Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why We Fumble

It is a very long read, even for someone like me who would rather read than eat, but the article found at this link: is the best historical treatment of the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Husein's Bathists I have seen to date. It is even-handed and very well researched--two things lacking in most commentary these days.

To sum up, for those of you with READ (Reading Enjoyment Attention Deficit):

1. We were technically at war with Iraq since his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Our 1991 combat operations to dislodge Iraqi forces from Kuwait ended in a cease-fire, the conditions for which Iraq continually and increasingly breached in the ensuing decade.

2. Nearly every politician, pundit, and positor of any weight at either end of the political spectrum called for the end of Saddam's Bathist regime--most citing his clear desire to develop weapons of mass destruction, his mistreatment of people other than his own Sunni tribal cousins, and the harboring/support of terrorists groups. The latter got the attention of the likes of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and a host of others on the left following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and their "get-Saddam" rhetoric matched the most vehement of the Neo-Cons in the Bush II administration.

3. Despite their "opposition to the war" today, nearly every politician of any weight on the left supported the 2003 invasion aimed at toppling Saddam's Bathist regime.

4. To paraphrase the pre-invasion advice of Colin Powell: "We broke it--We own it."

5. Rumsfeld and company at the Pentagon mismanaged the aftermath of the fall of Saddam. This should not have been a surprise, he mismanaged similar events in his previous stint at SecDef.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: We have fought this Global War on Terrorism, or whatever it is that we are calling it this week, as if it were just another federal project at which we could throw tax dollars but for which we would not make the effort to muster the public support without which success is rarely achieved. Despite the price tag we hear daily in the media, we have tried to fight this war "on the cheap." No sacrifice called for from the American people. No ramping-up of American industry (with the notable exception of the MRAP--a purely defensive vehicle) to provide the material necessary for prosecution of a war. No declaration of war--just platitudes about fighting a war for decades, the end of which we may not recognize.

Ridiculous. See why I left active duty early?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pass the Pander, Please

It is shaping up to be a very frustrating summer and fall for the Colonel.

I don't think I have felt this at odds with the prevailing attitude of the bulk of my fellow citizens since I don't know when. Guess I shouldn't be surprised at the lack of acceptance of the philosophy of American Exceptionalism. Most everything we shallowest of people on this planet read, hear, and watch is filled with defeatist derision of the ideals that propelled this great nation on its triumphant trajectory from colonial backwater to preeminent planetary power.

From where I sit and watch (and maybe therein lies the problem), I see a people led only by their desires for the next "fix." I don't see the sleeves-rolled-up determination to overcome the obstacles that allowed our ancestors to carve a world-class civilization out of a wilderness; that drove them to dream big and literally die by the tens of thousands trying to reach lands further west, over mountain and across desert plain, on which to fulfil those dreams; that brought them together in the cause of freedom and national survival in the world wars (and the intervening economic collapse) of the first half of the twentieth century; and that placed our team, not the Soviets', on the surface of another world.

All I hear from pundits and political panderers are hollow references to the programs and projects that propelled us through those tough times--WPA, Manhattan, Apollo... What is missing in most of the calls for that kind of national rallying of will and wealth is the third leg of the stool of success--sacrifice.

All I hear from our leaderless people is whining about the high price of gas, groceries, and games. And, the two men who would be king are doing nothing but tickling our ears with pernicious platitudes.

Going to be a long, frustrating next few months. Just hope my Rebels will win a few in the fall to make me forget.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Grandsons Gone

The twin tornadic tots boarded a mini-van for the coast this morning and quiet reigns once again on Eegeebeegee. Shortly after they left Miss Brenda crawled back in bed and took a seven hour "nap." I actually got a few chores done around the place. Tomorrow we'll start missing our grandsons again. Tonight we'll sleep long and uninterrupted. Well, I will--Miss Brenda will be up all night after sleeping all day.

A two and a half-year old and a six-month old will consume every waking minute. There is no rest. How Miss Brenda raised three without my help, back during my deploying days, is a wonderful mystery. A week like this last one reminds me just how special she (and thousands of military wives like her) was and is. She is my hero.

Don't misunderstand me--I love my grandsons more than anything I have ever loved (Miss Brenda excepted). But, I look forward to the time a few years from now when Caleb and Taylor will come visit and not require constant supervision, regular diaper changes, and pacifier hunts. Of course, when they reach teenage I'll want them to be toddlers again. But, for another decade or so nearly everything ole Pop does will be magic to them and everything they do will make me proud. Hope I live long enough to see them become human again after the brainless 15 to 25 decade.

Friday, June 20, 2008


It's reminiscent of the scene in the first, and best, Star Wars movie when Darth Vader and Obie Wan Knobe meet in a student versus master death match. Two masterful politicians, a generation apart locked in mortal combat for control of the known universe--Darth Obama versus Old Gal Clintobe. At first it seemed this would be just a tune up match for Old Gal. She would quickly dispatch Darth Obama and then go on to the main event with the Evil Emperor's heir apparent.

