Wednesday, April 29, 2009
We currently have the previous administration dead to rights, caught red-handed breaking US Code, the US Constitution, international law, signed treaties and the creeds of the US Armed Services. They have done backwards cheetah flips to manipulate law and public opinion through the media.
The pro-torture crowd cites the media testimony of politically appointed bureaucrats that torture somehow worked, against the combined analysis of human history by scholars, psychologists, intelligence experts and military personnel. They claim this even without regard to the fact that these CIA Directors and other accomplices are fighting hard to give themselves cover from prosecution. They claim that 'Cheney has requested 'secret memo's' that will surely highlight how torture has worked to keep us safe. Claiming this without regard to the fact that Cheney has no downside to this claim. Unless or until these alleged memo's are released, they are fantasy, and if they are not released, the Republicans can just claim cover-up. How convenient.
But this same party was so terribly gung ho to prosecute a Democratic president for shady real estate dealings and extra-marital sex. Sort of shows what patriots many are.
The law was broken. Write your Congressmen, jump up and down and scream....whatever....just deal with it. Not torturing detainees will not degrade our national security because it has been uniformly shown to not be effective throughout human history. The neanderthal desire for bloodlust and revenge only serves to weaken our security by validating the propaganda used by our enemies. I've never been so disgusted by so many of my fellow Americans.
The US Constitution was designed to check capricious and unaccountable executive power. We have surrendered what the founders bequeathed to us.
Friday, April 24, 2009
SSG Darrell Griffin Jr. was a motivated and energetic soldier when he was a member of my Platoon in Fort Lewis, WA. He was eager to learn anything he could, to make himself a better soldier. That effort paid off and made him a better leader.
I received the news of his death when our former Battalion XO (then a Battalion CDR) was posted on my FOB and we spoke to catch up. Darrel was one of those soldiers you always wish to have, even though you may not realize it until it's too late. The distractions of a peacetime army often cloud the necessity of what is required of a wartime band of brothers.
US News and World Report conducted an extensive interview with his unit [and Darrell] just 18 days before his death.
Four days before his death, Army Staff Sgt. Darrell Ray Griffin Jr., an infantry squad leader in Baghdad, sent an E-mail to his wife, Diana. "Spartan women of Greece used to tell their husbands, before they went into battle, to come back with their shields or laying on them, dying honorably in battle. But if they did not return with their shield, this showed that they ran away from the battle. Cowardice was not a Spartan virtue ... Tell me that you love me the same by me coming back with my shield or on it."
A few days later, Diana replied. "Are you ok??? I haven't heard from you since Sunday and it is now Wednesday ... I know you said you were going on a dangerous mission ... I get so nervous when I don't hear from you ... phone call or e-mail ... I just hope and pray your ok honey ... "
It was an E-mail Griffin would never read.
The rest of the article:
A video and written word from Darrell's account of his Iraq tour can be found here:
His father, Darrell Griffin Sr. had vowed to finish the book his son had started. The pre-order is available on Amazon.com........I've ordered my copy.
I hope I have Kelly's permission to repost her words, as I do not have a way to contact her. It appears the blog this was taken from is not maintained but Darrell's memory should be.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007
"our government officials often talk of the 'boots on the ground' in Iraq, most often forgetting that those boots were filled with thinking, living flesh-and-blood Americans"
"War is not just John Wayne giving an eloquent speech before he dies, but young men dying without a word and sent home with what is found of them."
(SSG. Darrell R. Griffin, Jr.)
The words above are words written by our dear friend. He knew what he was talking about more than most. His feet filled those "boots on the ground" in 2004-2005 with the 1/5 Infantry Battalion Bobcats and again in 2006-2007 with the 2/3 Infantry, both in Iraq. Darrell is the man who stood beside my husband through the toughest of times, who promised me before they left that he would take care of him as best he could and bring him home to me and our little girls. He kept his promise. But then, I knew he would. He was the friend my husband knew he could count on in any situation and his wife is the person that I could call at 3am when the fear of that deployment seemed overwhelming.
