Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"This world has serious problems and it’s time for America to start addressing them."

From http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/us/25dead.web.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5087&em&en=5f66d02b29e6258b&ex=1206590400 :

Six of the Fallen, in Words They Sent Home



“What the hell happened?” any intelligent American might ask themselves throughout their day. While the ignorant, dragging themselves to thier closed off cubicle, contemplate the simple things in life such as “fast food tonight?” or “I wonder what motivated Brittany Spears to shave her unsightly, mishaped domepiece?”

To the simpleton, this news might appear “devastating.” I assume not everyone thinks this way, but from my little corner of the earth, Iraq, a spot in the world a majority of Americans could’nt point out on the map, it certainly appears so. This little piece of truly, heart-breaking news captured headlines and apparently American imaginations as FOX news did a two hour, truly enlightening piece of breaking news history. American veiwers watched intently, and impatiently as the pretty colors flashed and the media exposed the inner workings of Brittany’s obviously, deep character. I was amazed, truly dumbfounded wondering how we as Americans have sank so low. To all Americans I have but one phrase that helps me throughout my day of constant dangers and ever present death around the corner, “WHO THE [expletive] CARES!” Wow America, we have truly become a nation of self-absorbed retards. ... This world has serious problems and it’s time for America to start addressing them.

Ryan Wood, Myspace blog, May 26, 2007'

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wounded Warrior March

From http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120534358726230727.html :

'Wounded Soldiers
See the Pentagon
In Private Parade
Little-Known Event
Is Emotional Salute;
Cpl. Lyon Pays a Visit
March 13, 2008; Page A1

Cpl. Kenny Lyon's mother pushed his wheelchair down a narrow Pentagon hallway, crying as she listened to the applause.

Hundreds of Defense Department employees lined the corridor, cheering for Cpl. Lyon and the other wounded military personnel who walked or rolled past. Some of them patted Cpl. Lyon on the shoulder, while others shook his hand or leaned in to hug his mother, Gigi Windsor.

"I was really humbled by it because I didn't do anything special," says Cpl. Lyon, a 22-year-old Marine who lost a leg in a mortar attack near Fallujah. "I went to Iraq to do a job, and I got injured and actually couldn't do it. So why was I getting honored?"

Cpl. Lyon was taking part in a little-known event called the Wounded Warrior March, which brings military personnel who suffer serious injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan to the Pentagon for a parade unlike any other.

The events, held roughly every six weeks, are notable for their simplicity. No speeches are given, no dignitaries march alongside the veterans and cameras are banned. The parades are closed to the public, except for friends and relatives of the injured soldiers and Marines taking part. Military officials don't tout the program to the press.

It's an example of the ways the military has chosen to honor its own out of public view. The Pentagon has until recently refused to release any photos of the flag-draped caskets of fallen U.S. troops being brought off planes back at home. President Bush doesn't attend military funerals and meets with bereaved family members only in private settings. Journalists embedded with American forces, meanwhile, must sign a contract limiting their use of photos of dead or wounded service personnel.

The parades also show the evolution of military honors for the dead and wounded. In the Vietnam War, soldiers and Marines wrote the names of fallen colleagues on their helmets and uniforms. Today, some wear bracelets engraved with the names and nicknames of colleagues killed in the two war zones, while others have the information tattooed on their arms and chests.

Far from the front lines, the Wounded Warrior events give employees at the Pentagon an opportunity to pay their respects to soldiers and Marines they have never met.

"When these boys came back, they went straight into hospitals, so they missed out on the homecoming ceremonies we all came back to," says Maj. Zachary Miller, an operations officer for the Army. "This is a way of giving that back to them."

Chance Meeting

They began in 2004 after a chance meeting between a young amputee and an Army general. The soldier told the officer that he would like to visit the Pentagon, and the general said he would try to make it happen.

The proposal made its way to Diane Bodman, the wife of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. She volunteers at the Red Cross office at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Ms. Bodman had experience planning and coordinating trips, and offered to take the project on.

The first group of Walter Reed patients visited the Pentagon in the summer of 2004 and the event struck a chord with many of the military personnel and civilians working in the sprawling facility.

"You're just holding back from breaking down," says Maj. Lyndon Marshall, whose office is on the parade route. He says he hasn't missed a single event. "There's pride, and camaraderie, and even a little guilt. You think, 'I've been there. I've done that. And nothing happened to me.'"

Cpl. Lyon's journey began at a small U.S. outpost near Fallujah. He enlisted in the Marines in fall 2003 looking for adventure. His unit deployed to Iraq in August 2004, but the tour was uneventful. In his seven months in al-Qaim, a region near the Syrian border, Cpl. Lyon says he didn't once fire his rifle.

His second tour was different. On May 1, 2006, Cpl. Lyon was sitting outside working on an armored vehicle when he heard a whistling sound.

