Tuesday, January 31, 2012


If anyone ever tells you that they are impartial, or unbiased, they're Lying.  To you and, more importantly, to themselves (if they believe that).  Id doesn't matter if you think Race is an issue, or a non-issue.  If you you believe in one religion, or no religion,or a multitude of New Ageisms, you'll have religious bias.  If you believe "All men are created equal" or "All men are created equal" you're going to have Political bias.  One can not even talk about the subject of Sex, be it Heterosexual, Homosexual, or Donkey show, without bias not only creeping in, but dominating the subject.  I hold this particular truth to be self evident.  

And yet we as a people are expected to buy that well really any media outlet is devoid of Bias.  I have heard Conservative bemoan the fact that for years the bias has been painfully plain and yet every time they point this out they are treated as petulant children.  In recent years with the wild and quite frankly unqualified success of Fox News, the Liberals of America have been screaming of Conservative Bias.  Indeed if we had a round robin right now and asked for opinions about the news, chances are depending on the political spectrum you fallow you will find a News Channel that suits what you feel is appropriate or proper.  

Lets dispel this myth right now.  Even when stating who what when and where, you can let Bias creep in.  Lets say a woman is mugged outside a hospital last night around 10PM, and describes her attacker as a large black man between the ages of 20-26, who used a Knife to hold her up, and threatened [insert detail here].  Now right there you have a story that states who when when and where.  The problem is how you report the facts.  You could leave out that this was a large black man, and just describe him as a man.  You could make it seem like she was in the hospital, or even leave out the details of the assault so it seems like she randomly gave money to a man holding a knife on her.  

But there is a further problem.  See with the 24 hour news cycle, and indeed, since the profession really first began, there's been this desire to help put the story in context.  That's a problem.  It was a problem in the Vietnam War, because, many reporters lead Americans to believe Tet was a huge success for the NVA/VC when in fact it was a total disaster.  The same could be said of the Reagan years, and Bush the Elder's presidency.  It would be hard not to argue bias in the Starr trial, and who can forget the 2000 election.  as time goes on the biases become more plain, and those that promote them get more shrill in their denial of said Bias.  

But, we need to know the news.  We need to know what is going on in the world.  How do we get our news without it being tainted by Bias.  Well that's the tricky part.  See any institution that tries to impose any bias laws from the outside will itself be tainted by Bias.  That's why the so called "Fairness Doctrine" has been so thoroughly lambasted.  Who is the arbiter of "fair"?  If you give five minuets to a sane person about the idea of life on another planet must you also give five minuets to a wacko telling you how he was probed in the anus by Agent Orange and the CIA after being kidnapped by Glacknar the Space Alien?  To be certain debate is not only important but incredibly vital to a free Republic like ours (I don't care what you say we are not a democracy).

So how do we cover a conflict like say the constant back and forth between Palestine and Israel.  without a doubt if one tries hard enough one could make either  side seem like a victim.  The Israelis have tanks jets, and helicopters.  See a guy throwing a rock at a tank and not assume that the tank is the bad guy?  Show pictures of suicide bombings wiping out bus terminals and schools and how can you not want to wipe the floor with such people?  There is no easy answer except to tell the whole story, as much as you can, and get as many sources as possible before making an opinion.  This approach works not only for Journalists, but also for Citizens as well.  

Lastly you have to remember that you are biased.  That you Bias will color your decisions, and that this is not necessarily a bad thing.  You Biases are based on your experiences, and are not always going to lead you astray, but one must always personally be on guard for the times that such a thing does happen.  This is a vigil that only you can do.  As I said before any attempt to do so from outside will only exacerbate the problem.  No law will fix this problem.  As always this is as much yours in both problem and solution.  

Monday, January 30, 2012


Imperialism.  From Dictionary.com the definition is:  the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.

Now let's ask something here.  Are we in fact, practicing Imperialism?  Did the Global War on Terror, and its two main theaters in Iraq or Afghanistan create a colony, or "dependency"?  Last time I checked we spent over a trillion Dollars so they wouldn't have to call on us for every little thing (to include radicals).   Indeed despite "War for Oil" claims at oh so many protests, I have yet to see any evidence of actual you know war for oil.  Oil was seen as a tool for economic recovery, and was thus vital to the Iraqi people, not the American.  Had OIF been about Oil, well really how hard would it have been to station 150,000 troops around the oil fields and pipelines?  We could have let the country fall into chaos while happily driving down the cost of Gas to $.50 and telling OPEC to kiss our ass.  

How about Afghanistan.  Are there any resources there worth plundering?  Their women look like hell (probably because they've been treated that way)  outside of the cities, you are almost traveling back in time, and in the tribal regions, one might as well be living 1000 years in the past.  While one might argue that there is some great hiking, and picturesque views, we're not exactly trying to ship Outward bound to A-stan.  What resources are there for us that we couldn't get anywhere else for cheaper?  

Going back to the late 60's and early 70's there has been a charge of Imperialism by the Liberal Left.  This charge, strangely would have actually had merit in the progressive era (the forerunner to the modern Liberal era of the Left), when Progressive Presidents, did in fact try to colonize the world.  To understand this you'd have to understand that post Spanish American War, we were suddenly sitting on the Spanish colonies of the Philippians, Cuba, Guam, and a couple of other notable islands.  Suddenly the burgeoning America had access to. . . well the entire Western (and parts of the Eastern) Hemisphere and most of the Imperial European powers couldn't say a thing about it.  

What did we do?  Turned right around and gave it back to them (this is of course after  the Progressives left power).  To my Knowledge, there are only 50 states.  Even the Territories get privileges that Colonies do not (most of the time the support going from America to the Territories not vice versa.  Ask yourself this, "what have we gained from the wars we have fought?"  This Question is actually something that ironically enough is used by the same people who make the charge of Imperialism, as a barb against further wars, this is much like having their cake and eating it too, and it is a shame that more people do not call them out on this logical inconstancy. 

So let's ask this question which is far more important: "Why do we fight?"  The majority of the Wars that America has fought in are in response to aggression, the sole exceptions I can find would be OIF (the one example I can find of "preemptive war"), and the Indian Wars (but, even there, it was in response to perceived aggression).  The Spanish American War the only war I could possibly see to support the charge of Imperialism (more for its aftermath than its beginning) Began because of Concentration Camps (yes it was in fact the Spanish, not the Germans that started that particular tradition), and abuses of the people.  WWI, WWII, Korea even Vietnam, all in response to aggression, and despite a few extreme examples, there were no abuses by Americans that ever matched our enemies.  Even in Iraq and Afghanistan there have been only a handful of convictions, and even those were questionable, and yet the abuses of our enemies are extremely well documented, if not reported.
 Further the only time that there really was "Imperial" power in the presidency, during the Cold War from about 1946-1965, one would be hard pressed to argue that everyone under the protection of America, did not benefit (and greatly at that) from that protection.  Can Japan, or Germany, France, or the Pacific, truly argue that we abused them as they would have to their colonies?

So then I would suggest this, America goes to war, not for profit or gain, as Empires do.  Not even for the "Glory" of our nation do we go to war.  Yes that may be the reason for an individuals to go, but not for us as a nation.  We are unique in that after defeating our enemies we do not demand tribute.  We are unique in that we do not demand payment for the wars.  We are unique in all of human history, in that we fight for a non-concrete ideal.   Because we have a deep and firm belief, that every person, every human being should have the opportunity, even the joys we enjoy.  We can not point to any one thing that we have done to improve the world, only that the world has improved, more and more because of our influence not despite it.  In Iraq, we sought to raise and create, our enemies sought to destroy.  Now we have left them with the right to determine their own fates.  Is this the work of Ceasers Czars, Kaisers, Emperors, or Empires? 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's always the little things that count

So today I forgot my watch when going into work. It is easy to forget something you're always wearing, but today for whatever reason I wasn't wearing it when I left my apartment. Now I feel totally disorientated. It doesn't help at all that the store has a no cell policy, which means I'm back to reading analog clocks which, for some reason, my brain refuses to catch onto. This got me thinking.

