Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Terrorist Greeting Card

Wednesday evening. Grand Central Terminal, New York. Two New York City police officers, dressed in tactical black and carrying Heckler and Koch automatic weapons, overlook the main hall as passengers try to get home for Thanksgiving. What a cheery holiday scene!

(Count in about 8 panels from the right on the bottom of the sign for the first officer and another four for the second.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tis The Season To Be ...


I see that everyone is getting into the holiday  spirit. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like the gift of pepper spray!

Is it me or is there a high correlation between Walmart and acts of shopping violence?

Evacuation Day- November 25th, 1783

November 25, 1783-EVACUATION DAY

Evacuation Day has nothing to do with post Thanksgiving  biological functions.

Once, Evacuation Day was one of the most celebrated days in America, and certainly in New York City. It's the day in 1783 that the British left New York City after occupying it from the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1776, and wreaking destruction during that entire period.

I was pleased to see this in today's NY Daily News:

It's funny how time shifts the focus of history and this day is lost in the past. 

Also forgotten is the fact that New York harbor was filled with British prison ships and more than 11,000 Revolutionary War soldiers, Americans all, died in those ships. As the author in the Daily News notes, the 11,000 dead is a number that exceeds the number of Americans who died in battle during that war.

A day worth noting , i believe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Thoughts on Veterans Day 11 11 2011

Veterans Day

It was a strange day.

I was standing in line at a coffee cart in midtown. I was in line behind a young Latino who was wearing his Marines warm up track suit. He turned to me and said “Happy Veterans day. Hoo-ah!” Uh, yeah. I had no idea what that was about. I was dressed, well, about as normal as I get. Black jeans, my civilian flight jacket with absolutely no military insignia- it does have an American flag on the left shoulder and a small brass pin on my collar “New York Aviation Alliance”. I had on my USS New York baseball cap that I bought when I attended the ship’s commissioning. And I can’t tell you how many of those baseball caps were sold to civilians on that day! So I wasn’t passing myself off as a war veteran or even as a military man.

I had come to Manhattan on my day off to attend the Veterans Day parade. I got there early but even then there was a nice crowd. I remember those Veterans Day parades of not too many years past when the marchers outnumbered the spectators and the day after the tabloids would decry the lack of patriotism. That was a long time and two wars ago.

I’m standing on Fifth Avenue waiting for the parade proper to start. It’s a typical New York scene. Commerce above all. A couple of guys walking around selling American flags, “Flags, who needs a flag? Everyone needs a flag, Three dollars.” One young mother stops him and starts to buy one, “Two flags for five dollars.” She is relived. She gets one flag for each of her kids. She knows she will be preventing a lot of distress during the next few hours.

So I’m standing there along Fifth Avenue, taking in the scene on this cold but clear day when a Marine colonel in dress blues, who was walking up the middle of the avenue, veers directly towards me, sticks out his hand and says “Thank you for your service”. I am stunned. I mumble “You too”. That’s all I could think to say. Why in the world would he come over to me and say that? I wear no military insignia. I hate people who wear insignia or ribbons which they are not entitled to wear. I claim no status as a result of my less than minuscule service in the Coast Guard reserve. Why me?

Anyhow, it was a great parade, I suppose. Not one but two Medal of Honor winners! Tons of colorful flags. Marching bands from across the country.  Veterans taking in all the acclamation they could absorb. Civilians praising their heroes.  Stirring sights of wounded veterans. God Star mothers. Kitsch with the Andrews Sisters-type singers.  More pipers than in England, Ireland, and Scotland combined! Military units! Marching bands! Politicians who needed to be seen! More than 20,000 marchers in all!  

I didn’t stay for the whole thing. I sort of felt there was too much commercialism with the walking advertisements for Chase bank and American Airlines. I felt the unseemliness of the NYC Department of Corrections hauling out and parading their white painted armored personnel carrier. Why? What did it have to do with Veterans Day?

I went to Grand Central Terminal to catch the train home and to attend a smaller ceremony at the Bronx VA. At GCT I bought a cup of chili and the guy behind the counter said “Happy Veterans Day, but I guess you can’t really call it happy.” Uh, yeah, right. What do you say to that?

On the train ride home, chili in hand, I wondered what had turned the veterans parade around from the point not too many years ago where people thought about cancelling it to the behemoth it had become. Yes, there were two wars. Yes, we had been attacked on 9/11, but it didn’t seem to explain the turn out. 

“Thank you for your service.” “Thank you for your service”. That was the day’s mantra, yet it seemed so odd. It felt wrong in concept. It didn’t sound right, and I don’t mean as it was improperly directed towards me. It was like an ill fitting suit. It looks nice but something is wrong.

Then, well, it hit me. “Your service.” “Your service.”
No “Band of Brothers” thing here. You went to war. "Your." "Your." Not mine, not ours. "Your".

