Old Patriot's Pen

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

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

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

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

Monday, May 30, 2005

Bleary-eyed Blathering

It's three o'clock in the morning, and I can't sleep - again. This is the second night this week. As Hugh Hewitt said on his blog this weekend, "use the time constructively". I don't know if this satisfies the requirement, but at least I'm doing something besides tossing and turning in a bed.

Our local newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette had a wonderful display for Memorial Day, showing photos and a brief biography of all the members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team that have been killed in Iraq. The 2nd BCT is coming to Fort Carson over the next few months, instead of returning to their former home in Korea. While a lot of people have much to complain about with their local newspapers, the Gazette is much better about displaying the military as it is. The Gazette is a Freedom Newspaper, and while it does carry a number of articles from the Associated Press, the New York Times, and other liberal news organizations, it isn't guilty (normally) of a political or anti-military bias. Of course, having five major military installations surrounding the city on three sides just MAY have a little to do with that. In addition to the biographies and photos of those who's units are coming to Colorado Springs, or are already assigned here, the Gazette opened up its editorial page to the military commanders in the area, for their opinion about this Memorial Day.

Colorado Territorial Days are also being held this weekend. It's a great three-day celebration of fun, food, entertainment, and even a little history snuck in here and there. A good time is being had by all, even with the light (and sometimes heavy) rain that's been falling all day today.

Roger L. Simon posted two questions on his weblog, discussing some aspects of the proposed "Pajama Media" network. I can't seem to log into my Typekey account, so I'm going to cheat and post both the questions and my answers here. There's an excellent discussion on Roger's blog, so do check it out.

Question #1 - What Is "Fair and Balanced"?

I think the question is irrelevant. News reporting should be truthful and honest - a series of facts linked together into a story that explains the typical who, what, when, where, why, and how of an event or series of events. "Fair and Balanced" are emotionally tagged words. Fair to whom? Balanced in what way? I would much rather read an article that is complete, accurate, and follows a logical sequence of events. A news article should be "fair" by being written with that objective in mind, not in trying to provide information that may conflict with the facts in order to "give both sides of the story".

Example: the vote on John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. We've been presented with several dozen conflicting "facts", and an enormous amount of opinion thinly disguised as "fact". We know that John Bolton was nominated by President Bush. We know that he's a bit of a rough cobb for a diplomat. We also know that the United Nations is deeply embroiled in not one but several scandals. We also know that the United States provides an inordinate percentage of the funds to run the United Nations - funds that are frequently used in a way that conflicts with what the President believes is the best interest of the United States.

We've also seen that the Democratic Party has embarked upon a program of obstruction against many nominees from President Bush, both for high-level offices in the Executive branch, and for judges for Appelate and higher Courts throughout the country. All of this information - most of which are indisputed facts - change the focus of the story from an ordinary appointment to a pattern of internal political warfare between the two major political parties, at the detriment of the operation of the federal government and its ability to meet the needs of the citizens of this nation. Both sides feel "justified" in doing what they're doing, yet much of the nation's business is being delayed and/or hampered by the internal bickering. There is no way the story can be objectively reported in a way that's "fair" to both sides. Telling the story in a way that says both sides have equally valid ideas in an attempt to provide a "balanced account" misses the bigger story that the nation's business isn't getting done. Since that's the sole duty of ALL branches of government, it's impossible to be both "fair" and "balanced" in reporting.

I think it's far more important for reporters to write stories that are honest, accurate, and complete, than to attempt to write something that's "fair and balanced".

Question #2 - "How can we be an online Joe Friday?"

I think the only way to do this is to write what one knows, and indicate the story being covered is incomplete, with more to follow. Speed in reporting isn't the only advantage blogs have - they also have the ability to make corrections quickly, and the information being covered is archived in a format that's easy to recover. I think feedback will help those bloggers who tend to include too much opinion mixed with news to either wean themselves from that practice, or drive them out of the program. Either way, both the program and the bloggers who do stress truthful reporting will benefit.

I wrote in someone else's blog several months ago that the primary purposes of any source of information are to inform, educate, and entertain. Informing means providing the who, what, etc., of a particular situation. Educating means linking the situation to other similar situations, or to background information that establishes context, expands the scope of the story, or provides glimpses into how a particular situation may affect others beyond those in the immediate area. Entertaining means writing the story in a way that makes it a pleasure to read, rather than drudgery. That means clear sentences, well-constructed paragraphs, and writing so the reader can easily follow the flow of events within the article. That takes both skill and practice.

There are obviously going to be people whose contributions to the group are hard news. Others will provide "soft" news - much like the "Features" section of a newspaper. Still others will provide opinion. Some may provide many different kinds of stories. Is this organization going to provide weather information? What about emergency notification? How should we try to participate in such hot topics as homeland defense, border interdiction, military activities, crimes, judicial review, etc.? Is the organization just going to be an online news provider, or is it going to cover an entire spectrum of topics, using multiple approaches?

