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Memorial Day ~ A True ‘Theft of Valor’

by Invenium Viam on May 24, 2015 · 0 comments


For some, the grief is forever.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes,
He won’t answer any more.
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian,
Nor the Marine who went to war.

The Ballad of Ira Hayes — recorded by Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan
& others; written by Peter La Farge


Speaking as a veteran on Memorial Day, you might indulge me as I voice a couple of gripes about this day and the absurdity it has become.


First, I hate the commercialization. Everywhere you look, there’s a Memorial Day Sale. Every fast food joint is trying to cash-in on the long holiday weekend while insinuating some kind of quasi-patriotism by “free” offers to active military and veterans including free “Freedom” Fries at Wendy’s, free boneless chicken wings at Hooters, and a free “All American Burger” at Shoney’s.


I hate the fact that to take advantage of the free stuff on offer vets have to show a military ID or discharge papers, because others who never served a day in uniform have taken advantage. I hate the thought that a homeless vet who might actually need a square meal, but who doesn’t have his sh*t together enough to lay hands on his discharge papers, could be denied a hot dinner because the fraudulent among us have kept him from it.


Hooters Tribute

For others, it’s a way to turn a quick buck.

I hate the thought that the rank commercialism I see all around me is a means for businesses, from profit motives, to cynically exploit America’s honored dead. If the offers were really meant out of a sense of patriotic gratitude, as opposed to exploiting a commercial opportunity, why not simply provide meal coupons to the VA clinics and hospitals, and/or the veteran’s support and social services organizations, where they can be distributed to needy veterans whose needs are known to the staff, as opposed to putting the onus on the vet to prove that he’s a vet?


Or is the real purpose simply to put butts in seats over the long Memorial Day weekend that serves as a kind of Kick-off to Summer? I hope that’s not the case, because someone would have to be a real low-life — I mean like a low-life maggot child molester — to do something as inherently wicked and insensitive as that. And allow me to include the advertising agencies who take part.


I hate the fact that free stuff is offered to living veterans on Memorial Day at all. Veteran’s Day is different. On Veteran’s Day we honor living veterans. So honor the vets on Veteran’s Day with as much free stuff as you like. But on Memorial Day, we honor our dead. And dead veterans don’t need your free stuff. They don’t even need your gratitude. They just need your respect. It would be far better to give free stuff to the surviving spouses and children of dead veterans, who are no longer there to protect and support the families they once loved — because they gave their lives for the country they once loved.


It seems to me far more patriotic for a restaurant owner to offer a free meal on Memorial Day to 10 dead veteran’s families, as opposed to 100 living veterans, or to provide a $10,000 scholarship fund for a veteran’s children, as opposed to spending $10,000 in loss leaders and advertising to promote a business. It would be far more patriotic for a hotel owner to offer a surviving wife or husband with young children a 3-day vacation in a poolside room with free room service and cable movies. The surviving spouse probably needs a vacation with his or her spouse dead and gone. That, to me, would be honoring the dead veteran, by supporting his or her living kin. I doubt anything of the kind will ever happen, though. Because that would actually be charitable, as opposed to being exploitive of our service dead like some kind of shameless moral degenerate.


I hate the fact that veterans themselves have been suckered by all the quasi-patriotic media frenzy into ostentatious displays of having served. There was a time when veterans served their terms of enlistment and then went home to get on with their lives, to raise families, and to help build their communities with quiet dignity. There was a tradition of maintaining a reserved demeanor about having served. Nobody made a lot of noise about it. There was no such thing as the modern crime of ‘Theft of Valor’ (punishable under statute, as if such a thing were even possible), because no one would consider parading themselves around falsely as war heroes. On every block in my neighborhood growing up, there were a half-dozen war heroes. Most were untouched by combat. Some bore the scars of burned flesh, a disfigured face, missing fingers, or shattered limbs.



