Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Now they tell me

I have a chronic pain problem from a bad back. I've been taking Vioxx for four or five years now. The Air Force pharmacy at Peterson AFB, in Colorado Springs, no longer carries Vioxx, and I was recently switched to another drug. When I first heard about it, I was rather upset - Vioxx worked, at least for me. Now they tell me WHY they pulled it - it doubles my risk of heart problems. This isn't very comforting when I have a problem with an irregular heartbeat that stems from my back injuries.

I have to applaud Merck's reaction - to pull the drug, rather than to try to continue to market it with a bunch of warnings few people would have taken the time to read. Unfortunately, the drug I take to replace it has only been on the market about a year. Will tests after three or four years indicate it's a problem, too?

Doctors are just beginning to treat pain as a major health problem. A major hit against one of the most potent treatments for chronic pain can have some serious long-term problems for chronic pain sufferers. I hope the drug companies and the FDA continue to stay abreast of chronic pain treatments, and keep those of us whose well-being is dependent upon them informed of any potential problems.


I got this from a cousin in California the other day, and I've been thinking about it ever since. After posting C's email, I have some comments to make.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar...and the coffee...

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, " I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things-your God, family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions-things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else-the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal."

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."

Marilyn Anker

I spent much of last night thinking about this. It struck me that many people never fill the jar with anything - not the 'golf balls', or the 'pebbles', or the sand, or the coffee. Their jar is never full - of anything. There may be a little of this, or a little of that, but the jar's never, ever full. They go through life on the margins, never getting involved, an observer rather than an active participant. These are also the people that whine the loudest that "life is unfair". Their biggest problem is that they fail to ever fully commit themselves to anything. They're like the begger, standing at the window watching the family of a hard-working laborer enjoy their evening meal.

Other people need a larger jar - they commit themselves to anything and everything. Their life spills over. They never meet a cause not worth supporting. They throw themselves fully and completely into everything they do. They're always on the go, always supporting something or someone. Every minute of every day is filled with something. They're the extroverts in life - the person that makes you tired just watching them.

Most of us fall somewhere between these extremes. Some of us choose to commit ourselves to a few things, and work hard to excel in those areas. Others try with all their might, and fail at everything, yet never give up. The number of golf balls, the percentage of pebbles, or the amount of sand, differs for each of us as we play the cards life gives us. Our acceptance of these differences indicate whether we're happy with ourselves or not. Some people can be very happy with only minor successes, others are unhappy no matter how many successes they have. Our happiness depends on whether we set realistic goals for ourselves, and how hard we strive to reach those goals. Another important factor is whether we are willing to expend the effort necessary to reach the goals we've set. It also depends on whether or not we can learn to prioritize our goals - which are the most important, where we should devote the majority of our energy, which have a lower priority, and which can be delayed until we've succeeded at other, more lofty endeavors.

This little philosophical demonstration can also be applied to politics. It's especially apt for the current 2004 Presidential election. As election day approaches, we're treated to one candidate that has a different priority every day - a different set of golf balls. This candidate is also one that gets bogged down in the details (the sand), and who changes his approach each time the wind blows. The other candidate has a strong grasp of what he thinks are the major priorities, and what it takes to satisfy them. He also has a firm grasp of the day-to-day political pebbles and their associative needs. He's willing to delegate decision-making authority to others to deal with the sand, but knows the importance of taking time for coffee. The choice is totally unambiguous to those willing to take the time to find out how each man deals with what life has presented him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Truth or Fiction?

Who's telling the truth - Internet bloggers, or the Mainstream Media (MSM) elite?

There's a minor war taking place in the United States today, pitting the "journalism" profession against the "amateur" authors on the Internet - the people that create and maintain "weblogs" - personal web documents open to all. Some of the broadsides, especially from the MSM, have been wicked - and poorly aimed. One of the chief complaints of the MSM is that the bloggers are "amateurs, who have no standing in the journalism profession".

In one respect, the criticism fits - most of us haven't gone to journalism school. Just because there's a school for it, however, doesn't make it a "profession". There are no tests, no certifications, for journalists as there are for doctors, lawyers, and many others that truly ARE "professionals". Nor is journalism school all that strenuous to get through (of course, neither are "schools of education", but that's another story). Most bloggers - those that aren't under 30, at least - have as much experience with the world as the average journalist, and have that experience to share with the rest of the world. The argument can be condensed down to one clear question: does the experience of the journalist or that of the blogger best suit the question being discussed?

It would be good if every journalist could set up a file that others could access and read, listing his/her training and experience, and providing links to what they've written. Bloggers have archives, which not only include their words, but the comments their words have inspired from others. We, the general public, can access those archives and see what our blogger hosts have said, sometimes back four or five years into the past. While a Lexis/Nexus search can provide some indication of what a journalist has written, many of those articles are no longer accessible except in a limited location, and quite frequently at more than modest expense.

Most Lexis/Nexus searches don't cover what's been "published" on the Internet. Posting anything to the Internet is a valid form of publication - information, opinion, and even spurious comments have been recorded and made available for public consumption. My very old Funk & Wagnall's Standard College Dictionary defines "publish" as "1. To print and issue (a book, magazine, map, etc.) to the public. 2. To make known or announce publicly; promulgate; proclaim." Both of those definitions can be said to relate to the Internet and electronic dissemination of one's words. The old-fashioned publishing industry doesn't want to admit it, but the truth is, the Internet has supplemented, and in some areas replaced, formal (solid presentation) publication, just as radio and television have supplemented, and in some areas, replaced, printed newspapers and celluloid movies.