 It always seems to be the small things that really screw things up.  As our technological abilities increase exponentially, we find that little things trip us up, and cause major disasters.  Take the Spirit of Kansas.  when they first rolled off the line each B-2 Spirit (the Stealth Bomber) was roughly $1 Billion a piece.   Now to put that in perspective, that is roughly the same price as one Ticonderoga class Cruiser (CG), which is essential to the modern Carrier Group.  One plane costs as much as a guided missile cruiser.  Think about that.  Now, the Spirit of Kansas was on a 4 month deployment to Diego Garcia, when it was taking its last flight out.  About halfway down the runway it pulled up sharply (far too sharply) and stalled.  This caused a crash.  The cause of the error?  Water droplets.  I am not joking, a little bit of humidity on a few sensors took down a bomber that literally had almost every modernized nation in the world shitting its pants for two decades. 

This is a pattern that is repeated again and again.  A small piece of a spring and a fan inside an oxygen cylinder caused Apollo 13 to fail spectacularly. A $.75 O-ring took down the Challenger (our Second Shuttle).  A small Block of Foam the Columbia (our first).  A glitch on a decimal point being in the wrong place sent a Mars probe into too steep a decent and there went a billion dollars and four years of effort. 

When the Boeing 757 was brand new a small piece of tape, caused a crash of an AreoPeru flight, because it cause the static sensors to be blocked.  Pilots literally got Over-speed and Stall warnings at the same time (which unless you're in Bizarro world is literally impossible).  Recently a Turkish Air Flight 1951, a Beoing 737-800, which was on auto pilot made to "flare" like it was landing, when it was still 500 feet in the air (and less than a mile from the runway), why did it do this? because the Radar altimeter said the plane was at -4 ft, so obviously the plane should be in landing mode, the result, was predictably, the plane quit flying.  

Another great example was Aeroflot Flight 593 (Russia's National Airline) flight Aeroflot had just got some shiny new Airbuses (A-310 in this case).  Now there's an interesting feature that none of the pilots knew about.  If you push on the column in a certain axis for a few seconds you'll actually disengage the autopilot. . . In that Axis, on that control.  Only. So the pilot proud of this brought his kid up to the cockpit, to show him around and predictably the kid tried to make a turn.  Only the turn kept increasing.  Another interesting thing, once you get past a certain degree in bank the autopilot disengages entirely.  Can you imagine what happened?  The copilot was knocked aside, unable to reach the controls because of a wild maneuver, and a kid was in control of the plane.  Amazingly they actually managed to recover, and the Captain returned to the controls, just in time to cause another stall.  Another interesting feature, that people forgot to tell the pilots, Airbus planes have an auto correct.  If you stall you're supposed to (assuming everything is working right) take your hands off the controls and let the plane fix itself.  So the Computer tried to correct the stall, and the pilots tried to correct the computer. . . which caused actual stalls, and wild banks, and climbs, before finally. . . well you get the picture. 

But one could apply this principle to more than Aviation though.  Look at say computers.  One small fleck of dust when they are being made, and the whole thing is really expensive junk.  In fact the clean rooms where they make microprocessor chips, has to be 1,000 times cleaner than an operating theater.  You think your mom was anal retentive when she told you to clean your room?  try scratching your nose in front of an OR nurse after you "scrubbed in".  You will be escorted out, forced to re-scrub (to include using one pack of Bernadine scrub brushes per finger) a process which will take you a at least 1/2 hour.  And the place they make micro chips is cleaner than that.

If you remember the Y2K scare, it was actually based on very real worry that suddenly it would show that people hadn't paid their bills in over a hundred years.  You laugh now but imagine if every American suddenly got a "100 years past due" notice on all their bills.  Automatic interest rates would kick in and pretty much everyone's credit rating would have sat at negative numbers. 

Even in biology, it will most likely not be the big things, like Fire Flood and Famine that will get us (well, not all of us) but what will really be our undoing is less than one tenth of a nanometer long.  A virus (or bacteria in the case of Y. Pestis).  If you're worried about the one you say in that Hollywood movie where you bleed from every orifice, don't worry, it's not likely to happen, those (rather thankfully) are very temperamental, and actually delicate viruses.  They're also very quick at killing their host.  You really don't have time to run around say coughing on people, feeling sick, but still mobile.  With Hemorrhagic fever, once you start getting sick you go down hill fast.  No it'll be Influenza.  The cough that kills.

It would be wise for anyone going forward to remember, that we may do great things.  We may conquer the stars, and colonize the oceans, but in the end the more big things we do, the more the little things we take our eyes off of will make those big things fail.  Just as I was disorientated without my watch at work, so too would you be disorientated (sometimes fatally so) when that little thing that you don't even think about, finally catches up with you.  This fact of life is only exacerbated by the fact that we can not afford to know a little bit about everything anymore, there is too much to know.  On some level you have to trust that the other guy did his job right.  The only way that you can ensure this in the future is to do yours right.  Remember attention to detail and maybe, just maybe the little things will not bite you in the ass so hard next time.  Then again maybe not.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fairness, Equality and Other Buzzwords

I watched the President's State of the Union address the other day, and there were a few moments that stuck out in my mind, aside from the general impression of extreme disbelief.  The beginning and end, were actually points that I had desperately hoped that a president might actually get, that Military members are indeed the best of society (most of the time).  That they recognize race is a non-issue, and that society should try to emulate this attitude. 

There were parts however that he talked about taxing the rich.  The words "fair share" were used.  Its kinda interesting how certain buzz words are used whenever suggesting things people really don't want.  So before a Zombie jumps on here, I'm not for "tax cuts for the rich" I'm for "keeping all tax rates as low as humanly possible" so please do not get on that vein.  So let's ask "what is a 'fair share'?"  The maximum tax rate is 35%.  That doesn't sound like a lot, until you realize that's just federal taxes.  How much do you think that State Taxes jump that one up?   If you have State taxes at the same rate that takes the tax rate over 50%. 

How is that "fair"?  You could throw numbers out there, but there are some tax brackets that pay no taxes.  I agree its not a good idea to make someone struggling to have to give up their pay check, when those few dollars could mean the difference between a skipping meals, and just barely squeaking by.  But the problem is it's not Government's place to make sure those people get a leg up.  Indeed the very idea that your income is immanent domain is something that is slightly abhorrent.  but further to that, rich or poor the tax rate should always be the same, why?  well there's this thing called "equal protection".  See you can't punish (or tax) one group over another.  I don't care how "progressive" you feel on the face you're violating the law. 

But further to that so called "Progressive" tax rates are actually doing anything but creating progress.  It reminds me of a scene in the book Atlas shrugged.  Well after Wyatt Oil goes up in flames, Dagne Tagart comes across a "tramp" and asks him to go to her personal car.  There he proceeded to tell his tale, and as Rand has lots of exposition in this book, its one of many (many) long speeches.  See he was at this company called 20th Century Motors, when the old owner retired and gave the company to his son.  They had this wonderful idea about paying people based on need, and having them work based on ability.  The problem is that people who were good at their jobs got worked to the bone, and people who could lie the most, got all they wanted.  In short order people became liars cheaters, and really the worst of their human nature came out.  After a while you couldn't pay someone to get a 20th century motor.  All the while the manager had a thousand copies of a magazine lauding his progressive plan.  Now you can see this story in microcosm is exactly what happened to the Soviet Union.  So the real question one should ask: Why on Earth should anyone want to be progressive?

There are some feel good reasons, but all these reasons lack any logic behind them.  In the end every single so called progressive initiative will fall short of its goals.  Why you ask?  Because it always ignores human nature.  Need and Abilities are never linked, except as a motivator.  When you need, or want, it will motivate you to go to the best of your abilities, not the other way around.  So in the processes of being "fair" we end up creating people that care nothing of fairness or anything of the sort. 

But what about Equality.  Well much like the George Orwell book "Animal Farm" some people have become more equal than others.  If you are, or have lived a decently well off life and happen to be white male, then why on earth should you need help?  Indeed you should give up your opportunities to those less well off.  Equality.  Ha.  The president got one thing right.  Soldiers do not recognize race in promotions (though there are some Generals that track as much) you ar promoted based on your merit.  Why do civilians do otherwise?

And equality between the sexes. . . Can anyone seriously argue that men and women are the same?  is it in anyway fair that a decent looking women gets into clubs on "ladies night" for free but a guy has to pay $5?  Or that a woman can get drinks for free, have doors opened for her etc.?  Is it fair that men are always expected to act a certain way?  Accept it or not there's a reason that we act that way.  The pay issue as well  has a reason behind it.  Why?  Well compare and contrast the actual degrees women and men get.  Fashion marketing vs. Business.  Teaching vs. engineering.  Which do you think would pay more?  Now add taking a few years off to raise kids ( still a common practice).  Is it any wonder that when you stack all men up against all women, the women seem to earn less?  You put a woman up against a man and give the same general career choices and their pay/promotion rate is about the same, but you'll never hear that in a State of the Union. 

