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.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

UNtrustworthy, UNdignified

It's time to tell the administrative staff of the United Nations who's boss, especially Kofi Annan and Mohamed El Baradei. These two "diplomats" should be declared persona non grata in the United States, and the United Nations told that the United States of America will not contribute to the United Nations until both are off the payroll. And we need to stick by it, regardless of the horror expressed by our "allies" and the State Department.

These members of the United Nations are attempting to manipulate the outcome of a national election, primarily for personal reasons. The United States has embarrassed both "gentlemen" with proven charges of incompetence and melfeasance. They no longer belong in the United States, or in the United Nations. The same goes for all the other United Nations "employees" involved in the Iraqi Oil Bribes for Palaces and Weapons scandal.

My wife and I were foster-parents for emotionally disturbed children for four years. We were trained to supplement and support the therapy these children received in our home environment. One of the key lessons we learned was that the only way to envoke a change is to make the consequences of pursuing the old behavior so unpalatable that the person themselves would institute the changes. The United States has failed to do that, both internally and in our international relations. Apparently, the State Department has never learned ANY lesson beyond appeasement.

I believe that if the United States stands firm against the United Nations in this matter, and FORCES the changes that diplomatic integrity demands, there is a slight possibility that the United Nations can be rescued from its current deathbed. Either the United Nations reforms itself, either from internal or external pressue, and becomes far more useful in dealing with such problems as Iran, Darfur, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Kosovo, and a dozen other spots, or it should be allowed to die a natural death. The United State should withhold all support to the United Nations, whether monetary, in-kind, or through US military or civilian personnel, until those that believe they have the right to meddle in the internal affairs of member-states are gone, or until the United Nations collapses like the house of cards it's beginning more and more to resemble.

A Time of Testing

The United States is going through a rough time right now. The terrorists in Iraq have vowed to cause as much death and destruction as they possibly can, hoping to influence our election on Tuesday. Their hope is that the current president, George Bush, will be defeated. They believe the other candidate, John Kerry, will withdraw all US troops from the Middle East, allowing them to conquer and control the area, much as they did before. There is good reason to believe this is so, from Kerry's own words, to the behavior of the Democratic Party as a whole over the last 30 years.

This is a time of testing, to determine whether we will be a nation of strength, or a nation of weakness.

Jesus, too, went through a time of testing. His ordeal is described in the words of the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:

1 ¶ Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

Jesus, hungry from his long fast, tired, hot, and thirsty, was weakened as a person, ripe for manipulation. Both his body and his spirit had been taxed to the fullest during his long fast. But Jesus remained steadfast in the face of Satan, and refused to be tempted. In the end, when he had forced Satan to leave, angels came and ministered to him. He had succeeded in resisting temptation, and was rewarded by God.

All men face a time of testing. All nations are subject to times of trials and troubles. Just as hot steel has to be tempered to remain strong, so do men, and nations. Trials and troubles are the means by which God tempers the steel of men's souls, and the strength of nations.

Abraham Lincoln was constantly troubled by the unimaginable horror of the battlefields of the Civil War. Time after time he prayed for guidance. Yet he remained strong, and the Union was reunited. In victory, he had planned to be magnanimous. His untimely death left his plans in the hands of his vice-president, Andrew Johnson. Johnson implemented as many of those plans as he could, but not being as strong as Lincoln, was frequently overridden by a Congress demanding retribution.

The Civil War was not only a test of our President, it was a test of our nation. It was a long and bloody affair that left more than a million men dead on the battlefield, and tens of thousands more maimed for life. The Reconstruction period that followed instilled a bitterness in the defeated states that still leaves many filled with hate. Would this last still be true if Lincoln had survived the assasination attempt, and remained president? Would it be true if Johnson had been as strong a leader as Lincoln? We can only guess.

Today we face a relentless, brutal, hate-filled enemy that wishes to destroy everything we stand for - as a nation, as a people. They wish to destroy our choice of worship, our choice of how we live, our choice of education, our choice of goals. They wish to impose upon us a totally uncompromising tyranny, in the name of what they consider 'the one true faith'. Regardless of the source or reason, their rule would still amount to tyranny.

Today they stand before us, tempting us: leave and we won't kill any more of your people. What they really mean is "leave and we'll leave you alone until we're strong enough to hit you again". Their God is not the God of love and salvation, but of hatred and war. Their God is not the God of truth, but of lies. As Luke recorded in Chapter 21, Vers 8:

And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.

Islam is not the religion of the One True God. Islam is the religion of Satan. As Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, we are tempted by Satan today with a false offer of peace. As a nation, as a people, we must remain strong. We must make good decisions, and we must resist the temptation of the easy way out. There will be much more fighting, many more deaths, no matter which way we choose, because that is the nature of our enemy. Only by standing strong against our enemies, against the power of darkness, can we succeed.

The Psalmist David captures the needs of the moment in this 27th Chapter:

1 ¶ The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

If we stand steadfast against our enemies, we shall be victorious. But we must once again return to the roots of what made our nation great in the first place - putting God into our lives, and into our hearts, that we will have the strength to stand against our foes. We are the light of the world, but only if we have the strength to stand fast in the face of tyranny. Standing fast requires leadership - the kind of leadership that has brought us through this far. We require a leader that will not only stand strong against our enemies, but who will remain humble in his heart, placing his hope and trust in God, just as David placed his hope in God to stand against all enemies. All it requires to succeed is the will to remain strong. Just as Jesus prevailed over Satan, we can prevail over the darkness of the tyranny facing us, through strength and resolve, and the faith we have in a Living God.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Pimping for Kerry

I just saw a still of "Osama bin Laden" from the ABC tape. The first thing that entered my mind was, "that's not bin Laden". I don't care if the CIA, ABC, NBC, CBS, OSS, MI5, or XYZ claim it is, it's not. Unfortuantely, I can't tell you why I know it's not, because even I'm not sure, but I KNOW that's not the real Osama bin Laden in that video.

This isn't the first time I've had these "flashes of belief". It's not even the 100th time. They come when they come, and they come about any subject in the world. I've had exactly TWO be wrong, and I'm not completely sure about one of those. The most compelling of these "visions" was about a girl I'd met only four days before - that I'd be happy for the rest of my life with her beside me. We've been married now for almost 39 years, and I still feel the same way.

The most frightening of these visions was one about our moving into a mobile home park in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1966. There was a spot next to the home of our best friends there, and Jean wanted to move into it. I had one of these episodes, and refused to even discuss it. Three months later, the mobile home that was parked there was totally destroyed - the only thing found from it was the marriage license of the couple that had lived there. Luckily, they weren't at home that day.

A tornado had NEVER STRUCK ENID before that one. Never in the town's recorded history that goes back to the earliers settlers in the area - the mid-1850's. Even the local Native Americans said the area had always been free from twisters.

There have been others - dozens and dozens of others. Most I've listened to, a few I haven't. I've always been sorry when I didn't listen, or let myself be overruled. I've been laughed at more than a couple of times when I've announced what I'd seen before. The most important one was when I announced the fall of the Soviet Union "within the next seven years" to my friends and co-workers in Germany, in 1988. He who laughs last...

I don't know if OBL is alive or dead. I do know that if he's alive, his ability to travel freely has ended, his ability to communicate with his "associates" is severely limited, and his ability to finance major operations against the United States or others has been curtailed by the actions of the United States and its allies.

I also don't believe that John Kerry will do as much to keep the lid on OBL and his global terror organiation as George Bush. Obviously, neither does OBL, which is why he's pimping for the election of John Kerry. I can't think of any better reason to vote for George Bush.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

High Stakes

A very interesting (and long) article.

I received this in an email, third- or fourth-hand, in a badly-jumbled and poorly-formatted message that had obviously gone through three or four generations of page-delimiting. I didn't originally have the title, but the author, Paul Johnson, is not unknown among history buffs. A Google search of "Paul Johnson" +British +historian produced 5,660 hits, including at least ten about the article listed below. This message appeared in my email box from a fellow spook - an army sigint officer - who had gotten it from his brother. Here's his brother's introduction:

Some of you may be familiar with the British historian, Paul Johnson. I was surprised to see a piece that he wrote about our forthcoming election, and I recommend it as a view from an "outsider." It is not written by a columnist from the Weekly Standard, The Nation, or by any conservative or liberal "talking head," or by some obscure blogger, but from a student of history. Quite simply, Kerry must be stopped; and Bush must win.

I've added my comments where I felt the need.

