Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ???

Let me begin by saying that my political leanings are staunchly conservative for fiscal matters. However, I'm generally "liberal", or at least "libertarian" on most social issues. I’m a fervent Constitutionalist, and am all about individuals’ rights and absolutely believe in fighting to defend the liberties guaranteed to me and all Americans by our Constitution. Moreover, I'm absolutely disgusted by such hate-driven initiates such as California's Prop.8 which is meant to outlaw same-sex marriage. I stand for equality, civil rights, and a "live and let live" societal ideal. But when it comes to battlefield dynamics, this discussion is NOT purely academic, and shouldn’t be addressed as such. There are concrete reasons for keeping the present policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Changes in public policy enabling increased gay rights for the civilian populace have clear benefits to society as a whole and have begun to correct legal injustices gay people have had to endure. I do not oppose any such civilian legal/regulatory changes for this purpose. In the military, however, there are other factors to consider.

I'll lay out my argument in defense of the present "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy". First and foremost, the overall strength of our military forces should be absolutely paramount in any policy decision. Why? Because lives are at stake. My life is at stake; so I will never support a change in policy that would in any way increase my chances of dying on the battlefield. I believe an openly gay military would do that very thing. How? Well, this is where the difference between an academic discussion and real life come into play. Whether we like it or not, open homosexuality would undermine discipline, morale, and esprit de corps--all critical characteristics of an effective military force. Specifically, sexuality matters on the battlefield. We don't house women with men in the barracks. We don't have the women shower in the same facilities as men. Both for good reason. Women are not allowed in many combat related MOSs (job fields). Essentially, openly gay men in combat, in showers, and in the barracks would be much like allowing women in all these places. If nothing else, it would present a distraction to mission accomplishment, let alone the obvious decrease in unit cohesion and increased likelihood of violence within military units. Speaking first hand, I witnessed daily instances where male soldiers and airmen were distracted from accomplishing our mission in Kuwait because of the temptation to "romance" the women at our base. In fact, the vast majority of our UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) disciplinary actions were due to inappropriate conduct between men and women. "Bunker Love" was the norm, not the exception. In many instances it was a case of fraternization which has significant negative impact on military discipline. And in some cases, these forbidden relationships resulted in pregnancies which forced women home—at great cost to base readiness and to the American taxpayer. It was a clear breakdown of discipline, and the mission did suffer. If the women weren't there, such temptations wouldn't exist, and therefore wouldn't be a factor. Unfortunately, we need women to serve overseas because we need the manpower. Again, I have nothing against women, nor do I have anything against folks that happen to be gay; but I do appreciate the negative effects of both on the battlefield. In the movie "300", what did you notice about the makeup of the Spartan Army? It was strikingly homogeneous. And because of this, everybody had an equal role, enjoyed equal treatment, and relied on each other equally. Though it sounds tremendously racist/sexist/bigoted, this condition is ideal for fighting forces. Is it ideal for civilian society? Of course not. I cherish the value of diversity in general society. But in the military, we understand that our differences are put aside for the supreme purpose of establishing the most effective fighting force possible. In basic training, we're told that there isn't such thing as "black", "white", "yellow". There isn't such thing as "Christian", "Jew", "Muslim". Furthermore, there isn't such thing as "Republican" or "Democrat"--we're prohibited to proselytize about religion or political preference by law (Hatch Act). What I'm saying here is that such cultural differences are ignored in the military so as not to present a distraction or opportunity for in-fighting which would ultimately decrease our effectiveness.

It disgusts me that my Chief of Staff proclaimed that "Diversity is the strength of the US Military" in the wake of the Ft. Hood terrorist attack. It's hogwash. And in fact, it's that kind of “PC” attitude that allowed a known Jihadist the opportunity to massacre young men and women at Ft. Hood. The ONLY reason that these Generals say such things is for personal political gain. On the battlefield, and in the general ranks of military units, it's a completely different world than in the bureaucracy of the Pentagon. Generals pander to their politician counterparts responsible for their next star, and seem to forget the realities of war. It's shameless. In the movie, Leonidis didn't allow the hunchbacked deformed Ephialtes into his combat ranks because he understood and appreciated the decreased effectiveness of the army as a whole that would result. It may not have been the Politically Correct thing to do, but it was for good reason. He understood that Ephialtes might have his feelings hurt, but recognized that Ephialtes’ feelings were justifiably less important than the safety of his greater army. Women and openly gay men on the battlefield would absolutely decrease our military's effectiveness much like Ephialtes would hinder the Spartans from fighting the Persians effectively. Does that sound bigoted? Sure. Is it PC? No. But it's the absolute truth. Whether I agree or disagree with the underpinnings of such a policy decision is of no consequence relative to the aforementioned "life of death" that ought to be the ONLY consideration in establishing military policy. It's "life or death", and it's American national security at stake. American liberals wouldn't even have their universities and their coffee shops to discuss their own "moral high-ground" if we didn't have an effective military to defend their freedoms. How ironic. Personally, I would be happy to discuss with all of you the moral and cultural injustices that have taken place in this country and elsewhere. I know the list is long, and the strides in civil rights since the days of MLK are absolutely wonderful. I would likely surprise you with my liberal view about individual freedoms, gay rights, women's rights, etc., but when it comes to the military, and my own life--military effectiveness trumps "white guilt", "hetro guilt", "man guilt", and all the ridiculous political correctness that has pervaded civilian society. My safety, the safety of my fellow servicemen, and our national security trumps it all!

