Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer
They sent me here just to watch...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Confessions of a Marine Officer

I have only shared this with a few people, mostly close friends.  It is not something that you normally share with the general public.

This time I make an exception.

During my time in the Marine Corps, I was twice accused of being tactful.

I hope this eases your mind.  I was acquitted on both counts!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A perspective of time and history

It is an ignoble truth that we look at time and history from our own unique but minuscule perspective condemning much from our myopic vista and applauding things of which we know nothing in fact but which have acquired a shiny veneer from an earlier time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

With courage not complaint

Everyone seems to have voiced their opinion about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare except me.

I have not ventured into this quagmire for the simple reason that it is a quagmire, will surely drain both life and energy from me should I enter the debate.  So I will not enter the debate, but perhaps offer a perspective to relieve the current debilitating gridlock.

The founding fathers did what no other nation on earth had ever done before.  They put forth a government that divided power among a federal government, state governments, and individuals. It further divided power at the federal level among a legislative, executive, and judicial branch.  It was the epitome of government by the people and an enduring model for keeping tyranny at bay.

It did not provide a problem solving organization, but did provide the opportunity for seizing opportunities, solving problems, and committing the full force of the United States to any cause that was resolved by the executive and the legislature.

Looking back, I would have to give these insightful, faithful, creative, and bold men an A+ on the framework for our nation.

That said, they never saw the issue of health care coming.  The first vaccine—ever—came into existence only a few years after our Constitution was adopted.

In the late 18th century, health care was as much a part of the daily conversation as was space travel.  If your town had a doctor, you were blessed in a very limited sort of way.  Only in the last half century has this idea of health care moved into the mainstay of daily life.

Organ transplants, open heart surgery, placing stints into arteries would have been the stuff of science fiction at the time our Constitution was drafted and for more than a hundred years thereafter.

It has been just over a century since doctors began attempting open heart surgery.  It has been less than half a century since the first heart transplant.

The problem with health care is that we are all rookies.
Taxes have been around forever.
Funding armies and navies is old hat to almost every nation.
Negotiating treaties is as old as government itself.

But health care is a horse of a different color, and we seem to ignore this thinking that we are all experts.
The only thing that seems to progress as fast as modern medicine is modern technology.  Nobody wants to be caught with a phone that is more than 2 years old.  That’s just not the way things work in this 21st century.

We don’t keep our phones for more than 24 months, but we believe that the existing system of health care is a viable longstanding model or take the other extreme and think that the Affordable Care Act will bring balance to what seems to be an industry that is out of control.

Arguments on both sides have validity. 
Government control of a private industry inherently is problematic.
The availability of certain services for only a select segment of our nation seems un-American.
What are we to do?

We as individual citizens are to tell our president and lawmakers that we elected them to serve the people of this great nation.  We sent them to take on a tough set of challenges believing them to be tougher.
Huddling up with only those who think the same way you do and pointing fingers at anyone else hardly shows the meddle that we need from our leaders at this time.

The budget needs fixed—to include taking on this monster known as the national debt.
Health care must be addressed as an issue unique to the current century.  This is a new challenge.  We should approach it with the same tenacity and dedication and national commitment that got us to the moon.  That hadn’t been done before either.

All elected officials must abstain from acrimony, vitriolic tones, and pity parties.  This is a time for men and women of courage to step forward, and those entrenched in petty politics—no party has clean gloves here—to pack up and go home.

Had our founding fathers suffered the same mindset as our current slate of national leaders, we would still being paying taxes to the Queen.

We are in a mess.

It is not hopeless.  Men and women of courage can come together and tackle our nation’s problems and seek opportunities, and work for the common good.

We all have some sort of political foundation that we believe is best for this country.  Bitterness and blaming while holding fast to my way or not way at all does not befit men and women of courage.

Were these same men and women in the armed forces, they would be considered cowards for running and hiding from hostile fire.  They are not soldiers.  They have chosen a different calling, but have become so entrenched in their positions, that they deny even the very profession to which they are a part of.

It is time for politicians to resign and for true statesmen to emerge.

We can emerge stronger from the current dysfunctional state of our national government, if enough of our elected officials will remember why we sent them to Washington and use the modicum of courage needed to take on the challenges of the current century.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.

I practiced on this sentence hundreds of times in typing class (yes, I’m showing my age), but it holds true today.  It is especially true today.

It is time for our president and our legislature to step up to the challenges before them with courage not complaint.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An OSU grad gets biblical with Sports Illustrated

What does an OSU grad who teaches weekly from the Bible have to say about the Sports Illustrated series that attacks Oklahoma State University?

Here is my proverbial answer...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Everyone got an "F"

This analogy is making the rounds.  It makes some valid points, but is incomplete.  Read the offering and then my concomitant that follows.

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. 

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan".

All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (Substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling.  All resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because
 when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or
want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that. (Please pass this on)

 These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

The rest of the story…

God placed mercy and compassion in the human heart.  God commanded us to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.  Jesus said, it’s time to do better than that—let’s raise the bar.  It’s time to love our neighbor as much as I have loved you.  The human heart has a divine model.  We are equipped to care for our neighbor if we follow Christ and abide in his word.

