One Veteran's Voice

19 October 2006

Report Card on Vet Issues

How does Congress really stack up on Veterans' issues?

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American Action Fund has compiled a report card of each member of Congress. Basically, they took the voting history on 169 House Votes and 155 for the Senate since September 11, 2001 and scored them on an A to F scale. (See http://www.iava.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2056&Itemid=214 for an in-depth explanation of the scoring.)

Most results seem to suggest that Democrats are doing more for Veterans than Republicans. This may or may not be true. The key is analyzing the 169 and 155 selected votes. (See which votes were selected by visiting http://capwiz.com/iava/keyvotes.xc/?lvl=C)

See how your Senators and Representatives did at http://capwiz.com/iava/dbq/officials/.

Notable Senators and Representatives:
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) Chair of the Veteran's Affairs Committee, D-
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) Minority Leader, A-
John McCain (R-AZ), D
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), B
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), A-
Dennis Hastert (R-IL) Speaker of the House, F

25 September 2006

We're in deep and on the cheap!

http://irritatedvet.blogspot.com

A quick volley on the Army's latest "not so fast" moment.

24 September 2006

Vindication

Finally, our own government (at least a facet of it) admits what I and other pragmatists like me have been screaming for the last two years or so-- that the Iraq War is the new and best recruiting tool for Islamic radicals, and is hindering our efforts to fight terrorism.

I haven't been blogging much. School is monopolizing my time, and I have been working as a bouncer/vomit cleaner as well, a job that occasionally gives me the opportunity to vent rage in a non-sociopathic outlet. Sports also work.

Rage is something I have been experiencing a lot of lately, but also a lot of hope. The duality of man, or whatever. Peace signs on helmets, and dead gooks covered in lime. If I were still in the Cav, I would be getting ready to deploy again, like a lot of my buddies are now. I wish I could send a lot of the smug, smartassed frat boys whose puke I clean up every Friday to Iraq in their places. Actually, I wouldn't wish Iraq on my worst enemy. Our worst enemies, however, are apparently quite fond of it.

10 September 2006

It's almost 9/11 again...

...do you know where Osama bin Laden is?

No?

That's OK, neither do I. Nor do Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (unless - getting a bit Machiavellian here - they are holding him for an October Surprise).

But the reality is that we're so deep in Iraq, so overcommitted, so painted into a corner, that we don't have the resources to commit to Afghanistan or Pakistan to find this SOB and take him off the radar screen.

As I mentioned some time ago here, the U.S. is truly in a bad spot. If the proverbial balloon goes up somewhere else (ie North Korea, Iran, Taiwan Straits - or even Bermuda!), this nation does not have the military wherewithal to counter those threats in a conventional sense.

Sure, we have the Navy and Air Force, but winning a war is done on the ground. In this day and age, air and naval wars just aren't gonna cut it. Meanwhile, the Army and USMC are doing all they can - scraping the bottom of the barrel, sometimes - to get enough equipment and manpower to field a combat unit.

Yet, the administration marches on, with their only defense against stupid policy being the old "If you ain't with us, you're against us!" line.

To revert briefly to my teenage years: "Whatever, dude!"

I'll be back soon with more comments on this - just had to check in after a few days away.

03 August 2006

The Emperor's Clothes

Greetings all:

This is my first post on here - it's late, and I've not a lot of time tonight, but I invite you over to IrritatedVet (see link at right) to get an idea of how bad it's gotten of late, as I see it.

Our high-speed generals, feeling the heat on the Hill today, are only a toe-tap away from admitting that, yes, dear friends and neighbors, the War in Iraq has devolved into a civil war. Yes, the Emperor's Clothes are gone.

The AP story on this tonight is headlined "Generals raise fears of Iraq civil war;" as one who's seen it up close and personal, I submit that they need not fear so much. Why?

Because it IS INDEED a civil war already. It's still building, and I belive the Shia are going to be the first to take up major-league arms and take the fight to the open streets, soon. Not market bombings, not kidnapping/murders, but all-out urban warfare on Sunnis and others they don't dig on, which pretty much includes all non-Shia Arabs.

