A New Forum For Our Troops

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A brand new blog/forum: us-troops, is looking for current or former members of the U.S. military to share their day-to-day experiences or memories of life in a war zone. The author of this blog, Susan Rowen, has dedicated this forum to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as a place where they can talk about their lives, their hopes, their fears and their plans and communicate with some of their greatest fans, American bloggers.

If you are a current or recent member of the military and have something you would like to share, this is a great place to share it — this is, as I said before, a brand new blog and a brand new forum; and right now us-troops is looking for its first of what will hopefully be many posts from our troops. Your pictures and videos are very welcome along with your thoughts and experiences but please, lets keep this a place where entire families can come to meet the people who have kept them safe and learn from them what it means to be in the military, without being exposed to unnecessary profanity or scenes of blood or gore.

Soldiers May Ask: Why We Want to Know

We want to know about you and communicate with you through this blog because, as ‘corny’ as it may sound to some, you ladies and gentlemen in the U.S. military, who have given up a considerable piece of your lives to fight for us and for your country, are our heros! Each and every one of you deserve (and have earned) a special place in our lives and deserve to have whatever we can give you in return for your service — this space on the Internet is just symbolic of our real debt.

The public is constantly presented with the views of journalists, politicians, educators and other “experts” who gladly color our involvement in the Middle-East (and other places) with ‘brush strokes’ that enhance their own personal political perspectives and it is about time the public heard the real story from the real experts, those of you who are doing the fighting, the peace-keeping, the training and the re-building; those of you who have earned that moniker: our heros!

To Join Us

To join the forum, simply go to us-troops and click on the “forum US-troops” link to register. Hope to ‘see’ many of you there!

This post is being sponsored by the us-troops website and forum and has the wholehearted endorsement of “My View From the Center”.

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Hating the War While Loving the Warriors

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By Whymrhymer

Is it possible to, as the overused, anti-war shibboleth suggests, support the troops without supporting the war? I say yes, absolutely!

Currently, the “Top Story” on Topix.net is a story from the CBS affiliate, KDKA with a headline that reads: Cheney: House Doesn’t Support U.S. Troops. Here is just a snippet from that article (the “money quote” if you will):

“Cheney called it a myth that ‘one can support the troops without giving them the tools and reinforcements they need to carry out their mission.'”

Vice President Cheney seems to be ignoring a basic fact in his effort to distort reality. The House voted to give the “troops” $124 billion for whatever they need . . . Cheney’s accusation is obviously rhetorical rather than factual.

It’s the Mission Stupid

As most of the “anti-war” faction sees it, the troops are heroes; they deserve our universal support and respect because they are fighting and dying in the name of the United States but more than that, they deserve to be allowed to win this war or any other war they are thrown into. Our war in the Middle-East has been, at least in my view, mismanaged and, as much as I hate to agree with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, I have to agree with her, at least in general, when she says: “The American people have lost faith in the president’s conduct of this war.” Certainly not ALL of the American people; ALL of the American people agree on nothing but I have certainly lost faith in the president’s conduct as Commander and Chief. The way I see it, we have been reduced to the position of referees in a situation that has increasingly little to do with us.

That said, I have to switch sides and say that we should absolutely NOT set a deadline for troop withdrawal. When you have an enemy, whether its on a foreign battlefield or right in your neighborhood, the very LAST thing you want to do is show weakness. The House’s proposed deadline to leave Iraq (even though it will be vetoed one way or another) has already been put on a platter and served to the world through the media. Our weakness has already been broadcast to every terrorist cell in the world and our already (and increasingly) tenuous position in Iraq has been illuminated.