So is there really justice to be found in "Social Justice"?  Is there really any Progress in Progressiveness?  The answer to the first is clearly a no.  The answer to the second is another question: Progress towards what?  The State of the Union sounded good.  But really in the end do you think there was any hint of truth to the main body of the speech?  His "accomplishments" are laughable, as are his warnings not the exact same warning Conservatives have been sounding for years?  funny. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When GEC's attack.

If you've been to college you've had to suffer through a GEC. a class almost completely contrary to your major. Getting a degree in business? You better have a class in art appreciation (how exactly do you teach someone to "appricite" art?). Getting a degree in Biology? You'd best get a class in geology. Getting a degree in History (like me) you need a class in Dance. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? 

Yes there are a ton of classes you must face. Now I understand the whole "broadening of horizons" but if this is not in some way advancing a goal then it looses importance, and relevance. Am I going to dance? I never had ability or desire to dance, the only time I have graceful movements is when I was a soldier, and those movements were not about bringing people together. So why do I need a dance class?  The fact that it's not even a class you actually do anything seems all the more insulting.

Now I understand that there will always be a need to "broaden" horizons of young men and women, but given that each professor is clearing close to 100K a year, and working at most a few hours a week. . . is this really nessisary?  Further, while I could see a strong need for such a class with anyone wanting to get a degree in dance, or teaching dance or even theater, I can not see any justification for someone that wants to learn about any other subject.

Even when it comes to exploring cross cultural imagry, and such, there comes a point that you have to ask, very seriously what the utility of the knowlege is.  When you have people who take a class not because they want to, or because it might be nessisary to build on further knowlege (say Organic Chemistry to Microbiology), but because someone said arbitrarily "this is the least painful of your options" you tend to see people who neither listen in class, nor give a shit what is being said/taught.

One can make a (strong) argument that buisness and econ have utility.  One can even argue that Geographical classes have utility.  I can agree that classes on world religion as well are important, if only familiarization.  But I'd argue against sociology, and psychology.  Why?  Because they're "soft" sciences, their theories being little more than buzz words, and feel-good theories, if you actually take time to debate them a lot of those theories fall apart.  At some point, does anyone bother to stop and ask these tenured professors "hey are you teaching anything useful?"  If you can not honestly say yes (in one paragraph or less) then obviously your tenure is not something the University should be paying for.

What makes this whole situation intollerable is that many of the professors that do teach these classes that do not advance a degree path, or are ancillary "broaden your horizons" classes are the very teachers who spend all their time trashing America.  I had a history professor who was all about the progressive movement, however when I made a clear an cogent argument to the contrary he did not grade me based on what he taught, but rather the strength of my argument.  Would you believe that I got an A- in a class where I challenged the proffessors every assertation?  Why?  Because history is one of those subjects where debate is not only important but vital.

Do you think I would get that from a Humanities class?  Believe me I tried.  It did not end well.  When she got to Vietnam, and the Hippies, I firmly stated that the ignorace of the Hippies was almost worse than them spitting on soldiers as they came home. 

"Spitting on soldiers?  That's an Urban ledgend" says she
"BULLS**T" Says I "I not only know, personally know, soldiers that were spit on, I have documentation of same"

The class got quite a bit uncomfortable from there.  There was one of those rail thin artsy chicks with the giant bonnet woven by Jamacains (or some such) and all sorts of "i'm unique" patches on her backpack.  She jumped in after about 30 seconds when I ascerted that not only was Tet '68 a major US victory, but that the Cambodian Incursion, should have happened 5 years earlier, and shouldn't have stopped where it did.  You can imagine how insenced she was.  This child of a hippie, new age yuppie, launched into a tirade about how wrong the US was to drop bombs on "innocent" people in Asia, to which I responded the VC and NVA were far from innocent.  You can imagine this debate getting a little heated on both sides (and one guy being like "dude chill out man it happened like a long time ago")

I wrapped up my case, after wasting most of the class, by stating that while the Vietnam War was poorly thought out by the Johnson administration, and had to be fought during a draw down for Nixon, the South Vietnamese were worth protecting.  That it was wrong for US Citizens to give aide to the enemy, and that the Communists were the worst sort of evil since Hitler.  That as an OIF Veteran I felt that the cultural importance of the Hippies was vastly overstated and the damage they had done to our society vastly understated. 

I won't repeat what was said after that.  But needless to say I left the class, and even though it was too late to drop the class, never went again.  I got (and deserved) an F.  I can live with that F.  But I still need to take a psudo-artsy class.  Hense the Dance 101: Intro to Dance. 

So why this rant?  Because I want to advance on my degree path.  I'm sick and tired of plodding along in thes fucked up bullshit classes.  As such I also question when people are having to choose between a gallon of milk and a gallon of gas, why the flying **** are we paying a kings ransom to teachers who do little or no work?  If we get rid of a lot of these pointless classes (and teachers) how much might the university save?  How much would the Student save?  You see now why I'm pissed?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zombie Or Free Thinker?

Zombies are everywhere. Not in a George A. Romero sort of Living Dead, I'm going to eat you sort of way, but if you ever watch a (Night, Dawn, or Day) of the Dead, you'll see the same shiftless gait and lack of higher brain function in would be political activists. They even, in a metaphorical sense, seek to consume you, if not so literally, their aim is to "infect" others, thus increasing their numbers to the point that even a shit load of guns does you no good.

How can you spot these people? They might be your friends, your family, even your dog! Well fortunately for us the Political Zombie makes himself known. They want you to join them after all. Pick a socially divisive topic, doesn't matter what, say how Obama is doing as a president. One of three things will happen 1). he/she will shrug and give a response like "meh". 2). He/she will go on a rant, about either he hasn't done enough or will fall all over themselves to attempt verbal fallacio, do not expect many actual facts here, but undoubtedly some great talking points. 3). They go into a rant about how he and his cronies are corrupt and not only selling us down the river, but expecting us all to smile while he does it. Here you should expect a few good talking points perhaps a few well documented facts (that have become talking points)

While one most certainly has more independent thought than the other these are typical responses we expect and sadly they are the responses of Zombies. There is a fourth far rarer response and that is of the educated individual who seeks to broaden horizons. They will respond: I support/oppose [insert issue here] because [insert reason here], and will follow up with well reasoned arguments for their position. This it the oh so rare Free Thinker that *most* of the Left's Zombies claim to be. 

To say the FT's of society can not have passion is to do them a disservice. They can get very passionate, but again they have firm reasoning on their side when they do. The FT does not like dramatic displays, but doesn't mind when proven *dramatically* right. But where the FT really rises above the Zombie is the ability to admit when He/She is wrong. How many times did you hear "hey hey LBJ, sorry for calling you a baby killer. We really don't agree with this whole 'Vietnam' thing, is it really worth fighting for, could we maybe find some other way to resist communism?" actually if you heard that chanted I would be freaking shocked.

The Tea Party, tends not to chant, but they are not immune to Zombieism.   Because they're so good at spotting I'm sure CNN and MSNBC highlighted (numerous times) all the Zombies they could find in an attempt to paint the larger movement as a largely Zombie movement.  It hurt the general cause of fiscal conservatives (note: key emphasis on fiscal).  But really with all the charges of racism and plain backwardness you'd have thought that there would be reams of evidence on the subject.  There are just a few examples (Birthers are a great example) of people who are as bat shit crazy as they are portrayed to be.

Now let's look at the Anti-war (pick a war) movement, Pro-choice, Occupy Wall Street, etc.  Lots of chanting going on there isn't there.  Lots of talk about what you shouldn't do, and what a nasty person you are if you do.  When it comes to offering new ideas, or solutions to current problems. . . well only OWS has even made an attempt at such, and their answer is simply put to throw down the system.  Ok . . . and replace it with what?  Their ideas on how to "fix" everything are couched and book-ended by fluffy terms that make us all feel happy about it, but if you actually listen to many of the proposals there is either an expectation of something from nothing, or far more horrifying making something into nothing.  All the while we get to see the fruits of a truly progressive society, and what we see is a society most of us want nothing to do with.  Even Leftist senators and representative are starting to get fed up (which is actually quite ironic). 

