Google

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.

My Photo
Name:
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.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Building an Argument Around a Myth

Diplomad, a US Foreign Service employee somewhere in Southeast Asia, called it like it is today in a post on his blog. He declared that Clare Short, the British leftie that got kicked out of office, is an idiot. What a stunning grasp of the obvious! At least he had the courtesy to back up what he said with enough fact to relieve all doubt about the accuracy of his call. What followed in the "Comments" section is both hilarious and disgusting. We got a very clear picture of the warped misconceptions the average European (probably should say "leftist", but that becomes redundant after awhile) has about the United States and its role in world affairs.

First, let me clarify my credentials to discuss this subject: I'm a retired Air Force E-7 with 26 years service, mostly in the field of imagery intelligence, and a majority of those years spent in Europe. I've worked on a dozen projects that required my coordinating with the military services of a dozen European countries. I've been to Mons more than once, and twice briefed both the Supreme Commander and all the heads of the member nation's military departments. My experience is dated, but many of the decisions made during my career are bearing fruit now.

My main point is that Europe and Europeans have no idea what America is, or what it really means to its citizens. We are NOT "unsophisticated, confused, former Europeans", we are not "barbarians with poor manners and an excess of arrogance", but a free people - the freest people on planet Earth. We're a nation of 300 MILLION square miles - about the same land area as all of non-Russian Europe. We have citizens whose ancestors came from just about every nation that's ever existed, and who now are Americans. We all speak the same language, more or less. We can travel anywhere in our nation freely, the only restriction being how much travel we can afford to do.

Clare Short says the United States is undermining the United Nations by establishing an ad-hoc committee to coordinate aid to Southeast Asia. The United States is the only nation that has the airlift capacity to move tons of materials around the world by air on a moment's notice. The United States is the only nation with a FLEET of aircraft carriers, each capable of doing more, faster, than the entire navies of most nations. The United States has a dozen assault landing ships, each equipped with some 40 heavy-lift helicopters and a dozen or so assault landing craft capable of putting a squad of Marines on any beach anywhere in the world and supporting them while they're there. Those assault landing ships are also equipped with heavy equipment - bulldozers and such - to get the Marines off the beach and moving inland. What was designed for fighting a war is equally capable of supporting a humanitarian mission to relieve misery.

We're working with Australia, who has been a good friend and fellow traveller for sixty years. The US and Australia have developed common work practices that make it easy for us to work together. We share a common equipment pool, and the same can-do, will-do attitude. We're also working with India and Indonesia, two of the hardest-hit nations needing relief, and who are also the two military powerhouses in this part of Asia. They have the extra manpower that can be used to get relief supplies where they're needed. They speak the local language or dialect. They have the AUTHORITY to give orders and expect obedience that can translate "desire" into "action".

I'm sure that original coalition has grown as more and more people have decided how and where they can contribute. Thailand has given the US use of one of its military airfields. Other nations are sending warships - the type of vessel most likely to carry medical personnel on a routine basis - to assist. I'm sure that US military resources from Diego Garcia, the Middle East, and Europe, are also participating. I know they WOULD HAVE under the plans I helped develop 15 years ago, and I doubt the basic philosophy has changed.

Jan Engstrom's stupid statement that the United States is "stingy" is another piece of evidence that Europe doesn't understand the United States, and is especially clueless about George Bush. I've lived in an area similar to what George Bush calls "home". People there are slow to panic. They have a strong desire to wait until they have the facts before they do something. George Bush heard there'd been an earthquake and tsunami in South Asia. He asked someone to find out what happened, and how serious it was. He based his recommendations on what he learned. As more and more information became available, he revised his options, and made new commitments.

In the "Comments section of Diplomad's site we have clueless posters making statements like this one from "Colon":

"So much stupidity . . . Ms. Short and her ilk would rather have people die than have the US go it "alone" with its partners."
More contemptible defamation from the Cro-Magnum representives at the State Dept. She never intimated anything like that. She merely pointed out her preferences of what she thinks ought to be done. Simple logic: the US should coordinate with the UN, but if it does not, it should still assist in reparations.

Let me fisk this carefully, because there's a lot of "male bovine feces", as my old Chemistry prof used to say, in that short paragraph. First, Clare Short clearly said that the US was undermining the United Nations by "setting up its own coalition", and in so doing, was trying to "destroy" the United Nations. There is nothing here defamatory - it's right on the mark! Clare Short is one of the leftist loons who believes that the United Nations can "provide legitimacy" to actions, simply by being a part. What arrogance, what stupidity, what condecention! As the toll kept climbing, the US concluded that immediate action was necessary, worked out an agreement with several partners, and put a plan into action. Air National Guard troops were mobilized, active military units were put on alert, and things began to move. Within 48 hours, material, equipment, food and supplies were ON THE GROUND in the devastated areas from the United States, with more on the way. Once more, too, a leftist of note is screeching that the United States acted "unilaterally", when in fact there is a small but growing coalition of willing, able nations contributing what they can to alleviate as much suffering as possible, as soon as possible. Clare Short thinks such action is "illegitimate", because we didn't wait the two or three weeks for the UN to decide what to do.

"Colon Powell" is bad enough, but then another clueless European piped up, "Rene", supposedly from the Netherlands. Some of her comments are the result of just being uninformed, but later she gets milicious:

That the US is willing to divert some military resources and some money to help the global relief effort in Asia is welcome, of course. But at this stage of the aid effort, US planes circling with US rice or US blankets over sparse and crowded airfields is a huge waste for all involved. As the competent aid authorities have pointed out, what helps the most is money -- money to buy food and supplies in Asia, where it's cheaper.

First of all, the US didn't send planes to "circle over crowded airfields", but to a Royal Thai Air Force Base the US had constructed during the Vietnam War for B-52's. The aircraft they sent were C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft. I've flown about a half-million miles on this type of aircraft, and know them well. They can land on a runway only 2000 feet long (610m for my European readers) fully loaded, and take off in 1500 feet (~500m). It's the same kind of cargo aircraft the British, Australian, Thai, Malasian, Indonesian, and Philippine Air Forces use. It's got a cargo capacity of approximately 12 tons (>10mt), and a range of 2800 miles (4000km). As for "competent aid authorities" talking about buying local food - what local food? The tsunami destroyed almost everything within a half-mile of the coast, or it was consumed immediately afterwards. There's a huge need for pure water (something our warships do well, even distilling saltwater), non-perishable food, powdered milk, infant formula, blankets, tents, body-bags, and a huge long list of other "essentials" that just plain don't exist except in areas far away from the damage. Also, there aren't many nations in the area outside of Australia that have a surplus of food they can sell.

Rene again:

There is an idea propogated among some Americans that they know they're good people and they are more advanced morally and technologically than every single other country. Self-delusion is a wonderful thing when it stays at home, but there is a reality out there that has to be adapted to, and nationalistic chest-beating ain't going solve too many international problems.

Neither is leaving them to the United Scarfbags, er, Nations. Oil For Food was a great example. Or how about Darfur, where they've done a lot of talking, but taken no real action to stop the genocide? Remember Rwanda? How many people died? Hint - it's probably more than were killed by the tsunami. Then there's the rape, prostitution, and degradation forced upon women of the Congo by the UN continency supposedly "keeping the peace" there. Then there's Srebnica, Kosovo, and a half-dozen other places where the United Nations has failed to do what it agreed to do, and people died by the score.

The average American admits they're not perfect, not even close. But we do have the largest military in the world, some of the most capable technology, and an attitude that "if you say do it, we'll do it, and we'll worry about how when we get there". I've met too many Europeans who are only capable of functioning if they have a fully-detailed plan in front of them, with all the pieces identified. Real life isn't like that. The ingenuity and 'can-do' attitude of the United States isn't necessarily unique, but there's a larger share of it among our people than anywhere else in the world. It's not delusion when you can back it up by action, which seems to be what this entire argument is about - instead of talking the US took action, got things started the way they needed to go, and kept pouring it on.

The other thing most people don't seem to understand is the freedom people in the United States have to do things on their own. We don't feel we have to wait for permission to do what needs to be done. A friend of mine and I were driving back toward his home after a tornado struck. There was a huge tie-up in the middle of the main street, where two power poles were down. Nobody was in charge. We took charge, straightened out the traffic jam, and continued to direct traffic in the cold, driving rain for two hours. No one told us to do it, it was just something that needed doing. I've had similar experiences during my military career in a dozen different situations.

The only people who believe they're "morally superior" in the United States are the folks on the far left. The rest of us are intelligent enough to know better.

While there may be a reflexive criticism of US policy among prominent Europeans such as Clare Short, she does have a point: starting a duplicative, rival effort to provide aid where the UN has already the experience, personnel and skills to do so is a dangerous indulgence. Now whether this is part of short-sightedness on Bush's part or a true attempt to destroy the only global organisation that has promoted peace and cooperation since World War II is for later analysis. In the meantime, the US should assume its place as one of the main powers within the UN and act responsibly.

