No more animal cruelty in the military

Obama steps up to fight animal abuse in the military.

President Obama has often displayed his compassion for animals. I remember writing about his talks with animal rights groups back when he was campaigning, as well as his search for a good hypo-allergenic dog for his daughters, and feeling like this was the man I really wanted as president (for many other reasons as well, of course). But I haven’t really heard of many actions he’s taken via legal course to help animals until today.

Many people may already be aware of the military’s cruel animal tests that include dismemberment, shooting and many other violent acts against animals. This heinousness affects over 10,000 animals a day. Not only do these cruel testing measures obviously harm and kill animals; they also display and promote a complete lack of compassion for them to begin with, fostering even more complacency when it comes to violence against animals. Military trainers and participants of the experiments have even been caught on footage joking and singing about the torture.

I know lots of animal rights groups have been fighting this treatment for years, but the protests seem to have fallen on deaf ears until now. President Obama has just signed a bill into law to require the military to create a plan to phase out these tests by March of this year.

I don’t know about you, but this timeline seems very impressive to me. Usually when a law goes into effect, it takes a year or several years to fully enact it. The fact that he’s putting a spring date of this very year out there as a deadline displays his commitment and a sense of urgency against this cruelty.

I hope it’s also an indication of swift movements from the president to come regarding other important issues that have taken so long, often, albeit, to filibusters from the right. As usual, they may attempt to block this legislation, so it’s important that people who care continue to keep up the momentum. You can click here to learn more and to add your voice of support to a letter to the Department of Defense, asking that the tests stop and be replaced with more humane methods.

These violent tests will soon be replaced with human simulations and other modern methods that do not require animals—which, medically speaking, are typically more accurate than using live animals to begin with, begging the question why we don’t use these affordable, accurate measures across the board.

Sympathy for a soldier

Why not for, say, a teacher/firefighter/police officer/nurse…?

It is HOT this summer. Where I live in the Midwest, we are in the middle of a drought that wiped out our garden, which I was so proud of; it was the first time I actually coaxed food to grow from seeds. But we’ve still got it pretty good—we have air conditioning, we haven’t had any fires, and we have plenty of water, which is luckier than most people on Earth.  All in all, we are a lucky bunch, just as most Americans are.

That said, it’s okay to complain about it being hot. It’s not comfortable by any means, and many of us—particularly the elderly and young children—can get hot enough to get sick or even die in such weather. Still, you see people posting photos like this one, and it kind of pisses me off. I’m not mad because someone is sympathizing with the plight of soldiers—truly, respecting soldiers and the hardships they endure is something we should all do, no matter our political views—but because of the distinction that we shouldn’t complain because they’re hotter than we are. In one breath, you’ll tell me that’s wrong—but then say that they’re dying for my right to complain in the first place. Well, which is it? Should I not exercise that right because you think I shouldn’t?

But the real problem I have with this is that people choose to be soldiers. They know they’ll get these conditions—or really comfortable, cushy conditions, like some people I know who’ve served in the military. It’s the job you choose. I’ve seen people scornfully snap at people who are losing their homes, saying it was their choice, their fault—yet they’ll say that soldiers who choose to enlist have more of a right to complain about heat? Why can’t we empathize with everyone?

And I never hear of anyone posting photos of firefighters, doctors, nurses, cops, teachers, or anyone else who works as a public service to others—not since 9/11, anyway—saying, well, I was going to complain about my health, my car being broken into, my work hours, whatever, until I remembered about these peoples’ lives. Why is it always the soldier who is held above the rest of society?

Let me tell you something: everyone makes sacrifices. I know people who chose to sacrifice their entire lives for other people—children, parents, uncles and aunts. I know social workers who work on such little sleep at all as they fight to protect children, to stop people from abusing one another, to get a woman out of an abusive home and into a protected shelter. I know people who give all of their money after bills to local food banks and pet shelters. These everyday heroes may go unrecognized their entire lives, but their sacrifices and hardships are no less grueling than anyone else’s.

How about we stop comparing ourselves to anyone else and recognize that our choices are what make our situations the way they are? Let’s respect everyone, no exceptions—and if someone whines about the heat, well, let them. As my six-year-old says, “It’s way too hot outside!”

Air Force Launches Satelite

Much of today’s high tech and communication devices used today by people were once used exclusively by the military. That component of communication in the military continues today.

On Thursday, Jan. 19,  the Air Force launched a vital new communications satellite into orbit for the U.S. military and the first major American space launch of the year. Built by Boeing, the $464 million WGS-4 satellite is the fourth in a collection  of high-capacity satellites that provide tactical communications for  ground forces, as well as relay data and imagery from surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. The new satellites can provide more than 10 times the communications capacity of the previous system.

It offers point-to-point communication, broadcast and multicast services for soldiers. The 13,200 pound  satellite is equipped with solar arrays to generate power and relies on a xenon ion drive for propulsion. It in will fly in a geosynchrounous orbit about 22,369 miles above Earth to provide communications services for troops in the Middle East.

