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It’s the Apocalypse: A Papal Resignation, North Korean Nukes, LA Shooter, SOTU, the SOTU Response, the SOTU Response Response and Fat Tuesday

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“I do love America. And LA is a very short commute to America its like half an hour on the plane.” Craig Ferguson

What a crazy couple of days and I don’t know about you but my head is spinning like Linda Blair’s in the Exorcist. It almost felt like a Zombie Apocalypse was upon us. Then I remembered that Zombies are not real. However, it was a crazy couple of days in America and Los Angeles.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away then Pope Benedict XVI up and quit. Shortly thereafter the Vatican was struck by lightening twice. Coincidence….I think not.

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But that wan’t all, just before I went to bed Kim Jong Un number one son, the North Korean version of an inbred mountain man exploded a nuclear bomb and promised more. Not to be outdone the disgruntled former LA Cop bent on revenge got into another firefight and is now preempting the State of the Union Address which I wasn’t going to watch because I get tired of people giving the President the clap between every sentence. Now because there is murder and mayhem on live television I have to watch whether I want to or not because it is going to be a split screen like the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase. I am a sucker for drama.

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And to think, that all of this was happening on or just before the day that people set aside to sin boldly before entering a 40 day period of fasting and abstinence for a reason that they have forgotten. Well, I haven’t forgotten the reason for the fasting and abstinence  but I did have a big hamburger and a few beers to tide me over until Easter. Well I don’t plan on doing hamburgers on Fridays during Lent, it is a sacrifice and since I generally don’t eat anything that swims in its own toilet seafood is out which reduces me to eating bean burritos on Fridays during Lent.

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Pope John Luc I?

So tonight with all of this going on we are waiting on a Papal election conclave which will begin in March. My money is on a long shot outsider for the post, Bono who I predict will take the name Pope Meatloaf I or perhaps Sir Patrick Stewart who I would think would be Pope John Luc I if elected. I actually think that a Pope John Luc the First would be a great move and cause the Papacy to boldly go where no Pope has gone before.

South Korea North Korea Nuclear

Normally that would be enough drama for a week. A Pope resigning his office only happens on an average only once every 390 years, so that is news. But then the wily North Koreans explode another nuclear bomb shortly after launching an inter-continental ballistic missile against the opposition of everyone in the world including China and Iran and I say “that too is news.” I do think that Kim Jong Un number one has a case of missile envy but still, the thought of him having fingering the nuclear button is frightening. In fact thinking of Kim fingering anything is frightening.

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And speaking of frightening, a disgruntled former LA cop and Naval Reserve officer has been on a revenge motivated killing spree in which he has killed 4 people and wounded 2 more, none of whom were involved in his firing from LAPD. Say what you want about him but Khan went after Captain Kirk for his revenge in Star Trek II. Sure he killed innocents, but his goal was Kirk. Thankfully after a shootout today it looks like the shooter has been killed and the danger is averted, but for a time it was a surreal throwback to the split screen O.J. Simpson chase which coincided with the NBA Championship Game 5 between the Knicks and Rockets. For a moment tonight CNN and MSNBC had the split screen thing going. It made me proud. Where but in America could this happen? That is why we are such a great country.

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Tonight is also the State of the Union Address, the annual speech where the incumbent President gives his vision for the next year in the life of the Republic. It is punctuated by the applause of his partisan supporters and icy cold glares and stares of his opponents. This is the case regardless of who is in office and the only time the deadly partisanship is broken is during the photo ops before and after the ceremony as the President enters and exits the Well of the House. I even saw Eric Cantor kiss Sheila Jackson Lee, now that is bipartisanship at its best.

It has also become a tradition for the out of power party to have a leader make a speech after the SOTU address. Usually, regardless of the party doing this the man or woman that makes the speech looks like Kenneth the Paige on 30 Rock speaking outside a Motel 6 conference room. Most pundits and politicians see this as a thankless job. Tonight the Republican Party is sending out Senator Marco Rubio to make this speech in order let him peak early so that someone like Herman Cain can sabotage his candidacy in 2016.

But that is not enough. Three years ago the Tea Party put out a response to the Republican response in order to show America just how united they are in destroying each other. In 2011 it was Michelle Bachmann, in 2012 it was Herman Cain and this year it will be Senator Rand Paul who is supposed to be speaking in favor of the great sequester working to ensure a Democrat sweep in 2014 and a Hillary Clinton Presidency in 2016.

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Fat Tuesday

And all of this on Fat Tuesday, when people all over the country are drinking to excess and partying hard so they can have something to seriously repent about tomorrow and feel bad about until Easter. Now am rather tame. I went out, ate a big hamburger, drank a couple of beers with my friends and had two chocolate chip cookies. Then I came home to Molly my now blind dog, got her to chase some deer and wrote this little article while watching the SOTU address.

