Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Just What Part of "U.S. Constitution" Does She Not Understand?

I am one of those naysayers of judicial activism.

Fair Warning: It's been another ten hour day. This will be brief.

I found this excellent article posted over at National Review Online. I am unfamiliar with the author, but I agree with his conclusions.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is unfit for her place on the bench. She's not alone, not by a long shot.

We have survived numerous inept, incompetent, and/or criminal legislators or poor choices in presidents. The mechanism of free elections is the great governor of private excess in public office. What we cannot do is allow the continuing, accelerating, and desperately dangerous practice of courts acting as fiat legislatures. The judicial system lives on precedent; a bad decision that is based on a judges desire to accomadate/incorporate more forward thinkers in places like france or Upper Volta is as direct an attack on democracy as would be a general declaring the federal government disolved.

I'm no lawyer. Marbury v. Maddison established redress as a power of the court, and there are places and situations where redress is necessary - but what should be regarded as a last resort has evolved into a casual act.

Look at McCain Feingold. Anybody with an eighth grade civics course would see that MF CFR attracted support not because it promised substantive ethic or legal reform - it was at most a political tool to be used to beat up conservatives in an election cycle. No way it would pass - and if it did, well, Bush is a straight up guy and he'll veto it. Hell no - in his worst political decision (so far) in his presidency he shuttled it on up to the Supremes because they wouldn't lower themselves to such a base position by picking and choosing what part of the first amendment meant "free speech". Bush was wrong. And bloggers stand ready to go to jail to fight CFR's unconstitutional restrictions on political speech.

The courts have been allowed the slack they've gotten because legislators and presidents have been content to pass the buck on too many diffucult decisions.

When the appointment is for life, and the appointees are public in their disinclination to take their duties seriously, then action must be taken.

No, and Hell NO, no term limits or elections.

Make them do their duty, and no more. Impeach any judge who cites a foreign case in respect to a domestic matter. That day. Remove them from the bench, give them a cardboard box and two security guards as babysitters, and give them twenty minutes to clean out their desk. That's how they treat employees who download porn (or jobsearch info, funnily enough) on company computers. It's the least we should do for unelected functionaries attempting to destroy our freedoms.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


I am a very simple guy. Very simple. I've done this survey gig for quite a few years, and I can't remember very many days that didn't pass without me whipping out a sketch or two. Not very good sketches, and nothing remotely approaching drafting quality (beyond them being scale) or even art - just simple drawings that by their execution allow me to communicate more effectively.

One of my tag lines is "draw me a picture".

I have encountered a situation where other people have similar ideas. And the ramifications for me are pretty rough.

Last Monday: "We'd like to get an idea of what the next phase looks like."

Fair enough - I reach for my plans...

"So go ahead and stake out the Pod (X) roads with lathe on centerline (graded to finish elevation), one lathe every hundred feet in tangents, one every fifty in curves, and use a different color of flagging at each PC/PT (point of curvature/point of tangency); you might as well stake each construction envelope (four, sometimes as many as six corners) plus a stake at center of pad, graded to finish."

One main artery road five thousand feet long, two culdesacs and a connector for another two thousand feet. Sixty 1.5 to 2 acre lots. Across four hills with about thirty percent coverage of scrub oak.

O.K. I can do that. It just means I'll have to work faster on the four thousand feet of curb stakes I am setting to help the graders clean up the roads after our winter... and it's all time and materials, so overtime is not a problem.

Tuesday morning: "That's looking really, really good. Our marketing people may want to bring in some clients to look at some lots in a few weeks.

A few weeks is good, especially since it's going to rain like hell tonight and tomorrow. Maybe that will get rid of the last of the snow under the scrub oak - where a disgustingly high number of my points have been landing.

Wednesday: Rain. Can't work on the Pod, but I hammer out enough curb to get ahead of the graders who are spending this day working on their equipment. The mud is deep enough to swallow a Caterpillar grader whole, but merely makes a surveyor's work miserable.

Thursday: Arrive on job with every intention of finishing the Pod and getting another thousand feet of curb staked. Today is real rain - the ducks are wearing raincoats.

Friday: 0700 - stop into office to pick up more wood and check with the office folks about my timecards, mileage, office keys, phone, and credit card. Life is great! Everything is on track, I should be fully equipped by Monday, less my laptop. Head for door with a bounce in my step and a song in my heart. I'm on the team and ready to rock!