High Stakes

By Paul Johnson

The great issue in the 2004 election-it seems to me as an Englishman-is, How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization.

This opening paragraph is staggeringly revealing, in a dozen different ways. It's an open admission, by a British historian, that the only nation on Earth that can truly "preserve the general safety and protect our (Western) civilization" is the United States, and that the rest of the thinking world knows, understands, and depends on that. This opening sentence says that the next president will "redefine what kind of a country the United States is". But is that only if John Kerry wins? Hasn't George Bush already defined what kind of nation we are? Johnson is also laying upon us the DUTY to "take its role (seriously) as a world leader", and make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, in order to discharge this duty with success and honor.

That's a big job. We could use a little help. We're getting a little from some nations, and we appreciate their contribution. The problem we face is a world problem, not just one for the United States. Terrorists have struck in almost every European state, throughout the Middle East, in Indonesia and Thailand, and in Japan. Citizens of virtually every nation on Earth have been placed at risk - many killed - by terrorists. So far, only a handful of nations have stepped forward to help. The rest have mostly whined that we shouldn't be doing what they want us to do, and it's all our fault that bad things are happening in THEIR nations. That's the behavior of spoiled children, whining that the adults aren't making life even easier and less demanding for them.

When George W. Bush was first elected, he stirred none of these feelings, at home or abroad. He seems to have sought the presidency more for dynastic than for any other reasons. September 11 changed all that dramatically. It gave his presidency a purpose and a theme, and imposed on him a mission. Now, we can all criticize the way he has pursued that mission. He has certainly made mistakes in detail, notably in underestimating the problems that have inevitably followed the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and overestimating the ability of US forces to tackle them. On the other hand, he has been absolutely right in estimating the seriousness of the threat international terrorism poses to the entire world and on the need for the United States to meet this threat with all the means at its disposal and for as long as may be necessary.

I think George Bush had a vision of what he wanted to do in the White House, and it wasn't just following in Dad's footsteps. We saw what he did in Texas. Many of us expected him to do some of the same things as President. Even though the War on Terrorism has consumed the majority of his focus, he's still done many things on his list of dometic ideas. I think Johnson has tunnel vision in this instance, and has missed some rather large and obvious clues.

I think many of George Bush's problems in Iraq were forced on him by the lack of cooperation of many European nations, and on the incomprehensible behavior of Turkey. That, more than any single factor, made the entire war on Iraq harder to fight, and the victory harder to manage. The failure of having the 4th ID charge down through Turkey to Baghdad, catching Hussein and his entire nation in a pincher movement, has been the main cause of existing military and domestic problems in north-central Iraq. President Bush may have under-estimated the absolute necessity to al-Qaida to force us from Iraq, and not allocated sufficient resources, or not given those resources sufficient freedom of the battlefield, but that was more a problem forced upon him, rather than one that was foreseen and ignored.

The most telling blow to the War on Terrorism is the utter insanity of much of Europe of deciding they "didn't want to play". There are only two positions available in this game: you are either an ally of the United States and its partners, or you are part of the problem. There is no "neutrality", because the ENEMY does not recognize the concept of neutrality. There is no "third way", because the ENEMY considers only one outcome acceptable to them. Each day the rest of the civilized world refuses to accept their share of the burden in this war is one day more this war will last, and is bound to increase the casualty figures, both among the Coalition forces and in the rest of the world's nations.

Equally, he has placed these considerations right at the center of his policies and continued to do so with total consistency, adamantine determination, and remarkable courage, despite sneers and jeers, ridicule and venomous opposition, and much unpopularity.

There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to "try men's souls," as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory. There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: "Let us see who can pound the hardest." Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." However, something persuades me that Bush -- with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue-is the president America needs at this difficult time.

He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.

George W. Bush is the only person that will "finish the job". Nor is it one "HE" started. The people of the United States must awaken to the fact that we have been at war with islamic fundamentalists since at least the early 1970s. This war didn't start with the Twin Towers. It will not end with the pacification of Iraq and the development of a democratic, peaceful government there. This is a war against people who not only reject Western civilization, but who believe it is their God-given DUTY to destroy it. The war will only end when there are no more people who believe this.

There are no other choices. There are no other options. We cannot say, at any point before total victory that "we can stop now, they won't hurt us again." Total victory or total defeat - those are the only options open to us. People who believe differently are insane (the definition of "insane" is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results). There are no "moral options" to stop short of total victory, even if it means the total destruction of Islam. Islamists are the only entities that can save Islam from destruction, and then only by changing. Islam must reach the conclusion that it's no longer acceptable to consider destroying other civilizations as their God-given right. Failing that, the only choice for the rest of the world is to destroy the source of the problem. If that source is Islam, and it refuses to change, then Islam will cease to exist.

It's not just George Bush that should be given, and accept the mandate to finish the job, but the entire free world. The failure of most nation-states to accept that responsibility is infuriating. It will definitely lead to consequences. For some nations, those consequences have already been felt. Those that offer excuses, those that offer sanctuary to our enemies, and those that believe that they can "pacify" and "get along with" those who would kill innocent people in ANY nation will be held accountable. There is no room among modern nations for spoiled children, neither as leaders nor as citizens.

This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative. Senator Kerry has not made much of an impression in Europe, or indeed, I gather, in America. Many on the Continent support him, because they hate Bush, not because of any positive qualities Kerry possesses.

Indeed we know of none, and there are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted.

First, and perhaps most important, he seems to have no strong convictions about what he would do if given office and power. The content and emphasis of his campaign on terrorism, Iraq, and related issues have varied from week to week. But they seem always to be determined by what his advisers, analyzing the polls and other evidence, recommend, rather than by his own judgment and convictions. In other words, he is saying, in effect: "I do not know what to do but I will do what you, the voters, want." This may be an acceptable strategy, on some issues and at certain times. It is one way you can interpret democracy. But in a time of crisis, and on an issue involving the security of the world, what is needed is leadership. Kerry is abdicating that duty and proposing, instead, that the voters should lead and he will follow.

This lesson cannot cease to be beaten into people's heads - John Kerry is nothing but an actor, playing a role. There is no "there", there. He's lived a fantasy since his youth of being the "next John Kennedy", and had done all the things he could to be in the position to achieve his goal. Unfortunately for Kerry, he has little of Kennedy's brilliance, his charisma, his stamina, his ideology, or his integrity. Kerry possesses few, if any, leadership qualities - I've known Air Force Staff Sergeants with more leadership potential than John Kerry.

His character flaws are not hidden - his role as prosecutor for the State of Massachusetts, his role as Lieutenant Governor, his twenty years in the Senate, even his command of a Swift Boat during Vietnam, all highlight his glaring character deficiencies and lack of leadership. There are only two things that John Kerry has in abundance: ego and egalitarianism. Those are not necessarily the character traits one wishes in the President of the world's largest, most powerful, and richest free nation.

Second, Kerry's personal character has, so far, appeared in a bad light. He has always presented himself, for the purpose of Massachusetts vote-getting, as a Boston Catholic of presumably Irish origins. This side of Kerry is fundamentally dishonest. He does not follow Catholic teachings, certainly in his views on such issues as abortion-especially when he feels additional votes are to be won by rejecting Catholic doctrine. This is bad enough. But since the campaign began it has emerged that Kerry's origins are not in the Boston-Irish community but in Germanic Judaism. Kerry knew this all along, and deliberately concealed it for political purposes. If a man will mislead about such matters, he will mislead about anything.

A fraud is a fraud is a fraud. An actor is a person that's paid to perform a role, to pretend to be something they're not. When you present yourself as being the character in the role, you've stepped beyond make-believe into fraud - or even worse, into psychosis.

There is, thirdly, Kerry's long record of contradictions and uncertainties as a senator and his apparent inability to pursue a consistent policy on major issues.

Fourth is his posturing over his military record, highlighted by his embarrassing pseudo-military salute when accepting the nomination.

Fifth is his disturbing lifestyle, combining liberal-even radical-politics with being the husband, in succession, of two heiresses, one worth $300 million and the other $1 billion. The Kerrys have five palatial homes and a personal jet, wealth buttressed by the usual team of lawyers and financial advisers to provide the best methods of tax-avoidance.

John Forbes Kerry has single-mindedly followed his goal - to be "the next John Kennedy", including living his lifestyle. He is ruthless in pursuing that goal. There is nothing he won't do, won't say, won't pretend to be, to get what he wants. I believe this single-mindedness reflects a dagnerously unbalanced human being, and certainly not someone to trust with the high office of President of the United States of America.

