Why Does the Military Hate the Troops?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

"I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they're telling me they want their money back." -- Jordan Fox

Jordan Fox accepted a $10,000 signing bonus from the US Army. Then like so many of our troops in Iraq, he got blown up by a roadside bomb. He suffered back and head injuries and lost vision in his right eye. His injuries left him unable to pursue his dream of joining the police force... and continue serving in the military. He was sent home 3 months before his contract was up. Then he got a bill from the Pentagon for nearly $3000 of his signing bonus. They want their money back because he didn't fulfill his entire contract.

Jordan Fox is not alone. According to reportage from KDKA, thousands of injured troops are being denied signing bonuses because of injuries that cut that service short. It would seem that sacrificing vision, limbs, and futures, in the service of their country, is not enough. The government would also like them to relinquish money they promised to pay them for risking death and disfigurement, in the first place.

When I first heard about this story, earlier today, I thought, the Pentagon will fold on this one. The publicity is just too heinous, especially when they are still waving signing bonuses under the noses of potential enlistees, in their desperate effort to meet enlistment quotas. Cave they did, but so far, only in the case of the young man who has gotten media attention. (Power of the press, we call it.) According to this follow-up report from KDKA, they will not explain whether Fox's bill was sent in error, nor on the status of the thousands of other injured vets who are reportedly being denied what was promised to them.

Jason Altmire, a freshman Congressman from Pennsylvania, last month introduced a bill called the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act. Altmire is, of course, a Democrat, because, as we know, Republicans only care about the troops when they are using them as set dressing and propaganda tools.

Is It the Apocalypse?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

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Book Review: How To Win A Fight With A Conservative

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

The holidays are breathing down our necks and we all know what that means: fighting with relatives. I am blessed to be from a primarily liberal family, as is my husband, so political discussions rarely turn Thanksgiving Dinner into a blood sport. Many are not so lucky. Daniel Kurtzman offers a few helpful tips on political family squabbles in How to Win a Fight with a Conservative. (A companion volume, How to Win a Fight with a Liberal is available to balance out the playing field. I skimmed the latter.)

DON'T let Uncle Buckwald hold the dinner table hostage. Fact-check him right then and there using the Internet browswer on your BlackBerry or cell phone. Counter him point-for-point, fire off contradictory statistics, and apply duct tape as needed. Rembember, conservatives hate facts. They get in the way of sweeping generalizations. It's like sunlight to a vampire.

. . .

DO attempt to recruit impressionable family members to your side, particularly when they're young; for example, give your seven-year-old nephew a copy of the complete Star Wars saga on DVD and explain how Jedis are Democrats and the evil Sith Lords are Republicans -- as identified by their blue and red light sabers.

DO quote the Bible when arguing with your religious relatives, as beating zealots with their own stick can be a blissful religious experience. Be sure to bring up the parts they choose to gloss over, like "love thy neighbor," "the meek shall inherit the Earth," and "thou shall not molest thine underage page."

The books are at turns glib, cliched, and surprisingly insightful. Kurtzman, who defines himself as a liberal, explains the companion books as an attempt even out the debate. Despite his lighthearted approach, he clearly takes politics seriously. While he offers basic information on rhetorical devices and tips for spotting weaknesses in arguments, he also includes talking points and step-by-step guides on some of the more longstanding issues, such as "Iraq: Why It's a Catastrofuck."

Especially good are numerous Cosmo style quizzes designed to help you pick your battles and assess your own strengths and weaknesses before you wade into the fray. They're fun, humorous, and very much on target. From the first quiz, "What Breed of Liberal Are You?" I learned that I am a "label-defying iconoclast." Okay. No shock there.

If I have a single bone to pick with Kurtzman's approach, it's in his section on internet flamewars. Some of us take flaming quite seriously and will want to shun such as advice as: "feel free to invent your own facts" and "pretend to be someone you're not."

I also think the simplistic, binary, Democratic=liberal, Republican=conservative format of the books limits the potential for a truly constructive political dialog. But then, I am a "label-defying iconoclast."


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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The new season has started. This laid me out.

Do As Bush Says, Not As He Does

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

I mean, is he kidding?

It was the first phone conversation between Mr. Bush and the Pakistani president since General Musharraf seized emergency powers on Saturday, a move that sent his country into political and legal disarray. During the phone call, Pakistani and American officials said, Mr. Musharraf sought to assure Mr. Bush that his power grab is temporary and that he still plans to call for elections. “My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform,” Mr. Bush said he told Mr. Musharraf. “You can’t be the president and the head of the military at the same time.”

