Sasstoday's Blog

Shallow Graves? Shallow President?
December 17, 2009, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Political Commentary

When the Time magazine I was flipping through opened to the double page spread of one of its pictures of the year my heart dropped and brimming tears glazed my visibility; I was looking at a picture of newly, shallow dug graves in the barren Afghanistan soil with our Marines lying in them. Then a closer, clearer-eyed look revealed what a first glimpse had not. The bodies were those not of dead, but of dead-tired young Marines.  The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines were photographed by David Guttenfelder in Helmand province in July. Each lay in his earthen bed, in eerily death like slumber in the rectangular fox holes they’d dug for themselves.

One Marine lay on his back, his neck bent uncomfortably sideways, his dirty, worn boots and striped wool socks atop the boots he had taken off and set close to his bed of dirt. I wondered whether those thick socks were sent by a mother or girlfriend to make the long treks through the harsh and dangerous Afghan countryside easier on his feet? It’s the seemingly little things that make life easier, appreciated, during war: something as simple as thick socks to keep your feet from blistering or freezing. The socks had been stripped off but one sat on top of one boot, one on top of the other. If they had to be put back on quickly there’d be no time wasted. Another Marine was curled on his side, his machine gun his sleeping mate, his mouth gaping slightly in the unconsciousness of sheer exhaustion. A third Marine had covered himself completely in a dark blanket or tarp, only his forehead and crew cut visible above his covering. And a fourth lay cramped in a fetal position in his hastily dug, coffin-like dirt bed. Turned up clots of earth surrounded the shallow dirt rectangle that was only about half as long as he was.

Guttenfelder, the photographer, wrote of the scene:

“We’d stopped in this farmer’s field for the night. It took me an hour to dig my own firing position in the dark, and it feels like you’re sleeping in a shallow grave. But you do feel safer—and sleep better—protected by those few inches of dirt. I got up at dawn and was able to get the guys enjoying the first full night’s sleep they’d had after marching for six days in temperatures up to 135 degrees, carrying 120 pound packs.”

The picture caught just one moment in time for one small group of Marines and it caught a rare peaceful moment, despite its initial disturbing visual impression of graves, empty boots, bodies and death which is the heart wrenching end for many of our troops wherever and whenever there is war.

Time Magazine, Dec. 21, 2009

The truth is I worship them. I look at that picture and others I see of them in magazines and on the internet: the ones of them rushing away from an explosion cradling a bleeding child, the ones of them kneeling in front of two empty boots and a rifle, heads dropped, a hand over their eyes to hide tears while paying last respects to a buddy, the pictures of the medics tending the aches and pains of old Afghani men and the scrapes or illnesses of Afghani children, the pictures of the solider dropping to his knees then garnering the strength to somehow stand again under the staggering weight of the backpack he carries in hellish heat or unbearable cold.

During this Christmas season here in America and around the world for that matter, we sleep in safety and comfort because they, our American soldiers do not. Whether the world wants us there or even likes us does not change the fact that, even if they don’t admit it, they’re safer because of the American soldier, sailor, Marine, Air Man or Coast Guard member.

As Americans we have the blessed right to speak against and protest war. Sadly, in the past and still today it is our troops who have borne the cruelty of words unfairly, and as we have learned from horrendous media inaccuracies such as the reports that wrongly assumed Marines had massacred innocents in Haditha, Iraq, there are still those too quick to indict, literally, those who stand at freedom’s door to protect the very media scum who would blithely destroy a soldier’s or Marine’s career, integrity and livelihood.

Those critics: I hope they take a good long look at that Time magazine picture. I hope they get down on their knees every night and thank God for the American soldier before they (I’m thinking here of your average liberal Congressman) slip under their designer sheets and rest their heads on fluffy pillows as visions of sugar daddy lobbyists and re-election plans and jet-setting to Copenhagen dance in their heads.

They have a right to criticize, sure. But I can’t help but think of the quote by President Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

I fear the President will not allow our military to know victory. He’ll couch it or define it in some well-turned phrases and the job will be left undone, the work and sacrifice will unravel. And the President of the United States will go down in history as one of “those cold and timid souls.”

The President finally got around to announcing his strategy, after announcing his strategy eight months earlier, for Afghanistan when he delivered his lackluster speech at West Point. Iraq may yet unravel, we don’t know. Afghanistan may not be won. If I had to bury my friends and collect the pieces of their bodies after an IED explosion, if I had to sleep in a shallow grave-like bed of dirt, if I voluntarily left this great country because I loved it and its freedoms so much I’d die for it, I think I’d want one thing more than anything else. I’d want to know my President, my Commander-in-Chief, truly admired, respected and believed in what I was doing and sacrificing for freedom at home and around the world.