This brings us back to credentials: what credentials do I have to post things to this weblog? What are the credentials of other Internet posters? How do those match up against the "professional" journalist?

I've posted some of those credentials on the sidebar of my weblog. I think every blogger should do the same. Then let's all demand the same type of information from those that criticize us!

The things we do

Remember the television show, "Connections"? I'm sure many of you do - it was aired to show us the links back through time that allowed us to do many of the things we do today. A friend of mine in Canada sent me this bit of humor that has the feel of a "Connections" television series. WARNING - this may not be suitable for people over 75 or children under 12.

"A horse's ass"

Does the statement, "We've always done it that way" ring any bells...? The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a spec and told, "We have always done it that way," and wonder what horse's ass came up with that, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

Now the twist to the story...

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important!

Thinking about home

I graduated from high school in May, 1964, and reported to the Air Force Academy as a cadet in the Class of 1968 on June 29. It wasn't my first time away from home, but it was the most significant. Unfortunately a boxing accident and some incidents involving my family helped to send me to the hospital there the first of December, and I didn't finish out the year. That accident was the first of many that led to my current disability.

Going back home in December, I found I no longer was satisfied with my rural community, and re-entered the Air Force in June, 1965. After that, my trips 'home' were few, and mostly lasted less than two weeks.

I married a very wonderful Denver girl in 1966, and that made trips home even more rare - now we had two households to split our meager free time between (usually while moving from one end of the country to the other, or overseas). Military service took my family and I to many far-away places - far away from both Denver and Tioga - that small town north of Pineville in central Louisiana where I spent my youth. We called Colorado Springs, CO, Enid, Oklahoma, Alamogordo, New Mexico, Bellevue, Nebraska, and Sumter, South Carolina, "home" for various lengths of time ranging from eight months to two years or more. We also spent many years outside the United States in Wiesbaden, Germany, and Raunds, in the United Kingdom. At two points in our married life, my wife and I lived in different places - her in Denver and Colorado Springs, me in Panama the first time and Saigon, Vietnam, the second.

Jean and I saw a large part of our world between 1966 and 1991, when I finally retired from the Air Force. We were faced with a dilemma about where to live after we retired - Denver was "home", but we didn't like the way the city had grown so huge. We wanted a small town, but my (and her) physical problems required that we live near hospitals, and preferably military hospitals. Events forced us into Colorado Springs, and it's been "home" for us longer than anywhere else, but we're still not comfortable here.

Going back to Louisiana wasn't an option, either, as we both had the early signs of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which doesn't do well in a hot, damp climate. We're also both terminally addicted to the view of high mountains and wide-open vistas.

We're also isolated from our extended families. Jean's parents used to live in Littleton, about 60 miles up the Interstate from Colorado Springs. Medical issues forced them to move five years ago. Jean's sister lives in a town north of Denver, but it's 90 miles from here, through the worst traffic in the state. Jean's other sibling, a brother, lives in Ruston, Louisiana. That's a two-day drive at best.

My extended family is spread from western Tennessee through Louisiana to somewhere in northern California. There's still a small nucleus around where I spent my early years, in Tioga, Louisiana, but my brother and his family live in Texas, and my favorite cousins live in Nevada, Arizona, California, Arkansas and Louisiana.

My wife and I have made friends wherever we lived. Those friends today are scattered from Germany to Guam. My wife has a few classmates she still enjoys visiting in Denver, and some of my graduating class still live in Louisiana, but most of the people that were important to us in our early years have moved to virtually every state in the Union, and a few foreign countries.

Today's society is mobile to an extent no other society in the entire history of mankind has been. We can move to any point on the globe in a matter of days, and have all our baggage - including most of our household good - arrive within weeks. Americans - both from the United States and Canada - live in more different places than the British at the height of the British Empire. Even better, when we move abroad, we can return just as easily. Frequently, posting to distant British colonies were for life, and the majority of those that took such posts never returned to England.

Wherever we go, there will always be a central spot that we consider "home" - usually where we and our parents lived when we were younger. It's never the same, however, when you go back - things change, and the world that was is gone forever. Yet we consider those spots more precious than any other. To our oldest daughter, "home" is a certain part of Wiesbaden, Germany. To our son, it's Littleton, Colorado. To our youngest, it's Colorado Springs. This brings up a dilemma - where, really is "home"? The debate finally settled on "wherever Mom and Dad are".

That's how it's worked out for our extended family, as well - home is where the family, as a whole, gets together to celebrate that uniqueness that marks us as a family. Wherever that is is "home". Thankfully, with the Internet, we can all keep in touch much easier than the British families that sailed to those distant Colonies!

Full Circle

When this nation was first founded, news travelled significantly slower than it does today. Newspapers only existed in the larger cities, and only the successful middle class and the wealthy had the money to buy them. Many people couldn't read, so even if they had newspapers, they would do them no good. Most news was spread by word of mouth. People gathered in the local stores, at the ale shop, at the blacksmith's, or in town halls and at church, and swapped the news among themselves. The news was discussed, disected, and weighed as how it would affect the members of the local community.

