Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Too Fat to Fight: A Way to End Wars

The American military just released a report, which showed that 27% of young potential recruits were rejected because they were too fat to fight. So, the rising levels of obesity in this country are taking a serious toll, even on the American Armed Services. It was stated in the report, which was released this past spring, that this increase in obesity among the country's youth was seriously undermining the ability of America's military services to protect the country.

The report said that even those slim enough to serve were weaker and had less stamina than recruits from previous generations.  One Pentagon director told the Army Times last year, "Kids are just not able to do push-ups. And they can't do pull-ups. And they can't run."

So, some are beginning to conclude that the current obesity levels of both male and female recruits are posing a threat to America's national security.

But many of us adhere to the idea that for every negative, there is always a potential positive. So, I couldn't help but see the humorous side of things. For instance, do you think, this might be a way of ending wars. Philosophers, politicians and social scientists have always been engaged in the theory of how to end war, which is an inhumane activity that mankind imposes on itself, anyway.

So, just think, if we could increase the standard of living throughout the world, especially in what former Pres. George Bush called the Axis of Evil: Iraq, Iran and North Korea and make sure that everyone was well fed, then our so-called enemies might be less inclined to fight.

Perhaps, we've been doing it all wrong. Instead of torturing people at Guantánamo Bay and at the Abu Ghraib prison, maybe we should just feed our enemies tons of food. In this way, everyone would just get too fat to fight. This might end terrorism and the animosity that the United States faces around the world. As we feed people, there would be less reasons for them to fight, since they wouldn't have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and if we give our enemies too much food, they would not be in good enough shape to fight anyway.

Instead of relying on the sale of arms and worrying about nuclear weapons causing a world threat, we can simply use our resources to give everyone food, and those nations that have held traditional animosities towards the United States could be given an excess amount of food.

Well, feeding the world is a thought and a good thought if it will end war. At worst, this country might be accused of killing everyone with kindness.

So, just think, if every person in the world could just get enough food, then, no one would go hungry.  Obesity rates would rise, as they are rising now in all industrialized countries.  Many young people of military age, like many in this country, would get too fat to fight. If this happens, then what country would need a military? Feeding everyone too much food could even lead to the end of the current military build up and the arms race around the world. After all, no nation would need a military, especially one that's in fighting shape, if everyone was just too fat to fight?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thinking about the Unthinkable Again

One of my favorite expressions is, "Life is what happens when you've made other plans." I was vividly reminded of this expression on Thursday, September 9, when my crew and I were planning to tape a television show with East Palo Alto's Chief of Police Ron Davis and San Mateo's Chief of Police Susan Manheimer.

When it was time for the taping to start, Davis was present, but Manheimer had not arrived. We wondered where she was and whether something had happened. Unfortunately, something disastrous had happened. This time, life intervened in the form of a huge gas explosion that took place in San Bruno. At the time, we had been told in the studio that a plane had crashed. It was just this past February, seven months ago, that a small plane did crash in East Palo Alto. You can read my blog about the event in the Feb 19, 2010 blog entry.

Well, the day after the taping with Davis and the audience members in the studio, it was learned that Chief Manheimer was several blocks from the studio when she was informed of the explosion and she  turned around and proceeded to San Bruno.

We now know that it was a horrendous explosion that completely destroyed 37 homes, led to at least four deaths, and turned hundreds of lives completely upside down.  It's absolutely unthinkable the way lives can be destroyed and changed forever in one moment in time.

As life would have it, this Saturday, September 18 is Disaster Preparedness Day in San Mateo County. Coming so soon after the enormous disaster in San Bruno, this event will provide us with another opportunity not only to think about the unthinkable, but to try to prepare for it.  Given that the unthinkable is never far away and can happen at anytime, as we've seen with the San Bruno explosion and the East Palo Alto plane crash, it makes sense to do what we can to prepare for what we don't want to think about and don't want to happen.

Just as life is what happens, when we've made other plans, those involved in these two recent disasters can testify that disasters happen, too, in spite of whatever plans we've made. But as ironic as it sounds, while we don't know when the next disaster will happen, just as we prepare for events in our lives, we really should start preparing for disastrous events, too.

So, how many disasters will it take to happen around us for some of us to start the preparations? Who knows? But click on this link for more information about the San Mateo Disaster Preparedness Day event. Perhaps I'll see you there.

By the way, we did complete the taping of the television show I mentioned earlier. The show is called Redefining the Role of the Police, and you can see an excerpt from it here.


