The Aftermath of 9/11 – Has it Been Worth It?

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Today marks 18 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center changed the world forever, and not for just the States of America. 19 terrorist hijackers primarily from Saudi Arabia – 15 of them held Saudi citizenship, two were from United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon and one from Egypt – seized control of four aircraft flying cross-country routes from Boston, Newark, NJ and Washington, D. C., to California (Los Angeles and San Francisco). Loaded with jet fuel, the terrorists utilized the planes as weapons, employing training that they had received at flight schools in the U. S. to pilot one plane each into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Washington and, after an uprising of the passengers on the flight, a forced crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended destination of the White House or Capitol Hill, home of the U. S. Congress.

The results of the 19 terrorists’ actions were immediate and numbing. 2977 people – and not all of them ever had any physical evidence of their existence ever recovered from the wreckage – were killed in the four instances, the worst terrorist attack on U. S. soil in the country’s history (the 1941 attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor technically did not occur on U. S. soil as Hawaii was a territory of the U. S. at the time, not a state). And, much like when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the response from the country was swift and powerful. But the question has to be asked – 18 years later in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, has it been worth it?

In the days following 9/11, first responders sifted through the rubble of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania, trying to find any survivors and, when it became apparent that there were no survivors, recover the bodies of those who were killed in the attacks. Meanwhile, the presidency of George W. Bush aggressively moved to act against an unknown opponent. In an address to Congress mere days after the attacks, Bush announced that a “war on terrorism” needed to be conducted and, with the blessing of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, received virtually everything that was asked, including wide-sweeping mass surveillance of citizens of the U. S. (the Patriot Act of 2001) and broad ability to conduct military actions anywhere in the world.

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That thoroughly expected military action is still ongoing. As a part of the actions given to the Bush administration, on September 14, 2001 a broad Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) was granted by Congress. This allowed the Bush administration to immediately attack – without the consent of Congress, who is the body that has the right to declare war against another country – anyone viewed as “responsible for the attacks of September 11” and any “associated forces.” The AUMF has since been used by subsequent administrations.

There has rarely, in the history of the U. S., been two documents that affected the future as much as the Patriot Act and the AUMF. With the Patriot Act, it became possible for the government itself to spy on its own people, something that would have been abhorrent to the founders of the country or, even more recent, those that fought against oppressive governments in Germany, Japan and Italy in World War II. With the AUMF, it basically allowed the government to wage war virtually anywhere in the world in the name of the “war on terrorism;” it has been used to justify military actions by not only the Bush administration but those of President Barack Obama and the current occupant of the White House in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Yemen, Georgia, Syria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Iraq and Somalia, among others.

But other, uglier actions arose from 9/11. Now called “hate crimes,” attacks against Muslims, Middle Eastern “looking” people, people of Asian descent (Sikhs in particular, who wear turbans that are erroneously confused with being associated with the Islamic faith) and others precipitously rose, blaming them for the actions of the 19 terrorists. This included taunting people in public and burning mosques all the way to killing people, when white supremacists took lives of those that “looked like terrorists” or were “towel heads” in a murderous rampage. It is arguable that these actions go on to this day.

Citizens themselves are not absolved of any responsibilities or blame for the devolvement of society since 9/11, either. If Watergate damaged the image of the country in peoples’ minds, the 2000 election controversy between Bush and former Vice President Al Gore and the actions of 9/11 totally destroyed any belief in a “just” government. These shattered thoughts and beliefs have tumbled over the past two decades into a massive snowball that ravages the psyche of the country in an avalanche of unsubstantiated thoughts and “alternative facts,” weaponized by extremists and employed by those to justify their philosophies.

Beliefs that the U. S. were a part of a “New World Order” (a phrase, ironically, uttered by Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush) brought about the idiotic conspiracy theories that 9/11 was an act by the Central Intelligence Agency and other nefarious operators, both domestic and international, to take freedoms from the citizens of the U. S. The use of fraudulent intelligence by the Bush administration that led to the Second Gulf War and the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein further ripped the fabric of the country. And the virulent rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle – that if you didn’t fully support “American” action, then you weren’t a “true American patriot” – contributes even today to the massive schism that exists in our political process.

