Sorry, But Society Doesn’t Give a Damn About Veterans

I’m not sorry I did not join in your celebrations and activities on Memorial Day.  I’m sure the day off from work was nice, along with the three-day sales and barbecues.  And the weather looked perfect so I’m sure it was a great day to hang out by the lake with your family or friends.  But that’s not what Memorial Day is about, and at this point it’s pretty clear that this nation really doesn’t give a damn about its veterans.

Oh sure, there were parades and flag-waving, and patriotic gestures and symbolism.  A few veterans got a pat on the back as they remembered their fallen comrades, as others tried to think of what it is like to walk a mile in our boots and grieve our fallen comrades year after year.  But at this point, it’s pretty obvious that society really doesn’t give a damn about our fallen veterans, or veterans as a whole, and Memorial Day was all for show. If society did hold veterans in high regard they would not relegate us to a third-rate healthcare system.  No society that genuinely cares about veterans would elevate them with names like “the greatest generation” only to turn around and send them to a crappy health care system to die.

The problems recently uncovered at the VA were a surprise to everyone. Everyone, that is, except veterans.  These problems did not start under Obama, Bush or Clinton.  The failures of the VA are ingrained in the system.  Although my WWII veteran godfather passed away roughly a decade ago, I can still remember the stories of struggle he had with the VA simply getting appointments and the proper care.  He would spend hours in a cramped van with other vets only to get to the VA facility and find out something was amiss and he wouldn’t get the care he needed.

The stories of my godfather are no different than mine.  After I was discharged from Walter Reed I bounced around the VA system for a year and a half before I was finally assigned a patient advocate who could actually schedule my appointments.  I called every month to find out when my appointment was scheduled to finalize my disability rating.  The VA told me they would mail me a letter when the appointment was scheduled.  A couple months later I received a phone call from the VA asking why I didn’t show up for the disability rating appointment that they never told me about.  After a year of asking to have my patched and duct-taped prosthetic arm fixed, I finally gave up and contacted a congressman.  I was wearing a new prosthetic arm in a week, and my other one was completely repaired.  The VA prosthetics department blamed me for not knowing their system.  These were the same individuals who did not know how to take apart my prosthetic arm. I had to show them in order to get it fixed.  I once went to the VA emergency room in Minneapolis with the advanced symptoms of Lyme’s disease.  After sitting in the waiting room for six hours with only four other people, I was told by a nurse to “be nice” to the doctor because he had to come in on his day off.

Sorry, but a society doesn’t give a damn about veterans.  If they did that they would not relegate those of us who put our lives on the line for our country to such shoddy healthcare.  Our healthcare is not an entitlement, it’s part of our contract, something we earned when we signed on the dotted line.  Our government says that it you serve our nation and get injured, they will provide the necessary care.  But our government doesn’t do that, and society doesn’t care.

Sorry, but society doesn’t give a damn about veterans.  Oh sure, there are those who act patriotic, who wear a red shirt on Friday, who might chip in a few dollars to their favorite veterans organization. But few if any will ask why billions of dollars are donated every year to help veterans with problems that are supposed to be fixed by the VA. Society as a whole doesn’t give a damn about veterans.  If they did, they would not tolerate a third rate health care system where we’re put on secret waiting lists to die for no other reason than a manager to get their bonus.  We would not have to endure shoddy healthcare conditions where contaminated equipment inflicts us with diseases like HIV and hepatitis.  We would not have to endure a system that treats us as just another number, or perhaps a squeaky wheel to get greased when a politician gets involved.

obama_meSorry, but politicians don’t give a damn about veterans either.  They may look like it come election time because we’re viewed as either an asset or liability.  Yet ask an elected representative to hold someone personally accountable for the problems at the VA, and they look as if you asked them to take a bullet for you, or hand over their first born.  Veterans are used to being political footballs, as I saw as a patient at Walter Reed.  If there’s an election coming up, the politicians from downtown would be making the rounds to get their photo-ops.  The politicians all knew about the problems at the VA because they aren’t new.  They existed under their predecessors, and under their predecessor’s predecessors.  But they will still pound their fists, give angry speeches, propose a bill to give the broken system more money, and make it sound like they care and will get to the bottom of it.  There might be ronkindthe occasional symbolic firing amid yet another committee investigation that exists only to uncover problems that were already well-known amongst those who launched the committee.  The tactic is not to solve the issues at the VA, it’s to kick it down the road until the next scandal or until the public forgets. The worst of those failing to hold people accountable for the problems at the VA are the partisan veterans amongst us who make excuses for those on their side of the isle.  Sure, they may work for an organization that has the word veteran in it, but they are doing so only to further their own political agenda.  They are the worst of the worst, modern-day Benedict Arnolds.

If we lived in a society where our nation cared about veterans, there would be constant protests outside the White House.  People would be storming the hill, demanding to speak with their representatives.  People would be demanding that the press hold them accountable for the promises they campaigned on when veterans needlessly die. But its not happening, because society really doesn’t give a damn about veterans.

A job was asked of me, so I went and did it, regardless of the cost.  I was asked to go do the impossible and I lost my right arm in the process.  But society doesn’t give a damn. But hey, I’m glad you got a day off of work so you could hang out with your family, cook some burgers on the grill, and maybe save a few bucks by hitting up a Memorial Day sale.  At least my buddy didn’t die for nothing.

Posted in Iraq, Mainstream Media, Politics, Veterans, Veterans Administration, Veterans Organizations, Walter Reed | 5 Comments

About That Veterans Bill

Wasteful government spending is a funny thing, in that people almost always rail against it until their cause is on the receiving end.   Such is the case of many veterans organizations as the latest veterans bill died in the senate after Democrats failed to garner enough support from Republicans.

I am a veteran, and a severely wounded one at that.  With a disability rating of 100%, I have relied heavily on the VA after losing my right arm in Iraq. My opinions are not based on feel-good notions of helping veterans, but on actual experience as a wounded veteran navigating a bloated bureaucracy that considers me nothing more than a case file and the occasional squeaky wheel that needs to be greased.

If you think the VA is a model of health care that should be expanded, you’re either delusional or misinformed. The VA is a wasteful monstrosity that is plagued by delays, a lack of accountability, and bad policies all around.  While I have encountered individuals in the VA who work diligently and effectively, they tend to be the exception, not the norm. In 2007 it took an investigation from a congressman before the VA gave me a new prosthetic arm.  There were no real reasons for the months long delay that required me to patch my existing one with pieces of duct tape.  I was wearing a new one in a week, made at a private practice 30 miles from my house. The problem was a bloated bureaucracy where people hid behind closed doors and weren’t held accountable.  In fact, after the entire ordeal the department actually blamed me for not knowing “the system.”  It was my fault my multiple phone calls, appointments, and requests for a prosthetic arm were not satisfied by their department.  These were the same “experts” who asked me how to take apart my prosthetic arm because they were not sure how.

This is just one example of many since I was thrust into the system 2007.  As countless other veterans can attest, my experiences are not unique.  I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken with who claimed the VA killed their father/uncle/brother/grandfather/son/etc. One does not need to ask around to hear stories, a simple Google search will reveal VA employees rewarded with five figure bonuses for their efforts despite infectious diseases being spread in their facilities due to their poor policies and lackadaisical performance. It’s an environment where honor and integrity are proclaimed to be desired yet never achieved due to a lack of supervision.  Problems are typically not fixed until something goes horribly wrong and draws unwanted attention.  One does not need a study to see that our VA system is overtaxed, simply walk into any major facility during the middle of the day. It is standing room only. For many, the wait for appointments is months.  A few minutes in the lobby of the facility will reveal their frustrations. There is no need to ask questions, simply stand there and listen.

