Saturday, November 16, 2013

When Pedestals Slip

A while ago, while I was still trying to get 2-16's side of the "collateral murder" fiasco out I had reached out to Joe Galloway, to ask his advise.  What truly amazed me is that the Joe Galloway, who went into Ia Drang with 1-7 Cavalry actually responded to me.  He made it clear that he was long since retired, so he didn't have contacts that I could use, but he did actually critique my work and provide useful insight.  I was star struck, and I tried hard not to pester him with questions (I was, and am still particularly interested in his view of Lam Son 719).

 Joe Galloway is one of the few reporters out there that just "get it," that understand the Soldier's mentality, on an intellectual as well as an emotional level.  There are precious few others I've seen that have this understanding.  Sebastian Junger, David Finkle, Jake Tapper, and a very select few others have been able to relay to the American people in words what being an American Soldier is all about.  This very select group of people don't just report the hard facts ("a roadside bomb went off today killing two soldiers and wounding four others") but are able to make people who have no emotional connection understand the mentality that takes boys from vastly different living circumstances and melds them into a unit that will literally die for each other without a second thought. 

Joe Galloway's work has in a large part helped heal the rift between the military and civilians that the Vietnam era caused.  The 2002 movie adaptation of his book "We were soldiers once. . . and young" helped bring to life the grit determination camaraderie and sorrow of the soldiers that went into the battle of LZ X-ray, as well as the families that were left behind.  In no small part this gave the country a very visceral reminder of the forgotten heroes of the Vietnam era.  Joe Galloway's work is right up there with Jan Scruggs' in helping bring peace to a group of service members who were often forgotten abused and mistreated by their country.  Reading about some of the homecomings that the 1-7 Cav troopers got is why I always go out of my way to welcome home any Vietnam Veteran. 

It's also important to say, that Joe Galloway really is in every sense of the word, a hero.  Very few civilians are awarded combat awards, and it's hard to say that he did not earn his Bronze Star with V device, and the fact that even after the Battle of Ia Drang left him with many emotional scars he still went back to Vietnam to cover the near disastrous Lam Son 719 after a friend and fellow UPI reporter was killed.  That took a lot of guts.  More than a few people would have sat down and said "I've had enough, count me out."  He didn't have to go back.  Nor did he have to ride with the 24th Infantry Division in Desert Storm. 

With all that said I had hoped that Joe Galloway's Facebook feed would be posting news articles of the day, and offering short incite.  I had hoped that there would be mentoring, encouragement and even positive feedback for young writers.  I had hoped that he would also share secrets of what he did to make peace with the demons war can give you.  I was taken aback to find that a lot of the tings he said were bitterly partisan.  Some of the articles he posted as well as some of the things he said about the articles left me feeling really uneasy.  This is JOE GALLOWAY.  I might be a smart ass with a penchant for sticking my foot in my mouth, but one does not simply walk up to a guy like that and say "no this isn't right." 

I do not hide the fact that I am generally Conservative/Libertarian.  I also believe that debate is important.  So eventually I started offering counterpoints to what was being said.  I offered opposing views as well as justifications.  I did my utmost to be respectful, and try to admonish the people commenting (some with truly horrid responses) that debate is essential to our Republic, and without respect debate is impossible.  This went on for a few weeks, before Joe himself banned and blocked me.  His description of me does not bare mentioning. 

So here I am.  I still greatly respect Joe.  His volume of work, nor the impact it has had can not be understated.   If he wants to be partisan, he has earned that right a lot more than most.  I am a little crestfallen that a personal hero thinks so little of me or what I have to say.  It still bothers me a little, but as always you have to pick yourself up and move on.  Despite the disagreements we had on various issues, and the way things ended I wish him peace, he really has earned it.  For my part I'm just going to walk away.  It's a little sad, but that's life.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Huray for Dysfunction

You know what's funny?  What's absolutely hilarious?  The last Republican proposal before the Government shutdown was to delay the individual mandate by one year, and repeal the medical device tax.  Fast forward a few weeks and the Affordable Care Act roll out is not only a disaster but the subject of hilarity.  Seriously, watching people try to scramble to explain how a website that has more code than the latest version of Windows, has been hilarious.  So funny that the ACA which had ONE House Republican that signed on (and failed to get reelected) has a lot of Democrats worried.  They're so worried that they're trying to. . . delay the individual mandate by a year. 

Gee.  But let's not stop there.  At it's best Obamacare was supposed to help 30 million Americans, which is roughly 10%.  Because of that 6 million Americans who actually liked their coverage (roughly 2%) are going to outright lose their coverage.  But let's not stop there.  As many as 100 million Americans are going to have their coverage altered, or their premiums are going to skyrocket.  That's 33% (roughly).  So right there roughly 35% of Americans are going to be hurt by this law from the outset, the primary effects, that the law was actually designed for.  This does not account for the 7.3% of Americans that are unemployed. 

