Archive for November, 2006

For Either Side: No Such Thing As “Closure”

November 30, 2006

By John E. Carey
Special to The Washington Times
Thursday, November 30, 2006

To me, there is no such thing as “closure.” There is only life and life’s cumulative experiences, both happy and sad.

The enemy sees it the same way. They never have closure. Years after the end of a conflict, there is often still animosity.

The secret of a good life is to seek and attain balance. Don’t let the evil conquer the good and don’t become “Goodie Two Shoes” either.

I have daily reminders of the war in Vietnam all around me. God’s Greatest Gift to me is Honglien Do. She came from Vietnam “the hard way.”

She was on the run from the Communists, in and out of prison and in and out again for several years after the Communists overwhelmed her country in 1975. Sometimes, circumstances forced her into hiding in her own house like Ann Frank.

Lien’s brother Fong disappeared into the Communist prison system in 1975 and never came out. So Lien is the lucky one: she is here in the USA with us. The day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday,” we went for coffee at the 7/11 at 4 AM. Then Lien went to work. This November, Lien voted for the first time in her life.

To escape Communist Vietnam, my wife Lien and about 50 others spent 22 days in an open boat without food. The engine of the boat failed after about the first hour at sea. The only fresh water available to the drifting refugees was rainwater collected in little cups. Four people died in that boat before it reached safety.

After reaching the Philippines, my wife, who by now was mixed into a horde of other Vietnamese refugees, witnessed the agents of the overwhelmed Philippine government. The Philippine government built small huts in a kind of “stalag” to house the refuges behind tightly guarded barbed wire.

Lien lived on Palowan Island, The Philippines, for ten years. Fifty or so people, men and women, young and old, lived together in a room the size of your TV room or den.

After ten years the Philippine government sent her back to Saigon where she was an enemy of the state without papers. After eighteen years: she was back where she started.

Saigon fell and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975. My wife made it to safety in the United States in 1998!

Today, at Arlington Cemetery, our nation will bury Colonel Charles J. Scharf, United States Air Force. He was the pilot of an F-4 fighter over North Vietnam when he was shot down in October 1965.

His widow, Patricia Scharf, 72, of Arlington, Virginia, has never remarried, has never had children and still considers the brave Air Force officer the love of her life.

Colonel Scharf was positively identified by DNA these 40 years after his death. U.S. government investigators matched the DNA from the love letters to his wife that he had licked to bone fragments found where he had crashed.

“What other nation would go to such lengths,” says my wife Lien. She doesn’t need any more proof that the United States is the greatest nation in the world. But she is constantly turning over the evidence and showing it to me.

Besides the DNA, there are some relics of Colonel Scharf and his life lost. Mrs. Scharf will bury most of them today. The Colonel’s singed identification card, with his name still decipherable. His dog tags. His silver captain’s bars. (He was promoted posthumously to colonel.) And finally his scapular.

In my experience, only really devout Catholics, like my brother in law Charles, wear the scapular. Colonel Scharf was wearing his on the day that he died. It was a gift to him on his wedding day. His wife still wears the matching cloth religious pendant.

We’ll go to Arlington today to honor and remember Colonel Scharf and all the American men and women who died for us. Lien, despite her own travails, feels very strongly a bond to the men and women who sacrificed and served in the attempt, the futile attempt, to keep her country from slipping into Communism.

This ties us inextricably to the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today too. Each day we think of them and pray for them.

When America puts its reputation on the line, our brave young men and women go to war for us and many come home wounded or lost. And if we as a nation lose our nerve and give up our resolve, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people find themselves at risk, imprisoned, on death lists or killed. Translators, drivers and the lowest who assisted the Americans all become targets, just as Lien did in Vietnam.

We hope this sad history is not repeated in Iraq. But we fear that it will be.

We thought the American people might want to think about this today; the day we bury Colonel Charles J. Scharf, United States Air Force.

John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants Inc. and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.


The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. Air Force officer missing in action from the Vietnam War have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Col. Charles J. Scharf of San Diego. His funeral is scheduled for Nov. 30 at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C.Col Scharf and a fellow crew member took off in their F-4C Phantom IIs from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand on October 1, 1965.

Their mission was to attack an enemy concentration and a major highway in North Vietnam.

After the lead aircraft developed problems en route, Scharf assumed the lead of the two other F-4s in the flight. After he completed two bombing runs, Scharf’s aircraft was hit by enemy fire.

His radio transmission of “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” was heard by the other two aircraft. One radioed “Gator 3 (Scharf’s call sign), you’re on fire, you’d better get out! Bail out, Gator 3!”

Scharf’s plane began to disintegrate and a parachute was seen leaving the aircraft.

The other two aircraft lost sight of the parachute, and circled the area for about 10 minutes where Scharf’s aircraft had crashed and burned but no radio or visual contact was made then nor in subsequent aerial search and rescue operations.

In January 1990, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) provided information to U.S. officials indicating two men were buried near their crash site, but that one had been washed away during flooding.

Within a month, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), interviewed three witnesses to the crash and located scattered wreckage at the site. The 1992 excavation of that site yielded human remains, a dental prosthesis, numerous personal effects including the rank insignia of Scharf’s fellow crewman.

A second joint excavation in 1993 recovered additional artifacts, but no remains.

A third excavation in 2004 recovered additional evidence including pilot-related life-support artifacts, a metal captain’s insignia (Scharf’s rank at the time) and a plastic denture tooth.

Among dental records and other forensic tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) also attempted to use mitochondrial DNA from a known maternal relative to establish the identification.

However, the tests were inconclusive.