On the battlefield we can ignore the color of a fellow soldier's skin (unless he makes it an issue). On the battlefield we can ignore a man's chosen religion (unless he makes it an issue). We can even ignore a man's sexual orientation so long as it stays in the closet. But we can't ignore it if it's put on display or acted upon. Such a "difference" would inherently and unavoidably cause a decrease in unit cohesion--especially if a gay person acts upon his sexual impulses,,, just like women damage our cohesion, focus, and motivation to accomplish the mission at combat bases right now. Like it or not, I'm just stating the facts--from witnessing this phenomenon myself.

So what is the next proposal? Accommodate open gays with separate barracks? Separate showers? Separate foxholes? Or even separate units altogether? Seems to me like that kind of "solution" would cause more civil unrest and more of an opportunity for discrimination than under our current policy. Because of the absolute reliance on each other in a combat situation, the lack of differences is critical. A woman (especially a good-looking woman) would encourage "manly" men to save the "damsel in distress" on the battlefield over another soldier in more immediate need. Conversely, an openly gay soldier may be left on the battlefield while other less critically wounded hetro soldiers may be attended to first. Yes, it would happen. Such differences (once again) should be avoided for this very reason. Furthermore, it's not a "right" to serve in the US military. There are perfectly wonderful folks that aren't afforded the opportunity to serve for a myriad of reasons--too young, too old, too flat-footed, too slow, too fat, too stupid, too weak, bad heart, bad knee, bad back, bad eyes, amputee, too tall, too short,,,, the list goes on and on!! It doesn't mean these folks aren't good people. It doesn't mean they don't deserve all the "rights" afforded to every other American established by our Constitution; it just means that because of some attribute, their participation in our military would degrade our effectiveness, so therefore, they are precluded. Justifiable? Most definitely. The same should apply across the board. It may seem wrong in our collective conscious to prohibit women in combat, but I think I've done a pretty good job explaining how allowing them would decrease our overall effectiveness. Even now, women in the military are subject to a lower physical fitness standard than men, and the vast majority of female soldiers and marines are unable to throw a grenade far enough to escape the blast! But we should let them in because it "feels good", because it's politically the "right thing to do"? NO! Battlefield success trumps all that.

There's an "ethos" associated with being in the armed services. And yes, even those of us with primarily desk jobs share this ethos because at any given time we can be thrust into battle--and we train as such. The glue, or non-sexual bond that occurs between military members is a huge part of this ethos, and is invaluable to unit cohesion, morale, respect, and motivation. This ethos is compromised with sexual or romantic interests; competition for those love interests and the subsequent sexual relationships pervade our ranks--and this ethos is destroyed. And thus, our battlefield effectiveness is compromised. This ethos, not to be confused with machismo or chauvinism, is critical to everything military--critical to why young men don't hesitate when their commanding officer says "charge the hill", or when you put your back against the back of a fellow warrior and say, "I'll watch for anything behind you, and you can watch for everything behind me; together we’ll have each others’ backs—always, no matter what". Once again, anything that damages that unwritten code, that invaluable dynamic, that "ethos",,, should be discarded. This PC idea of open gays in the military should also be discarded for the rubbish that it is.

Now, to address the opponents of my position. Contrary to popular belief, under the current policy we do not prohibit gays from joining the military nor do we make them lie about their sexual orientation. They can serve if they want, they just can't trumpet their sexuality to everybody else. This is not a civil rights issue in my opinion. It's justified discrimination based on behavior. The behaviors of an openly gay military member would damage this nation's military strength, and that is why I deem this "discrimination" as justifiable--just like all the other reasons the military discriminates that I mentioned before.

Lastly, some proponents of instituting an openly gay military policy point to the opportunity of "hate crime" prosecution associated with violence against gays. This whole idea of "hate crimes" opens up a whole other can of worms. Simply stated, I don't believe in the concept of a "hate crime". If a person is assaulted,,, the color of their skin, their chosen religion, or their sexual orientation shouldn't matter. It's still a crime, regardless of the motivation. Is the family of a murder victim any less hurt by the murderer if the murderer happens to have the same color of skin as the victim? No. So similarly, the punishment shouldn't be any different. In the military, there are harsh penalties for assault, rape, battery, theft, etc. and under the UCMJ it makes no difference what the motivation for the crime happens to be. The punishment is assessed based on the criminal act, nothing more. If a soldier assaults another soldier, the perpetrator will be punished the same regardless of whether or not the victim is homosexual. In fact, I guarantee that open homosexuality would increase incidence of "hate crimes" against them. No doubt about it.

We have to be careful discussing hate, crime and punishment, policy making, and your philosophical moral high-ground associated with each. Guilt for past transgressions shouldn't cloud our idea of justice today. Affirmative action, “hate crimes”, special privileges for women, disproportionate federal grants to select groups, etc. are all attempts at righting past evils. But is it really fair when these evils took place generations ago? Also, when it comes to double standards in the courts and public opinion, is it really fair? Is it justice? I.e. if a gay man approaches me with an erection at the gym and winks at me; and I punch him out, I'll be prosecuted for assault and battery and likely receive an enhanced sentence when convicted due to the "hate crime" nature of my offense. Whereas if I inadvertently rub against a woman in the subway and she takes out a Tazer and sends 10,000 volts through me rendering me incapacitated for 20 minutes, she's likely cheered by the rest of the subway patrons and would never be prosecuted. This hypocrisy is (in large part) due to our irrational obsession with political correctness--and it has had and will continue to have negative and dangerous effects on society. Similarly, "we" as a society (policy makers and regular citizens alike) should take a more pragmatic approach to these discussions and recognize that the PC way isn't always the best way when a bit of reality is appropriately applied. The “PC way” of dealing with Malik Hasan resulted in 13 dead and over 30 injured at the hands of a known Muslim radical. “The PC way” resulted in allowing Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab to carry out a terrorist attack on an American airline that potentially could have resulted in hundreds of American deaths. “The PC way” is threatening our right to free speech and assembly for fear that it's "hate based". And alarmingly, the “PC way” of thinking regarding gays in the military is threatening the safety and effectiveness of America's fighting forces. “The PC way”, is demonstrably the wrong way in so many instances. Let’s not let Political Correctness rule the day in these decisions about gays in the military—the result could be disastrous…

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Debating propaganda...

