Monday, May 30, 2005

Return Of The Team

We went camping in Capitol Reef National Park this weekend. Most of Utah, give or take, took the opportunity to get out and welcome summer via bike, fourwheeler, and hiking boot, too.

The three day weekend made it possible for me to spend a few hours with the patriarch of an extended family we have known since our first years in Utah. Jack is the father of one of our neighbors, and he has been a regular guest at our Fourth of July driveway Dutch Oven Epics and Pioneer Day Potluckapaloozas.

Jack lost his wife of more than fifty years a few months ago. The family is strong in faith - and spirit - and though they miss mom, they honor her memory by carrying her with them when they go the places she loved. Places like Capitol Reef. This was our third trip down with them.

Camping and a holiday. It's nice we've ordered our calendar so well, isn't it?

The holiday we celebrate this particular weekend is Memorial Day. Jack's a vet - a former Liberator driver who finished his last mission days before VE day. Surrounded by his kids, inlaws, grandkids, and friends he shared a few stories about his war.

He was proud of the fact that his aircraft never aborted a mission. He was even prouder that they always came back with the most fuel of any of their group - they did their flying "by the numbers" and it worked. And he was most grateful that on his thirty-plus missions, neither he nor anyone else on their aircraft got so much as a scratch from flak or fighters. That's not to say they didn't bring back the bird shot all to hell, or that they didn't make some trips back with one engine feathered and the others running in the red - but they always came back whole.

War takes people at random. Jack did his job when called, and has lived a full and happy life since. He did his duty as best he could, as have millions of other Americans who put on uniforms when the call came.

Go read this story about the 491st Bomb Group's experience over a German synthetic oil refinery in November, 1944.

I'll be back later. And yes, I'll tell you what Jack had to say about that mission, too.

I am humbled, and grateful, for the people that God has chosen to include in my life.

Thanks, vets, and those who went out but never came home.

We remember.

UPDATE: 31 May 2300 -

Jack told me about that mission as an afterthought. He didn't fly it.

Jack's crew had been granted a three day pass. The R&R was supposed to soften the blow of completeing "X" missions only to be informed upon return that the combat tour had been extended to "X plus fifteen more"...

They'd spent the days down around Cambridge, where the fighter types hung out. He recalled those three days as the most enjoyable liberty he spent in England.

When they returned to their base they found the Nissen hut that they shared with their other squadron mates swept clean. There were no pinups on the walls, the mattresses had been folded, and the footlockers at the foot of each set of bunks was bare.

Jack's crew was from the top squadron - the 853rd. They flew to Misburg on just another mission, and nobody came back. If you read the story, you saw that some aircrew that survived being shot down were subsequently killed by German civilians.

Jack said he could understand that. He'd be pretty angry if people had bombed Palo Alto, see?

He's going on a road trip this summer. There are two other remaining crew members, and they aren't getting any younger. He's going to see them both before the fall comes. They may even pile into his motor home and take a few weeks on the road together.

They'll be three old guys in an aluminum box chugging over the asphalt to anybody that might see them - but I bet that the flight engineer will be hounding Jack to coast the hills to save fuel, and the tail gunner napping in back will keep one eye open for cops.

Thank you, Jack. And the 853d. And all the rest.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Frag Order

Team Jones will be in Capitol Reef National Park until Monday. If the river stays within its banks.

We'll be at the Fruita Historic Area campground. Look for a leaner-than-two-months-ago guy crapped out under a tree with a black NRA cap shading his eyes.

That will be me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Time To Mount Up, People

Hey - are you a blogger?

Do you read blogs?

Of course you do one or the other, if not both - you're here!

Now go here and make your call.

I apologize for the light blogging of late, and especially for not passing the baton so graciously offered to me by neo-neocon.

Commenter Wichita Boy emailed me with a query about comments; I've seen no problems here except for the fact that Haloscan doesn't load up very quickly every now and again.

My life is rather too full right now.

I did take the time to reregister as an Independent today, though.

The Republicans can do their thing without my money, my time, and just possibly my vote.

I look forward to the next, and last, phone call I will be getting from the RNC. I've gotten one every month or so since six months before the election.

Rolled like a drunk. And the kicker is that I am not surprised at all.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

This Is Not A Test


This is a Swamp Cooler Failure Notification.

Your Swamp Cooler has failed. The last twelve years of meticulous rebuilding, component replacement, and finicky adjustment have come to naught.

There is no tray remaining to coat with submarine paint. Your new pillow blocks from two years ago are corroded junk - as is the squirrel cage axle that was last produced in 1975.