Why do many want the government to do this?  That is the real question.

  Why does this generation want the government to do this?

We are called out of the world, set apart for God’s work, and sent back into the world for good works that bring glory to God.

Maybe it is time that God's people stopped waiting on the government and just started doing God's work.

I enjoy free enterprise.  I embrace our wonderful Constitution   It is a masterpiece of self government for the ages.  I do not want to lose it.  I don't want a society without a solid work ethic, but neither is worth much without God's blessing.  God's blessing comes from returning to him.

It is time that Christians stopped blaming the government for everything.  We should be too busy loving one another, speaking the truth in love, and bring the good news of abundant and eternal life in Christ to have time left over to complain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Getting out of our government quagmire

Look at the news.  It’s same stuff, different day.  Our national leaders are at odds about everything.  Everyone has an agenda.  If you don’t agree with it, then you must be evil.  A little gridlock is not a bad thing, but gridlock as a way of life has become counterproductive.  How do our elected officials break this gridlock?

I think I know of something that we should all agree upon.  It is the Preamble to the Constitution.  It is sort of the mindset of our government—the why of everything that follows.  Perhaps it might get us moving towards something better than the quagmire that has sullied our statesmanship.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
More perfect union.  We have many different opinions but one Union.  Quit polarizing our nation.  Realize that you won’t get everything you want, but work together to maintain a strong union.  You all work for the same boss—the people of the United States.  We are tired of your dissension.

Establish justice.  Our justice system is surely the worst ever, except for those in other countries.  Yes, we have some problems, but ours is better than most man-made systems.  That means you have time to focus on other areas right now.

Insure domestic tranquility.  Knock off all the discussion about guns and gun laws.  The Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunters or home defense.  This is the most basic element of liberty provided by our Constitution.  If we want to change something, then let’s have the national discussion and put forth an Amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, but only after we decide as a nation (it is intentionally difficult to amend our supreme law of the land and with good cause) that our government will never be too powerful and too abusive that we must do as our founding fathers did and overthrow it.  Yes, there is a higher price to pay for this liberty today than in the late 18th century.  We don’t need laws to circumvent this amendment.  We need as a people to affirm it at its current price or repeal it.  Our government has circumvented our constitution too many times.  Change it, embrace it, but don’t ignore it.

Provide for the common defense.  Our service men and women are the very best in the world—the very best.  Our equipment, research and development, and pay should reflect this.  We should never again engage them in an undeclared war.  For over half a century, our nation has gone to war without the backbone to declare it and the mission of our federal government seems to have been to lessen the impact of our wars upon the general population instead of to engage the entire population in winning our declared wars.  War should never be our first course of action, but when we do declare war our enemies should tremble in fear all the way up to the day of their surrender.  NO MORE UNDECLARED WARS!  The Congress of the United States needs to grow a set and step up to their responsibility.  Arm chair quarterbacks are a dime a dozen (even cheaper among the legislature).  We elected men and women to lead, not to second guess. 

Promote the general welfare.  This has been misconstrued to getting everyone on welfare.  We need to get America back to work.  That means that both major parties must set aside their absolutes and do what is best for the American people.  None of you have all the answers.  Together, you have enough answers.  The American people sent you to work on their behalf.  Finger pointing and never-ending rebuttals and vitriolic banter don’t count as work.  Work together for the welfare of our nation or file for unemployment because you are not doing the job for which we hired you.  Promote the general welfare or find yourself on welfare.

Preserve the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.  Tell all special interest groups to take a hike.  They are looking out for their own interests.  You were sent to look out for ours.  If every decision other than giving yourselves a raise each year results in brinkmanship, this union will not continue.  Will you let it crumble on your watch?  It is time to put aside partisan politics and put on the clothing of statesmanship.

Actually, that time has come and gone.  You need to play catch-up.  Realize that we have trusted you with our liberty and the liberty of our grandchildren.  Right now you are getting a D- in the trust department.  That dog don’t hunt!

Remember that our fathers not only established this wonderful constitution; they ordained it.  It is set apart from all the other laws of the land, and if we would look at the magnitude of its purpose and scope, we would see that it is set apart from every other man-made law on the planet.

It is time to live up to the expectations of the electorate and those who ordained this more perfect union.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A kid with a key but no integrity

After 2 days the item had not been changed to a per pound price but the price had been jacked up almost a dollar.  Perhaps the computer will ring it up per pound and it will seem that the customer is getting a bargain.  Then again, it may just set on the shelf unsold.

On Tuesday, 8 May 2013 I was in the Elk City Walmart.  I try not to go there much anymore as these encounters always have some unpleasant experience associated with them.  At this location it is usually the mandatory 30-minute wait.  That does not mean I have stopped shopping at Walmart.  I just go to the ones at Weatherford or Altus most of the time.  I have been to Walmart’s in Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee where the store employees actually are glad to see you shopping and bringing business to them.

That is just not the case in Elk City, Oklahoma.