You tell 'im, Commander Codpiece!

Proving that he doesn't consult our own Constitution often, if ever, our President seems blissfully unaware that his frequent pronouncements that he's Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services are, in fact, consistent with that document. Legal authority, illegal authority... all the same to him, I guess. So, yes, Mr. President, in our own ostensibly democratic republic you can be president and head of the military at the same time.

This is but the latest entry in the Irony is Still Dead files, that have been steadily expanding over the last few days, since Musharraf suspended Pakistan's constitution. This from Generalissimo Bush?! I repeat:

Never has a US President painted himself so completely as a military leader, and never has one been less qualified to do so. From day one I have found it sickening the way this Vietnam-avoiding, AWOL-from-the-National-Guard President uses the men and women of our armed services military as set dressing.

. . .

Bush and his stage manager Rove have done everything in their power to cement the image of Bush Republicans as the embodiment of military authority. Bush has become nothing but a tin-horn dictator. You'd think they'd instigated a military coup, instead of an electoral one. Think of it. An administration of chicken-hawks with the audacity to do what Eisenhower, a former 5 star general, never did.

And the punchline? Musharraf really is a general. He, at least, showed up for duty. Where as our power-abusing, constitution-ignoring, dictator-in-training, only plays one on television.

Fight the Power

Monday, November 05, 2007

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I've been thinking a lot about Mona Shaw.

We spent the weekend at my mother-in-law's. She has Verizon high speed internet; FIOS. Quite speedy... when it works. Not this weekend, though. Nope. So my husband spent about four hours, cumulatively, with customer support. At one point he clocked 40 minutes on hold... just listening to the pretty music. Three days later, my mother-in-law still has no internet. See, they have to make absolutely certain that it can't be resolved over the phone, without sending out a tech, even though everybody knows that it's an equipment problem. Everybody knows it. The techs know it. My husband knows it. The switchboard operators know it. The entire city of Mumbai knows it, because my husband was on the phone with most of the population. But, they can't just send out a tech... not until they execute a tier 3 support ticket. They'll call back, within 24 hours. The tier 3 techs. Just like the tier 2 folks did... except that they never did. Come to think of it... Nope. We just sat by the phone waiting, like a bunch of teenage girls, for the call that never came.

So, I've been thinking about Mona Shaw. The woman has guts. Guts and nothing left to lose. Mona Shaw is my new hero.

It seems that Mona bought into one of those "bundling" packages that cable companies like to arm-twist you about through endless phone calls and mailings. The service combines phone, cable and Internet service.

Her provider was Comcast. Without saying anything more about Comcast's reputation in the cable community, I will merely point out that there's a blog called ComcastMustDie.com that does a lively business on the Web.

Anyway, Mona and her husband scheduled a service call. The company failed to come on the appointed date. When they did show up two days late, they left with the job half-done.

Two days after that they cut off her service.

Mona and her husband decided the best way to get this misunderstanding straightened out was to visit the local cable office. When they arrived, a customer service representative told them the manager would be right with them and asked them to please take a seat.

They did - for two hours. At that point, the customer rep cheerfully announced that the manager had left for the day.

Shaw told the Washington Post, "They thought that just because we're old enough to get Social Security that we lack both brains and backbone."

So after a weekend spent at low boil, Mona, armed with a claw hammer, visited the Comcast office again.

But there was no waiting this time. Mona delivered a few well timed blows to a computer keyboard and monitor and, for good measure, to the telephone.

"After I hit the keyboard," Mona said, "I turned to the blond who had been there previously, the one who told me to wait for the manager, and I said, `Now do I have your attention?"

Mona Shaw is a 75 year old woman with a heart condition. Comcast left an elderly woman with a life threatening condition and her elderly husband without phone service and blew off her every attempt to rectify the matter. But to hear them tell it, they're the victims, so scared of a little old lady they took out a restraining order.

"Nothing justifies this sort of dangerous behavior," Comcast spokeswoman Beth Bacha said.

Police arrested Shaw for disorderly conduct. She received a three-month suspended sentence, was fined $345 and and is barred from going near the Comcast offices for a year.

Mona has no regrets.

"I stand by my actions even more so after getting all these telephone calls and hearing other people's complaints," she told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

Mona Shaw got fed up. It's passed time to be fed up. The law is not on the side of the citizen; not on the side of the voter; not on the side of the consumer. The day is coming when none of us will have anything left to lose.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

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This isn't directed at anyone in particular. Just a mood thing.  I'm choking on my own misanthropy and I thought it might be better to spit it out. Enjoy.