Your electric motor that is signed "Thomas Edison" retains collector value only because, dude, that's like his REAL signature...

It's time to do your part for the economy. Time for a trip to Loewes and to place a few phone calls to friends who aren't already at the lake or engaged in their own honey-do activities.


Now you know what I'm doing today.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ten Things I've Never Done

neo-neocon has passed me a baton for a blog version of chain mail.

I've never...

1. understood the attraction of Seinfeld (the series).
2. failed to cut the cards.
3. understood how an athiest can take a moral stand.
4. been indicted.
5. started a fight when sober.
6. had an argument with my wife that lasted more than 24 hours. Eighteen years in August, folks.
7. jumped out of an airplane. Being pushed doesn't count.
8. dated a woman with blonde hair.*
9. been published. Got a check once, but the magazine folded before the article was printed.
10.owned a dog.

I'm buried here. The baton - at least this one - goes on the shelf for a bit.

Feel free to put up your own list in comments if you so desire, of course.

(*REAL blonde)

Monday, May 16, 2005

I Couldn't Do Any Better

Glenn Reynolds has put in his two cents, plus the usual plethora of apropos links and excerpts therefrom, on the belated retraction by Newsweek of their Koran Flushing Story.

His comment:

"I want to add that I don't think there's anything immoral about flushing a Koran (or a Bible) down the toilet, assuming you've got a toilet that's up to that rather daunting task, and I think it's amusing to hear people who usually worry about excessive concern for religious beliefs suddenly taking a different position. Nor do I think that doing so counts as torture, and I think that it debases the meaning of "torture" to claim otherwise. If this had happened, it might have been -- indeed, would have been -- impolitic or unwise. But not evil.

And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to be willing to apply the same kind of criticism to things like Piss Christ, or to explain why offending the sensibilities of one kind of religious believer is "art" while doing the same in another context is "torture." If, that is, they want to be taken at all seriously.

Like the title says, I can't do any better.

I do contend, however, that the staff at Newsweek were incapable of foreseeing the reaction their report would produce. They aren't wired to be parties to the conflict t - they doggedly presume the status of observer, and purport to perform the act of messenger when they are actually packaging stories to advance their own agendas.

We've been at war with militant Islam for three decades now. The last four years of constant conflict have been too frequently marked by singularly horrible incidents of decapitation, street murders, and suicide bombings that arrive in our living rooms or PCs with revolting regularity.

Who in this fight are the barbarians? A bunch of leash holding morons or the people who cut Danny Pearl's head off?

Which side are YOU on?

Those questions are never, ever asked in organizations like Newsweek or the New York Times. If they ever were, and were answered publicly and honestly, those answers would have the same effect on the media landscape and the publics perception of media as the asteroid impact had on the dinosaurs. Actually, the answers are irrelevant now. I believe that Rathergate, the ongoing newsrag circulation scandals, the SwiftVets odyssey, and CNN's spiral to tabloid existence are all evidence points supporting a systemic failure of what we recognize as "corporate journalism".

An extinction event doesn't have to mean that all the dinosaurs pass on in a blink - though the thought of researchers finding Frank Rich's frozen carcass in a glacier with fois gras still in his mouth is appealing - but it could just as well be a process that becomes irreversible over time. No, not global warming: we aren't dealing with arcane models here. We are watching old media fail to adapt to the information age or, on the human level, recognize and act against a deadly threat.

There is voracious demand for source data and fact that mass media is institutionally incapable of providing.

New species rise to fill empty niches.

Did we miss the flash and boom?

The media dismisses blogs as an annoyance or tries clumsily to mimic the medium. All the while, bloggers are feasting on dinosaur eggs.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Recycled Content

Michael J. Totten is a post 9/11 liberal hawk - and maybe not democrat - who does yeoman work as a blogger, writer, editor, activist, and reporter on issues from domestic politics to the Cedar Revolution to the war.

I admire him greatly, and have been a prolific commenter on his superbly written (and wonderfully guest hosted when he's off to Libya or Lebanon or just tooling around the country) blog.

Every once in awhile he puts up a post that can only be attributed to reflex.

"I doubt women are the only ones doing a re-think on this one. I voted for Bush last year, but I don’t expect I’ll vote for any Republicans next year. Bush won, as I’ve said before, on security issues not “moral values.” Bush isn’t up for re-election next year so the Republican national security advantage won’t likely exist. He’ll be in the White House no matter what. It will be safe to vote for the Democrats again, at least for one election. I suspect they will do well.

