As the inveterate, hairy-chested managing editor of the Sun-Star heads off to embeddedment in Iraq again (because a female reporter went twice!), Tom Frazier asks real questions about a local issue: Who is paying for the Michelle Obama event? While the Imperial Tharp is Inshalla-ing to a fair-the-well about his upcoming war junket, Frazier is calling out the imaginary “feral dogs” of the press to find out what happened. Yo, Frazier, there are no feral dogs of the local press. They all been bought by UC Merced so long ago few still remember the UC inserts that once a month paid the bills back in the late 1990s. And the tame dogs of the local press are all bouncing their heads off the pavement and crying “Inshalla.” We would believe in Tharp’s conversion to Islam if he were going to what Genl. Petraeus even calls “the graveyard of empires,” Afghanistan.
But who cares where Tharp goes at all? Presumably McClatchy and the University of California – just as long as the Sun-Star doesn’t provide the answers to the embarrassing questions Frazier is asking.
And where was the Real Mr. UC Merced, Bob Carpenter? The Badlands Journal editorial board never agreed with Mr. Carpenter, and Mr. Carpenter never agreed with us, but we never denied the irreplaceable role he played in bringing UC to Merced – one part guts, the other part determination. What failure of civic grace was involved in his absence from the podium that day? You can’t make up the dystopic, post-speculative real estate bubble the presently conditions our human reality here in Merced.
Was it because he was a Republican? True, that was an answer given by the Condit operation when Odessa Johnson, a Modesto school teacher, was given the nod for a seat on the UC Regents over Carpenter. Johnson did not appear during the final period of struggle for the campus siting to be any sort of booster for the campus. So, where was Johnson that day, an African-American academic success story who exemplifies perfectly everything Mrs. Obama was trying to communicate to that graduating class? What pig-headed uncivil act was behind her absence?
Frazier is raising serious questions. Meanwhile, the Imperial Boy Editor, at the direction of McClatchy, a media conglomerate trading on Friday at 71 cents a share on the New York Stock Exchange, is lurching off to Iraq again, Iraq, the graveyard of a cowardly, lying media oligopoly embedded with its war-profiteering bankers.
Kipling Tharp ain’t, and we aren’t in the middle of the 19th century any more.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Tom Frazier: Party's over -- who paid the bill?...Tom Frazier
The Sun-Star's coverage of the first four-year UC Merced class' graduation was impressive -- until the lights went out.
First lady Michelle Obama came to town. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, thanks to the imagination and tenacity of the class of 2009.
The Sun-Star, in my opinion, did an astounding job. There were strong editorials congratulating the graduates, superb articles highlighting a few graduates by Danielle Gaines (complete with superior photography), a few investigative articles about security and runaway costs and even an extremely rare Sunday edition of the Sun-Star.
Then the coverage stopped.
I have one question:
The story isn't over. It may be just beginning. It's time to send out the Feral Dog pack.
Let's start with a few basics, which were well-covered (over-covered?) leading up to the event.
How much did UC Merced actually spend on the event? How was it paid? Is there a detailed breakdown? Is it true that the communications (uplink and JumboTron) were way overpriced, according to some blog posts?
What was the official count of attendees on campus? How many visitors did downtown Merced attract for the Cap&Town festival?
What was the total attendance in town, and how did it compare with the now infamous "Pazin estimate" of 25,000?
Why did regular attendees have to be in their seats over two hours prior to the start of the ceremony? Why did photographers and others have to be on campus at 6 a.m.?
What did security cost?
What did it cost to fly the first lady's limo into Castle? How about the first lady and the folks on her airplane?
Did UC Merced have to reimburse Washington for those flights, the Secret Service or other costs?
Speaking of Castle, on the Thursday before graduation day, I noticed a major landscaping project in progress at the ex-base. I didn't count them, but there was a large number of workers and more than one landscaping company involved.
New flowering plants, shrubs, grass, trees and other decorative items lined the route out of the base.
I called the county spokeswoman, Katie Albertson, to hear her mantra, "No, it has nothing to do with Michelle Obama's visit. We have been planning for some time to make the facility more attractive to potential tenants."
I think a Feral Dog could find out how much overtime or additional charges were spent beautifying the exit from Castle. Perhaps there were similar expenditures in Merced?
Let's not forget the weather. It was pretty hot, but could have been much worse. Even so, with no shade and the requirement to be in place so early, there were a number of heat-related problems. How many?
How serious? Who paid the bills?
On the other side of the coin, the Sun-Star alluded to a boon for motels and restaurants. Did that happen? Did Merced businesses actually see a bump of more than $1 million in revenue?
Some post-graduation articles suggested some restaurants exceeded their estimates, while others came up short. What's the bottom line?
Why wasn't there an editorial or a story about the protesters who tried to rain on the parade?
There is one man, Bob Carpenter, who didn't attend the graduation. Why?
Bob was a major player -- if not the major player -- to get the campus located here. Has anyone talked with him about why he didn't attend?
And finally, why wasn't there an editorial chastising the folks who left the campus immediately after Michelle Obama's speech?
