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Thank You For Your Service (let me show you the door)

I hear the first part of that a lot in public when I mention that I’m a vet, more so when I mention that I’m a disabled vet. Mostly this comes about in casual conversation after I’m asked “what do you do for a living” and I have to admit that I don’t work, haven’t worked for a long time. My last paying job was working for McDonald’s in El Paso in 2010. Between 2010 and 2012 I went to UTEP, mostly to get the living stipend that came along with the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, the one that paid my school bills.

I hear the second part when I ask for a job somewhere. So yeah, thanks for serving, but no we don’t want to hire you. Its nice to know how valuable you are. In my case I guess the people I meet are happy that I was willing to do what they were not, but not so much that they might actually have to deal with me on a regular basis. I guess that gratitude only goes so far, in this case right up to the point where it might cost something. Words are cheap.

The pattern goes like this. I apply for a job. I meet a manager, have an informal interview, which goes great. I return a few days latter as instructed and get told, with the dirtiest look possible, that no I will not be hired. No explanation ever given for why.

The VA has a status called “unemployability”, which means that a disable vet is paid the 100 percent rate even if they are not 100 percent disabled. The fact that I have not been able to get a job does not, for some reason, put me into this category.

Left Handed Computing

I had forgotten why I dislike the computer version of Skyrim until I installed it on my newest computer. I’m left handed. I use my mouse with right handed button settings, but Skyrim isn’t having any of that. Sure, the buttons are changeable, but whenever I go into the menu’s the program reverts my mouse’s settings to being right handed, never mind the fact that even Windows lets me decide. I could just use the right handed settings, but then I’d have to rethink my computer use when I left the program. I could just retrain myself to be right handed and conform to the … but that isn’t going to happen. I’m not changing how I think just to use one program.

This sort of thing messes with my head, having to remember when the keys work one way, and when they work another. Now I select with my pointer finger, now I use my middle finger. Using a computer is supposed to become intuitive after practice, and with this sort of unthinking programming it isn’t, and can’t be. Why did they do this? Having to spend this much thought on the controls distracts from my gaming experience, kills my suspension of disbelief and forces me to split my concentration between the game and the controls.

For that matter, why don’t computer games come with a standard left handed key set up. The standard set up that every game I ever seen comes with works poorly at best if you’re lefty. Skyrim, for instance, has you direct your character’s point of view with your mouse – presumably set to the right of your keyboard – with most of the other keys set up on its left side. My choice is to either use the keys as they are, that is with both my hands hovering awkwardly hunched over the left of the keyboard Quasimodo like. Or to reprogram the keyboard every time I want to use a new program. I play games when I’m tired, and this sort of lack of consideration on the part of game programmers is frustrating.

Some ten percent of the general population is thought to be left handed, and I’ve always thought that among gamers and computer enthusiasts the number is higher, yet for some reason computers and games are almost universally designed with a right handed bias. Try holding a “ergonomic” gaming mouse with your left hand some time. Not very comfortable, is it? I’ve heard rumors of such a beast existing, but I’ve never seen one, just as I’ve never seen big foot. One tech I talked to said he had seen one, which was over priced and poorly made.

If you think I’m making a big deal out of noting much remember that lefties used to be beaten in most schools for writing left handed, much as Native kids were for speaking their native languages. At least we weren’t taken from our families while they did this. Forcing lefties to live right handed caused  psychological damage in many cases, and to this day many of us are sensitive about this sort of thing. In my case make that temperamental.

It might not seem like a big deal, but this is the sort of “do it my way or the highway” thinking endemic in older models of business thinking. It’s a mentality that tells customers to take what they’re given, grateful to be allowed to buy a product at all, and expects them to be happy for the privilege.

Do you remember how PC’s were once called simply IBM computers? Back in the day the main options were to buy an IBM or an Apple. When Compaq introduced the 486 processor it stole the show for smaller manufacturers and changed the market forever. IBM had thought it continue selling 286 processors with its computers. They though their customers would be satisfied with what IBM decided to sell them. The customers bought Compaqs. IBM never did recapture its market share.

The CIA Will Not Obey Future Presidential Orders to Torture

Washington (AP) — The director of the CIA says his spy agency will not engage in waterboarding or other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques even if ordered to by a future president.

CIA chief John Brennan tells NBC News that he will not agree to carry out such techniques because “this institution needs to endure.”

