Tag Archives: department of homeland security

Fill the Strategic Twinkie Reserve Now: Hostess Files for Bankruptcy

It is not enough that war, economic distress, natural disasters, Zombie Apocalypse and threaten us on every side but now true disaster threatens. Yes my dear readers Hostess has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  While the company has announced that “normal operations” will continue the threat is real. The world could possibly find that the leading manufacturer of food designed to survive the Apocalypse may go out of business, or even worse be bought and parted out Twinkie by Twinkie by Bain Capital.

I grew up with Twinkies, they were one of the 5 major food groups of grade school for the sack lunch crowd.  I know that my lunch box always had Twinkies in it, or if not Twinkies another Hostess delicacy such as Chocolate cupcakes with creme filling, or a fruit pie.  My peanut butter and jelly sandwich was made with the softest and freshest Wonder Bread.

While my tastes have adjusted over the years there are times that my mind will wander back to the innocence of childhood and the blissful unawareness of just how bad this was for me.  But back then when we had to walk 8 miles through the mud and rain to go to school without so much as a Walkman and had to actually go outside to play without a smart phone we could burn off all the calories and were energized by the rush created by the combination of pure unadulterated sugar and God knows what else so that we wouldn’t fall asleep in class after lunch. Yes my friends those were the days.

But the world is passing Hostess and the Twinkie by and that could threaten civilization as we know it.  I mean what will we lose next? I tremble at the thought.  Will it be the Zinger? or possibly the Baby Ruth bar?

With North Korea, Pakistan already having nukes and Iran threatening to build them it is imperative that we invest in America and emergency preparedness.  The Congress should approve emergency legislation to preserve the Twinkie and stock the Strategic Twinkie Reserve before it is too late. I don’t know about you but cheap knock offs made by Little Debbie are no substitute for the Twinkie although a Krispy Kreme Chocolate Pie will give the Hostess pie a run for its money…but I digress.  Twinkie production must supported by the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security. Every MRE should contain a Twinkie and Twinkies should be part of FEMA emergency food stocks to support Hostess like we did in the 1970s when the Federal Government bought almost everything that Chrysler Corporation produced to save the company.

Write your Congressman and tell them to save the Twinkie before it is too late. The future of the country could depend on it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, purely humorous

Freedom willingly Surrendered is Seldom Regained

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.  James Madison

William Pitt once said: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” Unfortunately necessity seems to have trumped freedom in the United States.

I have no fear of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist regardless of their malevolent intents, perverse ideology, and lethalness of their weapons or commitment to their cause. I don’t fear these malignant vermin because in our history we have faced down far greater threats to our country, our freedom and way of life.  Unfortunately after the attacks of September 11th 2001 something changed in our country. For the first time an enemy had executed a successful attack on the continental United States killing nearly 3000 Americans and throwing the country into a state of shock and dare I say panic and generated such fear and anxiety that people willingly allowed their legislature to pass several acts to safeguard the country. These acts were of grand scale and affected almost every aspect of life in the country from driver’s licenses to airport security as well as government surveillance of e-mail and about every other form of communication outside of cans and string. Under previous courts parts or all of some of these acts would have been declared unconstitutional because previous courts recognized the inherent dangers of such types of legislation.

However fear has a strange affect on people especially a people who have become conditioned to desiring security and material comfort over freedom which entails risk. Despite warnings of civil libertarians on both the political left and right the Patriot Act of 2001 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004 were passed by large majorities in the then Republican dominated Congress and signed into law by President Bush.  They were passed in the shadow of the single most devastating attack on the country in what were considered emergency conditions. They were passed because we were told and many of us earnestly believed that they were necessary for the protection of the American “homeland.”  People willingly submitted to ever increasing security measures especially those in airports and few seem to know or even care that almost every type of telephonic, wireless or electronic means of communication to include e-mail and chat is monitored by Carnivore a massive surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency.  The rational for accepting them is that they were needed to keep us safe form the terrorists. However, as Justice Charles Evans wrote: “Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the federal government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency.”