The Bottom Line

The war in Iraq may not be going well but that doesn’t diminish the fact that we have an enemy that is not capable of civilized behavior and who draws no lines between killing soldiers and killing civilians — that is the essential definition of a terrorist and they ‘wear it well.’ We must ALL remember that ending the War in Iraq, however it eventually ends, will NOT eliminate the threat — the bottom line is, the threat will only be eliminated when the radical elements within the Islamic religion are eliminated and that can only be done within the Nation of Islam.

mylivesignature.com

Links:

KDKA-CBS: Cheney: House Doesn’t Support U.S. Troops

The Sunday Timed (South Africa): No early Iraq pullout

What the blogs are saying:

Nuke’s News and Views: Cheney joins the fray

Bookworm Room: Pork and surrender

News and commentary by: Whymrhymer can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at The American Chronicle Family of Journals

The Convenient Way Not To Lose Money

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I often stress personal accountability as one of the most important principles of American life and there may be no better practical, every-day example of personal accountability than wisely investing your money to maximize your returns on all your investments . . . even including your savings account.

There are many people who choose a savings account based upon the location of the bank, or on high ‘introductory’ interest rates or gifts (‘premiums’), or even just on name recognition; all these approaches may have advantages for some few individuals based on their circumstances but in most cases easy access, instant gratification or psychological comfort factors are just convenient ways to lose money.

Granted, there are so many banks to choose from and so many types of savings accounts it seems like a Herculean task for the average person to choose the best one for their individual needs, but there are ways to make the task far less daunting and here is one of them: SavingsAccounts.com.

SavingsAccounts.com is a great place to find honest and easily understandable information about savings account interest rates offered by premier banks such as Bank of America, Chase, Wachovia and a host of others; and the key words here are “easily understandable.” SavingsAccounts.com does not offer you ‘gobbledygook’ like many investment websites or the hyped-up versions of reality you may get on some banks own websites.

Kick that personal accountability into ‘high gear’ and, while you’re at it, do yourself a favor by getting the best interest rate you can on your savings . . . and it all starts right HERE. Maximizing your savings account interest rates is the convenient (and responsible) way for you to add to your personal wealth.

This post was sponsored by http://savingsaccounts.com

COPA: Its Not About the Children

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By Whymrhymer

“Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if (free speech) protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection”

That is a quote from Senior U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed Jr. as he struck down a Federal law known as the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA). This law had made it a crime for any Internet site operator to display pornographic material (i.e., material that was considered by the government to be “harmful to minors,” without requiring some form of identification, such as a credit card, to verify that the viewer was an adult. Penalties for website operators who broke this law would have included a fine of up to $50,000 and a term in jail of up to 6 months. This law is, at the moment, dead but the litigation will no doubt continue for several more years.

My initial knee-jerk reaction to this story was, perhaps, predictable: ‘anything that protects kids is a good thing and any judge who would remove that protection is evil.’ But then I stopped and considered two things:

First of all this is just another case of the government trying to take the job of parenting away from parents. What our children can and cannot access, at least at home, is (and should be) completely up to us, the parents of those children. If parents provides Internet access to their children they (the parents) have to make the decision about what is appropriate and what is not. Not surprisingly, some parents will make different choices than others: for example, some parents do not feel that nudity is inappropriate, some parents do not feel that gratuitous violence is inappropriate (if they did, the video game industry would collapse) and I’m sure that there are some parents that do not feel that viewing some sexual activity over the Internet is inappropriate. Whatever the case and whatever you, I or the government feels about this, it is frankly none of our business. We can NOT allow the government to tamper with the values that a parent chooses to instill in his or her child, however repulsive those values may seem to you or I. As the judge in this case pointed out: parents who are intent on limiting Internet access to protect their children can do so through the use of software filters and other less restrictive means “that do not limit the rights of others to free speech”.

Secondly, this is not really about the children. This case and this now defunct (at least temporarily) law is really about the Internet and the right of people who produce Internet content to produce anything they want and to display it free of charge if they so choose. Now granted, that opens the door to what most of us would consider very objectionable material but that does not stop the viewer (or the parent of a viewer) from ‘changing the channel’. Nor does it give anyone permission to produce ‘illegal’ Internet content (e.g., sexual acts involving children or “snuff” films); people who produce that type of material will still, without the benefit of COPA, be prosecuted — as they should be.

More importantly, COPA (and other laws like it, laws that purport to “protect us”) is another attempt by the government to define our society and that, ladies and gentlemen, is something that is way beyond any power that was granted to the Federal government by our Constitution.