You can see that Zombies (despite all attempts to state otherwise) tend to gravitate more towards the Left, than the Right.  This is not to say that there are not FT's on the Left.  Nor, is it to suggest that FT's are always morally correct.  Lets face it, if there are puppet masters, they will be the very few FT's, those who enjoy the freedoms they use Zombies to take power away from others.  Even the "meh" crowd has FT's who choose non-involvement as a philosophy over actual apathy.  In the end the FT's will always live better, and in a way freer than Zombies, who are by their very nature chained.

Left or Right, Male or Female, you are an individual.  You can choose to be a Zombie, but unlike George A Romero's Zombies there is actually a cure for Political Zombies.  That cure is to stop what you're doing and really examine what the hell you're advocating.  Some people have actually done so and "come in from the cold", this tends to happen a lot when one has a family (though sadly not always, which sadly spreads the infection to the children).  Being a Free Thinker, is never easy.  Indeed in some cases it can be quite painful to admit the error of your ways.  It also means that you must place upon yourself a constant vigil, to ensure that your thinking, though influenced by others is not controlled by others no matter how charismatic.  The painful part of being an FT is knowing that you must always stand on your own.  Your thoughts and beliefs are and will always belong to you and you alone.  

People always say "Freedom isn't Free", while there's unbelievable amounts of truth to this simplistic saying, they should have added "Or easy"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Soldier Without a Face.

It was December 2004.  My brigade, 2nd Brigade 25th ID, had been in Iraq for almost a year and we were due to go home soon.  I was assigned to Charlie Company 225th Forward Support Battalion, and as part of Ambulance platoon, part of a two man ambulance team assigned to FOB Gaines Mills to provide ground evacuation, and medical coverage.  Gaines Mills used to be a palace for Chemical Ali, and was pretty nice for Iraq.  It had a peach orchard, many buildings, and lots of room to run around in.  It was early morning and I was asleep having been on watch that night.  I was half asleep when a runner from the Bravo Battery 2/11 FA TOC came running into the Aid Station. 

“We need an ambulance to Cold Steel Base Now!” he said.  He didn’t shout or scream but his voice carried through the Aid Station. 

I reacted quickly.  My senior medic already dressed threw on his IBA, grabbed his K-pot and weapon and ran out the door.  I was shortly behind him.  I threw everything on as quickly as I could, and ran to my ambulance the engine started on my FLA just as I got out the door.  I normally drove but since Eggs was already in the drivers seat I ran to the TC side and as soon as I closed the door he gunned the engine and we drove like a bat out of hell to “Cold Steel Base” where Charlie company 1st Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment was set up.

As soon as we got there, the company’s senior medic Specialist Ells, came to the TC door, and told me to get in the back.  I wanted to argue but that wasn’t the time.  I ran to the back of the ambulance opened one of the doors and made a jump to get in.  Seeing as the doors ere at throat level and I was wearing my IBA and ammo (an added 60 pounds +/-) I had to do a kind of jump and roll to get in.  As soon as I closed the door, Eggs started driving off.     

“What have we got?” I asked sitting on the little bench in the middle of the back portion, and peaking my head through the hatch to the drivers compartment. 

“they say one KIA one WIA, but we’re not going to take their word on the KIA, get ready with Airway, we may have to tube this guy”

“Got it I called back”

Eggs was silent.  I spent the next few minuets preparing the left (port) side lower berth to take the most critical patient, and the other side to take the least injured.  We were only 10 minuets away from FOB Warrior, and the engineers had been hit just before the traffic circle we usually went past to turn into FOB warrior, so we got there in about 7-8 minuets.  Eggs went over a median, and stopped.  I looked out the drivers window just in time to see the Dust-off bird flare for its landing. 

I turned to grab my Aid Bag, which was always kept in the back of my Ambulance.  Ells opened the door and grabbed one as well, handing it to Eggs, who ran off to the injured soldier.

I was momentarily annoyed the ladder wasn’t pulled down but jumped out of the back and ran behind Ells towards where a Humvee sat, it had obviously been hit.  It wasn’t an up-armored humvee, it was a cargo, that had had add on armor kits put over the wooden panels in back where the troops sat, and had an Armored door add on kit.  Neither had done this particular Humvee, or its occupants a damn it of good. 
As I got closer I could see one of the panels which had been secured with a rachet strap, and looked pretty heavy had been nearly blown off.  The sight in the middle is what caught my attention the most though.  A body.  Right leg bent back behind it, and obviously dead.  His back was to me, and he was slightly at a diagonal angle away from me.

“why did they throw the body in the back like that?” I thought.

I didn’t stop running but everything seemed to slow.  Ells got there first, and log rolled him towards us.  To my dying day I’ll never forget the sight that I saw then.  From just below his eyebrows, down to the very beginning of his trachea was just. . . Gone.  Anything recognizable as a face, all the skin, nose mouth eyes, it was all hamburger.  The skin along his cheeks were just little flaps of skin, and curled forwards as if trying to cover up some part of this sight.  I stared at him, for I don’t know how long.  Before a tall soldier came up behind me.  I saw him come out of the corner of my eye, and he just started crying, and practically screaming. 

“No.  Oh God no!  Please God No.”  He grabbed the fallen soldier’s shoulder and shook him, looking for a sign of life.  The platoon sergeant and two other men came over and pulled him away.  He was crying and screaming and they actually had to wrestle him to the ground. 
Ells turned to me and said “get a stretcher and a blanket.”

I didn’t bother to argue.  I ran back to the FLA, and pulled out one of the collapsed stretchers, as well as a blanket form a blanket bag in the compartment just behind the forward hatch.  I ran back to Ells with both, and together we got the poor soldier down to the ground and covered the top of his body with the blanket.  The Platoon Sergeant came up to me and pointed to the soldier who was still struggling to come over.

“can we put him on the bird?”

I don’t know what I said.  Psychological casualties aren’t strictly supposed to go on birds, but it seemed like he’d have to go somewhere.  I’m pretty sure I said something like “stand by” 
I turned my attention to the fallen soldier and ells got another two people to carry him over to the FLA, whose doors were waiting.  Open.  We raised him up, and put him feet first into the Ambulance, but one of the tie straps got caught up on the center bar and the litter started to collapse.  I got up there and fixed the problem, and kicked the bar so the litter would stay open.  When they finished sliding the soldier in, I was about to hop out, when his squad leader came up

“I need his sensitive items”

I waved him up and he came up and he started feeling in the soldier’s cargo pockets, and asked me to help him search for his NVGs and a radio.  I pulled some of the ammo pouches open, then lifted his right hand, which promptly bent back and touched his elbow, as if he had no bones in his for arm.  I dropped his arm, and raised up my hand.  The Staff Sergeant and I looked at each other, and shared a moment of revulsion at the task we had to perform. 

The search continued for a few more seconds before I found his NVGs. 
I was done with this.  I wanted to get the hell out of the back of this ambulance, but then Ells came up and said I had to ride in the back till we got to FOB Warrior.  I wanted to say hell no.  I wanted to do anything but sit in the back but I wasn’t about to say that.  I just nodded.  And got back in.  They closed up the back and Eggs got back into the drivers seat.  Sitting on the seat I looked at the Soldier’s boots,  As we started driving they nicked around as if he were taking a nap.  In fact, because the light was dim in the back I almost convinced myself that he was just asleep.  But every time that thought would float to the surface, it would be crushed by knowledge of what his face looked like. 

I tried to pray.  It was all I could do.  For 10 minuets I sat in the back with the body.  I tired hard not to look at him.  I tried to pretend I was sitting with a fellow soldier while he was just taking a nap, but then I’d think of the rubbery way his arm had felt when I’d lifted it.  It was a very long ten minuets. 

Finally we pulled into the Ivory Combat Clinic at FOB Warrior.  Eggs drove around to the back, where you were supposed to take expectant casualties.  As soon as the doors opened I leapt at the chance to get out. The battalion Chaplin came over and prayed over the body, and I left to go to the bathroom. 

When I got to the crappy little trailer where they had the bathrooms I found a toilet and threw up the breakfast I’d had a few hours ago.  I spent a few minuets dry heaving too.  When I was sure that I was done I got up and left.  Ells stayed on FOB Warrior, so I got to drive back to Gaines Mills.  For a long time I tried to pretend to sleep, but in the end I just stared at the wall.  So close to going home.  So far

The cough that kills...

A few years ago we had a (highly overblown) scare with H1N1, so called Swine Flu, which, rather predictably, started in China. Despite a rather laughable response from the federal Government, it hit America just a little harder than seasonal Flu. One could make the argument that this is because we were all scared out of our gourd and (over)reacted in a typically American way. I would argue that it had more to do with the fact that despite the fact we're rapidly all becoming Fat Asses, we are perhaps the healthiest nation on Earth. I would argue because of Capitalized medicine not despite it.

