Monthly Archives: June 2012

War is a Racket: Remembering Major General Smedley Butler USMC and Why He Matters

What is the cost of war? what is the bill? Major General Smedley Butler wrote: “This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….”

With all the domestic political news and the apocalyptic talk and actions surrounding John Roberts the Supreme Court and Obamacare it is hard to believe that we are at war for over 10 years and are at war or now preparing for war all over the Middle East. Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, you name the place there is a real a present danger of US forces becoming involved in even more war.

Maybe it is just me but it doesn’t seem that anybody in Washington has a damned bit of sense. I saw the “tweet” of a Michigan Republican party leader asking if “armed revolt was now justified” because of the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. That makes my blood boil, we are at war and this idiot wants to have a real live civil war and he is not alone. The process is to win elections if you want to change laws not to threaten civil war or revolution when the cause that you are against and take to the Supreme Court gets upheld for whatever reason. Anyone with a half a grain of sense knows that if you take something to the Supreme Court that you need to ask yourself the “Dirty Harry” question: “Do you feel lucky? Well do you punk?” When you go to the Supreme Court you put your case in front of nine Justices and not the electorate. That goes for Liberals as well as Conservatives.

The simple act of working together in the legislative process has been sabotaged by both parties over the years.  This finally hit the culminating point when GOP pushed through the self inflicted wound of the Budget Control Act of 2012. It is this act which now threatens the military which is at war with “sequestration.”  This threatens deep cuts in the military beyond those already anticipated and planned for by DOD. The Republicans are now trying to change it and the Administration is refusing to budge on the issue. Again this didn’t need to happen but brinksmanship is the order of the day.

There are no statesmen left in Washington DC only shills of the Right and Left and their masters from Wall Street to K Street. The only people profiting from this are the war profiteers who even if the budget gets cut and they fail to deliver usable weapon systems on time or in budget will still get paid. The losers will be the military personnel who must fight the wars who will get tossed onto the street by those that claim that personnel costs are the problem. Of course those that make this point are almost always the same lobbyists that shill for the defense industries and the banks. But enough about them.

Right now over 100,000 American military personnel and tens of thousands of other Department of Defense, Federal law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, humanitarian workers as well as contractors are fighting a war in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands more (mostly contractors)  are helping to shore up the Iraqi government or are fighting wars by other names in Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa or are deployed to counter Iran or standing by to assist Turkey if it comes into conflict with Syria. Of course this does not take into account the instability in Egypt, Libya, Eastern and Central Africa that threatens even more war or the potential of turmoil in Europe should the Euro Crisis bring about more financial disaster or even revolution in countries that are our allies. By the way let’s not forget about the nutcase leaders of North Korea who could provoke war on that side of the world in a heartbeat.

But never mind this, let’s fight each other instead threaten insurrection when we don’t get our way. But wait, I digress…

Did you know that while Americans stand in harms way almost every real or potential enemy has been armed, subsidized or assisted by American corporations and paid for by American tax dollars.  We have armed much of the world with weapons that have already in Iraq and Afghanistan killed thousands of American military personnel. But those were small time weapons compared to what we have provided to Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and yes even Israel. F-15, F-16 and F-18 fighter planes, Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles, M-1 Tanks, M113 Fighting vehicles, Patriot Air Defense systems, you name the weapons system the war profiteers will sell it and US taxpayers will pay for it. These are weapons that very easily could be used with great effect to attack American interests should leaders in any of those countries decide to use them against us. I only include Israel because in 1967 its forces viciously attacked the USS Liberty which was operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as Israel launched its pre-emptive war against Egypt. Although all of these countries are “allies” we must remember that alliances are only as good as the interests and values that unite nations.

Our defense industries with the support of the government sell advanced weapons to nations that often are less than trustworthy allies, allies of convenience that have little love for the United States but welcome the weapons and training that we provide.  They often use them to suppress the aspirations of their own people and plant the cultivate the seeds of radicalism and revolution.  It is hard not to cringe when pro-democracy protestors are killed by totalitarian regimes whose police and military are armed to the teeth with American made weapons. When those totalitarian regimes fall as did that of the Shah of Iran in 1979 those weapons fall into the hands of people radicalized against us by our support of their former oppressors.

Certainly nobody seriously believes that the angry masses in the countries that we have armed to the teeth with the latest in American weaponry would not use that weaponry against us should they desire.  But wait…. our politicians, arms dealers, bankers and their political, religious and financial backers certainly wouldn’t put Americans in harms way? Perish the thought, but not so quickly. They have done so before and will do it again.

Smedley Butler is one of under two dozen American military personnel to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. He saw the dangers of Fascism as well as the danger of unlimited corporate and business power to profit by war. Butler was not only a  valiant Marine he was also a commander that in war and peace cared about those who served. He saw how American finance and banking interests helped drag us into the Fist World War, the promises broken by the government and the lives destroyed by war.

In his book War is a Racket Butler wrote eloquently about how the heads of corporations and their political supporters in both parties were the only benefactors of war. He wrote of the plight of the soldiers that served and returned wounded and often changed by war and he did not mince words in what he saw. He became an anti-war activist. He was a supporter of the Bonus Army, the veterans that “occupied” Washington DC during the last year of the Hoover Administration to get the bonuses promised for their service and were violently evicted by troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. If he was alive today I have no doubt that he would be an active supporter of the current “Occupy” movement and opponent of politicians, political activists, lobbyists and even preachers that advocate even more war.

