Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

THE WAR -- THE MONEY [Part 33]

The following is only 534 words from an over 5200 word investigative report appearing in The Times today. From the front page opening to two full, five column inside pages, this story digs into the role of one retired Army “stars for hire” general. It provides details and online documents on his role in selling the Iraq war to the American people on NBC and MSNBC while also selling military hardware and services to the Pentagon and the Iraq government.

If you don’t read this, your understanding of how this needless war unfolded is seriously impaired.

Barry R. McCaffrey is not the only retired military man who is a part of this Military-Industrial-Media Complex. Last spring David Barstow wrote about an entire platoon of these guys who shovel their skewed and dollar stained expertise at the public over TV news programs. See New York Times, April 20, 2008, “Message Machine--Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand.” GO HERE

Barstow should and probably will receive a Pulitzer for this reporting.

One Man’s Military- Industrial-Media Complex

Published: NYT November 29, 2008

In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.

The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview. . . .


Monday, November 10, 2008

Blue Mondays and Saturday Mornin's

There’s plenty of music out there to represent how people are feeling now that Barack Obama has won the election. To paraphrase the old saying: Victory fills every iPod; defeat inspires silence.

Asked to name a fitting oldie for the occasion, with only a minute of reflection, I’d lean toward this Fats Domino classic. It’s a statement on the course of history as encapsulated in the average persons’ work week/life.

Go here for "Blue Monday"

After 8 years of Bush, we deserve tp enjoy our “Saturday mornin', oh Saturday mornin'. One thing is certain, Obama may extend our “Saturday mornin', oh Saturday mornin' “ or he may not, but with Bush it was an endless week/life of “Blue Monday how I hate Blue Monday.”

[For those who have a slow connection or just do not do YouTube, here are the lyrics. Sing along, think along.]

Blue Monday
Fats Domino and Fabian

Blue Monday how I hate Blue Monday
Got to work like a slave all day
Here come Tuesday, oh hard Tuesday
I'm so tired got no time to play
Here come Wednesday, I'm beat to my socks
My gal calls, got to tell her that I'm out
'Cause Thursday is a hard workin' day
And Friday I get my pay
Saturday mornin', oh Saturday mornin'
All my tiredness has gone away
Got my money and my honey
And I'm out on the stand to play

Sunday mornin' I'm feelin' bad
But it's worth it for the time that I had
But I've got to get my rest
'Cause Monday is a mess

With this spare song, the art is in the tragic certainties of life in tension with the hopeful dreams of a better tomorrow. And for me "Blue Monday" fully captures these elements of life. I would argue that Barack Obama knows these aspects of his life and in his striving. Just recall the frequent references in his speeches along the lines of "I may fail . . . ."

This “I may fail . . . “ line may be dismissed by some as boilerplate, nothing more than campaign speech modesty. Or it can be elevated to the Reinhold Niebuhr influence which runs widely through President-elect Obama’s bedrock life philosophy. I lean toward the Niebuhr influence. For me it represents a saving humility so missing in his predecessor.

This humility neither undermines action nor cancels out joy. It replaces the doldrums of a long night with the energy of a new day.

Saturday mornin', oh Saturday mornin'
All my tiredness has gone away

I would like to think that Obama is well versed in the spirit of the blues. The Blues reveals a line of human understanding running through the dark. The Blues magically leaves you feeling refreshed and cleansed for following that line. It speaks to us, saying: Life is hard, so hard, but life is life and what we make of it is what we make of it. And life is hard, so hard, but life is life and what we make of it make of it . . .

And so it goes. Without the beat, without the plaintive knowing voice giving meaning to mere words, this comes off as sentimental cliche washed up on some power point beach of cheap self-help advice. But put this humility and power into the hands of an artist and you find people listening and thinking, “Yes We Can.”