Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Election year stories for 2006

I hate election years. I do not dislike an election year because, inevitably, a slew of politicians are elected or re-elected for no reason better than their opponent either had too little money to campaign or was the worse choice. No the battle of lesser evils is not the big thing that rots in my gut, though it is high on my list. It’s the misinformation and re-telling of facts that gets me. Both the Republicans and Democrats do this. It is so commonplace that often everyone fails to notice it.

One case in point is a recent article on Veteran health benefits. For me this is no small issue. The Government under several administrations has failed its wounded heros on several occasions. Notably is the Agent Orange issue. I am old enough to have had a father who volunteered to serve this nation during Viet Nam, some of my readers may not. The Viet Nam war had a great cost on America, not monetarily but in the lives ended and affected by it. My father was one of those affected on several levels. For over a decade the U.S. Government denied that there was any effect from the use of Agent Orange. Then in 1984 veterans were paid $180 million in compensation. I don’t think that number was near enough. Of course in the time prior to that, since there was no official effect, millions suffered without any help, including my father. As I said this is a subject that I find VERY important.

Recent wars, like all wars, have produced wounded veteran that deserve if not demand the care of the government. As a nation it is a small thing to care for those that have risked life and limb in defense of the freedoms most take for granted in my opinion. Thus you may understand my concern in seeing that the above mentioned article suggested that there could be health care cuts that would place “tens-of-thousands” of veterans without help. Of course this is an election year, and the top Democrat on the panel for the VA’s budget, Rep. Chet Edwards, was the one making this claim. In fact, as the article goes on to state that, “the cuts are outlined in a 673-page computer printout that has not been officially released by the White House budget office.” Interesting how, suddenly, a report that is unofficial and not ready for submission has been leaked in an election year. Also interesting that in reading the full article it becomes clear that not only are these cuts something that could not happen before 2008, but that the administration denies the viability of this report. They state that routinely cuts have been proposed and NOT ENACTED. It seems the budget planners for the nation sketch out their bills just like I do, except they use a computer print-out and have it leaked before they figure out what they want to do.

I hate how politicians get the public riled up on a serious issue even though it doesn’t exist, just to gain votes. Another example would be the budget surplus. Many should remember that during the President Clinton’s administration, when we were in the internet market bubble, the Government was able to balance the budget and then had a surplus. “Irrational Exuberance” indeed. The fact was that the Clinton Administration calculated the growth of wealth in the nation, based on paper gains in the stock market, and figuring the increase in federal taxes projected in the future (roughly as I recall 2010) came up with a total figure. They then back-tracked the numbers to show a surplus that would exist if the temporary unrealized paper gains from the stock market were realized. The resulting graph became this chart.
I wish I could do that with my checkbook, or that of my businesses. Obviously the gains didn’t get realized as expected, and the deficit continued on the progression that it was previously tracking. Funny how the government lost 8 years of growth in 2½ years, and how that exactly matches the crash of the stock market. Even those unfamiliar with charts can see the stunning oddity of the chart, as its trend only changed course during the stock market bubble.

Like I said, the spin that politicians do to important facts are horrendous especially in election years. Think its bad now, wait til 2008 - especially if a certain lady with a familiar presidential last name continues to, as I feel, beguile the general populace and runs.

This is what I think, what do you think.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Education for Americans: Black White and everyone

I’m back from my business trip and there are just so many things I want to touch upon. From the terrifying thoughts of 1984-esque visions of the future - ala employees at CityWatcher.com being embedded with chips to monitor their movements, to short-comings in the education system - as shown in the multiple modifications to the No Child Left Behind Act and the rising cost of retiring teachers, or the comparisions that can be seen from the over 50 years of desegregation in schools. There is more but for now, I think education takes precedence.

Education has been and will always continue to be an important factor in the growth and continuation of this nation. It is something we give to our children in hopes they will live better lives, or in the least lives as good as our own. There is no one, of any credibility that I am aware, that disputes these tenants. Yet it is a fact that as a nation we spend more money on incarceration than education. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers median income in 2004 was $45,210 as compared to the estimate for teachers being $30,496. That’s a difference of $14,714 or 32% less. I call that significant.

