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Sunday, September 12, 2010

A final hope on this September 11

Never believe the sun has set forever and left us in darkness. 

Never forget the victims. Their names are only markers for things we cannot ever see in total - their lives and those they touched even briefly - the changes they wrought in the world, without even knowing it... that is the true monument.  

It wasn't the terrorists' acts which changed the world - it was the lives of the victims and the rallying cry which rose even as the dust settled. Some brave few answered that call and paid the price for all of us. Our warriors still hunt the animals who would continue to prey on the innocent the world over.  

So many people- so many stories and lives we will never know - given up for the rest of us. I hope those of us whose safety and security have been purchased at such a high price, have the wisdom and dignity and understanding to honor those sacrifices with our own lives. May we please live our days full and completely enough to give meaning and purpose to those lost since that terrible September day.  

And if meaning and purpose and balance is beyond our ability to attain, may we at least have the strength to face the days ahead without our brothers and sisters - may we be given enough mornings to wake and rise and make a difference in the world, so that someday those who live in the future may look back and say, "Those who were left at home - who remained at home, accomplished something - some measure of honor - some measure of peace and some measure of purpose."  

And us who have all followed the victims and the heroes into the next world, perhaps we can grasp a shred of happiness in our final moments, just long enough to fade from this Earth with a sigh of contentment - and they who come for us, we will recognize - even as they take us away. 

And the world will be brighter. And the sun will rise again without us. 


And even that final truth will be right and perfect and wonderful.



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Remember the Ash

Remember the smoke pouring out of two of the tallest buildings in the world.

Remember the first news reports - the first estimates of how many people could be trapped inside.

Remember the freeze-frame of the massive jet as it crashed into the second tower - eliminating all doubt that this was an intentional action - an act of war on innocent people.

Remember the firefighters and policemen that responded instantly - despite the impending collapse which would kill so many of them.

Remember the ash which covered everyone - no one of any color - no one of any creed. Simply one people - Americans - now soon to be at war with extremists.

Remember how no one targeted the Muslim faith itself. Remember how American flags seemed to spring from every shopfront - every home - every street - even people who had never even been to New York - or even known anyone there.

Remember it.

We were all covered with ash that day - everywhere - even in countries far removed. Americans grieved and vowed to take vengeance. And so did much of the world.

When did we "get over" Pearl Harbor? When did we excuse the Holocaust and those responsible? When did we walk away from Clocktower shooters and Hijacker terrorists? When did we just shake our heads and say, "It's OK - it happened in another time, to other people - it happened, but we've forgotten what the moment felt like. We've forgotten all of it?"

Do you think we washed the last of that ash off? I can still feel it on my skin. I can still feel it, even though I was not there. I can feel the weight of it - heavier - not lighter over the years. Was it Muslims who perpetrated those acts of terror? Or do all Muslims disavow the thing? Why is the new Mosque planned for construction on the site where the towers fell, named after the first Muslim conquest in the West?

Please answer me. I would love to have some kind of reasoning - some line which explained the morality of placing a victory monument on the site where those thousands of people died. Because that is what the thing is - it is a claim of victory.

I find it difficult to believe that Bob Beckle would suggest on national television that New Yorkers should "Get over it." Apparently he forgot to mention the rest of America - many of whom have not, will not and can not ever set it aside.

Like myself.

What I would give to be able to have talked to one of those people before they died that day due to Muslim terrorists. What I would have given to have known even one of them, just for a moment? What would I have said? I would have asked them to tell me their life's story - I would ask them what their favorite things were about this world - I would have asked so that their history be passed on.

And I demand a monument with those stories, written by their relatives in stone - on the very site they plan to build this Mosque - this atrocity of conquest. Because by erecting that building where they are, is naming this "war on terror" something else entirely.

They are sadly - intentionally or unintentionally - creating a "Crusade."

In Human history, civilization has collapsed many times, over much smaller things.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lights.

Look down at any city at night and the lights you see can be viewed as only sad glitter.

But look with open eyes and heart and any city – even the worst place in the world, is lit by more than electricity, more than fire.

That is because from high above we forget the lights are more than just that. Those lights are exultant. They are a shining – a proof of life.

In New Mexico, not so long ago, a small town was known for its’ light. Shining in the darkness of a massive desert, the town was more of an outpost – a place where villagers were struggling to survive. A battle was fought there once. But it was an affirmation of life, more than it was a sign of God’s will. Still, with the unknown darkness against them always, the people of the village chose to erect a cross on a lonely hill where the battle was fought and won. It was a monument to victory… but as with most victories, it is mostly lost to time. I know it from half-remembered stories, told to me in passing. The only thing I’m sure of is the real monument – the true monument:  It was the village which is still alive after all this time. It is a community of souls. The village name is “The Light.”

I often think that what we see is not enough. Our understanding seems lost within bodies aging. Our reasoning seems increasingly clouded, when you would think it would sharpen with experience and knowledge - certainly, the breeding ground of wisdom.

But so many days we spend railing against the imagined forces of darkness. And of course, that is also because of experience, because we know the darkness can be real. We know that monsters prowl the half-light thrown at the fringe of shadow. We’re sure of it, because it is true. I have flown in military helicopters over terrain most of you couldn’t imagine, until it all seemed like a patchwork quilt below me, blurring one shape into another. Killers and victims were down there somewhere, but my ground-pounder eyesight wasn't as acute at altitude. I have flown in an AT-38 Talon beside an F-117A Stealth Fighter – somewhere in the deep background a landscape of brown becoming white-capped mountain peaks; all of it so familiar – and yet so different. The tiny lights I would see approaching innumerable airfields when I was younger, were jets just like those – representative, perhaps of the soaring souls on board. But you can’t see that from the balcony of a barracks building. And from a fast-flying military aircraft, often you can't see the life and death below you.

I recently made a list. I suppose many would see it as an affirmation of their fears: a country in decline or perhaps at the cusp of a new beginning. Once again, it depends how you view things. I would like to list those things here. But please read beyond them, and understand maybe more than you did when you started reading this article.

