One man's view of the world, from the top of this great big rock somewhere in the middle of God's Country, with an eye toward freedom....or at least some way to get back down without goin' over the edge.

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Location: West Virginia, United States

Former U.S. Army, SPC E-4, Veteran of Operation Desert Storm. If you are or have ever been a soldier, you have friends in my house.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Forget Them Not....

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This is a picture of the "Angel of Grief" in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, LA, to which I have added the flags.


Friday, May 27, 2005

If I Was A Liberal, This Would Be Bush's Fault

My wife and I tried to quit smoking yesterday.

My wife is still on the wagon. I fell off about an hour ago.


I lit my first cigarette during the Gulf War. I was not dealing well with being in a warzone, and a female soldier, whom I had taken a liking to, offered it to me.

What can I say? I took it.

I regret it immensely to this day, even as I write this with a Marlboro balanced on the edge of the ashtray, basking smugly in its conquest over me.

Ever since I woke up this morning at about 7:00am, in order to get my kid to school, I have been a raving lunatic. (Yes, my kid got to school quite safely, thank you.)
I put a hole in the screen in front of my sliding glass door because it wouldn't open. The little wheels had skipped off the rail they customarily rode on. (Thankfully, the glass door was open at the time.)
I tripped over the cat this morning, and almost kicked it down the hall. (It is a rather long hall.)
I then went down to the city building to pay the water bill (mumblegrumblerassinfrassingoddamnvampires) and spent the next hour-and-a-half driving around, fighting with the urge to buy a pack and put an end to it, and almost tore the turn signal off the steering column because, for some reason, it refused to stay in place when I went to make a left.
I then came home and, to have something to do with all this nervous energy (I was practically HUMMING with it at this point), I mowed the back yard for a while (I had to stop about three strips away from being finished because I had started actually feeling sick to my stomach) and then went inside and did some dishes (I very nearly broke four of them).

It was when I actually started feeling like I was turning green that I made the decision that I did not want to be in this state when my son came home from school. His class went on a field trip to the zoo today, and he will no doubt be in a great mood when he comes home, and I do not want to spoil that by snapping his head off at the first annoying sound he makes (he LOVES ducks, and has a habit of quacking incessantly to himself when he's happy).

So I went back out, got a pack of smokes, came home, lit up, and started typing this post.

In the past fifteen minutes, I have summarily executed five of them.

I feel MUCH better now....and yet, I don't.

Cigarettes killed my father, and deprived my son of the experience of growing up with a granddad.

I will try again tomorrow. Hopefully by then, I will have stopped feeling like David Banner ten minutes after "getting angry".


Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Day at the School of Hard (Rhymes with "Knocks")

Ladies and gentlemen...I sincerely apologize for the delay in my return to these pages. I have been dealing with some problems with a nasty PC virus, and have been necessarily incommunicado.

Well, that...and it's taken me a few days of thought, re-thought, writing and re-writing to put together what you are about to read. Having said that, please forgive me if this is old news to some of you, but I only just heard about it....and I cannot stand by and let it go just because I'm not breaking it first.

FAIR WARNING: Not only is the entry below the dotted line gonna be longer than a Chinese division does contain links to UN-WORK-SAFE and UN-CHILD-SAFE material.
I MEAN IT. Let there be NEITHER a supervisor NOR a child in the room when you read it. You will see why presently.



As adult Americans, in America, we are generally blessed with the right to do as we please in our own homes, as long as we are responsible about it and harm comes to none in the process. At least, that's the way I've always understood it.

Please note the beginning of that sentence: "As ADULT Americans".

Children, out of necessity, do not have nearly the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as adults. This is because they are "adults-in-training". They do not yet have the age or experience necessary to make informed decisions about how they interact in and with the universe around them.
This is why there are parents. Parents are the buffer zone, the defensive line---the "firewall", if you will----between their children and the crazy, mixed-up, sometimes-beautiful-but-all-too-often-violently-ugly world they are destined to inherit.

This is especially true when the subject comes around (as it must for all of us, eventually) to sex.

And these days (to my utter befuddlement, and I don't think I'm alone here), this means that things like "sexual identity" and "creative experimentation" are going to get brought up.

Yeah, I said "befuddlement". That's because there's a lot of stuff out there now that I did NOT have to deal with as a child in almost ANY form.
You wanna know what I knew about "sexual identity" as a school kid? I knew it was something I didn't HAVE yet.

Show of hands: How many of you parents out there REALLY think you know all about the things your kids are seeing around them?
(Okay, okay, so I can't see your hands. You know who you are.)

The things that should be scaring us the most, though, are not all the new potential threats staring us in the face.
The things that should be scaring us the most....are the ones that try to avoid our gaze altogether.