Our political class, in their infinite wisdom, decided to rely on their number one tool for fixing problems and throw money at the issue. As if this inefficient, unsupervised bureaucracy were not taxed enough, they wanted to expand access to thousands of other veterans without service connected injuries.  They apparently think the VA is run so efficiently and cost-effectively that its employees and healthcare providers are sitting around waiting for patients, and there isn’t a backlog of thousands. For those of us who experience the system firsthand, the thought of adding more people to an already overtaxed VA system is asinine.  It’s the same logic that says if we add millions more to the healthcare system, wait times and costs will somehow go down. It’s an insane world where spending more money leads to an increase in savings, and adding more people to an overtaxed system will lead to decreased wait times and better care.

I get it, veterans organizations, your job is to stick up for veterans and lobby on our behalf.  As a veteran, I’m grateful for all that you have done.  But just once I want to see a veterans organization say, instead of throwing good money after bad, lets gut this terrible bureaucracy so that it actually functions, and start holding people personally accountable so that future veterans get the care that they deserve.

Is that really too much to ask?

Posted in Democrats, Veterans, Veterans Administration, Veterans Organizations | 4 Comments

Best Military Charities

Updated 2-15-14

Perhaps the most commonly asked question I receive on Twitter is which veterans organizations people should donate to.  There are billions of dollars donated every year in the name of helping veterans.  But which ones are the best?  Which ones are trustworthy? Are people really to believe those flashy, expensive commercials during the nightly news?

With the onslaught of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, raising money in the name of helping veterans has become the new “stop breast cancer,” a multibillion-dollar endeavor with corporations partnering up with veterans organizations on everything from paper towels to NASCAR tickets.  As a wounded warrior, I have experience with many of these organizations and can help wade through the decision making process.  As I travel the country interviewing military personnel for various stories, I always make it a point to ask which organizations helped them.  By using that information, and my own personal experience, in addition to the publically available charity rating statistics, I composed the following list of organizations.   While this list is by no means all-encompassing (there are hundreds of organizations), it will serve as a short safe list.  For those looking to research an organization outside of this list, I’d first check an organization’s rating at Charity Navigator to see if their financials are up to par.  A word of warning though. Just because an organization has highly rated financial records doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing anything substantial to help the troops.


Fisher House Foundation – When it comes to veterans organizations, the one that should be at the top of everyone’s list is the Fisher House Foundation.  At every military installation with a hospital there is at least one Fisher House.  The Fisher House is a way for military families to live together during a soldier’s recovery instead of forcing them to live separately, at great burden.  As their website explains, they have the daily capacity of 812 families, and served over 22,000 families in 2013 alone. (I lived in a Fisher House for nine months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a much better atmosphere for my recovery.)  Another great facet of the Fisher house is their Hero Miles program.  The program relies on donated frequent flyer miles to fly family members and friends at no cost to meet their wounded loved ones.  So far the program has provided a whopping 40,000 tickets to wounded, injured, and ill service members and their families, worth nearly $63 million.  The Fisher House also offers grants and other forms of temporary housing assistance.  As if you needed another reason, the Fisher House foundation was the organization that stepped up to cover the missing death benefit gratuity for military families burying their loved ones that our inept political class claimed could not be paid during the government shutdown.  In case you are wondering about their financials, the Fisher House Foundation sets the bar with an incredible 96% spent directly on programs.

Operation Homefront – Operation Homefront covers exactly what the title suggests, the home front. As their website states, Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and financial assistance.  You might have seen them on the news during the holidays as they helped feed hungry military families. A harsh reality of military life is there are some junior enlisted members using food stamps to feed their large families.

Project Healing Waters – Project Healing Waters birthed shortly before I got to Walter Reed in 2006.  It was started as a way to help rehabilitate soldiers with extreme physical wounds through fly fishing and fly tying. (I can tell you from personal experience that rehabilitating through fly fishing and fly tying is much more exciting than some of the things they make you do in therapy.) As one might expect, there are a variety of activities to apply the skills learned.  There are outings, fishing tournaments, and even multi-day float trips down rivers.  They have since moved from being a single entity in DC and branched all over the country, helping veterans of all ages and wars with a variety of injuries.

Armed Forces Foundation – Armed Forces Foundation has a variety of programs such as providing troops with financial assistance, educating on TBI and PTSD, and a variety of activities for troops to participate in.  I covered one of their trips, a once-in-a-lifetime high-roller trip to Las Vegas for wounded warriors from Walter Reed.  What struck me most about the trip was the freedom that the participants had to cater the activities to themselves.  If a wounded warrior was there with their spouse, they could go off and get a massage together or do something to strengthen their marriage.  Most trips for wounded warriors use the one-size-fits-all military approach, and have a strict list and schedule of activities that don’t always work for a variety of injuries and conditions.  It was also the only trip I’ve witnessed where the organization actively worked with the whole community, businesses, even the media, to put the wounded warriors up on a pedestal and show them overwhelming gratitude during their stay so they could forget about their appointments and problems for a little while (considering Faith Hill and Tim McGraw dropped in on the warrior’s final dinner to personally say thank you to them, I’d say they accomplished that goal.) The Armed Forces Foundation is another organization with excellent financial status, spending over 90% of funds directly on the troops.

Semper Fi Fund – Semper Fi Fund helps injured Marines in a variety of ways through service member and family support, adaptive housing and transportation, education and career transition assistance, and specialized and adaptive equipment.  As a competitor in the Warrior Games for the Army Team, I was struck by how much assistance the Marine Corps team received from Semper Fi Fund.  The more I spoke with the Marines, the more I learned what a great organization Semper Fi Fund is.  In fact, the organization’s efforts at helping wounded Marines have proven so effective they decided to start a new program called America’s Fund, designed to help wounded warriors from all branches of the military.  Their financials are easily up to par as well, spending over 94% directly on programs.

Team Rubicon – I did a story on Team Rubicon’s efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as veterans helped residents rebuild after the destruction.  The organization’s purpose is basically twofold: mobilize a large yet nimble quick reaction force after natural disasters, and give veterans a sense of purpose again as they reintegrate into society.  This unique approach to helping veterans has proven worthwhile, helping a number of troubled veterans come back from the brink as they realize there is still life and purpose after service. If you need another reason to support them, just remember that this organization might someday be coming to your rescue when disaster strikes.

Soldier’s Angels – this volunteer organization had a substantial impact on my recovery.  Whether it’s mailing care packages to troops overseas, giving First Response Packs and blankets to new wounded warriors traveling through Germany on their way back to the states, or giving out laptops with voice recognition software to arm amputees in Walter Reed, this organization understands the needs of wounded warriors, and gets the job done.

VFW, American Legion – the brick-and-mortar veterans organizations that came about during your grandfather’s generation are generally safe to give to.  Many of them have local chapters that are active within your own community as well, so you can directly see how their money and efforts are spent.

Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund - Normally I wouldn’t mention an organization that exists and operates within only one state, but this organization is so unique and successful at its mission that I feel it necessary. Launched in 2005, this organization is one-of-a-kind, and operates only in Minnesota.  The mission of the organization is simple: raise funds, and turn around and give it to Minnesota troops in the form of modest grants. (Larger grants are given to troops who are severely wounded and need greater assistance.) The funds have been proven time and time again to help families of deployed soldiers cover expenses while their loved ones are away. Even if you don’t live around the State of Minnesota, this is still a great organization to give to.


I know that if I simply leave a couple organizations off of the list, I’m going to get peppered with questions asking why and whether or not they are safe to give to.  So here are some veterans organizations I WOULD NOT donate to.