Be that as it may, the H1N1 scare was one in a series of scares. SARS, Bird Flu (H5N1), etc. Again these originated out of China (I see a trend here). And again once it actually got to the United States wasn't nearly as bad as it was hyped up to be.  This is both good news and very very bad thing.  The good should be painfully obvious.  If we had hundreds or thousands of people dying fo flu every other year we'd all be in deep shit, both as a planet and as a nation.  The bad news is that we've lived through these "panics" and they turned out to be nothing, so, when the real deal hits, at first there will be extreme disbelief, and then when the reality sinks in that it is already too late. . . panic.  Like you wouldn't believe.

Now take the movie Contagion.  As movies about Viral outbreaks go, this is one of the best I've seen so far, but suffered from the fact that it was trying to tell three distinct stories, which would have very different views on the crisis.  The first is that of Matt Damon, trying to deal with his wife and stepson dying (and the resulting chaos in his life)  the fear of losing his only remaining family and the chaos in society that followed.  The next story is about the officials, and their response (trying to come to terms trying to find a cure etc) and lastly the Nutjob, loon, the blogger that has his theories about how things are (and the damage he caused).  One could have told the story of the outbreak for each angle, and made three separate (and all very good) movies, that had intersecting characters.  Trying to tell them all together lead to a jumble, that failed to pain the larger picture of what would happen.  So let me take them one at a time

Matt Damon: ok first off the chances that a person would be "immune" to something like this. . . slim.  I understand the plot device, you need someone to wander around, a sane head in an insane world, but. . .  wrong.  His reactions to learning his wife died, accurate, and his actions towards his daughter, also accurate.  After that though he is supposed to be the sane observer in the insane world.  Lets face it an actual Army cordon for a quarantine like that is going to be a bit less civil.  And by the way if he was afraid of leaving his daughter alone, and afraid to go out and shop (for good reason) at what point did he scrounge/loot?  His survival at first unlikely.  His continued survival with only breaking a few property laws. . . freaking impossible.  One last note.  I don't care if "blood serums are difficult to make and expensive" if Matt Damon were immune, they would bleed that SOB dry to figure out why he was immune.  

The Official Response:  Yeah the DHS guy was acting just how you would expect (and quite frankly demand) DHS to act.  He asked a rather dumb (but necessary) question "could someone have Weaponized Bird Flu?"  The answer is just as important, but perhaps more horrifying in actual implications "someone doesn't have to the birds are already doing that".  In truth any airborne virus is going to spread like a brush fire, and containing it will be next to impossible.  But a lot of what was shown from the official end was pretty close to what you would expect.  Even the bit about a doctor warning his gf in Chicago to get the fuck out of dodge before the quarantine,  (and her being the ohh  so good friend and telling another friend who she swore to secrecy. . . who then told everyone else, getting Lawrence Fishburn in really hot water in the process)  is something you would expect to actually happen.  The efforts shown are pretty accurate of what you would expect (except for that WHO epidemiologist.  The movie could have done without her completely).  The problem is that they didn't show enough pants shitting "OH MY GOD THIS IS REALLY BAD" moments that would have happened.  Also they failed utterly to show how things would have broken down in the pandemic.  The infrastructure would have been utterly gutted.   

"Alan Crumwoody" the insane blogger who is all about the "truth" talks about a homeopathic "cure" that in reality doesn't do shit.  People believe him, because he was the first to break the fact that this was going to be a bad bad situation.  Well his cure is shit, people are desperate so they panic and try to swarm pharmacies (I especially like the part where the woman asks a guy to cover his mouth when he coughs and he says "go to hell").  I have no doubt that such a person exists.  When the eventual plague hits, there will be people like this charicter who spout insane theories (the Drug Companies made this disease) and will impair the real doctors ability to work, and advocate "cures" which may well be counter productive.  Such people will only add to the panic when the Pandemic does actually come. For that reason alone he should have gotten his own movie. . . So people will understand that guys like him ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

 What the movie didn't show: Panic.  Not a few scenes.  I'm talking about people being in pants shitting terror and literally taring towns apart.  You didn't see desperate people (most of them sick) trying to charge the quarantine lines.  This would happen.  Soldiers would have to fire.  Its not pretty but this is what will happen, the Soldiers shouldn't be depicted as bad guys (as in The Stand, or Outbreak), just guys stuck with a really shitty job that MUST BE DONE.  If you talked about that, you'd also have to talk about the 18 YO Kid who in a fit of compassion let a sick person through, and doomed another city.  Social order would also break down, and getting any semblance of services would be next to impossible.  The throw-away lines about Nurses striking. . . again so much more you need to say here. 

I want to leave you with this.  Despite concocting a novel virus (both encephalitic and pneumonic) what was depicted (both in communicability and lethality) is actually being extremely generous.  30%. . . We would be very lucky if we had a pandemic with only a 30% mortality rate.  That's what Smallpox sits at.  Variolla Major (most common form of Small Pox) is not a good thing to have, and you're likely to die from your skin being compromised, that is of course if you have supportive care.  That's assuming its Variolla Major (Variollia Minor sits at 15%) but there are actually two other types of Small Pox that are rarer (considering there hasn't been an outbreak since '79) Flat Small Pox sits at 80% and Hemorrhagic sits in at a whopping 90%.   If you're on your own. . . well you're not exactly feeding yourself or getting water when you're at the height of the virus.  If there were a virus that could cause encephalitis and pneumonia even with supportive care you're screwed.  If there isn't brain damage from the swelling, then there will be brain damage from the lungs not getting enough oxygen.  That is assuming someone is feeding you/giving you fluids, and if, as it appears in the movie, to cause febrile seizures. . . that's a triple whammy.  Dead Dead and more Dead.

The ending, was even more unsatisfying in a way.  There was a nice little Hollywood nod to Environmentalism (see you cut down this forest hand have pigs in huge pens you get this Environmental Justice to the Rescue)  and Corporations being Evil, but what you don't get, and should have, is: Holy shit 50+ million people are dead.  Think about that.  The one thing I wish such a film, and really any film that talks about such a thing, would harp on, is that this thing will spread.  It will spread fast.  We are so interconnected, that within days on the outbreak starting, it will literally be everywhere.  Don't think you can get into the hills, when things get bad.  By then its already too late.  You and, really everyone can save lives, if you are prepared, and if you STAY CALM.  Foolish, panicked action when the Pandemic does eventually hit, with only exacerbate the problem.

Friday, January 20, 2012

When you talk about what "they" should do

Stop me if you've heard this one before, "they should pave the roads better, these roads are ridiculous." $5 says you've probably made a statement just like that. What exactly you said doesn't really matter you wanted some unseen entity probably the Gub'ment to come in and fix shit. Chances are this is not limited to roads either. Violence in Mexico? They should send troops to the border (which actually happened) to prevent that. Health care cost too much? Well how do you think we got the Abortion that lived that is Obamacare?

What's worse the average citizen demands that issues X, Y and, Z be fixed but never bother to suggest how, or bother to check up on the follow through. What results are laws that are not in keeping with  any semblance of American Values, Morals, or even what common sense dictates is practical. When you bitch people listen. That the people that listen are in a position not to be directly (not even closely) affected by said laws tends to show exactly why you must watch what you bitch about and to whom. Lastly do not assume that when these laws ARE implemented that your best interests are at heart.

If you don't check up on issues, if you bitch and moan about an issue then they throw out a bill with a catchy name, that *seems* to solve the problem... How can you complain when they start slipping other things into the bills? They pacified you. Why should you care that you lost your liberty in the process? Babies are now safe from Earthquake Induced Shaken Baby Syndrome!!! Even if the whole house falls around them.

Environmental legislation is another knee-jerk place where men make not only a fool but a damn fool of themselves. Take the 70's. Then we were worried about global cooling. So worried in fact we (no shit) were about to implement a plan to put black reflective sands on the poles. Fortunately cooler heads (pun intended) prevailed. Same could be said for Ethanol. Remember how it was going to save the planet and it HAD to be at least 10% of car gas or we'd all be doomed? Turns out it REDUCES gas milage and, surprise surprise turns out that extra oxygen molecule creates more (that would be the opposite of less) CO2.