Butler’s War is a Racket as well as other published works are a worthwhile read and should make the most rabid fan of war think twice. Butler’s patriotism and devotion to the United States and the Constitution is unquestioned. His warnings are strong, he was a prophet in regard to the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex well before President Eisenhower coined the term as he left office. He detailed how corporations made obscene profits often by selling the US Military vast amounts of materials that it could not possibly use and which taxpayers bought while business leaders and bankers made their fortunes that they never had realized when the nation was at peace. He reminds us of the dangers that our founders recognized about entwining ourselves in other people’s wars. While his answers on how to end war are now utopian dreams because of advances in technology and the wars which now rage without end in sight they are nonetheless not a bad place to start a debate.

Butler writes movingly about the price paid by veterans years after the war, men broken in body, mind and spirit from their war service.

“But the soldier pays the biggest part of this bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit  any of the veterans’ hospitals in the United States….I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are about 50,000 destroyed men- men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital in Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed home.” 

One would think that things would be better now but our veterans’ health care system is a train wreck and there is an epidemic of suicide among active duty troops and veterans. In 2005 after years of hand wringing the Bush administration grudgingly increased the number of Soldiers and Marines even while cutting Navy personnel and ships to the  minimum that they could despite ever increasing operational tempos. The Navy was reduced by over 50,000 sailors during the Bush years and now when the Navy is needed more it has been reduced to the point that 8-10 month deployments with short turn arounds will be normal.

Now the Obama administration is cutting back partly due to the withdraw from Iraq but mostly because of the economic crisis. However the bulk of these cuts are falling on the military personnel and not the war profiteers. The Army will be cut by nearly 80,000 in the coming years the Marines by 20,000 and that may increase if the budget takes the sequestration hit without any reduction in operational tempo. These Soldiers and Marines will enter a bleak job market where many employers give little value to military experience or training, which has resulted in a vastly higher unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than the general population.

It wasn’t much different in Butler’s day. He writes:

“Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. They were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think of nothing but killing and being killed.

The suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face”! This time they had to do their own readjusting, sans mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice, sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them anymore. So we scattered them about without any “three minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades.”

Butler recounted another visit to a different veterans’ hospital:

“In the government hospital at Marion, Indiana 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around the outside of the buildings and on the porches. These have already been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically they are in good shape but mentally they are gone.” 

There are thousands and thousands of these cases and more and more are coming in all the time…

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead-they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded- they are paying now with thier share of the war profits. But others paid with the heartbreaks when they tore themselves away for their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam- on which a profit had been made….”

I could go on but I think that Butler says it quite well and with the passion of a Marine who was wounded on more than one occasion and won the Medal of Honor twice.

The only people that want war are those that profit from it and don’t have to pay the price paid by those that have to fight them and pay for them. When I see pictures of Mitt Romney protesting in support of the Vietnam war while getting deferment after deferment to avoid service it makes my head spin. My head spins even more when I hear him talking brazenly about committing US troops to even more war. For me the pictures of Romney’s pro-war protests as a college student avoiding war on educational and religious service deferments as millions of other Americans went to war are up there with the pictures of “Hanoi” Jane Fonda giving aid and comfort to those that were killing our troops.

Butler’s detractors and they are legion on the political right attempt to paint him as an isolationist or appeaser of Hitler. However they misunderstand him and his work. They don’t understand as Butler understood that there would not have been a Nazi Germany without Versailles and that was not possible without the American intervention on the side of Britain and France in 1917. That involvement was driven by the bankers and industrialists who had supplied raw materials, weapons and technical patents to the British and French, and had done so before with the Germans who believed that they would lose their investments if the Germans won the war. That would have happened in late 1917 or early 1918 had not the Americans declared war and entered the war on the side of the British and French.

Most of Butler’s current critics have never served a day in uniform much less a day in a combat zone. They make their livings and profits by the sacrifice of others and other than a few of his quotes have never read anything about him.

If you sense indignation in my voice it is real. I have lived the nightmare of PTSD for over 4 years. I see and work with the young men and women that have bravely endured the hardship of combat deployments and come home physically, mentally and spiritually wounded. To our credit we are trying to do better but for the war profiteers that will be too much. If military spending is cut you can bet that they will not take the hit that military personnel, their families and our veterans will take. They and their political benefactors will not allow it.

I am a military man through and through. I have spent nearly my whole life associated with the military as a dependent of a Navy Chief who served in Vietnam and a career of over 30 years divided between the Army and Navy. Some of my friends dads did not return from Vietnam, other friends and those who I have served with have paid with their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan while others suffer the continuing wounds of war.

This is personal for me and it is also motivated by my faith as a Christian. Butler chided the pro-war clergy propagandists of the Great War. He wrote:

“So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill Germans. God is on our side…it is his will that the Germans be killed.”

Such preaching is not much different from the right wing pro-war preachers who advocate killing Moslems simply because they are Moslems and that go out of their way to preach the value of “pre-emptive war” despite such wars being against the Christian understanding of the  “Just War” or international law against such war that we as Americans helped develop after World War Two at Nuremberg and to which we hold the leaders of what we call “rogue nations.”

I only wish that our leaders; political leaders of both parties, religious leaders, and even business leaders would see the folly of this course and their responsibility for the results.

Someone has to say it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Note: All quotations from “War is a Racket” by Smedley Butler copyright 1935 and 2003 by the Butler family. Amazon Kindle edition. 

