Crime and Justice: For What It’s Worth

Three days of tragedy.

A tragic week in America.

There’s something happening here;
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
There’s a man with a gun over there,
Telling me I got to beware…

 

 

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn.
Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong.
Young people speaking their minds,
Getting so much resistance from behind

…..

Paranoia strikes deep.
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid.
You step out of line, the man come,
and take you away…
(from the Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth”, ©1966.)

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article far exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers. My apologies ahead of time, but please read on…

     Fifty years ago, Stephen Stills penned these lyrics in response to the “Sunset Strip Riots” of the summer of ’66. During the Vietnam era, the song was adopted and interpreted as an anti-war anthem. Fifty years later, these lyrics remain just as pertinent to the atmosphere in America as when “For What It’s Worth” was first released. During the past three days, our nation has borne witness to tragedy upon tragedy, as a direct result of both the lingering, systemic biases within law enforcement, and the public’s festering fear and anger over the outward examples of these biases.

     On Tuesday, July 5th, 2016, Baton Rouge resident Alton Sterling’s life was cut short by two police officers, who were responding to a phone-in complaint of a person threatening others with a firearm outside of a local convenience store. While we don’t exactly know what led up to it, we do know, from cellphone video that was taken of the incident, that one of the responding officers fired six shots into Sterling, at near point-blank range while both officers had Sterling pinned to the ground. The cellphone video of the incident went viral on the internet shortly afterwards, resulting in both national outrage, and the local authorities calling on the DOJ to launch an investigation. The owner of the convenience store, Abdullah Muflahi, has stated that Sterling was “not the one causing trouble” during the events that led up to the incident.

     Alton Sterling was a black man, the two responding officers are white.

     The very next day, near Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, two officers of the St. Anthony Police Department pulled over a vehicle belonging to 32-year-old Philando Castile, reportedly for a broken tail light. Also in the vehicle at the time of the stop, were Philando’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and Diamond’s four-year-old daughter. During the stop, one of the officers, Jeronimo Yanez, asked Castile for his license and registration. The officer was informed by Castile that Castile was carrying a firearm, and that he was licensed to do so. At that point, reportedly while Castile was putting his hands back up from reaching for his wallet, in an effort to comply with the officer’s orders, the officer drew his service weapon, and fired four shots into the vehicle in rapid succession, striking Philando Castile in the arm and torso. Castile’s girlfriend then began live-streaming the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. At the time of the shooting, Reynolds’ daughter was in the back seat of the vehicle. Castile subsequently died as a result of the shooting. The governor of Minnesota has also called upon the DOJ to investigate.

     Philando Castile was black, the officer who took his life…was white.

      Then, all hell broke loose, and the world once again seemed that it was going off of the rails. On the evening of Thursday the 7th, in downtown Dallas, Texas, as a peaceful local protest against the prior two days’ killings was winding down, gunfire erupted from an elevated sniper’s nest, as 25-year-old Army Reservist Micah Xavier Johnson of Mesquite, Texas, aimed his weapon at police officers, shooting 10 from the Dallas PD, and two Dallas Area Rapid Transit officers, all of whom were present at the protest to ensure public safety. Also struck, were two civilians. As a result, four of the Dallas PD officers, and one of the DART officers, succumbed to their wounds and lost their lives. It was the deadliest attack for law enforcement since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

      During the ensuing standoff with the assailant, Johnson stated to law enforcement negotiators that “the end” was coming, that he was upset about the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, and that his aim was to kill white people, and specifically white police officers. He also stated that there were numerous explosive devices in the area. One suspicious package was indeed discovered, and Johnson was subsequently killed during the detonation of that package.

     In the aftermath of this week’s violence, a great many people are struggling to wrap their heads around what has taken place. My fine, young readers, that includes me. Just yesterday, after reading about the killing of Philando Castile, I was musing to a good friend that there seems to be a systematic “something” that’s happening in this country, and that it’s being fueled by racial divisiveness and preconceptions. On further examination, I tend to think that what ails us as a nation runs far deeper than just racial biases within the system. In fact, just a few days ago, I made the following observation on my Facebook wall;

“Is it just me, or does it seem to anyone else that, unless you’re super-rich or super-notable, we live in a country where we’re increasingly being discouraged from asking that favorite question of scientists and young children, “why?”, about the things that REALLY matter, like why we still have a problem with racial prejudice, or why our government never listens to or submits to its citizenry?

