Monday, September 27, 2010

Where Do I Apply For That Job?

In a move that I am sure will bring howls of derision and laughter from many quarters the United Nations is about to appoint the first ambassador to coordinate contact with any alien species that might want to establish relations with Humanity. Now understand I do not find this hysterically funny for what would be considered normal and sane reasons, I serious believe that intelligent life exists all through the universe and that there is a very slim possibility that even now we are being observed.

No, I find this funny because if anyone takes the time to look up how much energy it would take to propel a starship the vast distances between the stars why would any intelligent species even give us naked primates the time of day. In fact if we are being observed I somehow see an interstellar Las Vegas on some distant planet with huge view screens showing the various activities of us humans on this planet. Some monitors would show fat ass bankers sailing around in mega-yachts, others would show starving children huddling in dark corners. Many would have the usual armed fanatics out to kill in the name of some ridiculous cause, to huge factory ships on the oceans stripping the waters bare of any life.

All the while some multi-armed and eyed bookmakers would be taking bets on when the sanctimonious idiots finally kill each other off quickly or slowly due to their pollution wrecking the planet. With a few beers in me I even imagine interstellar real estate agents looking enviously at our world with plans to come in and fix the place up once we finally die out. Plenty of water and we surely couldn't totally sterilize the place. A little work with planetary engineering equipment and I imagine they could turn a decent profit selling Earth as a global subdivision.

Given how I feel about real suburbia and the human inhabitants I live around even now I find that idea riotously funny. (Sorry, I've been drinking again) Especially since the subdivision I live in has a huge problem with native wildlife taking refuge in garages and underneath houses with several businesses dedicated to "removing" them. Now think about some poor raccoon looking for shelter under a house and now upscale that to aliens subdivisions here on earth with the last few humans scrambling to do the same.

But I digress, getting back to the human ambassador position I have to admit that I would love a chance to apply for it if they hadn't already picked Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist, for the job. I would mainly want the job just so I could emulate my hero Jim Kirk, see the dude could both get real "friendly" with smoking hot green skinned chicks and almost at the same time whip out his phaser and blast the ugly alien saving day and leaving Spock with a curious expression of disgust on his face. Call be crazy but that's real diplomacy in my book.

She will set out the details of her proposed new role at a Royal Society conference in Buckinghamshire next week.

The 58-year-old is expected to tell delegates that the proposal has been prompted by the recent discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other starts, which is thought to make the discovery of extraterrestrial life more probable than ever before.

Mrs Othman is currently head of the UN’s little known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa).

In a recent talk to fellow scientists, she said: “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day human kind will received signals from extraterrestrials.

“When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”

Professor Richard Crowther, an expert in space law at the UK space agency who leads delegations to the UN, said: “Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a ‘take me to your leader’ person”.

The plan to make Unoosa the co-ordinating body for dealing with alien encounters will be debated by UN scientific advisory committees and should eventually reach the body’s general assembly.

Opinion is divided about how future extraterrestrial visitors should be greeted. Under the Outer Space Treaty on 1967, which Unoosa oversees, UN members agreed to protect Earth against contamination by alien species by “sterilising” them.

Mrs Othman is understood to support a more tolerant approach.

But Professor Stephen Hawking has warned that alien interlopers should be treated with caution.

He said: “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. The outcome for us would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

How About A Little Mercury With Your Shrimp?

After a bad week where I had the nosy redneck version of Papa Smurf hassle me over an issue at work that I had already resolved with my boss my easygoing and good natured disposition was severely stressed. The sorry shithead so ruffled my feathers that it has derailed what little talent I have in writing my normal drivel resulting in a desperate attempt to get my normal six posts out a month. Well, at least I still have my devilish good looks and cultured wit to carry me through.

Okay now dammit, you can all stop laughing on that last one.

Of a far more important concern is the nature of the lingering effects of the huge cluster fuck out in the Gulf of Mexico which may result in all sorts of nasty diseases that will effect everyone who lives in that area and eats the seafood. But we are apparently all small potatoes in the greater scheme of multi-national corporations, hail the glories of capitalism. Hell, that fucker Hayward even got his life back, good for him but I bet he will never eat the seafood.

Heavy metals go untested in Gulf seafood

Experts urge caution for pregnant women and young children

Despite claims from President Barack Obama and federal officials that Gulf seafood is safe and poses no long-term health risks, no testing for heavy metals is occurring in fish or shellfish in areas that have been reopened to commercial and recreational fishing.