Anyone can try to create a blog that mimics Captain's Quarters, Power Line, Free Republic, Roger Simon, Michelle Malkin, or Hugh Hewitt. Mimicry works with print media, because usually only one or two sources are available in a given area. Mimicry on the Internet doesn't work that way. Everyone is available to everyone else. The way to get traffic is to offer something unique, that people enjoy and are willing to return, day after day to read what's new.

Having 400 people write about the same thing may ensure that the information gets out, but who is going to want to wade through 400 stories about the same thing? At the same time, if 400 people all write about a different story, there's going to be too many choices, and some will have to be ignored. Writers are going to have to have some way of indicating whether they're writing news, opinion, reviews, interpretations, or whatever, as well as categorizing their writing by subject matter. That's going to require some heavy thought.

The whole idea of a linked blogger information network is fantastic. Links are good, but that doesn't tell you whether a writer has updated his site recently or not, or what his latest missive is about, so one can decide whether to visit that site or not. There's a brave new world on the horizon, but the path there is strewn with boulders, dead trees, and a gremlin or two.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Always a Soldier

Some people join the military for a short number of years, and it's just a job, something to go on a resume when they join the "real world". For others, it becomes both a career and a lifetime commitment. In the words of Douglas MacArthur, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."

There are many reasons people choose a career in the military: patriotism, travel, education, benefits, family and friends, to name just a few. It's certainly not a good way to become wealthy, unless you're one of the very few that become high-ranking general officers. Even there, these people don't become wealthy during their careers. For a number of people, however, the reason for remaining beyond that first short commitment is a greater commitment - a commitment to the nation they serve, and the people they protect. That's a commitment that recognizes few boundaries, and knows no end.

A soldier's first duty is to the Constitution of the United States, and the people it represents. Everything else falls under that, and the obedience of "those appointed over me", from the corporal of the watch to the President of the United States. The training, the capabilities developed, the constant exercises to keep that training and knowledge sharp , all stems from the duty of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States, and the people it represents, from its enemies.

Some of the things soldiers are asked to do may seem totally insane at the time, but usually fall into place when viewed from the perspective of history. There were times during World War I and II when soldiers were asked to do what was considered insane by many not in the military, yet somehow the soldiers overcame the obstacles and persisted. Korea was an exercise in doing the unbelievable, day after day. Vietnam was a disaster for the professional military, not from the performance of the troops, but from the muddled or nonexistent civilian leadership that hamstrung the military, and the political manipulation of every aspect of the war. For the first time during the Cold War, the people of the United States, and its government, failed to honor its military, and turned its back on the cries of an ally.

There is one reason for a military, at least from the perspective of those within it: to ensure that the people of the United States live under a government of their choosing, one that secures and protects the rights of the individual. Many of the wars the United States has fought has been to ensure the continuity of that form of government. Frequently, in the last 50 years or so, we have fought to protect the people of other nations, so they, too, could share the benefits of such government. There is no greater honor for those who have committed themselves to a military career than to help others achieve what we strive to protect: a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" of that nation.

We did that in Cuba, and in the Philippines. We succeeded with Germany and Japan following World War II. We helped the people of South Korea protect its new freedom from Communist aggression. We were set to do the same thing in Vietnam, except for a failure of vision and leadership from our civilian bosses.

Ronald Reagan helped the people of Grenada fend off an imposed government, and removed a tyrant undermining American interests and waging clandestine warfare against the United States from Panama. George H. W. Bush used the military might of the United States and its allies to free Kuwait from the ravages of Saddam Hussein. Bill Clinton used military force to stop genocidal war in the Balkans. Our current president, George W. Bush, has used US military capabilities to oust a totalitarian government in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to protect the newly-elected fledgling governments from destruction by outside forces.

Soldiering is a young man's job. It's rough, dirty, boring, dangerous, and unrelenting. It requires constant vigilence, physical stamina, exceptional training, and the best of equipment and protection. It also takes dedication - to the military, to the job at hand, and to fellow soldiers, regardless of the color of their uniform.

Today there's no difference between "front-line" and "support" troops, between Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. Everyone is under constant threat from those that would wage terror war equally against our military and our civilian populace. Everyone is a target, everyone is a soldier. Neither those trained in the art of war nor those who oppose every aspect of such training are free from threat, nor is anyone immune. By keeping the enemy actively committed in one theater, we have a short respite here in this theater, but the threat hasn't diminished or gone away.