Wounded Warrior Project – It pains me to write this. When I was a patient at Walter Reed in 2007 it was a small, nimble organization that was effective at helping wounded troops.  A WWP rep would talk to me weekly and sit in on my occupational therapy appointments to see if they could help.  A couple years ago I noticed a drastic change in the opinions of other wounded warriors, especially those coming through Walter Reed.  Since then I have interviewed wounded warriors from coast-to-coast and everywhere in between, yet can’t seem to find anyone with a high opinion of the Wounded Warrior Project, or anyone who has been recently helped by the organization.  Over the years the organization became a giant fundraising behemoth with high-dollar pull-at-your-heart-strings commercials featuring paid celebrities.  The organization seems to have abandoned the virtue of selfless service upon which our military is based, paying rather high salaries to its staff.  Throughout my interviews I noticed that opinions in the wounded warrior community range from mild annoyance to distrust of the organization.  I interviewed the wife of a fallen Navy SEAL who wanted to have a fundraiser for the organization but decided not to when representatives told her she would first have to pay a sizeable fee upfront, and the organization would not provide any funds to the families of the fallen Navy SEALs she wanted to help because they don’t pay grants to individuals, only other organizations.  I spoke with a Marine amputee in Quantico who said their trips and outings have become nothing more than an excuse to get drunk on someone else’s dime.  He told me he was so disgusted that he asked the organization to stop using his photo for fundraising, but they refused, citing the media release he signed.  While competing in the Warrior Games, I asked a number of my fellow competitors what they thought of the organization.  I learned that the only people in the games who have ever been helped by the organization are those who appeared in their commercials (they don’t sponsor the games, either).  The Tampa Bay Times dug into their financials and discovered that only 58% of their funds actually go to programs.  While that is better than some, it is far below the other organizations I have listed. And as I mentioned previously, the organization does not actually give grants directly to wounded troops, only to other organizations that help the troops, like Operation Homefront.  This begs the question, why give to the Wounded Warrior Project and fund expensive commercials when you can give directly to those organizations and cut out the middle man? I hope that one day the organization sees serious reforms and begins using the incredible $155 million they brought in last year to help wounded troops more effectively.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – IAVA is an organization with a great name, but comes up lacking in most other aspects. One would think that an organization that consistently lobbies the government for veteran causes, such as employing more veterans, would follow their own lead and make a point to ensure its staff is composed of more veterans than civilians.  My personal impression of the organization is that it’s a lot more about promoting its leader, Paul Rieckoff, than actually helping veterans.  That would be in tune with his past, when he was caught wearing a bronze star and SF patch he did not earn (ironic for someone who lobbied for stolen valor laws).  Furthermore, the “nonpartisan” IAVA has proven anything but under the leadership of Rieckoff, and at times seems more intent on divisiveness – especially when dealing with other veterans organizations – than helping veterans as a whole.  Unfortunately, IAVA doesn’t meet the standard on integrity.

Paralyzed Veterans of America – I’m only mentioning this organization because their commercials flash across my TV screen every five minutes during the nightly news.  Their financials are absolutely horrendous, with an incredible 62% spent on advertising and only 33% on program expenses.  With over $100 million in revenue in 2012 alone, that is a whole lot of money that is not going to veterans who so desperately need it.

VoteVets – I have been following the activities of VoteVets for quite a while. VoteVets is nothing more than a progressive organization pushing a long list of progressive causes under the guise of being a veterans organization. So unless you’re into that sort of thing, I’d send your money elsewhere.

PurpleHeart Foundation (Military Order of the Purple Heart) – With only 30% spent on programs, this organization has consistently received low ratings.  Since the start of the Iraq War, Military Order of the Purple Heart has been mired in controversy.  With little executive oversight, hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted or allocated to questionable dealings by organization members for their own personal gain.  According to their recent IRS filings, the organization is bleeding millions of dollars as they spend far more than they are bringing in.  As a largely inefficient organization mired with corruption, I do not see the Military Order of the Purple Heart making it on the safe list anytime soon.


I know a lot of people prefer to donate to some sort of veterans organizations to help the troops.  But there is another more effective and personal way you can do so.  Simply find a veteran in your community, and find out what their needs are.  This might be something as simple as taking them out to lunch, buying them groceries to feed their family, or even writing a monthly check.  While this might not be as exciting as supporting an organization with high dollar commercials, and won’t earn you a free keychain or hat with an organization’s logo, it’s the only way that 100% of your funds will go directly to veterans. And you won’t have to take an organization’s word for it, because you can see the results of your efforts first-hand.  Just make sure that the individual is really a veteran.  The unfortunate reality is there are a number of fakers among us.

Posted in TBI, Veterans, Veterans Organizations, Walter Reed, War, Warrior Games | Comments Off

Iraq and the Disappearing Anti-War Movement

With the ten year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, journalists are out in force to proudly pat themselves on the back and offer flashbacks (oftentimes revisionist) of how wrong the Bush administration was about going to war, and how the whole endeavor was due to fail before it even began.  If only those ignorant warmongers and the Bush administration had listened to the left-wing journalists! If they had the world would be a better place, the Middle East would be peaceful, and every rainfall would end with sunshine and a double rainbow.

As I was browsing the news on Twitter I noticed Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed posting a number of front pages of news outlets from the opening days of the Iraq War, occasionally going out of his way to point out various columnists or individuals who predicted the prevalence of weapons of mass destruction, and were later greatly shamed for their views.

I decided to ask him, as long as we’re remembering the start of the Iraq War, why not revisit the anti-war movement the media was trumpeting at the time?

To which he thoughtfully, emphatically, and eloquently replied:

 

Now to be fair, Andrew doesn’t owe me anything.  I don’t know him, and the few times that I have tweeted him I used a heavy amount of snark to take jabs at perceived bias in his work.  So if someone who has a routine of communicating via kidney jabs suddenly asked if I could do something for them, I’d probably have the same answer.  But my question remained: where did the anti-war movement go?

Ten years ago at the start of the Iraq war the anti-war movement was so large that in February 2003 the New York Times said the following:

The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

In fact, the Iraq anti-war protests on Feburary 15, 2003 were so large that they set world records. CNN cheerfully reported the protests in NYC in great detail:

In New York on Saturday, a giant puppet depicting President Bush holding buckets of blood and oil towered over the cheering crowd that was pressed against police barricades near U.N. headquarters. The main demonstration stretched 20 blocks down First Avenue, and overflowed onto Second and Third avenues as more people tried to reach the rally.

 So why is no one in the media talking about the anti-war movement?  The problem is the anti-war movement has become the elephant in the room.  During the Bush administration the anti-war movement was what the Occupy movement is now:  an effective tool to bludgeon their ideological opponents with.  There were almost daily headlines trumpeting the anti-war movement as the court of public opinion, where the Bush administration was being pronounced guilty, tone deaf to their cries and the societal upheaval their immoral actions caused. The anti-war movement was regular front-page news, and plastered all over TVs at dinnertime.  Cindy Sheehan was a celebrity for camping outside the Bush ranch mourning the loss of her son killed in Iraq (with nothing more than his $250,000 SGLI payout and constant media to keep the poor woman company).

While we’re on the subject of the anti-war movement, when is the last time you read an article concerning the closing of Gitmo, that immoral symbol of America being a rogue torture state and an enemy of the free world? Here is what Senator Barack Obama had to say back in 2007:

“While we’re at it,” he said, “we’re going to close Guantanamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. … We’re going to lead by example _ by not just word but by deed. That’s our vision for the future.”

That all changed when Senator Obama became President Obama and grabbed the reigns of many Bush policies. Instead of following through on his campaign promises to immediately pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the wars were continued. For many of the Bush-era policies surrounding the Patriot Act and drone strikes, they were actually increased in frequency or expanded.

