even our highest courts fail to agree on a principle so simple as each individual having a right to cast a single vote.  We argue that "people who exist on paper only," corporations..."are people, too."  We are so tuned to this influence that we recognize that the candidate with the largest campaign war chest has an advantage over those with lesser funding.  Corporate money molds and shapes our candidates and the outcome of our elections.  We even go so far as to have a system called, "Gerrymandering."  A means of manipulating voting districts, so as to give an edge to one party or another in an election.  The party with the greatest influence at the time has the advantage of "moving" district lines so as to maintain an advantage.  The very term, "Gerrymandering" comes from the appearance of these districts, appearing to many as looking like the outline of a "salamander," wandering aimlessly about a map, when drawing the district borders.

Not satisfied with this manipulating of the vote, we come up with the concept of, "Superdeletates."  Chosen individuals who cast a vote worth far more than the vote of the individual citizen.  What?  This is "one man, one vote democracy?"  Even further, we Americans embrace "1776" and the communication technology of the day.  While we no longer appoint a rider to travel by voice our vote because of the vast distances between voters and the government....we still embrace the :"Electoral College" system.  Today, technology gives us the ability to count individual votes and tally them at light speed, but heaven forbid that we don't honor "tradition."  After all, we're Americans!

So far, this Primary Election year, we've witnessed millions of people being given incorrect ballots at voting locations, we've seen polling stations closed for no apparent reason.  We have countless reports of people being denied the right to vote for vague and ambiguous reasons when they arrive to cast their vote.  We've watched as "exit polls" are conducted....something of a "checks and balances" on the trend of votes cast...yet when the count is complete, it fails to agree with agree with the vote tally.  We've even observed numerous challenges in respect to voter fraud....and states such as California, where nearly two million votes sit around in plastic bins....uncounted., yet winners are declared.  We even continue to use electronic voting machines, shown to be vulnerable to hacking and do not have a paper trail for validation in many states.

Now, this morning, I'm reading about the "Brexit" vote in the United Kingdom.  I'm looking at a system where each person in the U.K. had the opportunity to cast their vote.  Reports indicate that the heaviest voting has come from areas with the highest concentration of working class voters.  Perhaps the most telling elements I see missing are that votes have not been the greatest in Gerrymandered districts, nothing about the "corporate financial influence" impact on voting results, nor complaints about individuals being excluded from voting for one reason or another.  I've seen very little in respect to concern about the quality of electronic voting machines, either.  I've not read reports of poll worker impropriety nor closed polling locations.

I have read that after 17 million votes were counted in favor of "Exit," the result was obvious, since this was a majority.  Quite different than reading about some 2 million votes sitting around uncounted as we've seen in California.  I've not read where we have to wait and see what the "Superdelegates" will decide is best for voters.  What's going on in the United Kingdom?  Have they learned nothing about the shining example of democracy as defined by "the greatest and most free nation on earth?"  Where are their corporate influence peddlers?  Their mud-slinging television political commercials?  Their circus atmosphere debates?  I'm confused!

By all appearance, the "Brexit Vote," appears to be a simple democratic exercise in people casting a "one man, one vote" voice in the future direction of the United Kingdom.  How blatantly simple can democracy be?  The only missing element I would have liked to have seen was for the media to conduct exit polls....but at this point, I'm not complaining.  It appears that the citizens of the United Kingdom have spoken...each individual having an equal voice in their future.  A shining example of democracy in action....not just in rhetoric.  Wake up, America!  It's well past time for us to go back to the core principles of democracy....each member of our nation having the same voice...whether rich, poor, minority or not....and deciding the direction of their future.  Naturally, just one man's opinion.

Copyright 2016 Stan G. Kain

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Freedom Fighter Or Terrorist?

By Stan G. Kain
August 10, 2003

The liberation of Iraq is well underway, according to the White House.  The oppressive government of Afghanistan has been removed.  American intelligence and the Homeland Security Agency alert us to the activities of terrorist groups and spend hours identifying these opponents to freedom.  Freedom fighters in many countries have been employed to assist in the demise of oppressive regimes.  Certainly, we should all know the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist.  But do we?

Freedom fighter, guerrilla or terrorist, the distinction should be clear.  In fact, the line of distinction is not so well defined, depending upon which side of the fence you reside.  The word, "terrorist," implies one is operating outside the international standards that govern war and diplomacy, minimizes the goals being fought for and certainly tarnishes the public image.

Even within U.S. agencies, there are different definitions of a terrorist. The State Department looks at whether the group focuses it's attacks on civilians, whether the leadership tolerates attacks on noncombatants and whether it has other avenues open to promoting protests.  Since September 11, 2001, President Bush has tried to eliminate gray areas of terrorism.  He says those who aid or abet terrorists are terrorists, themselves.

During the white supremacist rule of South Africa, the U.S. Department of Defense considered the anti-apartheid African National Congress to be a terrorist group.  Former PLO leader, Yasir Arafat has been both a terrorist and a partner in peace negotiations for America.  Perception of individuals or groups can change from moment to moment.

Sometimes, a government will label local insurgents as terrorists.  This has occurred recently in Russia, China and the Philippines. Efforts by those governments have been used in the hope of winning U.S. assistance or approval for their campaigns.  Is the branding of such opposition legitimate?  History will decide.

Western political scientists are unable to agree on the qualifications of terrorism.  When attempts are made to form an international consensus, there is more confusion.  Palestinian terrorists murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.  U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim urged the adoption of international counter terrorist measures.  Even then, some developing nations objected.  They considered much of the struggle a fight against foreign oppression and exploitation.  They believed the use of force was a "right."

Americans like to imagine themselves in a redemptive role.  We love freedom, equality of opportunity and self-reliance.  We cite the examples of Germany and Japan, following World War II as a triumph for democracy.  Before we bask in our success, we should look at some of our other examples of intervention.  History is a wonderful teacher.

In 1953, the elected president of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, decided to nationalize his country's oil supply.  His intent was to use the wealth for infrastructure, health care and education reform.  This outraged Britain and the U.S., prime users of the oil.  Soon, the Shah of Iran came to power, with close ties to the C.I.A.  For 25 years, the Shah and his secret police (SAVAK) quelled any perceived threat with imprisonment, torture and death.  In 1970, Islamic extremists swept to power under Ayatollah Khomeini and the Shah fled to America.

In 1954, elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, of Guatemala, had a plan.  He decided to nationalize some of the unused land in Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in the world.  The land, not being used, was claimed by the United Fruit Company, a  U.S. owned corporation, under the control of U.S. Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles.  President Arbenz was forced to flee the country and was replaced by a military dictatorship.  This is where we get the term, "Banana Republic."  Over one hundred thousand poor and indigenous people have been killed, but bananas are still bought here at bargain prices.

In 1960, newly independent from colonial rule, Patrice Lumumba was concerned about the poverty and justice in his country.  The CIA became involved and President Lumumba was dead, a year later, and replaced by another dictator, Mobutu.

In 1965, Indonesia was politically active.  President Sukarno, charismatic but a bit bizarre, was leading the major oil producing nation.  The C.I.A., fearing a communist takeover gave Sukarno's right wing military a list of "communists."  More than half a million people died in one of the worst massacres of the twentieth century.  Sukarno was removed by a coup.

Ten years later, East Timor, a former Portuguese colony was under threat by Indonesia.  The U.S. gave them weapons and their blessing, in the way of a visit by Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger.  As their plane departed, the Indonesian military invaded the island, killing about two hundred thousand of the eight hundred thousand  island inhabitants.  A few years later, East Timor declared independence, kicking out the Indonesian occupiers.  Soon, an Australian newspaper announced that oil and natural gas was found offshore in East Timor territorial waters.

In 1970, Chile elected its first socialist president, Salvadore Allende.  President Allende was a medical doctor.  As his first act as president, he directed that all school children should be given milk during the school day.  He had noted a severe vitamin deficiency among the poor children of the country.  About a third of Chileans lived in poverty.  The major natural resource of the country is copper.  The main copper company was U.S. owned Kennecott.  President Allende offered the current market price for the value of the copper mines at the time.  Kennecott said no and involved the U.S. government.  Through the efforts of President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, an embargo was ordered.  When the embargo failed to bring results, Allende was assassinated and U.S. supported Augusto Pinochet came to power. Under General Pinochet, more than 3,200 people were murdered and about 25,000 were imprisoned and tortured.

