I'm pissed

Nov. 18th, 2005 07:08 pm
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Which seems to be becoming a semi-normal state of affairs.

Rep Murtha (D-Penn) spoke out recently (not less so than the day before yester) saying we needed to pull out of Iraq now. His reasoning; this pooch is so screwed the question isn't if, but when. He thinks there is nothing going to get better from our being there, and that makes the expenditure of more blood and treasure pointless.

It doesn't matter what you think of the arguments, he's got not only the right, but the duty, to speak to the issue. He's a member of congress, as a Representative he swore to look to the needs of the country, with a focus on the specific interests which affect his district. If he has decided the war (for which he voted, and he makes no bones about his vote; he says that based on what he was told, and knew, he'd vote that way again; is no longer in the interests of the nation, he must speak out, his exact comment was, "The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

"General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, "the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency." General Abizaid said on the same date, "Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is part of our counterinsurgency strategy."

"For 2 ½ years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait - the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction - but the US forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.

"We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused."

Murtha, to give a bit of background, is no shrinking violet. He's a vet. He did two stints in the Corps; 1952-1955, and 1966-1967. He finished out Marine Corps Reserve career in 1990, doing more Reserve time in between '55 and '66. He's got two Purple Hearts, visits Bethesda and Walter Reed, regularly, and once told the commandant at one of them to award a Purple Heart which had been denied to a kid who'd been blinded and lost both hands; because it was friendly fire, saying that if they didn't he'd give the poor bastard one of his.

He's regularly supported the military; and he has the ear of the Corps, as well as contacts in DoD.

He takes no guff. When someone mentioned Cheney he shot back, "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

The response from the Republicans has been severe.

Today, on the floor of the House Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio)(the woman who barely won the Second District, running against Paul Hackett; Marine)said this, "Yesterday I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it. A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bop, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. Danny and the rest of America and the world want the assurance from this body – that we will see this through."

After the House lost all semblance of order she asked that it be stricken from the record.

Npw, according to Rollcall (which requires a subscription, so I'll quote it)"Republican lawmakers say that ties between Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and his brother’s lobbying firm, KSA Consulting, may warrant investigation by the House ethics committee.

The calls come as Murtha, a former Marine and pro-military Democrat, has made headlines this week by coming out in support of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

According to a June 13 article in The Los Angeles Times, the fiscal 2005 defense appropriations bill included more than $20 million in funding for at least 10 companies for whom KSA lobbied. Carmen Scialabba, a longtime Murtha aide, works at KSA as well.

KSA directly lobbied Murtha’s office on behalf of seven companies, and a Murtha aide told a defense contractor that it should retain KSA to represent it, according to the LA Times.

In early 2004, Murtha reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point Shipyard to the city of San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A company called Lennar Inc. had right to the land, and Laurence Pelosi, nephew to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was an executive with the firm at that time.

Murtha also inserted earmarks in defense bills that steered millions of dollars in federal research funds toward companies owned by children of fellow Pennsylvania Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D).

Murtha and KSA have denied engaging in any improper or unethical behavior. Murtha’s offices in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment at press time.

But with GOP leaders infuriated by Murtha’s declaration this week that the United States should pull all its military forces out of Iraq in six months, renewed attention is being focused on Murtha’s dealings with KSA.

“I have read the articles about these appropriations projects that benefited his brother’s lobbying firm,” said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). “If there is a potential pattern where Congressman Murtha has helped other Democrats secure appropriations that also benefited relatives of those Members, I believe this would be something that merits further review by the ethics committee.”

Now, I won't say this isn't unpalatable, because if it's as presented, it sure looks bad, but then again this is the same House which passed a rule saying that the Majority Leader wouldn't have to step down if he was indicted. The same House that thinks paying half a million dollars to one's wife for a stint as campaign manager (and some tens of thousands of dollars to his daughter as a consultant of some sort, IIRC) is just ducks. At least the firms and people to whom Murtha is accused of tossing the red-meat of contracts had to provide something of benefit to the people, in the form of jobs and goods.