What experience does the United Nations have, what experienced people are on its staff, what skill-set exists, for the United Nations to deal with this contingency? It has no airlift capacity, it has no sealift capacity, it has no food reserve, it has no military, it has no deployable hospitals or civil engineering assets. Anything it does requires someone else contributing the material, manpower, and supplies to the United Nations. That kind of coordination inside a bureaucracy such as the United Nations takes time. Every minute wasted means someone else has died. The United States will get no credit, but its immediate action outside the United Nations may be the difference between life and death for several thousand people.

As for "being the only agency that has promoted peace and cooperation since World War II", I suggest you read any one of several very good histories that show beyond contradiction that the United Nations has been more a hinderance in promoting world peace than they've been a help. As for "the US should assume its place as one of the main powers within the UN and act responsibly", what's really meant is that the US should "do as it's told" by its (European) betters. WE'RE arrogant?

And then there's "Rogier", showing HIS prejudices and particular brand of idiocy:

Your country and Australia is next to Asia..Europe is collecting stuff and on their way to Asia...flights take almost a day. Holland contribute 27 million euro relief for Asia yesterday. Holland is as big as New York city. Dutch people are raising money right now and will hold a tv show next week to raise more.

We raised 52 million euro in 1 day in 1999 for Kosovo. And now i'm talking about Dutch people...not goverment.

In Holland we like to solve things peacefully and not to attack first and then come to the conclusion the country shouldn't have been attacked at all.

Europe is collecting stuff (what stuff?) and sending it where? Who's going to deliver it once it gets there? Chances are better than 10 to 1 it will be either a US aid group, one of the major charitable agencies with offices in the area (Oxfam, Salvation Army, Red Cross, USAID, etc.) or the US Military. The normal infrastructure is totally GONE. Roads no longer exist anywhere along the coast. Airfields have been damaged, and only aircraft capable of operating from "unimproved" (I.E., a cleared pasture) are able to land on them.

The Netherlands is 16,000 Square Miles (40,000km/sq) and roughly 18 million people. I live in El Paso County, one of 50+ in the state of Colorado, and by no means the largest at about 1000 sq mi. Our population is about 600,000. There are more military personnel in El Paso County than in all of the Netherlands armed forces (~40,000). I will admit, the Dutch military I worked with were the best of non-British Europe in the 1980's, but the majority of your defense was left to the United States.

I'm sure Theo van Gogh is thrilled to know you "like to solve things peacefully". Sometimes, peaceful doesn't work. We (our US Government) decided there was no way to achieve any real change with Saddam Hussein peacefully, and decided the world would be better off without him. Strangely, the majority of the Iraqi people agree with us. Rogier, when the Netherlands, and the rest of the Eurowusses finally decide that you're going to take responsibility for your own defense, come back and talk to me. Otherwise, you're being a horse's ass.

BTW, Amazon.com, just one tiny business among tens of thousands in the United States, has raised $9 in four days. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, WorldVision, and a hundred other charities have done as well or better. I don't belittle your country's contributions, but don't think that gives you the right to shake your finger at us. The cost of operating the amphibious ship convoy the US is sending to provide assistance to the area is more than the entire Dutch annual budget.

Look, the United States is a nation of fierce individualists. We know how we operate, we know what we're capable of, and we know how to use our equipment to the fullest extent possible. Why, then, would we give control of our operations to a third-rate bunch of nere-do-wells to screw things up? It's against our philosophy, it's against our character, and it's certainly against our better judgment. Everyone else in the world thinks they have the right to tell us how bad we are, how "unilateral" we are, and how we "need to conform". We are a non-conformist society. It would be much better for everyone if the world learned to accept that, to plan their activities accordingly, and to see how they can contribute to the overall effort, instead of trying to jerk the wheel from the busdriver and take over in the middle of a disaster. You also might find that if you quit treating us with contempt, we're a really nice, friendly but informal bunch of people that will do anything we can to help our friends.

WORLD RELIEF DAY

Captain Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters has recommended that January 12th be set aside as CQ's World Relief Day. I can't participate because I'm retired, disabled, and don't have enough money to meet my own bills at the moment. It's a great idea, though, and I strongly urge everyone who can to participate. For my contribution, I'll allow anyone who likes science fiction to read any or all of the five novels I have online for a $1 donation to any supporting charity.

The amount of disaster relief aid that has been donated is probably close to sufficient to meet the immediate needs of the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the area. The biggest problem at the moment is getting the aid where it needs to go. Transportation in the area is difficult at best, and in some areas, impossible. Having been involved in initial damage assessment and recovery efforts of an earthquake once before (a land one, and nothing as disasterous as this), I do have a pretty good idea of the sequence of events that needs to take place to ensure full recovery. I'll lay out the scenario, and issue a challenge for all blog-readers.

The living are being gathered together and fed, clothed, and sheltered. The majority of the aid being sent to the area right now is designed to ensure that there is food, clothing, and shelter for every survivor, and medical treatment for those that need it. The quantity either there or enroute is probably sufficient for the moment, and more will be forthcoming as aid and assistance keeps pouring in from donors around the world. The biggest problem at the moment is getting the aid to the people that need it over damaged roads, into damaged cities, and into remote areas cut off from civilization.

The most important step right now is to continue to search for survivors, and at the same time recover as many bodies of the dead as possible. Overlapping that effort and running concurrent with it is the need to begin cleaning up and removing the debris. Until the debris is removed, it's going to be impossible to know that every body has been found, and that every survivor has been located. Both are huge jobs requiring thousands of people and a long list of appropriate tools, equipment, and supplies.

The next stage is rebuilding. That means repairing or replacing the infrastructure (roads, railways, bridges, telephone and electric lines, water and sewer service). That takes both time and money, as well as equipment, supplies, tools and trained specialists. Rebuilding also means cleaning up the places that are still inhabitable, tearing down and replacing the ones that aren't, and rebuilding those structures that were destroyed, and moving people out of refugee camps back to their home villages.

The final stage is recovery. That means helping people get back to work supporting themselves, putting their lives and their families back together, and moving beyond the disaster. That's going to be harder, and take longer. Many of the poorest among those displaced made their lives fishing from small boats that are now destroyed. Insurance may replace a number of those boats, but how many of the poorest had insurance? The economic recovery of the area will be the hardest battle to fight.

My challenge to the blogosphere is this: what can we do as individuals to ensure the economic recovery of the survivors of this disaster? I see three things we can do:

  1. Help replace the tools and equipment these people need to support themselves using the skills they already have. In order to do that, we need to know how they supported themselves before the earthquake and tsunami destroyed their lives. We need to know how many fishermen are without boats, nets, and other equipment. How much does it cost to replace a boat? How much does it cost to replace nets? How many other things are needed to get a fisherman back earning his livelihood? What other forms of employment exist, and how much does it cost to equip someone to pick back up the pieces?
  2. Increase the diversity of skills and income opportunities. What else can be done in the area? How can it be accomplished? What kind of market exists for products these people can produce? We already know there's a big tourist industry in the area. How can the local people take a bigger role in meeting the demands of that industry?
  3. Education and training. The more one knows, the easier it is to find a niche to fill. What can we do, as Americans, as Australians, as Canadians or Germans, to better prepare these people for a better life? Who do we need to go through, who do we need to coordinate with, and how do we go about seeing that what we do is worthwhile and will actually make a difference?


All of this plays a major role in one other thing we should try to accomplish, another question we should try to answer: what can we do to keep the damage and destruction from being this extreme the next time this type of disaster happens? The geology of the area practically dictates that this is not a one-time event. there is historical evidence of massive tidal waves in the past, and a good indicator there will be more in the future. Wise investment in the area now will help reduce the death toll of any future disaster.

More than Timber is Crooked

Henry Farrell, over at Crooked Timber, is attacking "right-wing blogs" in general, and Powerline, Hugh Hewitt, and Glenn Reynolds specifically. There's nothing wrong with that, if he has facts. Unfortunately, most of what he has is his own personal opinion. That, too, is fine. That's what blogs are all about - saying what you think about what's going on, sharing information, sharing experiences, and bringing up points that others are unaware of, don't want to know, or refuse to admit or accept. There's no more reason to accept Henry's views of the issue than anyone else's in the blogosphere. The one rule of blogging is that whatever you say will be checked by someone, and if they disagree, they'll let you know about it.

It doesn't take Henry very long to get to the point, and to let his prejudices show:

"The perennial issue of mainstream media bias and the superiority of blogs is undergoing a minor revival in the right wing blogosphere at the moment, much of it centered on a column by Nick Coleman of the Star-Tribune, which has the temerity to take on PowerLine. Coleman’s effort to “fact-check” the factcheckers is rather weak, but his main point is hard to refute - it’s a bit rich for slavering right wing hacks to accuse the mainstream media of ideological bias and expect to get taken seriously."

Actually, Henry, if the leftward tilt of the mainstream media were expressed as the tilt of a ship, most skippers would be screaming "abandon ship". There is no question that a bias exists. There is no question that the mainstream media slants, twists, contorts, and manipulates the information it presents as "news" in a way that supports its personal agendas. There is no question that the last presidential election saw such a distorted process that even five-year-old children could recognize it. Dan Rather was just the tip of the iceberg - the entire mainstream media, with only a few minor exceptions, leans distinctively left. The proof is there for all to see: the way the mainstream media treated the SwiftVets issue, the way the mainstream media reports the war in Iraq, the way the mainstream media refuses to acknowledge and report the specifics of the Oil-for-Food scandal and the behavior of Russia, France, China and Germany, or of Kofi Annan and a number of other high officials in the United Nations. These are just a small portion of the hundreds of issues that are reported in a way favorable to the left, and frequently devoid of truth or accuracy.