The costs of the “war on terror” brought by the 9/11 attacks also have to be questioned. The human toll is striking and depressing simultaneously – the U. S. military has seen roughly 7000 deaths and tens if not hundreds of thousands of injuries from operations contributable to the “war or terror.” The civilian cost is estimated to be conservatively 1.3 million deaths, although some estimates set the total closer to four million. And the costs to cultural, religious and historic areas – ISIS has destroyed many sites of antiquity in their version of the “war on terror” – are too numerous to mention.

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The human costs are arguably the most important thing, but the financial costs of continuing the “war on terrorism” are approaching astronomical figures. Since 2001, it is estimated that the three U. S. presidential administrations that have conducted the “war on terrorism” have spent $7.6 TRILLION pursuing terrorist targets around the world and added $2.4 TRILLION to the U. S. budget deficit. This isn’t counting what other nations, including our NATO allies, have spent in their support of the actions following 9/11.

What has all of this brought to the U. S. and the world? “Terrorism” is something that can never truly be snuffed out. It is an action that dates back to biblical times (a Jewish group called the Sicarii would use concealed daggers to execute their targets in large crowds before slipping away and the Hashhashin, an Islamic sect, were a terrorist group in the 11th century that employed terrorist killings – the group’s name is where the word “assassin” comes from) but, in recent history, has moved from a “nation-state” action to a tool used by an individual political, religious or social group that has no traditional physical base of activity. It is one of the reasons that al-Qaeda (the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11), despite the protestations of the current administration, continues to thrive around the world.

And what has been the collateral damage from the aftermath of 9/11? In the U. S., we have raised a generation of children that know nothing but “war” and a misguided view of “patriotism” that is foisted by some who use that “war” as a political tool. In the world, there are people who have seen their families affected by the bombs of some far-flung U. S. drone attack, the bullets from a U. S.-made weapon or the ravages of imprisonment for “being (insert your religion or nationality here)” that has permanently implanted anti-U. S. sentiments in their minds. And the money that has been spent on the pursuit of “war” hasn’t been spent on areas to improve life for EVERYONE, significantly impacting all facets of life around the world.

On this 18th anniversary of 9/11 and in the future, as the costs both human and financial continue to rack up, we all must ask ourselves – “Was (Is) it worth it?” The nationalism that is becoming prevalent in the world nowadays can be directly traced back to 9/11 and it is something that has to be combated because it will only acerbate terrorism throughout the world. When it comes to the aftermath of 9/11, everyone has to have the ability to examine this question and plenty of other ones truthfully and come up with their own answers because this current situation cannot be continued in perpetuity. The current situation also cannot be allowed to flourish, lest it destroy civil society and plunge the world into an anarchistic state or theocratic or fascist rule. There is no such thing as “total security” and these thoughts present not only the people and leaders of the U. S. with a complex challenge but the world as well.

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If You’re Going to “Show Support” for the Military, Show it FOR ALL

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When it comes to my service in the military, I am proud of it, but I don’t make a big deal out of it. My Honorable Discharge hangs proudly on my wall (thanks to my Mom, may she rest in peace, for keeping it all these years) and I have several photos that show me at different stages during my four years of service. I do fly the United States Marine Corps flag on military and some national holidays but, as previously stated, I usually don’t make a big deal of my veteran status. A situation recently has made me rethink this situation, however, because it seems that veterans still get short shrift in most arenas.

Recently I was flying back from a fantastic family trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (something that I would encourage people to do at least once – it is a historic, beautiful, exciting and fun area to visit) and doing what is the worst part about flying – waiting for the call to board the plane. If you’re one of the few people on Planet Earth that haven’t flown, let me set the stage for you: imagine a herd of cattle in a pen waiting for the train to open up and then, in an orderly procession, slowly meander onto the transport. That’s what loading a plane is like, only in a human form.

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Anyway, back to the point. The gate attendant (the airline was unimportant, but they recently bought the naming rights to the Las Vegas Raiders new stadium) was doing a fine job, actually moving the cattle forward with some rapidity, when I heard her make this call. “At this time, we’d like to allow all active duty, reserve and retired military to board the aircraft first and thank you for your service.”

I’ve heard this on many an occasion but, for the first time, this set me off.

