On about December 21st of each year, Aborigines, academics, astroarchaeologists, Atheists, Celts, Druids, historians, Native Americans, Pagans, Shamans, Wiccans, Witches, etc., the world over will be celebrating the world's oldest holiday, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice.
-- Lowell Mcfarland
People view other religions in various ways, and thus treat the celebrations of other faiths differently:
Some people value the range of December celebrations, because it is evidence of diversity of belief within our common humanity. They respect both their own religious traditions and those of other faiths for their ability to inspire people to lead more ethical lives. Religious diversity is to them a positive influence.
Others reject the importance of all celebrations other than the holy day recognized by their own religion. Some even reject their religion's holy days which are seen to have Pagan origins (e.g. Easter and Christmas).
Some view other religions as being inspired by Satan. Thus the solstice celebrations of other religions are rejected because they are seen to be Satanic in origin.
Winter Solstice also known as Yule, Christmas, and Saturnalia, occurs in mid December. It celebrates the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of Winter. The Goddess manifests as the Great Mother and the God as the Sun Child. The God also appears as Santa Claus and Old Man Winter. Colors are Red, Green, and White. This is a festival of inner renewal.
Thunderstorms in the Imajica is not just a place to look for serious issue topics. If that's all I blogged about, I'd be even grumpier than I am already. While I have been doing some research and do have several serious topics as entry drafts for you in the future similar to Armor-Gate, my time is too limited to publish entries with 40 outside links in them everyday. Also, for you newbies to the blog, don't be afraid to use the [next page] link at the bottom of the page or the dynamically-generated [Last Ten Entry Summaries] link near the top of the semi-static left side panel. I only display a limited amount of entries on the main blog address in order to make Thunderstorms in the Imajica graphically interesting yet remain dial-up friendly.
I was trying to alternate between the serious and the fluffy bunny entries, but sometimes news or topics like Armor-Gate require immediate or subsequent updations. I know some of you are a little disapponted that my archive calendar isn't full of daily entries as I have maintained in the past. Just know that besides some changes in my personal life -- about which I seldomly blog -- I have been working on several other projects around blogdrive. When I feel it's time to announce these things, if at all, you can be assured I'll promote them in an entry for you.
Watch this streaming music video. Tonight, I feel the need to blog about something fun. Remember the B-52s? If you happen to hang around the main tag board with the other fanatical blogdrivers, you would have seen me pimpin' this video and links to the Le Tigre web site. Someone, but obviously not Curiously Mad, then astutely thought this song and video reminded them of Love Shack. While that may be true, I say it's bouncy and fun, by any measure. I like the Le Tigre techno backbeat combined with the Drum Struck surfer guitar rhythms and riffs in their song called TKO.
Le Tigre is a band with some upbeat pop music sounds, but with a street-cred you won't find elsewhere. It's an all-girl band with some cyber culture -- Digi-Chix talented and with a vaginally feminist message. And I like them. And I hope they stay together and surprise the whole country with their great music.
Speaking of feminist blogdrivers and pinknoise, I should thank SnarkyChick for not only her suite of very good blogs, but also for allowing me to discover the extremely entertaining rantings and ramblings of the published columnist, Mark Morford. His columns define and are too friggin' snarkalicious for the average pic-a-nic basket stealin' Yogi and Boo-Boo bear.
If cartoons can ever get as good as Hanna-Barbara and Warner Brothers, it may happen on the net if not on Adult Swim. Even when I had a mind-numbingly slow dial-up ISP, I would check out the latest thing going on at Liquid Generation. While I was surprised to discover that Clay Aiken had anything to do with Dime-Bag Darrell's untimely demise during my usual fix of Suck My News, this week apparently seems to have a Snaggle-Toothed theme for the Badonka Butt and Who's Boob's? games. If you need some holiday spirit, check out LG's Gingerdead Man. It's said he puts the spookie back in cookie.
And for you film trivia buffs, like Brandon Starr, you might check out the latest Good Scenes Gone Bad short viddies. Grab a set of eye forks from Stanley Kubrik's prop master if you need them to view the viddies, but these are some twisted minds at work here, as always. Well worth your time. Finallly I'd like to say, Happy Birthday to Monkey or whoever got stiffed with the tab for the friggin' happy meal dinner.
I'd like to say that the Defense Department had another press briefing concerning the Armor-Gate topic today, but that would not be entirely true. It was more like a long sales presentation for anyone that did not understand what a wonderful job everyone is doing from previous briefings or DoD/AFIS news articles. When the Pentagon really wants to clear its name to the press and through the media -- utlmately to We the People who read the newspapers and watch the news reports on TV -- the Pentagon pulls out all the stops.