On the other hand, the last three grafs go like this, "Jennifer Crider, a Pelosi aide, dismissed the allegation that the Minority Leader was involved in anything improper as “absolutely ludicrous, and an attempt to divert from the real issue that Mr. Murtha is attempting to engage in debate on a critically important topic — U.S. policy in Iraq. The real story here is the Republican strategy to try to discredit at Congressman Murtha” while he is pushing for a U.S. pullout from Iraq.

Republicans acknowledge that Murtha’s Iraq statement — coming from a Member with strong military credentials — is driving their renewed focus on the ethics questions surrounding the veteran Democratic lawmaker.

“It strikes at the heart of his credibility on [military] issues,” said the GOP lawmaker. “He’s put himself on the frontline.”

What we see is more of an organized use of the levers of power to attack, intimidate, and (if successful) destroy people; people who are merely doing their jobs.

Durbin was forced to recant, when he'd done nothing wrong. So was Newsweek. Saxby Chambliss said his opponent was a coward, who hated America, never mind that he was a Vet, who'd lost his legs in Viet-nam. Hackett was called a coward, because after all, he only led a Civil Affairs detatchment (a small group who go out, by themselves, no infantry support, no armor, no helicopter gunships on call) and mingle with the people, trying to convince them we are the good guys. Civil affairs goes and sees what's wrong, and then rolls up there sleeves to fix it. A pothole? They come back with some engineers and fill it.

He did that for a year. But he's not a "grunt" so how can he claim to be a combat vet.

It's reprehensible. It's petty. It's destructive of the political system. The ideas stop counting. Duty is maligned, and those who attempt to practice it are to be brought low, while those who shirk it are raised up.

It has to stop.

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Catching up

Nov. 9th, 2005 09:17 pm
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This weekend was drill. In it's way drill is one of those things which never change, and are never the same. Sadly I am moving up in the world, which means more paperwork. As a middle manager I have to do annual reviews of some of the NCOs junior to me. In the active side of the house this isn't too hard. I'd get to see them every day. Once a year we'd sit down and go over expectations and how to achieve them. Once a quarter we'd review them, and see how much progress was, or wasn't, being made. Once a year I'd write it all up.

Some of it would reflect on me. If my expectations were out of line the senior rater can talk to me, and the reviewer can backstop him.

On the Reserve Component it's a little different. We only see each other once a month (and in my unit I don't have the advantage of a two-week Annual Training to try and squeeze some observational time in, because we do our ATs one at a time).

Last week I got told I had two to do. One of them on someone who has been away for ten months, and I've been away for the two he wasn't. Great. When I got to drill it turned out I had to do one more, and that one on someone whose in his fifties, and used to outrank me. Fun.

That wasn't the high point of the weekend. I suppose the high point might have been the fellow who stopped me to ask a metaphorical question about coercive interrogation (no he didn't know I was an interrogator, he just saw PFC Jones and I in uniform; on a coffee run. One of the perks of rank is being able to draft help. I didn't want to drive, and needed two more hands to carry things, so I grabbed the nearest private. I had practical motives as well, since I needed to teach him how to run a guidon, so there was a justification for choosing him, but the power is there. Ah, what abuses I could practice!).

He probably got more than he bargained for, what with illustrations running from Vietnam, to Louis XIV and all sorts of points in between. Had we not been in uniform, and such a situation come up, it might have been a shorter catechism on my part, but I wanted him to have this in his mind the next time the subject came up.

Or perhaps it was the Army Physical Fitness Test I took Sunday morning.

I hate PT tests. Even when I don't have questions about passing the damned thing, it hurts. Two minutes each of push-ups and sit-ups, followed by a two-mile run. All of these done to muscle failure. One (at least this one) hurts for three to four days after.

To make it more fun, I've not been in training. Seriously, between my general dislike of exercise for the sake of exercise, and the Reiter's, I've done damn all. Used to be I had a notable fraction of an acre I was gardening. I walked the dogs a couple of miles, at least every couple of days. I rode the horses more. No longer.

The closest I come to real exercise is baking bread.

To pass I needed to do 38 push-ups. I had to do the same for sit-ups, but so what. Push ups are my bête noire. If I can pass them the rest is a done deal. Given my slight frame, long arms and lack of upper body mass, push-ups kill me. The most I've ever done was 44, and that was when I was in the best shape of my life. A regular workout 4 times a week, followed by 3-8 miles of running.