I’m sorry, but from where I’m sitting, it looks suspiciously like we’re being beaten down by a system that’s been rigged against us, a system designed to keep us, for the most part, pacified.

It’s times like these that trouble me the most.”

     I think that it’s safe to say that I’m far from being the only person who feels like we live in a country where the average Joe has little to no say in how their government is run, and lives with a fair amount of trepidation of that same government. From fears over what would happen if we’re pulled over by a police officer having a particularly bad day, to being audited by the IRS, to whatever governmental mechanism that might go haywire in our particular direction, the people live in fear of the government. John Basil Barnhill stated in 1914, that:

“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”

     What has occurred over the past three days, is indeed tyranny.

     My friend and I also discussed the state of the nation, and whether the penchant of certain people for displaying an upside-down flag on their profiles, a sign of a nation in distress, was appropriate. She (my friend) stated that she didn’t believe that our nation was in distress…this was before the events in Dallas. When I spoke with her again after the events in Dallas, I got the distinct impression that maybe her assessment of the situation had changed somewhat.

     My fine, young readers, we are indeed a nation in distress. This distress has claimed at least eight lives in the past three days; five officers in Dallas, Texas, an angry U.S. Army Reservist, a black man in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and another in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  This distress will, unfortunately, claim many more lives until it is alleviated. While I’m sure that there are many opinions on how this distress might find its remedy, one thing is sure; this nation is doomed to perish without that remedy, because as our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” 

“…because evils being once recognized, are half way on towards their remedy.”
(Elizabeth Gaskell, circa 1849.)

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Life and Living: Remembering And Honoring Our Veterans’ Sacrifices – Musing On a Poppy

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In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

poppy_field_300pxw

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

     These words were penned in the spring of 1915, by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, after burying his friend and fellow soldier, Alexis Helmer. The century that has passed since these words were penned has witnessed another world war, while also being punctuated by several regional conflicts between nations. Here in the U.S., we have borne the pain of not one, but two attacks on our own soil. We have been embroiled in overseas conflicts, including a few which were not at all viewed favorably by those back here at home. Through both peacetime and war, however, there have been brave men and women who have sacrificed much, including their very lives, to ensure the freedom of others.

     Veteran’s Day. It can’t be mere coincidence that this day falls within the same month as Thanksgiving, and I would hope that the implications of this arrangement of days aren’t lost on my fellow life travelers. I for one, am thankful for the many sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make, on a daily basis. In contrast to the days of WWI, our military is now a completely voluntary endeavor. This means that the sacrifices start when a man or woman makes the conscious decision to sign their name on the dotted line, raise their right hand, and swear an oath to “support and defend.” Since September 11th, 2001, men and women have done this while our nation has been on a wartime footing, knowing full well what the ramifications are, which makes the sacrifice that much more meaningful.

     A cursory Google search of the words “Veteran’s Day,” will return page results that make mention of various discounts, sales and freebies that our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines can avail themselves of, which is all well and good as long as we don’t lose sight of the true purpose of the day…which brings me back to Lieutenant Colonel McCrae and his rondeau, “In Flanders Fields.”

“Earn this.”
(Captain Miller’s last words to Private Ryan, from “Saving Private Ryan,” ©1998 Dreamworks / Paramount.)

     As not only a veteran myself, but also as a civilian whose freedoms are currently being watched over by those in uniform, I honestly feel that the question we should all be asking ourselves, is this: “How can I “take up the quarrel with the foe”? How can I “hold the torch high and keep the faith”?” How do we honor their sacrifices, not only on this day, but every day that follows?