Links:

CNN.com: Court strikes down Internet porn law

ABC News/Associated Press: U.S. Judge Blocks 1998 Online Porn Law

What Bloggers are Saying:

Entertainment Law: COPA Struck Down!

PCAnswer.com: Judge rightly strikes down Internet “protection” law

News and commentary by: Whymrhymer can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at The American Chronicle Family of Journals

Free Speech: The Little Phrase That Could!

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By Whymrhymer

Five years ago, Joseph Frederick, then a Juneau, Alaska high school student, pulled a prank that got him in trouble with his school. The Olympic torch was passing through Juneau and, as chance would have it, it was to pass right past Joseph’s high school. The school administration allowed the students to stand across the street from the high school to view the torch as it passed. Just as the torch was passing where Joseph Franklin stood and just as the TV cameras were focused on that area, he unfurled a banner that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus;” he explained later that he had created that meaningless epithet to get attention, perhaps to get on television. Well he certainly got his wish for attention.

The principal of the school, who was supervising the students on this “field trip” in front of the school to watch the parade, saw Joseph’s banner and, since the school, like virtually all schools, had a policy that forbid students to use illegal drugs or even advocate their use, she told him to take he banner down; he refused so she grabbed it and destroyed it. She also gave Joseph a 10-day suspension from school.

Enter the ACLU!

Franklin appealed his suspension to the school board and lost and then at some point after that it is apparent that some ACLU lawyer convinced Joseph (and presumably his family) that his free speech rights had been violated and that he should sue the school district. Whatever amount of money gained from the adventure was, no doubt, to act as a balm for his wounds.

After a now 5-year long string of decisions stemming from that law suit, decisions that pit the schools right to control “speech” that they feel is illegal and disruptive to the educational system against a student’s supposed right to “say” whatever he or she pleases wherever he or she happens to be, here is where it stands according to an article in the Houston Chronicle:

A federal appeals court called Frederick’s message “vague and nonsensical” in ruling that his civil rights had been violated. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said Morse (the principal) would have to compensate Frederick for her actions because she should have known they violated the Constitution.

The U.S. government has sided with the schools position and the government’s appeal of that ruling is being heard today in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In my opinion, a school student’s “rights” consist of getting an education and following the rules that apply equally to all students in the school — they do not have the right to turn a classroom or any school sponsored event into a theatre featuring their disrespect for the school or for the rules. Schools, of course, have no right to abuse or in any way damage a student and in this case they did not — they simply applied a common-sense rule to a situation and applied a fair punishment to the infringement of a rule. It’s called maintaining discipline by setting examples. Aside from maintaining discipline it also teaches the students a very valuable lesson: no matter where they go in life after school they will have rules and standards of behavior that will guide their actions and speech, and then as now, ignoring those rules will result in some form of punishment, censure or retribution.

Today’s major media event at the U.S. Supreme Court is nothing more than a frivolous law suit that has taken on a life of its own. In the last five years this nonsense has probably cost the Juneau school district (and consequently the taxpayers in Juneau) hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs and lawyers fees and, since the U.S. government has taken the school district’s side, that cost is now being spread to taxpayers across the country. Why? Because in the beginning, a lawyer convinced a kid (and that kid’s family) that they could make some money by suing the school district. The free speech issue was, at least in the early stages, just a cover-up for a money-making scheme — now it is a National event with mega-media coverage and every “pundit” in the U.S. is taking a crack at the “free speech” issue when the reality is this case had nothing to do with free speech. As I see it, this is simply a matter of a school principal exerting her authority over one of her students and, when he refused to do what she told him to do he was punished. This doesn’t belong in the Supreme court or in any court.

This, I guess, is the price we pay for living in a free country, there will always be some huckster around trying to make money or get famous by abusing common sense; and there will always be those lacking common sense jumping to their aid and defense.

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Links:

Houston Chronicle: Justices hear arguments in ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ case

ABC News: Students Await Free Speech Ruling

What bloggers are saying:

The Light: US Supreme Court to take up ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ case

Life in Serbian: Fifteen Minutes of Free Speech

News and commentary by: Whymrhymer can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at The American Chronicle Family of Journals

No More Incumbents . . . What a Concept!