Lance-Cpl. Ira Hayes

Others bore scars unseen, whose suffering was less apparent, the men like Ira Hayes who live amongst us. They suffered the horrors of war in silence, unable to pour out of their heads the sights, sounds and smells of combat that had once poured in. Those veterans, whose sense-memories had been etched forever by the high-octane adrenalin of combat, could forget nothing and suffered a private inner hell replete with private demons. They tried to kill those demons with whiskey and pain pills. They might have wished they themselves had died in combat. Instead, they met less prosaic ends: frozen dead to their porch steps, impaled on the steering column of the family car in a head-on collision with a bridge abuttment, or with their brains hanging from a dank basement ceiling. We do not judge them because we cannot judge them. We can only include them among our honored dead.


I hate the fact that politicians have politicized military service, have attempted to colonize the political “moral highground” by showy and noisy displays of support for the military services and for veterans. I hate their loud, obnoxious, breast-beating condemnations over the sins of those less pretentious, less classless, and less overwrought than themselves in their supposed “gratitude” towards those who have served. I hate the fact that political leaders attempt to equate the sacrifice of our veterans, and in particular our honored dead, with support for their political ideology, religious values, world view, foreign policy, domestic policy, and racial or tribal identities. The typical condition of a combat infantry soldier is cold, tired, hungry, wet and scared. At other times, he’s hot, thirsty, hungry, tired and scared. Whatever his current condition, I can guarantee that the only thing on his mind is when he’ll next be dry, warm, rested, well-fed and safe. No one who stands a watch in the dark of night ever thinks about the merits of this or that political ideology. And it seems a safe bet to me that not one among our honored dead ever felt his sacrifice was only for white people, or only for black people, only for Christians or Jews, only for Republicans or Democrats, only for Protestants, or only for Catholics.


The sacrifice of those honored dead we Americans memorialize was a sacrifice for the rights, the freedoms and the dignity of all Americans. Flag-draping politicians who attempt to pervert the meaning of their sacrifice to the service of political expediency should be shouted down and vilified in the public arena as the low-life maggots they truly are. And while I think it’s fine to make money in business, to exploit the sacrifice of those we memorialize, to seek competitive advantage and gain by capitalizing on the day we’ve set aside in remembrance, that’s what I would call a true ‘Theft of Valor.’ Those who engage in such behavior need to be denounced.


We need to recover our sense of national identity and national purpose. The more that demagogues use military service and veterans in attempting to claim a distinctive class of patriotism, and to meanwhile drive divisions between us, the more loudly we should object. We need to call attention to those who exploit the sacrifice of America’s honored dead for political gain, or for profit. The sacrifice of those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” should be regarded, as Lincoln declared at Gettysburg, as a sacred secular act — one consecrated “far above our poor power to add or detract” and one that should be protected by law from exploitation for commercial purposes.


We could begin by reminding the nation that our honored dead represent all of America: all colors, all religions, all regions, all economic backgrounds, all ethnic backgrounds, every state and every territory. Just once, I’d like to see a President in office issue a call to the American Indian first nations to send their representatives to Washington in a great Memorial Day convocation, to bring with them their service banners bearing the symbols of their nations and the names of their honored dead, our American honored dead among the Indian peoples. It would be an object lesson in the truth of our motto E Pluribus Unum for those who think their skin color or heritage accords them a special place in American life.


Some might call that a special consideration shown a minority group at the expense of the white majority. But I would call it an overdue recognition of the service and sacrifice of some of our fellow Americans, whose contribution in the nation’s defense over many generations — in fact, from the very foundations of this Republic — isn’t well known and for some Americans isn’t known at all. It would also serve as a move toward reconciliation of past grievances and injury among brothers at arms and a recognition of our shared history and shared love for the nation.


I have but little hope that anything of the kind will ever happen. Instead, I have real fear that this day will continue to devolve into an orgy of commercialism and politics and it’s true meaning and purpose will be smothered by unending greed and ambition.


not sure cartoon

But I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

“So from today forward, YOU are the language police. From today forward, these are the words NEVER to say again.” Dr. Frank Luntz, author of The Luntz Republican Playbook


For some time now, I’ve been advocating that Democrats and other progressive leaders take a page from the Republicans and start using more effective language when they give interviews to reporters and talk to voters. For some reason, no one seems too interested.