The Shia have had plenty of under-the-table help from Iran - some of the rockets that fell on my base had Farsi writing on them. In the Military Intelligence world, we call something like that an "indicator."

I will be back sometime soon (I'm on vacation this week). Feel free to drop me an email with solutions to this mess. I'm struggling to come up with them, and I am at a huge loss. We're in deep, and if the balloon goes up somewhere else, the U.S. is truly in a bad way. Any ideas?

30 July 2006

We're training them over there, so they're more lethal when they get here.

If you're one of those people who actually believes that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a legitimate front in the all-encompassing War on Terror, check out this story, detailing the Mahdi Army's plans to send 1,500 elite fighters to Lebanon. I am sure some of these men will include those my unit fought against in Sadr City. I know from personal experience that they were pretty decent at constructing anti-tank IEDs back in 2005, so I can only imagine they've gotten better. Hope the Israelis are ready.

It's great that our actions in Iraq are making the world a safer place, ain't it?

29 July 2006

What Crisis?

Please welcome Irritated Vet to the blogosphere, and to this blog. Blog blog glob blog.

I am now 25, as of a few days ago. Happy birthday to me, I'm a quarter century, I'm halfway to FIFTY? Huh?
...how time is slipping underneath our feet...

Now that Tucker and Anderson Cooper are on the scene, it's a bonafide crisis. Before, it was a crisis, sure, but now it's a jagged letter humanitarian disaster type crisis with a freakin cherry on top.

HEADLINE SCREAMS
Day 18 of the Crisis in the Mideast

SHOULD READ
Year 3 of the Crisis in the Mideast

OR POSSIBLY
Millenia Three of the Crisis in the Mideast

It's only a crisis when all the cable anchors show up and start twenty-four hour coverage. Tucker is reporting from an Israeli artillery position, marveling gleefully at the power of the concussion as the howitzer lobs a 155mm round onto anonymous Lebanese. Real tasteful and informative journalism.

If these guys are really these great war correspondents, and not just ratings whores, why aren't Tucker and Anderson in Iraq, where the bigger, nastier war is ongoing? I guess there's only so much danger one reporter can take. Not that I blame them. Who wants to be beheaded on national TV?

An only slightly more appealing existence would be Condi Rice's. The United States cannot engineer a sustainable cease fire in the Mideast anymore than we can engineer peace in Iraq.

The Prime Minister is taking immediate action to implement a plan to improve security and his top priority is around Baghdad. Operation Together Forward started this morning. This operation is a joint effort to restore security and rule of law to high-risk areas in the capital city. It will be carried by some 26,000 Iraqi soldiers, some 23,000 Iraqi police, backed up by over 7,200 coalition forces. Iraqi troops will increase the number of checkpoints, enforce a curfew, and implement a strict weapons ban across the Iraqi capital. Baghdad is a city of more than 6.5 million residents, and we've got to recognize that it's going to take time for these operations to take hold.

Bush press conference, June 14th

Now I hear they're sending more troops to Baghdad, as well as extending one brigade another 4 months. It's not fair to overextend our military just because the political will for a draft is nonexistent. Shinseki testified that it would take a half million US troops to properly secure Iraq. Three years later, we're still trying to do it on the cheap, and we're still failing. Doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

CONCLUSION

Our leaders are insane.

19 July 2006

Pandering to the Basest

Destroying a single-celled potential human in order to benefit actual diseased humans=MURDER.

Bombing a target where actual human children are known to be present in order to kill an actual human adult=COLLATERAL DAMAGE.

President Bush, your first veto marks you as one of the biggest hypocrites to ever walk the face of the earth. There is no morality at work here other than survival of the politically fit--and you have chosen the wrong side. The more you rally the base, the harder the eventual backlash will be. The silent majority is rational, and this most recent great awakening is hating, burning, and bombing itself out.

To all the so-called Christians out there who support holy war but not stem cell research-- I wish I could give you Alzheimer's and drop a 2000lb bomb on your child.

Yeah, I'm feeling real dark today. Bring it on.

17 July 2006

The Biggest Crisis since the Last, Until the Next...

