A Liberal Marines Progressive Perspective

Marines are defenders of the republic and the Constitution. That is our oath, that is our purpose, that is our calling. Many are Democrats. This is the journal of one such Marine. This leatherneck's progressive perspective is as follows...

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Location: Southwest, United States

U.S. Marine,0300 MOS,eight years in,honorably discharged,college-educated. To all the damned trolls, you better believe there are liberal Marines. Read "War Is A Racket" by 2-time Medal of Honor recipient Maj.Gen.S.D.Butler, plus Lewis B. Puller, Jr.'s "Fortunate Son" and maybe then you'll understand. Semper Fi!

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

General to Marines: No Such Thing as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Posted by Hello
Greetings to all aboard the blog. The picture above is an artist's rendition of a Marine that has seen plenty of action (too much action in fact) on the Pacific island of Peleliu during World War II, one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific campaign (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Peleliu) The painting's title is 'Two-Thousand Yard Stare'. The artist of this powerful image is Captain Tom Lea, an Army officer and veteran of World War II. In fact, Captain Lea knew a thing or two about combat in the Pacific Theater of Operations in that he was actually "on deck" at Peleliu during the time of the battle (http://www.milhist.net/global/2000yard.html) as a war correspondent and artist for 'Life' magazine. The term "two-thousand yard stare" signifies the the psychic manifestations and traumas that are created as a by-product of unbridled violence (i.e., warfare/combat) played out day after day and/or over an extended period of time. The painting is powerful and moving because it goes into the soul of the tortured warrior, tortured as a result of serving in combat (and in a combat area) for a prolonged period of time. In World War I the condition was called "shell-shock", in World War II and Korea it was called "battle fatigue" or "war neurosis". Then, in Vietnam, the modern term of "post-traumatic stress disorder" was created. My point is this: the phenomenon of post-traumatic stress disorder as a culmination of the breakdown of the human psyche as a result of prolonged, intense (or, a combination of the two) external and internal pressures vis a vis the stress and carnage produced by combat actvities is UNDERSTOOD to be a given. In other words, PTSD (as a real psychic syndrome) is no longer up for debate within the medical community. In fact, if one was to suggest that PTSD was not real, they would not be taken seriously and would probably be laughed out of house and home. Yet, there is a bone-headed leatherneck general out there that is actually suggesting that PTSD is NOT a factor in the human equation in terms of human combat and human coping capability. I caught wind of this by way of the 'Draft Zinni' for U.S. Senator blog (http://draftzinni.blogspot.com/), an excelllent blog dedicated to get a Marine general, Gen. Anthony Zinni (a Marine general that ACTUALLY has some sense) into the political arena. Anyway, this kind of stuff (and the sheer ignorance of it) burns me up; here we are in the 21st century and we actually have to spend time talking about the efficacy of PTSD in relation to veterans (combat veterans, no less) as to whether or not PTSD really exists...this just chaps my hide! The Marine officer that made the bone-headed comments to the 'Marine Corps Times' concerning PTSD and its "non-existence" is Brigadier General Joseph Dunford USMC, who is the assistant commander of 1st Marine Division. Brigadier General Dunford, quite simply, dismisses wholesale the study in the 'New England Journal of Medicine' (a weekly, medical journal that is considered the world's leading medical periodical, http://content.nejm.org/) that has found "...17 percent of Iraq combat veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder". The article link is as follows, (http://www.marinetimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-750444.php). You see, this is the kind of dead-headed intellect that is going to hurt more people then it helps and perhaps even get some people killed. While reading the general's official Marine Corps biography (http://www.marines.mil/genbios2.nsf/Act_Brig_Gen_Bio, go to Brig. Gen. Dunford), I found the following:

"Brigadier General Dunford was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1955. He was commissioned in June 1977 after graduation from St. Michael’s College. He was subsequently assigned to the 1st Marine Division where he served as a Platoon and Company Commander in 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines and Company Commander in 1st Battalion, 9th Marines..."


"...Brigadier General Dunford is a graduate of the U. S. Army Ranger School, Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, and the U. S. Army War College. He holds a M.A. in Government from Georgetown University and a M.A. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Ok, that's outstanding....extremely motivating. His accomplishments are unquestionably impressive, to say the very least. However, I see nothing in his bio that suggests that he is a medical doctor or a medical professional in any way. In short, Brigadier General Dunford (with all due respect, sir) should stick to the tactical and strategic analysis and the warfighting and leave the medical understandings and analysis to the medical professionals. The general's comments are insensitive, ignorant and a slap-in-the-face to ALL veterans; especially to those veterans that have laid down NOT ONLY THEIR LIVES, but also to those that have LAID DOWN THEIR MINDS in the naval services (or any service for that matter) of the United States. Not only is it a disservice to those that have served for Constitution and country, but his jaw-dropping ignorance simply borders on recklessness; but, in any event, his lack of knowledge coupled with his high leadership position make for a situation that is (most definitely) dangerous. Dangerous in that his belief/attitude will "trickle-down" (so to speak) to all ranks below him, just as the SecDef's lax attitude towards torture "trickled-down" to Abu Ghraib personnel...and we all know how beautifully that turned out (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_prisoner_abuse). To be sure, the Marine Corps is an extremely macho organization, just ask any "W.M." (or, "Woman Marine"...that's what they're called). Macho and machismo have always been a part of the Corps' motif and macho/machismo have their place in a warfighting organization; just as long as it doesn't facilitate gender discrimination and that women who want to participate and are CAPABLE of participating are allowed to be just as "macho" as the next guy (and believe me, there are women in the military that CAN pull the load just as well as men...learned that lesson at OCS). But, sometimes that macho crap warps reality. The bottom line is this: regardless of what the good general may think, he is acutally undermining the recoveries and potential recoveries of Lord knows how many Marines (and all veterans for that matter) that are suffering untold heartache and pain (through no fault of their own) as a result of their service in the 'Global War on Terrorism'. My open message to Brigadier General Dunford is this: with all due respect sir, secure that nonsense...you simply don't know what you are talking about. This is just another glaring indicator of how desperately our country needs real leadership, intelligent leadership (not bone-headed braggadocio). Intelligent leadership that either understands human realities/human nuances or, (at least) is willing to pull together teams of bright people that DO understand these nuances; teams of bright folks that not only want real answers and want to reach for real solutions, but will rigorously work their intellects to get those solutions. We need bright leaders that are not afraid to address the realities of these issues instead of leaders that stick their collective heads in the sand a la denial. See, denial is like a spreading malignancy...it does nothing but destroy the host in the end unless it is aggressively confronted and checked. The sort of ignorance that Brigadier General Dunford displayed and espoused for all the world to see in his statements to the 'Marine Corps Times' must be resisted by any means necessary fore that attitude does more harm than good. PTSD does exist, if you don't believe me, go visit your local VA...do your own research. Semper Fidelis