Maybe it’s because nobody much cares what I think, which is only reasonable I guess. Or maybe they don’t like the idea of copying Republicans. Or maybe they think that adapting the terminology you use in communicating with others is somehow dishonest. Although anyone with a brain routinely adapts their terminology when speaking to children, parents, spouses, bosses, cops and judges.


On the outside chance that they just need some concrete examples of what I’m talking about, the following ten items are Dr. Luntz’s recommendations to Republicans about words never to use, with some of his suggested alternatives, and some of my suggested alternatives.


1. Never say ‘capitalism.’ Instead say ‘free market economy.’

Agreed. Democrats should never say ‘capitalism’ either. At least, not without modifiers. Instead, use the term ‘zombie capitalism’ or, even better, ‘bandit capitalism’ whenever we refer to the Big banks, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Wall Street and all multinational corporations of any stripe. Everybody hates those guys anyway, so most people are happy to have you compare them to the mindless undead and criminal marauders. When the opposition refers glibly to a ‘free market economy,’ remind your audience that Republicans hate government regulation, so what they really have in mind is an unregulated free market economy, which is just another term for bandit capitalism.


Then use the opening to drive a wedge between the Greedheads and the Bible-toters by re-purposing the story of the loaves and fishes as a capitalist morality tale. A Capitalist Jesus would have made a killer profit selling the same loaves and fishes over and over again to the starving multitude … sort of like tranches in CDO derivatives. Then, according to Republican economic theory, otherwise known as magical thinking, His Holy Windfall Profits would miraculously trickle down to the poor. Instead, Jesus TOOK the property of successful members of the starving multitude and GAVE IT to others less thrifty and disciplined like some kind of early socialist. And, really, how Christian is that?


2. Don’t say that the government ‘taxes the rich.’ Instead, say that government ‘takes from the rich.’

Agreed. Except that Democrats should say that government ‘takes from everyone‘ — not just the rich — and that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike … but it falls more on the fat man than the skinny man. Because he’s fat.


3. Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the ‘middle class.’ Call them ‘hardworking taxpayers’ instead.

Agreed. Republicans should forget about winning the battle for the middle class, because their policies since Reagan have driven more half of the middle class into the lower class and in that sense the GOP has already won that battle.


Democrats should point this out constantly. And Democrats should always use terms like ‘the shrinking middle class’ and ‘the middle class in crisis.’ Another good meme to use would be ‘Republican successes in their War on the Middle Class have resulted in one-third of all American children now living in poverty, one-fifth of American households are now food insecure, etc.’ All of these are good alternative constructions for the very good reason that they also happen to be true.


4. Don’t talk about ‘jobs.’ Instead, talk about ‘careers.’

Agreed. Democrats should only talk about ‘careers’ too. We need to point out that during Republican administrations and their War on the Middle Class 30 million Americans who once had ‘careers’ got ‘jobbed’ by GOP policies based on trickle-down economics and outsourcing and many were given new careers as jobless and homeless people.


5. Don’t say ‘government spending.’ Call it ‘government waste.’

Correct. But Democrats should point out that Republicans think government waste includes mortgage-interest deductions for homeowners, income tax deductions for dependents, low-interest loans and grants for college students, veterans’ health care and education benefits, unemployment benefits for the jobless, health care and food support for children in poverty; and earned benefits like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for the elderly. Incidentally, Democrats should ALWAYS refer to the safety net programs as EARNED BENEFITS, never as entitlements, which Republicans use with robot-like consistently since it makes them sound like expensive government give-away’s that should be eliminated. Or at least privatized by their bandit capitalist friends on Wall Street.


Whenever someone in the media uses the term ‘entitlements,’ you should fix them with a withering glare and say, “Did you mean to say, Earned Benefits?”


6. Don’t ever say you’re willing to ‘compromise.’ Instead say you’re willing to ‘cooperate.’

Agreed. Democrats should never say that we are willing to compromise either. That’s chicken talk for girly men. We should say instead that we are willing to cooperate, but on the basis of mutual concessions (which is the same thing as compromise). Point out that to cooperate without making any concessions is what two tots throwing sand at each other from opposite sides of the sandbox do. Then say, “Without some concessions from Republicans, voters can expect continued polarization and gridlock.”