A few years ago, Bolivia held national elections.  Only 5% of the people bothered to vote.  Why?  When asked, the people felt they had no influence over their future.  They felt the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank had taken control of the nation's financing, cutting funding for education, health care and infrastructure.  Everything had been privatized, bringing foreign investors who could profit from the cheap labor.  The people had lost their will to fight back.

What about our own American Revolution?  Did the revolutionaries only strike at military targets?  I don't think that the Boston Tea Party was aimed at a military target.  Many of our own heroes came out of the American Revolution.  How would they be viewed today, had the British triumphed?  It's a fine line, to say the least.

I have to admit, I have some of that "terrorist" blood, myself.  Three of my Dutch ancestors were convicted and ordered to be hung when they organized the Dutch revolt against the British in New Amsterdam.  Eventually, they were spared by another court.  Several of my ancestors fought in the American Revolution.  They served as foot soldiers and Generals under George Washington.  Today, they are heroes, but they could have been called "terrorists."

An example of our own confusion regarding terrorism was shown today in "The Star," one of South Africa's top newspapers.  The U.S. government has removed Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, from its list of global terrorists.  Apparently, the State Department is reviewing names of hundreds of people who fought against the former apartheid government.  Why has this taken so long to accomplish?

Virginia Farris, public affairs spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa had an explanation.  Ms. Farris says the people will be delisted and receive 10 year waivers from the Department of Immigration and Homeland Security.  She said the regulations applied to everyone and there would be, "quite a number of leaders of countries around the world on the list."  Ms. Farris adds, "to make an exception for those who struggled against apartheid would require Congress to change the law, and that would be a very lengthy process."

Adding to the confusion, those government officials on the list could travel to the U.S., if they are government ministers.  They would have been rejected, if making application as private citizens.  Apparently, holding a cabinet post makes them a lesser threat.  Ms. Farris added that the removal from the list is only a ten year exclusion.  The exclusion would require renewal by Homeland Security upon expiration.  One U.S. Embassy official, wishing to remain anonymous, denied that Mandela was listed as a terrorist.  He refused to say what Mr. Mandela was listed as, however.

Let us not forget that in 1984, President Ronald Reagan re-established diplomatic relations with Baghdad and deleted it from the list of countries supporting terrorism.  He called Iraq a bastion against the, "Islamic Revolution."  When elected, President George Bush, Senior, said, "Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East.  The United States government should propose economic and political incentives for Iraq to moderate its behavior and to increase our influence."

At the time this statement was made, U.S. companies with the backing of the State Department, were exporting products to Iraq that could be used to make biological weapons.  Those companies were not investigated during the 1990's when we tried to uncover the history of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Here we are again, attempting to define the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters.  We're trying to convince the world  that it's not the oil, but democracy and independence we seek in Iraq.  We're spending a lot of money and trying to create a plan as we move along.

If we really are speaking of democracy and freedom, we must ask ourselves these questions.  Does our definition of democracy mean doing it the, "American Way?"  If Iraq is to be truly democratic, they must be free to choose their own allies and form their own economic and foreign policy.  What if that doesn't include American interests?  What if Iraq doesn't want to supply us with inexpensive oil?  Will our policy change?

President Bush will have to convince the rest of the world that his only interest in Iraq is freedom and prosperity.  The presence in Iraq of Halliburton does little to ease concern in much of the world.  If we fail to let Iraq follow their own destiny, even more will be lost than the precious American lives already gone.

When asked about the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, backed for so many years by the U.S. government, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had this to say.  "He may be a son of a bitch.  But at least he's our son of a bitch."  How many times must we repeat this phrase?

If you have questions or comments, you may email Stan.

ⒸCopyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Making The World A Safer Place

By Stan G. Kain
September 27, 2003

On a daily basis, government and the media remind us of the dangers to our world.  We search for weapons of mass destruction, fear terrorist attacks and eye nations posing a nuclear threat to their neighbors and the world.  Recently, we've taken the stance of "pre-emptive strike," which is political double talk for attacking first.  We're living in fearful times and many of us wonder why.  Are first world nations leading the way to peace, or to destruction?  The Federation of American Scientists, follow weapons manufacturing and sales around the world.  They aren't a political organization, merely data-gathering scientists.  A recent CRS Report of Congress may hold the answers to some of our questions.

This year's annual report provides unclassified quantitative data on conventional arms transfers to developing nations by the United States and foreign countries for the preceding eight years.  The principal focus is the level of arms transfers by major weapons suppliers to nations in the developing world.  The report is sobering, at the very least.  Who are the arms dealers of the world?

From 1999 - 2002, the United States and Russia have dominated the arms market in the developing world.  These two nations rank first and second, both in arms agreements and delivery of weapons.  In this time period, the U.S. made $37.8 billion in arms transfer agreements with developing nations, or about 41.9% of all such agreements.  Russia, the second leading supplier, accounted for $23 billion, or about 25.5% of the arms agreements.

In 2002, the U.S. gained ground in supplying the world with weapons of war.  Agreements amounted to $8.6 billion, or about 48.6% of all arms sales agreements.  Russia followed in second place, once again.  France was third, with 5.3% of the market.  The United Kingdom and Germany rank well on the list of world arms suppliers, as well.

Where do the weapons go?  Who are the buyers?  The list of developing nations, seeking to improve their arsenals is long.  The United States mainly supplies Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.  Russia trades with Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Syria, U.A.E. and Yemen.  Does anyone see a trend here?

Many would argue that the U.S. is only supplying "friendly" nations with weapons of war.  Incidentally, weapons of war include not only the weapons, but also parts and support.  Do we have any idea where the parts and technology go, once they have been delivered to our allies?  Can any of us feel comfortable with the arming of developing Middle Eastern nations today?  This is but a sampling.  Weapons are also sold to developing nations in Africa, the Near East and South America.

Okay, I will concede that the list doesn't include nuclear devices, merely conventional means of destroying one's neighbors.  I am concerned, however, as to where any of these weapons may be delivered in the future.  I'm also concerned as to the loyalty of our allies.  Will they remain allies in the future?  I don't have the answer and I don't believe anyone else has the answer, either.

Here's another interesting bit of information from the Federation of American Scientists.  We've heard enough about the chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, supposedly in the hands of Saddam Hussein.  Are we in a position to point our finger at anyone else?  Consider the following report and then decide for yourself.

A New York Times article, "U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limit," makes me wonder.  The article identifies three secret U.S. government projects, conducting research on biological weapons.  In the first project, the Pentagon planned to produce a genetically enhanced form of Bacillus anthracis to test the efficiency of the anthrax vaccine used by the military.  In a second project, the Pentagon constructed a germ production facility using commercially available materials in an effort to determine whether a terrorist organization could do the same without being detected.  The third project, run by the C.I.A., built and tested a model of a Soviet cluster bomb, designed to disseminate bacterial agents.  These secret projects serve to heighten suspicions around the world, as to our own compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention.

Incidentally, none of the above activities were declared in the annual information exchange on biological activities under the Biological Weapons Convention.  There is no escape clause in the convention, where development or acquisition of "weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict" are prohibited.

The C.I.A. also moved into the testing of aerosol delivery of biological agents.  This project was outside the formal Department of Defense bio-defense program.  The project was conducted, in collaboration with the DOD, in part at the DOD site, the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center in Maryland.  Edgewood has two aerosol facilities of enormous size.  One is for spray dispersion testing and the other is for explosive testing.  It is possible that the C.I.A.'s bomb has or will be used as one of the sources studied at one of the aerosol facilities.  The size and scope of the aerosol work is not readily seen as necessary for protective purposes.  Presumably the intent of the U.S. is defensive, but if the United States wants to avoid attack, it is important to set the right example to the rest of the world.

Following the discovery of the classified bio-defense projects, the U.S. Army admitted to manufacturing weapons-grand anthrax in small quantities, for defensive purposes.  The manufacturing of this anthrax is highly questionable under the Biological Weapons Convention.