I also believe there is no credible question in that America has fallen in comparision of educating the youth. The simplest support of that is the need for a No Child Left Behind Act. Yet again the emphasis seems to be on appearance over substance. Both Republicans and Democrats have pounded their chests on how there needs to be reforms and education is important while test scores have floundered. The mild improvements that have occurred recently do nothing to fill the gap of the drop prior to those improvements. And this is no sudden shock. As I have made some reference to in my post History in America when I was in high school I had a physics textbook that was older by 5 years than myself. And that was a class that only the college bound students were provided. The best in the school, so to speak. My Chemistry 101 class at NY City College (125th street campus as I recall near Baruch) gave me more information than that class did. [To clarify I was in a special program, Bridge To Medicine, that allowed me to take college courses while still in high school.] That was just about 21 years ago and I’m not aware of improvements.

Education costs money. In textbooks, facilities, and faculty. I can only speak of a small number of schools that I am aware of but I find them all lacking in the above. Whether in the ‘inner city’ or in the suburbs and small towns there are real problems on all levels. The cost of providing textbooks of adequate use often is balanced against providing security, or trying to recruit new teachers. That’s absurd. New teachers will be frustrated by the lack of tools needed to teach, and the fact that since 1983, in NYC in this example, they could make more money more quickly and with less effort by being a sanitation worker - the gap has never gotten closer to my knowledge. The fact that schools spend increasingly more money to police students as opposed to providing music and arts programming is disturbing.

The stop-gap answer for many areas has been to provide better ‘packages’, incentives for medical and retirement needs. Of course, as noted above, there is still a price to be paid and that cost is rising. Foreseeably it will continue to rise, while textbooks and new teachers suffer. The net result being a loss to our children. Most severely affected will be the Black African American, Hispanic and other minority children found in our cities. Already bombarded by constant and subtle suggestions of inferiority and separation [See any of my posts at Black Entertainment USA on commercials] with the media driving the thought that rather than getting an education focus on fast money as an entertainer, and cultural attitudes suggesting more and more that illegal activites are desirable, Black African American, Hispanic and other children are opting out of the system.

In any society, when any portion of the citizenry is denied access to education and the arts, the entire whole suffers. When that society forgets the benefit of educating its people, it must act on protecting them from the inevitable deterioration. And thus we are in America today. I clearly see this correlation. Worse yet I see that we are regressing in some ways to actions of the past. Without education we must suffer the mistakes of the past over and over.

I mean that in the last decade to 15 years, as schools have failed our children en masse there has been a move to a more elitist structure similar to that of segregation. In recent years, efforts to remove Affirmative Action [a program I dislike, but understand the need for] have intensified. At the same time America has become more technology intensive, requiring higher levels of learning to provide better paying jobs. This is coupled with deteriorating education, specifically in the urban areas, which creates a class-based segregation. The fact that urban populations have high Black African American, Hispanic and other minority populations creates racial-based segregation. Media and culture only react to the pressures that create them thus further fueling these factors. All of this then shows in acts like the Rodney King, Abner Luema, and other riots, the Columbine massacre, and in reactions to Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.

At the root, education is the common factor that affects everything to some degree or another. I would hope that a return to the 50's cannot happen [for those of color they were never ‘happy days’] nor would I invite the riots of the 60's. But without taking a stance to improve education, for every child in the nation, elements of our past will haunt us again. Considering the more violent and paranoid nature of the world today, such regression will bode badly for the nation.

I can say more, but...

This is what I think, what do you think.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Interviewing a Marine about Iraq

On a recent business trip to NYC I had the oppourtunity to meet a Marine, whom I will call James S. [I do know his full name, but since he is not a public figure I do not wish to make him so now] James was born in Wisconsin and was raised in Arkansas. He played high school football and went to college for a time, before deciding to volunteer for the Marines. This descision was before the current 'war on terror'[I will place a link to my thoughts on that when I return from the trip] and prior to the attacks on 9/11/2001. Today James is 25, working as an entertainment bartender (think Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktails). In his last year of service in 2003, at the age of 22, James was part of the U.S. forces that fought the initial 'shock & awe' battles to take Iraq from Saddam Hussein. The following is part of my conversation with James, provided here with his permission.

