Archive for November, 2007

State of the Debate

Returning to a point I made in an earlier post, regarding the way our Presidential Debates are skewed towards candidates deemed by the media to be more worthy than the others. When a candidate announces their official intent to run for office, and the field of hopefuls is generated, who ranks those individuals? Certainly not the voting public, simply because the voting public has yet to be exposed at length to each candidate. Unfortunately, even through the primary elections, most voters will never be afforded a mainstream opportunity to examine each candidate. How can that be? Well, as individuals officially become candidates, the political pundits of the media world take their picks and make it easy for the public to decide their votes. Here are the top four, according to us they are more warranted candidates than the rest of the field, who we will not be introducing to you anytime soon.

It is rather illogical to think that at the start of campaigning, any candidate has an advantage over another candidate, unless already the incumbent (though that may be a disadvantage at times.) That, however, is not how candidates are presented to the voting public. Before the first debate is even scheduled, the public has been provided with a top four on both sides, typically casting aside at least four more candidates per party, candidates that may well be exactly what the country needs. Unfortunately, most of the country will never have the opportunity to make that determination for themselves.

During the CNN/YouTube Republican Debate, I decided to take some notes a few statistics of my own. Given that I’m a little preoccupied with a crazy little thing called war, I might have missed a question or two, but here’s what I found to be true.

  • Front runners may exceed clearly set time limits at length, and do so without penalty
  • Front runners may interrupt at any time
  • Few questions on serious issues are posed to those not considered to be front runners
  • If a question is posed to someone outside the field of front runners, it is passed also to the front runners, but not to other outsiders
  • Few questions are passed from front runner to outsider

For a quick tally, at least ten questions were asked directly to a front runner, and then passed on to the remaining front runners. By contrast, less than five (three by my count) questions were directed to a front runner, and then passed to an outsider. Two questions were asked to the entire field, but only one was allowed to make it through each candidate before being cut off for a new question. Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) was directly asked three questions during the course of the debate, and was passed three more from questions asked to other candidates. Again, each of the front runners were asked at least five direct questions, often not to be passed on for input from the remainder of the field.

Does the above strike anyone as fair, or even productive? Is not the intent of the Presidential Debate to provide a structured platform from which candidates are allowed to explain, in detail, their positions on issues the nation feels to be crucial to the continuation of our country? How then, can anyone justify the vast imbalance in each debate? Fitting these debates into slotted blocks of airtime is severely limiting, as it detracts from the quality of the debate by quelling open discussion. Perhaps a better structure would involve national polling to determine major issues, and a collection of questions on the top ten issues. For those issues, direct one question per candidate allowing for a three minute answer. If you can’t get your basic answer across in three minutes, you probably don’t have an answer in the first place. Continue to allow candidates to respond if specifically mentioned, but enforce the time limit of that response. Of course, this day in age the only way to enforce that probably involves putting each candidate in a soundproof box and muting his or her microphone when the time has expired. The bottom line is that each debate really needs to have at least one group question per issue, questions each candidate are allowed to answer uninterrupted. If it takes two hours to ask the full field of candidates a singe question on five issues, so be it. Considering the resulting votes will shape the future of our nation, the importance of a fair and balanced debate far outweighs the cost for airtime.

Real Reform

Does anyone really want reform? Rhetoric aside, it certainly does not appear as though the government seeks to “bring about a change … so that they no longer behave in an immoral, criminal, or self-destructive manner.” What we do hear, on a daily basis, are cries from both Democrats and Republicans for reform. Not only calls for reform, emotional promises for reform. Both of our nation’s major political parties have crafted glorious works of communicative art showcasing their burning desires for a “true bipartisan effort”, neither has delivered anything remotely tangible.

Exactly what has the new Congress, which as we remember promised great change and prosperity, actually achieved? I’m certainly in no position to spend hours pouring through exact dollar amounts, but at a glance the new Congress has managed to load the pork barrels far beyond capacity, and that’s about all they’ve done. Really in none of the jobs I’ve had the pleasure of working, have I ever encountered a barrel sufficient for the containment of the pork so loved by our current (and admittedly past) Congress. Perhaps we should coin a new phrase, as pork barreling is nowhere near accurate. Pigs, even the biggest of the big, aren’t all that large, and as I said before neither are barrels. What we see today is more like whale tankering.