Sixth and last is the Kerry team: who seem to combine considerable skills in electioneering with a variety of opinions on all key issues. Indeed, it is when one looks at Kerry's closest associates that one's doubts about his suitability become certainties. Kerry may dislike his running-mate, and those feelings may be reciprocated-but that does not mean a great deal. More important is that the man Kerry would have as his vice president is an ambulance chasing lawyer of precisely the kind the American system has spawned in recent decades, to its great loss and peril, and that is already establishing a foothold in Britain and other European countries. This aggressive legalism-what in England we call "vexatious litigation"- is surely a characteristic America does not want at the top of its constitutional system.

Of Kerry's backers, maybe the most prominent is George Soros, a man who made his billions through the kind of unscrupulous manipulations that (in Marxist folklore) characterize "finance capitalism." This is the man who did everything in his power to wreck the currency of Britain, America's principal ally, during the EU exchange-rate crisis-not out of conviction but simply to make vast sums of money. He has also used his immense resources to interfere in the domestic affairs of half a dozen other countries, some of them small enough for serious meddling to be hard to resist. One has to ask: Why is a man like Soros so eager to see Kerry in the White House? The question is especially pertinent since he is not alone among the superrich wishing to see Bush beaten. There are several other huge fortunes backing Kerry.

Among the wide spectrum of prominent Bush-haters there is the normal clutter of Hollywood performers and showbiz self-advertisers. That is to be expected. More noticeable, this time, are the large numbers of novelists, playwrights, and moviemakers who have lined up to discharge venomous salvos at the incumbent.

If you examine John Kerry's associates, you see a large aggregate of people much in the same mold: ruthless, determined, undisciplined, unscrupulous, dishonest, arrogant, egotistical, and elitist. The laws are for the "little people", who should "learn to shut up and just pay their taxes". The words "honesty", "integrity", "duty", "honor", and "commitment" are only words to them, to be used and abused, much as the definition of "is". John Kerry, in almost every way, is the epitome of the modern Democratic party. Unfortunately, the entire party and its leadership are a disaster waiting to happen. Allowing them the Presidency - especially at this time - may be a disaster this nation will be unable to recover from.

I don't recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals-many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes, from the Soviet empire to Castro's aggressive adventures in Africa, and who have in their time backed Mengistu in Ethiopia, Qaddafi in Libya, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua-seem to have a personal hatred of Bush that defies rational analysis.

Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides (one left-wing columnist in Britain actually offered a large sum of money to anyone who would assassinate the president) there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the superbureaucrats of Brussels. As one who regularly reads Le Monde, I find it hard to convey the intensity of the desire of official France to replace Bush with Kerry. Anti-Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America-precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.

What better example than President Bush to illustrate a point - at some time in your life, you have to grow up, and start acting like an adult. George Bush himself did this when he gave up drinking, sobered up, married, and had children. He became a successful businessman, and earned a lot of money, but he did it by working hard, long hours. He foreswore pleasure to finish a job, he gave up fun times to do what needed to be done, and he was willing to get in and put his shoulder behind the truck to get it moving through the muck and mud again. What better example than John Forbes Kerry to illustrate the modern European: protected from threat by the might of the United States, grown up spoiled and pampered, catered to and courted by all. Well, the ball is over, the coach is a pumpkin again, and the Prince is in the midst of a battle - he doesn't have time for running around the countryside, trying to find whose foot fits the glass slipper. It's time for Western Europe to grow up. Eastern Europe, after living under communist domination for 50 years, is doing just fine, thank you, and is repairing the Prince's lance and making new arrows for him.

Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory. The mullahs and the imams, the gunmen and their arms suppliers and paymasters, all those who stand to profit-politically, financially, and emotionally -- from the total breakdown of order, the eclipse of democracy, and the defeat of the rule of law, want to see Bush replaced. His defeat on November 2 will be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.

I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.

The stench of corruption pouring out of the United Nations at the moment indicates that John Kerry either has no sense of smell, or is so used to the smell he doesn't acknowledge its presence. I'd bet my money on the second. A Kerry/Edwards presidency would be the worst of the Carter and Clinton administrations rolled into one, facing problems equal to those of the 1948 Truman presidency. Kerry isn't up to it - not by a million miles.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Just so much natural fertilizer

There's a lot of talk about how the War against Terror has "made us less safe", especially during the current run-up to the 2004 US Presidential election. The most compelling thing one can say about 99% of it is that it's propaganda, both from our enemies as well as the opposition party, attempting to make the current president look as bad as possible, and aid in electing his opponent.

One of the major tenets of the "less safe" meme is that our presence in the Middle East only "encourages" more people to join al-Qaida and other hate groups. Here are a few points these doom-and-gloom merchants don't seem to understand.

Prior to the successful second attack on the World Trade Center and President Bush's response of destroying the Taliban, al Qaida had free reign in Afghanistan, and virtually unending supplies of money. We know where most of that money came from. With the help of other nations, we've shut down more than half the pipelines, and significantly strangled the islamofascist financial support system.

While the Taliban were in power, bin Laden could train jihadis freely, openly, and with the active support of the local government. Since the defeat of the Taliban, the training camps have been moved, then moved again, and now are being moved once more. With each move, the training programs taught at those camps is degraded, the best instructors are being killed or captured, and their training manuals captured.

That last act, capturing and interpreting the terror training manuals, provides the West with the best of all intelligence - how the terror cells under bin Laden were set up, how they did their surveillance, how they prepared for an attack, how they paid their cell members, and how they executed their attacks. That intelligence can be used to great advantage to prepare against such attacks, and to protect vulnerable, and now known, types of targets. It's been this intelligence coup that has been the central reason for arrest after arrest throughout the Western world.

There are no statistics on how many islamofascists have been killed, but it's considered to be six or seven times the number of Allied deaths, at a minimum. It takes years to train quality leadership, whether it's in our military, or al-Qaida's terror organization. Leadership is, and always has been, the key to success in any operation. Al-Qaida is losing its most effective operators at a rate it's not capable of sustaining. The "best and brightest" are either dead or running for their lives. The people in "middle management" positions in terrorist organizations are nowhere near the quality of the leadership even two years ago. There's less and less of a chance to train new leaders, as the training camps for such leadership are prime targets. Just as the Soviet Union bled Hitler's Wehrmacht dry of effective leadership, especially at the junior officer and NCO level, so is the United States and its allies doing the same thing to jihadi groups worldwide.

Finally, taking the war to Iraq was a brilliant tactical and strategic victory for the United States. With US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the islamofascists MUST concentrate their efforts against them there. The Coalition must be driven from the Middle East at all costs, or the entire terrorist operation will begin to collapse from within. They cannot afford to lose support from any single group or population, nor can they afford to allow the enjoyment of a truly democratic government take hold among the ordinary people. That, even more than killing the islamofascist leadership, will suck the power from these shadow groups, and reduce their capacity to operate effectively even on their "home turf".

With the absolutely essential commitment of the majority of the islamofascists against the US and Coalition forces in Iraq, there are fewer jihadis to conduct operations elsewhere. The fact that the US is quietly killing islamofascists in huge numbers - and not broadcasting those numbers, as we did in Vietnam - builds doubt in the minds of would-be jihadis. There is growing evidence before their very eyes that they are NOT "winning the battle", much less winning the war. No one wants to be on the losing side.

Every step taken by the Coalition to improve living conditions in both Iraq and Afghanistan is a nail in the coffin of the jihad movement. The fact that we can still build roads, build schools, repair and re-open hospitals, bring the power grid not only back to where it was before the first Gulf war but to a level never experienced before, are all key points that say to anyone with half a brain that the jihad movement in Iraq is failing in even keeping the Coalition busy defending itself. The failure of the Taliban not only to stop the election in Afghanistan, but their utter failure to conduct even one successful attack tells the average jihadi that the Taliban are a mostly spent force, and his only role will be as cannon fodder in a losing effort. It's obvious that God (Allah) has turned His back on the islamofascists. While any Muslim cleric would decry that as heresy, it's GOT to be percolating through the brains of any potential jihadi.

We know that George Bush has made mistakes in pursuing the War on Terrorism. We don't "know" that his failures have encouraged more Muslims to join the jihad movement, or if it has, that the increased numbers of jihadis hasn't been countered by the numbers of islamofascists killed and/or captured. There are still trouble spots that may take another year, possibly two to crush, if the leadership is there to ensure it. That depends on who the US elects as president on November 2nd. A Kerry win would certainly cause the jihadis around the world to breathe a sigh of relief. A Bush victory would take the heart out of a fairly substantial portion of the terrorist movement.

