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  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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Mysteries of Veteran Suicides.

As part of an upcoming series that the Rhino Den is doing I've been doing a lot of research in the area of suicides in the veteran community.  Before I get to the actual statistics I really need to take a moment to thank Senator Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) office (specifically Emily Rampone) for the assistance.  His office was the only legislative office to respond in more than a general "leave a message for our media director."  I also have to thank the news desk of the Washington Post for being surprisingly helpful, and one of their reporters, David Finkel who I have gotten to know over the years. The folks at Business Insider were also willing to help me in this novice fumbling, though they could do little more than point me at organizations that might have contacts.  I also have to point out Ami Neiberger-​Miller, from for the truly exceptional work she does, as well as the passion she brings to the issue.   

I still have yet to get any response from the VA, and the response from the DoD was mostly pointing me to official press releases but they have promised to put me in touch with the head of the suicide prevention program, which I'm genuinely looking forward to interviewing.

Now that I've said all that I need to point out something truly disturbing about the VA.  Wanna know what that is?  They actually have no idea just how many suicides are actually happening in the veteran community.  The best guess based on data from 2 years ago (FY 2010) and has a variance of +/- 2 suicides a day with the presumptive rate being 22.  The data is pretty sketchy because there are a lot of people they're not sure if they're veterans or not, and there are a lot of states whose information was not made available to the VA.

One important thing to take away from a lot of the gobilty gook is that not all, or even most of those 22 suicides a day are from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  A majority are actually coming from Vietnam and Korea veterans (the WWII veterans have been dying of old age at a rate of roughly a thousand a day for years, so there are fewer and fewer of them to commit suicide).  Despite this, the truth is that there are a painfully high number of veterans that are taking that final solution.  Worse the trending of the data suggests the rate is increasing.  If the rates were to suddenly drop again it would beg the question is it because the measures to prevent suicide are actually working, or are there just fewer veterans?

For the time being, the VA is in the process of transferring to a paperless system, and that might potentially increase the accuracy of the reporting.  Unfortunately this is slow going.  Worse still it seems that the DoD and the VA somehow got contracts for completely different systems that do not have the ability to talk to each other at all.  Add to that the the VA is dependent on the states to tell them if the suicides they have were veterans or not which means there may be a lot of unreported suicides.

Unfortunately this only deepens the need to talk to a representative from the VA.  There is only anecdotal numbers given.  If I say 22 veterans kill themselves a day that's going to produce a knee jerk reaction.  To be sure the backlog at the VA isn't helping, and there have been recorded cases of former service members killing themselves while waiting for the VA to enter them into treatment.  But is that the norm or the exception?  Are the suicides depression related, financial, or is there some other medical reason we may not know or understand?

There have also been accounts of veterans arrested, their guns confiscated and their property stolen as they are forced into psychiatric in patient programs against their will because of things said to the hotline.  It will take only one or two serious accounts of such a thing happening before the emergency hotline is viewed as the same kind of poison that going to mental health or not lying on the Post Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) while on active duty.   Even rumors of some of the repercussions that can face a soldier or veteran if they admit to suicidal ideation can poison the well so to speak and may lead to many treatment options going unused.

What the statistics in the report don't say is one one of the most fundamental questions plaguing those left behind; why?  Why do they feel they had to kill themselves.  Was it depression, anger, hopelessness?  We're trying to fight this alarming rise in trends among the Active Guard and Reserve forces as well as the veterans, but we can't even really begin to do this until we have an accurate picture of what is actually going on.  As much as I truly want to start working on my piece, I can't until I get to talk to someone in the Veterans Administration that can give me a clearer picture.  As passionate as I and many others are on the subject we can not rely on anecdotes, rumors, and conclusions based on what we think is happening.  We have to take the utmost care with this issue.  In our haste to solve this problem we may actually exacerbate it.  This is the one issue that we can not get wrong.    

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Its a bad week to be the President.

Well it isn’t even Wednesday yet and already President Obama is having some serious migraines.  First there were the Benghazi whistle blowers (and apparently there are even more waiting in the wings) whose testimony is both scathing and damning.  Then there was the IRS scandal, in which the IRS targeted both conservative (specifically but not limited to the TEA party), and Jewish groups.  NOW there is news out of the Associated Press that they had tons of their phone records seized in an apparent dragnet to find leaks.  If he wasn’t already in hot water he sure is now, and the shuckin an jivin isn’t cutting the mustard that it used to.  Many of the journalists and news services that the Obama administration could count on as go to guys are starting to ask very tough questions.  Watching Jay Carney or the President’s most recent press briefings look down right uncomfortable.

