Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First Frost

There's a heavy frost on the ground this morning at the northern end of southern nowhere, and it's about time.

It has been a long, hot summer; the heat hanging to the land long into the fall like a thick blanket of dust on a lost book, waiting for the clearing wintry breath of Earth's librarian. The thin white frosting this morning follows a wind-chilled day that had Miss Brenda and me rummaging in the back of closets for jackets and caps. A week ago I sweated, and Miss Brenda glistened, in short-sleeves as we worked in the yard. Yesterday, we followed the sun from the front yard to the back with different projects in order to fight the chill.

The last couple of days have been full of the signs of approaching winter. The sight of high, wavering lines of snow geese headed for the Delta indicate that the fall waterfowl migration is underway. My daily security patrol of the back forty has lately been accompanied by the crisp percussion of crunching leaves at each measured step. The leaves of sweet gums have gone all orangey and a brown layer of needles blankets the ground beneath the pines.

Fall is my favorite time of the year, and it goes by much too quickly. The comfortable temperatures and the colorful changes give way far too rapidly to the cold, stark darks and greys of winter. We are too thirds of the way through the football season, for crying out loud, and it has just now gotten cool enough to enjoy the game the way a true fan should--screaming and stomping to stay warm as much as to provide support to the team.

Summer's gone, fall is fleeting, and winter is in the wind--better start working on putting on an extra layer of fat.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Morning MOTOs, Vol. I, Ed. 4

Finding examples of mastery of the obvious (MOTO) is the least challenging thing I do each week. We are literally barraged in every medium by statements demonstrating a stranglehold on surety. So much to reward, so little to give.

The Colonel's Monday Morning MOTO Bronze goes to my Rebels' new coach. With less than two minutes left in the game, Ole Miss had a 23 to 14 lead and the Rebel (ahem) faithful in the crowd began taunting the home crowd by chanting the name of the Razorbacks' old coach. A minute later, the score was 23 to 21, Arkansas had recovered an on-side kick, and come within a questionable offensive pass interference call of achieving a come-from-behind win. When asked about it later, Houston Nutt opined that, "they probably started that a little early." Frankly, Rebel Nation has a bad call to thank for rescuing us from the all-too familiar last-minute close loss. This Saturday that shoe was on a pig's foot.

The MOTO silver goes to the junior senator from Arizona, Jon Kyle, who told the Arizona Daily Star that, "Unfortunately, I think John McCain might be added to that long list of Arizonans who ran for president but were never elected." The Republican Party is headed for a historic defeat and it is entirely their fault. You can't get re-elected on a conservative platform if you don't govern as conservatives when you get in power. That sort of bait and switch only works for the Democrats.

This morning's MOTO gold medal is awarded to Senator Joe Biden, whose medal count is approaching Michael Phelps', for his non-answer to the reporter who asked the difference between Karl Marx's wealth redistribution philosophy and Barrack Obama's. Said Senator Biden, "Is this a joke?"

Took the words right out of my mouth, Senator.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ole Miss Marines, 30 Years On

Thirty years ago this week, nearly 250 other second lieutenants and I finished six months of post-commissioning basic officer training at The Basic School, known by generations of Marine officers as simply "TBS", and took our next steps toward fulfilling our dimly-lit destinies "in the fleet." We were designated Fox Company, Basic Class 6-78 and began our training in earnest at the end of May 1978. The majority of us were graduates of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, hailing from colleges and universities in nearly every state. Four of us in that class were from Ole Miss--John Robinson, John David (J. D.) Henley, Mark Bryant, and yours, truly. Another from Ole Miss--Stephen Foster--was, for some reason I've forgotten, detailed to the next class that began a month or so later. J. D. choked (literally) at the chow hall a couple of months into training and after recuperating, joined Stephen's company to finish up.

For six months a cadre of the Marine Corps' best and brightest captains had driven us through a course jam-packed with everything we would need to know in order to lead a rifle platoon in combat. Regardless of eventual specialty--infantry, artillery, armor, supply, aviation--every Marine officer is trained first as a rifle platoon commander. Then, he or she goes on to follow-on schools (many of them run by the other armed services) to qualify in an MOS (military occupational specialty). The theory--proved in combat--behind this expensive practice, unique among America's military branches, is that in the Marine Corps every other Marine and his specialty exists for no other reason but to support the Marine infantryman on the ground and in the fight, and, in order to understand what the Marine in the mud is going through and needs, every other Marine spends time wallowing at the initiation of his or her career.

