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Entries in militarism (16)

Wednesday
Jul182012

The Model Moral Dilemma

The mind of a young man can be co-opted by the wrong stuff. And then it takes a lifetime to shake some of it loose. And furthermore, things may be things but they aren't just things.

When I was about 11-15 in the late 1980s, I was completely enthralled by military aircraft. A couple major reasons include the fact that my house in San Diego was just a scant few miles from the outer fence of Miramar Naval Air Station, the location of Fightertown USA, the home of TOPGUN. A certain famous movie by that name, released just before I entered eighth grade, was a kind of pornography, drug, and rock and roll all in one, at least to this boy just on the cusp of adolescence that summer of 1986. Even before that, I used to be able to sit on my roof or go a couple blocks to my middle school, or just ride the canyons on my bike and I'd see F-14 Tomcat and other jets doing laps around and around for hours at a time. Most flew within a mile or so, and sometimes, nearly overhead. The base was a naval air station then and the pilots were doing their touch and go exercises to rehearse the kinds of landings they'd need to make on the aircraft carriers.

Extending that interest in watching the Tomcats and other planes do laps, my retired Navy chief grandfather indulged me sometimes and took me to Miramar and let me take binoculars to the fence just outside the Fightertown USA hangar, where I'd just observe the activity, or the planes on the tarmac. In a similar way, the stretch of empty space along Kearny Villa Road, on the east fence of the base, just at the end of the runway, felt a little like holy ground where I could be right under the planes as they landed. Of course, there would be military security goons that would come and dismiss anyone watching from that perspective. That made it all the more interesting.

Watching the Blue Angels and getting to the airshows was akin to high holy days. The spectacular six-point convergent move that is done just over the audience (or nearly so since those things have proven disastrous) was sort of a 12 year old's religious experience. Back at home, I'd pore over the Blue Angels' show program with an eye to every detail, getting to know the pilots and everything else.

Passion for Plastic

All this fed a need to build plastic models with more and more accuracy and detail. I'd been at building models since about 11 years old—about 1985 or so—and I'd been developing the craft with each model I built. My favorites were Tomcats, but I had several F-16s, F-15s, and A-4s. There were several other types but I kept gravitating toward those Cold War stalwarts. By the time early 1987 rolled around, as a 13 year old, I was introduced to the International Plastic Modeler's Society, an organization that is comprised of hobbyists, car and military buffs, fantasy figure painters and other types. I went to monthly gatherings and quarterly contests.

The Command Post business card from when I actually worked there. It wasn't the same as the place I hung out at. They had moved three stores into one and the vibe and character was different. By the time I worked there, I was over half a year from having built any models.The knowledge of the planes and the building of the models fed each other in symbiotic relationship. I routinely shopped at a store called The Command Post, a place where I later worked (interestingly in 1990 after I got out of the hobby). There I not only bought my models and supplies, I also endeared myself as the kid who knew all the product numbers and actually got into helping out, receiving product, stocking and labeling, and running errands for the guys. I was doing this at the age of 14. They would reward me with product. That Hasegawa F-14 kit was a pretty hot item when I got it.

For about eight months during 1988-89, I rode one of my bikes over there two times every weekend, taking a long and convoluted path to the store so that the old man could be satisfied I was safer as I crossed the 805 freeway. Each of those days I rode over there, I stayed the whole day, or near that. I got into a habit of staying five hours on Saturday and the entire four hour day on Sunday! I'd usually learn all I could by listening to the real staff guys (one of which, Ross Shekelton, turned me on to music, most particularly Rush, but also with the band that launched my interest in drumming: Def Leppard), and after a while, I'd even be talking to customers about how to use this product or that, and often, fans of one type of plane or another would break into enthusiastic conversation about sightings, air shows, and the like. I'd read the books, study the pictures of aircraft, learning all about them. I was the runner boy for rolled tacos over at the neighboring Roberto's taco shop in the next mall over.

Refining the Craft

Taking all that to my bedroom or my grandparents' patio (at Quapaw/Hog Heaven) during the summer, I'd spend hours at the craft of building plastic models. It was the first craft that ever commanded that much energy and focus of me. It paid off when I got my models entered into the local IPMS contests and was egged on to greater success and technique by the help of an enthusiastic group president, Darrel "The Big Salami" Killingsworth. I learned the finer nuances of flat sanding parts taken off the plastic molding "sprue"; the vastly superior qualities of liquid glue; the optimal filler putties available from automotive suppliers (NitroStan) how to prepare your surfaces for priming and painting; airbrushing; applying decals without bubbles or yellowing. Creating dioramas or maybe how to use clear acrylic mounting rods bent in boiling water so that an aircraft model could be mounted "in flight." And so on.

My A-4 Skyhawk that won two awards, and the plaque and six ribbons from the other winners, all on the same night. I swept two categories by default.The April 1989 sweep

I had been plugging along at the local contests and each was a chance to get familiar with others, learn techniques, get feedback, egg each other on. There weren't many juniors so there was a pretty predictable "competition" between me and a guy named Jeff and a couple others. Or sometimes not at all. One contest in April 1989, I got seven awards for six models, I think because no one was there and I swept the categories of Best Junior/Aircraft and Best Junior/Armor and then got the Best Junior perpetual plaque. It was a rather pointless victory, but good for the teenage ego, especially because my female friend Traci Flint (more of a tomboy/engineering geek of two years my senior) was in attendence and saw it all. At the very least, it did make for some victory chatter and my stuff was seen and the night was memorable.

Award certificate, 1988.One of the certificates accompanying the Aerospace Museum winsOther competitions were a bit harder. In the county-wide contest held by the San Diego Aerospace Museum (sic, that's what it was called then), I did have to come up with the goods. On two consecutive yearly contests, I did win against bona fide competition, placing an F-14 (that had won a few contests) and subsequently, an A-4. The prize was good for the ego: my stuff was on display before the tourist public within the main museum hall for one year for each win, with my name beside it. It was a thing to take my church group and other buddies to. (I think it failed to inspire Shelby Duncan, but she's a freak anyway.)

IPMS National, 1989

One last IPMS contest was a national one where it just happened to be in San Diego. It was during this very week of 1989 (23 years ago now) when I got four awards for three models. I had just started building armor models earlier in the year, and one of them was literally painted the day before entering. Because it was a bona fide national contest, there were other Juniors in the competition, but of course, since few can ride their bikes across the nation with plastic models in a saddle bag or milk crate on their rack, the competition was still not as stiff as among the adults. At any rate, I did get four awards, one for a wacky alternative take on an F-14, the "F-14E" as I called it. (There really were people who asked about it, especially since I came up with a tech sheet that featured the new developments of the airplane. All were contrary to the F-14's longstanding, voluptuous design. It was a total joke but a well done one.)