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Read This Book: This Is A Must Read For All Those That Consider Themselves Progressive Warriors Posted by Hello
Morning. It's a beautiful day here, 66 degrees with a supposed high of 78 degrees. Before beginning, I first would like to acknowledge the sad passing of Johnnie Cochran yesterday (http://abcnews.go.com/US/LegalCenter/wireStory?id=625661). Word of his passing came as a shock to me as I didn't have any idea that he was ailing. Regardless of how we all fall along the demarcation line that is the "O.J. Simpson Trial", Cochran's was unquestionably a brilliant mind, an awesomely talented litigator and a true officer of the court. His absence will undoubtedly be felt along the corridors of justice as well as in the greater community as a whole. Also, I want to touch on the disturbing news reported this morning that Joan Kennedy, former wife of Sen. Edward Kennedy and mother of Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island (hopefully, a future Senator from that great state) was found in the street, unconscious and suffering from a concussion and broken bones (http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/03/30/joan.kennedy.ap/). The news was heart-breaking in that I have always admired Joan Kennedy (and her struggle with the disease of alcoholism...a sickness that plagues roughly 10 % of the American populace, http://www.baldwinresearch.com/alcoholism.cfm) from a distance and was saddened to hear of her current status. Now, with that said, let me turn to the cold calculus and critical analysis of political strategizing: just yesterday, my post was about the potential "Patrick Kennedy v. Lincoln Chafee" showdown in Rhode Island for the U.S. Senate seat in 2006. I am really hoping that the events over the last 24 hours will not mean that Kennedy will not get into the race, in that he might very well likely have to aid in the caretaking of his mother. Now, without question, his allegiance must be FIRST to his mother and not to the ambitions of the Democratic Party...this is a given. If Patrick Kennedy does decide not to run for the reason(s) stated above, then it would be a very understandable decision and we (as Democrats) would still have Congressman Langevin as our 2006 champion (in Rhode Island); Langevin is an extremely viable candidate and would be a potent force in the effort to "de-throne" Senator Chafee. So, good luck Congressman Kennedy, to you and your mother and to whatever decision you make in terms of a future Senate run. Now, for todays post. The picture above is that of the front cover of the book 'War Is A Racket' authored by Marine Corps legend and two-time 'Medal of Honor' recipient (recipient, NOT winner...you don't win the 'Medal of Honor', you receive it for action/valor above and beyond the call of duty, http://www.cmohs.org/ ) Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, USMC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler). What's so awesome about Smedley Butler is that as soon as you get to boot camp or OCS (be that at MCRD San Diego http://www.mcrdsd.usmc.mil/ , Parris Island http://www.mcrdpi.usmc.mil/, or MCB Quantico http://www.ocs.usmc.mil/) you are hammered with Marine Corps history from the "get-go"...especially history about what I'll call "the Big Three": Dan Daly (http://www.medalofhonor.com/DanDaly.htm), "Chesty" Puller (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chesty_Puller) and Smedley Butler (http://www.mclm.com/tohonor/sbutler.html). Without question, United States Marine Corps history is rich and deserving of praise; but, what I find even more awesome is that Smedley Butler, this "pillar of military professionalism, warriordom and warfare experience", was also an ardent and hardcore liberal of the first order. You want to see cognitive dissonance on full display, run that by an unenlightened Marine and watch his/her head start to violently spin at about 5,000 rpm's. Again, Major General Butler was a progressive stalwart and a "bad to the bone" liberal that was known to be extremely outspoken (as are most Marines, including yours truly) against war-profiteering (oh boy, he'd really love Halliburton, et.al.) and what President Eisenhower (another military and war veteran...hmmm, fascinating) coined as the "military-industrial complex". In fact, Smedley Butler's book 'War Is A Racket" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_is_a_Racket) is a work that takes a critical look at U.S. foreign policy, it's connection with "big business" and how the U.S. military (especially the Marine Corps at the time...and perhaps even today) was used as a kind of "all-purpose heavy" or as an "international goon squad" that muscled whoever and/or whatever got in the way of "run-amok, globe-trotting capitalist enterprises" all in the name of facilitating the advancement of so-called "big business". In fact, I'm reminded of 'The Who' and their song appropriately titled 'Won't Get Fooled Again' with the lyrics "...meet the new boss, same as the old boss...". In short, he discusses how a few profit in a big way on the backs of the suffering of the multitude. He knew it was wrong, he said it was wrong and his legacy continues to this very day as others pick up the mantle and continue to say that the practice of making a buck off of war suffering (or, any suffering for that matter) is just plain wrong. Now, Smedley Butler's 'War Is A Racket' was written in 1935 and his frame of reference was predicated on pre-World War I conflicts (the Philipine Insurgency of 1898-1899 and the Boxer Rebellion of 1900), World War I itself and the many military operations between the world wars (these counter-insurgency operations before and after World War I are known in Marine Corps history as "the small wars" or "The Banana Wars", http://www.mcamarines.org/Gazette/2004/04bohn.html). However, you will probably find that the lessons Major General Butler learned 70 plus years ago are applicable today and that the lessons he learned in the "hell furnaces" of combat in the early years of the 20th century can still be applied today in the the early years of the 21st century; those lessons should be, MUST BE, applied in the hopes of making a better tomorrow. Again, read this book. Semper Fidelis

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Passing the Baton Forward: Patrick Kennedy, Lincoln Chafee and the 2006 Battle in Rhode IslandPosted by Hello
Morning everyone. Based on the reporting of reliable news sources, I have to say it is looking more and more like there will, in fact, be a real showdown in the "Ocean State" of Rhode Island for the 2006 Senate seat. This is a Republican held seat that is known, within Democratic and GOP circles alike, to be an "extremely vulnerable" and "up for grabs" spot. In short, the Rhode Island race is shaping up to be a real "barn burner": a political "battle royale" between Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI/1st District, http://www.patrickkennedy.house.gov/), who is the son of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA, http://kennedy.senate.gov/ ) a/k/a patriarch and icon of the Democratic Party, and GOP Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI, http://chafee.senate.gov/), son of the late John Chafee, the former Marine and long-time senator from Rhode Island. For more information on the subject, the link is as follows http://www.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/03/28/kennedy.chafee.ap/. Actually, I broached this very subject on the 17 February 2005 blog posting, in terms of the prospects were looking good (at the time) for Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI/2nd District, http://www.house.gov/langevin/) if he wanted to take on and challenge Lincoln Chafee for the Senate seat in question. However, Congressman Langevin (in another example of the sterling character attributes he possesses: heroism, selflessness and devotion to duty. Character attributes that make Democrats proud to call Jim Langevin a fellow progressive, and Americans as a whole proud to know that people of his character are serving in public service) stepped aside sometime last week and cleared the way for Patrick Kennedy (his colleague and Congressional brother-in-arms) to carry the Democratic banner into battle against Lincoln Chafee...if Kennedy so desires (http://www.turnto10.com/politics/4308825/detail.html). Now, of course, Kennedy has not (at present) so stated that he will run for the seat in 2006 (albeit, all conventional wisdom and just good ol' common sense says he's chomping at the bit to get into this contest). If Kennedy does decide to run against Chafee (and he will: the internal, external and historical forces are far too strong for him to resist), Rhode Island will be host to a clash of political powerhouses unprecedented in the history of that state's political evolutions. Two powerful clans, "the House of Kennedy" and "the House of Chafee", will go head-to-head in a political struggle that can only be categorized as a "clash of dynasties". Succinctly, this will be a political contest that will most certainly bring the house down. Rhode Island will more than likely become the focus of the country, as another Kennedy once again takes on the mantle of an even heavier burden of public service and attempts to press forward into a greater arena (this time, out of the House of Representatives and into the Senate). Of course, the voters of Rhode Island won't actually choose between the two candidates until 2006, but now is the time for strategic and logistical maneuvering. Lincoln Chafee is (without a doubt) vulnerable and the latest polls and political intelligence bear this fact out (http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/print.php?article=LJS2004110901). Chafee's chief negative, more than anything else, is that he is (quite simply) a Republican in a VERY Democratic state, or in other words, he's "red" in a "blue to the bone" kind of state. If only to be challenged by a "fair-to-middlin' Democrat", Chafee would still have a tough time in terms of trying to hold on to the seat. But, to be taken on by a dyed-in-the-wool, "blue to the bone" Democrat, like Patrick Kennedy (or, for that matter, any member of the Kennedy clan, with the possible exception of Maria Shriver...I'm still getting over the Schwarznegger as California governor thing)... well, let's just say Chafee will have a real run for his money and have to endure a monumental struggle and put forth a maximum effort if he wants to keep his job. In fact, my advice to the moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee would be to SERIOUSLY (and I mean seriously) consider "switching sides" like his fellow New Englander, Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT, http://jeffords.senate.gov/) did in the early summer of 2001, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jeffords. Such a move, although cynical as all get out, would more than likely secure Chafee's position and (although not making him impervious to defeat) would certainly make the Democratic effort of "de-throning" him all the more difficult, even if a "Kennedy" is the standard-bearer. However, I doubt Chafee would do such a thing, although it is surely not outside the realm of possibility. Regardless of whatever Chafee decides to do or not do (in terms of staying with the GOP or bolting from it), it is shaping up to be a win-win situation for the Democratic Party...either way, this is a strong opportunity (a VERY STRONG opportunity) for Democrats to pick up another Senate seat. Of course, from the national perspective, EVERY election counts in the Democratic cause to regain policy control. There are also reports that Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY, http://schumer.senate.gov/ ; probably the best head of the DSCC/Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee we've ever had) has already spoken with Kennedy about throwing his proverbial "hat in the ring" and becoming the aquilifer for the Democrats in Rhode Island come 2006. It has also been reported that Kennedy is putting together a poll or polls (as would be expected) to gauge the kind of support he would get across the state (tepid/luke-warm support equals "no go", whereas boiling hot support equals "damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead"...I believe Patrick Kennedy will find that his statewide support numbers will fall in the latter category moreso than the former). If his poll numbers look reasonably healthy (and they more than likely will), then expect Patrick Kennedy to not only "throw his hat in the ring", but also go on to victory over Lincoln Chafee in 2006; thus, placing another victory in the "win column" for the Democratic Party and (more importantly) placing another Democrat in the United States Senate. Either way, I can't wait to hear Patrick Kennedy declare that he is, in fact, running for Rhode Island's U.S. Senate seat. I believe his entrance into that race will help to invigorate and rejuvenate a party (both at the state and national levels) that still longs and misses those members of his family that were great heroic figures, heroic figures that were taken from us far too soon. Semper Fidelis