When we five Ole Miss Marines finished up at TBS, J.D. and Mark headed to Fort Sill and the Army's Artillery school. Stephen was going to be an M.P., so he headed to the Army's M.P. school. John and I were going to be infantry officers and so stayed right there aboard Camp Barrett at Quantico to attend the Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course (I.O.C.), where, in the early NorthernVirgina winter, we were going to be, in the words of our TBS company commander, then Major, Wheeler Baker, "miserable, at best" traipsing in cold, wet woods and running live fire assaults on cold, muddy ranges. I loved every minute of it!

Of the five Ole Miss Marines of the class of 1978, J. D. and I were the only ones to stay for a full active duty career. J. D., stationed at Twenty-nine Palms at the time, died of a heart attack in 1996. He had been my roommate our sophomore year, and was one of those guys who was a loyal to his friends as the day is long. It's been 33 years since we roomed together in that tiny dorm room, but I can still hear his hilarious exclamations of exasperation at being made the butt of a joke.

Stephen, Mark, and John left active duty at the end of their four year commitments. Stephen stayed in the reserves and reached the rank of colonel. We were re-united at the Navy War College eight years ago and picked right back up with a running joke we had while in school.

Last I heard, John owns a computer store in Jackson. Mark went to work for the CIA, and in a story Stephen later recounted to me, was asked to play a bit part in the movie "Dumbo Drop" while he was working in Thailand. Stephen was a movie extra, himself, in the film "Blaze Starr."

And, me? Well, I'm still waiting for the call to play the title role in "The Steve McQueen Story."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beirut BLT Blast

The news was like a punch in the Colonel's gut.

Thirty-two years ago, today, a Shiite extremist, trained and equipped by an Iranian-backed terrorist group, drove a truck bomb into the building housing the U.S. Marine Battalion Landing Team HQ at the Beirut Airport. When that deluded young man ignited his bomb, he shortly thereafter discovered that he had been duped--there were no virgins awaiting him in hell. The resulting explosion imploded the three-story building, killing 241 Marines and sailors as the floors pancaked down on them.

Commanding BLT 1/8 that day was Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gerlach. Nine years previously, then Captain, Gerlach had been the first Marine officer to begin the Colonel's preparation for commissioning as second lieutenant of Marines. 

Captain Gerlach was worthy of the idol worship the Colonel and his fellow midshipmen gave him, although the Colonel doubts he realized, nor would have wanted us to hold him up so. 

Gerlach, a Pennsylvanian, enlisted in the Marine Corps in the early 60's and had been sent by the Marine Corps to Ole Miss to get a college education and a commission. Graduating in 1966, he went to Vietnam as a rifle platoon commander. Grievously wounded early in his first tour in the jungles, he recovered, volunteered to go back, and was wounded again. In 1974, he was assigned as the Marine Officer Instructor with the NROTC unit at his alma mater. 

When the Colonel ambled into Gerlach's office in August of that year, he was welcomed with a handshake, a smile, and an order to "get a haircut." 

Captain Gerlach loved us, led us, and taught us. There are a multitude of men and women, even today, who can recite, verbatim, enduring leadership lessons given by him over three decades ago. On the several occasions when the Colonel personally let him down with some bone-headed stunt, or immature misdeed, he didn't rant at him -- he quietly and calmly redirected his errant trajectory, showed him his error and taught the Colonel how to correct others. Humbly, he led us to believe that he was just an average Marine officer -- that the Corps was full of men better than he. 

Sadly, he misled us -- not many measured up to him.

The Colonel was a young captain, teaching lieutenants at the Basic School in Quantico, thirty-two years ago. When he heard the news about the bombing of the Battalion HQ in Beirut and the awful death toll, the Colonel was crushed by the thought that Gerlach was probably killed in the blast. 

It wasn't for several days that we finally learned that he had survived, although badly injured.

Heroes are hard to kill.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday MOTOs Vol. I; Ed. 3

The Colonel is especially grumpy this morning, the caffeine is not producing the desired effect, and I'm resigning myself to the reality of another dismal four-win season for my Rebels. So, I will turn my curmudgeonly attention to those Masters Of The Obvious whose grip on the bottom line, as displayed by their public pronouncements of late, make them deserving of Monday MOTO medals.

The Monday MOTO bronze goes to Senator Biden, who, as ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports, understands what all of the rest of us with our eyes open can readily see: "'Mark my words,'" the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. 'It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.'"

