Friday, June 17, 2011

Battling the Beast at the Gates of Sierra Vista

On the 12th of June, a fire was started in the southern most reaches of the Coronado Forest. From the way the fire has spread, it is currently being investigated as an arson set against one of our National Monuments with intent to obfuscate smugglers or border jumpers invading our country.

Having seen what I have seen and done what I have done over the past 24 years, I can do little but see this as  an act of terrorism against my country, my county, my beloved mountains, my community, my friends and my home.

Since the 12th, the beast has raged across the southern boundary of the place I now call home. A monument on top of a mountain I love to scale because of its magnificent southern exposure to the Montezuma Pass is now covered in ashes and soot. Friends are now homeless refugees evacuated from the smoke and flame. They sit awaiting news on if their houses still stand and are safe to inhabit again.

Since the 15th, the beast has more than doubled its carnage, spreading from just under 8000 acres to now, on the 17th of June, over 18,000 acres. 7000 acres were consumed between 8pm last night and 9am this morning. This beast will not be tamed easily.

I have done some to assist those I could. I feel retrained and limited in what I can do at this time. If you have ever faced such devastation first hand, the words "awesome" and "awful" seem to intermingle in meaning at the pure power the elements bring to bare. Wind and Flame consume the Earth, water is doing little to suppress. While Japan reeled from water's forces, here we sit besieged by water's mirror twin. On the east coast, I read of people hoping flooding doesn't increase from storms. Here, we wish for those storms.

Mark my words, should I find those who started this fire within my sights, I will roast them slowly on a spit and feed them to the four-legged coyotes who wander the valley out my north-facing windows. There can be no doubt, if they did this intentionally or as part of a criminal act such as invading my country, they have committed an act of terrorism.

Just as when terrorists struck our country in 2001, I have stood vigil and ready for action. Just like when in 2003 we went to war against one of the countries found to have supported those terrorists, I stand ready to charge into the fray. As we carried one refugee back towards his home to assist getting the rest of his family to safety, I looked up and saw the blackest of clouds.

The black cloud and the dust painted orange from the flames reminded me of the push from the Karbala Gap towards Baghdad. A huge sandstorm blew in. Many structures and military vehicles burned black across the horizon. We dubbed those the "three days of eternal night", as we could only tell the time of day from a watch. It was the war and devastation from Iraq in 2003 that I saw when I looked south at that smoke and blowing dust that marked the stampede of the beast. The beast has a name. "The Arizona Monument Fire". It has an equally angry twin in the Chiricahua Mountains to the East of Tombstone, named "The Second Horseshoe Canyon Fire". A third that burned a short time near Patagonia Arizona last month is another part of this plague. Terrorists and criminals from Mexico most likely released all three of these beasts from their cage in order to divert attention away from their invasion and to induce fear among the innocent and hard working citizens of Arizona.

The Red Cross is running short of funds and supplies. They could use some volunteers. Contact them and see what you can do to help.

I am running a bit of a fundraiser tomorrow to help raise some funds. If you like to or are interested in trying your hand at some live-action role-play, come to Pyramid Comics in Sierra Vista.

Sunday I will be back out there, doing with my hands, head, and heart what I can.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Socialism Attacking Our Military as Atlas Feels a Cramp in His Traps.

In the past few days several articles have hit the news and other publication covering the topic. Now, it isn't big enough news for Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. to carry in headlines. I guess that taking steps against long-fought strides towards warranted equity in compensation for services rendered by those who support and defend the US Constitution just isn't a big enough news story compared to the sensationalism of a single murder trial. But several "trade" publications for professional Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Air-matresses find it front page news. just released an article. Army Times came out last Tuesday with an article detailing the proposals for cuts in pay, pension, and benefits for both active and retirees. So, some quick searches and research will get backing information.

I have served 24 years now. I am retiring from military service, finally. I will say that I have earned my pension and benefits. I know of private sector companies who provide compensations and benefits for retirement after only ten years with the company. The same goes with Police and Fire workers. Well, I have done 24, more than twice that time. During the past 12, I have paid into a federal employee pension fund similar to a 401k, as well. To threaten to cut my military pension AND my "401k" ROI Is ludacris. I am not looking for some entitlement just for breathing. I did the work. I earned this. I am OWED this.

