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.


Posted in Amputee, Celebrities, ESPN, Great Outdoor Games, Log Rolling | 1 Comment

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.


Posted in Danny Chen | 1 Comment

SGT Adam Holcomb Trial

I am going to break my own rule here and make direct comments on the trial proceedings instead of just general comments about Private Danny Chen.  Some of the things out there being said are so utterly reprehensible and dishonest that I just can’t let them go without being addressed.

I cannot stress enough how utterly mind-boggling it is to me that not one media outlet has bothered to do any sort of research into this case. Not one has dug up any sort of documentation regarding the trial.  Not one has bothered to research Chen’s family situation and find out what a mess it actually was. Not one has bothered to find out how utterly incompetent Danny Chen was as a Soldier.  Each one has taken every racial cliché spoonfed to them and ran with it.  It’s as if no one in the media has learned any lessons from the Zimmerman affair.

First, I need to address this shameless story:

The heartbroken mother of a New York Army private believed to have killed himself because of hazing from fellow soldiers took the witness stand Tuesday to profess “he was the best son in the world.”

Su Zhen Chen, 49, tearfully testified in the court martial trial of Sgt. Adam Holcomb, who is accused of driving her son, Pvt. Danny Chen, to suicide by physically and mentally abusing him.

“I don’t even know if my son killed himself or not, or if somebody else killed him,” the mother testified.

She denied claims by Holcomb’s military defense attorney that her 19-year-old son took his life because she disowned him for joining the Army.

“I never said I disowned him,” the mother said through a Chinese interpreter. “He was the best son in the world for me.”

She admitted she tried to discourage him when he first told her he wanted to join the Army, but once he did enlist she supported him wholeheartedly, even attending his graduation from basic training and regularly sending him care packages.

“We were having a very good relationship,” said the woman, who lives on the Lower East Side.

She said he called her once a week and “would ask me about my health.”

Her statement that they (she and her husband) did not disown their son for joining the Army is completely contradictory to all the evidence I found suggesting otherwise.  As I wrote yesterday, it was common knowledge among the other Soldiers (especially at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and Afghanistan) that Chen was having a lot of issues with his family and it was weighing heavily upon him. Private Chen was quite obviously depressed about the whole ordeal and it was severely affecting his performance as a Soldier.

For the sake of accuracy however I need to clarify one point that I didn’t make yesterday.  The majority of the references I found about his family disowning him and not talking to him apparently came from his father, not his mother.  Private Chen greatly looked up to his father.  He was his hero.  Unfortunately when it came to Chen’s desire to be in the military his father would not budge.  It was his father who demanded he quit the military at his basic training graduation, and who threatened to disown him from the family if he deployed to Afghanistan. All Private Chen wanted was someone in his family, anyone, to come forward and say they were proud of him for what he was doing.  Unfortunately no one came.  And it tore Private Chen up inside.

All of the evidence I found during my last few months of investigating is completely contradictory to the statements that Chen’s mother made today in court. This can only mean one of two things. Either Private Chen faked the entire ordeal, pretended to be depressed, pretended to have poor relations with his family, told the other soldiers around him he was having troubles when he didnt, faked phone conversations with his parents, wrote bogus journal entries, and moped around as a depressed Soldier for months on end in Alaska and Afghanistan as a big act, or Danny Chen’s mother is simply not telling the truth.

I have yet to find any evidence that suggests Private Chen’s family situation was anything other than what Private Chen himself described. Danny Chen’s family disowned him for deploying to Afghanistan.

I think I need to point out right now for the sake of my reading audience (and my own conscience) that I would never go out of my way to slander the grieving mother of a fallen soldier.  I’m sure there are those reading this who think I’m an outright bastard for saying the above statements. Allow me a moment to clarify. What I have repeatedly stated about Private Chen’s family situation is not my loose interpretation of the facts, nor is it simply what I think may or may not have happened, nor is it an outright fabrication.  These are the facts that I have uncovered, regurgitated verbatim. I am not a hit-man for the accused, nor do I know any of the parties involved from my own time in the military. I am simply a writer and former Soldier in search of the truth. That is what is on display here.

