Monday, June 18, 2007

Into the Dark..

Today’s post may be constituted by a more “rambling” style of touching on many topics more briefly then normal. Then again, it just may not. My reason for such a suggestion, however, is because I have been short on updates lately due to the busyness of my schedule away from the computer. Therefore, I have all these topics in my head that I had intended to delve into during the past week but had not had the opportunity.

The first piece of business is wholly personal but relates in many ways to our normal topics at hand. This week, I get the opportunity to travel to the wretched heart of the evil beast. What does this mean?

On Thursday, I fly to Washington D.C.

Of course, I can’t be completely negative. Despite the lack of common sense and foresight that I attribute to much of the population of D.C. (and I am sorry if the shoe doesn’t fit in particular cases, but it sure seems that D.C. is always ready to surrender to ultra Liberal doctrines regardless of the obviousness of the stupidity of these doctrines to those of us outside of the capitol city’s confines), I am really looking forward to my vacation. In fact, I love D.C. For a student with political interests such as mine, there isn’t a locale more suited for my tastes and desires then D.C. Yet, I often feel that my political leanings make me a minority while visiting.

Yet, I will not allow this to be an obstacle for me. In fact, part of my trip will be dedicated to solidifying my opportunity to transfer to American University. Not only am I willing to submit to an occasional visit to the heart of the Democratic Party’s base (or, at least the base this side of the San Andreas fault), I am also explicitly attempting to move there permanently. Call it my attempt to effectively slay the beast from its most vulnerable area: the inside.

Moving on.

The first topic that I want to comment on, outside of my own personal adventures noted above, is some anecdotes spoken by Bill O’Reilly. I typically agree with much the man says. However, I also recognize his bias despite his claims to be “fair and balanced.” The statements that he made that I am about to reference were uttered about a week ago, so I am not going to attempt to find an exact quote. However, to paraphrase, he made light of Fred Thompson’s pending run for the Republican presidential nomination. One comment that he made in particular struck me as short-sighted.

He suggested that Senator Thompson’s quick accession in the polls is attributed solely to his television celebrity status. He also suggested that those of us who support the Senator do so because of this celebrity status and not because of his political stature.

I, of course, disagree.

What I will concede is that Senator Thompson’s television popularity has brought “automatic” attention to his nomination attempt. To say that his supporters rely solely on this status as our faith of his competency is… well… hogwash.

Senator Thompson’s status only shifted the focus of light from the current candidates to one that many of us feel more wholly represents what we want in the person leading our political party. I don’t support Senator Thompson because he acted well on Law and Order. Instead, I support him because he continually showed support for Conservative ideals while in the political field.

His celebrity status only made me aware of a well-suited candidate whom I might not have considered otherwise. I am thankful for his status, but not ashamed. Nor am I am using this status as a tenant for support.

So, Mr. O’Reilly, I am sorry but your assessment was wrong. Senator Thompson’s candidacy is genuine. The current field of representatives has, in so many ways, already violated my own core of conservative values. While Senator Thompson is not without fault in this regard, I truly feel that in every position that has found himself politically, had I been in his shoes, I would have made the same choices. In the end, for me, there is no better metric for assessing a candidate.

P.S. If you are a Republican and you are running for President, there are certain principles that you can not violate. One of the most important of these principles is that represented by the second amendment. Another principle that, in this day and age unfortunately, precludes you from being my chosen presidential nominee is having the title of former governor of the socialist state of Massachusetts.

So it becomes McCain versus Thompson for me. And as much as I value McCain’s lifelong service to our country, I feel that Senator Thompson is simply a better choice for president.

Okay, so I have more issues in mind.

For example, I wanted to touch on this rumor that some element of the Defense Department was considering research into a so-called “Gay Bomb.” I am surprised that this “news” hasn’t been suggested to be little more than Fark. Did anyone actually read the report? How much money was actually forwarded towards the development of this project? If, very little (I.E. NONE), then why the commotion? Is this news? But, like I said, I wanted to touch on this subject, among other things. However, I have gone on long enough for tonight. I hope to return tomorrow and then, I am sure, there will be another brief hiatus as I travel to D.C.