The secondary, and unintended consequences of the law may be even worse.  Doctors are fleeing the plans that are the center piece of Obamacare.  The why seems painfully obvious.  Doctors are a highly specialized position, that takes years and years of training.  The cost to get through the training and the years of devotion are compensated by the extremely nice pay.  Even breaking even with years worth of student debt can take years, but in the end most doctors don't mind it because they earn a very nice paycheck.  Government plans are very strict in exactly how much they pay for what.  If you had to spend six figures to get a job in the hop of making (close to) six figures wouldn't you flee a plan that cut that paycheck drastically?  The practical result is you'll have to wait for a long time to see a doctor, and travel far to see specialists (even though there might be several specialists nearby).

Everyone points to the things that Obamacare covers as a good thing, but why should a single male need maternity care?  Why should a relatively healthy family with no history of substance abuse need that covered in their plans?  Yes some people will need this in their plan, and feel they need it, they will pay for it, but why would you force someone who doesn't want or need these to have them on a plan?  The obvious result will be that everyone's plans will by necessity cost more.  In a time when the economy is barely recovering, why would you want to add more cost to people's lives.  The gas prices going up half a dollar a gallon immediately preceded the housing market crisis.  So what crisis could this bump in expense cause? 

Even if it could somehow be proven that the ACA might help 10% of Americans, is this really what we want our federal government to be doing?  We're already spending over a trillion dollars a year more than we take in.  Even if the ACA works properly there'll be a massive increase in the Medicaid rolls.  If we can't afford what we have now, why would we add to that? 

One of the best talents that America has displayed is our talent as a nation to compromise.  The Affordable Care Act, is a clear example of what happens when we don't compromise.  It is an idea born of ideology and good intentions but not grounded in reality.  The implementation has been a disaster.  Perhaps the dysfunction surrounding Obamacare might actually be a good thing.  Maybe its time for us as a nation to have an actual conversation about what we want our government to do.  What is the role in our lives.  Are we it's master or is it ours?  Whatever we decide, I'm pretty sure that America will be better off if we repeal the Affordable Care Act, and perhaps start over. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Some Thoughts About Veterans Day

Every Veterans Day I am often prone to wool gathering.  I can not help but think back to times that seem almost like another lifetime.  It seems especially strange to be thanked for my service.  It's like a jarring note introduced into the contemplation.  How am I supposed to respond?  More than that, it reminds me of what I did, what I saw, and how it has changed me.  Is a thank you, even well meaning really what I want?

The simplest answer is: no, I want more.  .45% of the US population are actively serving, and roughly 10% are Veterans.  Of that percentage a laughably small percentage are actual combat Veterans (For the purposes of simplification I mean have been shot at and returned fire to an actual enemy).  How can some random person coming up and saying thank you so unexpectedly, wash away the memory of a friend screaming in pain and begging for Morphine?  How can a parade erase returning to an empty room in the barracks?  It doesn't.  For as much pride, I had in wearing the uniform, I suffered terribly for it. 

Perhaps that is why it fills me with unease seeing parents dress their children as soldiers because it's "cute."  My mind fills in an image of that same child screaming for someone to lay down suppressive fire, and I think if their parents could see that image they would weep bitter tears.  Perhaps I'm bothered by the fact that people seem to forget that America is still at war and that some of the youngest dying in Afghanistan today are not old enough to remember 9/11.  Perhaps it's just the idea that the discord in the nation caused by political rhetoric seems like a slap in the face.

I can't say exactly what about Veterans Day bothers me so much.  I can tell you that I still to this day feel guilty that I went through two tours without a scratch.  Other, worthier men came home without limbs, to broken marriages, and kids that didn't recognize them.  I wish people would recognize my Combat Medical Badge, so that when they did thank me they could thank me for something specific.  "My service" could mean picking cigarette butts out of rocks in the motorpool, or it could mean shooting at someone from the roof of the Ranger JSS.  It could mean sweating to the point of dehydration in an OP, or it could mean standing in formation listening to endless safety briefings. 

People thank me on Memorial Day, when they should go to Arlington and thank those far worthier individuals.  People thank me on the 4th of July, when they haven't even read the document that gave birth to this nation.  I don't want you to display your patriotism, in short bursts of fevered flag waving, that doesn't make me feel better about going to war for this nation.  I want to believe that the American Spirit is not dead.  I want the citizens of this country to take the same pride in being an American that I took in serving in this nation's military. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

War and Resession

A recent article reported by the Blaze, the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno is not confidant that he can deploy any significant force for any type of major operations.  The long and the short of it is that sequestration hit the military a lot harder than is typically being reported in the media.  The reasons aren't as straight forward as "reduce your budget by 10% across the board, which is what the law said.  There's a couple problems here.  The first is that the President had already reduced the budget by $500 Billion over the decade.  Because of the tactical requirements in Afghanistan, while the Army and Marine Corps did tighten their belts, the ones who really took the hit was the Navy and the Air Force.  The second as it might be painfully obvious is that even though most of the country has forgotten about it, there's still this war thing going on in Afghanistan, and it's as brutal and harsh as ever.