It's hard not to be disturbed by the events transpiring in the supposed Holy Land. The other day on Meet the Press, I watched Newt Gingrich make a compelling case for the inevitability of World War III which, at least in Newt's twisted vision, will involve the United States, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and presumably Israel. Of course, the Iraqi insurgency shows no signs of slowing, so we'll have to continue to be involved there as well. When asked by a bemused Tim Russert if our military entanglement in Iraq is hampering the ability of the U.S. to wage a larger campaign against the axis of evil, Newt replied, "Only in our minds." My friend, watching with me, scoffed. I decided to play devil's advocate.

"He's right, you know. But we'd have to have a draft. We won WWII, so it's not like we don't have the natural resources to wage and win a multi-front, global war."

"This isn't WWII, or III," my friend replied.

"I agree with you. But if Newt or someone like him ever gets elected, this will be WWIII. Shit, Bush probably wouldn't mind turning it into WWIII, if he gets a good enough excuse. It would take all the focus off Iraq. Imagine Iran gets provoked into direct action against Israel. Israel and the U.S. bomb the shit out of Iran. Syria shoots at Israel; Israel shoots at Syria; Iraq degrades into all-out anarchy and civil war, with an air war between the U.S. and Iran going on overhead, at least for a short while. The bigger missiles start getting fired. Iran threatens to nuke Israel, Israel considers preemptive nuclear strikes. That's not even taking into account the Northeast Asian front, where Newt is presumably going to be ridding the world of Kim Jong-il. That war will be the bloodiest, but it'll be over quick, after a military coup with Chinese connections takes out Dear Leader and replaces him with a more pragmatically communist regime. And then we'll be politely asked to leave and buy whatever cheap plastic doodads they choose to manufacture." I was engrossed with the vision, and for a brief instant had felt a kinship with Newt. We could do it. Sacrifice for the empire, the fatherland--Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. The feeling faded as I remembered the end result of such schemes.

"None of it has to happen, and if it does, and they institute the draft for a Holy War, that's it. I'm gone. And you'll definitely get called back, so you better take off too." My friend is an unabashed leftist who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. He's one of the few left with a conscience, and I have no doubt that it may force him into expatriacy before this is all over.

"I think I'd rather go to jail than flee my home. Why can't we all consider ourselves as citizens of the world first?"

"Oh shit, here he goes with the one-world-government spiel again..."

"It's the only way to arbitrate international disputes and truly end the ever looming threat of total war. Paradoxically, the one world government has to have real military muscle, and may have to engage in limited war. The end result, however, would be much fewer resources spent on weaponry, more on development, which would fuel the cycle of peace and prosperity for all the world's citizens."

"And it won't get the military muscle until it is seen to be totally legitimate by all the major players. I've heard all this before, but how does any of it relate to what's going on now?"

"Jerusalem. As part of a long-term Middle East peace settlement, military control of the city is handed over to the blue helmets. Some kind of international commission is set up to govern the city, made up of equal numbers of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic members. Israel returns to its original borders in exchange for normalized relations with all the Islamic states, which all agree to aggressively pursue and prosecute all extremists that continue to operate in their countries. Violence subsides, oil production increases, and revenues are used for development instead of armaments."

"Sounds like a pipe dream to me. Didn't I read something like that in a Tom Clancy novel?"

"Screw you. Now who's arguing for the inevitability of war?"

"I'm arguing more for the depravity of man."

"Goddamn Puritan, nothing ever changes."

"Fucking Dutchman!"

"I declare WAR!"

"Death to the Anglo-Saxon invaders!"

"FREEEEEDDDDOOOOOMMMMMM!"

"Even if we're just joking, look what we've reverted to. There's really no hope, is there?" The absurdity of my hastily fabricated middle-east peace plan hit me. Israel will never agree. Iran will never agree. It's going to take WWIII.

"Might as well move to someplace like Switzerland and ride it out."

"Even that won't help us if global warming turns Europe into a huge freezer. Maybe someplace in South America would be a better choice. And what ever happened to bird flu? Notice how fast that one went away? Wait a minute. We're basing all these assumptions on TV. They just want to terrify us into watching the news. We're playing into their hands. The world isn't as bad as they say, and even if it is, it's not bad for the reasons they say. WWIII isn't even close, and we should turn off the news and do something enlightening."