The three winning models with their award plaques. Abrahms tank, my hoax F-14E, and a Sgt. York tank.The spoils of model building war... the F-14E got the two middle awards

That contest was my last, even as it was my best showing ever. In fact, by October, I had a change sweep across me that was sufficient to put an end to my model building life. I began to play drums just weeks after the contest, and by the fall, all my model projects were brushed aside and forgotten about. I was getting into music. I got all the Def Leppard albums, and at the start of the school year, I was getting into Jethro Tull and bought one tape a week. I also was getting deeply into the life at church [scan of a letter from one of the adults praising that], where I had just returned to active life in June. I was so enthralled by this new life. Schoolwork suffered. Only when I actually was called to work at the Command Post did I engage in the hobby at all, but I doubt I finished even one model. By the time I got the gig at Command Post, they had moved the store (did that in summer 1989) and it was not the same. The personalities I liked had moved on. I worked extremely part time there for about five months or less and never connected again. The money I made was paid me from the cash register, and I promptly walked across the road to Music Mart and bought drum gear there once they had moved into the location. Out with the old, in with the new.

My stuff in the national magazine following the contest.Two of my models listed in the IPMS magazine following the convention

Dawning of Moral Consciousness: 2001

Going to church then in the 1989-1991 period was not the thing that led me to the change that I actually wish to write about now. But it was an early period of church life that later on did affect a lot of change of heart and consciousness. I'd have to skip ahead to 2002 and onward.

I returned to church life in January 2002, one week after it became apparent that Kelli and I were entering a whole new phase of life. We'd sort of moved past "just friends" and at that time, she was like a candle in the window to me, and I found that in the post 9/11 world, I'd need some clues of how to progress. I was 28. Family upset about a year before left the landscape of my life changed forever. My grandmother died in April of 2001, and as you've all no doubt read before, the dynamic changed drastically with the struggle between me and the old man.

I became a quite devoted pew sitter that year and by the end of the year I was recording the sermons and by 2004 was working on the website, and was on the trustees. I was seemingly mature and stepping into adult roles in the congregation. But my favorite part of the new era at church was the sermons and the great pearls of wisdom that I gleaned from the relationship with my pastor Jerry Lawritson. There I learned more about human struggles, nonviolence, liberal theology, and a bunch of stuff that excited me. Names like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Elie Wiesel, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and others were the names I was surrounded with. They all pointed to a deeper life that was tugging at me.

Around that same time and in a parallel universe at Mesa College, an English essay assignment I worked on pondered the direction of American style growth-based economics. That led me to knowledge of peak oil. And that shocked me. By early 2005 I had started a website called EONSNOW and was showing a documentary called The End of Suburbia. I had some idea that all these new things were going to intersect, but they were not yet doing so in my mind.

Booted from Eden: 2005

Awareness like that began to seep into my consciousness. Being troubled by these kinds of thoughts, I set about trying to share them and find others who might be troubled in a similar way. EONSNOW was literally just getting launching three days prior to the day when I got evicted from my dear house seven years ago. That was a galvanizing event as you all know by now. All of a sudden, the focus had to shift from being world-aware to getting a bunch of personal affairs in order. One thing that had to happen was vast reductions in material stuff. I was cutting through the house trying to figure out what had to go. Up in my closet were a couple boxes of plastic models. Many were in some state of brokenness as it was. Landing gear, tail fins, missile rails... all that was broken and not likely to be glued up. The decals were yellowing. The glue was brittle in places. Was there ever any chance I'd put these on display again? The newest of them was 16 years old! The Cold War came to an end AFTER my model career ended. Yet here I was, so many years later, still storing all this?

Techgnosis

Detouring for a moment here, it seems honest to say that I still find the technology fascinating. It can't be argued that any of these planes are impressive at some level. Defying physics and the laws of nature is indeed impressive. If I were into all this now, I'd be gushing about the F-22 Raptor, a plane that can do things that my beloved F-14 could never dream of. I'd be building models of it and talking about its thrust-vectoring exhaust nozzles that allow it to do some of the most unusual stuff a plane has been seen doing. But the pursuit of all this development is what I have to draw a box around: they are all weapons of war, and such things as building models is a safe way of objectifying that, and forgetting what human ruin comes either from the firing of the weapons or the very stockpiling of the weapons, and equipping a standing imperial military. The budgets that are shaped with the "defense" of the nation in mind are completely out of whack, with "defense" being half the government's spending for years and years now. And, as I researched this entry using my cursory trip to Wikipedia for reminders of terms and other figures, the F-14, as powerful as it was, was never really put to much use in war. Apparently two Phoenix missiles were launched in Iraq in 1999 for the purpose for which they were intended, and both missed. Those things are a million bucks apiece! That's pretty steep a price to pay for something that can't accomplish what it set out to do. Pointing to two failed missile shots should suggest that with all the massive expenditures the Department of Defense makes, it's clearly going to overspend on waste, fraud, or outright failure. How many people could be fed for the price of just one of those missiles? How much student loan debt could be struck from the books for that sum? How many neighborhoods could be resurrected into thriving communities? How many blocks of blight could be turned into community gardens? And yet, back in the early days of the Cold War, old Ike himself, not a stranger to the military as a victor among the victorious, warned against all this military buildup.

Air shows and other times when military buffs and supporters get together, a saying that accompanies a jet flyby is "That's the sound of FREEDOM!!!" but now I am more likely to mock that with "That's the sound of FASCISM!!!" Did any F-14 or any other piece of 20th Century military gear get made without some cooperation of corporate industry and government that now are bound up like a double helical strand of DNA? Yeah, I thought so.

It was one thing to be technically enthralled by statistics and specs alone, but it took a more mature mind than my teen years could provide before I understood and felt the wrongness of all this. Knowing how much the national "defense" budget requires is a shocker and is far from the concerns of a young kid who thinks it "cool" that a plane can fire missiles or drop bombs to stunning visual effect. Even from my family, I did not get too firm a message to remember that all those stats mask the real power to destroy life and community, and even environment. To a teenager, it's all a game. After hearing Jerry's sermons for a couple years, and hearing them again as I edited and posted them to the church site, I was poised to make a decision about the models.

July 1, 2005: From Plastic Model to the Plastic Bin

In a kind of visceral disgust at myself for keeping them long past their useful dates, I heaved every one of those models into the big black trash bin in my garage. Most I smashed into the sidewalls of the bin. I felt I had to repent for being so blind. Another layer of concern was the fact that all these plastic models were made of petroloeum—oil—and I just happened to be launching a crusade to remind people the oil age is coming to a close and life will have to change. For my immediate future, I had to concern myself with that giant amount of stuff I had inherited, bought, and otherwise gained in transactions ranging from trades to getting married and bringing Kelli's stuff into the mix. It was all hell. Smashing the models was a spontaneous act but something that was brewing for a while. I've never missed them since.