Barack Obama made a big deal of our military the day of his Inauguration. I thought then with relief that maybe he really did get it, he did understand the American military fighting men and women, the kind of devotion to freedom for which they would and do lay down their lives.

 Now? Despite his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, I don’t think in his wildest dreams Barack Obama understands the love of country and devotion to duty of the American soldier. He can’t touch that. His midnight trip to Dover Air Base with the national media in tow for a photo op, oddly timed when he was under intense pressure because he couldn’t/wouldn’t make up his mind on Afghanistan turned my stomach. It was the most shameful publicity grab I’ve ever witnessed.  Our soldiers deserve so much better. Mr. President: how about showing our men and women in uniform how much you think of them, how much you admire them and mean it, really mean it, before they come home in a flag draped coffin. That might mean a little less time on the golf course and a little more time in the White House.



Abort “Health?” Legislation
December 8, 2009, 6:28 pm
Filed under: News Views

The latest, latest, latest, really, really, really confusing Senate legislation on health care reform is out. And there’s a big debate over whether you should foot the bill for abortions. Now I know an abortion is a “right” under American law. But is there some new, great demand we don’t know about for more abortions than the million-plus already taking place every year? No matter where you stand do you really want your health care premiums go to up to pay for abortions?

The Jobless Summit
December 3, 2009, 6:54 pm
Filed under: Political Commentary

There was something kind of pitiful, unseemly and troubling watching the clips from the President’s job summit. He’s been in office ten months; he won in large part because the economy tanked and people believed his pitch about keeping job losses down (there were 457,000 new applications for unemployment just last week by the way). To those not yet utterly familiar and disenchanted with the mainstream media spin: you’re stupid if you think that’s bad news. You see, it’s actually good news because 457,000 people out of work wasn’t quite as bad as expected. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate is at 10.2%, the worst it’s been in 26 years.

There he was, the President of the United States, almost pleading with a roomful of selectively invited participants to help him solve the job crisis, telling them and in the process all the rest of us that he’s “looking for ideas”. It reminded me of Tom Cruise’s great line in the movie Jerry Maguire when Jerry the sports agent is reduced to pleading with his only client, Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) to, “Help me…help you. Help me, help you. Help ME, help YOU.” After his desperate plea Gooding’s character bursts into giggles over Maguire’s desperately, dramatic plea.  The President’s jobless summit was similar with his “Help me, help you!” concept, and it would have been comical if it wasn’t so sad. This is the best our Community- Organizer- in- Chief can come up with to help the estimated 17 percent of Americans out of work, who have given up looking, or can’t find full time work?

Well, he’s not supposed to be a community organizer anymore. He’s supposed to be the President of the United States for gosh sakes! Doesn’t he, hasn’t he had the best economic minds in the country available to him the entire time he’s been in office, even before hand? What the heck do he and his economic advisers, pay czars, job gurus, and progressive pals talk about when jobs are at a 26 year low? Geez. Unfortunately, it’s probably how to raise the taxes of those 50-60 percent of Americans who even pay taxes anymore. But it’s all so hard for the Prez. Quoting from Jerry Maguire again, can’t you just hear Obama using Maguire’s line: “I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out there for YOU.” Tough job, Mr. President. You asked for it. You got it.  

In a weird way it reminds me of the whole Afghanistan strategy (I’ve got one) lack of strategy (I’m thinkin’ about it) then, eventually, an announcement (I think I’ve got it! Let’s try this…) Months ago he supposedly had a strategy for saving American jobs, now he evidently doesn’t. So what does he do? He has a workshop. If you’ve ever been to a conference on, oh, take any sensitive topic: race, women in the workforce, diversity, race, women in the workforce, diversity… you usually have a gung-ho facilitator who walks about the stage, gets everyone pumped up, then you adjourn to smaller breakout sessions and spend a couple hours hashing out stuff which is just essentially letting everyone spout off (in a sensitive manner of course) to hear themselves talk (in a sensitive manner of course). Then you all come back together and all your wonderful earth-shattering ideas are scribbled on a flip chart and everyone goes home feeling good about themselves.