"It's Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out, right?"

"How about: Pay attention to the worst problems first, if we're going to mess around in international politics. People are slaughtered and starved to death in Africa, and we worry about two dozen dead Israelis."

"It's all true, but this is a Holy War. No war is further from being utilitarian than a holy war."

"Our God is democracy."

"Even though our only stable partners in the Mid-East are repressive monarchies, and recent democratic elections in the region have brought radicals to power?"

"God works in mysterious ways."

"Our God isn't democracy. It's oil. Any cynic knows that."

"Yeah, I almost bought into the cause. Even democracy doesn't seem like a good reason to kill anymore. Those people waste it, because they've got too much religion. They're repressed, and they follow the clerics like blind sheep."

"Kind of like how we followed Bush into Iraq."

"Like I followed him into Iraq. You were against it, remember?"

At this point, the conversation turned away from the inevitability of war, and Meet the Press had long since ended. I went to bed and had nightmares involving President Gingrich laughing hellishly over an image of Jerusalem disappearing in a mushroom cloud.

Today I woke up and turned on the news. More rockets were falling. Forty dead in Baghdad. The war drums beat on, and just when I think they can't get any louder, another joins in the chorus. Let's get it on and blow each other up, or stop blowing hot air and start disarming. What kind of paranoid freak needs an ICBM, anyway? A handgun suffices for me. The policy of non-proliferation (and its reactionary corollary, the 1% doctrine) is dead, because nuclear technology is potentially accessible to everyone, even third world backwaters like Iran and North Korea. Proliferation has already occurred. The new policy must either be "Nukes for all," or "No nukes for anyone."

Once our foreign policy makes sense again, we can take steps to make it a reality. Some neocons are actually arguing that the U.S. should give Japan nukes in order to further our supposed policy of Non-proliferation. Proliferate to Non-proliferate. It is a self-centered policy, and it's already failed.

Deproliferation is the safest policy to pursue, now that the possibility of radical organizations acquiring nuclear material is real. The reality of globalization makes the likelihood of superpowers waging war against each other extremely minimal. That remote possibility is certainly not worth the risk of having thousands of thermonuclear weapons sitting around, just waiting for the right madman to get his hands on one. The United States must lead by example, get Russia, China, and France on board, and then begin disarming others. U.N. resolutions with the threat or prosecution of force might be needed to disarm some. But if we're going to fight a world war, let's fight it for the only just reason--lasting peace. Not only for clarity of conscience, but because we will lose if we fight for the wrong reasons. Fight for the New Order of the Ages. Or one could fight for Newt. Obey Dear Leader, and do not question the cause, because the cause is just. If it comes to that, I'll either be in prison, or chillin in Rio with my friend. Last night I was leaning towards prison. Right now, I'm pretty sure it'll be Rio. But it won't come to that, because we're sane, rational people, us Americans. Right?

05 July 2006

99% Deflated

I wonder if there is a 1% chance that North Korean nut job Kim Jong-il will ever mount one of the nukes he has threatened us with on one of the long range rockets he has been wantonly shooting off in our general direction.

I wonder if there was a 1% chance that Iraqi nut job Saddam Hussein would have ever mounted one of the nukes he didn't have on one of the long range rockets he didn't have and wasn't threatening us with.

Sucks to be Dick Cheney right now. Lookin pretty limp, Dick, if you ask me.

22 June 2006

Victory over terror is not being afraid

ME
I wrote a post about a week ago, but my computer crashed and it was deleted. I was disheartened, and didn't write another one till now. Unfortunately, this post isn't as well formed--more like a collection of random thoughts compiled over the last couple of days. If you get bored, stop reading.

Summer school is halfway over-- it's only four weeks long, so everything seems crammed into a short time, with classes lasting two hours. I bike to class every day, learn for four hours, go to the gym, then bike back home. After that I am generally less productive. Aside from practicing bass guitar, I haven't been engaged in much extracurricular intellectual activity, i.e. this blog. I don't really have an excuse for this, but in some respect I think the increase in physical activity balances out the equation. I recently filled up my car's gas tank for the first time in about a month-- amazing how much money riding a bike can save. But I generally waste that money on beer, so I guess I've got a ways to go in the pursuit of the virtues of temperance and thrift. If those are in fact virtues; I'm more of an all things in moderation guy. Except I don't practice what I preach.