The Monday MOTO silver goes to Senator Biden, who, as ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports, has a vise-like grip on the truth with follow-up comments to those which occasioned his award of a bronze MOTO above: "'And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right.'"

The Monday MOTO gold goes to, you guessed it, Senator Biden who, as ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports, has the ability to foretell a future that takes no clairvoyance on the part of even the least forward-looking of any of us: "'Because I promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going, 'Oh my God, why are they there in the polls? Why is the polling so down? Why is this thing so tough?'"

Senator Biden's comments need little clarifying commentary, but that's never stopped me before. First, the next President will be tested internationally early in his first term--nearly all have been. Senator Biden tries to make us believe that President Kennedy's first international trial was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the resolution of which JFK has gotten way too much credit for. Actually, the initial international crisis in which Kennedy found himself was the Bay of Pigs--the invasion of Cuba by US-supported anti-Castro forces. Kennedy refused to commit the full support necessary for the anti-communists to succeed and left them open to defeat and capture--many later died in Castro's death camps--and the invasion was swiftly squashed on the landing beaches. This monumental failure on Kennedy's part (revisionist historians have shifted the blame from Kennedy to his CIA and Defense Department, so you don't see this collosal collapse of presidential leadership in history text books) emboldened the Soviet Union to place nuclear-tipped missiles, aimed at the US, in Cuba, and precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis which by most accounts came as close to causing war between these re-United States and the Soviet Union as any other event in the history of the Cold War.

Second, a President Obama will, in Biden's words, "need help" from the liberal elite (he was addressing cappuccino commies in Seattle) to buttress him against the fallout of: his failure to either act decisively in the sure-to-come international crisis, or of his far left governance of a nation that (to the chagrin of the liberal elites driving popular culture) is still a majority conservative one.

Third, my bet is, as Biden so presciently predicts, an Obama administration will suffer plummeting poll numbers that will make George Bush's look good. An Obama administration will disappoint not only those of us who make up the center and right majority of this nation, but will also massively disappoint the liberal base who believe he will "change the world." The dirty little secret is that an Obama administration will not be able to fulfill any of its populist promises to the satisfaction of those to whom they have pandered. We won't leave Iraq any time soon. We won't see a middle class tax cut. There won't be any slashing of wasteful and inefficient government programs. There won't be lower cost medical insurance. Education will continue to suffer from the negligent control of the NEA.

Obama doesn't represent change any more than McCain does. If you're going to vote for Obama, do so knowing that at the very least you will have a President with a better command of the English language than the present occupant of the Oval Office.

Other than that, you're gonna be out of luck.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pappy and the Pup

I watched as much as I could stomach last night and then changed the channel and my mood.

The two senators who would be king met for their last "debate" last night and reached a new low for political discourse. Given the challenges facing our nation, one would think that we deserve better from potential presidents than the snide sniping and populist pablum served up by Pappy and the Pup. The smirking and bug-eyeing of the two made me want to reach through my TV and slap the ever-lovin' spit out of the both of them. I can't help but ask again, are these two knuckle-heads the best we can do? Whichever one of these two wins this election, its gonna be another four years of embarrassment.

And, despite the "reach across the aisle" promises by both, anyone who believes that the political acrimony entrenched along the Potomac will ease with either's election, is smoking something medicinal. We will remain a deeply divided nation--more so, perhaps--after this election. The last time we were so politically divided, we fought a war to keep the union, the wounds from which fester still.

Yet, the differences of the positions at either end of the political spectrum in mainstream American politics do not reach the distance that would excuse the poisonous partisanship prevalent currently in our democracy's discourse. Accumulation and exercise of power does. That's why (mostly) Democrats are calling this "the most important election in our lifetime." Every time I hear that refrain, I cringe--nothing could be further from the truth.

The security and prosperity of our nation is an ever-present concern. We may not realize it during times of peace and plenty, but every election elevates someone and their party to power who will be faced by a challenge to our security, national interests, and economic health. This election is no more, nor no less, important than any other election in the history of these re-United States. Which leaves the question...

Who do you trust with the keys to the family car come January, Pappy or the Pup?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not Hip

If you, dear readers, are anything like me (I suspect many of you are--you wouldn't subject yourself to this drivel if you weren't), the current presidential polling has you feeling a bit disconcerted.