Simplifying: 2012

Skip ahead to the present day. It's 23 years after the most recent awards at the national contest. It's seven years since the models themselves were destroyed. Kelli and I have moved together five times in those seven years. Every move, we cut back some items, but invariably some get added and the feeling of being on a treadmill persists. In recent months, I've been working with Gerald Iversen, a committed peace activist and practitioner of voluntary simple living. We've been working on podcasts for JEM and for the upcoming one, it was just the two of us (Lee was off for good behavior) and the topic was the power of STUFF over our lives. While I didn't tell this story about models and worldviews during that recording, I have indeed been grappling with STUFF, in part because I do not have total say about the STUFF that occupies the house. It might be like pining for a lost innocence, but before I was married, before I inherited a household of STUFF, and before I had a studio space dedicated to the craft of recording, there was a time when things felt manageable, and moving house might have been a two or three truckload thing because it was really just a bedroom with some drumsets.

The recent move to Escondido did pare back a number of items but it still feels overwhelming, and after a bit of a period of considering our option to get a garage at $50 additional rent, we found that we had still too much stuff and that it warranted that extra space, if only because some things are just dirty items and awkwardly shaped: old bike Kelli doesn't use, lawnmower of no use to us at our previous house with a rockscape now with wood chips and no lawn, washing machines we didn't sell before we moved, etc..

my shipping boxes full of stuff, filling plastic tubs of more such stuff from over the years

I keep personal archive tubs of photo albums, boxes or folders of documents and little things to remember, all classed by year or certain other criteria. Those get combed periodically, but such a thing as the collection of awards shown in the video above has escaped scrutiny. The shipping boxes I was able to bring home from a job a few years ago have been handy for making tidy packages, but at the last house, there was no garage and the closet spaces were filled pretty completely. Shit like this just isn't that important anymore.

Of course, there is nostalgia about things like this. All the awards I won at the contests have enough of a reminder to say what model and what contest, but the rest of the story is in my head. No one would be able to put much of it together except from some journals scattered across this last quarter century. And, like everything else you can read on TAPKAE.com, no one really cares. The awards are not going to matter to anyone. They don't particularly matter to me at a great level now that I've felt drawn to another set of values. I do think of the fun I had doing the craft of it, and there are times when I realize in certain moments when I am drawing upon a kind of skill that was learned in those days. Some of those skills proved to be transferable to other things I've done in life. Maybe I bombed algebra and the critical thinking skills that was supposed to teach me, but the mechanics of shaping things with tools and sandpaper, the thought process of moving from step to step from opening a box to airbrushing and placing decals, and the pride of looking upon my creation is all stuff that sticks and appeared in the myriad experiences since, and will do so here on out.

Well Founded Immortality

All that is my experience and my perspective, but will do no one any good in the physical form of award ribbons and plaques. Curating a collection of models of the machines of war is a pointless exercise when you don't any longer believe in the value of war. Retaining a collection of pointless plastic artifacts made from oil is of no purpose to a person who for years has been critical of the abuses of the oil consuming culture. Retaining the synthetic and chemically-drenched awards that celebrate a proficiency in all of those things is particularly useless. The plaques can't even be burned, what with all the chemicals that go into presswood and the veneers. They can't be too well repurposed except as a flat surface onto which maybe a picture can be mounted, or perhaps turned into a hotplate for the dining room table. Attributing any value to these particular items is not transferrable; children I am committed to not bringing to this world won't care, will they? From here on, my generation and several preceding it will have some 'splain' to do why things are the way they are. The least most of us could do is break ranks with some the minor fetishes we have with STUFF, needless technology, and that unthinking love of the military as the defender of much of anything except the stuff that's killing us.

I will not have attained immortality for the keeping of this stuff, and if anything will aid in the immortality project, it will be some evidence of an enlarged consciousness and heart for those I meet and the things I do.

To quote Gerald Iversen, "It's just STUFF!"

Tuesday
Apr142009

Military Intelligence

I saw this puzzling little bit of local trivia in the San Diego Reader. In Coronado at the Navy Amphibious base, there is a bit of 'splainin' to do about the layout and construction of a certain building complex there. Apparently there was some flap about how it coincidentally resembles a swastika when seen overhead. Anyhow, here is the image on Google Maps to help illustrate the matter.

Monday
May262008

Compassion Day

To honor whatever it is that one honors on Memorial Day, I chose to watch the film Why We Fight (Wikipedia). Of course, as my earlier Memorial Day missives will reflect, I am not precious about the day and its typical rituals of nationalistic bullshit. The documentary features a multifaceted look at the military-industrial-corporate-thinktank complex and questions civilians, politicians, and military alike what motivates this nation to go to war. There is a lot of talk about how Ike predicted (rightly) the massive system which now must be fed our billions of dollars, our young men and women, and helped along by a cheerleading media. What disturbs most is that it is allowed to take over by a public that is lulled to sleep by sensational news, bullshit "reality" TV, working two jobs to get by, and the host of other distractions we face in daily life.

But I also heard a rebroadcast of an episode of Fresh Air (NPR) featuring a Marine and a journalist who have written a book about fallen soldiers and how the Marines dispatch such officers to not only break the news of a combat death, but to help look after the family for as long as it takes for grief to work itself out. The officer told gripping stories of how ritualized the whole thing is in the Corps. It was hard to not choke up and get a bit teared up at some of the things he said. The point was made at how the Corps was trained to be utmost efficient and good at being a killing machine, but this story demonstrated a great deal of mercy and steadfastness in taking care of the family, and indeed a fallen brother or sister, even past the burial. It was genuinely touching to hear. War, terrible though it is, at least doesn't eclipse all the best parts of a man, or even the potential for the human image to shine through what is inherently a dehumanizing institution—the military.

But I like to reach deeper. Jesus taught to love one's enemies. He didn't say this so that they might trample upon you time and time again as you prove your weakness and vulnerability, but that they might be rendered as non-enemies. I heard of a Hasidic tale that had two men talking about love. One said, 'do you love me?' The other said, 'sure I do.' The first asked, 'what hurts me?' to which the second said, 'I don't know what hurts you.' The first came back, saying, 'how can you say you love me if you don't know what hurts me?'

America has done a good job of wrapping itself in the flag for a good while, but none so much as since 9/11. And it all seems so packaged and contrived. It has to be. If we ever had to confront the real reasons for 9/11, our heads would explode. So the easier way is to just declare that "they hate us for our freedom" and other such nonsense. We are cavalier like this in a time when the world grows ever more complex and daunting. But just give us the snappy soundbite reasoning. What is not pleasant to remember is that the world is hurting, and that too often, it is hurting not just because nature can deal some blows—earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, etc. —but that there is plenty of shit that comes down because of man made social constructs—economics, politics, and their dirty-deed-doing comrade, war. The world is mostly hurt today by a corrupt economic model which America champions but one that ultimately is a shameful, destructive thing. So I posit that America has forgotten how to hurt in sympathy with the rest of the world, and because we have forgotten how to hurt, we can remain blind to the real suffering that exists, in part due to our success. As long as we can remain ignorant of this hurt, we can never say that we love the world enough to bring our precious democratic values, our liberty, and all that other jibberish talk.