Now, before someone out there says it, let me give it you straight from the shoulder:
I am NOT a homophobe. Neither is my wife. We have both had, and still do have, gay friends and associates in fair number, most of whom we consider to be honest and good people. We are happy for their friendship, and they for ours.
And if I have anything to say about it, my son won't be a homophobe either.

Here's the kicker to that last statement: My son's exposure to homosexuality, both in concept and observation, will be as much ON MY TERMS as I can make it.
It absolutely HAS to be...because in this day and age, he will find out about it (or it will find him) sooner or later.

What if it finds him when I'm not there to offer counsel?

If you didn't know about the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and what they are trying to do, before's because it isn't YOU they're aiming at.

GLSEN Boston's 15th Annual Conference was held on April 30 of this year in Brookline High School in Massachusetts. This is how the organizers characterized the aims of this conference:

"2004 was a year of tremendous challenges for the GLBTQ community. The recent elections and numerous anti-gay referendums across the nation made a feeling of intolerance and fear in this country even more palpable, particularly toward GLBTQ students and their families. Despite this rise in overt homophobic sentiment, we at GLSEN Boston believe there is reason to feel hopeful. In Massachusetts, our Supreme Court and many citizens, young and old, have stood up for what is right -- that two people of the same sex have an equal right to marry the one they love and have their families legally recognized and protected. Youth and adults have come together to demand a culture of respect for all individuals and families. At this year's conference we will come together to challenge intolerance and to nurture a sense of hope for safe and respectful school communities."

Okay....I get most of the letters -- Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual -- I even get Transgender.
But.... "Q"? I'm not sure I'm ready for that one -- and I'm almost 35.

Anyway....this conference was touted by GLSEN as being a symposium for:

"Educators (pre-k through high school), high school, middle school and college students, administrators, counselors and therapists, parents, coaches, youth leaders, religious leaders, allies, policy makers, child care and mental health workers, after school program and non-profit staff, school support staff and everyone who is committed to creating safety and teaching respect for all in our schools and communities."

Waitaminnit....did that say "PRE-K"? Why, yes. Yes, it did.

Even so...sounds nice and harmless, doesn't it? (The Boston Globe certainly seems to think so.) Certainly, all people should be interested in providing our children with a safe, respectful school environment....right?

That's not what it sounded like one night at the dinner table to Michael Chuisano, a small-business owner and father of two in suburban Massachusetts, when his daughter described to him some functions that she was made to attend during school hours:

"Our family was sitting around the dinner table, and quite without guile or any particular intention, my daughter--then age 13--told my wife and me about mandatory assemblies she had attended, without request for my permission, as part of "Homophobia Week" activities. In these assemblies, gay men described their political goals and agendas and how they wished to have the right to marry and adopt children.
A Catholic priest had been brought in on the last day as a pretense to balance, but he was almost booed off the stage--so effective had been the pro-gay speakers.
My daughter mentioned that perhaps I 'was homophobic' if I did not agree with the gay activists' goals."

The above quote comes from this article, which I found on the website of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

Michael goes on to introduce citizen activist Brian Camenker, also a father of two, who goes into great detail about what he has found in the Massachusetts school district's curriculum. One of the things he relates to us is a series of questions from a certain survey:

One of the things we see a lot are surveys. For instance in Framingham, students were asked the following:
"Is it possible that heterosexuality is a phase you will grow out of?"
"Are you heterosexual because you fear the same sex?"
"If you've never slept with anyone of the same sex, how do you do know you wouldn't prefer it?"
"Is it possible you need a good gay experience?"
Such a survey was given to teenagers at the high school in Framingham, Massachusetts and the principal said, and I quote, "This was not advocacy--just thoughtful and constructive lessons in tolerance."
As part of the same sensitivity curriculum, students were taught that oral and anal sex are "methods of birth control that preserve the concept of virginity."

Now that's strange....When I was in school, the only sex advice I particularly needed was, "Don't do it yet. You're not ready for the possible consequences." I listened, and I am exceedingly glad that I did. That advice kept me out of a WHOLE lotta trouble. But I digress.

So what's really going on here?
Well, like so many other things depends on who you ask.

Nothing wrong here, right? Just a group of people claiming their rightful place in American society, right? Right.

And then....someone from the wrong team gets a look at the playbook.

What book is this, you ask, that causes so much consternation in a school zone? Good question.
In fact, Aids Action Committee director Rebecca Haag says it's a healthy guide for gay men everywhere---and in any case, a high school is the LAST place you would find it:

``This is a very targeted publication for gay men over 18 and it should not be misused. However, it is a very effective public health tool for preventing HIV and AIDS. . . . We never use sexually explicit materials (in the schools.)''