There's one more problem, one which the military has absolutely no control over whatsoever.  The way appropriations bills are set up, the military is required by law to buy X of said weapons systems from said suppliers.  Sometimes these things are things the military desperately needs, or needed.  The C-27J Spartan was one of those airframes that was considered critical need for short take off and landing resupply of distant out of the way bases.  One problem, the Air Mobility Command felt they didn't need them so they came brand new right off the line and went directly to the Bone-yard in Davis-Monthan AFB.  One could also point to the troubled Littoral Combat Ships, which was meant to replace the aging Perry-class frigates.  I don't even want to talk about the F-35.  At this point it's pretty well documented we've just bought into a fighter that sucks at fighting. 

The complex budget calculations boil down to four simple things Systems, Training, Personnel, and Operations.  The Personnel, and Operations costs are pretty straight forward, though Personnel also includes base support, family support and healthcare.  The Systems budget is all about the various weapons systems, to include the actual hardware like ships planes and guns, it includes purchasing new weapons, and maintaining old ones.  As I said before this is not so straightforward as the Military leaders have little actual control over this budget.  Operations is also not entirely straightforward because combatant commanders tend to conduct operations based on tactical needs rather than budgetary requirements.  To get at the enemy you might have to forward deploy a company in difficult to supply areas which will raise the budget like a Saturn V going full bore.  For a lot of reasons you can't slash Systems and Operations budgets so all that's left is Personnel and Training.

In recent months we've seen anecdotal as well as full on news coverage of the Army getting rid of some of the most combat experienced troops like a hot grenade.  A lot of troops are not getting promoted because of minor infractions, or personality conflicts.  The end result is that a lot of enlisted troops aren't reenlisting, and a lot of officers are getting out rather than have to deal with more "chicken-shit." from "Big Army."  This brain drain was seen during the height of the Iraq War, as the deployment cycles became extreme, but you're seeing it more and more now that budget requirements are starting to pinch.  Who are left are some of the soldiers that perhaps you really wouldn't want in charge of combat formations. 

We're rapidly approaching the point that the Army was at in the late 70's.  While not the social pariahs that the military was until the early 80's, the issues of a draw down and the unpopularity of a war, are seriously effecting the force's ability to wage war.  We may rapidly approach the point where we simply won't be able to deploy large formations that are combat ready.  The abilities of combat troops has required the military to rely more and more on Special Operations troops.  

The emphasis on Special Operations has in the short time plugged the gap left by the flagging regular force, but that presents problems of its own.  Spec Ops are often very expensive, and the support requirements are a lot greater, and if they get into trouble, they can be isolated and slaughtered quickly.  The loss of Extortion 17 alone makes it painfully clear how vulnerable or Spec Ops troops are.  We will see more situations like this, and it will take an extreme toll on the SOCOM community, which is so small that each operator lost has a significant impact on the community as a whole.

The worst part about all of this is that there are no solutions the military can enact.  The entirety of this problem was caused and must be solved by the politicians.  That in and of itself is a terrifying reality.  The recent budget crisis showed that there is almost no functionality in Washington, in a time when the force readiness of the next decade is on the line.  We may reach a point where we simply can't go to war because our troops will get slaughtered.     

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spartan Race Opportunity

What really amazes me is when people reach out to me to advertise on my Blog.  I kinda think I'm a nobody, but every once in a while I get completely unexpected requests out of the blue.  I've hesitated to push anything, but this one is too good to pass up. 

If anyone knows me, they know I love a challenge.  Spartan Races are about as much of a challenge as yo can get.  I've had tons of friend try them, all have reported that even the short "Spartan Sprint" is extremely challenging.  I can not wait to try it myself.  Unfortunately for me getting time off work and also the money to actually sign up have been a bit of an issue.  

But here's the really cool bit; a gentleman from the Spartan Race team has passed along something I had to share with you guys.  GovX and Spartan Race partnered up to get Military and First responders big discounts on registration. Go to http://spartanracemedia.com/  and enter the code: BOP2778602 and you'll get a free race.  Has to be used in 2013-2014for an open heat.  Simple as that.  