As for "slavering right-wing hacks", that statement alone screams out your own personal bias, and makes it much easier to understand the rest of the drivel you post.

Bloggers come in all shapes, sizes, political affiliations, and backgrounds - far more diverse than any group in the mainstream media. My history includes 26 years as an enlisted member of the US Air Force, service in Vietnam and Europe, mostly as a photo interpreter - you know, one of those guys responsible for keeping track of our enemies by looking at and interpreting photography of the entire scope and range of a nation's existence, from military to economic, agricultural to research and development. You don't do that with an IQ of 75 - it takes some real intelligence to do the job well, and I did the job VERY well. The PowerLine folks, Beldar, Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds are lawyers, and Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse teach law. Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping is both a former artillery officer and an ordained minister. I could go on here all day. These are all people that are far from being "slavering right wing hacks" - they are intelligent, well-educated people with far more experience in the real world than most "journalists".

On which, see further Matt Welch’s entertaining takedown of Hugh Hewitt. There’s a curious sort of doublethink going on here, which culminates in a sort of dodge-the-responsibility two-step. On the one hand, bloggers like Glenn Reynolds respond to their critics by saying that they can’t cover everything, and that they’re not providing a news service, only opinions. On the other hand, they seem to believe that blogs should radically change or replace the mainstream media.

Pitiful strawman. Hugh Hewitt doesn't try to claim he's impartial. Everyone knows exactly where he stands. But Hugh isn't as partisan as Daily Kos or Democratic Underground. What most bloggers attempt to do is to read and comment on what interests them. That's why I blog - to express my opinions on a number of subjects that interest me. Blogs will never fully replace the mainstream media, but they will spend considerable time and energy fact-checking what the mainstream media produces, and commenting both on the factuality of the reporting and the media bias that distorts the truth. I don't believe Glenn Reynolds sees blogs replacing newspaper and television news. I do believe there is an excellent opportunity for newspapers and television news to move away from their pitiful performance distributing news by working with bloggers, instead of trying to intimidate or silence them. The only way that can happen, however, is for the mainstream media to acknowledge its problems, and do something to solve them. The mainstream media is like an alcoholic - denying it has a problem, and refusing to accept there's a need for change. Until they wake up to the truth, they will continue to decline in influence and importance.

If you think that blogs should replace the mainstream media, then you should be prepared yourself to live up to some minimal standards of scrupulosity, intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable for your own ideological position. You should be prepared to live up yourself to the standards that you demand of others. Exercising the “shucks, I’m just a little old blogger” get-out clause is rank hypocrisy when you want the blogosphere to devour the New York Times whole. Funny that Reynolds et al. don’t see it that way.

Another pitiful strawman, served up with a healthy side of denial. Do you really believe that the mainstream media follows any standards of scrupulousity, intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable with their own ideological position? If you do, I have a bridge I'll sell you - cheap! How many newspapers have been stung recently by having reporters who simply MADE STUFF UP? How many ways do the daily news warp, twist, and contort reporting, whether its something from Congress, the White House, the war in Iraq, or dealings with the United Nations and "Old Europe"? The people in the blogosphere acknowledge their bias, and do a much better job of being "honest, truthful, and sincere" in their reporting and comments than 90% of the mainstream media.

Update: Glenn Reynolds responds to my post in a characteristically evasive fashion. He weirdly mischaracterizes my argument by saying that I conflate “InstaPundit with the blogosphere as a whole, by suggesting that my statement that InstaPundit is not a news service somehow means that the blogosphere isn’t up to news-gathering.” I don’t know where he gets that, but it allows him to duck the main point - whether bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical in criticizing other media for bias. Let me explain it again in plain, simple, English. Glenn Reynolds complains regularly about liberal bias in the media. He says that he doesn’t believe that blogs should replace big media, but that they should pressure big media to do a better job; I’ll accept his characterization of his own views, although he’s certainly given a different impression in the past. But even on this more limited definition, bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical - they don’t and won’t practice what they preach. If I understand his argument correctly (it’s somewhat unclear to me exactly what he’s saying), he seems to think that this is OK because the blogosphere is a big place, and that stories are going to come out no matter what (no blogger can block them). This is an abdication of responsibility, pure and simple, and it’s also factually incorrect. Blogs like Instapundit on the right and Atrios on the left, serve an important function as filters of news, both for other bloggers (who read the big bloggers disproportionately) and for outside readers (who tend to gravitate towards the big blogs that everyone has heard about). In a very important way, these blogs shape both the political blogosphere’s perception of itself, and outsiders’ perceptions of it (the blogs on the ‘long tail’ usually only come to prominence when one of the bigger blogs picks up on their story). Saying (if that’s what he’s saying) that he doesn’t have any responsibility for what he does or doesn’t post on, because others are going to pick up on important stories anyway, simply doesn’t cut it as an excuse.

Why pick on Glenn Reynolds? He's just one of some five MILLION blogs online. No single one of these blogs could cover everything, but in aggregate, they can cover far more than a single newspaper. However, that's not their purpose. They are not here to replace newspapers or television, but to SUPPLEMENT them with fact-checking, supplemental reporting, rebuttal, disagreement, and just plain old opinion. Some blogs are dedicated strictly to poetry, or novels, or movies, or a dozen other subjects that newspapers give passing attention to.

The second thing that makes blogs different than newspapers is that most of them allow comments - practically UNLIMITED comments. My local newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette, publishes about six or eight letters to the editor, six days a week. Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs may have 400 comments to a single post. Admittedly, about two-thirds of all comments add little to the discussion. Still, in aggregate, the sum add substantially to the overall debate, bring up points that the original author couldn't find or didn't know, and supplement the reporting. Even negative comments, if containing factual information, add to the overall effectiveness of the report.

Thirdly, many blogs exist simply to acquaint people with information they may not have been able to find on their own. My favorite in this category is Rantburg, which concentrates on the war on terror, and which includes articles from some 20 to 50 different sources every day. Many of these sources are online English-language editions of foreign newspapers. The editors of Rantburg save me the trouble of hunting for this information myself, allowing me to learn more in less time.

Finally, the true worth of blogs as an interactive media is being felt in the response to the Sunda Trench earthquake and resulting tsunamis. There are hundreds of articles online providing news coverage. Even more impressive, there are at least two blogs online (one being South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami page), that provide links to charitable organizations, updated relief information, a place to post specific needs, places and links for people to contact survivors, or to help track down the dead, and a dozen other outstanding efforts that are impossible for the average mainstream media outlet to duplicate.

As Glenn Reynolds said, the proper place for blogs is as a symbiotic partner to mainstream media, but that can only come about when the people at the top in the media industry acknowledge they have problems, and that blogs can help restore the people's trust in print and broadcast media once more. Crooked thinking by people like Henry Farrell doesn't help the situation.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

King's Cross is online

My latest novel, "King's Cross" is online here. I have both the PDF file and the MS Word version (zipped) online at this time. I'll put the HTML version (zipped) online as soon as I finish converting it. You'll have to scroll down to find it - it's novel #5.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Helping Hand

I'm trying to do as much as I can to help the people devastated by the Sunda Trench earthquake and tsunami. I'm offering my services as a go-between and point of contact to anyone that can use them. Feel free to post comments to this article if:


  • You're in the zone of damage, and you are trying to contact someone in the US, and can't get through. Leave a contact point where you are, and send me a telephone number, email address, or other contact information. If you're injured or need specific assistance, post that, too.
  • If you're trying to get in touch with someone you believe is in the damaged area, post the information here. I will keep in touch with the people I know are in the area, and let them know a new message has been posted.
  • If you need anything else, send me an email at mweather@citystar.com, and I'll see what I can do.
  • If you're a blogger and want to help out, copy and paste this to your website, and send me a link. I'll post it on my site for all to see.
  • The best site for news about what's going on in the area is currently "South Asia Earthquake and Tsunami News". So far they haven't been overwhelmed, but it's possible they will be. Besides, they can't carry ALL the information. That's why we've volunteered to help.


If anyone has an idea as to how bloggers can help out, please feel free to send them to me.

If any of you belong to church groups, aid agencies, or any other group, and are willing to help out, let me know, and I'll post the information here. If all you have is a website, but you're in the affected area and you have information to add, let me know that, too, and I'll do what I can.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. If there are any people in the danger zone that needs to contact someone in Colorado and can't get through by phone, let me know, and I'll try to relay any message you have.

I have 20+ years working with aerial photography and doing damage assessment. If any group has access to photography of the damaged area, and would like a professional damage assessment report, send me the photos and I'll do what I can, free of charge.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Following a Disaster

The entire world is following the disaster caused by the 9.0 Sumatra earthquake, tidal waves, and aftershocks. As many as 75,000 people may be dead, another million or more made homeless, and as many as 25 million directly affected. Deaths, injuries and damage stretch from Indonesia to the eastern seacoast of Africa, and include several of the most densely-populated countries in the world - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh.