Again, here are but a few examples of our own biological weapons work.  Could not this report sound like something we would hear when our own President was trying to gain support for attacking Iraq?  Oh, that's right!  We're the good guys and Iraq is the bad guy.  With weapons of this nature, against international treaty, there are no good guys or bad guys.  There are only governments playing with weapons, which could possibly be stolen and used against the citizens of this planet.

It is my opinion that the United Nations should be considering more than just how to rebuild Iraq.  The focus should be on how we can stop first world nations from building and supplying developing nations with the weapons of war.  Most of the weapons being used in these third world nations were not built there.  No, they were told to them by nations like the U.S., Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

I don't think there is anything as sad as young American men and women in uniform being killed in war.  It is even sadder, when they travel halfway around the world to be killed by weapons manufactured by their own government and the governments of their allies.

If we truly want world peace, it begins with us.  We must meet with other first world nations and agree to halt the sales of arms to these volatile nations.  We must keep our weapons of defense, for ourselves, rather than turning them into offensive weapons through arms sales.  We must find there is a higher good than the almighty dollar.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

Copyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Other Side Of The Story

By Stan G. Kain
October 16, 2003

Yesterday I discussed letters received by hometown newspapers from American soldiers in Iraq.  The Gannett Newspaper Group had received an identical letter, signed by several different soldiers, at eleven of their publications.  Concerned that all of the letters consisted of five paragraphs, identical in content, Gannett did not publish the work.  Instead, Gannett set out to locate the authors.  Investigation revealed that some soldiers had been given the letters to sign by superior officers.  Other soldiers were unfamiliar with the letters, while others only knew a letter was published with their signature, after hearing about it from family members at home.

Contacting military authorities, Gannett was unable to find any military public information officer willing to acknowledge the source of the letters.  For now, the origin of the apparent form letter remains a mystery.  I suspect we will never know the origin.  The possibility remains that the letter originated at a military public information office, the Pentagon, an intelligence office or even from the Bush Administration spin-doctors.  We do know the letter did not originate with those whose signatures appeared on the letters.

The highly publicized letter depicted a glowing picture of our military efforts to rebuild Iraq.  The unknown author praised the high morale of American troops in Iraq and related how proud the soldier was to be there.  There are other letters from soldiers in Iraq and their families, as well.  These are not form letters.  These are actual letters from 3rd Infantry Division soldiers to their families.  Family members have verified the source of the letters and incorporated the thoughts of their sons, daughters, fathers and mothers in letters to Congress.  Here are two such letters, telling the other side of the story.

Here is a letter written by family members of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Soldiers:
"To Whom it May Concern,
We are writing to you today about the 3rd Infantry Division.  These soldiers have had redeployments held out to them and then snatched away from them repeatedly.  If simply being there contributes to the defeat of morale, what must the denied hope of homecoming bring?

As you know, the United States Army has always frowned upon, "negative publicity" and family members have always been told to keep quiet for the sake of not making the most "powerful Army in the world," look bad.  Well, contrary to what we have been told, a few months ago, when we had heard of them being delayed due to a "follow on mission" to Fallujah, a group of spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends began writing to members of Congress.  Senators and even the Commander in Chief in hopes that the situation would be reviewed.  We have contacted the news and print media and told our stories to the public.  When the news media investigated our allegations of our troops not having enough ammunition, supplies and food, they were simply told by the commanding officer that it was being "taken care of" and the story was left at that.  For weeks after, our husbands called home to tell us they were drinking unsanitary water, their equipment was broken down and their morale was horribly low.  I ask you Congressmen, who should the family members believe?  An Army commanding officer who does not want the Army to sustain "negative publicity" or their husbands, brothers and sons who are actually there in the situation and experiencing it first hand?

We feel that the American's voices on this matter have been stifled, that the soldiers voices on this matter have been altogether ignored.  The following are quotes DIRECTLY from the mouths of 3rd ID soldiers.  The first is from a member of an armored division who has been deployed since September 2002, the other is a letter from an unnamed soldier form the 3rd ID/2nd BCT who felt he should remain anonymous for fear of reprimand from his commanding officers.  These letters are DIRECTLY from the men in Iraq, in their own words doubting their faith in this country.

I'm always the one who's positive, but I'll tell you it's hard sometimes.  At times, I can't rationalize why we are still here and that is what makes me mad.  Pretty much it confirms my belief that I am just part of a bar graph on a power point presentation to the "suit" in Washington.  My life is a percentage of "well, we have X amount of soldiers in theater" really get the feeling that the government has abandoned you, left you to rot, with no mission and no return date.  But most days, I remember I'm here for my guys and it's my duty to make sure they're okay even if the higher ups are messing up."

Here's yet another letter from soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade:
"To Whom it May Concern:
When you hear about "heroes," you think of people whom you would envy.  None of us asked to be called heroes, or anything else.  For the past 9 months we have lived a hard life.  We trained for nearly 6 months before this war started, were the first U.S. forces into Iraq on March 20th, and were responsible for the daring strike into Baghdad on April 7th and 8th that virtually ended the war.

We are the forgotten and betrayed soldiers of 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, also known as the "Send Me" Brigade.  Our Task Force motto is, "Can Do," and we have been living true to those words - for a very long time.

We are also the unit that is sitting in the city of Al Fallujah, as we enter the month of July.  Our men and women have completed every mission we have been given, even when that mission kept us from coming home on time.  We have received the occasional newspapers, each one showing us that the rest of the armed forces are returning home....even as we are getting orders for our next mission.  We also read the letters that our Commanding General (Major General Buford Blount) writes in our local newspaper.  Each time we read his words our desperation grows deeper, because we know that most of our countrymen are hearing his lies about our situation here.

Our morale is not high or even low.  Our morale is non-existent.  We have been told twice that we were going home, even twice we have received a stop movement to stay in Iraq.  Were is the honor and integrity the army preaches to soldiers in Basic Training?  The closer you get to the front lines, the worse the soldiers get treated.  Every single one of my men has diarrhea, because none of us on the front lines have had a single fresh vegetable in over a month.  Meanwhile, Major General Blount and his cronies are enjoying Burger King in Baghdad International Airport (which we captured).  The 3rd Infantry Division soldiers feel betrayed and forgotten.  Many of our brothers in arms have paid the ultimate price to help liberate this country.

Every one of us has made sacrifices, and what is our reward?  Being treated like farm animals.  We have had more support from the press, who were embedded with us throughout the fight, than we have ever received from our chain of command.

Our troops, and our equipment are worn out.  Many of our troops have been through some truly terrible experiences.  They have been told by mental health professionals that they need to get out of this environment.  They however, either don't care about those of us out here on the front lines or they have been lied to by their subordinates and have passed those lies on to the rest of the world.

In closing, all I am really trying to ask for is your help.  Please send this letter on to your representatives in Congress and to your local media, and ask them to get the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division home.  Our men and women deserve to be treated like the heroes they are, not like neighborhood mongrels.  Our men and women deserve to see their loved ones again and deserve to come home.  Thank you for your attention.

The Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID"

The following letter from family of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade soldiers says it all:

"These letters are NOT the only ones of their kind.  Many other family members have received such letters, but didn't feel appropriate to go public with them for fear that they might get their husbands in trouble.

It may be easy for you to encourage our troops in the Third to stay strong, to increase their morale, and to keep smiling as their friends and colleagues are attacked every day.  But it's also easy to see that you are not there with the troops.  In this day and age, with the American forces being the largest and most sophisticated on earth, why must one division bear the brunt of a large part of the war in Iraq?  Are we so short-handed that one division's morale must sink to rock bottom, there to disappear altogether?  Why must the American people pay, not only with billions of dollars per month, but more importantly with the lives of men and women that may be too tired to fight effectively?  This is illogical.  This is wasteful.  This impacts negatively on our efforts in Iraq and on our efforts at home.

The re-enlistment rate of returning soldiers has decreased DRAMATICALLY since this effort began.  Does this send a message to the government that the soldiers feel abandoned by their country?  That they have lost their faith in the government they've worked so hard to defend?  The soldiers and their families will have their say in the 2004 elections and THEN will make their voices heard.

In closing, we would like to say that these men and women of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade have done their job and done it well.  They are mentally, physically AND emotionally exhausted.  These men have had their promise of redeployment ripped out from under them numerous times, and it's because of that, their morale is non-existent.  We NEED to send these heroes home for a much needed and deserved break.