IRAQ
What does winning in Iraq even mean, at this point? It's true that we don't want to go off skulking like a whipped dog, it's bad for the country's morale. I want us to "win". But if a large, longterm U.S. military occupation in Iraq creates more security issues than it resolves, the logical strategic conclusion is to scale down our presence and let the Iraqis take charge, giving all support to them, short of massive numbers of ground forces. Bush has already said that withdrawing troops from Iraq will be an issue for future presidents to decide. I forecast more war. With scattered radioactive cloud cover and high gas prices.

IMAGINARY
You turn on the TV and heard this:

My Fellow Americans,

Acting in my capacity as Commander and Chief, after long discussions with my Iraqi counterpart, and under the advice of top generals and diplomats, in recognition of the significance of the formation of the unity Iraqi government, of the increasing strength and willingness to fight of its armed forces, and as a gesture of goodwill to and faith in those Iraqis who might oppose foreign occupation but support the new, free, and democratic Iraq in its fight against fanaticism, I have ordered the redeployment of 30,000 U.S. troops over the course of the coming weeks. We will continue to man and defend airfields in Iraq from which to support Iraqi ground forces in the fight, and this will continue into the foreseeable future, until Iraqi air power is up to the task. U.S. ground forces will be consolidated onto fewer bases, and will take a less active role in day to day security operations. This initial redeployment will be followed by future redeployments as our military presence in Iraq is steadily diminished, and power is transferred to the Iraqi security forces.

It would be a mistake for the terrorists to view this as an act of retreat, but as a recognition that the Iraqi government and its forces are increasingly up to the job that they, and not U.S. troops, are best suited for. It is not a sign of defeat, but a sign of the strength and legitimacy of the new Iraqi government. For reasons of logistics, and to insure a smooth transition of power, this redeployment cannot be total and immediate, but it will occur. For reasons of operational security and flexibility, exact timetables for troop movements will not be given. In the coming days, the Iraqi government will outline a procedure that will allow some insurgents to lay down their arms and rejoin the political process. There will be a limited amount of time for insurgents to make this choice. After this window closes, Iraqis who continue to take up arms will be regarded as enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government, and will be treated as such. Al-Queda terrorists will continue to perpetrate acts of violence in Iraq with the goal of provoking civil unrest and sectarian strife, but their violent doctrine is increasingly being rejected by Iraqis, and it will be defeated.

Special operations forces and U.S. air power will be used to strike Al-Queda wherever they are found, including Iraq, but the war against Al-Queda will ultimately be won by the rejection of its beliefs. Iraqis are leading this fight. We will continue to support them. Thank you, good night, and long live the
Novus Ordo Seclorum.
-CLICK-

22 May 2006

VA Security Breach

It appears the VA, the government department tasked to aid and support our soldiers, has experienced a security breach. (See http://firstgov.gov/veteransinfo.shtml)

According to the information release, "The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently learned that an employee, a data analyst, took home electronic data from the VA, which he was not authorized to do. This behavior was in violation of VA policies. This data contained identifying information including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. [...] The employee's home was burglarized and this data was stolen."

The VA is working with other government agencies and news media to get the word out. I'm thinking that a rash of websites will soon crop up, claiming that for a minimal fee, the site will identify if the Vet's records were stolen and then provide info to better protect identity. I recommend that before anyone spends money falling for an internet scam, they see the government websites first.

It's great knowing that a failure on the warrior's part could mean a war at home; but then when we come home, a failure on the VA's part means a war on my finances and identity. No worries though, they aren't worth a damn anyway.

21 May 2006

God Hates Fags, Bourbon Street, Abortion, the Iraq War, Soldiers, and YOU!


Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. is the spiritual leader of a small church in Topeka, Kansas. During the 60's he was a civil rights attorney, advocating on behalf of blacks. Inexplicably, he now spends his time protesting the funerals of American servicemembers killed in the War on Terror, asserting that their deaths are divine retribution for the American military's morally ambiguous "Don't ask, Don't Tell" policy towards homosexuality. At the funerals, church members hold signs proclaiming "God Hates Your Tears," "Thank God For Dead Soldiers," "God is America's Terror," "Thank God For 9/11," and "God is Your Enemy," among others. Increasingly, Phelps' church has been met by overwhelming numbers of counterprotesters, a group of motorcyclists calling themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, who block the pickets from being seen by funeral goers.
"At that service for Staff Sgt. Mark A. Wall, who died April 27 of a heart attack in Iraq, riders formed a line in front of the protesters and kept their backs to them. When members of the church group started to sing a doctored version of 'God Bless America,' some riders revved their bike engines."
The protests have led various state legislatures to adopt laws restricting the right of people to picket funerals. Many experts in constitutional law warn that, when challenged, the laws won't hold up in court.
"'Our position is that you don't honor fallen heroes by trampling on the constitution that they swore to uphold,' said Marv Johnson, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union."
As someone who values civil liberties, I have my own reservations about laws restricting protest, but my tolerance has its limits. Phelps incenses me, which means he wins, I suppose, but screw it-- some people need to be rubbed out. People like Osama. People like Pastor Phelps.

Legal Disclaimer-- I do not advocate violence against anyone whom the government does not.


Being a former soldier, I abhor Pastor Phelps' message. It strikes a deeply personal chord and tests the limits of my restraint. The Christian thing to do would be to show only Christ's love and forgiveness to the Pastor and his misguided flock, all of whom seem to have forgotten that fundamental aspect of their religion.

But as I've said here before, I'm not a Christian. I believe in extending the olive branch until the other guy extends the sword, at which point the hand behind my back hiding the sword swings into action and cuts down the other guy before he can cut me. But Phelps hasn't resorted to violence, just preaches it, and so we, who claim to be a free society where such civil liberties are protected, must allow Phelps to continue to exist and protest, even if he disgusts us. Despite the lessons I learned in Iraq, I am still (somewhat) civilized, and resolved to use physical violence only to defend myself from the same. My days of killing for ideology are over. Sometimes I wonder if I was shooting at the wrong color religious wackjobs when I was an ideological killer-for-hire. Maybe I should've concentrated my efforts on the homefront. Too late now--damn humanistic morality compelling me not to kill--always making life complicated. I guess it's easier to blame the fags. It's definitely easy to blame Phelps. Hating dead soldiers isn't too popular these days.

After the rage subsides, I think about the recent statements of other, more respected, American fundamentalists:
Katrina gave us a preview of what America would look like if we fail to fight the war on terror. "Did God have anything to do with Katrina?," people ask. My answer is, he allowed it and perhaps he allowed it to get our attention so that we don't delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is put things back the way they were and life will be normal again.

~Charles Colson, former Nixon special-counsel and radio commentator

It seems clear that the prophetic times I have been expecting for decades have finally arrived. And even worse, it appears that the judgment of America has begun. I warn continually that the last days lineup of world powers does not include anything resembling the United States of America. Instead, a revived Roman Empire in Europe is to rule the West, and then the world.

~Hal Lindsey

But have we found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected in some way? And he goes down the list of the things that God says will cause a nation to lose its possession, and to be vomited out. And the amazing thing is, a judge has now got to say, "I will support the wholesale slaughter of innocent children" in order to get confirmed to the bench. And I am sure Judge Roberts is not going to say any such thing. But nevertheless, that's the litmus test that's being put on, the very thing that could endanger our nation. And it's very interesting. Read the bible, read Leviticus, see what it says there.

~Pat Robertson
These assertions are, unlike those of Fred Phelps, believed by millions of god-fearing American Christians. Reading God's mind and interpreting His will isn't entirely confined to the right wing, either.
And as we think about rebuilding New Orleans, surely God is mad at America, he's sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane and it's destroying and putting stress on this country. Surely he's not approving of us being in Iraq under false pretense. But surely he's upset at black America, also. We're not taking care of ourselves...
We ask black people: it's time. It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans...This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be.