Tomorrow I will help lead our Ash Wednesday Service in our little Chapel. Hopefully in the process I will be a Priest that in his humanness and brokenness helps people experience the love, grace and reconciliation of God in Christ on the day that marks the beginning of the season of Lent.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Sex Sells the News: The Cain Scandal and what is says about Us


 

“A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will in time produce a people as base as itself.” Joseph Pulitzer

“News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.” William Randolph Hearst

Well let’s see what’s going on in the world, seems such a boring day for news don’t you think?

In world news somewhere across the sea close to 100,000 American servicemen and women are still battling the Taliban or hunting down Al Qaeda terrorists.  Old news, only interests people with relatives and friends in the military.

Wait, stop the presses there are reports that the Israelis might be getting ready to whack the Iranians.  Forget that until the missiles start flying its just foreplay.

But then there is the Arab spring which seems to be continuing to churn along, Gaddafi’s dead? Old news, forget it.

The Euro is about to be fried inGreeceas the Greeks seem to have re-discovered democracy at the expense of the great financial houses ofEuropeand neither the French nor Germans seem very happy about it. Boring….

In this country we are still dealing with record long term unemployment and the ongoing financial crisis are causing us to lurch along while the so called “Super Committee,” Congress and the Administration dither along figuring out ways to blame each other for the problems rather than working together to fix them….yawn….

But these are kind of old news or just boring; despite how important they are they lack the one important thing to make them interesting, a political sex scandal.

Let’s face it, sex sells advertising and the media no matter what side of the political spectrum and that is why all this other news that in one way or another will effect all of us is on the back burner until something really hits the fan.  I suppose if German Chancellor Angela Merkel was caught in a tryst with the Greek Prime Minister that might get the top spot in the day’s headlines but what we seem too really like in theUnited Statesare the good old fashioned political sex scandals.

Fortunately it seems that we may have one, I’m sure that they media would have rather had it involve President Obama, Speaker Boehner or Representative Pelosi or Cantor but we can be choosy can we? After all does it really matter who it involves so long as it involves political scandal and sex? Not to the media because they, especially the Cable news types at Fox, CNN and MSNBC have to find a way to fill 24 hours or programming and what would you rather watch cerebral analysis of complicated issues, tragedies involving blimps and kittens or the visceral hatred engendered by partisan political sex scandals?

Yes it is the latter and the mainstream and the alternative media both have their Jockey’s in a wad about a possible sexual harassment scandal regarding Herman Cain.  The sharks of the political media complex are circling and Cain is fighting back even getting a bit testy in the process. It’s great, if somewhat nauseating theater.  It has all the tawdry elements that we love and right now the cool thing is that they are all speculation based on accusations that we don’t know any details about.

What do know is that the Politico dropped a bombshell on the Cain campaign that seems to have caught both the candidate and his campaign flat footed. We know that in east one case that the National Restaurant Association made some kind of financial settlement that involved a confidentiality agreement. The campaign’s responses to the yet only speculated charges seem confused or evasive and seem to me to be rather amateurish.

We also know that the flying fickle fingers of blame are pointing at a number of different suspects. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are blaming the Liberal media and now the accusations are flying that this was a political hit job put on by Cain’s GOP opponents.  Cain’s campaign Chief of Staff has blamed the Perry Campaign which in turn has blamed the Romney campaign and the Romney campaign hasn’t figured out who to blame yet.  Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann are tossing in their two cents to pile on Cain.  Others in the GOP and even a conservative talk radio host inIowaare stirring the pot as well just to make it fun.

The sad thing is that for all the chumming of the water which is feeding this frenzy none of us as of tonight really knows anything. We have not heard any details and maybe we shouldn’t.  I know that I really don’t want to hear them but unless I decide to move to theCongoI probably will hear more than I want. Already there are people in the conservative media attempting to smear the accusers even without knowing who they are or what they charged.  To me the whole thing seems to be a ready made diversion from the things that are really bad.

Now as far as the Cain campaign and the charges leveled against him I would rather that things were handled maturely by all involved.  I hope that whatever the truth is that it will be shown and people can then make up their minds as to whether they want to support Cain or not based on the strength of his ideas and character.  If the allegations are true and his denials are lies shame on him.  If they are not then shame on those that have whipped this up and a pox on them. Regardless of how much importance our partisans on both sides of the aisle ascribe to it, the story will play out in due course and Cain’s candidacy will survive and grow stronger or come crashing down with the result that another Republican candidate will gather up at least some of Cain’s support.

We deserve better from those that aspire to lead us and those that have the duty to inform us.  They should know better and we should too.  Maybe it is also shame on us for indulging in the tawdry and dishonorable spectacle that passes for news and our tacit approval of those decide what stories get told regardless of their ideology or political spin on the events that we call news.  But then sex sells the news even better than blood.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Gaddafi’s Götterdämmerung: The End in Tripoli

A rebel fighter destroys a poster of Gaddafi found in the administration centre after rebels seized full control of Az-Zawiyah [Bob Strong/Reuters]

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/08/201182122425905430.html

It appears that the end is near if it has not already come for the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.  After nearly six months of civil war in which a rag tag coalition of rebels aided by NATO airpower, Special Forces and intelligence agencies has reduced Gaddafi’s zone of control to the Bab Al-Aziziya-Jazeera stronghold.Green Squarethe center of many pro-Gaddafi rallies since the beginning of the uprising is now decked out in the pre-Gaddafi flag that has served as a unifying symbol for the rebels who span the spectrum from pro-Western democrats to Islamists as rebels and residents of Tripoli celebrated together amid rifle fire.

Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera’s correspondent, said from the Green Square: “There’s a party in the Libyan capital tonight. The people are in charge of the city. They’ve decided the square is now called Martyr’s Square, the original name. They’re shouting ‘we’re free’ and shooting at a poster of Gaddafi.”

The regime began to collapse this week as rebels captured the key western city of Az Zawiyah and rapidly advanced from the west into Tripoli gaining its outskirts by Saturday even as other rebel forces advanced from the south and east, a move that Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the NTC said “There is co-ordination with the rebels in Tripoli. This was a pre-set plan. They’ve been preparing for a while. There’s co-ordination with the rebels approaching from the east, west and south.”  As they did most military resistance by pro-Gaddafi forces began to collapse.  There are reports that the unit in charge of Gaddafi’s security has went over to the rebels with its commander instructing his soldiers to “lay down their arms.”  The rebel forces also overran a key Libyan Army base which was the home of the Khamis Brigade named for his youngest son Khamis who serves as its commander.

The government of neighboring Tunisia has recognized the Nation Transitional Council as the legitimate government ofLibyaon Saturday joining a number of western nations in doing so.

The International Criminal Court has confirmed that Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam and his brother Saadi have been captured by rebel “Special Forces.”  Saif who has been the face of the regime for much of the rebellion was indicted with his father and the head of the State Intelligence Chief earlier in the year for the ruthless crackdown on Libya’s “Arab Spring” demonstrators was captured very early Monday morning inTripoli.   SkyNews has reported that the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court told CNN that talks will be held with the Rebel National Transitional Council about transferring Saif toThe Hague.

Another report through Al Jazeera reported that another of Gaddafi’s son’s Mohammed cut off an interview after gunfire was heard telling the reporter “I..I… I am being attacked right now…inside, inside my house, inside.” According to Al Jazeera he refused to surrender, his guards shot at rebels. One rebel was killed and one bodyguard was injured and that he and his family are “safe” but Mohammed has confirmed to Al Jazeera TV that he “has been detained and is under house arrest.” Mohammed said in the interview “I’ve never been a government or security official; however I can tell you the absence of wisdom and foresight is what brought us to here today. Our differences could have been solved easily.”

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said “We are still very strong. We have thousands and thousands of fighters who have nowhere to go but to fight.”  He also claimed that 65,000 “professional soldiers” were ready to defeat the rebels.  Despite this there are reports that defecting Libyan soldiers are now clashing with the loyalists and African mercenaries that remain.  The TNC admits that it does not yet completely control the city but is working on it.

As for Gaddafi himself there are some reports that he has fled even as he announced that he would not go into exile and said “We will fight to the last drop of blood,” he said. “We will never give up.”  I his radio address Sunday night Gaddafi appeared to be begging for help from the people of Tripoli.

You You !
Come out of your houses and do this !
That is your duty !
Death or Life !
Come on, swarm the city of
Tripoli !
From the inside and from the outside !
The women, who had weapon training, come out with her weapons!
You are all armed in the city of
Tripoli
There is no excuse, just come out !
The collaborators of occupation are very small groups
How can you allow
Tripoli, capital of Lybia, to fall under occupation another time, after the Revolution and Liberation and… ?
How can an armed population allow a handful of mercenaries, of traitors, of rats to open the way to occupation in the city of Tripoli
That is unacceptable
This is, this is dangerous
Tripoli burned and became like Baghdad, what is our excuse, why ?
The
Tripoli that was safe and beautiful
What became of her when they made it a war zone?”

The situation is rapidly changing and at times chaotic.  As in every revolution there is turmoil and it I am sure that there will still be some heavy fighting as loyalists aided by African mercenaries hired by Gaddafi continue the fight.  The rebels themselves are not well organized but have the advantage of momentum and apparently the support of many citizens inTripoli.  The fact that three of Gaddafi’s sons are now prisoners and that no major units of the Libyan Army appear to be intact indicates that Gaddafi’s regime is on its last legs. Despite this the rebels are preparing for more battles with Gaddafi supporters who they think will attempt to retake Green Square which has been renamed by the rebels “Martyr’s Square.”

What will come next is uncertain.  The rebels represent various factions and many are Libyan expatriates who have returned to oust Gaddafi including a good number from the United States.  In the mix are pro-Western democrats, Islamists, Socialists and others. Some represent the NTC while others represent tribes opposed to Gaddafi and some may be affiliated with Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups.  The problem is that the Libyan people, despite their passion for their country have no experience in governing and with the exception of expatiates from the United States and Western European countries no experience in democracy.  Thus when Gaddafi is finally overthrown the fate of Lybia and its people will be uncertain.  NATO has offered assistance and support to a post Gaddafi Libya. Likewise we have to wonder how this will impact the rest of the region in the coming months.

