Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What every American needs to know

Required reading by guest columnist Blake Hall at Thomas Ricks blog The Best Defense:

From the moment a soldier enters basic training to the day he takes off the uniform, he is taught that to admit weakness is to invite ridicule. In The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien noted how the fear of embarrassment is the greatest motivator of valor. He focused on the negative. Certainly, a hunger for admiration can also enable bravery. But they both center on a certain primal desire for respect we all retain. When I was scared in combat, I knew that I could not shrink from danger, for I would never be able to stand in front of my men again with credibility. So I stood and fought.

We soldiers have been conditioned to never, ever admit we are hurt or suffering. But dealing with the aftermath of war, when you are no longer surrounded by the men who fought with you, when you are no longer working for a chain of command that can give you feedback from a position of authority, when you are alone -- is a battle that far too many of us lose. When some of the bravest guys that I know can't admit weakness, or do admit weakness, and then are subject to ridicule, then I posit that the narrative for the "after," for the persistent battle that we veterans fight for the rest of our lives, should be distinct and separate from the Army's normative weakness -- ridicule relationship that is appropriate for combat.

When you go to sleep tonight, eighteen more veterans will be gone by their own hand. Many more will lay their heads down without shelter, because they have lost their way. The thought that one day David and Jonathan could join their ranks is more than I can bear.

Veterans need to know that it is okay to admit weakness after dealing with the trauma of war. They need to know that they won't be judged for opening up about their pain. They need to know that Americans care.

War Powers revisited

My British friend Julian at Americas Debate penned a great post concerning the War Powers Act and the ability of the Executive to commit the nation to war, so I'm cross-posting his piece, and my response.

[The War Powers Act] So who here would like to restore it?

Yes, with some modification - possibly even a Constitutional amendment, international treaty, etc.. I think the way war used to be declared, providing for the idea of "total war" (where every resource available could be directed toward securing victory, at the discretion of the executive) is a very serious step that should only be taken at a crisis of national survival. Such wars used to be relatively common, in the 18th and 19th centuries, when everybody was trying to invade everyone else (most particularly in Europe, but it also covers resistance against colonial expansionism pretty much everywhere else). Since 1945, there have been such conflicts - Kuwait had a pretty bullet-proof justification for declaring war on Iraq when they were invaded.

I think these days that the idea of a war of national survival for most developed countries is a pretty remote, but still conceivable, possibility, so we need to keep the statutory powers on the books (who knows how a dominant late 21st or 22nd Century China, India, or Brazil will behave?), but make a distinction between that and the type of engagements that the USA (taking it as an example, though the UK, France, Russia etc. aren't far behind in their international post WW2 adventures) has been carrying out without formal declarations of war, but still requiring flag draped coffins in large numbers.

The missing piece of the puzzle needs to be something like a declaration of hostilities. The executive should only get their peacetime powers - to engage, but not to allocate any extra funding without legislative approval. But, and this is really just a failure of the legislature(s - the UK Parliament hasn't been great at this either).

What I'd like to see are some SMART objectives i.e. Specific (exactly what are we trying to achieve?), Measurable (how will we know when we've won?) Achievable (are the aims sensible or possible?) Relevant (are the aims actually worth our aiming for?) and Timed (when will all this be done by?). That's the kind of thing a Congress can sign off on quite sensibly, assuming they agree. But, unlike a "war", where the idea is very much "don't stop until...", the terms of legislative approval on "hostilities" change as soon as any of the objective parameters change. If it's going to take longer than originally planned (as almost every military campaign will), that needs specific approval. If it's going to need to widen in scope because the enemy have moved, that needs specific approval. Not down to getting a Congressional motion signed for every bullet fired, of course - any project has tolerances built in within which the people on the ground have the discretion to vary the plan. But there has to be escalation to the people paying for it - the legislature, and ultimately the people themselves - in instances where the plan goes outside the agreed tolerances. And, of course, there has to be a plan in the first place.