Here is our government’s actions in recent times:

They have been unwilling to deal with illegals and Mexican Drug cartels
A string of broken promises have stacked one upon the other – some which fly in the face of principles set forth when our country was founded.
We have a government which forces through bills – but those bills are really edicts forced upon a population in the dead of night.
Our country is taking up socialized programs which cannot be supported in the current economy – or perhaps any economy. The same programs have, of course, failed wherever and whenever they have been tried in history.
The same government is also outlaying funds for ridiculous programs, further increasing the national debt in some kind of insane spree – like a teenager burning their way through a wallet filled with dad’s credit cards.
The administration of our country refuses to expand drilling for fuel by companies here in the U.S., citing environmental concerns, but then play golf, vacation and take long breaks during the worst environmental catastrophe seen since Chernobyl - by mismanaging and ignoring the Gulf oil spill.
In the same timeframe all this is happening, they continue to look at cap-and-trade – a concept, which will simply kick an economy, which is already down. And dying.
Meanwhile, their claim to glory, besides a ridiculous health care package rivaling the complexities and mysteries already seen in an overgrown tax code, is a push for “Green” anything - in any way it can be even loosely achieved. And while climate research has been shown to be at worse, a conspiracy – and at best, bad science, the same administration continues to beat the drum as fewer and fewer people listen.
Lastly, there’s a mismanagement of an ongoing war. Generals are not supported, then removed when they question why they are not receiving the personnel and materials they need. Troops are shuffled like a deck of cards, and in a ridiculous contradiction, the government seeks to go soft on terrorists and admitted enemies of the country – yet in the same breath, level charges against our most elite commandos for something they didn’t do in the first place, but something they should be free to do more of – assaulting the monsters in the night.
And of course, when making a list such as this, you can’t leave out the details: like the disrespect shown to our greatest allies, the embracing of rogue groups and states – as if they were our friends, and lastly, the marginalizing, demonizing and disregard for the regular people of the country.

It would seem, at first glance, that America is dying.

But, I would encourage you to take a different point of view for a moment. The inaction of the federal government in matters of state sovereignty has created a huge divide, which cannot be bridged by federal force. The tighter the hand squeezes, the more water escapes the grip. The harder the darkness presses against the light – the brighter those lights become.

And we have shone so very brightly indeed. In an environment of racial tension once again, our countrymen today would do well to remember that the founding of America itself occurred through the efforts of women and men of all nationalities and creeds alike, fighting side-by-side against a common oppressor. We exist because the lights of their lives were extinguished in exchange for our own. Small flames don’t die; they create newer, larger ones. And so our country was born, itself.

And edicts may be nailed to every post on every corner, broadcast through the very air itself – but none will last out the week. Torn, tattered, blown, fading out into space itself – all such unpopular mandates join the great political landfill, always just out of sight; perhaps hidden by great actions of legendary people. The junk-pile of unjust law is occluded, because the shadows cast by the legendary are long; and their accomplishments so great that even the failed and disgraced in the world recede into background noise and clutter.

Socialized debtor programs can’t support themselves. Collapse and equalization is inevitable; recovery and rebirth are always around the corner, and they are always glorious. Look at the Great Depression, followed by the most terrible war the world may have ever seen – all of it, suffering and death and horror on a scale seemingly unimaginable. Still, the result was a great expansion of society, technology, education and enlightenment, even. We reached for the lights in the night sky… and we got there.

Trade scams and snake-oil salesmen are nothing new either. They have taken on the form of complex government schemes, but they are still visible for what they are. They fill a void, of course. They provide the uninformed and the ignorant and the somnambulant with something to grasp at. But, they reach for shadows – and the darkness always follows shadows. I think even these folks know that, deep down. Education and hard lessons provide the cure for this. In an age of information, the uninformed grow fewer in number. The lights in this case are the glow of millions of networked computer screens and televisions. And information cannot be controlled. It can be parsed, and it can be twisted and shaped. But those tricks are also part of the information stream. Those who wish to see, will in fact see.

Turning on friends is never a good thing. Children learn this early on. Yet our own government can’t seem to prevent itself from engaging in such activity – perhaps they are aged, or foolish, or careless. After some time, policies and actions like this become another collapse. Actions like these are the truly unsustainable things in life. When loss is constant, eventually either someone takes your place or you take another tack - one with the wind, instead of against it. To stand is sometimes the most difficult thing in the world.

And of course we come full circle in looking at things like this. Like the city lights and the patchwork countryside, and the mountain set against high-flying aircraft; and even like the town, which is named “The Light,” we are all part of a much larger picture. Our combined wills against that of a government grown oppressive, are like the ocean against a grain of sand. Governments come and go. People remain.

Look down at any city at night – and you may see only lights. But if you look with different eyes you see dreams and hopes and futures not yet born or even imagined.

We are made of light.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Racial Cards

In casinos, the cards are regularly changed. This prevents all sorts of embarrassing situations from occurring.

I sure wish America would put the whole pack of racial cards away.

I related a story yesterday about asking while teaching a class, with a group of adults – and one 7-year-old, if they could name one Lee Greenwood song. Only the 7-year-old could do it. He said, “God Bless the USA.”

It’s an interesting thing to have been born during a time, which that 7-year-old couldn’t even imagine – and yet, the kid has heard –and likes Lee Greenwood. But to have lived during a time when a dime could get you a phone call, when men were walking on the Moon, and when so much turbulence was occurring in society as I walked barefoot in a small fishing village in the summers – it is a sobering thought. The world was changing around me – and I never even noticed. For that 7-year-old last night – I wonder what he notices? Does he see or feel the change in society or are these his barefoot summers. I kind of hope the latter is the case.

And lately, I have begun to wonder if we’ve changed at all. Things are way out of control. People pointing at each other – and much worse – using the term “Racist?” I know there are groups out there who would gladly jump on that particular crazy train, but it is important to realize that the really virulent creatures out there, are not identified by the way they look or talk – just by the way they hate. That’s why it is possible to find them. Just look at the tenets of their organization – or their personal views as evidenced by their comments. But when you do that, you have to take in the whole picture – not just the things you “want” to see.

It is not the late 60s – not even the 70s, when I grew up. How I wish it was most days. I wish for those sunlit barefoot, ocean bleached and broken streets, the nights I would spend fishing – and the knowledge that if I stayed out late enough, my dad would always make that midnight walk out to the State Pier to tell me it was time to pack it in. Always.

There was a certain perfection to those days which despite my age and experience, now, I cannot put my finger on. Call it innocence, I guess. Maybe we are all there at some point in our life.

And then, you get a few more years tucked under the belt, and you realize the world isn’t all sunshine and beaches. There is real anger out there – anger for nothing. Perhaps the anger is there for its’ own sake, and nothing more. Like a parasite, it grows fat on our indifference, until it can exert its’ own brand of influence.

People die that way. Because they are the wrong religion, the wrong color, because they do not speak the language, because they are in the wrong political party, the wrong family, they die – or are forced to into terrible things. If they have no voice, or no influence, they are ground beneath the wheels of a terrible machine. It can be called a machine because it has no soul and no conscience, but it might as well be called a mob – or a pack of dogs. Because a person can be reasonable – people, on the other hand, are not.