But to every one's shock and the Clintonians' horror, Darth Obama matched every swipe of Old Gal's political light saber. Like Obie Wan, Old Gal Clintobe could have continued the battle indefinitely, hogging the show--she is a Clinton after all--but, in a self-sacrificing gesture she laid aside her weapons and allowed Darth Obama and his force of wavering super-delegates to easily apply the coup-de-grace. Even the most naive political observer has to be suspicious of Old Gal's seeming surrender--she is a Clinton after all. Will she appear later in this horror show, whispering use of force direction in Darth Obama's ear?

One thing is for sure, Old Gal, like her puppet, Bill, will not go away. Obama may have out-Clintoned Bill and Hillary this time--but, never, never, never turn your back on a Clinton.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two for All

Children are a blessing and a gift from God. Grandchildren are a treasure and a treat. Combine the two and you get something else entirely!

Number 1 son and his wonderful wife (she of the exalted and protected position of provider of grandsons) are in Vegas this week to attend a friend's wedding. Grandsons Caleb and Taylor are staying here on Eegeebeegee with Miss Brenda and The Colonel for the week. One of the undeniable truths of life is that parenting is a young person's job! Did you know that a two year old has the ability to be in three places at once? Did you also know that a six-month old can fill an entire house with refuse, debris, and diminutive detritus without leaving a three foot square of carpet?

The week would have been taxing enough just maintaining situational awareness over Messieurs C and T. But, throw in the fact that our church is hosting its annual Vacation Bible School and the additional data point that Miss Brenda volunteered the two of us to help and you have the makings of an exhausting experience ranking right up there with a twenty-five mile Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation hike.

What age group are we teaching, you ask? Why, the two-year olds, of course! Miss Brenda needs counting lessons. She does the roll each evening and claims we only have twelve young-uns in our class. My counting ability has been clearly degraded due to exhaustion, but I would put the number somewhere closer to thirty-five or forty.

You would think that someone who successful managed and lead a regiment of testosterone-laden mostly-teenaged Marines could handle a squad of two-year olds without breaking a sweat. To be honest, I'm breaking into a cold sweat just writing this and contemplating entering the lions' den again this evening.

Gotta go--Mr. C is claiming he has a bear cornered under the couch. Knowing him, there just might be.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shuffling Stuff

When I left the northern end of southern nowhere Monday morning for a week long business trip behind enemy lines (anywhere north of the Tallahatchie River suffices for that appellation) my new garage/workshop was only several 5 x 5 posts ringing a bare patch of ground across the parking pad from our home. As I drove up the drive on Eegeebeegee Friday afternoon and rounded the corner at the top of the ridge, my tired eyes beheld one of the most beautiful sights a man can see--the shell of an empty building, complete with concrete deck, waiting for my finishing touches.

Yesterday, as my father-in-law and I built in stud walls, ran wiring and began hanging the grid for a drop ceiling, I kept pausing to admire the 1100 square feet of room for all my stuff (present and future collected). It's hard to imagine filling that space with enough things in it as to make it unusable and a needed item unfindable amid the packed jumble. Even more unimaginable is the fact that our present garage may actually be used for the parking of both Miss Brenda's car and my truck. At present, our garage brims with so much stuff that there is little room for passage, let along parkage.

It dawns on me that I need a plan. Actually, I need two plans. Plan A will be marked unclassified--the load plan for the new building. I'll enlist Miss Brenda in the drafting of this plan--she is a wiz at organization. This should also make it easier to accomplish Plan B. Classified TS/SCI (Truly Secret/She Can't Imagine)--Plan B will be the plan for making the actual cross-parking-pad transfer of previously mentioned stuff Miss Brenda's chore.

I feel another business trip coming on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"So, you say you want a revolution..."

They both say they want to give us change, but change isn't given--it is accomplished. And, real change ain't never easy. Most often it is a messy, deadly dangerous undertaking--particularly when delayed for want of past resolve.

I wholeheartedly concur with both Senators McCain and Obama that our country's current trajectory through tomorrow's history lesson requires some significant mid-course corrections. What I don't agree with them on, is the direction in which either of them think, as best as I can tell from their amorphous pandering, that they believe we must set our sails. More discouraging is their failure so far to challenge us to take the hard actions and make the serious sacrifices necessary to arrest our plunge toward the dustbin of empires lost to insolvency, invasion and irrelevancy.