If the Republicans want to keep the swing voters who are willing to cross the center line they are going to have to do something for them. Having Tom DeLay throw bloody chunks of red meat to the Religious Right isn’t it.

I guess that Harry Reid of Nevada, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, and Howard Dean currently off his meds don't ever throw any red meat, right?

I posted this response:

Michael -

You've spent a fair portion of the last year immersed in actively supporting nascent democracies - actual, physical travel and labor aimed at understanding the ground level realities of places like Libya (no, not near a nascent democracy, but in flux none the less), Lebanon, and all your work with Spirit of America and Friends of Democracy.

You have written extensively on the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.

You know better than I ever will the political and philosophical underpinnings of the American (big "L") liberal movement and their party, the Democrats.

And you can tell me that you don't have a problem supporting them, based on domestic politics?

Just what level of compartmentalization do you practice to arrive at that position? The Republicans are doing a poor job in the Congress. They aren't governing like a

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

S Hits T F

The Marines (and some attached Army combat engineers) are wrapping up Operation Matador in northern Iraq, near the border of Syria.

The Green Machine is stacking the jihadis deep or putting the survivors in cages. To my knowledge three Marines have been KIA as of this time.

Wretchard has put up a post exploring the tactics and strategy involved, and the likely strategic objectives, and links to other excellent posts by Bill Roggio and Chester on the subject.

Counter insurgency combat is as much an intelligence exercise as it is one of force on force conflict. The bloggers mentioned above note that Matador is no local operation but rather the logical next step in a long term strategy aimed at cutting the heart out of the human pipeline into Iraq.

Syria has been the gatekeeper for allowing foreign fighters into Iraq since the end of the war. The reduction of Fallujah and other cities and towns by coalition forces, plus the gradual growth of Iraqi security formations have pushed the jihadi command and logistic entities out of many of the Iraqi cities they once sheltered in. An argument that the terrorists don't suffer much from this development, based on the seemingly endless litany of media reports of bombings and assassinations, misses the point that the attacks are killing people but not stopping recruitment of Iraqi police, civil service, and army personnel.

And you have to dig deep to find out that the scope of the attacks are actually constricting; most of the country is relatively secure. The enemy is attacking with larger formations and employing more suicide bombers, but the actual area of operations where most of these high-profile attacks are executed has been reduced to the regions on the "rat line" from Syria.

Matador is not reactive - it's proactive. Concentrating on securing the large urban centers with physical assets has not meant that the rat line has been ignored; far from it. Observation of enemy movements, surveillance of their communication, and the development of human intelligence along the rat line has been ongoing. Matador is a logical first step in grinding the cobbles of that particular highway into dust.

The large numbers of foreigners among the dead and captured terrorists, along with their higher levels of training and individual equipment, begs the question "How long will we tolerate Syria's action as the primary facilitator of the insurgency?".

Not too much longer, I would think. If Assad hasn't been presented with a polite note explaining what "We will make no distinction between the terrorists or those who support them",yet, I would be highly surprised. The Iraqi people have already tried to burn the Jordanian embassy because of Zarqawi's role in the murder campaign against Iraqis. The future of Iraq as an independent democracy aligned with the United States should be considered by Syria.

Someday Iraqis will be totally in control of their own foreign policy. They will have all the oil wealth of the old regime, but an army comprised of volunteers, equipped with U.S. weapons and technology, led by an elected civilian government. And they will remember who attempted to keep them from that state. They may decide that Syrian Baathists are an intolerable threat.

I think I know why President Bush is such an outwardly happy guy these days. It has little to do with judicial appointments, social security reform, or the economy. He has just over three years left to finish what he set out to do in Iraq, and that's just too much time for the terrorists to survive.

UPDATE: Maybe so, maybe not.

We can hope.

Via: Captain' Quarters.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Funniest Title For A Post I've Seen In Weeks

Go here.

Hillary Clinton set up an ad-hoc government agency using taxpayer dollars to try to hijack healthcare. And that was o.k. in the eyes of the same people who got owned today. Media, Leftists, Liberals, various other barnacles on our republic...

Bush and Cheney ASKED some energy professionals for input on energy issues. And that was not.

Who dresses those people in the morning, anyway?

(Via, in a circuitous manner, Instapundit)

Home Improvement

Next time you have to pay $250 to have a custom vanity top made, and cannot be at home to personally inspect the installation, make sure to mark the centerline of sink on the wall.

Yes, be SURE you do that, even if you have a standard medicine cabinet w/mirror centered above the plumbing stubouts.