Throughout our lives, we meet many "good friends," friends we love to be with and friends that share many of the important events in our lives. But even more rare are those friends that we connect with at the heart, those who seem to know what our deepest fears and our greatest joys are without ever exchanging a word. This is the type of friendship that we shared with Darrell and Diana. Through each event in our life, we grew closer. We celebrated our husband's promotions, the birth of our two little girls, the addition of their "little girl," a whippet named Luna, and we cried on each other's shoulders during the tough moments of training deployments and a year long Iraq deployment. We laughed together, worried together, shared holidays and many a weekend BBQ together, debated the issues of the world, cried together, were outrageously silly together, supported each other, and gave strength when it was needed. We jokingly refer to each other as our "chosen family," meaning that while you can never choose your natural family, sometimes you get to choose to add some "adopted" members. Darrell and Diana are definitely part of our family.
When the guys of 1/5 Infantry returned from their year in Iraq, we both received orders. Duane and I PCS'd (Permanent Change of Station) to Eglin AFB in Florida and Darrell and Diana stayed on Ft. Lewis but moved to 3rd Brigade. Unfortunately, 3rd Brigade was preparing to deploy to Iraq. Just 8 months or so after returning from Iraq, Darrell deployed again with 3rd Brigade. Despite our distance, we have remained as close as family. Diana and I can talk for 3-4 hours on the phone without realizing it (much to our husband's chagrin) and when Darrell was home on R&R for 2 weeks, he and Duane spent hours discussing how to get back to the same duty station and be together again. We have spent the last 8 months of Darrell's 2nd deployment praying for his safe return to his lovely wife.
Diana and I shared pictures of our kids (hers is the 4 legged kind, and just as sweet!) and talked for hours about worries and joys and future plans. So, when she called me on the evening of March 21st, I assumed it was to dish about the latest and laugh a bit. What she said changed my world. She told me simply, "Darrell's gone." I knew what she meant but I somehow thought there must have been a mistake. There was none.
Darrell, the man who never left my house without telling me how precious my children are and what a wonderful mother I am, is gone.
Darrell, the man who never was in my presence without mentioning how beautiful his wife of 12 years was, is gone.
Darrell, the man who called me from Iraq when he could have called his wife, just to reassure me that my husband was fine after a close call, is gone.
Darrell, the man who rushed to the site of a battle when he heard that my husband's platoon was involved, who rushed to be at his friend's side without thought for his own safety, is gone.
Darrell, the man who told me that he would bring my husband home, that he wouldn't let my two little girls be without their Daddy, is gone.
Darrell, the man who sat on my back porch, drinking wine and discussing the issues of the world with my husband, or who did crazy, silly things with my husband that left Diana and I rolling our eyes in amusement, is gone.
Darrell, the huge body-builder of a man, who held my babies with a gentleness and reverance I have yet to see again, is gone.
Darrell, the man who could talk for hours about how in love he was with his wife, who still paused from speaking to watch her walk across the room as only newlyweds do, is gone.
Most days, it is a little much for me to comprehend.
In the month since he gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, many people have memorialized him. Soldiers, chaplains, reporters, family, and friends have spoken about his dedication and commitment to soldiering, his intense study of the world around him and the book he was in the process of writing. All of the things they have said, at memorials in Ft. Lewis, Germany, Iraq, and his native California, are true portrayals of the man he was.
Me, I am just his friend's wife. I know he was an incredible soldier and philosopher but I remember him most as the man who stood by my husband, who shared dinners with my family, who rejoiced in the birth of my children, who loved his dog Luna like a child, and who loved his wife Diana as if they were newlyweds.
In my mind, these things made him great. And they make him irreplaceable.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
They feel no fear, why should you?
Use your head: cut off theirs.
Blades don’t need reloading.
Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
No place is safe, only safer.
The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Heraclitus c. 500 B.C.
Monday, April 20, 2009
But this begs the question, what is our focus….and for what cost are we willing to pay for this presence? We have already failed Hartmann’s strategic principle of conservation of enemies. We are simultaneously fighting Al Qaeda, Lashkar e Tayyiba, Hizbi-i-Islami Gulbuddin, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Tehrike Taliban Pakistan, and the Haqqani network. The vast majority of Americans can only name AQ or the ‘Taliban’ as our Afghani enemies, without coming close to understanding who it is we’re fighting or why. If a broad coalition government can be convened that would allow cross tribal support and suffrage; preserve the traditional social order of the Afghani tribes; with an influx of humanitarian, civil and agrarian aid…….maybe……Afghanistan will emerge eventually as a stable nation. As Bernard Fall points out, ‘A government that is losing to an insurgency is not being outfought…..it is being out governed.’ In many cases, the shadow judicial and civil system enacted by the ‘Taliban’ [usually of the Quetta Shura] are relied upon and trusted more than the representatives from Kabul. Al Qaeda and the 'Taliban' are not synonymous and do not represent an equal threat. That fact must be present in any coherent strategy. Thus far, it has not been.