Television and radio provide periodic updates, usually quoting news reports from the affected countries. These news reports, however, are old news for those following the tragedy by way of blogs and the Internet. Tim Blair (see sidebar) has more current news than ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN. There are several new blogs devoted solely to the tsunamis and their effect on the region. Here is a link to one. I found another yesterday while surfing, but can't seem to find it today. There are dozens of bloggers in the affected countries telling their stories, and showing photos (even videos, mostly amateur) of the destruction.

The response to the December 26th earthquake and tsunami show the growing power of weblogs to not only comment on events, but to track, report, and help respond to them. Hugh Hewitt's new book, "Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World", isn't even out yet, and it probably already needs a revision. We saw something similar to this during the Florida hurricanes, but the response to the Sumatra earthquake has gone beyond that to a higher level - better reporting, greater diversity, faster interpretation of data, more linking, and better information sharing. Blogs have brought this disaster on the other side of the world into our homes and offices in an entirely new and different way.

The next big step for bloggers in emergency response situations is to build networks of blogs that can pinpoint specific requirements (food, water, clothing, transportation, medical help, emergency survivor contact, immunizations, etc.), and to be specific - "We need 14 doses of diptheria innoculation, 24 pairs of men's shorts (12 size 28, 10 size 30, 2 size 32), and ten cases of disposable diapers, size 12-24 pounds, in xyz village in Sri Lanka as soon as possible". Blogging, linked to people with cell phones, can provide exactly that kind of specific response, down to the individual level - on both ends. Donor and recipient can be matched, the material gathered at specified node points for shipment, and distributed through specified node points where it's needed. Transportation can be included in the equation by having airlines that are heading in that direction anyway accepting shipments for specific node points on a space-available basis. If there's not enough space available on airlines, contract shipments or military assistance can pick up the slack.

We're already seeing response times cut drastically. Twenty years ago, it would take weeks to learn of the needs, and for aid teams to respond. Today, the same response level is reached in days, if not hours. In the future, the response time may be even less, as more and more of the world becomes linked. There is no reason why blogs today shouldn't be networking to respond to emergencies. To encourage that kind of cooperation, however, two things have to remain in place - a free, uncontrolled Internet unhampered by taxes, political controls, social stigmas, and unnecessary charges; and the encouragement of those in the blogosphere to work together, to develop networks similar to current "alliances" and other groups, and to extend those to bloggers around the world.

There will be another effect of this kind of blogging, one far more profound than just the distribution of emergency assistance to those in need. There will be a growing number of one-on-one links between individuals across the globe. This will help establish a more harmonious world community - not a world government, but the building of individual trust between people spread all around the globe. It may not bring "Peace on Earth", but it'll go a long way toward reducing the friction between people and nations.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Anybody know a GOOD Doctor?

I'm looking for a miracle worker!



I enjoy reading Sydney Smith (not her real name) over at Medpundit, and I visit the "Grand Rounds" now and then. There's another great doctor online at The Doctor is In. Both sites link to other online doctors, some of whom I read regularly, even though I don't link to them. In all that reading, however, I haven't found a clue about my own medical problems, other than the FDA is making it harder and harder for me to have a pain-free day.

I have a half-dozen semi-related problems. All of them are directly attributable to my 26 years of military service in one way or another. My problems include damage to the vertebrae in my neck that has caused calcium deposits to grow on the inside of the spinal column to the point where they're beginning to push the spinal chord out of center. I've had two spots where this has been fixed - at the vertebral joints at C4-5 and C5-6 (C4-5 means the joint between the fourth and fifth cervical vertebra, two of the seven vertebrae in the neck). The disk between the two vertebrae was removed, the calcium scraped out, and the two vertebrae fused together. There's another joint, C7-T1 (first thoracic vertebra) that has one of these calcium deposits (called an annulus) growing. There are some osteoarthritic changes (arthritis caused by damage to the joint) taking place from C3 through T1. Some of these osteophytes (calcium deposits) are putting pressure on nerves that come out between the joints.

I also have damage and mild degeneration of several facet joints (the part of the vertebra that stick out in the back to hold the joint in alignment). This causes a problem called Myofascial Pain Syndrome, where, when the joints aren't in proper alignment, they pinch or rub the nerve roots to the back muscles, and produce tight or "locked" muscles and pain. There are about a dozen places in my entire spine where this happens, but the worst place is in the T6-7 and T7-8 areas - about midway down the thoracic (middle) spine.

To cap it off, I have mild degenerative disk disease that begins about C3 and runs all the way down my spine, at least two compressed disks (L3-4, L4-5 - three of the five lumbar or lowere back vertebrae), and a small tear in a disk (L5-S1) in my lower back. These problems here sometimes put pressure on the nerves that run down my legs (sciatic nerve), and cause pain from the low back all the way to the toes (called sciatica). There are also several areas of osteoarthritis between the neck and my lower back, but these aren't as serious as the problems in my neck. They do sometimes cause pain, but not very often.

These problems aren't caused by any major injury. I have never had a MAJOR injury in my life. What caused these problems were more than two dozen minor problems over much of a 40-year period. I did the back exercises, I kept in pretty good shape, and I don't consider myself overweight (although the government, in its infinite desire to make everyone exactly the same, does). How many people have slipped on ice and fallen on their backs? I've done it two or three times. I've helped move military office furniture and "sprained" or "strained" my back a half-dozen times (when your work includes classified information, moving it can be a pain - those four-drawer file safes are HEAVY!). I've been hit in the back by stray pieces of equipment, had heavy objects fall on me, and generally been banged up and bruised a number of different times in a number of different - and frequently unusual - ways. It all adds up after awhile, and you end up being in a lot of pain.

In addition to my back problems, I've been diagnosed as having ulnar/median nerve entrapment (the ulnar nerve and median nerve are the two major nerves that run from the neck, across the top of the shoulder, and down to the fingertips), and bilateral (on both sides) carpal tunnel syndrome. Lately, I've also developed a bursitis problem in both shoulders that hasn't responded well to treatment. Just to confuse the medical people more, and to make it harder for them to diagnose and treat my problems, my body is one of the 6% that have the ulnar and median nerves inverted, one of the 14% that have a "cervical rib" (extensions on either side of the C-7 vertebra that stick out an inch or more farther than in most people), and a "cap" on the shoulder joint. It took my doctor three "sticks" to get the needle in for a cortisone shot last week. I've been diagnosed with "several" kinds of sleep apnea, I have a reactive hypoglycemia problem, and knees and ankles that have been grossly mistreated (I had to have surgery on the right knee, and really need it on the left one).

I also have a tinnitus problem. Tinnitus is a phantom ringing in the ears caused by damage to the nerve cells in the inner ear. Tinnitus is usually a temporary phenomena, and can be caused by taking too much of an anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin or ibuprofen, by a hard blow to the head, or by exposure to prolonged or very loud noises. I've experienced more than my share of all three! My tinnitus is bilateral (in both ears), LOUD (it takes a sound of 60dB or more to cover the ringing), and persistent (there all the time). It's also mostly the same frequency (around 6000 hz), but has frequent "overtones" ranging from very low to very high pitches. One of the problems with tinnitus is that it frequently "sensitizes" your ears to sound. Outside sounds can cause anything from an earache to the equivalent of the worst migraine on record. Many people who have severe tinnitus don't want to be around noise. I don't watch television, I don't listen to radio, and I don't spend much time outside my basement office, because doing so causes me pain. For someone who's traipsed over much of the world, and who enjoys travel and new things, being "locked" in an 11x13 foot room is quite a change - and not satisfactory at all!

Tinnitus can also trigger another unusual problem - timbromandibular joint syndrome. This is a problem with the hinge of the lower jaw. The problem is caused by clenching or grinding teeth. In my case, it's triggered by pain elsewhere. The jaw joint "snaps" and "pops" like a trick knee, and feels worse! It's like the pain you get from chewing three pieces of bubblegum at the same time for about six hours.

Thank GOD! for military doctors. Most of the time, they're willing to listen, understand what I've been through, and are willing to help in any way they can. Unfortunately, short of a whole-spine transplant (which isn't currently available) or some pretty nasty drugs, there's not much they can do but treat the symptoms and wait until things get so bad surgery's the only answer. That's ALWAYS the last resort when you're working that close to nerves, and where the slightest miscue can result in full or partial paralysis for the rest of your life. One of the big problems with most medication, however, is that it's usually good only against one particular type of pain, and doesn't touch other types of pain.

I've been taking COX-2 inhibitors for pain for about five years now. I started out using Vioxx, and switched last year to Bextra when the Air Force pharmacies quit stocking Vioxx. The good news is, they work. The bad news is, some (maybe all?) COX-2 inhibitors can increase the risk of heart problems in some people. I take these drugs once a day, usually at bedtime. They DO work, and I know it if I accidentally miss a night. I also take a drug called Ultram for as-needed pain relief, with or without flexeril (a muscle relaxer). Ultram primarily works to relieve "nerve pain", while the flexeril helps relax tight muscles from the tension the pain causes. I've found I can alternate this with acetaminophen to relieve headaches and muscle aches, and get even better relief. There are a number of drugs I can't take, from aspirin and ibuprofen to Celebrex (another COX-2 inhibitor) and Darvon, because it makes the tinnitus worse, thins my blood to the point I bruise easily, and just cause a number of other unneeded complications. It's taken me twenty years to find a suite of medications that can work together and do a fairly decent job of regulating my pain - about 75% of the time.