Monday, March 28, 2005

In Praise of Trafalgar: Honor, Courage and the Legacy of Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson Posted by Hello
Good day to all aboard the blog. This is an unusual posting for me in that it is early evening, and I tend to make my daily contributions to the blogosphere in the early morning; after morning PT and before starting the day. However, that routine was disrupted over the last few days by forces beyond my control and that is why I've been unable to make my regular (or, somewhat regular) postings for (almost) the last week. You see, family friends from North Carolina came into town last week; between entertaining them and having my regular sleeping pattern rattled in the process (in other words, going to bed much later than I usually do), getting a bit sick along the way as well as still having to do all the other things one does in life...needless to say, it was difficult to stay abreast with the blog. And, to cap it all off, this morning my long-serving, long-suffering and much beloved printer "bought the farm" and abruptly (and, unceremoniously I might add) called it quits after five years of loyal service; although she could do no more, she had been a real trooper. So, I sadly went over to OfficeMax and purchased a new one; even though the new one is of a better technology and somewhat faster (in fact, the OfficeMax employee looked at me like I was a dinosaur when I told him the kind of printer I had. He said those printers "...went offline a long time ago..."), I miss my old printer and was certainly not planning on making an investment in terms of a new printer when I got up this morning. But, such is life. So, for all those loyal supporters out there in that ether known as "the world wide web", be advised: I'm back to full duty and plan on making my regular (or, semi-regular postings) as was the norm pre-"friends coming into town". This, however, will be a rather short posting in that it is time for me to wind down, square myself away for the following day and get ready for rack time. As you might have guessed by the picture above, my thoughts this evening are on Admiral Horatio Nelson (quite probably the greatest naval commander in the history of warfare, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Nelson), the Battle of Trafalgar and how the inspiration of both entities reverberate through the centuries...even to this day. One must understand first that the Battle of Trafalgar (and the subsequent English victory over the Spanish and French fleets at Trafalgar on October 21, 1805) was of paramount importance because it ensured England's security in terms of neutralizing Napolean's certain invasion of the British home islands (Napolean by late 1805 had become a real threat to the security of the realm and to Great Britain as a whole) and (moreover) gave England dominance of the high seas for the next century. In essence, the Battle of Trafalgar was (without a doubt) the most decisive naval victory in the history of warfare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trafalgar). Thus, Admiral Nelson (through his martial leadership and almost impeccable sense of character) is thought of, to this very day, (by the English and the world over) as having made the most significant impact on naval warfare in all of Western history. His legacy IS quite simply (and in a word) "profound" (http://www.war-art.com/nelson.htm). In deed, it was Horatio Nelson that once said the following pearls of wisdom and inspiration:

"...Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon".


"...No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy".


"...Recollect that you must be a seaman to be an officer and also that you cannot be a good officer without being a gentleman".

and finally,

"If we have talents, we have no right to keep them under a bushel, they are ours for the benefit of the Community".

This is powerful stuff ladies and gentleman, and I only hope that we can apply these same principles and ideals to our present Democratic cause and to our present struggle to regain control of this great nation; in other words, ours is a struggle to put our "ship of state" back on it's proper course. Now, although our campaigns are political in nature, there is much to be said for injecting these same lessons of warfare and lessons of character into the current political arena. Our victories, in terms of regaining the levers of national policy formulation and national policy execution, will be no less important than those victories gained on so many fields of battle that have spanned time immemorial. And, in closing, it is my hope to be able to attend (in England) the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the great battle this coming October (http://www.seabritain2005.com/server.php?show=nav.004018). However, if I am unable to attend what will certainly be a memory-making and awe-inspiring experience, I will most definitely pay tribute to the greatness of the leader that secured that victory (a victory secured aboard the 'HMS Victory', by the by) and that great battle as a whole in some shape, form or fashion. Take care and Semper Fidelis

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The U.S. Army Is Pulling a "Colonel Walter E. Kurtz", or, Never Get Out of the Boat, Unless You Are Going All the Way Posted by Hello
Good morning to all aboard and welcome. So much is going on today, in terms of my personal life as well as today's newscycle; however, today's topic will deal with something that made news yesterday. As many of us that have served in the Armed Forces (plus all the folks that study military affairs and military science) already know all too well, the American military is in dire straits when it comes to the number of personnel fleshing out its' ranks. The problem is even more acute in those branches that are more "combat arms focused" (i.e., the Marine Corps and the Army). But, I'll have to admit even I was a bit broadsided when the reports came down yesterday that the Army was going to raise it's recruiting age limit from 34 years old to 39 years old (http://www.freep.com/news/nw/army23e_20050323.htm). The Army says the change will give them access to another 22.6 million potential enlistees. The first thought that came to mind was "good luck". The Army also made the point that the change applies to men and women with no prior military service who want to enlist in the Army Guard or Reserve. In other words, the U.S. Army is now taking 39 year olds as recruits for boot camp (though I'm not so sure about how this new recruiting standard affects officer candidates school). Let's see, how do I address this? It's both funny and somewhat disturbing at the same time. Let me use dialogue from the legendary Vietnam, existential film 'Apocalypse Now' to flesh out what I'm talking about. The dialogue is from a scene where Captain Willard (played by great actor Martin Sheen) is reading Col. Walter Kurtz's (played by legendary actor Marlon Brando) dossier to learn more about Kurtz's background:

"...during the next few months he made three requests for transfer to airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia. And he was finally accepted. Airborne? He was 38 years old. Why the fuck would he do that? 1966 he joined the Special forces, returns to Vietnam...".


"...he had to apply three times and he had to put up with a ton of shit, but when he threatened to resign, they gave it to him. The next youngest guy in his class was half his age. They must have thought he was some far-out old man humping it over that course. I did it when I was 19 and it damn near wasted me. A tough motherfucker. He finished...".