The current Afghan campaign was specific (root out al Qaeda there, and anyone protecting them), measurable (no more attacks on mainland USA), and relevant (a-Q was a real and significant threat in 2001, and several times since). But I'm not sure how achievable it was without thinking about the Pakistani badlands where a lot of activity is now concentrated, and there was no end point set at the outset.

As for Iraq, the campaign wasn't specific (being based as it was on mistakes and falsehoods - the WMDs weren't found because there were never that many, and they'd been used in the Iran-Iraq war, and on Kurds and Marsh Arabs long before 2003), it was measurable (remove Saddam and create a peaceful Western-friendly democracy), it wasn't really relevant (Saddam's Iraq was all mouth and no action, as far as the West was concerned). But, crucially, it wasn't achievable (disbanding the Iraqi army just put a lot of weaponry at the hands of people with a new reason to have a grudge; there was no real understanding of the size of the task because of serious misjudgments e.g. Iraqis would all be lining the streets in gratitude for their "liberation"; etc.)

I think under these kinds of rules for the approval of "declarations of hostilities", we'd have gone into Afghanistan, but with a clearer idea of what and how we were doing, and we wouldn't have gone into Iraq at all.

The problem we've had here in the former colonies, is that power has shifted from the Legislative to the Executive over the last 100 years...and more rapidly over the last 50. It seems clear that the founders intent was that the Executive would not retain the ability to make war. Respond to attack, yes...but initiate no. John Jay in fact wrote Executives will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting any thing by it; absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. And Article I of the Constitution still states that the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to declare war. Unfortunately, vaguely worded Joint Resolutions by Congress have led to such atrocities as the PATRIOT Act and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Congress has essentially abdicated its role and responsibility over Article I by using terminology in the AUMF: That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

The war making powers have been handed over carte blanche to whatever executive resides at 1600 Pennsylvania.

There has been some light placed on this dynamic, one being proposed House Joint Resolution 53. But the likelihood of a dramatic change I fear is slight. Two decent reads on this subject are The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Four Years and The Law, The Baker-Christopher War Powers Commission

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Frater in Telum

Ashamed to be an American

Two U.S. troops are missing in eastern Afghanistan, a military official said Saturday. An Afghan official said one may have been killed and the other captured by the Taliban.Also Saturday, five American troops died in bombings in the south where international forces are stepping up the fight against the insurgents.


And this gets less media attention than skank-ass Lindsey Lohan going to jail? Where are the patriots? Where are the decent Americans to demand a stop to this?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Irresponsible Ignorance of Sarah Palin

As outlined in my previous post Mosque "at Ground Zero"....I'm delighted to bring you a sterling example of ignorant ramblings of popular American politzerazzi.

Earlier today, Mayor Bloomberg responded to my comments about the planned mosque at Ground Zero by suggesting that a decision not to allow the building of a mosque at that sacred place would somehow violate American principles of tolerance and openness.

No one is disputing that America stands for – and should stand for – religious tolerance. It is a foundation of our republic. This is not an issue of religious tolerance but of common moral sense. To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks. Just days after 9/11, the spiritual leader of the organization that wants to build the mosque, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, suggested that blame be placed on the innocents when he stated that the “United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened” and that “in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.” Rauf refuses to recognize that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of our ally, Israel, and refuses to provide information about the sources of funding for the $100 million mosque. Rauf also plays a key role in a group behind the flotilla designed to provoke Israel in its justifiable blockade of Gaza. These are just a few of the points Americans are realizing as New York considers the proposed mosque just a stone’s throw away from 9/11’s sacred ground.

I agree with the sister of one of the 9/11 victims (and a New York resident) who said: “This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists. I think that it is incredibly insensitive and audacious really for them to build a mosque, not only on that site, but to do it specifically so that they could be in proximity to where that atrocity happened.”

Many Americans, myself included, feel it would be an intolerable and tragic mistake to allow such a project sponsored by such an individual to go forward on such hallowed ground. This is nothing close to “religious intolerance,” it’s just common decency.

- Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin's Facebook Page

Ignorant twit.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mosque "at Ground Zero"

The theme being perpetrated throughout the web is that a Mosque is being built AT the site of the WTC. It actually is being built two blocks away. Now, I find the location as repugnant as many others...but why the need to inflame and incite by being dishonest?

If you're message is should stand on it's own. Hyperbole and rhetoric. Such is the currency of today's political climate.

My little blonde fireball

This weekend my lovely wife ran her first 50k Trail Race in Maryland, taking 2nd in her Division!

50k over rough terrain!

(That's 31 miles for us metric-challenged Americans)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The price of an expendable, short-attention span culture....

The U.S. Army on Thursday reported a record number of suicides in a single month among active duty, Guard and Reserve troops, despite an aggressive program of counseling, training and education aimed at suicide prevention. 

Suicides for the first half of the year are up 12 percent over 2009. In June, 32 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide, including 21 on active duty.

Army officials have been grappling in recent years with how to prevent suicides among soldiers dealing with the stress of multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, suicide claimed the lives of 163 soldiers on active duty and 82 Guard and Reserve soldiers not on active duty.
The problem is not isolated to the Army. In 2009, 52 Marines and 48 Sailors took their own lives in 2009, according to a report by the American Forces Press Service. Air Force officials reported 41 active-duty suicides, a 12.5 per 100,000 ratio, in 2009.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.

- Anne Lamott

Fullfilling the enemy's strategic goal

Remember what the pre-9-11 Al Quaeda grand strategic diagnosis of their 'problem set' was: Corrupt, and un-Islamic enough regimes in the Sunni Arab Muslim core, notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council were being propped up by the 'Far Enemy" of the United States and its allies. The far enemy's support allowed the near enemies, to hold onto power by backing them to the hilt with security assistance, economic integration and diplomatic cover.  Fighting the near enemy without severing the critical far enemy support was counter-productive and suicidal as the experience of Egyptian Islamist groups demonstrated numerous times.  Therefore the goal of AQ was to bleed the far enemy so that the far enemy could no longer prop up the near enemies.  We've wasted trillions in Iraq, wasting a trillion in Afghanistan, fractured the only group, the ICU, that has had any success in exercising a limited monopoly of force in Somalia, thereby necessitating increased naval patrols instead of cutting deals to solve piracy from the land, destabilizing Pakistan and pissing off a lot of people who normally would be quite inhospitable to AQ's core message and vision.
COIN is an excellent application of leeches to a hemophiliac.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eight Americans died in Afghanistan in the last 24 hours

Has the corporate news told you that? Liberal media my ass......

What does it say about our culture

when sex is considered obscene.......but violence isn't?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Myth #2 Supported

If you read my last post, my contention that a withdrawal from Afghanistan equates to a returned Taliban Regime and a sanctuary for Al Qaeda is unsupported except by fear. I'm not the only one.......

Will the Taliban want to talk or will they decide - as pro-war boosters would have it - that they can outwait NATO then be in power in Kabul within a month?
Well, a think-tank friend points out that he's seen no serious examination of what is likely to happen if NATO withdraws. There's a lot of loose talk about a swift Taliban take over followed by the inevitable return of Al Qaeda but there's no study taking into account military capabilities as well as demographics, loyalty, motivation, possible comparisons with the slow takeover which took place after the Soviets withdrew etc. The absence of such a study may itself be significant. Last time, it took the Taliban six years to seize Kabul. This time they'd be up against a semi-established central government and US-equipped Northern militias probably supported from "over the horizon" by US firepower?  It begins to sound somewhat like the loose talk of Sunni insurgents taking over Iraq if the US withdrew which was all the rage among pro-war pundits in 2003-07, which anyone who'd spent even a little time getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the various factions knew was rubbish.