All the talk about how our invading Iraq has only "strengthened" the islamofascist movement is just that - talk. The truth is, the Coalition's activities in Iraq may be the defining moment in the war against terrorism - the tipping point where the number of dying jihadis exceeds the numbers of recruits. Any other evaluation of what's taking place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East is just a lot of donkey droppings.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Happy Birthday, Dear!

No matter how far down I feel, there's always someone who cheers me up - my wife Jean. Today's her birthday, and I hope that she's blessed with at least 50 more. Jean is older than I am chronologically, but younger at heart - the kind of person that will never get "old".

I dispair

The fact that our government works at all is a minor miracle. The fact that some people get help from the government without a two- or three-year fight, that they are able to get something done without a lawyer being involved, is a major miracle.

I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of veterans out there that deserve a VA disability, but haven't been able to fight through the mountains of paperwork necessary to substantiate their claims. I am sure there are hundreds of people that should be recognized as disabled, based on clinical evidence, but that are turned down for various reasons. I am also positive that, thanks to ambulance-chasing trial lawyers, there are hundreds of doctors afraid to put anything in writing that might get them even near a whiff of a lawsuit, to the detriment of their patients.

I can't be the only one with these problems.

I just got a letter back from Social Security, disapproving my claim for Social Security disability. They have decided that ""you have the capacity to perform the demands of your past work as Software Test Engineer Technician as it is generally performed."

I have a hyperacusis problem. Noise bothers me. It causes my neck muscles to tense up, which triggers both cervical nerve pain (I had a 2-level cervical fusion, and there's a BUNCH of osteoarthritis from C3 through T1, and that pinches nerve roots, especially when the muscles contract), and massive headaches. There are not many jobs quite as noisy as software testing, especially in an open laboratory with some 350 personal computers, all with the casings removed so the test teams can get to the innards as frequently as software testers have to. It's also a job with an enormous stress factor - there's always a deadline, there are always problems, and there are always equipment/software/test failures.

The whole disability thing started with a letter from a physician saying I couldn't continue at the job and expect any relief at all from my symptoms. I loved the job, but it was killing me. The only choice was quit. Now the Social Security Administration tells me I can work there again. In the meantime, my symptoms have gotten worse, not better.

This is our government, and they're here to "help us".

It's a good thing I don't possess a gun (or the money to buy one), or I'd definitely consider going postal.

Why John Kerry doesn't "connect" with the little guy

There's an exceptionally good article about John Kerry and the modern Democratic Party in American Enterprise Online that explains much of what's happening in today's presidential election. Written by Karl Zinsmeister, it opens with a bang:

It is "becoming harder by the day to take the Democrats seriously as the party of the common man," writes columnist Daniel Henninger. "The party's primary sources of support have become trial lawyers and Wall Street financiers. It is becoming a party run by a new class of elites who make fast money--$25 million for 30 days work on a movie, millions (even billions) winning lawsuits against doctors...millions to do arithmetic for a business merger."

The Democratic party, for most of its existence, back to the early years of the party, was the party of the "little guy" against the"elite". The Democrats represented the labor unions against big labor - now they side with the labor union leaders and big labor against the employees. Today, the plant owners and the labor bosses are Democrats, and the rank and file vote Republican.

The Democrats were the party that supported the farmer, until farming first began to be overwhelmed by agribusiness giants, and the environmental movement began pushing millions into campaign coffers of Democratic politicians. Today, the Democrats continue to back farm subsidies that reward huge agribusinesses, while pushing the average farmer to the edge of bankruptsy. The Democrats sponsor environmental legislation that places even greater strains on the little farmer against the giants. The Democrats want high taxes to "soak the rich" to support welfare payouts - literally buying votes with tax giveaways - without understanding that such policies are destroying family-owned farms, dairies, and small businesses.

Today's Democrats count among their members the "robber barrons of the present age - trial lawyers, environmentalists, elitists, big media, Hollywood - just as the Republicans counted the railroad barrons, the mining barrons, the industrialsts, of the 19th century among their members. Zinsmeister says it best:

The term "limousine liberal" doesn't adequately capture how disconnected Democrats like John Kerry (and Jay Rockefeller, and Barbara Streisand, and Jon Corzine--there are now many such) are from everyday American life. They are more like "Learjet liberals," who literally pronounce their poxes on oil executives and cattlemen from leather sofas floating at 15,000 feet inside their personal jets (which consume 1,200 gallons of fuel every time they streak their enlightened owner to an Idaho skiing weekend or Cape sailing jaunt).

It's become polite to think that because someone has amassed a lot of money, they're intellectually brilliant. Kerry married money - twice. Most sports "mega-stars" make millions for physical capabilities, not mental muscle. The Hollywood elite think playing a role is the equivalent or rocket science. Tenure has made it impossible for universities and colleges to remove deadwood from their staff, and the gradual attrition has elevated a significant portion of these tenured professors to leadership positions. There's no consideration on their part that their elevation into a position of leadership does not equate to great intelligence. The Military has a similar problem.

There's also a tendency among many people to believe that, because they've achieved great success in one area, that brilliance translates equally into other areas. Again, Hollywood is a star-filled example.

Most people in this nation are hard-working, honest, intelligent, and educated beyond what the politicians and the mainstream media believe. The resent being treated as dupes, at being lied to, misled, treated with contempt, and looked down upon, especially by people they themselves do not consider better than themselves, only luckier. Zinmeister says its a cultural thing:

Reinforcing our philosophical egalitarianism is the fact that America (as Daniel Boorstin pointed out) has traditionally been a culture without a capital. At the time of our founding, more than 95 percent of the population lived outside the major cities, and we continue to be a highly dispersed, localized, and independent-minded people, quite resistant to bossing from the center.

Average Americans believe elitism is not only wrong in principle, but also ineffective. And they are correct. In his new book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki of The New Yorker demonstrates that a cross-section of everyday people will generally prove better at solving knotty societal problems than any fraternity of experts. He presents many proofs for the conclusion--long promoted in these pages--that ordinary citizens possess forms of knowledge, intuition, and moral sense that make them better arbiters of critical national debates than any educated elite. This is not just rabblerousing, but a time-tested reality that explains much of the brilliant success of America and the common people who have come to her shores.

The Internet in general, and bloggers in particular, have shown the truth in that statement, as the lies, distortions, and misleading statements of the Mainstream Media has been discovered and "outed" time and time again online, frequently within hours of the distortion being made public.

Zinmeister sums up:

So we're in an interesting new era. The Right has become a thinking party, with rich intellectual resources, that is simultaneously dead-set against political elitism and cultural snobbery. In many past issues of The American Enterprise we've described how conservatism has laid claim to America's quiet but multitudinous middle class. Now in this issue we look at the other side of the political spectrum: at how the Left has come to dominate among the overclass and underclass that bracket the conservative middle.

The old way of thinking about U.S. politics--little-guy Democrats vs. wealthy Republicans--is about as accurate and relevant today as a 1930 weather forecast. New fronts have moved in. Expect some exciting squalls ahead.

These brief exerpts don't do this very informative article justice, and I encourage every reader to read the whole thing, from the original source, as soon as possible. There's some monsterously successful ammunition that can be used, both in the political debate, and in the understanding of the evolving role of the middle class in American politics.

The Internet is the big question-mark not mentioned in Zinmeister's evaluation. If used properly, the Internet can reduce the "underclass" to a tiny sliver, while enhancing and enlarging the middle class. The Internet can expand horizons, provide remedial education, language training, skills development, and other resources for the less fortunate to use to move out of the bottom of the economic swamp. It opens doors to new ideas, new jobs, new prosperity, and new ways of thinking about everything. It's going to make some people feel very threatened - as indeed it should. It's going to empower others to succeed where the opportunity was just beyond reach before. It's also going to fail those that try to use it as a free ride. It's still going to take hard work, determination, and skill to succeed. The Internet is just going to allow you to do that in a different way, from a different perspective, and more freely than other opportunities. Success will still only come from personal effort.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Where are they now?

My wife and I are happily married, and have been now for close to 39 years. During that time, we've met a lot of people, become friends with many of them, and tried to keep in touch. Keeping in touch in the military is difficult, sometimes impossible. There's only one person I've managed to keep in touch with for more than 30 years. Jean's managed a bit better - she has two friends she still keeps in touch with. The rest? Who knows...