Some will note the name Shirley Sherrod – although a few days ago, not many would have known her. She has had an interesting couple of days. Shirley might have earned herself an earlier column here on my website – but I must say, that as a former newspaper reporter, I like to wait until all the facts are in-hand, before I get out the hammer.

And all the facts were not in a couple days ago.

Yet, oddly, we have had the White House involved with the woman’s dismissal? They couldn’t wait for her to finish driving home. She was asked via mobile phone, by her boss (who allegedly had no real contact with the White House) to pull over to the side of the road – and send her resignation immediately.

But Shirley didn’t do the things they accused her of. And when I use the word “they” – in this instance, I am speaking to all the bickering children out there. All the self-important, all the “I’m right and you’re wrong” – or at least, left. I’m speaking to all those alleged leaders we have – from the Big O, to the crackpots who want to refer to themselves as “leaders” because of their “ethics.” Here’s a quote from a Marine Gunny I know:

“Shut the Hell up.”

That about covers it.
Shirley used her life experiences to illustrate how a person can change for the better. Look up the entire speech she gave – not the sound-bite offered to fuel anger and cause more divisiveness. Sherrod’s message in the speech was clear – if she can be a better person, and if she can find a way, anyone can.

Try listening to each other for a change. Try waiting – in this near-instantaneous-dataflow world we live in – just a little while longer before answering. Multi-tasking is a lovely concept, but if you slow things down a little bit, there’s time to do everything – and focus all your attention on each thing as it comes.

That “waiting” is something I’ve only just recently learned how to do. It has taken a lot to realize I just need to allow a little grass to grow, in-between comments and actions. The 7-year-old in last night’s class could have told me that, I think. He did say "God Bless the USA." And that was worth more to me than any lesson. It gives me hope - and that's such a rare commodity.

But I should have always known these things, and I should have always been able to follow these simple guidelines. But I am no wise man – and sometimes, not even a very good person. So I forget, and lapse into bad habits and old patterns. I am often a needle in a groove – and my life is a 45, not a 33. That statement will confirm when I grew up. And for those who don’t know what it means. Just take a breath. Calm down and turn on your iPod or iPad – or whatever the hell it is that has some music on it. Take out a deck of cards and if you don’t know solitaire, build a little house. It’s good to build steady hands and patience.

But take out the regular cards - not the racial ones.

---------------

http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/07/20/the-full-shirley-sherrod-speech/

Monday, July 19, 2010

Room 101 - revisited

I offer you these two articles, which I first wrote in August 2009. They have new relevance today, now that the idiots at the Washington Post have decided in their lofty self-image, to reveal the underpinnings of America's Intelligence gathering capabilities. Back when I first wrote these, I was still hoping that our government wouldn't slide as far as it has. It seemed at the time that the push for nationalized health care and National Socialism (the very definition for the NAZIs) would not take root here. But it has. And we're quickly approaching an end-game of Biblical proportions.

Don't believe me?
That's OK.
Read what I said in 2009.

Above: a post card requesting the release of a political prisoner from
the clutches of the corrupt Somali government which collapsed, leaving
the country in ruin, and precipitating international
intervention in Operation Restore Hope 1992-93. This card was found
on the floor of the corridor of the vacant parliament building
amongst piles of millions of such requests.


Your health care is history. Your lives are being crushed. You just can’t see the ceiling yet, but it is falling, and we are all underneath it.

I’m going to paraphrase Orwell again – why? Because, we are living in a time where we are sliding faster and faster into the dark “future” of 1984. Orwell wrote that most of the material that you are dealing with has no connection with anything in the real world, “not even the kind of connection that is contained in a direct lie.”

Statistics, he wrote, are “just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version.”

So where is the truth? Truth is currently whatever those in power want to call it. We who live outside of Washington and all the groups connected, contracted and in collusion with the country’s alleged leadership, have no voice. No matter how many town meetings we sandbag – or how many Congressional offices we stand outside of, we are the Proles of 1984. We are the ignored. We are derided and dismissed.

Now, we are the re-educated, reformed and failing that, interrogated or tortured.

No longer will most of the old agencies be part of the political process. We have czars for everything. We have provided unlimited funding to hidden groups – and some not so hidden, like ACORN. Now, no longer will the Central Intelligence Agency have the ability to do a major part of its job. Someone else will be managing all interrogations. Allegedly the new unit will focus specifically on key terror suspects – and yes, it will have its’ own czar.

In 1984, Winston does not know why Withers and the FFCC are disgraced and disbanded. Heretical tendencies are at question, but “what was likeliest of all -- the thing had simply happened because purges and vaporizations were a necessary part of the mechanics of government.”

Many are saying that this change in the interrogation scenario will have a chilling effect – that is, new interrogators hired by the fledgling group will be very cautious – overly cautious, so as not to lose their jobs in the future and become the targets of prosecution.

But, the polar opposite is also true. By removing something as dark as detention and interrogation from a system which has oversight to one which only is answerable to the President – and subsequently no real oversight, you end up with the same kind of system which exists in Third-world countries. Don’t believe it? You don’t have to. The disappeared can’t speak for themselves. They have long ago faced the horrors of their torture chambers – the Orwellian “pain-giving dial,” and are now buried with thousands – perhaps millions - of their fellow citizens; and they are all buried in lost landfills around the globe. I know it because I have stood in the corridors of the former parliament building of the ousted President Siad Barre of Somalia. I stood knee-deep in postcards each requesting the release of a different particular political prisoner. The corridor was thousands of feet long, and filled from one end to the other.
I can still feel them against my legs – like the fingers of the lost dead.

And dear reader, you think it can’t happen here? What then happens now?

One thing is for certain, the cattle-like media will now follow this CIA topic and will allow their albeit meager attention to waver from the story of the failing health-care reform legislation. And of course, the administration knows they are currently losing that battle. Or are they?

With attention split between the hot-button of interrogation and torture and previous policy versus current policy, a possible window will open through which some version of health care reform will be stuffed through. Meanwhile, the CIA, which in recent months has gone head-to-head with skin-walkers like Nancy Pelosi, will be reduced in authority and power.

And all that power and authority will be delivered into the loving hands of Big Brother Obama, who could stop the impending prosecution of CIA personnel and others – a modern day witch hunt – in its’ tracks. But he won’t, because he only stands to gain from the avalanche his friend, Eric Holder, has put into motion.

Make no mistake, though. We are already in Orwell’s Room 101. We are strapped to the chair and are completely immobilized. We cannot move our head. And the interrogator O’Brien is with us.