I more than half expected to fail.

Push-ups: 44
Sit-ups: 61
Run: 14:23

The only thing I can credit for the push-ups is the baking. I've been kneading a lot of bread, and when I had Maia checking my kokyu (because I was trying to incorporate one of the most important aspects of my aikido into some of my regular routine) I noticed my lats are more developed than I tend to think them.

Before I cut this off, and get to the food porn, some quizzy-goodness.

You scored 17 in Malice and 27 in Chaos!
You are the Kitsune, or "Fox demon," the ultimate doer of mischief. Kitsune belong to a class of demons known as "Henge," or animal shape-shifters, along with the Tanuki, or badger-demon. They are uncanny creatures who are notorious as much for their malevolence as for their wild and unpredictable behavior; a fox demon may help a human, only to betray him in deepest consequence at a later date. Kitsune are known to frequently possess women or pose as humans, causing chaos and catastrophe where ever they go. They are mischievous creatures who take great pleasure in playing terrible tricks on unsuspecting mortals; however, this behavior indicates that they are more perversely playful and apathetic to human suffering than genuinely evil and desirous of harm.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 44% on Malice

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 57% on Chaos
Link: The Japanese Demon Profile Test written by Maharbal on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

It seems appropriate, mostly.

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In another life I was a newspaper reporter. I wasn't willing to go where the jobs were (Topeka) and so I gave it up.

People, esp. those in the Army, mistrust the press. I try to explain to them what it was to be in that calling (and like priests and soldiers, it's a calling; one has to give up so much in the search for that piece of the transcendant, and today's triumph wraps tomorrow's fish. In all those ways of life the undertone is, "Yeah, but what have you done lately).

Teresa, at Making Light (where I sent so many of you almost a month ago), has a Story from the Times-Picayune, which I will drag out from now to my dying day, when I need to explain it.

Heroes from the Newspaper Tribe

…McCusker, Pompilio and I pulled up to the St. Claude Avenue Bridge in our truck, stinking of swamp water and the cigarettes I had been chain-smoking. The bridge over the Industrial Canal marked the dividing line between deluged and merely flooded.

I had been there the day before, Monday, with photographer Jackson. We’d found only two police boats running rescue operations for the thousands of people trapped in attics and on roofs. A rescue volunteer had offered to take us out on a third boat.

We floated through the Lower 9th Ward, past the house of the legendary Fats Domino, where a group of men yelled to our boat from a second-story balcony. We passed them and scores of others who screamed for help on our way east to St. Bernard Parish, the white working class suburb where people had fled after school integration first took hold in the 9th Ward in 1960.

Returning from St. Bernard with a deadline looming, we rode on a boat full of rescued people, a dog and a duffel bag full of cats one woman had smuggled onto the boat without the captain’s knowledge. The memory that sticks out most: We had to duck to avoid hitting stoplights that had towered over the street.

Now on Tuesday, refugees, many elderly and handicapped, hobbled and wheeled themselves across the bridge to the corner of Poland and St. Claude Avenues, the dry side of the bridge that had become a rescue boat launch. We found hundreds of people who had been rescued, then abandoned into a whole new struggle for survival. Filthy, soaked and stinking, they lined up behind three National Guard trucks that couldn’t begin to make a dent in the growing crowd. Those that did get taken out would end up in the Superdome or at the Convention Center downtown, which would become their own dark scenes of terror and suffering.

People mobbed us, competing to tell us their stories, hoping to let relatives know they were alive and authorities know they might still die without help. Pompilio and I interviewed a weeping Daniel Weber, a rotund man perched on a black barrel in the muck. I’d never seen a man so broken. He had watched his wife drown and then floated for 14 hours in polluted floodwaters on a piece of driftwood.

“I’m not going to make it,” he told us. “I know I’m not.”

When we got back in the car, Natalie said to me, “I know it may sound inappropriate, but I love my job on days like this.”

It struck me as perfectly appropriate, I told her. We were this man’s only lifeline to plead for help from the outside world. …

Read it, and weep.