Let’s deconstruct some of this real quick to see just how much trouble the President is in.  Let’s start with the big one last week; Benghazi.  At first glance it’s pretty straight forward, someone screwed up and people died.  Ask any Joe that ever had a 2LT call for fire and they’ll tell you it happens a lot more than we’d like to admit.  But there’s more to it than that.  We know for instance that Tyrone Wood’s team from Global Response Staff (GRS) were clearly aware of the attack at the consulate in Benghazi at 2140, and were ordered ordered by higher not to go.  They left anyway at 2205 local.  We know that Glen Doherty’s team was actually in Tripoli, and had to bribe or even hijack a plane to go to Benghazi.  We know that an SF LTC was ordered to stand down by higher (presumably AFRICOM) and said to the acting Chief of Mission “this is the first time the diplomats had more balls than the military.” 
We know that Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith were overcome by a petroleum fire in their safe room after the compound was breached, and we know both were dead by the end of the night.  The ride back to the CIA annex by Woods’ team was under fire and one of the vehicles had flat tires but nonetheless made it to the compound where they received sporadic fire all night.  At some point during this Doherty’s team managed to make it into the compound before the final assault which included mortar rounds began.  When it was over Woods and Doherty were dead.

What followed was undeniably a cover-up for political purposes.  A really shitty video was blamed and the denials for support were covered up.  UN ambassador Susan Rice became an unwitting pawn in this and went on all the Sunday talk shows with this truly ridiculous story, which we already knew was wrong.    From all that we’ve been able to glean they knew within 24 hours that it was Ansar al-Sharia, and they knew that this was specifically a terrorist attack.  White-wash or cover up, the American people were lied to, and they kept on lying to us.  Even now they’re making like this is all politics.  It begs the question if they’ve lied about this monumental goof, what else aren’t they telling the truth about.

And then there’s that IRS bit.  See this is actually the most serious for the President and his team.  Why?  Well look at the first bullet point of Article 2 of the Nixon Articles of Impeachment.  As Joe Biden might say “it’s a big F**king deal.”  The fact that he even joked about it in 2009, is all the more disturbing.  Asking a Jewish group “what you feel about Israel,” or asking a conservative group who their donors are is not only highly irregular, but flat out illegal.  The key words being used for this scrutiny should have everyone’s jaw dropping.  Giving undue haste to a group concerned our president is violating the constitution is extremely disturbing.  More than that we’re now learning that this wasn’t just a few low level joe schmos, but high level people were aware of this program, and if they did not encourage it they certainly did nothing to stop it.  Potentially the head of the IRS may have lied to congress in May of 2012.  The president is trying to downplay it saying that investigation is needed, but there’s already been one, and it’s pretty clear what happened if not whose behind it.

Then there’s that little bit about the AP.  Now as far as we know none of the phones were tapped, but as many as 300 reporters may have been effected.  In the journalist world nothing, and I mean nothing will make them go on the attack like even the insinuation that someone’s spying on them.  Keep in mind that this can not happen without the Attorney General, Eric Holder signing off on it.  This was all done in secret, without anyone at AP’s knowledge, and is potentially violating the First Amendment.  This is pretty important too, because if there has been one group covering for Obama more than anyone else, it has been the press.  Stories that might be considered embarrassing to the Obama administration have for years not received the full attention of the press with a few notable exceptions.  I truly think these days are over.  Whatever else happens from here on out the Obama administration is going to have a lot of explaining to do.

So where does that leave us?  Well Benghazi is most definitely not a “sideshow,”  and despite what some say, help could have been given, if the administration acted immediately after the first attack, and could have helped to fend off the final attack.  If there truly was no help available then why in the world were so many commands caught with their pants down when everyone on the ground clearly stated they needed more security not less?  With The IRS scandal, well need I remind you that is an impeachable offense (not making this up).  Will the president be impeached?  Probably not, but it is possible.  At the very least it will get congress off their asses and taking a close look at how the Gub’ment is being run.  We might have a very real, and practical example of Big Government being so big it literally does not know what it’s doing, or we might have the truly dirtiest part of Chicago politics at play.  Either one is not good for “We the People.”  Lastly we have the AP scandal.  While in itself this is perhaps a minor event in the era of the PATRIOT Act, do not be surprised if there’s serious push back on this one.  Nothing chills a reporter’s bones like the federal government scaring away their souses, and potentially censoring them.