We will absolutely not [in my estimation] win militarily. We fluctuate between tactical operations of persistent presence and repetitive raiding, which sows confusion in the people we're ostensibly trying help, not to mention our junior leaders who are still much better adapted to warcraft than statecraft. We have nowhere near the manpower to provide a sustained presence in the myriad of valleys that comprise Afghanistan, each with its own sense of sovereignty from Kabul, and it’s own varied relations with the fundamentalist groups that we are warring against. We have nowhere near the time to educate our forces on the intricacies of Pashtun honor, known as Pashtunwali; of how to conduct chai diplomacy with Baluch sardars [cheiftans]; or how to integrate Turkmen tribes into a confederacy, much less a central government. We have not even a fraction of people trained in the language, customs and social hierarchy of the Uzbeks, Turkmen, Pashtuns, Hazara, Tajik, Kirghiz, Kabuli, Baluch, and Jat tribes [among a dozen others].
What is going to be the panacea in Afghanistan? A 'Sons of Iraq' approach will not work. The tribes and Qawm [social ties of solidarity] are such that it is said in the remote hills and valleys regarding the prevelant internecine warfare: 'me against my brother, but me and my brother against a stranger.' Though some tribes find it in their interest to work with the coalition [at least for now], many others do not. The former Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali recently wrote a book titled Afghan Guerrilla Warfare, in which he states: 'The collapse of the central government of Afghanistan or the destruction of its standing armies has never resulted in the defeat of the nation by an invader. The people, relying on their decentralized political, economic, and military potential have always taken over the resistance against the invaders.'
Coalition trainers at the Kabul Military Training Center as of 2007, were not even trained in or trained to teach counter-insurgency tactics to the Afghan National Army. The Afghan National Police still receives none. A counter-narcotics plan has yet to be integrated into a counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency strategy. To their credit, coalition commanders are starting to shift from an enemy-centric to a population centric approach…..but given that eight years have passed, how much longer do we expend our blood and treasure in this effort? What is it that we think we can accomplish in a nation [in a loose sense of the word] where empires before us have invaded, occupied and failed to transform?
Sunday, April 19, 2009
President Barack Obama insists that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is about "making sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies" or "project violence against" American citizens. The reasoning is that if the Taliban win in Afghanistan, al Qaeda will once again be able to set up shop there to carry out its dirty work. As the president puts it, Afghanistan would "again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can." This argument is constantly repeated but rarely examined; given the costs and risks associated with the Obama administration’s plans for the region, it is time such statements be given the scrutiny they deserve.
Multiple sources, including Lawrence Wright's book The Looming Tower, make clear that the Taliban was a reluctant host to al Qaeda in the 1990s and felt betrayed when the terrorist group repeatedly violated agreements to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements and fomenting violence abroad. Then the al Qaeda-sponsored 9/11 attacks -- which the Taliban had nothing to do with -- led to the toppling of the Taliban’s regime. Given the Taliban’s limited interest in issues outside the "AfPak" region, if they came to power again now, they would be highly unlikely to host provocative terrorist groups whose actions could lead to another outside intervention. And even if al Qaeda were able to relocate to Afghanistan after a Taliban victory there, it would still have to operate under the same siege situation it presently enjoys in what Obama calls its "safe haven" in Pakistan.
The very notion that al Qaeda needs a secure geographic base to carry out its terrorist operations, moreover, is questionable. After all, the operational base for 9/11 was in Hamburg, Germany. Conspiracies involving small numbers of people require communication, money, and planning -- but not a major protected base camp.
When we peel away the rhetoric and the fanciful ideals of promoting western, liberal democracy [in a region that has never known such], how can we logically justify our continued occupation of Afghanistan?
Friday, April 17, 2009
Quite obviously, a grass roots movement is the only way to break the cycle of abuse by the two major parties. But that movement has to be a brush fire across a dry plain to affect any change. The Tea Party movements are merely campfires in reality. The closest movement we’ve seen recently was the Ron Paul ‘revolution’, but even that did not do much more than get people excited for a short time. Of course, a managed campaign by the Democratic and Republican Party’s along with the MSM contributed heavily to its demise.