Airlines aren’t the only ones who have fallen victim to this mindset. Many restaurants and other businesses, when looking to “Salute the Troops,” will often use those three designations – active duty, reserve service and retired – often negating those who aren’t actively in service and didn’t retire from the Armed Forces but did actually served for a substantial amount of time in some cases. According to estimates from the National Conference of State Legislators, there are 18.8 million veterans in the United States. Of that total, there are roughly 2.1 million retired military persons and 2.3 currently active or reserve members of the Armed Forces. That means there are over 14 MILLION people in the States of America whose service to the country is being disrespected.

I am sure there are plenty of instances of this, but I don’t have to go any further than my family for examples. My service in the USMC was honorable but, after four years of active duty (and two more in the Reserves), I decided that the military lifestyle wasn’t for me and walked away. Service in the military isn’t for everyone and, although I credit the military lifestyle for being an important building block in the creation of me, I recognized that it wasn’t something that I wanted to make a career of philosophically, politically or otherwise. In short, I was proud of my service, but I wasn’t looking to do it permanently.

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For an example on the longer end my brother, from the time he entered the USMC, wanted to make a career of it. The little idiot actually signed up to JOIN THE INFANTRY, for fuck’s sake. And he served admirably in the first Gulf War, where he was injured by a shattered windshield on his troop carrier (the glass from the windshield nearly took one of his eyes out) as his unit rumbled into Kuwait City, but he refused the Purple Heart.

As the years went on, however, the wear and tear of the military and, in particular, the infantry requirements began to debilitate him. Four years short of making his lifetime goal – to serve for 20 years in the military – the USMC had to medically discharge him because his body was so broken down he couldn’t go on (a prime example of “the mind wanting to but the body unable”). So, for statistical purposes, my brother – who gave his body in service to the country – is NOT a “retired” veteran…just a “veteran” but not worthy of recognition. Nowadays he makes do, but without the retired military veteran’s pension that he had worked so long for.

This type of story can go further, even to today’s veterans. How many of the young men and women have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, after four or eight years of service (or shorter, in some cases) with debilitating or life-altering injuries, and face this same type of thought? That you are “not worth honoring” because you aren’t currently serving or retired? And what about those 14 million plus veterans who did their jobs – and did them honorably, from Berlin to Okinawa, from Vietnam to Korea, from Grenada to Beirut, from Baghdad to Kabul, in “peacetime” (an oxymoronic statement about the States of America) and in times of war – but yet are neglected when it comes to recognition or treatment?

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Recognition of veterans has always been a bit shitty in the States of America, to be honest. We talk a good game about “supporting the troops” but, when it comes down to actually taking care of that Afghanistan veteran, now a quadriplegic, who is trying to get by on a Social Security check or getting the right mental health care for that Vietnam veteran who saw a village on the Mekong wiped out by napalm and still wakes up at night screaming, this country hasn’t come up for them. We have an amazing capability to create veterans, we also have a tremendous ability to tell them to fuck off when they need help the most.

In the grand scheme of things, whether ALL veterans are honored with special treatment isn’t that big a deal. But instead of segmenting some for “special recognition,” it perhaps would make more sense to either recognize ALL of those who served – regardless of whether they are active, retired or “just a veteran” – or just don’t bother with the platitudes. If you want to show “support for the troops,” how about taking care of them once their service is complete rather than a couple of bucks off a meal at Golden Corral?

Have Conservatives Begun to Come to Their Senses?

December 2018 was, by most accounts, one of the ugliest months in the history of the States of America. The Dow Jones dropped a total of 6.7% for the entirety of 2018 and the S&P 500 saw a decline of 7%, mostly driven by huge losses since October and, in particular, a volatile December. The losses by those two indexes are the first decline in the market since 2008 when…well, everyone remembers what happened then.

But it wasn’t just the stock market which suffered as 2018 closed. U. S. international influence was dealt a severe blow as situations in Syria and Afghanistan heated up, General James Mattis decided to step down from his position as Secretary of Defense (as well as U. S. envoy to the Middle East Brett McGurk, who was critical in the fight against ISIS). Add in Chief of Staff John Kelly (a fellow Marine who has besmirched his reputation already, but I digress) leaving his position and a government shutdown concocted for entirely political reasons entering its second week and the shakiness of the U. S. government has never been more evident.