The new sink is centered on the CL of the cabinet doors - six inches LEFT of any plumbing or the mirror. Nice looking countertop, though.

It's my fault for assuming. Time will tell if the anger I will feel every time I crowd left to shave over the sink will generate another countertop or not. I am not optomistic. No, I can't move the cabinet - it sits between the wall studs.

Time will tell.

It's a rain day. I'm off to caulk my self-rimming Crane sink and install the faucet. I'll be running to the hardware store for another length of drain pipe.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Filter Free

Go here.


Read more. You can stop ANY TIME you like. Sure you can.

No, dammit, don't blame me. I didn't get my Sunday chores done either, and I've been reading him daily for the last two or three weeks.

To say he writes well is to say that Marylin Monroe was attractive. Holy smokes.

Parallels, Cliffs, Lemmings

I was driving down the Sam's Club with the wife when I noticed three Chevy trucks in front of us. They all still had their paper dealer plates.

The hourly radio news was talking about Social Security.

It struck me that I know nothing about GM's problems and not really much more about Social Security except that it's a racket and going to collapse. Instapundit and many other blogs have been my main source of info on Social Security, but I've been limited to only the MSM soundbites that GM (and Ford, to a lesser extent) are facing a cash crisis due to declining sales of some model lines and underfunded pension obligations. Until now, that is.

I just finished a quick Google of "Social Security GM pension fund" and came up with some interesting results. Jane Galt mentions the different mechanisms at work in the looming challenges facing both programs here, and the resulting thread makes for some pretty interesting reading about how liability and actual debt is defined, and lots of contradictory opinions are represented.

Another site,, retells in part the story of how industry practices for funding pensions evolved during the early nineties and up until today:

"Apart from competitive market factors for car sales, foreign competition, rising commodity and labor costs, and rising oil prices, the areas of greatest concern are GM's underfunded pension liabilities and corporate debt. In 2003, GM faced the largest pension fund shortfall of any U.S. corporation - $25 billion, requiring it to float an extraordinary $17.6 billion bond issue, bringing its long term debt to over $300 billion. This still left GM with a deficit of over $50 billion in its health care fund. The magnitude of this becomes more apparent when you consider that GM's market capitalization is now just $16.6 billion.

GM's pension woes are not likely to improve. In a report for The Detroit News Auto Insider Ed Garsten states that GM currently provides health and income benefits to 461,500 retirees and their surviving spouses. As of October 2004 GM retirees and their dependents outnumbered the company's active workforce by three-to-one. This imbalance will continue to grow as more and more retirees are supported by fewer and fewer workers."

Wow. A company liable for pensions of over 400K people. That's a little intimidating. It's not like GM has the power to print money and just keep right on going - this story from Yahoo News was what actually started me thinking about the similarities of the situations.

"The downgrade means that many fund managers might be forced by their investment guidelines to dump billions of dollars of GM and Ford bonds. The two companies account for 10 percent of total US corporate debt."

The U.S. government has ponzied Social Security for decades and has accrued a multi-trillion dollar long term debt in the process. We'd expect the perpetrators of a scheme like this to have been perp walked long ago... except that the U.S. government has never defaulted on a debt.

That's not to say they haven't just printed what they needed, or borrowed even more money to cover immediate calls - but a real business, one that has to conform to SEC standards and market realities - doesn't have those options at hand.

Does anyone know of more articles on this subject? Any opinions?

I think what we are seeing in our auto industry struggles is a preview of 2017's Social Security collapse. We need solutions - fast - and the Democrats seem willing to politicize the issue right up until the lights go out.

I don't expect to see any Social Security, and I'm only forty four. What about you?

(Edited for clarity at 1:22 PM MST)

News From The Road.

Not me.

Jeff Simmermon, of "I Am Not Lying, For Real", has gone blues clubbing.

He's got pictures to prove it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

VietPundit, Arriving

Please welcome VietPundit to the Purser's List.

He even brought his own boat!

He closes his "About Me" post with this gem:

"What’s my politics? It’s hard to put a political label on someone nowadays, but I would say I’m a conservative with libertarian leanings on social issues. We'll talk more about the issues later in this blog. One thing you should know, though: I love this country dearly, and I am extremely grateful, beyond words, for everything that she has given me, my family, and millions of other Vietnamese-Americans."

When people ask me why I was once a Marine, I tell them it was payback. You can't choose parents or where you are born, but I scored at the top on both counts. Grateful doesn't begin to cover the emotion.

America works as the result of a shared dream. The Magnificent Experiment manifests itself independent of clan, tribe, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, region, sports affiliation, union membership, or tendency to put anything but branch water in bourbon.