That worked up through the beginning of the 20th century. The railroad and telegraph both allowed news to spread more quickly, but the country grew larger at the same time. The local community still had to get together to discuss news and events, or be left out of major decision-making processes. The local community was still the distance a horse could travel in about three hours - three hours (or less) to town, a couple of hours to do whatever had to be done, engage in a bit of socialization (homesteads were usually quite isolated from one another), and three hours back, in order to get home before dark. A horse by itself could travel 40 miles in three hours, but a buggy was much slower. Anything beyond about 20 miles from town was too far to travel except on rare occasions - maybe once every two months or more. The people that lived beyond regular travelling distances couldn't get home before dark, so they were always "in the dark" about most news items.

The industrialization of the 20th century changed everything. First, the automobile replaced the horse - slowly, but by the end of the 1920's fewer and fewer people used horses to travel great distances. An automobile - or in many cases, a truck - could haul more than a buggy could, and usually faster. Lights on vehicles made travelling after dark safer. Radio allowed every household to hear the news within hours of an event. Between radio and the automobile, the need to go to town to hear the news began to lessen. At the same time, visits to town became more frequent for rural dwellers, but shorter in duration, and people spent less time socializing. It wasn't quite so uncomfortable to travel a distance by automobile than it had been by buggy, and people were more willing to make the return trip as soon as their errands were done.

In 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and within 36 hours, the United States was in the midst of a world war. More than 15 million people - out of a population of 150 million (one in ten) were in uniform before the war was over. Major advancements were forced on the world in every field as the main adversaries fought back and forth across three continents. Every household in America was affected. Every industry related to the war effort expanded, some as much as tenfold. The need for labor was so great a large portion of the women became employed in industrial work - something not seen before the war. Families that had lived in the same community for a hundred years or more were suddenly spread across half the globe. The demands of post-war occupation and the onset of the Cold War made such disintegration of the family more or less permanent, and saw tens of millions of Americans living beyond the nation's borders.

Radio was first supplemented, the superceded by television as the main distributor of news. Soon everyone had the same news as everyone else. The community had changed in the meantime to one that wasn't as close, wasn't as open as before, and the news wasn't discussed as much. People began to be isolated, first into small social groups, then even further into idividual families - which at the same time were shrinking, with the extended family farther and farther apart. Seldom did everyone get together to discuss an issue in the news. Such discussions did occur, but only among more or less like-minded people in small social groups, and within the family. Polarization began to set in. By the early 1990's, most people only associated with small groups of like-minded people, with little discourse between conflicting groups.

The 1990's also brought the birth of popular-access Internet and the WorldWide Web. Service at first was minimal, but continued to grow, sometimes expotentially. By the end of the century, at least one family in three had internet access, either at home or at work. People began to congregate outside their local community - in chat rooms, by email, and in numerous other ways. The first Weblogs - blogs - began to appear. Internet access became so commonplace more than half the population had access - either at home, at school, at work, or at public places such as libraries and Internet cafe's. The entire country began to be connected in a way never before experienced. The isolation of the family disintegrated, as it became easier - and also cheaper - to hold a true conversation with someone a mile away, a hundred miles away, or even on the other side of the planet.

Nothing has a geater potential to effect change than the emergence of weblogs. Suddenly anyone can share information with others, regardless of political affiliation, skin color, or status in the community. All it takes is a computer, a modem, and some form of Internet access. Information - written, photographed, or sound - can be shared instantly across the entire planet. Discussions of any idea can take place almost instantaneously. Differences of opinion are allowed, even encouraged. Individual experience can be brought to bear on any subject, by tens of thousands of individuals. As a result, we've come full circle - establishing once more the types of communities shared by our founding fathers. This time, however, the communities aren't physical, but electronic, and many people belong to more than one community.

The entire world has changed, and at the same time, it's come back full circle to what it was before - an interlocking group of close communities with common goals, common desires, and common needs. The changes are just beginning to be felt outside the "blogsphere" - the realm of blog-owners and their community of respondents - but eventually it will be the most profound change this world has known, reaching across boundaries, refining how information is shared, and remaking the old world into a global community.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Some people don't get it.

I saw a bumper sticker as I was bringing my son back from a doctor's appointment that said "WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER". Come again? Does this person have two synapses firing in sequence? It's downright dangerous that someone with so little intelligence is licensed to drive an automobile. I wasn't surprised to note that the car had California license plates - I just wonder why that person was driving in Colorado.

Folks, the United States is not the instigator of this war: Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida is. HE declared war on US, not the other way around. What this morally challenged person was actually saying is that it was wrong for us to use force - to wage war - in order to defend ourselves against evil. That person probably refuses to acknowledge that anything today could be considered "evil". After all, that's sooooo judgmental!

These people should get out more often, and should read something besides "Daily Kos", the New York Times, or the LA Times, and stop watching CBS News. We are in a war for our very right to exist as a free people. It's a world war, targeting anyone who isn't a specific type of Muslim, who isn't a Wahabbist. Everyone else breathing air is a target of opportunity for violence and oppression. We must all acknowledge that we are at war, and that such things as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to associate, and freedom of ownership of personal property is in the balance. These things will all disappear, along with any scientific knowledge gained in the last 750 years that doesn't support the traditional Wahabbist religious thinking.