As I said in my previous post The Road to Totalitarianism is paved with Good Intentions https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/the-road-to-totalitarianism-is-paved-with-good-intentions/ that those that hastily enacted the legislation did so with good intentions, intentions to govern, but as Daniel Webster said: “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

In reaction to further threats and methods of attack by Al Qaeda and its allies the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Transportation Security Agency (TSA) have put into use more stringent and intrusive methods at their airport passenger and crew screening stations.  These include full body scanners that reveal a person’s naked body and if they do not desire that the can submit to a “pat down search” which can also be done to people chosen at random. The methods employed would be illegal if a teacher did them to a student and would get almost anyone else charged with sexual assault.  They are draconian and have been applied to the most vulnerable citizens, children strip searched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSQTz1bccL4 , cancer survivors having their prosthetics removed and examined and one man having his urostomy bag broken leaving him soaked in urine.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40291856/ns/travel-news There have been hundreds of complaints by other citizens who have felt that they have been assaulted in the process of being screened. To add insult to injury the TSA has announced that people who enter a security line and then decided that they do not want to be searched and want to leave the airport can be detained, interrogated and possibly charged with a felony, imprisoned and fined up to $11,000.  They don’t even have to have anything on them; they can be law abiding citizens that simply decide at the moment that air travel is just not worth the humiliation.

The sad thing is that 80% in a CNN Poll said that they were okay with this but in reality these measures are already obsolete because Al Qaeda can change its tactics in an instant. Al Qaeda announced that the operation that led to this cost just over $4,000 and that its attacks were meant to “bleed us to death with a 1000 cuts.” http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/al-qaeda-promises-us-death-thousand-cuts/story?id=12204726 Not only this but there are reports that Al Qaeda is already developing methods for men or women to have explosives surgically implanted and thus completely undetectable unless all passengers are required to have a full body cavity search. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=229613

The TSA has dug in and is refusing to modify the searches despite pressure from their superiors at the DHS and some in Congress. The have been supported by the President but what really can he do. If he forces a change and something happens then he gets blamed by his political opponents who already have it out for him. Likewise he isn’t doing something that President Bush and John Ashcroft would not have done earlier had the technology been available in 2001.  Add to the fact that 80% of the people say they are okay with these measures as long as they are safe means that he has to back the TSA.  If he doesn’t he alienates even more of the people.  He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

In surrendering our liberty and all that we hold dear for an illusion of security we have in effect granted victory to Al Qaeda and its allies.  Our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen fight and die every day while their countrymen surrender the freedom that they honestly believe that they are fighting for. The freedoms and liberties that we give up will only grow in number and intensity. It will not end well.

God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under national security, Political Commentary

Fly the Friendly Skies….The TSA Way

Well, I used to be a frequent flier because of my military assignments.  Back in those days I became quite good at making sure that I presented as little trouble to TSA screeners as possible.  I planned and organized every part of my trip to make sure that the screening process would be quick and painless to all involved. Everything I did was done to make things easy for the TSA screeners because I figured that they had a thankless task dealing with irate travelers already pissed off about long lines, baggage fees, flight delays and generally being treated like chattel every step of the way. On rare occasion something would occur that caused me to get pulled aside, maybe it was my field communion set, my oil stock or some other religious item.  These were generally minor inconveniences that were resolved quickly and in a usually friendly manner.
However on one occasion I was subjected to the most humiliating public humiliation of my life. I was travelling in my Khaki uniform.  Of course I had me rank and ribbons on and my USS Hue City belt buckle.  Where I live we have a very large military population that frequents our airport with many having to fly in uniform.  Thus the screeners tend to be respectful of military personnel in uniform.  One day back in 2003 well before the current “Say Cheese” and “Grope on Sight” order went out.  I took everything out of my pockets, took of my shoes and presented myself for inspection. Of course as I went through the scanner my shiny big belt buckle, shiny rank and multi-colored stack of ribbons set of the scanner.  I was ushered aside and told to remove everything and even told to unzip my trousers.  The agent in full view of hundreds of people then went through a hard pat down that included my “junk.” Meanwhile people who were obviously foreign and wearing clothing that could hide a truck bomb walked by without getting groped.  I was stunned, embarrassed and shocked. I had just completed a combat deployment and this idiot was treating me like a criminal.  When I got home I wrote a letter to the head of the TSA requesting an apology. I got no reply.  This soured me on the TSA even before the new draconian rules went into force.
You see I am a patriot, I want to see terrorists killed off like vermin and I don’t want to see another American or anyone else harmed. However it seems to me in their haste to look like they are doing something in the name of “security” that the Department of Homeland Security is willing to trample over the rights of self respecting, law abiding citizens using methods that the Gestapo would have had wet dreams thinking about. Back in 2001 civil libertarians warned of the dangers inherent in the cleverly named “Patriot Act.”  We are now seeing how an agency created by that act is willing to abuse citizens, and yes groping qualifies as abuse especially in the absence of probable cause.  But wait, probable cause is given when a person refuses to go through a high powered x-ray machine that looks through their clothing to expose their nakedness to TSA employees who in some cases have laughed and made fun of their subjects and some of which have found their way to the internet.