The pain medication can usually handle the back pain and the neck pain. The sciatica is best treated by pain medication, muscle relaxers, ice, heat, and bedrest, followed later by mild exercise. I take the acetaminophen for headaches, and about half the time, it works. I haven't found ANYTHING that can help with the tinnitus, and I've tried all the "normal" treatments - acclimation, 'white' noise, background sounds, biofeedback - none of it's done any good. (I've been prescribed hearing aids, and we'll see if those work or not very soon.) I've given up coffee for a month (no change, except I became the world's biggest grouch!), tried a half-dozen herbal treatments, and anything else I could find. I've had the carpal tunnel surgery on the left wrist, but it's the one that I have the hardest time with now, and which the nerve conduction tests are the most "positive" for carpal tunnel. I've tried epidural injections in both the neck and the midback. They last three to five weeks in the neck, and six to ten weeks in the midback. I've done the bursitis exercises my doctor prescribed and had the cortisone shots. Relief lasted less than ten days.

My body's in bad shape because I believed that I should do everything possible to accomplish the tasks I'd been assigned, even when there was no earthly way one person (or even a team) could accomplish every one, every time. I gave the proverbial 110%. I also wasn't always careful. Sometimes, even when I was careful, others weren't, and I ended up hurting myself trying to prevent a disaster from occurring, or got caught in the disaster others created. Yet I never felt "sorry" for myself when these things happened, and my only concern now is that I wasn't as careful as I could have been. Most of the things that happened to me also happened to others, just not in quite the number. Some of the things I did, or was involved in, had never been done before, and there was no "known danger signs" to be aware of. I would do nothing to change the circumstances, but the 'cost' has proven to be rather high - not as high as for a few, but definitely more than I expected. I'm the person I am today because of those circumstances, and I can accept the current state of my body as being the consequences of "living in interesting times (and places)".

Of course, I wouldn't turn down a miracle cure, medical or otherwise!

I'd be happy to discuss any of this with anyone, and also to listen to others tell their stories. I don't doubt there are people out there that can top mine, but it would be interesting swapping yarns...

Tragedy, Disaster, Danger and Triumph

The bomb explosion in the mess tent near Mosul was truly a tragedy, especially for the 24 people killed and dozens of wounded. It was also a tragedy for their families and friends. No one likes to hear of anything bad happening to their friends and neighbors, especially not just a few days before Christmas. Yet there is triumph, even in this major attack. The words of Chaplain Lewis at Training For Eternity, both just after the explosion and again on Christmas Day, reflect how blessed we are to have men and women like those in our armed services. The military today is still staffed with the quality of men that stopped the German army at Bastogne at Christmastime in 1944 and totally disrupted the Battle of the Bulge.

The 9.0-strength earthquake that struck just west of Sumatra on December 26th also caused enormous damage throughout South Asia. Tidal waves, called tsunami, struck Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldive Islands, and even reached the east coast of Africa, killing people in Somalia. One of the best sources for hard information about earthquakes anywhere in the world is the US Geological Survey. The site lists 45 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5 or higher for the last week. The majority of them are aftershocks from the main earthquake that hit the day after Christmas.

Tim Blair has some good information, plus some links to others in the area - well worth checking out. If you're looking for places to donate to help the survivors, Tim has several links. So do Hugh Hewitt (WorldVision), Scrappleface (Southern Baptist Convention), and dozens of others.

In addition to the Red Cross, WorldVision, and several other charities linked to from the above sites, you can also donate to the International Salvation Army, who says they already have people in the major disaster areas, rendering assistance. This blog provides the most comprehensive list of links to aid groups, information, and commentary on the earthquake and its aftermath.

There are some interesting facts about the Sumatra earthquake, including one report that said the entire island of Sumatra, all 187,000 square miles (larger than California), moved 100 feet because of it. The fault line that runs southwest of Sumatra also extends up toward the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a chain of islands belonging to India. There have been many reports of damage on the Indian subcontinent, but I've heard nothing about the conditions on these islands. With several large aftershocks in the 5.0-7.3 range shaking them, I'm sure the damage has been pretty severe.

Nor is the danger over. One geophysicist I know says that the magnitude of this earthquake will likely trigger others in the general area. In fact, there have been modest quakes in the Philippines and in the Papua New Guinea area since the Sumatra quake. There's also the possibility that the quake will trigger additional volcanic activity in the active volcanos scattered around the area, from Sumatra through the Philippines and even into the central Pacific. It will probably take months for the area to quieten down again as the changes in stress patterns across the many faults there stabilize.

Between the bombing in Mosul and the earthquake in Sumatra, several billion people celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, God born as man. Jesus's birth and life bring us hope and the promise of peace - not necessarily peace on Earth, but peace in our own hearts, and in our own families. If enough of us accept that promise of peace and live it every day, perhaps the possibility of peace on Earth will become a reality.

A Game of Catch-up

The news has been hectic the last couple of days, and I haven't commented on it. One reason is that, while there has been tragedy throughout the Indian Ocean, confrontations and tragedy in Iraq, and smaller tragedies throughout the rest of the world, it hasn't ignored our house. Ours are small tragedies compared to a massive earthquake, or a bomb in a crowded mess hall, or even that of a pregnant woman being kicked half to death by an angry "boyfriend" and losing her baby. But every tragedy, however large or small, requires time and energy to be addressed. There's not a lot of that to spare during Christmastime.

Our biggest tragedy this Christmas was a growing infection in our oldest cat's jaw. Gadget is not a purebred, just a regular housecat. She's been with us for fourteen years, and we're pretty attached to her. She stopped eating a week ago Sunday, and her jaw swelled up to almost twice its normal size. We took her to the vet on Tuesday, December 21st. They gave her a couple of shots, a saline drip (she was very dehydrated), and some antibiotics and cream that we were to administer at home. They said she had an abscessed tooth that was causing the jaw to swell, but that she was in too poor health to survive the anesthetic needed to have the tooth pulled. We brought her home and started taking care of her. For three days, there was no change in her condition. She was still only eating about a tablespoon of food at a time, maybe twice or three times a day. She was only drinking a tiny amount each day. Her weight dropped from a normal seven or eight pounds down to three pounds, and every bone showed through her skin.

She was in severe pain by Friday evening, Christmas Eve. I brought her down to my office downstairs to care for her while my wife put the finishing touches on Christmas preparations. About 7:30 Friday night, she scratched a hole in her jaw with her hind foot, and blood spewed all over the carpet in my office. Jean and I spent a couple of hours cleaning up the wound, getting all the infection and clotted blood out of Gadget's jaw, and annointing it liberally with an antibacterial cream we had on hand. Gadget spent most of Christmas day sleeping. Sunday morning, she began to eat. She ate more that day than she had in the previous week. She's obviously feeling better! She's also gaining weight, although it's a little early to announce any major weight gain. Her fur is much brighter, fluffier, and for the first time in two weeks she's cleaning herself. We still have to have her jaw seen to (we think there's something stuck in her jaw, rather than an abscessed tooth), but she's a much healthier, happier cat.

The bill from the vet put a crimp in Christmas, but we still had a great time. I still need to buy my wife a couple of gifts - both were sold out before I could purchase them for her Christmas. An IOU isn't a nice Christmas present, but at least there were a couple of real gifts under the tree, as well. All three of our children were here for Christmas dinner, and there's still some leftover turkey and pumpkin pie. There was still some snow left on the ground from the storm Wednesday night, so we technically had a white Christmas - the first in almost ten years. Best of all, all our close friends and family, both human and feline, were alive and well and home for Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Jesse Jackson doesn't Understand Christmas

Jesse Jackson once more uses religion to attack President George Bush, and once more gets it wrong. In this article from NewsMax, the "Reverend" Jackson said:

President Bush has implemented economic policies that resemble those of the Roman Empire, which forced the baby Jesus into homelessness on the night of his birth, former civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a pre-Christmas rant late Thursday.

There's only one problem with that. There is no gospel references that confirm what Jesse Jackson said. Here is Luke's account in his gospel:

Luke 2:
1 ¶ And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

First, Jesus wasn't born "homeless". Joseph and Mary had a home - in Nazereth. They had to go to Bethlehem because the Roman emperor ordered everyone to be taxed "in his own city". I'm sure this caused a lot of displacement for thousands, but only one that we truly care about today, the baby Jesus. Jesus was born in a stable because the inn was full. There's a very good possibility there was no room anywhere in Bethlehem that night, except the stable where He was born.

Comparing this to the current situation would require George Bush to order that every person would have to return to the place they were born on a specific date, so they could all be taxed. How many people in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago were actually born there? How many small towns in the Midwest and South would find themselves overburdened with people returning home? How many people would remain in Sunbelt cities such as Phoenix or Miami?