And who is responsible for all of this?

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Oh, yeah…him.

Celebrating – or lamenting, on some viewpoints – the end of the second year of Orange Foolius’ reign of terror on the U. S. has brought about turmoil both domestically and internationally that is unprecedented in U. S. history. And this isn’t the type of “unprecedented” that is a good thing. In fact, the continuation of this administration – along with the Mueller Investigation (you know, that “witch hunt” that has charged and/or convicted 35 “witches” and paid for itself with $46 million in restitutions from Paul Manafort alone) and the continued “rats leaving the sinking ship” of personnel ditching their offices in the government – is beginning to demonstrate that perhaps the Idiot in Chief wasn’t the best choice.

Now there’s 65 million people, roughly, that would have been able to tell you that from the start in 2016. You know, the MAJORITY of the residents of the States of America that didn’t vote for him. But those people were already against this jackass and his thoughts of taking the office. But there is a change in the winds, per se, that is noticeable at this point.

While support for Orange Foolius amongst conservatives remains good, it isn’t of the level that it was previously. A survey from CNBC shows that support from millionaires has plunged as the Foolius Administration has demonstrated its depravity. How bad is it? Those conservative millionaires stated that there was only a 18% likelihood that Orange Foolius would be the nominee in 2020, with Ohio Governor John Kasich and current Vice President Albino Church Boy also garnering votes.

But it isn’t just the millionaires that he has to worry about. It is conservatives overall who have just about had enough of the shitshow that they are looking for a change.

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I’ve spoken to many a conservative that have reluctantly commented that their choice in 2016 was the wrong one. In many cases, they thought that the Fool on Capitol Hill would become more “presidential” as he got into the job, that he would moderate his stances and actually try to do the job. The problem is that these people forgot an old adage – “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In other words, you can’t teach a 70-year old racist, misogynous, xenophobic bastard how to become “couth” and rein in his basal instincts.

It goes beyond that, however. These same conservatives are concerned about the current status of the White House. The departure of essentially everyone from the administration that signed up at the start (remember Reince Priebus? Sean Spicer? And don’t forget that Sarah Huckster Suckabee will be leaving soon (good riddance) along with Mattis, Kelly and all the others) has left the “B Team” of sycophants and recipients of nepotism trying to satiate the Orange Glob. That they have not the talent nor the skills to be able to do this job – run a government – is what is scaring many conservatives.

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It is also concerning to many conservatives that all the investigations that have been going on regarding Orange Foolius and his activities have essentially proven to be true. The aforementioned Mueller Investigation continues to plod along, sweeping up guilty pleas left and right. The Steele dossier, long ridiculed by conservatives, has been proven to be true for the most part, save the salacious “pee pee” parts. Further investigations by the Southern District of New York have dropped the hammer on the “charitable” Foolius Foundation and the family, putting the potential for not only Orange to go to the slammer but also the potential for Ivanka, Junior and Eric to serve time in prison (Tiffany and Baron will be spared because their mommas, Marla Maples and Melania, kept them out of the family business of grifting, lying and stealing). And the longer these investigations go on – and the wealth of info that any Democratic House investigations WILL bring up – the more corruption is shown by these cretins.

All of the evidence is mounting up against Orange Foolius. And conservatives are beginning to feel the heat.

For the most part, conservatives aren’t saying they’ll quit the Republican Party. It’s just that they’ll quit supporting a conman of infinite degrees. And that’s OK…this country needs to have the base ideas of conservatism – strong defense, commitment to business, fiscal responsibility (although the current crop of GOP needs a refresher course on this) – to be able to function. You cannot go too far one way or the other, left or right, in governing philosophy. There has to be a line in the center that takes into consideration all aspects of governance. One of the main tenets of government should be to hurt as few people as possible, and it is only through compromise and discussion (something that has been tremendously lacking in the past 20 years or so) that this can be assured.

What is happening is that many, liberal and conservative, are either beginning to see the error of their ways or holding back from saying “I told you so.” Now the work begins of keeping the ideas of the Founding Fathers in place until the elections of 2020, when correcting this humongous mistake can actually take place.

What Rights Do You Have in The Military?