Vass: How long did you serve in Iraq?

James: I was part of the forces that was there during the first 6 months, the shock and awe battles. That time.

Vass: There has been alot of talk, for some time, about how prepared we were and are today in Iraq. Based on your experiences how do you feel the Marines/troops were prepared- from a squad level and up?

James: I think that the first wave was set. I mean there were alot of changes to the plans, that happens. And I can't say what's going on now, I don't know. But while I was there things were planned, I mean from the squad level to division.

Vass: What about the insurgents?

James: I don't think they planned for that. But we didn't expect that so much when I was there. I don't know about now, but I do know for a fact that the first insurgents were more like mercs [mercenaries]. When we were fighting Saddam's guard we fought these guys too. And when you'd gather stuff from them for intel... their papers, not passports...

Vass: Those type of ID papers right, from out there

James: Yeah, well they would be from other places. Syria and such. Definitiely Syria though. Now??

Vass: So I would have to ask, how did the people feel? I mean mom & dad Iraq, when you were fighting then?

James: I have a couple of memories that stand out. Stuff I'll never forget. One thing was April 9th, I'll never forget that day, we were stagging for the night in a town outside of Saddam City. Preparing to go in like the next day. And we stationed in the town dump. It was the most secure area you know

Vass: I can understand that. Easiest place to secure.

James: right. And there is this house that's near the dump. I'm out on the perimeter and this old man comes out. He's got to be old, looks like 75, and his eyes. Old tired eyes. So this old man ran out to the HUMVEE, and he's talking in arabic, can't understand a word he is saying, but he's moving his hands and communicatingwith us. He called out to his wife and kid, has her offer us food and tea. We didn't drink it. You know, anything could have been in it. But he introduces them to us.

Vass: That's a big thing. I mean they don't introduce wives in that culture.

James: She was covered. Head to toe, in a wrap they wear, but it was something else. They took pictures and it was like we were a gift from god. It was just something you had to be there to see.

Vass: So would you say, to you on your level, like squad level, that the Iraqi's were happy? That we were doing something important there?

James: You know... I lost friends out there

Vass: I'm truely sorry for that

James: But they died for a reason. It was worth it. I mean when you see a guy cut (gestures with his hand) a guy cut across his chest, with a sword and had his hand cut off because he failed to pay his taxes to Saddam. Yeah we made it better.

Vass: And the people were behind you then.

James: There were some villages, 4 or 5 houses, and they're made of adobe. And the men would come out many of the wives would be introduced. I mean the wives and the girls. In this one village, Saddam had this family's water covered up. Because he wanted the water, so he had it dug in. And this is in the desert. So we had water in the HUMVEE and we gave it to them. It was like 20 gallons of water. And this guy went in and gave us all this food. I don't know if it was all they had but they made us take it. They were so happy. Alot of villages were like that.

James: I remember we were over by the Soccer stadium. The kids played that alot over there.

Vass: It's a major sport everywhere but the U>S>

James: yeah so this one time we were playing the kids there in a soccer match. They were real good.

Vass: I'm not surprised. They beat you huh?

James: Well we won one game, we had some guys in the unit that played soccer in college.

Vass: That helped.

James: Oh yeah. The last game though, we played like 4 games, the last one we had a big crowd watching. Had to be like 500 people had come to watch. And that was dangerous. I mean we had a couple of guys locked & loaded with the rifles, and a few had pistol, still

Vass: It could have been ugly. But nothing happened? No incident?

James: No problems at all. It was just a nice game. And fun. That game the coach for the Iraqi olympic team was there, he spoke some broken english. And he was telling us how glad he was that Saddam was gone.

Vass: Well that leads me to ask this. Alot of people here say we shouldn't be there. That we should leave. What did you guys think about it. I mean since we never found WMD's [weapons of mass destruction] was there scuttlebutt?

James: Everyone wanted to be there. No one was over there cause they didn't want to be. And some of the guys died, but it was not in vain. And anyone who has had that much toture done deserves to be helped. Anyone who says different is an ass. Just as guilty as the ones doing it. It wouldn't be humane. There's too much concern about just ourselves. How many people go 'well that's none of my business'.