I guess I'm just too old fashioned, too cynical maybe, but for the life of me I just don't get how a majority of the citizenry of these re-United States can believe that a man like Barack Obama (and the crew he'll bring into the White House with him) will be good for America. Our memories are way too short. The last liberal populist who gained presidential power masquerading as a centrist brought more disarray to, and shame on, our nation than, well, even more than the current administration. I speak, of course, of William Jefferson Clinton. If you liked the mindless mendacity that swirled through the White House and oozed out into our nation during the Clinton years, you're gonna love an Obama administration.

Bubba and Barrack could be twins. Both are consummate politicians. Both think they are smarter than everyone else in the room, and so speak in meaningless platitudes meant to impress us with their command of the popular vernacular and their grasp of our pain. But, when a politician tells you he "feels your pain" he's really feeling for your wallet.

I've heard and read lately that Barrack Obama is the overwhelming choice of the rest of the world. That, in itself, should set alarm bells ringing throughout the land. I don't want my President to be the President of the World (unless of course, we have finally conquered the rest of the world and have brought it into our empire). I want him or her to lead us to be better than the rest of the world. I don't want my President trying to level the playing field. I want my President to run up the score. This is not a T-ball game--life on this big blue marble is the NFL with automatic weapons. Presidents who approach the job with any other view do so at OUR peril.

It won't be the end of the world if Obama becomes our next president. Truth is, the office shapes its occupant, conforming him to the harsh reality of national security. The problem is, some men don't conform fast enough--Jimmy Carter, for example; John Kennedy for another--and the result is we spot our enemies a couple of touchdowns in the first quarter. The difference is our enemies could be lobbing high explosives and lowly germs instead of footballs.

But, have no fear, Senator Obama will pay for all of his programs, AND maintain a robust national defense, by "going line by line through the budget and eliminating wasteful or inefficient programs." That quote, in itself, either demonstrates complete naivete or utter disrespect for our intelligence. The President doesn't have a line item veto, he'll not be able to say "no" to a Democrat congress, and he himself has risen to prominence via some of those same "wasteful and inefficient programs."

A word to the wise in the Defense Department--start training our men and women in uniform to fight with sticks and rocks.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Yom Kippur Lesson

The Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, began last night at sundown. The most important and solemn holiday in Judaism, Yom Kippur marks the end of Rosh Hashannah or the Ten Days of Repentance requiring amendment of man's ways toward God and his fellow man. Thirty-five years ago, as the nation of Israel paused to observe Yom Kippur, Egypt and Syria launched loosely coordinated offensives across the Suez Canal and against the Golan Heights, respectively.

Six years previously, Israel had launched pre-emptive attacks on Egypt and Syria, convinced by intelligence that those nations were preparing to go to war against the Jewish nation. When Jordan joined the fray, Israeli forces quickly overran the West Bank and seized the entire city of Jerusalem. Combat operations lasted 6 days and resulted in one of the most dramatic, decisive, and lop-sided victories in the history of man's war on his fellow man. When the dust settled in June of 1967, Israel's territorial boundaries were nearly tripled and its Arab neighbors were embarrassed.

During the years between the end of the Six Day War and the beginning of the Yom Kippur War, the Soviet Union resupplied both Syria and Egypt and egged on Egypt's continued low-intensity combat operations against Israel along and above the Suez Canal. Soviet pilots even flew Egyptian-marked aircraft in combat against the Israeli Air Force (just as they had in Korea and Vietnam against the American Air Force). The Soviets helped Egypt's President Sadat plan the 1973 offensive with the aim to regain Egypt's Sinai territory and Egyptian pride; and, if fully successful, completely destroy the Jewish state. A combination of a brilliant Egyptian strategic deception plan, timing to coincide with the complete shut-down of the Jewish state to observe Yom Kippur, and faulty Israeli intelligence assumptions led to nearly complete strategic and operational surprise for the Egyptian and Syrian offensives.

The Egyptian assault across the Suez Canal, and the accompanying Syrian attack against the Golan Heights caught Israel almost completely unprepared. Egyptian forces crossed the Suez waterway and breached the Israeli fortifications along the eastern bank of the canal with relative ease--it was a well-planned and well-executed operation that once again proved the futility of static defenses such as had been disastrously depended upon by the French in 1940, the Germans in 1944, the Iraqis in 1991...(the list could go on and on). Israel countered the Egyptian offensive with pure armor formations that were decimated by heavy concentrations of Soviet-made infantry-wielded anti-armor weapons. Every third Egyptian soldier crossing the Suez Canal carried an anti-armor weapon. Israel's vaunted air force was likewise prevented from interdicting Egyptian cross-canal movement by large numbers of well-placed and coordinated Egyptian anti-aircraft batteries. In just the first couple of days of fighting in the Sinai, Israeli losses totaled 49 aircraft and 500 tanks--a stunning Egyptian tactical victory.