If you're a couch potato, or a fitness enthusiast, doesn't really matter, suggest you give it a tryI've even heard of a little 77 year old grandma completing a race.  If you're up for getting your ass kicked, and kicking a little in the process, If you're up for some mud, and scrapes and abrasions you can laugh about later this is for you.  

See you there.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is the Army Coming To?

When I first read this I thought maybe the Duffel Blog had punked Stars and Stripes (wouldn't be the first time), but in fact this actually happened.  Apparently the base commander at Vicenza Italy was relieved after he essentially chewed out a gate guard.  What truly astounds me is that profanity was actually cited as one of the causes for his removal.  I was extremely incredulous because I had seen this very thing happen several times.  I've even been on the receiving end of a Colonel's displeasure. It's just part of being in the Army at some point someone above you will fail to get the proper orders to you and a senior officer/NCO will show up and let their displeasure be known often in terms that include four letter words and leave no doubt that you will do what they want right now or else

even leaving aside that perhaps "shooting the messenger" isn't always the best response (however you'd be amazed at how quickly you get a response out of this approach). at what time did the US Army suddenly find profanity to be a firing offense?  If you've ever been around soldiers, profanity is almost a second language.  There are even times its almost required, because only curse words are eloquent for the amount of displeasure you have at having to inventory something AGAIN that has been locked securely in a connex.  Profanity is sometimes the only response you can give when ordered to do the impossible.  Try fighting your way out of an ambush, then being ordered to turn right around and attack the very place you just fought out of. 

I've been watching the services relieve commanders for reasons that seem rather insane lately.  The Navy has been relieving commanders and CPO's left and right for the past few years, and now apparently the Army is jumping on that bandwagon.  It's not exactly a secret that they're looking for an excuse to force people out.  Budgetary constraints often have repercussions on who advances.  In peacetime often stellar combatant commanders will be relieved because they do not polish well in a garrison environment.  However our recent experiences in Iraq should have taught us the danger of having a garrison Army fight a war. 

The old saying is that "no combat ready unit ever passed inspection," but in recent years we've also proven the opposite is true.  No unit that passes inspection is ready for combat.  There is a certain danger in relieving soldiers for "chicken shit" reasons.  It sends a message down the ranks.  Some forms of leadership that work very well in a combat environment will be discouraged for a more polished veneer that is often not ready for the harsh realities of war.  Relief for Cause is a powerful tool.  It sends a clear message.  It should not be used lightly. 

Just as discouraging is when relief is not explained.  When the services "lose confidence" in the ability of the commander they owe it to the subordinate commanders but also to the service as a whole to explain exactly what the pattern was that caused the service to relieve a commander.  The rumor mill, often referred to RUMINT, will churn out its own explanations, and in some cases may be totally wrong.  It can in cases reinforce bad behavior because a subordinate feels the commander was doing things right. 

We all accept the draw downs are coming.  We all accept that times are going to get lean.  But we also have to take the lessons we learned from the Clinton years and be very careful how we draw down the force.  If we're not careful we'll squeeze out the warfighters, and leave the politicians.  You wouldn't want to send congress to a war would you?  Why then would you politicize a unit whose sole existence is there to win wars. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bombs Away

In WWII, several new theories of war were developed, most of which are still in practice today.  From the Blitzkrieg, essentially an armored thrust designed to penetrate deep into the heart of the enemy lines and create chaos in the rear area, to the idea of Strategic Bombing, the idea of bombing civil infrastructure to reduce overall military power, we still employ most of the ideas honed in the conflagration that engulfed the world.  The major problem is that we are no longer fighting WWII.  We have seen the severe weakness of the standard playbook in recent years, and unfortunately have failed to recognize and adapt to the changing realities the battlefield presents.


Take the Blitz for instance.  One could aptly call it a spear thrust, because that's almost exactly what it is.  The support, and the actual fighting formations all move on the same roads at the same pace in the same direction.  When facing down a numerically superior force in a defensive posture, the Blitz works quite well.  However as we saw in Iraq, sweeping aside a numerically superior force was almost laughably easy but securing the areas we had gained was next to impossible with the forces we had available.  Many of the weapons and soldiers that would ignite the insurgency were able to slip into the populace because the US formations were not able to sweep and clear the towns like Nassaryiah or Najaaf that they just swept through.  When the insurgency was finally upon the troops they had to go back and sweep and clear a lot of the same towns that they'd fought through in the initial push.  Whole stockpiles of military munitions were left unguarded, and the failure to provide order and prevent looting showed how totally inequitably the generals had prepared for the Iraq War.  One wonders how many lives on both sides might have been saved if the ground commanders had had both adequate forces, and the wherewithal to say that getting to Baghdad in 30 days was less important than securing Iraq for the long haul.