     If we’re truly thankful and appreciative in our hearts for the many sacrifices made by our veterans, the question becomes easier to answer. It can start with something as simple as (sincerely) thanking a veteran for their service, but it cannot stop there. We need to press our government to take better care of our veterans, especially our disabled and wounded veterans, than they have done so far. We need to encourage our elected officials to seek peaceful solutions to geopolitical differences. We need to act more favorably and magnanimously toward our fellow life travelers…and ourselves. In short, we need to strive to make the world a place where war is what it should have always been, the last resort of last resorts.

An Open Letter From A Veteran, To His Country: Don’t Thank Me For My Service

army_veteran_eagleAs a six-year veteran of the U.S. military, I don’t necessarily need to be thanked for my service. I have on occasion, received the platitudinal thanks from those who would then go on with their lives, not honestly thankful or thoughtful for anything that has ever been done to secure their way of life, and it saddens me.

If anyone feels the need to express their thankfulness for my service, and the service of those like me, then please;

  • Give a blanket to someone who is cold.
  • Buy a meal for someone who hungers.
  • Give water to someone who thirsts.
  • Give a coat to someone without one.
  • Shoe the shoeless.
  • Help to house the homeless.
  • Be generous with your time.

If you can thank me for my service, but cannot bring yourself to do these simple things, then how can you be truly thankful in your heart? If, on the other hand, you can and have done at least a few of these things, a simple thanks would be welcome.

Don’t thank me for my service,

if you can’t help those in need…

Don’t thank me for my sacrifice,

if you can’t outgrow your greed.

How can you truly be grateful,

when you’ve failed to understand…

What it means to truly sacrifice,

and lend a helping hand?

Life and Living: Sunday’s Seasonings

     Once again, I find myself bringing concepts and ideas that started on Facebook over to the blogosphere, parsing and expanding on them, and positing them for your perusal and contemplation. (Wow, that was a mouthful!)

     Once again, it’s Sunday. It happens like that every seven days you know. Growing up, Sundays for me involved going to Sunday School and Church, sometimes with my grandmother, other times going solo to the church next to our house. The realisation of what Sunday is truly about however, didn’t dawn on me until quite a few years later into my adult life. Sunday… is about personal (and inter-personal) growth and enlightenment. (Trust me, this is actually going somewhere, but first please allow me to expand a bit on the day and its meaning(s)…)

     The etymology of “Sunday” goes all the way back to the Latin dies solis, which itself draws from ancient Greek, heméra helíou (“Day of the sun”). Well, what does the sun do? It provides heat and light, two of the things necessary for life to thrive on this “third rock from the sun.” It enlightens, or sheds light on, our world. So, we can think of today as a “day of enlightenment.” Today is a day of rest from life’s other six days of “sturm und drang”, a day to contemplate concepts and ideas which, when explained and realised, help us grow in our own personal life, as well as improve our understanding of the world around us and our place in it.

     I told you that story, to tell you this one;

     Earlier this morning on Facebook, a friend of mine (a fellow writer! Thank you, Megan.) posted a picture of four old silver spoons, with different herb names written on them in black Sharpie. As the picture suggests, they’re meant to stick in planters to tell what each plant is. The first two spoons bore the inscriptions, “Rosemary” and “Thyme.” This immediately brought to mind the 1966 Simon & Garfunkel song, “Scarborough Fair / Canticle.”

     The tune “Scarborough Fair” itself is a ballad that dates back to 1600’s Britain. (Go figure, me and all things “Anglophile”, that I would focus on this!) The following description of the song comes from Wikipedia;

     “The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former lover to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back. Often the song is sung as a duet, with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him his seamless shirt once he has finished.”

     Paul Simon picked up on the tune in the early sixties, while his collaborative partner, Art Garfunkel, added to it the “Canticle”, counter-point lyrics from the perspective of a soldier during war. The resulting song, “Scarborough Fair / Canticle” first appeared on Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 album, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt
Parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme

Without no seams nor needlework
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to find me an acre of land
Parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Between the salt water and the sea strand
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

And to gather it all in a bunch of heather
Then she’ll be a true love of mine…

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.