If the Taliban, behind their talk of outwaiting occupying Western troops, have already done their own calculations about the chances of their taking over all of Afghanistan again - and come up short - then negotiations are available now and any delay is just causing death to no good purpose. That's pure speculation, to be sure, but without detailled studies of what the West thinks might happen should it negotiate a peace and withdraw then so are the doom-and-gloom warnings of the pro-war lobby. Peace without "winning" would still be a win...for everybody.
Steve Hynd - Newshoggers

Friday, July 9, 2010

Somebody tell me......

Why are we still in Afghanistan? Let's dissect some of the common myths:

Myth #1: Not 'finishing the job' dishonors our fallen.

The premise is preposterous. Losing more Americans in pursuit of this mission is not honoring our fallen Brothers and Sisters. This endeavor is not one of national security; we are not 'fighting for our freedoms'; and we are not securing the homeland either directly of indirectly. Many service-members, whether wounded or not, deployed or not......proclaim a sense of duty to be there in the fight. But one needs to analyze the premise behind this. To be sure, there are some who fervently believe that they are fighting the 'good fight'....for our security and freedom. But many others also support the war out of guilt, revenge, ignorance and misplaced patriotism.

The primary basis of support is simply to be there with one's Brothers; a sense of duty to our comrades. I don't mean to denigrate anyone in uniform....before deploying to Baghdad and witnessing firsthand how the war was not being prosecuted as it was being portrayed, I was a quasi-true believer. I understand firsthand the gamut of emotions that go through a warriors mind concerning the justification and correctness of a given cause, when it involves the clash of arms and accompanying loss.

Myth #2: If we leave, the Taliban will simply swarm back in and Al Qaeda will have another sanctuary.

The Taliban, being a disparate collection of semi-aligned tribes as opposed to a monolithic entity, are defending their nation against foreign invasion. This doesn't mean we approve of the Taliban or their ideology....but our opinion cannot be pasted atop a label. What the Taliban fighters believe is what motivates them, it is what is true for them. To insinuate otherwise is putting ones head in the sand. When we leave, the Karzai Regime will surely fall, and either civil war will emerge, or a coalition government will be formed. Possibly a bit of both. The Taliban will play a part in the future of Afghanistan...don't believe me? Even Karzai has expressed such a view in his peace overtures to them:

According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.

“The president has lost his confidence in the capability of either the coalition or his own government to protect this country,” Mr. Saleh said in an interview at his home. “President Karzai has never announced that NATO will lose, but the way that he does not proudly own the campaign shows that he doesn’t trust it is working.”

People close to the president say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.

“Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.”
The common meme is that once back in power, they would again provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda. This myth is perpetrated without thought, evidence or questioning by the media. After hundreds of hours of interrogations and interviews, we know that there is no love lost between the two organizations. Further, they each have a Islam-based, but separate set of goals and strategy. Finally, the Taliban Regime experienced invasion and devastation once due to that arrangement....somebody show me evidence as to why they would risk that again.

Let's continue.......Al Qaeda doesn't need a country for a sanctuary. That's the fundamental premise of a terror-based organization. They need safe house, not geographic regions. There is no compelling interest for Al Qaeda to return in any numbers to Afghanistan except to attack US and coalition forces. If they did.....unlike our invasion in 2001 where we relied on Soviet maps, we now have networks established with friendly tribes, better cultural understanding, and geospatial knowledge that allows us to locate and target any major presence with impunity.

Myth #3: We have to 'fight them over there' because they 'hate us for our freedoms'.

This myth relies on released statements from Al Qaeda where they rail against the decadent west, infidels and puppets. But interviews and interrogations reveal a different story. Almost to a source, they fight against the west because of the long history of economic and military intervention of Muslim nations, and the installation of dictatorial tyrants. This myth is perpetuated largely because we as Americans shy away from ignominious episodes of our own history. We don't like to be reminded of the darker side of Manifest Destiny, the Philippine Insurrection, slavery, etc...