Vass: I understand that, and I agree with you. In my opinion right or wrong when the first of our boys landed everything else was moot. I just want 3 things: to end this as quickly as possible, to make sure we lose as few of our guys as possible, and make it stable enough that we don't need to go back. That's it.

James: I can agree with that.

Vass: Since you've been back has it been hard to reintegrate? For my father there were problems with idiots calling him 'babykiller' and such. Have you had any problems like that?

James: No, no one has said anything like that to me. I have great friends and family so they've made it easier for me. I won't go to a movie therater and I need to face the door in a bar or resturant. There's some stuff, but nothing big. And even if I didn't have a great family and friends I'd still be ok. I did the right thing out there and I'm ok with that.

Vass: Ok Let me ask you possibly the biggest question. You volunteered, before the war and 9/11. You went in when there was nothing going on. Why did you do that? What was your motivation?

James: I was in Arkansas and had a job, and I just felt I wanted to do something greater than myself. And I wanted to serve my country. Basically I just wanted to serve my country.

Vass: ok, this may be the biggest question. It is the last. How do you feel about being in Iraq? About what you did there?

James: I could die tomorrow and be content with it.

The above meeting was spontaneous and as such I may have made errors in my notes or its transcription. If there are any errors, they are mine. I do not believe there are any errors though.

What do you think?

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Insights gleaned from Mr. Dave Chappelle

[This will appear on both of my sites, http://vasandtheworld.blogspot.com and www.blackentertainmentblog.com , with modifications for search engine reasons.]

I just finished watching Inside the Actor’s Studio on Bravo. I want to thank Mr. James Lipton and Mr. Dave Chappelle. It was quite the television show. I like to watch the television program regularly, and find many of the insights and revelations provided by the various entertainers to be compelling. Often the experiences and tragedies are similar to those I and some of my friends have experienced and it helps to remind me that every entertainer is just a person like me. This episode though was quite different.

In this episode A LOT of what Mr. Chappelle said hit home and had me thinking. Thinking hard. Normally I have found some of Mr. Chappelle’s work to be amusing and a bit of it insulting, the rest just didn’t grab me. That is no reflection on his talent though, just my tastes. Which is the first thing that crossed my mind after the television program. I have been told by many over the years that I am an elitist intellectual and arrogant. I have always known to some degree that this is true. But what I failed to see is where that has left me blind. Mr. Chappelle explained the depth of a joke that he did in his HBO special. There were parts that were true and parts that were exaggerated. I hadn’t realized that, stepping back from the humor of the joke, it was an experience that I had several times in my life, and probably will again when I go back to the Bronx. The message was so subliminal and subtle I had missed it, and I’m sure many others missed it to. But for those that didn’t and had never had that experience it must have been quite telling I now realize. In that I think I can see why Mr. Richard Pryor felt that Mr. Chappelle is his successor.

I have often looked at the comedy of Mr. Chappelle as being often too lowbrow for my taste. I’m sure I may feel that way in the future as well, but perhaps I will take the time to examine that lowbrow joke a bit more carefully in the future. My arrogance hid the meaning and I find it shocking as I value my intellect and analytical prowess above most any other skills or gifts that I have. For that oversight I must apologize to Mr. Chappelle for I have severely underestimated him.

I must also admit my surprise in something that Mr. Lipton recognized that I took for granted. It’s something so simple in my life, and that of many of my friends (specificly those of Black African American, and Hispanic heritage) that I never really thought about it. It’s the way I speak. I have long held, as many academics have said, that words are the reflection of thought. Spoken or written, words and language are powerful tools. I have spoken to many younger people and others in my own age range that have not had the chance to prosper or travel as I have. Invariably I have said that the more words you know, the more you can convey the precise thought you have to any other human, and that ability is power.

I absolutely stand by this thought as it is something that to my knowledge no individual who has attained power (wealth and status going with that power) has failed to have. Yet Mr. Lipton found the loophole, or Achilles Heel in this thought. Mr. Chappelle, Mr. Martin Lawrence and many others, famous and unknown (including myself), that are Black African American share the ability to split our speech to accommodate our surroundings. Mr. Chappelle explained there is the ‘interview language’ and then there is the more relaxed ‘street’ language. I hadn’t realized that this was the case with the comedians, or actually any comedian (especially those who are Black African American and/or Hispanic).