(I pulled this quote from; go there for the rest of the article. Also, Brennan is now the former director of the CIA.)

The practical side of this is that torture doesn’t seem to be all that effective, and does not give its practitioners more information than less repugnant interrogation methods would. Most of the information I’ve seen of torture since 9-11 shows that it doesn’t work. There are some who claim otherwise, but none that I would consider credible. Trump thinks it works just fine, and says he plans to order the practice reinstated if he is voted into office. Since I think the he’s an idiot of the first order with all the common sense and leadership skills of a stunned squirrel on speed, his statements only should be seen as more proof. Torture doesn’t work.

The political side is that the folks at the CIA don’t want to be thrown under the bus again. After 9-11 they were ordered to play dirty and do whatever it took to keep America safe and to hunt down our enemies, specifically the ones thought responsible for the attacks. Once things calmed down again, as was inevitable, some of us started to rethink a few things, the use of torture included.

Who took the rap for that one? Was it the political types who had given the orders? Nope, most of the blame has been with the CIA and military personnel who carried out these orders. And by military personnel I mean low ranking troops, otherwise known as scapegoats. The General who was blamed for the crimes at the Abu Ghraib military prison was likely thrown out as a sacrifice. A soldier I knew who had worked for Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told me that the general had been the target of harassment and abuse from her peers. My friend seemed to think that this abuse was because the general was a woman. Two colonels were relieved of command, but most of the folks who got actual jail time were enlisted personnel, sergeants and specialists.

The politicians who ordered and sanctioned the abuse of prisoners didn’t get any jail time. I should add that generals and admirals are often among the political class, and that their jobs come with a strong political component.

An Armed Society is a Polite Society

That’s something said by the pro gun crown, and to some extent it might be true in some areas. It assumes that manners are derived from a fear that if you trespass on your neighbors they’ll shoot you, and I’m not sure that fear is the best basis for ethics and ethical behavior. I prefer to behave politely towards other people because I think they are worthy of my consideration; their needs are as important to them as mine are to me. Purely selfish behavior is not good for any society as a whole, or to its members. I find it superior than to use fear to avoid harm, as this is a form of violence towards the other that will invite a violent response.

His Majesty, Governor Paul LePage

Maine’s some what … interesting governor has gone from belligerent to imperial in his behavior. When the people of Maine, the voters that is, elected the wrong person to the job he bravely decided to stand in the way and refuse to appoint Susan Deschambault, who had been elected in a special election earlier that week. He went all imperial and gave a pronouncement from on high. He took his toys and started for home

I missed this story when it came out, and since it was dated to April the first I at first assumed that it was a prank. After all, how could an elected official, the governor of Maine, ignore a legal vote and refuse to do his job in so drastic a manner. Isn’t this the sort of thing we’d expect from, say, North Korea, with its mandatory elections, 100 percent voter turn out, 100 percent of votes for the whatever he’s called leader, and one candidate on the ballot. Or maybe Iran would fit the bill better. Didn’t they have an election a few years back that the Ayatollahs were upset about, and decided to override the results? This sort of thing doesn’t happen in America, the land of the free, does it

Apparently it does. Either that, or multiply news sites are in on the joke which isn’t funny. I didn’t find anything on Google News yesterday when I first read the story on DailyKos, so apparently Google don’t see this as an important story. They got the story from the Beacon, a local Maine news organization.

After a bit of a nap this evening I came back and he seems to have come to his senses, and realized that he can’t have everything his own way. At least not this time.

The main page of Google still doesn’t have anything about the story, so I looked on it under a news search of “Maine”. It still isn’t highlighted, and it certainly isn’t being brought to anyone’s attention, but I did find a single reference to it, under a group of articles discussing efforts by Maine’s Republican Party to challenge an 18 million dollar spending plan.

So he is now ready to swear in the senator elect. A Google news search of “Lepage” did bring up a section of articles discussing this, but with an interesting editorial spin. Most of them seemed to write the incident as a “delay” of the swearing in ceremony, rather than the refusal of an elected leader to respect the wishes of the voters.

Apparently he now is willing to allow her to do the job she was elected for, but only as long as it is done on his terms.”Yeah, she’s going to be sworn in,” LePage said. “But it’s not on her schedule. My schedule is a little busier than hers.” (I found that quote from the Miami Hearald) WGME pointed out that according to state law LePage had until tonight to swear her in.