I've heard estimates that 30 to 50 percent departed the scene.
To be sure, it was a moving speech, but the day should have been about the class of 2009.
It's time to send out the dog pack.
Time to head to war again … Mike Tharp
Yeah -- why would a member of AARP qualified for Social Security grab the same olive-drab duffel bag -- one that's been to five other wars -- pack it full and fly back to Iraq?
Sir Edmund Hillary's answer about climbing Everest? Because it's there?
Because McClatchy's foreign editor Roy Gutman asked again, after a rotation last summer?
Because Corinne Reilly, our county reporter, has now been to Baghdad twice and done a stellar job both times?
You bet. An editor's got to lead from the front.
To bear witness for Mercedians about a war they're paying for, especially the six KIAs from our county and the 12,000 to 14,000 Mercedian veterans?
Old War Dog friends offered advice, some of it serious. Joe Galloway, a McClatchy columnist and author of two classic books on the Vietnam War ("We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young;" "We Are Soldiers Still") reminded "to watch your arse -- you and I are getting a little long in the tooth to go chasing after 19-year-old Marines."
Matthew Fisher spent three days again in Merced last week before moving to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he'll spend the next two-and-a-half years in a tent covering that war for Canadian newspapers.
He brought an OD ball cap with a cloth neck protector hanging down, French Foreign Legion style -- "like 'Beau Geste,' Mike!"
Quang Pham, a Marine chopper pilot in the Persian Gulf War and Somalia, repeated his 2008 advice: hydrate and "be fit enough to drag any wounded to safety."
Mike Hedges, who provided last summer's "battle rattle" (body armor, Kevlar helmet, goggles) wished he was going along in what would be a fourth time together in a war zone.
Richard Pyle, AP's Saigon bureau chief for three years during that war, wrote that "Eye-Rack is far from over."
Doc Egeler, winner of a Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman's Badge in 'Nam, advised to "keep your head down, young man!"
Brad Handley, who spent three years in Laos fighting with the Hmong a generation ago, provided a gold pen made from a 50-caliber machine gun round.
This time feels different.
Last summer, it was all gung-ho and ready, fire, aim! But then six weeks in Iraq, including 10 days embedded with the 10th Mountain Division in Kirkuk, became part of conscience and consciousness as no other war -- except Vietnam as a soldier -- had become. And the war is still going on.
Last year, Merced had been a place of residence for less than a year. This time Merced is home.
Last year, family and friends were worried. This time, not so much.
Brother Steve's wife Paula, in Sacramento, warned to "never, never, never volunteer." Marlene Bien, wife of best friend Greg in Kansas, passed along a mantra from Buddha, via Father Edward Hays, our high school and college guru: "With our thoughts we make our world. Think pleasant thoughts."
This time three or four weeks of the six-week deployment, Inshallah, will be spent embedded with U.S. Army or Marine units withdrawing from Iraqi cities to their FOBs (forward operating bases). An important political move, but one that leaves them tactically at their most vulnerable.
Embedded, Inshallah, with a mostly Iraqi unit and a Baghdad McClatchy bureau reporter who speaks Arabic so it can be learned how well the two supposed allies are working together.
Embedded, Inshallah, with a completely Iraqi unit, and a McClatchy interpreter, to see if Iraq can step up while America stands down.
Sandstorms, Iraqi political news, balky American and Iraqi public affairs officers and other forces could conspire to dash the plan.
But that's the plan.
This time Mission No. 1 will be to find out if American troops remain hoo-ah and ooo-rah about their mission -- even though that mission has changed as often as the Iraqi "shamaal" winds since they were first sent to The Sandbox in March 2003.
Even though the promotions and medals will now come from Afghanistan where the Obama administration is sending 30,000 more troops to fight on that front.
One question for the grunts, which came from Randy Riggins, a major in the Persian Gulf War (who let a reporter sleep in a body bag next to his Humvee during Operation Desert Storm), is the same one asked by John Kerry in 1971. Whatever you think of Kerry, then or now, his question bears repeating: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Mission No. 2: Try to get a handle on what will happen there once Americans leave the cities and, eventually, the country. Civil war? Failed state? A mostly stable Arab nation with the only elected Muslim government in the region? An oil-producing ally of the west? A client of Iran? More questions than answers.
This time feels different.
Son Nao provided three CDs and DVDs of his Zen reggae funk sound, photos of Yosemite and other national parks and video of natural wonders. Daughter Dylann handed over three wristbands she got in South America early this year. They've been a fashion statement for her dad since a 1970 visit to Vietnam's Central Highlands, where a Montagnard slipped a brass bracelet on his wrist.
They'll fit well with the brown leather one engraved with a green peace symbol Nao gave last year. Young soldiers thought it was cool. Old soldiers and officers never said one way or another.
On the way to Nao's apartment in Torrance from the hotel, another wristband lay lost on the sidewalk. White letters spelled out "BELIEVER."
Turn it inside out, and it's just a black rubber wristband.
This time feels different.
Time to saddle up.
Think pleasant thoughts.
Executive Editor Mike Tharp can be reached at (209) 385-2456 or firstname.lastname@example.org