The information campaign — or as some still would have it, “the war of ideas,” or the struggle for “hearts and minds” — is important to every war effort. In this war it is an essential objective, because the larger goals of U.S. strategy depend on separating the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists. But American efforts have not only failed in this respect: they may also have achieved the
opposite of what they intended.

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.
   • Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.
   • Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World — but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.
   • Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim selfdetermination. 

   • Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack — to broad public support.
   • What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.
   • Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic — namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is — for Americans — really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is of course necessarily heightened by election-year atmospherics, but nonetheless sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims they are
really just talking to themselves.
Defense Science Board Task Force

The clowns on talk radio quite often rail against the current CinC for merely acknowledging these wrongs, calling it 'apologizing'. But the simple fact remains that we have engaged in a form of economic manifest destiny in the oil rich Muslim region, installed horribly corrupt tyrants through nefarious and undemocratic means and intervened militarily wherever we desired out of perceived economic necessity or Cold War strategic chess. Some of these action weren't completely antithetical to both our security situation or alliances...but what matters when your getting attacked, is the mindset of the enemy. Apology or not, we're being targeted due to the Muslim perception of events....not a patriotic spin of the issue.

Given the logical dissection of the reasons we're still in Afghanistan......what premise makes any sense for staying? My earlier post on Gen. McChrystal forced me to re-think Chairman Steele's remarks. In a very real way, since 2009, this IS Obama's war. He could have shown the political courage and analyzed the truths and myths of our occupation, and chosen a new direction. A direction that would be productive in strengthening our national security as opposed to our current counter-productive stance. A direction that would divert money being spent on Taliban-esque Afghan warlords, and instead secured our borders and port security. But most of all.....a direction that would see thousands of smart, promising and loved Americans still alive...instead of dying for a cause that will likely end in an embassy rooftop evacuation in Kabul.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Once again.....apparently all of our nations ills began on January 20th, 2009....

The abuses of our Constitution started long before Obama. Any intelligent and honest American knows that.

Max Blumenthal goes inside the Tea Party from Ram Bam on Vimeo.

h/t to DownWithTyranny

Monday, July 5, 2010

And the laugh track just keeps rolling along.....

I think one thing as a Republican and I think Republicans can be proud of is that we don't politicize foreign wars and we support the President if we think he's right and we don't try to make political hay of difficulties that are being encountered overseas.

Bill Kristol

I'm a new fan of Rocketboom

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Liberal Media, my arse.....

Torture at Times: 
Waterboarding in the Media
The results of this study demonstrate that there was a sudden, significant, shift in major print media’s treatment of waterboarding at the beginning of the
21st century. The media’s modern coverage of waterboarding did not begin in
earnest until 2004, when the first stories about abuses at Abu Ghraib were released. After this point, articles most often used words such as “harsh” or
“coercive” to describe waterboarding or simply gave the practice no treatment, rather than labeling it torture as they had done for the previous seven decades.

There is also a significant discrepancy between the point of view offered by news
articles and opinion pieces published in these papers. Opinion pieces were much
more likely to characterize waterboarding as torture, suggesting that the private
opinion of the editors and contributors did not align with the formal face the
papers were presenting in their objective reporting.  

Yet what caused this change in waterboarding’s treatment over time? Our
data does not give any specific reason for this shift, but merely points to the
existence of this change in syntax. A piece published by the public editor of The
NY Times, Clark Hoyt, 18 suggests that these choices were made deliberately by
journalists and their editors, perhaps in an effort to remain neutral in the debate
going on in the U.S. If the classification of waterboarding as torture is unclear,
Hoyt suggests, then it is irresponsible for journalists to preempt this debate by
labeling it as such. 

The willingness of the newspapers to call the practice torture prior to 2004 seems
to refute this claim. According to the data, for almost a century before 2004 there
was consensus within the print media that waterboarding was torture. Yet once
reports of the use of waterboarding by the CIA and other abuses by the U.S.
surfaced, this consensus no longer held, despite the fact that the editors
themselves seem to have still been convinced that waterboarding was torture,
often labeling it as such in their editorials. 

