Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Training the Insane

The psychological effects of war have been known for as long as war has existed in the civilized world.  Soldiers have come home with post traumatic stress disorder, shell shock, battle fatigue, or whatever the current name was at the time, since at least the Battle of Marathon in the 4th century before the current era when post-war psychosomatic blindness was reported in an Athenian soldier.

We've known for so long, but we still fail to recognize that we're not only putting our soldiers at risk of physical harm, but also mental harm.

Beyond that, many of our soldiers are young and from impoverished backgrounds.  The most rigid training and probably the most responsible family many of them have is in the form of the armed forces.  They love and respect their military family--as they should.  Their buddies would DIE for them.

Many of these soldiers lack discipline and/or stability in their young lives before joining the military, so their first real experience is in the participation of the destruction of human life.  Don't get me wrong, they also learn valuable lessons and skills, as well as form lifelong friends.  But if your first job out of high school is to kill others, you might expect a certain distortion of reality.

Still, many of the people that have spent the last more than 10 years in the Middle East, on and off, didn't necessarily sign up for that.  Some of them are members of the National Guard, state organized militias that were meant to serve only a RESERVE for the army.

Is it no surprise then that, with our men and women in uniform being sent away to participate in the trauma of war year after year after year, at some point, they'll begin having to deal with questionable mental health WHILE on the battlefield.

In recent days, there have been reports of even MORE atrocious behavior by our men and women in uniform.  Soldiers posing with bodies and parts of bodies of people they most likely were involved in killing.  Dead people, who these soldiers (often kids, really) must have relegated to some level of sub-human status in order to treat their bodies so callously.

Normal humans don't do that.

So then, we, as Americans, must apologize to the rest of the world that our military is filled with monsters of our own making.  Posing with bodies, pissing on corpses, burning holy books, massacring civilians...

The right answer to this situation isn't to apologize (though, we must) nor is it to punish the offenders (though, we also must), but to use our armed forces more wisely.  Our warmongering has not only nearly bankrupt us financially, but also bankrupt the sanity and morality of our service men and women.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Mommy Wars"

It seems that the purpose of both political parties in this country is to whip their respective sympathizers into a frenzy over nothing, and the media's job is to facilitate the madness.

The latest firestorm has been dubbed the "Mommy Wars," which is even more insulting than the original snafu. 

The exchange started this way:

Mitt Romney has been using his wife to reach out to women voters.  Ok.  That's fine.  He has no idea what it's like to be a woman.  That being said, SHE has no idea what it's like to be your AVERAGE woman because she has never had to provide for her family economically.

Ann Rosen pointed this out.  Of course, what we're reading in the headlines and the spin machines is, "His wife has actually never worked a day in her life."  (Et tu, Christian Science Monitor?)

That, in itself, would have been insulting.  But, it wasn't by itself.

She stated, "His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.  She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing."

Which, of course, is true.  Ann Romney being the face of the modern American woman is like Marie Antoinette being the face of the French (though, to be fair, it probably wasn't Marie Antoinette that said "let them eat cake.")

Ann Romney has not had to wonder how she will both feed her kids and make sure that she can afford to.  In fact, Mrs. Romney's charitable work seems to mostly revolve around talking and money, not so much the hands-on approach that might provide a little insight into how "the other half" lives.

That being said, it's unfortunate that Ms. Rosen's two sentences (well, one, really) are being used as weapons.  We certainly shouldn't denigrate women who make the choice to remain at home to care for their children.   Quite frankly, it is a hard job--just ask your mom.  It's also hard to choose to work, even if you absolutely must, because of the guilt many women feel (and are often forced to feel) for doing so.

BUT...given that many, many, MANY women simply don't have that choice, whether they would make it or not, it is not out of line to point out that, not only is Mitt out of touch with the common man, but Ann is no great substitute for being in touch with the common woman.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Back to the Future in Wisconsin

A version of the cover of The Handmaid's Tale
If you've never read "The Handmaid's Tale," you really should.  It's a story about a woman in a dystopian future.  In this future, everyone is classified by their role in society...especially women.  It's set in the United States, which has been taken over by a fundamentalist sect.  In the time leading up to this, the rights of women were slowly taken away.  First, women were removed from the workforce.  The men said "lucky you! You don't have to work."  Then, the ability of women to make purchases went away.  Men said "I'm sure it's a fluke.  Anyway, you can rely on me to get you what you need."  Then, women completely subjugated to the will of men, even their reproductive capabilities.  Handmaids were women that were known to be fertile, who were essentially made into baby makers for rich men.  The woman at the center of the story is a handmaid. (

What's so incredibly annerving about it is that it could be set in a very near future.

Road Map

Fundamentalists in the country appear to be using "The Handmaid's Tale" as a road map to the political future of this country.

At a time when teen pregnancies and birth have hit an all-time low (at least for as long as we've really been paying attention to the issue) due, in part, to the availability of birth control, conservative politicians are demonizing birth control.