The point I'm trying to make is that although 38 and 39 year olds aren't old people (not at all), they are certainly not "spring-chickens". Dr. Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the 'Lexington Institute' (an Arlington, Virginia think-tank) stated yesterday that "...warfare has become more suitable for middle-age troops..." and that "...hand-to-hand combat is not a common thing today (http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=37853) ". Tell that to the family of Army Ranger (and former NFL football player) Pat Tilden, killed in Afghanistan in April 2004 (http://www.nfl.com/news/story/7277321); not to mention all the other families of military people that have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2005/jan2005.html). And, who is Dr. Loren Thompson anyway? What does he really know about warfare, warfighting or even preparing for warfare and warfighting? Has he even served in the military? Typically, the answer is no...it doesn't look like it. In fact, he's just another chickenhawk neocon that has never served in the armed forces (http://www.defensenews.com/conferences/0403ftb/thompson.html). Moreover, he's a member of the right-wing 'Lexington Institute', a neocon think-tank (http://rightweb.irc-online.org/org/index.php). You see, for someone that has been in the "green machine", what Dr. Thomspon declared makes absolutely NO SENSE. You know, it's kind of strange to picture a 39 or 40 year old guy (I mentioned 40 year olds because you're going to have folks getting to boot camp at 39, but having birthdays while in boot camp and thus graduating at 40 years old!) standing side by side with 18, 19 and 20 year olds. Saying it's going to be awkward for a lot of 39 year old individuals to have to take orders from their 23 year old drill sergeants (drill sergeants that were BORN in 1982, when the 40 year old was damn near through high school) would be an understatement. My point is that this is simply an act of desperation on part of the DOD/Department of the Army, an act of desperation somewhat mitigated by the fact that the Pentagon is in deep denial in terms of a draft vis a vis a draft is close to the only viable solution to a problem concerning the sheer lack of manpower. See, I (as well as, many others) have already touched on this emergency situation in previous posts...to no avail (so far). In more simple terms, recruiting older folks to "pull weight" that would be better hauled by younger folks simply because you don't want to deal with the political fall-out that would follow a national draft is nuts. Thomas Ricks, the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer for the 'Washington Post' and author of 'Making the Corps' (http://www.ereader.com/author/detail/2859), touched on this very subject when he (paraphrasing his remarks from CSPAN/schedule date, Monday, 21 March 2005: 'Forum on U.S. Foreign Policy and World Affairs' hosted by Leonard Downie of 'Washington Post' with Thomas Ricks and panel) stated that we better hope another major hotspot doesn't erupt because there aren't anymore forces "in the cupboard". Folks, in other words, at this present juncture what we've got is ALL we've got and bringing in 38 and 39 year olds to fill in the gaps, (moreso) bringing in 38 and 39 year olds to do the kind of work that really calls for younger people really doesn't make very much sense. I mean, can you imagine an individual who has spent 39 years in the civilian world, suddenly being tasked to perform at a level of physical activity they probably have NEVER had to endure? Can you imagine a 39 year old who has never humped a pack, or a mortar base plate (I can hear the collective moaning sounds from all over the Web on that one..."mortar base plate" equals "beaucoup heavy"), humping and huffing and puffing up an incline like a 'Mount Motherf***er' (an infamous "hill" aboard Camp Pendleton, http://www.dtman.com/archives_2004q2.htm and http://www.cpp.usmc.mil/) or enduring the rigorous training dispensed at Fort Benning/Georgia, also known as the "Home of the Infantry (http://www.benning.army.mil/fbhome/)"? Can you really imagine a 39 year old that has NEVER served in the military being thrust into the "grunts" with a bunch of young kids in their teens and early twenties? Or the artillery? To be fair, this only affects the Reserves and the National Guard. The catch will be when they apply these same lax standards to the active duty component...that'll be a sign that we're on our last legs. At least, my beloved Corps has enough sense to say "negative" on the 39 year old recruits. The Corps has enough sense to know that it's not a very good idea. Then again, the Corps' boot camp would probably be hazardous to their health...like Captain Willard said in 'Apocalypse Now' about some military training he endured:

"...I did it when I was 19 and it damn near wasted me...".

In closing, a draft is the only solution to the dearth of recruits the armed forces are having to deal with at the dawn of the 21st century. Hopefully, the current Administration and the Pentagon will come to the understanding (before it's too late) that you just can't cut corners, you eventually have to (no pun intended) "bite the bullet". Semper Fidelis

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Don't Ever Forget the Troops: Money, Power and War American-Style Posted by Hello
Morning to all. Just like the Roman orator and patriot Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) used to proclaim before/after every speech he made that 'Carthage must be destroyed', I too must declare the following: the American military is being stretched beyond capacity. We are playing a dangerous game of "not enough troops, too many potential hotspots". Don't take my word for it, do your own checking (here are a few sources to get you started: http://www.comw.org/pda/101904meet.html;
http://www.cato.org/dispatch/09-24-04d.html; http://www.sftt.org/dw04032002.html). Now, on with the topic of today's post: year two of the war in Mesopotamia, or, Iraq. The second anniversary of our nations invasion of Iraq (a/k/a "Operation Iraqi Freedom") was marked on March 19, 2005 (http://www.wfmynews2.com/news/local_state/local_article.aspx?storyid=37986). The anniversary just kind of came and went without much fanfare or recognition. Just so everyone knows, here are the casualty figures so far: to date (roughly March 21, 2005), U.S. forces have lost approximately 1,524 killed in action and upwards of 11,220 wounded in action (http://icasualties.org/oif/). And the numbers continue to rise, unabated, day after day (http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2005/jan2005.html). Allow me to address the word "wounded", a war term that is used as a casualty identifier. "Wounded" doesn't really give justice to what that terminology really signifies and it's certainly NOT an accurate description of what the word really means. "Maimed" would be a better word describer. I think it would be safe to say that this country hasn't seen this many maimed and amputated veterans coming home since the days of the Civil War. Let me be clear, because I'm a Marine (from now until the end...and perhaps even after) these people are my brothers and sisters. But, in truth, ALL of them are OUR brothers and sisters and they will be looking to us for understanding and some semblance of support as they return to a civilian capacity. You'll see them at a distance and you'll see them up close, they'll be enrolling at your local community colleges, studying at your university campuses; you'll see them at the store and just about everywhere else human beings interact with one another. You'll say to yourself something along these lines: "wow he/she looks a little young to be limping around" or you'll see all these young people that are handicapped, in wheelchairs, bravely steering through life with one or more prosthesis' and you'll wonder aloud (or to yourself) "...what happened to him/her...". But, then it will hit you and you'll remember "Iraq" and/or "Afghanistan". Oh yes, make no mistake, Afghanistan (also known as "Operation Enduring Freedom") is not over...not by a long shot. Let's not forget that Afghanistan is still very much "in-play" in terms of the current military operational tempo and that American military personnel are still engaged in that area of operations every single day. Moreover, we can not afford to forget the good men and women who come home with traumatic psychic wounds that are invisible to the naked eye, but are just as devastating and handicapping. No, don't forget these good people, never forget them...and don't look the other way if they are headed in your direction. A country (and a people for that matter) WILL ALWAYS be judged by how they treat the least of these and, even moreso, on how they treat their returning war veterans and NOT on how many magnetic "Support the Troops" stickers they have on their SUV's. Semper Fidelis