7. The three most important words you can say to a female voter is: ‘I hear you’ or ‘I get it.’

Absolutely right. But Democrats should go a bit further. First say, ‘I hear you.’ Then say, ‘I get it.’ Then — to avoid coming off as a vacuous, patronizing dink — say: “We need to work together to counter Republican policies of economic, social and gender violence in their unending War on Women.” Then cap it off with, “Count ME on YOUR side.” That’ll get ‘er done for ya.


8. Out: ‘Entrepreneur.’ In: ‘Job Creator.’

Right. Let’s everybody knock-off all that entrepreneur talk. It’s sounds way too brainy and French and possibly even sinful, like other things deemed “French” in American post-WWII vernacular. (Dear Lord, have those people no shame? Remember, God is always watching and sees everything you do, even when you’re sure no one is around.) Instead, Democrats should always refer to the ULTIMATE job creators — American consumers. Then use it as an opening to talk about the Republican’s successful War on the Middle Class. For example, “We know that Republicans are skilled job creators, because whenever they’re in power American wage-earners, small businesses, students and families all get thoroughly jobbed.”


9. Don’t ever ask anyone to ‘sacrifice.’

Correct. Terrible word that, sacrifice. We need to stop all that naughty bad talk about ‘sacrifice’ and instead talk only nice good talk about ‘succeeding’ and ‘success.’ For example, “We’re all in this together so it’s ONLY FAIR that we should all SUCCEED or fail together. That’s why we need to tax the bejeezuz out of the Investor Class, because for the last 35 years they’ve been SUCCEEDing beyond all dreams of avarice at the expense of the rest of us, who actually produce the goods and services we all use. For more than three decades there’s been a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle-class to the Investor Class. It’s long past time for the rest of us to do some SUCCEEDing too.”


10. Never say ‘government.’ Instead say, ‘Washington.’

Without doubt. We should say, “Republicans hate Washington. They want and expect Washington to fail. They work hard to make sure Washington fails. So sending a Republican to Washington is like giving an arsonist a gallon of gas and the keys to the Fire Station.”

From Eric Ferguson: I found Luntz’s book online. http://www.yuricareport.com/BushSecondTerm/Luntz.pdf Apparently it had gotten around at first as just an image, and some bloggers transcribed it into a searchable PDF. Glancing through it, I noticed Luntz warning Republicans that 2006 could be as bad as 1986. At least some of his advice was ignored as I recall, and I also recall 2006 being worse for the GOP than 1986. I guess Republicans also haven’t worked out how to win midterms other than don’t be the presidential party.

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isil-300x162‘There are roads which must not be followed,
armies which must not be attacked,
towns which must not be besieged,
positions which must not be contested,
commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.’
Sun Tzu ~ On the Art of War


‘Don’t do anything stupid.’
President Barack Obama


War hysteria is a fascinating and horrifying thing to watch. I’ve seen it several times now in my life and it is always beyond ugly, like watching scorpions mate.


Aside from the verminous lies that tumble over each other like a swarm of filthy rats to electrify public opinion with fear and frenzy, our national leaders — grown men and women whose strength of character and deliberative judgment we rely on — daily prove susceptible themselves to the most transparent mendacity and appear spineless in the face of true moral challenge.


Until a few short months ago, the American public had never heard of ISIL and didn’t know a thing about them, even though ISIL has been fighting an insurgency in Syria against the Assad regime for years, and for years it has committed unspeakable atrocities against the Syrian people. The brutal murders of two American journalists notwithstanding, why now the sudden sense of urgency and demand for action in the public discourse and among our leadership?


The answer lies in war hysteria.


As the New York Times put it:


“… as President Obama prepares to send the United States on what could be a years-long military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.”




Mike McFadden


In his latest television ad, Mike “Nutshot” McFadden attempts to heap scorn on Senator Franken for “missing the mark.” It looks to me like yet more evidence that McFadden’s campaign is Not Ready for Prime Time.