Thanks for your attention.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Vet's University Experience

You know, more often than not, I write these blogs out of a sense of duty. That is to say that I write them because I feel I have to write them. Lately, it has become rare that I write about an issue that is being written simply out of my own desire. It is not often that a time comes when an issue so compels me that I feel the urge to simply spew forth words…

Tonight’s blog is one of those peculiar, emotionally charged examples.

I have been witness to two illustrations today that relate to the same phenomenon. Without letting the subject of this blog totally “out of the bag” yet, allow me to give you some source material to whet your appetites. The following are links to outside sources:

Samuel Huntington's The Hispanic Challenge (PDF)

CNN.COM: Suicide Risk Double Among Male U.S. Veterans

The Huntington article is from the journal Foreign Policy. It is a well-cited work and quite the source of controversy. Huntington, for all his faults, is Yale AND Harvard educated. He is a noted political scientist and, whether found agreeable or otherwise, his work drives entire movements within the fields of sociology and political science.

The second link is to an article that was presented today on CNN’s website. The article cites research completed that may show a correlation between white, college-educated military veterans and the acts of suicide. While the researchers in the article, themselves, claim that their arguments are inconclusive at best, the suggestion that is made is warrant enough for me to discuss what I currently have residing in my mind.

The Huntington text is noteworthy because it was presented in one of my university classes today. This class is a required course for my particular International Studies major here at the University of South Florida. The professor of this class has been hereunto exceptional. For lack of a better term, I have found minute portions of his lectures to be “quirky.” However, I found nothing too alarming. Today’s class may have changed that. The format in which the Huntington text was presented was, for me, appalling.

Before we get to today’s event, though, let me state my thesis. I suggest that the research completed on the CNN link is correct. I believe that it is highly probable that veterans commit suicide at a higher percentage rate then non-military civilians. I am going to go farther, however, and suggest that this high rate of suicide is caused by university’s continued teaching of material in manners that is so completely out of touch and alien to the military-hardened individual. Today’s class was exactly an example of one that could cause a veteran to go crazy.

This particular Huntington text is highly controversial. It’s very title, The Hispanic Challenge, invokes thoughts of racism. However, the points that the author delivers are not only grounded in empirical fact, but they are made with the intention of making a populace aware of a problem that, in Huntington’s eyes, is very real and very dangerous. And for many of us that have served in the military, the ideal of America is something outside of what the everyday citizen understands. And, for this reason among others, the Huntington text proves very much noteworthy.

So, with all this being said, I was very excited to see on my syllabus that the professor had intended on sharing this text with the class today. And he did. What occurred afterwards was disturbing. He allowed the class to critique the text in oral discussion. This is something that the professor had yet to do after citing any previous material. Of course, the class response was as expected: Huntington is wrong, Huntington is a bigot, the current argument of Huntington’s is the same argument that was made many times in the past concerning previous waves of immigration, etc. Basically, the professor allowed the class to conduct a chorus of material-bashing.

All things being equal, I want to again clear the professor of extended wrong-doing. He tried to stay outside of the discussion and present dissenting opinions. However, I do feel that the response he elicited from the class was premeditated. He knew what the students would say and they said it; Huntington is bad. And, worse, students failed to critically analyze the subject because it was so much easier to suggest that such an extreme opinion was simply a bigoted one and a wrong one.

However, I am not on my soapbox tonight to suggest solely the culpability of my professor. I am here, instead, to show the implications that such methods of teaching can have on the returning soldier. Today’s class, for me, was tough. While I should have spoken up and pointed out the shortsighted nature of my class peers in not considering Huntington’s opinion, I chose not to. I can confidently assume that I would have been outnumbered 49 to 1 in my concern for giving the noted political scientist his due. And, while I am not easily swayed from a rhetorical battle, I knew that this was one that would fall on deaf ears.

However, we can’t assume that every returning soldier has the same grip on life’s dirty realities as I do. As egotistical as that sounds, I have to be honest: there are young men, returning from service, who are entering universities intent on turning the entire world-view that they rely on upside down. My honesty outweighs my humility; I suggest that I can handle a situation such as today's better than many of my military counterparts. And I am completely sympathetic, however, to the pain that they are suffering.

