Tag Archives: special interest groups

Another Year: Politics as Usual but Hope Still Abounds


“We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!” Governor William J. LePetomane (Mel Brooks) in Blazing Saddles

Over the cliff we went last night and like clockwork our politicians finally got a partial deal on the Fiscal Cliff done. At least they did in the Senate. The House is another matter.


The deal didn’t make anyone happy, and maybe that is a good thing. If the House passes it this afternoon the one thing it does promise is that these same politicians will be taking us off another cliff at the end of February since this deal simply pushes the hard decisions of budgetary cuts. Of course cuts have to be made as well and some will be painful. However, truth be told the vast majority of these politicians and their backers don’t really care about the deficit so long as their interests remain funded and their special interests satiated.

Unfortunately the bitter and divisive political climate will probably ensure that we will go through at least two months of partisan posturing and struggle, mostly funded by outside special interest groups, political action committees and supported by the lobbying of think tanks.

But in the end I think that far from displaying any moral courage that our elected officials will simply act like Governor LePetomane and o what they can to protect their jobs.

Another year of the same old stuff probably accentuated by diplomatic, military, economic crisis’ as well as natural or man-made disasters. Oh well, we have gotten through times like this before, sometimes not very well but we have muddled through. So I guess that we will again. Thankfully baseball spring training is now but a month and a half away. Until then I have plenty of Star Trek the Next Generation, Boston Legal, Seinfeld and Ken Burns: Baseball to watch. I also have plenty of books to keep me busy. I am currently reading T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom and I have a backlog of other books to get through.

I guess that I will also keep abreast of our political mess and world events. But I won’t let them overwhelm me or cause me to despair as I have too much in my life that is good and see too much in this world that is good and fair. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in Lord of the Rings:

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.” 


Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, philosophy, Political Commentary

Twilight of the Generals: The Deeper Implications of the Petraeus Scandal

“War with impersonal leadership la a brutal soul-destroying; business, provocative only of class animosity and bad workmanship. Our senior officers must get back to sharing danger and sacrifice with their men, however exalted their rank, just as sailors have to do. That used to be the British way, but, unfortunately, there was a grievous lapse from it in the last war.” Colonel C.S.O. Head, A Glance at Gallipoli 

It has been a strange week for the military. I will be writing some more on this over the next few days but in the wake of the scandals wracking the military.

Some of these things have been brewing for some time.  But the revelations of an extramarital affair of retired Army General and now former CIA Director David Petreus, the revelation that Petraeus’ successor in Afghanistan Marine General John Allen sending allegedly flirtatious e-mails with the woman whose complaints of e-mail harassment triggered the investigation that exposed the Petraeus and his mistress-biographer Paula Broadwell.

General William “Kip” Ward, the former commander of US AFRICOM was demoted following an investigation that tied him to “unauthorized expenses” and “lavish travel” to the tune of 129,000 on an 11 day “business trip” that only three days were actual business.

Meanwhile in Fort Bragg North Carolina Army Brigadier General Jeffery Sinclair is going through the military version of a grand-jury investigation for sexual harassment and other such crimes against a number of his female staff officers. One alleges that Sinclair forced her to have oral sex and that he threatened to kill her or her family if she told anyone.

As a career officer myself, having spent the last 31 years in the Army, the Reserve Components of the Army and the Active Duty Navy I am disappointed but not surprised. I spent almost over half my career as a company grade officer or enlisted man and a fan of the late Colonel David Hackworth, who called he senior leaders of the military “perfumed princes.”

I think part of the problem is that many of us in the military have become more supporters of the preservation of the institution of the military than we are of the Constitution or the country. This is not surprising and in a sense I can understand this and probably at more than one point in my career been guilty of this. We are afraid of cuts to the military institution because it impacts us.

The roots of the problem go back to Vietnam but can probably be traced further back. The revolt of liberals and young people against the war, the military and the draft forced an end to the draft and the beginning of the All Volunteer force. This was a two edged sword. On the positive side it allowed the military to reform, reorganize and become the premier fighting force in the world. On the minus side of the equation was the fact that the military became a society within the society. We became insular and in many cases, including mine distrusted liberals and Democrats on any national security issue. Those old enough can trace that back to how either we, or our fathers were treated by liberals, Democrats and the media during the Vietnam war and its aftermath. Others, younger than me simply have bought the lie that liberals and Democrats are inherently anti-military. This has been particularly the case since the end of the Reagan administration and the George H.W. Bush led Gulf War victory over Iraq which cemented a narrative that the military was invincible.