The classification of waterboarding is not unclear; the current debate
cannot be so divorced from its historical roots. The status quo ante was that waterboarding is torture, in American law, 19 international law, 20 and in the
newspapers’ own words. Had the papers not changed their coverage, it would
still have been called torture. By straying from that established norm, the
newspapers imply disagreement with it, despite their claims to the contrary. In
the context of their decades‐long practice, the newspaper’s sudden equivocation
on waterboarding can hardly be termed neutral.

Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy

Celebrate Independence Day......

by remembering what is truly important.......not what they tell you is important.

Green Day - 21 Guns

The List | MySpace Video

Saturday, July 3, 2010

William H. Steiling July 14, 1926 - June 19, 2010

Bill Steiling was my grandfather, and one could not find a better man to fill those shoes. But as if that weren't enough...he was much more. He was my role model on how to be a man, a husband and a father. He was the rock of stability during my troubled years of adolescence, and he was the anchor to which I always knew the family was safe during my many years away. He may never have known the impact he had on my life, and I never realized it until much too late.

He taught me how to be honest and unassuming. He taught by example that the greatest rewards in life were service to one’s nation, community and above all, family. He was an infinite wealth of knowledge, but always made you feel like it was you who had come up with the answer to a problem. The spirit of giving and self sacrifice loomed no larger in any other man. Acknowledging that we are all better for it, is an understatement.

Bill Steiling was also Seamen 1st Class aboard a US Navy Destroyer, during some of the most historic battles of the 20th century. Though if you brought that up, he would probably look away bashfully and steer the conversation towards your latest accomplishments. That he comes from “the Greatest Generation” only serves to honor that term, based not merely on his service during war, but in how he raised and shepherded the family sitting here today. He will be missed dearly, but his strengths have been passed to us…….through blood or friendship….and I can think of no greater gift from him. There is also not a greater duty upon us, than to honor his memory than by continuing to pass those gifts down to our families.

 60th Wedding Anniversary video

Friday, July 2, 2010

Are you EFFING kiddng me???

I'm not sure why the Republican Party so so set against my ever joining common cause with them, but here goes reason number 2,345:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele may be misremembering exactly how and when the Afghanistan war began.
At a Republican Party fundraiser in Connecticut on Thursday, Steele declared that the war in Afghanistan "was a war of Obama's choosing" that America had not "actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in," in a response to an attendee's question about the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- which Steele called "very comical."
"The McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical. And I think it's a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders have with this Administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan," said Steele. "Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in."
"It was one of those, one of those areas of the total board of foreign policy ["in the Middle East"? -- Note: The audio is not quite clear in this section.] that we would be in the background, sort of shaping the changes that were necessary in Afghanistan as opposed to directly engaging troops," Steele continued. "But it was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan."

Mike.....Mike....Have you forgotten the grammatically challenged swaggering CinC who executed the invasion and 'land war' in 2001...then turned away to pursue an unrelated military adventure in 2003? Have you forgotten all of the pretend patriotic bluster when anyone came close to questioning the strategies for both? Way to go in illustrating how intellectually stunted your party is to keep you on as head mouthpiece. I mean, we all expect political hacks to lie, deceive and bloviate, but you've taken dishonesty to a new level. Bravo....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My little Scottish Highlander

Church and State

Full disclosure…….I am a devout Agnostic. I have not been hit over the head, had an epiphany, been saved or witnessed a miracle that could not be explained. I want there to be an afterlife, but blind faith removed from the above experiences just smacks of hedging ones bets. Rather shallow and transparent to a god. That being said, I have been exposed to and educate myself on matters of religion. And as such, I believe that religion based divisiveness is part of the current political problem in our nation. I fully support the right and freedom to worship as you please or not at all.....but government must be secular in order to administer fairly to all of her citizens. That doesn't mean that laws based on Judeo-Christian tenets are incompatible with secular law.....but theocracy is utterly incompatible with free will and liberty. The line must be found in the middle.