While my speech patterns are more formal, and probably considered closer to ‘High English’, when I am in a direct business setting I am sure they are almost exactly ‘High English'. That means that I, like probably most Black African Americans are of 2 minds. You can see it very clearly in the entertainers. Mr. Eddie Murphy, Mr. Pryor, everyone that has affected a ‘white’ or more correctly proper American English speech pattern. While done mockingly it shows a deeply seated division in thought. It also implies a self-imposed restriction in thought outside of a ‘business’ environment, if my supposition about thought and words is correct. If I am correct then what does the use of a more restrictive and less expansive pool of words mean about the way I think? As I said before, there is no power without thought as express via words and language. It is something I had not considered before.

I should note that I do not mean to imply that speaking like a Rhode’s scholar is the only way to express intelligence. I do imply that I am unaware of a Rhode’s scholar that is of such a dual mind as I mentioned above. I have mentioned in comments that I look forward to one day being able to ‘interview’ (more accurately would be to ask some questions and understand more fully) Ice Cube. I would also like to speak with Mr. Robert Duvall, Mr. Morgan Freeman, Mr. Denzel Washington, Mr. Johnny Depp and several others. I think that given the chance to speak to any of these and/or other entertainers it will be a question and an item to probe with them. I feel that this is definitely a question that anyone especially the youth of today need to delve into for themselves.

Another item that Mr. Chappelle mentioned that struck a chord in me, is the dismissive nature that can come to those that write or discuss individuals we don’t know. On a more personal basis I guess it could be called ‘talking behind someone’s back’. On the level of an entertainer, especially in America I believe, it might be called speculation, rumors, or news. The prime example is Mr. Chappelle when he went to Africa. Because he walked away from the show, and possibly a $50 million dollar contract, speculation, rumors, and news stated that Mr. Chappelle had a crack addiction, was mentally ill, and/or worse. The fact that he had walked away from the show 2 times in the year prior never came up in any announcement. Were it not for the contract and its size we may not have heard of this one.

To assume, conjecture, and/or blatantly accuse a person of an act - or worse yet to dismiss them with accusations of mental enfeeblement or illness - publicly and without regard for their family and children is wrong. I have not reread every post I have made in a while, but I can recall portions of some of the posts I have made - especially when the post was on a topic I feel strongly about. While I will always support my beliefs and opinions, until such a time as a debate provides enough proof contrary or instills enough credible doubt to justify a rethinking of my position (I am fallible of course), I have always tried to restrict my outrage or frustration at the subject and not the person. In some cases the person though is the subject. I wish I could say that I have been, or will in the future be, even-handed in my exposition. I know I have not. I am not omniscient and many of whom I discuss have been in situations I may never be in. I am wrong to brazenly dismiss their convictions or actions. I do an injustice to their family and children when I paint such a broad stroke, and no one has such a right. For that I apologize. I am man enough to admit that I have done these things and may do so again in the future, and I am definitely man enough to stand here and admit that it is wrong.

There are many things in the interview Mr. Lipton and Mr. Chappelle shared that I must delve into. The consequences of this reflection I cannot say. I cannot fully fathom the breadth of where this will lead me. But focused introspection is never a bad thing in my mind. Knowing your flaws and weaknesses is a key to becoming stronger overall. As Sun-Tzu states in the Art of War (this is from the translation by Mr. Ralph D. Sawyer): Initial Estimations - “Before the engagement, one who determines in the ancestral temple that he will be victorious has found that the majority of factors are in his favor. Before the engagement one who determines in the ancestral temple that he will not be victorious has found few factors in his favor....” and, “If I observe it from this perspective, victory and defeat will be apparent.”

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

American children served dirt in schools

I’m sure that caught the attention of many of you for several reasons. Some are concerned parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents. Some of you are just decent people. Well the above title for this post on Vass is false. It is there to highlight something important though. The concern and rage you may have felt at the thought of American kids being given dirt to eat. Were this true there would be an outrage throughout the nation. So I must ask, where is the rage and emotion or even significant media coverage on the outrage that has occurred to Kenya?