Jesus was born in Bethlehem because that was the prophesy, and because that was God's plan. He was born in the humblest of circumstances, because that was also God's plan. Using this to attack President Bush shows a poor understanding of God, and a lack of acceptance that God is in charge - something no real minister would forget.

There is a special place in Hell for people who use God for ugly, unjust and politically motivated reasons. Jesse Jackson has earned his place there time and time again. This is just another incident where the "Reverend" Jackson has used words that don't fit to attack someone who doesn't support the "Reverend's" warped and twisted "Christianity".

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Intel - a Family Business?

I was reading Rantburg a couple of days ago, and responded to a comment about the US breaking the Japanese Naval code during World War II. This item is particularly interesting to me, because my mother was one of the WAVES that worked in Washington, DC, during World War II, decyphering the JN-25 and other naval codes.

Mom joined the Navy in April, 1942, and was assigned to Washington, DC, in October of that year. She remained there throughout the war, and was discharged sometime in November or December, 1945. I was fifteen years old before I knew what she did in the Navy, and the way I learned was a shock!

I had just started corresponding with a penpal in Fukuoka, Japan, a few months before. She sent me a couple of photographs, with information written on the back in Kanji, the everyday idiograms that comprise the Japanese written language. I had no idea what any of that meant, and asked my mother if she thought I could find someone who spoke enough Japanese to tell me what the writing on the back of the photographs meant. You can imagine my surprise when she read it to me flawlessly!

This was in 1961, more than fifteen years after the end of World War II. Even then, Mom wouldn't talk much about what she did, or how she did it. I managed to learn a few things, but most of what I learned I found out on my own, not from Mom. She understood security, and kept a closed mouth. I did pick up a few anecdotes, and filled in a few others later. One in particular I remember well. Mom talked about her brother's ship being sunk by a Japanese submarine. She knew about it a full week before the Navy released the information, because she was the one that decoded the submarine's report of the sinking to Japanese naval headquarters.

Mom also talked about the security surrounding her work - about having to negotiate two separate checkpoints just to get into the compound (I think she said it was Welsley College, but I can't remember now), and another security check before she could enter the actual work area. I had the same kind of security treatment a few times during my military career, so I understand it better than most.

Later, when I joined the Air Force (in 1965) and went into imagery intelligence, I learned even more about the breaking of the Japanese naval code, and how it played such an important role in the US military victory. I also learned about security, and about NOT talking about things.

What's unusual about our family is that so many of us ended up in various intelligence fields. My dad served in the 9th Artillery Regiment, part of the 4th Armored Division under Gen. Patton during World War II. He started out as a tank driver. After losing a number of tanks (and most of the tank crews), he switched to artillery - just in time to be trapped in Bastogne with the 101st. Shortly after that, he volunteered to be an artillery spotter, and served in that capacilty until the unit was returned to the United States in 1945.

Dad talked about his war experiences, especially with his brother John, and with a few fellow veterans around home - not necessarily freely, but enough for me to know that war wasn't glamorous or nice, but nasty, dirty, frequently wet and cold, and dangerous beyond my imagination. One story I do remember, and remember well. Dad was out alone (as he usually was, according to him), and had dug in on the crest of a hill in the area west of the Rhine. It snowed during the night. When the fog lifted the next morning, he could see the German lines etched in white in the valley below him. He rolled over, scooted down below the ridge line and started to report coordinates to his unit. As he looked down into the valley below him, he could see the AMERICAN lines, equally as distinct below him!

I have no experiences like those, but I too served in intelligence as a photo interpreter, mostly in Europe and the United States. There are some amusing incidents to remember, and to commit to paper or electronic storage before I forget them.

Mom and Dad are both dead now, and I miss them! There are still a million questions I'd love to ask them, and hundreds of stories I'd like to hear over again. I'd gladly transcribe some of Dad's war stories onto my blog, if I could, but my memory isn't that reliable. The same is true for the dozens of stories Dad talked about of what life was like for him and his family during the Depression, and some of the things they did back then (and earlier) for fun. For many people like Dad, the Blogosphere and the Internet happened a decade too late. The entire world is poorer because of it.

I plan to write about as much of my past (and theirs) as I can remember, so my grandchildren know the full history of our family.

Steven Den Beste - Free-thinker Emeritus!

One of the brightest talents on the Web has retired from blogging for health reasons. I continue to link to USS Clueless, because his archives are still up, and still worth reading. Rather than re-invent the wheel, please read the testimony at Rishon-Rishon. Steve Den Beste is an inspiration for all bloggers, and a figure worthy of emulating, if we can. I agree with David, and with most of the comments. Steve may be copied, but he'll never be replaced!

Monday, December 20, 2004

What World is This?

Via Michelle Malkin.

Ana Marie Cox, aka "Wonkette", was interviewed by Newsweek's Richard Wolffe. The comment below expresses exactly why the Democratic Party is in a nose-dive:

RW: What did you think of the bloggers' role in the Dan Rather affair?

AMC: I think they did a disservice to the debate because they made the debate about the documents and not about the president of the United States. There was another half to that story that had to do with verifiable events of what Bush may have been up to.


Earth to Airhead: The documents WERE the story. They were fabricated, and poorly done at that. The data within those documents was NOT accurate. The entire fiasco was a fraud, perpetrated against the American people, the President, and the Republican Party, for political gain. The "story" in the documents was false. The documents the "story" was based upon was false. That, to most people, would say the only "story" was, indeed, the FALSE, MISLEADING, AND FRAUDULENT DOCUMENTS. The story was also the failure of Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, and the CBS News staff to verify the legitimacy of the documents. The story was the desire on the part of CBS News and all players to try to destroy the political candidacy of an incumbent president so that it overcame their inbred caution. The story is that they got caught lying through their teeth.

There is NO story about the President, because there is no shred of evidence that anything in the documents was true. There is NO story about the Republican Party "stonewalling", "misleading", or "hiding the facts", because there was nothing to stonewall, no need to "mislead", because there were no facts in the documents Dan Rather tried to use against the President and the Republican Party.

George Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard honorably, and received an honorable discharge. There is no verifyable evidence to the contrary. There are only a handful of fraudulent documents, produced by a guy named Bill Burkett on a personal computer, using MS Word fonts and format, probably in the last year, and faxed to CBS from Texas. The only "story" about the whole mess is the story of the fraudulent documents, and CBS News' attempt to use them to attack the President. Period. Full Stop. End of Story.

If Wonkette, Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, and all the other conspiracy nuts among the Looney Liberal Left cannot understand AND ACCEPT that truth, then their behavior will continue to drive sane, intelligent people into the Republican camp, or to opt out of the Democratic Party by filing as Independent or Unaffiliated Voters. Either way, the Democratic Party can only hasten its decline by continuing to accept and encourage these wild charges and unsubstantiated attacks.

What Does It Mean To Be An American?

Monday last week was my first day back on the Internet in over a week. My former ISP went bankrupt the first week of December, and I had to find a new one. Withdrawal symptoms were well-advanced by mid-December, and I really needed a fix. I got it - by the ton.

There were several articles that had little actually in common that made me stop and think - what does it really mean to be an American? Part of my thinking was triggered by this article by John Derbyshire on NRO. What passes today for an American "intellectual" in many cases is someone who is violently anti-American. Many other articles by a dozen different pundits added to my growing realization that most people living in this country have forgotten what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America.

I've been thinking a lot about this for over a week now. IMHO, there are four facets of being an American: our personal lives, our public behavior, our political activities, and our patriotism. A weakness in one area can be overcome by strength in another. A weakness in two areas makes us a weak citizen. A weakness in three or more areas means we've forgotten what it means to be an American, and need help, desperately.

Our Personal Lives

The most important single factor in being an American is the knowledge and acceptance of the vast amount of personal freedom we have. Americans today enjoy freedoms found in only a few places in the world, and nowhere in such abundance. Lacking, however, among many Americans is the acknowledgment of the personal responsibility that goes with that freedom - the responsibility to not only acknowledge the freedom of others, but to support and defend it.

Being an American means having the opportunity to do whatever we choose to do, and to do it to the best of our ability. We have the right to change jobs, to work for ourselves if we choose, to move to any other part of the country, to marry whom we wish (within reason), to have as many children as we think we can afford, to worship (or not) in a way we feel is right, and pretty much live our lives as we see fit. Being an American also means accepting personal responsibility for our actions and decisions, living within our means, taking care of the needs of our families, and doing what we must to live our lives as we wish. Freedom is a two-sided coin, and responsibility is the obverse. Without responsibility, freedom soon degrades into license.

There's more of a personal commitment required to be an American than that, however. There's the responsibility to see that any children we have are given basically the same opportunities we had - to get a worthwhile education, the right to look for a job that supplies our needs and makes us happy, the right to buy a home and have a family. We have the responsibility to leave the world at least no worse off because of our presence, and better off if possible. We have the responsibility to make good decisions, based on what we know about the subject being decided. We have the responsibility to think, and to reason, and to make decisions both in our best interest and in the best interest of the nation as a whole, wherever possible. We do not have the right to demand that others provide for our needs without justifiable cause. We have the responsibility to set a good example for our children, to act as responsible adults if there's a potential for danger. We also have the right and the privilege of acting like children if our behavior won't harm any others. Finally, we have the responsibility to accept the consequences of our bad decisions, our failures, and our mistakes. We have the right to be an individual, to make personal decisions, and to accept the rewards and consequences of those decisions.