(On the side of a hill in the deep forest green)
(Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground)

(Blankets and bedclothes, a child of the mountains)
(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

(On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves)
(Washed is the ground with so many tears)

(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)

(War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions)
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)

(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)

     What Simon and Garfunkel have given us here, is a clear message regarding the contrasts between peace and war, the simplicities of home and the complexities of the battle, and a “clarion call” to always ask why it is that we’re fighting, and what we’re fighting for. Is it worth the cost?

     As with any song worth the culmination of its notes and prose, this one has some deep symbology embedded in it as well. First and foremost, are the “powers-that-be” asking us to accomplish the impossible or the unreasonable, as the lyrics propose? Also, let’s look at the meanings behind the plants themselves;

  •      Parsley has been used throughout the centuries as a digestive aid. In other words, it strengthens the constitution.
  •      Sage is noted as being symbolic of physical power.
  •      Rosemary is symbolic of love, fidelity and remembrance.
  •      Thyme is symbolic of courage.

     In other words, as the soldier thinks of home, and those at home think of their loved ones away at war, they each enjoin the other to be strong, brave and mindful of their love for each other. This can also be similarly interpreted thus, as presented over at Wiki;

     “Both man and woman in this ballad invoke said powers in naming these herbs: mildness to soothe the bitterness of their relationship, spiritual strength to endure being apart from each other, faithfulness and lastly encouragement, to fulfill the impossible tasks given.”

     Many people have referred to this song as an “anti-war” song. Honestly, I don’t think so. I rather think that it’s much more contemplative than that. Sure, it was written during the height of the Vietnam war, a conflict that radically changed our entire society. A war which, after a fashion, seemed increasingly futile. This song however, also reflects on more personal, soldier-centric aspects of conflict, such as thoughts of home and hearth. (As a former soldier myself, I can testify that during the “downtime,” we often think of home.)

     I hope what I’ve presented here has enriched your growth as well as it has mine. I hope it has shed some light on your day, because that’s what Sunday is supposed to be seasoned with; enlightenment and growth.

World Rhetoric: The Taliban Frienemy?

What's next...pokes on Facebook?

     I could never be a politician. I believe in speaking my mind in straight forward, unambiguous terms. No wiffle-waffling around. I also know that there are certain people that you just can’t reach, no matter how hard you try to find that “common ground” to work from. Politicians on the other hand, often engage in ambiguous “double-speak,” saying one thing when they actually mean something completely different. They obfuscate the truth, covering it in layer upon layer of condition and color, until the real crux of the matter is lost in the process.

     In mid-December, Vice-President Joe Biden stated during a Newsweek interview that the Taliban, the former rulers of Afghanistan and sometime allies of Al Qaeda, are not our enemy. Immediate reaction to the statement was mixed, while White House spokesman Jay Carney stated that Biden’s words were “only regrettable when taken out of context.” For context’s sake, let’s look at the entire section of comments, so that we can get a better idea of what Biden was trying to convey:

    “Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy, because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.”

     Biden went on to say that the U.S. is pursuing a two-pronged approach to the situation in Afghanistan; keeping pressure on Al Qaeda, while also supporting an Afghani government that is strong enough to negotiate, yet not be overthrown by the Taliban.(1) President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan responded by welcoming the remarks, stating that this position on the part of the U.S. would “…bring peace and stability to the people of Afghanistan.”(2) Meanwhile, on the part of the Taliban, according to an inside militant source and relayed to the Associated Press, the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership are again in cahoots, calling on Pakistani militants to send combatants to support their “battle against America in Afghanistan.”(3)

     Now, it’s opining time. Evidently, Jokin’ Joe and good buddy Hamid didn’t make sure Mullah Omar and the guys received a copy of the memo. While we’re talking “Barney hugs” and nice sentiments toward the Taliban, they in turn still want to kill us. Keep in mind, my fine young readers, this is the same Taliban that allowed Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to establish training camps in Afghanistan, launch an attack on U.S. soil resulting in almost 3,000 deaths, and then thumbed their noses at us when we asked that Bin Laden be given up for prosecution.