Watch this briefing via C-SPAN streaming video. If the link doesn't automagically work for you, read this video help page. DoD also has published a transcript. I do have to say, this one was much more informative than the one given previously by General Whitcomb in theater. C-SPAN describes this briefing:
Major General Stephen Speakes, Army G-8, Force Development, along with Brigadier General Jeffrey Sorenson, Director of Systems Management and Horizontal Technology Integration, ASA(ALT), will discuss how the Army is transforming to meet changing operational threats and specifically address the Army's strategy to armor (both Add-on Armor (AoA) and Up-Armor), its Tactical Wheeled Vehicle (TWV) fleet to meet the CENTCOM Combatant Commander's operational force protection requirements while at war. Discussions will include the three levels of protection within the light, medium and heavy tactical vehicle fleet; armor program overview in theater; production rate initiatives; and industry vendor program overview.
Once again, the Pentagon explained in great detail what the differences are when they speak of Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 armoring. However, DoD did a much better job explaining the armoring status of the vehicles themselves.
General Sorenson described the armoring status of what the DoD refers to as the light tactical fleet, the medium tactical fleet, and the heavy tactical fleet. This vehicle breakdown is basically descriptive of the vehicle's weight. Humvees are light. Long Haulers (semi trucks) are heavy.
What was unclear to me the first time around and caused concern was the armoring status of the semi trucks, or vehicles in the heavy fleet. While the armoring of the heavy fleet lags significantly behind the Humvee fleet, there are level 1 up-armor and level 2 add-on kits for the cabs of these heavy trucks.
The military focussed more attention and priority on first up-armoring the light tactical fleet, or Humvees, because the casualty rate of the soldiers driving them jumped so significantly when Iraqi insurgents increased their use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. According to General Sorenson, currently 80% of the Humvees in theater have some level of armor and DoD projects this number to be at 98% by March 2005.
This isn't a feel-good Armor-Gate updation. I have to point out that with Iraqi elections scheduled to take place January 30th, it should be common sense to expect increased terrorism and insurgent activity in Iraq as the elections near.
Watching these videos of Iraqi insurgents attacking a convoy or even just the commute around Baghdad makes me wonder just how much armored vehicles are needed in Iraq. How much armor is enough? I don't know.
Add that on top of the likelihood of more city-clearing military operations as preludes to this Iraqi election, such as in Najaf and Fallujah. I'd say it's going to get much uglier before it can get any better in Iraq. I wouldn't expect a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year. Maybe next year.
Due to overwhelming popular demand, the College of Marin in northern California recently put out a press release stating that they will extend the showing of their moving art exhibit commonly known as Faces of the Fallen. The exhibition displays over 1100 student art portraits of U.S. military service members killed in Iraq and now will be available to the public until February 22nd. Listen to the 5-minute WBUR On Point Radio Diary interview (real audio) with the exhibit creator, Professor of Fine Arts, Chester Arnold.
While the NY Times images of young American lives cut short in Iraq inspired Professor Arnold to create his student art exhibit, I was shaken and saddened by the Faces of the Fallen section in the Washington Post in a more left-brain, quantitative manner. The WaPo Faces of the Fallen web section is tightly designed. In other words, given the nominal thumbnail image size requirements of each U.S. service member, there is only so much room on their database-driven web page template to display them.
Each page generated by the date range drop-down menu can display a maximum of 108 Faces of the Fallen. Unlike our handy month-by-month blogdrive archive calendar, the date range drop-down menu selections have date ranges that vary. Each full page of 108 images of dead American heroes may span twelve weeks or as little three.
This is the holiday season. While this time of year honestly means little to me and hasn't since I was five or six years old, it becomes poignant for most military families when dad is deployed in Iraq for Christmas. I can figure that out all on my own.
Pull down the second drop list on the WaPo Faces of the Fallen page. For an ever-growing list of American families, this marks the first heart-breaking holiday season that these soldiers will be thought of posthumously.
"You go to war with the Army you have... not the Army you might... wish to have at a later time." -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Normally very adept at deflecting the questions offered up by the usual corporate media suspects attending his pentagon briefings, BushCo spokesman Donald Rumsfeld seems to have pulled a typical Dubya mush-mouth maneuver during the recent troop meet-and-greet in Kuwait. When asked by a service member about to convoy north toward Baghdad why they had to dig through landfills for scrap metal to armor* their vehicles -- Rumsfeld's answer to the troops readying themselves for deployment into the Iraq warzone that our own CIA has once again categorized as bleak and on the verge of being unmanageable -- was nothing short of snarky and lame. I'm calling this Conspiracy Theory in the Imajica, Rumsfeld's Armor-Gate.