From Scharf’s widow, they obtained a number of envelopes containing letters he had sent to her during the war.

AFDIL specialists were able to extract mitochondrial DNA from the gummed adhesive on those envelopes, and JPAC was able to confirm the identification.

JPAC’s detailed analysis of the debris and other evidence concluded that the parachute sighted was the F-4C’s drag parachute.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at or call (703) 699-1169.


Leadership Ideas from The Movies: You’ll Never Guess Which One (Number Eight)

November 25, 2006

By John E. Carey
November 25, 2006

The 2005 comedy film “Wedding Crashers” features the delightful performances of Owen Wilson as one John Beckwith and Vince Vaughn as Jeremy Grey. The two “divorce arbitrators” arrive as uninvited guests at weddings each and every summer in search of, ahem, “flower.” In fact, if a rich east coast family isn’t careful these two will “de-flower” the pretty girls in the family.

So this movie is about man’s lust filled seeking. And the compliance of the female of the species.

We, of course, do not condone the kinds of frenetic activity seen in this film.  What parent would?

The movie is a romp made purely for fun.

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to ask a man well into his ninth decade, “When does a man stop looking at pretty girls, Grandfather?” His answer stunned me: “I don’t know but it must be after the age of 96!”

Wilson and Vaughn work hard to become acceptable wedding guests and sexual partners. They take on a new persona each week but the goal is always the same.

This film speaks to what is acceptable, desirable and “normal” in both young men and young women.

The ultimate wedding features a Kennedy-esque New England family in a sea-side village that may as well be Hyannis Port.

There is some dinner table erotica in this movie that will make your grandmother blush and erupt in laughter—all at the same time.

There is a quail hunt almost as good as the one Dick Cheney participated in.

And watch for Will Ferrell who makes an uncredited and very funny appearance as “Chazz,” who perfects a whole new arena of “crashing.”

There is practically no real life lesson or leadership here in “Wedding Crashers.” But there is something else that we are always fascinated with: American culture and colloquialisms abound in “Wedding Crashers.” It is almost as if the writers tried to dredge up every colloquialism currently in vogue.

And what does “colloquial” mean exactly? According to Webster’s Dictionary, colloquial means 1. A characteristic of or appropriate to the spoken language or to writing that seeks the effect of speech; informal. Or, 2. Relating to conversation; conversational.

Colloquialisms are those little gems of speech that confuse the heck out of foreigners. You have to not only speak the English language to understand a colloquialism: you have to be an American. And not just any American either. You might have to be a native born American who suffered through High School right here in the U.S.A. to properly decode a clever colloquialism.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would not understand modern colloquialisms. And those who inhabit these United States two hundred years from now may not understand this movie or its many colloquialisms.

But if you are still breathing you’ll “get it” and “laugh out loud.”

A few out takes from “Wedding Crashers:”

“Makes you feel dangerous.”

“Hey, John, that glass looks half full to me.”

“I need some alone time with her.”

“Now I’m all over his radar.”

“We all better move on.”

“Grow up Peter Pan.”

“Let’s keep our eye on the prize.”

“Catch that beautiful butterfly.”

“This feels border-line inappropriate.”

“Totally off the reservation.”

“We lost a lot of good men out there.”

“She’s got a tattoo on her lower back. May as well be a Bull’s Eye.”

“I’m going to make all your fantasies come true.”

“The greatest crash of all time.”

“This is the Kentucky Derby of weddings.”

“I’m psyched.”

“You leave me in the trenches.”

“I think you’re going to hear crickets.”

“Something’s not right about these guys.”

“I’m watching my stories.”

“That’s my rationalization and I’m sticking to it.”

“Win some and lose some.”

“Grief is nature’s most powerful aphrodisiac.”

“I’m going to ice my balls and spit up blood.”

“My family is a little strange.” Response: “No Claire, your family is totally nuts!”

“Why don’t you do the math.”

“It’s like fishing with dynamite.”

“Mom! The Meatloaf.”

“I’m not being adventurous enough for you….”

“We had a moment there, didn’t we?”

“You won’t make time for me.”

“This is a whole new bag of issues.”

“Stop being a pussy.”

“Get focused.”

“Keep our eye on the prize.”

“O.K. Tonto. Kimo Sabe will do it.”

“Did you tap that again?”

“Did she figure out what she’s doing in her life?”

“The Big Sleezy.”

“Time out.”

“She’s not another notch on your belt.”

“Motor boat” as a way of playing with breasts….

“Don’t ever leave me…..Because I’d find you” (as in track you to the ends of the earth and torture you to death).

“Would it be totally cliche if I kissed you now?”



When Abusing Culture and Tradition, Watch out for the Unexpected

November 22, 2006

By John E. Carey
The Washington Post
November 22, 2006

I guess this story has to start with the fact that I am married into a very beautiful and loving Vietnamese family. East meets West is a daily occurrence for us. Most of our lives are blissfully happy but the cultural differences between us do sometimes make for awkward moments and strange situations.

I have a brother in law, for example, that has not really spoken to me in four years. He grew up in rural Vietnam before the war ended in 1975. There was a saying in his village: “To marry outside the village is to marry a dog.” He grew up in the Central Highlands. I grew up in Ohio.

Ergo: I am a dog and not worthy of polite conversation.

It isn’t so bad. After all, they EAT dog in Vietnam!

Silence is a small sacrifice and isn’t so bad!

Thanksgiving is a very special American holiday but you have to remember it is a distinctly American holiday. It is practically a holiday without reason to others. Jesus Christ (can we still mention Him in the newspaper?) didn’t cause this holiday. In fact, if I remember correctly, Abraham Lincoln caused Thanksgiving. So just explaining Thanksgiving to my Vietnamese family takes a long time and too many words.