Back when I was visiting all those foreign places on the Gray Ship Tour Line, I always got a variation of the same liberty briefing: "Respect the culture you are about to encounter - they may act or behave in ways that completely surprise you." It was usually delivered by a foreign service type stationed in the area.

Dude - Mr. Embassy man - did you never visit Los Angeles? Or Polish Chicago? Never got a speeding ticket in Macon County, Georgia? There's no country on the planet with more different flavors of people than right here in America. And most of us, if only unconsciously, understand that step one of being an American is allowing elbow room. It costs nothing, and usually keeps things pretty interesting.

Welcome aboard, sir.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Recommended By A Visitor

The following is a comment I contributed on one of Neo-neocon's most excellent essays, in this case an examination of the impact of Vietnam and the meaning of that period for her, and on our society. That particular post was an installment of her collection published under the header of "A Mind Is A difficult Thing To Change".

Vietpundit stopped in here and suggested I put it up, so here (though late)it is:

You have written a wonderful series of essays here, neo.

We aren't "privileged". We are successful as a society. Materially, politically, technologically. The people in China or Nigeria may not understand us, but that doesn't stop them from dying trying to get here.

People debate politics. They live life, and do first what they must do to make it to the next day. Here in the evil USA we don't live in fear of the state or tribe or religion every waking moment (unless you are an Uncle Joe, of course), and the mental space provided by that simple reality has made all the difference in the accumulation of wealth and the amount of energy expended by individuals in search of better ways to do things.

War is a horrible thing. By definition it is state directed killing to achieve a goal.

We get back to the predilection of individuals to just do what they need to do as individuals again; in a nation of free citizens going to war must mean that a majority of those citizens recognize the necessity for the action. This is why democracies so rarely fight wars of aggression. Dictatorships or theocracies lack this mechanism.

Our anti-war minority is not the victim of an out of control government, merely their minority status where this issue is concerned.

I'm a Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh listening conservative. For the record, I believe that Democrats/liberal progressive rank-and-file are WRONG about how they go about dealing with issues. Evil implies malicious intent. Failure to recognize basic tenets of human nature and attempting to impose unrealistic statist solutions isn't evil - just ineffective.

I don't think that I've ever heard Limbaugh call liberals "evil" - but he's been speaking off the cuff for fifteen years so I might be wrong. Soundbites are a price we pay for the information age. He calls the situation as he sees it against the backdrop of history, which is exactly how I arrived at my political identity. Wealth transfer doesn't work as a remedy for poverty. Moral relativism warps the fabric of society and community - if there is no good or evil, just what are laws for? And why is it that the last bastions of institutional racism in this country are liberal institutions?

People are people. Free citizens who accept a role as perpetual victims are willfully denying themselves the potential for success inherent in a market society. But since people ARE people, after a certain amount of time passes with no improvement in status or condition as victims, they start to look beyond the promises of their patrons.

That's why Republicans have the presidency and majorities in both houses of congress. People go with what works best for THEM... and as long as elections decide who gets the power to write and enforce law here the better ideas will eventually float to the top.

Touching Base


I've missed a week. And one day, as well.

My respect for prolific bloggers who hold down jobs and professions has grown by leaps and bounds as the days have filed past. I began my blog in September of last year, after being a prolific commenter on various and sundry other forums. I wasn't working - outside the house - and the radio was on continuously, the papers got read, and I followed the big dogs from hot topic to burning issue to contentious debate, and I participated with gusto. I was better than reasonably well informed, as much as an outsider could be, as far as the machinations of media, politics, and world events were concerned.

My cell phone works in two stretches of road on my project. Text messages can reach me other places, but all they are used for is to ask me to call in. I can get radio on the way in and on the way out, but onsite the action happens outside the truck and at a furious pace, so if I catch the noon news I count myself lucky. I leave the house at six, and get home after six... on normal days.

Saturday work is going to be the norm for at least the next three months.

The domestic rites of spring include yardwork, swamp coolers, cleaning, and the looming necessity of replumbing/remodeling our kitchen and the bathroom that shares the same wall.

Don't know how I'll fill this space with events worth the time of the occasional visitor. Content probably won't be long on politics, and may well trend to the technical aspects of large project construction surveying.

Anyone can tell you that Ted Kennedy is an ass. Hang out here and you may learn how to slope stake a road. Or why manholes are never more than three hundred fifty feet apart...

This will be the summer of labor that precedes the winter of change. We hope.

Have a fine day.