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One of the most overlooked professions in this country is that of being a member of the Armed Forces. Whether you’re Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or a Reservist (yes, the way they are used today, they deserve to be noted also), the work that these men and women do goes literally above and beyond the call of duty. Not only do they perform these jobs – often without much recognition – but they will also give up a tremendous amount to be able to wear the uniform of a United States military member.

A couple of stories recently in the news encapsulates these points very well. While it is not officially recognized as a part of the military, The Citadel has the highest percentage of any U. S. college student body that has gone on to serve in the military; to be exact, all but 46 of their living graduates have been or are members of the Armed Forces (perhaps because every student is a member of ROTC, which eases the transition into the military’s officer programs). Thus, their rules are pretty much in line with that of the Armed Forces itself in the conduct and dress of cadets.

According to recent reports, a prospective student recently accepted to The Citadel has challenged the college, requesting to wear a hijab – the traditional headscarf that Muslim women are required to wear – and to have thorough coverage of her arms and legs per the religious dictates of Islam. The Citadel, however, denied that request, citing that the dress code that is dictated to the cadets emphasize the uniformity of a military organization. “The Citadel has relied upon a highly effective educational model requiring all cadets to adopt a common uniform. Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model,” the Commandant of The Citadel, Lt. General John W. Rosa, said in a statement that was released by USA Today. “This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit.”

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Now it has to be noted that The Citadel does have three Muslim members in attendance at the university, so it isn’t like they haven’t dealt with this situation previously. In addition, The Citadel – as do all of the military academic academies – do make accommodations for particular religious diets and services. As of now, the student has decided not to enroll at The Citadel, but her family is considering legal action against the public institution.

On another military-related front, a group of black female cadets from West Point, the Army’s academy, will not be reprimanded for posing for a photograph on the West Point grounds. While wearing their cadet dress uniforms, the women posed on the stairs of their barracks with their fists in the air – the “Black Power” salute – which drew the outrage of some when it somehow found its way into the media. After an investigation, the U. S. Department of Defense decided that the cadets didn’t break any rules with their actions and, as such, no reprimands or punishments would be issued.

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For those that aren’t a part of the military (or have never been), there are several huge differences between military life and civilian life. To be honest, there are some that function better under the guidance of the military lifestyle than they would in the civilian world. But there is one thing that is undoubtedly true…when you’re in the military, you do not have the rights that you would have in the civilian world.

As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, I saw on a regular basis how rights that you have come to expect – nay, are granted – in the civilian life DO NOT EXIST once you don the uniform to defend your country.

Freedom of speech? As a member of the military, you do not have the ability to discuss any situation, whether in support or opposition to the President of the United States or the government, otherwise you can face a court martial for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is something that was seen a few years ago in something that, personally for me, was quite annoying.

Over Facebook a few years ago, there was a rash of supposed “military members” (I say supposed because there were several of these photos that looked photoshopped) who would post pictures of themselves with quotations about their opposition to service in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or potentially being sent to another conflict in the Middle East. These quotations, normally written on a piece of paper, were then held strategically to block the “military member’s” face so that they would not face punishment for what they were doing (if you had any cojones, you’d stand behind your words, show your face and give your name). The movement died off fairly quickly, however, for reasons unknown.

Political freedom? While in uniform, a military member cannot support any political activity, much in line with being unable to have freedom of speech. In 2012, an Army Reservist was reprimanded by his superiors for speaking at a Ron Paul for President rally, then going on to do a live interview with CNN regarding his position on the wars in the Middle East.

When it comes to religious freedoms, the military begrudgingly breaks on that front. They will allow for special meals, even for Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath, which usually entails that the practitioner abstain from working, electronic activities and other non-restful activities) or, in extreme cases, some clothing (The Citadel does note a cadet was allowed to wear long pants during physical training “about eight years ago” in a break with their normal attire). They also will provide adequately trained religious leaders – priests, rabbis, etc. – to conduct services for their servicemen and women.

Double jeopardy? In the civilian world, that exists. In the military, you can be punished on many occasions for the same offense. I saw many a fellow Marine who, after committing some offense out in the town, be subjected to the military’s form of justice under the UCMJ. Even if the civilian case was eventually dismissed for one reason or another, the military was never wrong and their punishment always stood.