In my personal humble opinion I think Obama is going to wish he hadn’t gotten reelected.  His second term is not starting off great, and his Dodge Dip Dive Duck and Dodge routine isn’t working anymore.  With Fast and Furious, a DOJ that suppressed a voter intimidation case, a DHS that refuses to enforce immigration, a total overhaul of health care that gives frightening powers to non-doctors, an AG that was held in contempt of congress (a first in history), A stagnant recovery, “Green Jobs” that are just a very expensive way to waste money, and a national debt that is not getting any better any time soon. . . Well to say that things are going to look pretty bad for his legacy is something of an understatement.  The word Impeachable is actually not out of the realm of possibility sadly enough.  Of course if that ever were to happen, Joe “fire a shotgun in the air” Biden will be our new president.  I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t trust that man to run a latrine detail.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Politics of the Federal Government

One of the things that this week has made painfully clear is that politics can play fast and loose with the rules for political gains.  It appears that the entirety of the Federal Government has been doing what it can to "make the boss look good."  Democrat, Republican, Liberal Conservative doesn't really seem to matter.   The executive branch of the federal government (basically the operations functions) will do all they can to protect first itself, then the "boss." 

 It's not really limited to Republican or Democrat.  The government covered for Kennedy, hiding all his sordid affairs (and the piss poor way he lead the country).  There was covering on Johnson when his grand war plan for Nam (as well as the impetus for actually getting involved) turned out to be so much hot air.  They covered for Reagan, who didn't technically authorize Iran-Contra, but nonetheless used the general "any means necessary" around a few too many subordinates.  It is clear that President Obama is added to this list of people that the government is covering for.

The clearest and most obvious example is Benghazi.  Point blank, State, DoD, and the CIA screwed the pooch.  The CIA warned that security was getting less secure, which State ignored (actually they drew down the security presence), and the DoD took away a number of Special Operations personell that might have aided the beleaguered CIA annex.  Why Ambassador Stevens was even in Benghazi in the first place had to do with a strong desire by State, to make the consulate a permanent facility by a certain date.  Really the more you read about the events leading up to and surrounding the September 11th 2012 attack the more it sounds like the key stone cops. 

One thing is clear, support was denied at various levels.  State failed to support their missions.  DoD failed to send a rescue or any relief.  The CIA failed to emphasize just how acute the threat was becoming.  Had everyone come out and admitted just how badly they'd screwed up heads might've rolled Obama might not have been re-elected, but the truth would have been known, and just perhaps we might implement measures that might prevent similar occurrences.  That is not what has happened.  Cover-up or white wash, it doesn't really matter the end result is that the State Department in effect lied to the American people for political reasons. 

If it ended there that's would've been bad enough but now the IRS is admitting that they held up the 501c status of nearly 300 groups, a majority of which had "tea party" or "patriot" in the title.  The irony is that this went of for years.  Conservatives were howling about it but most everyone put it off as a right-wing conspiracy.  As late as this week the head of the IRS had a press conferance to say that these allegations were untrue.  Only they were true.  the end result was that the federal bureaucracy put pressure on a political group during an election.  Agree or disagree with the tea party, this is a very big deal. 

That the harassment was borderline illegal and it has taken years to come to light should have everyone more than a little worried.  The IRS has a lot of power, and with the stroke of a pen (or a keyboard) can wreck lives.  Worst of all once the IRS wrecks lives or potentially sways an election (I use the word potentially for a reason, I don't think Romney would have won, but it is possible).  There's no taking it back.  There's no recompense for clerical errors the federal government makes.  Personally I think we should all be more than a little worried that a clearly political action happened at an agency that should have absolutely no business in, around, or in the same zip code, as politics.