I think we can get caught up in the rhetoric on both sides of any issue—but especially on health care. “Misinformation”, who knows if it is or not? The healthcare debate is so impassioned because health care has such a huge impact on all of us. But what do we really know? I think we can all agree that the convoluted incomprehensible House bill is dead, and as written, wasn’t clear enough to debate anyway. We haven’t really heard what the gang of six in the Senate finance committee has come up with yet. And frankly, none of us can point to any publication or interview that outlines the details of Obama’s intentions to any degree of specificity. Is his goal single payer universal healthcare for every man woman and child in the US, here legally or not? We really don’t know. He may say that’s not the goal to play politics, but I can’t say that I believe him. Obama, Barney Frank, and others have even stated that this round of “reform” is just the first step… So what do we really know? Show me a bill. Show me details. Then we can talk. Don’t try to force through a thousand page piece of crap legislation that was probably written years ago and filed—just waiting for the right opportunity to jam it through. Didn’t Pelosi deliver it to congress at 3 in the morning, and call for a vote the next day? I’m not sure about that, but why the push? It’s probably the most significant piece of legislation in decades, and the Dems want to hurry it through under the radar? We don’t even know how much it would cost!! Why not offer a bill we can all understand and digest, and give us an opportunity to debate it. Give our legislators an opportunity to hear from their constituents—BEFORE a vote. Otherwise, we’re just debating propaganda, and our legislators are voting ignorantly. What good is that?

We call it “Obamacare”, but what really is Obama’s health care plan? He’s on TV practically every day, and all he really needs to do is bring a flip chart and a laser pointer to one of these numerous interviews or press conferences, and actually describe to the American people the details of what he wants to see in a reform bill. He doesn’t. He talks in broad unrealistic platitudes. I.e. “we’ll provide health care to 50 million uninsured, and it won’t add a dime to our deficit.”… C’mon man. Really? How? Stealing from Medicare to pay for Obamacare? There’s more fraud, waste, inefficiency, and corruption in federal government than any other sector of American society, yet Obama thinks that more government will result in less waste? It’s an absolutely ludicrous claim, and yet he gets away with it.

It’s not about health care. It’s not about the environment. It’s not about saving the economy. It’s about advancing the overarching lefty agenda of seizing power away from the people. In the mind of a liberal politician, it’s all about growing Government—nothing more. It’s about taking choices away from private citizens and putting those powers in the hands of government. After all, we all know that the liberal elites are so much smarter than the rest of us, so they might as well be the ones to run our lives. Right? We’re just a bunch of racist, ignorant rednecks clinging to our guns and religion,,,, right Barry? Good thing we have the liberal elite in government to take our money, regulate our industry, punish our greedy producers, and reward our disadvantaged non-producers. But the enactment of this philosophy shouldn’t be called “tyranny”? As the leftist agenda is progressed, American liberty is sacrificed. Why don’t more people see this???

Of course, my opposition to Obama better not get out—I’ll be put on the White House watch list, and get letters from Axelrod. Not to mention that Jimmy Carter will call me a racist. What standing does he have anyway? He was arguably one of the worst Presidents in history, and now he’s given a platform and audience to denigrate our country internationally and our own people at home. He needs to go away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Open letter to all Obamamaniacs: Is this really the America you want?

Between the leaning media sources (both ways), the uninformed public (across the political spectrum), and the politicians (both republican and democrat),,,, I suppose that I'm tiring of it all. There's so much bias, so much "spin", and so much [apparent] corruption. It's definitely hard to sift through all the muck to find truth--whatever that is anymore. Even the so-called experts--"scientists", "economists", and "academics" are either paid off or have some political stake in their own findings, so they report accordingly. With enough money, I'm quite certain I could pay off some scientist to purport that the sun will burn out tomorrow! It's a mess.

Americans that voted democrat in the last few years, you've elected the most liberal President in our nation's history, and two democrat controlled houses of congress led by two of the furthest left liberals ever to climb the capitol steps! I guess our ideological differences aren't really that complex. Simply put, I disagree with you on the role of government. You seem to believe that this country is better when government has financial and regulatory control over the masses. When the academic elites make our decisions for us, we'll succeed. I.e. the public is too stupid and the free market is so corrupt that it can't govern itself,,,, so government needs to step in, fix things, and keep the public under their control by taxing more of our income and regulating more and more and more [and more]. Conversely, I would prefer to limit government's power and let the competitive free market govern the facets of the economy that are currently being influenced more by politics than by true market forces. Currently we find ourselves in a "wag the dog" type scenario where a contrived economic crisis, and 8 years of shameless hate propaganda directed at George Bush, offers an unprecedented opportunity for the democrats to push their agenda upon a gullible populace who actually believes that their government can "save" us all--that a modern day savior can descend from the heavens, institute radical leftist policies, and all will be saved. I contend that it's not wall street, nor the Bush administration at fault for our current economic woes. It's not a lack of regulation and oversight; in fact quite the contrary. It's simple economics that private sector firms answer to their shareholders--the almighty bottom line,,, and a fully competitive market doesn't allow for corruption, discrimination, or unethical business dealings of any kind! Corruption, inefficiency, discrimination, "corporate greed", etc. all result in decreased profits, shareholder upheaval and even bankruptcy if the CEO isn't able to right the ship. Plain and simple--all without government intervention. If banks, airlines, car makers, whatever,, were allowed to fail when they make poor business decisions,,,, then the efficient firms (ones that don't need government bailout) would succeed--as they should. This is how a competitive free market works. Don't people understand this??? I simply don't understand why anybody in this country would want to diverge away from the principles on which it was founded (free markets, personal responsibility, liberty, personal freedoms, limited government, property rights, fair taxation, capitalism, risk/reward etc.) towards a society of government involvement and control over practically every walk of life--public and private. Obama is systematically dismantling the very system that allowed for this country to become great. Why can't people see this?