I believe that most Americans fear treading outside of their comfort zones in regards to political change. Americans have really only known the two parties. They are led to believe that these two parties are diametrically opposed and at odd ends of the political spectrum. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the concept of breaking that paradigm frightens people for a few key reasons: the media does not have any vested interest in promoting change because they are part of that paradigm. The media will by and large not even grant that there are more than Democrats, Republicans and the vague, grey group known as Independents…….who are universally implied to be disaffected or irresolute Democrats and Republicans.
I hate at times, to harp incessantly about the illogical and divisive influence of those two major parties, but I truly believe their existence to be the bane of citizen empowerment and the pursuit of the common welfare of the nation.
I don’t have the answers to how to break the political cycle of abuse. I’m not sure anyone does. What I do know is that the forces arrayed against breaking that cycle are legion. It will take strong, committed citizens with financial, intellectual and populist backing to return this nation to one of principle and ideals. Although I am a registered Libertarian, they aren’t the panacea. There are indeed good and honest Democrats and Republicans, but those who start out their political careers, I fear soon become co-opted by the party machinery. In today’s political landscape the party trumps the polity….and if there were ever an ideology opposed to that of our founders……we are witnessing it in our lifetime.
Who knows, maybe likeminded people can contribute to a movement to overhaul this pattern. Jumping on the bandwagon is easy after it gets started down the road. Building that bandwagon is a daunting task.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Since these 'patriots' claim to be protesting the ever increasing size and scope of the Federal government......where have they been for the last eight years????
I agree with the grass roots movement per se.........but when it is promulgated and promoted nearly exclusively by Fox News, I question their non-partisan claims. I fully support lower taxes and smaller, less intrusive government, probably more than most self described Conservatives. But for that to happen, there has to be a significant shift in how we administer our nation. These tea parties are utterly ineffective because they do not address the fundamental and root causes of our wasteful and fraudulent governance.
The tea parties are nothing more than Republican rallies. There were Tea Parties in Alabama when I lived there a few years ago, and the sponsors, organizers and celebutwits are retained from the same partisan-right stable. I'd no sooner attend one of these events than I would an anti-Bush rally. Ironic and/or convenient that these part time faux-patriots have chosen the tax day following a democratic inauguration to protest the width and breadth of government, when they sat idly by for the last several years questioning the patriotism of others.
Obama is not going to champion tax fairness and individual liberties and sovereignty......that is sort of a given, but as we have witnessed, neither is the Republican Party.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
September 11, 2001. This was the date that the Bush Administration decided it could foment it's own set of Enabling Acts and circumvent the Constitution to gain unprecedented power. All they had to do was whip up enough fear amongst the populace so we wouldn't question the profound loss of the principles we theoretically stood for.
Unfortunately for us, most of these policies and practices have been counter-productive, weakened our national security and have led to feverish recruitment and support for our enemies. The practice of locating detainees in a geographical grey area, labeling said detainees with an equally ambiguous title, and conducting torture.....have knocked us off of whatever moral high ground we may have been on up to 11 September.
Sadly, proponents of said undemocratic practices label this debate in terms of left/right, Republican/Democrat. They do this because they cannot argue the merits in terms of morality and constitutionality.
Claims of legality for the basis of Gitmo itself due to being 'at war' fall equally flat, as we're not legally 'at war' with anyone. The methodology of deciding who earned residency at Gitmo was sloppy at best; the Bush Administration stated emphatically that these 'terrorists' were 'very hard cases' and the 'worst of the worst'; yet has released over 500 since Camp Delta opened. The fact that many came to us via rival and destitute Afghani warlords and the Pakistani military speaks volumes towards the efficacy of our entire policy.
Guantanamo is more than just a geographic location, it is a state of mind; one where we tell the world that we're not going to abide by the principles we preach; one where we state manifestly, that our system is shallow, corrupt and imperial.
This is the crux of the problem with the concept of a 'War on [insert vague and undefined tactic here]'. We are at war......except we're not. The Bush Administration decided, with it's version of Enabling Acts, that it could use a terrorist attack to justify creating new and unregulated areas of jurisprudence and wholesale widening of Federal powers. One wonders how long it takes for the current opposition party to rail against such similar executive mandates.
Ironically, proponents of such polices wish to define the detainees at POW's when it suits them and then deny that status to detainees when pressed on the treatment of them.