Public Behavior

We have the right to be an unmitigated boor at home, but in public, we have a responsibility to treat others with respect. After all, we wish to be treated with respect wherever we go and whatever we do. That requires that we accept certain social rules and mores that society establishes through decades of trial and error. Social requirements aren't necessarily legal rules, but those that break them face some form of consequences. Deliberately breaking rules and flaunting social strictures are acts detrimental to the smooth functioning of a society. Creating arbitrary and conflicting rules is also destructive. Social standards provide the lubrication that allow people as individuals to function in large groups. Deliberately destroying or contorting those rules weaken the social lubrication, and increase strife between individuals and limit personal freedom. A thinking, caring American understands the need for societal limitations, and works within them.

A free man also understands that society can only function well when the rules are accepted and followed by the great majority of the people. When rules are imposed on the majority by a small segment of society, the potential for conflict and confrontation grow rapidly. How we behave in public speaks loudly about how much we truly accept both individual freedom and individual responsibility. Someone who accepts personal responsibility obeys the rules of society because he understands that such obedience enhances his individual freedoms. Those that constantly stretch the limits of social standards, who constantly act in ways contrary to the rules of society, fail to understand the basic principle of freedom: that it's shared by all, and that freedom includes the freedom not to have to put up with obnoxious, disgusting, and undesirable behavior.

How we accept and respond to legal limitations also establishes what kind of American we are. Law, contrary to the legal profession, is not an absolute. The rule of law allows human beings to set limits on personal and/or group behavior to protect life, liberty, and property. The world is not rational, and what would be the best action in one situation may not be the best response in another. Blind obedience to law can be destructive. We have the ability to think, to reason, and to act based upon the situation we're confronted with. This doesn't mean that we should ignore the law - in 99% of our daily activities, the strict application of the law is the most appropriate response. Our Constitution, however, says that it was written to "promote justice", which is quite different than blindly imposing law. We have to do what we think is right, and hope that, if confronted, we can convince those exercising the power of law to agree with us. We also have the responsibility of accepting the consequences if we fail in our convincing.

Being an American means understanding the limits placed on our personal freedom - the responsibility of allowing others to exercise the same degree of freedom we demand for ourselves, including the freedom to not tolerate behavior we find offensive or undesirable in ourselves or others.

Political Activities

There is no such thing as a non-political person. A hermit living by himself in the most desolate place in this nation is expressing a political statement by his behavior. This essay is political, as are any comments made in response to it. Anything which is said or done, in any format, that attempts to affect the way others think about a subject is political. That goes for any subject, even religion, even personal hygiene. Any behavior where one person or group wishes to influence or change the thinking of others, is political, especially if the objective is to establish limits, or to control, or to manipulate in a specific manner.

The United States is a Republic - a limited form of representative group democracy. Our founding fathers created a system of rules for choosing representatives to act on our behalf to formulate laws and make certain decisions in our name. That system has worked relatively well enough over a long period of time, and the vast majority of people don't see any reason to change the system now. That system gives us many excellent opportunities to govern ourselves. We have the right to place questions before the body of people recognized as citizens, for their discussion and approval or disapproval. Each individual, except certain felons, has the right to attempt to be chosen for public office. Usually, the majority decision is accepted as the "will of the people", and the body of law is either strengthened or modified accordingly, including the election of representatives.

In order for any system to work, however, people have to have respect for the rules, and for the application of those rules. That means that there can be no blatant rule changes after the decision has been made, or one set of rules for one group, and a different set for another. We, as individuals, must not only accept those rules, but demand that those who wish to represent us accept them as well, and punish their failures. That means enforcing the rules, punishing those that violate the rules, and bringing violations and violators to the attention of others. The one-man, one-vote concept must be held inviolate, or individual freedom is threatened. Being an American means defending the rules as they're written, or forcing changes to bad rules we've discovered before the next election. Being an American means exercising our right to select our representatives, speaking our mind about the issues and candidates, and holding to our convictions until vindicated or proven wrong. Being an American means making an informed decision, based upon merit. Being an American means ensuring the system as it exists works, and works as well as possible for all citizens.

Patriotism

Patriotism means more than just love of country. It also means dedication to the principles that underlie our government, that provide for our security, and that enable us to live with the most freedom of any people on Earth. Patriotism requires that we understand our past, accept our failures, acknowledge our successes, to work to improve our nation where it's weak, and support its strengths. It means learning to work with other nations as equals, to share our good fortune, and to help those who wish our help to reach the same level of independence and freedom we enjoy. Patriotism requires humility, the ability to acknowledge that our Founding Fathers were centuries ahead of their time in the recognition of personal freedoms, that our government is unique among nations, and that what makes it unique is the guarantee of freedom for every individual.

These four factors - personal freedom, public awareness, political action, and patriotism, shape our role as citizen in this Republic. Citizenship, however, requires practice if it's to be effective. Active citizenship helps shape and mold the nation on a daily basis, not just once every two or four years. Patriotism does no good if it's not based on knowledge of why we do things, as well as when and where we do them. Political action, without understanding how everything fits together, is as likely to be destructive as it is to be constructive. Citizenship is not a state of being, but an ongoing process, practiced daily.

I'll try to keep this thread open for any other ideas about citizenship that readers might want to express.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Confused about God and Values

Reading blogs on the Internet can be bad for your blood pressure. People say the craziest things, make the most outrageous comments, and expect everyone else to believe every word they say. Not all of them are bloggers. The craziest statements, the wackiest words most often appear in linked or embedded articles from newspapers and magazines, and in the comments of those that respond to these posts. One thing is certain, however. A large number of the people of this world have no idea Who God Is, or how He expects us to worship Him.

Immediately after the 2004 election, as soon as people began reporting that "moral values" contributed to a substantial part of the electorate's choice, a group of people began whining about "Jesusland", and accusing the "radical right wing religious nuts" of getting ready to overturn Roe vs. Wade. The anti-God crowd chanted that the election was decided over "God, guns and gays" by a hoard of "religious bigots" wishing to establish a "Christian Taliban-like government". In retrospect, however, what swayed the majority of voters who listed "moral values" as their number-one reason for voting as they did goes much deeper than what the Democrats in this nation appear to grasp.

The people in this nation who don't wish to believe in God, and who don't wish to accept a moral standard based on religious belief, have been chipping away at the foundation of this nation, and the foundations of religious faith, for ninety years. The degradation started slowly, but has accelerated since the 1960's, when the so-called "sexual revolution" began.

From the blog, The Doctor is In:

Consider the sexual revolution of the 1960's, for example. Launched by the technological advance of readily-available and reliable birth control, nurtured by the anti-authoritarian environment of an unpopular war and a universal military draft, conventional wisdom evolved to the point where sexual activity between any two "consenting adults" was permissible and desirable - as long as "no one gets hurt". The consequences of millions of individuals defining sexual morality in such constricted and self-referential terms is nothing short of staggering: spiraling rates of divorce and sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS); exponential growth of children raised in single-parent homes or born to unwed mothers; breakdown of families with deteriorating educational systems and outcomes; increased rates of juvenile crime and drug use; epidemic levels of domestic and child abuse. Whatever benefits may have accrued from this moral earthquake in the areas of sexual repression and prudishness are swamped by the adverse consequences - consequences never even imagined by those making these individual moral choices.

Unintended consequences, the cost of unwise choice, both on an individual level and on the overall social level, are piling up day by day. Respect for parents and other older members of society is almost non-existent. Our language is coarsened to where it's almost impossible to hold a conversation with a stranger without some vile epithet being uttered. Common courtesy is either nonexistent, or reviled in our "politically correct" world. Greed and hate trample generosity and compassion into the ground. Sex outside of marriage has become almost the norm. Our schools don't educate, our churches don't provide moral guidance, and society as a whole treats anyone who doesn't believe that everything's going "just great" with utter contempt. We are awash in abortions, unwed mothers, welfare children, and emotional upheaval. Suicide is up, crime is up, and the safety and security of home and family has been shattered.

The "revolution" of the past 30 years has been a disaster, and the majority of those maimed and injured are the most vulnerable of our citizens. Those of us who have had to live with the shambles of destroyed homes, destroyed lives, and damaged children are finally beginning to realize that this is not the way we were intended to live. The cost of continuing to live in a society where good becomes evil, where courtesy becomes a threat, is too high. It's time to reassess how we live, and why we do the things we do.

None of us would deliberately drive an automobile that's dangerous to ourselves and others on the highway. Yet the same person that would demand a safe automobile ignores the dangers of untested ideas, of unrestricted behavior, of unthinking actions. We feel perfectly comfortable living within the rules when using our streets and highways, but try to institute rules for behavior, and everyone is up in arms about the "tyranny". Fifty years of increasingly fewer and fewer rules of behavior, of constant eroding of moral values, has left us a society deeply troubled, filled with danger and fear. There is no foundation to our society, there are no comforting rules not only to guide our behavior, but the behavior of others toward us. We live in an immoral, unregulated, uncontrolled jungle of "anything goes", with few rules, lenient punishment, and "no controlling authority".