Then there's Strategic Bombing.  Perhaps we should have learned in the Korean War, when B-29 formations ran out of significant targets within the first week, that Strategic Bombing doesn't work if the enemy has no infrastructure.  Advocates of Strategic Bombing often point to WWII, in both Germany and Europe, and also to Bosnia and Kosovo as proof positive that it can work.  But there were other factors that make it clear that it was more a supporting factor than an actual causal one.  For instance during one night when Tokyo was hit with a massive incendiary strike over 100,000 people died, which is more than the combined total of deaths from both atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But Tokyo wasn't the only target hit.  Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe. . . really every major Japanese city was almost leveled, as was nearly every German city.  Even the London Blitz in 1940 should make it clear that such bombing it not entirely effective.  It is true that such attacks did affect industry, and thus have a supporting role in ending the war, but the Germans had to be almost completely smashed from both sides, and the Japanese had to have super-weapons dropped on them before they gave up.


Even the example of Kosovo is fundamentally flawed.  True the bombing campaign did have an effect, but not as great as we often try to make it sound like it did.  Did Milosevic step aside because American bombers were blowing up his infrastructure with impunity, or was it because the US was starting to mobilize ground forces?  We may never know exactly, but it raises enough of a question that we should not be so readily relying on air strikes as the one stop shop for winning wars.


Perhaps most of all the drone program should prove the inherent fallacy of Strategic Bombing.  Since there is no infrastructure of note for the Taliban and al Qaeda who seem perfectly happy to "rough it" in what is essentially early steel age conditions what targets are there left for the roving war planes?  People.  There's just one slight problem here.  In simplest language we don't know who we're killing.  We don't know what we're hitting, and once the missile is launched there's really no recalling it.  True there are a ton of terrorists that have been killed, but who else have we killed?  Doctors?  Engineers?  Perhaps even the very people that we might be able to use as assets against the propaganda of the terrorists.  Relying on Strategic Bombing in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Libya have lead to the situation spinning out of control, and the view from the top becoming even more confusing than ever.  We simply don't know whose doing what with whom and for what purpose anymore.


Now with armed intervention in Syria looking ever more likely it seems almost a foregone conclusion that it will take the exact same route as the intervention in Libya.  We have no idea who the rebels are, and no way of gaining even a semblance of control, but we will most likely use a series of low risk air strikes to "help" the rebels.  This will work *eventually* to weaken the Assad forces and potentially even weaken Iranian influence in the region, or it might backfire and create a chaotic churning mass of old rivalries and hatreds that continue to churn for the next decade or more.  The fault lines in the Middle East are not solely along the borders of Israel, but everywhere where there is more than one race, and Syria is perhaps one of the most diverse ME nation.  Arabs will kill Assyrians, Kurds will kill Arabs, and throwing Persians or the half dozen other ethnicity will only make it worse.  That is to say nothing of the rift between Sunni and Shi'a.  Worse still, as we have seen in Afghanistan, and Iraq, internal conflicts have a way of spilling over into neighboring nations.  The violence in Syria seems to be corresponding with an uptick in the violence in Iraq.


Libya was at least a stable state before the Qaddafi was targeted.  Now the Libyans don't even really have a semblance of order, it is controlled by roving militias which might as well be the same as firing the police forces of Chicago and turning it over to the Gangs.  This is to say nothing of the serious military hardware that was just left behind by the Qaddafi regime.  Surface to Air Missiles, (SAMs), anti-aircraft artillery pieces, artillery shells, long range rockets, mortars. . . in the hands of an army such things would be trivial and out dated even, but in the hands of terrorists who neither recognize nor fight for any state, unparallelled chaos could be wrought across the globe.  This is what is in store for us if we intervene in Syria as we did in Libya.


We can no longer afford to kid ourselves that we can win a few wars inexpensively but dropping a few "surgical" bombs in key places.  Air Power will always play a role in warfare for as long as we are able to fly, but we can not pretend anymore that it is the be all end all.   If we are to intervene in Syria it will take an Army and Marine Corps that we simply don't have anymore.  If we intervene we will need ground forces to secure the weapons left behind, and provide order during the transition.  With the looming draw downs due so sequestration, and the cost of over a decade at war, sending any appreciable ground force into Syria would strain the ground combat services nearly to the breaking point.  Worse still the Navy and Air Force would be unable to support those troops as they too are looking at drastic cuts to their manpower and capabilities.