Posted in Danny Chen | 3 Comments

The Final Word on Private Danny Chen, Part 1

I am a bit of a rush to get this out, so please do not expect any Shakespearean eloquence (or grammar) in my writing. I am also going to try and limit my posts to a couple of thousand words at a time, so this will be a multiple post story.

There has recently been an upbeat in the amount of press the Private Danny Chen suicide ordeal is receiving due to the fact the first Soldier, Sgt. Adam Holcomb, is heading to trial this week in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

As I have covered extensively throughout the Danny Chen ordeal, I have yet to see even one media outlet bother to do any sort of proper research into the events surrounding Danny Chen’s suicide in Afghanistan at “The Palace.”  So I have taken it upon myself over the last few months to employ my writing and journalism skills to finding the facts of the case instead of being spoon-fed skewed information by those with a racial agenda.  While I’m not going to say the information was easy to come by, anyone with a reasonable aptitude in journalism could have found what I did to learn the other side of the story.  Due to privacy concerns I am going to invoke my rights as a journalist not to reveal the sources of information.

First, for those who do not know, I served as an infantryman in the Minnesota Army National Guard.  It was in Western Baghdad serving as an infantryman where I almost died from a roadside bomb on December 19, 2006.  The infantry is an MOS like none other, where its members pride themselves on being the physically and mentally strong, cohesive fighting force necessary to face the type of adversity that others can only imagine or experience through poorly enacted Hollywood movies.  War is not a video game, nor is it for the faint of heart.  If you do not have the correct mindset, or “warrior ethos” as is commonly (sometimes exhaustively) said in the military, then you do not belong there.

As I have said previously, the strength of a fighting unit is only as strong as the weakest link, or in the case of the military, the weakest individual.  The goal is always to strengthen the weakest link, not destroy it.  Having served as a team leader in the infantry, I know all too well that worrisome feeling that perhaps your Soldiers will not be ready, that they will not be capable of facing the bombs and bullets in a combat zone, that they will be unable to not only save their own ass, but to watch your six as well.  The strength of a fighting force is built on unit cohesion and discipline, discipline that comes through training, leadership, and Soldiers of the correct caliber and mentality.  No unit serving in the hostile conditions of a combat zone in Afghanistan is going to willingly allow or support the maltreatment of one of their own.  I mean, think about it.  Are you really going to go out of your way to harm someone if 5 minutes from now they could be tasked with trying to save your life?

While the outside perspective of the civilian world on the type of punishments and corrective training used by the military, especially the infantry, might seem harsh, it is nothing compared to the repercussions of an ineffective fighting force facing a hostile enemy.  I would much rather low crawl a kilometer than ever take a 7.62 round to the body armor.  I would rather do 1000 push-ups than ever have to carry one of my Soldiers in a flag draped coffin into the back of a C-130.  I would rather do flutter kicks until I rip another abdomen hernia than ever have one my Soldiers experience what I did and have a limb ripped from their body by an IED.  I would rather have a mother curse me for what she thinks is cruel punishment to her son, than ever have to apologize for not bringing him home alive.

War is not a game.  It is a matter of life and death.  The repercussions are eternal.

First let me state an obvious but incredibly important detail.  Private Danny Chen was not killed at the hands of the enemy.  He was not killed by a roadside bomb.  He was not killed by bullets from an AK-47.  He was not killed by an RPG.  He chose to take his own life.  He made that choice and followed through with it. He was not forced.  His life was taken by his own hands in a guard tower.

The narrative apparent in the media seems to have been mostly established by the Organization for Chinese Americans – New York Chapter, in conjunction with local politicians like U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, (D-N.Y.).  They have been the heavy leaners on the story, guiding and steering the media narrative and pointing to race as the cause of any and all ills Private Chen might have faced.  They generated a sob story of a poor young Chinese-American whose dreams of joining the military were shattered by the racial hatred that they say consumes the United States military.  Chen’s Chinese immigrant parents are painted as supportive parents who gave their son nothing but love and support in his quest.