The Federal Government is sadly almost tailor made for political abuses.  It doesn't really matter the party involved, the highly politicized legislature and executive branch have allowed their personal biases and feelings to sway the operation of many branches of our government.  The "boss" is often given undue deference, and in the case of "popular" or "historic" presidents, there are whole offices that are willing to blatantly break laws on "the boss's" behalf.  Regardless of party affiliation, or of political ideology, both the legislature and executive branches should always be on guard for governmental functions that are not strictly apolitical.  The function of the government in America is to do what We the People tell it to do through our duly elected representatives.  The second the machinery starts playing favorites, the Government stops being a servant of the people and starts becoming a menace to them. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Promise Its a Joke!

I'm not going to lie, when I wrote "Big Army's Latest FUBAR" I was kind of giggling like a school girl.  I thought it was so over the top that people would get it right away.  I mean likening the Army Service Ribbon to the Gay Pride ribbon?  Look we all joked about it but at what time was a "no butt hurt" policy for the "no homo" rule, but I thought people would pick that out right away and be like "AHHH you funny Mad Medic."  No, people are really pissed off. 

I'm not sure how to take it exactly, on the one hand there's a part of me that can't stop laughing like a kid that just set a flaming bag of dog poop on someone's doorstep and rang the door bell.  It's pretty funny and aside from a small fright, and perhaps extreme annoyance of the intended target, no permanent harm is done.   But then there's a part of me that's saying "oh shit dude, people are taking that seriously!"  I'm not going to lie, that's the part that I have the hardest time settling.

Satire, like A Modest Proposal, The Duffel Blog, or the Onion seem to fill a vital role in our society.  Its a way to point out inequity, and at the same time have a laugh at the ridiculousness of our beliefs or misconceptions.  The problem with satire is that you kind of have to be in on the gag, or have to be savvy enough to get it when they're being subtle.  One of the hallmarks of satire is that it will cause someone to flip their wig and go nuts reacting to what they read.  Of course it also holds true that that's half the reason to write satire.  Like I said there's a part of me that laughing hysterically at some of the comments people are leaving. 

I promise, the Army is not naming every soldier, Soldier of the Year.  The fact that everyone tends to believe it should tell anyone from Big Army reading it, that maybe they really ought to cut the "everybody gets a medal" bullshit. 

Still at the end of it all, it is a joke.  Please people don't go to the puzzle palace and demand the SMA stop being such a douche. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Cost of Politics

Not getting into Left Vs Right, Red vs Blue, or any of the other myriad of ways we've divided ourselves up as a country, we should be worried about Right vs Wrong.  You don't have to be GOP or DNC to have a monopoly on the discussion of Right and Wrong, but at the end of the day there is nothing surrounding the Benghazi testimony today that doesn't smack of plain wrong headedness. 

First off let's look at the prelude to the attack on September 11th 2012.  Why Ambassador Stevens was at the lightly defended consulate instead of the more heavily guarded embassy, is still debatable and we can't ask him.  What is not debatable is that the consulate and the embassy were one of only 14 critical risk posts of over 250 State Department posts, and yet despite that the secuirty was actually decreased despite repeated requests of nearly everyone who was there.    What is not debatable is the fact that the DoD could have responded in some fashion, even if they could not have prevented the first attack, they could have supported the CIA annex where Woods and Doherty were killed.  What's not debatable is that the administration, and the former Secretary of State attempted to downplay or shift focus away from the root causes of the attack, and attempted to mitigate the public outcry should a majority of the facts presented come to light. 

So here we are.  It is now May 8th 2013, almost 8 months later, and we're starting to find out some truly disturbing facts.  Namely that there were rescue attempts planned, but they were ordered to stand down by as yet unknown commanders.  We know that the security situation was well documented, and almost frantic e-mails were sent out to ask for heightened security presence.  We know that the Secretary of State herself had at leas some hand in the debacle.  But perhaps the most stunning thing of all is that despite the fact that there were some officers put on administrative leave (see: paid vacation) no one has been held accountable for the attack on September 11th 2012.  None of the terrorists, none of the beuracrats, none of the political apointees.  No one. 

To be honest when listening to the testimony I was stunned.  It was like listening to the idiocy of the Politburo from the Soviet Union.  the cold calculus that seems to have gone into this to avoid political fall out essentially boiled down to "do nothing and hope it resolves itself."  There is no other way to say this: we left our people to die.  It's all rather heartbreaking to a former service member to think that someone, could be left to the howling savages for political expediency, but this is where we are.