Over the course of the next 20 years, the 8 years of Bill Clinton, the 8 years of George W. Bush and the first 4 years of Barak Obama the esteem for the military by the general population has continued to go up, even as that population is increasingly divorced from the need to serve in the military. The military at any given times in the past 20 years numbered less than 1% of the American population. This statistic is unlikely to go up in the near future with the reduction of the military to its pre-Iraq war strength and the increase in the population.

While the military has been engaged in a protracted war since the attacks of 9-11 and heavily involved in other wars or “operations other than war” since the Gulf War it has continued to shrink in relative terms to the US population. At the same time the military has become a lot more top-heavy in  numbers of General and Flag Officers since before the Second World War. The percentage of Generals and Flag officers added to the military since the beginning of the War on Terror has only increased, especially at the 3 and 4 star level.

There were in 2011 a total of 964 Generals and Admirals in the US military down slightly from 1017 at the end of the Cold War when there were more than 600,000 more personnel in the military. In the Second World War there were about 1.7 Generals or admirals per 10,000 personnel, the line today is about 6.8 per 10,000. See ( http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/testimony/national-security/ns-wds-20110914.html )

Regardless of the administration in power the senior ranks of the military have increased not only in numbers but in influence in the government. Highly respected by the public and with probably more power than at any time in our history the senior leadership of the Armed Forces has become insular and isolated. The senior ranks of the military have become a culture within a culture within the culture. The ongoing revelations of the Petraeus affair and possible involvement of General Allen regarding two women, most notably Jill Kelley a socialite who has cultivated close relationships with military leaders assigned to CENTCOM in Tampa as well as the culture of the Washington Beltway shows the depth of that disconnect.

At any given time there are well under 10% of flag and general officers commanding troops in combat. The rest are assigned to stateside units and staffs of various combatant commands, staffs and the Pentagon. In my service the Navy in World War II there were about 130 ships for every Admiral, today there are almost as many admirals as ships. While the ranks of the military have shrunk the numbers of Generals and Admirals has risen and the culture surrounding them has become more opaque. Generals and Admirals have become celebrities and power players in society in their own right. In fact I would guess that only the Great German Imperial General Staff of the Kaiser Reich had such influence in society at large or political power.

That respect which these men and women have earned in the nation which is often earned due to the incredible sacrifice of ordinary Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen. Likewise many General and Flag officer have done time in combat zones as lower ranking commanders and staff officers and have spent many years deployed and away from their families in direct combat or in supporting roles.

In spite of this there is obviously something amiss in the senior ranks of the military. The record numbers of the relief for cause of many senior officers and commanders due to various infractions, many of a personal, ethical or sexual nature is cause for concern. The concern that I hear from young men and women serving in the military and read about almost every day is that there is a separate set of standards for senior ranks than junior ranks. I have been fortunate that commands that I have been a part over the past 15 years have sensitive to this and have worked hard to ensure that standards are enforced regardless of rank but that is not always the case. High profile stories of scandal, privilege on the part of some have tarnished the hard work of many stellar officers and NCOs and the great sacrifice of those killed, maimed or wounded in mind, body and spirit in our current war.

The indiscreet and sometimes criminal actions of General Petraeus, General Ward, General Sinclair and fairly substantial number of other commanders who have been relieved for cause is is something to be concerned about.

Major General J.F.C. Fuller who served in the Royal Tank Corps in the First World War wrote a small but timeless book called “Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure: A Study of the Personal Factors of Command” in 1932. Fuller was quite critical of a culture in the higher ranks which had led to unnecessary slaughter and suffering during the First World War. It is a book that is well worth the read in such a time as ours. As the scandal continued to develop this week I remembered it and decided to re-read it.

The problems that we face are not unique to us. Scandals that are rocking the US Military are not new, they have been faced by other militaries before. The issue today is that the modern media and communications age has made it nearly impossible for those involved in salacious behavior to have it covered up. The Petraeus scandal has unfolded in large part due to the electronic media which almost all of us are dependent on, even for routine communications that never would have seen the light of day had they not been recorded in the cyber records of Google, Facebook, Twitter, text messages, e-mail providers or other electronic communication systems. There might have been insinuations, innuendo and accusations but many would have never seen the light of day.