Both National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FDA officials told Raw Story that fish and shellfish being tested for the purpose of reopening waters to commercial and recreational fishing are not being tested for heavy metals.

Whenever Raw Story raised the lack of heavy metal testing, FDA and NOAA officials routinely referenced a “Mussel Watch” program. Yet neither agency seemed to have a clear grasp on how this program actually collected useful data related to the heavy metal levels in the seafood currently being fished and sold to market.

aw Story examined the “Mussel Watch” page on NOAA’s website and found no clear additional protocol in place for protecting the public from these contaminants in their seafood due to the BP oil spill.

This is particularly troubling to scientists and public health experts.

Gina Solomon, a doctor and public health expert in the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, told Raw Story, “What we would expect is the heavy metal levels in Gulf seafood will be starting to creep up as a result of the spill.”

Solomon, a co-author on last month’s peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study on Gulf seafood safety and also a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), cautioned, “And so right now, we might not be seeing elevated levels, but right now is the time to collect baseline information and to develop a sampling plan for monitoring into the future to make sure that levels don’t continue to rise and cause trouble months or years from now.”

She said it’s important to remember that fish and shellfish in the Gulf of Mexico already contained certain levels of heavy metals prior to the BP oil spill, which, at its height, gushed oil at an estimated rate equivalent to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster – previously the largest in US history – every four days.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Path Back

The ruins of the gigantic Apollo vehicle assembly stood like a lonely sentinel staring out into the calm Atlantic Ocean reminding the world of the grand human achievements once accomplished there. In turn, the surrounding complex of support buildings offered a different impression, shattered and burned smaller structures told of the insanity of human nature making the place look like a twisted graveyard. The only evidence of current habitation came from the collection of tents and portable buildings making up the Third division headquarters which was part of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Expeditionary Force in North America.

Colonel Lin of the division's second brigade had the pilot of his helicopter circle the sad assembly building several times just so he could marvel at what the men and women who once worked inside it had achieved. Using primitive technology and shear will they sent humans to the moon along with probes to all the planets of the solar system. Now it lay long abandoned, the roof caved in by years of salt air and hurricanes, its side’s bleached white by the intense sun. If Lin squinted hard enough he could barely make out the American flag that was once painted on one side of the structure but now had almost faded away to a memory. A testament to the nation that at one time dominated the world stage like none before it but whose decline and decent into chaos was like none before it as well.

"Colonel", his chief pilot said over the intercom breaking his revelry, "division HQ wants us to land, they say the general wants you in his tent in twenty minutes."

"Fine lieutenant," he responded, "tell them we will circle one more time and then bring us in for a landing."

Minutes later the dragonfire helicopter landed on the gravel road once used by the huge transport that first carried the Saturn rockets then the American space shuttle from the assembly building to the launch pad. Lin quickly jumped out the helicopter’s open door with the blades still spinning and passed other helicopters that had long since landed and ran toward the tent where General Ling would give his briefing and expect reports from his subordinates. Even though the pandemic had ended years ago and with the beginning of the recovery after that making China was a far different and better place Lin knew it still did not pay to leave a general waiting.

He arrived with a few minutes to spare taking his seat amongst the other brigade commanders as the general's aid prepared the large monitor that showed a map of the North American continent. Different colored symbols arrayed all across the map showed the various nations taking part in the relief expedition. Other symbols on the display, situated on the ocean, represented the national flotillas charged with protecting their people on land.

General Hue promptly marched in and without fanfare began his briefing describing how the Russians, Europeans, Brazilians, and Indians were progressing with the stated international mission of relief to the devastated continent. Special attention was given to how far Canada had recovered with some of their troops now serving in the New England and Midwest regions. The Mexican issue was the final segment and the general spoke of how negotiations were proceeding with their claims on much of the former American southwest. Mexican troops had taken up positions in three states with some tensions developing between them and the Chinese forces occupying much of the former state of California.

After that, Hue received reports from the brigade commanders on the true mission of scouting the former United States for sensitive and strategic items. Hue listened to each colonel quietly with his aid making quick notes on a tablet computer. After Lin gave his report Hue, displaying a rare smile called the group to attention and dismissed the bunch.

“Colonel Lin,” Hue called out loudly, “please do me the honor of walking with me.” Lin froze as the rest of the brigade commanders quickly filed out of the tent not wanting to be part of what they assumed would be bad news.