For those not familiar, Kenyan children were offered dog food to eat as a replacement for real food by a ‘Samaritan’ from New Zealand. This is not false nor a joke. Christine Drummond offered 42 tons of dog food for relief in Kenya because she could not feasibly send dog biscuits. Drummond had the idea pop into her head after speaking to people who went to Kenya, and rather than send the ‘meal’ labeled as Mighty Mix dog food biscuits powder, she re-labeled them as NZ’s Raw Dry Nourish with plans to distribute via Mercy Mission charity. Isn’t she a saint?

Gaynor Siviter, a dog food agent, thinks it’s a wonderful idea saying, “The dogs thrive on it. They have energy, put on weight. It's bizarre but if it's edible and it works for these people then it's a brilliant idea. It beats eating rice.” Brian Tracey had comments on idea, though it seems that MSNBC may have second thoughts on letting it spread as it takes 3 tries or more to bring up the article (for me anyway). Tracey seems to offer the thought that the cultural offense of reference to a dog is the only bad part of the idea. That is his harshest comment. Yahoo News is equally at home focusing the story on the cultural aspect of the story. A third of the Yahoo News article discusses the ‘nutritional value’ of the ‘meal’. The Yahoo article even supplies a quote from Drummond, trying to back away from the backlash, about how the main bulk of the product is corn. [So is the cereal Cornflakes but they aren’t the same thing are they?]

The BBC News on the other hand has a slightly different take, mentioning the desire to send dog biscuits originally. They also add the comment (which I think any doctor would probably agree with, and I definitely do) by Dr. James Nyikal, “There is no way that the ministry can allow dog food mixture to be brought in for human consumption.”

IF this happened in America, it would be on EVERY news station and media outlet. IF American children were offered dog food there would be dissent that would be incendiary enough to ignite paper. There would be no moderate comments, and anything Drummond said to back off the media backlash would be ignored as cowardly hiding I think. Had Drummond done this to the U.S. or in our nation calls for boycotts of her company would be instantaneous. Knowing how radical some in this nation get, I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone would have tried to burn down her factory(ies).

Perhaps because I am a well-fed Black African Hispanic American, living without the trauma of plague or famine, I can’t appreciate the need some of the people in Kenya have. Given that, if the need were so great, and that dire that dog food is a viable alternative, then actual food fit for human consumption should be sent. America has enough food, literally rotting in silos, to feed this nation and several others. Many nations in the world maintain a surplus of food far in excess of actual emergency needs. There is far too much technology available to help improve the ability of farmers in 3-world nations to improve their crops. If we can create staple crops that can be grown in cold climates (where they normally could not), in shorter periods of time, and genetically enhanced to resist diseases and other factors (which exist now) I cannot see why there has been no progress in creating a crop that needs less water to grow. In 20 years the world has made massive strides in food technology, virtually every aspect except anything that can aid nations suffering drought. If I am wrong, please someone let me know.

I understand how any one nation may feel that its children have a higher priority for them to help and raise than those of some other nation, that’s human nature. I do not understand how ANY NATION could treat CHILDREN from anywhere on the face of the earth as equal to an non-human species. Slavery of basically any sort has not existed in any government I am aware of for roughly a little more than a century. I believe America was the last to have it institutionally as well as culturally. Are the remnants of 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century thought still pervading the minds of countries throughout the world? Is Africa still perceived as the “Dark Continent” and therefore not of concern? Is the fact that American resistance to reparations is so severe that insults and denigration of CHILDREN, that happen to be true Black Africans, is somehow seen as acceptable?

I know many people from my travels abroad. I have know some that fit stereotypes and many that break them. I’ve enjoyed the company of great people, in their homes and in their embassies such as for Germany, Belgium, Ireland and many others. Until today I rarely encountered someone so obtuse, slow-witted and profoundly perverted, in my humble opinion, as to treat a child as the equal of any animal, especially in this case a dog. Even racists I have had the misfortune of crossing paths with have shown more compassion towards children than Christine Drummond seems to have.