There's also the problem of memory. I know my memory is getting worse - I remember less today than I did yesterday, or at least I find I can't remember as much as I thought I did. Sometimes, though, as I go through some of the memorabilia we have around the house from our long life together, it sparks memories, and opens up the gates of the past, if only for a minute.

Jean and I were married at the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs, on February 19, 1966. I can remember the name of the Chaplain clearly - William Shoemaker. Col. Shoemaker was the one that broke the news to me that my brother had been severely injured in an accident in 1964, when I was a cadet. He retired to Colorado Springs before we did. There was an article about him in the local newspaper, as he retired for a second time from a local church. I found his name in the telephone book, and called. He was surprised by my call, and glad that our marriage "had been one that lasted". So many military marriages don't - military marriages are subjected to stresses the majority of civilian couples never experience.

Jean and I met at the USO in Denver. There were several other couples there that married. One of them was Mike Day and his wife Judy. I can't remember her maiden name. Mike's name is on that black granite memorial in Washington, one of a dozen friends I lost in Vietnam. There was another very special person there at the USO - Marge McCullough, the director. I think Jean and I gave her more grey hair than most couples, but she also LIKED us, and gave us her unconditional blessing. We were in Germany when Marge died, but there were hundreds of others to mourn in our place. Marge was a special person, and loved by almost everyone who knew her. There were a dozen other names from the USO, too, that I can see their faces, but can't recall their names. There were a few of the hostesses I do remember - Julie, and Angie, and Kathleen. Where are they now? The years in between have broken all the links.

I can remember the name of my best man - Paul Hastings - and that he's from one of the Carolinas, but we've hardly spoken twice in the last 38 years. I have no idea where he is now. One of my wife's bridesmaids, Donna Brinson, travelled around the world and spent three months with us in Wiesbaden in 1973, but we only have a vague notion of where she is now - we think Dallas, and married, but none of our mutual friends either know or can remember.

Two names stand out from my tour in Vietnam - Jasper Franklin and Bob Toth. I've not heard from either of them since they left the 12th RITS. Try as I might, I can't remember the names of the five Australians that worked down the hall, or the full name of Ski, my favorite pinochle partner. I can remember the names of the senior officers in our section - Captain (later Major) Palma, and Captain Quarles. Also Col Ardoin, our commander, and another Louisiana swamp-stomper. He used to come by for a cup of coffee occasionally - whenever my mom would send me a goodie box with a pound or two of Community Dark Roast. We both favored it. Major Hank Palma was my boss a second time in Wiesbaden, some three years after I left Vietnam. The Intel field is small, and the people a close-knit family.

The group in Wiesbaden was especially close-knit. Mike Prahl and I correspond every few days. Eugene Barch lives in Denver, yet I don't think we've talked three times in the last fifteen years. Maybe if he was online... Jean and I really miss Bill and Barbara Haedt. The last time we saw them, they were leaving Colorado Springs for Alaska. We've often wondered if they retired up there, but where? The guys I worked with - Chuck Babcock, Dick Kingsley, Ray Hustad, Scott Zilm - were the best! I ran into Chuck Babcock a few times - at Offutt, and again in Wiesbaden, but I have no idea where he is now. The last rumor I had was he'd retired to California. Today, there's an alumni group online for members of our old unit, and quite a few of the people I served with belong, but there are an equally large number that don't. You wonder, what has their life been like?

The Internet can rebuild bridges, but it has its limits. You can only get in touch with people who actually have an online presence, and only then when both of you can make a connection. You can find some people through alumni associations, or groups like Classmates, or you can do a search. Searches only work, though, when you have a decent enough memory, or when you're not trying to find someone named James Smith! Even a name like Ray Turner may turn up several hundred hits, and NONE of them the one you're looking for.

Sometimes, too, as you search, you discover the person you're looking for is no longer available on this Earth. You mourn the lost friends, the lost hours together, the lost chances of reunion. Those lost ones remind you of the ones still alive, and renew your efforts to make contact, to share a joke, a memory, a name or two, one more time.

The World's falling apart!

And it's all George Bush's fault.

At least, that's what the Dummycritters keep screaming at every turn.

The economy lost jobs when mid-town New York City loses the Twin Towers - it's Bush's fault, not the 20 nutcases that hijacked the jets and flew them into the towers. The huge economic loss of that tragedy further deepened a recession that had begun on the previous watch, but hey, it's all Bush's fault. The fact that unemployment is the lowest it's been in 20 years, that there are more people employed than ever before, that the economy has shown five straight quarters of economic growth, mean nothing, because George Bush can't do anything right.

We invaded Afghanistan, and destroyed the Taliban. Unfortunately, a well-heeled, adored figure, Osama bin-Laden, managed to POSSIBLY escape through some of the roughest, ugliest terrain in the world, using local tribesmen for guides, and it's all Bush's fault for not sending more troops, not sealing all the exits (I doubt that any single human being even KNEW all the exits - at least, no one in the West), not bagging the bad guy. Bush "OUTSOURCED" the job of capturing Bin Laden to the Afghanis, who happen to know the terrain a hell of a lot better than the 2000 or so Special Forces we managed to get into the country to try to capture the al Qaida leader. He escaped, and it's all Bush's fault.

It's taken us two years to build a stable government in Afghanistan, to the point where national elections could be held for the first time EVER - it's all Bush's fault it took so long, although it took longer in both Germany and Japan. It's also unfair, because the guy we picked as the interim leader is going to win the election. Just because we picked the best of those available, and helped him develop the skills he needed to run the country, and he did a good job of it, means nothing. He's an American puppet, because George Bush is so stupid.

We didn't build a 'proper' coalition at the United Nations, because Germany, France, Russia, and China, didn't agree with us, and it's all Bush's fault, although all four nations, AND the United Nations, were being heavily bribed by Saddam Hussein through the "Oil for Food" program to keep the US from acting. It doesn't matter that thirty countries joined with us - the Coalition of the Willing - because the United Nations didn't sanction it, it's "illegal".

We didn't find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, so the war was for nothing, and it's all Bush's fault, although there's the seeds for a democratic government growing in fertile ground, and the majority of the country is not only stable enough to participate, but anxiously looking forward to elections. It won't be "legal", though, because Bush didn't do it "right".

Some 380 tons of high explosives are found to be missing, out of some two MILLION tons that are scattered all over Iraq, and it's all George Bush's fault for not having things in better control. The fact that there are more than a thousand weapons dumps, that you could hide a few hundred trailer-trucks full of explosived under the western Iraqi desert and they'd never be found, or that there's a few thousand trained terrorists running around, supplied by Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran, all mean nothing. George Bush is a stumblebum and a failure because he didn't personally keep track of every BB in Iraq.

The lunatic left needs to stop and listen to themselves. They sound like a bunch of spoiled schoolchildren, whining about anything and everything, just because the "other side" is doing it. Success doesn't matter - the wrong side's the one being successful. That is so petty, so spiteful, so childish, that those that partake need a good old-fashioned spanking, with a thick paddle. I hope sensible Americans will administer that spanking come next Tuesday. The Left needs it, because it's all their fault.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Trip of a Lifetime, Part II

We left Wiesbaden early on a May morning - four adults and a young child, at least a suitcase apiece, toys for Mitzi, a blanket or two, a couple of pillows, and some snacks - in a small Volkswagen sedan, ready for adventure. By 8:30 AM, we were on the E35 Autobahn, heading for our first destination, Basle.

Before I get into this too deeply, I need to mention the greatest boon to tourism in all of Europe - Michelin Green Guides. These things are fantastic! They list every single attraction worthy of mention in the nation they're written about, provide maps, give fairly accurate dates for openings and costs for attractions, and do a great job of all of it. We did a lot of our planning by first looking at the Michelin guides, THEN working out everything else. Here's the Corporate link for the guides, here's another commercial link, and here's the Amazon link. If you're heading to any country covered by a Michelin guide, they're definitely the first thing to pack! We started our trip with four packed away - Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. They were well-worn before we returned.

Our route carried us down to the Autobahn heading toward Darmstadt, then toward Mannheim and the Rhine River. Our destination was Basle, on the German/Swiss border. We'd exchange some dollars/marks for Swiss Franks, eat lunch, visit a few sited, and head for St. Croix. There were many places we planned to stop - for a minute, for an hour, whatever was best. The first of those steps was the Emperor Chair, or Kaiserstuhl, near Freiburg. Today it has its own Webcam (Remember that Germany is anywhere from five to nine hours EARLIER than the United States - 3:00PM Colorado is 10:00PM, Germany). Of course, the day we were there, it was partly cloudy, hazy, and with a bit of fog, so we didn't see much.