Life is not a "let's pretend" game. Every current action has a future consequence. The course on which my generation of politicians has set our nation fails to recognize that unavoidable truth. Politically expedient current, and recent past, actions have the effect of high angle artillery rounds fired above our advance and landing danger-close as we plunge headlong in the attack of hedonistic objectives. And, like irretrievable artillery rounds whose impact and effect is inevitable, the consequences of poor national leadership decisions cannot be avoided. The best that can be hoped for is that crisis will be met by heroic leadership that will rally the survivors and lead then out of the kill zone, and on to mission accomplishment. The worst result is leaderless paralysis of the people under fire and collapse of their national will--leaving them ripe for assimilation by a neighbor, irrespective of the height of their former power and glory. This is not conjecture--it is history.

So, let's change--we need to.

Let's change the way we treat our enemies. Let's either kill 'em or kiss 'em--but let's stop just talking tough and letting them continue to kick sand on our picnic blanket. Otherwise, we better start learning how to speak their language and pray to their god.

Let's change the way we treat the new neighbors moving into our neighborhood. Let's assimilate them before they assimilate us. Let's give them the privileges of citizenship and expect from them the full responsibility of loyalty and patriotism.

Let's change the way we choose our governmental representatives. Actually, let's change back to the way our constitution originally said to do it before professional political panderers amended it. Grab a copy and see the real political genius that began our great republic. A republic--not a democracy.

Better yet, let's change the system by which citizenship is granted. One of my favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, had it about right when he described a society that only gave the franchise to vote to those who had first given service to that society. "Enlist and earn the right to vote."

If you really want change, you had better be ready for the pain. Revolutions (that's what real change is after all) require sacrifice. If your idea of change is an easier life, you'll either be killed or enslaved by those whose idea of change is the accumulation of greater power.

Careful what you ask for.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ed's Edifice

For most of my adult life, including the period between my 18th and 30th birthdays during which I was an adult in name only, I have wanted to have a large workshop in which to attack projects large and small. For thirty years I have envied the workshop my father-in-law built in his back yard following his retirement from the Air Force. Whenever we had quarters with a garage, I was always limited to building a workbench along one wall--said workbench inevitably became so cluttered with tools, underway projects, and other stuff lacking appropriate storage space elsewhere as to be practically useless. It wouldn't be until we moved to another set of quarters and I built my new workbench that I would have a space (at least initially) on which to tinker and build.

Last month I broke ground on my dream building. Twenty-four feet deep and fifty feet wide, it will possess two completely empty garage stalls (with separate overhead doors) in which to park boat and tractor. The other half of the building will be (trumpet fanfare here) Rebel's Workshop (capitalization required). The front of the workshop will have it's own overhead door and personnel door and the workshop will be separated from the garage by a wall with it's own personnel door providing inside throughway between the two spaces. In order to "soften" the looks of this testament to testosterone fifty feet away from her garden-encircled home, Miss Brenda insisted I have the builders put a porch on the end of the building facing the same direction (toward the road) as the house's front porch. She can put all the flowers and such in front of it that she wants--but there ain't gonna be nuthin' but man stuff allowed inside!

A "pole barn" company is aboard Eegeebeegee as I write this, putting up the building's roof and shell. I will finish out the inside of the building myself--with a lot of help from my general contractor (Miss Brenda's dad). Yesterday afternoon, in 95 degree heat, we dug the trenches for and installed water and electrical lines.

As I have alluded to in previous posts, the ground here in my corner of the planet at the northern end of southern nowhere is just short of the consistency of concrete. After nearly killing ourselves trying to dig the trenches by hand--with little to show for hours of pick and shovel work--we broke down (quite literally) and headed for town to rent a Ditch With 2000 walk-behind trenching machine. After wrestling with that beast for two hours, my fly-weight behind was wore slam out. But the trenches were carved in the Confederate Concrete to an appropriate depth and we began the tedious task of tapping into the water line at our well and power at the junction box, gluing together sections of PVC pipe, and determining the exact place that these lines would exit the ground (and four inches of concrete) inside walls that don't yet exist.

Sometime Wednesday, two truckloads of 3500 PSI concrete will be poured into the form created by the building that is going up as I write this, and additional concrete will connect the building to the parking pad that already exists outside my current attached garage. Once the building shell and concrete work is complete, a fuse box will be installed and electrical wiring will be run to receptacle locations throughout, a double deep sink will be installed, and overhead lighting will be hung temporarily pending future installation of drop ceilings.

Notice I wrote "will be" before each of the tasks in the paragraph above. To ensure that this phase of the project is going to be completed correctly, I'm entrusting it to Miss Brenda's dad and leaving town for the week! At the conclusion of a week spent behind enemy lines in Chicago, I fully expect to return to Eegeebeegee late Friday afternoon with nothing left to do except admire the handi-work.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Shelter in the Swelter

When we left for Alaska at the end of the third week of May, it was still springtime at the northern end of southern nowhere. Warm and wet; a thrill to be outside all day long watching flora and fauna respond to lengthening days and nourishing rains. Three weeks on the road--Anchorage, Fairbanks, Orlando, San Diego--and I have returned to find Eegeebeegee baking under a scorching summer sun. The good news is that my dock, submerged early in the spring by above average deluges of liquid sunshine, has reappeared above the surface of Lake Brenda--just in time for the arrival of THE GRANDSONS later this week.