I don't like wading through all the ad junk on some blogs, and certainly hadn't wanted to add it to mine. Unfortunately, things are tight in Old Patriot's household, and something has to be done to change things. Blogger is free, but my personal website isn't, and I need it to get to Blogger. The best answer I can see is to add Google ads to both my blog and to my personal site. That should be enough to cover the expenses of my personal website, and continue this blog. I thank anyone and everyone who clicks on a ad on either my blog or my home page for their support.

Postage stamps tell the tale.

I started collecting stamps when I was 10. I sent away for some stamps from an advertisement in the back of a comic book, back when comics were a dime, and more fun to read than recent ones. My interests waxed and waned with all the other things I was doing, and on several occasions I did nothing at all! About halfway through my first enlistment in the Air Force, I discovered that stamps were pretty good at representing a nation's view of itself and its government. As someone working in the photo intelligence field, that was good knowledge to have. My interest in postage stamps grew stronger as I used that knowledge to good advantage on many occasions.

Postal systems tend to have a hard time during periods of great stress within a nation. This was especially true during World War II. Stamps of former regimes were replaced by occupation issues, some of which were stamps from the former national post overprinted to reflect the "new owners". Dozens of local postal systems started up, worked for a short period (some only for days, others for years), then were replaced by national government issues. Some of these local postal authorities were recognized as "provisional" postal authorities, and their stamps were avidly sought by collectors - after more was known about them. Civil wars around the globe also added to the wealth of "provisional" issues.

This brings us to two areas where there's little known in the western world about what took place as far as postal authorities are concerned - Afghanistan from the period when the Russians withdrew until the present, and Iraq from the end of the first Gulf War until now.

One of the tests of the legitimacy of a government is how well it supplies basic services, including communication. The postal system and the telegraph and telephone services are run by the government in most nations, and how well the government runs these services is a legitimate means of evaluating how stable the government is.

There's a warning in my stamp catalogue for Afghanistan states that "the stamps which have been printed after 1989 are false stamps". There are no stamps listed for Afghanistan from near the end of 1989 until 1996. The stamps issued from 1996 through the end of the listing in my catalogue (before the US ousted the Taliban government) show stamps that appear to be the work of professional printers outside the country, and may not have been government-sanctioned. That makes one wonder how well the Taliban ran the government post, telephone and telegraph bureau - or if they did at all.

Another question that arose in my mind is just how independent were the Kurds during the period 1991-2001? Did they operate their own internal postal system? If they did, did they use stamps of the Hussein regime, or use a substitute of their own making? The stamps of Iraq for that period can best be described as propaganda labels aimed at boosting support for Saddam Hussein and his al-Baath party. Would the Kurds have willingly used those stamps? What about their mail system itself? Did they go through the Iraqi postal system for mail outside the nation, or did they smuggle their mail into Turkey or Iran, to keep it from being censored - or destroyed - by the Mukbarrat? These are little things, but they provide an inside glimpse of history in the making.

I don't subscribe to newspapers (except the local paper, the Gazette, which has the best political cartoonist I've read in decades) or magazines, and most of what I keep up with, I do through the Internet. I've seen virtually no comment on what's taking place inside Afghanistan and Iraq philatically (relating to stamps and stamp collecting). It would be very interesting to see what's going on inside these two countries, as far as stamps are concerned. Stamps have always been used as propaganda devices, beginning with the first postage stamp, a profile view of Queen Victoria. They serve as representatives of the nation that issued them. Russian stamps heavily propagandized in support of the Soviet state and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. What's going on as far as stamp printing and production inside Iraq and Afghanistan today, and what do those stamps reflect? Kuwait's stamp issues honored the coalition that ousted Saddam from that nation for more than a year - almost nothing else was printed. Will Afghanistan issue stamps honoring the role of the US and NATO in helping that nation establish an elected government? Will other local nations issue stamps depicting their interpretation of the role of Coalition forces in the region? Will members of the Coalition issue stamps honoring those that served? The answer to these questions will be an important insight into the stability of those nations, and how they truly feel about the role the "coalition of the willing" played in the region.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Too much Law, too many lawyers

It seems I can't open a newspaper, hear a news report on the radio, or catch a glimpse of television "news" without hearing about someone filing a lawsuit. It seems the whole world is "lawsuit happy". If people can't get someone else to agree with them, if some group can't get a law they want passed (or done away with), they automatically try to force the situation with a lawsuit. That behavior doesn't correlate to what I consider "lawful" behavior.

I consider myself, politically, a Jeffersonian limited anarchist - do whatever you choose to do, as long as you don't infringe on the rights of others to do the same, or cause harm to others or their property. That was the ultimate freedom that the framers of our Constitution wanted to ensure and protect. Laws were primarily designed to establish what would be done to those that failed to accept the corrolary of freedom - responsibility. The chief responsibility of every person was to NOT cause harm to others, or damage to their property, while exercising one's freedom as much as one chose.

Today, virtually every law being approved seems to be designed to limit individual freedom. In a way that's understandable, because so few citizens accept the responsibility inherent with freedom. Some citizens want to do anything they please, unrestricted by any thoughts about how their behavior affects others. There have to be some limits on freedom, or you have unrestrained anarchy. Too many limits, however, reduce the average person to the role of serf. The concepts behind our Constitution were to establish the minimum possible limits on the freedom of the individual, while requiring the individual to accept the responsibility of applying self-imposed limits to ensure they didn't infringe the liberties of their fellow citizens.

