December 25, 2004 - John was in Vietnam. I had just gotten a letter from him, the only one I received during his two year hitch. It had a photograph enclosed. It showed an Armored Personnel Carrier with “Nixon’s Hired Guns” painted on the side. John wasn’t in the picture. The letter read, “Hi from Vietnam. Keep this picture for me. I’ll explain if I get home. Your brother, John.”
It was Christmas morning. Christmas celebrations had always been a problem for us. My father’s birthday was December 24th, a fact that had complicated our family’s celebration of the holiday. Emily’s mother had also been a Christmas Eve baby causing similar complications in her family. Both Leonard and Lucille each expected the family celebrations to revolve around them. Neither was used to sharing the attention. Each expected the family to focus exclusively on their respective birthday.....click here for entire article
December 24, 2004 - It was sixty years ago tonight. I remember snow and my granddad’s chow-chow Ming meeting us as we climbed the steps to the front door. There were five of us. It was Christmas Eve, Dad’s birthday. He was 32. As we had every year we were going to celebrate his birthday and Christmas at his parents. I was six, climbing the snow covered steps holding my sister’s hand so she would not slip. She was three. Mom was carrying Bill. He was just six months old. Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty had already gotten there with Butch. Butch was just three, two weeks older than Annamary and was already a brat. I remember the banner hanging in the big front window. It was Red and Blue with three white stars. One was for Uncle Russell, he was a Captain in the Air Force. One was for Uncle Francis. He was a Sergeant in Macarthur’s army in the Philippines. The third was for Uncle Wayne. He was a Sergeant too, with the 101st Airborne....click here for entire article
December 22, 2004 - The count of the dead at Camp Marez has been revised. It now stands at thirteen American soldiers, four Americans employed by Halliburton, three Iraqi Halliburton security personnel, four members of the Iraqi National Guard, and one person identified only as “a non-US person”. The military spokesmen put out the early word that the camp had been struck by a rocket attack and reported that a total of four rockets or mortar rounds had struck the camp. There was speculation that the hit on the mess tent was just a matter of luck – good luck for the insurgents and bad luck for the men and women eating lunch that day. It was a good way to minimize the implications of the explosion; ascribe it to pure dumb luck and move on. Then you don’t have to answer questions as to how it could have occurred. It would not be the first time that the military shaded the truth to keep the truth from the American people. It is an old military principle: everything is FUBAR so CYA....click here for entire article
December 22, 2004 - It is the shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice. The midday sun has reached the Tropic of Capricorn and started its yearly journey northward toward the Tropic of Cancer. It is Christmas time when we sing of peace and goodwill to men. Nineteen America soldiers were killed on the shortest day of the year north of the Equator. Four American employees of Halliburton and three of the company’s sub-contractors died. They were not engaged in a military occupation. They did not die in unarmored Humvees on patrol in the streets and alleys of Iraq. They died eating lunch, herded together in a mess tent on a supposedly secure American base outside Mosul in northern Iraq. Fifty-Seven more were wounded in the attack. How seriously we do not know. Whether the count of the dead will rise we do not know. How the attack was accomplished, whether by indirect mortar or rocket fire or by an infiltrator setting off an IED, we do not know. We know only the casualty count on the Winter Solstice of 2004. Halliburton says its four employees bring the count of the company’s employees killed in Iraq to sixty-two. The military count of dead Americans tallied by CNN was pushed to 1,324 – a regiment of the dead answering a last roll call....click here for entire article
December 20, 2004 - CNN keeps a running count of the coalition dead published on its web-site. This morning it counted 1,308 Americans but it was three days behind the calendar. The names of the dead, those that have been released by the Pentagon, are listed in a database that includes the soldier’s home town, the unit the soldier served with, and the date, location and cause of the soldier’s death. For most the database includes a photograph of the soldier. Some are smiling, others more sober. Some are in battle dress, the Marines invariably in their dress blues. The names are added to the database as they are released by the Pentagon and the American names are released after the Secretary of Defense has approved the computer generated and machine signed note of condolence dispatched to their families. In a gesture of sensitivity Secretary Rumsfeld has announced that he will personally sign those notes in the future. Perhaps he now will read one of the two or three that he signs each day. On some days the total imposition on his valuable time may reach 5 minutes as he signs six or seven or eight or nine....click here for entire article
December 18, 2004 - Let’s imagine a family of four. The father is the 36 year old owner of a small retail business which he has incorporated. He takes out a salary of $110,000 a year. The mother is a nurse in a local clinic. She earns $48,000 a year. They have a daughter who is 16 and a son who is 12. They have managed to invested $189,000 in a new home and have an additional $46,000 invested in mutual funds and keep $23,000 in a money market account for emergencies. His company distributed earnings to him of $28,000 in addition to his salary. Their savings generated $525.00 in interest. Their mutual fund paid $1,900 in dividends.