'You asked me once,' said O'Brien, 'what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.'

What’s the worst thing in the world to you, dear reader? Is it the loss of everything that once made us America? For poor Winston, it was rats. Rats like we have in Washington right now.

'Do you remember,' said O'Brien, 'the moment of panic that used to occur in your dreams? There was a wall of blackness in front of you, and a roaring sound in your ears. There was something terrible on the other side of the wall. You knew that you knew what it was, but you dared not drag it into the open. It was the rats that were on the other side of the wall.'

But they’re not on the other side of the wall any more, dear reader. They are here with us all. They are in our government – by the dozens – by the hundreds or thousands. They are preparing us for Room 101. The worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual, wrote Orwell. And he was right – it could be burning alive, impalement, drowning or a thousand other things. But our rats are smart. They’ve found the most terrible thing to inflict on all of us – something truly universal, which every American dreads.

They are stealing freedom.


-------------


And another article from 2009.
A nightmare.


The first thing they teach you in journalism school is to maintain a narrow focus. If you go after too big a subject, you risk confusing the reader. The second thing they teach you is not to exaggerate – report the facts. Let the facts stand on their own. Maybe, the third thing is to keep yourself out of the story. You can report effectively while keeping the article neutral and objective.

Sorry about this. I’m going to break every one of these rules.

But it’s OK, because the fourth thing I remember them teaching us is that if you know the rules, then you can break them – or you know when your breaking them… or something like that. I was sleepy that day.

Anyway, here goes. Some will read this and call it alarmist crap. Some will read it and label me a whack-job. Some won’t even get through it before they feel compelled to pick up their field glasses and scan the skies for the “black helicopters.” And of course, some, who have likely been considering putting me on a watch-list, will now just wave their hands dismissively and stamp “whack-job” on that file folder in the black helicopter headquarters.

I’m going to paint you a picture of words – a picture, which normally would be found inside science fiction novels. Here – in this sentence, ends any humor. What follows is your sci-fi scenario:

Very soon, people will be found dead, who have been standing in line overnight, waiting to get into the emergency room. Some type of universal health care will pass because no one prevented it. The complicated, ridiculous system will simply kill people at street level. Others will be found dead in their homes, knowing that the wait will be too long, and they may as well die in the comfort of their homes, instead of dying in the 21st century “med” lines.

Very soon, the news will be reporting incidents where killings have picked up outside the crammed primary care and emergency clinics because the criminals will have discovered an easy, soft target to acquire free drugs – simply take it from those too weak and sick, to resist.

Terrorists will carry out their publicized threats to use the Mexican border to carry through satchels of chemical and bio weapons, releasing them from the tops of skyscrapers perhaps, in densely populated areas during high traffic times during the day.

Plagues will create “sanctuary” cities of the dying – people who cannot be helped by the already overburdened first-responder and the rest of the top-heavy, socialized health-care system.

Those still moderately productive and not relegated to slow death in these places, will be relied upon to provide for everyone else – especially those insulated at the top of the political and financial ladders. They will be taxed mercilessly and the result will be a blossoming black market.

Police will be used to break up peaceful demonstrations and meetings, using a variety of excuses cloaked in the truth that any protests or claims against them will never make it into court – or if they eventually do, will not have any significance. Dissenting voices on the air will be silenced one way or the other – perhaps simply by using the rest of the “house” media and “new media,” to chip away at the opposition until they can no longer continue. Or perhaps they will be quieted through application of astronomical buy-outs using appropriated funds from untraceable public funding – in which the new owners simply replace the entire organization with more controllable reporters who will “toe the line.”

Congress will become irrelevant. Czars and committee dictators will replace the political process – especially for issues, which various groups want shoved-through into law without interference.

The new laws will include legislation to tell us how we can live and what we are allowed to think and say. Thought policing will take place through a “civilian” para-military arm of the government, which reports only to the President, perhaps through a handful of czars.

Presidential term limits will be eliminated. The massive powers newly taken up by the government would become more and more centralized until we arrive at a true dictatorship.

Outside the U.S., countries will become more and more nervous as a world superpower becomes more insulated and less controlled.

Growing internal unrest will lead the new dictatorship to levy heavier and heavier controls on the population. Resistance groups will be labled, “enemies of the state.” Peaceful rallies will be broken up by members of the massive civilian para-military group, which will by then, have massive power. People will be “disappeared.” Further confrontations will lead to further organization by resistance groups, pitting the overweight government apparatus against its own citizens.

I know. It's science fiction, right?

But make no mistake – if things continue on the path they are currently on, we will become subjects. We will become slaves. We will become the lost. Welcome to my nightmare.

Do something to stop it.

Please.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mathematics, life - and horrible patterns

Mathematics.
It can alter our very existence. Physics in it’s many guises, chemistry and biology – things unknown – all either bend before its’ strength, or bend in spite of it.

Words pale in comparison. Unless you consider the poetry of motion, the perfection of good poetry, the quest for perfection. And I once thought these things to be very separate. Perhaps that’s the nature of our lives – to contain and separate. In that way, things make sense and when they make sense, there is order – not chaos.

Some folks see patterns in things, which others refuse to look at. Patterns are built into us – or they’re built into the universe and don’t notice us at all. There’s so many contradictions in a good conspiracy theory that people caught in the intoxicating web of pattern, can’t help but wait for the spider.

I am no conspiracy lover – and mysteries I love because they exist. But there are both good mysteries and bad mysteries – like everything in this world, they are polarized. A good reporter counts only on the facts. An error in fact, after all, is an error, which calls into question other people – and the word of other people. And so I am going to pose a question based on facts. You may answer it… or not.

The question is based on the researcher in the previous article.

This particular doctor is an interesting individual in that his studies seem to cross the threshold of various disciplines. He is also interesting in that the very things he studies, seem to cross at a variety of creepy levels.

But forget about all that for a moment. Let’s concentrate on condoms. Specifically, please turn your attention to condoms as they relate to the following facts: Xaioming Li receives a $2.6 million grant to do a study on the connection between Chinese prostitutes and alcohol – all funded by the United States. The study is allegedly a five-year study, and will focus on more than 100 venues (brothels) in Guangxi.

So – back to mathematics: 100 brothels (let’s say they’re badly managed and only have 20 girls each). That’s 2000 girls. Then let’s say that during a given day, each group of 20 girls visits with ten men – that’s busy, but not crazy town. Even so, that’s 20,000 condoms a day – if you want to keep them well-supplied. That’s 500,000 condoms a month, six million a year and 30 million over five years. How much does a pack of Trojans cost at the market? Please ask yourself with what money they intend to pay the people involved in the research project – even if you’re only handing out 1/10th of the money in supplies to the locals.