Not to mention that our policy of torture and indefinite imprisonment.....and.....the mere symbol of Guantanamo Bay, has led to a recruitment boon for our enemies. The hypocritical facet of the 'support the troops' crowd is strangely silent when the fact arises that this further endangers our forces in theater.
It's quite sad that the very people who beat their chest and bleat to the heavens of how much they support the troops.......support every policy that is counter-productive to not only the welfare of our armed forces, but additionally violate the tenets of every creed in the services; and do so in the name of their political persuasion......believing somehow, that only liberals are opposing this grand imperialism that we have practiced [in full measure] for the last eight years.
Gitmo has been a recruitment boon to our enemy; has violated every principle we claim to uphold; and has brought us down to par with our enemies.....and we wonder why our standing amongst democracies is in the basement?
There's debating on emotion and there's debating on fact. Those who are willfully blind to fact have no other recourse than the shallow vacuous diatribes of bloviating and party meme's.
The bipartisan and respected Center for Strategic and International Studies recently published the results of a working group that studied the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, and the pro's and con's of closing it.
From the CSIS report titled: Closing Guantanamo; From Bumper Sticker to Blueprint.......published prior to the outcome of the Presidential election.
Regarding Gitmo in general:
The final element of the new policy would be to prosecute them through the US criminal justice system. The record of the criminal justice system concerning the prosecution of international terrorism cases far outshines that of the Guantanamo military commissions: since 2001, 145 conviction versus 2 conviction. Overall, this straightforward policy can help restore our reputation as a country that is built on and embraces the rule of law.
Restoring the US reputation will have national security benefits. The working group concluded that the United States has been damaged by Guantanamo beyond any immediate security benefits. Our enemies have achieved a propaganda windfall that enables recruitment to violence, while our friends have found it more difficult to cooperate with us.
In the view of many around the world, Guantanamo represents indefinite detention, torture and abuse. Its continued existence is a potent recruiting tool for our enemies and discourages cooperation with our friends. No amount of tinkering - even substantial changes - would fix this problem. Guantanamo does serve as a recruitment tool for al Qaeda. It has cost the United States leverage in many policy realms.
Finally we addressed detention as it relates to intelligence collection and the related value of holding someone over the long term. Our working group meetings with retired intelligence and military officers suggested to us, however, that at this point those detained at Guantanamo provide neither substantial strategic nor tactical intelligence value. These officers were unanimous in the view that any value that might have been gleaned was non-existent six years into detention.
It justly concludes:
Never again, if our country is attacked, should we frantically engage in techniques that our enemies have used against our uniformed service members in times of war. We are better than that. We can do better than that. We must be prepared to do better than that.
What's sad is that given our past national stance against torture, and given the historical and academic fact that torture is not effective, many simply see the actions of our enemy and so easily discard any shred of moral fiber that separates us from them. True patriots do not mitigate ideals and principles based on anger at the actions of another. When the actions of our government are detrimental and counter-productive to the safety of our nation and her citizens, that constitutes incompetence if not outright treason.
The public at large won't care....they're too stupid to care. The President of these United States emphatically stated that 'we don't torture' and was subsequently contradicted by numerous members of his own administration and military......and yet we have loyal myrmidons willingly and energetically supporting such acts that are treasonous to the ideals this nation is supposed to stand for.
Is it hypocritical that Prostitution is illegal while pornography is not?
Should they both be legal or illegal? Why or why not?
A fairly straightforward premise. Actors who make pornographic films and photos are paid for engaging in sexual activities. Prostitutes are paid for engaging in sexual activities. Both practices have their proponents, arguing from standpoints of civil liberties and individual freedom. Both practices have their opponents, arguing from standpoints of family values and morality.
However, prostitution is illegal in nearly all of the nation.....while pornography is rampant in video stores, newsstands and on the internet.
It's not illegal to sell any other manual services besides sex. I can hire my body to dig ditches; I can rent my body for medical experiments; I can also lease my body in the act of performing sexual acts, simulated sexual acts and simulated non-consensual acts.
It goes against every fiber of individual liberty to proclaim that I cannot receive or give money in exchange for sexual services. It is also the absolute height of hypocrisy when a third party can pay consenting adults to engage in sexual activity.
Coloring the argument of prostitution only in terms of street walkers is a distraction from the argument of individual freedom. Individual freedom is a decidedly conservative stance.