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Saga of Terry Schiavo: So Much Hanging in the Balance Posted by Hello
Morning and welcome aboard to all who have made their way onto this blog, or, this "man-o'-war" as I like to think of it. Don't want to get too convoluted or "wrapped around the axle" on the subject of the tragic situation that is the Terry Schiavo case, but I thought it was pertinent and appropriate to make some points concerning this issue. Before hitting the rack last night, I turned on CSPAN and just happened to catch the last hour and a half of the debate that was raging in the House of Representatives concerning the fate of Terry Schiavo, in terms of taking the case out of "state hands" and placing it squarely in the federal court system. I have to tell you, it was not only riveting and emotionally compelling, it was also amazing to watch this Constitutional "push and pull" between federal power and state power (at least amazing to those of us that have political science degrees...we can't get enough of these civics lessons). To the point, I simply want to make some key observations, in bullet form: (1) To be sure, this is an extremely heart-wrenching dilemma, probably the most heart-wrenching domestic story I've ever heard of or experienced (if it isn't unprecedented in terms of the human story, than the only other one I can think of is maybe...well, I can't think of one). Fundamentally, we are watching the breakdown of kin and the ensuing civil war between family members. This is a family that has courageously endured great emotional pain and struggle since 1990 and have reached a point of utter desperation; this painful saga centers around a lovely young woman that collapsed into tragedy 15 years ago and slowly made her way onto the national radar. Folks, I'm a Marine, and this woman's story has got me going every which way in terms of emotions. (2) Tom DeLay is enemy, as far as I'm concerned, however I find myself strangely on his side...this is very uncomfortable to admit, but true nevertheless. DeLay may or may not really care about Terry Schiavo and her terrible situation (the jury is still out on that, in my mind, considering DeLay's present status vis a vis the accusations and allegations of ethics violations that have been swirling around him like an Oklahoma dust storm). From the cynics' perspective, DeLay has orchestrated a powerplay that has (no doubt) taken some of the stench off of him (although temporarily, because the allegations of ethical violations and just downright illegality are far too serious to dismiss outright) and (in my opinion) helped to send the GOP into the stratosphere when it comes to claiming the political mantle as the party of life, morality and standing up for the helpless. Of course, I don't believe the GOP truly represents any of those qualities, but I'll bet this is the common consensus of opinion that is solidifying in the hearts and minds of the American electorate. In short, this woman's tragic plight (and the exploitation of said plight) has been a major coup for Tom DeLay in the short run, the GOP (as a whole) in the long run and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's 2008 presidential ambitions in the longer run (regardless, Senator Frist probably won't win the presidency nor the nomination for that matter...the man is about as electrifying as a tuna fish sandwich). (3) Now, for my team...the Democrats. This is a very dangerous story/situation for the Democratic Party and the way the party handles it will affect our chances in 2006 and 2008 (probably 2006 more than 2008, because of the tendency of the American public to forget things so quickly...but 2006 is a critical "logistical" step in terms of the 2008 campaign). Democrats don't want to come across as monstrous ghouls that are trying to stop GOP "goodness" and "benevolence" from prevailing. In other words, we don't want this situation to be framed as the "cold-hearted, clinical, hyper-intellectualized, purely academic, pointy-headed" Democrats frothing at the mouth and, with snapping jaws, constantly ramming home the callous points of "...this is a state matter..." or "...she's brain-dead..." or how Terry Schiavo is in a "...vegetative state..." (that's the wrong strategy, as far as I'm concerned. It makes us look like a bunch of heartless, brattish whiney jerks); all the while, the public will perceive the Republican Party as the "warm-hearted", "empathetical" and "nurturing" party that continuously and unwaveringly places the focus on this lady's irrefutable humanity and uses eloquent rhetoric to espouse on this poor woman's absolute value and diginity. Folks, Democrats will lose everytime (and for a long time) if this is how we allow the issue to be framed. The way Democrats are handling this (in terms of the Democrats in the House) is about right; the vote (via suspended rules) was called last night, the special legislation was passed and the President signed it. Democrats should now step back and let the federal legal machinery kick in and do what it does. (4) Lastly, in my humble opinion, Terry Schiavo's husband Michael should step aside, relinquish "command and control" to the Schiavo family and get on with his life. It seems as if Michael Schiavo has already started a new family (having 2 kids with another woman who he plans to marry) and (again, in my humble opinion) thus no longer has any real vested interest in Terry Schiavo, I mean you can't serve two masters at the same time, can you? There's even some scuttlebutt that upon Terry Schiavo's passing, Michael Schiavo will come into a crap load of money. That right there makes an already foul situation stink even more. Again, Michael Schiavo (as well as Terry Schiavo for that matter) would be better served if he just let it go, walked away and let Ms. Schiavo's immediate family come in and take care of her as they so desperately seem to want to do. That's my take on the situation. Take care and good luck. Semper Fidelis

Friday, March 18, 2005

General Anthony Zinni, USMC...Could This Be the Next Democratic Senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Posted by Hello
Mornings tidings to all aboard this blog. Today, I want to entertain possibilities (what our conservative brethren like to call "hypotheticals"). One possibility in particular was brought to my attention (while visting the legendary "Daily Kos" blog, http://www.dailykos.com) by a fellow liberal warrior called "Minister Alx" (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/3/17/18339/9698). His suggestion was that progressives should begin a full-court press and reach out to retired Marine General Anthony Zinni (http://www.generalzinni.com/) as a potential candidate for the 2006 U.S. Senate (Pennsylvania), a seat now occupied by GOP stalwart Rick Santorum. In fact, Minster Alx has a blog devoted to this very cause at http://draftzinni.blogspot.com/. He has also posted an impassioned plea concerning this effort at the "Young Philly Politics" blog at http://youngphillypolitics.blogspot.com/2005/02/draft-anthony-zinni-for-us-senate.html. In short, this venture to "Draft General Zinni" is along the same lines as the historic and successful "Draft Wesley Clark" campaign of 2003-2004 (http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/clark.html). The "Draft Clark" campaign was spearheaded by political activist legends John Hlinko and Josh Margulies (http://www.draftwesleyclark.com/defaultold_red.htm) with the support of so many out there, including myself. This was a stunning victory for grassroots warrior-activists that can never be over-emphasized (http://www.grassroots.com/news/nrTemplate/?newsReleaseId=3016). To the point, I thought Minister Alx's suggestion of "drafting" General Zinni for a Senate run to be both sound and cogent in that the "Draft Clark" effort proved highly successful; and by the fact that General Zinni would be a great choice to run against Republican Rick Santorum for the Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2006. However, it seems as if Keystone State Democrats have all but annoited Bob Casey, Jr (Pennsylvania's State Treasuerer and son of two-term Governor of Pennsylvania Bob Casey) as their 2006 candidate, http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/news/local/11058110.htm (you might need to register to get access). However, even if this is the case (and although Casey has many assets that would make him a formidable candidate), Zinni is still an extremely formidable candidate in his own right, i.e., Minister Alx's pointing to General Zinni's stellar career in public service while serving in the armed forces of the United States and in foreign service circles. As you can imagine, there are many "naysayers" defiling Minister Alx's suggestions as "idiotic" and "wrong". But, hell the naysayers were telling those of us that supported Gen. Clark's entrance into the 2004 Presidential campaign the same thing, that we were "idiotic", "wrong", that "Dean had the nomination sowed up"...now, of course, that was BEFORE that beautiful day (September 17th, 2003) in Little Rock when Clark actually ENTERED the 2004 Presidential campaign (http://www.wciv.com/news/stories/0903/102784.html). Of course, Clark did not go on to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, but Clark (this warrior/political novice) went on to run an impressive campaign, win the Oklahoma primary ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4134601/) and, more importantly, introduce issues and topics into the national dialogue that only someone with credentials like a General Clark (national security experience, devotion to the nations security, etc.) could. Either way, as I relayed to Minister Alx yesterday, his idea deserves serious consideration; especially since, at this critical juncture in American political history, the Democratic Party must bolster itself in the eyes of the American electorate in terms of two key areas: (1) faith; we Democrats are a people of faith as well and must convey that effectively to the American people (gee whiz folks, the African-American community is the bulwark and base of the Democratic Party, and you can't tell me that they are not a people of faith...we need that community to give a "faith transfusion" and tranfuse some of that faith to the party as a whole!) and (2) our national security credentials...Democrats ARE warriors and we are deeply concerned about this country's national security posture. General Zinni, like General Clark, are right-on in both areas and these are the kinds of people the Democratic Party should be advancing as candidates for high public office. The people of this country are deeply divided (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-01-18-bush-cover_x.htm) and many know that Democrats have better ideas than the Republicans (especially when it comes to the economy, http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-01-18-bush-cover_x.htm), but the American people want to see a Democratic Party that has both "faith and muscle" (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2004/11/democrats-need-to-champion-their-moral.html). If we Democrats can effectively demonstrate to the electorate these qualities, there will be no stopping us in 2006 and 2008. Semper Fidelis.

Monday, March 14, 2005

As the Ghawar Oil Field Goes, So Goes the World: Welcome to the 21st Century a/k/a "the Age of the Energy Wars" Posted by Hello
Good morning to all, once again. I finished reading David K. Shipler's book titled "The Working Poor" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375408908/) almost two weeks ago. The book is a fine expose into the world of American poverty, why it exists and (most important) how we as a collective nation can solve this shameful problem of working people that are unable to "catch a break" due (in large part) to a system that seems to take a perverse pleasure in watching them struggle to make ends meet. Shipler's book is one of the truly great books of our time that isn't just a book, it's an experience. Over the weekend, and after almost two weeks of going "book-less", I picked up Paul Roberts' book "The End of Oil" (book cover photo above) and I have to say the book is riveting and mesmerizing in its take on how we, as an industrial world, have spun ourselves into one heck of a tholian web. Before actually opening Roberts' book, I was already concerned about energy and the environment (both being questions/subjects of national security as far as I'm concerned), but was totally unaware of how problematic the situation actually is nor how foreboding. To comprehend the magnitude of the problem, one must first understand and appreciate that the world's energy consumption of fossil fuels has not stayed constant, but has (in fact) increased (http://www.zpenergy.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1205). Indeed, global fossil fuel consumption has increased to 73% as of 2002, at a rate of 2% every year with no sign of letting up (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=ax7b4U5u6ojg&refer=us). To put it crudely (no pun intended), oil is to the industrialized world (especially the United States) what crack cocaine is to the crack addict; in other words, we can't get enough of this stuff, we can't live without this stuff, we will do anything to get this stuff...are you tracking? Do you dig what I'm saying? Now, with that established, one must then understand the signficance of the Ghawar oil field, which is located in the world's pre-eminent oil state, Saudi Arabia. Ghawar (which is in an area of the kingdom called the "Empty Quarter") is considered by all as the motherlode of the petroleum world (http://www.energybulletin.net/1269.html). In short, the Ghawar oil field is (without question) not only the world's largest conventional oil field, but it is also the largest oil field EVER discovered. To put it in more understandable terms, the Ghawar once reached a peak production performance of SIX MILLION barrels a day in 1981. Today, with roughly 70 billion barrels of oil in it's basin, the Ghawar produces roughly 5.7 MILLION barrels of crude oil a day (or, as author Paul Roberts puts it, 1 out of every 12 barrels of oil consumed on the face of the earth). With this kind of "juice", it is not hard to see how the Ghawar accounts for more than half of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s cumulative oil production. To give some background, the Ghawar field was actually discovered over half a century ago in 1948; production began in 1951 and has been going strong (day after day) ever since. The Ghawar holds the title and record as the producer of the highest sustained oil production rate ever achieved by any single oil field in world history. So, one can also see why oil empires and petro-governments around the world refer to the Ghawar field simply as "The Big One" or (again), as Paul Roberts describes the Ghawar:

"...In the iconography of oil, Ghawar is the eternal mother, the mythical giant that makes most other fields look puny and mortal".

But, just as Marc Antony regrets the course he has taken in 'Julius Caesar' (Act III, Scene I/Shakespeare) and shouts out "oh, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war", the rub in terms of our own oil imbroglio is this: the Ghawar, drop by drop, is drying up (as it should since petroleum, like all fossil fuels, is a VERY FINITE source of energy, especially at the current rate the industrialized world is "gobbling it up" hand over fist). Which means, once the Ghawar is gone (which will come SOONER than later, regardless of whatever the oil-mongering "pollyannas" say ) the reverberations throughout the global economy will be significant. It's looking more and more like "the Great Game of the 21st Century" won't be the great clash of colonial powers, like it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (http://www.britishempire.co.uk/library/greatgame.htm). Instead, the new "Great Game" will be the hoarding of conventional energy sources, as well as, the quest for new energy sources; a quest that will certainly lead to geopolitical destabilization and the eruption of oil/energy wars that could (possibly) spark a global conflict on the scale of a world war (read Alan Simpson's 'Prelude to World War III' at http://www.intelbriefing.com/edit/pi040927.htm). My point is this: NOW is the time to begin a SERIOUS dialogue about alternative energies and their viability, with REAL leadership directing that dialogue. Right now, tragically, we have "oil men and women" running the United States government (http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/aplayers.asp). These people get a charge out of punching holes in the ground looking for more and more oil (Dr. Freud could probably help explain the psychic process that facilitates oil people's desire, even lust, to punch holes in the ground in search of "black gold" or "Texas tea"...but that is neither here nor there). In their foolhardy quest to find more and more oil, "Big Oil" and it's allies are simply trying to avoid the inevitable, which is that oil (like ALL fossil fuels) is a FINITE source of energy; thus, we find ourselves at the original question concerning the need and viability of alternative fuels. Simply put, there's just no way of getting around the question. The United States SHOULD BE taking this opportunity to lead the world in this great endeavour because (and, in my opinion, this is no hyperbole) the fate of the world swings in the balance. As Mr. Roberts puts it in his book:

"...The United States is the only country with the economic muscle, the technological expertise and the international standing truly to mold the next energy system".

Our national leadership should be excited by this challenge and be "chomping at the bit" wanting to get into this game and apply our world-famous "American ingenuity" in a way that would solve this potentially catastrophic, global energy problem before it is too late
. This could be our next "Apollo Program" or our next "Manhattan Project"...a massive cooperative effort of scientific-business-government operations that would pull together our greatest minds and solution-makers; an enormous intellectual endeavour subsidized by the federal government (and with the full backing of the Executive branch) that would have the expressed purpose of devising an alternative fuel source that would ease and facilitate the inevitable shift from an economy totally supported and driven by fossil fuels(i.e., oil) to an economy supported and driven by whatever alternative fuel they come up with, i.e., hydrogen fuel cells, "biofuels", synthetic gasoline, etc. This could be our greatest moment in that WE, the United States, would lead the world off of the "double-edged sword" that is fossil fuel dependency into a world with abundant (and perhaps even, infinte) sources of energy. Can you imagine? But, unfortunately, we don't have masterminds running the government right now, heck we don't even have leaders with vision (leaders like an Al Gore, who has been desperately trying to inject this very topic into the national dialogue for going on two decades, without much success). No, unfortunately, we have "oil folks" running the show; they choose to utilize the "tried-and-true" coping mechanism of denial, or, behaving as the proverbial ostrich with their collective heads in the sand believing (to turn a 'Field of Dreams' phrase) if they DO NOT build it, the end WILL NOT come. Until this nation has great minds at the helm again, we will continue to plod along, in our SUV's and our other gas guzzlers, dreaming of NASCAR and deluding ourselves into a coma-like state with fantasies of an infinite oil supply. Only two good things come from our present myopic and delusional energy policy: 1) our nonsensical obsession with SUV's, pick-up trucks and NASCAR will hasten the end of the oil age (http://www.politicalstrategy.org/policy/energy_policy.htm) which can only be a good thing...thus forcing us to actually use our brains to come up with alternative fuel remedies, and 2) the Democratic Party has a great opportunity to take advantage of a situation that is deperately calling for leadership. Concisely, Democrats can pick up this "dusty ball sitting in the corner" (so to speak) and run with it, since the GOP is either too stupid, too oblivious, too afraid (or a "trifecta" of all three) to do anything about it. Folks, we will all be left behind if we don't get ahead of what is, without question, a major problem looming on the horizon. Read Paul Roberts book 'The End of Oil'; we should be SERIOUSLY talking about alternative fuel sources before it's too late. This really is a national security issue. Semper Fidelis