Not odd enough? Consider then, Li himself. Wayne State University,  School of Medicine. Dr. Li will head the program to train prostitutes and pimps in Guangxi, China. So it’s not odd to find him connected to Psychology. Nor is it odd to find him connected to HIV/AIDS studies - and as with all coincidences, patterns form. What those patterns tell us when we are not in full possession of the facts, is a subjective individual choice. Skip back two articles in this blog and you will read about a myopic monkey. The question here, is whether the coincidences in this case, are a real pattern and what does the pattern represent?

Because Li appears to have some connections in Bethesda, Maryland (a locale long-associated with biomed research in the U.S. - much funded by the NIH, which is funding Li) – and Li’s studies have involved children, in the past – small children. In some instances, the study of the fetus and its’ mother – and chimeric cells which are exchanged between the two.

If you read further, you will find that Li’s interests involve epidemics and pandemics and how they are associated with culture and behavioral change. Previous slants for this research cross the boundaries from STD research and intervention, into mental health research.

According to a news release by the university, “The HIV/AIDS pandemic scene in East Asia is largely dominated by China. While AIDS is not considered an epidemic in China, the infection rate has risen sharply in recent years, and the potential impact of a serious outbreak would be disastrous for both China and the world’s economy.”

Acquired Immuno Deficiency Virus has no clear source. According to various theories and research, its' beginnings coincide with a variety of changes in the world. What is known as fact is that some versions of HIV very closely match SIV, which is found in some primates. The discovery of the disease in the 1980s has led to a great deal of research suggesting transmission of the first case or cases via bush-meat (hunters killing and eating infected monkeys), or inoculation programs using dirty needles in unsanitary, overpopulated environs, thus infecting large numbers of people - and remaining undiscovered until it made its' way out of the country of origin. Regardless, the disease now has spread to all corners of the globe - even China.
And so, grant money flows from the U.S. Government – and interestingly, China is willing to allow a U.S. medical study to proceed in country. Even more interesting, are some of the other headlines coming out of China. In the incidents, which have made it past government censors, in just the last eight weeks, 17 are dead and 80 wounded.
They all involve children – being murdered during multiple attacks – school children. Their attackers have in every case, been wielding knives.
And so far, there’s no explanation for the pattern.
Reasonable advice would be to simply do the math. How many crazies do you recall in recent history – all attacking a singular target group within the population – without clear motive – with no connection with each other – and with exactly the same weapon and exactly the same means and method.
How many? It does, after all, come down to simple mathematics – but mathematics as it applies to psychology, biology, chemistry, genetics – and human life itself.
Where is the real spider in this particular web? Is it a potential epidemic connected somehow to HIV in one of the most populated places on Earth – in a province known for its’ tourism and potentially a center for STDs - or is all of this just coincidence and bizarre, horrific occurrences? If it is a potential epidemic or pandemic, are the murders a disconnected product of it - or potentially a direct result. Is Li's group really there to talk to prostitutes about drinking and safe-sex or are they there to gather data and investigate a disease or social breakdown due to disease - in situ?
Answer the question or not – the choice is yours.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gatekeepers and Keymasters

I wasn’t going to write about this topic for a myriad of reasons, which will shortly become apparent, but I see no way around it. It must be approached head-on. Sorry – that was a pun, which you do not currently understand, but which will in just a few more paragraphs, cause you to:

a.     blush
b.     laugh
c.      both
d.     do both – then check your schedule to see when you can arrange a trip to China.

I apologize to my one Chinese reader – there’s always one. And I apologize to the entire industry, which I am likely about to insult.

Now, to the meat of the thing – which is another pun.

First, I should preface this by saying that the Guangxi District is a lovely multinational locale in southern China, which boasts beautiful scenery, and a multitude of cultures. Indeed, tourism is big in Guangxi, so you won’t be alone if you book your flight right now. Face-to-face communication with various cultures is said to bring you unexpected happy surprises.

There are sights to see in Guangxi which include Reed Flute Cave, Seven Stars Park and Fu Bo Hill – all real places, but also possible double-entendres. I apologize to the spirits of those places, should they be reading my articles. Please don’t haunt me – I already have so many ghosts flocking about, that the place is starting to look like the new locale to shoot another poltergeist movie.

I should also say, however, that lovely Guangxi also features Yangshuo, which is  a peaceful town with plenty of local appeal, but also western restaurants and hotels. It’s called “The Earth Village.” My belief is that Al Gore and friends would subsequently feel at home in sleepy Yangshuo.

Yes, it is a great place. And it’s going to be made even better by 2.6 million in American tax dollars. Why not? After all, China is bankrolling most of our economy. We should lay down some bread for our friendly Chinese brothers and sisters, right? Oops – there’s another pun.

You see, Guangxi has a lot of great things going for it. And among them is its’ very busy population. Real busy. And I mean that in the best possible way – the Guangxi folks may have a lot of fantastic destinations available for daytime tourism – but it’s the night life which has everyone talking.

Almost three million dollars will be spent on a program to help Guangxi prostitutes with their choices in booze and condoms – and it even offers training to their pimps! Yeah, baby. But pimps and prostitutes are such old fashioned terms. It’s kind of like “climate change” instead of “global warming.”  The researcher who secured the crazy grant money for the study, is instead calling the pros, “Female Sex Workers” or FSWs and their managers, “Gatekeepers.” Presumably, that would make their clients “Keymasters,” but they apparently didn’t think of that one.

What they did think of is amazing, though.

Allegedly, using the study on Guangxi FSWs and their Gatekeepers, will benefit the United States because prostitution occurs in conjunction with alcohol in the U.S. – and oddly, the formula is also present in China! It’s like going to a fast-food joint and ordering a combo-meal. Just don’t super-size.

Alcohol has been apparently a part of sex practices for many, many years. No – you didn’t know that, because you don’t live in Guangxi, where apparently they are having a lot of sex. But the HIV virus, which is no laughing matter – affects 1.2 million Americans! And it affects the Chinese of Guangxi too! But probably the 1.2 million Americans with the virus aren’t all having sex, like the folks in Guangxi.

And fortunately, the project exists at the “exploration” stage. What is that exactly? It’s really quite simple. According to the researcher heading the project :), the study is a venue-based intervention program which is not aimed at eliminating the prostitution. That would get the researchers beat up by the Gatekeepers – a process which is often called “rolling,” here in the sexless, boring West.