Republicans are not immune to this either. What is that drum beat they always sound? Reduce taxes? It's great for private sector growth. . . Unless you forget to reduce spending. Unfortunately since the New Deal and the Great Society, you CAN'T reduce spending unless you don't mind spending years trying to undo the damage of even talking about curtailing social welfare spending.

So whose responsible? Which they should we (more specifically you) blame? While one party mor than the other is responsible for our current woes (here's a hint they're acting like jack asses) the truth is the "they" that you should blame is the person that states back at you in the mirror.

You complain to your leaders, and demand things then don't bother to read the "solutions" posed unless someone with an iota of foresight calls them out on it. You fail to demand accountability. You fail to oust Representatives and Senators when they treat their office as God given right and not a position of servitude. I understand, your busy, life is a mess. Bills to pay. All that. But unless YOU stand up and demand ownership, this country will cease to be By Of and For the People. So instead of asking "what are THEY going to do about it?" ask "what am I going to do about it?"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A happy Birthday to a true Southern Gentleman

Today is Robert Edward Lee's Birthday.  Among his many accomplishments was to be the first cadet to graduate West Point without a single demerit (they give those out if you're boot isn't polished right, it's almost impossible not to get one) His ample command of Engineering and service in the Mexican American War, as well as his most notable feat, single highhandedly keeping the Confederacy alive through 1864-65.

Happy Birthday General.

Forgivness is not easy

To this day I have yet to meet another man that has been broken up with during sex.  Having said that, I do not think it is unreasonable for me as a man to be completely and utterly perplexed by this.  How did this happen.  Why?  To this day I'm still puzzling it out.  One second everything is fine the next WHAM! curve ball gets away from the pitcher and now you're seeing stars.

Was this negociable, whas there something I could do differently, when had this descision been made?  Answers I would rightly deserve and have yet to recieve.  It does not help that this is a woman I've know my whole life and was deeply in love with.  Perhaps the last woman I can honestly say I was in love with.  The next day we had breakfast like aquantences.  We might as well have had a meeting about the layout of an office. 

It did not help matters that apparently my mom knew and completely understood why she left me.  Apparently she knew all along that this would happen and was under the assumption that it was mutual.  I'm here to tell you it most certainly was not.  Why did she leave me?  Well according to my mom she really wanted to get married. . . ok . . . and as a (then) 26 year old with two tours to Iraq, I didn't?  Actually I was planning on it.  I didn't have the whole plan fleshed out but yeah I thought that was it.  I'd hit a home run.  Apparently not. 

What efficiencies I might have, I'm not entirely sure.  No one's told me, and as time has gone on, I have simply shut people out.  I wanted to ask for time.  For patients, for help even, but that never happened.  Then things got worse.  in my second semester at WVU that vile group of scum sucking tabloid wannabes Wikileaks, released the "collateral murder" video.  It was not a good thing.  I had flashbacks and was in a state of near panic.  How I would have killed, or chopped off my own arm if She had somehow come to me.  I waited over a year to date again.  And the little dating I have  done since then could well be called a train wreck.  And still this pain persists. 

I am now 28.  I have prospects but those prospects seem to have more problems than I'm willing to admit to anyone (even myself sometimes).  She just got married.  I feel deeply betrayed.  When I think about it there is that small voice screaming in my head that it should have been me.  What has he that I do not?  Have I not earned it?  Didn't I prove my love?  Worse than that I lost one of the last people I can actually turn to. 

Last summer I went home for two weeks, and it was a mess, I was stressed out, bills were high, and I was in sorry shape.  While visiting my Grandparents I slept in the same room, in the same bed no less that my dad did in his final days.  Sitting in a decent reclining office chair (the only decent chair for said purpose in the house) I was leaning back in contemplation of the extreme bills, and how everything depended on me getting a job that like all others is just impossible to predict (pipe-lining is not a way that allows for easy planning)  I was stressed out and trying desperatly not to think of how screwed I was.  Then my Aunt came in and said "you know that's the chair we found him in"  Even the position no less.  I waited till my Aunt left then bolted outside.  I felt. . . dirty wrong, I felt soiled, and all the things that had been bothering me came to the surface. 

In more emotional turmoil than I had since perhaps 2008, I texted Her.  Told her the whole thing and how messed up I was. . . . I couldn't tell you what I texted.  I can't tell you what my state of mind was, maybe I just wanted to her her voice.  Maybe I just wanted someone to tell me that it was alright, but. . . no.  I got a call from her new man.  I hesitate to call him boy toy, because he actually is an Army officer, and even if I view him as a Jodi, that is respectable.  Whatever his name is (don't ask I never bothered to find out) he called and was very sincere that he understood that I was having a rough time.  He actually talked to me man to man which I could respect and didn't state or threaten anything, but it was implied.  Don't call or text her anymore.  Just like that I had lost one of the last people in the world I felt truly safe confiding in. 

Once.  A long time ago I visited a fortune teller who read my palm, and told me that fatherhood would be very important to me.  She told me that it would happen sometime *roughly* after next year.  But now as I try to move on, the hurt, the emptiness She left me with, have given me an inability to trust the fairer sex.  Even when I know they love me, I keep them at arms length.  How can I forgive someone I'm still in love with?  Still from the darkest corners of my mind I hear the words of Mecrutio, a plague upon your houses

It is a question I will grapple with for a long time.  How do I forgive this devastating blow, that I can't even understand?  If I could not see it in someone I knew like the back of my hand, how could I possibly not expect it from a stranger?  Does any woman honestly expect me to just be fine after all I've been through? 

The bitch of it is, the most important questions in life, never seem to have an answer. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First Formation (again)

For the first time in over 3 years I was in an real actual Army formation.  It was for a dinky little 1 credit pt class, but at the same time, it was so good to return to familiar ground.  Old habits came back and if there was frustration that the gentleman leading it was perhaps a little slow on the uptake, and the civilians in the class were clueless, it was all mitigated by the fact that I was, in some small way a part of the Green (though for some reason we don't wear Green anymore)  Machine once again.

This re-affirmed my desire to join the NG, and to make sure I become an officer.  I am going to have it all.  Even if the road to get back in is longer than I anticipated.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bradley Manning, the Benidict Arnold (Rosenburg, or John Walker Lynn) of our time.

Treason.  Its a word with frightening connotations.  It raises up the most foul parts of our minds, it raises to the mind men who hide out in the night and do the most foul type of betrayal.  However there have only in our history been 12 people ever tried on treason.  Even if the dictionary definition of Treason doesn't match the legal one, we are nevertheless susceptible to such things.  In the information age, betrayal becomes far more calamitous.

How much damage could be done from classified information?  A lot.  Take the 12 July 2007 incident, where Bravo Company and Mortar Platoon of 2-16 Infantry came under sporadic fire from insurgents.  The Apaches circling from overhead part of the 227th Aviation regiment, engaged valid targets (3 times), according to the Rules of Engagement.  Unfortunately the second time, the target in question was actually not a military target.  In the process a journalist was killed, as well as a family.  Now this is a sad event in a lot of ways.  It was, however, not unknown.  Indeed the information about the incident (general details) were made available to anyone that wished to find out and indeed Washington Post Author David Finkle had written about it (see "the Good Soldiers")

 The Video itself was not shown for rather obvious reasons.  Its one thing to hear that people were killed.  It quite another to actually see it.  In an information war, it is very hard to maintain the fact that we are the good guys when every misstep or even when legitimate military goals are called into question.  Indeed our enemies are not anywhere near under the same pressure to never ever ever screw up.  This is a microscope that is not on Soldiers, but on all of the government.  State Department is one of the many departments that was included in this data dump.  Can you honestly think of anyone more petulant than politicians?  Even the politicians held up as model, when truly examined, leave much to be desired.

How much damage was done by trying to "shed light" on the "truth"?  Well when actual informants are named my name, and location. . . Quite a lot.  Add to that the fodder it gave for Jihadists, and it killed credibility a serious issue.  This credibility is something that has steadily been declining since Vietnam, when we cut and run, leaving our friends and allies to the whims of our enemies.  The result was a lack of credibility.  This was repeated again and again when we did not keep our word to our friends.  We left the Mujahadeen to their own devices after they won in Afghanistan in the late 80's.  They slipped into the Taliban.  How could we have avoided that, and possibly even turned Osama bin Laden into an ally.  In Iraq in '91, we heavily insinuated that if the Shi'ia in the south and Kurds in the North rose up, we would support them.  They did.  We did not.  They were slaughtered.  The same could be said about Somalia in October '93, we cut an run, and out regional allies took a beating for it.