It's not a comfortable way to live. It's not the way God, Man's Creator, wants us to live. God has created some very basic but effective rules that, if we follow them, we will be happy and prosperous, under any government but the most oppressive tyranny. The "Red-State" voters know and understand this. They know that the moral values given to us by God, and the moral teachings we learn about from His Word, will keep us safe, and give us strength to face whatever we're subjected to. God's Word was sufficient to allow tens of millions to suffer through tyranny and persecution in Eastern Europe. Millions overcame the tyranny of Hitler's Germany through faith.

Most "Red-State" (actually, red-county) voters understand that their beliefs are under unremitting attack by the "unrestricted" crowd. They can see the fruits of the "victories" those same people have harvested from unrestricted abortion, divorce-on-demand, "free love", lenient punishment for "social crimes", drug and alcohol abuse, and so many more things. They see the festering jungle our inner cities have become without moral structure and internalized moral guidelines. The attack on Christianity, on belief in God, is unremitting. Yet the people behind that attack are miserable, because they have nothing to turn to but anger and hate. Their "love" is a farce - love without commitment is empty. Their "truth" is insubstantial - here today, morphed into something else tomorrow. Their "justice" does nothing to stop unjust behavior, but promotes it and prolongs the agony of the victim. There is no joy in procreation, there is no joy in success, there is no joy in living, because there's no structure to hang anything upon, to give it continuity. There is no place, no relationship, no thoughts, that instill awe, trust, love, security, and permanence.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God created the universe, and everything within it. He created it to be in constant motion, constantly in a process of changing. Yet He remains steadfast, unmovable, durable, resolute. He is something to trust in, something to be awed by, something to bring joy into our hearts, and our lives. His permanence provides us the shelter we crave, the security we need, and the sense of being worthy that is missing from the secular world. He can give us the strength to face any challenge, to withstand any torment, and in the end, to rescue us even from death.

The people who said "moral values" was the most important factor in their decision don't want to "force" everyone to become a "Jesus-freak". What they want is to live life in a society that recognizes that there have to be moral values and rules of behavior, they have to be recognized and given consideration, and that they shape not only how we live, but how WELL we live. The majority of people want to put the brakes on the runaway destruction of society, to return to what worked in the past, the things that gave us purpose, direction, and strength. They have no intention of forcing God on the rest of society, only that society must stop attacking those that believe in God. They want the rest of society to stop trying to destroy what religious observers believe in, including the very real moral values the majority of people, at least in the "red states", possess.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Another Pain Drug had Problems

Today's newspaper headlines included one on the dangers of taking Celebrex. Apparently, Celebrex is another COX-2 inhibitor, and can cause heart problems when taken in large quantity or over a long period of time. There's no indication of how log is "long period of time", but anything over 400mg a day apparently leads to increased risk. Celebrex is the second drug to be found causing the problem, the first being Vioxx.

I have a chronic pain problem. I have a pain level that swings between the "3" on the average doctor's pain scale to a "7". The scale goes from "0" (no pain) to "10" (the worst pain ever experienced). Of course, everybody's "worst pain" is different, but let's assume it's the pain a pregnant mother experiences during a 40-hour labor. I've experienced a "10" twice. The first time followed a boxing accident and a fall when I was 18. I was in such pain my entire body was rigid with it. The other time was when I was forced out of bed eleven hours after having a spinal tap. I hope the corpsman that made me get up has never worked in a hospital since then.

I've taken both Celebrex and Vioxx. Neither has given me any heart problems. I can't take Celebrex because it thins my blood too much, and I'm susceptible to nose-bleeds. I no longer take Vioxx because the military no longer stocks it. I'm currently taking another COX-2 inhibitor, Bextra. Without these drugs, my pain level goes up at least two levels.

My father died at age 79 from congestive heart failure. My mother died at 80 from a stroke. Both were born long before the Depression, and both worked hard all their lives. I don't have any great fear of dying early from taking pain medication. Since stress is supposed to also be a killer, and pain causes stress, taking a pain medication such as Vioxx or Celebrex (or Bextra) may actually PROLONG my life. These are the kinds of decisions I believe should be left to the patient, not decided by some bureaucrat in Washington, or forced on the rest of us by lawsuit-happy trial lawyers.

The "Global Warming" Mindset.

The idea that mankind is causing the Earth to warm at an "astounding" rate is losing traction, primarily because the evidence doesn't support the premise. As more and more scientific studies are conducted, as more and more evidence comes to light, the entire "global warming" scenario is falling apart.


  • There is growing evidence that what little warming actually taking place is the totally natural result of fluctuations in solar output, climactic changes resulting from natural processes, and the normal fluctuations of Earth's overall environment.

  • What little evidence of global warming is far below the predicted levels announced by the proponents of global warming. The models created to "explain" this warming as the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions fail to match measured changes.

  • The main greenhouse gas is NOT carbon dioxide, but water vapor, yet there is no consensus on how water vapor affects the natural climactic cycle. The biggest reason is that this is a massively complex task, with more variables than most scientific programs can account for. Yet water vapor makes up 95% of ALL greenhouse gasses. If we can't decide how the MOST VOLATILE AND LARGEST greenhouse gas affects the environment, how can we possibly accept that we can determine how the climate cycle responds to one that makes up less than 4% of the Earth's greenhouse gasses?



Of course, none of this makes any difference among the True Believers. It's all man's fault, and we need to go back to the cave, so the Earth can get back to "normal". Nothing the scientists can say will change the minds of those who worship the god gaia.

There have always been those who feel their opinions deserve to be considered above everyone else's. There have always been those who hate what we think of as progress, or science, or technology. Many of these people feel threatened by things they don't understand, and have little capacity to face change with an open mind. Yet change is the one true process that will always exist.

Change, sometimes referred to as entropy, constantly takes place. Even human beings constantly change: we are born, we grow older, and eventually we die. Our body goes through an elaborate process of growth and development, then degeneration, and finally decay. These steps are more or less immutable.

Global warming is just the last in a long list of litanies those afraid of change have grasped in an attempt to "turn back the clock", and "stop" change. The lack of scientific evidence, or the growing preponderance of evidence against their latest pet theory, means nothing to them. Mankind is destroying the planet, we have to go back to "simpler" times, we have to reverse the "ravages" of our current society. What they're really saying is, "We can't stand the change, we're scared, and everything has to stop so we can feel safe again." Unfortunately for these timid souls, time always marches on. They can learn to keep up, or they can fall behind, but stopping is not an option.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Light Blogging will Continue

I like to write. One of my favorite literary characters is James Macintosh Qwilleran, the hero of Lillian Jackson Braun's "Cat Who..." mystery series. "Qwill", as he respectfully known, boasts that he can write "a thousand words about anything", and supposedly does in the "Cat Who" books where he writes a twice-weekly column, "The Qwill Pen", for the Moose County Something, the county's newspaper. I tried this once. It's not an easy task. It requires a large background of knowledge, good references, and an almost eidetic memory. Yet I've known people who COULD do that, especially on the half-dozen areas where they had intimate knowledge.

It's hard to write, however, when your arm hurts, especially when it's the arm you depend upon for most of your activities. I visited my local doctor's on Tuesday. He diagnosed my problem as an inflamed bursus in the right shoulder (I'm right-handed), with some muscle atrophy and a few other minor problems. I got a cortisone shot, scheduled for xrays, and a trip to physical therapy. The arm feels better, but still gives me problems when I use it too much - as in sitting at my computer typing for four or five hours straight. Even surfing has been limited since the flare-up. Hopefully it's already begun to heal, and will be fine by Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Fallacy of Church-State Separation

The United States is a land with 293 million people. Almost 80% of those people acknowledge they believe in God, and 75% admit to worshiping Him at some time during the year. Yet the ACLU wants all mention of God removed from public life, because such mention "might offend a non-believer". This is not only extremely stupid, it's a form of tyranny. It would be the same thing to say that the small percentage of people who refuse to drive cars should be able to ban all cars from the streets. The true agenda of the ACLU is to force God underground, where the few people who don't want to acknowledge Him, who don't want to be 'constrained' by 'outmoded ideas of right or wrong, good or evil'.

Telling the vast majority of "common people" they're "crazy", and "out of touch with reality" really goes a long way to win friends and influence people, especially when the majority of those people reject the lifestyle of those shouting such crap.

It's time to stop being passive Christians, and to start standing up to the bullying, browbeating, and name-calling of the childish portion of society that refuses to accept adult responsibility. There IS real evil in the world. There ARE "moral absolutes". Any society that doesn't recognize this is a society committing suicide. We have the right to worship freely, and that includes in public, as public officials, and as leaders of the community. We have the right to encourage those of like mind to join with us, and to proclaim our beliefs to the rest of the universe. As long as we don't DEMAND that others worship as we do, or try to FORCE our beliefs upon others, we have those legal rights, and legal protection. It is those that try to impose their view of the world that are in the wrong, and we should never surrender to them.