Basically, if you enter the military, you are owned by the federal government. They have the right to tell you where to go, when to do it, how to do it and what will happen to you if you don’t do it that particular way. They also can tell you what to do in your daily life, whether you are on the base or living off base…their rules are final and unyielding.

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In the case of The Citadel, they did the right thing. While making accommodations for religious reasons isn’t out of the question, there is an importance to having all members conform to the same regulations and be judged by the same rules. If someone is allowed a different form of clothing – regardless if it for a religious reason or not – then they are not being held to the same standards as another cadet. As such, I believe The Citadel is right.

I do believe that the commanders at West Point got it wrong, though. Although one of the superintendents at the Army’s academy stated the cadets would “receive some instruction,” part of the reason they are at West Point is to learn how to conduct themselves as an officer in the United States Army. Doing things such as the “Black Power” salute – which is perfectly allowable if you’re a civilian – while wearing your cadet uniform IS a violation of the UCMJ. A reprimand was completely in line…expulsion, as some suggested? No, nowhere close to being an offense worthy of being tossed from school.

We hear a great deal of talk about freedoms in the United States and it is important to think about them carefully. Those that defend those freedoms – the men and women of the United States Armed Forces – don’t have the same voice that we civilians do. You learn to appreciate that when you’ve been in the military previously.

Wondering Whatever Happened To…For November 3

Wondering whatever happened to California Congressman Gary Condit while pondering…

What If There Wasn’t Any Grits? – Pointing out the ignorance of some when it comes to the issue of the Confederate Battle Flag, a Tupelo, MS man is in jail facing a potential life sentence for using an explosive device against the retail outlet Walmart.

According to reports from local papers, Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said that 61-year old Marshall Leonard threatened the megastore a few days ago when he wrote on the local paper’s Facebook page, “Journal corporate, you are on final warning. You are part of the problem. As a result of this, y’all (sic) are going down, along with Walmart, WTVA (a local television station), Reed’s department store and all the rest of the anti-American crooks. I’m not kidding. No messing around anymore!”

While some might have thought this to be the ravings of a lunatic, this was a lunatic who decided to take action. On Sunday morning at about 1:30AM, Leonard allegedly drove his car to the local Walmart in question, lit a package on fire and threw it in the entryway of the store. An employee standing nearby was told by Leonard, “You better run,” and, as the employee did, a small explosion went off that didn’t cause much damage to the store.

So what was Leonard’s problem with Walmart? The factor that the superstore had quit selling the Confederate Battle Flag. Leonard is an outspoken opponent of current legislation, Initiative 55, which would remove the Battle Flag from the current Mississippi state flag permanently. Leonard doesn’t believe the flag to have any racial or slavery overtones (despite the statement in the documents of secession by the state of Mississippi in 1861 stating, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world.”) and has been tossed out of a city council hearing on the subject (while draped in a Battle Flag).

The police didn’t have to investigate too deep to find Leonard either. Leonard’s vehicle, with a flagpole sticking through the roof that displays the Battle Flag while he drives, ran a red light at 2AM after allegedly tossing the explosive device into the Walmart. Police stopped Leonard and, as their radios crackled with news of the bombing, Chief Aguirre said, “We quickly figured out we needed to hang on to this suspect.”

Why Should I Be Educated If I’m In Heaven? – In another entry into the idiocy of the South, parents of nine Texas children are suing the state over their home-schooling techniques. Texas laws are quite permissive regarding what home-schooled students have to learn and one family, the McIntyre family of El Paso, TX, decided they didn’t need to have a curriculum, any oversight from local officials and didn’t have to take any of the tests that children in public and private schools had to take. Why? Why waste time on education when the Second Coming is upon us.

The situation came to light after the 17-year old daughter of the family ran away from home and, upon being placed in the foster system and in a real school, couldn’t keep up with her peers (seniors). She was placed in a ninth-grade class and was even struggling to keep up at that pace. Further investigation by authorities through other family members found that not only was there any “home schooling” going on, but the parents were flaunting the results.

According to Tracy McIntyre, the twin brother of Michael, the other children were “never reading, working on math problems, using computers or doing much of anything educational.” The reason that Tracy gave for this was Michael telling him that the children’s learning was unnecessary because “they were going to be raptured.”