     This is the same Taliban that in 1999, issued a decree that protected the Bamiyan Buddhas, a pair of 180 and 121 foot-high, 6th century Buddha statues carved into a rock face in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan. Then in 2001, this same Taliban declared them a heresy, and blew them up. In other words people, the Taliban have a better record of flip-flopping than a short stack at IHOP. Now, it’s no great secret that the U.S. and Afghanistan have been engaged in “secret” negotiations with the Taliban, to what end I have no idea, since it is amazing to me that anyone would think they could hold the Taliban to their word.

     Currently, the Taliban are focused on overthrowing the government of Pakistan, along with getting us out of Afghanistan sooner than later. The thing to remember here is that Pakistan is a nuclear nation, having performed their first successful test, named “Chagai-I” in 1998.(4) What’s even more suspiciously wiggy is that Pakistan was one of only three governments to recognise the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. (Way to repay the kindness, eh? By trying to overthrow the very government that gave you “props” in the first place?)

     Welcome to the world of geo-politics, my fine young readers. I’m not sure what the lesson is to be learned here, maybe to “keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your frienemies wedged somewhere in between”?

________________________________________

“Listen down you little man,
I’m not the one who’s trying to change you…
And if you come to understand, it’ll be okay yeah,
You need to change it…you need to change it now…
I’m not the one who’s trying to be your enemy,
That’s something you need to change.”
(Days of The New, “Enemy” c1999, Outpost Records.)

World Rhetoric: Iran – The Fly Threatens The Ointment

An armed Iran, threatening the world

     Iran has been doing quite a bit of sabre-rattling as of late, especially where the Strait of Hormuz is concerned. Three days ago, Iran commenced naval exercises in the waters around the Persian Gulf, including the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz. On Wednesday, Iranian Admiral Habibollah Sayyari stated that shutting down the strait would be “very easy” for Iran’s navy.

     In recent months, the United States, along with the European Union and some Arab states have been discussing the option of an oil embargo against Iran. According to a Fox News article on the current situation, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi stated on Tuesday that “not even a drop of oil will flow through the Persian Gulf” if Iran’s oil is embargoed.(1) Countering the Iranian rhetoric, Pentagon press secretary George Little stated that any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz “will not be tolerated.”

     (SOAPBOX=ON) Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard stated earlier today that the U.S. was in “no position” to be giving Iran orders where the Strait of Hormuz is concerned, and he’s right. We do not own those waters, the Strait of Hormuz is inclusive of territorial waters belonging to Oman and Iran. What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to tell Iran what they can and can’t do in their territorial seas, or engaging in “monkey see, monkey do” diplomacy by answering their incessant yapping with yapping of our own. What we can and should do however, is gain the backing of Oman, Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing states in the region in any possible effort to counter Iran’s attempts to exercise hegemony in the Persian Gulf.

     The business and geo-politics of international oil is a very convoluted business indeed. To gain a better understanding of the issues, one has to know where the oil comes from, who’s buying it, where it’s going and how it gets there. For instance, most of our imported oil comes from four places; Canada, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico. The rest of U.S.-imported oil comes from a hodgepodge of places, which include Nigeria, Kuwait, Norway and Angola. As near as I can tell from research done, little to none of our oil comes from Iran.(2) (3)

     The main concern for us is not Iranian oil where Hormuz is concerned, it’s oil from other states…mainly Saudi oil. In addition to the fact that Saudi Arabia provided 1,465,000 barrels per day of oil to the U.S.  just in September of this year alone, one has to consider how many other nations are importing Saudi-produced oil. What would a blockage of the Strait of Hormuz do to the world economy? Nothing good, that’s for damned sure. But don’t take my word for it, my fine young readers, because evidently someone in the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet agrees;

“…any country that threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations.”

     In other words, if Iran shuts down the Strait of Hormuz, they’d be affecting the global economy, and would be acting against the rest of the world. That statement I can agree with, due to the fact that Iran has repeatedly thumbed its nose at the world; they are “the bully on the block that doesn’t play well with others.” They’re the only middle-eastern state that has not fully ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, which covers the transit of vessels through the strait. (Oman ratified in 1989.)(4)

     Just how much of Iran’s posturing and blustering is hot air and how much is substantial, I for one do not know. I’m no expert in the area of geo-political brinksmanship or middle-east policy. What I do know is that we need to be working closely with Saudi Arabia and other nation-states in the region to keep this rogue in check, and not be trying to act unilaterally. We need to follow the recipe for success that we did with Desert Storm. Build a consensus, build a coalition and then take only the requisite action that is proportionate to the threat.