Why am I picking on Walmart?  I’m not.  I give them plenty of business, know many people that work or have worked there—some of them even managers, and use their photo services on a regular basis.

Picking up pictures was what brought me to the Elk City Walmart on this occasion.  I grabbed a few items while I was there to include an impulse buy on fresh asparagus.  The price was listed as $2.98 each for a small bundle that weight approximately 1 pound.

I noted that the price was per unit and not per pound.  This was not my first Walmart rodeo.  I was pleased that the laws of the universe had been temporarily suspended for part of this day and I did not have to wait the obligatory half hour in line.  As I placed my items on the conveyor belt, I said, “Hello” to the cashier.  Her nametag read, “Mary.”  She looked at me without response.

She rang up my items in silence.  Then came the asparagus.  It rang up $3.48.  I asked her if the $3.48 price was for the asparagus as the items were sliding across the scanner very quickly.  She looked at something on her side of the counter and said, “Yes.”

I told her that they were marked $2.98 each.  She said nothing, but went on ringing up the remainder of my items in silence.  At the end of my items she said nothing, so I asked her if she could correct the price of the asparagus.  She said that she could not.

I asked if she could find someone who could correct the price.  Silently she flipped a switch on a pole next to the register and walked away.  She was gone for a minute or so.  While she was away, I told the people behind me that I had not planned on slowing them down.  The couple both replied that they understood and frequently made the same request to correct the price.

I still felt a little awkward because they had to wait.  I had broken the laws of the universe by not complying with the mandatory 30-minute waiting period in the line and now I was going to be the cause of the wait for all those behind me.

Finally, Mary returned with a manager.  At least I thought he was a manager.  He wore no nametag, but was a kid with a key.  He put his key in the register and pulled up the item and told me that the price was $3.48.  I told him that the items were marked $2.98 per bunch.  He said that the price was $2.98 per pound.  I asked him if he was going to change either my price or the price displayed in the produce section.  He said nothing and began to walk away.  I told the clerk to  just remove the item from my purchase.
Ouch!  The kid with the key had to stop after a couple of steps, come back, re-insert his key, and take off the asparagus.  Still not a word from him or the cashier, but then again, it is tough to get anyone to work these days.

But that answer is not acceptable.  Stores have managers, so I looked for the number for the Elk City store manager.  Previously, there were signs with his name and number posted in conspicuous locations.  I found none, so I would just look up the store online when I got home and call t he manager.
After loading my purchases (sans asparagus) into my truck, I decided to check my receipt.  Sure enough, the manager’s name was on the receipt.  It was Dustin Pfahler.  I called the number next to it.  I think the phone rang at the service desk.

I asked to speak to Dustin Pfahler.  After a long silence, I was told that he was in a meeting.  I asked to leave a message.  You might have thought that I was asking the woman on the phone to come to my house and assemble a 244 part swing set.  The request went immediately into the unmanageable category.

The person on the phone said that she was going home soon.  That’s fantastic information but how in the world does it preclude someone from writing a simple message.  Call this man at this number.  After a repeated request and response as to why this woman would rather tell me why she couldn’t complete a 20 second task instead of doing it; I asked if she would put someone on the phone who could take a message.

After almost 2 minutes on hold, I hung up.

Why is this such an issue to me?

We the consumer set the standard for acceptable customer service.  If we do not object and ask the local management to correct the situation, then the only other choice is to take my business elsewhere.  I can’t think of a week where I did not spend at least $100 at Walmart.  I am going to do my best to spend less than $100 at this Walmart for the rest of the year.

It is a mix of apathy and incompetence coupled with no concept of integrity that gets my goat.  If I need to go to Walmart, I will go to Weatherford, Altus, or Yukon, or even the small one in Hobart.
Is this a lifetime commitment?

No.  One day I will see if the management has changed or the manager has grown into the job, but my tolerance for incompetence is much less.  I will not hesitate to walk away from my cart.  That seems to be about the only language that some places understand.

In contrast to this dismissal example of customer service and nonexistent management, I offer the United Supermarket in Cordell, Oklahoma.

I am always greeted by every person in the store.  These people enjoy their jobs.  They are glad to have them.  They are genuinely glad to see you in the store and to help you with even the smallest request.  If something is not right, they insist on fixing it.

They cannot always compete on price on every item, but they are competitive on enough things that if I need grocery items, they are my first choice.  I don’t live in Cordell or Elk City.  Cordell is a little closer, but I will drive to the Cordell United over Walmart 9 times out of 10 and 99 times out of 100 if it is the Elk City Walmart that is half of this dichotomy.

How can 2 businesses that draw from the same labor pool produce such different outcomes?

I can think of a few reasons: 
·         Leadership
·         Pride in workmanship
·         Genuine concern for the customer
·         Integrity

I am not ready to accept pitiful customer service and the absence of integrity as the new norm.  I did return to the Elk City Walmart 2 days later to pick up pictures once again so I swung by the produce section to see if anything had changed.  The price was marked by unit but had been raised to $3.78 each.  I bet they still don’t ring up as listed, but I won’t wait in line half an hour to find out.