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When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

“Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?”  Alfred Lord Tennyson

Every city has dreams. When I was in high school there was a billboard in Stockton California that read Stockton Someplace Special.  It was holed by more than one bullet and though it is no longer there and though the sentiment is derided by many, Stockton was a special place.  The home of a major inland seaport and a critical road and rail center the city sited in one of the richest agricultural regions in the world and near to the San Francisco Bay area and the Sierra Nevada Mountains it would seem to be the ideal place for economic development and prosperity.

But the dreams became a nightmare and Stockton California will become the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy protection. That could occur as early as Wednesday following the announcement Tuesday night by the City Council that the city was unable to reach agreement with its creditors.

It seemed like the good times were finally upon the City of Stockton California during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The city was growing as a result of a housing boom that brought new residents, new taxes and massive construction projects which left the city awash in tax revenues and willing to spend money to renovate the city. It felt like things were finally beginning to change for a city that had always been in the shadow of San Francisco to the west and Sacramento to the north.  But then the housing crash that began in 2006 and spiraled out of control in 2007 and 2008 gutted the city. Massive numbers of foreclosures and job losses destroyed the plans of those that hoped to ride the housing boom into permanent prosperity. Property tax revenue dried up as home values plunged over 50% and foreclosures mounted.  Ambitious city investments in public-private ventures failed to produce prosperity and long term contracts with public employees added to deficits that could not be met. Austerity programs that reduced the police department by 25%, the fire department by 30% and overall public employment by 40% have added to the city’s unemployment problem and decreased public safety and services.

Stockton has a 21 percent unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) which routinely has hovered around 15 percent the past three years. It is consistently on law enforcement top 10 lists in crime rate and violent crimes. It was recently ranked by the FBI as the most dangerous city in California. Forbes Magazine has listed it America’s “most miserable city” in 2009 and 2011. Over twenty percent of the population lives at or below the poverty line. For the past year the city which has a projected budget deficit of $26 million for the coming fiscal year with over 90 million in deficits in the preceding three years. It has been unable to reach agreement with its creditors and will be filing for Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection.

For me this is a sad moment. I spent a good portion of my childhood in Stockton and have many good memories of Stockton. It is also where my parents retired when my dad left the Navy and where my mom and brother and his family still live. My brother is a public educator and has seen the problems developing over the years. It is where I graduated from high school and where I met a married my wife Judy.  My visits have been limited due to my career in the military but when I go there I always am able to see friends and go to places that still feel like home.  At the same time I still have many friends that still call the city home and I hate to see how bad things have gotten.

I do hope that when all is said and done that Stockton will get back on its feet and that it will recover all that has been lost. For me Stockton is still someplace special that will again be a place where dreams can soar and where people will again be safe and prosperous.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Sandusky Guilty: What about His Enablers?

Jerry Sandusky being led from the Belmont Courthouse following his conviction (Nabil K. Mark/Associated Press)

Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 counts in a Pennsylvania courtroom regarding the criminal sexual assault and endangerment of children.

I won’t go into the sordid details of the evil perpetrated by this evil man who masked his vile deeds under the guise of his popularity as a football coach and head of a charity supposedly devoted to helping young boys.  In fact his charity, “The Second Mile” was the place that Sandusky poached his victims. It was evil cloaked in goodness.

The fact that the crimes were allowed to go on for years is a shame to the leadership of the University, the leadership and board of the charity and others who heard the allegations but did nothing to stop or report them.

The Grand Jury and the prosecutors are continuing to investigate others, especially the senior leadership of the University who knew. The fact is that these men and women that did nothing except to deny or cover up the crimes of Jerry Sandusky were complicit in his deeds. There is a duty to ensure that they are investigated and brought to trial as the evidence indicates.

Sandusky will go to jail for the rest of his life. He faces up to 450 years in prison. For the victims it is a measure of justice, but all will bear the scars of Sandusky’s actions in their lives. The University that he served and the charity that he founded will certainly be liable for his actions. Those liabilities will probably be enough to destroy the charity and significantly damage Penn State University. His deeds forever tarnished the reputation of Joe Paterno who now due to his death cannot answer for what he may or may not have known concerning Sandusky’s crimes.

Sandusky is a pedophile and a serial child rapist. Those that enabled him to harm children long after his deeds were reported by the first victim in 1997 are criminal accomplices and need to face justice. Sandusky used his prominence, power and veneer of goodness to victimize children. Those that knew about his crimes and did nothing to stop him had legal and an even greater moral responsibility to the victims and their community. This investigation also needs to encompass those in law enforcement who heard and discounted the allegations made children. This did not occur as the Attorney General noted occur “in the dark corners” of society. It happened in the open. It happened with the full knowledge of some in authority and the darkness surrounding the crimes was in large part the fault of all that knew about or suspected Jerry Sandusky’s crimes, and did nothing to stop him.

This is a start and hopefully the Grand Jury and prosecutors will continue to investigate the actions of others involved and if needed bring them to trial. Justice, not vengeance must be the goal, but justice will not be served if those that allowed these crimes to go on for years unabated are not tried and convicted.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Image versus Witness: Rick Warren Bans His Staff from Following Atheists on Twitter

Rick Warren “Thou Shalt not follow…”

“No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.” Saint Francis of Assisi 

I was surprised but then I wasn’t. Rick Warren, Pastor of the Saddleback Mega-Church, author of the best selling Purpose Driven Life, political activist sent an e-mail to his staff ordering them to drop “atheists, critics of saddleback, and mean-spirited or vulgar accounts” from those that they follow on Twitter.  He told his staff: “WHO YOU FOLLOW ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER IS A WITNESS TO OTHERS.” (Warren’s Caps not mine). His edict to his staff was direct and unambiguous: “Go through your follow list. Unfollow any anti-Christian, anti-Saddleback or vulgar/sexual accounts that got automatically added.” 