0710 - The project engineer in charge of my project calls me and tells me to come down to the drafting room. Seems the OWNER of the project has discovered several hundred feet of slope and road that are built entirely wrong. This is killer - this kind of event can lead to locked gates and lawyers. The road alignment for that stretch was known to have been bollixed by the engineering/survey outfit that we replaced on this job, but I had been led to believe (by my friend, who recruited me and who I am replacing on this project) that the issues had been resolved. I am not familiar enough with the project yet. I don't know how to lay my hands on the relevant data in my GPS controller right off the bat, so it's off to the site to investigate and analyze. I call up my friend and tell him to boogie on over - I need his background.

1200: What the owner saw was the result of winter slough onto the roadway. There is no problem. I've spent a half day figuring it out. Oh, and we had to swap out our GPS base...and spend two hours updating our rover and getting it to play nice with the new equipment.

1400: "Those story poles in Pod (X) are looking really, really good. You can almost imagine the houses, looking out at all those roads and lots, can't you? Did your office tell you about the Pod (other) we want also? Oh... well, just as long as they are done on Monday for the client showing, it will be fine."

It's about 2030 on Saturday night as I write this. I've been home an hour. I will be on the ground there tomorrow at 0600. I've only got about sixty more points to set, and most of that in the (relative) flat.

Now you know why I haven't been blogging. I've been drawing pictures, instead.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Middle Kingdom

China has been in the news a lot lately. Both of them.

Seems I can't listen to a network news report (almost always radio) that doesn't include some significant saber rattling from our Red neighbors across the water.

You don't build an amphibious fleet (in a calendar year) and base a thousand surface-to-surface missiles across from Taiwan unless you intend to use them. The recent anti-Japanese riots, the publication of White Papers laying out a strategy of regional hegemony with the stated intent of negating U.S. influence in the region, and an appreciation of the domestic tensions faced by the Communists who are trying to make capitalism work without freedom are all troubling.

They are modernizing their military at an amazing pace; I believe that they are able to crank out just about any technology that they want by now. When/if the Euroes put up their own GPS constellation, I bet I can name the prime investor...

Just a note for the historical record: the U.S. government has NEVER been near correct in any strategic assessment of intentions where Japan or China is concerned. Never.

I don't have the time to collect a bunch of links; visit Strategy Page, Belmont Club, Instapundit, or even stoop to Googling China items.

We live in interesting times.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Required Reading

Victor Davis Hanson, writing here for National Review Online.

I'm a big fan of things that work. Water does indeed flow downhill, and no amount of good intentions or wishful thinking on the part of a client, contractor, or politician will ever change that fact.

That the work necessary to bring democracy to the mideast (and where ever else fundamentalist Islam has taken root) is messy, expensive, and time consuming is no basis for ignoring the vital need to see it through to completion.

The number one reason we are engaged in this policy of democratization is because it is in OUR best interest - not withstanding the laudable moral component of desiring to replace the failed, misognystic systems that have consigned cultures and countries to despotism and dictatorship - to end the piecemeal/mass murder of our citizens and the spread of said systems.

It's not like we haven't tried other ways, all at the expense of the people trapped on the other side of the line:

"But too often we discuss the present risky policy without thought of what preceded it or what might have substituted for it. Have we forgotten that the messy business of democracy was the successor, not the precursor, to a litany of other failed prescriptions? Or that there were never perfect solutions for a place like the Middle East — awash as it is in oil, autocracy, fundamentalism, poverty, and tribalism — only choices between awful and even more awful? Or that September 11 was not a sudden impulse on the part of Mohammed Atta, but the logical culmination of a long simmering pathology? Or that the present loudest critics had plenty of chances to leave something better than the mess that confronted the United States on September 12? Or that at a time of war, it is not very ethical to be sorta for, sorta against, kinda supportive, kinda critical of the mission — all depending on the latest sound bite from Iraq?"

I have been immersed in work for the last month and can no longer indulge in the hours per day of news trolling.

Judging by the soundbites from MSM, I'm not missing much.

I've said it before: we can end the threat by freeing the populations that breed the killers. Or we can do it the way clashes between cultures have been decided before.

The barbarians who embrace jihad cannot compete economically, intellectually, or politically with western democracy. Without the mainspring of petrodollars the Wahabbist/Al Qaeda regions would be an infrequently traveled eco-tourist itinerary or a field of anthropological study popular with the same stripe of intellectuals who observe headhunters in New Guinea.

Some Islamic countries have nukes or sufficiently advanced medical infrastructures to put the means of mass murder within the grasp of people who routinely strap explosives to their bodies as a tactic. The same people are more than willing to steal weapons they cannot make themselves... and are, sadly enough, able to buy other weapons from willing vendors from the very countries they seek to destroy.

The enemy exploits the significant body of western political thought that refuses to view this conflict through the lens of history. We have been here before, after all.