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I’ve always felt (and have ‘preached’ in my posts) that the majority of politicians care more about winning the next election than they do about doing the job they were elected to do. Before they became politicians . . . back when they were candidates for office . . . they were being driven by their dissatisfaction with the status quo, by their idealism and by their determination to serve the people by solving the problems that they clearly saw needed solving. Once in office, however, things changed rapidly.

When candidates become politicians, they find themselves in a world where they are virtually powerless to accomplish their goals or to make good on their campaign promises because they are now in direct competition with politicians who have been in their jobs for decades and who have, by virtue of that long service, the vested power and the contacts to accomplish their own objectives. These newly-minted politicians then have a choice: either kowtow to the old and powerful and accept that status quo that they got into office by fighting against, or become powerless non-entities with voices so small that they can’t be heard and will never be listened to.

Oh well, you say, that’s the way it is! That isn’t, however, the way it has to be!

Try this scenario on for size: In 2008, every Senator and Congressman running for reelection is defeated and replaced by a new face . . . a new face with idealism and new ideas, new faces who will have more power to implement their ideas because many of the old-time Washington power-brokers will be gone. Then, in the mid-term elections in 2010, the same thing happens. By 2011 we can have the “Hill” transformed into a place where politics-as-usual is a forgotten concept.

Now I know the first thing that comes to mind is we will have 100 inexperienced Senators and 400 and some inexperienced Representatives but when you consider that becoming “experienced” in Washington politics only means that you have become corrupted and have developed “special relationships” with ‘generous’ power brokers, you’ll understand that experience is not an asset (except to the “experienced” politician). Washington needs more dedication and idealism, it does not need more ‘experience.’

Now that you’ve been introduced to this new concept of Washington politics (actually this could easily also work on a state or city level just as well) I want to introduce you to a new blog: No More Incumbents Blog. The No More Incumbents Blog promotes the idea that I’ve been talking about and they are gearing up to run with it . . . and they needs your help.

What the No More Incumbents Blog needs is political writers who will sign on to provide regular political coverage and political perspectives of key races in their home states during the run-up to the 2008 elections. Naturally they would like these writers to have some level of dedication to the principle that power corrupts and therefore an incumbent politician has been at least partially corrupted.

They also want to hear your views on the other side of the issue: if you feel that multiple terms in office is somehow a good thing let them know about it and about why you feel that way.

One thing to keep in mind: This is a new website and it is actually in it’s pre-launch stages so don’t expect a lot of “bells and whistles” or catchy graphics — that will all come eventually but right now they need people who are willing to jump in on the ‘ground floor’ and help them grow.

Go over and take a look and see what you may be able to contribute.

What happens in 2008 will be vital to the future of this country. Our national budget is in disarray, our national defense is weak, our borders and port security are problematic and most of our politicians are on the virtual payroll of special interest groups. Do you want more of the same or might you be able to buy into the No More Incumbents concept?

This post was kindly sponsored by No More Incumbents Blog

General Pace Leaves Us With A Question

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In an interview Monday (3/12/07) with the Chicago Tribune, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (which has been in place since it was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994).

In response, General Pace said two things:

First he said that he supports don’t ask don’t tell because it allows gays to serve in the military and does not make “a judgment about individual acts.”

But General Pace wasn’t finished! Like most people, he has a personal opinion about homosexuality and like most evangelical Christians he just couldn’t keep his personal opinion about homosexuality to himself; so he continued by saying:

“I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe that the armed forces of the United States are well served by saying through our policies that it’s OK to be immoral in any way.”

So apparently as Peter Pace, the individual, he does NOT support “don’t ask, don’t tell” because he believes it condones “immoral” acts; but as GENERAL Peter Pace he does support it because he doesn’t have a choice — it’s his job to support ALL military policies without regard to his personal feelings.