And so our President is now a Phil Donahue type guy facilitating a workshop packed with a room of people, many representing labor unions, liberal economists and academia (his peeps/supporters) but not the National Chamber of Commerce (some of the real job creators) or the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

And get this: he says he’s open to any good ideas (boy, does that just inspire tons of confidence or what?) even tax cuts. Even tax cuts? My god, he’s actually open, maybe, kinda, sorta, to something that could actually spur job growth? Mind you, he’s only open to the idea of tax cuts. “Shirley, jot that one down on the flip chart for consideration, or not.”

I’m not a small business owner. I was an English major for gosh sakes. I don’t recall taking any classes in economics (unfortunately). But here’s what I know. I ain’t spending money until the federal government stops spending money. I’m recycling Christmas gifts and I’m making it an overall goal to keep spending to an all time low this Christmas. So I’m making banana bread for gifts; I may go a bit over budget and throw in a few cranberries for more flavor so chew on that and enjoy it and I don’t want to hear any whining. The point being I, the consumer, am still not willing to spend nor do I have confidence in job workshops and President Donahue. If I don’t have any confidence (and I don’t own a business) do we really expect businesses, especially small businesses, to start hiring people when they don’t know whether the economy will recover anytime soon, what health care is going to cost them, what cap and trade is going to cost them, what a weakened dollar is going to mean to them, what inflation will do to them, what an unsteady stock market means, what another so-called stimulus could cost and what an anti-business administration may do to them when it comes to taxes?

The President says he’s open to tax cuts. I don’t believe it. It’s just not in his makeup. He may find some way to make the fewer and fewer people who still pay taxes feel better by cutting some obscure tax or giving some useless tax credit or promising not to raise taxes except on those mean ol’ nasty rich people (many who worked their fannies off to launch small businesses and who already pay most of the taxes and create jobs) but I don’t believe him. He does not seem to have the desire or determination to reign in federal spending gone wild.

Our deficit is at 1.4 trillion and counting. President Obama has been in office ten months and he’s quadrupled what George Bush spent in eight years and most Americans weren’t happy about how much Bush was spending! Since President Obama’s so-called stimulus, four million—four MILLION jobs have been lost. Now he’s reduced to begging for ideas. The answers are there, always have been; he just doesn’t like them.

Enjoy your banana bread.

12/03/09 Continue reading

Get to the Point at West Point
December 2, 2009, 7:13 pm
Filed under: News Views

President Obama will speak at West Point and, almost nine months after announcing his strategy for Afghanistan, will announce his strategy for Afghanistan. One would hope this would involve winning the war. I’m not holding my breath. The President has spent his entire time in office openly ingratiating himself to the bullies, dictators and thugs who run some of the most repressive countries on the planet. They see him as a wishy-washy weakling who is unprepared to make the tough decisions that may mean people won’t like him. On this point I agree.

During his talk at West Point he’ll say he’s sending more troops, but what will they be doing? Advising? Being under Nato’s thumb? Reading Miranda rights to Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorists? Obama can deliver a good speech (when the teleprompter works). Will he have the guts to show he’s a real Commander-in-Chief? We’ll know the answer if he starts talking about exit strategies: music to the ears of the terrorists.

Oh, and let’s see if the President even mentions the mean, ol’ nasty “T” word (that would be “terrorism” for those used to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s “nuanced”, preferred description of “man-caused” disasters).

Flack Over “Black” Friday
December 1, 2009, 6:53 pm
Filed under: News Views

Retailers are adding up their money and counting it twice to see if consumers were willing to open their wallets and shell out a lot more the day after Thanksgiving, commonly known “black Friday”. Black Friday is the day retailers finally learn whether their sales made it into the profit category(black margin) or whether they’re still in the red. With out of control government spending and unemployment the worst in 25 years, consumers should do what the government won’t: stop spending!

And since we’re talking “black Friday”, here’s a sad commentary on Americans’ lack of basic economic literacy combined with racial sensitivities run amuck: A  man called a local talk radio station the other day to voice his objection to the term “black Friday” considering it a racial slur. He had no clue it was a purely black ink/ red ink accounting term for money made or lost. In the black= good. In the red= bad. Are we all clear now? Evidently…sigh… not. On the talk show “The View” (which I have never seen and don’t care to) comedian Joy Behar  seriously, no joke, asked ” Isn’t it a little racist to call it black?” In the clips I saw even Whoopi looked incredulous explaining to the clueless Behar that, “It’s like when you make all the money.”