As the saying goes: "If not for the Home of the Brave, There would be no Land of the Free."  What makes our nation so great is our ability and constitutional right to have a government for the people, by the people.  These brave men and women and the people who love them have a choice, and our voices will be heard.  If not now, in the 2004 elections.

The wives, mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, daughters and family members of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Soldiers."

There you have it, readers.  The other side of the story.  You have a choice.  You may listen to the actual letters of soldiers and their families, or you may listen to the voices of a form letter, signed and sent without the knowledge or consent of soldiers in Iraq.  Many will choose to believe the form letter, as they only wish to hear words of approval for this war.  Others will hear the voice of real soldiers and families, finding more reality there than in a power-hungry President doing a photo op on a carrier deck.  Ask any former member of the military about speaking out against "policy."  Not unlike speaking out against this Administration, speaking out in the military is also, "unpatriotic."  True patriotism demands that we speak out against lies.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

 ⒸCopyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

9/11 - A Reflection

By Stan G. Kain
September 11, 2003

Today commemorates the second anniversary of the World Trade Center attack in New York City.  Of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attack, the city medical examiner's office has identified the remains of 1, 521 victims.  Fewer than 300 bodies were recovered from Ground Zero.  The attack, orchestrated by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist group is etched in the minds of people, worldwide.

Two years after the WTC attack, many questions remain unanswered.  Families wait for loved ones to be identified.  Concerns about the health risk to rescuers are a matter of debate.  Osama bin Laden continues to direct his terror organization, probably from the mountains of Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda links to Iraq are still in question.  Intelligence organizations continue to sift through information, searching for clues to the 0/11 attack, as well as ones which may prevent a future attack.  Most Americans agree, their country will never be as it was prior to September 11, 2001.

New Yorkers are wrestling with how to honor the fallen victims of the 9/11 attack.  Nearly 54 percent of those polled want the memorial to honor uniformed officer, firefighters and civilians, equally.  Maurice Carroll, a pollster, says, "In the official memorial, New Yorkers don't want to differentiate among the dead."  A group of 13 people are attempting to narrow the field of 5,200 entries from 62 nations, before deciding on a fitting memorial.

Architect, Daniel Libeskind, says the memorial will occupy 4.5 acres of the 16 acre World Trade Center site.  Libeskind's Freedom Tower would be more than 400 feet taller than the former twin towers.  Several family members of the WTC victims how the Trade Center pit will be spared from development, serving as a memorial for the lost.

While reflecting on the destruction of the World Trade Center today, one must also question what the future holds.  What steps are being taken to prevent another attack of this magnitude in America?  While protecting America, what is being done to protect the freedom and privacy of American citizens?  There is a delicate balance between security and liberty.  Civil libertarians are concerned with new powers of the Justice Department.  Law enforcement asks for additional tools to help uncover potential threats to the American way of life.  Courts are left with the difficult task of maintaining balance in this democracy.  Not an easy task for even veteran jurists.  General Michael Hayden, Director of the National Security Agency, has hired more than 1,100 more people to deal with what is called, "signals intelligence."  Congress has given U.S. Intelligence billions of dollars for the war on terror.  The actual amount is classified.  Even with the additional staffing, increased funding and changes to the U.S. Intelligence service, General Hayden says, "We are better now than we ever have been, but there are no guarantees.  I can't say that."

A Congressional inquiry claims there are multiple weaknesses which contributed to the 9/11 surprise attack.  The inquiry blames the FBI and their use of antiquated computer systems, as well as their focus on crime, rather than terrorism.  The inquiry also states that communication is a major weakness.  The Central Intelligence Agency failed to provide important information to the FBI, prior to the attack.  Elanor Hill, staff director of the Congressional 9/11 Committee said, "You can have the world's best intelligence and if it doesn't get to the people who need it to act in time, it's worthless."

In response, FBI Director, Robert Mueller says the FBI is now concentrating on terrorism, rather than crime.  In the law enforcement world, there is a much greater exchange of information.  The Congressional Inquiry Board says there is a clear lack of leadership in the intelligence and law enforcement community.  Politics appears to play a major role in deciding who will direct intelligence efforts.  Right now, CIA Director Tenet sets priorities.  Meanwhile, the NSA gets their budget from the Pentagon.  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld doesn't want to give up his control, either.  Washington needs to decide who is captain of the ship, if they really want to protect American citizens.

Following the 9/11 attack, all eyes were focused on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  Today, one hears little about either.  We haven't been able to catch bin Laden and U.S. efforts are in Iraq.  In an odd twist, nearly all 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian, not an Iraqi among them.  President Bush, all but ignoring the U.S. economy, continues to pour money into his war in Iraq.  What effect has this had on al Qaeda, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attack?

Marching through Afghanistan, in an effort to break al Qaeda, followed by an attack on Iraq, may have actually opened a new front for Osama bin Laden's terrorist group.  U.S. military officials and terrorism analysts say, suspicions mount that al Qaeda fighters are among foreign fighers attempting to cross into Iraq.  In the border town of Al Qaim, about a mile from the Syrian border, U.S. military commandeers say they captured four foreign fighters believed to be al Qaeda.  A newly released tape, believed to be Osama bin Laden, puts Iraq at the heart of a new cause for Muslim extremists.

Osama bin Laden is still eluding capture.  So is Saddam Hussein.  Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have not been found.  American soldiers find their tour of duty in Iraq being extended.  The White House is asking Congress for billions and billions of dollars for continuing efforts in Iraq.  Afghanistan is as unstable today as it was before American troops attempted to quash al Qaeda training in that country.

As we reflect today, remembering those who died two years ago in our nation's worst attack, we should also reflect on our direction, as a nation.  We were attacked by Osama bin Laden's extremist group of terrorists.  That is where we should focus.  Certainly, we must crush the extremists who attacked our nation.  Until we complete this mission, we cannot afford war on other fronts.  Let's not forget who orchestrated the attack on September 11, 2001.  It was not Iraq and it was not North Korea.  It was not a nation, nor a religion.  This attack came from a specific extremist organization, operating in many nations of the world.  We would be better to seek the cooperation of the world community in eliminating a safe haven for these terrorists.  They should not be welcome anywhere.  Not in the Christian world, Islamic world or anywhere else.  We should demand cooperation and direction for our intelligence and law enforcement communities, while remaining vigilant in respect to our individual freedoms and rights.

I sincerely hope everyone will take a moment today to remember the people and events of September 11, 2001.  May we also remember our enemy.  Do not confuse the enemy with a nation, religion or people.  May we continue to respect the rights and culture of people around the world, while demanding that our rights and culture have the same respect from our neighbors.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

Copyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Criminal Intent

By Stan G. Kain
September 30, 2003

Last Saturday, police were called to a home in Landover, Maryland.  A four year old boy had shot and killed his sister, while wounding his brother.  According to reports, a ten year old sister had gotten the younger children out o the house, when she saw Da'Joun Brice with a .45 caliber automatic pistol.  Da'Joun, the four year old, shot, piercing the front door, hitting his sister in the upper body, resulting in her death.  The bullet also tore through his brother's back, causing non-fatal injuries.

On Monday, the boy's father, Gregory Thigpen, Sr., told the Washington Post that Da'Joun knows what he did.  Mr. Thigpen says the boy is very remorseful and is apologizing for his actions.  Police say the four year old cannot be held criminally responsible for the injury and death of the other children.

Maybe I'm too old to remember being four years of age.  I think my memory is good enough that I remember when my children were four years old.  I know my memory is good enough to remember recent stories of my four year old grandson.  I agree with police that one could hardly hold a four year old criminally accountable for such a tragic situation.

I question, however, the statements of the child's father.  In my experience, a four year old comprehending the seriousness of picking up a pistol and shooting a brother and sister, just doesn't compute.  I find it equally difficult to believe a four year old feeling actual remorse for the act.  This is beyond the mental processes of any four year old I've ever met.  What is the father trying to say?  Is he referring to his own remorse?