Now I do understand why an employer would not want employees using their official work accounts to abide by the rules of that organization. Likewise I do think that employers have a right to insist that employees conduct themselves in a manner that befits their organization. Thus if Rick Warren’s employees were saying things and doing things on Facebook or Twitter on their work accounts that went against the beliefs of Saddleback Church that they are wrong.  At the same time a corporate or ministry image is not the same as Christian witness and ordering employees to cut ties with real or perceived “opponents” actually does a disservice to the proclamation of the Gospel and promotes a cult-like versus a Christ-like world view. A worldview that intentionally breaks relationships with opponents and critics is in the end one that destroys the christian witness.  A world view where church leaders are afraid to dialogue or debate with unbelievers and forbid their followers from doing so is a worldview that stems from fear and lack of confidence. It is a worldview antithetical to that practiced by Jesus.

What Warren and others like him imply is a theology of “guilt by association” that is foreign to the Gospel.

Jesus had a habit of hanging out, having dialogue and even praising those that stood outside the religious establishment of his time. His closest followers were from Galilee a place held in distain by people from Jerusalem or Judea. He had close relationships with women, Gentiles, Roman oppressors, tax-collectors, adulterers and prostitutes. He offended the religious establishment by healing and even picking grain to eat on the Sabbath. He told people to pay their hated taxes to Caesar but to give to God what was God’s.  Somehow I don’t believe that Jesus would be welcome at many churches today, he associated with so many people that are just so unseemly….

When Jesus’ disciples came to him to complain that other people were preaching in his name he simply commented “he who is not against me is for me.”

The worldview of separatism and fear of the other that is so pervasive in Christian circles now days is one reason that I believe that so many non-Christians have such a negative view of Christians and the Church.

I have a good number of friends, family members and co-workers who are atheists, agnostics and followers of religions that are not Christian. Some have grown up in the church, some were at one time fervent believers while others have simply been treated terribly by those who call themselves by the name “Christian.” I have one friend, a young Navy doctor who is an atheist who tells me that I am the only Chaplain or minister that he would want in the room if he was really sick. Somehow while that is personally gratifying it speaks volumes about how this young man views others who claim the name of Christ.

Likewise I follow people on Twitter and Facebook that I do not agree with on some things and who certainly if I were a staff member at Saddleback or some other churches that would get me in trouble. The fact that I was told to leave my former church when I wrote about issues that some in our hierarchy opposed somewhat colors my perspective on this but certainly does not put me on the opposite side of what Jesus taught.

My view is that if Christians and the Church are to be taken seriously and to be credible witnesses of Christ is that we must engage in and have relationships with those that do not believe what we believe. In the age of cyber technology and communications this means that some of that has to be done on social networks with people that we may never have met in person but whom we are quite possibly the only positive witness of Christ that they will ever have.  If Christian leaders forbid their followers from contact be it in person or on social media from those that they disapprove it shows a certain lack of grace towards unbelievers as well as a lack of faith and confidence in their own message.

Francis of Assisi said “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” Warren’s words display fear and ignorance and a true lack of charity. I expected better of him. Warren once said “You can use your time to build bridges or walls. The latter is not only unChristlike, it limits impact and creates loneliness.”

Warren’s edict to his staff and for that matter members of Saddleback Church is one that projects an attitude of fear and paranoia. It is a message that also tells church members and staff that they are being watched and their communications monitored by a church hierarchy more concerned with its image than reaching out to those that Jesus died to save.

Such actions by Warren and other major Christian leaders, especially those with large temporal empires and corporate images to defend are a large part of why many people are fleeing the Church. The fact that Christian leaders seem more interested in promoting themselves, their products and embracing political activism and power shows how badly the Church across all denominational borders is in need of reform, reform that is not possible by shutting itself off from the world.

Father Andrew Greeley, a Catholic Priest and Sociologist has been taken to task by many Catholic conservatives because of his rather liberal views on a number of social issues. However he understands something about the Gospel that Warren and others would be wise to learn, something that is firmly based on the Gospel and the history of the early Church: “The Church looks ridiculous to nonbelievers as its leaders offer pontifical advice to virtually every other human institution about the need for justice and freedom, but show precious little interest in reforming their own institution.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Losing Christian America One Election Campaign at a Time: How Christian Leaders are Destroying the Church in Order to Maximize Political Power

“The one will triumph who first died for the victims then also for the executioners, and in so doing revealed a new righteousness which breaks through vicious circles of hate and vengeance and which from the lost victims and executioners creates a new mankind with a new humanity. Only where righteousness becomes creative and creates right both for the lawless and for those outside the law, only where creative love changes when is hateful and deserving of hate, only where the new man is born who is oppressed nor oppresses others, can one speak of the true revolution of righteousness and of the righteousness of God.” 
― Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology

The statistics don’t lie. The United States cannot and should not be considered a Christian nation and any sense of the definition. While many people, even a majority describe themselves as Christians the fact is that what is now believed is not a Christianity that is in any sense Biblical, Catholic or Orthodox but rather a packaging of certain “Biblical values” that happen to be great political wedge issues for Christian leaders seeking political and economic power.  Nowhere is this shown more than the brazen flip-flopping of Christian leaders now support but who adamantly opposed the nomination of Mitt Romney on the basis of their understanding of Christianity and Mormonism so long as there was a chance that a non-Mormon had a chance at the Republican nomination. The theological gyrations made by the leaders of the Religious Right in this process have been fascinating to watch, much like a train wreck, but fascinating nonetheless.