The solder’s world is one of necessary moral and values. The ideal of America, as I referred to above, may be abstract but it is something that the soldier relies on daily as motivation to continue grueling through tasks that the average citizen would fail to complete. This is especially true for those of us that have been asked to risk our lives in this cause’s defense. If the soldier’s perspective of America is one that may be considered by others to be shaded by bigotry and racist overtones, then so be it. Soldiers do not discriminate against blacks, whites, or otherwise. Soldiers serve next to, and fight for, their brothers of all races. However, the concept of America is all the soldier has to rely on. And this concept of America is exactly what Huntington perceives as being under attack. To see such an argument so intensely harassed could surely be traumatizing for many a soldier.

Now, all of this was solely my experience. My experience in Tampa, Florida. My experience in a university that has been less “liberal” in its expressions then I have expected. I can only imagine the university experience being had by veterans in the Boulder, Colorado’s or the Ann Arbor, Michigan’s of our country. If my assumptions are correct about the experiences being had in those areas, then I can see how the findings of the CNN.COM report could easily prove true.

That’s it for tonight. Thank you.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Are We Rome? Tell Me: What If We Are.

You know, there are so many issues that are worthy of discussion tonight: the Republican debate that I have yet to analyze, on-going situations in Iraq or the National Geographic documentary Inside the Green Berets which I have finally gotten the opportunity to watch. And there are those issues that have already received more attention then they deserve and Miss Hilton, I am referring to you. So, for the sake of keeping my digesting dinner heading downward and not keyboard-bound, we are going to skip all the above-mentioned and focus on something just a little more obscure.

I want to discuss Stephen Colbert’s guest last night on his Colbert Report.

And that guest was a gentleman named Cullen Murphy. Mr. Murphy has penned a book titled Are We Rome. From what I understand and, admittedly, I am only going to thumb though his book after writing this, Mr. Murphy presents evidence that America is quite similar to ancient Rome. From what I saw during the interview with Stephen Colbert, the author found this to be troublesome. This thesis is not what caused me concern. If my education serves me correctly, between the Roman Republic and its Empire, there existed on this Earth a Roman state of superior authority for about 1,000 years. If only our United States could be so lucky. However, what bothered me was a single anecdotal comment voiced by Cullen Murphy.

Mr. Murphy claimed that one of the downfalls of the Roman Republic was the privatization of the market place. Equating “downfall” with negativity, I immediately disagreed with the author’s assessment. While it may be true that the privatized marketplace led to the end for Rome, it does not necessarily mean the same for the United States.

Let me remind the author that the world has attempted the alternative method. This was called “socialism.” In all its forms, no matter how large scale or small, the name remains the same. And sometimes, Mr. Murphy, socialism wasn’t exactly "in your face" in its manifestation. Sometimes it hid behind the words of leading economists. Sometimes, it was being led by peaceful-seeming fellows like John Maynard Keynes. Sometimes, it seemed innocent when not being professed by hell-bent government dictators. Ask Europeans, they surely remember the days of state-owned industry. Ask them about the quality of life that such a marketplace ultimately brought upon them.

Let me tell you, Mr. Murphy, your negativity is misdirected. The privatization of the market is the key to capitalism’s very success. And capitalism’s success is vital to the world’s monetary survival. And, alas, I am not an authority on this issue. In fact, maybe you have my number because, after all, you have written a book- I have only a handful of blogs under my belt. But I am pretty sure that Milton Friedman would have agreed with my assessment. And those that award the Nobel Prize seemed to think pretty highly of Mr. Friedman’s economic knowledge. You know who else might have had beef with your analysis, Mr. Murphy? Try Friedrich Hayek. His influence might have been even stronger then Friedman’s. After all, both President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher thought enough of his opinions that they used them as basis to their financial policies: policies that rejuvenated markets. And, in this case, the markets being rejuvenated were global in scope.