This year $5,625 was deducted from his paycheck for Social Security. She had $3,000 deducted from hers. His company and her employer matched that amount and the total Social Security payroll tax paid into the Social Security Trust Fund for them was $17,250....click here for entire article
December 16, 2004 - The Social Security System is financed by a flat tax on the first $87,900 of earned income (salary, wages, or self-employment income) received by the taxpayer. Every cent of earned income above $87,900 is free of the tax as is unearned income from the first penny. The more money you earn the less you pay as a percentage of your total income. If your income is entirely from interest, dividends, rentals or other investments you pay no Social Security tax at all.
Theoretically Social Security Taxes are paid into the Social Security Trust Fund out of which the benefits flowing to retired workers are paid. Theoretically the system is self-sustaining, the annuities paid to retirees being financed by the contributions that they and their employers paid into the trust fund together with the interest generated when the fund is invested in government securities and not from general revenue funds. Of course the interest paid into the trust fund came from general revenue and the surplus in the social security trust fund is an accounting fiction. The tax revenue received in excess of the benefits being paid out finances government operations when it is “loaned” to the Treasury...click here for entire article
December 15, 2004 - It was just a year ago we were shown the images of Saddam Hussein pulled from his spider-hole. Over and over the shaggy, unkempt boogeyman was prodded and probed for the television cameras. The President announced the capture. A relative had sold him out for the promise of a fistful of Yankee Dollars. With the head cut off the dead-enders and Saddam loyalists would disintegrate and their insurgency would wind down. A year later the killing goes on.
A month ago they told us the Battle of Fallujah ended in a Marine victory. The insurgency had been crushed, deprived of its sanctuary. Fallujah was secured. A month later the bullets fly through the rubble filled streets and the air is rent by the roar of air attacks while the bombs bounce the rubble. Ten more Marines fell in Fallujah this week and car bombs kill at the gate to the Green Zone....click here for entire article
December 13, 2004 - The Bush Administration and its loyal coterie of anonymous Internet commentators have trotted out their defense to the question posed by Spec. Thomas Jerry Wilson to the Secretary of Defense. It seems that there was a reporter embedded with the 278th Regimental Combat Team of the Tennessee National Guard. It seems that this reporter was a disloyal traitor who actually talked with the soldiers. It seems that this reporter actually discussed what the soldiers might ask the Secretary if they got the chance and worse than that this reporter, giving aid and comfort to the enemy, actually suggested to the non-com handling the microphone that Spec. Wilson be called on. That is shocking, isn’t it? This guy from the Chattanooga is no better than those notorious traitors of WWII, Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin.
Of course that revelation that some reporter knew in advance that the soldiers wanted to ask tough questions, encouraged them to do so, and even helped them frame the question doesn’t answer the legitimate question Specialist Wilson asked. Neither does it provide an explanation to the enthusiastic round of applause that the question evoked from the troops assembled at the Secretary’s photo-op town meeting. The Secretary did not expect to face tough questions; that was clear from his response. He thought that when he excluded the press from posing questions he dodged the tough ones. He thought that the soldiers wouldn’t dare confront the Old Man in the glare of the TV cameras. He thought wrong....click here for entire article
December 12, 2004 - It is the little things that trip you up; little things like employing an illegal alien as a nanny and ignoring the requirement to pay Social Security Tax on a household employee’s wages. It ripped Zoe Baird out of contention for Attorney General. It kept Kimba Wood out of office. It made Mona Charon chary of going through the confirmation progress. Now it has left Bernie Kerik at home rather than at the head of Homeland Security. It’s the little things that become big embarrassments when you get to the level of the President’s cabinet. We call them the “nanny problem” and these days the first thing they ask you when the President considers you for a cabinet post is whether you have a nanny problem.
It may seem to be a little thing. Nobody asks the kid who mows the yard to produce his social security card or prove he is in the country legally. Nobody inquires of the cleaning lady if she has a green card. Most of us don’t realize that if we pay someone more than $50 a quarter for work around the house we are required to deduct and pay social security taxes on what we pay them. It is the law but most of us either don’t know it or simply ignore it just as Ms. Baird, Ms. Wood, Ms. Charon, and Mr. Kerik did. But then most of us don’t have nannies. We can’t afford them....click here for entire article
December 10, 2004 - It is that time again, that quadrennial period between election and inauguration devoted to shaking down the rich and powerful to pay for the victory party. George W. Bush plans a bigger and better party setting a record for excess. Last time the party cost $40 Million. But there is a difference from 4 years ago. This time the nation is a war and the mood must be less festive and more solemn. Solemnity is, of course, expensive and so the inaugural fundraisers of the RNC need to surpass the $40 Million record set by the Bush party in 2001.