After the tent cleared, Lin followed Hue out the opposite side and walked beside the general. It was approaching mid-morning and the heat from the sun, combined with the humidity was making it unpleasant for the colonel, who no matter what could not seem to get use to the climate in Florida. Lin was amazed to see the general seemingly unaffected by the uncomfortable weather as he silently followed his commanding officer.

They eventually approached a small gravesite containing about twenty makeshift crosses that had somehow survived the years and harsh conditions intact. Hue stopped in front of them and openly made the sign of the cross and bowed his head in silent prayer. Lin, who was a Gaian and who worshiped the living world entity, quietly looked on giving the general time to practice his faith.

“Tell me colonel,” Hue said after ending his prayer but still standing in front of the graves, “how goes your search for the secret research center?”

“Truthfully colonel I do not believe the place existed.” Lin responded. “My units have thoroughly scouted our assigned areas and even encountered a few Russian units near the Carolinas and nothing even comes close to what the intelligence analysts suggested.”

Hue turned, chuckled slightly and began walking again, “Once the Americans would have called your search a wild goose chase. It is of no concern though; I did not believe the reports anyway. But colonel I want your impressions of the Americans and honesty is key.”

Lin’s thoughts returned to the huge building where dedicated people assembled rockets and sent them into space. “As I have traveled this dark place I have found most of them ignorant and spiteful, ready to backstab each other over the smallest thing and almost always fearful of something lurking in the night or under their beds. Not at all like the people who built the nation that once existed here.”

“Yes,” Hue said sighing, “they entered the 21st century the world’s only superpower but hubris drove them insane. They not only ignored deteriorating conditions at home but continued suicidal military adventures and commitments overseas. Politicians thought more about securing power than the stability of the nation and willfully demonized anyone not in their electoral base. The polarization it fostered festered with media demagogues creating more wounds of fear and distrust. The fact that the country had descended into civil war a few years before the pandemic did much insure that it could not institute measures to control the spread of the infection. The virus devastated the population here far worse than any other country in the Northern hemisphere. Even when the virus had burned itself out the survivors quickly resumed fighting. It has only been fifteen years since they collapsed but they have devolved to tribal and family feuds with little real memory of who they once were, it is a sad existence but the only one they know.”

“They are barbarians,” Lin said sounding frustrated, “ north of Ocala I began interviewing the various warlords in an attempt get some information on the research facility, one particular day I had three disgusting individuals in my tent. One was dressed in a fake looking camouflage uniform, he called himself a “colonel” and suggested we were colleagues. Another was dressed in what looked to be a police officer’s uniform and had decked himself out in elaborate medals looking like old pictures of Herman Goering. The final one wore a suit, carried a Bible, and spoke almost entirely in verses. They all tried to make a deal with me that they would lead me to the facility if I crushed a nearby town.”

Hue looked at the colonel intrigued with his encounter, “Why did they want this town crushed, was it oppressing them in some way?”

“No, I met with the leader of that community a few weeks prior, they were well defended having developed an effective militia and had established a local electrical grid through the use of windmills and salvaged solar arrays. This community had formed local industries and had the most developed lifestyle I have seen here. The other warlords could not defeat the town but wanted what they produced. I found their foolish scheming infuriating, over a million foreign troops on their soil and all they can do is kill each other.”

“How did you rectify the possible conflict?” Hue stopped and asked.

“I shot all three warlords, the lieutenants they brought to the meeting, and warned their towns not to start anything.” Lin said sadly looking back toward the huge assembly building; it was obvious to the general that the punitive action bothered him.

“That brings me to why I brought you out on this walk,” Hue began with his expression deadly serious. “I am looking to appoint you military commander of the administration district of this area. The Russians are taking the Carolinas, Virginia, and as much else they can grab. The Europeans and Canadians are taking the northeast and Midwest. The rest of the country will be divided up and given to the other members of the relief mission. Your job will be to restore some form of order as humanely as possible.”

Much flew through Lin’s mind, the possibilities and questions almost overwhelmed him but he finally was able to ask one, “Why me general?”

“Because as much as you never talk about it I know you spent the first twelve of your life living not far from here. That your father had immigrated to America as a teenager and when the collapse came he loaded you and your mother on a freighter sending you both back to China. Furthermore that deep down you still consider yourself an American even though you are one of the best officers in the Chinese army.”