Why should individuals only be allowed some control over their body and its functions, but not others? Why are we constrained by state definitions of what constitutes sexual practices without regard to the many other practices that people find sexual fulfillment from? Does this not reek of hypocrisy when viewing this from a rational and logical perception? For example, I could conceivably engage the services of a professional dominatrix for money and not violate prostitution laws, but gain sexual satisfaction from the transaction. How is this any different than obtaining the services of a professional 'social worker' that includes the state definition?
Proponents of legalization advocate for government regulation of prostitution, whereas proponents of decriminalization support removing criminal penalties for prostitution. In other words, government doesn't regulate private, consensual individual transactions for materials and services....why would sex be any different?
An equally simple concept is that it is absurd to criminalize the monetary transaction of a service that can be legally provided for free. I understand why people are willing to surrender individual liberty to the state.....I just don't understand why people are willing to surrender that liberty.
Pornography involves a person or persons engaging in sexual acts for purpose of monetary payment. Prostitution involves a person or persons engaging in sexual acts for purpose of monetary payment.
The effects of alcohol are far, far......let me be repetitious.....far, far more pervasive and costly to society and the family structure than prostitution, by any and every study imaginable. It's simply not even debatable by rational people. Yet alcohol is legal and prostitution is not. Does the argument stem from the very simple and personal notion that they enjoy alcohol, yet eschew the activity of prostitution? If that's the case, then it's eminently logical to live one's life by those moral decisions, but entirely illogical to support forcing others to live by their choices.
Do they really support the cost in dollars and manpower for police departments to conduct sting operations and otherwise enforce prostitution laws, in the face of meager resources and mounting violent crime? All in pursuit of an effort that, while they make for entertaining episodes of COPS, are futile........in that prostitution will absolutely never whither away.
Does the criminalization of prostitution not stem from religion, since the majority of western religious doctrines consider any sex outside of the sanctity of marriage taboo or sinful........yet most western religions have no issue with alcohol? Do they enjoy living under restrictions imposed by adherents to an entity that not everybody believes in, instead of allowing individual citizens to make mature, consensual decisions with their body?
I have no issue with someone wishing to live his or her life by a moral code, but I certainly have issue when groups of individuals [usually under the guise of religion] wish to force others to live by that moral code. Since there are other legal activities that harm the family unit more so than prostitution or pornography.....is it not more just to allow adults the freedom to make consensual choices with their own bodies, in accordance with their own moral code?
The original intent of law is not to prevent immoral acts, it is to codify those acts which harm another citizen or their property. Sadly, that does not always hold true, as we are still bound by inane laws against consensual behavior based on nothing more than someone's moral interpretation.
Since criminal acts [aside from the artificial criminality of prostitution] of prostitution are second and third order effects.....criminalizing prostitution can only be logical if every act with our bodies that produces downstream related harmful effects are also criminalized.
Possible secondary and tertiary effects of human behavior cannot be criminalized without transforming society into an authoritarian and repressive state. An opinion that pornography or prostitution contributes to a dissolution of the 'family unit' is both not proven nor rational.
Creating laws to deter temptation or to prevent second and third order effects may make sense in some cases.....but when the medium is the human body and the act is a natural and biological function that in all other cases can still be conducted legally......it is in no way logical, rational nor just.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Welcome to the premiere of Sunday Night Rants. Yes, I know it's only the afternoon here but it's night somewhere, so work with me. I envision this as a weekly series but we'll see. God knows I have the requisite anger but I still have to make the time to put my vitriol on the computer screen.
I begin this rant against the furniture store Ikea. For those who don't know (I have no idea how many of these hellholes have graced our shores), Ikea, which is Swedish for "stupid f****g Americans", specializes in modern home decor. Its claims to fame are affordability (you can do a three room apartment for like $43) and the need to assemble 90% of the goods sold there yourself. But let us begin at the uh...ur...beginning.
Yesterday the wife announced that she wanted to go to Ikea to look for a small sideboard for our kitchen. Why Ikea, I have no idea. While I guess that I should have been happy that for once we were not starting by looking at the most expensive thing and working our way down, having been to Ikea once before I was willing to head to Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel and pay the extra jing.
The weather has sucked all weekend so I knew that the place would be jammed with people who had no where else to be...and I was not disappointed. I must admit however that I was looking forward to "parking lot chess".
I love PLC: the slow, calculated dance of cars in a crowded parking lot, each trying to seek out the elusive perfect spot. You follow people with keys in their hand, you look for reverse lights and then..."SWARM, SWARM". You nail the gas and try to beat everyone else there. Good fun. Lots of accidents. That was the highlight of the afternoon for me.