~Recently re-elected Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin
In a strictly logical sense, a sense the faithful don't seem to exercise, Phelps, who identifies the death of Americans in battle as proof of God's disapproval of our military's policy towards homosexuals, is on the same tenuous ground as Nagin, who identifies Katrina as proof of God's disapproval of an immoral war in Iraq, or Robertson, who identifies the same event as proof of God's wrath against legalized abortion. The men who advance these views all claim to know the will of God. Fred Phelps is really no different from Pat Robertson, he's just more in your face. The proof of God's wrath identified by Phelps, dead soldiers, is simply more narrowly defined (and politically unpopular) than Robertson's, which includes entire cities and nations as being potential targets of God's wrath. The premise of these fallacious religio-historical arguments is always the same-- God is angry, I know why, and the proof is [insert catastrophe here].

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their [the clergy's] hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

A portion of this statement (not the part specifically identifying the clergy, of course) is inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial, and the phrase, "sworn upon the altar of God," has been taken literally by conspiracy theorists eager to prove that Jefferson was a member of one of the free-thinking secret societies existent during his day-- all interesting tidbits to consider when religious conservatives invoke the memory of Jefferson and the other founding fathers to justify theocracy. An especially ironic coincidence is Jefferson's choice of the word "abortion" to describe the destruction of the clergy's hopes for an American theocracy. Now, abortion is the great political rally point for Christian fundamentalists desirous to impose theocracy.

Like Jefferson, I hope for the speedy return of our country's good sense. This November, Karl Rove and the GOP will attempt to mobilize Christian fundamentalists with homophobic ballot initiatives that seek to prohibit gay marriage and adoption. I know how Fred Phelps will vote. I know how Pat Robertson will vote. They believe that a vote to allow gay marriage is a vote for immorality, a vote that justifies a vengeful God eager to smite down this country with hurricanes and dead soldiers. If you're a fence sitter, like me, on the issue of whether homosexuality is a result of nature, nurture, or some combination-- consider if you can afford to be a fence sitter when it comes to the more relevant issue of gay rights. Will you vote with Fred Phelps and the other tyrants of the mind, or will you assert your American right to overthrow tyranny in all its forms?

Further Reading:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12071434/ Behind their hate, a constitutional debate
Riders Shield Military Families
Funeral Protests Force Free Speech Debate
Religious conservatives claim Katrina was God's omen, punishment for the United States
Transcript of Nagin's speech

16 May 2006

...Against all enemies, foreign and domestic

As someone who once swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, I find it troubling that President Bush seems to have such disdain for the rule of law that same document details. I believe he's even expressed it on occasion ("It's just a goddamn piece of paper"). The fourth amendment is not a quaint ideological concept made irrelevant by 9/11-- it is all that stands between the descent of a government of laws into a totalitarian state that may search and seize the "persons, houses, papers, and effects" of its citizenry without probable cause or consent.

There's little doubt in my mind that the government's "Terrorist Surveillance Program" extends beyond anything that's been confirmed thus far by the NY Times or USA Today. Only time will tell, but I would be surprised if the NSA's not keeping databases on email activity and/or sifting through email content to search for key phrases. Who knows if they're wise to the text-messaging trend yet? Nobody knows much, but each new revelation seems to broaden the scope of the domestic surveillance.

The Bush loyalists (I hesitate to use the term conservative, because no self-respecting conservative would tolerate the massive, Orwellian intrusion into the private lives of citizens that is now underway) argue that the changing nature of threats and technology demand domestic surveillance programs such as the NSA phone database. The debate they wish to provoke-- freedom versus security, is an old one, already resolved in America's legal system by the fourth amendment, and it seems besides the point. Lawmakers can certainly debate and redefine the legalities and procedures for electronic searches, but the President does not have the authority to flaunt FISA laws and the Fourth Amendment, regardless of whether he felt those concepts were made obsolete or ambiguous by new technology. By asserting that the executive does have this privilege, even when it involves engaging in illegal activity, the Bush loyalists eventually drift to a new form of Nixon's famous justification, "It's not illegal when the President does it." Except now there is the added corollary, "In a time of war."