So obviously when the media’s preferred man is in the White House, they don’t dare hold him to the same standard,  hypocrisy be damned.  Take for instance Rand Paul’s recent filibuster surrounding the use of drones strikes against American citizens on American soil.  Instead of meeting it with open arms as simply an expansion of what they were railing against during the Bush years, many in the media actually chastised him for it.  It seems like only yesterday the most reprehensible thing a President could do was get a wiretap without a warrant.  My how the times changed.

In fact a search for “Iraq anti-war”on Google News brings up almost nothing of significance. The two articles I did find were one written by a member of the anti-war movement who is wondering the same thing I am, and the other is a gutter article by “make shit up” journalist Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic chastising conservatives for daring to say truthful things about the anti-war movement.

One Iraq War advocate, Glenn Reynolds*, said of Saddam Hussein that “the ‘anti-war’ movement is objectively on his side, and not neutral,” adding in a follow-up, “When your movement is the key tool of a nasty dictator it should give you pause, shouldn’t it?” Blogger Zach Barberathought similarly, advising readers of his pro-war site, “Don’t let the anti-war folks, as well as the French and Russians, tell you they are not on Saddam’s side. He knows they are.”

 Was Glenn Reynolds correct? Of course he was. All one has to do is take a look at the anti-war protesters who traveled to Iraq to serve as human shields to protect brutal dictator Saddam Hussein.

Was the leftist media rooting for the other side or actually being objective?  Since Andrew did not want help me out with my request, I decided to check into their archives and find out what kind of stuff they were publishing during the Bush Iraq War years. Buzzfeed was started in 2006, so I had to start there.

- Vote for President Bush? It’s because you’re mentally ill:  New survey links support for Bush to mental illness. Hmm. This explains a lot.

- That poor mass-killer Saddam Hussein: People are responding empathetically to Saddam Hussein’s execution. Totally crestfallen over Saddam Hussein’s death? You’re not alone.

- The war on terror? All a big joke, so have a laugh: “Risk”-like boardgame parodying the War on Terror. The whole world has gone totally nuts, but now you can have some fun at its expense. Nuke your opponents, literally.

- That President Bush sure is a war monger: The President plots secret moves against Syria and Iran without Congressional consent.

- Iranian President Ahmadinejad sure is a handsome fellow: Despite his views on the Holocaust, gays and women, some people find Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hot 

Sympathy for a brutal dictator? Check. Denigration of Bush voter’s intelligence? Check. Mocking the fight against violent extremists? Check. Bush is a war monger? Check. The last one is definitely my favorite. By that time in 2007 I was a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C. after losing my arm to an Iranian shape charge in Baghdad that was placed by an Iranian weapons expert (he was caught a couple weeks after). But that’s cool Buzzfeed, yuk it up. Perhaps my arm will magically grow back someday, and all my fellow soldiers who were killed by EFPs will be resurrected from the dead.

I didn’t need to check the archives to know their attitudes toward the war, voters, or the troops that fought, because I lived through it.  It was outside the front gate at Walter Reed every Friday, and on the nightly news. I was one of the many who were told they were dying needlessly, killing civilians for oil, and whose deaths brought about a level of excitement in the media because they had another dead soldier to blame on President Bush.

And now you know why I will never, ever, forgive them.

Posted in Iraq, Mainstream Media, MSM, obama, War | 1 Comment

Rolling Stone Calls Nickelback Greatest Band Of All Time

With the gun debate currently front and center all over the country, everyone is rushing to take sides. The anti-gun crowd in particular has been ramping up their shameless demagoguery, and pulling out all the stops. From Rolling Stone: The Gun Industry’s Deadly Gun Addiction

As recently as 2008, shotguns, rifles and other traditional hunting weapons made up half of all new civilian gun sales in America, according to SEC documents – a brisk billion-dollar business. Today, hunting guns account for less than a quarter of the market, and the hunting industry is forecasting a 24 percent drop in revenue by 2025. Gunmakers are on the wrong side of the same demographic curves that haunt the modern Republican Party. Its customer base is too old, too white, too male and too Southern. According to Gallup, 61 percent of white males in the South own guns today. Nationwide, just 18 percent of Latinos do. “The white males are aging and dying off,” says Sugarmann. Flooding the market with battle-ready guns, he says, “is an effort to find one new, shiny thing to sell them.”

Like most political articles from Rolling Stone nowadays (and much of the media for that matter), they denigrate the pro-Second Amendment crowd as nothing more than racist old southern white men clutching onto grandpappy’s shotgun, ranting about that colored fella in the White House.  It’s a talking point picked straight from the anti-gun campaign of Mike Bloomberg, and used to the point of being a cliché during your average night on MSNBC.

As has turned par for the course for many anti-gun articles, Rolling Stone just makes it up as it goes along.  For instance, take this choice quote:

AR-15 enthusiasts brag they can fire up to 400 rounds in 60 seconds. Paying roughly 50 cents a bullet, such shooters are blowing through $200 worth of ammo in a hot minute.

400 rounds in 60 seconds from a semi-automatic rifle? I sure would like to meet these bragging AR-15 enthusiasts with the magical superpowers and superhuman strength necessary to squeeze the trigger of a semi-automatic rifle an unachievable seven times per second. Not only is this an idiotic and blatantly false assertion to make, but it fails to take into account there is no such thing as a 400 round magazine. So at some point during that mad-minute, the shooter will have to stop and reload. If they are shooting 30 round magazines, that is fourteen magazine changes during that minute as well.  If you believe there are shooters out there reloading fourteen times and firing 400 rounds in one minute with an AR-15, I have some autographed Beatles records in my basement I’d like to sell you.

The article drones on with a few other made-up assertions such as this:

Much of the industry’s recent success is linked to politics – in particular, to the gun-buying public’s anxiety about the first black man in the White House.

Yes, that is really the explanation they provide for skyrocketing gun sales. Not the president’s rhetoric on the need for more gun control, or Democrats around the country going so far as to propose confiscating guns they don’t like, but the color of the president’s skin.  That’s rich coming from the crowd who seeks to ban certain guns simply because they are colored black.  The racism charge has become the last stand of fools making baseless assertions who know they will lose the argument as soon as actual facts are proposed.  It’s easier to accuse someone of the unprovable than argue the indefensible. But they’re not done there.

This sales boom papers over a perilous trajectory for the industry. A generation ago, more than half of American households owned a gun. Today it’s barely one in three. Millennials, in particular, do not share their parents’ love of firearms: Less than 20 percent of Americans born after 1980 report having a gun in the home.”

You won’t find any citations backing up most of their assertions because, as I said earlier, they’re just making it up as they go along. As Celia Bigelow stated in an article at Townhall, nearly half of all citizens own a gun, not one third. And gun ownership has been rising in recent years, not falling.  But hey, why let facts stand in the way of the narrative?

After setting up the article with a number of anti-gun talking points (based on no facts I can find), the article attempts to make five assertions to demonize gun owners and the industry as a whole.

1. Hook the Kids

To goose future growth, the gun industry is aggressively marketing guns to children as young as the first-graders slaughtered in Newtown.

I can’t tell if this assertion is a bit of progressive revisionism where they pretend youth have not always been involved in shooting and hunting, or merely making the ridiculous claim that exposing children to guns and teaching them the fundamentals of firearms (including safety) is somehow immoral and dangerous.  I was 8 years old when my father taught me the basic fundamentals of shooting, and how to safely handle firearms. I started deer hunting at age 12 after passing Wisconsin’s mandatory hunter’s safety class.  My parents even signed me up for a sharpshooter class held at our town’s National Guard Armory when I was in the 8th grade.  Because I was properly educated on the fundamentals of firearms,  I never had the urge that too many youth in the gun-free cities of Chicago and NYC do to get a gun and go cap someone.  Sure I saw gun violence glamorized in movies and music, but because I actually had experience with guns, I knew it wasn’t true or realistic.  Guns were something to be respected, not feared. So I can see why Rolling Stone would oppose educating youth about guns.  Ignorance breeds intolerance. Its a lot easier to convince people to join the anti-gun crusade when they don’t know the difference between a machine gun and a semiautomatic, think a clip and magazine are the same thing, or think handguns are held sideways when fired.