I don't believe any child, the age of Da'Joun, could possibly comprehend the finality of death.  Far too often, a child's view of a firearm comes from watching violent action movies or video games.  Shots fly in all directions, people are killed and then you restart the game or the movie.  Eveything is just like before you began to play.  It's not reality.

Remorse and criminal responsibility in this case lie with the parents.  They are mature enough to understand right from wrong.  Their responsibility began when they left these young children home alone, without adult supervision.  Their responsibility failed again, when they left a loaded firearm in the house, unsecured, in the presence of small children.

The injury of one child, the death of another and the trauma yet to be experienced by four year old Da"Joun, are the result of irresponsible parents.  This incident was not just an "accident."  This was a series of poor judgement calls on the part of the parents.  It is now the duty of the justice system to make sure these children receive the supervision and care they deserve and need.  It's also the duty of the system to make sure the parents are punished for their lack of responsibility and safety of their family.

It is a very tragic loss for the family and their neighbors and community.  The best that can come of a story like this is for other families to realize how quickly lives can be lost.  It is a lesson for any family with children and firearms in the house.  Firearms must be secured, if you insist on having them in your home.  Children must have adult supervision at all times.  This is just part of accepting your responsibility as a parent and member of society.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

Copyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Arnold Investigates Himself

By Stan G. Kain
November 7, 2003

California is quite a place.  Since I'm a fourth-generation native of the Golden State, I suppose I can say that.  A few years back, Californians chose the "Gipper" for governor and now they may have elected the "Groper."  Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger may earn the title, if there's any proof to the allegations of at least sixteen women.  The Terminating Governor isn't going to let the allegations remain unfounded, however, he's going to have himself investigated.

Prior to the California recall election, at least sixteen women came forward with claims that the soon-to-be governor had groped them.  The allegations date back over the past twenty years, while Mr. Schwarzenegger was busy with body building and acting roles.  Political aspirations had yet to enter his mind.  You just never know what lies ahead, when you're involved with a good grope, I suppose.

The governor-elect offered a rather confusing statement of defense, prior to the election.  Arnold issued a general apology for "behaving badly sometimes," adding "many of the things in there are not true because that's not my behavior."  Hmm?  Many of the allegations aren't true?  May we assume that some of the gropes were accurate while others were not?  Arnold only behaved badly, sometimes?  I suppose he only behaved badly when opportunity presented itself.

Arnold isn't about to take these allegations to Sacramento with him.  He's hiring an investigative firm to look into the claims of these women.  Apparently, he doesn't remember if they're legitimate claims or not.  Oh yes, Arnold says he isn't going to allow the State Attorney General to review the result of the investigation, either.  If the investigation reveals any groping on Arnold's part, he's planning on keeping it to himself.  I wonder if he'll give Maria an opportunity to review the report?  I'm sure she would find it fascinating.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, says his office doesn't plan to conduct an investigation, since investigations would be the domain of local prosecutors and law enforcement, where the alleged groping occurred.  There's a sensible response, but what about local officials?  Will they have access to the investigative report?  Arnold hasn't offered any insight into that aspect.

Actors, celebrities and assorted sports figures are often exempt from the same laws as common folks.  At least, one gets that impression from time to time.  They are almost expected to grope and party.  What about the rights of the "gropee?"  Sure, some women will try to take advantage of celebrity opportunity, bot not all.  Are the sixteen women who came forward about being groped by Arnold lying?  How many more women are too ashamed to come forward?  We don't know.

Whether sixteen women are telling the truth or not, the public has the right to know.  Arnold is the one who has chosen a political life and his actions; past, present and during his term of office, are the business of the people of California.  I would not think Arnold, nor the women in question  would want the allegations to remain unanswered.

We don't hire a fox to guard our chicken coops, nor should we allow Arnold to investigate himself.  Arnold has left the world of acting and has entered the world of the elected representative.  The only proper solution lies with an independent counsel, investigation the allegations.  If that investigation proves baseless, let Arnold claim his place in Sacramento.  If the investigation shows a legitimate basis for complaint, let Arnold face his accusers in a court, just like common folks.

Come on Mr. Schwarzenegger, let the voters learn the truth.  You can always insist that the incidents didn't fit your definition of "groping."  You just never know how far groping will take you in life.  California is further from Washington D.C. than Arkansas, but you're on the right road.  Just a few million votes and an Austrian birth certificate are standing between you and all those political interns in Washington, D.C., Mr. Schwarzenegger.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

ⒸCopyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Right To Self-Representation

By Stan G. Kain
October 21, 2003

Accused sniper shooting suspect, John Allen Muhammad threw a curve to the Virginia court yesterday.  Mr. Muhammad's defense team, prosecutors nor the judge were not prepared for his demand of self-representation in facing the allegations.  Facing a possible death sentence, if convicted, Mr. Muhammad is playing a dangerous game.  Is the accused within his rights, demanding to act as his own attorney?  How should the court proceed?  Many questions will arise before the matter is resolved.

In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in such cases.  The case, referred to as Faretta v. California, reached the Supreme Court on Constitutional grounds.  The high court recognized what the Sixth Amendment grants the accused personally has the right to make his defense.  The accused, not counsel, must be informed of nature and cause of the accusation.  The accused must be confronted with the witnesses against him and must be accorded the compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.

Continuing, the court determined that more fundamental than the right of self-representation is the right of the accused to present his own version of events in his own words.  Just as the Fifth Amendment grants the right to remain silent, the accused has the right to speak of his own free will.  Often, the most important witness in a criminal trial is the accused.  The choice to testify or not, rests with the Constitutional guarantee.  There are no stipulations in the U.S. Constitution which require the accused to face the accuser or cross-examine witnesses through legal counsel.

Probably the most publicized criminal case involving self-representation is that of Colin Ferguson.  Mr. Ferguson elected to represent himself, after being charged with killing six people and injuring seventeen more, during a shooting spree on a Long Island, NY subway.  Mr. Ferguson presented a rambling defense, accusing an unknown perpetrator, leading the court in a chaotic direction.  Mr. Ferguson was eventually found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Self-representation offers a demanding challenge to prosecutors.  Often, they must educated the accused in matters of court proceedings, while thinking for both sides of the case.  Defendants lose objectivity and focus, being emotionally charged in their own defense.  Without objectivity, people make mistakes, often critical to their own defense.  In most instances, this should be their choice.

Law is not written in black and white.  Law is written in gray areas.  Such is the reason for high court reviews and interpretations of Constitutional law.  Often, a need exists for the court to protect the accused from self-inflicted injury.  Prior to granting the right to self-representation, most courts will insist on a psychiatric evaluation of the accused.  Courts want an assurance that the accused has the mental capacity to reason, understand the charges and provide a reasonable defense.  Generally, a court will also provide qualified legal counsel to consult with the accused.  Both measures are reasonable and protect our Constitutional guarantees.

Most legal analysts find the situation with John Allen Muhammad to be puzzling.  The court, almost without question or evaluation, allowed for self-representation.  This action is highly unusual, considering that the case is a life or death matter.  Mr. Muhammad has no legal training or experience, especially in a case involving the possibility of a death sentence.  The decision by the Virginia court may lead to many appeals, if Mr. Muhammad is convicted.

There is an old adage about, "any lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."  Mr. Muhammad may be an even greater fool, since he doesn't have the legal background for a case of this magnitude.  Should he have the right to self-representation?  I believe he should.  I believe the court has made an error in not subjecting Mr. Muhammad to routine psychiatric evaluations, but his right to defend himself is valid.  In a perfect world, our legal system would be simple, allowing citizens to represent themselves.  In reality, that is not true.  Mr. Muhammad has chosen to exercise his individual rightss and must life or die with the consequences.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

Ⓒ Copyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Project Vote Smart

By Stan G. Kain
October 18, 2003

One of the most valuable assets of the Internet is the ability to access current information from many sources.  Internet users must exercise good judgment before accepting a website as credible.  Many websites offer biased information, others give direct access to government agencies, while others offer facts, without the distortion of opinions.  The presentation of fact is essential, if one wishes to learn more about their elected representatives.  One of the most informative websites offering factual information is "Project Vote Smart."

Project Vote Smart offers citizens a wealth of information about their state and federal representatives.  The website also provides timely information about presidential candidates in the upcoming 2004 election.  Anyone wishing to study unbiased information about their elected officials will appreciate this website.

