Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Goodbye Rice; Hello Kerry – and Standard Form 180

There is a good reason why neither Massachusetts Senator John Kerry nor Arizona Senator John McCain is or was President of the United States of America; neither had the full support of the veteran community which could have swayed sufficient votes in their direction to guarantee election if it so desired.

If you apply classic media reasoning to their campaign support equations – for instance, every person of Hispanic descent in America votes for Democrats and every black voter in America (as well as some who don't exist) voted for Barack Obama – then you have to wonder why every veteran, minus blacks and Hispanics in McCain's case, didn't vote for either Kerry or McCain.

The answer is that the classic media equation is bogus – not every person of Hispanic descent votes Democratic and not every black voter voted for Obama, except in Philadelphia and parts of Ohio were there were far more votes than voters. And, considering that American voters are smarter than either the media or the political parties think they are, the veteran community like other voting blocs looks beyond the superficial when making their selections.

Neither man could garner sufficient votes to win the presidential election because there was significant opposition to Kerry's and McCain's candidacies from within the veteran community even though they are both veterans; well, allegedly in Kerry's case. I mean, he served, but there is considerable speculation that he was separated from the service dishonorably which pretty much negates his classification as a veteran.

This is all of interest once again because of the withdrawal of Susan Rice, currently the US Ambassador to the United Nations, from consideration as the next Secretary of State, and media reports that President Obama may appoint Kerry as Hillary Clinton's replacement by Christmas. I have been waiting for months for Kerry's name to surface again in this regard, so I'll dispense with any further comment about Rice and concentrate on him.

When Kerry was running for president in 2004 a number of veteran groups and individuals lobbied intensively and unsuccessfully for him to sign Standard Form (SF) 180 which would authorize the release of his military records to the public. He refused, thereby denying the public an answer to a question that has dogged Kerry since the 1970's; was he dishonorably discharged from the Navy for providing aid and comfort to the enemy – or any other reason?

Further, veterans want to know if that alleged dishonorable discharge was reversed by president jimmy carter, when he gave blanket amnesty to draft dodgers and deserters in the post-Vietnam era.

Kerry's entire service portfolio has been marked by: self-generated hype over his actions during his abbreviated tour of Vietnam; his use of high level political and military connections to obtain medals that many combat veterans believe he didn't deserve; his traitorous actions in his bogus "Winter Soldier" hearings and Congressional testimony in which he falsely branded his fellow Vietnam vets as murderous Neanderthals; and the belief that he sold out his country by giving aid to our communist enemies while still obligated to the US Navy.

All of this was brought to the forefront in his presidential campaign by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and other veteran groups that opposed him. There even was Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry website.

(The website still exists although one of its founders, former Green Beret Ted Sampley, died in 2009 after complications from surgery at a VA hospital. A similar site went up when McCain was nominated. The liberal media - not to mention Kerry and McCain - hated Sampley and wrote some pretty caustic and to some, unfair, articles about his opposition to McCain and Kerry, but all that did was give more attention to his cause.)

But there is another issue that really rankles many veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam, that being the conduct of Kerry and McCain – in concert – as co-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in the early 1990s.

They were charged back then with getting to the bottom of allegations that hundreds of American prisoners of war were left behind in Laos when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger agreed to the debacle known as the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. There were live sightings and even a couple of people who turned up in Vietnam long after the government - which halted back payments of their federal paychecks - declared they were dead.

Many in the military and intelligence communities knew of the POWs in Laos, nagging reports of live sightings and other evidence kept surfacing and the issue was kept alive by the League of Families and other POW-MIA organizations.

But Kerry and McCain declared that there was no credible evidence that any POWs were still alive, closing the books on the issue and classifying much of the information that was presented to their committee as secret, removing it from public view. There was dissent from within the committee, but the dissenters have been relegated to the media's "nutjob" file and are no longer taken seriously.

So, what do we do now with a man who has such a speckled history of 'government service' potentially being nominated for Secretary of State? How about, renew our call for release of Standard Form 180?

How about the Good Old Boys club, also known as the US Senate, act in the best interests of the country for a change instead of the self-interest of its members? How about we really find out what went on with Kerry back in the 1970s that played so heavily on his actions in the 1990s as well as his failed presidential campaign, and determine under real questioning in the confirmation hearings whether this man is truly qualified to be the international representative of the United States of America?

That would be a real accomplishment for a government body that is seen as a group of self-absorbed ego driven puppets wouldn't it? Yeah, I know, not likely. But hope springs eternal.
Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown, and Dunblane, and Gruesome Violent Videos

Like most people with a heart mine was broken Friday as my family learned of  the horrific events unfolding in Newton, Connecticut; initial reports of a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, followed by conflicting and horribly inaccurate reports from a media and political crush that was remarkable mostly for the extent of the misinformation involved.

My wife and I were glued to the television for the bulk of the late afternoon, stunned, shocked, and grief stricken trying to find out what had happened, who did it, and at one point as the misinformation was sorted out I turned to her and said; "Dunblane, Scotland" and then "video games."