The jihadis, given the time, will kill an obscene number of innocents in some future attack. Our response will be drawn from inventory, and the retaliation will be limited only by what limit fifty- one percent of our representative democracy wills it to be. We are still a sleeping giant and the enemy, psychotic as they are, remains as clueless about the ramifications of that fact as are any of our own useful fools.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Did you get yours yet?

I had to act early - the need of the Team to have a functioning rifle in .223 forced ((and my reemployment allowed) us to pick up an excellent Bushmaster carbine a few weeks back.

I think that Aaron is going to surpass his goal this year.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I staked four thousand feet of centerline for a proposed road today. Four foot lathe, fluorescent pink ribbon, pink paint. One lathe every hundred feet in tangent (straight) segments, every fifty along the curves. Grades marked to the proposed finish surface... and there's just shy of another four thousand to do tomorrow. I'll be on the ground at seven.

It was my first day out solo. My friend who recruited me into this job is gone, off to be the second crew on a dam project. Working alone sucks, especially when you have to carry a few tree's worth of wood, in addition to the GPS rover, to the top of a ridge just to get the ball rolling. I'm picking up a second man early in May. We'll be slope staking in earnest, and both of us will be ground up fine by the by...

Four thousand feet. I reckon I ended up walking four miles (heading back for wood three times, running down to the truck for water and fruit cups) and the outcome of all that was a visit to Sportsman's Warehouse for some new boots. Columbias - mesh nylon, GoreTex, non-clogging soles, low tops, and LIGHT as a feather. My Vermont Loggers are just too damned heavy and inflexible for traipsing over hills dotted with volcanic rock outcroppings. There's small chance of me having to stomp a wolverine to death in Utah, anyway. But I may seek dispensation to carry my .357 with shotshell rounds after summer really gets under way - there are mice, potguts, and rabbits thick on the ground and I found a snake skeleton under a rock ledge today.

I did say that working alone sucks. It does. I wasn't entirely alone; I had a covey pheasants worked up into a lather by breaking through the scrub oak they had bedded down in, and a herd of deer (five doe, two or three deerlets) kind of spectated from a safe distance along the middle leg of my route. Two red tail hawks, four turkey vultures (hey why are they circling ME? - time for a water break!), and the largest jack rabbit I've seen since I left Texas also made appearances through the day.

It was beautiful. Painful toward the end, but a really beautiful day to be out and working, just the same.

Tomorrow I pick up my company truck at the office at three, my phone, and maybe my laptop. Then off to the sign shop for decals and down to Orem to pick up my toolboxes.

This working gig has totally hammered my news trolling and blog commenting time. Ditto housework and chores and projects. I have to be a lot more efficient to cover even a quarter of the cyber ground I used to charge over.

Michael J. Totten is doing more than writing columns or posting these days. He's in Beirut with Spirit of America and is putting up some wonderful stuff - go here to read all about it. Donate if you can - I do, and SoA is one NGO that I trust.

Y'all have a great tomorrow, ya hear?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Comfy Couch

Interesting discussion along psychological lines going on here.

Dr. Sanity is new to me. The link takes you to part one of an exploration of psychology and politics and how the two relate.

I have less and less time to keep up with the blogosphere as my work load increases. But finding blogs like the good doctor's makes the time spent trying worth it.

(via Roger L. Simon)

I Agree

Mark Steyn has written yet another great column.

"Meanwhile, back in the real world, the glass in Iraq is three-quarters full, which is why stories on the subject are buried so deep in the paper they might as well be in Sandy's gusset. Saddam's old prison state is now the first Arab country with a non-Arab head of state: a Kurd, Jalal Talabani. When you're trying to make sense of the bewildering array of Iraqi politicians who prospered in the January elections, a good rule of thumb is: Chances are they're guys who've been stiffed by the CIA. President-to-be Talabani fell out with them a decade ago, when they pulled the plug on a U.S.-backed insurrection at 48 hours' notice and failed to pay the late cancellation fee. Talabani was part of the Kurdish delegation that had a ''secret'' meeting with CIA honchos in April 2002, in which the drollest exchange came when the Kurds expressed skepticism as to whether the officials present really represented the U.S. government."

We have so many intelligence agencies with so many diverse missions that I'm reasonably certain there exists in some black budget an appropriation for five new letters for the alphabet to cover the requirement for new acronyms. And the empirical evidence supports Steyn's contention that whatever we are paying, we aren't getting results. Compound the dismal track record of these bureaucracies with the added mantle of naked political brinkmanship normally found inside Ivy League governing boards or the lower grade of Yahoo internet chat rooms and you have a recipe for (continued) embarrassment and failure.