Those of us no longer fit to carry a rifle and pack, to wage war on the enemy's soil rather than ours, still have a duty to those who have taken our place in the front ranks. We serve by upholding the traditions of the past, by encouraging the acceptance of today's military requirements, by honoring and supporting those in harm's way. Those of us who can keep our government's attention on the needs of those in uniform. Those of us who cannot help in any other way pray constantly for the safety and well-being of our fellow soldiers as they do their duty to God, to Country, to our Constitution and our people. This is our duty - to ourselves, our nation, and our fellow soldiers. There is no end to this duty as long as American servicemen continue the mission we once were committed to.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

PepsiCo President Poops in the Punchbowl

Indra Nooyi is President & Chief Financial Officer for PepsiCo, and lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. She thinks the United States is the cause of most of the trouble in the world, and that the entire world thinks we stink. She also thinks we don't care what the world thinks, and that's somehow wrong. That's at least what she said at a commencement program she spoke at to graduating MBAs at Columbia University. In this author's opinion, Indra Nooyi needs to be demoted to a position that will force her to travel to all those "other nations" that hate us so much, and really learn why the United States is envied, not hated throughout the world.

The "middle finger salute" isn't UNIVERSAL, but the places that don't use it, or at least don't understand it, can be counted on the same fingers Ms. Nooyi used to describe the world. Not only was it a poor choice of metaphors, but it also was poorly presented.

The majority of the nations in this world envy the people of this nation, and that envy is frequently converted into hatred of the United States. The reasons are numerous, but most boil down to two things: the undeniable individual freedom of the citizens of the United States, and their undeniable generally high standard of living compared to others. Neither were given to us by someone else: our freedom and our prosperity came from our own hard work, and a government that recognizes that individual prosperity is best achieved when government plays the smallest role possible in its citizens' daily lives.

As for Ms. Nooyi's "finger pointing", there are also some very telling generalizations and stereotyping in her remarks. Thanks to the US military, I've traveled extensively, including in Europe, North, South, and Central America, Australia, and Asia. I've also had the opportunity, because of my job, to view much of the world, and to study much of its history, economics, politics, society and culture. Perhaps Ms. Nooyi should do a bit more studying, and learn exactly why the cultures and societies of other nations are no match for the United States economically, materially, socially, politically, culturally, or personal productivity.

Africa is, indeed, the 'weak sister' of the world right now. It's not because of a lack of natural resources - Africa has perhaps the greatest supply of unexploited natural resources in the world. There are problems with extracting those resources, most of which are the result of government policies, rather than engineering problems. Government actions also limits external capitalization and investment. Most of Africa is governed by totalitarian, unelected, unrepresentative governments that enforce policies that limit economic growth and development, and impose poverty on the majority of its citizens. The personal behavior of many Africans also contributes to individual poverty, sickness, and death.

Not all of Africa is in bad shape. There are individual countries where things are quite livable, where there is a relative degree of individual freedom, industrial and agricultural productivity, and decent health care. At the same time, there is an excellent example of Africa's problems in the nation of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe could very well be the poster-child of African self-destruction. Before the election of President (for life) Mugabe, Zimbabwe had a thriving economy, personal freedom, decent education for all, and a working legal system that protected the rights of the individual. Today, Zimbabwe is on life-support, and failing. Cronyism, extortion, dictatorial one-party rule, eviscerate of private property laws, destruction of individual freedoms, and many, many other problems has reduced Zimbabwe to very close to the bottom of the heap. There isn't much in the way of a hopeful prognosis for the future.

The best analogy of Europe is that of an extended family, consisting of members at various stages in their lives. Some members are both old and sick, such as France and Germany. Others are old, but remain vigorous, such as some of the Scandinavian countries and Great Britain. Some are relatively healthy, while others have a deadly cancer or some other dreaded disease affecting them. Others are relatively young and robust, such as the newly-freed nations of Eastern Europe. Some engage in healthy lifestyles, while others flirt with fad diets, or pursue lifestyles that are definitely unhealthy, both for them and for their neighbors. Yet they're all members of the family. Some like one or all of the neighbors - Africa, Asia, North and South America, Australia - while others hate some, and feel smug and superior to others. Mostly, though, it's a family that has grown older and less capable of changing their lifestyle, even when it's killing them. There's a harridan trying to run everyone's lives in the family, and making so many outlandish rules that no human being could possibly obey them all.

Latin America and the Caribbean are object lessons in schizophrenia. The majority of the nations south of the US border have had at one time or another an elected government. Many still do. Yet the degree of personal freedom enjoyed by most of the citizens of Latin American nations is far below that of their northern neighbors. Most are ruled by an ancestral oligarchy that monopolizes the top of every power source - the judiciary, the government, the military, the Church, and most economic activity. There's still very much an underclass that lives in constant, unchanging poverty. Many nations have vast resources, but squander the income from them, or concentrate the wealth in only the hands of the uncrowned aristocracy. Nationalization of resources and industry, lack of private property guarantees, and little or no prospects for self-improvement guarantee the next generation will experience the same grinding poverty of the previous one.

Asia is a continent in transition. Many countries are under dictatorial governments that restrict personal freedom almost completely. Others are models of independent, freedom-loving, rights-guaranteeing, and prosperous nations. Others drift through the huge middle ground between these two extremes. Thanks to the United States, two nations (Afghanistan and Iraq) are making the transition to independent, freedom-loving nations that guarantee and support personal rights. India is moving more and more toward an ownership society and away from socialism. Some nations don't seem to know which way to try to go, and appear to be moving in circles, dizzy from the internal conflicts between freedom and security.