I made the reference to Dunblane because of the eerie similarities of the shootings in Newtown, to the March 13, 1996 shootings at a school in Dunblane, Scotland, by a gunman who killed 16 children in a class of five- and six-year-olds and their teacher.

The killer in Dunblane was identified Thomas Hamilton, 43, an alleged pedophile who was thrown out of the local scouts organization nearly two decades earlier, after parents learned that he forced some of his young charges to sleep with him on overnight camping trips. In the years just prior to his rampage Hamilton was described as a shopkeeper who was angry at his community for not patronizing his store.

Hamilton unleashed his anger at society by attacking the most vulnerable and innocent of victims; children at the local elementary school whose deaths would certainly make his point that he was angry and considered himself a victim.

As a result of his actions Great Britain's anti-firearms activists launched what became known as the Snowdrop Campaign leading in 1997 to a ban on all privately owned handguns. The anti-firearms proponents were successful in banning handguns, but unsuccessful at ending violent crimes against people which doubled in a subsequent 10-year period according to an article in the Telegraph in July 2009.

The article stated that the UK was thus the most violent place in Europe, with Austria second, followed by Sweden, Belgium, Finland and Holland.

I make a point of this because as appalling as we all found the shooting in Newtown to be, those who advocate disarming the citizens of this country who legally carry firearms for their protection were calling for new "gun control" measures before the bodies of the tiny victims were even released to their devastated parents.

Within hours of the shootings my inbox was receiving emails from anti-firearms activists crowing of the Newtown travesty with a "See, see we told you so!" mentality, making the case that now the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution can finally be circumvented at least and repealed at best. I find this to be as reprehensible as the crush of politicians who actually went to Newtown to stand before the cameras while the crime scene was still being actively investigated!

(Note to my readers; in a two-decade career as a reporter and editor, covering or directing coverage of criminal justice issues, I never, ever, ever saw a crush of politicians descending on the scene of tragedy while police were still engaged in an active investigation like that which occurred on Friday.)

In addition to the near copy-cat similarities with the shooting in Dunblane more than a decade ago, I brought up video games because as a combat veteran I know from personal experience that when locked in a life and death struggle an overwhelming desire for revenge against the enemy may be the dominant emotion. Eventually that may be replaced by a cold aloofness, but even then most combatants are keenly aware that human lives are being lost.

Yet the unending stream of extraordinarily violent video games that are played for thousands of hours by many American youngsters makes every enemy an inhuman "target" and the only emotion that counts is the joy of running up the score of "kills" and advancing to the next level. I believe those games act as breeding grounds for sociopaths, and every so often one of them takes the game playing out into the community.

As it turned out, I heard Fox and Friends co-anchor Steve Doucy report Saturday morning that the Newtown shooter was a "gamer," who was known for his video game skills, and also embraced the "Gothic" lifestyle which is a sub-genre of teen angst marked in many cases by wearing dark clothing, listening to deathrock music, and living under the assumption that everything related to life sucks.

Doucy's report speculated that the techniques the shooter developed playing video games were to account for the accuracy with which the victims were killed, and that may be, but I also believe that if a person who already has mental issues becomes immersed in the extreme violence of the video game culture, they are a walking prescription for disaster.

Only an inhuman monster could have blithely executed child after child in Newtown last Friday, or Dunblane Scotland in 1996 – as well as the adults who tried to protect them – with no sense of regret or remorse for their actions. Only a mindless sociopath could have committed those murders with no sense of responsibility – and that certainly appears to be what happened in Newtown.

If Adam Lanza thought he was getting back at his parents for divorcing, or some other issue, he failed and failed miserably. Few people are blaming his parents for the actions of a person who was legally an adult, but who still could not legally purchase the firearms he used in Newtown murders. The blame for the act itself lies squarely on the shoulders of the criminal, not his parents and not society; he was an adult and responsible for his own actions.

I am not making excuses for anyone who uses a firearm recklessly or with intent to harm others. But I don't see how disarming an entire society and thus creating a new class of victims will accomplish anything except encourage more criminals and bullies to abuse more peaceful citizens, as has happened in the UK since 1997 the handgun ban went into effect.

We don't tell everyone who drives to give up their cars when people die in a fatal accident caused by someone who is texting while driving; we didn't ban vehicles when deaths caused by drunk drivers increased, we took aim at the behavior of drunks; and we don't hear a call for banning kitchen knives in the wake of a maniac in China attacking and stabbing 22 elementary school students last Friday. We don't do that for myriad reasons but first on the list is that we all know it won't work and it is inherently unfair to penalize law abiding citizens for the actions of criminals.

So instead of resorting to name calling and threats to murder the head of the National Rifle Association, I think it would be far better to acknowledge the evil that exists in society – worldwide – and put our energies into helping the survivors of Friday's unfathomable tragedy work through their grief.

And instead of getting into unending arguments about firearms control we would be doing far more of a useful nature if we work on ending the conditions that led to the creation of an inhuman monster who killed 27 innocent people, and then in final act of cowardice ended his own life so he wouldn’t have to face the consequences of his actions.


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