President Obama stated that the “United States will continue to work with partners to protect people of Libya and support shift to democracy” and that “Gaddafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all.”

The real question now is where Gaddafi is and what will happen to him?  I do not suspect that he will be able to escape at this point with a no-fly zone and with rebels in control of all major routes in and out of Tripoli if he did not make his way out of the city before Sunday.  If he is able to make his way to a country willing to shelter him is hard to say, however if the rebels catch him the question is will he fight to the death or will he surrender?

There will certainly be more to follow and Lord knows what will happen.  We can all pray for the best even as the rebels continue to liberate their country and President Obama and NATO leaders continue to work with the TNC. As my Iraqi friends say “Inshallah.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Musings on a DC Monday Night: I’ll have a Beer and watch Baseball thank you

I had a wonderful first day of my conference at the George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health.  The conference was thought provoking and made me realize once again that afterIraqI really don’t know a whole lotta anything about anything.  But then as Earl Weaver said “it’s what learn after you know it all than counts.”

Back before Iraq I knew freaking everything. Beliefs, faith, politics you name it I knew it all and it fit in my nice little world.  Iraqwas for me what Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans was when it came out in 1915.  It was said that the book “exploded like a bomb on the theological playgrounds ofEurope.” Iraq was like that for me. It left me searching for answers to questions that I not only thought I had answered and that I thought I had refuted all others.

Sometimes humility sucks even if we need it.

I have enjoyed the conference so far. One of our lecturers Dr. John Griffith the interim Dean of the School of Psychiatry at the GWU Medical School threw about 9 existential questions at us and I realized that had I answered them in July of 2007 that I would have shat out the answers like a baboon who had too many beans, jalapeños and prune juice chasers.  Today I knew that despite knowing a lot that I am still a work in progress and even though I really do know this it is humbling to have it thrown in my face.  Thankfully the God that I know is much more understanding, gracious and forgiving than the theologian that I used to be.

After yesterday I needed a new room and if you have read my previous post you will understand why.  Thankfully the people were more than accommodating and the accommodations though Spartan was a lot more comfortable and healthful than the last. Even the AC works very well.  I can deal with Spartan more in a combat zone than I can in my own country.

Speaking of my own country…. I am residing less than a mile from the White House and the Capitol and pass the White House and the Treasury each night too and from the Washington DC Gordon Biersch Brewery.  It’s not Virginia Beachbut I get good service at the Bar, the bartender remembered me from last night and I basically have eaten and drank for very little money by cashing in some of my rewards points.

While walking about today as well as yesterday I noticed that almost no one responds when I wish them a cheery good morning, good afternoon or good evening.  Instead I find that I am nearly run over by people that seem to have no cognition of anything other than them, their smart phone or tablet or MP3 player.  No one looks up, no one talks and if they do happen to notice you they look like you must be some kind of reprobate, madman, criminal or terrorist.  Now I don’t know how anyone can think that I am any of the above but Washington DC is not on the top of my list of “friendly” cities.  I guess that is the fault of the terrible vain, cynical, corrupt and power mad politicians, pundits, preachers, lobbyists, political hacks, partisan journalists and others that prowl about the city seeking the ruin of souls.

In fact of the over 100 non-conference goers that I greeted today I had just 5 return the greeting. Two policemen, one security guard, one homeless man and one cleaning lady.  No one else said a word.  I wonder what the hell is going on, then I look at Congress and I realized that for all too many people no one else matters anymore.  We have lost our soul.

For me to reach out like this is hard. I am an extremely introverted person that pushes to engage people at work and then comes home in a state of exhaustion. My personality type if you use the Myers-Briggs temperament indicator is INTJ.  For those that don’t know the Myers-Briggs this means that I am introverted, intuitive, thinking and judging.  I am not a touchy feely person and am rather detached, analytical and it is hard for me to come out of that mode. My personality type is rare and is seldom found in decent society and is almost never found in ministry.  According to a shrink that I know my type seldom gets married and is generally considered to be a pain in the ass “know it all” to most people. Dr House is a classic INTJ.  In fact a now retired Navy Chaplain that I worked with at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center referred to me as “Dr. House.”  Yet somehow I am married and in ministry.  Don’t ask me how it is certainly a mystery that the Deity Herself keeps and probably laughs about.

The friendliest people that you meet in DC are the bar tenders and people that you might sit next to at a bar.  I had a wonderful time tonight drinking beer, eating steak tacos and talking baseball with a fellow out of towner also named Steve fromSeattleat Gordon Biersch.  I stayed longer and drank more than I normally would but I wasn’t driving and I got home before I turned into a pumpkin.  I like bartenders, they tend to listen better than most people and actually remember what you prefer.  I’m sorry but most people don’t do that anymore, especially pastors, pundits and politicians.  Unfortunately this “unholy trinity” and their business, banking and brokering financial wheeler dealer buddies are the people driving the country off the cliff because they only seek what is best for them and what will get them or those that they support elected next year.  It is no wonder that regular people in this beautiful city don’t talk to each other. What a shame.