The ad portrays a Franken look-a-like replete in suit and tie attempting to back the family boat into the water, failing repeatedly, knocking over garbage cans, while others are waiting impatiently and shaking their heads. The subtext reads contempt: Pity the Fool. Of course, Mighty Mike gets it on the first try. ‘Cuz he’s no fool.


Or.Is.He? If the ad’s intended audience is boat-owners, he may be on to something. Minnesota has more boat-owners per capita than any other state in the union. But to my knowledge boat-ownership has never been identified as a persuade-able voter demographic. Maybe I’m wrong …


No, I think he actually missed the mark himself. It appears that the ad is appealing to those viewers who dislike Coppertone®-tan Presidents, dislike Obamacare, dislike votes on higher taxes (never mind that the House GOP majority makes those votes moot), and dislike bespectacled Jews in suits trying to back boats.


If that’s the demographic he’s appealing to, I’ve got a newsflash for Team McFadden. Those guys are already voting your way. You’re wasting the old man’s money. Why not give the money to me and I’ll pass it on to a worthwhile charity — it’s better spent.


Also, I thought McFadden was supposed to be a smart business guy. The smartest move he could make right now would be to six his ad agency and find someone who knows what the hell they’re doing.


Mike, you need to widen your message, starting right now, and begin appealing to moderates, or your campaign is DOA on Election Day. Time is short: early voting begins in five weeks.


As the ad says, “Here in Min-ne-SO-ta, there’s a right way and a wrong way.” Looks to me like you picked the wrong way. Pity the fool.


McFadden Four-Flushing on Veteran Funding

by Invenium Viam on June 23, 2014 · 9 comments

Mike McFadden

Mike McFadden

Four-flusher‘ is one of those great old slang terms that has fallen into general disuse over the years. Specifically, it means a poker player who likes to bluff having a flush, but only has four cards of the same suit, not five. By extension, it means someone who misrepresents himself to others in a self-serving way. More pejoratively, four-flusher is used as a synonym for a con-man, a phony, or a fake.


I’ll leave it to you to decide in which senses of the term Mike McFadden might be a four-flusher.


On June 10, McFadden’s campaign issued a press release damning Senator Franken for failing to keep a campaign promise to veterans: “In 2008, Al Franken promised Minnesotans that he would stop shortchanging our veterans and put an end to wait times at VA clinics. Five years later, we know that Sen. Franken has failed miserably,” said Tom Erickson, spokesman for the McFadden for Senate campaign. “With over 57,000 patients waiting for their first appointment, it’s clear that Sen. Franken’s campaign promises are little more than empty rhetoric from just another politician. Our veterans deserve better.”


As a veteran, I have enormous regard for Senator Franken, as do millions of others across the country. With regard to flag-draping, ambitious posers — not so much.




The Evil That Men Do

by Invenium Viam on June 19, 2014 · 1 comment

mass murder in syria

Mass murder in Syria

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar.” Julius Caesar; Act 3, Scene 2.


In his WSJ opinion piece of June 17 (The Collapsing Obama Doctrine), Cheney lays blame for the internecine conflict now occurring in Iraq to President Obama’s allegedly failing policies with regard to mid-east terrorism.


Cheney claims the “… fall of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul and Tel Afar, and the establishment of terrorist safe havens across a large swath of the Arab world, present a strategic threat to the security of the United States.”


He doesn’t bother to explain how that threat is manifest, or even how he links the fall of those cities to “the establishment of terrorist safe havens across the Arab world.”


Moreover, he alludes to “… black-clad ISIS jihadists …” as if it were a reliable, foregone conclusion that they are a group of terrorists allied with al Qaeda and he deliberately conflates the two groups in his opening salvo against the president by saying “… it is worth recalling a few of President Obama’s past statements about ISIS and al Qaeda …” when the President never specifically mentioned ISIS in any of the public addresses Cheney cites. He neglects to mention that ISIS and al Qaeda are to some degree antagonistic towards one another due to conflicting goals and that, between the two, only al Qaeda has a global agenda.


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