As I uncovered more and more evidence to the contrary, I kept coming back to the same question I now ask of all those painting this picture:  have you no shame in your dishonesty?

So please, allow me to punch a giant hole in the well established narrative.

Chen’s parents were not the loving supportive parents that have been painted in the media.  They were not at all supportive of Private Danny Chen’s decision to join the United States military.  In fact, the more information I uncovered about his poor family situation, the angrier I became that they could ever portray that they did.   Danny Chen confided in other soldiers the whole reason his parents came to the United States was to keep him from being drafted into the Chinese military.  So when Danny Chen decided to join the Army, his parents were furious (he signed up in secret).   Although they showed up to his basic training graduation at Fort Benning, his father insisted he quit.

I can only imagine what this must have done mentally and emotionally to Private Danny Chen.  Infantry Basic Training is a long 14 week ordeal that takes place on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia.  I went through the training back in 2004 and can honestly say of all the experiences I had in the military, it is the only one I would not like to repeat (and I say that as the honor graduate of my company).  The feeling of accomplishment and relief after graduating was overwhelming.  I can only imagine the emotional punch in the gut Private Danny Chen must have felt when his parents showed up and were not only disappointed in him for achieving such a feat, but demanded that he quit the military entirely.

Basic training was not an easy accomplishment for Private Danny Chen.  Due to his name and Chinese accent, he received unwanted attention, the kind that comes naturally in basic training to every Soldier (myself included). As I covered previously:

 First of all, racism in boot? At Ft. Benning? In 2004 I went through the same Sand Hill at Ft. Benning Chen did. If you have a different accent, a funny name, or any other distinguishing feature you’re going to stand out. I could climb the ropes faster than the other Soldiers so one of my Drill Sergeants (who was from Ghana) called me Spiderman, and continued until we graduated. The smallest member of the platoon was called Mighty Mouse. Everyone had a nickname, and everyone was made fun of.  If your name was too hard to say you were Private Alphabet. Chen? That’s a no-brainer for Jackie Chan. Its not personal, its to break everyone down before they build you back up as a Soldier.  Show me a kid whining in his diary about getting picked on in boot and I’ll show you a whole company doing the same. Its basic training in the military, its not supposed to be easy.  If it were that easy to be in the Infantry everyone would be doing it.  On top that, Ft. Benning is Infantry Training which means men only. You don’t have 9 weeks of hell followed by a gentleman’s course in your respective MOS. You have OSUT, One Station Unit Training, otherwise known as 14-15 weeks of hell.   We lost almost 20% of the Soldiers in our platoon alone before graduation.  As for the racism allegations, boot at Ft. Benning was one of the most diverse places I have ever been in the military. You have every shade of human there. Only half of the Drill Sergeants were white in my company, A Co 2-58 INF.  My experience holds pretty close to the representation of the Army which is 38% minorities.

To paint basic training as an out-of-control environment where racism and anti-Asian sentiment runs rampant is utterly incomprehensible to anyone who has ever experienced the ordeal. Basic training is designed toughen you up mentally and physically for the rigors of life or death situations in combat. It is not Boy Scout Camp.

One thing that jumped out at me in a previous article regarding Chen’s experiences in basic training was a letter home where he characterized himself as “the weakest one left.”  As I would later uncover in my investigation surrounding the suicide of Pvt. Chen, despite the fact he made it through basic training he was not at all physically strong.  In fact, some Soldiers would speculate that he never actually passed his PT test in basic training, that he was just “pencil passed” under the commonly held belief that he would be squared away and strengthened downrange at his unit and become their problem.  (More will be said on this later in regards to the “smokings” Chen received in Afghanistan.)