Our next stop of any importance was Basle. Of course, as we continued to drive along the German countryside, sandwiched between the Black Forest on one side and the Rhine Valley on the other, there were always castles, convents, towers, and walls to see, plus something most people don't understand who've never travelled outside the United States - even the houses and common things like gas stations were different. It's the little things like that which cause culture shock - not the big things. Not only are they different in general, but quite frequently they're different between different parts of the same country. The scenery is not only constantly changing, it's constantly shifting!

Basle is a large, important city not only on the German/Swiss border, but also on the German/French and Swiss/French border. The Rhine river runs between the three countries, but Basel is also a major river port for all three countries. There are miles of barge docks along the river from well north of the town itself to dozens of miles east as well. Here's the city's home page (translated).

Basle is a fairly large city, but was surprisingly easy to get around in when we were there in 1974. Unfortunately, I haven't been back since, so I can't say what it's like today. One thing we did notice were the mobile traffic director's towers that existed at various places in the city. This one was the first we saw, and the camera came out! Because we were trying to cover as much territory as possible, a lot of our photos were taken out the car window, or through the front windshield. Some turned out well, others didn.t This one, and most of the others through the window, were taken by my wife with a small Kodak Instamatic camera. We weren't there very long - mainly to exchange money and find a nice place for lunch. The lady that waited on me at the bank spoke very good English, and sent us to a place that had marvelous food, but I can't remember anything beyond the fact that we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Our trip from Wiesbaden to Basle has all been on the Autobahn, the German Interstate. When we left Basle, we drove on one of the lesser federal highways. We stopped one time just because th countryside looked so peaceful and quiet. Walking away from the federal highway toward one of the fields, I discovered eight huge I-beams buried into the ground, and sticking up about four feet - apparently we were close to one of Switzerland's borders, and they still (at that time) kept tank barriers in place!

At another place, we were suddenly stopped by a red traffic light, and a mechanical crossing arm, the type that are everywhere to block traffic for trains. Only, this time, there were no train tracks anywhere, just another road that intersected just beyond the red light. We'd been sitting there for a couple of minutes when suddenly two Mirage fighters crossed the highway directly in front of us, moved off to our right, and took off. We couldn't see the runway, and there wasn't any sign of a military facility in the other direction. As the traffic arm moved up and we drove across the taxiway, my father-in-law looked back to the left and saw a huge set of clam-shell doors closing on a hangar carved into the very mountain itself. After that, we kept our eyes open for military installations, and found a few, but none of them were obvious. I'm sure that for every one we saw, there were a dozen we missed.

Our trip was to take us down through the town of Biel to Lake Neuchatel, and then to St. Croix. Sometime shortly after we left Biel, it started to rain - not hard, just a steady drizzle that was pretty miserable if you were out in it very much. We had planned to stop at Lake Neuchatel for a half-hour or so, but because of the rain, we kept going. Jean took this photo of the sailboats out on the lake even in the rain. We also learned that, by travelling in May, rather than later in the season, some attractions that were listed as "open" frequently closed earlier than the listed time, and may not be open at all. There was a square castle on Lake Neuchatel that had been converted on the inside to an antique car museum. That had been one of our scheduled stops, only when we got there, it was closed.

The town of Neuchatel itself was a surprise to us. It's built in layers up the mountainside, and some of the front gardens were on as many as four levels. The town itself was beautiful, and if it hadn't been quite so cold and wet, we would have stayed there more than for a brief meal.

Here and here are links to the city of Biel. The links to the city of Neuchatel (the twenty or so I checked) were not very pretty. The city needs to do a decent job of creating a website - it's a spectacular city to visit. This site has some, but you have to page through to page 2 to see them. This site has some commentary in English about the town, but there aren't many photos.

We finally got to Ste. Croix about 7:00 PM. We were all tired, and checked into the first hotel we saw - the Hotel Jura. The prices weren't bad, it looked clean, and besides, as I said, we were tired. Apparently we picked up another visitor on that trip - someone named "Serendipity" - and she stayed with most of the entire trip! She first showed herself at the Hotel Jura. This is a postcard I kept from the hotel. We were only one of three groups staying at the hotel that evening, so it was very peaceful. The restuarant there was quite unusual - everything was prepared out in the open, on a huge fireplace in the dining area! Everything we were served was excellent, and the people friendly. It would have been a good stop in any trip, but the next morning made it unforgetable.

I woke about 6:30, totally refreshed. I had wanted to stay in town until the post office opened at 8:00, and the rest of the family was still sleeping. I walked out of the hotel, down a small road, and into an apple orchard blanketed in early morning mist. I will forever kick myself for failing to bring my camera, because that was absolutely the most gorgeous scene of the entire trip for me. Later that morning, Jean took these photos. The apple orchard is just to the right of the telephone pole on the second photo.

My trip to the post office was an experience! I was told by the concierge that it was "just a short walk", and that I should ask for a particular clerk, who was a niece. She didn't say that the walk was 2/3 downhill, that I'd have to go through two walkways where houses had been built up overhead, and that most of the trip would be using stairs! The walk itself was fascinating, but the visit to the post office almost set off a riot! It was still mid-May, so the tourist season hadn't really started in Europe yet. Everyone wanted to practice talking to me in English. It took almost 45 minutes for me to buy the stamps I wanted, and I ended up getting a lot more than what I'd planned, because the clerks kept pulling things out of drawers! I bought the complete issues from the previous three years, plus a mint set of the Swiss Evangelists set - the high value stamps depicting Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the four Apostles. I purchased them at face value, which was 38SFr, or a little over $15 US. That's less than the current catalogue value for the high value alone, so it was a good deal! Just as I left, one of the clerks found a copy of the NABA '71 souvenir sheet, and rushed out with it. I practically ran back to the hotel, before they found anything else there, and bankrupted my limited budget I'd set aside for stamps.

The only disappointment we had was that at that time, the Reuge Music Box company didn't allow tours, and the museum wouldn't open until June 1st.

Here is a link to the town of Ste Croix, and here is a link to the unique little railroad that links it to Yverdon. We had to wait for their train to pass at least twice!

Coming soon, Part 3: Ste Croix to Genoa, with stops at Lausanne, Chillon castle, and Aosta.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tongue in cheek.

There aren't many military manuals that have a fan following, but "Tongue and Quill" is - or at least used to be - the exception. Officially labelled as Air Force Pamphlet 13-2: Communicating to Manage in Tomorrow's Air Force, it provides 280+ pages of the best ideas available on researching, writing, editing, managing, and reviewing written communication, and plenty of first-rate ideas that help the average Joe in uniform how to become an effective public speaker. My copy is the third edition, issued in 1977 by the Air University staff. This is the second copy I've owned - I wore out the first one.

If Dan Rather had had a copy of this manual, he'd have known the papers he received from Texas were fake. Of course, that assumes first that he would actually stoop to reading a military manual, and secondly that he'd be swayed by truth.

The first thing anyone does upon getting a copy of the manual is to flip through it and read the cartoons, one-liners, and brief statements. Most are humorous, but they also have a serious side. They focus the reader on the key elements of the chapter being studied. They frequently make a dull subject more interesting, and provide a fresh approach to a problem that the reader might not otherwise have considered.

Almost everyone in the military writes something. The lowest ranking enlisted member may be tagged to write up maintenance or discrepency forms and supply requisitions. Military clerks who see to it that every office in the Air Force run smoothly may have to prepare more than a dozen types of written communications every week. Non-Commissioned Officers write everything from supply requisitions to performance reports to training documents to dozens of kinds of letters. The bane of all officers are the hundreds of different types of reports, studies, evaluations, comments, and suggestions they are required to make, day after day, regardless of what unit they're assigned to or what their current task is. Most of the actual composition, editing, and even coordination may be done online, but the final product will be a printed document with someone's signature on it. Some military members may be better than others at writing, but no one ever escapes actually doing it.