Colonel Lin ignored the telling of his early life he had thought long buried and the slightly implied question of his true loyalties for the memories that began running through his head. He remembered the happy years and events of his early life one of them watching the final launch of the space shuttle sitting in the public viewing stands with his father and their talk as it flew upwards about what would take its place. But events inside the country soon spun out of control with the economy that had never really recovered from the Great Recession collapsing into the Second Depression. Then came the creeping poverty that affected all his classmates and friends until it finally found his own family. Fear and panic began to spread with groups blaming each other, of course the favorite group to blame by many were those thought to be un-American or foreign.

When violence erupted, it engulfed the rest of the country like a fire spreading through a drought-ridden forest. The final act for Lin came watching his father on the docks as he and his mother slipped away to safety on a freighter. The last time he saw his father was as rioters overwhelmed the fence and guards and stormed the docks killing everyone in their path in a wild panic.

China at first was no better, Lin and his mother struggled to survive with their only advantage being ethnic Chinese. The pandemic and the social upheaval that followed only subsided as the virus burned out and with the birth of the Gaia Church in Europe. It quickly spread across the planet becoming a global religion offering a tired humanity a momentary peace, which it gladly took.

“Colonel," Hue said, "this post pandemic spirit of global goodwill is quickly ending; all the new global powers are licking their lips eager to carve up America in some way. There are even those in Beijing that want us to bring settlers over here so we can strengthen our claim over California. If we are not careful, the world will repeat the mistakes the Europeans did in Africa and China in the 19th century. However, there are those of us in the international relief command that desire to see America in some way stitched back together. I believe you could be an important piece of the puzzle in making that come true. The job will be a damn near impossible burden but I believe in your heart you never left this place, so will you take it?”

It was true Lin had never fully felt at home in China but after seeing the mob tear his father and others apart on the docks his identity as an American had been corrupted. For Lin even with his conflicted feelings of home the decision boiled down to one of faith and hope. The new Gaian faith embraced by much of humanity called for it to abandon what had sowed so much greed, fear, and hate in the world. A creed that the other world religions had rededicated themselves to after the pandemic had laid waste to so many. Seeing the untold fear and hunger that permeate this once prosperous land, he could not stay true to the World Spirit if he did not do his best.

Looking at the forlorn building that once had assembled and housed giant rockets fostering a sense of exploration and purpose for a nation Lin realized that it somehow seemed fitting that his small part in creating the path back for America would begin here. “General, somewhere in your holy book it is said ‘From small beginnings come great things’ and I’ll do my best,” he said smiling.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I don't find this stuff amusing anymore.....

Now updated for your pleasure.

You know I'm daily feeling less and less welcome in my own country which curiously enough is acting like a cartoon in a cartoon grave yard. Maybe it’s all the mutts, my short attention span, long nights, and lack of a role model because he ducked out some alley with some roly-poly bat face girl. All along there were hints and allegations, incidents and accidents far away from my well-lit door. Hell, I know I'm soft in the middle but I want my photo opportunity and shot at redemption. Dear God, what if I die here?
But I feel like I am walking down a strange street in the Third World. Its my first time around and I don’t speak the language, hold no currency and I am surrounded by the sounds of cattle in the market place and I see angels in the architecture spinning in infinity.
I guess I need a bodyguard, I could call him Betty and I would be his long lost pal Al.

Tea Party-Backed Candidate Christine O'Donnell's War on Masturbation
"The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust," she said. "The reason that you don't tell [people] that masturbation is the answer to AIDS and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because, again, it is not addressing the issue. You're just gonna create somebody who is, I was gonna say, toying with his sexuality. Pardon the pun."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Outbreak of Foot In Mouth Disease.

Spock the Cat jumped on my bed early Tuesday afternoon and began playfully gnawing my fingers waking me up from what at best was a fitful sleep. Spock does this when he wants attention but after rolling over to look at my alarm clock and seeing it was only 1:30pm, far too early to even consider getting up, I shooed the cat off the bed and tried to go back to sleep. As I lay there with my eyes closed, it was then I noticed the first stabs of headache pain like someone first hears the sound of a distant but oncoming thunderstorm.

Ignoring past headache experience and how they often turn me into a mound of quivering Jell-O, I rolled over and finally dozed off hoping I could sleep it away this time. When it came time to get up at 3:30pm my headache was in full synchronization with the shrill and pulsating screeching of the alarm clock forcing me out of bed and stumbling to the bathroom to try and find some medicine. I had less than thirty minutes before my daughter was suppose to be at gymnastics and I still had to drive to her school first to pick her up.