     UPDATE, 12/31/11 – Evidently, certain elements within Iran have come to their senses…sort of. The following excerpt is from an Associated Press article earlier today;

“”Discourse about closing the Strait of Hormuz belongs to five years ago. Today’s debate in the Islamic Republic of Iran contains new layers and the time has not come to raise it,” Gen. Masoud Jazayeri said in comments posted Saturday on the Guard’s website, sepahnews.com. Jazayeri did not elaborate.”(5)

     My question is, the time has not come to raise what? A dialogue regarding the “new layers” of debate in Iran? I would say that, given the global community’s concern regarding Iran’s nuclear program and their talk to-date of blocking the Strait of Hormuz, that the time for “raising it” came about a few years back! The nice thing about all of this though, is that there is still time for change with Iran. Iran just has to be willing to take those steps. Ahmadinejad needs to back off from all of the “Zionists are taking over the block” rhetoric, all of the “wipe Israel off of the map” yammering, and get his arse to the table with a sense of urgency and honesty. Only then will these issues be put to bed.

American Rhetoric: Michele’s Maleficence

Waterboarding? Sure, why not!

     It seems like Michele Bachmann just doesn’t get it. She often reiterates her “Christianity” in interviews, but then not only stands in full support of torture, but equates it to president Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan in 1945. The following is an excerpt from a Fox News article from earlier today:

    “President Harry Truman — who had to make the horrific decision about dropping an atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II — he said if he had to kill Japanese in order to save one American life, he would, and if, as president of the United States, I believed that we would be able to save 3000 American lives, and stop aircraft from flying into the twin towers, I would utilize waterboarding if it would save those American lives.”(1)

     Hold the phone there a minute, Ms. Bachmann! The decision to drop the atomic bomb was made to save the lives of an estimated 500,000 to one million American boys, who would have otherwise been injured or died in a full-scale invasion of mainland Japan! That’s why Truman dropped the bomb. Stop being a revisionist historian!

     Poor Michele seems to also be in the dark as to the severity of waterboarding. She stated in the same interview that;

    “No one dies from the use of waterboarding. It is uncomfortable? Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But our worry should not be about the comfort level of a terrorist.”

     My, that’s very “Christian” of Ms. Bachmann. (Sarcasm definitely intended!) I’m curious as to how she can afford to be so smug about waterboarding, in direct contrast to the way that our fellow countrymen felt about it during World War II and Vietnam. In point of fact, we actually hung Japanese soldiers for waterboarding our boys. As I stated in my previous post on the matter, Arizona Senator John McCain (R. AZ) has stated the following regarding the practice of waterboarding:

     “It’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. One is too much. Waterboarding is torture, period. I can ensure you that once enough physical pain is inflicted on someone, they will tell that interrogator whatever they think they want to hear. And most importantly, it serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us. And I’ve seen concrete examples of that talking to former high-ranking al-Qaeda individuals in Iraq.”(2)

     It seems to me that Senator McCain would know. He was a prisoner of war for almost six years in north Vietnam. Former Minnesotta Governor Jesse Ventura, during a segment of “The View” in May of 2009 also spoke against the use of waterboarding, affirming its torturous nature and telling co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, “You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confessing to the Sharon Tate murders!” (Mr. Ventura has also undergone waterboarding as a part of SERE training during his service in the military.)

     The majority of the people that are downplaying the nature of waterboarding it seems, are those that have never had it done to them. I wonder, would Michele Bachmann volunteer to be waterboarded, so that she can make a more informed decision? Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity stated he would, but has not had the stones to follow through. In addition, I’m wondering why it is that the most conservative and supposedly “God-fearing” among our political elite and conservative media are the ones that are advocating torture. Once again, these are the same ones that keep telling us that, “Islam is a religion of hate.” If that’s so, then why are we predominantly torturing Muslims? One of my Facebook friends came up with a very nice term for these people; “Hypochristians.”