"Personal responsibility" is frequently considered a dirty word by a large portion of today's society. It's considered judgmental, implying that behavior should have consequences. In truth, ANYTHING we do has consequences - even NOT doing something may have consequences. There are consequences for every action we take, from an individual taking a breath of air to our nation waging war. There are also consequences for every decision we make, and even for those we don't make. Every minute we live forces us to make choices, and every choice we make, consciously or unconsciously, has a corresponding consequence.

The term "consequence" is considered negative by most people, but this is wrong. Consequences can be negative, positive, or benign - little actual effect upon us at all. Choosing how we live, what we eat, what clothes we wear, and how we spend our money are all part of exercising our freedom as individuals. What happens to us as the result of our choices are the consequences of our behavior.

Breathing is mostly an involuntary action of our body - we do it without thinking or planning, and it's necessary for us to continue to live. Breathing has the consequence of enabling us to continue to live. Breathing in wather, however, will fill our lungs and usually kill us - a totally different consequence than normal. Eating is a "normal" activity with the consequences of fueling our body. Eating too much has the undesirable consequence of the body storing the excess as fat, which can lead to a wide range of unhealthy situations. Eating too little, or the "wrong" kinds of foods, can provide too little of the vital ingredients needed for health, and leave us open to some pretty serious illnesses. Paying our bills on time, and for the required amount, ensures that we will continue to have shelter, food, clothing, and many of the other necessities of life, and even a few pleasures. Spending our entire paycheck on an impetuous purchase can have the very negative effect of our being evicted, not having enough left of our income to buy food, and many other serious negative consequences.

Most consequences are "natural" - the direct response to action, such as breathing, or being burned from touching a hot object. Social groupings, which include everything from the family, tribe, or political group up to nations and international organizations, have an even greater responsibility than just allowing "natural" consequences to take place. Social groupings sometimes must impose consequences upon individual parts of the group that fail to meet the minimum standards set by the group. The specific social grouping we call "government" exists in part to impose consequences upon those that refuse to accept the responsibility of their behavior within the group.

Our society is considered a "free" society, because our government is designed to acknowledge certain basic principles of freedom - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", and the specific limits placed on government regarding certain basic freedoms defined in our Bill of Rights as a part of our Constitution. Part of the actions authorized by our Constitution, which establishes how we will govern ourselves, is the inherent necessity of imposing consequences upon those that infringe the rights of others. Government is empowered with authority to impose consequences on those that act contrary to the liberties of others, or who refuse to accept the responsibilites - and consequences - of their own behavior.

Social groupings impose consequences for two reasons: to change behavior, or to provide security and safety. Parents discipline children to instill in them the idea that some behavior is not appropriate. We do this in hope that when those children become adults, they will act in a particular way that is best for the group as a whole. Governments legitimately impose limits on behavior to ensure the general safety of the governed - vehicle speed limits, for instance. Societies may also decide that, in order to ensure the continued safety and security of the group, some members who have acted in a manner hostile to the group should be removed from that society, either temprarily or permanently (we lock up criminals). As long as what we do is legitimately aimed at securing the best possible conditions for the majority of the people, and that the restraints we enact do less harm than good for all, then we consider those "just" laws and restrictions upon our freedoms.

Governments which support individual rights must also require individuals to accept responsibility for their behavior, or impose consequences on those that refuse. Such governments must also be limited in their derived powers, or they will quickly begin imposing limits on individual liberty for spurious or ill-concieved reasons. Government power should never be used to impose change upon individuals, nor to limit their legitimate exercise of choice, without grave necessity and extensive debate. Every action has consequences, and frequently the consequences of government actions may not be fully understood for years, perhaps not for decades.

The government of the United States has forgotten the necessity of limiting its actions, or contemplating the consequences of its action. Worse by a measure of magnitude is the ill-concieved behavior of dozens of non-government groups who try to impose limitations on individual freedom through direct action, such as lobbying, petitioning, and challenging the status quo with expensive, time-consuming, and blatant legal challenges. This last behavior is epitomized by the lawsuits brought by a handful of state district attorneys, challenging the United States government's legitimate decision not to ratify the Kyoto climate treaty. Other excesses include the sometimes overbearing and overreaching imposition of restrictions by government agencies exercising regulatory authority without adequate debate or adequate consideration of the consequences of their action. Such regulatory excesses may impose severe economic, cultural, political or social consequences, with no clear justification for them.

The exercise of law to impose consequences upon individuals, groups, and societies against their will is tyranny, and it must not be allowed to succeed. The continued use of law as a weaponwielded against the governed has dire consequences for our nation and its people. Those who exercise authority in the legal arena must act to limit the behavior of their members, or society will be forced to impose those limits on them, for its own security.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Red vs Blue

I've read several interesting articles recently on who supports which party, and why. I haven't always come away from those readings with a firm idea of what points the author was trying to make with their writing, or why they thought their points were important. I hope I can do better in comparing and contrasting the two sides in today's political war.