After graduating from basic training Chen was assigned to a unit in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.  Further investigation into his relationship with his parents showed that it only worsened.  During his time there he attempted to make contact with his parents on numerous occasions.  Unfortunately, his parents either refused to talk to him at all or told him how disappointed they were that he was serving in the military.  It was a burden that clearly weighed heavily upon Private Chen, to the point he eventually missed a morning formation shortly before deploying to Afghanistan.   Other soldiers in his unit, concerned for his well-being, searched and finally found him curled up in a ball in his barracks room.  Private Chen was distraught.  He told his leadership and friends that if he deployed, his parents would disown him.

Chen would eventually deploy, at the expense of the already frayed relationship with his parents.

This is the first of a multi-segment series on the suicide of Private Danny Chen in Afghanistan. Subsequent stories will be following shortly.

Posted in Danny Chen | 2 Comments

2012 Warrior Games

My readers may have noticed my absence over the past few weeks.  I’ve still been writing, just not here.   Last week I had the fortunate experience of covering the 3rd annual Warrior Games for the American Legion.  I have to say that it was one of the more pleasant experiences I have had since I was injured in Iraq back in 2007.  Not only was it comforting to spend time around other wounded warriors, but it was nice to spend significant amount of time around the military in general.  I could continue blathering on here, or you could go over to the American Legion’s Burnpit Blog and read my closing thoughts on the Warrior Games:

As a fellow wounded warrior at the games, I found myself with the unfamiliar feeling of comfort in my surroundings. It was a feeling I had not felt since I was a recovering patient at Walter Reed in 2007. Despite the fact I was at the games as a civilian journalist, and was surrounded by many who had injuries far more severe, I heard “thank you for your service” more times during my one-week stay than in my last six months in the civilian world. At the Warrior Games, people get it. They did not ask a million questions, some bordering on the absurd or obtuse. They did not debate you on the merits of the war, or apologize for what happened to you because you had to go “over there.”

Go read the whole thing.

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Got Shrapnel?

On my left wrist you will find a large scar left by the IED that nearly killed me.  It almost removed my left hand when it took my right.  Tonight I glanced down at my wrist and realized the small dark spot under the scar tissue had grown a bit larger.  I went and got the tweezers, handed them to my wife, and told her to start digging.  After a few seconds of poking and scraping the black spot emerged as a small piece of shrapnel, most likely a piece of copper from the Iranian EFP.  Its been over 5 years since my humvee was blown up in Baghdad.  I guess it takes a while for your body to reject shrapnel.

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More Spotted Owl Hypocrisy

Somehow I missed this when it came out a few days ago. From The Daily Caller:

Writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Robert Bryce described the toll that the nation’s burgeoning wind farms have taken on endangered birds. At one site alone — Altamont in Alameda County,California— 2,400 raptors, including 70 golden eagles, have been killed by the giant whirling blades. In 2009 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the national death toll from wind turbines at 440,000 birds that year alone.

That seems like a lot of birds, particularly for those of us in thePacific Northwest, where a once-vibrant timber economy has been devastated in a failing effort to save the spotted owl. Of course, we’re losing a lot of birds to wind farms as well. One 2010 estimate put the annual death toll in Oregon and Washington at 6,500 birds and 3,000 bats, but that seems low if the Fish and Wildlife estimate is correct.

But whatever the number, there is no controversy that birds, including birds listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, are being killed in significant numbers by the wind turbines. Though there is concern among environmentalists and government officials alike, thus far these bird kills have been accepted as a cost of advancing alternative energy.

I’ve got to imagine that, for an unemployed logger in rural Oregonor the owner of a shuttered lumber bill, there is something not quite right about this picture.

As I mentioned previously, shutting down millions of acres of forest land in the Pacific Northwest was the intent all along, “protecting” the spotted owl was simply the catalyst. It was all because of the progressive environmental religious belief that humans are a parasite on the planet, and any impact they have on nature is harmful.