With the end of the draft the military had become a separate caste, a cohort of nobles, or incompetents who couldn’t find a way to get rich, who volunteered to do society’s dirty work while everyone else went shopping or celebrated or wept over the stock market, as appropriate. Hell, they were only doing what President Bush (the Second) told them to do, “Go shopping or the terrorists win.” So they did. And so without a draft to provide a unifying force that spread the pain across all segments and sections of society, the new, heroic military caste was born, a caste separate from “us”. No more a part of us than characters in a popular video game.

The truth is that the pain of the last decade of war has been borne by less than 1% of the American public. The men who endured, and with luck survived 6, 7, 8, even 9 deployments to combat zones were mostly invisible to the rest of our society. The families who similarly bore their burdens were likewise unseen.

I then went to the Bronx Veterans Administration hospital for a remembrance ceremony put together by the Reverend William Kalaidjian, Staff Chaplin at that facility. It was a small ceremony which was held in the lovely chapel on the grounds of the VA facility. There was a lone piper who played the five service hymns (why does everyone forget the Coast Guard?). 50 maybe 75 veterans representing World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam showed up. The older guys were bent with age. Some had to be wheeled in.  It seemed that the Vietnam guys consisted of mostly black men as opposed to the white guys from the previous wars. Our politics was showing.

I guess the guys from Iraq (I and II) and Afghanistan will show up in the future.

 There was a Boy Scout color guard. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A chamber music quartet played Mozart and Debussy. Some words were spoken. We sang “God Bless America” then retired to the back of the chapel for some punch and cookies.

In this small ceremony, I felt that more honor was paid, and more respect shown, and with more honesty than in the big parade downtown. It was a quiet and dignified affair that matched the quiet and dignified manner of the veterans. It was solemn without being maudlin. It was altogether fitting and proper for those of us in attendance to give up a few minutes of our time in this place to honor and remember those who gave up their lives. 

So “Thank you for your service,” sounds so cheap when it comes from someone who has not served. It is cheap praise for your mercenary, your hired hand, your long term servant in good standing. But from someone who has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt (or at least a DD 214N), it is an acknowledgment of being in the brotherhood, and the sharing of an experience that no one else could possibly understand.

As I said, it was a strange day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street- There's Something Happening Here

I spent part of yesterday at Zucotti Park, observing, talking to some of the inhabitants. As with any population, the range of opinions, political positions, etc. varies. Along Broadway you could find protesters and their signs. I think the political spectrum ran from middle-of -the road- to extreme left, but everyone had a place and the respect of others. I think the salient point was the presence of those "middle of the roaders".  Well dressed, holding signs that addressed real economic issues, these people weren't the anarchist internets hackers.

Around the back on the Church Street side were the drummers, beggars, anarchists. Yes, they are loud and noisy, but this is New York and in a way, we all make a little extra room for them.

I interviewed one woman who wore a two tone Mohawk, tattered patterned stockings and had just finished rolling a cigarette (well, the contents came from a bag indicating that it contained tobacco). She said she was from Baltimore and just had to "hit the road". She was headed for Boston but wound up in New York. She had absolutely no political agenda. I don't think she had any agendas at all.

The "comm center" had police scanners, computers, and a joint being passed around. There was a lending library. There was a group engaging in a discussion of the impacts of celebrities visiting the site.

It was an interesting discussion because David Crosby and Graham Nash were about a half hour away from an acoustic performance. Anyone- everyone- was welcome to speak.  Yes, the place was messy, and crowded. Some people got into arguments protecting their little piece of real estate.  Other folks engaged in -gasp- capitalism by selling buttons for $2. I asked one seller how much they cost . "I don't know, I'm working for the guy who made them."

Pure democracy may not be working .The OWS crowd has developed its own Security crew to keep troublemakers at bay or to escort them out of the grounds. They also have their own Sanitation Crü (yes, with an umlaut). NYPD officers ringed the park. Each officer carried enough of those zip-tie plastic handcuff to arrest a battalion. One police officer told me that they are prepared for anything and that there had been some trouble earlier in the day. I did see one clearly emotionally disturbed man shouting, cursing and threatening others. The internal OWS security was called to quiet him down. I did not see how he was handled.

The "mic check" call and response bit made me think of "Lord of the Flies" meets "Twitter" by way of "Animal Farm."

It was interesting to see all of the tourists and neighborhood people who came to check out the scene. It’s not too often that you see Wall Street suits wearing rainbow peace symbols. Yarmulka’d Jewish men were talking to some of the demonstrators. Some people obviously here for the weekend’s marathon were taking pictures and mixing with the crowd. So far, the OWS crowd seems to have a handle on the importance of images. A couple of US flags were flying.

There was one tent when had a table supporting some apparently communist/Marxist literature, but that seemed rather limited. I remember that during the 1960s the anti-war left committed a grave political error by flying Viet Cong and North Vietnamese flags and chanting “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh. NLF is gonna win.”  Not too far from where Zucotti Park is now located, hard-hatted union construction workers clashed with anti-war protesters on Wall Street. Now, the hard hats and other union members are marching with the OWS crowd. As long as OWS remains non-violent, and the majority of the media portray it as such, it has the potential to grow.