The first point that needs to be made is that the choices of colors to represent the two viewpoints is absurd. Red has always represented the "enemy", and for the last 50 years, the Communist rulers of countries such as the Soviet Union and China. US military exercises almost invariably used "blue" forces to represent the "good guys" and "red" forces to represent the enemy. Red has consistently been the central color to denote socialists throughout the world. Yet in the political battle being waged today, the "red" contingent is conservative, and the "blue" contingent represents the socialists. I can't believe the choices of colors to use was arbitrary, nor do I believe the colors were arbitrarily assigned. The selection of colors used to represent the different philosophies was deliberate, and meant to confuse the reader. This was the first shot fired in the new political war of ideas.

Secondly, the two primary political parties in the United States have swapped roles over the past fifty years or so. Historically, the Republican party was the party of industry and commerce, and the Democratic party was the party of rural farms and labor. Today the divisions are even more stark: the Democratic party is primarily urban, while the Republican party has become the party of the suburbs and rural life.

It's not hard to understand the reason for the segregation. For the past sixty years, the Democratic party has been the party of socialism. From FDR's New Deal to LBJ's Great Society, the Democratic party has backed government dependency. The Democrats want people, and especially voters, to be dependent on the government for at least a significant portion of their livelihood, either from dependency on social services support (welfare), retirement income (Social Security), health care (Medicare), employment (labor unions), and/or education. The Democrats have consistently pushed the idea that people should look to government to solve their problems, rather than themselves - to become dependent on government and its resources. Such dependency is tatamount to slavery, but only a small portion of the electorate can see such an obvious truism.

Conversely, the Republicans, who were first the party of industrialists - the people that actually hired people and gave them jobs - became the party of people willing to be independent, to be self-supporting, to accept individual control of their lives, and congruently, to be as independent of outside restraint - free - to accomplish as much for themselves and their family as they chose. These are the people that moved out of the urban beehives into the suburbs, that continued to live in small towns and on rural homesteads. They were also the people most likely to continue to have a strong belief in God, in a strong, individual-based morality, and in integrity, honor, and duty.

While the Republican party's strength has moved from urban to rural and suburban areas, the Democratic party's strength has moved from rural to urban areas. This is consistent with the Democratic party's emphasis on government support. It's easier to support a large number of people in a small area than in a larger one. Concentration of resources enables more people to be provided for by smaller number of support personnel. As long as the numbers in either political party didn't become overwhelming, the division was workable.

Unfortunately, as the concentrations of people requiring government support grew larger and larger, the proportion of voters dependent upon government support also grew larger, until urban areas allowed one party to have a virtual "lock" on many Congressional districts. Since Congressional seats are allocated by population, the growth of Democratic areas expanded, while Republican areas declined. This led to more Democratic control of Congress overall, and more social programs to expand the Democratic "base".

The real problem in our government today is that the needs of urban areas are different than the needs of rural and suburban areas. The demands of the constituents of each of these areas have become mutually exclusive, requiring different laws, different approaches to governing, and a different focus for each constituency. The two constituencies today are almost polar opposites, with laws that provide for the needs of one group actually being harmful to the needs of the other. At the same time, there is a strong movement to have even more government control over individual activities to force compliance with certain societal goals being set by one or the other parties.

Our Constitution dealt with this problem in its early years by allocating to the Federal government only certain tasks, and leaving other government agencies at the state and local level free to deal with unique problems found in those areas. The industrialization of the United States at the turn of the 20th Century led to the Federal government taking on more and more of the responsibilities of the states, while failing to take into consideration the unique problems of individual areas. The "one size fits all" mentality of Federal bureaucrats ensured that government programs were designed to "help everyone", when in fact they helped only a very few, and made life more difficult for others. Today the United States is awash in Federal laws that usurp the rights of the states, local governments, and the individual, all in the misguided sense that the government could solve all problems on a national level.

This presidential election again pits urban areas against suburban and rural areas in a match-up between two ideological suppositions - that government is the answer to everything on the one hand, and that government is often the problem, that government at the lowest possible level should have the final say in most decisions on the other. One very stark and clear example of this division is the recent battle between the Clinton Administration's imposition from Washington of "roadless rules" for national forests, and President Bush's administration saying that state and local governments should have an equal say in such matters.

Today there's a very strong push to do away with the Electoral College, to allow direct elections of presidents. Unfortunately this would only ensure that urban areas would elect every president from now on. More than 50 percent of our populuation live in fewer than 60 areas, each about 30 miles in diameter. This is only a small percentage of our land area. The rest of the nation would be effectively disenfranchised. This idea can be illustrated by the current debate in Colorado to apportion the state's electoral votes based on the percentage of the popular vote each party received in the general election. There are 64 counties in Colorado, but eleven of them contain 90% of the population. Eight counties, representing the greater Denver metropolitan area, contain four million people, while the state population as a whole is less than five million. Metropolitan areas tend to vote Democratic, while rural areas tend to vote Republican. Without the opportunity to overwhelm the Democratic majority vote from Denver through the combined vote of the rest of the state, there would be no chance for Colorado to affect the national election, or to have a chance to fill statewide elected offices.

Not just Politics

This is my personal blog, where I get to express whatever ideas I have, and talk about whatever I want to talk about. I don't plan to concentrate just on politics or the military (two areas where I have considerable interest), but on anything that strikes my fancy.