The aforementioned "spin" has perverted our history as well, and therefore precludes us from seeing the fact that in no case over the course of history has socialism ever worked. And folks please,, please tell me that you know in your heart that the Obama "vision" is that of huge government, redistribution of wealth, nationalized health care, nationalized energy, regulated markets, exorbitant spending, and government mandates on practically everything. If that isn't European style socialism, I don't know what is! Is that really the America that you want?

I know that all you Obama disciples have great affection for the man. I can completely appreciate and understand that--I mean, of course liberals want a strong, attractive, articulate intellectual to lead their charge both domestically and abroad. But you seem to be more concerned with how he looks and sounds at the podium rather than what he stands for. What about his policies? His vision? I simply can't support a man that believes HIS style of socialism will work, despite all its failures since the beginning of time. Similar to George Bush, Barack Obama seems to be drunk with the power of the office he holds. It's that kind of hubris that may directly contribute to the downfall of America as we know it. It's already begun with the passing of his $800 billion spending bill. Also similar to Bush, I think that Obama is acting according to his belief about what is best for America. But where Bush flexed his authority with increased military spending and (perhaps) extreme national security measures--all to keep us safe; Obama is flexing his political muscle with unprecedented spending on government programs intended to fund his liberal agenda of growing government--policies that our grandchildren will suffer from decades down the road. And frankly, I believe that's exactly Obama's hope.

Once Obama successfully orchestrates a system where practically every single citizen depends on the government for personal welfare in some way, shape, or form,,, he'll have us where he wants us. He, and other liberals like him, will enjoy the luxury of knowing that the voting public will be compelled to vote them back into office year after year, just to ensure their government sponsored entitlement won't go away. Everything from student loans to welfare checks,, bailouts, health care, insurance, energy, transportation,,,, you name it, it will be controlled by the feds. And we'll find ourselves in a pseudo-dictatorship under the guise of democracy--an unrecoverable slippery slope. Once the die of entitlement and public dependence is cast, it won't be reversed. "I don't like paying 70% of my income to the federal government, but I need the "free" health care that the democrats are offering." "I can't afford to go off the "free" health care, because the government has made it financially impossible for any private firm to compete with their form of nationalized health care." "It sucks,, I have to wait months for everything, and my overall quality of care is far worse than it used to be, similar to every other country that has nationalized health care, but it's all there is, and I depend on it, so I guess I'll have to vote democrat again this November." "I want a FREE education." "I want a FREE house." "I want FREE money in the mail to pay for my groceries." "I want the government to get a better job for me." (All things that the democrats promise.) (All things on which I depend.) "In fact, I can't decide what kind of car to drive, or what kind of light bulb to put in my house,,,, good thing the democrats know best--they can decide for me!" And you people call right wingers fascist? Come on!!

I'm typically not a conspiracy theorist,, nor a sky-is-falling panic monger. But I do see the writing on the wall. I see that America is moving towards the failing socialist European model and perhaps even beyond. The political winds are ripe for the liberals to push their agenda like they've never done before--a perfect storm of widespread panic, hatred for the last administration, unified houses of congress/executive, blind media support, political clout, and a hopeful gullible public. Unfortunately, when Obama's snake oil policies fail to produce the results he's promised, and the pendulum swings back to the right, we'll be bogged down in a quagmire of failed policy and well-established public expectations of entitlement. I'm sorry to say that the future is bleak at best. Through the course of history, government has never been the reason for economic recovery. It's the people, their ingenuity, their original thought, their motivation, their innovation, and the resulting productivity that saves a nation from economic peril. When more and more of that motivation is taken away with increased taxation on profits/income,, when more and more of that innovation is stifled with government regulations and mandates,,, and when laziness, lethargy, apathy, and non-production is rewarded with government handout,,, we find ourselves in a circumstance where productivity is punished, and idleness is rewarded. Not a recipe for recovery. Not a recipe for successful economic growth, progress, or increased quality of life. I'll ask you again, how can you support a man whose policies are taking the nation down this road? How can any sane person not see the direction he's taking this nation? Furthermore, how can anybody of reasonable intellect and logic see the direction we're headed, and still cheer on the man at the helm?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Is Larry Craig gay?

Why do we care so much? Because he's a US Senator? Because he's a Republican? Or maybe because he's voted against such measures as legally recognized gay marriage?