Project Vote Smart (PVS) is non-partisan.  The organiazation was founded in 1992, supported by national leaders including, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.  Congressional founders include former Senators Barry Goldwater and George McGovern.  Former Representatives Newt Gingrich and Geraldine Ferraro also participated in the founding efforts.  Financial support is exclusively through private donations and all staff are required to sign a pledge of absolute impartiality.

Web surfers may enter the name of a candidate or official, or locate their local representatives by entering their ZIP code.  PVS will display a biography of the official, including educational and political backgrounds.  The viewer is also shown a contact address for their representative.  PVS offers the site visitor much more than political press releases.

PVS provides information on candidates and elected officials in five categories.  The official's history is broken down into material about their background, position on issues, campaign finances, performance evaluations and their voting record.  You have an opportunity to compare what the representative says against his or her voting record.  You'll also see a factual representation as to where their election funds originate.  This is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of public record.

PVS uses the National Political Awareness Test.  Candidates and officials are asked to respond to an established list of questions.  Questions on the NPAT cover the following areas:

Abortion Issues
Budgetary, Spending and Tax Issues
Campaign Finance and Governmental Reform Issues
Crime Issues
Drug Issues
Educational Issues
Employment and Affirmative Action Issues
Environmental and Energy Issues
Legislative Priorities
Gun Issues
Health Issues
Immigration Issues
International Aid and Policy Issues
National Security Issues
Social Security Issues
Technology Issues
Welfare Issues

The only way a representative can "fail" the test is to not return it to PVS.  Perhaps their failure to do so speaks louder than their campaign literature.  The questions are non-partisan.  The test is also a positive questionnaire.  Candidates are asked which options they support, not which options they oppose.  The results are more informative in this format.

I believe PVS is one of the most informative and unbiased sources you will find to examine the position of your elected officials.  I hope you will take time to visit the site at: .

James Madison, Author of the U.S. Constitution and 4th  President of the United States offered this advice.  "A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy...a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."  I think former President Madison would have been impressed with Project Vote Smart.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

ⒸCopyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Freedom Of Religion

By Stan G. Kain
October 17, 2003

Does the wearing of religious attire in school violate the U.S. Constitution?  If the practice is permitted by school districts, are they permitting the preference of one religion over another?  Are the school districts merely allowing the freedom to practice one's faith, as guaranteed by the Constitution?  Across the nation, schools and courts are wrangling with these questions.

In Oklahoma, an eleven year old Muslim girl was suspended from school for wearing the religiously mandated headscarf, known as a "hajib."  The school dress code forbids the wearing of any kind of head covering.  The girl's father says she has been singled out because of her religious beliefs.  The sixth-grader at Ben Franklin Science Academy has been allowed to return to school, pending a final decision before the start of the next school year.

A seventeen year old American Indian student in Fort Covington, NY, was banned from his classes for 73 days.  The boy is not a troublemaker.  He was barred from school for wearing a red headband, signifying his rite to passage in the traditional Iroquois religion.  The American Indian youth was later returned to his classes, although segregated from other students.  While the school has no written policy in regard to bandannas, the headband was considered a violation of the "no- bandanna" rule.  Written school policy does allow religious head wear, but officials insist the boy would have to wear a feather in the bandanna to be in compliance.

California, a state with many citizens of the Indian Sikh faith, faces numerous challenges to state and school district regulations.  A central practice of the Sikh religion requires the wearing of a "kirpan."  The kirpan is a knife with a curved steel blade and is worn in a sheath, beneath the clothing.  State law and school district regulations expressly prohibit carrying a knife on school property.

These represent a small number of the religion-based cases facing American schools and lawmakers.  While issues, such as knives, may be argued from a security standpoint, headbands and headdresses are more likely to be fought as a matter of preventing youth-gang recognition.  Where do we draw the line?  Are we protecting individual rights, or are we violating those rights?  Perhaps we should review our own American history.

Traditionally, people have come to America in search of religious freedom.  Escaping religious persecution in 1620, the Pilgrims were the first to arrive.  They wanted everyone to worship in the Puritan way.  Non-conformists in the colonies were fined, banished, whipped and even imprisoned.  They received the same treatment the Puritans left Europe to avoid.

Soon, Quakers arrived in Pennsylvania.  The Puritans began to disperse throughout the colonies.  Baptists appeared, followed by Roman Catholics and Protestants.  Lutherans formed German communities in Pennsylvania.  Nearly every Christian sect played a role in the founding of America.  Religious persecution began to diminish, replaced with religious freedom.  Understanding the history of religious persecution, our Founding fathers protected that freedom in the Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment of our Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."  The right to religious practice was sacred.

Since the writing of the Constitution, non-Christian immigrants have reached the shores of our country.  Of course, Native American religions were here when we arrived.  While Christian immigrants were the first to arrive in America, non-Christian immigrants also helped build this nation.  These residents and citizens of the United States deserve the same religious respect as our Christian founders.

We're living in a time when many people are using, "terrorism" and Islam with the same meaning.  "Jew" and the Israeli government are often considered to be the same.  One is a religion and one is a government.  We've grown to hate or show bias toward a religion, rather than focus on specific groups or individuals who promote violence.  We've not taken time to understand people with different beliefs than our own.

How many Americans would defend the religious beliefs of the Sikh, the Native American or the Muslim in this country?  Would we hear an outcry from the Christian community if a school district banned the wearing of a crucifix?  Yes, we would.  The Sikh kirpan could be a weapon, but it is a religious symbol.  The crucifix is a religious symbol that could be made into a stabbing weapon, with little effort.  A headdress could be worn to signify gang affiliation, or it may signify religious worship.

What this nation needs is a good dose of religious tolerance, understanding and common sense.  If we are going to preach religious freedom, we must practice religious freedom.  That means defending the religious practices of other faiths, as aggressively as we defend our own beliefs.  Individuals, school administrators and the courts must respect the rights of all faiths.  If a student is using a religious practices in a manner harmful to others, that individual must be dealt with based upon their actions, not upon their religion.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

ⒸCopyright Stan G. Kain 2003

As The Cookie Crumbles

By Stan G. Kain
October 2, 2003

How often have you bought a box of cookies, taken them home, opened them and had nothing but a box of crumbs?  Most of us have some unkind words for the truck driver who hauled the cookies.  Perhaps we have similar thoughts about the shelf stockers at the grocery store.  Maybe we've been blaming the wrong people for our broken cookies.

Broken cookies aren't just a perplexing issue for everyday cookie eaters.  It's an international problem.  Now, researchers at the University of Loughborough in Leichestershire, England, think they've found the cause of the mysterious crumbling cookies.  British physicists say it's a science problem; not handling that causes the shattered snacks.

So serious are the physicists, they employed an optical technique called, "digital speckle pattern interferometry."  While the research method takes longer to say than one needs to eat a broken cookie, the mystery appears to be solved.  Just as the shifting of the continental plates cause fault lines and earthquakes, cookies suffer from the same fault line syndrome.

Once the cookies are removed from the oven to cool, they pick up moisture around the rim, causing them to expand.  At the same time, moisture at the center of the cooking makes them contract.  The difference results in a build-up of strain forces, causing a crumbled cookie.  I wonder what the crumbling cookie measures on the Richter scale?

Scientists say their research will help cooking manufacturers adjust the humidity or temperature of their product in such a way the cookies won't crumble due to normal handling.  Next time you open a neatly arranged package of unbroken cookies, don't forget to thank the Loughborough scientists.  Who knows what may be next?  Can we even hope for cookies that make us lose weight?

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

ⒸCopyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Is Anyone Listening?

By Stan G. Kain
September 24, 2003

Last Monday night, President Bush was interviewed by Fox News chief correspondent, Brit Hume.  According to the Nielsen Media Research report, not many Americans were listening.  In a CNN report, President Bush says he's paying no attention to the Democratic race for his job.  A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows Mr. Bush with the lowest approval rating of his presidency.  The majority of Iraqi people, willing to voice their opinions, say they're unhappy with the progress of American occupation in their country.  I wonder if anyone is listening to anyone else?