At a time when we are strapped for cash, and the cost to the public of treating and delivering unwanted pregnancies is at least $11 billion per year, politicians are allowing the Catholic church to decide that insurance companies shouldn't cover birth control.  A "radical intrusion" into church policy.  Wait?  Since when is the church an insurance company.  Stick to religion, guys, or you have to follow the rules for the other businesses you run.

At the same time birth control is being maligned and restricted, the back up plan is also being criminalized, with women being subjected to guilt trips, to object rape, and to prolonged physical risk as a result of pregnancy in order to get an abortion.

Although I don't buy it (nor should anyone with functioning grey matter), but at least you MIGHT be able to justify the invasion of the human female uterus under the guise of "morality."

On Wisconsin!

Wisconsin, though, seems to want to lead the charge toward full-fledged legal subjugation of women.

As of Friday, April 6, 2012, if you are discriminated against by your employer in Wisconsin, the best you can hope for is the financial equivalent of a spanking with an inflatable glove for your employer.  And you may still end up jobless.

That is, Gov. Scott Walker signed a repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act (passed 2009).

While you may still sue in a state court or federal court, the state courts are limited in how you may be compensated for earning less because you have boobs.  It's also more expensive to sue in a federal court, so your options for punishing your employer for being a sexist pig is that much harder.

The justification for this?  Get this: " is more important for men." (According to the author of the bill, Senator Glenn Grothman.)

So, if you are a woman and you find out that your employer is paying you less than the male equivalent, tough titty. You shouldn't be the bread winner, anyway.  Get yourself a man!

The text of the bill is here:

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Ok, so we've all been paying attention to the GOP presidential race, right?  Well, at least a little.  Enough to know that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are running?  Ok.  Good.

In case you weren't paying close attention, one of the things that Mr. Newt Gingrich has been saying is that, as emperor...erm...president, he'd outright ignore the Supreme Court if he felt like it, actively seek to impeach judges he disagreed with, and abolish entire courts for failing to make rulings as Czar Gingrich sees fit.

Mitt Romney isn't quite as ballsy, but he indicates that the Supreme Court should answer to the people because Congress is too incompetent to review them (though, perhaps he doesn't realize that Congress has no power over the justices once they're in the Court, unless they do something naughty).

Both these ideas draw applause from the (admittedly extreme) audience present at the debate where these ideas issue from the lips of these two esteemed "conservatives."

And "conservative" tools have been crying JUDICIAL ACTIVISM every time a judge does something they don't like for quite some time.  Of course, the term hasn't been limited to use by conservatives, but certainly it has gotten trotted out pretty frequently by them, even landing itself into the GOP platform on a regular basis (1996, 2004, 2008).

But now, all the applause is forgotten, because current (Democratic) Barack (Hussein) Obama has the gall to play the judicial activism card himself. In fact, Mitch McConnell must believe that only he and/or his fellow Republicans must own the phrase "judical activism" as he can say it (at least here, and here, and here), but not (Democratic) President Barack (Hussein) Obama (here).

While I think playing the judicial activism card might be premature, though probably accurate in light of the existence of other programs we must all participate in (via taxes or fees) that result in a benefit of some over another (e.g., Medicare, farm subsidies, mortgage interest refunds, etc.), it's pretty ridiculous that a leader in the Anti-Judicial Activism Party (GOP) would tut tut the president for saying so.

Somehow, I suspect that Mitch McConnell, or at least many of his colleagues, might be extra offended if one used the common phrase, "it's like the pot calling the kettle..." Democrat?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

You Got Yours

There is an interesting phenomenon that happens with people who have endured hardships at the hands of others.  That is, once they get past the abuse, they feel as though no one else deserves what they feel they earned.

There are people that I rarely talk to because of this phenomenon.  I had a friend in high school that was constantly picked on, bullied, and abused.  She was the butt of jokes and the equivalent of a cur that everyone kicked to the curb.  All she wanted, at least I thought, was to be loved and respected like everyone else.  I was no beauty queen or social butterfly, myself, but I was largely immune to any foolishness from a bunch of hormone-addled teenagers, so they mostly gave up on trying to get under my skin.  I did my best to stand up for her, though.  She deserved to be treated like a human being just like me or anyone else, right?  Imagine my dismay when, after years of being under the radar she shows up again, only to spam me with emails telling me to not watch certain TV shows because there were gay people on them or to support drug testing on people in need of assistance (something I'm sure she needed in the past, and may have failed the test, herself).

She got hers and no one else deserves it.

I can't fathom the thought processes that are involved in this attitude.  I am sure I'm not the only one confounded by it.

Source unknown, but only really appropriate for this topic.
It appears that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM...hehehe) is using this phenomenon to defeat civil rights for gay people.

Recent news (though conspicuously absent from Faux central "news," but occasionally showing up in local Fox stations; is that NOM plans to drive a wedge between the black and Hispanic communities and gay rights.