Well that’s OK! Everyone is entitled to a personal opinion; BUT when you are the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and you are being interviewed by a major newspaper it would make a lot of sense to keep your personal opinions on matters of policy to yourself. If you can that is; but apparently Gen. Pace has problems exercising that much control over his mouth!

General Pace has unwittingly provided us with an excellent example of the problems that are caused when a person allows his personal and/or religion-based views to overrule common sense. One is left to wonder how well a person with that character flaw can perform effectively in a job that is as important as his job is.

In General Pace’s defense you might say that this faux pas was just a slip, and write it off as just that. That’s certainly one way to look at it but also consider, if you will, that it might be more of a compulsion than a slip, a compulsion that could just as easily have manifested itself in actions rather than just in words — a dangerous thought when the subject is the senior military officer in the United States.

Links:

London Times Online: US general says gays ‘immoral’

Forbes.com: No Apology From Gen. Pace for Gay Stance

What bloggers are saying (Pro and Con):

Pro: Conservative Culture: Top General Tells It Straight

Con: Hidden Unities: Thank You General Pace . . .

News and commentary by: Whymrhymer can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at The American Chronicle Family of Journals

Rudy Giuliani: Gotta’ Love this Guy!

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by Whymrhymer

After studying the current field of presidential contenders, with the intention of picking a favorite, I’ve found that the most difficult hurdle I’ve had to overcome was to learn to spell Giuliani. The rest was simple (at least for me) because Rudy Giuliani is a spokesman (and the ONLY one right now) for some of my hot-button issues.

Here’s a sample of what the Associated Press has to say today:

Presidential contender Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of ultraliberal New York City, supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion, domestic partnership benefits for gay couples and gun-control measures _ and he’s a Republican.

That, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg; there is his stand on the Iraq War, on illegal immigration, on crime and on the whole spectrum of political and social issues that make a presidential race. A lot of his positions are still works in progress and a lot can change between now and November ’08 but right now Rudy is a lot closer to having my vote than his opposition candidates.

I’m always impressed with a politician who holds and expresses his own views (as opposed to his party’s views) on social issues, even if they don’t agree with mine, but in this case the ones I know about DO agree with mine. I’ve spoken out many times for the absolute right of women to choose abortions, for the absolute right of gay couples to be entitled to the same legal benefits married couples are entitled to, the need to END illegal immigration and I’ve spoken out many times against the ‘Dark Side’ of the Republican party where the Religious Right hangs out.

I had been, for some time, a supporter of John McCain but it has become apparent that John McCain is simply an appeaser; he will compromise anything for agreement and while agreement is nice, its not always the ‘brass ring’ you want to reach for. A politician has to have principles that are rigid and not subject to compromise and, of course, principles that you, as the voter, agree with.

The presidential campaign is still in its very early stages and I’m hoping that Rudy Giuliani will have the grit to stand by what he believes in and the ability to go all the way to November ’08. Time will tell; as it always does.

Links:

The Associated Press on Topix.net Moderate Stances Not Hindering Giuliani

Real Clear Politics: GOP Presidential Race Looks Unpredictably Unpredictable

Rudy’s Presidential Campaign: Join Rudy 2008

What bloggers are saying (Pro and Con):

Conservative Viewpoints: Giuliani: A rising star who CAN win

Sunflower Desert: Yet another reason Giuliani can’t be on the Republican 08 ticket

News and commentary by: Whymrhymer can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at The American Chronicle Family of Journals

The Cancer in Conservatism

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By Whymrhymer

Reportedly, three major advertisers have pulled their ads off of Ann Coulter’s website and at least one newspaper, the Mountain Press — a small Tennessee newspaper, announced today that it is dropping Ann Coulter’s weekly column because she referred to John Edwards as a “faggot”. They call Ms. Coulter’s comments “distasteful and irresponsible.”

Who but the most ardent supporters of Ms. Coulter could disagree with that?

A possible defense of Ann Coulter’s remark might be that making light of someone’s sexual preferences is, of course, not politically correct or even decent but when you call a married man who fathered four children a faggot you are obviously not referring to their sexual preference.