In fact, the work will entail teaching FSWs new communication skills, including negotiating and limit-setting (oh, the imagery in those few words), and will throw in a basketful of behavioral skills which include using latex in appropriate ways and a variety of “individual” skills. A second, more mysterious phase is still being planned. My bet is that it teaches FSWs how not to strangle their Keymasters accidentally, resulting in dead Hollywood actors. Of course, this is Guangxi – not Taiwan, where they don’t know how to have proper sex.

And there’s so many different venues that will benefit from your taxes! There’s nearly 100 commercial sex venues which will be so much improved by the personal attention given the researchers. And it’s all backed by the National Institutes of Health.

Got your plane ticket and travel itinerary yet? Remember the whole HIV thing, though. Aside from the reaction of my wife – the whole virus thing is a deal-breaker for me.

I have now no doubt, been barred from visiting Guangxi - and will probably be rolled by the Gatekeepers and FSWs should I show my face there. It's a tough world out there. If only we had better prostitutes - or better alcohol. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Killing and dying.

A long time ago I had an unusual job.
It dealt with 96 nuclear-armed, ground-launched, cruise missiles.

When you deal with weapons like that, on mobile systems – basically all-terrain tractor-trailer units, you have to deal with some very real threats. So, your training has to encompass those things.

Within this framework I’d like to paint you a picture of a portion of this training. Let me tell you about the end of the world.

If you’re hit by a nuclear weapon – hell, if it’s anywhere nearby, you’re a ghost before you even knew something bad happened. If you’re further away, you get shards of material blasted at near the speed of sound, through the walls of your house. If you’re in front of a window, the glass will shred you, and you’ll die of blood loss before you can even register the burns – and mercifully before the radiation causes you to hemhorage. The weakness and sickness and loss of hair, bodily function and finally bleeding, will kill those less lucky – those not close enough for instant vaporization, but far enough away to seemingly have escaped. They will die within days or a week, staggering through the ruins.

And a terrorist’s dirty bomb is very good at producing the latter effect, on a smaller scale. But those who die, will die badly. Very badly. Consider your own home – think about everyone sick at the same time – no one to care for them. No ability to care for each other. That is what a nuke – dirty or otherwise, produces.

All warriors are cold warriors. The truth of these things is never far from your mind. But worse truths lay in wait. Let me share them with you.

Consider a perfect day, not too much wind, not too much sun not too hot or cold. It’s a good day to be outside, walking the streets of your city. But as night approaches, an aerosol is dispersed. It won’t happen high up. But the chemical will come as a fine mist. It will stick to surfaces. There are about 70 different variations of what you just breathed or got on your skin. It may affect your vision, or your nervous system as a whole, but here’s the highlights: In as little as a few hours you and your family members will be suffering from blindness, hideous blisters which will burst and cause more blisters, lungs which are irreversibly damaged, will likely fill with fluid and you’ll die – if you’re lucky. If not, involuntary urination, defecation, vomiting, twitching, and unstoppable convulsions will precede your demise – and the death of everyone around you.

And that’s just the simple stuff.

Biological Hell is worse. With this end-of-world scenario, aerosol delivery is also very viable. The results are however, much more terrible. Weaponization of these diseases produces resistant strains with methods of delivery designed to have the greatest effect possible on the target. They are also combined and are generally existing as almost a talcum-powder consistency. Anthrax, ebola, Marburg, plague, cholera, tularemia, brucellosis, Shingella, spotted fever, typhus, psittacosis, yellow fever, hemhorragic fever, encephalitis are all known as having been considered for weaponization – or already existing as such. Most are transmissible. Bio-warfare can include variants which act against vegetation, cattle or other animals, collapsing food chains.

An SUU-24/A dispenser – which is ancient technology – could infect 50-percent or more of a population in a 16-square-mile area with Tularemia. After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq officials admitted to UN inspection teams that the country produced botulinum toxin in amounts considered to be three times what is necessary to kill the entire human population of the Earth by inhalation. One gram of the toxin evenly dispersed is enough to kill one-million people, albeit technical factors make this somewhat difficult. But despite this, terrorists have already attempted its’ use in Tokyo, Japan.

Nevertheless, death by botulinum toxin is singularly horrible. Once absorbed, it binds irreversibly in the neuromuscular junctions of the synapses. Difficulty seeing, speaking or swallowing begins the process. Dry mouth and hyperventilation start as it becomes obvious that paralysis is taking place. Loss of head control, weakness. But you are not confused. You know exactly what is happening to you, and you can experience every awful moment. Without treatment, you will die. And a microbe modified, could possibly make the toxin transmissible.

So if you have read this far, understand this: Congress is attempting today to cut $2 billion from bioterrorism prevention, claiming the probability of such an attack is low. Probability figures only matter to those whom a thing does not happen to. And I would suggest, we are already seeing the effects of world-enders: witness Sept. 11, Katrina, or the most recent Gulf Oil Spill.

The end of the world doesn’t have to come with trumpets and the return of the messiah. World-enders happen all the time, to average people everywhere. They happen, because of insane acts, drunk drivers, inattentive pilots, faulty equipment, simple, unavoidable sickness and injury, and long days in a hospital waiting for some kind of hope.

Hope is rare at the end of the world.
A long time ago I had an unusual job. The ramifications surrounding the necessity of such a job are staggering. Then Ronald Reagan stood up and asked the Soviet Union to tear down a wall. The world pivoted on that moment.

But the devices and the material and the desire is still out there – a desire to kill others, whatever the cost.Consider this deeply. You are already a target, be it by those claiming “holy war,” or those just claiming it is right to hurt you because of the color of your skin – or because you speak a different language – or because you come from a particular place. Rhetoric has been ratcheted up – even by our country’s leadership, as they take away the money to treat you and your family, should a pandemic occur. The project which would be discontinued if Congress gets its’ way, has already purchased 29 million doses of anthrax vaccine, 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine and 200,000 doses of botulinum toxin treatment. But it will be discontinued because "probabilities" are low. Thousands of people dead on Sept. 11 attacks - but that's not enough. We should stick our heads in the sand and not worry about it. 

I have heard that in the a certain holy text, a specific line suggests that if a man is coming to kill you, you should wake up earlier and kill him first. This passage doesn't speak about protecting your family - it asks you to get to killing earlier.

In our greatest texts – in the things considered revered and timeless, we speak of killing on profound scales. I suppose we’re good at it – it’s the dying part that’s difficult.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the eye of the tiger

What constitutes a police state?
If you look at history, there's a whole lot of examples. In some cases, this brand of government has gone hand-in-hand with other things which humans do to humans - oh so well.