The worst part is that in a large part the political calculation actually worked.   Benghazi happened before the presidential election, and had the facts that are known now been known then I'm not sure President Obama would have been reelected.  The sheer scope of the cover up that has gone on since the attack should leave a lot of Americans wondering a lot of really painful questions about their government.  The continued white wash from the White House, and the emphasis that "it happened a long time ago" should have every American asking some serious questions about the man they elected to lead this country. 

But that's not what has happened.  Despite almost half of America thinking that there was a coverup or a flat out lie about what happened in Benghazi, most Americans are diverted by the trial of a woman so obviously guilty of first degree murder that we can't even really defend her.  America has become such an Attention Deficit nation that we have totally missed the horrendous mismanagement of our overseas diplomacy, and the war effort in Afghanistan.  We've totally ignored the continued slide of the economy, and the continued wracking up of a massive debt that would require serious curtailment of mandatory spending to fix.  We've totally ignored the heroes that walk amongst us, and more importantly the ones that are no longer with us.  America has its Idols.  If there is one thing that Benghazi has left me with aside from a further distaste for a media that refuses to cover important events, is the sure knowledge that the government is no longer of the People, because the People are too busy with twitter. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Playing Politics with the FAA is Dangerous.

This rather amazing video shows what 24 hours looks like to the Air Traffic Controllers Around the world.   

That is A LOT of planes.  but this animation actually involves some explanation, and makes it clear just how crowded our airspace can get.

So why is having a few ATC controllers furloughed a big deal?  Well the simplest answer is the system is already overworked as it is.  I would invite you to go watch United 93.  The sheer chaos and confusion seen in the film as ATC operators try to grapple with a dynamic and escalating crisis makes it clear that they had little or no control over the situation.  There was actually a dramatic moment on September 11th were American 11 almost hit United 175.  Even if we were to proportionately lower the number of flights, the ATC system is still overworked as it is.

The good news is that even if the controllers are completely missing their screens, even if two planes are headed right towards each other in level flight, at altitude, there is a nifty devise called TCAS that will allow them to avoid each other.  It basically works with the radar in the plane and the transponders of the surrounding airplanes to give out a warning and an urgent command to any pilots that might be in danger of a collision.  The rather unfortunate bit about this is that not all planes have this system.  If say a Cessna were to stray into the flight path of say a 727, then no one would really have a clue until it were too late.  ATC is the last line of defense, to warn the pilots of the danger.  

But there's another thing that happens that has nothing to do with terrorists, and it has the potential to be lethal to a great number of passengers.  That threat is called runway incursion.   Runway incursion is simply a plane being on a runway that isn't supposed to be there.  There have been numerous accidents involved with runway incursion.  So many in fact, that it is considered the #1 cause of all air traffic accidents.  The deadliest crash in aviation history occurred because of runway incursion.  The scariest thing about runway incursions is that just like runway over runs, the number of incidents are increasing as the use of air travel has become essential to our economy.

The political calculations that lead anyone to think the sequester was a good idea have all been proven to be null and void.  The political calculation to make it hurt as much as possible should well be taken with care.  Politics has no place in public safety.  Reguardless of who said what, or when the bright idea was had to cut the number of ATC's on duty, the end result aside from the delays is a potentially fatal situation where and already overworked system is not being manned by enough eyes and someone makes an all too human mistake.  It has happened before, it most likely will happen again.  The question is how much will it hurt?    

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Obama's Watergate

on June 17th 1972, five men, James W. McCord Jr, Bernard Baker, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, and Eugnio Martinez broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex.  The story of how they got caught is actually a humorous tale in ineptitude, but the scandal that followed their arrest still scar this nation today.  What transpired were a series of cover ups, and conspiracies that went all the way to President Nixon.  The congress started holding hearings, and impeachment was highly likely.  Before the impeachment process could begin, the President resigned from office.  

What happened in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 is not so clear cut.  It appears as if an al Qaeda affiliated militia attacked the US Consulate, in the initial attack on the consulate a fire was started and the survivors became lost and separated.  Sean Smith died of smoke inhalation, and Ambassador Stevens was mortally wounded (he was later taken to a local hospital where he died).  A CIA team lead by Tyrone Woods a former SEAL violated orders to go and rescue the consulate, and evacuate them to the CIA annex which was easier to defend.  Glen Doherty, stationed in Tripoli lead his team, also against orders as they commandeered an small plane and flew to Benghazi to support the CIA annex, which was being attacked.  A full 7 hours after the first attack began, the dust settled and both Woods and Doherty were dead.