In all honesty I can not see what anyone hopes to gain by involvement in Syria.  The same people who cited how Iraq was an "Illegal War" seem to be pushing us towards Syria for might the same reasons we got involved in Iraq.  With Us influence on the wane in the last five years, it would be doubtful how many allies we could entice to such a venture.  We could always "go it alone" but as I said before we simply don't have the forces, or perhaps even more important the political and popular will to do so.  Unfortunately our President has backed himself into a corner by talking about "red lines," and issuing dire threats to the Assad regime.  Now that it appears that chemical weapons have in fact been used the US must intervene or lose even more face and political clout internationally.  The Drone President can not simply whip out a few strikes from UAVs hold up some dead terrorists and claim victory this time.  As the Bard said; "Let us talk of Graves, of worms, and Epitaphs. . . Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings; How some have been depose; some slain in war, some haunted by the ghosts of those they deposed."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How do we talk about race?

I have come to the growing conclusion that at some point we'll have to deal with issues of race in America.  I've been watching with growing unease how Americans have been making race an issue.  I've been seeing more and more stories that are far more horrifying than the ones reported.  If we show Zimmerman as he was, a bumbling ne'r do well, then we must also show Martin as he was, perhaps once he had been the sweet loving child that was paraded before us, but when he and Zimmerman had their fateful encounter he was anything but.  Even beginning to detail his slow slide into the violent thuggish life so glamorized in popular culture leaves us shaken that one so young could become so bad so quickly. 

Even more troubling is when you read a whole host of incidents documented on American Thinker.  It really starts to beg the question who are the oppressors in our society.  I hold no ill will towards anyone based simply on their skin color, and I can not comprehend anyone that does.  It's a concept that I really can't wrap my mind around.  In all my musings on the subject, I can not honestly tell the difference between the Klu Klux Klan and the New Black Panthers.  To my mind, it seems that if they were not so hateful of each other, they would get along famously.  I could almost imagine the long ago Chapelle Show skit called the "black white supremacist,"  and the hilarity of the Klu Klux Black Panthers, if such people didn't horrify me on an instinctual level.

Why is it we are not allowed to point out the abysmal state of both Black and Hispanic communities.  Why is it that we are not allowed to point to the violent crime statistics and ask the simple and obvious, if painful questions, that arise from the numbers.  If we talk about the police racially profiling someone, and the over representation of the prison population by Black males, shouldn't we also point out the violent crime statistics that state who is more likely to commit crime?  If we talk about harsh sentencing based on racial bias shouldn't we also talk about who is getting sentenced and for what? 

I have seen equivocation after equivocation explaining away behavior that we should all find appalling.  For all the wrongness of the Rodney King verdict, that does not excuse the riots that followed.  Displeasure with the Zimmerman verdict does not excuse beating up or even killing random white people (which Zimmerman is not).  When do we demand individuals take responsibility for their actions and cease allowing anyone to claim that they're a victim while committing horrific crimes.  Society can be harsh at times, but for all the aspersions and judgements cast upon us, it can not make you beat someone into a bloody pulp.

There is this sub-culture growing in America.  A culture of violence, intolerance, racism and misogyny  by all means we should as a society point out the horrible damage it is doing to a whole generation (perhaps even several generations now) of Blacks and Hispanics.  The thug life so idealized in Rap, Hip Hop, and, R&B  places no value on the life or love of a woman, constantly refers to drugs, and brutish behavior.  Killing someone because they wore the wrong color, just to prove that you're "real" strikes me as a pointless waste all of America could get behind in wanting to see gone.  It fills me with a sense of emptiness to see so many people acting willfully ignorant, willfully stupid, being praised, while those that work hard and try to actually succeed are treated as beneath contempt.

Worse than that we are forced as a society by some unwritten set of rules never to challenge or question the escalating conflagrations.  Were we to call out those who are the worst offenders, the worst chargers of racial epitaphs, we are instead labeled racist.  Is it racist to point out that the very songs that are churned out in some horrific assembly line process and blared in clubs and bars across the country could well be labeled as hate speech if spoken by the "wrong" people?  Nor that an entire generation of young men have unrealistic expectations that they'll be the next big thing rolling in $100 bills and have faceless women randomly grind up against them.  It has become racist to point out that a whole generations idols are slowly duping these fools into following empty roads that lead to an early death leaving behind 20 or so "baby-mommas." 

I've had several friends point out to me that I'm White, so of course I wouldn't get it.  Such people completely ignore the logical inconsistency of saying I can not understand racial issues because of my race.  I do get it.  For generations "leaders" in the Black community have told them that they are victims.  Perhaps once that was true.  At some point however, you are the victim of your own choices, your own bad behavior.  In an almost Shakespearean way the ultimate causes of our miseries are usually ourselves.  You are no longer a victim if you are a willing participant.