He is reported to have been upset about his nominee for his choice for the Steven Webster, his pick for the top post in the unemployment boar. Last I checked these sort of appointments had to be ratified by a legislative body, and are not automatically rubber stamped. There is no requirement for the State Senate to vote for anyone Governor LePage sends down. There is a requirement for Governor LePage to swear in to office those officials that have won a legal election.

The Portland Press Herald pointed out in its article that last year Governor LePage had vetoed ever single bill that was sponsored by a Democratic State Senator, but that 70 percent of them had been put into law over his objections. It seems that the Governor doesn’t think that Democratic politicians or their constituents should have a say in how the state is run. He seems to think that he alone should be able to dictate policy from on high, and that everyone else needs to do what he tells them. There is a name for this sort of leader; dictator.

This shouldn’t be a surprise for me, since the man is a republican, and is only following the example of his parties more senior members, who are at this moment refusing to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. This is also the party that on 2 recent occasions has forced the federal government to shut down when they were not allowed to dictate the terms of the national budget without the delegates of the other party, the Democrats, from having a say in things. It isn’t just him.

If a soldier refuse to follow his orders he can be charged with Treason under the Universal Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, the military law which applies equally to all of the branches of service. When the political class decides to so blatantly abandon their duties, this doesn’t happen.

Why not?







Jundullah, The Pakistani Army of God, fighting Jihad in the name of Polio

I’m taking this one from the New York Times, so you probably want to read their article before continuing.

“The bombing happened outside the polio center shortly before vaccination teams were due to be dispatched to local neighborhoods as part of a three-day immunization campaign, said Syed Imtiaz Shah, the local police chief.”

That is the main part of the story, the what happened. But why? Why would these Jihadi’s want to kill of a bunch of aid workers trying to keep the local kids from getting polio? Here is another quote from the article.

“The attacks intensified after a Pakistani doctor was arrested on charges of running a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign in the city of Abbottabad as a cover for a CIA-backed effort to obtain DNA samples from Osama bin Laden ahead of the 2011 U.S. raid that killed him.”

A different article in the Times,, states that;

“Hard-line Islamist in Pakistan have long opposed polio vaccination campaigns, saying that polio workers are Western spies and that such campaigns are part of a conspiracy to leave Muslims infertile. Resistance to such campaigns increased after 2011, when it emerged that the C.I.A. had used a vaccination drive as cover in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.”

So apparently our own American anti-vaccination advocates are not the only ones wanting to return medical practice to post modern standard, there are folks fighting a Jihad against modern medicine. Isn’t that lovely?

The fact that these teams have been used in the past to infiltrate CIA agents into the local communities complicates things; apparently some of their concerns are not without merit. But come on, guys, there has got to be a better way of dealing with the occasional spy inserted into these foreign aid organizations. Most of the sort of folks who go into the field do so out of concern for your people. Most of these folks want good things for the local communities. They want your children to be healthy and your men to be strong. They want your villages to be prosperous places that you can have pride living in. When the CIA plays its dirty little games they are being as much victimized as you are, and for the most part I would guess that most of them are not happy when this happens either.

As for the sterility conspiracy, that just puts you into the tinfoil hat crowd. If you are going to make an accusation like that you should have some serious evidence to back your claims up, evidence that you can make public to gibe it credibility. Otherwise no one in the west is going to take you seriously. Which assumes that you believe this claim yourself, and are not just using it as anti-western propaganda. If so might I suggest you consider creating more sophisticated claims?

Of course, these ideas may have been made entirely for the local audience, and you may not care what the rest of the word thinks. There must be better ways of vetting these vaccinations and the people that are delivering them. Killing doctors and medical staff is never a good idea, and only paints you as barbarians.

I guess the real question is whether you are trying to protect your people or control them.

Another Hospital Bombing

Another Doctor’s Without Border’s hospital has been bombed, this time in Yemen. The Saudis seem to have been the ones to do these, as locals have shown a cluster bomb case with American markings.

So this time we were not the ones that did it, at least not directly. Yet the Saudi’s dropping one of our munitions into a zone of conflict where we have a direct interest in … well, lets just say that it looks a bit fishy. Certainly we didn’t have anything to do with this?

The government and the military claimed the last hospital bombing was an accident, and then it turned out not to be an accident. What are the odds that a similar claim will be made about this one?

It will be interesting to see where this story goes.