So Mr. Murphy, I hope your book sells well. In fact, I am sure that you present many valid arguments that are worth reading and considering. However, don’t assume that you can go on a show such as the Colbert Report and hope that its tongue-in-cheek nature will save your comments from the wrath of the public. There are watchdogs out there, buddy, and you will not trample on my free-market, capital-driven, democratic happiness.

Thank you.

In other news, I would love to assess Fred Thompson’s interview on Hannity and Colmes the other night. I would also like to speak of a very gracious note that I received a few days ago concerning one of my blogs. However, I think I just blew off enough literary steam for one night. Thanks for sticking around. More to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

On Bin Laden and Political Debates

So, the news is spreading that Osama Bin Laden is alive- or so says Haji Mansour Dadullah. You can read the news report concerning the confirmation of OBL’s current livelihood HERE.

The news report talks of a letter that was sent from Bin Laden to this Taliban commander. While in the gym this morning, I saw this story being discussed on the campus news network. While I couldn’t hear the dialogue, I could read the ticker that was scrolling along the bottom of the screen. It said something that read roughly like this:

“Is Osama Bin Laden Alive?”

Upon considering this question, I came to my own question in opposition:

“Why should I care?”


This, ironically, is also the question that I use in reply to those naysayers that claim that the American effort in Afghanistan is completely lost because we have not yet located Bin Laden. I don’t even want to address in any sort of length just how short-sighted such a comment is. I am sure, with any critical thinking, you can see how a stable Afghanistan with a toppled and abandoned Taliban government is successful despite the fact that Bin Laden remains at large.

None of that, however, answers my original query about why I should care. Let’s go back to the news report as linked in the opening paragraph of this text. In the report, this Dadullah character explains in a very telling fashion exactly why Bin Laden remains hidden. These are his words, according to Al Jazeera:

"(Osama Bin Laden) prefers not to appear because if he appeared in the media or met people he might face danger.”

Exactly. Dadullah continues to claim that Bin Laden continues to order directives from his hidden lair, so to speak. I am calling Dadullah’s bluff on this one. However, he was correct in his assessment that any sort of publicity for Bin Laden would most certainly endanger him.

And that’s just the thing. Bin Laden is hand-tied. He may not be dead and we may not have captured him. It seems unlikely that we ever will given the landscape and human network that he has in the Afghani / Pakistani border region. But, again, I highly doubt that he is causing much harm. Bin Laden knows that showing his face would increase the morale of those that follow his cause greatly. But he can’t. In fact, there isn’t much that he can do.

So, again, I ask you, concerning Bin Laden’s well-being:

Why should I care?

And this brings me to my second topic: tonight’s debate amongst Republican presidential hopefuls.

I am pretty excited to see how it plays out. Well, I am as excited as one can be for such things. I expect it to be awfully predictable. I watched about half of the Democrats’ debate; I was nearly sickened by the constant back-patting that was passed between candidates. I say, “Be a Man- Go for the Throat!” I assume that any of these candidates would throw any of the others “under the rug” in private, yet they feel the need to show some sort of showmanship class in public. Oh well.

I have seen these debates broken down in various media outlets with a pretty tried and true method that I am going to follow below. I am presenting myself with a few questions about what I expect to see tonight. Enjoy my predictions and feel free to add your own.

Who has the most to lose?

I am going to have to go with Senator McCain on this one. I dearly love the guy and, for a long time, he was my choice for the Republican nominee. However, he is going to be walking into the lions’ den tonight. Nearly all the opposing candidates will likely gang up on his decision to sponsor the recent immigration bill that has angered much of McCain’s conservative base. I really don’t see how he can respond to a mob attack concerning this issue without alienating a large portion of his followers.

Who has the most to gain?

Mitt Romney and here is why: Given the number of debate participants, it seems unlikely that enough time will be focused on Governor Romney’s record to really expose his short comings. An example of a glaring shortcoming: His false story about being an avid lifetime hunter and his follow-up explanation that he meant “hunting” in the sense of chasing and killing small rodents. This detail may arise but I doubt these types of issues will gain any focus. Instead, Romney will be able to express his conservative agenda that he apparently has. He’s a smooth speaker and looks presentable on television. This debate should do little but help his chances.