I have seen videos of TSA agents patting down tiny children and watched in horror when the traumatized children were crying.  I’m sorry that is as close to legal sexual abuse of a child as you can get.  But then to keep us secure it’s okay for the TSA to do things that would get a teacher, pastor, scoutmaster or anyone else thrown in jail and forever listed as a sexual predator.
When I came back from Iraq and was going in my Marine Corps pattern camouflaged uniform after an arduous return which culminated in an 18 hour flight from Kuwait to the States I was welcomed home to an airport on the East Coast. Customs agents were kind and we had a small group of really nice people welcoming us home.  As I ran to the connecting flight accompanied by my trusty assistant Nelson Lebron we got to the TSA screening checkpoint with minutes to spare.  We got our gear through the machine and then it was time for us.  I had to remove my shirt, my belt buckle and my boots and run to the aircraft gate with my boots untied because they were getting ready to close the gate.  At least the screeners were not rude but even still, for crying out loud, we just came home from Iraq.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Have we lost our minds?  Welcome home from TSA.

Now if you ask me I think that the complaints of people are entirely justified. On the absence of being able to bring home Osama Bin Laden’s head on a platter we now assume that everyone is a terrorist and those that complain must be sympathizers. Well I tell you what, as someone who has seen the ravages of what terrorists can do dating back to the 1980s when the Red Brigades terrorized Americans, NATO allies and Germans bombing and killing.  However even the thorough Germans never subjected their citizens to this type of humiliation.  I think that they learned something from the Third Reich, something that we seem to have forgotten. The “Greatest Generation” went to war to defeat Nazi tyranny and free Europe from the evil of a police state.  Now it seems that our own TSA deems that we the people are the enemy.  I figured that out in 2003 and again in 2008.

I think now with the abuses being heaped upon Americans that people are finally taking notice.

Until things change let’s all just sit back and enjoy the groping, enjoy the friendly skies.  Your papers please.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under national security, state government agencies, travel

Don’t Mess With the Pig- The Swine Flu is no Joking Matter

I am not an alarmist by any means.  I am a realist and a historian.  If we know anything from human history there have been great plagues as well as epidemics and pandemics of various types.  Our world is rich in life and beauty but it is also full of really really nasty diseases that on occasion get loose and act really really bad.   Influenza, which normally kills about 30-40,000 people annually in the United States is one of those ugly nasty diseases.    Even mild cases can make you want to die and this is the easy stuff.  I’m not smart enough to make a prediction that the Swine Flu will be the next big pandemic, but it has potential and that potential needs to be addressed to ensure the safety of everyone, even lawyers.

The Avian and Swine variations of the flu are like normal flu on steroids.  They kill if they are not contained quickly.  The last scare we had with the Swine flu was back in the 1970s.  I remember getting the vaccine for it.  Hopefully those anti-bodies as well as all the ones from every other flu bug that I have been vaccinated for or exposed to will keep me safe with good preventive measures. That bug was contained and it did not become an epidemic.  Because it didn’t the pharmaceutical companies that produced the vaccine were beaten down.  A small minority of people had side effects from the vaccine.  The pharmaceutical companies, for all their faults, got hosed on this.  They had their asses sued off and were not protected.  Maybe we should pray, like Henry IV that if this Flu becomes a pandemic that it kills all the lawyers first.  People, especially we Americans then developed the attitude that this is not a threat.  This attitude could cost us big if we are slow to react.

