Monday, May 28, 2007

One last Memorial Day post

Today is Memorial Day. To a lot of folks it is just another day off of work or a really good shopping day. To some (notably recent HS graduates) it marks the beginning of "adult" life. To others it marks the beginning of the official summer time BBQ and Bikini season. Then, to a reletivily small group of Americans, it is a day mixed with sadness and pride or even anger.

To me it is the latter. I have lost friends over the course of my time in the Marine Corps. Some died in Beirut in 1983. They will be nineteen, forever.

Then there are friends who died on active duty in training accidents, car wrecks, cancer etc. Thier loss is no less tragic. I also know Marines killed in Iraq during this war. So today is for the memory of all of them.

We will drink to thier memory and visit a local cemetary. We will look at the flag and realize that it is different things to different people.

But most importantly, the thing we must all do is to carry on. We cannot waver in our resolve to be (stealing an Army line) "all you can be". This means that folks who normally oppose each other on issues will continue to do so. It means that, to quote Teddy Roosevelt, we must continue to be the "man in the arena" for whatever purpose that is.

Another appropriate quote comes to mind: It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. -- George S. Patton

To do any less is to dishonor the memories of all those who died for us.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mythbusting Truthout at TalkAmerica

There are days when something comes out in the world that requires you to check it out. Today is the day. According to Ann at we are poised to steal the Iraqi oil. Never mind that we already have the power to simply take it, or destroy it, according to her the first benchmark in the new law is "Privatizing Iraq's Oil for US Companies" To put a point on it:
On Thursday, May 24, the US Congress voted to continue the war in Iraq. The members called it "supporting the troops." I call it stealing Iraq's oil - the second largest reserves in the world. The "benchmark," or goal, the Bush administration has been working on furiously since the US invaded Iraq is privatization of Iraq's oil. Now they have Congress blackmailing the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people: no privatization of Iraqi oil, no reconstruction funds.

There isn't anything in the article to back up Anns commentary. And, normally an editorial in a big name website like truthout wouldn't draw much from me in the way of investigation. But, this resonated and after reading the gang at TalkAmerica hit this story to find out if it was true.

Unless someone has other sources, the myth of privatization being a required benchmark is looking pretty busted.

What Congress Really Approved: Benchmark No. 1: Privatizing Iraq's Oil for US Companies

The Discussion at TalkAmerica.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorial Day

I was taught as a young man that there were three holidays to explicitly honor the US Military and it's contributions to freedom. I have no sources and no proof that this is correct. But, it makes sense to me and I hope it will to you as well. BTW, if I am factually wrong, feel free to point it out.

The first is Armed Forces Day. It is celebrated to thank the contributions of everyone who has ever served in the Military whether in peace or war. It doesn't matter if they served three years or thirty. Just the fact that they served is enough.

Next on the list was Veterans Day. This was to celebrate the sacrifices and accomplishments of our military men and women who served in time of war. Not much more to say there.

Finally there is Memorial Day. Here we pause, reflect, and give thanks to those who died in service to the nation.

As you and I hit the holiday sales and enjoy a day off from work, please pause, only for a moment if you will, and let a little gratitude come out. Dwell for a minute or two on the men and women who gave everything they had in this world to ensure that you and I could do pretty much as we please. And if you get the chance to console someone who lost a friend, or a loved one in the service, try to help them as well.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Semper Fi Mack

Dedicated to the memory of Master Sergeant Kenneth Mack USMC

Mack was a brand new SSgt when I was a reasonably salty Gunny. He was the hardest charging young Staff NCO that I was charged with training. Since he was, at that time, a Reservist we only saw each other on drill weekends unless someone was visiting the others town. But he often came around the reserve center to keep up on traffic and made sure his Marines were always locked on. Over the three years that I was on the Inspector-Instructor Staff, Ken matured into a fine example of what Marines require in thier Staff Noncommissioned Officers. He was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant just before I rotated back into the FMF. I was (and still am) definitely proud to have known him.

I got the word eight days ago that he was killed in action in An Anbar on 5/5/07. His funeral was the day after and there was no way I could get from here to there in time. I'd met his wife several times and his kids as well. I'm fairly ashamed to admit that I lost contact with them after we parted company.

I was really proud when my unit returned from Iraq in 03 with no casualties. Unfortunitly since then, several Marines who were either subordinates of mine, friends, or both have died in this war.

I lit another candle. And I drank one more time to his memory.

And then I sent this to as many members of Congress as I could and asked if they will please take off the gloves and let us win the damn war.