So as I close the night and prepare to read and medicate (with legal medicine thank you) myself to sleep I have to add a final thought about the insanity of the Debt Ceiling and the poisonous political atmosphere that enshrouds the country like a cloud of Mustard Gas  burning our eyes and lungs and scaring us for life.   What I believe is that there are people on both sides of the political chasm that would rather be true to their ideology than to the people that they represent and to the country that each of them took an oath to support and defend.  Truthfully I am frightened.

When I was at Gordon Biersch CNN and Fox News were still playing.  At7 PMI asked the bartender if there was a baseball game or anything else less depressive and negative than was on the news channels.  Thank God that baseball was on as it seems to be one of the few institutions in the country that is running halfway right.

I do have a suggestion to end the impasse about the budget and debt ceiling.  I call it the Beer Party Platform.  I suggest that we get all of the members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government flat out drunk and let them fight it out like it was an Old West barroom brawl.  Let them get all the poison out of their system and if it means a few broken bones then so be it.  Then when all the fighting was done and Mongo comes to try to kill the Sheriff of Rock Ridge that everyone puts themselves together and works to restore sanity and civility to our society. Admittedly this is a bit Mel Brooks like but what can I say? Did you see the end of Blazing Saddles? It all ends right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DAziSni2VA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBSjg5bV4cM&feature=related

So God bless America, the God fearing citizens of Rock Ridge, ,baseball and the American people. We certainly deserve better than what we’ve got.

So tomorrow I will have lunch with a wonderful former commanding officer and in the evening head out to National’s Park to see if I can get a military discount in the cheap seats.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Thoughts on Smoke, Suicides, Gracie Jane, the Media Legal System and I guess I’m not Patriotic

Gracie Jane…the Boston Legal Nancy Grace

Today was one of those weird days. I got up relatively early for a day off only to have my morning interrupted by a page from the Emergency Room to deal with a suicide. I showered and drove in to work knowing what the outcome was going to be even though our staff was trying heroically to save the patient.  On the way in I was reminded of Iraq once again as I drove through the dense smoke which has enshrouded our region from one of several wild fires.

Last night I had been out watching the Independence Day fireworks with Judy and our little dog Molly on the beach about a quarter of a mile from the Island Hermitage and I did pretty wel`l, though Molly did better. While I was occasionally flashing back to watching artillery and illumination rounds and hearing that infernal 122 rocket flying over me in Baghdad as well as being nervous in the large crowds that surrounded me I didn’t melt down despite some very close blasts from individuals firing some pretty large firework charges above our heads. Maybe it was the unflappable attitude of Molly. Molly isn’t afraid of anything and maybe her looking up and occasionally barking at the infernal things both comforted and amused me. However I digress….

I got to the ER sustained by a large cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee and found that our staff could not save the life of the individual. I have dealt with far too many suicides in the military where it seems to be epidemic now days as well as in my time as an ER and Trauma department Chaplain in major civilian medical centers. There are people that condemn those that commit suicide to hell and call it an “unpardonable sin.” I can’t do that. Suicide is a tragedy no matter when it happens and it is happening far too often among the ranks of our Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard forces and to those retired or discharged from the military.  I spent some time and with our staff as well as some of his senior enlisted leaders who were obviously affected by this and quietly said a prayer of commendation at the bedside.  This is a tragedy one that will unfortunately keep occurring even as Congress contemplates cuts to the force that include the Mental Health Professionals and Chaplains that are the last line of defense for these young men and women.  But then what value are the lives of the men and women that fight our wars compared to not raising the taxes for the incredible wealthy that profit off of our wars and the sacrifices of the troops.

When I got home Judy and I took a drive up to Beaufort North Carolina where we had lunch at Finz, a bar and grill. As always we sat in the bar and while eating lunch noticed a commotion. A waitress from the restaurant side rushed in and changed the channel from the peaceful natural disasters reported by the Weather Channel to Headline News where Gracie Jane (Nancy Grace, Gracie Jane is the caricature Nancy created by the writers of Boston Legal played with gusto by Jill Brennan) was having a conniption fit that Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her daughter in one of the most sensational trials since the O. J. Simpson trial.

Now I didn’t watch the trial my faith in the Media Legal system having been crushed with the failure of the O. J. jury to find him guilty and order him crushed to death with heavy stones. But evidently some jury in Florida where convicting someone of murder and having them put to death is a spectator sport failed to convict, something about reasonable doubt. It sounds to me that in such and environment that the prosecutors must have pulled a Marcia Clarke and botched the prosecution.  They should have petitioned to have the trial moved to Texas where they could have gotten the conviction and the death penalty. Even President Bush who never pardoned anyone as Governor couldn’t save the lady convicted of drowning her kids when she said she had repented when a jury convicted her of capital murder.