I cursed myself for not finding some sort of pain reliever when the cat woke me up earlier because I quickly remembered that my wife had engaged in her hobby of near obsessive reorganization the previous weekend. Sitting on the bathroom floor gorilla-like, I snatched open plastic storage containers throwing aside just about anything you might have in household medicine chest but not one damn thing for pain, except for a bottle of Midol which I ignored just for stupid, male chauvinist reasons.

As expected, I finally found something to take not in any of the bathroom storage containers but on the spice rack in the kitchen. Don’t ask me why the Tylenol and Excedrin bottles were stored there; I was just damn glad I found something even though I had to mix a couple of different pain relievers since the bottles had only one pill each. I know mixing medication is a big no-no but with my right eyeball feeling like it was being sucked in my skull while the left felt like it was going to pop out something had to be done. After I forced a couple of pills down I ran out of the house and somehow got my daughter to her gymnastics class on time.

Miss Wiggles’ gym is just far enough away from the house to make going back home a waste of time since I would only have about thirty minutes at the house before having to drive back to pick her up. As usual, I retreated to the car but instead of reading, I went back to sleep hoping the pain reliever would soon kick in. The pills did kick in as I hoped but that offered a whole new opportunity for me to embarrass myself

My sinus headaches are so extreme at times that I have to take some sort of maximum strength medicine to control the pain. When I run out or, like that day, simply can’t find I have to make do with what is on hand. There are usually little or no side effects but as I woke from my nap in the car, I realized I had a very nice buzz going. The world no longer hurt at all but it did have a warm fuzzy feel that made coherent thought difficult in its own way.

Back inside the building, a gaggle of mothers were still gathered around the windows of the viewing area watching their respective children and talking about homework, dinner, and the various chores they had waiting on them when they got home. Even with my buzz going and loving all humanity I knew enough to stay away from the ladies not only since being the only dad present stifles normal conversation but the instructors were going overtime with the kids throwing off well-rehearsed schedules and pushing their moods to the dark side.

When the kids were finally released both they and their now late moms quickly hauled butt to get home and back on schedule. That left one final mom and myself waiting for our children who were still with the instructor.

This attractive mom was dressed in a nice pantsuit with a tight blouse that showed off her nicely shaped breasts. This lady’s daughter and mine are friends both in school and gymnastics but I did not know her name, and in all the time Wiggles has attended gymnastics I have never spoken more than ten words to her. I could tell she was upset, I figured from the waiting, so the higher function levels of my brain were telling me that this was not the time to try and strike up small talk. The only problem was that with my buzz going my higher functioning levels were not entirely in control.

After checking her watch again, she impatiently stepped into the actual gym area momentarily before coming back out. “They are finally finishing up.” She said to me letting out a long sigh and folding her arms across her chest.

Seeing how her folded arms uplifted her breasts it was then that a thought originating from the lower functions levels of my brain went through. Unfortunately, my buzz-addled brain redirected that thought to my vocal cords.

“You have really nice boobs.” I both thought and said at the same time with my brain sending an emergency stop message about a microsecond too late. Given my past bad relations with damn near everyone I live around, I figured I had finally totally screwed the proverbial pooch.

I admit the lady froze in place and looked at me like I was insane. Worry about all sorts of repercussions leading up to me being forced to leave town flashed through my head. Not that leaving this area hasn’t gone through my head many times but it was always under happier circumstances. In the end, all I could do was stand there and wait for the shit to hit the fan.

“You know,” she said as I cringed expecting the worse, “I have had a rotten couple of weeks and that is the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a long time.” It was then she reached out and gave me a hug, seemingly squeezing me especially hard.

After she released me, our kids came running out and we all quickly left. Frankly, I was perplexed not knowing which to be more grateful for, the hug or not getting into serious trouble. Driving home, my buzz long disintegrated, I figured it was best not to tempt fate and I decided it best to leave that question unanswered.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lets Stop Kidding Ourselves

Before I get into the meat of my impromptu and latest political rant let me clearly state that I have the highest respect for Joe Scarborough, a former congressman and co-host of the show “Morning Joe” seen on MSNBC weekday mornings. He and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, run a tight ship with the curious feature of intelligent and lively discussion on current events and issues that the country faces. Given that they face the three morning stooges on Fox Noise, the Imus zombie and his assorted weasels on Fox Business and the drab but well meaning crew on CNN their show is first rate even when you take their competition into account.

I will go even farther and say that I respect Joe Scarborough, a small government conservative, enough to seriously consider voting for him if he should ever run for national office. His positions are almost always intelligent and reasonable, when compared to the reactionary and mindless ideological driven syncopates that run the Republican Party. With Joe’s apparent demeanor and history in Congress I believe he would do his best to represent not just a domineering conservative viewpoint but try and fashion some consensus between the various ends of the American political spectrum. However, I caught the tail end of something mentioned on his show a few days ago that highly pissed me off.