During the President's White House interview, the Nielsen poll indicated most Americans were more interested in new comedies and a football game, than hearing what Mr. Bush had to say.  In fact, Mr. Bush drew an average of about 4.3 million viewers in the same time slot, the reality show, "Fear Factor," drew more than 13 million viewers.  Admittedly, when I hear "Fear Factor," I'm inclined to think first of President Junior, his resurrected Reagan advisers and John Ashcroft.  Why aren't Americans listening to their President?

Robert Thompson, Director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television, at Syracuse University, says, "That is a sorry state of affairs."  He adds, "I think most people, when they heard that the interview was going to happen, just assumed they weren't going to hear anything new that they hadn't already heard."  I agree.  We have an upcoming election and people are tired of hearing the same old messages and not seeing the results.  War on terrorism - we're making progress.  The American economy - It's showing signs of improvement.  Saddam Hussein - we're sure he had weapons of mass destruction.  Cut taxes and spend more money on defense.  Ronald Reagan is back, in President Junior.

Presidential campaigns are gaining momentum.  Retired General Wesley Clark has announced his candidacy for the Democrats.  Following Clark's announcement, polls showed him having favor with 39 percent of respondents.  Another 48 percent of respondents said they are unfamiliar with General Clark.  The same polls show the President with the lowest approval rating of his presidency.  Mr. Bush has the support of 50 percent of the Americans polled, down from 59 percent in August and 71 percent in April of this year.

While General Clark appears to be a serious challenger to Mr. Bush, there's a question as to whether he can maintain the momentum for the year ahead, until the election.  Republicans point out that Ronald Reagan, a year before the election for a second term, had an approval rating of about 40 percent and still won by a landslide.  Will American voters take time to learn about General Clark?  Will they compare the general to other Democratic hopefuls?  Will they compare Mr. Bush to his Democratic opponents, or will they just tune in to another good sitcom?

What does President Junior think about criticism of his performance and his Democratic challengers?  When asked by the interviewers, Mr. Bush said, "Well, occasionally it blips on my radar screen, but not nearly as much as you would think.  I've got a job to do.  I'm occupied."  As to specific Democrat criticism of the war in Iraq and the economy, Mr. Bush says, "I repeat, I'm not really paying attention to it."

Mr. Bush was asked about his thoughts on opinions, as they reach the media.  His response was almost comical.  President Junior said, "I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news.  And, the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."

Let's think about that for a moment.  The President appreciates the people's opinions, but those opinionss are apparently not to be taken seriously.  Opinions are the views of American voters.  Opinions may well translate into votes, a year from now.  Even better, Mr. Bush considers his own staff members to be the most objective source of news.  I wonder if he's ever read, "The Emperor's New Clothes?"  Probably not.  How many corporations have ended in bankruptcy court because the CEO only listened to his staff advisers?  Many, no doubt.  Paid staff advisers are paid "yes" men.  They tell their employer what he or she wants to hear.  Unless Mr. Bush wants to follow in his father's footsteps, as a one-term president, he would be well advised to listen to the opinions of voters in this country.  I don't think he's listening, either.

I think our President and his staff are counting on American voters not listening.  They hope voters aren't listening to how much money they are spending in Iraq.  They hope the voters aren't listening to unemployment figures in this country.  They are hoping voters weren't listening when Mr. Bush said he'd "go it alone," in the war in Iraq - especially now, when he's back at the U.N. asking for military and financial assistance in Iraq.  They are hoping French President, Jacques Chirac wasn't listening then they ordered "freedom fries," instead of "French fries."

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

ⒸCopyright Stan G. Kain 2003

Monday, June 6, 2016

Personal Responsibility

By Stan G. Kain
October 23, 2003

In June 2003, two teenage boys,aged 14 and 16, went on a shooting spree in Tennessee.  As a result of their actions a Canadian man died, a woman was wounded and a third victim was injured by the resulting accident.  Both boys were convicted of the shootings and are incarcerated until they reach the age of nineteen.

When police questioned the boys, the teenagers said they were merely mimicking a video game called, "Grand Theft Auto III."  The video game has players shooting at the sides of passing trucks, earning points for each hit.  The game is no more or less violent than many other games sold in stores and above all else, is merely a game.

Victims of the teenage snipers have now filed suit in the Cooke County, Tennessee courts, seeking $46 million in actual damages and another $200 million in punitive damages.  Victims have lodged the suit against the game's maker, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Inc., makers of the gaming equipment and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the seller of the game.

In court testimony, the teenagers admitted to the shootings, saying they traded off firing a rifle at the passing automobiles.  They claim they were merely playing a live re-creation of the game.  While anyone can sue anyone for anything, this is a claim in the extreme.  While the victims deserve compensation, where does the responsibility lie?

Are we to believe that two teenagers, aged 14 and 16, are unable to distinguish between the fantasy of a video game and the result of firing a real rifle at passing cars?  I think not.  In many nations, kids of this age are part of a children's army.  While they may not have had the luxury of owning a video game, they know the grim reality of live rifle fire.  Two teenagers in Tennessee, with access to a rifle also know the potential result of firing a rifle at a passenger-laden vehicle.  Someone needs a reality check, if they fail to understand that.

Sony makes a lot of electronic equipment.  How can we expect Sony to be responsible for how this equipment is used by consumers?  Certainly, if Sony manufactured a faulty product, resulting in electrocution while used in accordance with instructions and common sense, they should be held liable. I am sure Sony would agree.  Should Sony be held liable, if the consumer watches a violent program on a Sony television, then commits a violent act?  In no way could a reasonable jury rule against Sony in such a case.  Yet, this is what the shooting victims in Tennessee are asking.

A game manufacturer, whether electronic game or otherwise, should not be held accountable for the actions of consumers.  Games are just games.  Nothing more.  They are meant as entertainment and should not be in the hands of anyone incapable of understanding that.  Again, that is not the responsibility of the manufacturer, but the responsibility of the parents.  If game manufacturers are to be held responsible, the most exciting game we can hope to see will be Mr. Rogers lobbing creampuffs at a fence post.  Boring!!

The retailer, Wal-Mart in this case, is in the same situation as the manufacturer.  They are unqualified to perform a psychological evaluation on each and every customer.  Without employing "Miss Cleo" and her team of psychics at the checkouts, it is equally as foolish to expect Wal-Mart to predict what a customer will do, after purchasing an item.

Where does the responsibility fall for actions such as those of the Tennessee boys?  I'm going to take the unpopular stand that responsibility lies with the individual.  In this case, responsibility lies with each of the boys and with their parents.  Parents are responsible for having firearms in the home and for minors having access to the said weapons.  Likewise, parents are responsible for teaching their children the difference between fantasy and reality.  Similarly, parents are responsible for knowing what their children are doing out in the woods with a rifle.

The two boys are learning a lesson in reality now, as they sit in a correctional facility, convicted of reckless homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.  That lesson will haunt them for a lifetime.  Financial compensation for the victims rests with the boys and their parents, not with manufacturers and retailers.  Lawyers know families in Tennessee do not have the wealth of Wal-Mart, Sony and Take-Two Interactive Software.  Lawsuits are about money, both for the attorney and the victim, thus the far-fetching attempt to implicate everyone.  Law firms need a reality check, as well.  The responsible parties in this care are most likely not going to have $246 million.

When businesses are forced to pay huge sums of money for distant acts of negligence, the costs are passed along to all consumers.  We all are forced to pay for the actions of a few irresponsible individuals.  Let's hope a jury takes a common sense approach to this case and holds the perpetrators and their parents liable for the victim's losses.  Let's bring personal responsibility back into our society.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

Copyright 2003 Stan G. Kain

Theory vs. Fact

By Stan G. Kain
November 6, 2003

Controversy in Texas usually makes the news.  Not long ago, renegade Texas legislators hit the headlines, hiding in Oklahoma and New Mexico.  The latest Texas controversy concerns biology textbooks.  This time, religious activists are unhappy with a State Board of Education decision.  Opponents say the new books fail to present the anti-evolution point of view.

There's a long road between physical science and hard fact.  Most physical science is founded in "theory," not "fact."  Each and every day, we learn more about our world and the universe.  Often, new information contradicts or destroys well-established theory.  This is the nature of man's learning about his world.