A recent Barna survey noted that less than one half of one percent of people aged 18-23 hold what would be considered a “Biblical world view.” This is compared to about one of every nine other adults.  Other surveys bear this out.

This should not be surprising to anyone that has watched the growth of what passes as Evangelical Christianity in the Mega-Church age and the retreat of conservative Catholics into the Church culture and theology of the 1400s, the same ideology that brought about the Reformation.

What has to be said is that the Church cannot really be considered Evangelical or Catholic but rather an Imperial Church that must throw itself at those that hold power in order to maintain their own power.  While these leaders talk about and rail against things that they believe to be “sinful” such as homosexuality, abortion and birth control they willingly turn a blind eye to the treatment of the poor, advocate wars of aggression and bless cultural and economic norms that go entirely against the Christian tradition as they go about with a Bible in one hand and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in the other.

One can have legitimate debates in the Church about what the Bible and Christian tradition define as sin and we should have those debates taking into consideration Scripture, Tradition as well as what we have learned from the Sciences and the Social Sciences. But the fact is that those in the Religious Right are terribly inconsistent in this, much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who he condemned for the same type of hypocrisy.

Think about it: The Barna Group in another survey of people 18-29 years old asked what phrases best described Christians: The top five answers “Anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical and too involved in politics.” This view was held by 91% of non-Christians and a staggering 80% of young churchgoers.

The fact is that young people are leaving the church in unheard of numbers and it is very evident to me why they are doing so. The Church has embraced the culture wars over preaching the Gospel, which if I recall correctly is based on loving people, even ones enemies.  Jesus said it so well: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NRSV.

The leaders of the Christian Right may be able to bring out enough culture warriors to win this election for the Republican Party, but at what cost? One can debate the merits of the Obama administration, its decisions and policies but to be Christian we cannot simply become the religious appendage of a political movement whose leaders hold the Church and religious people in general in distain even as they mobilize them to support policies that are in the long term detrimental to those who claim the name of Jesus.

In the 1920s and 1930s the Churches of Germany and many parts of Europe did the same thing. They felt that their values were under attack by Communists, Socialists, Jews and yes, even Homosexuals. In order to maintain their influence and power they willingly allied themselves with the Nazis. When they spoke up against the Nazis it was seldom because they were defending anyone but their own ecclesiastical power and place in society.  When the war was over and young people began to question the actions of those that led the Church in Germany it began a process that has led to the de-Christianization of that country.

The constant hate filled attacks of Christian leaders on those that are not Christians will come back to bite them. This is not fantasy, it is reality. One only has to look at the history of the Church to see it played out time after time. But then, unless we decide to re-write history like David Barton does so well why bother reading it?

I will be writing more about this in the coming months in what will be a number of very well researched and documented articles.  But figured that I would kick open the door today. the actions of many Christian leaders are dangerous to the faith as a whole. The political opportunism is short sighted and ultimately will hasten the decline and fall of what we know as Christianity in America.

Perhaps our Christian leaders should be asking these questions: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul and what does it profit the Church to wield political power but lose its soul?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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29 Years, Preparing for a Garage Sale and Roger Clemens Strikes out the Prosecution

A Young 1st Lieutenant Padre Steve on the East Side of the Berlin Wall in 1986

It was 29 years ago today that I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army at UCLA.  Time flies. Back then Ronald Reagan was President, the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union were still standing, Iran and Iraq were engaged in a brutal and bloody war, and Hosni Mubarak was just settling in as leader of Egypt. Moammar Ghadaffi was sponsoring terrorist acts against the United States and the Marines were attempting to help stabilize Lebanon.  Speaking of Mubarak it has just been reported that his doctors have declared him clinically dead following more strokes and a heart attack yesterday.  This means that if things keep going as they are in Egypt he very well could be re-elected as President.

It really is hard to believe that it has been so long and so much has transpired in the past 29 years including my own transition from the Army to the Navy some 13 years ago. One thing that I do on such occasions is to re-read my oath as a Commissioned Officer. It reminds me that no matter who the President is or which party controls Congress that my duty is always to the Constitution and the nation, above any party ideology.

In my time I have agreed or disagreed, sometimes most stridently with the various policies and politics of the men who have served as President and I have done the same with those that have served in Congress.  It serves me well to remember that regardless of which side controls the reigns of government that I know who and what I serve.

Taking the Oath again in 2006 as a Lieutenant Commander with the Marines

“I, (state your name), having been appointed a (rank) in the United States (branch of service), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

That obligation that I and every other officer takes is one that should transcend politics even when we have deeply held opinions. Lord knows that I certainly have some deeply held opinions. Anyway, it is always a good thing to think about especially when the country is so deeply divided among political, ideological and even religious lines.

That being said I am taking a few days of leave in order to get rid of a load of stuff that we haven’t touched for years but have been paying rent to keep in a storage space. Early tomorrow before it gets too hot I will be emptying out the storage space and taking the things to our guest room where we will sort through all the stuff which includes more items than I can imagine, and hopefully, Lord willing sell a decent amount before hauling  whatever remains to Goodwill or keep to sell on E-Bay.  With that we won’t have to pay for a storage space again.