The fact is there will be another epidemic or pandemic.  The really big one was the Great Influenza or the “Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This was nasty a virulent strain of Influenza A subtype H1N1, the same subtype as the current Swine Flu. It killed people by the millions worldwide, most of whom were the young and able bodied.  Thousands of US Soldiers in France and Stateside Camps got sick and died with the first outbreak in the US coming at Ft Riley Kansas.  Back then there was no mechanical ventilation nor antibiotics. So if you were blue from lack of oxygen you were put in the “you’re going to die line.”  Back then the mortality was about 2.5-5% with anywhere from current estimates 50-100 million deaths world wide.  In the United States it is estimated that 28% of the population was effected with between 500,000 and 675,000 fatalities.    More than half the fatalities were in 20-40 age group.These were the “Flu virgins.”  Regular Flu kills the elderly and young children, this Flu was different, it ate up the young and otherwise healthy people with no immunity.

With supportive care in the United States and other first world countries that will be significantly lower but still catastrophic.  Estimates range to 2 million dead in the United States alone.  Because we are a much more fluid society in the event of a real pandemic the government will have to take draconian measures.  These will have to ensure that public safety limiting movement, deciding who gets vaccines first and who gets treated the most acutely with the coresponding reality that in a pandemic there will be people for whom the best you can do is palliative care. This will offend sensitivities of religious people, good hearted “secular” humanitarians as well as various political factions.  Civil Libertarians will be outraged.  Media goons and talk show hosts will rant against the government.  Conspiracy theorists will come out in droves.  Unfortunately if this outbreak becomes a epidemic or even a pandemic drastic actions may be required until the emergency passes.   Marital Law may be an option.  I’m not a big fan but if this gets really ugly it may have to happen.

I am an ICU chaplain.  Really bad Pneumonia’s are a pain in the ass to treat for Intensivists and quite often exacerbate or cause cause problems in other organ systems.  This flu and the Avian flu produce pneumonia’s in spades both viral and bacterial. In the Spanish Influenza it was the bacterial pneumonia’s that killed the most people.  Through in ARDS, pulmonary edema and hemorrhages in the lungs.   If you have ever been in an intensive care unit and seen a young person on a vent battling a pneumonia and barely hanging on to life then grab your seat.  Lot’s of young people will die.  Likewise there will not be enough ICU beds and ventilators to go around should this reach the pandemic stage.  Resources will be short and physicians and government officials will have only bad and worse choices.  Those in the front lines of the battle, young physicians, nurses and technicians will be among the casualties.

I am not privy to any plans of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense or CDC.   However, I am graduate of the USMC Command and Staff College.  I am sure that both departments have been preparing for such case since the Avian flu started showing up in the 1990s, as well as the threat of terrorists using biological weapons post 9-11.  Unfortunately there are some who would see what these agencies are doing to plan for a worst case scenario as some diabolical plot, a conspiracy theory to make the government more powerful.  If fact there are some of the Keepers Of Odd Knowledge that are alleging a government plot to engineer such a virus.   I have seen this from both left and right wing bloggers and I’m sure that their message will get out and cause people to act stupidly and jeopardize public health.  In other words, they will damn everyone else, and do what I want even if it means that they spread a virus that will kill those around them.  Sorry this is selfish, irresponsible and just plain idiotic.  Prudence is the watchword.

On my way to the ball park I heard a radio talk show host talking about the “Napolitano Flu.”  He was taking a shot at the Secretary of Homeland Security.  Unfortunately for the millions of listeners this man and others like him will not take the threat seriously.  I’m not going to say that there will be a pandemic with this outbreak.  However, a pandemic is bound to happen and when, not if,  it happens the blood of these people’s listeners will be on their hands.  Ignorance and idiocy in encouraging stupidity is not a virtue even if you have valid criticisms of the way the government is handling the situation.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this.  I hope it goes away.  I don’t want any of this to happen.  Anyone with half a brain doesn’t want it to happen. However it will someday and maybe even with this strain.  God I hope not.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, History, Military, Political Commentary