Well, regardless of why we care so much, I think we can all agree that the American public, the media, and certainly the US Government itself is wrought with hypocrisy on this matter. We all know of countless "sex scandals" that have occurred privately and publicly across this nation. Seems like every month or so there's another scandal that makes the evening news. Certainly public offices, especially one as influential as the US Senate, deserve this level of extreme scrutiny. I'm not arguing the scrutiny. But why don't we apply the same standards of scrutiny and public admonishment equally across the board? My guess is that Larry Craig will soon resign, ending a distinguished career of public service. His voting record is indicative of a strong conservative. He's considered one of the more senior senators, and along with that seniority comes influence on the floor, and influence in the many committees of which he is a member. It's my opinion that the GOP should have considered what was at stake before joining in the witch hunt instigated by the Idaho Statesman and propagated by just about every news source in the country calling for his resignation. If he resigns, the GOP will lose an influential and powerful conservative force in the Senate. Unfortunately, he's already damaged goods in the wake of this scandal, and has probably already lost the political capital he's worked so hard to accrue over a lifetime of public service--never to be recovered again.

I'm not necessarily defending the man. Perhaps (truth be told) he deserves all this. But why are we as a nation so quick to crucify him? Why did his own Republican base turn away from him after only one errant report from MSNBC? I know it was errant because I personally watched Tucker Carlson report that Larry Craig pleaded guilty to lewd conduct. This is very much a significant point, because even though he was arrested for lewd conduct, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct--a far different charge. Even today, reporters continue to mislead us with this very significant error. But that same evening, MSNBC and others reported that members of his own party are rebuking his "misconduct".

Let's take a moment to examine what ACTUALLY happened that fateful day at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. According to the written report from the arresting police officer, Senator Craig propped his roller carry-on bag against the door of his bathroom stall, placed his right foot on the floor near the right edge of his stall on the floor near the open space that separates his stall from the adjacent one, and he proceeded to tap his foot. Upon seeing this, the plain-clothes cop placed his left foot against Craig's foot, and Craig (allegedly) played "footsie" with him. They (allegedly) attempted to exchange phone numbers/communication through the gap between stalls with their hands, and at that time the officer identified himself as a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. Craig identified himself as a US Senator, was detained, and escorted to the police station for questioning. He was charged with lewd conduct, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct as a part of a plea deal that was offered by the assistant district attorney's office which included a fine of $575 and a year of unsupervised probation. According to reports from Craig's representatives, part of the ADA's deal included not going public with the incident--a promise that cannot be kept due to the fact that every arrest is a part of public record.

So,, what does all this mean? Senator Larry Craig (by his own admission) was guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor charge that is typically handed down to citizens who play their music too loud, who get in bar fights, who loiter outside convenience stores, or who walk down the street drunk. Granted, not good things, but certainly not crimes as severe as solicitation for sex, lewd and lascivious conduct, indecent exposure, sodomy, statutory rape, or the like. Can we all agree on that point? But you wouldn't be able to discern the difference based on the reports from CNN, NBC, and dozens of others. As we all know, they reported the story as though Senator Craig pleaded guilty to solicitation for sex. Maybe that was his intent. But maybe it wasn't. And last time I checked, we live in a society of "innocent until proven guilty". If the ADA had thought that the lewd conduct charge could have held up in court, he wouldn't have offered the plea deal in the first place. We've all watched Law and Order, so we all know that if the DA has a solid case, they never offer a deal. Only when their evidence is shaky, do they resort to plea bargaining. So clearly, the DA in this case knew that they didn't have much of a case against Craig. Perhaps they knew that even the method by which Craig was observed, could be construed as entrapment. The facts are the facts. And in this case, a distinguished United States Senator is going to lose his job over an offense comperable to playing Snoop Dogg music too loud while rolling down Main St., according to our own written statutes. And who hasn't listened to Gin and Juice a little too loud,, right? Fo' shizzle, ma nizzle,, that's what I say.. ;)

Like I said, I'm really not defending Larry Craig as a person (I don't know much of anything about the man even though he is my Senator), or his alleged actions. But I am disappointed that public opinion has tarred, feathered, and convicted him of much, much more than what he pleaded guilty to. In my personal opinion, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota District Attorney's office should be criticized for their entrapment of Senator Craig at the airport, and their subsequent unprofessional and arguably unethical/illegal behavior in offering Craig terms of a plea deal that could not be met. Should Craig have known better, of course! He's a lawmaker for Pete's sake!! But you must admit, a small fine, and a promise of anonymity to sweep the whole incident under the rug is a tempting offer for anybody,, let alone a public figure like Larry Craig. And furthermore, I'm sure that he probably wasn't exactly thinking straight under the duress of being arrested for something that could potentially "out" him about his sexual orientation. Which brings me to my next point...

Based on the evidence, I am quite convinced that Larry Craig is a "closet" gay, if not at least bi-sexual or bi curious. Regardless, I wasn't aware that revealing one's sexual orientation is a requirement of public office. Is anything private anymore? Clearly not,,, and that further explains why Craig resorted to cagey techniques of "picking up" men like tapping a foot in a men's room--techniques that were more commonly used decades ago when homosexuality was much more stigmatized than it is today. Under current circumstances, it is much more socially acceptable to be gay, so the secretive methods of meeting other gays aren't as necessary as they once were. But for a potentially "closet" gay public figure like Craig, who very much would need to keep his orientation a secret, he is understandably forced to resort to methods such as tapping a foot on the floor of a men's room stall in order to meet other gay men, so as not to divulge his own orientation to the public. But once again, even if that is in fact what he was doing, where's the crime? Even if you happen to be a US Senator, it is still legal to be gay. In fact, it's legal to be gay, and not tell anybody about it. I'll take it a step further and say that it is legal to be gay, and still argue/vote against gay rights measures on the floor of the US Senate. People are calling Craig a hypocrite for this, but perhaps he sees it a different way. Perhaps he is gay, but still doesn't believe that gay couples should have the same rights as traditional heterosexual married couples. Or, maybe he believes they should, but knows that his constituents in Idaho are opposed to gay marriage and other measures intended to increase the rights of gays in America. Or, more likely, he knows that if he votes for gay rights, he won't get re-elected in Idaho. Regardless of the reason, are any of these scenarios illegal? Certainly not, but Larry Craig is definitely paying penance for any of these possibilities, even though legally, all he was convicted of was disorderly conduct, of which he paid the $575 fine as punishment.