America has not these values to offer another land because they do not exist here like we think they do. What we have is a military that will aid big business in its expansion into other territories, intruding into the political workings of other nations, and a media that will turn enough of a blind eye so that people here don't really know what is going on. In that vacuum, people feel of no consequence in relation to the system. But the rest of the world isn't so duped. So why are we so surprised that a 9/11 happens? Maybe because so many Americans are without clue as to what really is going on in the world and that contemporary events don't just happen out of the blue? Americans don't like to admit what effects our way of life has in the world. That blindness has earned us 9/11. People argue that our way of life 'must be great because people flock to it.' Shallow argument, I think. Our way of life is hitting the dead end that was inevitable. A world in uproar is part of the sign that the party is coming to an end. And what has been clearer to us that something is wrong than 9/11?

Yet here we are, throwing completely unconscionable amounts of money at the problem with nary a clue to what is really the problem.

It's the economy, stupid.

The world is not willing to be our factory forever. Or our slaves forever. Or our doormats forever. But somehow, all attempts are made to cling to the status quo of easy motoring (as Kunstler says), endless mall shopping, and all this other consumption-based activity, no matter what price the nation must really pay in money, blood, international goodwill, etc. Yet our economists talk about how the consumer activity constitutes 2/3 of our economic activity. They talk about how the consumer feels good or bad, almost as if to scare people into consuming so the economy doesn't falter. I think that is a form of mental slavery, quite unbecoming a nation that fancies itself free and democratic. It is certainly a form of manipulation.

Our economy is founded on serving the needs of others in one great economic circle jerk-slash-merry-go-round from which hardly anyone can escape. Who knows what to do to break out of that? We're trained to produce and consume so that we might be good citizens—er, consumers (the new patriotism it seems). There is a sort of fear instilled in people so that we won't try to avoid our responsibility to the system. It really is the religion of the land. But this economy is different from the one based on real self-sufficiency in an earlier America, or in many parts of the world even now, and certainly in pre-industrial societies where there was no factory to make goods for ready consumption. And, since much of the world is enjoying a growing trend toward industrialism, the social strains are there the same as they were when Britain, the US, and Europe were confronted with the stress of abandoning rural life for urban-industrial settings. America forgot, that is what it is. We were there, experiencing the dislocation from rural, isolated people who were pressed (or drawn) into the cities.

America forgot what it was to have that upheaval. Now we are on the other side of the equation, and we can't understand how the rest of the world feels. I'll bet it feels rather the same as when early industrialists started in on their radical social transformation in the name of progress. Not every farmer who was lured from the farm, or forced off the farm embraced the urban-industrial lifestyle. So it is with other peasants around the world who see change as threatening and not altogether necessary if it means their land or resources will be taken away without real compensation. This is where America has failed to understand what hurts people and nations. This is where America has failed to show compassion in the real sense of the word—suffering with. This is where America cannot say it loves other people or places enough to bring them democracy or liberty of any of that. This is also where America cannot think of itself as a Christian nation. (This is a jab at those righty evangelicals and fundamentalists who say such nonsense.) America cannot foist any more economic injustice upon the world and expect cooperation. September 11 was the wakeup call for that. This means that everything must change or it will be changed for us.

Jesus of Nazareth was essentially a nobody from no place worth mentioning. But, as theologian Marcus Borg emphasizes, he was a man defined by and who defined compassion—suffering with. I think to be Christ-like is to understand suffering of another; to know what hurts a person. I will repeat again that you and me don't have enemies in Iraq or Afghanistan. But what we do have is a problem of thinking we are separated from one another—as if they haven't suffered the same (and worse) as we've suffered. I can't find it in my heart to hate another peasant in a far off land, or even in Mexico, about 20 miles from here. I've been told by my "leadership" that I have enemies out there, and that people are out to get what is mine, and I have to fight them before they attack me. That is the rhetoric these days, and it works as well as in any time and place. But who are our enemies but for other humans who hurt and feel just like you and me, and frankly, have been pushed into more desperate places in their souls than we have? If humans are our enemies, then we'd better get busy killing people, because there sure are plenty of them out there! But if they aren't, maybe killing gets us nowhere, and maybe on a day like Memorial Day we need to realize what a colossally stupid thing we do when we march off to war and engage in a fruitless pursuit that has proven itself to be that time and time again, and no amount of spending and media hype will ever prove anything to the contrary.

I frankly don't know what to think of vets now, seeing how most of them fought wars that were dubious, and a couple wars now were fought with so-called "volunteers." Part of me thinks these volunteers are blind fools, but really I just have to have pity on the poor souls who think that the military is a good place to be in this day and age. Touching as it was to hear how the Marines look after their dead, I still think that sort of ritualistic care should be put into avoiding the whole franchise of war in the first place. One day, let us hope that Memorial Day would be able to actually memorialize ALL the war dead, because there would be no more coming home draped in flags.

Sunday
Dec022007

To My Loyal Audience

Apologies to those who of my biggest, RSS-subscribing fans have been bored with the poetry as of late. I've just been bored with the endless prose format that has primarily defined my writing approach for years. And there have been some personal developments which even I deem a bit too private, though they may eventually work themselves into writings to come.

I redesigned a home page (only) for James Howard Kunstler. Kunstler's book, The Geography of Nowhere, was the thing that started my interests in social issues back in 1998. His blog in more recent years has been important in my understanding of what must happen in the age of peak oil and its decline. Along those lines, his book, The Long Emergency, unified a number of his ideas that evolved in his blogs. But he had a crappy web site for a long time. Finally, I wrote and told him so, and he asked me to help out getting the front page dialed in a bit more. I've been asked to make a promo site for his next book.