Spending isn’t the only thing this great reformation has bestowed upon our great nation. I would be irresponsible to not highlight the full spectrum of the current Congress, and instead mention only the insatiable need to spend money that doesn’t actually exist on projects no one will remember, or appreciate, at any point in the future. The present Congress has proven one thing beyond the shadow of a doubt, they sure can name a Post Office. In fact, they can name dozens of Post Offices. In true bipartisan cooperation, this Congress has placed differing ideologies aside, and collaborated in the naming of several dozen Post Offices. The success of these bipartisan acts absolutely does not end with the naming of Post Offices. No, in the face of dwindling funds for deployed troops around the globe (you know, the green stuff required to make sure myself and my soldiers have something to eat every day – we really don’t ask for much, but we do like to eat), our Congress has also managed to congratulate no less than 10 sports teams for their seasonal efforts. We can not manage to submit an appropriations bill that is not loaded with a fleet’s worth of whale tankers, but we can certainly pass resolution after resolution essentially illustrating a total indifference to the things that really matter. Bravo.

Is it fair to direct my disdain only towards Congress? No, by no means would that be even remotely fair. The ineffective masses of pension-conscious legislators were voted into office, which means a good deal of this is directed squarely at John and Jane Public. How many voters have any idea what goes on in Congress? How many know what the Supreme Court has been up to for the last decade? Do you think the majority of voters understand their representative’s voting record? How about the schedule for actions on the House or Senate floor, do you think most voters have any idea when important bills will be up for a discussion or even a vote? Given the easy access to this information, the power and importance of the vote, and our present political climate, one would certainly hope the answers paint a happy picture. The reality is that the painter does not even have a canvas. If you think I’m only trying to scare the country into participation, I ask only that you pick an issue, any issue, and ask ten random people for their position, and the position of their representatives on that issue. Be prepared for blank stares.

Political showboating has taken on a celebrity arena of it’s own. Crafty speeches, emotional outcries, harsh condemnation, these are the tools of Congress. The media is only too thrilled to help destroy the nation, by giving airtime, followed by editorial reviews, followed by network and radio commentary on the editorial reviews of the originally aired content, followed by books about the commentary about the editorial reviews of the originally aired speech. This wouldn’t be an issue, if there was even a glimmer of meaning or truth in a tenth of the speeches. For a present example, I direct your attention to recent Democratic showboating. Specifically, adding language to their most recent non-binding appropriations bill requiring that troops remaining in Iraq be limited to actions of counter-terrorism, the training of Iraqi Security Forces, and the protection of US interests (to include diplomats). As of yet, I have not made up my mind as to which is more disgusting, Congressional Democrats acting as though that very thing has not been our mission for the last several years, or the voting public responding as if somehow those “limitations” will greatly reduce the need for troop strength, and ultimately bring us all home. The fact is, that we are here specifically to interdict terrorist organizations, train the Iraqi Security Forces, and protect US interests. Adding language “limiting” our role to those actions in an effort to garner political recognition, is a slap in the face at best, but more directly treasonous as a blatant and direct lie to the voting public.

Lest anyone think for a second that I’m rallying against Democrats alone, there are still a few rounds left in me for the Republicans. What exactly happened to fiscal responsibility, and small federal government? At some point, those were the legs of the party platform. I dare say we’ve got about as large a federal government as possible, and I’d have to upgrade the storage capacity of this server if I had any intentions of going on about the utter lack of fiscal responsibility of late. Most alarming, are the fire breathing attacks against fellow Republicans wishing to return the party to its roots. Is there really a hope for bipartisan unity, when neither party can even behave within their own ranks? Probably not, sadly. If only someone would remind both sides that there’s a document which presides over their actions, many of them may have heard of it at some point – The Constitution of the United States of America.

Caged Sand

Caged Sand

Originally uploaded by macktruckturner

The photo sums up the way I feel rather well. Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, my counterpart being on leave doesn’t give me much time off, and the time I spend off I tend to spend with my eyes shut. In fact, I haven’t even touched my guitar in over a week. Everyone knows that in itself is very uncommon, or has been for the last 18 years.