Friday, March 11, 2005

Lord, Have Mercy: The Rise and Fall of the World's Greatest Entertainer Posted by Hello
Good morning to all aboard the website and welcome. Now, before beginning today's topic of discussion, a disclaimer: I don't usually make a practice of commenting (either verbally or in written form) on the entertainment world (nor the sports world, for that matter). Mainly, because they really aren't all that important and simply pale in comparison with the more serious subjects and issues of the day. This site is dedicated to the discussion and analysis of U.S. domestic/foreign policies, military affairs and how these policies and subject-matter impact the nation and the world as a whole; nor do I want folks to get the impression that this blog is morphing into somekind of a "California-themed" site just because the last two posts were about the Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa and the world of L.A. mayoral politics. I can assure you, it is not morphing. Quite frankly, after watching the legal shenanigans (part and parcel, probably the most unprecedented antics in the press coverage history of American jurisprudence) that took place in southern California yesterday in terms of the Michael Jackson case (CNN link, http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/03/10/jackson.trial/index.html) I felt a need to comment because Jackson's outrageous display was an epiphany for me because it made clear (to me, at least) the fact that this case (California v. Michael Jackson, Bartucci v. Jackson) has tremendous social, moral and ethical implication undertones that reverberate through the trial like so much electricity in a powerline. Important undertones that go far beyond the alleged crime and certainly far beyond the trials immature entertainment value. Moreso, I wanted to comment in terms of how "one, Michael Jackson" (as an individual) in conjunction with his outrageous behavior (excusable or inexcusable) and the current case against him tells us more about US as a nation than it does about Michael Jackson as an individual. I'm not going to go into all the details, i.e., the history of the case against Michael Jackson and how it came to fruition (not that I'm lazy, but because I think the evolution of the case to date is not prudent, at least, not in terms of my overall point). But here is a link from the excellent legal website FindLaw, http://news.findlaw.com/legalnews/lit/mj/, that will give you the chronology of events that led up to the debacle that was March 10, 2005. You know, the performance by the accused (by performance I mean Jackson, with his ubiquitous entourage, sauntering into court late with p.j.'s on, after the judge threatened to issue an arrest warrant) is funny, but it's also NOT funny...but either way it is certainly tragic. My point is this: what we are watching, as it is broadcast (and re-broadcast) throughout the country, all around the world and into the cosmos, is the emotional breakdown of another human being, in this case one Michael Jackson. Now whether or not he did what he is accused of doing, although extremely important, is not really relevant to the overarching point that I hope to make. In my humble opinion, Michael Jackson is clearly saddled with more psychic scarring and emotional baggage than any of us would want to deal with (or, quite possibly, COULD deal with); and yet...we laugh. His wealth, fortunately or unfortunately (I lean toward unfortunately) has barricaded him in a Potemkin Village-like "world of fantasy", or (as he named his own home) in a kind of "neverland" that has shielded him from the realities of his own mental deterioration and, indeed, may have actually played a role in facilitating and/or hastening that deterioration. With his useless cadre of paid yes-men and yes-women around him, yes-men and yes-women that have provided a real disservice more than a service to him (again, in my opinion), Jackson was allowed to spiral into an abyss of reality distortion and, ultimately (as I think we are beholding on our tv screens), a downright breakdown and separation from what most people would consider reality. In short, I think Jackson coming to court in blue pajama bottoms and slippers is a red flag warning as big as life that something is clearly and seriously wrong with him, in the psychological department...but maybe I'm off the mark. And, if that is the case, than do we (as an American people) believe philosophically that it is better and more humane to send our psychologically ill citizens to prison, or do we think it is more advantageous (to all parties involved, including our collective soul as a nation) to send them to a medical center where they can get the care they need? You see, this is the real question, this is the philosphical struggle that is on trial.The bottom line is that Jackson, who is (without question) an extremely talented artist that has brought pleasure and joy through his music and artistry to millions around the world during a career that spans almost four decades, is now being cruelly paraded before the American public and lambasted by the American press. In comparison, Clarence Thomas (no hero of mine, but his comments find new creedence in light of the present situation) once referred to a "high-tech lynching" when he was the "fodder" of the month (http://faculty.uml.edu/sgallagher/ClarenceThomas.htm). Now, the same terminology can be sadly applied to Michael Jackson. You must understand that what we are witnessing is a tragedy of Greek proportions, an epic that requires an author like Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides to adequately weave the tale with all of its sad hues, nuances and "shades of gray" and bring forth an understanding of what is going on. However, I think it would go something like this: a talented and sensitive youth, blessed by the heavens with the vocal and musical gifts that so many would die and, perhaps, even kill for; cruelly scorned and berated by his father, emotionally and physically abused by his parents (especially his overbearing and threatening father); paraded before the community, with a "forced smile", for coins, money and trinkets as a minstrel-artist...like a crank-organ monkey; all the while, being pimped and prostituted by those that are supposed to be his ultimate guardians and caretakers. The tale would continue: a pariah amongst his peers, alienated from "the group" (the group meaning his contemporaries, or, his generation of young people) vis a vis the "prison" that is celebrity and fame, the youth finds himself delving into a fantasy world that is blown all the hell out of proportion when compared to reality. All the while, even with his accumulated wealth, the hollow pain and ache of loneliness and isolation sets in and takes hold; his childhood and mind arrested in a kind of "Peter Pan" like state that, mimicking a child, causes him to see nothing wrong with sharing his bed with his children friends and (more telling) continues to allow him to see nothing wrong with sharing his bed with his children friends even though he is now 46 years of age (he'll be 47 on August 29 of this year). In my humble opinion, this man is not a criminal. He is, instead, an emotionally tortured (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,149992,00.html) and, I dare say, mentally ill person that needs medical help as soon as possible more than incarceration in the California penal system (a penal system that he probably would not survive). His illness has certainly (quite possibly) caused him to become a serious social threat, in terms of his interaction with children, as the allegations about his behavior allude. This is not his fault mind you, no more than it is the fault of the individual with tuberculosis that they are sick and, in coughing, are spreading the disease and harming others. Michael Jackson, like the tuberculosis sufferer, needs immediate medical care to arrest the disease, be cured of the disease and live a normal life as a constructive member of society. My final point is this: you must also understand, the Michael Jackson case is like a mirror before the American public, showing for all to see how we, as a people, treat those that we once admired and loved. Michael Jackson is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest talents this country has EVER produced (http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/jackson_michael/bio.jhtml) and yet, (like the veteran that serves the community and is dismissed after his/her services are rendered and are no longer needed) when the cumulative effects of the psychological damage done over the years takes hold, we lampoon him and castigate him for all the world to see in the public square of television. The world sees this and repulses in horror, wondering how Americans (generally speaking) can talk about "compassionate conservatism" and yet demonstrate a callousness and ugliness unabated and without mercy toward an individual that is obviously writhing in a psychic hell? You see, in our convulsions of laughter at, and finger-pointing condemnation of Michael Jackson, we THINK we are making fun of someone else, when in fact we are REALLY condemining ourselves for our lack of compassion in trying to understand the machinations that brought someone once so high, to such low levels of desperation and despair. Like the great English poet and preacher John Donne (http://www.incompetech.com/authors/donne/bell.html) put it so many years ago, "...for whom the bell tolls...it tolls for thee". Semper Fidelis

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Stunning Victory for Villaraigosa in the 2005 L.A. Mayoral Race Posted by Hello
This is indeed a good morning, especially for liberal Democrats and Democratic progressives around the country. I am happy to report that with 99% of the precincts reporting (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/03/09/state/n044705S54.DTL), Antonio Villaraigosa (in an upset of significant proportions) has taken the field and brilliantly trounced his competition by capturing the majority of the votes cast in the 2005 Los Angeles Mayoral Race (http://www.lacity.org/clk/election/). His chief opponent, the current office-holder James K. Hahn, has (so far) eked out an anemic 24% of the vote, which (although this performance places Hahn in the "number two" position, thus guaranteeing him a spot in the May 17th run-off) is "nothing to write home about" and is an extremely unimpressive performance for an incumbent mayor. By winning a decisive 33% of the total vote, Villaraigosa outflanked the field, surpassed the competition and has positioned himself squarely in the driver's seat in the upcoming run-off against either Bob Hertzberg or the incumbent James K. Hahn, who actually continue to "duke-it-out" (as of 0639 hours Pacific Standard Time) for second place (http://www.nbc4.tv/politics/4266817/detail.html). Of course, if Hahn is able to squeeze out second place (which he will more than likely do, unless Hertzberg manages a come from behind surprise victory...which it doesn't look like Hertzberg has the juice to pull off...but we'll see), then "the city of angels" will see a repeat of the 2001 race with a 2005 rematch between Villaraigosa and Hahn for control of the city. This is nothing short of a stunning victory for Villaraigosa, who can place the March 8th returns securely in the "win" column. I was up most of the night last night, trying to find out what was going on with the race via the city's official website (http://www.lacity.org/), plus other sites and via satellite. At first (when the first returns began trickling in), it was Hertzberg and Hahn all the way (with the early lead) and (I will have to admit) that made me as nervous as a turkey in November in that I was thinking that it would be a Hahn vs. Hertzberg, May 17th battle for the leadership of Los Angeles. I held on, constantly hitting the refresh button, hoping to get more returns that would help flesh out the situation. But, the returns were coming in so slowly (unusually slow quite frankly) that I eventually acquiesced and went on to bed around 1240 hours, not knowing who was winning or how the election was playing out. However, I found out this morning (http://www.kesq.com/Global/story.asp?S=3051172) that a heavy fog front came into L.A. last night and that incident, plus the implementation of a new voting system, really threw the proverbial "monkey wrench" into the works and gummed-up the returns. All's fair in love and war though, right? Either way, congratulations to Antonio Villaraigosa and his brilliant campaign team for their outstanding performance in sweeping the field and clearing the way for their team to advance on to City Hall. This isn't just a victory for them, but it is certainly a victory that resonates throughout the country, for all Democratic progressives that are truly about building bridges between communities and forming alliances in the 21st century. Building bridges and forming alliances, that's what is needed to win against the GOP in 2006 and 2008. Semper Fidelis