So this is where I am.  I am confused.  The very idea that the amount of melatonin in one's skin  might somehow affect the outcome of that person's life is a concept foreign to me.  I believe your own actions, talents, and decisions, even the manner of your barring are the only real measure of whether your life outcomes are justified.  I don't understand how people could accept that they are victims, when their grandfathers just a few generations ago fought hard for the freedoms they enjoy.  I can not understand a whole culture that treats women as disposable and interchangeable.  I can not understand forcing us to remain in a cone of silence while the problem festers and gets worse.  Most of all I can not understand why a culture that is clearly suffering wouldn't want to fix itself, why it would want to doom its children to an underclass.  I can not understand racial issues.  For that reason, I think it's time, and past time we have some serious conversations as a nation on the subject. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

False Flag Freakazoids.

I'm sure with the Snowden debacle and the truly insane way the NSA has handled the whole affair, many more people are willing to believe in some of the crazier rantings of the conspiracy theorists.  From 9/11 Truthers to the Chemtrail crazies, it seems like lately these people have been coming out of the woodwork.  To be fair, a little healthy distrust of centralized power is probably a good thing.  To much power in anyone person's hand is never a good thing, but WOW. 

It always amazes me that the New World Order is just around the corner, every time something happens.  Then it's just around the corner a little later down the road.  As to who the NWO actually is. . . well it's the Illuminati.  Or the Free Masons.  Or the Zionist Jews.  Actually who the shadowy string pullers are varies on whose telling the tale.  The ultimate goal of a population of automatons while the elites have total world control seems to be the only common theme.  The funniest thing is that there actually was a system just like the one describe in all these various theories.  That would be Soviet Russia.

But if there really is a plot to have hundreds of planes fly over America daily spraying some sort of chemical into the upper atmosphere, the question that always seems to elude these hacks is motive.  What motive does this shadowy conspiracy have for "spraying" the skies with clouds that don't go away?  It seems this question, much as the question of who is actually behind it always seems to make these theories fall apart.  If we really blew up the twin towers, what did we gain?  A war that has sapped the national will to fight and weakened US preeminence abroad?  If building 7 was really a controlled detonation and not (as almost every expert who has actually studied what happened) a structural collapse due to sever damage from falling debris, what would anyone possibly hope to gain?  The twin towers had already fallen.  The damage was pretty much done.  Everyone was evacuated, so no one died when 7 WTC fell.  What possible point would any conspiracy have in overplaying it's hand at that point? 

The worst part is that a lot of these seemingly rational people will take bits and pieces of statements made or photographic evidence and distort what happened.  You see windows being blown out before the plane is all the way through the building so it MUST be controlled.  Completely ignoring things like shock-waves, and the fluid dynamics of explosions.  Fire doesn't melt steel. . . and yet since steel was first forged it was melted to be shaped by. . . fire.  In all their aspersions they completely ignore how unique the WTC and the attacks of 9/11 were, and thus there is no statistical way to back up that what happened on that day happened exactly as the official narrative says it happened.  People take a high school (at best) understanding of science and make wildly inaccurate conclusions about what happens, when actual experts look over said theories they're laughably simple to disprove even though the science behind it is difficult to explain to the layman.  

But the conspiracies are not limited to moments of evil like 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination.  Look up "moon landing" on Google and i bet you at least one of the suggestion Google provides will be that the whole thing was a hoax.  Despite the fact that the Mythbusters went out of their way to prove that in fact we did land on the moon, and most of the "evidence" pointed to as conclusive proof is actually easily explainable, people still refuse to admit that yes in fact we sent some truly brace souls to our nearest celestial body.  

Here's what I think.  Aside from the truly crazy, the reason that most people believe these things is that their world is ordered.  Things go on much as they have, and even though world events might touch them and shape the world around them they are not actually a part of said events.  If the price of milk goes up they see it a a slight against them, and not actually having to do with a complex formula figured out by the companies making selling and delivering the milk so that they can provide the product safely economically and actually make a buck in the process.  When terrible things happen for no apparent reason, or the reasons defy logic, our rational brain often searches for some reason that can "make the pieces fit" even if the picture itself makes no sense the pieces fit.   What people often fail to realize is that its the order we force on the world that's the illusion, not the chaos.  Nature is naturally chaotic, and only human society imposes things like the traffic grid of New York City.  When chaos strikes our lives that order is shattered and we are left scrambling for anything and anything to restore that sense of order which can often lead to people believing in things that simply aren't.

Sadly with the creation of the internet these folks will find each other and reenforce each others crazy.  Such people are *usually* not dangerous, but they can be destructive to a society if they reach great enough numbers.  After all Mien Kampf is one of the greatest examples of a conspiracy theory that caused unimaginable harm.  It is therefore the tired and sad (also thankless) duty of people who actually remain rational to point out the flaws in the logic of these theories.  To point out how it can not possibly work in the real world, or that they're making mountains out of molehills.  It is tiresome but sadly vital to continue to ensure that rationality wins out in the end.     