That is clearly not enough for many people. So my question is this: what tenet of secular law [the US Constitution] prohibits or restricts the right and ability to practice the worship of a faith? Is faith a deep personal relationship with ones creator...or is it a badge to wear, or recruitment contest?

My point being, I have zero problems with a deeply faithful person holding elected office, but it doesn't make me feel any more secure that the person in question holds themselves accountable to an invisible, unprovable deity. I believe it to be a sad state of affairs that no national candidate is likely to garner money or votes if they are not seen as sufficiently faithful, no matter how adept of a leader they may be.

An elected official should be held accountable to those who placed him/her in that office. Additionally, being of faith certainly hasn't kept those from committing the litany of ethical, moral or criminal transgressions.

The gist of my problem is the seemingly uncontrollable desire to codify and criminalize consensual acts between adults, based on theology [or rather man's interpretation of such]. Gambling, prostitution, sodomy, adultery, fornication, cohabitation, alcohol purchase on Sundays, abortion...[the list goes on]....can be debated fairly in regards to possible detriments to society; but to argue for or codify these based on biblical law, doesn't make any sense....unless we live in a theocracy. I cannot understand the need to rule others based on a personal religious belief, and still maintain that one stands for individual liberty and freedoms. They can intertwine, but are not always compatible.

Don't forget that much of what we thought throughout human history had to be attributed to god, because we simply didn't know any better. I believe that an intellectual evolution in this regard is an inevitable part of the process. As science explains the things on our world, faith is going to lose some adherents.

Morality is subjective; faith is not universal; and faith is not always compatible with individual rights and liberty. The simple illustration of that fact is that when speaking of Christian tenets, many people either desire or don't mind being governed by them. Replace Christian with XXXX religion and you get an entirely different paradigm. At the risk of sounding Vulcan, governing by a belief in something unprovable is illogical. The beauty of our secular system....the Constitution, is that nobody is forced to believe or disbelieve. Nobody is restricted in living their lives strictly by the religious tome of their choice, as long as they do not harm, steal or restrict the liberty of others.

Now, one may argue that mankind may be reduced to its lowest common denominator if not guided by a faith...I think that our ability to craft effective secular law refutes that. I think that one would have to admit that we have witnessed that lowest common denominator throughout history because of religion as much as because of a lack of it. If secular law prohibits and punishes for offenses that are also offenses against god, then we should be in agreement. If offenses are to be punished because they are against biblical law [or rather man's interpretation], but do no harm to other citizens, that is tyranny. Possibly tyranny of the majority, but tyranny nonetheless.

And there's the evil of governance based on religious morals. It's about control. In my experience, [and apologies if this shoe doesn't fit whomever is reading this] those who pursue dismantling the separation of religion and government [or church and state if you will] desire to impose their beliefs on the rest of society. It's not enough for them to live their lives as adherent to a religious tome as they see fit....they want to codify their morals, often based on nothing more than 'beliefs'.

Society should always have some regulation to insure the safety of its citizens. And secular law is not always perfectly applied, but it retains the opportunity to come closest to that goal. Religion based governance is inherently and invasive subjective. Coinciding with that is the fact that the scale of 'right and wrong' is vast and slippery compared with secular law. One can run the gamut from allowing Christian nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn to outlawing strip clubs, criminalizing oral sex and mandatory prayer in public school.

I summarize by contending that more faith in the citizenry isn't a bad thing, as long as it remains a personal relationship and not a political crusade. I did not think I had, nor did I ever intend to paint all believers with the same brush, but the offenders are out there, and are active in politics. This I believe aids the decline of critical thought and patriotic activism just as much as globalism, progressivism or other lemming-like attitudes of many of our brethren.

Tell me where I'm wrong.

Get it straight!

The 4th of July is a date on a calender. The upcoming holiday this weekend is INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Quit caving into the commercialization of holiday sales.