How many theories, for any given scientific statement, should be presented during the first twelve years of school?  With each majority theory, one may find numerous minority theories, any one of which may be correct.  Should students be subjected to learning every mainstream and minority theory?  I think not.  Such should not be the purpose of elementary education.

Does a public school have the obligation to teach evolution, which is merely another theory?  If so, how long would we wait before one religious sect began to challenge the manner in which evolution was taught?  Public school is not a platform for religious debate.

What is the purpose of a high school biology class?  Is the objective of the class to train biologists?  Absolutely not!  A high school biology class should expect to do nothing more than open the world of biology to students.  If a student finds an exceptional interest in biology, or any other science for that matter, a university is where they may study mainstream and minority theories, including evolution, if that is their choice.

At any educational level, institutions of learning have an obligation to explain the difference between theory and fact.  Students should have an understanding that theory is an assumption based upon limited information or fact.  In my experience, most of the science "facts," I learned in elementary education are now history.  Scientific theory has changed drastically in the past forty-plus years.  Many of the scientific theories taught in my day have been replaced, thanks to new information from our scientists.  That is part of our learning process.

Let's select one mainstream theory to teach in elementary education.  Our schools should also be responsible to explain there are many theories, not just one.  Likewise, schools are responsible for students understanding that theories change, over time.

If we focus on teaching one theory and teaching it well, we have succeeded in generating curiosity and interest in our students.  Teach students to question all theories and develop a desire to learn.  Teach our students how to effectively use a library and resource centers in their quest for knowledge. Teach our students that the world is not a static place.  The world is ever changing and a thirst for knowledge is the only way to intellectually grow.  Let students know there is a creation theory based in religious doctrine.  Let the parents and the churches explain their version of the theory.  Don't put the burden of teaching sectarian beliefs on the backs of public school teachers nor school boards.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

Stan G. Kain 2003

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Weapons Of Mass Destruction -Who Said What

By Stan G. Kain
October 3, 2003

The U.S. led weapons inspection team, headed by CIA adviser, David Kay, has filed their report with Congress.  Kay says, "We have not found at this point, actual weapons.  It does not mean we've concluded there are no actual weapons.  It means at this point in time, and it's a huge country with a lot to do, that we have not yet found any weapons."  President Junior, meanwhile, is busy defending his attack on Iraq.  He's telling the world that it's not the weapons that are important, rather the potential to have a weapons program.  Is that a change in his position?

The United Nations led inspectors could not find any weapons in Iraq.  They were forced to leave the country before completing their investigation, so we could attack Saddam Hussein.  Now, Mr. Kay and his group of 1,400 people, spending a lot of money, have been unable to find any weapons.  Mr. Kay thinks he needs another six to nine months just to look.  President Junior would like another thirteen months to keep the voters hoping he's right.  After all, there's an election at stake.  The U.S. military, scouring Iraq has also come up empty handed.

So, now we're supposed to forget what the Bush Administration had to say, when trying to get U.N. and U.S. support to initiate war on Iraq.  There's a good chance President Junior will get away with that, if he can just focus voters on the potential threat, rather than what he really said.  Memory fades and quotes are soon forgotten.  As a refresher for Bush Administration statements of fact, regarding Iraq, I'd like to offer some earlier statements used to garner support for this costly war.  Do you remember these "facts," of not so long ago?

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
-Vice President Dick Cheney, VFW Nat'l Convention, August 26, 2002

"There is a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons for the purpose of using them.  And adding additional information is like adding a foot to Mount Everest."
-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Response to the Press, September 2002

"Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons - the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."
-President George W. Bush, Speech to the U.N. General Assembly, October 5, 2002

"The Iraqi regime...possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons.  We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, Sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas."
-President George W. Bush, Cincinnati, Ohio speech, October 7, 2002

"After eleven years during which we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more.  And, he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon."
-President George W. Bush, Cincinnati, Ohio speech, October 7, 2002

"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide biological or chemical weapons to a terrorist group or to individual terrorists,...The War on Terror will not be won until Iraq is completely and verifiably (sic) deprived of weapons of mass destruction."
-Vice President Dick Cheney, Denver address to National Guard, December 1, 2002

"If he declares he has none (weapons of mass destruction), then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world."
-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Response to questions from the press, December 4, 2002

"The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it."
-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Response to questions from the press, December 4, 2002

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."
-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Press briefing, January 9, 2002

"I am absolutely convinced, based on the information that's been given to me, that the weapon of mass destruction which can kill more people than an atomic bomb-that is, biological weapons-is in the hands of the leadership of Iraq."
-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MSNBC Interview, January 10, 2003

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.  Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."
-President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of Sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."
-President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003

"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more."
-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Remarks to U.N. Security Council, February 5, 2003

"There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.  And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction.  If biological weapons seem too terrible to contemplate, chemical weapons are equally chilling."
-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Addresses the U.N. Security Council, February 5, 2003

"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons-the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."
-President George W. Bush, Radio Address, February 26, 2003

"In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world-and we will not allow it."
-President George W. Bush, Speech to American Enterprise Institute, February 26, 2003

"If Iraq had disarmed itself, gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction over the past 12 years, or over the last several months since (UN Resolution) 1441 was enacted, we would not be facing the crisis that we now have before us...But the suggestion that we are doing this because we want to go to every country in the Middle East and rearrange all of its pieces is not correct."
-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Interview with Radio France International, February 28, 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraqi regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
-President George W. Bush, Address to the Nation, March 17, 2003

"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them."
-General Tommy Franks, Press Conference, March 22, 2003

"One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD.  There are a number of sites."
-Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clark, Press Briefing, March 22, 2003

"I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction."
-Defense Policy Board Member Kenneth Adelman, Washington Post, March 23, 2003

"We know where they are (WMD's).  They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Press Conference, April 9, 2003

"We simply cannot live in fear of a ruthless dictator, aggressor and terrorist such as Saddam Hussein, who possesses the world's most deadly weapons."
-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Speech to American Israel Political Action Committee, March 31, 2003

"But make no mistake-as I said earlier-we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction.  That is what this war was about and it is about.  And we have high confidence it will be found."
-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Press Briefing, April 10, 2003

"I have absolute confidence that there are weapons of mass destruction inside this country.  Whether we will turn out, at the end of the day, to find them in one of the 2,000 or 3,000 sites we already know about or whether contact with one of these officials who we may come in contact with will tell us.  "Oh, well, there's actually another site," and we'll find it there, I'm not sure."
-General Tommy Franks, Fox News, April 13, 2003

"We'll find them.  It'll be a matter of time to do so."
-President George W. Bush, Remarks to Reporters, May 3, 2003

"I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction thare and the evidence will be forthcoming.  We're just getting it just now."
-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Remarks to Reporters, May 4, 2003

"Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we're interrogating, I'm confident that we're going to find weapons of mass destruction."
General Richard Myers, NBC Today Show Interview, May 26, 2003

"They may have had time to destroy them, and I don't know the answer."
-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Remarks to Council on Foreign Relations, May 27, 2003

"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."
-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vanity Fair Interview, May 28, 2003

"Do I think we're going to find something?  Yeah, I kind of do because I think there's a lot of information out there."
-Major General Keith Dayton, Press Conference, May 30, 2003

"This wasn't material I was making up, it came from the intelligence community."
-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Press briefing, June 2, 2003

"No one ever said that we knew precisely where all of these agents were, where they were stored."
-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Meet the Press, June 8, 2003

"A British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: "They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories.  You could not even use them for making biological weapons.  They do not even look like them.  They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were-facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons."
-Unnamed British Weapons Expert, The Observer, June 15, 2003

Yes, some very interesting quotes and reminders for all of us.  We're led to believe there were thousands of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Now, they're like looking for a needle in a haystack.  The Iraqis keep telling us the weapons don't even exist and their story is looking more credible all the time.  In fact, at times, I think I know where "Baghdad Bob" went to work after the fall of Iraq.

While domestic issues are ignored, President Junior and his geriatric Reaganites are busy buying time.  They have an election to sell.  I wonder how long our close allies, the United Nations and American voters are willing to wait.  Recent polls indicate there is a change in the air.  Democrats are hoping the change will continue through the next Presidential election.

If you have questions or comments, please email Stan.

Ⓒ 2003 Stan G. Kain