Well, SOMEONE obviously did. Otherwise, a Massachusetts group known as the Article 8 Alliance might not have gotten their hands on it.

And I definitely would not be presenting it to you---here. (Be warned, faithful ones...THIS is the part you don't want your boss or your kids to see. Click at your own risk.)

A couple of notes, if you do decide to take the plunge (pun intended):
1) See if you can find the following phrase: ".....but how much fun is that?"
2) See if you can find the word "SHIGELLA". Look it up.

Today's program was brought to you in part by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission...who helped the AAC create the book you just read.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Remembrances of The First Time Around

Ollie North's column a couple of days ago in Town Hall spoke about a couple of different topics: the efforts of Marines and other American soldiers on the behalf of the citizens in Iraq, and the efforts of American colleges around the country to ban military recruiters from their campuses.

What gets him kicked off, though, is this photo, which most everyone not currently living in an ice cave under the polar caps has likely seen by now.

The story is told in full by Michael Yon, who took the photo in question.

That photo reminded me of two other stories I had forgotten about. They are both my own, from my time in Operation Desert Storm.
Thankfully, no one dies in either one....and they both involve Iraqi children.

1)In one of the villages I visited in my role as a translator for a Red Cross team my unit was assisting with food distribution, I started chatting it up with a bunch of kids in the road. One of them, a bright and smiley little six-year-old, said he would trade me his stick for something of mine, and held up a smooth baton about a foot long and 3/4-inch wide. (I later learned that it was an Iraqi police baton.)

All I had on me that I could trade was a little plastic Northwest wing pin that I had gotten from a flight attendant on the flight across the Atlantic. His eyes practically bugged outta their sockets when I put it in his hand, and he got a grin so big the top half of his head almost fell off.

For the whole rest of the afternoon, that kid and his buddies zoomed up and down the dirt-pack road, laughing and shouting, taking turns holding the pin and pretending they were pilots. It was a sight for sore eyes.

2) A couple of weeks after that, I was at another site with the Red Cross team. Unfortunately, I had sprained my ankle earlier in the week, and so was relegated to guarding the unit commander's water supply in his Hummer. It had been a rough week, and quite a while since I had gotten any mail, and I was feeling pretty down.

Then a kid walked up to me---I'd guess he was about nine or ten---with a half-full water bottle in his hand, just kinda looked at me for a minute....and then put his water bottle in the footwell of my seat, said (in thickly accented but gramatically perfect English) "Here, you need this more than I do", gave me a warm smile, and walked off. I was too stunned to do anything but watch him walk away.
Man, I must've looked pretty pathetic.

While I was remembering these kids today, something else occurred to me:
Assuming they're still alive....those two Iraqi kids are grown men now.

I wonder what they've been up to since then...and if they remember me.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Schoolhouse Crock: We're Sorry, Common Consideration Has Been Disconnected

Before I start this....Obviously, school rules should be obeyed whenever possible. I am not saying that the young man in question is completely in the clear here.

But, as the old billboard once said....was this trip completely necessary?

From the article:

The confrontation Wednesday began after the 17-year-old junior got a call at lunchtime from his mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, who left in January for a one-year tour with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion.....
When a teacher told him to hang up, he refused. He said he told the teacher, "This is my mom in Iraq. I'm not about to hang up on my mom."

What if it had been the local hospital calling to say his mom had just had a heart attack and was in a coma? Okay, they probably would have called the school directly, but still...

[Assistant Principal Alfred] Parham said the teen's suspension was based on his reaction to the teacher's request. He said the teen used profanity when taken to the office.

Again, not to excuse the young man completely, if this is true.....but I probably would have, too.

"Kevin got defiant and disorderly," Parham said. "When a kid becomes out of control like that they can either be arrested or suspended for 10 days. Now being that his mother is in Iraq, we're not trying to cause her any undue hardship; he was suspended for 10 days."

Well, that's SOME consideration, at least.

Look, folks...I'm not saying kids should be allowed everything they want just because they want it. I would think that if the school didn't have good reason to disallow kids from talking on cell phones during school hours, then it wouldn't be an issue.

But if the article is correct, the student got this call---from his mom, in Iraq, whom he hadn't seen in MONTHS---during his lunch break. It's not like he was interrupting a lecture here.

This could have been handled differently.

For example, the teacher in question could have given the kid five minutes, under direct supervision, to complete a call that was not going to happen every day...

...and, for all anyone knew, might never happen again.

The school's website is listed at the bottom of the article linked above, wherein the email addresses of the principal and both assistant principals can be found.
(Disclaimer: I am NOT telling you to flame them. If this is a just world, they're already catching enough heat about this. But if you must speak, speak well.)