Roger Clemens outside the Federal Courthouse in Houston

Finally when I was eating dinner last night it was announced that Roger Clemens was found not guilty of all counts in his perjury trail where he was accused to lying to Congress. The trial, like that of Barry Bonds was a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. It showed the ineptness of the prosecutors who having the thinnest evidence provided by some of the most disreputable sources decided to take on Clemens. I think that they wanted Clemons to plead but he wouldn’t give them that. He stared them down and like he did some many times as a pitcher struck out the side. One may have their opinions of whether they think Clemens did performance enhancing drugs and lied to Congress about it but the fact of the matter was that the prosecutors bit off more than they could chew in this case. Clemens may have done them but like Bonds there was no positive drug test. The fact is that during the steroid era a good number of players used various performance enhancing drugs. Clemens very well could have been one of them However, he still was an amazing pitcher and in my opinion the fact that his defense team totally shredded the credibility of his chief accuser Brian MacNeemee who by the way was the only person that made actual accusations that got Clemens on the now infamous Mitchell Report and which were the basis for the prosecution. The longer the trials of Bonds and Clemens went I realized that I was not watching a process of justice, I was watching a witch hunt in which Federal Prosecutors and the media feasted on them and others without much in the way of evidence. I tend not to be a fan of witch hunts. I don’t know if Clemens used or didn’t but I am glad that the trial is over and hopefully the prosecutors will find some real criminals to prosecute, maybe the bankers and financiers that about destroyed the economy in 2008. That would be a great place to start, none of them have even been charged with a crime despite their criminal malfeasance that has wreaked havoc here and around the world. But with the prosecutions latest track record maybe we better not go down that road.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Corpsman Up! U.S. Navy Hospital Corps Turns 114 Years Old

Corpsmen treating wounded Marine on Eniwetok Island 

“You guys are the Marine’s doctors; There’s no better in the business than a Navy Corpsman….”  Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, U.S.M.C

The numbers speak volumes: 22 Congressional Medals of Honor,174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Crosses (US Army Decoration), 946 Silver Stars1582 Bronze Stars, 22 Ships named after Corpsmen and 2012 Corpsmen killed in action since President William McKinley the establishment of the rating by by Congress which was into law on June 17th 1898.

Known by Marines and Sailors simply as “Doc” Corpsmen have served everywhere the Navy and Marine Corps have served or fought since the Spanish American War. The rating is quite remarkable because the Corpsmen are often the only medical support immediately available to sailors and Marines at “the tip of the spear.”

As medicine and surgery became more scientific and advanced during the industrial and scientific revolutions of the 1800s military physicians began to lobby for trained assistants.  Early in our nation’s history it was up to individual ships Captains to appoint assistants to the ship’s surgeons. Initially known by the British Royal Navy nickname “Lolly Boys” which referred to the ladle of porridge given to the sick, the men helped the surgeon prepare the operating area usually found deep in the hold of the ship on the Orlop Deck before battle and to help keep the surgeon supplied with hot irons to cauterize wounds and to sand the deck to keep the surgeon from slipping on the blood of the wounded.  The terminology would change throughout the years and in 1841 a senior rating of Surgeon’s Steward was introduced and later changed to Apothecary which required the completion of a course in basic pharmacy.

By the 1870s pressure was growing for reform of the rating but it was not until 1897, 10 years after the US Army established its enlisted Hospital Corps that the reformers were successful and the Surgeon General and his supporters were able to convince the Navy Department to push for the reforms in Congress.

The new Corpsmen served throughout the fleet and with the Marines and the rating was expanded to include two Apprentice ranks, three grades of Petty Officers and a Chief Petty Officer who were called Pharmacist Mates. Following World War Two the Navy changed the name of the rating to the generic term that Sailors and Marines had used for years, Hospital Corpsman or Hospitalman. The current rank structure was adopted in 1958.

Corpsmen with the Marines in every battle since their inception in 1898. They have  served aboard ships and often are the sole medical provider. Those serving in such capacity receive additional training as Independent Duty Corpsmen.  Those that serve with the Marines receive additional training at Field Medical Service School while many others receive specialized training in various technical fields within the Medical Department.  Many serve with the Marines, EOD, SEALS, Seabees and in Field Hospitals in Afghanistan caring for US and Allied wounded as well as local Afghan civilians. They can be found around the world wherever the Navy is in humanitarian and operations from Haiti to Indonesia. In every clime and place Corpsmen have accompanied Marines and Sailors to war. Today over 20,000 active duty and reserve Corpsmen serve aboard ships, in medical facilities, with EOD, Special Warfare, the Seabees and with the Fleet Marine Force. Many Navy Physicians, Nurses and Medical Service Corps Officers began their careers as Corpsmen.

As a Navy Brat a lot of my medical care as a child came from Corpsmen. One saved me from an overdose of baby Aspirin when I was about 3 years old when we were stationed in the Philippines, another set a cast on my arm when I broke it jumping my bike across a ditch in 6th grade. As an adult I have had the honor of serving with Corpsmen in the Fleet Marine Force, aboard the USS Hue City, in Iraq, with Navy EOD and for the past four years in Naval Medical Centers and Hospitals.

Corpsmen are amazing, especially when you need them.

Happy Birthday “Doc.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Happy 237th Birthday United States Army!

On June 14th 1775 the Continental Congress authorized the enlistment of soldiers for 10 companies of infantry. From that humble beginning the United States Army has been part of the tapestry of the United States for 237 years.