The proof is in the pudding. The main reason the spotted owl is in decline is competition from another owl, not logging.  So not only did a ban on logging in protected areas not stop the decline of the spotted owl, but –much to the chagrin of the environmental groups- loggers have since been called upon to log some areas to help the bird.  Meanwhile, we do have a known killer of all species of endangered birds, and yet? Environmental groups are silent on the issue:

 “So this is the picture: On the one hand we have an uneconomic wind energy industry being promoted and heavily subsidized by the government with the full knowledge that it is killing thousands of endangered birds and hundreds of thousands of other flying critters. On the other hand we have a moribund timber industry shut down by government in a failing effort to save a few hundred spotted owls. And because the spotted owl continues to decline in numbers despite the millions of acres of forest set aside as owl habitat, the government now plans to shoot hundreds of barred owls that compete with the spotted owl. (Barred owls also interbreed with spotted owls, but never mind what that might imply for the spotted owl’s status as an endangered species.)

Will we suddenly have dirty hippies camping out on top of windmills, shutting them down? Will environmentalists chain themselves to construction equipment, preventing the building of new windmills?  Of course not.

Posted in Environmental Religion, Government Stupidity | Comments Off on More Spotted Owl Hypocrisy

Private Danny Chen and the False Racism Narrative

Those who are regular readers here know that I have been following the events surrounding the death of Private Danny Chen pretty attentively.  I grew suspect of the accusations of racial abuse as soon as they were tossed around by Chen’s family, and the New York Organization of Chinese Americans (NY-OCA) who seem to be acting on their behalf.  You see, having spent my basic training at Ft. Benning, the exact same place Chen did, and in a combat zone as an infantryman (just like Chen), I have more of an inside perspective on both the Army, and the Infantry.  Veterans like myself know better than to take these embellished tales of racial hardship at face value because experience tells us otherwise.  The military is by far the most diverse environment I was ever a part of.  In basic training at Ft. Benning, GA (the same place Chen went to boot) this could not be more apparent.  So when I hear ridiculous claims of racism and harassment being thrown around by civilians with no experience in the military, let alone in the infantry, my bullshit meter shoots sky high.  In the infantry, the overall strength of the fighting force is only as strong as the bond between men.  If the unit cohension breaks down for any reason, then the entire group is combat ineffective.  As the old saying goes, you’re only as strong as the weakest link.  The goal is to constantly strengthen the weak link, not destroy it.

I have been spending a lot of time digging for information to look past the media’s racism narrative. Slowly I have been putting together little bits and pieces of information in order to find out what actually happened.  In other words, I have been doing the job the media should be doing, but has been too lazy to get off their ass and actually do themselves.  Because hey, what media outlet doesn’t enjoy a selectively edited racism story based on half-truths and hearsay, right? So what if the narrative destroys a few lives and reputations. The truth doesnt always generate ad dollars or sold newspapers.

Well, I am interested in the truth. The world deserves to know what actually happened without a false veil of racism being hung over the proceedings. The world needs to know the truth not just for the accused, but for Private Danny Chen as well.  I am not out to get Chen, or to slander his memory, or to simply nitpick details in order to create a shadow of doubt for the accused.  I have no dog in this fight.  I know no one in this scenario. I did not know Chen, his unit, or anyone else involved. And aside from the fact we all served in the military, I have no association to anyone.  My only goal here is to present the truth of the matter as the facts present.

While I still have more digging and organizing and sifting to do, at this point in time I can say that the race narrative being pushed by the media, Chen’s parents, and the NY-OCA, is without merit.  Chen did not receive unwanted attention because of the color of his skin, or the way he spoke. He received unwanted attention because he was unable to complete even the most simple tasks required of a Soldier, let alone an Infantry Soldier in a highly volatile combat zone.  To paint a picture of a unit gone racist, attacking one of their own, is not only highly inaccurate, by outright dishonest.  While the media may be comfortable going along with this narrative, despite evidence that says otherwise (if they bothered to spend the time and look), I am not.  For the sake of everyone involved, the truth needs to be heard.  Because frankly, the world has yet to hear it.