Key messages by NOM

The "Christianity" message

The most obvious message is that gay people, particularly gay people getting married, will end Christianity in the US.  Or, at least, Christians will be called bigots.

Well, that's already true, unfortunately.  I have often called out my gay friends for using that broad brush (as I am a Christian, myself and I know many who don't deserve to be called bigots), and it's getting better.  That being said, being "Christian" isn't the same as BEING Christian.  So, if the shoe fits...

Creating and using fear

A second, fairly obvious message is that a path to gay rights will block a path to Hispanic rights.  Worse than that, NOM's recently released memos indicate that the path to Hispanic rights should be directed along "separate-but-equal" ideals in order to preserve the deeply Christian roots that tend to run in Hispanic communities.
"Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values?" one NOM memo asked. "We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity ... a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation."
In other words, "don't let the Hispanics fully integrate; it might make them indifferent to our emotional manipulation."  Not only does it suggest that NOM will use any tool, including fear, to pull in supporters of their bigotry, but they'll literally engineer a reason for that fear.

You got yours

A less obvious and more reprehensible message, centering around NOM's "Not a Civil Right" campaign is that "your people have suffered under the yoke of oppression; it's your turn to hold the yoke."  This is very much directed toward the black community, and it is the most insidious.  It is very possibly playing on the very same emotion that the bullied kid feels when they arrive at school with a loaded gun.  We all know how that ends.

The upshot?

Fortunately, civil rights leaders and many, many businesses, faith-based organizations, and people in general, were too smart to fall for these tactics.  NOM was already preaching to the choir.  But now, perhaps, with the lid off of the whole scheme, perhaps some of the choir will feel a bit used and dirty.

Hopefully, the feeling of shame will set in before the vote in November, with an attempt to memorialize bigotry into our state's constitution.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Never back down

I own guns.  I believe that the second amendment to the US Constitution provides me that right in the same way that I am provided the right to vote via various amendments to the US Constitution.  I grew up using and respecting firearms.  I lived part of my life on a farm and I enjoy hunting.

I understand that a gun is a tool with great power to do a lot of things, including to provide food, to protect, and to test skill.  But a gun was made for one reason, and it should never be forgotten--to kill.

The news related to recent gun legislation has been utterly ridiculous for many reasons.

Media is creating the news

First of all, news outlets are creating the news, not reporting it.  We see pictures of a young, innocent-looking Trayvon Martin all over the news.  A kid that doesn't look more than 12-years-old.  Well, it turns out the appearances are probably accurate because the photo is several years old.

Does this mean that we should judge him as an intimidating, hoodie-wearing thug?  No.  He probably wasn't a thug at all.  But, what the media has chosen to portray him as is intentionally leading.  He probably wasn't a thug, but he also wasn't a fresh-faced 12-year-old.

The pictures we see of George Zimmerman are no less leading.  We see a man in a photo that appears to have mug-shot quality--poor color, a sullen frown.  Even the red shirt he's wearing appears to be prison-jumpsuit-orange.

Based on the photos alone, why wouldn't you presume that Zimmerman shot poor Trayvon in cold blood?

The real news

Of course, it's possible he did kill Trayvon in cold blood.  And it may have been perfectly legal.  Although various articles referring to the shooting of Trayvon Martin often refer to Florida's recently implemented gun law, which broadened the scope of the "castle doctrine" and reduced the risk of prosecution if you shoot someone in "self defense," very little has been provided in the way of details on this law.  The law, itself, can be found here:

Specifically, it states that
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
In other words, if you are out and about and in a place that you shouldn't be, you have the right to stand there and shoot someone if you reasonably believe that if you don't, you or someone else will suffer great bodily harm or death.

Ok.  I could buy that.  If you have a gun and you can't expect to outrun someone looking to kill you, you should shoot first, right? should make every reasonable effort to escape, and this law doesn't require you to.

Still, one has to question why Zimmerman wasn't arrested.  There was evidence that he wasn't just not backing down, but actively pursuing Martin.  That evidence should have been available at the time he was taken in for questioning.

Quite frankly, if you're stalking something dangerous, you deserve to get what's coming when it turns around.
Just ask this guy:  Timothy Treadwell 

In other words, it was pretty clear from the phone call that Zimmerman made to the police that he shouldn't have followed Martin, PARTICULARLY if he perceived him to be dangerous.  If all he got for tagging along on this kid was a bloody nose, then he got off easy.

But Martin ended up dead.

And no one was going to say anything.  Of course, now they have and Zimmerman has been all but publicly tried and convicted.  Maybe he was justified for shooting the unarmed teen.  Still, it should have been more thoroughly investigated before it blew up in the media.

Of course

There are those assholes who have put up pictures of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, a couple that was kidnapped, tortured, raped, and then murdered, claiming that this is about the media playing the race card.  The difference is that four black men were CONVICTED of this crime, while no one was even arrested for killing Trayvon Martin.  If you can't tell the difference, you're either being intellectually dishonest or you've got some mental deficiency going on.