However, my friends as terrible as the verdict sounds as it seems justice has been denied, someone probably killed that little girl and will get away with it, the reaction of Gracie Jane was priceless as she was nearly apoplectic even saying that Satan must be having a “party in Hell” and that proving “reasonable doubt” an unfair burden to prosecutors.   But that is the way the Media Legal system works, Greta, Geraldo, Court TV and Gracie Jane, they thrive on trying these cases in the media and while our justice system is certainly imperfect and sometimes even insane ever person is due their day in court and it is the responsibility of prosecutors to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. These prosecutors had no direct evidence of the lady killing her daughter.  They had lots of circumstantial evidence even some pretty damning stuff from what Gracie Jane tells me but they couldn’t get a conviction. When I took a class in Military Law we were advised that if we didn’t believe that we could make the charges stick at a General Courts Martial in from of a judge and jury that it was inadvisable to charge soldiers with a crime, even if we were trying the case as a “non-judicial” case under Article 15 of the UCMJ. As a company commander I never lost because I made sure that if I charged someone that the evidence would prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  These guys didn’t. They lost to better defense attorneys and someone got away with murder, manslaughter or child abuse. But the Media Legal system will never admit that they could be wrong in convicting people before a jury even gets the case. It’s a pity that Lincoln Meyer (a peeping Tom murderer played in a most creepy manner by David Dean Bottrell) couldn’t come up and clunk her on the head with a shovel like in Boston Legal).

Finally I ran afoul of a Tea Party partisan yesterday when I mentioned in his extended quote from the Declaration of Independence about removing despots and the right of people to revolt he cut off the quote where the Declaration says “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” For this I was called everything but a Democrat, you’d think that I had spurned God and man for mentioning this. Instead the man and one of his friends set out to mock me as some kind of Constitution stomping, CNN and MSNBC watching infidel for my cautious and even distrustful views views in regard to the Tea Party movement and some of its leaders.  Of course when picked their arguments apart I got called more names was told that they were “Constitutionalists” and kept trying to shut me up. I had too much fun finally getting one to end his insulting comments aimed at me with “God Bless the USA!” Unfortunately when the phase is used to end an argument, insult the honor, integrity and intellectual honesty and question the patriotism of a fellow American it resonates about as well with me as much as “Heil Hitler!” did to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Evidently even though I have served the country in the military in peace and war the past 30 years including in combat I am less of a patriot than him or anyone else in the Tea Party.  Despite my personal victory today I fear for the worst when this man and others like him come to power. Dissent will be crushed as they use laws that they currently decry to punish their opponents or critics. Those that joined the movement out of legitimate frustration at the mess that Republicans and Democrats alike as well as most powerful supporters have made of this country will be sorely disappointed when they find that they are considered expendable to those that they put their trust in to deliver the country.

I personally find the often violent language and imagery used so flippantly by many the leaders of the Tea Party to be frightening. The use of such terms as evil, satanic, communist, Marxist or Fascist to characterize those that disagree with you is dangerous for it dehumanizes the other and appeals to the basest forms of human behavior.  The fact that some senior state organizers have links intellectual and economic to white supremacist groups and anti-government “militia” groups makes me even more nervous as do the unstated motivations of some of the principal financial backers the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch.  Contrary to what some believe this movement is not a movement of uneducated bumpkins to be trifled with. The Tea Party has money, media and power at its disposal it is not to be taken lightly even when its leaders make mistake after mistake concerning American history and the Constitution.

But it seems that none of them really studies history and that we have failed in teaching our people to learn from history, not the mythology that makes us feel good and warms our patriotic hearts. But according to the gentleman I must not have one of those. Oh well… God Bless the USA!

Well that’s all for tonight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ER's and Trauma, faith, leadership, Lies of World Net Daily, Military, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Political Commentary, PTSD, purely humorous

Remembering Challenger

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4JOjcDFtBE

About 5:30 PM on January 28th 1986 I was a young Army Medical Service Corps 1st Lieutenant in command of the 557th Medical Company (Ambulance) which was based on Wiesbaden Air Base in Wiesbaden Germany. I was hoping to close out the day by 7PM which was early for me as well as most officers in the 68th Medical Group and 3rd Support Command of the Imperial Army on the Rhine.

I had a stack of work in my inbox, NCO evaluations, criminal investigations, maintenance reports and upcoming missions, not to mention trying to get a head start on my Unit Status Report. Most of my soldiers except those on duty had finished for the day.

Back then communications and television for military personnel stationed overseas was primitive. The Armed Forces Network had one channel then and only recently had added live needs feeds from stateside news programs on CNN and morning shows such as NBC’s Today Show. By 1986 the Space Shuttle missions had become routine but this one was different because of a school teacher, Christa McAuliffe who was a payload specialist on the flight.