I am glad I have memories of Kiwi’s, Aussies, Brit’s, Gruzians [Soviet Georgians], Lebanese, Latvians, Azerbaijanis, Mexicans, Cubans and so many more that do not reflect Drummond as a norm. Most Americans don’t have that reflection, and I think most would agree with I have said.

The media needs to pay attention, and provide news that actually matters as opposed to who has a Grammy or had a nomination. Who cares how they dressed for the award show. That is not entertainment. That is distraction. Give us enough credit (the American people) that we can deal with an issue of significance and can still enjoy the vast wasteland of televised programming.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Anger about protesting funerals

The Constitution affirms life, liberty and happiness. The Amendments provide for and enforce the right to free speech, practice of religion, emancipation and suffrage as well as others. In no case, circumstance or envisioning of the above is the right of one individual pre-eminent over another. The only exception of that is when the need of the nation exceeds that of a person, as in a time of war. I’m not a lawyer but that is how I have always understood the articles upon which this nation is founded.

Compared to any other nation in the world, America enjoys the greatest freedoms for its citizens. If you wish to dispute that, live (not visit or vacation) in another nation and see the difference. I have and it has only further confirmed, for me, that this is the greatest nation - even with every social and economic problem we have today. I do not doubt that it is this freedom and greatness that has caused some nations to envy and others to seek our destruction.

Given the above statements one has to question the reasoning of some members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka. I wish to ask them, or anyone else who shares their beliefs, how they can justify the disruption of the funerals of the men and women who have died in support of the above. I will try to be civil, but frankly this enrages me. The desecration of a private and austere ceremonies should not be taken lightly. Were this a nation less free, and I were to hold more power then I would have them flagellated publicly.

Let me take a step back and more fully explain my disgust. Members of this congregation believe that, because gays exist in America and are not stoned to death, that God is killing our soldiers, the various miners recently, and I would not doubt that with that line of thinking those that have died in the Hurricane and resultant flooding in New Orleans. I wouldn’t dare make up this clap-trap.

The Westboro Baptist Church stated via their attorney, “states cannot interfere with their message that the soldiers were struck down by God because they were fighting for a country that harbors homosexuals and adulterers.” Members of the church have gone across the country to funerals for military personnel and held up signs saying “God Made IEDs” and other similar statements. Outside a memorial for the miners that died in the Sago Mine tragedy a sign by the members read “Thank God for Dead Miners.”

I understand the right to free speech, and like several members of my family I have volunteered to support that right and others with my life. Even speech that I do not like or believe still is protected by that right. That does not give someone else the right to cause harm. Much in the way that yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater is illegal, I see this as the same thing. While I will stand by as these, I think the phrase deluded fools is to light but that is my opinion, individuals wish to protest laws and ideals of the government, I will not allow them to infringe on the rights of other citizens, and the honored dead of our military services, without comment.

How dare they interfere with the final respects of the loved ones of our soldiers, and desecrate the lives given in support of this nation. If it were not for men and women, living and dead, in the past and actively today, that stand up for our nation the Westboro Baptist Church would not have the ability to make comment. In other governments around the world, actions not nearly as offensive as theirs would result in militia, secret police or others walking up and shooting them dead where they stand. Were it not for the blood shed for our nation, whether or not it was right or the exact beliefs of those who served, we would not exist in this government today. There may not even be a baptist or any other type of church, synagogue, temple or religion without the United States of America (the Soviet Union as an example believed in atheism as the only form of religious expression).

Let me say directly to these individuals, whom I do not see fit to call miserable wretches, that God (no matter what faith you follow) does not make roadside bombs. God does not make mass murderers or nuclear weapons or even a club. God does not create wars. These are all things that Man does. Humanity is flawed, and of those flaws violence against anything that is not exactly like us (whomever the us is) is our worst crime. Second might be our ability to reshape and misinterpret virtually anything as a sign to confirm our acts of violence as justified. Yes I feel your acts of ‘protest’ are violent, misbegotten and evil. If the various states do not pass laws to prohibit or at least restrict, what I feel are, repugnant actions like your I will sue them.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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