I said it before, and I'll say it again,,, I'm not necessarily defending Larry Craig as a person or defending his actions. What I am doing is pointing out the facts, and how disappointing it is that an unfounded witch hunt has resulted from misconstruing those facts--a witch hunt that was absolutelly fueled by our shameless media. There's nothing more frustrating to me than hypocrisy. The public is indicting Craig for hypocrisy without even knowing for sure if he's gay!! But we (as a nation) aren't seeing the hypocrisy that we are in large part responsible for. Mr. Clinton had inappropriate sexual relations with an intern, lied to the public and to a grand jury about it, yet still remained in our nation's highest office. The late Gerry Studds, male Democrat from Massachusetts, admitted to having sex with a male page (on his own staff) in 1973, the year he took office in the US Congress. He was re-elected over and over till his retirement in 1997. Openly gay Representative Barney Frank, Democrat from (guess where) Massachusetts of course, admitted to having consensual sex with a male prostitute in 1990 and was re-elected by 66% of the vote in his district that year, and has been re-elected by greater margins ever since!! Larry Craig, Republican Senator from Idaho, pleads guilty to disorderly conduct, claims he's not gay, and will probably be forced to resign by a bandwagon of hypocrites--Republicans, Democrats, politicos, reporters, columnists, and the American public as a whole. You tell me if this seems fair and just... ?? It almost seems un-American! Indeed, is justice being served with the resignation of a distinguished senator that is probably very confused, conflicted, and most likely struggling with his own sexuality/morality?

Obviously, my feelings on this matter would be much different if he was convicted of solicitation [or worse]. Solicitation is a significant crime that should probably result in resignation, censure, or worse for a US Senator. But the plain and simple fact is that he wasn't convicted of that crime. I personally believe that Senator Craig was soliciting sex in that bathroom stall, and if I sat on a jury, I would likely argue accordingly. And because of my personal opinion, I probably won't vote for him again if he does manage to seek re-election.. I have that right not to vote for him as a legal resident of Idaho, but I don't have the right to convict him of a felony because I'm not sitting on his jury. None of us are! He was never tried! He was never judged by a jury of his peers! He very well may have been soliciting sex, but the simple fact of the matter is that he wasn't convicted of that crime. A court of law did not determine his intentions beyond a reasonable doubt. Maybe his intention was to pay that officer for sex, or maybe he was simply cruising for for a date, or maybe it was just a big misunderstanding like he claims. We'll probably never know because the jury of public opinion, stoked by bloodthirsty liberal-biased media sources, has already tried and convicted Senator Craig. In this great nation, I thought we believe in due process, but we as a nation denied that right of due process to Larry Craig, and nobody seems to care.

In the words of Larry Craig, "I am not gay, I've never been gay," but am I the only one in America that sees this whole ordeal as absolutely atrocious? Gay or not, Larry Craig deserves the same rights we afford every other citizen of the great "land of liberty" we call America...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dog people and cat people...

Though allergic to cat dander, and the proud owner of a German-bred Verein Deutsch Drahthaar (a pedigreed pointing versatile hunting dog),,, I will try to have this discussion without being influenced by my own personal bias.

This "discussion" is more or less a plea for understanding, not meant to be a judgement of people or the types of pets they own. In fact, quite the contrary. I'm begging for a little understanding due to an experience I had a couple weekends ago with my own aforementioned dog--a five year old German Wirehaired Pointer (the Germans call them "Drahthaars"). Her name is Ecco.

A couple weeks ago, I had the good fortune of spending the weekend with four friends from college--two couples, all four "cat people", i.e. cat owners/lovers of domesticated felines. All of whom (to my understanding) have never owned dogs,, let alone German-bred hunting dogs. Anyway, this is where my story begins...

I spent a good part of the first two years of Ecco's life training her to be the disciplined loyal hunting dog and well-mannered house pet that she is today. Three to five evenings a week were spent in the yard drilling "sit", "stay", "kennel", "lay", "down", etc. Then, most Saturdays were spent at the pond near my house getting her accustomed to swimming, retrieving, and the like. After she got a little older, I even paid for a lease in order to use some acreage of land away from the city where she could practice her natural hunting ability with wild game, and even some planted birds for specialized training. All in all, I'd say that we spent literally hundreds of days over thousands of hours together--training, playing, hunting, walking, swimming,, and generally learning each other. And we do to this day. She is who I come home to, she is a Godsend. I love her with all my heart. My dog and I have a relationship that is hard to put in words. She knows me as well as any person--she is loyal, respectful, and knows that I love her. I strive to be the person my dog thinks I am. I only describe all this because I need others to understand that I've spent literally thousands of hours with my dog--at home, in the field, and watching her swim in the water. I am intimately familiar with what she can do, what she can't, and what influences her in most situations. At last count, she knows 21 verbal commands, three hand signals in the field, and is working on three more hand signals in the water. And that's not counting her ability to read my tone of voice, subtle gestures, and even facial expressions--all of which I am convinced she is able.