What question do I most want to see posed?

I would love to hear each candidate explain how their campaigns would be altered by the presence of a running Fred Thompson. I fear this question because it presents an opportunity for the candidates to summarily bash an opponent while he’s not present. However, I think that any avenue that gets Thompson’s name into public light is ultimately a positive boon to his candidacy. Additionally, I genuinely want to know how the current hopefuls perceive Senator Thompson’s chances.

And that does it for today. I hope everyone enjoyed the lengthy update. I’ll be back soon!

Sunday, June 3, 2007


So I can’t exactly pinpoint where today’s anger is stemming from. In fact, I don’t even know what got this subject on my mind. However, there is something – an ideology I guess you could call it – brewing from the Left that is really building a nasty taste in my mouth.

I simply can not tolerate the word “mercenary” being used to describe American corporate contractors currently working in Iraq.

Oh, brother, this really makes me hot.

I would say that the forthcoming rant is based on paging through the book, Blackwater, The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. However, that would not be true. While I did thumb through the novel a few weeks back, it did not leave enough of an impression to warrant commenting. In fact, the brief skimming that I completed of Jeremy Scahill’s work read more like a farce then any sort of informative effort concerning the Blackwater company. I am open to opinion differing from mine. However, it took deep digging into this book to even find mention of Blackwater-related events. It seemed that, instead, the author was more content to go on his opinionated rants throughout the text instead of focusing on the solid facts of the case that he was ineffectively attempting to build.

But, oh well... I wasted more time on that book already then it was worth. Back to the subject at hand.

Mercenary: The Free Dictionary (source linked) describes the term thusly: One who serves or works merely for monetary gain.

To those who would call members of entities such as Blackwater or Triple Canopy “mercenaries,” I ask you this: what have you done for your country? Let’s look back at the accepted definition above. I want to focus on the word, merely, because it is key to unlocking the deeper understanding of what drives these honorable individuals. Nearly every member of any reputable defense security contractor company has past military or law enforcement experience on their side. They have proven their desire to defend land and country. To those that have labeled them with the negatively implicated “mercenary,” I ask again: what have you done for your country?

Most of these individuals have proven themselves exemplary. Many are former members of special operation units such as the Army’s Special Forces or the Navy’s Seals. They have completed some of the most grueling training that our country offers for military types. They have deployed before and risked life and limb. Now, they are out there, lives on the line, doing it again. Many have retired from their respective services, having completed over twenty grueling years of duty. Again, what have you done for your country? Don’t hang a flag or place a sticker on your bumper, call yourself a patriot, and degrade these men. You don’t have the right.

So are these men working merely for money? I doubt it. Is money a motivating factor? Of course. But money is a motivating factor to those that reenlist in the Army’s infantry. Does the desire to secure your children’s futures make you a mercenary? I hardly think so.

Please quit attempting to degrade individuals that you simply do not understand. You don’t have the mind of a warrior and you, probably, don’t understand what it is like to be one of a few individuals between a highly valued target and a country chock-full of evil-intended types that want nothing more then to kill him. These men have honor and they have courage. They would gladly step in front of the bullet intended for the individuals that they protect. If you want to compare these men to groups from the past, they hardly seem like mercenaries but, rather, Spartan warriors who thrive on their chosen lifestyles. I doubt you would understand.

And, finally, curb your unabated desire to begin unneeded controversy. These men are not running around rabidly, killing foreigners aimlessly. In fact, most Blackwater or Triple Canopy operators are hardly killing anyone. And they like it that way. They have a mission to protect those they are assigned and to return themselves to their waiting families. Do you really think that they traveled across the globe to destroy a lifetime of honorable service by recklessly acting out in aggression? You obviously don’t understand what drives these men.

The next time that you claim to “support our troops,” remember that there are more then service members that are willing to lay their lives out for yours. There are hard men working in hard places, earning their pay, but still willing to do what you are not.

I am happy I got that off my chest.

In closing, I want to remind everyone that tonight, at 9PM, on the National Geographic channel, there will be a special called Inside the Green Berets. I’ll be catching it on Tivo at the end of the week and hope to discuss it then.