Rather than hate the United States, most nations of the world should instead try to understand what makes this nation a magnet for those who yearn for freedom, and try to emulate it. There is no reason for any nation to be awash in poverty. There is a clear blueprint for prosperity for all nations to examine, to choose what will work for them, and to implement a government and laws that will secure for them the freedom and success the United States has earned.

As Ronald Reagan said, the United States is "the bright city on the hill", offering light to all who would accept it. Dictators and tyrants, members of the ruling classes, whether their power is achieved through government, religion, economics, or culture, hate the light and hide from it. But only in the light can you see where the opportunities exist, for the people, and for the society. Ms. Nooyi gained her current position through opportunities she found here. She should not disparage or discourage others for searching for the same illumination, and equal success.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Worldly Worries

I haven't been posting much lately. One of the reasons for that is that I started working part-time last week. I put in 15 hours over seven days, and it was probably too much. I could have worked 70 hours during that same period if I'd wanted to. My physical problems limited me to the 15 I did work. Me, the guy that worked 12-14 hour shifts back-to-back for weeks at a time, that spent as long as 40 hours at a time in the same building in the 70's, and that worked as many as three different 10-hour shifts in a five-day week. I feel embarrassed because I can't work more, and depressed that such little work left me so exhausted, physically and mentally.

The job's a lot of fun. I sort stamps and put them into lots for a local dealer to post on eBay. I don't do this alone - at least two other people do the same thing, and the boss is looking for more. The goal is 100 lots per day, six days a week, sometimes seven. The only hard part is in deciding what to put together to represent a lot. I get to see a lot of stamps I've never seen before, even though I've been to a half-dozen International-level shows, and seen some of the best museum exhibits available, both in Europe and North America. At the same time, seeing all those GORGEOUS stamps that could very easily find a home in my collection, and have to let them go to others . . . it's hard at times!

There's lots of local news, too, that makes me angry and sad.

The school district my daughter attended is waging an internal war with the school board, and the school board members are fighting among themselves. Like schools everywhere, the local district has many problems that have grown slowly - and been ignored - that now can't be ignored any more. The problems include teachers with agendas, unqualified or poorly-qualified teachers, student gangs, high dropout rates, absolutely NO discipline, drug and alcohol use, incivility, poor performance (on both the teachers' and the students' part), and money, especially money. The fight is of course between the people that want to make changes, and the people that want to retain the status quo. A 30% dropout rate and more than 50 girls having babies a year isn't something I'd want to have enshrined in any school I ran - and yes, that's the record for one of the BETTER schools in the district.

Colorado Springs reached out a hand of friendship to another city in the state, and now has that hand in a cast. I guess friendship isn't what it's chalked up to be, especially between city councils.

There IS good news in Colorado - for the first time in more than five years, the snowpack is "normal" or "above-normal". That doesn't mean things are back to normal, but it does mean that there's going to be enough water in local reservoirs this year to toss a fishhook into, and not fear catching ground squirrels. Of course, after five years of sub-normal water levels, a lot of new residents are going to be surprised at how dangerous Colorado's rivers can be when they're running full!

Colorado Springs will feel the effects from the latest Base Realignment and Closing list, but in a way most cities would be deliriously happy with. Colorado Springs will probably get between 4,000 and 10,000 new troops over the next five years, partly because of realignment of forces within the United States, and partly from the drawdown of overseas forces. The city has lots of experience with dealing with military increases, from the opening of the Air Force Academy to the creation of Space Command to the redeployment of units of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment and the 10th Special Forces Group to Fort Carson a few years ago.

I'm sure one base targeted for closure on the BRAC list will have a major impact on the nearby town. Ellsworth AFB, SD, is scheduled to close. That was the last Active Duty military base my wife's father was assigned to before he retired. Rapid City, SD, practically survived the last 40 years because of Ellsworth. I hope the local town planners have at least had an inkling the base would someday close, and developed plans for that contingency. If not, the town could be in serious trouble!

Most people don't have much of a "feel" for a military base closing, although those that live near them learn quickly how much it hurts. The military, however, feels every single one of those cuts, personally. None of the stateside military bases I've been assigned to in my Air Force career were targeted this time. I do know the closing of Lowry AFB, in Denver, and the closing of Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in the suburb city of Aurora, caused a lot of heartache for tens of thousands of military retirees in the Denver area.

There's always a bit of good news in my local newspaper, and today's Gazette has a doozie of an article. The fastest-growing, largest, and most effective club at the private, liberal Colorado College, is the Carnivore Club. The club was begun as a protest to the closing of a campus deli that was replaced by a vegan bar. Since then, it's been up, up, and away. The high point of the club's activities is the annual spring meating (spelling is correct) - a culinary event featuring food, friendship, and good bluegrass music.