We are arrived at that stage of transition in Iraqi domestic affairs where IRAQI people and government are the pivot on which success or failure will be determined. Coalition forces are riding shotgun on convoys and actively seeking out and destroying bad guys, yes, but it is the Iraqis that are making the decisions that will define their society from here on out. We have never gotten any coverage closer than agenda- colored speculation from our mainline media outlets, and the pundit herd has been reduced to interviewing themselves since shortly after the Iraqi elections.

Our media and the failed, gormless, classless, feckless, pointless, gutless, (I'll gladly accept suggestions for more appropriate adjectives in comments) liberal power elite it still seeks to support can't mention Iraq unless they can reference a recognizable buzzword. What is left of the organized opposition understood this well enough to uselessly sacrifice scores of their cannon fodder in the neighborhood of Abu Ghraib last week just to get air time.

We've buried the bad guys under relentless pursuit and attack. Killing the breathing ones now is well and good, but it is actually the electric lights, schools, flush toilets, telephones, hospitals, government classes, and free press that stand as proof for the remaining population that we really mean it when we say we want THEM to be free, in spite of what they read in our papers and watch on our TV networks. They must choose to be free; they must take to heart that our two years' effort represents a chance to break away from thousands of years of cyclic despotism.

The silence of the media heartens me once I am able to get past my disgust at their childish tactics.

(h/t Instapundit)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Boom Boom

It's reloading day here in rainy Utah. 9mm and .45 ACP plinkers, five hundred rounds each.

I wasn't able to get Power Pistol for the 9mm this time, so I dug out a pound of BlueDot that I usually use for .357. Last night I loaded up fifty 115gr FMJ's on the Might Dillon 650XL with the minimum suggested BlueDot load at 7.7gr. I tested them this morning against the old PowerPistol plinker load and found them to be just a tiny bit stiffer. They'll do.

Reloading your own cartidges is the only way to go if you intend to regularly train with your weapons. Unless your last name is Gates, of course. I buy components year round and end up doing the actual reloading only five or ten days a year - except for my .30'06 range loads, which is kind of an ongoing process since I use a single - stage press (a classic Herter's Double Ram, bought at a garage sale, and the style centerpiece of the Holy Temple of Bang) and do several hundred rounds of decapping/sizing/priming, then bullet seating, then crimping, at a time.

I load IMR 4895 in 150gr SBT and 168gr Speer GoldMatch for the M1. The Remington 700 seems to like 165gr Speer GameKing or 165gr BarnesX bullets on top of IMR 4064. I've also used the 4895 with Speer 125gr TNT Varmint bullets. They make a mess out of a coyote at 300 yards, and that's a fact. I find that the 700 needs a truly thorough cleaning after using the TNT's - the grooves load up with the gilding metal pretty quick and accuracy begins to suffer after ten or fifteen of these fast-moving rounds.

I haven't become as anal about firing procedure as the "professional" grade varminters - I have seen them punch their bores after two or three rounds from their bench rests. I generally pick a good spot to shoot from and lay out on a mat with a few sandbags for a prone rest and use a howler or squeak call to bring the targets within range. Since my deer rifle is topped with the Game Friendly/PETA approved Bushnell 3X9 scope, I don't bother looking further than three or four hundred yards anyway.

The M1 load I use for range work (47.0gr IMR 4895/168gr BT Match) feels a little hot, but the mechanical range settings on the sights hold true from 200 to 600 yards on any but the most non-standard (high humidity/low tempature) days. I rebarreled the Garand a few years back and it still knocks the hell out of milk jugs at any range my 44 year old eyes can seem them. I believe that if I could afford to put some German coal-scuttle helmets on top of the jugs I wouldn't even have to aim. The Garand was truly the cornerstone of the Arsenal of Democracy; General Patton was right.

I don't know if I'll do much reloading for the Bushmaster. 5.56mm NATO is plentiful and dirt cheap. I still need to do some testing to figure out which bullet weight works best out of my shorty but I've been happy with PMC and Wolf ball so far.

Oh, and all the ammo for the carry weapons and house shotgun is factory. Never, NEVER use handloads for a weapon you may use in a life or death situation. Forget the accuracy or economy advantages a serious reloader enjoys - lawyers for the deceased or gravely injured love to stand in front of a jury and paint a picture of Bubba In The Basement loading up his doomsday bullets. Carry what your local cops use. They'll be happy to tell you if you just ask. I use Golden Sabre rounds in 9mm and HydraShocks in .45. The shotty eats Winchester #4 Buck and rifled slugs. They'll do just fine.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Gentle White Blanket, Sparkling Under The Moon

That was what we aimed for last night. It didn't work out that way.