The indiscretions of these men actually opened a door for honest questions and examination of the health of the American civil-military institutions. The military institution and those that swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States cannot become just another special interest group. Yes it is important to maintain national security and to take care of the troops when they return to civilian society. We cannot allow ourselves to become a state within a state or culture within a culture. The exaggerated numbers of General and Flag Officers compared to the overall numbers of personnel in the military can only be justified by the necessary bureaucratic and institutional power provided by the rank, not by mission or responsibility.

The power of the institution is dangerous when its leaders subtly shift the mission from the defense of the Constitution and the people to the defense and maintenance of the institution itself and their own power.

This is not simply about sex, improper relationships, assault or financial indiscretions of leaders, it points to broader and perhaps more dangerous threats to our system of government, but the unbridled temptation of power and influence that believes that comes with the unquestioned adulation of politicians, pundits and preachers, the Unholy Trinity. So even as the scandals rock the military it is not a bad thing. If we do not address them they will become millstones about our necks that will drag us under and expose the people and Constitution that we are sworn to defend to untold disaster.

Dwight D. Eisenhower reminded us so well about this danger in his farewell address in 1961:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”


Padre Steve+


Filed under History, leadership, Military, national security

My Goodness My Vote Almost Got Suppressed and I’m a White Guy: Not that it Will Matter Anyway…

The Legislators of West Virginia made a change to Absentee voting that had I not bothered to make a phone call that I would not have noticed. Absentee voters must now make a new absentee ballot application every election. Local, primary, or general.

It is not like before where if you voted in the primary and are a legally qualified registered voter, of whom most are military that you would automatically would get your General election ballot. Now you can go and vote in the primary and unless you realize that the West Virginia legislature changed the law and requires you to register for every election, even if they are less than 6 months apart and think that you will get to vote in the general election you will be sorely disappointed. You will not get a ballot. You will not be able to vote.  For all practical purposes you will be denied the your only chance to have a say in who runs the country. Unless per chance you are someone like the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson who can spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy candidates at the Federal level and any state that you please thanks to Citizens United. If you are someone like that you don’t even need to bother to vote, you simply bury candidates that you don’t want in office by financing anywhere in the country, even if you don’t live in those congressional districts or states.

Now in my case I didn’t notice the change to the absentee ballot application. I have been on active duty either as a mobilized Army Reservist or Active Duty Navy Officer and away from my home of record since 1996. I have never had a problem voting, until now. With two weeks to go before the election I wondered why my wife and I hadn’t gotten our absentee ballots. Now we are a mixed marriage, she is a Republican and I am a Democrat but neither of us got our ballots.

So I made a phone call to my country clerk office who told me that though I was a registered voter I was not getting an absentee ballot. I was horrified. I was told that I could have them send a new application or go online to request an absentee ballot. I was pissed. I asked what happened and was told that the rules had changed. I asked who changed the, the legislature? and was told that they are always changing the  election laws. I told the lady that I would go online to get my application and that I thought that it was a case of voter suppression because had I not bothered to call I would not have been able to vote.

Not that my vote will really matter anyway, but it is the principle. When it comes to the Presidential election West Virginia is redder than my ass after consuming too many habanero peppers. If I vote for the white guy, it doesn’t matter. If I vote for the black guy in the White House it doesn’t matter. If I vote for a third party candidate it does’t matter. The voters of West Virginia which at the local level is overwhelmingly Democrat will vote for the white guy that is not in the White House. That was shown in the Democrat primary when a convicted felon in the Federal prison at Beaumont Texas got more than 40% of the vote against President Obama.

I am now voting out of the principle that Americans should be allowed to vote not that I expect that my vote in my red State will matter one bit. The reason why is that only votes of the voters in a few “swing states” really matter.  Some states are so “Red” or so “Blue” that when it comes to voting for the President your vote really doesn’t matter. Both political parties have so gerrymandered congressional districts and state legislature districts to ensure that their guys are pretty much safe. So if you are a voter who is of the party that is not of the incumbent then for the most part you have a losing vote. As far as the presidency, forget it. If you are a Democrat in West Virginia that votes for Obama, or a Republican in California that votes for Romney you are screwed because unless you have a lot of money to donate to other races in other places your one vote won’t matter in an electorate that is as bitterly dived as ours.

I will vote. But since my vote doesn’t matter to either campaign because I don’t live in Ohio, Virginia, Florida Wisconsin or Colorado I am simply going to ignore the rest of the election season the best that I can. I am so tired of the partisanship and enmity that I just don’t care anymore. Well screw it, I do care otherwise I wouldn’t write about it.