Politics is a national sport, and everyone not bogged down with just surviving is interested in it - or should be. There's no other area that has such a direct impact on how we live as politics, and it affects everyone, whether they vote or not. There are dozens of great blogs that deal exclusively with politics. I link to several of the best. I don't plan to try to compete with them, but to supplement them with my personal thoughts.

I spent half my life either on active duty with the Air Force, or living with the consequences of that duty as a retiree. What happens in the military in general, and in the Air Force specifically, is a great concern with me. There are also several hundred people I know - many I call friends - still on active duty, or retirees such as myself. Whatever happens with the military is of concern to me, and I do my best to keep up. I love the 497RTG alumni group postings on Yahoo, because I spent three tours in Germany either in that unit, or in units that worked closely with the 497th. I'd love to see the formation of a similar alumni group for the 544th Strat Intel Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska - another unit I spent many years with.

There are a large number of things I enjoy personally, from stamp collecting to genealogy, that I'll comment on from time to time. I post most of the information about those topics on my personal website, linked up in my "Profile". Feel free to visit whenever you wish. My wife and I also enjoy a number of similar interests, and I'll post about them from time to time as well. I'm working on a family tree for my family and part of my wife's family. I'm following these family names: Brown, Dulaney, Powell, Smith, Starnes, Thornhill, Treglown, Weatherford, and Williams, with offshoots into several hundred others. Brown, Smith, and Williams are the hardest to even try to follow!

One of the things I hope to get from this weblog is input from old friends, family, and acquaintances from the past. Another is to link with other blogs to share information and commentary. Still another is to just connect to people. I'm a disabled veteran with a bad back, some collateral nerve issues, and a tinnitus problem. The last problem mentioned, tinnitus, is the one that I find the hardest to live with. Sound - anything above a whisper - bothers me, and loud sounds trigger immense headaches and other problems. I tend to "hide out" in my basement office because of it. I really do enjoy meeting people and discussing various topics with them, but you can't do that very well from your own basement - except over the Internet. The better, unmoderated chatrooms have all but ceased to exist, and the options left are not my cup of tea. If Blogger offered a "chat" option, I'd be onboard in a minute! I'll just have to be content with the comments section of my blog for now.

Blogging won't take all my time, however. I'm also currently writing two new novels that I'll try to sell, but will post to my website if that fails. I currently have four science fiction novels there now, and have had a number of people download and read them. It's not a very successful enterprise mney-wise, but it's been a great morale booster for me to actually do it, and have people enjoy what I've done. I'll try to keep people informed about where I'm at on the novels as I go along. I had half of the murder mystery I'd written done before a computer crash wiped out 90% of it. Starting over has been hard, but I think the final result will be worth the effort.

In the meantime, today's my youngest daughter's birthday, and we're going to clean out the attic. There are some baby pictures in a box up there I want her to show her boyfriend.
(yes, I know I'm a stinker!)

Catching up on the news

It's a slow day newswise, but there's a lot of things that have happened in the past week that deserve more attention.

Interim Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq came to the United States to speak at the United Nations and to the US Congress. Both speaches were masterful, well presented, and carried the same theme - democracy is making Iraq a better place, and regime change is generally greatly appreciated by the Iraqi people. That doesn't mean that everything's perfect in Iraq. There's still a lot of unfinished business to be taken care of. High on my list of priorities is Fallujah. I hope, after the January elections, both the government of Iraq and the government of the United States agree to allow that city to disappear. I don't think anything less would have the desired effect on the scum that have made that city the center of their 'resistance'.

John Kerry, Dummycritter supreme, has made his usual comments on the political process taking place in Iraq. If there were ever any doubt that the Botox Boston Beanbrain hasn't a clue about our own government or foreign affairs, his comments about Allawi's visit should erase all doubt. The man is an embarrassment to the entire nation. Of course, personally, as a Vietnam veteran and NOT a baby-killer, I have to admit I've been very, very prejudiced against this moron for a long time. His sending his sister to Australia to try to interfere with that government's elections next month is just one more indication that he does not have the best intentions of the United States at heart, and that he doesn't understand - or wish to understand - our Constitution. I can't see how anyone would expect him to truly adhere to the oath of office he would be required to swear to become president.

Hurricane Jeanne is bearing down on the Bahamas, and may strike the coast of Florida. The state of Florida is getting pounded from every side this year. The people that survive, rebuild, and go on will be stronger for it, but it's difficult to accept such a constant pounding. I remember Audrey as a kid in central Louisiana, and being without electricity for almost two weeks. We survived better than many, but the cleanup took weeks, and things were never exactly the same afterwards. I remember especially an oak tree in my grandmother's yard being uprooted, and another losing several of its huge branches. I loved those old trees, and it hurt to see them so mangled. Several friends of mine live in Florida, and are still ok after Charles, Frances, and Ivan. Hopefully, Jeanne will begin to move northward, and miss Florida, or only strike it a glancing blow, instead of hitting with its full force.

Colorado Springs appears to be the recipient of some of those forces President Bush is bringing back to the United States from Europe and Korea. That's good for the city - troops bring with them money. It's also good for Fort Carson and the troops stationed there, since that will ease the rotation pressure for the unit there as it's deployed to Iraq. Some of the soldiers at Fort Carson are on their second tour already, and many more are preparing to deploy. Maybe the extra troops will finally pull the city out of its mini-recession caused by the computer industry's decline. Colorado Springs has a number of computer-related industries that have been hurt badly by the cutbacks in demand for semiconductor products.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Iraq was the Right thing to do

There's a long article on NRO yesterday morning (9/23/04) by Andrew McCarthy about how John Kerry at last 'gets one right', about how invading Iraq was a distraction from the "war on terrorism". I hate to burst his bubble, but it just isn't so.