However, the Egyptian success in the Sinai soon turned to failure as the well-rehearsed and well-executed initial thrust across the Suez ground to a halt against stiffening Israeli resistance. The Soviet-trained Egyptian army now displayed what we had always believed would be the Achilles Heel of the Soviets if they attacked Western Europe--they had not trained their subordinate commanders for independent action to take advantage of battlefield opportunities. Instead of employing maneuver around Israeli army strongpoints, the Egyptians attacked them head on and began to suffer the same fate the Israeli armor counterattacks had earlier. When the Egyptians fell back on their previous positions, Israel counterattacked--this time with infantry infiltration of the Egyptian anti-armor and anti-aircraft positions, clearing the way for an Israeli Air Force supported armor thrust across the Suez Canal to the north of the initial Egyptian crossing. The Israeli forces quickly surrounded the predominance of the Egyptian army and advanced to within 65 miles of Cairo.

On the Syrian front at the Golan Heights, greatly out-numbered Israeli tank units miraculously fought back numerous Syrian armored assaults. At the start of fighting Syria possessed a 9 to 1 numerical advantage in tanks over the holiday-depleted Israeli defenders of the Golan strongpoint. Again demonstrating the weakness of Soviet battle doctrine, Soviet-trained Syrian commanders refused to deviate from their plan of attack and failed to take advantage of a huge battlefield opportunity provided by the unexpected success of one of their armored attacks. The battles in the Golan Heights provided Israel with some of their most celebrated national heroes. As Israeli reservists and active soldiers returning from holiday made their way to the Golan front, they manned tanks staged in rear area storage facilities and headed to the battle lines--often in single tank formations. Often, Israeli tank commanders found themselves alone, holding a critical Syrian objective or attacking the flank of a Syrian armored thrust.

When the Syrian assault ground to a halt, the Israeli army counterattacked into Syrian territory and advanced to within 25 miles of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Yet another operational surprise awaited the Israelis as an Iraqi force of several armored divisions entered the fray, attacking the right flank of the Israeli advance into Syria and prompting an Israeli retrograde to more easily defended positions back on the Golan Heights.

When it became clear to the United States that its ally Israel would not repeat the quick 1967 Six Day War victory over its Arab antagonists, the US began a massive airlift of war supplies and material to Israel. When it later became clear to the Soviets that its Arab clients might eventually suffer an even greater defeat than they had in 1967, the Kremlin put all of its expeditionary (airborne and amphibious) forces on alert and indicated to the United States that if a cease-fire was not brokered quickly Russian forces would enter the fight against Israel. President Nixon, embroiled and discombobulated by the Watergate scandal, in effect abrogated his commander-in-chief responsibilities to Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, William Colby, and Alexander Haig; his Secretaries of State and Defense, Director of Central Intelligence, and White House Chief of Staff, respectively. In a flurry of midnight activity, while Nixon slept the evening of 23-24 October, those four made incredibly sensitive decisions on the unknown behalf of the President--they raised our nuclear defense condition, DEFCON, from 4 to 3, and sent a message to Sadat, in Nixon's name, pledging future support if Egypt would rescind its request for Soviet aid. The Soviets were very surprised at our placing our nuclear forces on alert and wisely displayed the cooler heads in the whole lashup, standing down their forces and accepting yet another Arab defeat, rather than risk World War Three. One wonders what different tack this whole conflict might have taken had Kissinger and Haig woke Nixon to his commander-in-chief responsibilities that night. My bet is Nixon would not have acted as decisively as the Kissinger-Schlesinger-Colby-Haig cabal and the Soviets might very well have been emboldened to dispatch forces to help defend Egypt and Syria against the Israeli counterattacks. That action would surely have provoked an armed response from the US in defense of Israel.

There is a critical lesson in this for us. The same fault lines run though the Middle East today. A resurgent Russia, flush with oil cash and feeling cocky after "teaching Georgia a lesson" without incurring an effective American response, might very well be emboldened to take a more active role in the region, increasing the tectonic pressure to the point of rupture. A continued weak response, from the current US administration and the next, will be a green light to Putin's plans for a reinvigorated Russian Empire. The one, the only, thing power-crazy punks like Putin respect is strength--not "please and thank you" diplomacy, but a bare-knuckled posture with force to back it up.