The first satellite in this group was launched in 2007 with two others in 2009. The next is scheduled for 2013. The Air Force has the option of future satellite programs estimated at over 600 million dollars. The program is geared toward continuing to give troops the edge and support needed in operations.The satellite is being funded through an international partnership between the U.S. Air Force, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and New Zealand.

Air Force Facing Reductions

President Obama announced plans to reduce the size of the military across the board. In a move that is getting away from the policy of having the capability of conducting two wars at the same time, the armed forces will be structured to deal with matters on a concentrated basis. The military is to be reshaped between now and 2020 with an emphasis on countering terrorism.

The Air Force is one of the branches to be affected by this. Already there is plans to reduce programs and the possibility of closing some bases. The cuts may face challenges in Congress especially those who are concerned about their own districts.

 In November, the Air Force had reduced its civilian workforce by over 7000. Many of these were in management and support staff. However, there may be some additional staff in nuclear enterprise, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Despite attempts to rein in hiring and spending earlier in the year, these staff reductions had to be made.

For future operations, the Air Force will be looking at trying to get U.S. allies more involved. The military branch has working agreements with several countries worldwide. If their budget decreases, they will need to rely on international support for operations. One example of what future military operations may look like is the bombing missions against Libya where leadership was given to European countries and the U.S. played a supporting role in the campaign.

September 20: Moment of Silence for Trans Service Members

On September 20, our gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members will finally be able to serve openly in the military—but transsexual service members will not. In fact, the military continues to discriminate against transsexual people, calling their sexual identification a psychosexual condition akin to a disease. In fact, they group it with conditions such as exhibitionism, voyeurism and other fetishes, rather than the born-this-way existence that the LGBT community and its allies have been working so hard for people to accept. In fact, trans people are not allowed to serve in the military—whether they are already in the military and discovered or wish to enlist and are openly transgender.

In support of our transgender service members, a moment of silence is being held on September 20. The Transgender American Veterans Association is simultaneously congratulating the transgender community for their efforts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as they honor those who still must remain silent in order to serve. As eager as our politicians and military are to embrace and honor those who’ve died or sacrificed so much for their country, they do not seem to be able to offer the same level of love toward transgender service members who die and/or sacrifice just as much.

Please keep them in your thoughts this September 20, and spread the word. People giving up many of their freedoms to die and protect our own should at least have the freedom to be who they are without fear of punishment.

You can also spread the word about the day of silence via its Facebook page. Be sure to sign up and invite friends and family to participate. The more people who spend energy thanking our transgender vets and service members on that day, the more hope we have in a day where secrecy is no longer required.

President Obama Sends Letters of Condolence to ALL Military Families

Up until now, you must admit that we had a pretty darn messed up policy regarding how military deaths were honored in this country. If you died in the line of fire, you got a letter of honor from the president himself (I’d slash that with herself, but we’re just not there yet, obviously). However, if your death was ruled a suicide, your family wasn’t deemed worthy of a letter.

This disgrace is pretty obvious to most of us. For one thing, if these soldiers weren’t in combat seeing horrors that no human should ever see, experiencing terrorizing moments that most of us can’t even dream of (nor should we), they likely wouldn’t have ever committed suicide in the first place—so perhaps their families are deserving of even more than a letter, since that is what caused their deaths. (I’m not saying that soldiers who did not commit suicide are less deserving at all here—in fact, neither would be dead were it not for us meddling in things that we shouldn’t, declaring illegal wars, and generally trying to police the planet with the flesh of our families for the price of it all.)

For another thing, many soldiers’ deaths are actually ruled as suicides when, in fact, they were covered up to conceal misconduct, rape, murder, and other crimes that military leaders don’t want leaking out. While many of these were later discovered and brought to life, so many likely still have not been proven, and those soldiers remain dishonored by our government.

These cruelties, however, are changing. President Obama recently changed the policy, mandating now that ALL members of our military are to receive a letter no matter the circumstances of their death. Their ultimate sacrifices will now be honored in all cases—which is how it should have been all along, of course. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse with a “Thanks, but it’s long past due,” but it really feels like everything this president is doing qualifies—and I appreciate it, I really do! I just wish we’d have progressed much further by now…

And this might seem like a very small deed, but it could mean the world to a suffering mother, a grieving widow/widower, a child left without a mother or father. More than that, it recognizes that every person’s sacrifice is important and worthy of our honoring, not just the ones whose deaths were so-called more honorable than others.

The Joke is on You, Westboro Baptist Church!

When I read this story, I just about spit out my root beer all over the computer. All I can say is well done, Lisa Lampanelli, well done.