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Today was the last day of the T-SIRT course. The graduation was as smooth as I've seen. It might have been a trifle better if anyone had told me Roll Call was moved up by fifty minutes, so Maia and I got there late.

Maia, to avoid offending anyone (which happened at Walter Reed) left her hat, with the "War is Not the Answer" and "Get US out of Vietnam Iraq" slogans in the car.

Ceremony done I changed my clothes and we went to brekkie, and did a spot of antiqueing in Paso Robles.

Then we stopped for gas, and I noticed I'd lost the gas cap the last time I got gas.


So we went across the street and got a gas cap.

While we were in line a woman came in, as the clerk was talking to Maia about the "War is Not the Answer" slogan (which is on the front) and this woman came in and got offended by the "Get US out of Vietnam Iraq" on the back. She, a bit more than muttered, "I thing that's offensive, my husband is over there defending your right to do that."

Maia commented that her fiancee was in the service and she said something to the effect of so what, she was disgusted; which was when I decided I'd had enough.

At this point she was at the other end of the store and I piped in, so she could plainly hear me, "I'm in the service, and if he's fighting to defend her right to do something then she ought to get to do it. You shouldn't be disgusted, you ought to be proud."

She, with less fervor, and the loss of her tone of offended superiority, sort of muttered, "Well I disagree."

At which point, lest I get really pissed off, I left.

It pointed out to me one of the things which offends me about that line of attack (and it's attack, not argument); the sense of being better than those with whom they disagree. Her husband is in Iraq, defending our rights, and because she's married to him she gets to put on airs when someone hurts her feelings.

Bullshit. She might get to pull the holier than thou crap if she were in the service, but even that's a stretch.

Me, I do feel proud when someone disagrees with the Gov't, no matter how I feel about the position. What they are agitating for may bother me, but if they can't agitate, then something a lot worse than what they want is happening (well, maybe the people plumping the Dominionist cause aren't worse than that, but only just).

Rights are not a zero sum game, and Maia exercising hers in no way diminishes those of the people she diasgrees with.

Like I said, she ought to be proud.

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Despite my opinions of the overall effect of our the Mess-in-potamia, I happen to think most of the soldiers are doing their best (I may have some bias in that view) and that not all which happens is bad. I'm of a mixed mind on how to cover it, because, on the whole, I think we're fucked and covering all the good, might make it worse, because it will eclipse the bad.

I know the counter-argument... covering the bad without giving the good, at least, equal weight, makes it less likely we'll manage to save this goat-rope. Without a crystal ball, allowing me to see which has more merit (the good, or the ill) I'd have to say I want us out sooner rather than later, because I see no good end.

But I'll grant the right, even the duty of those who hold the opposite view to score what points they can with the good (just don't talk to me about building schools. I will come and scream at you... no I won't detail that, but it's a sore point).

But that does not give anyone the right to twist facts, for any purpose.

Which brings me to this.

This is obviously photoshopped. I suspect I could do better. It's disturbing, in this version, because of the nitrile gloves. Most people are only familiar with them from shots of Abu Ghraib.

So, noodling around a bit I found this version... still photoshopped, but less bothersome (and lacking the propagandistic message)

Then we get a link to the original

title or description

That's a good picture, One might even run it with the propagandistic slogans and while I'd find it heavy handed, it isn't bothersome, until one reads the cutline.

Photo by Hayne Palmour/North County Times
Navy Corpsman Richard Barnett of Camarilo, Calif. checks the heart of a young Iraqi boy as other Navy medics treat the boy's older sister, right, after the two children and their family were caught in a crossfire between US Marines and Iraqi soldiers just outside of a Marine encampment in central Iraq on Saturday, March 29, 2003. The boy was not injured. His sister, who received gunshot wounds, was expected to survive. The father was wounded and the mother was killed in the gun battle. "If anything good comes from this nonsense, I haven't seen it yet," said Barnett after the two children and their father were taken away for a medivac helicopter.

So, how glad do you think she is that we're there? And how would Barnett feel if he knew how his picture of this event was being used?

I know how I'd feel, were it me.

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