Can you honestly say that this is in anyway in anyone's best interest?  Secrets are, rather unfortunately, a part of statecraft.  Far from hiding it, we admit our mistakes.  But what Manning has done is far from admitting mistakes, it is like a gossip tabloid accusation.  does anyone deny that War is ugly?    Confronting such truths are difficult, but it is not entirely necessary to force feed people such images.  Worse the decisions made in combat are such that you can not understand them when not under threat.  What makes sense when you are in mortal danger is not the same as if you are safe and sound.

With that in mind Manning has given up the "fort" of vital national importance.  That this fort is not an actual location is of no importance.  It is information, that provided for whatever reason has been used by the enemy.  If, as it seems to indicate, that he did this for petty reasons that makes the offense all the worse. 

Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing (the hearing to determine if he should go to full Court Martial)  was entirely bizzare, with his defense council throwing out all sorts of things.  He is sexually confused, so he couldn't understand it was wrong to betray his country.  He showed signs of being unreliable, so obviously he should never been trusted in the first place.  Why did one person have so much access to so much information in the first place?  His lawyers have tried to blame everything under the sun other than PFC Manning.  Rather than raise reasonable doubt, they try to blame and excuse everything.

We are left with a legacy of a gaping hole in our national defense, and a little piss ant that wanted to get back at the country, for what it is not entirely clear.  People are calling him a "hero".  Do such people know heroism?  People call him a whistle blower.  On what exactly?  Did any of the information he released involve anything that a person could not find the general details of, if they actually did any serious digging?  At what point do you admit that what you have is not heroism but rather a vindictive little shit that should get nothing more than a boot up the ass.

PTSD. From Rambo to Every Former Military Man turned Criminal how you've all gotten it wrong.

Do you remember ADHD?  It was perhaps the hot button diagnosis in the 80's and 90's as a child I took so many tests to confirm that yes in fact not only did I have a short attention span (in some areas) but also that I was remarkably good with abstract reasoning.  Now throw in hyper and yup thats me.  But was I just a kid, or was it really this mythical monster of a syndrome that made me somehow incapable of preforming in school?  Chances are that I was just a kid that didn't really know his place in the world. 

I was stubborn so obviously I had Oppositional Defiant Disorder (I guess I am an ODD one).  At one point I had Aspburgers, and Type C Dyslexia.  I think there were a ton of other things I was diagnosed with as well.  My point in this is simple.  If you'd read half the reports generated about me you'd assume that I was probably going to light the school on fire or something.  But if you met me as a child you'd have met a bright and naive kid who was generally a bit too eager to please.  I can not begin to guess what effect the myriad of drugs used on me might've had and who I might've been had I not taken them.  Where would I be now? 

My parents loved me.  They wanted me to succeed, and sadly like every age they were susceptible to quack science.  We laugh now about the turn of the century when it seemed like a good idea to run electricity through a copper bath full of water, but at the time people really thought that was a good idea.  So to in the 80's and 90's were we susseptable to the drug fueled obsessions with fixing brain chemistry. 

But PTSD is different.  It is not something that is caused by genetics.  It is caused by events.  Powerful events that would *normally* leave a person quivering in fear.  Some people think that it is because the adrenalin spikes so high, when afraid that is causes memories to be sharper.  For whatever reason our responses to traumatic events has elicited the same response from society as Electricity, and ADHD before it.  Namely that Quacks everywhere want their $.02 heard. 

Now the popular depiction of PTSD (before we ever really talked about it) was Rambo, who went nuts and attacked a corrupt sheriff and his deputies and turns a town into a war-zone.  I have no doubt that if a Soldier really desired to destroy a town they could do it (not alone, and with one M-60, but they could do it).  For most of the movie he's being chased for no apparent reason until they push him too far then he turns into this thing out of your nightmares, able to kill with little or no effort while toying with you.  Great movie.  And people miss the most important part of the whole thing.  Namely the last five minuets.

You see horrific things, and it really really hurts.  Men you knew were killed.  You enemy, your friends, Death which seemed to be everwhere and nowhere, and always, always, Fear.  It is poorly understood by people, how bonds can become so strong, in war, that little can ever compare, and how fragile a person can be when those bonds are shattered.  Nor can they understand the sorrow.  Sorrow that can strike at a moments notice.  You weep for the dead, and the youth that was lost, both theirs, and in a selfish sort of way, yours.  Once you were young and whole, and now struggle daily with bitterness.

It is also clear that people by and large do not understand the anger.  People seem to think that every Veteran wants to harm them, or will cut loose with their anger, but actually most of the time they desire to be alone.  Their quick tempers are not really directed at anyone but more a statement.  "I am angry at the world for the injustice that forced me to fight" is something they might well say.  I know its what I say.  Even the alcoholism and addiction to drugs that is prevalent is easily explainable with this simple truth: they don't want to feel so much pain anymore.    

Further to that, despite their ability to go all free fire mode, and start killing everyone they see, that is actually the exact opposite that most people that suffer from this want.  More than anything they want peace.  Not the kind that hippies blather on about, but real lasting peace, the kind that comes from within.  Tormented as they are, by their memories they're far more likely to commit suicide than any act of violence.  The very perception that they are killers that want to go hog wild is actually part of what keeps them so isolated.  Audie Murphy, one of this nation's greatest heroes, became addicted to sleeping pills, and always had a separate apartment built into the house he lived in, for when things got to be too much.  If it can happen to him do you really think it can't happen to you? 

Lastly the Flashbacks and Nightmares.  I would ask you this, do you day dream?  Do you ever think of things that have happened to you?  Do memories pop unbidden into your mind?  Chances are you said yes to all of these.  Now, try to understand when excessive levels of adrenaline are pumping through your system, your perceptions (and memories) become far clearer.  Imagine the sharpest memory you have, now imagine it sharper and clearer.  So clear you could almost live in that memory, and you might understand what its like to have a combat memory.  Your memory of a lover, a teacher or a dog will trigger when you see a familiar sight sound or smell.  Why do you think the sharpest clearest memory possible to a human would be any less?  And if the night is a time for the subconscious to roam free as it were, don't you think the most powerful memories you literally can not get rid of, might cause your sleep to suck? 

The real tragedy is that because there are so few people that have served, and because the public has largely ignored the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these men and women are far more isolated.  Only Vietnam veterans were as isolated, their isolation more because of scorn than because of their disproportionately small portion of society.  They are further isolated by stereotypes that both Hollywood and the News Mediums perpetuate.  The idea of the animal in a cage, waiting to loose his rage on the world, is something that will keep far too many Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans from seeking the help they need and so deserve. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You get what you (don't) pay for

Real quick, why do things cost so much now a days? Is it because of greedy company men? Or what about the fact that they pay their staff peanuts. It seems one could make a very decent argument that the cost of things is a sign that our system has failed. One problem. Our system that people who are not jackasses pay into. . . Is supporting all the jack asses that say "gimme" and get. Let's take Walmart. Do you know how much money each store loses per year? On average about $30,000 a year.

Think about that for a second. What do you think you could do with $30K? Now multiply that by thousands, because Walmart is ubiquitous. Walmart Inc. Is literally losing MILLIONS. Keep in mind that Walmart is doing a better job of providing services to the poor than our own Government. Now ask yourself if each Walmart store is losing on average $30K a year (most of that in Electronics and Cosmetics) how much you think Best Buy, Maceys, Sears, and just for shits and giggles, Victoria Secret loses. I'd be willing to bet the figure nation wide is in the Billions.

Now ask yourself who pays for that? If your a consumer... You do. That money has to come from somewhere. You can't take a hit like that and stay in business. Imagine that billions of dollars a year went back into the system? I don't doubt for a second it would be sufficient to at the very least quell our financial woes. The same principle is applied to healthcare. Ever wonder why an IV filled with salt water (that's all Saline is) costs $100? You and another person ate paying for three bums that didn't pay. It applies to Auto insurance. Pick anything. I bet there's cost built in for people that don't pay.

With this in mind it takes a certain sort of crazy to even TRY to contemplate how the Government acuires and spends Tax Dollars. How much do you think is built into THAT system for graft? It makes you really start to understand the scope and scale of our problems. Problems which are aided by not our enemies but the same folks we are trying to help.

In the end you can do little to nothing, be a welfare queen, baby mama king, and still live a comfortable life. You can lie cheat and steal and *sadly* make it for a time. Unfortunately in the end your crimes (whether wit a small c or a big C) are not and never have been "victimless". Sure you say it's Walmart (or the gub'ment) they can take it. They can, only so long as the cost of your pilfering is passed on. Ultimately you victims aren't only existent, but everyone in this country. Congradupations thieves. You're officially the biggest Dick in the country.