Police states in other cases have led to mistreatment, despair, protests, long-simmering hatred and the killing of innocents, numbering into the thousands - and some cases , the millions. I have personally stood knee deep in letters and cards requesting the release of political prisoners, emptied and left to rot in the corridors of a parliament building in a third-world capitol.

We, as a species, kill and cause pain on an epic scale. More tired examples, but certainly more terrible, come to mind. Do I really need to enumerate them - to list them here? If I do, will you not simply stop reading - not because these things are not fact, but because they are so familiar? Isn't it sad that they should be?

Sadder still is the ability of humans to lose sight of things when they are indeed right before them. It is like some small monkey from prehistory, out of the trees and standing in the tall grass for the first time. The tiger is close enough that his breath can be felt, yet because the monkey's pattern-recognition is poor, he can't see the predator. And so, he is a small brunch snack, his DNA is not passed forward, and that is probably good, because if it were, millions of myopic monkeys would exist only as tiger food.

Similarly, we today are having a pattern-recognition problem. Consider the tiger that stands before us. It is a top-heavy, muscle-bound creature built for only one purpose - to eat us. The current administration has all the money it will ever need (it's printing it). It has control of the press. It has all the power it will ever need, and if nothing changes, it will conclude with a situation not unlike what New York currently has - a version of Bloomberg, the perpetual mayor. Those who have read the articles I have written over the past year, understand that the last ingredient for a civilization lost - is the suspension of term limits. At that point, you have a dictatorship.

But I have begun to wonder if we don't already have that. Consider our own personal tiger once again. How many details of the Gulf BP oil spill, are being allowed to meet the public eye? BP private security is working so closely with Homeland Security in the South, that many reporters have confused the two. Some have been threatened, their persons and belongings searched and seized. While the management of the actual disaster was practically non-existent, the management of the on-scene locale following the alleged end of the disaster is total and comprehensive. The story - the facts, and the very history and data surrounding the event are being sifted and scrubbed and the rights of average citizens simply don't matter. Those rights haven't mattered since a guy named Joe, asked a guy named Barrack a simple question - they probably haven't mattered for years, and because of our bad eyesight, we haven't really seen it.

Kings love that. They enjoy total power, and they don't have to listen to, or even see the suffering of their subjects. Dictators love that, too. They just exterminate and bury whoever gets in their way.

Tigers have always loved it.

All predators enjoy their spot at the top of the food chain. And sometimes, they enjoy it so much, they just live to kill.

Remember that.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Oil platform - FUBAR

If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to see it fall, does that mean that it fell?

If a bomb explodes in the forest, but no one is there to hear the blast – or at least, no one important, does it mean anything exploded? If you live near a place named Tunguska, the answer to both questions would be “yes.”

Similarly, if an oil rig was said to be a safety hazard, but no one was really listening, would that mean the oil rig wouldn’t explode and sink to the bottom of the ocean, killing half the eastern seaboard in an unstoppable wave of black death? Would it mean that a civilian company wouldn’t be left holding the whole bag of sticky poo as the entire gulf coast dies? Would it mean that a U.S. president – an outspoken opponent to drilling and big oil - wouldn’t be sitting on his hands?

See where I’m going with this?

Cause and effect – yeah baby. It’s all about cause and effect. As impossible as it is to know the circumstances surrounding the catastrophe in the Gulf, it is more impossible to understand the reason for the hand-wringing and inaction going on now within our government. The president listens to a few briefs, picks up even fewer tar balls from off the sandy beaches in the South, and goes home for vacation – yet again.

"Hey, Secret Service guys, let's stop for some yummy shrimp cocktails before we head home."

Meanwhile, everything dies – or gets ready to die. British Petroleum executives must be hoarse from the screaming. One can almost hear them – “What the Hell? Who the Hell? Wait a minute … what the Hell?” Then a few days later – “What the Hell? Who the Hell? Wait a minute …. What the Hell? SOMEBODY BLOODY HELP US!”

So, they send in the Coast Guard. Look, I’m not one to get down on any military service, because I was in one - and I know I'm going to get cursed by CG guys for this - but when you have a Lobster Boat lost at sea, you call the Coast Guard. When you have potentially every lobster turning toxic at the bottom of the ocean, it’s time to call someone else. I don’t know – was Bruce Willis busy? Could somebody give the guy a call, at least? I mean, he dealt with that asteroid thing pretty well, and he’s an oil drillin’ guy too, right?

Yeah, I know, that one was fiction. Bummer. Worse than a bummer, because we’re supposed to be counting on British Petroleum and the Coast Guard – or is it the Coast Guard and British Petroleum? Does anyone know who’s in charge here? One can just hear the BP executives now, “What the Hell? Who the Hell? Wait a minute…”

I apologize, dear reader. I know you are about to push the nuke button on me, because this is serious Shite, here and the Coast Guard is all over this problem - and they're handling it. But, being a former military guy, I can see when something is SNAFU, TARFU – or as in this particular case, FUBAR. When things have reached FUBAR stage, it’s time to grab your ass, pucker up, and develop some flexibility. For those unfamiliar with these acronyms, I offer this pleasant gauge:

SNAFU – An oil platform is placed in deep water with Gilligan and the Skipper in charge.
TARFU – Gilligan and the Skipper cannot be found after the oil platform explodes.
FUBAR – Gilligan and the Skipper are running the effort to close the valve on the broken pipe at the bottom of the ocean, with a can of compressed air and some silly-putty between them.

Got the picture? It’s about that bad now. Even the professor and Mr. Howell can’t come up with a good enough plan – or throw enough money at it. If it weren’t so tragic, you’d have to laugh. In fact, you may as well laugh – or pray. That’s about the best course of action at the moment, and that's my official policy. Why doesn't the President order up some big juju magic and do something? Why would he? If he stays away from it, maybe it won't stick to him, like say, tar would.

No wait – let’s build a big hat and drop it over the pipe! Wow! That’s a great idea! Holy crap, someone call BP! No wait – they tried that. It was called the “Ass-hat” idea.” Yep. Didn’t work. It didn’t work about as well as everything else hasn’t worked. In fact, the big O, actually picking tar-balls off the coastline was maybe the most effective thing done yet. How bad can it get?

Well, after we try a big hat, then a smaller hat - then a really small hat and some shit no one understands, how about this: It is already the most massive environmental disaster the U.S. has ever seen, but that’s just the warm-up. The threat is simply unknown. No one has any idea. As of now, there is nearly 100 miles of coastline polluted in Louisiana alone. As there’s only 400 miles of Louisiana coast, things have certainly reached the FUBAR stage. There's oil plumes extending out far beyond this already, and no one knows why. Oh, and here's the best part...every fish and invertebrate contacting the oil will be dying, RIGHT NOW. Birds, reptiles and mammals will be dying for a long time to come – and here’s a big wake up call … WE'RE MAMMALS TOO! Some smart guys have actually been saying there will be “both short term and long term impacts.”