The glaring part of this narrative is that the only quick reaction forces (QRF) actually in Libya were ordered repeatedly to stand down, and only by violating orders did any of the consulate staff survive.  Whats even more disturbing is that just across the Mediterranean were several Tier I (Spec Ops teams) that could have been on station in less than seven hours. Even if there would have been issues with popping out a SOCOM team, why is the president who is apparently very comfortable with drone strikes, not calling in hellfire missiles on the crowd attacking the CIA annex?  Why is the Drone President who has no qualms in ordering hundreds of clandestine air strikes, queasy about rescuing personnel from another of his clandestine programs?

Worse still the question of who exactly had "eyes on" raises other questions.  The president was in the situation room for the Bin Laden raid but not that attack on the consulate?  Secretary of State Clinton has made it clear that she was in the State Department's situation room, but if that's the case how come none of the security contractors that the State Department was using to protect the embassy were deployed as a QRF?  The DoD certainly had assets available, and intel, as did the CIA.  So why weren't those assets deployed?  In a military that can get a birds eye view of almost anything on the planet, why did they apparently miss completely that the consulate was being overrun?

Even if we answer the famous line "who knew what, when?" we're still left with a very disturbing trend.  Woods' team at the CIA annex was told three times to stand down.  They eventually ignored orders and went anyway.  Doherty, was likewise ordered to stand down numerous times.  He also ignored these orders.      Whats even more disturbing is that General Carter Ham, commander of AFRICOM may have been attempting to deploy assets from his command center, when as rumor has it, he was relieved on the spot, and his vice commander ordered a stand down.  Unfortunately what exactly happened at AFRICOM headquarters at Stuttgart Germany is not clear and no one is talking, but if even a fraction of the rumors were true it would be almost unprecedented.  To leave troops in contact without doing everything possible to aid and support them is unthinkable.  

Now there are reports of aggressive efforts to silence whistle blowers in the State Department.  There are SPECOPS operators that are taking the rather extreme and flat out unheard of step of talking directly to the media about it.  Perhaps the most painful thing to reason away is that an administration that had no problem violating the sovereign airspace of Pakistan to kill Bin Laden has done almost nothing to "bring to justice" [plain language: kill] the people responsible.  It seems right from the start the entire policy regarding Benghazi was to hunker down and hope the whole thing would blow over.  Whether by neglect, omission, or intent, the administration left those men and women to die, and that is the only conclusion I have been able to come up with.

What is painfully clear, the more that is known about what happened the night of September 11th 2012 in Benghazi, the less the American news media wants to cover it.  Much like there were no questions asked about the destroyers USS Maddox, and USS Turner Joy getting into a two hour gun battle with radar phantom, no seems to bother questioning the official account here.  It seems that part of the problem is political, this president is after all on the "right" side of issues, but another very real part is that the news media as a whole had spent 8 years during the Bush administration chasing phantoms much like the Maddox, that now that there is a very real story they're doubting the news worthiness.  Perhaps it's even a conscious or subconscious decision not to do anything to tarnish the legacy of America's first black president.  With the number of news worthy stories that seem not  to get covered it is very hard to suspect anything other than blatant and rampant corruption on the part of the news media. 

I believe that the time will come where many hard questions will have to be answered by the president.  I believe that Mr. Obama has been playing fast and loose political games with a military he's always had a somewhat adversarial approach to.  I believe that he is using the powers of the presidency in such a manner that make all of the excesses of the Nixon administration look positively tame.  We are operating ever more vast and complex clandestine operations all over the world that no one seems to have oversight on.  If he did leave those people to die, then it begs the question how many others have been left to die.  Worst of all the lack of willingness to cover the story and follow it to its conclusion both by press and the American people signals a troubling apathy that might well breed the worst type of corruption the presidency can inspire.  Let us hope that this Watergate is exposed for what it is, before more people are left to die in far flung undeclared wars. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. . . "

Audiences in 1977, and pretty much everyone since could tell you the tale of the Death Star.  While we might be left to wonder how this at all seems relevant to the actual world of today (as opposed to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) it actually speaks to the entire mindset of people who place WAY too much faith in technology.  The idea that the enemies of the Galactic Empire would be brought in line because of this massive battle station that could easily shrug off attacks from hundreds of fleets, and blow up any planets that happened to disagree. 