Senator Edwards, to be quite frank (and to be as politically incorrect as Ms. Coulter), does have a “pretty-boy” look and does affect certain effeminate mannerisms; and that is, of course, what Ann Coulter was referring to — his appearance and mannerisms not his actual sexual preference. This reference however, undoubtedly meant as a joke — just a throw-away line to get a laugh — certainly speaks volumes about Ann Coulter as well as about many of the politicians she supports in the “Religious Right” of the Republican Party. She and they have no tolerance for homosexuality and no respect for anyone who either is gay or is not homophobic. She and they would (and will), without a doubt, deny that charge — right up on the pulpit this coming Sunday — but anyone who would take their denial to heart probably feels pretty much the same way as they do.

Granted, as Mike Gallagher says in his defense of Ann Coulter (see links below) she is a commentator not a Senator but she is undeniably a spokesman for the Religious Right wing of the self-destructive Republican Party.

I’ve said it for years now and will say it again, the Religious Right has given (and will continue to give) Conservatism a bad name and will (as it already has begun to) destroy the Republican Party unless they cut that cancer out of their ranks. Religion belongs in church and in the community, not in the halls of Congress and social intolerance does not belong anywhere in a decent society.

Links:

EDGE Boston: Advertisers Drop from Ann Coulter’s Website on Heels of Homophobic Slur

The Mountain Press: Weekly Ann Coulter column dropped by newspaper

John Edwards Political Website:: John Edwards ’08

What the bloggers are saying:

Lexx’s Nexxus: ANN COULTER must be silenced

TMQ2 (Mike Gallagher’s defense of Ann Coulter): Here’s Somebody Who Won’t Abandon Ann Coulter

News and commentary by: Whymrhymer can also be found at the Blogger News Network and at The American Chronicle Family of Journals

The Non-Lethal Self Defense Option

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Among the news stories you might run across today, you may read about a man or woman who died while confronting police officers . . . police officers who used their tasers rather than their guns just to prevent what ultimately happened — the death of the perpetrator. What you may not read in the news today will be an account of police officers successfully subduing a violent citizen through the use of tasers; even though these incidents are far more prevalent than the ones that lead to the death of the perpetrator, the success stories are not considered news: “When it bleeds it leads” is, and probably always will be, the motto of the news business.

When a police taser kills a suspect it is, of course, possible that the incident was the fault of a scared or poorly trained police officer but more than likely, as in THIS recent story from the Palm Beach Florida Post, the death will be caused by illegal substances in the body of the “victim;” the same drugs that caused the behavior that led to a confrontation with the police in the first place.

A fact that we need to face is that we live in an increasingly violent world where, statistically, you and I have a greater chance of dying in a violent crime than we do in a car crash and our chance of being the victim of a violent crime some time in our lives is right around 50%; that’s right, the odds that we will become a victim of violence at some point in our lives are just about the same as the odds that we will not.

Isn’t it smart to do something to increase your odds of coming out of the almost inevitable violent confrontation without being hurt?

Most of us have an aversion to the thought of killing anyone, even in self defense; and if you are carrying a gun and are attacked, the chance that either your attacker or you will wind up dead is pretty good. The good news is that the options that the police use to avoid ‘deadly force,’ the use of a non-lethal weapon such as a Taser, a Stun Gun or Pepper Spray, are all options that are available to most* of us.

(* Some states: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, have blocked the sale of these self-defense devices to private citizens but, ironically make it possible for those same citizens to carry a gun.)

A site I’ve found that will provide you with virtually all you ever need to know about these non lethal self defense alternatives is Brickhouse Security.

Stun guns and Tasers are sure fire ways to stop an attack and may be preferred by some, but my personal recommendation for the ordinary citizen is Pepper Spray

2 oz Police/Home Pepper Spray

A Small can of pepper spray in your pocket, purse or pack is an incredibly effective (and inexpensive) way to stop an attacker in his tracks. By the way, don’t confuse real pepper spray with the stuff you may buy at the corner convenience store — some imitation pepper sprays will do nothing but irritate your attacker, real pepper spray, like that sold at Brickhouse, will immobilize him.

This post was generously sponsored by Brickhouse Security