I belong to an online alumni group - the former members of the 497th Reconnaissance Technical Group, which spent 50 years in the Wiesbaden suburb of Schierstein, on the Rhine river. Normally there are a half-dozen posts a month, but for the last two months, emails have been numbering in the 60 or 70 range. It's been great hearing from people I was assigned with in the 70's and 80's. We've also had a few people from the early days - all the way back to the first days of the unit at Schierstein Compound in 1952. The unit has a long and lusterous history, much of which is, alas, classified. Let's just say that it - and it's members - played an active and significant role in winning the Cold War. I'm proud to have been a member of such an elite orgainization - three times! The unit's deactivation in 1992 was a shock, but knowing what else happened at that time, not a terribly big surprise.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Dangerous People!

The mayor of Colorado Springs has launched an investigation into the killing of five buffalo cows on the front lawn of a house in Old Colorado City. The buffalo had escaped from a meat packing plant where they were to be processed.

The news today is that at least ten deputies fired more than 120 rounds from semi-automatic weapons in killing the buffalo cows. They also managed to hit houses, cars, and a few trees in the process. Luckily, all the people had been evacuated before the deputies started shooting.

The deputies were armed with the civilian version of the M-16, firing 5.56mm ammunition. It really doesn't have a lot of stopping power. To kill an animal the size of a buffalo (or elk), you need something with stopping power, such as a good 30-06, or something similar. A buffalo has bones strong enough that a 5.56 round will simply ricochet off. The officers would have been better off using their .38-caliber pistols rather than their rifles, especially at the close range they were firing.

I used to love to hunt. I have a standing invitation to go hunting with a friend of mine on the Western Slope. Unfortunately, there are far too many people like these police officers - and worse - in the woods during hunting season. They go hunting with heavy rifles and small pop-guns (one family from California were "elk hunting" three or four years ago, and the warden who stopped them found that the father had a 30/30, while the three kids were armed with .22 single-shot rifles!).

Many hunters forget that booze and guns don't mix. Even the best safety course can't compensate for a brain blurred by booze. And just because it moves doesn't mean it's an elk. Several people every year shoot deer, moose, cattle, and other critters - not to mention another hunter once in awhile - because they don't wait to see for SURE what they're shooting at. Killing a moose out of season in Colorado can get you a $5000 fine and a suspension of hunting privileges for ten years.

It's never taken me more than two shots to kill an elk, which is about the same size as these buffalo. I've made one or two single-shot kills, one from over 200 yards. These deputies were within 40-50 FEET of these buffalo, and were supposed to be "skilled, trained marksmen". I grew up on a farm, and have slaughtered pigs, cattle, and poultry raised specifically for our freezer. One shot, right between the eyes and about an inch higher, and it's over, even using a .22 pistol, which is what we normally used.

These police officers, like most people today, probably grew up in an urban environment, rather than on a farm. They have probably never wilfully slaughtered anything in their lives. The 5.56 is effective against wild dogs and rabid animals, but is worthless against something like a two-year-old buffalo, even at close range. There needs to be an investigation of this incident, and the police should have special marksmen armed with effective weapons to deal with situations like this in the future. With the number of deer, elk, bear, moose, and mountain lions that wander through the city, the police need to be able to effectively stop these animals. Yes, firing a .30-caliber weapon in the city is dangerous. So is a wounded mountain lion, or an angry bear.

Too many people think that a gun is a gun is a gun. Like any tool, however, you have to use the right one for the job. No one is going to try to do major plumbing repair with only a 1/2-inch crescent wrench. It takes the right tools, the right training, and the right kind of thinking. No professional would attempt a job without the right tools, yet that same person will go off in the mountains hunting with no prior knowledge, no experience, and little consideration for what they need to be successful - and safe. Is there any wonder why we have one or two hunters killed every season, or why at least ONE hunter brings back a cow, horse, or moose, and claims it's an elk?

I don't hunt any more, unless I go with a friend of mine during bow season. There are just too many untrained, uneducated, and unthinking people out there at the same time. If I want to be shot at, I'll choose to go to a war zone, where at least I EXPECT people to shoot at me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I have little energy tonight. I came home after working three hours at a job that's absolutely more fun than work, and I'm exhausted. Part of the problem was caused by Miss Kitty deciding it was time last night to have her kittens, and she wanted me there to hold her hand. The biggest part, however, was the sheer exhaustion that comes from never feeling "good" - of always being in pain.

Unless you, or someone very close to you, has a chronic pain problem, you don't see the full effects. Pain is TIRING. It also leaves you grouchy, cantankerous, and short-tempered. (It also seems to impede one's ability to put thoughts into electrons on a screen without misspelling every third word.) It affects how you view the world around you, and everyone in it.

It makes it very hard to tolerate fools, or to put up with childish irrationality. Unfortunately, we have an unending supply of that around us these days, from the temper-tantrum screeching of the Washington "illuminati" to the idiot that rode his bicycle across the street directly in front of me this morning.