Who do you want calling the shots come January?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Taking a Different Path

Thirty-four years ago, I made my first life-direction decision as an adult. The better part of the next three decades were devoted to service to my nation as a Marine. Five years ago, I came to a fork in my life's road and took a turn that led me in a direction for which I believed my training as a Marine had prepared me. I was right and I was wrong.

Three decades preparing to destroy the enemies of my nation, and building teams to that end, did in fact prepare me to tackle the challenges of building teams and programs to take market share away from the competitors of my clients. The strategic and operational templates are nearly identical, and it was no great feat of mental gymnastics to apply one to the other.

Three decades of serving with selfless Americans who likewise had dedicated their lives to the destruction of the enemies of my nation, did not, however, prepare me to deal with the selfish Americans dedicated to lining their own pockets at the expense of any semblance of personal integrity. I am not, it turns out, very good at client service. Let me rephrase/correct that; my self-respect was taking way too many hits as I struggled to be good at client service.

I've reached another fork in my life's road. I'm taking an off-ramp from the interstate and turning onto a dusty gravel road. Today, I announced to my team that I was resigning as their President and Chief Operating Officer effective the end of the month. It is a purely personal decision. I'm simplifying my life. I'm devoting the rest of it to the following goals:

1. Making Miss Brenda happy.

2. Making Miss Brenda happy.

3. Making Miss Brenda happy.

4. Writing the great American novel.

5. Growing corn and/or weeds, whichever is easiest.

6. Staying in good enough shape to keep up with my grandsons.

7. Digging fighting positions around the property to enable an effective defense.

8. Raising bumper crops of peaches, plums, blackberries, deer, and turkey.

9. Defending North Mississippi from the annual winter waterfowl invasion.

10. Wasting your time posting my curmudgeonly commentary for your reading displeasure.

Monday, October 06, 2008

"No TV for you tonight, Buster!"

I'm afraid this economic mess we've talked ourselves into is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. What frightens me most about the prospect of a severe recession, or even depression, is not the hardship it will bring me and mine. I'm fairly confident in my ability to provide for even an extended family if push came to shove (the Hank Williams, Jr. song "A Country Boy Will Survive" has been bouncing around inside by brain-housing group lately). No, I'm not worried about feeding and keeping my clan warm and dry. But, I'm real worried about how everyone else might try to keep themselves fed.

The last time this country was in a depression (we've been in more than just one since the pilgrims piled off the Mayflower, in case you're wondering) this nation was a much different people and place. The American character of self-sufficiency and our ability to absorb pain and misery was still robust, owing to having just recently subdued a hostile continent. There ain't been no hostile-continent-subjugation required in several generations and the American character is predominantly soft and dependent.

In the intervening near-century since the Great Depression this nation has transitioned from a relatively balanced rural/agrarian and urban/industrial society to one in which nearly the entire nation lives in the suburban or urban environs of some sort of city (even the smallest city in our land provides for its citizens in ways unimaginable even in the greatest metropolitan centers eighty years ago) and the vast majority of our population behaves as if the food in the supermarkets and restaurants is provided by a replicator in the back. Early in the twentieth century, 40% of the population lived in cities--nearly double that percentage does today. The bulk of our population is so far removed from any understanding of a subsistence lifestyle as to make any rapid re-adaptation virtually impossible.

In 1929, the population of metropolitan New York was less than 9 million souls. Today the urban megalopolis centered around New York City numbers nearly three times that. Most cities, and their suburbs, in these re-United States have seen similar population growth. Were our nation to slide precipitously into a depression such as we experienced in the 1930s, with 25% unemployment (makes our currently 6.1% look wonderful), we would enter the mother of all crises; one for which no government is prepared to confront.

Oh, and in case you are looking for someone to blame for the housing and credit crises for which a 700 BILLION dollar bandaid has just been bought to cover a gaping compound fracture, step into your bathroom and take a look in the mirror. In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us!" Our profligate spending on credit for things we do not need (never confuse want with need) is the cause of these compounding crises. We can blame the politicians and "predatory lenders" all we want, but nobody held guns to our heads and forced us to take out loans to procure homes, cars, and plasma TVs well beyond our means to pay for them. We've partied hard and now our parents have come home and caught us asleep on the couch in a trashed house.

We're all gonna get grounded.