For most of its history the Army was a small volunteer force backed up by the Militia forces of each State.  In major conflicts it was expanded by the mobilization of militia and the recruitment of volunteers, both Regular and State and during the latter part of the Civil War men were conscripted by the use of a draft.  This was repeated during the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.

Its battle honors are many. Saratoga and Ticonderoga, Princeton and Trenton, Valley Forge, Cowpens and Yorktown helped secure our freedom from England. The Army was an integral part of the nation’s westward expansion and actions against the British in Canada and against Mexico at various times. It was divided during the Civil War as men who had fought together in Mexico and had served on the Frontier declared their loyalty to the Union or their home States. The conflict was the deadliest in our nation’s history with over 600,000 American Soldiers from the North and the South dying in battle. The battles are legendary but to most modern Americans unimaginable. Names like Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Cold Harbor, the Seven Days, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, First and Second Bull Run, Chickamauga, Petersburg, Appomattox Courthouse and Gettysburg became etched into our history.

The Army would serve overseas in Cuba at San Juan Hill and at Manilla during the Spanish American War, over a half million Americans would serve in France during the First World War as part of the American Expeditionary Force under General John “Black Jack” Pershing. It was blooded on the Marne and St Michel and though less experienced than it’s British and French Allies it learned fast and became an effective fighting force. After the war it was reduced in size and the Army was expanded again in 1940 as war clouds gathered in Europe and Asia and in the Second World War 90 Divisions would be formed to battle the Germans, Italians and Japanese. Millions of Americans who served in the Army became part of what we know as the “Greatest Generation” and following the war would lead the country even as Soldiers continued to guard the perimeter of freedom during the 40 years of the Cold War.

Called on again the Army served in Korea and then Vietnam. Those were thankless wars that took a bitter toll on the Army and the men and women, both volunteers and draftees who served.  It became an all volunteer force in 1974 when the draft was ended. It served in the 1980s in areas closer to home at Grenada and Panama and in 1990 even as it was drawing down in numbers it sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein in 1991.  It served in Somalia and Haiti and was part of the NATO actions in the Balkans and provided a shield to Kuwait during the 1990s.

Following the attacks of September 11th 2001 the Army has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers have served in those wars, many having deployed numerous times.

Many Americans who have led our nation as civilians, in government, industry and in the struggle for civil rights are veterans of the Army. Presidents, legislators and Supreme Court Justices have worn Army blue.

Today the Army remains engaged in Afghanistan and is working to prepare itself for whatever the future will bring. Soldiers train, deploy and fight every day. Army families have stood by their Soldier’s since the beginning of the nation.

I served the first 17 1/2 years of my military career in the Army, the National Guard and Army Reserve. Though I am in the Navy now I can say that I was once a Soldier.

Happy Birthday to all those who serve and thank you to all that have worn the uniform of the United States Army.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History

Celebration by the Bay (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

I was just about to go to bed but had the MLB Channel on when I began to pay attention as Harold Reynolds began to say in the top of the 5th inning of the Giants-Astros game “to Call your friends because history is being made by Matt Cain.” On a night were Met’s pitcher R A Dickey pitched a one-hitter and in a season that had already seen 4 no-hitters including a Perfect Game by Phil Humber, this was more than amazing.

Matt Cain on firing Strikes:  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The first Cain was not known for his pitching skills and ended up with a mark that remained with him the rest of his life, not mark any of us would want. Tonight another Cain, Matt Cain now has a mark, but not like the biblical Cain, Matt Cain pitched the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB history and the first in the 130 years of the Giants Baseball Club.

I have been a Giants fan since I was a kid. Back on August 24th 1975 my dad took my brother and me to Candlestick where we saw Ed Halicki no hit the New York Mets. In 1976 John “the Count of” Montefusco no-hit the Braves in Atlanta. It was almost 33 years before the Giants got another when on July 10th 2009 Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Padres facing 28 batters, one more than a perfect game due to a fielding error.  Hall of Fame pitchers for the Giants to pitch no-hitters have included Christy Matthewson, Carl Hubble, Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal.  But no Giants pitcher had ever pitched a perfect game.

Melky Cabrera’s Leaping Catch at the Wall  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The perfect game is one of the most miraculous and magical moments in all of sports simply because anything, a bad pitch or an error or a bad call can end the bid, who can forget the call by Umpire Jim Joyce that kept Armando Galarraga from a perfect game in 2010. The novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game does such a wonderful job of portraying the miracle. It seems that nights like this, the pressure, the miraculous and unbelievable catches made in the field and the ability of a pitcher to get out after out. Cain understands this, he has taken 5 no hitters into the 7th inning during his career and never got the no-hitter.

Gregor Blanco Making his Diving catch in the 7th  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game. During the 2010 World Series Cain pitched 21 1/3 innings without giving up a run. This year he is 8-2 with a 7 game winning streak and a 2.18 ERA.  The performance was one of the best ever even in a perfect game. Cain dominated with 14 strike outs tying the Major League mark set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Cain helped his cause by getting a hit and scoring a run. The first pitcher since Dennis Martinez to get a hit in a Perfect game since Dennis Martinez in 1992.  Cain threw 125 pitches, the most in a perfect game in MLB history.

Buster Posey celebrates with Matt Cain  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Several great defensive plays helped bring on the magic. Melky Cabrera made a leaping catch at the left field wall in the 6th inning and Gregor Blanco who came out of nowhere to make a diving catch going toward the wall on the warning track on a hit that looked as if it would be the first hit and go for extra bases.