"I looked at my friend and said, 'Is that incoming?" he recalls. "My ears began ringing and it felt like someone hit me in the back of the head with a frying pan."

Cpl. Lyon was conscious when fellow Marines raced him to a medical facility in Fallujah. Then, he says, everything went black. When he woke up two weeks later, he was lying in a bed at Walter Reed.

Shrapnel from the mortar had destroyed his jaw, knocked out many of his teeth and torn a small hole in his skull. It also damaged nerves in one of his arms so he couldn't raise his wrist or open his fingers. His left leg had to be amputated just above the knee.

When Ms. Windsor first saw her son, she thought there was no way he'd survive. "There was no piece of skin that didn't have a scar or wound," she says.

But military doctors put Cpl. Lyon back together. They rebuilt his jaw and performed plastic surgery to hide the scars on his face. They transferred tendons from elsewhere in his body into his arm. And they gave him a state-of-the-art prosthetic leg. Cpl. Lyon says he underwent more than 50 operations.

Cpl. Lyon learned about the Wounded Warrior program from a Red Cross volunteer. His mother was eager to take part, but Cpl. Lyon wanted to hold off until he was able to walk into the Pentagon under his own power. One evening close to the ceremony he fell out of bed, leaving him unable to use the prosthetic. With his mother coming to Washington from Marion, Md., he decided to take part anyway.

On a cool day last fall, a fleet of buses and vans made the short trip to the Pentagon. Cpl. Lyon and the other wounded veterans gathered in a narrow hallway and waited for their cue. When a military band began playing, they slowly made their way through the crowd.

Surprise Appearances

"It reminded me of that scene in 'The Wizard of Oz' when all of the people step in to say goodbye to Dorothy," Ms. Windsor recalls. "The more you walked, the more people you saw."

After the parade, the military personnel and their families were taken to the spot where a hijacked plane crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001, and then to a small dining room for lunch. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, made surprise appearances.

On his way back to Walter Reed, Cpl. Lyon said he spent a lot of time marveling at the number of Pentagon employees organizing and attending the events. It was, he believes, their way of trying to forge a connection to a war that otherwise seemed distant and abstract.

"Some of them make important decisions but never get to see their decisions being carried out," he says. "When they applaud us, it gives them a little bit of closure for what they do every day. It makes things real for them."'

The dollar declines and it is good

Almost all of the cries that the decline of the dollar is bad are made by economic morons. The decline in the relative value of the dollar against foreign currency isn't a sign that the USA is declining as much as that the rest of the world is growing. The world is in such good economic shape that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is running out of countries who needs its help. Africa, long the economic ghetto of the world, is doing better, although its dictatorships are still slowing its growth. Ironically for those who hate Bush, Bush's infusion to stem AIDS in Africa has a lot to do with Africa's relative stability compared to the past which shows that throwing money in general at Africa does nothing, but targeted and monitored aid actually works. The benefits for the USA will be a decrease in the trade deficit as exports become more price competitive, decreased outsourcing of jobs as it becomes more and more expensive to do so, increased tourism as the USA becomes cheaper to visit, and the rebirth of domestic industries like domestic oil. However, there can be too much of a good thing. The dollar has been artificially kept high by foreign countries for so long in fear of losing exports to the USA, that when those crutches aren't enough, the dollar's rate of decline might be like an avalanche rather than the gradual walk down a hill it should have been. This may cause critical imports like oil to increase in price too fast to adjust smoothly causing a roller coaster effect on our economy. Right now, nobody knows if the dollar will decline too fast or not, but our economy has already absorbed a drastic increase in oil prices without really batting an eye and is only starting to feel the strain only when the additional weight of the subprime bubble popping came into play. So what should the government do about it? The best thing the government could do is cut government spending and eliminate taxes permanently (no temporary tax "breaks" where the government thinks it knows best how to redistribute the money back to us) for the long term benefit of the economy. The history of government economic interference shows that it is notoriously bad at timing its infusions to actually properly buffer the dips in our economic cycle and just make subsequent peaks and valleys greater than they should be. Since the government is the worst allocator of resources, its best role would be to do nothing during times like this. Unfortunately, congress is almost entirely run by economic liberals and/or morons on both sides of the fence who couldn't cut government spending to save the country and couldn't resist political pressure to "do something" about natural dips in the economy. The greatest danger to the USA is a result of one of the biggest misguided attempts to "help" the people. When the bulk of the baby boomers retire, they will increase government spending in Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security so fast and so high that the debt to GDP ratio will skyrocket past the all time high right after WWII, and it will bring our country to its knees like nothing since the Depression. We and our leaders don't have the courage to do so, but if we are to avoid this economic armageddon, we must bite the bullet and cut down these programs.