I've been reading a lot as of late. Lots of things revolving around Christianity, theology (in a wider sense), and history or politics. I continue to be a total addict to Wikipedia, which is just too cool for a guy like me who likes to meander. Stuff I've been reading in the last few months since getting liberated from the workplace:

  • The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God: A Political, Economic, and Religious Statement. David Ray Griffin, John Cobb, Jr., Richard Falk, Catherine Keller. The authors are primarily within the field of Process Theology, this takes a good look at the American rise to empire or "benevolent hegemony" or whatever nice euphemism describes our present place in the world. It comes down very hard on the US for using the power vacuum of the post-Soviet era to increase, not decrease, its commitment to militarism as a primary instrument of foreign policy. The book looks at the lie we have told ourselves in our national mythology—that we are innocently being drawn toward greatness as a superpower, but if any nation should be put in that position, it might as well be us, right? Maybe it isn't that after all. Maybe a more reasoned look shows the US has been imperial for a century and more, with certain roots back to the founding days.
  • The Return of the Prodigal Son. Henri Nouwen. Kelli got this at a book fair at her school. The price written inside the used copy was $0.75, and a damned well spent seventy five cents it was, too! This modest book of about 140 pages was just good food for the soul. Henri had to redefine his life and mission when he encountered the Rembrandt painting that depicts the homecoming and forgiveness of the wayward son, as told in the Gospel of Luke. He found that while it was most easy to identify with the wayward, reckless son, he was dared to consider himself as the jealous and dutiful son who remained at home and fulfilled all his roles, only to have his rage explode when his attentiveness was upstaged by his reckless brother's homecoming. Then, in the hardest leap for Nouwen, he found that it was his calling—and all our callings—to become the father who forgives, and celebrates the wholeness that comes from having everyone together again. The father is the ultimate spiritual destination for any of us—to reach that point where the ego is depleted from having been both sons—the reckless parts of our lives, the uptight, dutiful parts, the jealous and the angry parts—and to just accept things with compassion that arises from having "been there."
  • Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Marcus Borg. This is another dollar well spent at the book fair. I'm just getting started on it, but enough of it is familiar from other reading of this sort. Borg is a member of the Jesus Seminar, the group that is trying to establish the actual historicity of Jesus as a human who walked the earth, and what he said or did not say. Despite being deconstructionist in such an approach, the question then is, what truth remains? He recalls a native American storyteller who began his stories with, 'I don't know if any of this actually happened, but its all true.' The point about Jesus then is not whether he said specifically this or that, or encountered this person or that, but that there is a truth beyond the details, the meaning behind the story that is still something that can speak to us now. Joseph Campbell spoke of unpacking the imagery of myth to get to the meaning beneath. Borg is working in a similar fashion. I endorse such readings of the Bible because then it has a chance to be relevant to me now. The Jesus of Sunday School can only matter for so long before he becomes a joke. But the Jesus-as-social prophet/mystic/teacher/dissident is fascinating. That Jesus I have a use for.
  • The Revelation of John. William Barclay. This is actually a part of a series on the New Testament, all from about 1960. I've decided not to hate the book of Revelation like some, and I've decided not to worship it like others seem to do. Revelation is a lot of things to different people. But it isn't what a lot of people think it is if you only know a bit about 666, and the various bits of bullshit that popular culture regurgitates in dreck like the Left Behind series. Only about a year and a half ago I wasn't convinced that the book had any good use, and it may as well be excised from the Bible. But actually it is a very hopeful book—if you understand the medium and the target of its criticism. It is really ironic that American fundamentalists are so ready to hold the book up and cite it because it is really a slam against Rome—the oppressive empire of the day. It is written from the underside of that tyranny, and seeks to assure the faithful that the worst human evils are still no match for God's power. One could imagine such a document being written in the present day by a group that feels under the boot of American imperial power—some folks in the middle east, maybe? It is a bit odd then that for Revelation to be truly understood and appreciated, you can't read it as a member of the dominant power structure, which America clearly is in a way that Rome could only dream of. So it is interesting that Americans make the biggest deal about Revelation, claiming that God's kingdom is right around the corner... I don't particularly like the Christ-as-conquerer imagery, but I do like the idea that maybe God can still best us when we deserve it. In that regard, thinking that there has to be some check on human arrogance and evil, I stand with John of Patmos. The thought that this is all there is...depresses me. Maybe there won't be a city descending from the clouds, but one has to hope this crooked, fucked up world isn't all we have to look forward to.
  • The Closing of the Western Mind. Charles Freeman. I've had this book for a couple years but finally got down to reading it and have finished about half of it. The sad irony in history is that Christianity, a noble religion in principle, was compromised from the beginning of the movement, and Paul of Tarsus' insults to the Greek philosophers didn't help. Greek thought had been refined for centuries before Paul, but he came by and demeaned it as kid's play compared to the need for faith in Christ. Paul then ushered in the closing of the western mind, and it was most solidified when the religion teamed up with empire, and what was ostensibly a nuisance and fringe player, became the religion of the empire, and even more than in its non-empire days, became quite intolerant of anything that ran contrary to its doctrine. Unfortunate, really. I think this book, while primarily a history book, is more of a cautionary book for our age. It might have taken the English Freeman to write this book, but Americans need it in a big way. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to stick your head in the sand to be a Christian. You don't need to hate and fear science. Today's fundamentalism can surely lead us to a new dark age if it gets cozy with power.
Friday
Jun022006

Stan Goff Says Hold On To Your Humanity

These are the words of Stan Goff, a great American. I want to reprint it here so I can pair it with my posters that came about a couple years ago. The original post is here.

stark cutout silhouette image of the hooded iraqi with caption of cruel and unusual, america must do betterI am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you—some more extreme than others—are changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up in the language to which you are accustomed. In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all.

The essence of all this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland. We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part in finally bringing that crime to a halt.

When I started hearing about weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including me.

When that bullshit story about weapons came apart like a two-dollar shirt, the politicians who cooked up this war told everyone, including you, that you would be greeted like great liberators. They told us that we were in Vietnam to make sure everyone there could vote.

What they didn't tell me was that before I got there in 1970, the American armed forces had been burning villages, killing livestock, poisoning farmlands and forests, killing civilians for sport, bombing whole villages, and commiting rapes and massacres, and the people who were grieving and raging over that weren't in a position to figure out the difference between me—just in country—and the people who had done those things to them.

What they didn't tell you is that over a million and a half Iraqis died between 1991 and 2003 from malnutrition, medical neglect, and bad sanitation. Over half a million of those who died were the weakest: the children, especially very young children.

My son who is over there now has a baby. We visit with our grandson every chance we get. He is eleven months old now. Lots of you have children, so you know how easy it is to really love them, and love them so hard you just know your entire world would collapse if anything happened to them. Iraqis feel that way about their babies, too. And they are not going to forget that the United States government was largely responsible for the deaths of half a million kids.

So the lie that you would be welcomed as liberators was just that. A lie. A lie for people in the United States to get them to open their purse for this obscenity, and a lie for you to pump you up for a fight.

And when you put this into perspective, you know that if you were an Iraqi, you probably wouldn't be crazy about American soldiers taking over your towns and cities either. This is the tough reality I faced in Vietnam. I knew while I was there that if I were Vietnamese, I would have been one of the Vietcong.

But there we were, ordered into someone else's country, playing the role of occupier when we didn't know the people, their language, or their culture, with our head full of bullshit our so-called leaders had told us during training and in preparation for deployment, and even when we got there. There we were, facing people we were ordered to dominate, but any one of whom might be pumping mortars at us or firing AKs at us later that night. The question we stated to ask is who put us in this position?