The Giants also set a record by scoring 10 runs in a Perfect Game.

Matt Cain left his mark on Baseball tonight and hopefully he will continue to give those that love the game more of these memories.

Now I need to try to calm down enough to get some sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Why This? Why Me? Why Now? “Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat” by Max Holland

Motives do matter and actions often have unintended consequences. That is the lesson of Max Holland’s book about Mark Felt. Felt was the man whose leaks helped end the Presidency of Richard Nixon and skyrocket the young and obscure Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to fame. For more than three decades Mark Felt’s identity remained hidden a mystery man to the public, a man popularized by the dark moniker “Deep Throat.” His role as the leaker was suspected by some, including President Nixon and some of his staff but known only for sure by Woodward, Bernstein and Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee.

In this truly scholarly book Max Holland pieces together the dark underside of the Watergate tapestry that Woodward and Bernstein helped to break in 1972 and would go on to write about in All the President’s Men and The Final Days. It is a book that is important because it is the first account to seriously explore the motivation of Mark Felt when he began to leak and the background story of the monumental post J. Edgar Hoover FBI power struggle.  That story which in normal times would have been a major story was missed in an era where the country was in turmoil and there were so many other “big” stories to cover.

Taking advantage of more recent revelations, disclosures and evidence Holland paints a picture that not only broadens one’s understanding of Watergate but helps the reader understand how important it is to understand the motivations of those that were involved, Nixon and his staff, Felt and other FBI officials and the media.

The picture painted by Holland of Felt makes his role in the story more understandable. Felt was not the altruistic leaker of myth who sought to destroy the Nixon Presidency, something that was the picture painted by Woodward and Bernstein. His motivations were much more down to earth. He wanted to use his knowledge to ensure that he became Hoover’s successor as the Director of the FBI. He used it to destroy L. Patrick Gray who served as the interim Director and his chief rival in the Bureau William C. “Bill” Sullivan in the eyes of the White House, Congress, the Bureau and the media. Felt’s leaks helped blow the lid off of the White House cover up of the Watergate break-in and which led to the resignation of President Nixon and the conviction of a number of his closest advisors. Felt’s duplicity which included deceiving the Administration, Congress, his superiors and the media with falsehoods even as he revealed key truths is amazing to behold.

The picture that Holland paints of the White House is not pretty. The moral depravity and ruthlessness of Nixon and his advisors is shown without dehumanizing them.  In fact they become more human in Holland’s account.  Likewise Holland’s portrayal of other key figures in Felt’s story at the FBI, L. Patrick Gray, William Ruckelshaus and William Sullivan is compelling. The naive and compliant Gray, Felt’s bitter rival Sullivan and the “sweeper” (to use the term given to Harvey Keitel’s character Winston “the Wolf” Wolfe in Pulp Fiction) Ruckelshaus who helps to “sweep” Felt out of the FBI.

But the most interesting part of the book for me is Holland’s portrayal of Woodward and Bernstein. They are young and idealistic and Woodward believes whatever Felt tells him, including deliberate misinformation. What jumped out at me was their willingness to take at face value what Felt told them and not to explore his motivations which could have led to even more revelations that could have shaken the FBI to its core.  Likewise was Woodward’s willingness to press the limits with information provided by Felt going beyond what Felt demanded for secrecy but which Felt, even though upset by the reporter continued to provide information cumulating in his long and rambling confession to Woodward following his retirement under pressure on May 16th 1973.

They, particularly Woodward did not ask themselves the three key questions that anyone should ask when someone comes to them with this kind of information: Why this? Why this information. Why Me?  Why am I being chosen to receive the information. Why Now? Why is the source telling me this information now. Those three questions could have blown the case open even more had they explored them. Of course they were caught up in the chase for “scoops” with rivals at the New York Times, The Washington Sun and Time Magazine and chose to believe what Felt told them, something that occasionally left them hanging when the information was wrong.

Conversely Felt’s distain and lack of respect for the media and the belief that he could use Woodward, Bernstein and others in the media to further his goals with impunity proved false. He became careless and caused the Nixon Administration to suspect him and work to force him out of the FBI without drawing more attention to themselves.

Holland also covers the “cover-up” of “Deep Throat’s identity which was maintained by Felt, Woodward and Bernstein until Felt was in the beginning stages of dementia and his family was ready to reveal his role.  The dual myths of Deep Throat’s motives and the role of the press as the “men in the  white hats” against the evil bad guys in the White House are exposed by Holland who points out how much of the investigation broken by Woodward and Bernstein was being accomplished by FBI agents and appointed to investigate the break-in and staff members at the Committee to Re-Elect the President who were appalled by the illegality of what they saw being done by their superiors.

The book is excellently sourced and researched. It is a compelling narrative that sheds light on a dark period of our nation’s history which also serves as a reminder to those who investigate “leaks” from well placed sources that there is always another layer of motivation and intent that cannot be discounted and must be factored into the investigation.

This is relevant today as the media, Congress and the the Justice Department investigate leaks from inside the Obama White House regarding national security information. Why This? Why Me? Why Now? Those are the questions. Thanks to Max Holland we now know much of what transpired behind the scenes as Woodward and Bernstein investigated and published their accounts of the Watergate break-in and cover up with the information provided by Mark Felt.

The book Leak: How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat is published by the University of Kansas Press and is available at http://www.amazon.com/Leak-Mark-Felt-Became-Throat/dp/0700618295/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339544616&sr=8-1&keywords=leak

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