One of the things that surveyors do from time to time is lay out 'story poles' - usually four foot tall lathe topped with a couple of feet of fluorescent survey tape - to delineate proposed roads, building lots, or home sites. The project I am working on now is planned to be built in successive phases over a period of years. The real estate people are ecstatic with how well sales have been going thus far and we were asked to lay out a future phase with story poles so that they could prepare literature and maybe drive prospective clients out for a look-see. We were tasked with this about a week ago. The new phase sprawls across two ridges and the intervening draws and was covered with about four feet and change of snow when the request came in. A mile of roads and a couple dozen building lots needed to be defined.

On day one we hiked in with snowshoes. On day two I wore shoes and carried our GPS while my partner acquired a snowmobile to cache our lathe out at key points across the job. On day three...on day three the thaw began. Where once we were having to dig a hole in the snow to paint the top foot of the lathe we set, sagebrush tops and sink holes began to appear. I weigh just over two hundred pounds (just?, says the Wife...) and was using snowshoes already at the limit of their design capability. On day four my partner broke the windshield on the snowmobile when he found a void formed by a watercourse under the snow; it was a slow-mo accident and he walked away with only a bruised leg. In three days we managed to get about a third of the roads done and the most visible- from- existing- roads lots staked out but it was killing us. Day five was a total wash out; my last post tells you all you need to know about that one.

Yesterday morning we went out in hopes that the thaw had advanced far enough to let us at least get the roads in. The highs are pushing seventy during the day now. Disaster.

Nights are cold in the mountains, right? Snow should freeze under the starry night sky, allowing us to skip merrily across the crackling crust with GPS and lathe and big freakin' snowshoes and smiles on our faces, right?

Not quite. We had a chinook last night, and overcast to hold the heat in. We did go out at midnight and we did wade through the snow and slush and we did finish our remaining roads. We will be back up there early Sunday morning in hopes that the remaining crap is shallow enough for us to bull through and knock out the last of the lots.

I have a cold. I am scratched up, stretched, strained, and tend to be snappish.

I will be glad to see this project done.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


This morning at 0710 a.m. I picked up two lucky (head up) pennies in the parking lot of the Kamas, Utah, Foodtown. I toss my lucky pennies into the Team Cruise Fund jar; there must be three or four hundred of them mixed in with the twenty pounds of bills and change by now.

Lucky pennies are usually... lucky. I won't touch a tails- up penny, not even a wheatback.

I spent lunch breaking trail through knee and thigh deep snow trying to make it back to the top of the hill where I had stashed my snowshoes, and thence further up back to my truck.

Funny how fifty degrees and a few hours of sunlight will turn a nice icy surface into three to four feet of semi-frozen shit, isn't it? I had to flat crawl the last couple of hundred feet. The experience was disturbing. The thought "Am I getting too old for this?" loomed large in my mind for a good while afterward.

I'll still pick up the pennies. I just won't feel the same about the act as I did before.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Last Stop

The primary unit of religion is "one".

I am not Catholic. I am not normally in weekly attendance in any sect, denomination, or congregation.

I am a child of a loving God, though. Sure wish His message had survived transmission via the hand of man in clearer fashion, but there's a reason it didn't, if only to demonstrate the fallibility of man. But I do get the gist of it:

See - I have my faith. I don't presume to have anyone else's. I don't have John the Baptist's faith, and I don't carry anyone's message. I just live and try to listen up for the important stuff.

Some clear, moonless nights spent watching the stars over the Mojave or the Pacific might help some folks arrive at the same conclusion I did... but that is, again, just me.

Gerard Van Der Leun has (yet) another moving post up on his American Digest, concerning the passing of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. The Pope chose his path and role, and lived a full and honorable life - including the last stop on the journey.

It is a sad testament to our culture that his last days were covered by western media in a manner not unlike the last five minutes of a college basketball title game. Christiana Amanpour should really stick to politics; spirituality is not her gig.

She is far, far from alone in her peer group. Is it a contradiction for me to judge? Of course not. Every man should judges his fellows every day, rigorously as he judges himself; either that, or run the risk of spending way too much money on infomercial products or voting for Democrats.

I admired the late Pope in life, and his manner of passing does indeed impress. I hope that when my time comes to move on I acquit myself nearly as well.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Weekender Sojourn

The Mrs. and I are off to West Wendover, Nevada, for a few days of debauchery.

Gambling! Shows! Prime Rib! Bowling! (Even if we have to go to Elko to do it). Yet MORE prime rib. A trip to the Wendover Museum. And gunfire in the desert, too. Two days and a wakeup and home.

See you Sunday.