When Caveman Responses Don't work.

My computer is going so slow that it is nearly impossible to write this entry.  Unfortunately according to "Geek Squad" at best buy it is a sign of components failing, and perhaps that my computer is about to take a nose dive. 

I guess this might be because I have been beating on the laptop every time it fails to work.  I need a new computer, so I briefly looked while I was at Best Buy.  Well the nicer one I looked was about $600.  I guess it doesn't really matter that it may be months before I get that much saved up. 

Well if you don't hear from me for a long while You'll know my faithful computer which has been with me since the Surge, has finally fallen due to old age. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Are you a Something or a Someone?

Are you Gay or Strait?  White, Black, Asian or Other?  Male or Female?  Are you a Soldier Fighter-fighter, Policeman, Office Worker Tattoo Artist or any of a myriad of professions?  Are you Liberal or Conservative?  Are you Christian, Jew Muslim, Hindi, or Atheist?  Chances are there are a ton of things you use to identify yourself.  Any number of adjectives could be used to describe an individual.  We do a lot of things that define us, these are all Things.  Things own, Things we are that define us.

"I am a [insert group or description here] man/woman/other"

these statements are all about who we are as we present ourselves to others.  Does it have to be that way?  Barney Frank is all about being Gay.  So are a ton of other people.  But what about Jody Foster?  She's pretty well clear that she's Gay, but its not WHO she is.  The same could be said about Neil Patrick Harris.  Anyone that's seen any of the Harold and Kumar movies or How I Met Your Mother can tell that though he's gay its not Who he is, its something he happens to be.

The same could be said about race.  Look at Jessie Jackson, or Maxine Waters.  Believe me there is a ton of things that they feel are important, mostly that Black men and women are getting screwed, and more often than not its your fault.  Now look at Allen West.  Here is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, his career is long and illustrious, which ended when he made a call under extreme stress, a call that if placed in a similar situation a lot of arm chair generals, despite saying otherwise would probably have made the same call.  Now he's a US Representative, and despite being a "Freshman" has managed to elbow his way to the forefront of a lot of policy matters.  He also happens to be a Black man.

See the difference?  What you are is not Who you are.  I was a Soldier.  I know how powerful it can be to be a Something.  That Uniform defined me.  I did not want to think of life outside the Army because being a soldier became who I was.  It doesn't matter what label you choose to identify with, what role you fill in your life can easily become your defining characteristic.  When something gives you purpose it can easily become your purpose.

Perhaps America could best solve its problems by first solving its outlook.  We run around looking for things to define us.  How about we just be.  Instead of trying to say "I am [insert something]"  Say simply "I am [insert name]"  All the rest can come later.  Remember these things are What you are, not Who you are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Here we go again.

Amid talk of reducing the DoD, and counter talk of a "Hallowed out Force", we get Iran making waves.  They recently threatened to attack if the US moved a Carrier into the Gulf.  This threat is somewhat laughable when you consider that Iran was never a really power when it comes to Naval forces, though they have recently come to our hemisphere to conduct joint exercises with Venezuela (another country that absolutely loves us) .  Now the US is sending a Carrier group to the Arabian Sea.  The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) the same carrier they dumped Osama off the back of, is now headed to the Arabian Sea

Now we are all used to saber rattling.  This is something new.  See normally the Saber rattlers would back down *eventually* because they could be certain if they actually provoked the US we could or would bomb them back into the stone age.  Iran knows that on the stocks we have now, we have the capability to do so, but they do not believe we have the Will to do so. Further our own government is hobbled by debt, and unable to steer a course though.

Where does that leave us?  Do we dare back down?  Certainly there are more than enough assets in country that you don't need a carrier off the coast (which has to fly through Pakistan)  to provide Close Air Support (CAS).  But a Carrier Battle Group is one of the things that is one of the more visible pieces of foreign policy.  Its like having a Queen on a Chess board, she can go anywhere do anything, and most certainly can ruin your day if you're not paying attention.

Sometimes they carry Nukes, their support ships are enough to make a bad day for any surface threat, and can be detached to prowl, a couple of 688 (Los Angeles Class)   Submarines could ruin a surface ships day.  As of yet the Iranian Navy does not have anything equlivant to a Carrier Battle Group in firepower.  So its a no brainer to us at least. 

So what is the Ace in the hole?  Why are they certain they can manage this threat?  Its a question we should be asking.  We are always certain of victory.  But we ought to start questioning this more and more, with the drastic cuts made, one must wonder how long our winning streak will continue. 

Intellectual Cowardice.

We all know there are cowards on the Battlefield.  Men (and now women) who give into panic, selfishness or sometimes simple greed, to leave their jobs, or avoid the danger (or responsibility) of their profession.  We have seen, in recent years a small smattering of such men that have, like as in Vietnam, run, and gone up to Canada.  We know of these men because the Liberal Left, and aging hippies hold them up as paragons of heroic virtue, but really most of us would have no clue who these people were otherwise, nor would we really like them much.  Indeed CNN was all about  Abdo Nasser until he got caught trying to bomb Ft Hood.

Now you can make all the arguments you want, the point is that before he went AWOL, he had Kiddy porn on his computer and refused to deploy.  He had lots of Anti-war folks supporting him, and rooting for him, then he gets caught trying to throw a Jihad on our asses.  Heaven forbid we should ever look deeper into that.  Indeed apparently Major Nadal Hassan, who young Abdo was trying to emulate wasn't really on a Jihad, he was just committing "Workplace Violence".  It makes one wonder when there IS a reason to question Muslims about the extreme violence.   

There is such a thing as Intellectual Cowardice.  It is when a person faced with Facts, Experience, and Logic, refuses to admit they are wrong.  This can be anything from Communists, to the FLDS,  when you ignore things that tell you you're failing miserably, or that your whole philosophical viewpoint is leading you to ruin, then you are a coward.  Time and again we are always given clear indication of when things just won't  work and we tend to ignore them.   

This is not limited to simply Economic or Cultural matters.  For instance there are a ton of people who believe very firmly that we have never been to the Moon, or that 9/11 was an inside job.  Such people will point to minutiae, and totally ignore the more obvious and glaring facts.  One person said that there was a C-130 in the area of the pentagon when it was hit, and posited that a cruise missile was shoved out the back.  Never mind that you literally can't launch a cruise missile that way.  Or saying "why aren't there holes where the wings went in" or perhaps "why aren't there more pieces of the plane" which would make sense, unless you counted for the fact the aluminum, is rather fragile, and indeed flammable.  Don't believe me, take a soda can, throw it into a fire, wait ten minuets and then try to fish it out.  Its like paper.  I could talk about the force involved when flight 93 barreled into the ground at almost 600 MPH, but that would be beating a dead horse.  

This cowardice is perhaps the worst kind, because it is a cowardice that will often lead others astray.  You can have all sorts of great arguments for or against something, but in the end your efforts will be doomed to failure if you are not prepared to admit when you're wrong.

Modern Academia is perhaps the worst offender.  How many young minds are filled with all sorts of thoughts and philosophies that their professors espouse?  Being in College I see it all the time.  Young eager impressionable minds given all sorts of bunkas, about any number of subjects.  One teacher I had even tried to sell me on the idea of a centrally planned economy.  I haven't really bothered to debate them, because my grade depends on their good will.  Pissing them off tends to be costly to my continued success in classes.

I think its fitting to leave you with this thought.  It comes from an EO NCO for my Brigade in Hawaii.  "Challenge your perceptions or they'll challenge you".  Sound advise, and one that I think Americans have failed to do for too long. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Shutterbug Pt II

 Everyonce in a while I am able to excrete some good pictures.  I know they're not as artistic as some would like, but really I'm a shutter bug.  The nice thing about digital is that you can take a ton of pictures and developing costs are essentially nil.  Bad thing. . . sometimes you just don't get the same feel.  Don't really know how to describe it. 

Also I ought to not the Cannon XSi I got has one slight flaw that is actually a rather large one when you think about it.  The 18-55 mm lenses that came with it originally doesn't have auto focus.  Now looking through the viewfinder, and even through the LCD screen on the camera, you can't tell that the whole thing was totally out of focus.  Which actually sucks in a lot of ways.  well that's enough for tonight I have class in a few hours.  cya.