I didn't try to run over that mental midget college student, and I don't plan to nuke Washington, DC. I don't plan to take my anger out on my wife and children, or our cats and dog. I would appreciate the Wizards of Washington getting in gear and allowing me to take some safe, effective, pain killers that have side effects I can live with. I would appreciate people in government at all levels not saying three stupid things before dinner every day. I would appreciate people being kind, courteous, and well-mannered, and to watch what they're doing around me. In the meantime, I get my revenge...

It's a simple prayer: "Lord, for these "blessings", we pray that you would bestow upon those that have blessed us with their appropriate reward." Hopefully I won't have to continue say it at least 637 times a day for much longer.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I know, I know - I'm late...

I had every intention of having the entry below online by about 2:30 this afternoon. I had finished writing it, and just needed to post it. Unfortunately, I hadn't counted on Mother Nature. We've had a steady stream of thunderstorms through here since about one o'clock this afternoon. We have a mild break at the moment, but the next storm is brewing over the mountains to the west.

I hope you enjoy anyway!

Why I Joined, Why I Stayed

As I promised on The Daily Brief yesterday, here's my discussion of why I joined, and why I stayed for 26 years.

My family isn't really big on military service, yet there's been a Weatherford (my family name) in the military of the United States of America for every war since the French and Indian War. In fact, there were Weatherfords on both sides of the battle of the Revolutionary War, the Creek Indian wars, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. There was one Weatherford that also fought in the US/Mexican War of 1846, and at least one in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, and the current War on Terrorism.

Most of the time, these family members were only in the military during the actual hostilities. Both my parents were on active duty during World War II - Dad in the Army, and Mom in the Navy. One of Dad's brothers served during World War II, and Mom's two brothers also served. I can't keep track of the number of cousins, in-laws, and more distant relatives that served, but there were quite a few. It's kind of a family tradition that if the nation needs us, we gladly serve. There are very few of us that made a career of it before World War II, but a growing number afterwards.

I grew up in a small Louisiana town just north of Alexandria/Pineville, near the heart of the state. The number of working-age people who live there outnumber the number of jobs by about 2.8 to 1 - not a good ratio. Back in 1964, when I graduated from High School, it was worse. It was almost as if someone had to die or retire in order for a job to become available. Most of my classmates either went to college, went into the military, or moved away to find jobs elsewhere.

I got lucky - I received an appointment to the Class of 1968 at the Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Three weeks after graduation, I reported there for training. Basic training there was much tougher than anything I experienced later in life, but I made it through that and most of the first semester of academics. Then a boxing accident put me in the hospital for the last three weeks of the fall semester, and ended my cadet days.

I went back to Tioga, found a job and started working. The town seemed to have shrunk during those six months I was away. Nothing felt comfortable. Finally in June, 1965, I re-enlisted in the Air Force as a lowly E-2.

I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I do rate in the top 5% on most tests. That gave me the chance to choose whatever career field I wanted. I chose intelligence, because I liked what the brochure said about it, and I thought I'd be pretty good at it. Shortly after the joke the Air Force calls boot camp was over, I left for Denver, Colorado, and intelligence tech school. While I was assigned to Lowry AFB, I spent a lot of time at the Denver USO, becoming one of the Center's DJs, and ended up President of the Program Planning Committee. There were more than 300 young ladies that served as hostesses there, and I knew them all before I left. I graduated in February, 1966, just a week before I married one of those hostesses!

My wife was an Air Force brat, and knew much of what to expect as an Air Force wife. Long before my first 4-year tour was up, we'd decided we liked the Air Force, and would stay "for 20". I made Staff Sergeant - E-5 - two weeks before re-enlisting for the first time.

My wife and I were apart half of my first five years in the military. The hardest part was being away from home when our daughter was born in November, 1967. After my year tour in Vietnam, however, we were never apart for more than six months, and those periods were usually by choice, not due to the Air Force.

I found I loved the military, and loved my job. I was also good at it, and received a great deal of recognition for it. Jean and I wanted more children, however, and it was almost impossible to adopt a child as an E-5 in the military. The post-Vietnam drawdown made it even more difficult. I left the Air Force after 11 years in 1976, and we moved back to Denver.

We found a way to adopt that circumvented most of the hassles the average state agencies put you through. We worked for an agency that trained us as therepeutic foster parents, and we were assigned anywhere from one to five children that needed extensive emotional or psychological help. We adopted one child through the agency, and received help in adopting another one later. I wasn't happy out of the military, and as soon as I could find a slot, I joined the Air Force Reserve.

Jimmy Carter's "stagflation" put us through the mill. Jobs were hard to come by, and seldom paid all the bills. Between the Air Force Reserve and our payment as foster-parents, we were able to always pay our bills, but never to get ahead enough to have a vacation or do any travelling.

In 1980, I got an astounding offer from the Air Force - to come back on active duty, in my reserve rank (E-6, Technical Sergeant), and take an assignment in Germany with a unit I had high regards for. I don't think it tooks us thirty minutes to make a decision!