You can get more information about my shows from Talking with Henrietta on Facebook. While you're at it, why not follow East Palo Alto Today on Facebook and sign up for EPA Today Updates here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Handwriting is on the Wall

The City of East Palo Alto has been looking for a new city manager for several months. Now, the name of the city's Chief of Police Ron Davis is appearing as a finalist for the chief of police position in several major cities. So, it seems it might be just a matter of time before East Palo Alto loses its current police chief.

Earller this week, it was announced that Davis was one of 11 semifinalists in the running to be the next chief of police in Seattle, WA. Two days ago, it was announced that he was one of six candidates in the running for that same position in New Orleans,LA. Now Davis is one of three finalists for that position. At the pace things are going, it looks like it's only a matter of time before he is going to get an offer that will be difficult for him to refuse.

Davis might continue to exclaim how he is committed to East Palo Alto, but it's obvious that the clock is ticking quickly and given his resume and his accomplishments in the city, he has the background, the talent and the ambition to operate in a much bigger arena than the one offered by East Palo Alto which encompasses two square miles.

For many, the five years that Davis has spent in East Palo Alto has reaffirmed the city's initial decision to hire him. But if he continues to be on the shortlist in major cities which are seeking a new police chief, then East Palo Alto residents might as well begin to tell him, "Goodbye."

Of course, being on a shortlist doesn't guarantee that one will be chosen. San Jose's Chief of Police Rob Davis, just this week, lost his bid to become the new chief of police in Dallas, Texas.

Yet, as far as Ron Davis is concerned, the temptations are coming fast and furious and if he is open to accepting the next best offer, and it looks as if he is, then East Palo Alto will not only need to look for a new city manager, but it might soon be on the market for a new chief of police as well. The countdown has begun.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

President Obama Needs to be Out in Front More Often

March 21, 2010 might well become an historic day, itself, since it marked the passage of the historic health care reform bill - HR 3590. Even the president's critics might agree that the enactment of the bill, which brings comprehensive health care to all Americans, was a big victory for President Barack Obama. The bill's supporters claim that the reforms the legislation will bring puts the bill on par with the historic bills that created Medicare and Medicaid.

HR 3590 could not have been passed without the intervention and direct action of Obama, himself. Two months ago, health care reform seemed all but dead, but it was resurrected as Obama directly campaigned for the bill. As he spoke in support of the bill in location after location across the country, the American people saw the style and oratory that got Obama elected as the nation's president. In canceling his planned trip to Indonesia and Australia days before he was set to depart, Obama, obviously, realized that he could not be on the sidelines and get the bill passed.

Obama the President might have to become Obama the campaigner more often if he is to get passed the other major legislation he promised the country. His administration is already being pressured to enact sweeping immigration reform legislation as well as legislation that will bring sweeping financial reforms. Just as the health care reform bill faced considerable opposition, these other two areas might also demand that Obama become visibly active on the campaign trail once again, if the reforms the nation voted for him to make are to become a reality. Having Obama, himself, in the forefront of proposed legislation allows him to give more than lip service to the reforms he promised. Being out in front not only allows him to actively walk his talk but, as we saw with the health care reform bill, it also gives the proposed legislation his administration wants to enact important and needed support.

See other articles about HR3590 on the homepage of the East Palo Alto Today website at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

California's Students Might End Up As Winners Anyway

The State of California lost its bid to become a finalist in the federal Race to the Top competition. Thus far the applications of 15 states and the District of Columbia were chosen to go on to the next round of the competition to receive a portion of the $4.35 billion the Obama administration set aside as education stimulus funding designed to assist students in low performing school districts.  In order to receive the money at the end of the competition, the winning states must show that they have enacted tough measures with respect to testing standards, data collection and teacher training programs that will improve the achievement levels of low performing students.

Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications this past January to enter the competition. It is expected of the 16 selected this week, less than six states will be chosen next month to go on to the final round of the competition. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that most of finalists will go home losers, since so few will end up with any grant money.

But, as of right now, we tend to agree with California Senator Gloria Romero, Chair of the Senate Education Committee who said, "...this is not just about the money -- it is about a vision for public education that is best for our children... we made Herculean strides to even be able to compete and I am proud that we did not abdicate on this responsibility."