My sister in law once said, “And you eat a bird on this holiday? A big bird nobody wants? Why?”

Don’t even try to explain cranberry sauce. “If it is so good, where is it the other 364 days?” I have no clue.

And also from my in-laws last year: “What the heck are yams and what do you do with them?”

I, of course, knew the answer “Yams are tubers, like potatoes. They grow underground and you can make pie from them!”

The response: “Not in this house.”

I have speechless moments in my family. American culture makes sense to us but to others it is sometimes mysterious.

So, last year, I volunteered to prepare the entire Thanksgiving dinner. I had my bird, my stuffing, and all the trimmings. And I attempted pumpkin pie.

There is no way I am about to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. So I recalled how my Mom did it when she was running out of time. Canned pumpkin, pre-made crust, and Voila! Pie! Hot from the oven.

Except that there are two types of canned pumpkin: concentrate (which needs to be thinned with milk) and “ready to go” (which is, as it says, “ready to go.”)

I did not know this.

I bought the “ready to go” but I thought it was concentrate. I thinned it with milk.

My pies were runny.

Not just runny.

My pies were lakes of pumpkin soup.

My nephew “ate” his piece of pie by vacuuming off his plate with a straw.

The Vietnamese are very respectful and nobody laughed. But there was too much conversation in Vietnamese at pie time so I knew I was in trouble.

But good news: one of the lasting traditions of Vietnamese life is this. On holidays, everyone takes food to their neighbors. So I suggested to my wife we take a pie across the street and palm it off on the neighbors. In the process, I explained, we’d get credit in heaven or wherever they keep track of good works for giving food to the neighbors.

I could see in my wife’s face that she didn’t want to go on this dingbat mission to give lame pie to trusting neighbors, but she is Vietnamese. Vietnamese woman will support their man. NO MATTER WHAT!

So, pie in hand and smiling all the way, we started across the street. I rang the doorbell and explained that the pie was somewhat runny, so I had frozen it, and I though his kids would appreciate a little Thanksgiving pumpkin pie from his Vietnamese-American neighbors.

He accepted the pie graciously and I was delighted.

Then he ruined my day.

Before he closed the door he said: “I am especially happy because I am the pastry chef at the White House and I never get to taste other people’s pie!”

I was ashen faced. Holey Smokes! Three hundred million Americans and when I try to rid the household of a questionable pie the recipient turns out to be THE pastry chef at the White House.

As we headed for home, my wife said all she needed to say. Two words:

“Proud now?”

Note the picture with The Washington Post edition:

Honoring the Dead and Giving Thanks Started During Another War

November 21, 2006

By John E. Carey
First Published
The Washington Times
November 23, 2006
(Rebublished in honor of Memorial Day 2007)

The first “Official” Thanksgiving in the United States of America was celebrated in 1863. President Lincoln, by proclamation, declared a day of Thanksgiving in the middle of the Civil War!

The original proclamation is in fact dated October 3, 1863. Just a few months before, on July 1-3, 1863, the Union and Confederate Armies had clashed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During those three days 3,155 Union soldiers were killed and between 2,600 and 4,500 Confederate soldiers were killed. But they were all Americans.

The total of the killed, wounded and missing during those three days for the Union side was 23,040. The Confederate estimate is between 20,650 and 25,000.

The outcome of the Civil War was by no means clear in October, 1863. We still could have finished the conflict with two separate nations on the North American continent: instead of one United States.

Despite Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in July, 1863, the nation still had 22 months of bloody Civil War ahead of it. At the end of the Civil War the nation had suffered approximately 630,000 deaths and over 1 million total casualties.

But President Lincoln and his cabinet discussed the situation in the country frequently and they came to several conclusions. Despite the tremendous loss of life and destruction, the population was indeed on the rise. The fields in the north were producing prodigious amounts of food. The mines were producing more coal, iron and precious metals than ever before. The cabinet officers wanted the President of the United States to remind the people to thank God for His blessings!

Amid all this suffering of the Civil War the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, ordered a Day of Thanksgiving in this Proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America.A Proclamation.The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,Secretary of State

According to an April 1, 1864 letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy wrote in his diary on October 3, 1863 that he had complimented Secretary Seward on his brilliant writing.


The Power of Effective Communication (And Reading)

November 19, 2006

We are not too fond of an over indulgance in video games

By John E. Carey
19 November 2006
(Updated December 28, 2006)

I owe Al Gore, Bill Gates and the other inventors of the Internet and email a huge debt of gratitude.  The Internet and email make us read.

Writers widely published in the print media and on the Internet have a complaint sometimes about their readers. While writers often get great “Thank You” email or Internet postings from readers and enthusiasts and activists, sometimes critics  chime in with abscenities or personal attacks.  The critic, more often than not, believes he is just exercising his right to freedom of speech. But we feel that freedom of spech must be self modulated, respectful and thoughtful. Unvarnished personal attacks gain us nothing but enemies.

Sometimes writers get ugly messages, personal attacks and even death threats. I, for one, will fight against those that dish up the vulger, hateful or otherwise offensive language.

Yesterday I got one: a message that riled me up. My wife too.

Although we generally have a policy of embracing the positive and ignoring the negative, for some reason we responded to this writer.

A communist university student in London, U.K. wrote to call me “biased,” a “foreigner” and a person that “knows nothing about Vietnam.” He also accused me of supporting, in fact applauding, a group he called a “terrorist” organization.