Friday, May 24, 2013

In Memorium

Before 2004, Memorial Day was just a time to relax, mess around and barbeque.  Before 2004, it was something of a celebration to mark the beginning of summer and the end of school.  Before 2004, I knew intellectually that a lot of people had died for this country, but it had never connected with me.  Before 2004 I would never have understood how worth fighting for this country is.  In 2004, I saw war.  I saw death.  I saw mutilation.  I saw good men turned into hamburger.  But I also saw the kind of strength that you won’t see on the news.  I saw men who were clearly scared silly “put their shit on” day after day and run up and down IED strewn roads.  I saw men and women go out for hours upon hours of patrols and return with while lines in their uniforms from the salt they had sweated out.  I watched soldiers refuse to give up on a people that had been ruled by fear as long as most living could remember.

I returned home to a country that did indeed honor my service, though not uniformly.  I returned to a country that was at war, but said war was not outwardly evident.  I returned to a country blessed with generations of freedom from oppression and tyranny, and the fruits such a life could provide.  How many children here never need fear a government that will target them because they pray to the wrong God (or don’t pray at all)?  Our children are free to love and be loved by whom they chose.  They are free to chose their own path in life.  Despite the fact that there are hardly any civilians that know what a CMB is, and despite the fact that our education system is so dismal many high school children couldn’t even place where Iraq was on a map, I came away with the certainty that America was an idea worth fighting for.  America is an idea worth dying for.  Lest anyone tell you otherwise America is, at its core an IDEA.

We have planted the seed of this idea in a region that couldn’t be more inhospitable.  Like a gnat in a blast furnace we tried to bring Pax Americana to the worlds most horrendously dangerous and unstable region.  We have paid a price in dearest blood so that others might live beneath the shade of the Tree of Liberty.  We have tried to do this before, in Kuwait, in Panama, in Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Europe. . . the whole world is almost literally covered with dead Americans who at one point or another raised their right hands and sore to defend the highest ideal of our society.  We weren’t always successful, or even right.  Despite this, we are an honorable people, who are always willing to extend the hand of friendship to our one time enemies.

To me the Star Spangled Banner will literally bring tears to my eyes.  The words have meaning.  I have seen the rocket’s red glare.  I have felt the bombs bursting in air, and despite it all the Flag was still there.  This symbol for a land too vast for one person to take in, a people so diverse, yet unified, still fills my heart with pride and my eyes with tears when it waves proudly over scenes of devastation like those in Oklahoma.  When it drapes the coffin of a young man or woman that gave their last full measure of devotion.  This nation has some of the bravest sons of bitches you can imagine, and it has been truly an honor to put my boots in their footsteps.  That so many young talented,incredibly great men and women would lay it all on the line for their country really says something about this country, and I can say without shame or reservation that I truly Love this country.  With every fiber of my being I love America.

This Memorial Day weekend will be a long weekend for me in many ways.  I will have to face some of my deepest held fears among which that I failed as a medic, that there was some bit of training I had neglected that might have saved a life.  I will face the fear that the country I so love has forgotten me, and my kinsmen.  I will face my fear that I should have died out there, that I failed as a soldier to meet the enemy and deliver unto him the unequivocal ass kicking he so deserved.   I will face the fear that there are brothers and sisters in arms right now that I should be helping but am not, and we may lose them because they didn’t have a battle buddy when they needed one.  I will face the fear that I will one day need a battle buddy when my past gets the better of me.  I will face the ultimate fear that I am weak in spirit and in mind that I should be so easily overcome by so relatively little when compered to great men and women who go forth and do great things minus limbs or with severe deformity.

I know many other veterans will look at pictures of the headstones in Arlington.  I know that many other veterans will have a quiet moment where they raise a glass to absent companions.  I know many other veterans feel as I do, and will relate to almost every single word I have written.  I remind you, look around.  There is such goodness in our people.  Your battle buddies are not gone.  The spirit of their courage, of their devotion lives on all around you.  Their insatiable humor, or their devotion to duty, or whatever aspect of your brothers or sisters that you miss can be found infused in the People.  We the People may have lost some truly outstanding individuals, but because of those sacrifices our nation has not known some of the horrors war can bestow on a people.  Because some brave American souls held the line the world is a safer place.  For that reason if no other I will rest a little easier this Memorial Day weekend.

In memory of:
SPC Daniel J McConnell, 27 Duluth MN 16 November 2004
SPC David P Mahlenbrock, 20 Maple Shade NJ 3 December 2004
SPC Andre Craig Jr., 24 New Haven CT 25 June 2007
PFC James J Harrelson, 19 Dadeville AL 17 July 2007
SFC James D Doster, 37 Pine Bluff AR 29 September 2007
veteran Neil D Holmes, 32 Suicide on 26 May 2011