But the fact is unless you live in a swing state or a contested congressional district your vote doesn’t matter a bit to the professional political politicians, pundits and preachers, or dare I say prostitutes of either party your vote doesn’t matter a hill of beans. Unless… you and I decide like William Holden in the movie Network stand up and say I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore and vote to upset the status quo.

The fact is that the most conservative and most liberal parts of both parties are too entrenched and invested in their special interests and issues to give a damn about the rest of the country and I say a pox on all of them. If I wanted to be a part of a party that only voted along party lines and refuses to compromise I would move to a country with a parliamentary system like England.

I am mad as hell and after almost losing my vote because of unpublicized changes in election law and I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me anymore. That’s why I’m an American.


Padre Steve+


Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

Back to the Future in Iowa: A Bloom County Redux

The more things change the more they remain the same. Since I grew up during the 60’s 70’s and 80’s I have see a lot of change and even have a few dollars of it in my pockets right now.  But I digress.

It just seems to me that I have seen what I am seeing in the GOP Iowa Caucus before and when I look back at old Bloom County Comics I find that I am right. Simply change the names and the dates and the comics though over 20 years old are current. You would think that Berkeley Breathed had drawn them yesterday.

Change the Names to Romney, Santorum and Gingrich 

I have no idea who will win the Iowa Caucus but I am happy that a few candidates might end their campaigns in the next few weeks, or maybe not. I cannot and should not  misunderestimate the power of the absurd.  However it is quite probable that no matter who wins that Mitt Romney will be in the campaign for the duration fighting off whoever survives as the “Un-Mormon anti-Mitt;” Santorum, Gingrich or Perry as well as Ron Paul who will not go away quietly even if he fractures the Republican Party in the process.

Talk Radio Hosts

Yes it is possible that the Republicans will unite behind a candidate to defeat President Obama but the way that things are going with the personal nastiness and real ideological divisions between the various camps of the GOP I become less convinced of that every day.  These guys hate each other and and don’t seem to care that they are crushing every one of their chances to become President.

Occupy Movement

Tomorrow night I will do an analysis of the Caucus and what I think will follow in the week before New Hampshire votes but until then I think I will leave you with some of my favorite Bloom Country strips dealing with politics and elections.

Every Campaign needs Money

Experts and Talking Heads


Traditional Values

Catering to Special Interest Groups

Now tell me…is this timeless or not?


Padre Steve+

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Smaller than Life: The Thin Skinned, Petty, Small Minded and Visionless Political Elite and what we can do to Change the Political Culture

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

“When small men attempt great enterprises, they always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.”

“In order to govern, the question is not to follow out a more or less valid theory but to build with whatever materials are at hand. The inevitable must be accepted and turned to advantage.” Napoleon Bonaparte

I have these times when lost in thought I imagine what it was like to have truly great political leaders in this country and inWestern Europe.  It just seems to me that those that we have entrusted with the reigns of government and those that aspire to the highest office in this country are perhaps the most pathetic, small minded, petty thin skilled and visionless that this country has ever produced.  I do not see a great leader such as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan in the lot of them.  As for the women that aspire to lead this country I see no Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir among them.  In fact I don’t even see any truly skilled politicians like Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon out there.

I guess I say this because the whole lot of them seem to spend a lot more time campaigning for office even while in office than they actually spend working with their allies and political adversaries to do the right thing even if it goes against their ideology.  Lord knows that our political philosophy is important, but ideology, especially when it become sacrosanct is more than a philosophy of how our leaders should govern it is a set of shackles that binds them to one course of action, one set of beliefs and to the masters that they are beholden.

Campaigning is actually a lot easier than leading or governing because now days it has very little to do with substance or personal qualifications or achievement it simple means that suck up to people that have money and power better than others.  When politicians do that either by supporting one special interest or another without qualification they fail to honor the oath that they took when they entered office.  When the pledge their fealty to a certain cause or position regardless of its actual merits such as the Left has done with its pet constituencies and the Right is unabashedly doing as Presidential candidates sign pledges committing them to do what certain interest groups dictate they show that they are willing to prostitute themselves and their office to those interest groups.

Since our political class lives in constant campaign mode why should we expect them to actually take a risk and do something for the benefit of the country once they are elected?  They obviously don’t feel any need to otherwise as they would be taking risks to try to build with what we have at hand to save the country even the risk of not being elected or reelected.  The great Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said “I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome.”  That is what our leaders need to be saying and doing now.