Ikea is ingeniously designed. Once you enter, you follow a path on the floor that meanders back and forth, threatening to make little ox-bow lakes of items to make sure you see every single freaking item in the store. There are only a few shortcuts but these are carefully hidden and are all but unknown to all but the most battle hardened Ikeaphiles. (Little known historical fact but the Ikeaphiles were supposed to back up the 300 at the Hot Gates but couldn't get out of the original store. You pretty much know what happened after that) Once on the path, you are on the way to Mordor and there is no turning back. It would be easier to rush TOWARD the bulls at Pamploma.
When it is crowded like yesterday, you just sort of go with the crowd. If I had a skateboard, I just would have been pushed along, which would have been nice since the store is ginormous and a really long walk.
Ah the crowd. It was like the UN in there which is fine but for the fact that I do not know how to say "have your f*****g conversation to the side of the path instead of causing a two mile backup with your shopping cart you steaming bag of pus" in 26 different languages. Three, possibly four times my wife caught me daydreaming as she yapped with my mother over various bullshit. My dream consisted of me going all Matrix on the crowd with a morning star in one hand and a war hammer in the other as speed metal blared. It made the time pass.
There are few salespeople in Ikea. It is mostly self serve, which further heightens profits...and homicidal urges, as you can never find anyone to help. Should you corner one of the rare (we are talking getting-your-gear-from-a-custom-maker-before-you-die-of-old-age rare here) indigenous high school drop out urban dwellers in a yellow shirt and ask for help you get a blank, vapid stare that positively screams "I traded my brain for meth".
What you do is take a little piece of paper and a even smaller pencil that are situated everywhere and write down the name, model, isle number and bin number of the item you wish to buy. Yes, isle number and bin number. These are EXTREMELY important if you ever wish to leave Ikea alive with your item. More on this later.
What type of person does Ikea make furniture for you ask? Well, for college students for dorm rooms, first time home or apartment buyers and homeless people, it's great. Also, I imagine it would be perfect for guys who have had the steely rod of divorce law shoved deep into their rectums and whose various milk crates and shopping carts currently furnishing their hovel were repo-ed by Stop and Shop.
All of the stuff has various Swedish sounding names that just have to be made up as they consist mostly of consonants with an occasional umlaut thrown it. Beechwood abounds. Some of the stuff resembles the packing crates that real furniture is shipped in. But it is inexpensive...and this is still further proof of Mr. Ikea's genius. If it's cheap...you can buy MORE!!! I saw a large bin of plastic cubes about one foot square that opened on one end. They were thin, white plastic. They were marked 3 for $5. I had no idea what you would do with them and I'm sure the people surrounding the bin had no idea either.....as they poured them into their carts, one after another. Mr. Ikea, I bow to you.
Now, the fun stuff...the Cavern of Lost Souls or Ikea's warehouse. A gigantic 5 story tall tool shed of a building. Remember the isle and bin numbers? Here's how it works. You have to pick up everything yourself as again, there is no help. You go to the right isle, search for your bin and place the box on the cart. Everything is in flat boxes as they are easier to ship and take up less space to store. They can also be heavy. I am sure that many, many people have been maimed or killed by box crushings.
Should you forget your isle or bin numbers....well. Legend has it that there are people who have wandered through the warehouse since it opened years ago. Once in awhile you will see a poster asking for help in finding someone who ventured to get a Kolmstank or a Pupli or a Sklohimple without the numbers....never to return. The worst turn into a Swedish version of CHUD, sustaining themselves on small children and senior citizens, the two most annoying Ikea roamers.
After loading your garbage you take it to the one place the Ikea has positively fortified with workers, the checkout. Again, you must do the work. Place small items on the conveyor belt and leave the boxes on the cart. Oh yeah. You know that 500 lb box that you had a death struggle with not too long ago? You know, the one that is covered with drops of your sweat, some saliva and quite possibly blood. It needs to be facing forward so the bar code can be read by the scanner. They don't tell you that in the warehouse where it matters but on a little sign at the cashier's station. Half the people there were groaning as they once more locked horns with the heavy boxes. Funniest were the one's with four boxes piled high and only the bottom one facing the wrong way. Those people just sat and cried.