Once again, the War on Terror is invoked by Bush, Rove, and Co. to justify domestic policy which flies in the face of the democratic concepts they claim to be fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democracy is the banner I crusaded under, as my own country's government descended into theocracy. The logic invoked to justify the incompetent prosecution of the war is circular, and its tone has degenerated into classic fearmongering. The executive branch of our government now advocates waging preemptive war against threats of its choosing, engages in illegal domestic spying without oversight (other than what gets leaked to the press), and most Republican legislators still refuse to hold the president accountable, for political reasons, even as they distance themselves from him, for political reasons. When the Justice Department attempted to investigate the NSA, in order to determine if the agency is operating within the law, they were refused, the reason given-- that the Justice Department's security clearance wasn't high enough. Whose is?

The Democratic leadership, some of whom have already downplayed or ruled out impeachment in an attempt to appease wishy-washy moderates, would do well to reread the Constitution a few more times, specifically the fourth amendment. Maybe I'm a throwback to 1791, but I'm not willing to give up freedom for security, at least not without probable cause. It is shameful that some Americans, cowed by the fearmongering of their elected officials, apparently are. When these complacent, fear-numbed consumers become a majority, and perhaps they already have, the Orwellian metaphor will be complete, and defenders of the Constitution should beware. Big Brother really is watching you, and the government can get away with anything.

27 April 2006

America the Greedy

While channel surfing today, I was confronted with the statistic (who can ever tell how they are obtained or if they're valid) that 45% of Americans believe high gas prices to be the number one problem in America today. Iran was somewhere in the low thirties or high twenties, and Iraq was in the mid twentieth percentile.

The rising price of oil is the invisible economic hand beating us into a bloody, alternative-energy using pulp. Artificially lowering prices through rebates, subsidies, or price ceilings is only going to prolong the inevitable. That's the economic long run. In the short term, Exxon just made the fifth largest profit EVER by an American corporation, during a time of national crisis or emergency (yeah, we're in it people-- that's the clause they invoked to stop-loss me, so nobody can say that we're not in a national crisis or emergency-- I'm not sure which, but we're deep in shit, I'm sure of that). I've only studied economics a little bit, and I'm still studying for the final, but I can say with confidence that somebody's getting FUCKED here, and it's not Exxon.

I guess I should be thankful that a fifth of the country is either rich or selfless enough to care about Iraq more than the price they pay for the oil..err, democracy, we are fighting for there. Meanwhile, Rumsfeld and Condi fly in and land combat syle at Baghdad International for another top secret visit. It must make them feel good when they travel to Iraq, like their presence in the hot zone justifies all the tough talk and apologetic bullshit they spew on a daily basis ("We've probably made thousands of tactical errors"-- yeah that's right Condi, blame the military at the tactical level for the strategic blunders of your boss and colleagues). Never mind if they never make it out of the green zone. Never mind if Rummy was there back in the 80's, cheesin it up with Saddam as he sold him our old military hardware for use against Iran, which according to Americans today, is a bigger problem than Iraq. Good thinking America--stick that other fist in the tar baby. Bring on the apocalypse.

I keep coming back to the apocalypse in my thinking about American culture. Another statistic which may or may not be valid-- something like 40% of Americans believe that Jesus is coming back within the next fifty years. I'm all for tolerance and religious expression, but I just can't respect (intellectually) a man or woman who believes in fairytales, and I certainly don't want them making policy decisions. Until Americans take back the government from religious fundamentalists, we are going to continue to see the same kind of irrational policy that is being enacted. We are going to continue our Crusade for Democracy in Iraq. Global warming is still a theory, and the jury's out on evolution. Embryos from fertility procedures that would otherwise be thrown in the garbage somehow become an evil, anti-life force when used to conduct research which has the potential to save life. Abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, is EVIL. EVIL. EVIL. Homosexuals are threatening American families through their insidious desire to get married and adopt underprivileged children. Yeah, married gay people-- wow-- when they're not perusing the latest Pottery Barn catalog, they're going to be out in the streets fornicating and rioting-- don't give 'em an inch.

Meanwhile, GI Joe continues to sweat it out in Iraq. Shrapnel is not an opinion poll or an ideological concept. It will blow his face off whether he believes in it or not. Existence is day to day, death is real, and Americans don't seem to care. Not as much as they care about gas prices, anyway. Greedy bastards.