Our lives from 1980 to 1991 were spent running back and forth between Europe and the States. By 1989, however, I was beginning to have some significant medical problems. By October, 1990, I knew I was going to have to retire. That happened April 1, 1991 - April Fool's Day.

Not very surprisingly, our daughter married an Air Force troop, but they left the service after about ten years, mainly due to medical problems. My son-in-law is trying to get a VA rating for his bad knees. Our other two children aren't that enthralled with the military. Our youngest hasn't really had that much to do with the military, since she was only four when I retired.

I miss the Air Force. I miss the job I did, the cameraderie, the challenges, and the travel. I know that there's no way I could do the job I did then if I were on active duty today, but I still miss it. I volunteered to interpret the imagery of the December 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami as much to practice my old vocation as to help out those that needed it. If the Air Force said "you need to come back" today, I would be there as fast as I could, 70% disability and all.

A Challenge

Everybody talks about education reform, but every mention so far has been an attempt to 'force competition on public education' by doing just about the same things the regular school system does, but 'better'. All that is expensive: buildings, teachers, administrators, furnishings, books, and program costs are pretty much the same for public, private, and charter schools. Yet there are simple, fast, effective programs that could be developed and implemented for under $250,000 that could help half or more of the children of this nation, and could be in place in less than six months. I hereby challenge all the non-profit organizations that want higher education achievement to read this, and study ways of implementing it.

Here's how it can be done:

About one home in four has Internet access. Public libraries provide free Internet access. Many churches have their own websites, and computers are there most of the time. There are literally tens of thousands of social, cultural, political and other non-religious organizations in this nation, in virtually every city - from Shriners, Lions, and Rotary to Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus and Boy Scouts. Get these people on board to help, both to develop the program and to administer and support it. Appeal to all, and accept ANY help offered.

Create a new non-profit organization to oversee the program. Request donations and grants from government, business, and individuals. Establish and maintain an online curriculum on the Internet. Make it as highly interactive as possible. DO NOT establish 'grade levels', but create a program that can be used by children of any age to explore a given subject at a minimum level, or to go on and study it as intensely as they choose. Have lots of links to supplementary information that can expand a child's knowledge as far as they choose to go (E.D. Hirsh's books, "What every Xth Grader Should Know" provide a pretty good starting place for WHAT to include). Make sure ALL the information needed is available. Ask writers, teachers, professionals, businesses, government, and others to donate the use of proprietary information, but use non-proprietary information whenever possible. There's an enormous amount of material in the public domain that can be used. Make sure that ALL of the information you're using is available online for all students. Allow password-controlled access to the material from any computer, including at home for those students that have them.

Have volunteers available in group settings to help answer questions, or to help a student find the information they need, and to ensure discipline is maintained. These volunteers should be at least moderately proficient with computers, and have a fair understanding of the Internet. They would also be there to ensure children don't wander into areas that are inappropriate for them.

Run the program as an after-school program that will "supplement" what a child learns in the public school environment. Give it a catchy name like "Explorers" or "Adventurers", and operate it as a program to allow children to learn about what interests them, or to help them with problems they're having in school with their current classwork. Provide incentives and rewards. Children work better when there's a goal, just as adults do. Insist upon good manners and appropriate behavior. Establish proper levels of non-physical punishment (restrictions, time-out, sequestering) as necessary to enforce good behavior.

Allow access to information about everything not unlawful or immoral, including religion. Allow the CHILD to choose what they study, but build the incentive system around an all-inclusive curriculum that covers math, science, reading, writing, history, civics, geography, and the arts. Allow the student to determine how long they'll work each day, but set a minimum level - a half-hour of diligent scholarship - as being necessary to earn points toward the incentive system. Make sure that everyone that actively participates gets some kind of reward, but do NOT make every reward equal. Force children to strive toward higher goals, not the minimum. Several different types of rewards may be necessary in order to reward children of different intellectual abilities. Do NOT say that a particular child cannot strive toward a particular goal, even if it's below their potential. Allow bonuses and special prizes for exceptional performance, at all levels. Create the reward system online, so that a child's performance and achievement is available for them to access, to see how much credit they've earned. Password-protect the information so others can't snoop, and use the information against another student.

Most of all, as much as possible, make learning fun and enjoyable, as well as educational. Also, make sure everyone knows about the program through local, state, and national publicity. Allow limited access from outside the United States, especially for children of Americans living outside the country.

The biggest problems are educating minorities and the poor. The rich have access to better schools, better teachers, and a more varied curriculum. The best place to start such a program as I've described for Blacks, Hispanics, and others is in the places where these children go anyway: churches, libraries, and clubs. It would be even better to also allow a non-profit group to have access to a small amount of space in shopping malls for this program, as well. Go where the kids are going to be anyway, and get them hooked on learning. Inside a mall, allow them to earn points toward a purchase of their choice at a business within the mall. Provide a place for public recognition of successful achievement. Build pride in learning.