The discussion that morning had turned to the wars being fought in our names and how it is only the men and women of the armed services that are actually fighting while the vast majority of the country continues with their daily lives as if Afghanistan and Iraq are a pair of bad reality shows. Someone must have mentioned bringing back the draft, probably Mike Barnacle, but Joe quickly shot that down with the tried and true answer that I know comforts many suburban middle class parents scared that their precious offspring might someday be forced to go in harm’s way.

Joe said something to the effect that if you ask the generals they do not want an army filled with disgruntled draftees. Now the kicker here is that he is absolutely right, the generals like the all volunteer service and its abilities as compared to the nearly broken force that came out of the 1970’s. The armed forces we had before our involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq were highly trained professionals with the best training and equipment that could have quickly kicked any opponent’s ass then helped rebuild their country. These same service men and women are still the best and now have gazillions of hours of combat experience but they have been overstretched and abused to the point that their effectiveness for any future combat can be questioned. The average American would have to be purposely blind and deaf to the stories of stressed out and broken military families, suicides, along with thousands of injuries both physical and mental our warriors now face after years of unrelenting duty.

Americans here at home are fantastic when it comes to empty platitudes about supporting the troops. I wish I owned stock in a few of the companies that made magnetic yellow “Support the Troops” ribbons that adorn countless SUV’s and wonder how much Lee Greenwood has made in royalties for the millions of times “God Bless the USA” has been played at football games and political rallies to teary-eyed crowds. My problem is that is generally where the middle class support stops.

With the economy in the tank I have no idea how successful the military recruiters are these days but in 2005 when I retired after 21 years of service they were catching hell. The steady stream of high school age kids that for years had been interested in military service had dried up so bad that long time standards preventing those with criminal records and weak education from joining were abandoned. Even worse a “Stop Loss” was put into effect preventing many soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from leaving the service after their term of enlistment was over, a sort of back door draft. Now with patriotism so high you might expect that a good many able bodied civilians would have rushed to join, not only to come to the defense of their country but to relieve the burden on the men and women wearing the uniform.

This is where we really need to stop kidding ourselves, while there were exceptions in the middle class and even from a few families of the elite, no rush to join ever materialized. Excuses abounded for this lapse and since I live in a blood red state where patriotism is supposedly encoded in the DNA I have heard a bunch. Out of all of them my favorite was always when some mom or dad said it was up to their child to make the decision of whether to join or not.

The disturbing idea many would only speak amongst those they thought like minded was that they are not about to offer up their precious child to be sacrificed on the altar of war. Fighting wars are for someone else’s child to do, the completely unspoken thought being that is what the children of poor and working class families are for with the occasional representative from wealthier families.

Since patriotism has not brought the rush to enlist in the face of the latest boogeyman the most glaringly obvious thing to do to relieve the pressure of endless combat tours and bring a broader scope of American society into contact with what we are doing overseas would be to reinstate the draft. This is where the true but much abused statement about the generals not wanting draftees in combat comes into play. It is a very convenient crutch that gives many moms and dads with some sort of conscious the ability to look themselves in the mirror after a military funeral procession drives by or they see video on the evening news of a mom receiving a folded flag

The truth of the matter is that despite the shows of affection and lip service to national ideals and our history we are nowhere near as patriotic as we claim to be. After Pearl Harbor men lined up for blocks at recruiting offices to go fight for their country with some in tears when it was discovered that for some medical reason they could not join. Out of all of it though, the dirtiest little secret of why the draft will never be brought back has to do the fact that if upper and middle class children were forced to participate in our conflicts a massive peace movement would materialize overnight that would make the Vietnam era peace movement look small. Outraged and terrified parents would demand a quick ending to our overseas adventures while college age armchair warriors would make backup plans to flee to Canada.

However, even discounting the failure of hollow American patriotism it all comes down to the fact that those holding the reins of power in this country, in both government and corporations, know what a return of the draft would do and will never let it happened. Far too much money is tied up in overseas endeavors and that is what Americans ultimately care the most about.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This Explains A Few Things About Me.