I never thought I’d hear of anything good ever coming from a protest held by the Westboro Baptist Church, otherwise known as The Church of the Latter Day Assholes (The Morons). These people brainwash their kids from the start to believe that all people are going to hell except for them, and that they have the right to protest anyone and everything they think is evil—including the funerals of gay people, people who died of AIDS, and soldiers, all of whom they believe were “punished by God.”

I always have to wonder why they think their own people die? Are they, too, punished by God, and if so, perhaps they should take a closer look at themselves. People in glass houses and all of that.

Anyhow, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about comedian and gay rights activist Lisa Lampanelli’s stunt that totally proved me wrong. Lampanelli was having a show in Topeka, Kansas, and she heard that the WBC was coming to protest her—because, you know, her activism and comedy are just so blasphemous and all that jazz.

Honestly, if there is a god, and he or she isn’t into laughing and gay rights, I don’t want anything to do with him or her. I certainly don’t want to have a thing to do with the WBC. When they came to our town, we came out to protest them in droves—not that it did much, nor did it ease the pain of the family whose son died fighting in the Middle East.

But instead of getting all outraged like most of us do, Lampanelli used the protest as an opportunity. She pledged to donate $1,000 for every protestor who showed up to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an HIV and AIDS advocacy and support group. The thing is, she is donating the funds—all $50,000 of them—in the name of the church!

So now the WBC will be receiving a bunch of thank you letters from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, as well as ones from various other organizations (such as Ms. Magazine, where I read about the story). Due to their direct protest, this group is getting some much-needed donations—as well as visibility, thanks to the whole campaign by Lampanelli—and I’m sure that they’re all going to be royally pissed.

We should learn something from this. Every time the WBC comes to town, instead of wasting our passion on hating them, or our tax dollars on suing them (and then ultimately losing), we should organize campaigns like this to show them how ineffective their protests are. Instead, we’ll use them as counter operative guerilla activism opportunities to throw their work back into their faces.

After their actions end up raising millions for military families, gay families, and AIDS organizations, perhaps they’ll finally STFU like we want them to.

And if they don’t, well, we can always just keep using them for the effective fundraisers they will certainly turn out to be, can’t we?

Vet Sent to Jail for Being Paranoid

Joe Bangert is considered a pretty paranoid person to be around in his Massachusetts neighborhood. He’s constantly practicing what Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter books would call “constant vigilance,” or what anyone who’s listened to Green Day might call basket case mentality. He is in a constant state of thinking that everyone around him is suspicious, and was recently sentenced to nine months in jail for dialing 911 after deeming ordinary circumstances—yet again—as life threatening.

The thing is, Joe Bangert is suffering from PTSD, and like many other soldiers, cannot help the places that his mind goes when flashbacks or trigger situations occur. In fact, Bangert’s PTSD is well documented, with huge, thick medical files to prove it. Yet instead of sending him to a treatment facility to get help, or excusing him for his misdemeanor of being a public nuisance, the judge presiding over his case sentenced him to jail.

If Joe Bangert wasn’t having flashbacks or triggered moments of PTSD before, he’s sure to have them now. And other soldiers who’ve suffered from the same disease are being treated similarly in other courts, too.

How dare you, is all I can say. How dare you spit in the face of a veteran and imprison him for something he obviously cannot control—something he obviously would not be suffering from were it not for the service he gave to the very government that employs you, sir. And your words—“ I see that you served your country honorably. It's time to do that again. I'm asking you to serve your country honorably again by (spending) nine months in the house of correction”—add insult to injury. Firstly, do you honestly believe that the place where you send people is a house of correction? It’s got a pretty good rep of turning people who weren’t into crime in the first place into hardcore criminals—not to mention its high record of rapes of both men and women.

But even more than that, do you really think that’s going to change anything? It’s going to make it worse, sir. Joe Bangert’s condition isn’t anything that he is controlling with his own mind, and spending nine months locked up not only dishonors what he gave to this country—and his very health that declined so badly due to that service alone—but also demonstrates what a simpleton you appear to be. Anyone can see that Bangert’s actions are a direct result of a condition that should be treated medically and humanely, not with punishment. The condition itself is punishment enough for what he has seen.

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Celebrate Army Day April 6

Whether you’re in the army or not, you probably know at least one person who has served our country, either sometime in the past or even right now. Let’s take some time today to honor our family members in the army (as well as any other military branch) on Army Day by sending them some love. Send your loved one a card, a care package, or even a text message if that’s all you can do. It will still be appreciated!

Raise your flags for Army Day if you have them around. If not, why not buy one, or make one with as child? If you’re a pacifist you can still celebrate Army Day by praying for military members’ safety and for the conflict to be over as soon as possible.

You might also want to commemorate the day by dressing in army fatigues, which could be a lot of fun. Paint your face if you like, or bring out those little toy soldiers you had as a child and take them with you to work.

Another way to celebrate the day is to honor military families. If you know of any families who are stretched apart due to service, help them out in any way you can. Maybe you can babysit, or offer to cook meals. Even lending a friendly ear would be sure to help!