Well I draw the line at being called a terrorist, a Nazi or a racist. There are probably other labels I’ll react to but those are the first that come to mind.

I tend to never use the word “foreigner.” We find that word divisive. We do like words like “brother,” “pal,” “friend” and “ally.”

As for bias: aren’t we all members of a thinking species that has ideas and views? If I find a person without bias I usually am looking at a mindless person. I for one, love my wife and I am biased in her direction.

I do not like being lumped in with terrorists. My major complaint with terrorists and terrorism is this: they and it are an affront to human life. Anyone who thinks strapping on a bomb and then blowing it up to kill himself or herself and others does not understand the dignity of human life.

Human life is God’s greatest creation. It is not to be destroyed or toyed with by we mere humans. Human life is a gift from God and he owns the copyright (I am a writer, after all).

And finally, this gentleman said I “knew nothing of Vietnam.” Well to this I say my bride Hoglien Do and I have traveled many miles apart and together and one thing we share is an enduring love for Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. We have expressed this view in something like 100 newspaper essays and Internet posting.

Having explained a lot of this to our most recent critic during an exchange of email yesterday we came to understand and “know” each other much better. We were in receipt of this email yesterday evening:

“Bac (means Uncle) John;

It was nice having this conversation with you. I can see all of us: you, your wife and me have one thing in common: we all want the best for the people of Vietnam although our methods might be difference.

I’m grateful that you – as a person who is not directly affected by the situation in Vietnam – care so much and have been doing so much for Vietnam.

I misunderstood you and thought you were sympathetic towards the Government of Free Vietnam.

For that, I do apologize.

To answer your question on the Government of Free Vietnam. I can’t tell you what you should believe or think, but personally, I think that organization meets all the requirement to be branded as a terrorist one, what they have been doing does not help their cause, on the contrary, they are alienating Vietnamese like me, the people they need to succeed.

Thank you Bac John,


Now for a word about reading: we believe in it. Reading is informative, a key teaching tool, a source of enlightenment, and a way to school as well as amuse the mind. Reading teaches learning.

We have no love for video games. We think over exposing your children to video games wastes their time, hurts their ability to think and interact with their fellow man, harms their understanding of the meaning in life, saps strength from the ability to understand and function in the family, and disrupts their ability to perform as responsible members of society.

We think some video gaming in moderation may be acceptable: as long as there is generally balance in one’s life and experiences.

We do not know about the “Government of Free Vietnam” and asked those more learned to inform us.

John E. Carey

“Web Rage” Sparks Fight, Near Murder

By David Sapsted
The Telegraph (UK)
Novemner 19, 2006

The first person to be charged with a “web rage” attack was jailed for two and a half years today.

Tempers flared after Paul Gibbons, 47, and John Jones, 43, exchanged insults in an Internet chatroom, an Old Bailey judge was told.

After tracing Mr Jones to his home address in Clacton, Gibbons armed himself with a pickaxe handle and, accompanied by a man with a machete, travelled 70 miles to the Essex seaside town in December 2005.

When they arrived, Mr Jones, whose girlfriend and three children were in the house, opened the door holding a knife for protection.

A fight broke out in which Mr Jones was disarmed and then beaten with the pickaxe handle and cut with his own knife.

Gibbons fled after Mr Jones’s girlfriend called for help. Mr Jones suffered cuts to his head, neck and hands.

An earlier hearing was told that Gibbons, from Southwark, south London, and Mr Jones had encountered each other in a chatroom called Islam 10 because they both had an interest in the Muslim faith.

Things started to go wrong when Gibbons accused Mr Jones of spreading rumours about him.

“There was an exchange of views between the victim and the defendant which were threatening on both sides,” Ibitayo Adebayo, prosecuting, said.

Jailing Gibbons, who has a record of violence, Judge Richard Hawkins told him: “It is accepted by the prosecution that Mr Jones taunted you and dared you to go to his house where you would be greeted with weapons.”

Gibbons, who is unemployed, pleaded guilty last month to unlawful wounding after the prosecution agreed not to proceed with charges of attempted murder and threats to kill.

After the attack, it was found that Gibbons had boasted about what he was going to do on the Internet.

Jonathan Green, defending, said that Mr Jones had given the impression of being the innocent victim but his web blog “painted a different picture”.

He said that Mr Jones had been the first to initiate physical confrontation.

Mr Green added that there was a misconception that anything said in chatrooms was anonymous, leading to people writing things that they otherwise would not dream of saying.

Det Sgt Jean-Marc Bazzoni, of Essex Police, said that the case demonstrated the importance of protecting one’s identity on the Internet.

“Mr Jones had posted pictures of his family on the web and had chatted to Gibbons on an audio link,” he said.

“It demonstrates how easily other users can put two and two together and also shows how children could also find themselves in danger.”

The Writing Is on The Wall — Video Games Rot The Brain 

By Boris Johnson
The Telegragh (London, UK)
December 28, 2006

It’s the snarl that gives the game away. It’s the sobbing and the shrieking and the horrible pleading — that’s how you know your children are undergoing a sudden narcotic withdrawal. As the strobing colours die away and the screen goes black, you listen to the wail of protest from the offspring and you know that you have just turned off their drug, and you know that, to a greater or lesser extent, they are addicts.

Some children have it bad. Some are miraculously unaffected. But millions of seven- to 15-year-olds are hooked, especially boys, and it is time someone had the guts to stand up, cross the room and just say no to Nintendo. It is time to garrotte the Game Boy and paralyse the PlayStation, and it is about time, as a society, that we admitted the catastrophic effect these blasted gizmos are having on the literacy and the prospects of young males.