Whether or not the question sparking this controversy was given to the service member by an embedded reporter is not important to me. What is important and makes Rumsfeld's uncharacteristic lameness so poignant is that we all know Operation Iraqi Freedom was a war of choice for the Bush Administration from the get-go. I would have to wipe the screaming spit off my monitor if I started on that often ranted-on subject. You can follow the links and read what variouspundits have said.
General Whitcomb sounded like an affable guy and a professional soldier during his press briefing -- in what was likely his first press briefing in this particular command -- and he is one of many commanders deserving the highest respect attempting to do his job and honor his responsibilities. Unfortunately, the combination of the brain-dead reporters mostly looking for infotainment and story angles and the military concerns of operational security turned General Whitcomb's briefing into a Crayola Crayon sales pitch to an audience of bored kindergartners.
General Whitcomb did his best to explain the different levels and types of armor being utilized on wheeled vehicles in Iraq. That pretty much covers Humvee's and trucks -- the vast majority of the vehicles that our service personnel use for convoys, patrols, and other missions -- and has nothing to do with the armor typically found on track vehicles. A track vehicle could just be a bulldozer or it could be a combat tank.
In General Whitcomb's statements, a civilian can be educated to what is obvious to military personnel and even couch-potato video gamers. Level 1 armor will keep you alive and in the game longer than level 2, or level 3, or running around a warzone with no armor at all.
So what was the army we have of which Rumsfeld speaks? There are two major thoughts here. Firstly, General Whitcomb, other commanders, and everyone in the Bush Administration will point out that they are doing the best they can to face the changing tactics of the enemy. To me, this simply points out that the BushCo insanely and ridiculously held notion that the coalition forces would be showered with flower garlands instead of bullets, RPGs, and IEDs when they pulled into Baghdad was based on woefully inadequate and faulty human intelligence. And yet, I guarantee you that Ahmed Chalabi doesn't ride around Iraq in a convertible.
Secondly, Rumsfeld's Armor-Gate simply shows the unbearable cost for a politically-motivated rush to get into a war of choice. If Iraq was truly such a growing danger to the United States, we could have gone to war and met this threat to national security after adequately equipping our military vehicles and training our miltary personnel for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Why did we go to Iraq in 2003 and not 2004? Pure politics.
Let the finger pointing begin. Again, besides the typical and annoying soothe-saying from the usual BushCo lackeys and pundits, we're also likely to hear the 'commanders on the ground' deflection to tough questions. General Whitcomb even did it:
Of that 30,000 vehicles, around a little less than 8,000 of them do not have some type of armor protection on them -- level one, two or three. Of those vehicles that don't, some number of them are things like tool trucks, communication vans or vehicles that don't leave the base camp. In other words, they're trucked up into Iraq -- or in cases before what we're doing now, were driven up into Iraq -- and they go onto a base camp, and that's where they spend most of their time.
Now who makes the decision what goes off at base camp? That becomes a commander -- the tactical commander's call.
Another excuse immediately given is production. AM General makes these vehicles. Armor Holdings and its subsidiaries, Ogara-Hess and Simula, make the level 1 up-armor and level 2 add-on kits. Of course, AM General is saying the Defense Department contract for Humvee's only included the initial production capacity for level 1 up-armored models, used primarily at the time for MP patrol, was limited. General Whitcomb pointed out that since the beginning of OIF, it has been ramped up from about 30 a month to about 400 now.
But the wheels of the military-industrial complex move slowly. Even with level 1 and level 2 armor, there have been known problems -- cracks in the armor.
Unfortunately for the typical soldier riding around in a truck convoy in Iraq, there is only level 3 or no armor available for them. Around 8000 trucks driven by military truck drivers and the untold number of civilian contractors are left to use speed and luck, instead of armor, to keep themselves alive and in the game.
What is the cost for rushing into a war of choice unprepared? For the BushCo insiders, not much. While Bush's Veteran Affairs outgoing cabinet Secretary Anthony Principi gets to "move on to fresh opportunities and different challenges," our brave men and women serving in Iraq continue to run the risk of moving on to a medical facility, like Landstuhl, Walter Reed, or dozens of other facilities if speed and luck fail them as the leaders seem to have failed them.