Harry Potter and The Army Values?

JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books.

     What does it take to be a leader of others? What are some of the qualities that we look for in someone we wish to follow in tough situations? Personally, I would list strength, courage, tenacity, common sense and honesty among those attributes. In previous blog articles, I have also touched on the “Seven Army Values,” and the acronym for them; “LDRSHIP.”

     Jo Rowling seems to have contemplated this same question at some point, the result being a character that espouses the finest traditions of what it takes to be a leader. In our search for paragons of leadership, we see a shining example in Harry Potter. In JK Rowling’s seven book series, we follow the story arc of the life of young Harry, as he grows from age 10 to adulthood, meeting a plethora of challenges along the way to defeating his arch-nemesis, Lord Voldemort. In this article, I’ll be presenting to you, my fine young readers, some specific examples of how Harry Potter displays leadership values. So, without further adieu…

  •      Loyalty: Throughout the series, Harry Potter remains loyal to not only his close friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Grainger, but to his school, Hogwarts and to the wizard he knows little about, but instinctively knows he can trust; Albus Dumbledore. In the second novel, “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets,” Harry shows loyalty to Dumbledore while engaging Tom Riddle down in the chamber. In the fifth book, “Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix,” Neville Longbottom asks Harry not to divulge the fact that his parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom were in St. Mungo’s, having been driven to insanity by being tortured with the Cruciatus curse by Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry honors this request.
  •      Duty: On many occasions, Harry is either specifically given a task to accomplish, or discovers that to “put things right,” he must take on the mantle of proactivity. In each instance, Harry’s tenacity and sense of duty can be witnessed in action. In the first novel, “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone,” Harry works together with Ron and Hermione to navigate the several hazards between them, and safeguarding / rescuing the stone from Quirrell, who incidentally is doubling as a human host for Voldemort.
  •      Respect: In the world of Harry Potter, there are characters other than humans which wizards would normally view with a certain degree of disdain, such as Elves and Goblins. In book two, “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets,” Harry encounters Dobby, the much-maligned house elf belonging to the Malfoy family. In contrast to the manner in which Dobby is usually treated, Harry instead treats Dobby with a degree of care, concern and respect, even going so far as to “free” the house elf through the “bamboozling” of Lucius Malfoy. When Dobby is subsequently killed by Bellatrix Lestrange in the final book, “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows,” Harry gives a fine example of this respect, by insisting on giving Dobby a proper burial, without the use of magic, and only by the sweat of his brow.
  •      Selfless Service: On several occasions throughout the series, Harry Potter places his own life lower on the list of priorities than accomplishment of the mission. To this end, in the seventh and final installment of the series, “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows,” Harry willingly goes into the Dark Forest to give up his own life, so that things might be “put right” and to facilitate the defeat of Lord Voldemort.
  •      Honor: As we can see in the entire story arc of Harry’s life, he always tries his best to do the right thing, even in the face of adversity.
  •      Integrity: In book five, “Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix,” even in the face of torture by Dolores Umbridge, Harry would not cave in in his adherence to the truth of the Dark Lord’s return.
  •      Personal Courage: This value is closely tied to the value of Selfless Service. As stated above, Harry often encounters situations where justifiable fear would otherwise prevent him from accomplishing the mission, up to and including the fear of death itself. Harry Potter faces these fears in the finest manner, and in the end prevails.

     By the time and events of the fifth book, “Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix,” the other students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can see that Harry is a capable leader. Together with a number of these students, Harry forms “Dumbledore’s Army” so that the others can learn the skills that Harry possesses, in order to aid in the eventual defeat of Lord Voldemort, JK Rowling’s literary personification of evil.

     It is paramount to note at this point, that Harry Potter is the antithesis of his rival, Tom Riddle / Lord Voldemort. They are diametrically opposed in their nature. While Lord Voldemort commands allegiance through fear, lies and hatred, Harry Potter is freely given the allegiance of others, due to his inherent qualities of love, courage and honesty. In closing, I would say that Jo Rowling has provided her readers with an excellent example of what it takes to be a true leader.