It was among the first acts of the Labour Government to institute a universal “literacy” hour in primary schools; and yet, in the six years following 1997, the numbers of young children who said that they didn’t like reading rose from 23 per cent to 35 per cent. In spite of all our cash and effort, the surveys increasingly show that children (especially boys) regard reading as a chore, something that needs to be accomplished for the sake of passing tests, not as a joy in itself. It is a disaster, and I refuse to believe that these hypnotic little machines are innocent.

We demand that teachers provide our children with reading skills; we expect the schools to fill them with a love of books; and yet at home we let them slump in front of the consoles. We get on with our hedonistic 21st-century lives while in some other room the nippers are bleeping and zapping in speechless rapture, their passive faces washed in explosions and gore. They sit for so long that their souls seem to have been sucked down the cathode ray tube.

They become like blinking lizards, motionless, absorbed, only the twitching of their hands showing they are still conscious. These machines teach them nothing. They stimulate no ratiocination, discovery or feat of memory — though some of them may cunningly pretend to be educational. I have just watched an 11-year-old play a game that looked fairly historical, on the packet. Your average guilt-ridden parent might assume that it taught the child something about the Vikings and medieval siege warfare.

Phooey! The red soldiers robotically slaughtered the white soldiers, and then they did it again, that was it. Everything was programmed, spoon-fed, immediate — and endlessly showering the player with undeserved praise, richly congratulating him for his bogus massacres. The more addictive these games are to the male mind, the more difficult it is to persuade boys to read books; and that is why it is no comfort that Britain has more computer games per household than any other EU country, and, even though they are wince-makingly expensive, an amazing 89 per cent of British households with children now boast a games console, with distribution right across the socio-economic groups.

Every child must have one, and what we fail to grasp is that these possessions are not so much an index of wealth as a cause of ignorance and underachievement and, yes, poverty. It hardly matters how much cash we pour into reading in schools if there is no culture of reading at home; and the consequences of this failure to read can be seen throughout the education system.

Huge numbers are still leaving primary school in a state of functional illiteracy, with 44 per cent unable either to read, write or do basic sums.

By the age of 14, there are still 40 per cent whose literacy or numeracy is not up to the expected standard, and a large proportion of the effort at Further Education colleges (about 20 per cent) is devoted to remedial reading and writing.

Even at university, there are now terrifying numbers of students who cannot express themselves in the kind of clear, logical English required for an essay, and in many important respects if you can’t write, you can’t think. The Royal Literary Fund has, in the past few years, done a wonderful job of establishing Writing Fellows at our universities, offering therapy for those who can’t put their thoughts on paper; and yet the fund admits that the scale of the problem is quite beyond its abilities.

It is a shock, arriving at university, and being asked to compose an essay of a couple of thousand words, and then discovering that you can’t do it; and this demoralisation is a major cause of dropping-out. It’s not that the students lack the brains; the raw circuitry is better than ever. It’s the software that’s the problem. They have not been properly programmed, because they have not read enough.

The only way to learn to write is to be forced time and again to articulate your own thoughts in your own words, and you haven’t a hope of doing this if you haven’t read enough to absorb the basic elements of vocabulary, grammar, rhythm, style and structure; and young males in particular won’t read enough if we continually capitulate and let them fritter their lives away in front of these drivelling machines.

Gordon Brown proposed in his Pre-Budget Report to spend £2,000 per head on improving the reading of six-year-old boys. That is all well and good, especially when you consider that the cost of remedial English in secondary school soars to £50,000 per head. But it would be cheaper and possibly more effective if we all — politicians, parents, whoever — had the nerve to crack down on this electronic opiate.

So I say now: stop just lying there in your post-Christmas state of crapulous indifference. Get up off the sofa. Can the DVD of Desperate Housewives, and go to where your children are sitting in auto-lobotomy in front of the console.

Summon up all your strength, all your courage. Steel yourself for the screams and yank out that plug.

And if they still kick up a fuss, then get out the sledgehammer and strike a blow for literacy.

The Dog that Loved Montagyards, Climbed Ladders and Hated the Vietnamese

November 17, 2006

By John E. Carey
November 17, 2006

This story came from my good friend Mike Benge.

Mike lived in Vietnam for a time with the Montagyard people. As would be natural for Mike, he so impressed his hosts that they gave him a gift. The gift was a dog.

This was not just any dog.  This was a talented and smart Alsatian police dog named ed Fritz.

But this dog had one slight character flaw. The dog loved Montagyards and hated theVietnamese.

Mike assumed that this dog had been abused at some point by some Vietnamese people. Fritz had actually been traded (or stolen) back and forth between the Montagyards and the Vietnamese and he always lost weight while in Vietnamese control.

One day Mike needed some electrical work done and he commissioned a Vietnamese electrician to do the work. The work involved putting a ladder up on the front of the house and repairing some electrical systems at about the level of the second floor.

Mike couldn’t remain to personally supervise the work so before he left he reminded his Montagyard friends to make sure that the dog was kept inside the house and away from the Vietnamese electrician.

But things went awry. With the Vietnamese electrician teetering on the ladder some 25 feet above the ground, that dog got out of the house, shooting out the door like a rocket.  Then he rapidly climbed the ladder and bit the Vietnamese electrician on his butt.

And he wouldn’t let go.

Hanging with his teeth imbedded through the pants of the Vietnamese electriction and the electrician screaming a “wake the dead” scream caused by  unbelievable pain, that dog would not release the precious bit of “meat” he had in his jaws.

Mike’s Montagyard friends were falling down with laughter.