UPDATE: Apparently, there's a bit more to the story than I originally found in the AP article (I shoulda known better). My good buddy SupeDuJour led me by the nose to some VERY important follow-up from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer---in whose backyard this occured in the first place---that rather changes the situation.
(Oh---and remember what I said about not lighting up the principal's email address? Consider it retracted. You may fire when ready.)

UPDATE---May 9: I have learned that the school decided to lift the suspension and allow Kevin to return to school today. Glad to hear it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

They Could Never Do Enough....But They Damn Well Tried: Thanks, Mom and Dad

Friends, I read an article this morning that reminded me of something I'd almost forgotten about...

Well, that's not true, actually. I've never forgotten it.
The more truthful way to put it would be this....I've always known it, but it hasn't really been in the forefront of my mind until just now. (Bear with me, o faithful ones. We'll get to the article in due time.)

Our parents REALLY loved us. (Me and my brother's, that is.)

Dad was an Air Force officer and world-class Boy Scout, Mom was a no-nonsense farm girl from Iowa, and they BOTH knew what they were about: raising two boys to be honest, fruitful, and compassionate young men.

And that ain't easy when you get saddled with a couple of weirdos like us.

How did they do it? Simple...they rewarded us when we deserved it, punished us when we deserved it, and did their damnedest to teach us something every single time they did it.

Our family travelled a lot when we were kids and, as most military brats can attest, this meant that it was hard for us to make and keep friends sometimes. Our folks made up for that by dedicating more than the lion's share of their lives to getting out and doing fun stuff with us---and making sure they knew what we were up to as much as possible.

This meant knowing who our friends were, and treating them with respect---and expecting the same in return, and usually getting it. (And, as a by-product, THAT meant we eventually worked our way around to making some pretty high-quality friends, some of whom we are still in touch with today. Aspiring parents---take note.)

This ALSO meant that when we screwed up, we KNEW it. Because THEY knew it. And on those relatively rare occasions, we had to work back up to their trust afterwards. (I would also submit that they knew when we were really trying, and so they didn't usually have to keep us in the doghouse all that long.)

In short....against all the odds, they got the job done and then some.

I ain't sayin' we're perfect. But I AM saying that I like to think a lot of it rubbed off.
And I hope like hell that I grow up to be half the parent my parents were.

"What article was it," I hear you cry, "that sparked this beauteous tribute to Mom-and-Dad-ability?"

This none other than Orson Scott Card. (Yes, THE Orson Scott Card.)

Read on....and see how much of it makes sense to YOU.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Thanks of an Ungrateful Nutjob: Presenting Mike Whitney

I'd like to introduce you to someone I accidentally bumped into this morning. His name is Mike Whitney, and he lives in the state of Washington.
I say "accidentally" because I wasn't looking for him at the time. Hell, I'd never even heard of him.

While conducting my usual morning recon, I stumbled upon a post by Jason of CounterColumn concerning this article written by Whitney:

"Why America Must Be Defeated in Iraq"

Not exactly a popular opinion in my household, to be sure. But, in the interest of fuller disclosure, I went ahead and did a little extra digging....and found quite a few little gems of "Whitney-cism".

Here's Whitney writing....for Al-Jazeera.
Here's Whitney writing....for the Palestine Chronicle.
And here's Whitney a few other places that probably WISH they were Al-Jazeera and the Palestine Chronicle.

Boy, I'm glad I found this guy. Now I get to tell him something that he would probably rather not hear from some of us.....


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Bloggin' Around: Tuesday, May 3rd

SlagleRock sounds off on the plea bargain of PFC England, and celebrates his 60,000th reader! (I wonder how long that took him, 'cause at the rate I'm going....) Raise your glasses to the Slaughtermeister!

Val at BabaluBlog gets called a fascist (by an ITALIAN, no less) and makes note of a capitalist venture in Cuba (quick---read about it before it disappears!).

JunkYardBlog puts the word out about an "American" that we should all be looking for (if he hasn't already been caught), points out why schoolkids in Baltimore are sucking hind-teat (hint: it's 'cause they couldn't choose which cow they wanted), and lauds the benefits of working in your PJ's.

And finally, Sworn Enemy presents another example of Democrats bitching about something they would eventually end up doing themselves (gasp---the horror!), and the REAL reason burritos are bad for you. (And you thought it was all about carbs.)

You have your orders. Stander out.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Two Words...for Marvel Comics


And, so they won't feel left out, I also have two words for the Washington Post...

Oh, please.


Tip o'the rock to Outside The Beltway for the first, and Greyhawk for the link to the second.