The major project aboard Eegeebeegee this summer is the addition of a detached garage and workshop to the compound. Our attached two car garage is slam full of my stuff--tools, project materials, man toys, etc.--leaving no room for parking vehicles. The new addition--a 24' by 50' building, the shell of which will be erected this week--will provide parking for boat and tractor and a 24' by 24' workshop. Brenda's dad is here acting as my general contractor, plumber and electrician. An ambitious schedule has the building erected, electrical and plumbing lines laid, concrete poured, and wall built dividing garage from workshop, by the end of the week. Meanwhile, I'll slip off up north to Chicago and conduct some business behind enemy lines. With any luck, I'll have a functioning garage and workshop into which to move my stuff next weekend.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mississippi Marine Missile Men

From the melting snows of the Alaskan wilderness to the sweltering shores of Florida’s Space Coast, my weekend was quite a juxtaposition jaunt. As my outlaws, Miss Brenda, and I concluded our eight-day excursion through a slice of Alaska last week, I parted company with them a day early and caught the red eye from Anchorage to Orlando (via Seattle) Thursday night (actually early Friday morning). I linked up with my business partner and his family in Orlando Friday evening, and then, Saturday morning, escorted a couple of clients over to the Kennedy Space Center to see the launch of STS 124 to the International Space Station.

Thirty-three years ago, when I was a rising sophomore (and 3rd Class Midshipman in the Naval ROTC at Ole Miss, I welcomed aboard a freshmen class (4th Class Midshipmen) of a half dozen new aspirants to commissions as Marine officers. My fellow “old hands” and I were given the responsibility of showing these new freshmen the ropes and helping them make the transition from high-schooler to college man, and, more importantly, help them assimilate into one of the more exclusive fraternities on campus—the Ole Miss Marines.

That small, tight-knit and tightly wound fraternity, particularly the year groups that graduated in the late 70’s has some remarkably accomplished alumni (present company excepted, of course). Three of that half dozen future Marine officers in the class of ’79, Dan, Joe, and Bill are a group I refer to as the Mississippi Rocket Club. Dan and Joe, like me, were liberal arts majors, had therefore more prospects as career military men than as businessmen, and made 20+ year careers out of our commissions as Marine officers. Bill, on the other hand, had an engineering degree, and left the Marine Corps, shortly after his service obligation was up, to put his degree to work at something a little more useful than determining the range and elevation of an infantry weapon system. Soon enough, Bill was hired by NASA, and, due to his leadership and management expertise, began a rather rapid rise up through the leadership of mankind’s most ambitious agency.

When Dan retired from the Marine Corps in 1999, he joined Bill at NASA, serving at the Johnston Space Center as the public affairs officer and then as Executive Assistant to the Director of JSC (yet another Marine).

As the rest of us proudly kept track, Bill continued to move up into successively greater positions of authority--Director of Operations at the Stennis Space Center (rocket test center) on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and then Director at Stennis. When the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry and NASA plunged into its greatest self-examination since the Space Shuttle Challenger's launch failure, Bill was hand-picked to shepherd the shuttle program back to successful flight status. Upon successful completion of that mission, Bill was reassigned from his post as Shuttle Program Director back to his post as Director at Stennis. Shortly thereafter he was reassigned to the Kennedy Space Center as Assistant Director. A couple of years ago he was appointed Director at KSC.

Joe commanded the First Marine Regiment in the Race to Baghdad in 2003 and then retired from active duty as a colonel, a couple of years later. When Bill took over as Director at KSC, he brought Joe on as his de facto chief of staff to exploit Joe's talents at teaching staffs to lead and manage. One of Joe's current responsibilities is oversight of the public events at KSC surrounding a launch. I shamelessly exploited that connection to get me and some clients invitations to view the launch from the closest public vantage point--three miles from the pad.

Another accomplished alumna of that Ole Miss Marines class of '79, Dana--now running a collection of VoTech schools in California--joined us for the launch. To complete the Mississippi Marine rocket reunion, the senior member of what he refers to as the "Mississippi Club" (Marines with a Mississippi connection), Major General Tom "Tango" Moore, helicopter pilot-extraordinaire and current Chief of Staff at CentCom) was on hand. Tango is not an Ole Miss grad--Delta State, instead. But, the Mississippi connection is clearly there. Both Joe and I served with him and consider him a mentor of the first rank.

There was entirely too much Marine testosterone gathered in one place! The brilliance of that collection of egos was eclipsed only by the bright flare of Discovery as she leapt from the pad right on time.