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No Joke – Loggers Called On To Help Save Spotted Owl… Through Logging

Hey, sorry about that whole “ruining thousands of lives in the timber industry on the West Coast” tiff we had back in the 1990s. Would you loggers mind helping us out? You know, for the owls.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today formally proposed several actions, some of them controversial, to aid the iconic northern spotted owl, an endangered species in the Pacific Northwest whose population continues to shrink. The proposals include designating more critical habitat, encouraging logging to prevent forest fires, and an experiment to shoot a competing owl species.

The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) ran into trouble in the 1980s as its old-growth forest was severely logged in Oregon and Washington. Even though destruction of its habitat slowed dramatically after the owl was placed on the endangered species list in 1990, its numbers have continued to decrease by an average of 3% a year. A major problem is competition from barred owls, which have invaded its territories.

Today’s proposals come from a recovery plan for the owl, released last summer by FWS. The announcement adds more detail and begins the process of creating a formal rule that the agency expects to finalize by November. In its draft, the agency proposes to increase—perhaps nearly double—the current 2.2 million hectares designated as critical habitat, although the agency is keen to exclude private and state lands. The first step is an economic impact analysis of designating critical habitat in various places, along with public comment on the plan.

“We must move forward with a science-based approach to forestry that restores the health of our lands and wildlife and supports jobs and revenue for local communities,” Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar said today during a teleconference with reporters.

In a change from current policies, FWS will encourage so-called active management of owl habitat, such as thinning forests that face a high risk of burning. A Presidential Memorandum released today directs the agency to clearly inform timber companies and landowners how they will be able to log critical habitat. “The science is telling us that unmanaged, fire-prone forests aren’t healthy for either the landscape or the spotted owl,” said FWS director Daniel Ashe at the teleconference.

If you read the latest research, logging wasn’t to blame for the declining numbers. It was the encroachment of another species, the barred owls.  “Invaded?” No, I’m pretty sure its simply natural selection at work.   Of course, that hasn’t stopped the government from wasting millions of dollars and destroying thousands of lives over the last 20 years, all in an effort to save a bird that seems hell bent on extinction.

Lets get one thing straight here.  This whole twenty plus year charade has had little to do with the spotted owl, and everything to do with shutting down logging through environmental activism.   The spotted owl was simply the reason environmental groups used to shut down the industry and close huge swaths of both government and private land to logging.  The same tactics have been used with other species around the country with similarly devastating results.  California’s Central Valley was once considered the most congress_created_dust_bowlfertile and productive ground in the country.  Now its called “the Dust Bowl Congress created, all in the name of saving the Delta Smelt, a non-edible fish.  As a basic trainee at Ft. Benning, Georgia, I remember huge swaths of land closed off from training all in the name of “saving” the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.   We have similar environmental activist tactics being employed here in Wisconsin at the moment.  Instead of using an endangered animal, they are trying to get fracking sand classified as a toxic substance. Therefore the government can regulate it, and shut down any mines it deems “a threat to the public health.”  Or at the very least it can tie them up in the court system for decades.  Because if they can stop the mining of fracking sand, then its one step closer to their ultimate goal, which is shutting down fracking altogether.  In the enviro-religious world, the end justifies the means.  So what if people lose their livelihood.

Personally, I think the logging industry should borrow a play from the movie Braveheart in responding to requests to help save the Spotted Owl. They should release a public statement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that says the following:

Take your proposal and march right back to Washington, DC, stopping at every loggers home you pass by to beg forgiveness for 30 years of theft of income, rape of the forest products industry, and murdering the well being of hard working families.  Do that and your spotted bird may live. Do it not, and we will watch every one of them continue to die through natural selection.   And before we cut one log, the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must present himself at the next loggers congress,  put his head between his legs, and kiss his own arse.

Do that, and we’ll consider helping your bird.

Posted in Environmental Religion, Government Incompetence | Comments Off on No Joke – Loggers Called On To Help Save Spotted Owl… Through Logging