The military jokes that there are always three ways of doing something: the right way, the wrong way, and the military way. Communication is no different. Most documents are set up to be written in a particular format. Sometimes (frequently!) it's hard to see why a particular report has to be in what appears to be a disasterous format, but the military wants it done just that way, and no other. That way, at least they're all in the same format. That does make it easier to dig specific information from a report quickly. If a particular bit of information is ALWAYS reported in paragraph 3.a.(5) of a report, you can go to any past report and quickly find what was reported previously, because it's going to be in paragraph 3.a.(5)., too. Standardization stifles creativity, but the military doesn't necessarily want creative writing. It wants standard reports that have the proper key elements, in the proper order, with good references and appropriate footnotes. Standardized documents help a harried officer or NCO to grasp what they need from such a report quickly, without having to search the entire thing to find the one or two lines they need RIGHT NOW!

It's sometimes hard for writers to "break the mould" once they leave the military, but it's never impossible. Military writing guides stress establishing timelines, building a good draft, getting things in the right order, writing with the minimum of padding, and keeping on topic. If you follow the book, your writing (and speaking) will always satisfy the military demands. If you can learn to do it right for the military, doing it "right" for anybody else is a snap!

Friday, October 22, 2004

An education worth pursuing

I've been having a lot of fun lately helping a couple of friends rebut attacks from folks on the looney liberal left. While doing that, I've discovered that there are literally MILLIONS of websites on the Internet, with virtually any kind of information one could want. In fact, there's enough information out there that, if it were linked in an orderly fashion, one could get a pretty darned good education - up through the PhD level - from reading even a small percentage of it.

Let's take a look at just one incident: the Great Depression that decimated the United States in the 1930's. If you do a Google search on "Great Depression" +cause +US (because the depression hit virtually every country in the world), you get about 138,000 hits. This isn't everything there is to know, or every reference to, the Great Depression, but just those that mentions the cause of the Great Depression, and that focuses primarily on the United States.

Google brings up just about anything and everything that has the words queried against in the article it retrieves, but is it worthwhile information? The first link up is Lecture 18 of thirty from a History 102 course given by the University of Wisconsin. The entire class notes are online, offering anyone wanting to study them a chance to get the same information offered in the class itself. Of course, these are just the class notes, and I don't find a link to the textbook, but that's not really important. By checking with Google, one can find a vast array of related information that would provide far greater knowledge than any single textbook, or from sitting in the class for four and a half months. There's information from several conflicting viewpoints, and hotlinks to supporting data, statistics, and even first-person accounts. There are articles from more than 30 "reference" sources - Encarta, Encyclopedia Brittanica, Webster's Dictionary, Google, and more. There are sites providing everything from snippets of information, course outlines, and reviews to entire scholarly dissertations on minute points. Just reviewing the first 70 items revealed work, class notes, assignments, and general study guides for a half-dozen different colleges and universities, and data from at least five government agencies.

I've researched more than 40 topics in the last two weeks, and the amount of information I've retrieved has been astounding for every single one of them. I've also found that changing the word order in the query will change the way the list is displayed, and may or may not change the number of hits. It really doesn't matter - the number of hits for almost every major event in world history returns anywhere from 500 to 5 million hits (do a query on "World War II" - 5,060,000 hits in less than a minute!). Of course, it's like the old saying, "you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince charming" - you have to look at dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of Google hits before you find the one with the answer you're looking for. The more you know about Google, the more you know about how search algorythms work, and the greater skill you have in properly wording your request, the more likely you'll get the results you want more quickly.

Of course, some people aren't really interested in the TRUTH, only what they want to say, or to repeat from "their" guy in politics, in sports, or whatever. The differences from fifty years ago, when I first started visiting libraries on a regular basis, and now are unbelievable. There is more information at my fingertips as I sit here typing than there was in the entire Louisiana Parish I lived in back then - and there was one four-year college and a separate two-year college in the two nearest large towns. The person trying to feed false information into a debate has a much harder time today - the information is only a query (and a few dozen mouse clicks) away. If the attempt is done in a public venue, there's a growing chance someone in the venue knows enough to run circles around the perpetrator of the false data. Even if there's NOT an expert readily available, within 24 hours the Internet will come up with not one, but a dozen.

So why are there so many lies making the rounds of the Internet? Part of the answer is laziness - someone finds it easier to forward the falsehoods than to research them and debunk them. Another part of the answer is that many of the people who hear the lie WANT to believe it, and gleefully spread it across the blogosphere at light-speed. Some people have a hard time searching for things - from lack of skills, from lack of understanding the way search engines work, from lack of experience, and from downright fear of doing anything but the most simple things on their computer. The lies spread, rather than be killed.

This is exactly what the people that created the lie in the first place want. They want it to be replicated around the world, spread to as many machines as possible, hoping that some of the lie sticks. They may want to change an opinion, create a demand (or kill it), to undermine someone's credibility, destroy faith, or simply see how far their lie will go before someone can kill it.

A few sites, like Snopes, Junk Science, and Fact Check, can make checking easy, and do a good job of debunking a lot of the untruths deliberately being spread around the world today. For many of the rest, it's up to those of us who value truth over fiction, and reality over make-believe. As for me personally, I'd rather be hated for telling the truth than loved for telling a lie.

A Note to College Students

My, how important we've become! Both Presidential candidates pursue you as if you were all Adonis, or Helen of Troy. The entire world is just waiting with baited breath for the brilliance displayed by those who have finally escaped the halls of public secondary schools, and now wander the halls and grounds of institutions of "higher learning", surrounded by an aura of superiority. After all, each and every one of you is an intellectual genius - Big Media has said so!

What a load of outhouse offal!

Most of you have finally mastered the art of absorbing the information shoved into your ears and before your eyes well enough to regurgitate enough to get a passing grade on a multiple-choice test, or to make enough lucky guesses on a true/false exam to beat the odds. A fraction of you- maybe as much as a third - have learned to follow directions well enough to write a simple computer program, mix things together in a chemistry lab without causing a nuclear meltdown, or to calculate the statistical average of a string of random numbers. Some of you, of course, have gone well beyond that - you've even learned to write decent research papers, solve complex mathematical problems, and follow the course of history that shows how what was considered a good idea at one point led to disaster at another.

That doesn't make you a genius. A hundred years ago, all of this (except the computer programming) was EXPECTED of the average high school JUNIOR - along with a fairly high minimum level of proficiency in English grammar and literature, geography, Civics, and a half-dozen other subjects. Depending on the school and the community where it was located, such subjects as animal husbandry, mechanics, plumbing, and woodworking were required for boys, while "home economics" - cooking, sewing, cleaning, preserving food, and similar subjects were required for girls.

Some of you are geniuses, at least at one subject or another. Most of you, however, are robots - wound up and set in motion, fed a steady diet of drivel and dogma, and considered "educated" at the end of four or five years of this. You've learned a lot, most of which you'll promply forget in the next five years, and you'll end up using about a third of what you DON'T forget. The big problem is that, you've learned a lot of facts, you've learned to meet the (very low) expectations of your professors, but you're still totally incapable of doing the one thing that will make it all USEFUL.

You can't think.

Of course, the last thing the majority of your college professors wanted you to do was to learn to think independently. THEY would do your thinking for you, and feed you both the questions and the approved answers.

I've visited the Democratic Underground a few times, and looked at Daily Kos perhaps three times in my eight years on the Internet. What a horrendous display of lock-step sheer stupidity! Even worse, the inmates seem to feed on it as if it were French silk pie, and spew it back (and out to others) in voluminous quantity.

Frankly, if I didn't have any better cognative abilities than what I've seen exhibited at these and other far-left websites, I'd never say a word - anywhere. One of the many little wisdoms my father taught me was "Better to sit quietly and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt". The further these young people are from the sources of factual information, the louder, more shrill, and more lacking in any grounding in reality their words become.

Let's take the draft, for instance. "Everyone" is positive that if re-elected, George Bush is going to reinstate the draft. There's not a chance in hell of that happening, for several good reasons.

Reason number one is that the volunteer military is working. There are enough recruits, they meet the necessary criteria to fill the slots the military needs filling, and they are capable of learning to do the job, and do it well. Most of these volunteers ask for the job they end up with, because they have an interest in the subject, making it just that small bit more likely they'll work hard enough to succeed.

Reason number two is because it's not worth drafting people into the military, unless there are other changes to the law that will allow the government to keep these people trained and available far longer than they've been in the past. It takes a lot of time, effort, dedication, and money to train our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines today. The time is past when we can draft a soldier, train him or her for six months, and shove them into the field and expect them to do the job.

By the time the average combat arms soldier - the "easiest" and "cheapest" soldiers to train - is ready for integration into an existing unit, he's undergone four or five months of basic training and physical conditioning, two or three months of advanced infantry training, and another month or two learning to do the job he needs to do within his squad. That's seven to eleven months, just for training to get READY to go to a combat unit. Once he gets there, it'll take him another two or three months to become fully integrated into the unit to the point where he'll be an asset, rather than a liability.