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Antonio Villaraigosa: A Progressive Democrat Building Bridges in the 21st Century. Posted by Hello
Morning to all and happy International Women's Day. Today's subject matter is 2005 Los Angeles Mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles/Mt. Washington area). First let me say that I do not live in Los Angeles and I don't know a whole lot about Los Angeles municipal politics. But, I did follow Mr. Villaraigosa's 2001 L.A. mayoral campaign pretty closely (thanks to CSPAN and the national press), the one that he lost bitterly to James K. Hahn (the current mayor, http://www.lacity.org/mayor/). It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed to see Villaraigosa lose that race four years ago, a race he lost for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons being that the African-American community shamefully (for the most part) turned their collective backs on Villaraigosa and voted for James K. Hahn ('Business Journal' discusses what happened in the 2001 race and how Bush tried to capitalize on the division in the following article http://www.naleo.org/SJBJournal01.htm), mostly because Hahn is the son of the late Kenneth Hahn, a respected civil servant who was elected a record ten times to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (http://www.losangelesalmanac.com/topics/Government/gl02.htm), a two-year term, from 1952 to 1991 and much beloved in L.A.'s African-American community. Although there is much debate within the city at present as to whether or not Mayor James K. Hahn has delivered on his 2001 campaign promises (http://www.dailybreeze.com/news/articles/1269072.html), one thing seems for certain: most of Mayor Hahn's constituents are not at all impressed with his performance as the mayor of the second largest urban area in the United States (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0108549.html); moreover, the allegations of scandal swirling around City Hall do not help matters (http://www.kesq.com/Global/story.asp?S=3002577). In fact, it's looking like Hahn will be the first L.A. mayor in thirty years to be bounced-out of office (http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0308/p02s01-uspo.html). Regardless, Villaraigosa was extremely impressive four years ago, and is even more so today. He definitely has grit and spunk, that's for sure...to come back after that kind of political and personal disappointment (the 2001 loss) and step back in the ring four years later is not only commendable but also admirable, to say the very least. Again, I am not a citizen of Los Angeles, nor California for that matter (although I have family roots in Los Angeles, and I lived in northern California for a short time in the 1980's). But, I am a Democrat that understands that we are all in this thing together and that there are many fronts in the struggle to regain our country from the Republican neocons that are (for now) running the show. And yes, I do understand the current L.A. mayoral race is Democrat against Democrat (for the most part) with the contenders for the office being Democrats Antonio Villaraigosa, James K. Hahn, Richard Alarcon, Bob Hertzberg, Bernard Parks; with the lone Republican Walter Moore rounding it out. However, Antonio Villaraigosa is the only one (in my opinion) that is not only talking about building bridges but Villaraigosa already has the real life, hands-on experience of building bridges between communities...and far as this devildog is concerned, that's what it is all about. All the pretense and horses**t has to go out the window...it's all about working people pulling together, cutting through the wedge issues and forming alliances that will allow them to lead better lives. That's what Villaraigosa is talking about and (more importantly) that's what he's been talking about his entire political career, based on what I've read on the man, http://www.canyon-news.com/artman/publish/article_2557.php . I'm really hoping that he can win today, and win outright (with no need for a run-off) which will mean winning over 50% of the vote. Probably won't happen and they'll have a run-off after all, but we'll see. Good luck Villaraigosa. Semper Fidelis.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Rise of the Dimmest and the Dumbest, or, the Collective Intellectual Decline of American Civilization Posted by Hello
Morning. The photo above is the cover of Richard Hofstadter's book (published in 1966) that explores the conflagarated war against American intellectuals (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0394703170/002-2800134-3180009) and how this attack on America's intellectual class seems to be a sad component of the national character. This is the topic of the day because I'm still getting over an argument I had with a friend last night concerning the current state of intellectualism in American society...among other things. My friend told me that my blog, initially, sounded "angry" but that the blog has evolved (over time) into a less angry medium. I could understand where my friend was coming from, but my feathers were a little ruffled because my intention was certainly not to create an angry blog. Then, early this morning, it dawned on me (no pun intended)...so what if it sounds angry? The Scriptures (http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=Ecclesiastes+3) tell us there is "...a time and place for everything...", does it not? Well, then based on that premise, there IS a time for anger; and if this isn't a time for anger then I don't know what is. We are living in perilous times friends....woe the United States if she continues on this perilous course. America is at war with itself; more to point, America is at war with her intellectuals and intellectualism (as the always excellent 'Christian Science Monitor' so adroitly concludes in the article 'Deep Thinkers missing in action' at http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0121/p17s02-lehl.html) . First, let me define intellectualism (the dictionary definition) as the:

1) Exercise or application of the intellect.
2) Devotion to exercise or development of the intellect

You know, it's interesting: there are many states, typically in the southern regions of the country (especially Texas, http://www.texasobserver.org/showArticle.asp?ArticleID=1726 ) that have subscribed to some form of anti-intellectualism or another for as long as anyone can remember. The most virulent form of anti-intellectualism (as previously eluded to) can still be found in Texas, where there are but a few intellectuals left; and they are (for the most part) holed-up and under siege in Austin (home of the University of Texas, The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, Sandra Bullock, Madeline Stowe, and others), the only sensible and enlightened area in the whole damned state (http://travel.lycos.com/destinations/location.asp?pid=244009). But what is even more disturbing is how this pathogen has slowly spread across America and now seems to be accelerating in its attempt to dominate the culture. Of course, anti-intellectualism's crowning achievement to date was the election and then re-election of the current president. If the Alfred E. Newman of 'MAD Magazine' fame statement "what, me, worry" doesn't apply in the current context, then I don't know when it would ever apply. Moreover, the disease of anti-intellectualism is crushing the African-American community. Once proud of it's intellectual heritage (an intellectual heritage embodied in such notables as Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Benjamin E. Mays, Barbara Jordan and others), this community (sadly) now finds itself under constant threat from an element within its own ranks. This desperate community within the greater American community is under attack, slowly being decimated by a degenerate sub-culture that is determined to undermine a centuries worth of intellectual progress. The consequences are devestating, as the following 'Reuters' link attests to, http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=healthNews&storyID=2005-03-02T182443Z_01_B18425_RTRIDST_0_HEALTH-CRISIS-BLACK-DC.XML. Chuck D, leader of the group Public Enemy (and, quite simply, the modern embodiment of the poet/artist/scholar/warrior), touched on this very topic at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in February 2005, http://www.uaf.edu/sunstar/archives/20050301/chuckd.htm. Chuck D stated the following:

"This whole thing, the whole 'I've got to be a thug,' or 'I've got to follow what the television tells me I'm worth," is set up to turn you into a forever consumer. It's not real. It's as real as you thinking you're wise at 17, 18, 19."


From there, Chuck elaborated on race relations and the prevailing "anti-intellectualism that's killing [them]." "America makes money off of black death, misery, and destruction. [America doesn't] want you to better yourself. They want blacks to be their entertainment. That's why you have to take it on yourself to get your education. To f**k the idea of being a 'gangsta' ".

This is something to get passionate about, but it seems like we live in a time where "passion" equals "crazy". A prime example of this disturbing social phenomenon is when Howard Dean discovered the expression of one's passion is a "no-no". Dean was lambasted by the American press after his defeat in the 2004 Iowa Democratic Caucus for simply getting "a little excited", or "a little motivated" (as our Marine Corps brothers and sisters call it). Truly, I was certainly no fan of Howard Dean, I was supporting Wesley Clark all the way (as I've stated in previous posts) but regardless of who any of us were supporting, the kind of response Dean suffered for simply "losing his cool" and showing some political passion doesn't make any sense. The man had his a** handed to him for pete's sake and was damn near destroyed by the press for simply showing a little "fire in the belly". Can you imagine if this current bullsh**t standard was applied to our great leaders of the past? There would have been no great Presidents like George Washington or Theodore Roosevelt, no great Presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Harry S. Truman, no great patriots like Patrick Henry or John Brown, there would be no great Americans like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, or Robert F. Kennedy, in fact no anybody of any consequence that was about changing things for the better. All of these past great presidents and leaders were known to get a little "overheated" when discussing issues of passion and importance. And what's wrong with that? What's wrong with passion and intensity? Friends, passion is the engine of progress. Folks, be advised: beware the anti-intellectuals and their insidious movement, fore they will surely place this country squarely on a death march into oblivion. Semper Fidelis