The El Paso school district began to investigate further, at which time the McIntyre’s sued them for “oppressing their right to not educate their children.” In a deeply Republican state, the family called the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court “anti-Christian” and claimed that the oversight by the El Paso school system is “a startling assertion of sweeping governmental power.” While these claims may sound as ludicrous as they look, there is a chance that they might have some effect; the current head of the Texas Board of Education is a Christian homeschooler and Governor Greg Abbott is staunchly behind the homeschooling system, which in many conservative homeschooling cases lacks any knowledge of sciences, technology or mathematics and instead delves into Bible-based explanations of subjects.

But The Slurpee Machine Is Always Spotless! – We already know that there is a great deal of waste in the U. S. government and, in particular, in military spending. But a $43 million gas station?

In a recent report from John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the building of a compressed natural gas station cost an alleged $43 million, including $30 million in overhead costs (operational expenses) in a country where few vehicles exist and those that do don’t run on natural gas. Not only was this station highly expensive (a similar station in Pakistan was built for $500,000), but there was no examinations of whether building the station was feasible or not ever performed or ever deemed necessary.

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation or outcome,” Sopko stated to the Washington Post. The reason? The department that was in charge of building the station, the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (with an $800 million budget), was closed six months ago and the Pentagon has no comment on its activities.

Simple investigation by Sopko questioned the legitimacy of building the station. With a non-viable market for natural gas vehicles, Afghanis would have to convert their vehicles to the fuel. The cost of such a conversion is around $700. The problem there is that the average Afghani wages for a year are $690.

Sopko says he will continue to investigate the situation but, without cooperation from the Pentagon, it is unlikely he will find any reasons for the wasteful spending.

The Inmates Running the Asylum, Part 420 – The candidates for President on the Republican Party ticket have been loudly complaining about how the three debates they have taken part in (especially the last one on cable station CNBC) have been conducted, despite the first debate being conducted on their home ground of Fox News and a second debate on CNN considered fairly decent. Now, instead of allowing for a central group to set the standards for debates – say, perhaps, their own Republican National Committee – the candidates want to set the rules that future debates will be held under until the party’s convention next summer.

GOP candidates have floated such ideas as keeping the room at 67 degrees, splitting the 14 remaining candidates into two randomly picked groups of seven and asking them the same questions and setting strict time limits on the proceedings. It is expected that some of the candidates have already coalesced behind some framework of demands for the forthcoming debates (probably those after their November 10 scheduled debate), but one candidate thinks he can get more through his negotiations (take a wild guess).

Representatives for billionaire Donald Trump, who has seen his numbers of late slide as Dr. Ben Carson has slowly gained traction, are currently refusing to sign any letter of demands alongside the other candidates, believing that through his own force of will he can get more. According to the New York Times, however, Trump is actually hurting the cause because the candidates only have power if they are united. If they are fragmented or are asking for far too much from debate organizers, then the possibility of the networks, the RNC or even the candidates canceling a debate comes into play.

First they couldn’t find a Speaker for the House of Representatives, now they can’t determine a debate format – it truly is the inmates running the asylum.

Now to answer the question…what happened to California Congressman Gary Condit?

Through the 1990s, Gary Condit was a rising star in the Democratic Party. A congressman from California, Condit looked the part of the perfect representative from the Golden State, with a pearly smile and ambitions of even bigger things in his future. The discovery that he was having an affair in 2001 with an intern by the name of Chandra Levy effectively derailed his burgeoning political career.

The discovery of the affair only came about after Levy disappeared in May 2001 and Condit, who vehemently accused then-President Bill Clinton of illicit activities with intern Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s, for some time was considered a suspect in her disappearance (in 2010, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador was convicted in Levy’s disappearance and murder). It was enough to derail his career; in 2002, Condit was defeated for reelection in the 18th District in California and, instead of going back home, moved to Arizona.

In Arizona, Condit opened up an ice cream store franchise that failed and in which he is currently embroiled in litigation over. His son, Chad, is attempting to follow in his father’s footsteps (hopefully not literally) in running for Congress in California’s 10th District. Condit, at 67, has called it a career in politics, now serving as the president of the Phoenix Institute of Desert Agriculture, a non-profit group created in 2011 with offices strangely located in San Diego, CA, that doesn’t list any responsible owners or operators.