It seems that those campaigning for the highest office in the land are spineless crybabies.  Yogi Berra once said “All pitchers are liars or crybabies” well I think we can say that “All politicians are liars or crybabies” and be right on target.  I was amazed when I watched coverage of the great Iowa Imbecile Debate and Straw Poll this weekend and in the weeks leading up to this.  It was like watching a bunch of spoiled children calling each other names and then getting mad and crying when they got asked questions that they don’t want to answer accusing those that ask of asking “gotcha” questions.  When caught in obvious contradictions in regard to their campaign rhetoric and what they really do they lie or make excuses.  I watched the movie The Blues Brothers Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) tells his brother Jake “It wasn’t a lie it was bullshit” and I thought about our politicians in office and on the campaign trail.

They are a humorless lot who when you come right down to it have their every whim catered to and surround themselves with “yes” men and women.  This has to be true because if they had one person of true character and honesty that would have the unmitigated courage to say “What the fuck? Over” we might actually see them dealing with the real issues of our day; war, massive unemployment, a currency crisis decaying infrastructure and educational standards not to even mention the debt. John F. Kennedy said something that resonates today “A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten.”

Somehow it seems that none of our current leaders or those running for their party’s nomination to the highest office in the land has the gravitas to stand by their word or the character to lay aside differences to work with their opponents to actually do something positive for once.  I cannot remember the last time that any of our leaders have done this except when they cobble together massive bills which sometimes have sections of questionable Constitutional legality that none have ever read before the President signs them into law. That’s not leadership, which is not wisdom, that is not foresight and that is not vision. That is cowardice masked in legislative accomplishment.  Theodore Roosevelt said “A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”

Unfortunately most of us are more interested in seeing our interests and agendas advanced no matter what we say.  After all we elect these men and women time after time and in our hyper-polarized body politic we would sacrifice the country to get our guys, whoever they are elected.  Ideology, political preservation and even religious dogma substitute for reason and personal courage in our world and we are paying for it.

Unfortunately I have no answers on how to solve this except that as a nation we need to start thinking big again to start actually believing in this country. We need to work together like we haven’t since John F. Kennedy challenged us to put men on the moon in under a decade.  The challenges are for the taking but our leaders have to be men and women of character and courage to take them up and a population willing to commit to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”

I actually think that John F. Kennedy said what we need to be doing now better than almost anyone I can imagine because what he said cuts to the heart of our present political crisis.  “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

I think that we can turn things around but we will have to stop the current political fratricide in order to do so.  We have to take responsibility for the future even as we clean up the mess that we have made in the past.  If we don’t we are going to suffer even worse consequences than we are experiencing now.  The stakes are great and the question is will we rise to the occasion?

God help us,


Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, leadership, Political Commentary

One Small Step for Man…One Giant Step for Mankind

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was the stuff that dreams are made of the stuff that inspires a generation.  A tiny and fragile Lunar Module, the Eagle piloted by Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Bud Aldrin landed on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. Within hours the two men had made the first walk on the Moon.  Armstrong made the statement “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  In orbit above the Moon Astronaut Michael Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia. It was the stuff that legends are made of and help point humankind to higher and nobler goals.


Shortly after he became President, John F. Kennedy promised to have a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.  His comments supporting the Apollo mission before a joint session of Congress are quite remarkable especially in light of the state of the technology available at the time.


“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

The United Stateswholeheartedly threw itself into the race for the Moon and though Kennedy, struck dead by an assassin’s bullet nearly six years prior did not live to celebrate the occasion it was something that in a time of war and deep political division united the Nation.  It did not matter if one was a conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat the Space Program and in particular the Apollo missions made us glad to be Americans.  In the midst of trying times marked by racism and riots, political assassinations, anti-war protests and social unrest.

It was an amazing event which could have ended in disaster but instead helped us as a nation to aspire to higher and nobler goals. The landing on the Moon inspired many to study the sciences and Astronaut camps attended by children furthered that desire.  The invention, innovation and ingenuity sparked by the program helped birth more invention many times providing the basis for devices that are ubiquitous today but unthinkable except possibly to the writers of Star Trek then.

We dreamed and aspired to great things.  We were Americans then.  Now we have become a collection of deeply divided hatred filled special interests.  The last Space Shuttle mission that of the Atlantis will end tomorrow and no one knows what will follow.  But does it matter?