The initial paragraphs to this entry was originally posted at USMB and TalkAmerica, both have links on the home page of this blog.

I waited awhile before reposting this to let the initial shock of his death sink in. My civilian boss is a retired LtCol in the Army National Guard and he also is a good friend. He counseled me that God does work in mysterious ways and to take comfort that Ken's death wasn't in vain. I hope he's right.

The people in this country have done an admirable job of actually supporting the troops even if they don't support the mission. I've only met a couple of folks personally that say "oh well, they were volunteers, too bad for them" or words to that effect. Of course there is the "God hates fags" nutjobs, but they are easily dismissed at just that, nutjobs.

There is a guestbook where comments to the family can be left. I hope that as time passes the pain they are feeling will ebb slightly and the pride will remain.

As wars go, this one hasn't cost us much if you only look at numbers and the big picture. But, when you look at the individual cost, each death is a personal tragedy. It is a mission worth pursuing, but I am getting damn tired of political interference with simply getting it done and getting out.

As Memorial Day approaches next weekend, please remember to have a great time. Please remember to pause a moment and in your own way thank Mack and all the others. After all, one of the reasons they died is to make sure we all can simply enjoy Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Semper Fi Mack.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday Trivia

I am sooooooo sick of politics. The election is well over a year away and it is all you hear about on the talk radio channels of any leaning. Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually my long driving days and so I get six to eight hours of Talk Radio ranging from the Bennets, Hughes, Gibson, Colmes, Samuels et al. Just check out Sirius dot com......... Today the big news was on the death of Jerry Falwell.

Y'know I didn't agree with nearly anything he said. He simply wasn't preaching the way I was taught Christians preach as a kid. But, like him or not, you had to respect a few of his points.

Unlike a lot of Televangelists I don't remember him publically flaunting a millionaire lifestyle. It always seemed phony to me that the "Preacher man talking on TV, puttin' down the rock and roll. Wants me to send a donation 'cause he's worried about my soul." The selfsame preachermen often sported suits I cannot even look at let alone buy. And, this was back when bling wasn't a word, they were decked out in jewels fit to ransom a couple of hostages from the middle east.

Unlike a lot of Televangelists I don't remember him being involved in marital scandals or sex with hooker either. For all I know, he may've had troubles like that. But if he did, it was well hidden.

Mr. Falwell, in my opinion, is/was guilty of being judgemental in the extreme. But it appears that his beliefs were sincere and he appeared to try to live up to them.

If you are gay, a woman, or other minority you may believe that his messages were hate filled. Fine with me. You can read into what he said and draw any conclusions you like.

But something I noticed today is that the tolerant left, the non-judgemental left, the left that tells us we should be more humane etc is excoriating the man upon his death. I hope that the folks who are gleefully cackling that he will burn in hell actually expressed those sentiments towards him in life in order to engage him. To wait until he is dead, and can no longer figuratively defend himself strikes me as a bit of cowardice.

A couple of examples. The first one at least is creative with a bit of humor in there.

Falwell blames gays, feminists, lesbians for death

Hope he’s wearing asbestos underwear

The gates of hell swing open and Satan welcomes his beloved son

I wonder if anyone on the right was as obviously glad when genuine evil died? Were there stories of this nature when Timmy McVeigh, Saddam Hussein, or Slobodan Milosevic died. Each of them were responsible for genuine mass murder. Guess I will Google it tomorrow just to see.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Size Matters

We've now had a debate with most of the current wannabes on stage and dutifully making vacuous sounds in time with a moderators questions. If I were a pol looking to become President in 08 I wouldn't want to be near these guys. I would also be looking to steal a play from the Republicans playbook since they are not using anymore. You see, like the title says Size does matter...

when you are talking about the size of the .gov that is. Republicans all talk about shrinking the government and its' influence in our lives. But in fact ever since the 1930's our government has grown progressively larger, more complicated, and more intrusive. So if you are an independent running for President, or a Democrat looking to beat the RNC at it's own game one of your tenets should be to reduce the .gov to the right size.

So, what is the right size? To me, the right size is just big enough to do its' job efficiently. IF it takes a million civil servants to effectively and efficiently service the nation then so be it. But, I'm imagining that it will take a lot less.

First, Modernize and Standardize: Every desktop computer, every application, every palm pilot, every cell phone, every desk, every etc etc should be the same. The DOJ and the DOT should be on the same email system, use the same web browsers, and the stats should be kept in the same database system. I will give credit where it is due that the .mil has made heroic attempts to standardize since the late 80's and the civil side is trying as well. But, the President is the day-to-day supervisor of the fed and should appoint Guido the arm breaker to actually enforce standardization.