Now that some background is laid, I can continue with the events of the weekend. After spending a day and a half in Boston, we decided to drive up to Portland, Maine, where one of my friends and his wife reside. It was just an overnight trip, so I'm sure Ecco would have been okay staying on my back porch, but the "cat people" insisted that we bring her up to Portland. No big deal, she's crate trained, and loves to travel. So, we packed up some food in a Ziploc, and headed north with Ecco occupying her crate in the bed of my pickup truck. Which by the way, I could tell was met with some resistance that Ecco didn't get to ride in the cab with me. A lot of folks don't realize that a crate trained dog is very comfortable, safe, and secure in their crate--they are den animals, and a crate is like a "den". And by the way, it's the safest way for them to travel. Anyway, she made it all the way to Maine (a two and a half hour drive) unscathed and happy.

While in Portland, Ecco stayed in her crate. If she had come into the house, there would have been two dead cats in a matter of seconds. In Germany, dogs are bred to instinctively attack and kill small furry animals because of the rodent problem in Germany. It's kinda hard for a dog that is genetically programmed to kill vermin on sight to discern the difference between a small furry feline,, and a small furry rodent. So, I've never tried. I don't want to defeat her instinct to be a hunter. So,, like I said, the dog stayed in her crate. She put up a little fuss because she wanted to be with us,, but she settled down after a few minutes and took a nap. I took her for tons of walks and bathroom breaks, made sure she had food and water, and always cleaned up after her--for your information. :-)

Now,, the thing with hunting dogs, especially German hunting dogs (weims, shorthairs, wirehairs, and the like) is that they are driven with a hunting instinct, a kind of fire that burns in their guts. That fire is what produces their drive to hunt out in the field, their desire to work for their handler in the field and in the water. It's that innate "desire" that motivates a dog like Ecco to voluntarily swim through an ice-chunked river in the middle of January after a downed mallard duck. It's that same "desire" that motivated Ecco to hunt for pheasants in North Dakota for four days--about 7 hours a day, with very little rest. During that hunt, she was pretty much at full sprint covering as much ground as possible looking for pheasants for many hours a day--without complaint, and without falter. She endured a full face of porcupine quills, and bloody paw pads after the second day,,,,, but still wanted to hunt,, and did so in elegant fashion. A meek, mild, sensitive dog, without all this "heart", may very well not perform to such an amazing degree in the field. But Ecco, along with virtually all dogs in her breed have this desire. It's not trained. It just comes naturally. But with this "desire" comes challenges when training. Ecco is pretty much impervious to punishment. Let me re-emphasize, she does NOT get her feelings hurt even after the most severe punishments are administered. She may react to the punishment while it is happening, but the second that the punishment is over, she is wagging her tail, bouncing around, and excited for what's next. Because she isn't all that much affected by punishment, coupled with this extreme hunting desire, training can be a constant challenge. I am convinced that she reasons through a decision--weighing the likelihood of getting caught, gauging the severity of punishment, and rationally deciding if the reward for being disobedient is worth it. For this reason, even though she is almost six years old, she still acts like an 8 month old pup. She knows obedience, but still pushes her limits like a toddler would with its parents. It's this constant discipline that was abhorred by the "cat people" and subsequently admonished. I don't blame them for caring about my dog's feelings, I just beg of them to gain a little understanding before jumping to the conclusion that I am an abusive dog owner.

In the town of Portland, Ecco was on cloud nine! So many people, so many sights, sounds, smells.. And the number of other dogs,,, whew! To say that walking through the streets of downtown Portland was distracting to a dog accustomed to lonely neighborhood sidewalks, unoccupied ponds, and the wide open spaces of the hunting field,,,, would be a tremendous understatement. But I viewed the experience as an opportunity for training. There very well might be distractions in the field as well, and Ecco needs to learn to keep her focus, and to refrain from abandoning the obedience that we both know she knows. Let me admit that I was surprised how distracted she appeared to be. She can "heel" off-lead in most situations like show dogs, but even on-lead (with all the distractions of Portland), I was constantly yanking her collar, twisting her ear, and verbally reprimanding her. If I allowed her to run wild--sniffing every person and pet, jerking me into the alleys, jumping on passers-by, she would think that it is okay to do that all the time. She knows better, and I had to make sure she was duly reminded. Again, this is not exactly understood by the "cat people". It's not that I expected them to understand, but I was hoping they could give me the benefit of the doubt as the owner and single trainer of Ecco over the last six years instead of judging me out of their own ignorance. By the end of the trip, Ecco was heeling a lot better, but I admit it was a struggle.