There isn’t a whole lot to really say right now. Most days, for the last week and a half or so, I’ve been messing with what will be my business effort in photography, or at least the web representation of that effort. A few days ago, I came up with the name, and that really got the ball rolling. In short, I’ve now got my very own business site – which sort of (or exactly, rather) puts me out there as a photographer. Should you wish to view said site, and offer suggestions or comments, or even oh, I don’t know – schedule some work for when I get back (shameless plug, I know)… I’d have to insist that you click here.

Day 256 – That Smell

Day 256 – That Smell

Originally uploaded by macktruckturner

Impossible. That was the second thing to come to mind when I walked into my tent after lunch today. The first thing to come to mind was “it smells like a dirty diaper in here.“ Impossible came immediately thereafter, as my tent shelters eleven grown men (many with children of their own), yet shelters exactly zero infants.

How then, is it even remotely possible that a tent sheltering eleven grown men, four non-commissioned officers and seven junior enlisted soldiers, could the unmistakable smell of a “poopy diaper“ be so accurately reproduced? In the event that, having no children of my own, my analysis of this foul scent was somehow incorrect, I enlisted the objective opinion of a friend I know has children. At no point did I make it known to him that his invitation into the tent was extended for the identification of a smell, yet after a time far less than one minute he announced “dude, it smells like a shitty diaper in here, what the hell?“

What the hell, indeed. Here at FOB Hammer, we’re fortunate enough to have a large number of functional showers, and a laundry facility that tends to have a 24hr turnaround. Said laundry facility will also wash your sleeping bag, pillow cases, and whatnot. With the great fiscal responsibility frequently associated with our federal government, each of us have been issued enough t-shirts and socks to completely dam up the Mississippi River. Still, some people apparently feel the need to wear the same t-shirt for a week, change socks only when they fear the loss of a toe or the creation of some new fungal strain, and shower only when wood spontaneously combusts in their presence.

Before I changed my first name from “hey“ to “Sergeant“ there was nothing I hated more than an NCO butting into my personal living area. I take that back, the one thing I hated more than an NCO butting into my personal living area, was an NCO butting in for the purpose of telling me to clean things up. Things were a bit different then, and I lived with only two other individuals in a steel box with a door, two windows, and an AC unit. The people I lived with were clean individuals, one freakishly so. Really, what bothered me, were NCOs that felt the need to assert their power by coming up with random things to do. Random things we had usually already done twice on our own.

Now, here I am having to gather up those under me, and remind them of things they should be doing on their own. The very things I hated hearing myself just a few years ago. There is absolutely no excuse for any of the soldiers in my section to start or end a day smelling like hell. Personally, I would argue that there is absolutely no excuse for an NCO to need to bring such a topic to a soldier. In my day, since that was so long ago, if your battle buddy smelled like a septic tank you told him so. If he did not respond by taking his filthy behind to the shower, you forced him to take a shower, change his uniform, and wash his clothes and sleeping bag. Back then the only thing an NCO could complain about was a little dust in the doorway, it would have been a serious ordeal for everyone involved for an NCO to have to tell a soldier to wash his ass. Clearly, times have changed.

No photos with this one

I’m slowly uploading what I’ve recently taken. Chances are my posting will decline as I won’t have time to do it until at least the end of the month. When I can, I will. Also, don’t be shocked if I don’t reply to emails as quickly as usual. It would seem that loading a 32KB email is so crippling to the the .mil network that they were forced to shut such services down. You can, of course, still go to Google Images, type in Angelina Jolie, and feast your eyes upon whatever pops up. Nobody reading this actually expected someone employed by the government to actually understand access control lists, QoS, or any other fundamental of networking… did they?

Been a while


Originally uploaded by macktruckturner

We lost 3 soldiers a few days ago, and my thoughts and prayers go out to A/1-15IN, and the families and friends of the deceased. Loss sis never easy to deal with, and unfortunately many of us here in the sand are all too frequently required to do so. Such is life I suppose, but it isn’t a part life anyone enjoys.

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