Modernization means that the 1960's mainframe 3270 systems or thier many emulators need to go away after being uploaded to a modern network DBMS. Modernization means that paper should be banned except for those items required by law to be kept in a physical manner. I read a story in 1980 (Popular Science I think) about the coming paperless office...... It can be done. Right now we kill more trees with printers than we did with typewriters. Modernization means that we leverage technology do reduce the numbers of administrative (bureaucrats) workers to the minimum number needed to be efficient. It means that the number of supervisory levels needs to be pared back. In other words, it means some people are going to have to either retrain, or leave government service.

I don't wish to put anyone out of work. If clerk number one is no longer needed due to technical improvements, then retrain that person to work in another office. When she retires or quits, don't automatically hire a replacement. Within twenty years a continuing program of modernization can pay for itself in the number of workers not hired.

Second, Get rid of government agencies that are no longer needed. A good example is the Rural Electrification Administration. That job was done. But instead of eliminating the program, they renamed it the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). I would check to see if the RUS is still performing a service in the interest of the people.

Our wannabe independent President would want to initiate a cycle of justification. Every year various agencies would be scrutinized to see if they were still needed. Just as we elect the government in cycles (one third of the Congress every two years for example) we should review departments every 2-3 years to see if they are still needed. Does the people of the United States really, truly need the the Bureau of Indian Affairs for example? Are they still fulfilling a mission in the best interests of the nation at large? Every facet of the federal government should be required by the nation as a whole. Indian Affairs for example may be big in Oklahoma, but minimal in New Hampshire. If the need cannot be standardized to the fifty states then it should not be a federal program. Send it to the States to administer as they are closer to the issue.

It boils down to a President and Congress deciding to openly get out of the public's lives and allow the States and Localities to actually do thier jobs.

This reduction in government isn't a one or two term thing. It isn't a Presidential thing entirely either. Instead it needs to be a tenet of government as a whole.

Realistically, we have the tools needed to do this. But, do we have the will? I'm not sure.

Government Growth
Rural Utilities Service
Election Cycle Data
Bureau of Indian Affairs

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Ugly American

There is a sad fact about the USA.

We are the most arrogant nation on the planet. We have a pretty good reason to be since we alone profess and actually possess a level of freedom considered ridiculous by many.

WE have another great reason. Two world wars. And while we were not the overarching victors of WWI that we were in WWII we damn sure made the difference.

More reasons. Korea and Vietnam come to mind. We died by the truckload to preserve, protect, and defend the freedom concept. If there were political realities involved, or proxies to fight, so what. In the long view the cause was just.

Even more reasons. We either invented, or made practical applications of damn near every thing. Automobiles, Aircraft, Cameras, Computers, etc. If we didn't invent it outright we damn sure built it better and made it work in a reality based world.

We were so accustomed to doing great things (if we can put a man on the moon [five times]) on a regular schedule that we took it for granted.

As the great deeeds began to fade, we still knew we were great. Since we knew we were the savior of the world we expected the world to show due deference. We expect the world to speak English and put up signs for us as well. When was the last interstate highway sign printed in Japanese or even Spanish?

As the old soldiers began to fade away we asked if fighting and dying were worth it. After all, we are Americans, who is going to challenge us? So we cut back and taught our children that schoolyard fights required therapy. We decided that every swat was abuse. We decided competition in schools wasn't the right thing to do. Besides, there was time to learn all that in college right?

As our educational system became less competative, we told ourselves that hard functional education wasn't needed. Just throw money at it. Japan and Singapore now routinely embarrass us in the field of Academics.

And yet, most Americans still honestly believe that we are the greatest nation on the earth. If we do it, it must be right. And we still expect the world to change to our way of thinking.

We have the very best and most honorable men and women in uniform taking orders from the least honorable among us. And as the wars and rumors of wars continue (likely long after the current President is gone) I hope that we will find our national character again so that we can live up to the example being shown today on the front lines. I hope that our citizens begin to realise that greatness, like fitness, takes work. Otherwize you go to seed. I'm afraid that our national character is so fragmented that we are going to seed.

It's time for more than just the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines get into the gym and get fit. It is time return to greatness without simply bashing about the world like a bull in a china shop. It can be done, but the question really is: Do we as a nation have the will to do it?