Where Mr. Ikea dropped the ball was on his faith in the bottom rung of the American work force. The cashiers were horrific. Ours couldn't get the credit card machine to work correctly. I hypothezised that her home arrest ankle monitor was interfering with the electronics. You want to bring the Swedish Wave to its knees, pay cash. The whole system crashes. Once more I pondered using my vast professional training to tell Shequeqwa that my purchases were the equivalent of four decks of Mexican brown, two grams of coke and a small rock of meth. She rang us right up.
Today I assembled the sideboard. Took three hours. Didn't want to shoot today anyway. And before I hear from the figures-a-lawyer-can't-do-s**t-for-himself crowd, I grew up in the construction business and know my way around a hammer. The cartoon instruction manual is a little iffy and the quality of the components don't exactly scream "NASA".
So I implore you to learn from my pain and save yourselves. IKEA is one of the greatest threats to our country since turkey Bacon. They should be nuked from orbit..you know, just to make sure.
Thank you and have a Lightfighter kind of evening.
NEXT WEEK: Restaurant Behavior
The Taliban is not a monolithic entity. Today's 'Taliban' is comprised of various groups, each with varying degrees of fundamentalism, economic desires and above all, nationalism. The binding goal between all groups is the desire to rid Afghanistan of Western presence. But those groups are favor nationalism over fundamentalism can and should be approached. Guarantees of a seat at the table or government and the promise of a NATO withdrawal can entice then to unite and reach compromise with the parties currently in Kabul. The entities that favor nationalism, by and large, will not wish for an trans-national terror group infringing or compromising their newly bequeathed sovereignty.
The former 'Taliban' regime [Mullah Omar's boys] is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The IEA enjoys control over large swaths of Afghanistan. They are not included in what could be termed moderate elements of the Taliban. Many of the foot soldiers and low level functionaries of the former regime have, after 2001, melted into the countryside, watching and waiting to see who comes out on top. Lately, that has been the the 'Taliban'. In order to gain support in their struggle, even the radical arms of the 'Taliban' have moderated their ideology. In 2007, Mullah Omar declared that music and parties were now permissible. Insignificant to us, but a cultural long jump for these Muslims. Whether or not that would continue under a renewed Taliban regime would be anyone's guess however.
Several insurgent groups and warlords have been misnomered by politicians, pundits and debaters as 'Taliban'. But many of these groups are ripe for approach in a regional, comprehensive strategy to restore stability to, and to withdraw from Afghanistan. Hizb-i-Islami is such a group, headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and staffed by university educated Afghan's and once a Mujaheddin ally of the CIA.
Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani heads yet another Mujaheddin group [this one aided by Pakistan's ISI], and was once invited by Hamid Karzai to be the Afghani Prime Minister. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is based in Waziristan, fights against the Pakistani Army, but has heard entreaties by Afghan and US sources.
Even pro-war hawk and armchair commando Frederick Kagan maintains the need for understanding, and negotiating with the nationalist arms of the 'Taliban' umbrella.
There is no such thing as "the Taliban" today. Many different groups with different leaders and aims call themselves "Taliban," and many more are called "Taliban" by their enemies. In addition to Mullah Omar's Taliban based in Pakistan and indigenous Taliban forces in Afghanistan, there is an indigenous Pakistani Taliban controlled by Baitullah Mehsud (this group is thought to have been responsible for assassinating Benazir Bhutto). Both are linked with al-Qaeda, and both are dangerous and determined. In other areas, however, "Taliban" groups are primarily disaffected tribesmen who find it more convenient to get help from the Taliban than from other sources.
In general terms, any group that calls itself "Taliban" is identifying itself as against the government in Kabul, the U.S., and U.S. allies. Our job is to understand which groups are truly dangerous, which are irreconcilable with our goals for Afghanistan--and which can be fractured or persuaded to rejoin the Afghan polity. We can't fight them all, and we can't negotiate with them all. Dropping the term "Taliban" and referring to specific groups instead would be a good way to start understanding who is really causing problems.
So while pieces such as the 'Field Guide to Moderate Taliban' are entertaining, they are hardly instructive. Unless one subscribes to the notion that we can either win militarily in Afghanistan, or that we must withdraw posthaste, negotiating with amenable elements of what we refer to as the 'Taliban' is a necessity. This will, of course, not bear any fruit unless accompanied by a regional strategy that includes Iran, Pakistan, India and Russia.....and an answer to the poppy production. But it can be the first step.