But that didn't work.  Millions of people and perhaps a few trillion monetary units were lost in an attack that simply shouldn't have worked.  How could a few dinky little fighters possibly defeat a battle station that had over 100,000 fighters?  While it might seem that this is just pure Hollywood, in all actuality there's precident in this galaxy not so long ago.  In 1921, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell attacked an old WWI battleship Ostfriesland, and after a day of slow attacks sunk the ship.  The battleship, often thought unbeatable except by other battle ships was proved to be very weak against air.  The greatest of all battleships Yamato and Musashi, despite taking a lot of air power to take down still fell to air power. 

But there are other terrors the Empire unleashed.  Take the AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) was a giant hulking walker that had armor that was too strong for the Rebel air power to repel, and made mince meat of the Rebel infantry sequestered in trenches.  Despite being ungainly, slow, and with it's firepower not really mobile enough to act as an anti-air platform, the efficacy of the AT-AT can clearly be seen in the films.  It's a terrifying thing to contemplate.  But we see at least two of the five AT-AT's pictured brought down by relatively simplistic tactics.  It also begs the question, what would have happened if the terrain had been broken?  Suddenly these walking tanks that are not so fast or mobile, don't seem like such a great idea. 

Even the more agile, mobile and seemingly appropriate AT-ST (All Terrain Scout Transport) was proven in the next movie to not be that good of a design.  Despite being very effective against foot mobile infantry, it is easily defeated by loosing its footing, and at one point a few shots from behind actually destroys the whole thing in a very violent catastrophic kill that leaves barely anything left.  Clearly the storage are for the fuel is not armored enough. 

In our own galaxy, the Iraq War makes it clear that the age of the Tank may well be over.  It's not just the EFPs that are so powerful they can separate a turret from the chassis of a tank, but also innovations like the Javelin anti-tank missile make it clear that the flying tank columns that we had trained to fight in the cold war would be just so many targets that one could destroy.  Despite massive amounts of armor, and a lot of tactical maneuverability, all that can be undone by enemy traps that one can not see.  Perhaps if the insurgents in Iraq were cute like Ewoks, or the Coalition as evil as the Empire this fact might actually be cause to celebrate, unfortunately this is not the case.

While we can make certain analogies between the United States and the Empire in terms of weapons development (ok we're not blowing up whole planets, but Nukes are like the Death Star in a way) our over all goals, aims and tactics are different.  While we don't mind instilling a healthy dose of fear in our enemies, and on occasion will field impractical or unwieldy weapons systems, we're not aiming to rule the galaxy.  You also have to know that while the Empire keeps trying to engineer the ultimate crushing victory as seen in all three of the classic trilogy movies, Americans have learned to take whatever tactical victories they can get.  This is a mindset similar to the Rebel Alliance, though devoid the desperation seen in the films. 

While we are still waiting for Lightsabers, and Force wielding Jedi, or hyperspeed, there are lessons we can take from Star Wars.  Lessons we can strangely enough apply to our own galaxy, and our own time.  One of the greatest lessons that Star Wars left us with is to not rely too heavily on our technology, because the Force can always throw a monkey wrench in even the most impenetrable Death Stars we make.  In the end the Rebel Alliance won because of people, not weapons, and that should be something we should always keep in mind moving forward.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Time for a Man Card

Ladies and Gentlemen of the male community, I think it is time we demand action.  For too long we have allowed our males’ testicles to wither into small withered ill-used raisins. The Dude, once the bastion for all that is masculine has become an endangered species, and what few Males remain are easily confused to the fact that they are men.  Gone are the days that a great masculine figure of a private would proudly piss on an enemy like a dog marking his territory, proudly proclaiming how much of a pansy that bitch was.  Gone are the days when a Sergeant with a few days growth on his face would tell a politician to go fuck themselves simply because they were too fucking tired to put on a dog and pony show.   