In our process of fighting to stay alive, and in their process of trying to expel an invader that violated their dignity, destroyed their property, and killed their innocents, we were faced off against each other by people who made these decisions in $5,000 suits, who laughed and slapped each other on the back in Washington DC with their fat fucking asses stuffed full of cordon blue and caviar.

They chumped us. Anyone can be chumped.

That's you now. Just fewer trees and less water.

We haven't figured out how to stop the pasty-faced, oil-hungry backslappers in DC yet, and it looks like you all might be stuck there for a little longer. So I want to tell you the rest of the story.

I changed over there in Vietnam and they were not nice changes either. I started getting pulled into something—something that craved other peole's pain. Just to make sure I wasn't regarded as a "fucking missionary" or a possible rat, I learned how to fit myself into that group that was untouchable, people too crazy to fuck with, people who desired the rush of omnipotence that comes with setting someone's house on fire just for the pure hell of it, or who could kill anyone, man, woman, or child, with hardly a second thought. People who had the power of life and death—because they could.

The anger helps. It's easy to hate everyone you can't trust because of your circumstances, and to rage about what you've seen, what has happened to you, and what you have done and can't take back.

It was all an act for me, a cover-up for deeper fears I couldn't name, and the reason I know that is that we had to dehumanize our victims before we did the things we did. We knew deep down that what we were doing was wrong. So they became dinks or gooks, just like Iraqis are now being transformed into ragheads or hajjis. People had to be reduced to "niggers" here before they could be lynched. No difference. We convinced ourselves we had to kill them to survive, even when that wasn't true, but something inside us told us that so long as they were human beings, with the same intrinsic value we had as human beings, we were not allowed to burn their homes and barns, kill their animals, and sometimes even kill them. So we used these words, these new names, to reduce them, to strip them of their essential humanity, and then we could do things like adjust artillery fire onto the cries of a baby.

Until that baby was silenced, though, and here's the important thing to understand, that baby never surrendered her humanity. I did. We did. That's the thing you might not get until it's too late. When you take away the humantiy of another, you kill your own humanity. You attack your own soul because it is standing in the way.

tortured looking art with gravestones, cattle road sign, and other chaosSo we finish our tour, and go back to our families, who can see that even though we function, we are empty and incapable of truly connecting to people any more, and maybe we can go for months or even years before we fill that void where we surrendered our humanity, with chemical anesthetics—drugs, alcohol, until we realize that the void can never be filled and we shoot ourselves, or head off into the street where we can disappear with the flotsam of society, or we hurt others, esepcially those who try to love us, and end up as another incarceration statistic or a mental patient.

You can ever escape that you became a racist because you made the excuse that you needed that to survive, that you took things away from people that you can never give back, or that you killed a piece of yourself that you may never get back.

Some of us do. We get lucky and someone gives a damn enough to emotionally resuscitate us and bring us back to life. Many do not.

I live with the rage every day of my life, even when no one else sees it. You might hear it in my words. I hate being chumped.

So here is my message to you. You will do what you have to do to survive, however you define survival, while we do what we have to do to stop this thing. But don't surrender your humanity. Not to fit in. Not to prove yourself. Not for an adrenaline rush. Not to lash out when you are angry and frustrated. Not for some ticket-punching fucking military careerist to make his bones on. Especially not for the Bush-Cheney Gas & Oil Consortium.

The big bosses are trying to gain control of the world's energy supplies to twist the arms of future economic competitors. That's what's going on, and you need to understand it, then do what you need to do to hold on to your humanity. The system does that; tells you you are some kind of hero action figures, but uses you as gunmen. They chump you.

Your so-called civilian leadership sees you as an expendable commodity. They don't care about your nightmares, about the DU that you are breathing, about the lonliness, the doubts, the pain, or about how you humanity is stripped away a piece at a time. They will cut your benefits, deny your illnesses, and hide your wounded and dead from the public. They already are.

They don't care. So you have to. And to preserve your own humanity, you must recognize the humanity of the people whose nation you now occupy and know that both you and they are victims of the filthy rich bastards who are calling the shots.

They are your enemies—The Suits—and they are the enemies of peace, and the enemies of your families, especially if they are Black families, or immigrant families, or poor families. They are thieves and bullies who take and never give, and they say they will "never run" in Iraq, but you and I know that they will never have to run, because they fucking aren't there. You are

They'll skin and grin while they are getting what they want from you, and throw you away like a used condom when they are done. Ask the vets who are having their benefits slashed out from under them now. Bushfeld and their cronies are parasites, and they are the sole beneficiaries of the chaos you are learning to live in. They get the money. You get the prosthetic devices, the nightmares, and the mysterious illnesses.

So if your rage needs a target, there they are, responsible for your being there, and responsible for keeping you there. I can't tell you to disobey. That would probably run me afoul of the law. That will be a decision you will have to take when and if the circumstances and your own conscience dictate. But it perfeclty legal for you to refuse illegal orders, and orders to abuse or attack civilians are illegal. Ordering you to keep silent about these crimes is also illegal.

I can tell you, without fear of legal consequence, that you are never under any obligation to hate Iraqis, you are never under any obligation to give yourself over to racism and nihilism and the thirst to kill for the sake of killing, and you are never under any obligation to let them drive out the last vestiges of your capacity to see and tell the truth to yourself and to the world. You do not owe them your souls.

Come home safe, and come home sane. The people who love you and who have loved you all your lives are waiting here, and we want you to come back and be able to look us in the face. Don't leave your souls in the dust there like another corpse.

Hold on to your humanity.

Stan Goff

US Army (Ret.)

Sunday
May282006

Memorial Day

I wrote this on the weekend as a response to a posting on Craig's List. I won't hold it up as my finest work because it really is sarcasm and doesn't really answer the woman's question (I wasn't really attempting to, but such is the nature of the rants and raves section of CL—anonymous polemics), but it does get to the heart of the matter as I see it. There was one response that said it was the finest piece of anti-war writing that s/he has seen. Dunno bout that, but it comes from a real place in me. The initial post goes like so:

I'm embarassed to say, but as an adult woman, I have no idea the different parts of the military. I don't know which group has admirals and which has generals. I can't look at a man in uniform and distinguish if he's a Marine, Navy or Army. I don't know what those Lego-looking buttons mean or their symbolic meaning. I know they aren't Legos, but they are small, colorful and square. I am totally ignorant. No, I am not from San Diego, but I am a Californian. There are no bases where I live or they were closed by the time I was born. I know dates in history of various wars and battles, but have no idea seeing men in uniform which branch they represent in the military.