Once the program gets rolling, begin developing alternative curriculums that can augment (but not replace!) the basics needed for successful achievement in this country. Add history and culture courses on Latin American, Asian, European, and African countries. Add technical training courses, especially in computers, science, and modern technology. Gradually expand the curriculum to cover the basic courses required during the Freshman year of college, and encourage colleges to award credit for successful completion of the program outside their institutions.

Children respond to challenges, just as adults do. One of the major problems with today's educationan environment is that the challenges, the competition, and the rewards don't exist, or are so pathetic that most students ignore them. Getting them involved in learning, rewarding them for excellence, and challenging them to think, and rewarding them for achievement, will ensure they learn far better than forcing them to spend several hours a day in a dead environment. It will also keep them off the streets, gainfully employed doing something constructive instead of something (self) destructive.

Who is willing to accept this challenge? I'm willing to work with any group that steps forward.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Give me Coffee or Cut my Throat!

John Stossel has an interesting but irrelevant article on Town Hall called Coffee Talk. It's interesting, but irrelevant because it completely misrepresents the coffee industry, and the beverage itself. The truth is, most coffees are blended, and the blend (of primarily two varieties, Arrabica and Robusta) determines the flavor more than any other factor. There is some difference in taste, however, of pure, unblended coffees grown in specific areas. Jamacian Blue Mountain is considered the "champagne" of coffees, while Kona, Java, Sumatra, and West Indies blends are also highly prized. Yet it all comes down to individual taste. Much is made of "Columbian" coffee, but the same beans are also grown in Costa Rica, where they provide even better flavor. I've never knowingly had Kenyan or Ethiopian coffee.

Roasting varieties also play a great part in coffee taste, but virtually ignored by Stossel. Light roast is milder than medium roast, and dark roast is the strongest of all. Adding more coffee to the pot doesn't change the flavor as much as the proper roast.

Grind also plays a big factor in both strength and flavor. A fine grind allows more of the surface of the coffee granules to be exposed to water. The same flavor can be obtained quicker from a fine grind than from a coarse grind. Medium grind is what is found in most already-ground coffees.

Both my parents were heavy coffee-drinkers when I was a child, yet I never drank coffee until after I left home. Today, I drink about a half-pot a day - more than I should with my tinnitus problem, but since I'm limited to sugar-free drinks, not excessive. I've taste coffee from all over the world, and I can't say exactly which is the best. I like one brand over all others, because it's both a dark-roast, medium grind 70/30 mix of arrabica and robusta beans. Unfortunately, it's not available where I live. I try to make do with whatever I have at hand, and stock up when I find my favorite brand.

It's NOT Focus on the Family

The headline in the Metro Section of Monday's Colorado Springs Gazette screams:

700 protest Focus' stance on gays

"Focus on the family is polluting the country with toxic lies about homosexuality, gay Christian activists charged Sunday as they rallied outside the ministry's Colorado Springs Headquarters.

An estimated 700 people attended the protest, designed to challeng Focus founder James Dobson's teachings as hurtful to people struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their faith."

The stance FOCUS takes? How about the stance GOD takes!

Leviticus 20:
13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
14 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.

God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is within them. He created Man and Woman, and male and female, and established that this was how He intended man to live. He has said unto the Jews that if two men lie together as man and woman, they have committed an abomination. They have sinned against God by profaning what God created - Man as a bisexual creature. The same strictures apply to lying with a beast - it is a profaning of God's design of His creation.

Jesus showed us what we must do about sin: He confronted Mary Magdaline, and said to her, "Go, and sin no more". God/Jesus can forgive, but only for repentance. Repenting means both "seeking forgiveness" and "turning away" from what was considered a sin: a practicing homosexual Christian is a contradiction in terms. There is no repentance of the sin - homosexual behavior - so there can be no forgiveness. Remember the words of Jesus: "Lest ye repent, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven".

It isn't James Dobson that's saying this, it's God. It isn't Focus on the Family that made this rule, but God Himself, who set down what it meant to be His chosen. Yes, sin can be forgiven, but only through true repentence, and refraining from committing the same sin again and again.

You cannot be a Christian and a practicing homosexual. The two are mutually exclusive. You cannot wilfully lead a sinful life and expect the fruits of forgiveness. God doesn't work that way. Anyone who says He does is a false prophet, and as guilty of sin as the sinner he lies to.

While we can forgive - even love - our homosexual friends, we cannot absolve their sinful behavior. They are welcome to come to listen to God's word, but they cannot participate in the eucarist, or any other holy offering, as long as they continue to live a sinful life. There can be no "membership" for practicing homosexuals. Their behavior forbids it. This is the teaching of God, and the Church follows that teaching or is in mortal danger of being cut off from God.

There are plenty of false prophets today that welcome homosexuals as equal to any other congregant. Theirs shall be the reward God shall give them. God Himself will decide if He shall pity them. If I were them, I would be very, very afraid. It's not Focus that shall face an angry God, but those churches - and "Christians" - that have turned from His Commandments.