No shit, professor? Feel like cracking open Mr. Lobster or sucking down those raw oysters a year from now? Yummy. Just do a quick science experiment … buy a can of 40 –weight oil (your choice) and dump it in your fish tank. Then fry up Mr. Fish, get all Jurrasic on him and see how you feel in the morning.

No? Well, then, for good measure, call the Coastguard and British Petroleum and ask them to recommend a filter to get all the goo out of the tank. Still nothing?

OK, who’s to blame? According to Speaker Pelosi, and some other dim lights in Congress, it’s former President George Bush. Wow. Color me surprised. According to environmentalists, it’s just “big oil.” And according to President Obama, it is big corporate greed, then former President Bush - then big oil. But as far as British Petroleum is concerned – well, we know what they are saying still.

“What the Hell? Who the Hell…”

Sorry, no answers – and no non-toxic fish yummies. And definitely no more screaming, because those BP executives have lost their voice.

It’s a FUBAR alert still in progress.


Not sick yet – look at this fun link….

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poppies and Memorial Day





By Wicked Patriot

Sometimes I wonder at the phrase "Happy Memorial Day" I wonder how many people remember that Memorial day has nothing to do with holidays, family vacations, BBQ's or cold beer.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor the Union soldiers who died during the Civil War. After WW1 is was broadened in scope to encompass all soldiers who have fallen in service of our great country.

The first Memorial Day was observed by freed slaves to honor the Union soldiers who had died to free them in a long forgotten place called the Washington Race Course on May 1st 1865. The Washington Race Course was a former Confederate prisoner of war camp in South Carolina.

After the war freed slaves exhumed Union soldiers buried in the mass grave on the site and gave them a proper burial.

Memorial Day was not a declared “holiday” until 1968. This is when the "holiday" was combined with Veterans Day and Washington's Birthday to create a convenient three-day weekend for Congress (fitting). The “holidays” were eventually separated again in 1978. Most businesses are no longer closed on Washington's Birthday or Veterans Day, but Memorial Day seems to endure. Not so much to honor the fallen, but to give the government a three-day weekend.

My father served all his adult life for a country he loved. Now he is gone, like so many others forgotten on distant shores – never again to see the country they fought and died for.

You see it is not about BBQ's and days off to me, or anyone like me. The little boys and girls that have to grow up without their moms and dads, know this as do the wives and husbands who cannot go on to grow old together. And there are so many sisters and brothers sorely missed by those that love them – they understand this too.

When I think about Memorial Day, I think of Red Poppies sold by the VFW and the poem that inspired that tradition, “In Flanders Fields,” penned by John McCrea. Do you know it? I do.

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

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

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

Remember as you drive to your BBQ’s and to the beach, there are those unseen, beyond the veil of the final nightfall, who whisper “remember me.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Patriotism.


In 1991 I wrote an article about patriotism.

It wasn’t much. I simply explained that the flag waving and bugle playing and all that great stuff really wasn’t what it all was about. It was really about family and duty and caring for your brothers and sisters. Patriotism is the best things about being human.

I know these sorts of ideas may seem trite to some. I imagine there are plenty of folks out there who don’t believe in God or Heaven – or whatever you’d like to call either. Perhaps they believe in other things. Perhaps they believe in nothing at all. And that’s fine – belief or non-belief isn’t mandatory, but making some kind of choice to do something for other people is.

I can’t help but think of all those commercials and paid “news reports” – some with the President himself, extolling the need for volunteering – asking for people to give of themselves. And yet, half a world away, young men and women are doing just that. They are volunteering to protect the rest of us against a very real enemy. You just haven’t seen the faces of those killers, personally. You hear instead, the platitudes of a government led by cowards. You listen to propaganda – or worse – you believe total fabrications intended to ramp up the volume of hate and despair.

I know the face of hopelessness. I know its’ bitter taste, and can tell you personally what it is like to look into the eyes of the kind of creatures who caused the gaping hole and all the misery in New York. These individuals are no longer human. They aren’t fighting for their families – they aren’t serving any duty, holy or otherwise. They are in fact, insane.

Individuals like that, and all those who enable them – even to a large extent, many in our own government – are just husks. They are empty, lost individuals shuffling through a decaying landscape. For them, the suffering of average people is not real, and the sacrifices made on their behalf simply do not even come to mind. They can’t possibly see beyond their own needs, and so, in their mind, how could there be anyone else who does? How could there be any real kindness and any real giving – without a taking? For these people, how could there even be a God in the face of so much thoughtlessness and emptiness in the cold vastness of the universe?

It is within that barren landscape of soul, that hate and terror and oppression are born.

But there is an alternative and it is always within reach. You can simply choose to care. You can simply try your hardest to be a better person than you were the day before. You can be the one to say a kind word, to ask a simple question, to do a selfless thing and to honor those who are giving up themselves in every possible way, so you will be happy and safe.

I have had the greatest honor of wearing the uniform of my country. But it is as nothing compared to the greatness of those who have come before me and those who have come after. I have known both. I have had friends who flew gliders into France on D-Day. I have listened to the stories describing a sky on fire as gliders exploded in balls of flame and bodies of comrades fell to earth. I have known men who were officers in the Underwater Demolition Teams. Their stories are told in pieces – the pieces they are allowed to speak about, and the pieces which their voices will allow them to tell. I have known veterans of Korea and Vietnam and there’s a sadness there, too great for words.

And most recently, I have spoken to a number of my active duty brothers and sisters. I dread the future because it holds the chance – the day – when those voices will go silent and I will never know their fate. My time and my efforts were like a blink compared to these people.

And so we come to the meaning of it all. Patriotism is this: a belief and love for your fellow man, and for an idea that became a country and a people. It is about being more than skin and blood and bone. It is simply about transcendence, and hope, and the willingness to give everything up so that the person next to you – or someone you never met - will be free and live a full life. You don’t have to understand it, but you do have to respect it.

Michelle Obama once described a particular moment as the first time she was proud of her country. With her and her husband choosing to take yet another vacation as the annual wreath is laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I would have to say it is the first time I am truly and deeply ashamed of our President.

But this is still America, and those brave souls being remembered on Monday, died so he and the First Lady could do as they wish. That sacrifice and that gift – all given for nothing in return, is the true measure and meaning of patriotism.

Want to see something which will pick up your spirits?

Have a look at this link if you're feeling a bit down...

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