Finally the electrictian had to come down the ladder one rung at a time, backward, until he got to ground level where the Montagyards coaxed the dog to release his bite.

The Montagyards were so wildly amused that they were still in an uproar of laughter when Mike returned home. Nobody could even tell Mike the story until calm reasonableness returned about one half hour after the dog had released its teeth from the Vietnamese electrician and the electrician had limped away in pain.

The electrician never again returned to assist Mike with his project.

That dog lived a long and happy life of loving Montagyards, climbing ladders, and getting even by attacking the Vietnamese people.

Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

November 16, 2006

By John E. Carey
November 16, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006, the Borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania will celebrate the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863.

The newly restored Train Station Lincoln used will also be rededicated on Saturday.

Two speeches tell us volumes about Abraham Lincoln’s wisdom, deep thought, enlightened oratory and patience. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and his second inaugural address, both of which were widely regarded as too short when delivered, are now deemed among the most memorable oratorical achievements in American history. Both speeches bear careful reading and thoughtful reflection, even today.

Most teachers and historians quickly get past the fact that Lincoln gave both these most auspicious orations following speeches almost totally forgettable in their substance and appropriateness. Both Lincoln’s greatest speaking moments followed long, embarrassing, and sometimes rambling orations. And historians can find not one Lincoln criticism of his predecessors at the podium. Lincoln’s self-effacing style speaks to his humility and his greatness.

Prelude to the Gettysburg Address

November 19, 1863, a crowd gathered at the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to hear Edward Everett of Massachusetts deliver an address honoring those killed in the famous battle of July 1-3. The President, Abraham Lincoln, despite the illness of his son Tad, had also accepted an invitation to provide a “few appropriate remarks.”

Everett, a noted orator, had been elected to the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate, served as President of Harvard University, United States Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Britain, and Governor of Massachusetts before being appointed United States Secretary of State by President Millard Fillmore to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Daniel Webster.

At Gettysburg, Everett gave a two hour long oration.

According to spectators, the audience was spellbound.

But due to the length of the speech and the technology of the time, the exact words are now gone and forgotten.

Following Everett’s speech, President Lincoln rose and delivered his Gettysburg Address, a speech revered and remembered by generations of American school children who memorized the text.

Lincoln began with the words, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent….”

Speaking of the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers he said, “we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

As he concluded, Lincoln saw and measured the reaction of the crowd, estimated at more than 15,000. The president remarked to a companion: “It is a flat failure and the people are disappointed.”

The next day, the president received a note at the White House from Everett, who praised Lincoln for the “eloquent simplicity & appropriateness” of his remarks.

Everett said, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

In a note back to Mr. Everett, President Lincoln wrote, “I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.”

Drunken Vice President Precedes Lincoln

On March 5, 1865, the leaders of the United States of America gathered under the newly complete dome of the capitol building to witness the second inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. Customarily, the Vice President elect would first recite his oath of office and have an opportunity to speak.

Prior to the election, Lincoln had replaced his first Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin, with the governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson. By choosing the governor of a southern state that had seceded, Republican political advisors reasoned, the president sent a strong signal that he would soon welcome the end of the war and the readmission of southern states to the Union.

History largely overlooks Lincoln’s bold political move because Johnson, following Lincoln’s death by assassination, became one of the most controversial presidents in our history. He remains one of only two presidents of the United States to suffer the humiliation of impeachment.

Yet Lincoln knew prior to the inauguration that Johnson may not have been of the caliber of other men available for the job of Vice President. Johnson asked Lincoln if his presence at the inauguration was warranted at all, and Lincoln confided in his friend from Illinois Shelby M. Cullom, “This Johnson is a queer man.”

According to Johnson biographer Hans Trefousee, “…on the night before the inauguration, he [Johnson] celebrated with his friend [Senate aide John W.] Forney, with whom he shared many glasses of whiskey.”

Trefousse noted that, on the morning of the inauguration, Johnson had had at least three glasses of whiskey before his swearing in.His subsequent speech in the Senate chamber that day proved a rambling, disjointed embarrassment—and a strange warm up act to Abraham’s Lincoln’s memorable second inaugural address.

Noah Brooks for the Sacramento Daily Union described the scene: “For twenty minutes did he run on about Tennessee, adjuring Senators to do their duty when she sent two Senators here, urging that she never was out of the Union, etc. In vain did [outgoing Vice President Hannibal] Hamlin nudge him from behind, audibly reminding him that the hour for the inauguration ceremony had passed; he kept on, though the President of the United States sat before him patiently waiting for his tirade to be over.”

The New York World reported that the Vice President tried, in vain, to address many participants by name. In a comical scene, “Turning toward the Cabinet, he said: ‘And I will say to you, Mr. Secretary Seward, and to you, Mr. Secretary Stanton, and to you, Mr. Secretary — (To a gentleman nearby, soto voce, ‘Who is Secretary of the Navy?’ The person addressed replied in a whisper, ‘Mr. Welles’)—and to you, Mr. Secretary Welles, I would say, you derive your power from the people.’

He even rambled, almost incoherently. “I am a-goin’ for to tell you here to-day; yes, I’m a-goin for to tell you all, that I’m a plebian! I glory in it; I am a plebian! The people—yes, the people of the United States have made me what I am; and I am a-goin’ for to tell you here to-day—yes, to-day, in this place—that the people are everything.”

One member of the Senate, Zachariah Chandler, wrote his wife: “The inauguration went off very well except that the Vice President Elect was too drunk to perform his duties and disgraced himself and the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech. I was so mortified in my life, had I been able to find a hole I would have dropped through in out of sight.”