Well I say E-fucking-nough!  We need to reinstate the national Man-Card law!   We need to get rid of all those sissy fucks that dare refer to themselves as man that don’t even know how to change a light bulb.  How can we allow some yuppie hipster to besmirched the giant brass balls of our Soldiers that doesn’t even know how to change the fucking oil on his gay ass Prius!   How can we look ourselves in the mirror and allow these mega douches to continue to sap the awesomeness that comes from going out and killing, cleaning and cooking over a camp fire your own fucking dinner?  I saw if any paper thin armed vegan dares call himself a man he had damn well better be able to prove it!

This is will not be some amorphous card you can buy at Spencer’s as a gag, but a real Man approved card to prove you are well and truly a Dude, and entitled to all the rights and privileges therein.  There will be a clear and easy task list, things every Dude should know how to do.  How to shoot, how to cook (Dude style, none of that gay French cooking with wine), how to build shit, how to destroy shit, and most importantly how to make a woman scream like she’s having sex with the entirety of the United States Army.  There needs to be standards to follow and a testing system that ensures that you can build a fire with nothing but harsh language while your buddies give you shit for the last butter face you slept with.  

We have to recognize that there are some Men out there that are so manly they automatically get one.  For instance the giant balls it takes to strap into a $54 million jet and be fired off a pitching deck into the open air with little time to recover if someone screwed up, or for making a night drop.  I think we can all agree if you somehow make it into one of the Teams in SOCOM you deserve a Man Card.  Likewise, if you rush into burning buildings to rescue fluffy the cat, or calmly treat a dude tweeking on PCP, or chase down a suspect when you’re driving well over 120 MPH, you had damn well EARNED  Man Card. We can also recognize special beard growth (provided said beard growth is not coupled with an instant NO-GO) and any other Manly achievement that brings honor to all that is Man. 
There are of course NO-GO’s in which a Man Card can not only be revoked but forcibly taken by another duly authorized Man.  For instance, if you actually follow any boy band in any way shape or form.  Not only should your Man Card be revoked but you should be required by law to lose at least one testicle.  If you know how to do a dance that is not in some way shape or form awesome, or if you actually know what the moves are that cheer leaders do, you are a NO-GO!  Likewise if you do anything that besmirches the name of Man, for instance becoming a Hippie (yuppie, hipster or a protestor), or you are too fucking fat to do one God Damn push up, you deserve to get your ass kicked, then get your Man Card taken. 
We are Men.  It’s about fucking time we all started acting like it!  When the retard dressed in a vagina suit tells you that you don’t care about the local’s culture you respond “fucking right I don’t, those fuckers are hitting women!”   Then you proceed to hit that prick like you hit that fucking drop zone, Hard and Fast.  When you hear of some shit head that raped a woman you don’t wait for some court to settle things you kick his Lilly ass!  Blow shit up!  Not because it’ll bring greater understanding or science or shit like that, FUCK NO, you blow shit up because it’s fucking cool!  You go shooting just because, and you’re never stingy with ammo when your buddy wants to come with, because that’s what Men fucking do.
Most of all we Men had damned well be fucking awesome in bed.  It’s no fucking wonder there are so many lesbians, all the men are indistinguishable from the dykes!  Seriously if I can’t tell the difference between the chicks the dudes (small d) and the dykes, there’s something fucking wrong here.  Remember what you got between your legs.  Learn how to fucking use it!  Here’s a hint if you get off and she’s still hot to trot, YOU FUCKED UP!!!  And for the love of sweet baby Christ stop acting like you’ve never fucking seen titties before.  Yes they’re awesome, yes we want to play with them, and have them rubbed in our faces, but STOP ACTING LIKE A BITCH TO SEE THEM.  You’re a Man God Dammit!  When you rock out with your Cock out satisfaction should not only be guaranteed, but they should be begging for more.

We need this fucking Man Card.  I don’t give a shit if the limp dicks in Washington (Big D) will never pass the law, we, the fucking Men of America owe it to ourselves, our sons, but perhaps more importantly to the Ladies in our lives, and to make sure the standards of Manhood are being kept.  Shave with a chainsaw, play ping pong with a grenade, kill a deer you head butt.   Why?  Who give a shit why, you’re a man you do awesome shit “just because.”   Enough of the estrogen displays, we need Men to be Men, we need a way to quickly identify who the real Men are