Well, as a rule of thumb, the guys with lots of "fruit salad" (as I've heard the so-called Legos called) are the ones who send guys off to war because they themselves have aged out of war, and wanted to share the joy of being shot at and maimed with the younger generation. How benevolent. You can be sure it does not work in the opposite direction: the guys with no fruit salad do not send the old men to war.

Sometimes there is no war to actually fight. So then the services need to look busy until elite and powerful men from Ivy League schools and secret societies and corporations get together and decide to make a new war to keep society arranged in just the right pyramidal form. Between wars is a good time to dream up solutions to the last war that was fought (we still invest in massive aircraft carriers and fighter jets but can't seem to keep a Hummer safe in Iraq). All the while, those soldiers not blessed with a chest of fruit salad are trained to protect the pyramid of social structure (that primarily is upon their shoulders), and the best way they can do it is to work for too little money while mostly not being able to go home for the night to their wives, kids, and whatever else they would do if they worked a "regular job" at KFC or Best Buy. The difference between their roles at such jobs and their role in the military is that they serve different components of the corporate-military complex in the nation. The guy or gal at Best Buy has a shitty job that they can quit at will, then can mooch off the public dole as a "loser". The soldier does not, despite having one of the most truly shitty jobs out there. However, if he does suffer with the program, or get sufficiently hacked to pieces, he can leave service as a "hero" while being paid once again, on the public dole. Either way, they are rewarded in a grossly unfair way, and the taxpayer still foots the bill somehow. Some will lose arms or legs, and the guy at Best Buy or Wal Mart will have his soul sucked out of him.

the dead heroes in flag draped coffins that get flown in discreetly in the middle of the night so people can't really keep too close an eye on the price of the war.As a rule, our military has some of the finest young people around, in that they have some physical prowess and some wild belief they are doing something noble. But you see, the guys with lots of fruit salad are ready to throw them away first. They are so-called heroes, as Gore Vidal would say. Or, as Vidal would elaborate, they are heroes because they are dead. If they were alive, their combat pay would be cut, and their medical support would be lacking were they to need it. And need it they do now. See, more and more soldiers are surviving the sorts of injuries that used to kill men in the field. Now we can somehow get these men saved enough so that they can carry on life as partial-humans who are somehow supposed to feel good that suburban moms put a yellow ribbon magnet on their SUVs to show support for the troops. Somehow its okay that while we can save lives, we can actually return more partially functioning men and women back to the civilian life. More amputees, more brain damage, more of everything that robs young people of a quality of life that they would have coming to them were they not ever taken off to war.

inverted color image of a ford expedition parked at the gravesites in Fort Rosecrans. captioned, some don't see the connection.So does it really matter what all the fruit salad means? Does a soldier with half a leg really make a hero? Or just a guy who took the Kool-aid from some higherups on the pyramid who need a war fought by the poor eschelons of society? Oh, sure, liberty, democracy, and freedom, blah, blah, blah. It's all bullshit in this country. Maybe my grandfather fought for such a thing, but even on the eve of his war (WW2), Dalton Trumbo had already called the score—it's all a bunch of abstract nonsense that is used to get people to fight wars that will gain them nothing, and lose them most everything. Dead men don't know freedom, liberty, nor can they vote assholes like Bush (and company) out of office. Dead men don't enjoy the love from their wives and kids. They don't do much for us except give us some sorry sentimentality for their loss, but never enough to drive us to demand that war become a thing of the past, and that the systems of war be dismantled forever.

"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed." —Dwight Eisenhower

Monday
Jan302006

Vision

Okay, if the government ever resorts to using the C-130 Hercules that the Blue Angels use ("Fat Albert") for firebombing civilians in apartments and schools with the intent to destroy all of it but mainly to take out the books and pictures and other vessels of cultural memory, remember folks, you heard it here first.

I just had a bad dream. It goes along with some of the other ones that I've had where the various military services start using fighter jets over the skies of the suburbs starting with what looks like an airshow so that people come outside and marvel, only to turn the whole scene into chaos as the jets just go suicidal as they fly too low, or skyrocket upwards only to shut off their engines and enter a free fall. It's kind of an end-of-the-world endgame as the government wants to get rid of the last of its power by using the jets themselves as bombs, raining down over civilians almost without precision. It looked like the desperation of when they shoved helicopters off the sides of the USS Midway on the way out of Saigon.

In this latest dream, the Fat Albert C-130 somehow was doing overly acrobatic maneuvers such as a plane like that has no business doing unless it was going to be suicidal. I somehow was outside when no one but one friend was outside. We somehow both heard the radio chatter between base and pilots and between the pilots. It was sinister. We got our phones out but they were jammed or something, so we ran back to our apartments knowing that books were one of the leading targets, but not knowing what to do to preserve them from attack.

Tuesday
Oct112005

What A Difference A Decade And A Half Makes

Fascistfest!

An event that used to be the high point of my year in the mid-late 80s is now seen by the present me to be a fascist freeforall. I'm a little surprised and maybe saddened for it to taken me this long to figure it out. Sometimes I'm a little slow.

Ah, Miramar Air Show! There are big billboards along the freeways that surround Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. They offer businesses the chance to watch their business "take off" if these businesses want to get a booth at the show right in the midst of the F-18s, C-130s and whatever helicopters they have up there right now. Finally, this week, it hit me! Duh! Fascism is the mingling of state and corporate power. Duh. And here it was right in front of all our eyes!

When I was a kid, I idolized the Blue Angels. As a display of flying prowess, they are still at the top of their league, and taken solely as a superhuman feat of coordination and technology, I still get shivers watching them from my dad's rooftop. (He is within a few miles of regular ops at Miramar, but gets some good flyovers during airshow season.) But I've come to assess airshows differently than when I was 12. Especially now that we are at and about to pass peak oil. One has to wonder, while the rest of us are paying unheard of prices to get to work and the grocery store, the government can still fly a half dozen F-18s for show??? While our government can't be bothered to help people in New Orleans, it can afford to not only fly these jets to the show, do three or four shows in a weekend (one strictly for press and VIPs), but it can also get all the other planes and hardware to the same show—all from scattered bases in the region, across the 5 services. Multiply times the number of shows of this sort, all for show!

No redeeming value except to give companies a place to advertise, and to glorify the machines and methods of war. And it's a good thing, because you know, Americans are getting a little fed up with this war business, so it's time to kick the PR machine into overdrive. Americans are forgetting how to love war, so the air shows are here to remind them of what a great thing we've got going.

Just think—in one weekend, Americans will have these things happen so cleverly to them that they might never know it.