The President has had to be very cautious about his real reasons for invading Iraq. If he'd been up front about it, not only would there have been far more screeching from the far left, but many of our "allies" would have been even more upset with his decision. Invading Iraq was a major step in the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. There were many reasons for going to war, quite a few of which have never been spoken aloud - at least to my knowledge. I'm not a mind-reader, and I'm not someone "in the know", but I've spent hundreds of hours thinking about this, and events have shown that at least some of my conclusions are valid.

The United States invaded Afghanistan because Osama bin Laden was headquartered there as the welcome guest of Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban movement. Bin Laden had declared war on the United States, and September 11th was only the culmination of a number of strikes against American interests around the world. We had a legitimate reason for striking back, and we did. The war there hasn't been a great success, but it's disrupted bin Laden's network significantly enough that there haven't been any major strikes against the United States or its interests in more than three years. Bin Laden's Al-Qaida network has had some significant successes, but not against the United States or Great Britain, two of his prime targets.

After Afghanistan, the United States had to choose its targets carefully, or be considered by every nation in the world as the aggressor. Iraq was different - we were already at war with Iraq, beginning back in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the United States, working through the United Nations, re-took that nation from Iraq. After the battle, Iraq was forced to accept a number of sanctions, forced upon it by the United Nations. Iraq steadfastly violated every one of those sanctions it could, and got away with it. Attacking Iraq for its many violations of UN sanctions following Gulf War I was a legitimate option. The fact that Iraq also supported terrorism - Hezbollah and Hamas in Palestine for sure, others probably - also provided legitimate reasons for overthrowing the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein and changing that nation's government.

In truth, that's probably the least of the reasons for invading Iraq and establishing a US military presence there - one that Washington will work very hard at extending far beyond their national elections in January. Iraq is the England of this new war.

England provided a jumping-off point for the final attack from the west on NAZI-occupied Europe. It also provided airbases for a constant rain of bombs on transportation networks, major industries, and other war-fighting capabilities of the German Wehrmacht. Without England, attacking NAZI Europe would have been difficult and far more costly.

Iraq may soon serve the same function in the Middle East.

We know who our enemies are. We know which states actively support terrorism - on a local basis, and on a global basis. Syria is one sponsor of terrorism, primarily aimed against Israel, but also aimed against its own indigenous Kurdish population, and to a lesser extent, against west-leaning Jordan. Iraq shares a long border with Syria.

Iran is another state sponsor of terrorism, providing a significant portion of the funding for Hezbollah, and probably providing logistics and security for Al-Qaida members who have escaped from Afghanistan. Iran shares a border not only with Iraq, but also with Afghanistan, another nation where there are significant US forces, and another nation where national elections will be held soon.

Saudi Arabia is the heart of Wahabbi Islam, the violent, fundamentalist sect that most terrorists belong to. It was no accident that fifteen of the nineteen terrorists that smashed US aircraft into buildings on September 11, 2001, were from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia uses its immense wealth to support the export of this fundamentalist version of Islam. Sooner or later, the United States is going to have to force changes in Saudi Arabia - either militarily or politically. Saudi Arabia knows this, and is fighting a political delaying action. It's not going to work, and someday the Saud family will be overthrown. Having a strong US military presence in Iraq will probably ensure that day comes sooner, rather than later.

Iraq has provided the United States with one additional opportunity. Since the defeat of the Iraqi army and the occupation of the country by US military forces, tens of thousands of angry Arabs have converged on Iraq to wage war against the "great Satan". We know precisely how many US troops have been killed, but how many Arabs have died? That's a much more shadowy number, but I'd estimate there have been thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands. Several thousand others have been killed in Afghanistan. Each of those deaths is one less potential terrorist that could have attacked the United States, or its interests abroad. It's been referred to as a "flypaper" strategy, but more precisely, it's a war of attrition. There are only so many people flawed enough to be willing to die in the mere HOPE of killing an American. Sooner or later, the flood will become a trickle, and eventually the flow will dry up completely.

The United States is at war. That is not debatable. Al-Qaida has declared war against us, and will do everything it can to crush our freedom and bring the United States under the yoke of fundamentalist Islam. We have only one choice as a free people - fight back, and win. The president's policy in Iraq puts US forces squarely in the center of the enemy's home territory, with enough strength to force the collapse of Wahabbi Islam. It may take another year, another decade, another century, but there is no other option if we are to remain free.

Welcome, one and all...

I've been accused of being a windbag, so I might as well take advantage of all this newfangled technology to prove that accusation. Welcome. Make yourself at home. Take off your shoes (if you've got clean socks - otherwise, be nice to the ladies present). Don't be surprised to find a cat in your lap, or a dog at your heels.

Dont' expect hourly posts, or anything fancy. I have moments when I want to scream, and other times when writing is the last thing on my agenda. I may also be busy from time to time, on whatever strikes my fancy. Just be patient - something will show up here eventually.