The President later said: “I have known Andy for many years…he made a bad slip the other day, but you need not be scared. Andy ain’t a drunkard.” Forney quoted the President as observing: “It has been a severe lesson for Andy, but I do not think he will do it again.”

According to observers, President Lincoln remained calm, if not sublimely serene, during the totality of his Vice President’s embarrassing speech. Newsmen reported that Lincoln’s eyes were closed during much of Johnson’s ordeal.

At the end of the day, President Lincoln gave perhaps his best oration ever.

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Only 701 words long, many at the time thought Lincoln’s speech too short. But Abraham Lincoln himself regarded the Second Inaugural at his finest speech.

In his Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural, Lincoln demonstrated greatness. His polite demeanor and self effacing humility only add luster to his memorable words.

Mr. Carey is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

More on the Train Station:

Leadership Ideas from The Movies: You’ll Never Guess Which One (Number Seven)

November 16, 2006

Twelve O’Clock High

By John E. Carey
November 16, 2006

In 1949, just four years after then end of World War II, Director Henry King converted Sy Barlett’s wonderful book into a movie.

Gregory Peck plays Brigadier General Frank Savage; a no nonsense Air Group Commander from Archbury Air Base, England. These are the first elements of the U.S. Eighth Air Force. They are short of “equipment” (B-17 bombers) but not without good men or high expectations.

This film is about command and leadership and men in war and under pressure.

Major General Ben Prichard relieves Frank’s predecessor for being too soft on his men.

Then he lays out the dilemma.“There is only one hope of shortening this war. Daylight Precision Bombing. 50,000 airplanes. That’s what they say they are making. I wish I had 500….I gotta ask you to take nice kids and fly them until they can’t take any more. And then put them back in and fly them some more…We’ve got to find out what a maximum effort is….how much a man can take and get it all. I don’t even know if any man can do it.”

Well, we’re about to find out.

This is about command. Movies like “Memphis Belle” are more about airmen. This movie is about their leadership and what they can take.

Frank gets to his new command and visits hell upon what and who he finds. The initial scenes are reminiscent of those in “Patton” just after the debacle at Kasserine Pass.

Frank’s tough approach causes a sort of mutiny among the pilots, an Inspector General’s investigation, and a clash with his predecessor who says, “My failure was me. I wasn’t good enough.”

Frank thinks everyone is trying to get the airmen “something to lean on.”

But he declares, “I don’t believe it. I don’t think they’re boys. They’re men….I think they’re better than that.”

He inspires them to become men and to fly more missions better than they ever thought they could. It not only becomes unacceptable to miss missions due to feigned colds; the “doc,” the chaplain and the general’s driver all go along as gunners.

Lieutenant Colonel Ben Gately even flies a few missions after having a vertebrae cracked in his back.

General Frank Savage goes to the hospital to tell the nurses he is “special.”

Frank presses his good fortune and high morale to the limit: just as Major General Ben Prichard challenged him to do. But when he ignores a recall order claiming “radio malfunction,” and asks for his unit to be commended for their tough mission against incredible odds, Prichard isn’t amused or totally pleased.

This film is a must see. In fact, this is the sort of film that needs to be seen every Veterans’ Day or so. It is studied and dissected at war colleges and leadership centers and with good reason.

Buy, rent, tape or steal this one again soon.

Thankful for today; hopeful about tomorrow

November 15, 2006

After more than a year in prison in a foreign country, a U.S. Citizen returns home with gratitude and thanks.As we gather around the table for this year’s Thanksgiving, our family will have something very special to celebrate: the release of Cuc Foshee from her imprisonment in Vietnam. Cuc was not with us for Thanksgiving last year; she spent that day as she spent every day of the last fourteen months, in a prison cell.

We have always loved the United States, but today we have a far greater appreciation for the freedom we Americans enjoy, and for the Court system that protects that freedom. Cuc Foshee has always spoken out strongly, as a citizen here in the United States, for what she believes: that democracy and human rights are things to which every person is entitled. She learned a hard lesson about how other countries work, and she was punished harshly in the country of her birth for her beliefs.

We would like to thank all of you who worked for Cuc’s release. In particular we would like to recognize:

o Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, for his tireless efforts to do what was right and honorable. Cuc would not be home with us today were it not for him, and for the help of Senator Nelson.

o We also would like to thank Congressman Ric Keller of Florida, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California who were instrumental in resolving Cuc’s case. We are grateful to have the support of elected officials with the tenacity to pursue a just cause.

o We want to recognize the journalists who brought attention to this case, telling the pubic what was going on with Cuc. In particular we would like to thank John Carey of the Washington Times and the Peace and Freedom Blog

Babita Persaud of the Orlando Sentinel; Jonathan Cunningham of the Orlando weekly; Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, as well as the many others who told this story.

o We greatly appreciate the support of the law firm of Holland and Knight, who worked with us on a pro bono basis. Their attorneys spent so many hours working on the case, doing what only a great law firm can do for a person in legal jeopardy. Liz’s own Orlando-based law firm of Cooney, Mattson, P.A. supported her every step of the way

o We would like to express our appreciation to the State Department and the many wonderful people there who helped Cuc get through the tough times of her incarceration. Ms. Phuong of the U.S Embassy in Hanoi, and Mr. Martin Oppus from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon were especially supportive when she was most in need.

There were many others who were instrumental in getting Cuc released, including the thousands of people who signed her petition, and so many of the citizens of Cuc’s home town of Orlando. Cuc is proud to live in such a wonderful and caring community.