2. Seduce the Ladies

Gunmakers are acutely concerned about the gender gap. Just 15 percent of women nationwide personally own a gun – a third of male gun ownership. For the industry, women are seen not only as lucrative customers in their own right, but also as gatekeepers to the coveted child market.

Gatekeepers to the coveted child market? Try gatekeepers to their own bodies and personal safety. Women represent the fastest growing demographic with female gun ownership up 77% since 2005. Gun ownership among women isn’t 15%, it’s 23%, nearly a quarter of the population. More and more women are realizing a gun is a great equalizer against a man of superior strength. With a sexual assault occurring once every two minutes in our country, who could possibly blame a woman for defending herself with a gun?  The anti-gun crowd apparently can,  because on the liberal hierarchy, anti-gun trumps feminism and empowering women. As Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar and Amanda Marcotte informed us, women are simply too dumb to handle a gun or defend themselves and are better off being raped, assuming they don’t have a rape whistle or call box nearby.  Apparently they have never heard of Amanda Collins, or how she was raped with a call box over her head, 50 feet from a closed campus police office.

3. Turn Shooting Ranges into Live-Action Video Games

For a younger generation raised on graphic video games, shooting at paper targets or “plinking” bottles and tin cans doesn’t carry much appeal. So the industry has come up with some new ways to make shooting more like playtime.

Yes, the “if it feels good, do it” crowd is actually making an argument against having fun.  Much like listening to the new Green Day album or reading the politics section of Rolling Stone, shooting is apparently supposed to be an unpleasant experience, designed to grate one’s physical being and emotional intellect, and therefore be unpleasurable.  They are practically breathless as they describe the horror of gun owners having fun at the range, shooting something other than targets or pop cans.  The largest target of their disdain seems to be the zombie theme popping up all over.  I’m going to take this as an admission they are not fans of The Walking Dead either, since they have to use guns to defend themselves against zombies (sorry, “walkers”), and fend for themselves without government help.  Which brings me to their next point.

4. Prep the Preppers

If zombie hunters train for apocalyptic scenarios as entertainment, there’s another dedicated breed of buyer who is stockpiling weapons out of true fear of social collapse driven by dark forces outside of their control – whether it’s a superstorm, rampant inflation or an out-of-control government.

Peppers, the sometimes nutty and never-leave-anything-to-chance group of people who stockpile food,  supplies, and guns, in case of a societal collapse or disarray.  The anti-prepper argument follows the old liberal mindset that one does not need a gun or stockpiles of food or supplies, that’s what the government is for.  Unfortunately for them, and as I discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Bloomberg’s gun-free utopia of New York City, this could not be further from the truth. I saw numerous homes with signs stating things like “Looters will be shot.”  In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane with no electricity or lights and with many homes evacuated, looters had a field day.  Bloomberg, in an effort to try and downplay the situation,  prohibited the National Guard from helping the overwhelmed NYPD (because they had guns), leaving residents to largely fend for themselves.  In some areas the National Guard would not go after dark after hearing reports of gunfire.  I guess it’s easy to mock those poor dumb peasants out on Far Rockaway when you’re sitting high and dry at Rolling Stone headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

 5. Supply Cartels and Criminals

The gun industry’s dirtiest – and most open – secret is that it is profiting from the sale of guns that are illegally trafficked into Mexico to arm the drug cartels responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. “Nobody has a clue how big that market is,” says Diaz. “It’s like drugs in reverse.”

 In the wake of the Obama administration’s Operation Fast and Furious, I cannot think of a more tone deaf argument to try and make.  For those of you who have been living under a Rolling Stone the last four years, Fast and Furious was an Obama administration operation that forced gun dealers in southern states to allow the illegal sale of guns to straw purchasers, fully knowing the guns were going to end up in Mexico.  No attempts were actually made at tracking the guns, and some reports cite agents as actually being giddy when the trafficked guns started to turn up at crime scenes.  The fallout from the operation has been incredibly deadly, with over 300 Mexicans and border patrol agent Brian Terry killed by weapons the government purposefully allowed to be illegally straw-purchased and trafficked into Mexico.

Furthermore, Rolling Stone states that 90% of the guns being trafficked into Mexico originated from American manufacturers.  This is actually a dishonest play on the statistics from the GAO that was started by the Obama administration. Despite clarification from the ATF that it is false,  the anti-gun crowd blatantly perpetuates the lie. The 90% figure is actually rounded up from 87%,  and is a percentage of a percentage of a percentage.

According to a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

12% of guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement were traced to the U.S., not 87%.  It’s tragic that any gun from America shows up in the drug violence of Mexico, and any gun dealer caught selling to straw purchasers or knowingly trafficking guns into Mexico should be prosecuted.  But this last assertion from Rolling Stone raises another question, and contradicts the argument they are trying to make.  Mexico has strict anti-gun laws, therefore it should be as safe as the gun free utopia of Chicago.  So why is there so much gun violence in Mexico if there are laws prohibiting it?

There is yet another facet of their final point that I cannot help but feel Rolling Stone is complicit in.  This is a publication that has spent decades glorifying rock stars and all that they represent.  The crazy lifestyle, smashing guitars, trashing hotel rooms,  the illicit drug and alcohol use, and the promiscuous benefits of female groupies.  So I find it hypocritical that Rolling Stone would suddenly be concerned about the existence of Mexican drug cartels, violent criminals who fuel the very drug culture and lifestyles of the hip and edgy Rolling Stone has glamorized for decades. Yet Rolling Stone seems to have a selective conscience, only lecturing on lessons of perceived immorality they are not complicit in. Ever hear Rolling Stone tell a band they will not put them on the cover of the magazine until they stop their drug and alcohol abuse?  Me neither. In addition, how can Rolling Stone chastise the war on drugs as being an epic failure, yet claim a war on guns would be successful? You can’t have it both ways if you’re making the argument more laws equals less guns equals less crime.

Rolling Stone is a publication founded on the culture of rebelling against the establishment.  But somewhere along the line Rolling Stone went from being the acid dropping rebellious youth, rocking out to Jimi Hendricks, saying make love not war, and became the establishment.  They got a hair cut, found a job, moved out of mom and dad’s basement and aligned with the modern day liberal movement of aging baby boomers.  They have become the angry parents yelling  “Turn down that racket!” so they can watch another riveting episode of Wheel of Fortune.  To see Rolling Stone try and lecture on guns as if they have a moral foundation on which to stand is as laughable and hypocritical as if Gene Simmons started warning of the ethics of multiple sex partners, or C.C. DeVille warning kids not to put impurities into their bodies.

Rolling Stone has gone from being the rebellious rocker smashing guitars on stage, to the geriatric senior citizen spending their morning at Denny’s griping about Medicare gap coverage and the cost of catheters, before relocating to their porch, yelling at kids to stay off the lawn.  They are as edgy as a Hostess Sno Ball, and as predictable as an episode of Full House.

I can’t wait for the next issue of Rolling Stone where their editors announce Nickelback is the greatest band of all time.