The Challenger was making her 10th flight in less than 3 years having first flown on April 4th 1983.  The mission STS-51-L had been delayed due to weather on the 22nd and rescheduled several times due to weather or in one case due to problems with an exterior access hatch.  The morning of the launch the weather was predicted to be at or below the 31 degree minimum safe launch threshold. Engineers from the builder of the Challenger’s Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) Morton Thiokol contacted NASA with their concerns that the O-Rings which sealed the joints on the SRBs which they believed might not seal properly.  NASA engineers argued that even if the primary O-Ring failed that the secondary O-Ring would be sufficient even though this was an unproven theory. Eventually Thiokol management overruled their engineers influenced by NASA management which demanded that Thiokol prove that it was not safe to launch rather than prove that it was safe to launch. Considering it was a “Criticality 1” component meaning that there was no backup in case of a failure of both joints. It was a clear violation of protocol but the later Rogers Commission would show that NASA managers frequently ignored or evaded safety regulations to meet their very ambitious mission schedule. This decision doomed Challenger and her crew of seven.

I had heard that the Challenger was to launch that morning in Florida which of course was the early evening for us in Germany.  However I had seen numerous shuttle launches on television, considered them routine and by then rather uninteresting.  Since I was a very junior 1st Lieutenant commanding a company forward deployed with a mission to race to the Fulda Gap in the event of a Soviet invasion of West Germany up to my ears in work I had no interest in watching another one.

Challenger disintegrates (BBC Photo)

About 20 minutes until 6 my senior duty person at the company, the Charge of Quarters or CQ in Army parlance came to my door which was at the far end of the hallway from where the CQ was stationed. Specialist Lisa Daley was a solid medic and outstanding soldier who had a great personality that caused her to be well liked in the company.  She came to my door and blurted out “Lieutenant Dundas! The Space Shuttle just blew up!”

I looked up from my desk and I remember my words to this day. “Specialist Daley, Space Shuttles don’t blow up.” She then said, “No sir they do, it’s on TV right now!” That startled me. I grew up with the space program and remembered the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Although I remember the fire on Apollo 1 which killed three astronauts on the launch pad, but that was different, no American spacecraft had ever been lost though Apollo 13 was nearly lost while on a Moon mission.

I got up and followed her as she told me what had happened. While I reached the CQ desk I saw the small television which she and her assistant CQ were watching. There was a live feed from CNN replaying the disaster, the twin plumes of smoke careening across the screen.  I was stunned and will never forget the image that I saw with my soldiers that day.

Seventeen years after that event I was waiting at the Naval Air Station at Mayport Florida for General Peter Pace.  General Pace who was then the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was coming to be the guest speaker at the Battle of Hue City Memorial weekend hosted by the USS Hue City. I got to the ship early and while drinking coffee in the Wardroom saw the news of the breakup of the Space Shuttle Columbia. It brought back the images of the Challenger disaster. General Pace was delayed as the Joint Chiefs and National Security Council held an emergency meeting and arrived several hours late and when he arrived he spoke of the Challenger disaster along with the Columbia.

There are two more shuttle flights scheduled before the program ends this year. An era will be ever. The shuttles will pass into history and unfortunately for many the signature moment of the program will not be the many successes it will be the Challenger disaster and the images shown on CNN that cold and clear Tuesday in 1983.

The brave astronauts of all of our space programs deserve our highest admiration. The Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle programs pioneered space travel. We should not forget their sacrifices especially those that gave the last full measure especially those that we remembered yesterday. Ronald Reagan ended his short speech the evening of the Challenger’s demise with this line:

“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”

As a child I grew up with the space program and Star Trek. It is my hope that manned missions aboard better and more capable space ships capable of reaching the far reaches of this solar system and the galaxy will be built and humanity’s constant desire for exploration and discovery will herald a better future.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, traumatic national events

The First World Wide Cyber-Insurgency

In the past week we have entered the first true cyber-insurgency being waged by the Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks and its various supporters worldwide. Experts have been debating if the actions of WikiLeaks and their confederates constitute a cyber-war or simply a form of protest and demand for openness on the part of governments and corporations.

This is an entirely new twist on the traditional concept of insurgency as it is not limited to an attack on a single nation but numerous nations, businesses and financial institutions as well as individuals.  It is also being conducted by a loosely international organized alliance of individuals and groups with overlapping or identical political goals which have an almost cult like reverence for Julian Assange, who they defend as if he were the Prophet himself.

Those who say that this is not a war rely on a definition of war as something that is conducted between nation states which is now an antiquated concept and not reality based. What is called “conventional” warfare is a misnomer and conventional conflicts are the exception to the rule. Australian counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen notes that according to the Correlates of War Project that of 464 wars fought in the Modern Era (1816-2000) that on 79 were conventional “interstate” conflicts “fought between the regular armed forces of nation states, while 385 (just under 83%) were civil wars or insurgencies.[i]

One such expert told CNN: “

“Calling the WikiLeaks back-and-forth a cyber war is “completely idiotic,” said Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer of BT, a communications company.”War. W-A-R. It’s a big word,” Schneier said. “How could this be a cyber war? It’s certainly a cyber attack, right? It’s certainly politically motivated. But this stuff has been going on for a couple of decades now. Do you mean there have been thousands of wars that haven’t been noticed? It doesn’t make any sense at all. If there was a war, you’d know it, and it would probably involve tanks and artillery — as well as cyber weapons.” Only cyber attacks between two warring nation-states count as cyber war….” (author’s emphasis) ”[ii]

Unfortunately such “experts” know nothing of modern war, to paraphrase General George Patton’s speech: “The perfidious experts who wrote that stuff about what modern war is for Time Magazine don’t know anything more about modern war than they do about fornicating.” Quite bluntly Mr. Shneier is as ignorant as they come and while he may be a “cyber security expert” he has no clue about modern war. It is possible that nation states can wage cyber war as part of a broader war, undoubtedly, but to limit one’s definition of war to such encounters when only 17% of modern wars fit the definition is ignorant.