It was hippie, political, anarchist, middle class, working class anger. Everyone with a grievance, real or imagined, found a place at OWS. But as it is constructed, or rather as it developed, OWS is amorphous, without form or purpose or goal.  And when you attack everything, you attack nothing. So it has yet to be determined whether Occupy Wall Street is a significant movement or merely a tantrum.

As Buffalo Springfield sang: "There's something happening here/ What it is ain't exactly clear."

Flower Power 2011

Yep, it's a bit of a mess

Getting into "Better Homes and Teepees"

This guys has been working here for decades! He won't do a deal with this crowd!

OK, The demonstrators do try to keep things clean . They have no resources but this trash can was full..

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Economy Blues

Much , or something has been made of the fact that the latest jobs report indicates that 80,000 jobs were created last month, here: ., with a concomitant but minuscule decrease in the unemployment rate from 9.1 % to 9.0%.  The report also states that:

"The number of people considered long-term unemployed, meaning they have been looking for work for at least six months, fell by 366,000, to 5.9 million. That is the fewest since April."

Unfortunately , the job creation numbers were lower than the 100,000 jobs that were expected to be created plus these numbers do not account for those who have become discouraged and shave stopped looking for work.

The old saying, " A recession is when your friend is out of work. A Depression is when you are out of work." applies. The number of hidden unemployed is far greater than the 9.0% that the government  wants you to believe.  Modern unemployment benefits and other progressive government actions have prevented this depression from looking like the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unfortunately, the Republicans would love to turn back the clock to eliminate all of those protections. In fact they would love to eliminate everything that protects the middle and working classes. And they have the audacity, the pure chutzpah, to suggest that  the implementation of a fairer progressive tax, as well as rolling back the Bush era tax cuts for the rich, constitutes "class warfare". I submit that it is the Republicans who have engaged in aggressive class warfare against the middle class, the working class, and the poor. Liars without shame!

A Vist to Occupy Wall Street - New York

Regarding "Occupy Wall Street"-i walked through the Zucotti Park site around lunch time, just to observe: people smoking dope. begging for money,banging on drums, the overly-vigorous wild-eyed harangue, selling buttons (for a profit, i must add!), kids playing guitar in their expensive techno-tents.. Then it all came back to me... Thompkins Square park circa 1969, with a touch of 5th grade "recess:"
I did not detect anything resembling a health emergency, just crowds noise and mess. So welcome to New York. Eh! But if the protesters would take the time to clean up and organize their areas, I think they would project the image of a more disciplined and credible force. But a movement that claims it has no leaders also has no authority to impose such discipline, and so they may just dissolve into their own amorphous blob of hyper-democracy.

It seemed that a lot of people came from elsewhere and just sort of find their own home here. One gent apparently took it upon himself to whip out a pair of gardening shears and get some of the shrubbery into shape for the winter.
The amorphous nature of the complaints voiced by the "occupiers" means that they are a Rorschach of protest, so that you can come under their "big tent" of leftist non-ideology. Although I saw a table or two with outright communist literature, they Occupiers, as a whole had not yet made the mistake made by anti-war demonstrators in the 1960s by marching under the enemy flag, although in this case, does the enemy have a flag? Does the Wells Fargo Bank even have an identifiable symbol? I saw more than a few US flags flying form the OWS site. The visuals are important in our post -literate, video-brained society. So what are you against? High bank profits? Join the march! Accumulation of wealth by the richest 1%? Join the march! Halitosis? Join the march. The lack of a center of gravity for the protests , the lack of focus, makes the process intriguing but inevitably unsuccessful as a fulcrum for political change, unlike the Tea Party, which radicalized the Republican Party into a bunch of right wing ideologues who would have made Barry Goldwater proud.

I'm guessing that the mayor's strategy is to let the winter cold take care of the problem. but the petulant , the crazy, or the zealous might just make it through a mild winter ( every hear of "Valley Forge"?) Let's see what the winter brings, and whether the sunshine soldiers" of OWS will melt away at the first frost.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Suicide is Painless ???

if you are old enough to remember the Movie M*A*S*H, then you will remember the theme song- "Suicide is Painless" meant to be delivered with a sense of comic irony.

Today's overstretched, undermanned Army saw a record number of suicides in July here.

And here is the story of a soldier who had been deployed EIGHT TIMES and was facing round NINE.

So with the military facing major cutbacks, you can be sure that staffing will be reduced along with mental health care and benefits programs for those who need them.

We all fail to live up to the promises that we make to our soldiers if we allow that to happen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

OBL Still Dead!

So the sons of the mastermind of mass murder (circa 2000) says we violated international law and should have captured and tried his daddy here. let's see: 3,000 people killed 9/11, various suicide murderers, danny pearl , etc. OBL et. al. had no trouble violating any and all laws as it suited him. I say the kids have no standing.