Posted in Guns, Pop Culture | 5 Comments

No, Gun Publications Are Not Being Bought and Dismantled (And Other Gun Conspiracy Theories)

Rather than focusing on more relevant matters, I’m spending time debunking yet another anti-gun conspiracy theory. Via the Daily Caller:

Employees: Obama donor in process of buying up and ‘destroying’ America’s top pro-gun media outlets

Employees of Obama donor Leo Hindery Jr.’s media conglomerate Intermedia Partners, which now owns most of the top gun-culture media outlets in the country, believe that Hindery plans to gut and destroy all of them as part of a business plan that has already led to numerous layoffs and the virtual shuttering of prominent television production facilities in Minnesota and Montana.

Hindery, who was in consideration to be President Barack Obama’s secretary of commerce, is managing partner of Intermedia Partners. The New York-based media private equity fund owns Intermedia Outdoor Holdings, which publishes 17 hunting, fishing, and shooting magazines, including Guns & Ammo, Handguns, Gun Dog, Rifle Shooter and Shooting Times.

The article goes on to describe how Leo Hindery Jr., at the helm of Intermedia Partners, has been buying up gun publications and going through the messy process of consolidation.  The Daily Caller covered all the bases, citing people who are upset they are losing their jobs, or having their work load cut.

“That studio in Brainerd was a real staple in that community for years. We used to joke that it was the Microsoft of Brainerd County. Everyone was impressed if you worked there. You made money, you did well, you had this dream life. Then Leo Hindery Jr. bought it and just completely gutted it,” said the employee. “It’s sad. I know a lot of good people in Brainerd who lost their jobs and had their houses foreclosed on.”

Rather than drawing the logical conclusion Intermedia Partners is consolidating businesses to make them profitable, the article cites unnamed individuals who claim it is a ploy to dismantle all the gun publications (this despite citing claims of high pay and how expensive and underutilized the facilities were, or that they would help relocate employees).

As a person who knows all too well how hard it is to make a living slaving away on the proverbial printing press, I’m sympathetic to anyone losing their job in the media business. Because of that I’m not going to debate the morals or ethics of venture capitalism or cutting jobs and consolidating businesses. I’m here to debunk the theory that this is all part of a much larger ploy to secretly destroy pro-gun media.

This story has been ran by numerous people within the pro-gun media and publishing industry, and has come back to me with an overwhelming rating of B.S.. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, take Cam Edward’s, the host of NRA News:

 


For those of you who don’t know, the NRA partnered with the Sportsman Channel (included in the aforementioned merger) and brought Cam Edwards and NRA News to the network back in January.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is not some grand anti-gun conspiracy out there to buy up and destroy pro-gun media.

Unfortunately this story is far from being the only case I have encountered.  Stories like these are forwarded to me all the time.  Not long ago I received an email claiming major ammo manufacturers were secretly being ordered by the government to limit production. Apparently this rumor was so prominent that ammunition manufacturer Hornady felt necessary to debunk it on its website:

The current political climate has caused extremely high demand on all shooting industry products, including ours. Empty retail shelves, long backorders, and exaggerated price increases on online auction sites – all fueled by rumors and conjecture – have amplified concerns about the availability of ammunition and firearms-related items.

If the information you hear doesn’t originate from Hornady Manufacturing, don’t believe it.

Here are some of rumors we’ve heard, and questions we’ve received:

  • Have you stopped production, or has the government forced you to stop?
    • Not at all.
  • Did you stop selling bullets so you could only make loaded ammunition?
    • Absolutely not.
  • Since we can’t find your product you must be selling it all to the government.
    • Nope, less than 5% of our sales are to government entities.
  • Why can’t you make more? Ramp up production? Turn on all the machines?
    • We’ve been steadily growing our production for a long time, especially the last five years. We’ve added presses, lathes, CNC equipment, people and space. Many popular items are produced 24 hours a day. Several hundred Hornady employees work overtime every week to produce as much as safely possible. If there is any question about that – please take a tour of the factory. You’ll be amazed at what you see.

Then there was the rumor that Walmart was going to discontinue selling ammunition, which too proved false.

CNSNews.com reported Monday that Walmart had suspended further ammunition orders until the findings of the Biden gun-control task force are released.

To set the record straight: Walmart tells CNSNews.com that the store’s ammunition policy has not changed.

“We continue to offer that product to our customers and you know, we’ll continue to do so,” Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, told us on Tuesday. “We haven’t made any changes in the product mix in that category.”

And then there is the zombie (just won’t die) conspiracy theory that George Soros is secretly buying up firearms and ammunition manufacturers through Cerberus and Freedom Group and plans to dismantle them.  The NRA debunked it years ago, yet I still see it around the interwebs and in my inbox.

An old rumor has once again resurfaced alleging that Cerberus–the private equity firm that owns Freedom group, a holding company that in turn owns a number of firearms manufacturers, including Remington, Marlin, Bushmaster, and DPMS–is in some way tied to George Soros.

This rumor is completely false and baseless.

Following is a statement from Freedom Group, Inc., addressing the rumor:

Despite rumors to the contrary, Cerberus Capital Management, L.P., the firm which owns Freedom Group. Inc. (FGI), the holding company for such firearms manufacturers as Remington, Marlin, Bushmaster and DPMS, is in NO WAY affiliated with anti-gun activist George Soros.

George Soros has never been a part of Freedom Group or Cerberus.  Further, as Cerberus is a privately owned corporation, run by sportsmen, shooters and firearms enthusiasts, we can say with great sincerity and certainty that George Soros will never be a part of the Freedom Group family of companies.

Look, I get it. With the amount of gun grabbing legislation being proposed,  everyone has their nose to the ground sniffing around for even the slightest scent of infringement upon their Second Amendment rights.  While I commend you for your heightened sense of awareness and willingness to fight for your gun rights, far too often people go off the deep end, running with every little salacious story that comes along, without bothering to do even the most basic fact checking to find out if it’s actually true.  As Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth even puts its pants on.”

If you’re one of these people who encounters a salacious story and simply hits the forward button on your email or clicks retweet on Twitter without giving it a second thought that it might be false, shame on you.  The problem with latching onto these ridiculous conspiracy theories is that far too much time and effort is spent addressing them instead of focusing on the real issues.  There are real battles to be fought and won in the gun-control arena that are not getting attention because people are preoccupied with nonsense like this.  Stop spreading rumors and conspiracy theories, you are only hurting our cause.

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Gun Control, Guns | Comments Off

Some Thoughts On The Current State of Conservatives

First the intro via Erick Erickson over at Red State:

I think conservative media is failing to advance ideas and stories. Certainly part of that is because the general media has an ideological bias against conservatives, which makes it harder for the media to take our views seriously. But many conservatives are, instead of working doubly hard to overcome that bias, just yelling louder about the same things. The echo in the chamber has gotten so loud it is not well understood outside the echo chamber in the mainstream press and in the public. It translates only as anger and noise, neither of which are conducive to the art of persuasion.

Conservatives are trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial, we have forgotten the basics of reporting: W5 + H as I learned in grade school, also known as who, what, where, when, why, and how. I think conservatives need to reset some of their reportorial resources to tell the stories that need to be told by focusing on the facts at hand in a world view of the right. We need to establish a baseline for integrity in reporting that then allows us to highlight the truly outrageous. That baseline must be the basics of who, what, where, when, why, and how and it must be set before taking the next step into analysis of motivation and its implications.

If you’re a conservative who cares, make sure you go read the whole thing, because 1. it’s important and 2. I’m not going to rip the entire thing off from Erick.  He makes a lot of points that I have wanted to yet have not been spurned to do so until now.