For various reasons the state of my mental health has been called into question over the years by family, friends, acquaintances, and the assorted human detritus that floats in and out of one's life. These questions usually come with me taking a unique position in relation to the current majority view, which really seems to bug the living shit out of some people. Being someone always open to a little subversive fun, I have often used such inquirers to create odd and elaborate scenarios that might explain why I take such pleasure in confounding the mainstream with my skewed view of the world.

In the past, I have used the simple but straightforward story of my father dropping me on my head as a baby while hosting a reunion of army buddies as they broken down in laughter recounting their semi-secret exploits in Bangkok and the rest of Southeast Asia. Truth be told it was me dropping my baby brother on the head after seeing Bug Bunny convince Elmer Fudd to blast Daffy since it was duck season instead of rabbit. On a side note, the aftereffects of my baby brother hitting the floor were minor and had disappeared before he entered elementary school but I really do need to call him up and apologize. Another time I had a collection of less than intelligent and more than slightly drunk acquaintances enthralled with the story of my encounter with a strange looking fellow dressed in a black suit walking a deserted stretch of Colorado interstate. I really wish I could explain the story in detail but I was more than slightly drunk at the time and don't remember a thing. However, I caused one guy, who made regular trips along that same area, to go out and buy a gun, several rolls of aluminum foil, and a Barry Manilow tape for protection, which he stored in his car.

Given the times and current political climate we live in I recently found myself again on the lonely end of some position. "Beach, why do you have to be so contrary? Everyone here understands how things should be, why do you have to be so different?" Was the paraphrased refrain I heard the other day after I refused to take part in the open admiration for the strange and confused man who had spoken in the nation's capital the weekend before. I took a deep breath and began my story. The neat thing about this one is that a good part of it was true.


My air defense battalion in the spring of 1987 had begun a weeklong Field Training Exercise (or called FTX) deep into the woods of down range Fort Carson, Colorado. As far as FTX’s went, no soldier worth a damn would complain about one only seven days long but the mood among the lower enlisted was peeved since the whole thing could have been avoided had the battalion scored better on the common soldier skills testing a couple of weeks before. Our battalion sergeant major, a hulking African-American with three combat tours of Vietnam liked to grumble the jungle was nothing compared to growing up on the streets of Detroit, arranged the impromptu excursion as a combination chain gang-like punishment and remedial training session.

Command Sergeant Major Benjamin Wilson, by all accounts, believed he was the man who ran the battalion and was in fact known to eat any officer alive lower than the rank of army captain if they happened cross him before he had his morning coffee. After his morning coffee, he would just torture them mercilessly until they ran off screaming for their mommies or the battalion commader. So when the disgruntled CSM Wilson walked into the battalion commander’s office upset over the common skills testing the lieutenant colonel immediately approved his request for an enlisted and NCO only field exercise figuring it would be nice that the lower ranking officers could walk into headquarters once without fear of wetting their pants.

Once we were in the woods and had setup our pup tents into long and straight columns and rows the battalion went straight into classes and practice sessions on things like the proper way to throw a grenade, which end of a claymore mine faces the enemy, and how to read a map among many other tasks. To the uninitiated basic soldier skills are very simple but, like everything else, the devil is in the details. The baseball looking piece of the grenade is the part you throw; “front toward enemy” is printed clearly on the front of every claymore, and for map reading knowing the general direction of north, south, east, and west on the map and land goes a long way of telling where you are on the planet.

We were all soon having a grand old time being all we could be except for one small problem. That spring had been especially wet and warm allowing an early population explosion of billions of gnats, whole squadrons of mosquitoes, commando uber-ticks, and other bugs dedicated into making human life miserable for anyone outside. Now the wise and powerful army had long since come up with nifty and officially approved bug repellent but insects that spring were licking the oily repellent we were liberally applying to ourselves like honey. Cries then erupted among the troops asking for a chance to run down to the Post Exchange and buy the civilian commercial brand but CSM Wilson had a hard on to not only keep us in the field but to “toughen us up.”

After a couple of days passed with everyone slowly being eaten alive even the senior noncommissioned officers finally admitted we were having an unusual occurrence of bugs, which forced the sergeant major to relent slightly. Of course, the other story why he caved in had to do with the rumor that he discovered a huge, blood-engorged tick on the end of his “manhood” which sent the three combat tour veteran running to the medics.

The sergeant major still refused to allow a PX run but saving the day was one of the supply sergeants who knew about old boxes of experimental insect repellent tucked away in his supply room. A couple of hours later the enlisted and NCO’s of the battalion were almost bathing in the stuff and seeing immediate results, which should have been a warning.