“Insurgency is defined as an insurgency is an organized, protracted politico-military struggle designed to weaken the control and legitimacy of an established government, occupying power, or other political authority while increasing insurgent control.”[iii] While the WikiLeaks is not using traditional arms their tactics which include participating in espionage which is defined in the U.S. Code as:

“The act of obtaining, delivering, transmitting, communicating, or receiving information about the national defense with an intent, or reason to believe, that the information may be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation. Espionage is a violation of 18 United States Code 792-798 and Article 106, Uniform Code of Military Justice. See also counterintelligence.”

In addition to this the WikiLeaks confederates in making cyber attacks against governments, corporations and individuals that take a stand against them are using methods which are best described as asymmetrical warfare which stand outside of convention and are designed to destabilize the existing order for the political intent of the actor conducting it.

In today’s world non-state actors to include traditional terrorist organizations as well as organizations such as WikiLeaks which are non-state networked actors.  Martin Van Creveld notes: “In today’s world, the main threat to many states, including specifically the U.S., no longer comes from other states. Instead, it comes from small groups and other organizations, which are not states.”[iv] Such actors in the technological world can develop networks to further their cause.

Major William J. Hartman notes in his article Globalization and Asymmetrical Warfare that:

“Technology and the internet have allowed them to become globally netted players.  The basic function of a network is relatively simple.  A chain network is used when goods or information move along a network or series of hubs until reaching a final destination.  This type of network is normally used by pirates and smugglers where there is no central figure controlling the overall operation.  The hub or star network is what we would normally recognize as a terrorist group, drug cartel or crime syndicate.  In this case nodes operate separately, but must coordinate activities through a central node or leader.  The all-channel network is a shared network of numerous groups loosely connected for a common cause.” [v]

While Assange’s WikiLeaks once was considered a legitimate media source in the “new media” it has crossed a line between internet freedom and freedom of speech to political espionage and it his supports from financial and information support to targeted cyber terrorism against political, governmental, business organizations as well as individuals.  WikiLeaks and Assange still claim the journalistic mantel and they are supported by many in that claim, but their recent actions serve to undermine their credibility and while they will have supporters any sense of journalistic ethics has been lost and probably cannot be recovered.  WikiLeaks began their irresponsible actions with the release of unredacted documents on the Afghanistan War and the released diplomatic cables do not seem to serve any purpose except to embarrass governments.  The threatened release of a massive amount of unredacted documents as an “insurance policy” against being shut down is simply extortion and can rightly be labeled an act of cyber terrorism.

As most people know information is power and those that can harness it for their purposes. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency manual states

“Interconnectedness and information technology are new aspects of this contemporary wave of insurgencies. Using the Internet, insurgents can now link virtually with allied groups throughout a state, a region, and even the entire world. Insurgents often join loose organizations with common objectives but different motivations and no central controlling body, which makes identifying leaders difficult.”[vi]

The way that WikiLeaks supporters are organized and the manner in which they have posted the information that they have illegally obtained provides an amazing information pipeline for other non-state actors, especially terrorists groups that will be able to use that information to conduct deadly attacks which will as they always do target directly or indirectly innocent civilians of many nations. The attacks that supporters mount on those that criticize Assange stand a good chance of causing even more financial hardship to the customers of those institutions.

This is an insurgency of a new type, one without borders which though it claims noble goals of justice, freedom and transparency willingly places information in the hands of terrorists who have stated that they will use it. This has and is occurring with the Taliban in Afghanistan and will happen elsewhere as terrorist organizations both national and international use the information to create chaos.

Welcome to warfare in the 21st Century. It’s not your grandfather’s war.

Peace

Padre Steve+


[i] Kilcullen, David. Counterinsurgency Oxford University Press, New York 2010 pp.ix-x

[ii] Sutter, John D. Is WikiLeaks waging a Cyber War?” retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/innovation/12/09/wikileaks.cyber.attacks/index.html?hpt=T2 9 Dec 2010

[iii] Field Manual No. 3-24 Headquarters Department of the Army Washington, DC p.ix

[iv] Van Creveld, Martin, In Wake Of Terrorism, Modern Armies Prove To Be  Dinosaurs Of Defense, New Perspectives Quarterly, Vol. 13, NO 4, Fall 1996, 58

[v] Air Command and Staff College Air University Globalization and Asymmetrical Warfare by William J. Hartman, Major, US Army, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama April 2002 pp. 19-20

[vi] Ibid. FM 3-24. p. 1-4

 

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Filed under Foreign Policy, national security