Erick is absolutely correct about accuracy. I pride myself on getting the facts right,  to the point of being anal-retentive about some of the more minute and irrelevant details in a story.  When I’m working on a new piece, I do my homework, and record and detail everything.  The same skepticism applies to every new story out there where conservatives are being blamed.  For some reason there is this tendency among conservatives to take a look at every media story out there, and weed through the details to figure out how they are the victim. They then take those bits of information that make their victim-hood narrative true and run with it, yelling oh woe is me.  I really don’t understand it.  It’s like the liberal media in reverse.  Apparently some people enjoy being the whipping boy, wallowing in their seemingly ever-present misery.

I shouldn’t say I don’t understand it.  I do get some of it.  With election defeats, another four years of the Obama admin to look forward to, the Supreme Court punting on Obamacare, the Senate maintaining its Democrat majority, and the majority of the media  seemingly always erring on the side of the liberal agenda, it’s enough for even the most uppity conservative to be put on suicide watch. If there’s one thing the conservatives do not have a shortage of its reasons to feel wronged.  We have become the depressed girl with 1,000 ex-boyfriends who has yet to find love. I get it, you’re frustrated over the lack of conservatism wins.  Join the club.  But we have to take that energy and do something useful with it if we’re going to accomplish anything. Now let me tell you what not to do, and what’s not going to help.

First, stop the mindless frothing at the mouth.  I get it, you’re upset.  But unless you channel your anger and frustration and do something productive that is conducive to change, you’re blowing off a lot of energy for nothing and wasting everyone’s time. Too many conservatives have become the antonym of the unhinged left during the second Bush term.  I see this on Twitter more than any place else.  If every other tweet you send has the words impeach or Benghazi or Marxist in it, you’re doing it wrong. I can almost guarantee if you are sending those tweets the only people you follow and are following you are fellow conservatives who believe the exact same thing.  Congrats on screaming in an echo chamber. The technique is about as effective as standing in front of your bathroom mirror screaming at yourself.  You’re not accomplishing anything, so knock it off.  Furthermore, if you’re only following people on Twitter you agree with, you’re also using Twitter wrong.  It means you’re no better than the close minded liberal on the other side of the aisle. Being an informed conservative means knowing what everyone is saying, not just those you agree with.

The other behavior I see from a lot of conservatives is the eagerness to jump on every little salacious story that comes along without verifying anything.  If it sounds like conservatives are the victim, then too many will eagerly jump on the victimhood bandwagon. Some prime examples: Walmart officials met with the Obama administration and are no longer going to order ammunition for their stores.  Personally I thought this to be pretty idiotic from the get-go, but a number of people eagerly boarded the U.S.S. Victimhood and set sail without bothering to verify any of the facts pertaining to the story.  As Winston Churchill famously said, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on. “Trust but verify” isn’t something that journalists (should) live by, but something all people, conservatives especially,  should make a habit.  If you want to call yourself the better educated side of the aisle,  then you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Another prime example was the story that veterans were having their firearms rights taken away by the VA without just cause.  Obviously this is a topic that is near and dear to me especially with my past run-ins with the VA and who I’ve been doing some writing for.   I sent several unanswered tweets and messages to the people pushing the story asking for verification while everyone else seemed to be happily jumping on the outrageously outrageous outrage bandwagon.  Eventually the record was set straight by Michelle Malkin on Twitchy, long after the ridiculous story had made the rounds all over the interwebs and people were sure it had to be true because conservatives were the victims once again.  If you are one of those people, congratulations on being one step above a low information voter.

The common excuse I hear for this behavior is,”We just don’t trust this president and we wouldn’t put anything past him.”  While I wish the White House press corps shared your skepticism,  taking it to depths conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Alex Jones would be proud of is no way to win hearts and minds for conservative movement.  It just makes you look unhinged, fanatical, and nutty, and like I said earlier, accomplishes absolutely nothing productive.  Stop looking for ways that you are a victim.  The ways conservatives will twist and contort things to make themselves out to be the victim is utterly mind blowing sometimes.

So what should you do different?  You can start by crawling out from under your rock and get out of the echo chamber.  Yes, I know it’s a comfortable place where you’re surrounded by people who agree with you.  But you’re not accomplishing anything,  and you sure as hell aren’t winning any elections screaming the same things at one another. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back all you want, just don’t whine after the next election when low information voters reelect the guy on the other side of the aisle because Sarah Jessica Parker told them to.

Furthermore, preach civility, and practice what you preach.  Stop hating people you disagree with.  You don’t even know these people, how can you hate them?  If there’s one thing that we can all take away from Breitbart’s legacy,  its that you don’t have to hate people just because you have different opinions.  Let the other side hate.  It’s what makes us better.  When the media fails to find unhinged right-wingers frothing at the mouth,  it undermines their narrative that much more.

You need to get out of your house, get away from your computer, get involved in your local party politics, and get to know your elected officials. I know it’s scary, it requires you to meet new people, and get out of your comfort zone a little bit. But it’s how elections are won.  Talk to your elected officials, even the small fish at the local level, including your mayor, school board members, and state representatives.  If you call up your local state representative or senator,  will they immediately know who you are and recall the last time you spoke?  Mine will, because I get involved, make my thoughts and opinions known,  and do so in a manner that is consistent with the conservative message. Even if you have the charisma of moss growing on a wet rock, be able to articulate your thoughts and ideas. Educate yourself.  Read the news (from all sources, not just those you agree with), and pay attention to what’s going on in the world.

The constant victimhood nonsense needs to stop.  Stop latching onto every half-bit story that comes along that paints conservatives as victims and running with it whether it’s true or not.   The conservative movement is becoming that whiny kid who doesn’t want to try out in any sports because he says he never wins.  It’s helping no one, and winning no new converts. No one ever decides to join the losing team. The other thing everyone needs to do is start verifying facts. Don’t just make it a point to verify the facts and get the story right for your own good,  but make it a point to try and show up the media.  Don’t let that “senior fellow” in their bio scare you,  they are human beings just like everyone else and are capable of making errors.  Anyone who has been paying attention has probably noticed a few occasions where the media ran with salacious details that painted conservatives in a negative light only to have it come back and bite them because they failed to do the basic journalism work (W5+ H) Erick Erickson mentioned above.  Getting the details right when the media doesn’t not only strengthens the conservative message and creates a more informed group, but it helps hold our media accountable.

Now go. And stop frothing at the mouth.

 

 

Posted in Conservatism, Mainstream Media | 1 Comment

Still Living Strong

I had just earned a  pitiful (in my mind) 2nd place finish in the 2003 Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, WI.  It would be the loss that would break my five-year winning streak of log rolling world titles.  As I shook my competitor’s hand, and stepped up onto the dock to dry myself off, I thought to myself “I guess I am no Lance Armstrong.” Lance had won his 5th Tour De France that year and seemed invincible.  (I know that no lumberjack competition is the Tour de France,  and I will never ever be the man that everyone once thought was Lance Armstrong.  I know where lumberjack sports rank, and in my corner of the world,  I’m okay with that.)

I read “Its Not About The Bike” between contests in the summer of 2005, eventually finishing it on the plane back from the Great Outdoor Games in Orlando, Florida. Later that summer I wore a Livestrong bracelet on my right wrist while I won my 6th world title, my last before I shipped off to Iraq.   I didnt really buy and wear the bracelet for the cause of fighting cancer. While obviously a worthwhile cause, I wore it for what Lance exemplified. His never quit attitude. His tenacity.  His fierce competitive spirit. The inspiration of his story.  How could one not fall in love with his likeness? In a world of superficial heroes,  Lance Armstrong was the obvious choice for those looking for a bit of  inspiration, even among athletes like me.