American Rhetoric: He Won’t Serve With You, But He Wants Your Vote

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R. PA)

     Right now, I am highly pissed off. I personally wish that the politicians would keep their mouths shut, stop sticking their feet in their mouths and being so ignorant. This time, it’s Rick Santorum. Yes, the same Rick Santorum that thinks he can censor Google search results…

     Earlier today, Mr. Santorum gave an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” in which he made two particular statements that I found to be completely misinformed, asinine and homophobic. First, he stated that the comparative argument between “being a minority and being homosexual” for the repeal of DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) was a fallacy: (The following excerpts are from the Fox News Sunday interview.)

     “I mean, we are talking about people who are, you know, simply different because of the color of their skin, not because of activities that would cause problems for people living in those close quarters.”

     “The idea that somehow or another, that this is the equivalent, that being black and being gay is simply not true. There are all sorts of studies out there that suggest just the contrary, and there are people who were gay and lived a gay lifestyle and aren’t anymore. I don’t know if that’s a similar situation — I don’t think that’s the case with anybody that is black.”

     In amongst Mr. Santorum’s argument lies one major falsehood regarding homosexuality: the idea that being homosexual requires engagement in homosexual behavior:

    “It’s not the same. And I know people try to make it the same, but it is not. It is a behavioral issue, as opposed to a color of the skin issue, and that makes all the difference when it comes to serving in the military.”

     Seeing as Rick Santorum has never had experience in these matters, I don’t quite know what qualifies him to make these judgements. Just because his parents worked at a VA hospital in Butler, PA and lived on the hospital post, doesn’t make Mr. Santorum an expert on what it takes to serve in the military, or what military life is like for service members. (Rick Santorum has never served in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.) As for his assumptions about gay people, Rick Santorum is just ignorant. A gay man can be attracted to other men, and not be sexually active. In other words, being gay doesn’t require that one is actively engaged in homosexual activities.

      Sorry folks, but I don’t think we need a homophobe in the White House in 2012.

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Political Awareness for the “Gay Agenda.”

The Chaser: …And You Can Quote Me On That!

NOT tit for tat!

     There are a few thoughts that I have shared before about this whole “War on Terror.” I’ve shared these on Facebook, on MySpace and in e-mails to friends. I thought it might be pertinent to post them here, given the discussion about Anwar al-Awlaki and other related subjects. These are my personal opinions, and should be taken as such, except where direct quotes are used…

     In my opinion, the war in Afghanistan was a “clean shoot.” Usama bin Laden used the cover of the Taliban and the Afghani desert to mastermind and launch an attack against our country that claimed almost 3,000 lives. We gave the Taliban every opportunity to give bin Laden up, and they turned around, shrugged their shoulders and basically told us, “We don’t know what you’re talking about.” At that point, they became willingly complicit, so we had every right to go over and apply foot to arse. End of story.

     Conversely, I think that the war in Iraq was a hypocritical undertaking of global proportions. Here’s why: I (the U.S.) think you (Iraq) might have a gun (WMDs). Not only do I think you might have a gun, I think you might give that gun to someone (Usama bin Laden and Al Quaeda) who has already shot me (9/11). So, I’m going to shoot you first! If I do that here on the streets of America, it’s called “assault with a deadly weapon,” and I go to jail. If the U.S. does it to Iraq, it’s called “Preemptive Action” and is somehow justified. Again, this seems like hypocrisy to me.

Let's go, toe to toe: Christ and Muhammad

     When it comes down to radical Islam versus my take on Christianity, then my “invisible man” is better than your “invisible man.” Where mine says “Live and let live,” (Matthew 13) yours says “Live and let die.” (Qu’ran, Surah 9:5) At least my “invisible man” doesn’t require me to strap ten pounds of Semtex to my body and blow myself into oblivion to prove my faith in him. Where I might want to share a meal with you, you want to kill me, just because I don’t believe the way you do. Oh wait, even if I did believe in Islam and Allah and all that, you’d still kill me based upon geography and politics! Therefore, my “invisible man” is better!