Currently, California ranks 48th among the nation’s states when it comes to student test scores.  With this kind of ranking, it is obvious that the state’s public education system is overdue for some needed reforms. In the long term, the fact that California is no longer in the running might be immaterial. What is most important is the fact that the state’s legislators finally joined ranks and passed needed educational reforms as they strove to be a part of the Race to The Top competition. If any of these reforms lead to improvements in the state’s public education system, then California’s 6.3 million children may, indeed, end up as winners after the competition is long over.


California Assembly member Ira Ruskin and State Senator Joe Simitian talk about the reforms the California State Legislature passed and the state’s governor signed into law on January 7, 2010, on the current edition of Talking with Henrietta. You can see a video excerpt from their discussion here. In this excerpt, they talk about the impact of the state's finances on both the higher education system as well as the state's public education system.

To read California's application to the Race to the Top competition, go here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Unthinkable Disaster Occurred!

Would you believe that I just did a show talking about East Palo Alto's Master Emergency Disaster Plan? On the show, I talked with several people who are involved with the creation and the execution of the plan.  I asked them to give several examples of the type of disasters the plan covered and to discuss what would happen if a disaster struck East Palo Alto today. Ryan Zollicoffer, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District's Emergency Services Coordinator, who was one of my guests on the show mentioned that a plane crash was a good example of a man-made disaster. My other guest Captain John Chalmers said that while the master plan has not been approved yet, the City of East Palo Alto had a plan in place if a disaster struck East Palo Alto.

Well, a disaster actually occurred! A plane crashed in East Palo Alto this week -- two weeks after we taped the show and three days after the show stopped airing. In my last blog, I wrote about the possibility of an earthquake striking urban centers of this country. Well, since that writing an earthquake struck on February 10, in what many would consider an unlikely place, a Chicago, Illinois suburb.

Hypothetical situations no longer trump the reality. Let no one doubt that what we only talk about can become the new reality and reality packs a more powerful, emotional and physical punch than any fiction can. Again, it's no longer "if," it's a matter of "when" and that, I have to admit, can seem just a little scary, especially since the "when" actually arrives as a real disaster. But at least we have some idea of what can happen and we know it's not fictional.

Many condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash, to all of the East Palo Alto residents whose lives were turned upside down by the crash and to all, inside and outside of East Palo Alto, who are still reeling from what happened.

It's time we begin to calm whatever fears we might have about the unexpected and get involved in an emergency planning process on a personal level and on a citywide level. The unthinkable disaster can and does occur.

To hear an audio of the plane crash from the East Palo Alto Police Department's ShotSpotter recording, click here.  For more information, go to, the website for the East Palo Alto Today newspaper.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Haitian Earthquake is Another Wake-up Call

     Many, whose families and friends were not affected by the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Pacific Islands in Tonga and Samoa on September 27, 2009, might already have forgotten about that disaster. How easy it is to put unpleasant events behind us if they do not affect us directly. Now, the devastating earthquake that took place in Haiti on January 12 is another serious wake-up call for everyone who lives in an earthquake area.
     Of course, this might include most of America. What might surprise many is the fact that there are earthquake faults throughout the Midwestern United States and even in the Atlantic region of this country. Geologists say that the time might be overdue for an earthquake to occur in other major urban centers in this country.
     We all know, too well, the danger posed by hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides and other natural and man-made disasters. So, no area of this country is safe from a potential disaster. How many times have we heard that we must prepare ourselves and our families with enough food and medical supplies to survive on our own for 72 hours in case a disaster occurs. The majority of us have probably not done this.
      But it is not a question of "if" a disaster strikes, it is becoming all too clear, it's now a case of "when" the disaster strikes. We're told, "Don't panic. Simply prepare." Of course, there are those who will always say, "What will be, will be." This might be true, but we have choices and, given the choice, an ounce of prevention and planning is always better than a pound of trying to manage when you're in the middle of the creek without a lifeboat, life preserver or paddle.
      The U.S. Federal Government is now requiring all cities and municipalities to have emergency preparedness plans. Residents should be required to have them, too. The life saved might be one's own. It might also be the life of a friend or a loved one.
     For more information on my show which talks about what one city is doing to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster, log onto and read about Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Master Plan. You can now also see a slideshow I posted that features the guests who appeared on my show in October 2009. That show, called Dealing with a Natural Disaster, discussed the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Pacific Islands.
     Now I need to ask, "Are you prepared for any impending disaster that might affect you and your family when it strikes in your area?" Have you done anything at all to stock up on non-perishable food and medical supplies? If you haven't made any preparations, why not?