It probably doesn’t matter anymore because we have stopped dreaming or envisioning a hopeful future.  The Moon, Mars and beyond, forget that we need to sacrifice, well everyone but the people that put us in the mess we are in.

What does a space program matter when we are so divided against ourselves?

Our politician’s pundits and preachers of all political leanings and persuasions drive that poisonous wedge deeper every day and many willingly indulge in the “us against them” mentality promoted by those that beg us to listen to the “three hours a day every day.”

That Unholy Trinity of politicians, pundits and preachers seems so bent promoting their ideologies and theologies that they forget that they all have a responsibility to a nation that is greater than their respective faction, special interest and even religious views.  Now we have politicians signing statements written by special interests groups and there are an ever growing number of them, as if they were the Constitution, binding them and their fealty to unelected and unaccountable power brokers who have only their ideology to promote.  To see politicians shamelessly entering into such pacts to win a nomination or primary makes me wonder what they will do if they are elected to the offices that they aspire.

Back in 1969 the country was a mess, but when the Eagle touched down on the Sea of Tranquility we were Americans again.  We took a moment and believed again and we achieved again.  Unfortunately I don’t see anything at the present that will make us so again at least in the near future.  I fear for our country. Maybe it’s just my PTSD “Mad Cow” getting to me; maybe it is the fact that as a historian and theologian I know where the path we are traveling ends.


Padre Steve+


Filed under History, leadership, philosophy, Political Commentary

Padre Steve Might be a Mad Cow Carrier and Can’t Give Blood…He’s “Mad” as Hell and isn’t going to take it anymore!

I am guilty yes guilty my friends.  I have about a one in a zillion chance of having the dreaded variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease but if your believe those who promote conspiracy theories and unscientific assumptions I am probably something like Typhoid Mary just waiting to unleash death and destruction on millions of unsuspecting God fearing beef eating Americans by donating blood.  That is my alleged crime and while it is not a ‘crime’ in the truest sense of the word it might as well be as it ostracizes me and hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of veterans and their dependants from a civic duty that many of us did before all the media hype that surrounded the decision to ban us from being able to give blood.  It is discriminatory, exclusionary and for that matter bad public policy.

Now my dear readers what is my crime and the punishment that has been inflicted on me?  I was in the military and lived in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s for a period of about four years. That my dear reader makes me ineligible to donate blood even if I am otherwise healthy and willing to give in time of need.  However the rule is rather arbitrary in nature. It specifies that living in most of Europe for 6 months or more if you are in the military is enough for a person to be a risk.  However the rules tolerate those who go on beef eating and haggis hogging binges for limited amounts of time while wearing kilts in Great Britain. It is an absurd standard to hold anyone to as the fact is simple, if you didn’t eat high risk cattle you have almost no chance of contracting or carrying the disease.

I readily admit that in that time in Europe I did eat beef. Mind you dear reader it was always well cooked and I certainly never ate Haggis.  However I am now and have been for many years treated as if I had some exotic and deadly plague like I was infected with HIV or Hepatitis B, diseases that are proven to be transmitted through contaminated blood products. I my friends am the poster child of what it is to be discriminated against based on special interest groups and media fear mongering.  That absurd fear mongering got our wonderful Food and Drug Administration and other government regulatory agencies to take draconian measures to stop something that in the scope of infectious disease is rather low on the threat scale.  I say that such action is not based on legitimate public health concerns but on a political agenda that uses fear to accomplish what it never could at the ballot box.

Now mind you Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) or the real “Mad Cow” disease is no laughing matter but statistics underlying the incidence of the disease in the United States of vCJD show that if there is a threat it is very limited and that the chances of the Cubs winning the Worlds Series are better than getting this dread disease. Even statistics of a supposed “second wave” of vCJD in Great Britain estimate about 70 persons over a period of years during a “second wave” of vCJD might die, at worst case the number is 600.  In fact in Britain only one case of transmission of vCJD though blood products has been confirmed and if all people who had eaten beef lived in and eaten beef in Britain were barred from  donating blood the British would likely have to convert oil tankers to bring blood in from around the world. But they are not while people in the United States who lived in Europe, not even Great Britain are banned as a class from donating blood and the vast majority of these Americans are military members and their dependants.