If the soldier's going to be trained in a particular specialty - communications, supply, intelligence, maintenance, aircrew, tank warfare - he may have to receive another month to six months learning that job. Part of that time will be doing things for his specialty that he would have been doing after advanced infantry training, but a lot of it will be just added on. That leaves the average draftee between eight and fourteen months of real service to his country.

All of that training costs the government between $150,000 and $500,000 per soldier. Enlistees are going to be around for at least four years. It's economically feasible to spend that much on someone that will have two years plus of commitment left after training, but not for someone who's going to be around a year or less. Besides, there's a much higher probability that the volunteer will re-enlist than there is the draftee will.

Finally, we just don't want you. The military doesn't need a bunch of spoiled children in its ranks. If you're mature enough to volunteer, to understand that you're NOT joining the Boy Scouts, that you HAVE to take orders from people who you just might hate, and that you have a distinct probability of being on the receiving end of someone trying to kill you, you'll be welcome with open arms. If you are NOT that mature, we don't want you, we don't need you, and please, for the sake of the REAL adults who do understand, go on and finish your college degree program.

In the meantime, the adults of this world will continue to provide you with a nice, cushy cocoon against reality, until you graduate and leave that cocoon. Once you have to start looking for a way to pay for your own necessities, you'll discover very quickly that fancy piece of paper your alma mater gave most of you is nothing but a certificate of fraud. That piece of paper is the key to the real world, not the fantasy world of the college campus. There's no more hiding, no more having others pick up the bill, pay the price. The only thing that counts in the jungle of the real world is the ability to think. People who don't know how to think, how to make decisions, how to not only do a particular job but how to balance that against daily living, will discover themselves unarmed against reality, and there be tigers there.

It's not Sunday yet, but...

The issue of faith has come up in this year's presidential contest more than it has at any time in the past 20 years. George Bush has never failed to say publicly and privately that it's his faith that sustains him in the most difficult job in the world. Lately, John Kerry has tried to "prove" that his faith is equal, "preaching" in churches far and wide, and declaring his faith before all men.

If you're truly a person of faith, how can you choose between these two men? What key can you find that makes the choice easier to make?

The more I read the Bible, the more I study it and ask God's guidance for wisdom in understanding, the more I see that His word is unchangeable - it always fits the situation, no matter how much the situation changes, because it goes to the very heart of the matter - human nature, and how we act - and react - with one another. Today's "battle of the faiths" is no different. Yet 2000 years ago, Jesus understood this need, and the deceptions of man, and gave us the tools to choose between those that are true in their faith, and those whose faith is just a convenience, like an extra sweater, or a favorite jacket - to be put on and taken off as they choose. From the 7th chapter of the Gospel Matthew, Jesus says:

15 ¶ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
21 ¶ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

We can use these same words in politics: what men do in their lives, especially what they do over and over, reflect their true nature. What has President Bush done, not only in the four years of his Presidency, but in his life? Is there anything there that tells us what his character is? Does he do the same thing, over and over, or does he do one thing one day, and something different another? What did he do as the governor of Texas? How well did he do in other positions he's held? Do the people trust him to deal honestly with him? Do his words reflect his deeds, or is there a dissonance? When we study this man closely, do we think in our hearts, "We can trust this man", or do we feel "This man is dangerous to me"?

When we look at Senator Kerry, what do we see? What has he done in the Senate? What did he do as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts? How did he deal with people when he was a public procecutor? Do his words now, during his presidential campaign, reflect his actions in these positions? What has he done to convince us he's capable of handling the problems our nation faces today? What character traits has John Forbes Kerry exhibited in his life that will convince us to trust him with the highest position in our government?

What have these men done in the past, and what do they do now, to make us trust them? What are the fruits of their actions, their words, their deeds? By these we can judge these two men, and decide which is being honest about his faith.

One charge pressed against George Bush is that he cannot admit making a mistake. Yet he, himself, said that he made "many mistakes" during his early years, before he found his faith. Even during the presidential debates, when he was asked that very loaded question, he answered that "perhaps he trusted the wrong people, that he appointed people to jobs he shouldn't have", although, like anyone with a shred of common decency, he refused to name names. Most of us know who they were, but George Bush wasn't going to finger them - that would have been against his character.

What about John Kerry? Has he made mistakes? Does he freely and openly admit them? I seem to remember an incident on the slopes in Idaho, and a couple of other times as well...

By their fruits shall you know them.

There are five major issues facing us in this presidential election:

  1. The war against islamic fanatics.

  2. The necessity of increasing our internal security, and protecting the lives of citizens in this nation - not just against terrorists, but against all threats.

  3. The battle against poverty and disease in this country.

  4. The need to do something about the impending bankruptcy of Social Security.

  5. The necessity of government reform - to eliminate waste, to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens, to restrain legislation from judicial bodies, to downsize a bloated bureaucracy, and to make government more responsive, more "user-friendly" to the people who grant government its legitimacy.

None of these stands alone, but each is complementary - and dependent - upon the other. I'll try to write about each more fully in other posts over the next week or so. But these are the biggies - the things that will make or break this nation in the very near future.

Study these issues. Find what these candidates truly think about each of these problems facing us. Look closely not only at what they say, but who they say it to. Is the message different to different audiences, or does the speaker say the same thing to everyone?

We are a nation "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the principles that all men are created equal." We are also a nation built upon the principles laid down in God's words, especially the words of the Ten Commandments, and the words of wisdom He has given us to live in the world He created. Also in Matthew 7, Jesus said:

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Just as our founders built this nation on the rock of faith - both in God and in the wisdom of free men, the situation today calls for our nation to be "built upon a rock" - strong, honest leadership. It's up to every voter to educate themselves about both candidates, and determine which one is rock, and which one is sand.

Whatever your ideas are, whomever you choose, please exercise your right to vote, and encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do so, too. Jesus said that no man can enter Heaven by works alone. But also, faith without works is like this:

18 ¶ Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Works cannot get us into Heaven, but without works, we're like the fig tree without fruit - useless to God. Each of us can do His will, even if it's just helping a neighbor with their groceries, donating to food banks, writing a blog, or getting out to vote for our choice, to voice our commitment to both the foundations of this nation, and those that we select to serve it on our behalf.

I'm going to add a crass commercial plug to the end of this, because I've found this product to be absolutely essential over the past few weeks since I downloaded and installed it. It's the "Online Bible". It's a free download, and there are a half-dozen or more "plug-ins" to go with it, including the Apocrapha, a Bible dictionary, an index, and more. If you want the entire Bible at your fingertips, indexed and searchable, this is the best there is.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

REMF? No such thing any more...

When I was in Vietnam, there was a constant, usually at least partially friendly, competition between combat soldiers and "Rear Area M***** F********" - REMFs for short. The combat troops claimed, rightly so, that they were the ones under fire, suffering the majority of the casualties, and frequently getting the short end of the stick. Most of the USO shows hit the rear area first, and only a few actually made it up to the fire bases and base camps where combat soldiers spent the majority of their time.

No one denied that the guys in the rear were essential to support the guys out front, but only the more intellectually challenged would contest the truth that few of them ever faced enemy fire, and the casualty rate was a small fraction of that of combat units. The guys strutting in Saigon were not combat soldiers. The combat soldiers usually congregted in a few bars and tried to forget both where they came from and where they were going back to.

Today, our army is engaged in a totally different war. It's not only a war against a determined enemy, it's a war where there are no front lines, and every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine is a potential casualty. There is no "rear area", unless it's Kuwait, Diego Garcia, or somewhere in Germany. If you're "in-country", you're a target. If you're not capable - and willing - to fight back, sooner or later you're also going to be a statistic. EVERYBODY in the sandbox is a combat soldier - at least, if they want to stay alive, and help their buddies stay alive.

The new warfare doesn't discriminate between male or female, against any branch of service, or any age, creed, color, or nation of origin. Polish men are just as likely to be killed as American women, and the enemy considers civilians working for aid agencies just as much a military target as an Army tank batallion.

This is a new kind of war in a sense, and our training program hasn't caught up with the demands. It's time our military forces become proficient in the skills of armed conflict, regardless of their branch of service, or their rank, or their gender, or their political or religious affiliation. Today, anyone in uniform is a front-line troop, and should be trained and equipped, both physically and mentally, for the task.