President Bush is en route to Hanoi now. There, he will meet with many world leaders who are interested in doing business in Vietnam, and in drawing Vietnam into the greater world community. At this key time, we challenge the countries and the companies who will do business in Vietnam to do so ethically; and we call upon the Vietnamese government itself to rise to the standards of democracy and human rights that will earn them a rightful place in that world community.

Today, as we count our blessings for the return of our long-absent relative, we can’t help but think of others in need. When we hear that Cong Thanh Do has listed scores of other political prisoners whose cases go unresolved, our sympathy for their families is sincere. When we hear Mike Benge of the Montagnard Human Rights Group speak, we are reminded that Cuc’s release is just one step on the world’s long journey to universal human rights.

We applaud Vietnam’s economic progress, and the political progress which they have made; we look forward to ever stronger ties between the United States and Vietnam; above all we reaffirm how blessed we are to be Americans.

Liz McCausland (daughter of Cuc Foshee)
Robert Ende (brother-in-law of Cuc Foshee)

Associated Press Photograph:

When You Are Ready For Your Second Wife: Think Asian

November 15, 2006

(Or At Least Get Your Priorities Right the Second Time Around)

By John E. Carey
November 15, 2006

Many of you know that my lovely bride is Vietnamese. As a man in a culturally diverse marriage, I sometimes get to make observations that others may have missed.And I should always preface these stories with this: there is no right or wrong in my views of culture. I don’t judge the various food groups, ways of thinking, traditions and etc. I just try to understand.

People are going to call me sexist, demeaning toward women, racist and all kinds of other things. They don’t know me and they are wrong but I do phrase things a little too glibly for some readers some of the time.

My Vietnamese born wife, a proud American citizen, pretty much has these three priorities in life: (1) Work hard, (2) make husband happy, (3) have a happy life. This last one involves helping a lot of people.

But most American guys want to know about Number Two. Lets just say, my lovely bride has boundless energy.  And the right priorities.

Of course, if one is lucky in life he matures.  I try to always praise and never criticize my bride.  If she robbed a liquor store I’d probably say, “Pretty good haul, Honey,  and you got away clean!”

I cannot recall my loving bride ever criticizing me in any way.  Helping, yes.

My first wife, who was a, please pardon the expression, “round eye” from Virginia, pretty much had these priorities: (1) Spend my money, (2) take care of stray dogs, and (3) vacuum while I tried to watch football on TV.

I guess it isn’t just the man’s priorities. The woman’s matter a lot too, guys.

I used to tell people at parties that I believed in reincarnation and I was hoping to return in my next life as my first wife’s dog: better food, more attention, nicer bed, showered with gifts, and always meeting animals of the other sex!

For many years I was annoyed and/or angry and I wasn’t sure why. (I never said I was a SMART story teller, just a story teller!)

One time, with my first wife, I made the bed while she was in the shower. When she got out, dried off and got dressed, she took the bed completely apart (Sheets OFF) and remade it. I should have known right there: you can never make this woman happy. Nothing you do will ever be good enough.

A neighbor one time said to me: “You could buy my wife the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus and she still wouldn’t be happy.”

With my wife now, she is just pleased that I know where the kitchen is and I can cook a little. She loves it that I can do odd things a lot of Vietnamese guys do not like doing like the laundry, vacuuming, making beds, etc.

My Vietnamese born wife has a few interesting words and idioms that I try not to correct because I do not want to be her English teacher. Instead of saying, “He honked his horn at me,” she says, “He horn me.”

I always have this mental image of a Rhino charging toward my wife’s car.

The Catholic “rosary” prayer beads always comes out “Rosemary” but I don’t look for it in the kitchen any more.

My lovely bride also often refers to herself as “John’s woman.”

I always feel like Fred Flintstone when I hear that. It sounds great.

But not always to other people. One time we were together and we ran into a retired Army General I know. He looked quizzically at her and said, “And what is your relationship?”

She shot back: “I John’s woman.”

You ever give CPR to a General?

My lovely bride told me when we first met that she was getting at the age where she could no longer produce children.

She said if I wanted children she’s find me a nice 20 year old Vietnamese woman to help me out. But I thought I might not really want children anyway and one Vietnamese woman was pretty great and plenty for me!

My loving bride told me we could date so long as I went back to church.  I went too.  Gladly.

My lovely bride doesn’t really understand football but she loves it that I get enthusiastic when I see a great play (on Saturdays I watch Notre Dame). She also finds it interesting that on Sundays I do the New York Times crossword puzzle while the Redskins do whatever it is they are doing this year. Oh well!

My lovely bride is way smarter than me. I married up.

My lovely bride is a size two. I overheard her telling some other woman one day: “John likes size zero but sets a limit at two.”

I never thought about it until just then. I like small, sexy women.

Now I digress. My friend Billy operates a couple of the area’s finest dining establishments: The Crystal City Restaurant and the Crystal City Sports Pub both on 23RD Street near Ronald Reagan National Airport.  One encourages dancers to perform.

Billy’s ninety-two year old grandfather was joining me for lunch one day so I asked him: “Grandfather, when does a man stop looking at sexy women?”

He said, “I don’t know but it is after ninety-two!”

If you publicly admire the beauty of a lot of American born women you are going to end up with a bruise or a complaint at work.

I think if you work hard and you work hard at making both members in the marriage happy you can have a great life. Which is what I have now, thank God. I think my bride agrees.

If you are not happy (and my famous divorce lawyer friend tells me business is booming) my advice is this: bite the bullet, go through the process (you’ll likely lose half of everything), start over and get an Asian woman in your life. Pronto.

You don’t have to thank me, even.