Then came the beach. Unfortunately, the beach was the last impression Ecco and I left with the cat people. As I stated before, Ecco spends about three to five hours a week in the water--even in the winter we go to the pond to swim as long as the pond isn't frozen over. She absolutely loves the water, and literally jumps at the chance to swim--even if the outside temperature is below freezing. So, with all that experience, I thought we would have a wonderful morning at the beach showing off her prowess in the water. It started out fine. Ecco ran up and down the shoreline, sniffing every rock, every plant, and generally being Ecco. But when it came time to show off her retrieving skills, I suppose I got a little overzealous. We started out with a couple sighted retrieves where I throw out a bumper dummy while she's looking at me. I send her out into the water, and she brings back the dummy to my side. I even threw a couple "blind retrieves" where she doesn't see where I throw it, but goes out into the water in the direction I send her anyway. She was doing great till I threw out two bumpers "blind". She retrieved the first, but by the time I sent her out for the second, the cross-wind had taken the second one farther out to sea, and farther downwind. When she went out for the second, she didn't see it, and she was upwind from the dummy so therefore couldn't smell it either. She acted like she didn't hear voice commands--perhaps because of the chop on the ocean, I'm not sure. But to make a long story short, Ecco decided to swim non-stop for the next twenty minutes searching the ocean for the lost bumper dummy. She checked buoy after buoy, some of which were probably 300 yards from the shore and a couple hundred yards apart. Finally, when she was headed on a line downwind from the bumper dummy, a kayaker paddled up alongside her (between Ecco and the dummy), and forced her to shore. When Ecco got out of the water she was energetic, tail wagging, and ready to jump back in the water to continue looking for the dummy. I called her off because I could tell the group I was with thought that I was abusing my dog by making her swim for such a long period of time. I confirmed that assumption when I told one of my friends that I know Ecco would have found the dummy if the kayaker hadn't interfered. His response was a smug and condescending "That kayaker saved your dog's life." I was taken aback, and a little irritated at his ignorance, but I didn't start an argument. I knew that he didn't know any better.

As I said, Ecco was spry as always after her extended time in the water--sniffing around, sprinting up and down the shoreline, wagging her tail incessantly. In fact, she really didn't even act tired at all,, even though I wish she would have been more calm. I knew in my heart that Ecco was fine, would have been fine swimming for another twenty minutes, but I wasn't about ready to argue my case to the four of them--one of which had already left the beach because she couldn't bear witnessing such animal abuse. It was an uncomfortable setting back at the house, so I decided to pack up our stuff and head home. Ecco had a blast! I took a great opportunity to train her, but I'm fairly certain my friends think I should be reported to PETA and that my dog should be remanded to puppy social services... I'll say this, I was a little appalled when one of my friends tossed his cat from shoulder height to the hardwood floor, but I didn't question, comment, or judge. Maybe cats like five foot leaps onto hard surfaces. I don't know, because I've never owned a cat. I just wish he would afford me the same benefit of the doubt, and take the time to learn about my dog before judging me on the ways I care for her...

My jumbled head...

A friend casually asks: What's on your mind lately? Well,, not exactly an easy question to answer. I'm at a juncture in my life where I feel a driving desire to make sense of it all. As a Christian, I can look to God for such enlightenment (and I do), but as a living, breathing, thinking mortal man, I feel compelled to twist, turn, and rotate the proverbial Rubik's cube that resides in my head until every side contains the same color squares. Will this self-actualizing resolution ever actually happen for me? I doubt it. But that doesn't mean I can't continue to try. Beyond identification of specific aspects of life that create fulfillment, peace, joy,,, etc., this is my attempt at defining what life is.

Life: A futile attempt to avoid regret.

As we age, we grow to learn about all the reasons why we shouldn't have made the decisions we made earlier in life--certainly not to say that we won't make more bad decisions in the future, but hopefully not the same bad decisions that were previously made. That is all that one can realistically hope to do over the course of a lifetime.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Guess the protagonist...

I'm not sure how this is going to work out,,, but I remember this drill I had to do as a part of a high-school creative writing class... It's kinda like literary charades. I'll write a couple paragraphs in third-person, and you guess who (or what) the protagonist is from context clues.. Okay,, here goes:

He lazily opens his eyes to the brightness of the afternoon sun. The overhanging rock above and to the side provides relief from the heat and glare of the sun. A big yawn exposes the full length of his teeth, but only for an instant does this noble animal look as ferocious as it's typically portrayed. Back to a lazy and completely docile state, he peers through half-closed eyes at the sprawling landscape below. This is a good spot. The rock ledge provides protection from the elements, shade during some parts of the day, warming sun during other parts of the day--but most importantly, it's high above the popular hiking trails down in the valleys below. Over the years it's become increasingly difficult to avoid contact with humans. A source of comfort and continual security abounds in his den--almost as though it was chiseled out the of the rocky mountainside just for him.

From his favorite sleeping rock, he can feel the heat of the morning sun helping to shake the chill of a mountain night. Then, without even moving, he is engulfed by the shadow of the mountainside on or about mid-afternoon. Sleeping is typically the order of the day. There's simply too many people and not enough reason to be out and about while the sun is up.

Evening comes to the mountainside, and he makes his way off the sleeping rock and over to the rock ledge facing the East. Still shaking the sleep from a long day of napping, he yawns one last time and follows it up with a big stretch. First, he stretches the tight sinewy muscles of his front legs by rocking back on his rear haunches and keeps his front legs extended in front. His claws extend slightly to grip the soft earth in front of him. Then, upon completion of the stretch, they simultaneously retract as he returns to a comfortable sitting position.

Feeling the typical aches and pains associated with years of strenuous activity, he decides to walk the trail that switches back down the mountainside. In the first few steps he sort of drags a rear paw--first the right, then the left. This helps to alleviate the tightness in his hind quarters.

Feeling stretched and refreshed from an uneventful day of sleep, he slinks down the trail toward the meadow. The sun is setting, and at many times past this would be the perfect time to catch an unsuspecting deer munching the tall grass of the meadow. Poor game management and habitat loss have contributed to the decline of deer populations. Nonetheless, an adult deer would provide a week or more worth of food, so he decides to creep (as he does most every day) up to the edge of the meadow.

With his belly only inches from the ground, he perks his ears up and continues the slow but deliberate crawl into the meadow....

Can you guess the protagonist?