First, they will be oooohing and aaaaahhhhing over machines they paid for which are used to kill people with utmost efficiency. Somehow the speed, turning radius, paintjobs, and other distinguishing features will help people forget their government really is out to suck the money from their pockets while taking their liberties and getting other nations to submit or die. Or, as Ray Charles would have said, the government is "pissing in their face and calling it spring rain." They will also forget that every gallon of fuel used to fly all those planes and copters, and to move the armored vehicles and tanks is another gallon of petrofuel that won't be coming back. It won't be available for their ride to work, or to take their children to school, hospital, or on vacation to New York. Or, every gallon of fuel used for tha air show is one less gallon that can be used to save a victim of a Gulf Coast hurricane. Gone. And the government positively doesn't give a flying fuck because they decided they needed this air show more than any one of us need to live our lives. Let's not forget the amazing waste of fuel it is for all those people to drive their SUVs and trucks to the show, often in stop and go traffic, with the line going for a mile or more out to and sometimes well beyond the front gates of the base.

From the Blue Angels FAQ page:

How far can the F/A-18 fly on a full load of fuel or with external fuel tanks?

The F/A-18 can travel approximately 1,000 miles on a full load of fuel without external tanks. Adding the external tanks extends the range to approximately 1,200 miles.

How much fuel does an F/A-18 Hornet use in a show?

On the average, one F/A-18 uses approximately 8,000 pounds or 1,300 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel at a cost of roughly $1,378.

How much fuel is used over the course of a year, including transportation, training, etc.?

Over a one-year period, the squadron, including Fat Albert, burns approximately 3.1 million gallons of fuel.

Do we have that kind of fuel to just chuck away on this shit?

Second, they will be advertised to while more or less captive. As if Clear Channel did not have enough advertising under its control, their radio stations will be out in force along the tarmac, vying for listeners with their gimmicky prize giveaways. Banners for home improvement, banks, cycles, cars, mortgages, and who knows, maybe even Viagra! Like we need to go to a fucking air show to be exposed to this? Well, what could be better? You make the public flock to a closed perimeter military base and while they are getting the sunburn of their lives, you pummel them with the same garbage that already adorns the sides of buses, billboards, magazine ads, and is plastered all over parts of the internet! Ah, the genius of advertising.

Third, the young men and women will be approached by recruiters. For recruiters, it's like shooting fish in a barrel! Hell, I've been to airshows before. It's all PR. That much I understood years ago, but I didn't understand the layers of what was behind the appeal. Once upon a time I wanted nothing more than to be an F-14 pilot. Good thing I have poor vision and a bad attitude which pretty much blew my qualifications by the end of ninth grade. (Now I get to serve my country by being a polemical watchdog.) But another generation of young men are turning up for the war machine, their options limited by their ethnicity, geography, income (or lack of). They will certainly be oooohed and ahhhhed by the gear on display. Too many (even if it's only one) will be in the recruiters office by Monday to give their lives over to the world's most dangerous job. Sad.

Well, so much for government regulating business. Hell, now it's in the business of helping business. Just think, the businesses get consumer dollars when they get back to the shop, and later on they get a nice break from the government too. The airshow is one big circus to extract money from the unsuspecting public so that government and business can get in the back room and suck each other off and then trade hi fives with cigars in their mouths.

Wednesday
Apr062005

Letter To The Department Of Defense

To Whom it May Concern within the DOD:

I am very disturbed to hear about the need for soldiers to have to supply items that should come as part of the job they do. This is unconscionable. Underwear and toothpaste is one thing, but for soldiers to have to supply ANYTHING in the way of uniforms or armor or safety equipment is just WRONG. I hear your budget this year is about $450 billion. And that the wars are not included in that, and furthermore that these wars are hemmoraging money at something close to $5 billion a month. There is no excuse for this business of having any one in the armed services have to foot the bill for their own gear. You are giving them the world's most wretched job as it is, with your ethically bankrupt war which is fought only so that we can get a foothold in the last oil rich region of the world. Soldiers have been duped into believing that they are there for some noble goal, and they are not, and now they have been duped into footing part of the bill for it? This is wretched. Whoever makes these decisions should be disgusted with themselves. If that is Rumsfeld himself, then so be it. There is no justification for this whatsoever.

Similarly, there is no case for the stop loss programs to keep soldiers in the service after the dates they were told would wrap up their service. This is a dirty trick being played on them. And I just don't subscribe to the notion that this is a volunteer army. I've had the offer made to me to sign up and receive bonuses and all sorts of perks, all of which sound great, but in the same pitch the recruiter never mentioned that I could lose limbs, brains, and even my life. And that seems to be what is happening now. Pity the soldier who is weeks away from discharge and has safely made it this far and will return home soon, but is called back to certain terror, and might not fare so well the next time around. Terrible. Utterly terrible. Maybe some volunteered, but I think the army is an all-duped army. An all-brainwashed army. If it is a volunteer army, I think you wouldn't need to offer the $20,000 signing bonuses and stuff. Who is going to be interested in that but for the people who could never get such breaks working at KFC or Wal Mart? No, these aren't volunteers. They're the ones who are basically preyed on for being cheap cannon fodder. You have $20,000 to sweeten the pot so the poor kids will sign up, but you won't buy them the gear they need to do the work? Or the gear they need to be protected? I know its all a game you play, and it's disgusting. We don't need another aircraft carrier, but somehow there was money for that. How many nuclear carriers are in Iraq at the moment? The Ronald Reagan was launched but the Hummers on the ground in Baghdad are getting blown to bits, with legs and arms and brains going with them.

What is wrong with you people?

Thank you.

Thursday
Jan062005

Okay, the Muslims are going to love us now

It seems acts of God are now good opportunities for America to show how great she is. Maybe we can totally eradicate fears within the Muslim world that we are out to kill them all, by offering a few hundred million dollars and some MILITARY men to help out the tsunami stricken regions.

What will $350 million dollars in aid do for raising the image of America that $200 billion isn't accomplishing as we "win the hearts and minds of Iraqis" by bringing democracy and freedom to the region? It would be hard to match the level of destruction that the tsunami has wrought, but it seems like levelling Iraq is a good start. Then maybe we can take that party over to Iran so we can take out some brown skins there too.

But all will be forgotten because we helped out some Muslims in the Indian Ocean. Oh, let's get a picture of Bush and Powell and co. doing such fine work.

The USA needs to figure out what side of the fence it's going to be on. Are we gonna be the nation known for its killing prowess or its saving prowess? Its greed or its compassion? I'm just waiting for a memo to be leaked from some high up Washingtonian that says 'damn, we gotta send money to the fucking Indian Ocean??? We got some Arabs to blow up!!! Will the distractions never stop???' All this humanitarian aid shit just gets in the way when your first national priority is to figure out how to possess or control all the oil in the world, to fuel a machine that has near total disregard for treaties and agreements of all sorts meant to protect the people of the world. But maybe giving $350 mil is a good loss leader—maybe it buys us good will. Maybe when we want a pipeline or offshore drilling rights, or an LNG terminal, the now-grateful Muslims will just give it to us. Saves a lot in launching "preemptive" war.