I am a supporter of stringent policies on infectious diseases but if in Britain, the very epicenter of a disease that reared its ugly head in the early 1980s people can and do donate blood and the incidence of the disease is miniscule and is scientifically regarded to having more to do with genetics than eating beef.  Yet the Federal Government responding to fear mongering press reports and conspiracy theory maniacs have banned an entire class of people from donating the gift of life to those in need.  It is absurd and dishonest and plays into the hands of fear mongering power seeking special interests groups that claim the public good while discriminating against a whole class of people whose only crime was to serve their country.  Bill O’Reilly and Steven Colbert do you hear me?

Before this I was almost a religious blood donor I learned it from my dad who I think had his golden bucket from the Delta Blood Bank in Stockton. In fact he took me to donate for the first time and I continued because it was the right thing to do. I donated until I was branded with the scarlet letter of being a potential carrier of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and have been refused ever since.  This is also true for hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of healthy military members, veterans and family members who ate a steak in Germany or some other western European country because we might have eaten a significant amount of “Bully” British Beef or perhaps a butt load of Scottish Haggis even though the chances of having these delicacies is significantly lower in good old Deutschland where people would rather eat Argentinean beef than beef from a country that they thought they should own by now and where the vast majority of the beef is well rather “brown-shirted” if you get my drift.  If the CDC or FDA has banned a whole class of patriot Americans from donating blood at least do it based on a preponderance of evidence and not speculation and paranoia.

In the United States we often run short of blood but we exclude by default one of the healthiest and giving groups of people in the world from giving. There are times in every major medical center that blood products run in short supply because of supply and demand.  Most donations centers have on hand no more than a 3 day supply for normal transfusion needs and if a major catastrophe involving vast numbers of traumatic injuries occurred, the supply would be gone in no time and people would die for the lack of blood.  Unfortunately in the world of potential mass casualties caused by terrorism or natural disaster this is a more likely occurrence than a mass outbreak of vCJD. Quite often there is more demand than supply and red blood cells have a short shelf life of 35-42 days at refrigerated temperatures and plasma can be frozen but has a shelf life of only about a year meaning that those stocks are also limited.

So rather than looking at statistics and solid data military members are banned from donating blood unless they choose to dishonor themselves by lying about it.  I have never done that as much as I wanted to give blood.  Heck we have an Armed Service Blood Center in our very hospital whose outreach director is one of my former Lieutenants from my days as a company commander in Germany.  I may be at times “mad” but my “madness” is both genetic as from a bit of PTSD, but my blood is a-okay high test 104 Octane B positive blood and I cannot donate when I want to because the debate is being driven by anti-beef eating, anti-military food Nazis who use this ‘cause’ to spread fear and increase their power relative to the rest of us.  Just take a look at their websites which are populated with hyperbole even more hyperbolous than what I spout.

I contend that I and hundreds of thousands of veterans and military members have been damaged by the zealotry of the “Mad Cow” fear mongers and their media accomplices which did its best to spread panic about this incredibly rare disease by showing infected cattle lurching around barnyards. Now it is true that this is a heinous disease but incredibly rare and for the most part has been controlled even in docile cows.

My argument is that there is a terrible need for blood products and a whole group of people are being discriminated against on the basis of media hype and pressure by special interest groups.  I know by saying this that it makes me a target and that once this post gets some hits that I will have one of these anti-beef eating, anti-military and national security ignoring bozos will post nasty things about me. So far as they don’t call me a Dodger fan I will be civil despite the fact that they won’t rest until none of us can give blood because we ate beef once in our lives.

I wish that some bold law firm would take this up as a class action suit naming the FDA, CDC and every major television network that spread the fear which drives the decision to bar an entire group of healthy people from giving blood.  This may seem callous and insensitive but I say let’s stick it to these guys and let them see the shoe is on the other foot. Let’s kick their vegan asses back to the planet Vegan where they belong. It’s late tonight but tomorrow its cheeseburger time for Padre Steve, pass the condiments please and get my stein ready.

So until the next time I say peace and may the law be with us. Maybe there is a reason that some of my classmates in seminary said that I should have gone to law school.  Maybe that’s what I’ll do with my GI Bill when I retire go to law school pass the bar and be a Priest-Lawyer, but not a Canon Lawyer, no money in that is there? So let’s go out and win a billion dollars or so from these oppressors of individual liberty and the common good.

Anyway Peace Out my brothers and sisters, have a burger or steak tonight.

Love ya,

Padre Steve+


Filed under healthcare, laws and legislation, national security, Political Commentary