The entire time we were out in that area enormous clouds of gnats drifted about and if someone was unfortunate to walk through it they were soon doing a jumping and scratching dance trying to get the bugs off their bodies. After the new and much more powerful insect repellent was applied the nasty little buggers literally dropped from the air in mass. Ticks were reported to come loose and die and the mosquitoes that were the worst of all completely disappeared. That night the moral of everyone soared, the next morning though everyone went through the chow line feeling bad with some extremely nauseous.

This really pissed off the senior mess sergeant thinking everyone was suffering early onset food poisoning with him and his crew doing nothing more than boiling water for huge prepackaged meals akin to old fashioned TV dinners. What can I say? His reputation had long since been set with our battalion mess hall being consistently deserted like an abandoned roadside diner and several pizza delivery places making unsolicited, regular, and profitable visits to our barracks.

Others reported strange symptoms since the new repellent was issued. One kid named Kolodziej from Wisconsin skipped KP and wandered off deeper into the woods sniffing his small bottle of repellent and looking for mushrooms. The little shit was an obnoxious pain and the consensus among everyone was that while his disappearance solved certain issues and made things quieter the paperwork that would have to be filled out was not worth the hassle. So at some point a bunch of us made a half-hearted attempt to look for him and unfortunately found him, alive.

Gnats have always been an issue for me since they often left large red and itchy welts on my skin, which I have to scratch making things worse. The new super duper repellent let me watch them land on my skin them, grab their tiny throats, then fall off my skin dead leaving me unharmed. Of course I started having long conversation with various buddies only to later find out they were nowhere near my area with no memory of what we talked about. I really understood something was wrong when I started to see an old and clingy girlfriend lurking just outside the perimeter. Good damn thing we didn’t have any live ammunition or I would have manned a .50 caliber machine gun and blasted the area I thought I saw her, which also happen to be where we established the field latrines. No one likes to be disturbed when they are taking a shit and that .50 caliber would have really gotten everyone’s attention.

It all came to head the morning the battalion Nuclear Biological and Chemical sergeant came off leave and was hustled out with the rest of us and soon learned about our issue with the bugs and what we used to solve the problem. It was reported that after looking at one of the bottles he went into a panic and forced someone to take him back to battalion headquarters. This guy was far spookier than the battalion military intelligence officer who was just a computer geek a couple of decades ahead of his time. The NBC sergeant had a bit of a drinking problem and when applied with enough high grade liquor would entertain everyone nearby with his knowledge of the nasty biological weapons the Soviets had cooked up in their super secret laboratory on an island in the middle of the Aral Sea. A sea that even in the 1980’s was rapidly drying up making that island an isolated and arid plateau in the middle of a desert. On a side note it’s funny to think some people literally lose sleep at night worrying about terrorists using the tired shtick of crashing planes into buildings.

By this time our little weeklong field exercise was on the main event of a fifteen-mile march with everyone stopping at stations along the way where we were tested on our common soldier skills. I was once again carrying on conversations with buddies who had long since outpaced me and were in reality far ahead. I didn’t mind, they at least kept the clingy girlfriend away from me who now had the ability to fly on her broom. Truthfully, I have no idea if my delusions were from the bug repellent or the mess sergeant’s attempt at a real breakfast that morning. However, he was overall a sensitive and caring soul and everyone was trying to build up his self-esteem. There ain’t nothing sadder in the world than a crying mess sergeant.

After I crossed the finish line I was directed to a newly erected mobile shower facility, neither my phantom buddies nor broom flying ex-girl friend saw fit to join me. After I joined the rest of the guys who had also finished we were given a cursory examination by someone claiming to be a doctor whose most detailed exam was asking how many fingers he was holding up. I said five when it was my turn and he replied “close enough” sending me out the door to sign complicated papers with tiny print.


After I finished the story my chickenhawk co-workers were astonished and completely speechless for several minutes. I looked back at them with deadly earnest waiting for someone to speak.

“Beach, you don’t still talk to people who are not there or see girlfriends on flying brooms?” One chickenhawk finally asked whose greatest desire is to see honor restored to the nation in his lifetime.

“Well,” I answered back smiling wickedly, “ there are degrees to every recovery and I guess I’m okay.” I successfully fought off a desire to make a comment about Dragonwife and flying house-cleaning implements despite a strong urge to do just that. The big boss chose that moment to enter the break room forcing an untimely end to further discussion but I did have one old co-worker come up and give me a hug thanking me for my service to the country.

Funny thing everyone has been giving me a wide breath lately, go figure.