Nobody is asking just how many Humvees and trucks can be armored for $40 Million. War time is expensive and this year the committee says we can expect more of an emphasis on the military and veterans but no sense of restraint. It is war time and we have to support the troops and there is nothing that will boost morale like a big blowout for the Commander in Chief. Organizers say that there will be a Commander in Chief’s Ball with free admission for those serving in the military but there is no mention of free transportation to and from Iraq for those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who might like to attend. There will be gala titled "America's Heroes: A Salute to Those Who Serve." to celebrate service in the military. We owe America’s heroes nothing less than another occasion at which the President can wear a new costume – maybe a specially designed dress uniform for the Commander in Chief. What a morale booster...click here for entire article
December 9, 2004 - “Why, Mr. Secretary?” the soldier asked. “I’m an old man and I’m gathering my thoughts,” the Secretary of Defense replied as he searched for an excuse. “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time," was the best that he could do. So the boys from Tennessee will continue to raid the garbage dumps to build hillbilly armor from Kuwaiti junk and the boys from Illinois will continue to plant Flanders’ Fields in Fallujah while the Army we have fights the messy war we have, not the glorious war that Washington wished for. And the President of the United States costumed once again in the trappings of war – an Eisenhower jacket this time with Washington’s title embroidered on his breast – stood in the California sun to tell the Marines we would fight on to victory. Nobody embarrassed the President by asking. “Why, Mr. President?”
The tactics, they are a-changing in that civil war we made of Iraq with the Army we have, not the Army we might want or wish to have at a later date. The Iraqi resistance – we have trained the compliant media to call them “insurgents” or “terrorists” rather than what they are; the Iraqi resistance has shifted its targets from the Army of Occupation that we have to the easier prey of local lightly armed police forces and more Iraqis die in Mr. Bush’s civil war than do Americans – more than 70 last week...click here for entire article
December 7, 2004 - Pat Tillman was a hero. In college he was a Saturday afternoon hero, a walk on volunteer who made good. In the pros he was a Sunday hero, the kind they pay $3.8 million to play a tough game. In the Red, White and Blue America’s patriotic fervor that swept this nation after the September 11th attack he was the kind of hero who walked away from riches to serve his country in combat. And on April 22, 2004 he died and the nation believed he died a hero’s death taking the fight to his country’s enemies, His story inspired us at a time when the nation’s war on terror was not going well; when Marines were dying in Fallujah and the President was sinking in the polls. We wrote then about his heroism. http://www.mingreport.com/articles/2004/april/23_goodbye.htm America needed a hero; the Army needed a hero; the President needed a hero.
They awarded him a Silver Star, posthumously. They painted a vivid word picture of number 40’s last action. He died carrying the fight to the enemy, on his feet, shouting commands to his men in the finest tradition of the service. Pat Tillman died and the Army lied with its fictitious invention of a hero’s death. Pat Tillman died on his feet and he was waving his arms and shouting, “I am Pat f***ing Tillman, damn it!” Then he was silent - silenced by a fusillade from a Humvee’s .50 caliber machine gun. His head was gone, blown away for a mistake; blown away on a blown play called down because someone up in the booth wanted one more first down before nightfall blew the whistle to end the first half...click here for entire article
December 3, 2004 - The First Amendment protects your freedom to speak out; to get together with like minded individuals; to disseminate your ideas freely and without government restraint; to worship as you please free from government imposed orthodoxy; and to be assured that your government will not use its resources to promote religious doctrines that you find abhorrent. The First Amendment defines the core of the founding fathers’ appreciation of the social liberty for which their fathers and grandfathers has braved the hazards of the seas to plant a new nation in the wilderness,
The self-defined Christians of the Religious Right are using the First Amendment as a sword to advance the political agenda that they espouse. According to them its prohibition against government interference in religious expression is their key to the public treasury. Restrictions on public funding of religious institutions, they say, are improper restraints upon their right to free speech. They claim that government is discriminating against them because they are Christians...click here for entire article
December 1, 2004 - It was a provocative headline shouting, “Declaration of Independence Banned in California School.” The story concerned a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court of California and moved on the Reuters wire service. The story made the claim that the principal of the school where Stephen Williams, a self proclaimed “orthodox Christian” teaches history to 5th graders had banned the Declaration of Independence from the classroom because it contained references to God. The article was as misleading as the headline, omitting or de-emphasizing significant facts. No ban of the Declaration of Independence ever took place and the Federal law suit that Mr. Williams filled did not claim that it had.
What apparently happened was that the Cupertino Union School District received complaints from several parents that the teacher was advocating his particular sectarian view of Christianity in the classroom through his lesson plans and religiously oriented materials he handed out in class. After an initial inquiry the School Board required Mr. Williams to submit both his lesson plans and any handouts to the school principal for review prior to introducing them to the class. The materials that were not approved included excerpts taken from the Declaration and from Penn’s 1682 Frame for the Government of Pennsylvania as well as excerpts from selected private writings of 18th Century American political figures and the 2004 Proclamation by President Bush of a national day of prayer according to the complaint that Williams filed. That much was reported by Reuters based upon information released by the teacher’s lawyers...click here for entire article
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