After losing my right arm to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006, Armstrong would again become an  inspiration, this time to “get back on the bike” (er, log) and pursue my dreams, the rest of the world and my one arm be damned.  The rationale being,  if Lance could come back and win 7 Tour De France Wins after cancer, I could win my 7th world log rolling title with one arm and a Traumatic Brain Injury.  After training harder than I ever have before,  I came back to compete in the Lumberjack World Championships in 2008 after relearning how to log roll with only one arm.  To say that my performance was dismal would be an understatement.  After losing in one of the earlier rounds, I was knocked into the consolation brackets where I proceeded to lose to a roller I had not lost to in over 15 years.  It would prove to be my worst year of competition in over a decade.

Did I give up?  I would be lying if I said I did not consider it.  There were two things that kept me going. One was the memory of the first year I won a world title back in 1999.  After years of losing as a young roller in pro,  I had nothing but feelings of defeat in my heart and was on the verge of quitting logrolling entirely.  But I decided to stick it out for one more pro contest,  a contest I would win on my way to winning my first world title.  The second (admittedly minor) thing that kept me going was the story and inspiration of Lance Armstrong.  If Lance Armstrong could come back from cancer and win seven Tour de France titles,  I sure as hell could come back and win my seventh log rolling world title, and my first with one arm.

Despite the huge emotional letdown,  and the incredible feelings of defeat,  I stuck it out for another year, a decision that would prove fruitful.  With the support of my family and friends, and a strict training regimen,  I would accomplish the incredible. I won not one, but two world titles in the next two years, bringing my grand total to eight. The story of Lance Armstrong was definitely an inspiration to me.   Whether it was another frustrating day of training with one arm, or another contest that did not turn out quite as well as I hoped, I knew I couldn’t quit. Lance didnt quit, so neither would I.

As we now all know, the tale of triumph would come crashing down and the man in the yellow jersey would become the Lance Armstrong who was.  Although I remained firmly on the side of Lance throughout all the accusations, even I would eventually be forced to admit the fact of the matter.  He cheated.  The tale of inspiration was exactly that.  A tale. And with it, his false legacy would be erased from the books along with the inspiration he gave to millions.  C’est la vie, such is life.

There is a sign hanging on the wall in my kitchen that reads, “Be your own superhero.” I used to think it was a little bit conceited and self-centered. Who looks up to themselves in a self-gratifying love-fest like that?  As time has gone by though, I’ve come to realize that’s not what it’s about.  When a lack of leadership exists, it’s ok to follow yourself.  I spent so much time trying to be the next Lance Armstrong that I failed to realize how cool it might be to be the first J.R. Salzman.  Sometimes you just have to follow yourself.  Forget about Lance Armstrong.  Follow my lead. Er, dont.  Go be your own superhero.

 

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Got Blogging?

There is an old saying in the construction industry that the contractor’s home is the worst looking home on the block. Having worked in construction for a few years, I can attest to the truthfulness of the saying (just ask my wife about our current house). The saying alludes to the fact that when you do some particular skill or task for a living, chances are you dont want to come home and do it in your free time.

The same can be said of my blogging and writing. Writing articles has been steady over the past few months so I haven’t been all that interested in writing or blogging here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always writing in my head, and very much enjoy the endeavor. At any given time, I have at least two or three tabs in my browser that our blog-worthy topics. As I’m doing my various tasks throughout the day, I blog them mentally. Unfortunately, I find that I usually do not have the time or energy necessary to conduct a cranial dump here, especially on days where I have already spent hours writing for work.

I know that I have some loose ends here that need to be tied up. Among those are the Danny Chen trials. I will do one more post on the matter, but at this point there is not much more to be said. I also really want to dive headfirst into my book and finally get it finished.

Unfortunately there are just not enough hours in the day. And that’s why I havent been blogging. If you would like to read something I’ve written, check out my recent article in the latest issue of American Warrior Magazine about some of the bravest, and most inspirational people I’ve ever met.

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SPC Ryan Offutt Trial – Update (See Below)

The second trial surrounding the death of Private Danny Chen is set to begin today at Fort Bragg.  SPC Ryan Offutt faces similar charges to what Sgt. Holcomb did last week.  The first trial concluded with Sgt. Holcomb acquitted of the most severe charges, specifically the charge of negligent homicide.  He received 30 days in prison, the forfeiture of $1,000 pay, and a demotion from E-5 to E-4 (SGT to SPC).  Assuming the defense is on their game,  I do not see the trial of SPC Ryan Offutt ending any differently.  The only person responsible for the death of Danny Chen is Danny Chen.

It was determined in SGT Holcomb’s trial that Private Chen was not driven to suicide by racial bullying, and rightly so.  When I started following this case months ago it quickly became clear that this debate was being framed by military outsiders as a case of race when it was obvious to those in the military, especially the infantry, that it was not.  The race card has been played extensively and perpetuated throughout the media, being pushed mostly by the New York Organization of Chinese Americans (NY-OCA) .  I’m speculating that they probably would not receive as much attention were it not for the cooperation of U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, (D-N.Y.) who has proudly picked up the race banner and ran with it, even drafting legislation to combat what didnt happen.  (Heck of a job you’re doing there congresswoman, knocking down those straw men.  That is just what the military needs, more legislated political correctness.)

Nowhere in my investigations surrounding Chen’s suicide in Afghanistan did I find any information to suggest he was targeted for his race.  Sure there were nicknames tossed around,  but I can tell you from my experience in the infantry that everyone has nickname,  and just because one deals with race does not mean it is meant in a derogatory or defamatory fashion.  He was repeatedly smoked and made to do menial tasks because he was not a competent soldier and put others’ lives at risk. He would forget even the most basic tasks such as drinking water (in 130 degree heat),  showing up to guard duty without water, falling asleep in the guard tower, even forgetting to clear (unload) his weapon, a huge safety violation.  Chen was a liability so he often received corrective training.  A large part of his poor performance seemed to stem from his strained relationship with his parents who disowned him for joining the military.  While his parents adamantly denied it in the trial, there is overwhelming evidence that suggests otherwise.  I have covered all this and more in my previous posts regarding his suicide.

I know that a lot of people have been looking for my next blog post to follow up “The Final Word On Private Danny Chen, Part 1.”  I apologize for the delay, my life has been incredibly tumultuous with my business, writing assignments, competing/training in log rolling, and my second bout of Lymes Disease which has knocked me off my feet for over a month. I am trying to compile all of the information  I acquired previously in addition to new information that I did not know prior to the Holcomb trial.  All of this is done in my “free time.”  I have put a lot of time and energy into this over the past months hunting down details,  making contacts,  and acquiring documentation.   All of this takes time and energy away from other things, time that I cannot always spare.   The time issue deals more with acquiring information that it does simply writing it up.  I am not in Fort Bragg or Alaska nor am I anywhere near there so acquiring and confirming information can be challenging at times.  Until I get it written, I suggest  those who are interested go back and reread what I wrote previously surrounding the suicide of Private Danny Chen.  You will find a lot of it to be the same.  And if I start writing about other topics on here,  please understand that I have not given up following the case, I am simply doing my best to “hurry up and wait” for more information.

Update: SPC Ryan Offutt takes plea deal

That was fast. SPC Ryan Offutt has apparently taken a plea deal with officials and pleaded guilty to the lesser charges.

The second soldier to face trial in the hazing-related suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen in Afghanistan last year pleaded this morning to reduced charges.

Spc. Ryan Offutt had been charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, four counts of maltreatment of a subordinate, three counts of assault and two counts of violation of a lawful general regulation.

He was accused of calling Chen derogatory names, kicking him and throwing rocks and water bottles at him. He also grabbed Chen by his vest and dragged him, court documents say.

He pleaded guilty to one count of hazing and two specifications of maltreatment.

In exchange for his plea and a promise to testify against the other soldiers involved in the death, all remaining charges against Offutt are being dropped.

 

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