Also, during my 24 years, I have witnessed several veterans lobbying groups fight for military pay to have a closer equity to private sector jobs. When I came active, minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. The dude who sat in a chair and watched to see if a red light blinked on an assembly line in an automotive plant made $17.00 an hour. A highly trained soldier at the rank of Specialist (E-4) with 3 years of experience beyond basic training made a salary of $1300 a month. That job entailed working through 2 weekends every month, being in the field, getting 4 hours of sleep a night. That sleep usually was interrupted with 1-2 hours of guard duty in the middle of it, meaning it was not consecutive hours. This was "peace time". This did not include deployed soldiers. This was just "training", or maintaining a state of readiness to have to do the job. Some jobs in the military involved actually doing the job for real world missions even during peace time. Jobs like intelligence who actively search for any threats to our national security, or medics who tend to the sick the best they can. EMTs who are expected to practice medicine at the levels of a medical school graduate just starting his internship. Work hours when not in the field were 12-14 hour days. When in the field, they are 20 hour days, for 15 days straight. If you add up the hours worked in an average month, you get about 400. If paid minimum wage, considering overtime pay, the soldier would have made almost $1800 a month. And that is at minimum wage, what is paid to unskilled laborer just starting at McDonald's. After 3 months, the McDonald's worker gets a raise. The E-4 pay is after 3 promotions plus a longevity raise.  I have seen lobbyists push laws to correct this trend.

We used to have SGTs, who are lower management equivilants in private sector jobs, perhaps equal to a foreman at a factory, qualifying to FOOD STAMPS! And I am not talking about your 20 year old E3 who married the first girl to kiss him in HS and escaped from the trailer park. I am talking about your 6-8 year longevity professional in his mid to late 20s with a wife of 2 years and a single, six month old child. Steps were made to rectify that.

The medical system, stateside, made the horrors depicted in movies about the lack of medical care at post-Vietnam VA Clinics look efficient. It was a purely socialist style system where only those who could prove sufficient need were treated. I know of guys who walked on broken legs for six months to a year before finally getting an X-ray or MRI. Instead of a cast for a few weeks, they end up having surgery, on cruches for months after, and discharged from the military for no longer being fit for duty due to the injury. The military got smart and went to a hybrid system that is partially private sector. The government bought into health insurance benefits for the serving soldiers coupled with an option to PURCHASE the same or slightly better care for family members. Over the years, the military has taken steps to improve its internal system by workign with the private sector industry. Soldiers no longer have to take bus and train rides across several states to see the one military surgeon capable of putting a couple of screws into a shattered patellar plane at the top of the tibia. With the private sector hybrid system, he could now, finally, go to the nearest hospital and have a local specialist do the same operation. This saved travel costs, healing time, etc. It also enabled soldiers to be treated in a timely fashion, and remain in service after healing. The military has changed insurance companies and plans a few times and finally has something that almost comes close to what you can get with a Humanna plan.

Huge steps have been taken over the past 24 years, and rightly so.  But many socialists, also known as "progressives", also known as "liberals" want to take earned pay and benefits away. Suggestions to do so have been made since mid-2008. These champions of the lazy, the illegal, the illiterate, and the immoral compare the pay and benefits earned by a Soldier to the so-called entitlements paid out to unemployed drug addicts that trade their bodies for poison and pop out infants born addicted to the same drugs. With the rise in unemployment, they equate militay pay and benefits to unemployment insurance payouts. They see the WORKING Soldiers as equal to or less than those without jobs either by choice or poor economic conditions. I understand that good people are out of work. But if they are not working, currently, they are not earning. How can you compare somebody who IS employed and is bound by federal laws and a legal contract to provide the services they are providing to those who are not? But the "progressives" see the earnings of Soldiers as the same as "entitlements" handed out to those who are not.

Go to your local Police or Fire union and tell them that your local government is cutting their pay because the unemployed, crack-smoking parolee that passes out and sets fires in their drug-induced withdrawl stupor is "entitled" to more than they are. Go to your local public school and tell the faculty that all of their paychecks will be cut by 25%, and that they will pay double their health insurance premiums (or in some states, actually have to pay their own health care premiums, in part) so that the school can provide gormet lunches to the anchor-babies and illegal immigrants in their classes.  

Now the new SECDEF is planning to cut those benefits, or force the soldier to pay more for the benefits. I say "pay more" because the benefits for family members are NOT included in miltary paychecks. Well, now they want to make even the Soldiers' policy no longer part of the paycheck. By the proposal, it would mean that soldiers would have to pay for medical treatment, even in combat. The proposal includes soldiers having to make co-pays for all medications issued. It also includes a proposal for Soldiers injured in combat to pay a deductible for care recieved while serving.  The new SECDEF has also supported freezing annual cost of living raises (usually about 2% a year). Then he PROPOSED possibly cutting military salaries.

And one thing for everybody to think about. Go READ Article One of the US Constitution. It EXPLICITY states that congress will enact laws to extract revenues from the citizens and use it for very EXPLICITY stated functions. Among these things they must budget revenues to maintain are the military and national defense. NOWHERE are they given the authority to collect taxes and levies to give "entitlements" to the unemployed, crack-whore parolee. So, somebody needs to explain to them, and to those of us literite enough to read the 26 page long document known as the US Constitution where they get off taking what is earned by those who WORK HARD and put life and limb on the line to protect this great nation in order to not have to cut the unconstitutional pay-outs to the unearning and undeserving.